All the Dreams

dream

I’m going to tell you a story about why I write for young readers. Years ago, before I had my son, moved to Brooklyn, or ever wrote a YA novel, I wrote one act plays for kids. They were produced locally, and I always ended up directing for lack of anyone else stepping up. During that time, I met and worked with a slew of 7-12 year olds who had never acted or read a script in their young lives. They didn’t know they could or should.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be famous. My mother and father were familiar with big dreams, so they encouraged me, but parents are usually the last person you want to hear from when you’re young and ambitious. It would have been something to have a teacher, or a cool, successful artist, a someone other than my parents tell me I should keep shooting for the stars. In spite of that, I never lost my drive, though occasionally it did get waylaid.

While writing for and directing these kids, I uncovered heaps of hidden talent — kids who went on to become YouTube famous, stars of high school plays, dreamers of other big dreams at top tier colleges.

A few months ago, while visiting Texas, I ran into one of the girls I’d plucked from shyness and set center stage. She’d been twelve at the time, with long brown hair and a tiny button nose, and she’d never been asked to sing in public before, never been under a spotlight. I had a gut feeling she could sing, and so I promised her she wouldn’t regret singing during her audition. She landed the lead role in the play. A lead role with a difficult (original) solo. She’s now a senior in college, a stellar violinist about to graduate with a music and vocal major.

As we talked, reminiscing about that special time all those years ago, she said, “I just want you to know, if you hadn’t made me play that role and sing that song, I would never have studied voice in college. You showed me it was an option.”

Even writing this now, I’m tearing up. I’m thinking how my certainty we should always do the very scary, big thing created an opportunity, her trust that I would protect her in the room gave her the confidence, but her talent carried her onto the stage. She was always gifted, she just needed someone to provide a spotlight.

I am not a teacher. I know teachers must know how this feels, much more profoundly than me. But in that moment I knew, my investment in that child had paid off in ways I never imagined. And it was so incredibly worth it.

This weekend I spent time with my friend Sara Biren— a fantastic writer and award nominated author —and her two kids. Actually, mostly her two kids. I was in town for a Book Awards ceremony to honor Sara, but now that I’m homebound, I wonder…maybe I was in town for her kids, too.

I talked to her daughter about the possibility of traveling the world, of never limiting yourself to a safe and obvious path. We filmed a YouTube video. I talked to her son about becoming a filmmaker, discussing themes and shot composition. How he’s not getting off with any excuses that he’s too busy or it’s too hard. How his love of movies is more than entertainment.

We are never too old to pursue our dreams. We are never too young to believe they can one day be real.

We sometimes do need a push in the right direction.

San Diego Comic-Con: Reflection

Four years ago I decided I would one day go to San Diego Comic-Con. Sparked by a story idea and bundled with my own singular desire for adventure, I stated to the entire universe, God in his infinite wisdom, and my husband in his introverted manliness that I was going and I they all needed to help or get out of the way.

I was cute, a doe facing hunting season. I didn’t know that to visit the magical unicorn that is Comic-Con you must first be proven worthy as a fan. Thankfully, I am a writer and therefore skilled in the art of RESEARCH. I quickly uncovered the reality of Con. To go I would need: A member ID, a hefty dose of luck, and a winning number in the registration lottery.

I would also need a partner in crime.

sdccsteph

(Man, I love my hair pink.)

Stephanie and I banded together to make the Comic-Con dream a reality.  I don’t have time to tell you that whole story, but be assured, the epicness of our first SDCC has been documented here and if you’re curious you should totally check it out.

It includes:

The Game of Thrones panel

Me losing my wallet and ID

Nathan Fillion

Tom Hiddleston

My wallet being turned in to the security team unscathed

Steven Moffat

And a Jedi Master Fairy Godmother who shall henceforth and forever remain nameless.

This Comic-Con is different. And that is why, today, on the eve before Con opens, I am writing this while I drink wine in my new LA apartment.

A lot has happened since I had the dream to go to Comic-Con. I moved to LA with my husband and son. I left my Con-Partner in Texas, ripe with her third little Wonder Woman baby. I am an author on submission with a novel. A screenwriter looking for a break. I’m a woman who broke her knee-cap and then decided to put her house on the market. A woman with big flaming terrifying dreams.

We become new things when we take be risks.

We make room for the righter version of us.

Tomorrow, I will drive to San Diego with my suitcase and my space backpack, a blanket and snacks and card games. Some wine in the trunk. I will be on my own. I am meeting friends, staying with a girl I just met — a Comic-Con virgin. But this is a new Con for me.

