Follow Your Weirdness by Author Rebecca Bischoff.
“Follow your weirdness.”
I heard this from a presenter at a writing conference, and I’ve never forgotten it. The presenter was quoting Bruce Coville, author of many quirky books for kids, including I Was a Sixth Grade Alien. Everyone laughed, but the words rang true. I’m convinced that writers, especially those who write for children and young adults, should follow this advice. We should dig deep into ourselves, figure out what fascinates us, and embrace it. We should stop stifling our imaginations, which we so often do as adults, and instead let our imaginations run wild. We often end up pleasantly surprised by the oddities we find inside our gray matter.
My book, The French Impressionist, might not be considered “weird.” It’s not about monsters or zombies or kids with magical abilities who must save the world from alien invaders from the planet Prom Queen who’ve come to smother Earth in tulle and glitter. Instead, it’s about an average girl who wants a not-so-average life. It’s about Rosemary, who doesn’t like herself and wants to hide who she is, create a new identity and find herself a new family. Not weird, right? (Just neurotic).
But there’s plenty within this book that others might see as a little strange. And those things come from my brain. In the book, you’ll find some of my some of my interests, like art and history and painting. There’s a lot that reflects my sense of humor, my life experiences, and my obsession with anything French. There’s an overweight cat who may or may not be exactly like the massive feline who haunted the hotel where I stayed when I got to see Paris for the first time. There’s a reference to grilled chocolate and banana sandwiches, which is a real food and something you must eat at least once in your life. There’s a guy Rosemary hates but wants to kiss at the same time. There are awkward attempts to speak French and even more awkward attempts to avoid all conversation. And there’s a lot of embarrassment, which brings me to another piece of advice from the writing conference that has stuck with me. It’s attributed to Lin Oliver, the writer of wonderful books for children, including the Hank Zipzer series co-authored with Henry Winkler. She said this,
“Mine your embarrassment.”
Why? Because childhood is embarrassing. Who doesn’t think it is? If you don’t, are you even human? Rosemary has plenty of embarrassing moments, and I will admit that some of them are based, loosely of course, on my own life. I was a scrawny, buck-toothed, painfully shy kid who was afraid to open her mouth and speak. My reasons for silence were different than Rosemary’s, but the red-in-the-face moments were mine and are universal. When Rosemary feels out of place, or shy, or when she doesn’t know what to say or how to extricate herself from a difficult situation, she’s reflecting my own life experiences.
So, follow your weirdness. Mine your embarrassment. Pull anything you want out of your head. Share your uniqueness when you write! Odds are there’s someone out there who will relate.