The Map of My People

My daughter is getting into my shit. I mean she's getting into my old shit. She and her friends found boxes of my scrapbooks and drawings from when I was in my twenties.

"What are these?" they asked, opening those 11x14 sketchbooks, papers and clippings exploding out of the pages.

"Those," I said, "are what we did before Pinterest."

20140424-173545.jpgNow I have to stop here and hope somebody out there knows what I'm talking about. You got a big stack of magazines, a pair of scissors and a can of rubber cement. And either alone or in a group of girlfriends, you cut things out of the mags—pictures that looked good, things that sounded good, sound advice, sexy secrets, perfume ads, hot men, adorable shoes. And you pasted them into the pages of your black faux-leather bound sketchbooks. The bigger the better.


Tell me you did this. Tell me you did it for hours. Because I did and I still have them and now my daughter and her friends are going through them. And they're finding my sketches in there—pencilled portraits from sunglasses ads. A lot of ballet dancers.



"I want to be talented," one of the friends said, sighing.

"You are talented," I said from my desk. "Everyone is talented." In my head I added, put your phone down, pick up some magazines and rubber cement and touch shit for once. But it is unwise to say such things to your daughter's friends. Just a little free advice there.

20140424-174316.jpgOh, and they went nuts for this map I drew.  I got really into David Eddings for a few years, fascinated by the detailed universe he created in The Belgariad and The Malloreon.  So I fooled around with writing my own fantasy fiction, an ungodly mess called "Hawkmoon: The Most Unreadable Thing Ever Written." I think I just wanted to draw a map.

And then, in between the very last pages of the very last sketchbook, Jules pulled out this:


"Oh, wow, Mom," she said.  "Is this Daisy and Erik?"

And I just had to stop for a second because she asked that question. She knows who Daisy and Erik are. She doesn't know their whole story (frankly it's not quite fit for her ears yet) but she knows enough and she knows they're real to me.

They're my people. I sometimes forget they're not real. I see them all the time—at the grocery store, in a diner, running errands, working in the yard. I see them together.

Writing a novel is much like creating a universe. What ends up in the reader's hands is a small tip of the iceberg compared to what is in your head. In your head you have the immunization records, the family tree, the skeletons in the closet. You know their shoe size, shirt size, dress size. You know what soap and shampoo they use and whether they say "God Bless You" or "Gesundheit" after a sneeze. You know she hates to be called "Kiddo" and he loves when she calls him "Dumbass." Lovingly, of course. Teasingly. When he rips open a bag of chips and they go flying everywhere, she rolls her eyes and mutters, "Nice going, Dumbass."

Your novel doesn't need an illustrated map but you know the blueprints of the characters' houses and what trees grow in their yard.

And you know what they look like.

I took the picture from Jules and studied it. Obviously I had copied it from a magazine ad. It was dated 1989 which would've been right around the time of the Big Bang—when I began writing the material that would eventually turn into The Man I Love.

Erik and Daisy"It's a little pretty for Erik," I said. "But that's Daisy. Maybe her nose isn't so round but that's her face. And she would be lying like that. With her head on Erik's back."

Of course she would.

I know these things.