Horse Latitudes

The iPad’s here. I’ve checked it out. Now I have to figure out whether or not I want to get one. Time to let the whole matter sit for awhile. I’m leaving for a conference in Des Moines tomorrow. Then next week I’ll go to the Texas Library Association meeting in San Antonio. Jane Yolen will be in Portland early next week. I’m looking forward to having lunch with her and a group of our local children’s writers.

Jane put up a Facebook post about the book she’s currently working on. She churned out 2,000 words one day. I’m impressed! It’s about all I can do to turn out 200. One some days, even 20’s a struggle.

Right now I’m in the Horse Latitudes of writing. Have you heard the term before? It goes back to the days of the early exploration of the Americas. It’s also called the Doldrums. Sailing ships would hit a spot in the mid-Atlantic where the winds would die down and the currents would peter out. They’d drift for days, sometimes weeks, waiting for the winds to pick up. Meanwhile, they’d be going through their food and water. Horses drink a lot of water. So if the ships were carrying horses to the New World, they’d have kill the animals because after awhile there wouldn’t be enough water for people and horses. I won’t go into details. I love horses. These accounts still pain me even though they happened several hundred years ago. Let it be enough to say that ships sailing in these waters would encounter floating carcasses of dead horses. Thus, Horse Latitudes.

For a writer, it’s a place where you’re floating in circles. That’s how I’m feeling now. I don’t have a project that excites—or even interests—me. I am playing with a couple of ideas to keep busy.

First, I still have that snake obsession. I’m determined to get a snake story published. Second, I’ve been following the tragic case in Massachusetts, where a high school girl, Phoebe Prince, hanged herself as the result of merciless bullying. My friend Penny Schwartz lives nearby in Northampton. She’s been giving me the details of the case from the local perspective.

It’s always been my experience that bullies back down when other kids unite to let them know that this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated. We get together to form a psychological and sometimes physical protective circle around the victim. Musk oxen do this in the Arctic. When wolves show up, they form a circle with the younger and weaker members of the herd inside. The wolves quickly realize they’re not getting through. They move on.

Most bullies would do the same. So here’s how my thinking goes in creating a story: write a story about dealing with bullying. Make it a snake story. Instead of kids, the characters are all different kinds of snakes who go to snake school. Link it to another factoid rolling around my head. The musk oxen led me to this one: during the winter months, rattlesnakes and garter snakes will form a “snake ball” to keep warm. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands of snakes coil around each other.

So what if one of the snake kids was being bullied. The other snakes—unlike the crew in Massachusetts—is determined to do something about it. They form a snake ball on the playground with their friend in the middle of the ball.

Well, it’s an idea. I can’t figure out if it’s charming, relevant, or just dumb. The only way to find out is to write it. So that’s what I’m doing. We’ll see what comes out. Or what doesn’t come out if I get a better idea or decide that the whole project is a waste of time.

I’ll send you a postcard from the Horse Latitudes.

Tags: , , ,

body> html>