When I was in fourth grade, I wrote my very first novel. A new American Girl story. (For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, they are a historical fiction series about young girls growing up in various times of American history. They also sell dolls with each character.)
**Sad story time: Oh how I longed for an American Girl Doll. We had the entire set of books, but the gorgeous dolls with all of their fun, historically accurate outfits and accessories?? No. And I never got one, despite a several year fascination with them. Are you feeling sorry for fourth grade Renee yet?? Yes? Good. Moving on then.**
Anyway, so my story was Meet Kalani. The story of a young Hawaiian girl growing up during the annexation of the island chain into a state. When I first found it, I was expecting it to be hilariously bad. But you know what? It was pretty darn good! Lots of scaffolding. A few minor plot holes and several unnecessary scenes, but on the whole, I was quite proud of my nine year old self.
Well that's not the best part. Last night, for the first time, I sat beside my five year old daughter and read her my story. And let me tell you, she was captivated.
She cracked up at all the lame jokes. Gasped in horror at the mention of the evil Hawaiian Monk Seal poacher. Cried when he killed Kalani's pet seal's mother. (Seriously, she started to cry. So I had to quickly ad-lib a part in the story where the mother was actually just hurt, but she gets better and swims away.) And at at the end, when the crowd at the hula and music festival is cheering on Kalani's wonderful ukulele playing, my daughter was literally jumping up and down on the couch, squealing with joy.
After I finished, and after she hugged me and told me that I wrote the best stories ever, she immediately ran to the kitchen table to start writing her own story.
I don't need to tell you how the whole experience made me feel. I think my husband put it best. "This is why you write," he said. "No matter what happens, you can know that you've given a wonderful gift to your children with these stories."
Perspective like that makes it all worthwhile.