I bought this notebook as a treat to myself. I love it–the words on the cover*, the size, its bendable frame. I’m hoping it inspires me to pick it up every day, to write Morning Pages and jot down ideas, capturing those flashes of divine lightning that will become Love Anthony.
I’m already in love with this book I haven’t written yet, and I’m terrified of it. I need to release the fear surrounding this book, this topic of autism. Lisa, be fearless. I give you permission to write this story. Don’t worry about whether it will please everyone–it won’t. Make sure Tracey loves it–you don’t have to please anyone else.
I need to figure out how this book begins. All books begin in the middle of something–these characters are already alive and moving around, doing something, feeling something.
What am I in the middle of doing? Today I’m going to yoga, the grocery store, I’m watching an autism video, and I’m interviewing Corinne Murphy about ABA therapy tonight at 7:00. I need to go through my notebooks and notes from interviews and organize them, see what I have, what I know.
This book is going to be challenging. Olivia is in present time and sharing flashbacks. Through journal entries? Put them in italics–like in The Paris Wife? I think so. And Beth’s novel will be Anthony’s voice. This will be first person, present tense, different font.
I need to organize the story so that it flows from one character, one piece of the puzzle, one revelation to the next without confusion. All threads need to tie. I really do love how difficult this is–I love the challenge of it. People talk about writing fiction as being so right brain, using your creative mind. But it also requires a lot of left brain–the pace, the plot points, the rhythm–these elements seem analytical to me.
Again, how do I begin this story? I think both women go to the mailbox on the same morning–Beth receives a letter that will change her life, and Olivia receives some of Anthony’s rocks.
Olivia will remember receiving news that changed her life–Anthony has autism. Dr. asked her, “How’s your marriage?” Thought it was good at the time, normal good, fighting-making up. She thought at the time–this will either force us to get close or tear us apart. It put pressure on all the fault lines that had been dormant, unbothered, unnoticed before autism. They had never been great at communicating, at leaning on each on each other, resolving problems, but it had never much mattered before. Before. After, it mattered, and they didn’t have what it took to survive. She wonders if she has contributed to the statistics–1 in 70 boys, 80% of marriages with an autistic child will end in divorce. She’s part of a large and growing population, but that doesn’t do a damn thing about the loneliness; she feels no comfort in being included in this crowd. She’s a woman, not a statistic.
So begin it with Beth walking to the mailbox, noticing another woman. It is Olivia, and they are strangers noticing each other. This is where their lives, already in motion, begin to intersect.
* On the cover of this notebook: “First it begins inside your heart. Something moves. Then opens. Then frees itself. And now you feel a rhythm breaking its long silence. This is going to be good.”