This is a brand new scary leap.

If you have never been to Comic-Con you may not understand what I am about to say, so I am sorry. I hope one day you get to go.

Comic-Con is a touchstone. A way for me to find myself in a crowd. To learn. To be inspired. To be reunited with the wild imaginary ramblings of my youth.

Comic-Con is more than an entertainment mecca. It is more than merch and parties and celebs. Comic-Con reminds me, every year, that I am a girl who, one time, had a dream that seemed impossible. I am a girl who makes her dreams come true.

con

London: Day One

I woke up in London, today.

morning

While I drank coffee from a china cup (because tea is wonderful, but jet lag is a real thing), I watched out my window at the rooftop of Kensington Palace and attempted to let it all just sink in.

There is a great danger in having dreams come true. They can let you down. They can be not what you thought. They can take from you a reason to get up everyday. Some of us need the longing to keep going.

I think I do.

Coming to the UK, for some reason, always felt impossible to me because it just mattered so much. It was this sharp and persistent desire and therefore I began to believe it would never be mine, as so many things that you long for don’t come to you— or, at least, don’t come in the way that you thought. I had almost resigned myself to forever talking about my daydream of London.

In the weeks leading up to my trip, I had to keep reminding myself that this was happening. I had to make a decision to believe that the dream come true would be better than the dreaming.

Yesterday, as our plane broke through the dense cloud cover over London, I began to cry. It’s a moment that I will never forget: seeing the land and feeling a promise answered.

plane

As I walked through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, observing dogs frolicking leash free and children kicking a ball with their dads, hearing the chatter of locals and watching other bewildered tourists try to absorb the majesty of Queen Victoria’s childhood home, I felt at once an outsider looking in on a world I wasn’t really a part of, and completely, perfectly at home.

I took pictures of streets and wondered at the people who got to live in them.

I wished I was brave enough to climb into the private garden for residents only. Like I was Julia Roberts and Nathan a longer haired Hugh Grant.

secret-agrden

I saw a Pub I’d seen on Pinterest and wandered in for a pint and some Fish ‘n Chips.

I walked through the store that Paddington Bear visited. (They prefer you not take photos from inside.)

paddington

 

I took a picture of the Travel Book Shop from Notting Hill.

notting-hill

I was stopped for directions and ruined the facade that I was a local with my very obvious American accent. (Don’t have a picture of this, you’ll just have to take my American word for it.)

I was home and also away, the same and also aware of my differentness, touristing and living in the city, in the land, I’d loved since I was a little girl.

And in the midst, there was now room for new dreams to begin to take hold. I had jumped the hurdle, or the pond, and now found myself on the other side of an impossible thing. What more can I do now that this has been done? What else can I let myself long for and go for?

phonebox

Dreaming Of

Everyone has dreams. Be they secret and hidden away where no one can see, or exposed and constantly on display for anyone willing to look, one thing is certain, we all have them. Regardless of the dreamer’s style, it can be very hard to believe that the big dreams buried or screaming inside will ever really come true.

It’s been my experience that two things happen as we get older. We let go of certain dreams and cling to other, more reasonable ones. And we decide that, rather than take the reigns of our life and follow the thing in our heart, we should be content to wait it out, hoping that we’ll be just happy enough— safe and fed and hopefully sane— to forget that dream ever existed at all.

Often the colossal dreams of our youth crumble because we realize that certain ambitions are outside our abilities or natural talents, skills, resources or control. Things like going to outer space. Or becoming a doctor when you loath science and math. Like achieving unmanageable fame, making the Olympic gymnastics team when you never really developed balance, inventing the device that will replace the iPhone. As we grow up, we hone our dreams based on who we see ourselves becoming. It is our mind and will looking to protect our ego and heart so we don’t set ourselves up for a meandering existence wrought with sadness. Or so we avoid a stunning collapse from failure.

This kind of dream modification is healthy. A good honing is valuable as you mature. It allows the true dreams, the ones polite enough to wait until the Jedi-Princess-Snake-Charmer-Married-to-Young Harrison Ford has run it’s course, and you’ve developed the ability to reason. It allows the dreamer to live on.

