Mo Willems might be my hero.

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A children’s book can give you a glimpse into your deepest soul. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye.

I remember the first time my son brought home Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems from the school library. I loved reading to my kids, but I really never connected with Pigeon. Why he was so popular with my kids, I never really knew. I loved the Frances books, anything by Rosemary Wells, and when they started bringing home little beginning readers like Henry and Mudge, I was in seventh heaven!

But the Pigeon? Every time one of my kids brought one of those home, I just rolled my eyes.

Turns out I missed the point. Pigeon is much deeper and much more shallow at the same time. He’s a philosopher and a spoiled child wrapped into one, which is kind of how I see myself. Maybe I just didn’t like seeing myself on the pages of a children’s book?

How do I know all this about Pigeon? I read an interview with his creator. Check it out here: Mo Willems Interview. (My thanks to my friend Liz for referring me to this article!)

Mo Willems’s admittedly incredible ability to look into my soul and pull a pigeon out of it notwithstanding, he says some very insightful things about the nature of art and creativity and writing. “Books are sculptures” is indeed one of them. What took me most by surprise, though, was the revelation that he’s not just writing to inspire kids. He’s writing to inspire the parents to do and say and live the way they want their kids to do and say and live.

Consider this: “[W}e constantly hear, ‘Our children are the future,’ but we seldom say, ‘Hey we’re the present and it’s incumbent on us to be present.’ So there’s this silliness, but there’s also a, ‘You can do it, too.'”

Thank you, Mo Willems!

I’m 49 years old. I’ve just published my first children’s book (Jessica Entirely by Shelley Gee). I also privately published my first collection of poetry Times and Ties. I’m taking singing lessons and auditioning for plays. I’m inspired by my kids, and my only regret right now is that I’ve never done any of these things before. I didn’t model my life by living my dreams. If anything, they’ve modeled for me by bringing home books for me to read that I wouldn’t normally have read, and introducing me to movies and television and a slew of pets I never would have chosen to bring into my life.

So I’ll presume to add a little to Mr. Willems’s statements. Be inspiring to your children, but don’t be afraid to be inspired by them, too. A family circle is beneficial to all.

Something I wrote:

Jessica smiled in spite of her worries about her friends. They all had friends in town and friends who evacuated and friends who might have lost their homes in the storm. But she had her family right there with her and the idea of helping made her feel much better about things in general. She took a deep breath and followed her family to the kitchen, happier than she ever had been at the prospect of spending an hour or two with them at the table.

Double Promo: Becoming Dickens?

I have a guest blog post on Sharing Links and Wisdom today that’s sort of a compare/contrast thing about my two current releases, Becoming Magic and Dickens Magic. I’ve never actually had this sort of thing happen before—two fresh books out at once? I remember the first time I met with an agent and he asked me for proposals for at least three more ideas for novels. I had no idea how to go about that.

And now I have two books out, one rough draft complete (Timeless), and I’m working on my National Novel Writing Month book, Magic at Sea. I’ve also got plans for another magic book and another standalone romance. Plus, my daughter’s been asking me to write a kids’ book and I might have a rough idea for one… It’s in the process.

So I haven’t forgotten about either of my new releases. I’m hoping they’ll help promote each other. And I’ll go ahead and tell you, Connor and Carole from Becoming Magic and Alex and Kate from Dickens Magic make multiple appearances in Magic at Sea.

Wish me luck on this crazy month… For anyone keeping score, my word count is currently at 23,201, which is well ahead of the curve, but I know from experience the end of the month is when it gets hard, so I’m writing as much as possible now. They’re not all good words, but they  are words, and during NaNoWriMo madness, that’s what counts!

And hey, buy one of my books! They make great escape reading.

I love the word “epiphany”. Here’s mine from today.

I’m not home right now, and maybe that’s why I’m a little more sensitive…and observant. I’m actually in the little town I went to college in, and it seems like everywhere I look, I see myself twenty-odd years younger. The idea that I might catch a glimpse of myself from those glory days when I was more beautiful than I thought and not nearly as smart as I believed makes me look a little closer at the people I pass. And today that led me to an epiphany.

God, I do love that word. And it describes what I felt so perfectly. It was like an explosion of perfect knowledge inside my head.

It was as I passed by a beautiful young woman dressed in a business suit. She couldn’t have been much older than the college students, and she looked tired. I began to imagine her story because she reminded me of me at that age. She’d just come from a job interview. She has a few more classes to finish up in summer school and then she’ll have her degree in business administration or education or library science or economics. Her future is full of uncertainty and promise and she’s having a hard time dealing with everything that’s being thrown at her but she’s doing her best.

And I started wondering why I knew that. And BAM!

I realized it’s because she’s just like me. She’s walking along, keeping all her emotions in check and all her worries and insecurities safely beneath the surface so I won’t see them. But I know them because they’re mine, too. Or they were at one time. And that’s when it really hit me that we’re all the same. We’re all insecure. We all worry about tomorrow and our imperfect bodies and our health and losing the people we love. We all try to keep it under wraps so we don’t freak out the other guy. But the other guy’s doing the same thing. And for just a second as I walked down the street, I could see it clearly. The girl I was passing, the old man sitting on the side of the road offering to have his dog do tricks for a dollar, the biker, the people waiting at the bus stop. And me.

All souls contained by the thin skin of our bodies.

What would happen if everyone everywhere suddenly had that same epiphany? What if we all realized that those little things don’t matter and we can’t change how other people see us and those people are worrying about how we see them, anyway? What if we all stopped trying to suck in our stomachs and say the exact right thing and not look too closely at the people we don’t think we want to know?

Like all explosions, this one was over quickly. What I’m writing now comes only from the last embers of it. It doesn’t come close to the moment of perfect knowledge, but at least I can share this much of it.