In Draft

Henry JamesHe was always chas­ing the next draft of himself.”

 Amer­i­can crit­ic Dwight Gar­ner, in the New York Times Book Review on Feb­ru­ary 16 of this year, was describ­ing the child­hood of Hen­ry James.

An expand­able list comes to mind, some of our mem­o­rable fig­ures mov­ing toward the next draft of them­selves: Anne Shirley, Hold­en Caulfield, Jo March, Jody Bax­ter, Arnold Spir­it, Jr., Gilly Hop­kins, M.C. Hig­gins, Jane Yolen’s Hannah/Chaya, Will Grayson and Will Grayson, Bil­lie Jo Kel­by, Ramona Quim­by, the Gaither sis­ters, Hugo Cabret, Stan­ley Yel­nats, the Logan fam­i­ly of Mis­sis­sip­pi, Win­nie Fos­ter, Wal­ter Dean Myers’ Steve Har­mon, Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s Mau and Daphne and their Nation.  Har­ry, Hermione, Ron.

One of our tru­isms is that the char­ac­ters who trans­port us in their sto­ries are actu­al­ly show­ing us — sel­dom with­out pain — about revis­ing and becom­ing. We’ve all felt it happen.

After the last page, our selves have enlarged, lead­ing us often sub­tly, silent­ly, into our own next draft.

Gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion, many of our young, in fic­tion and in the house just down the road, must revise them­selves by flee­ing chaos, vio­lence, or neglect wrought by cal­lous or con­fused adults. Oth­ers seek change and release from what seems an abyss of bore­dom. And some of us lucky ones try on dif­fer­ences just because we can.

draftRight now, Decem­ber 2016, in our own USA, many of our neigh­bors and stu­dents fear depor­ta­tion, a cru­el next draft in a world they nev­er made. As the new admin­is­tra­tion struts toward Wash­ing­ton, we’re wary of the con­vul­sive upend­ing, we’re appre­hen­sive about the pre­cip­i­tous swerves and the jaw-drop­ping, impetu­ous tweets, and some of us place bets. Here is Hen­ry James’ dec­la­ra­tion from about a hun­dred years ago: “I hate Amer­i­can sim­plic­i­ty. I glo­ry in the pil­ing up of com­pli­ca­tions of every sort.” Come on back, Hen­ry. We have drafts galore for you, we’ll help you catch up on your read­ing, and we’ve got real life com­pli­ca­tions that will blow your spats off.

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Amy Kellman
Amy Kellman
5 years ago

Well said, Vir­ginia, as usual.

Suzanne Fisher Staples
Reply to  Amy Kellman
5 years ago

LaVaughn in “True Believ­er” should be first on your list of heroes-in-revi­sion! Thanks for this, Jinny.

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Suzanne Fisher Staples
5 years ago

Thank you, Suzanne: You, who teach us so much about the grit of mak­ing our­selves and our lives.

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Amy Kellman
5 years ago

Gosh, Amy. Thank you. These are trou­bled times indeed. But we’re in them together.

Elaine Spence
Elaine Spence
5 years ago

Spot on, Vir­ginia. I fear for our young peo­ple faced with a post-truth soci­ety. It is up to us all to keep show­ing them that truth matters.

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Elaine Spence
5 years ago

Thank you, Elaine. We always tend to say, “Trust the kids,” don’t we? We depend on their fresh think­ing to shine the nec­es­sary light. But what a bur­den to place on them. Lucky us, to have you and oth­er ded­i­cat­ed librar­i­ans who keep nour­ish­ing them.

Janet Wong
5 years ago

Thank you for this great pep talk! Yes, let’s resist the temp­ta­tion to hide for 4 years … and get out there to make our­selves heard and “glo­ry in the pil­ing up of complications”!

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Janet Wong
5 years ago

And you, Janet, are one of our cham­pi­on pil­ers-on of thought­ful com­pli­ca­tions. May we all keep on.

KT Horning
KT Horning
5 years ago

I got chills read­ing these words. Thank you, Jinny!

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  KT Horning
5 years ago

Thank you, KT. These are chill­ing times, for sure. I think we all need to stay tuned.

Jane Yolen
5 years ago

Aw, Jin­ny, you were MUCH nicer and politic than I could ever be. Well said, dear old friend. – Jane

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Jane Yolen
5 years ago

Well, Jane, if I know any­thing, any lit­tle bit at all, I can attribute it to hav­ing lis­tened to my bet­ters, who have so much to teach. You and KT (just above), for instance.

svardell
svardell
5 years ago

So pow­er­ful and true! I wish I could “revise” Novem­ber, but I so appre­ci­ate your ral­ly­ing cry against the “pre­cip­i­tous swerves” and “impetu­ous tweets” we’re fac­ing now. Here’s to complications!

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  svardell
5 years ago

Ah, Sylvia, thank you. And may we be ever alert to the com­pli­ca­tions that most affect the youngest, most vul­ner­a­ble among us.

Chris Crowe
Chris Crowe
5 years ago

Jin­ny, thanks for shar­ing your good-heart­ed wis­dom. We all ben­e­fit from reg­u­lar dos­es of such stuff.

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Chris Crowe
5 years ago

And thank you, Chris, for being a gen­er­ous source of good-heart­ed wis­dom yourself.

karenhesse
5 years ago

Well said, dear Jin­ny. Now if we could only find a way for you to whis­per them into some ears, some huge, huge ears (and i’m not refer­ring to our sit­ting pres­i­dent). But I fear that par­tic­u­lar Huge­ness nev­er backs up nor saves his revisions.

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  karenhesse
5 years ago

Thank you, Karen. At the very least, the view from my desk tells me that this seems to be a time when we need to exam­ine our own integri­ty ever more care­ful­ly. And to stay tuned, know­ing we’re in this together.

Jim Tindall
Jim Tindall
5 years ago

Jin­ny, thank you for this YA per­spec­tive. I was just begin­ning some writ­ing of a dia­logue between More and Savonaro­la, so I appre­ci­ate the hope of revi­sion! It’s been snow­ing here in the Gorge and I am hap­py to report my very first use of the roof rake was a smooth sail­ing success!

Virginia Euwer Wolff
Reply to  Jim Tindall
5 years ago

Thanks, Jim. Between being behead­ed and being burned at the stake, More and Savonaro­la have giv­en you a lot to pon­der while you rake the snow off your roof. I think we’ve revised our pri­or­i­ties since then, but we need to be ever vig­i­lant, in case some­one impor­tunes us to Make the 16th Cen­tu­ry Great Again.