The other scenario, that one is much trickier. In my experience, dreams don’t ever really die. At least, not the ones that truly matter. Because once you’ve honed your dreams — and this, too, is a continual process — if you don’t follow the path you will someday look back and wonder what if, but you will never truly forget. Dreams left to fester and rot become the ugly wrinkles in your forehead and the sour expression on your face. They make you sloppy and boring at parties. They lead to lethargy and the eventual demise of whatever made you unique and vibrant.

london

Since I was a child, I’d been infatuated with London. I’d read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden and EVERY Jane Austen novel. I loved Princess Diana, and had been obsessed with Lady Jane Gray, Anne Boleyn, Victoria and Albert, Queen Elizabeth (1 and 2)…

And this didn’t fall away as I grew up. I’m so much like Bridget Jones it’s frightening. I do tea in china and watch The Great British Bake Off. Downton Abby was my everything. If a book is set or a movie takes place there, I love it by default. I read all picture books in a bad British accent and follow Very British Problems on Twitter. I’ve researched it. I’ve romanced it. I’ve promised to have it’s babies. I even found myself a literary agent in London and somehow managed not to ask her to marry me based solely on her accent.

Yet somehow, even more than all the ways I loved it, it felt like it was already a part of me, tucked in my spirit, hidden among the thorns and briars of my personality. Like it existed in me from the beginning. From before the beginning.

But I have never been.

A couple months ago, while ensconced in the ever so glamorous task of folding laundry with my seven year old, we put on Paddington (a delightful British movie about a marmalade-loving bear’s adventures in London) to pass the time.

In the movie, the Bears meet and befriend an Explorer in their native land. He’s traveled there from London to study them, and I assume, bring back a specimen. Eep. But he doesn’t. These bears are highly intelligent, and so he leaves behind tapes and books about London, and he encourages them to come, to look him up if they do. And for years, they plan and dream of someday visiting London. They memorize the tapes. They know all the right words to say and proper way to act. But someday never seems to come. And finally, one day, Uncle Bear’s time runs out. He never got to go.

That moment hit me hard. Suddenly, I saw how fast time runs away from us. How little we are guaranteed. I turned to my husband and said, “I will not be like those bears. I am going.”

Someday resides in the future until one day it becomes the present. Until one day you look at the dream and you say: I will wait no more. It’s been long enough.

And it takes an act, or more often, many acts stacked all on top of each other until finally you reach your dream. It takes admitting that you want it and acknowledging the batter ram from fear that it will never be. It takes pushing your dream from the safe, silent cocoon of your imagination out into the dangerous, blinding light of reality. It takes guts and faith to take anything and give it life.

Dreams live.

Dreams tingle with nerves and the electricity of promise. They can hurt you. They can disappoint and underwhelm. They can end up falling apart. They are not unalterable and never quite finished. But if you have one, you are not powerless to wake it up.

Don’t be like those bears. Don’t miss your chance to go to London. Be like Paddington, who took the long boat ride necessary and found a new dream once he arrived.

That Time I Signed With A Literary Agent

DA

I’m going to tell you a story about a girl.

Two years ago, she had a dream she was moving to London. She woke up from the dream the next morning in Texas. She had coffee. She told her husband the dream. She always forced him to listen to her dreams in case he could make any sense of them. Yes, she was one of those people. In the dream she had been nervous to go, she had been aware it was a big deal, and a part of something even bigger. Her husband played her the Third Eye Blind song “London” to irritate her. They daydreamed for a while about a reality in which they could move to London— what that would feel like, how that would ever happen.

The girl also decided to research London literary agents because she was a writer in search of a champion, and partner, for her books.

Two years ago that girl reached out to one of them.

I am telling you that story so you understand the rest. Two years ago, I — the girl — came downstairs again and told my husband the literary agent I’d queried wanted to read my book.

Today, that agent announced she’d signed me.

What happened in between?

I grew as a writer, to start. I worked hard. I learned more about craft and story. I wrote another book. I revised and revised, and then when I was done revising, I waited. I studied screenwriting and learned skills I needed to become a better writer still. I was angry, and then I was nothing for a long time, but still I believed it was worth it to keep trying.

I stayed in touch with the literary agent from London because I liked her, maybe even a little because she was from the UK and I love the UK, and also because she’d seen promise in me early on and it had helped me through the struggle.

I revised the book again.

And Clare Wallace, the literary agent from London, gave my book another look. And when she offered me representation, I knew even if I wasn’t moving to London (just yet), my book hopefully was.

I am telling you this because many of you are in the trenches. Many feel hopeless, are hearing no, are wondering when, if, that yes will ever come. If my own journey taught me anything it is this: yes comes unexpectedly, it comes in waves and it comes in whispers, and it comes when you keep going no matter what.

This is a long game. We play it as long as we have the courage to keep getting back up after we’ve been knocked down. So keep your courage, don’t be afraid to try the unusual thing on your path, or to listen to the wish your heart made when you were fast asleep. It might be the very thing you need to break out.