Home Again

I went home again last week.

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Well, I went to the cancer camp I’d attended for 19 summers between 1990 and 2008.

The people who are the volunteers at this camp, myself now included, have been my family of choice forever. They attended my high school plays, graduation, wedding, and even Mama’s funeral.

A lot of people still call me by my maiden name (or worse, the nickname I earned as a teenager). I get reminded of the stunts I pulled or sometimes we chat about folks who aren’t at camp anymore.

But, my first day back at camp I was struck by just how much I have changed since I was last at camp. I’m no longer a newly-wed, I’m the parent of two little girls, and I spend a lot of time creating imaginary people.

I was asked quite a few times if I was still acting.

And each time I was asked, I smiled. Because these people, my chosen family, remembered that at one point time I was an actor. It was fun to explain that while I didn’t act any longer I was doing other creative things. I’m writing. I’m working on getting a novel published. I’m still inhabiting characters, just in a different format.

Each time I was asked if I was still acting it gave me a little thrill because people remembered that I was not only a performer, but I was (am?) talented. That theater is something I am passionate about. My camp family remembered me before I was a full-time mom and writer. They remembered when I would show up at any (and every) cattle-call audition and watch casting associates try to figure out what to do with the one-legged girl.

I have changed and grown in the seven years I was away from camp. And I love that people remember who I was and that they love who I am.

Here’s to going home again.

The Truth

Before I started college my Mama asked me a very simple questions, “Kati, why aren’t you majoring in English?”

I brushed her off, reminded her my scholarships were dependent on my degree in theater, and that I didn’t like analyzing literary works for their hidden meanings.

“But, you love to write.”

And that was true. On days that I wasn’t in rehearsal, or even when I was, I was always scratching away at a new General Hospital FanFic (Liz and Lucky 4ever) or writing something for a friend. Sometimes I’d attempt my own stuff, my own characters, my own settings, but they never went very far. But, I was always writing.

And the truth? The reason I didn’t major in English? I didn’t feel like I was smart enough. I understood how theater worked. I understood auditions and stage management. I didn’t always understand when to use a semicolon or the difference between the direct object and indirect object. I was afraid that the little romance stories I liked to tell weren’t “real” enough for an academic major.

And there are days, still, that I don’t feel smart enough. Sometimes it’s because I spend a lot of time asking my children very rudimentary questions (Do you need to potty? Are you hungry? How many bats do you see?). Sometimes it’s because I’m short on sleep and too much caffeine. And sometimes it’s because I don’t feel like my little stories are good enough.

But, I write anyway.

 

Representation and Why It Matters

When I was a teenager I read every book that Lurlene McDaniel wrote. She wrote what many people refer to as “The Chemo Cannon.”  All of her protagonists had a chronic illness. A lot of them had cancer. And yes, I had issues with most of them for various reasons. And yes, very few characters made it out of her books alive. But, it was the only place I sort of saw myself in books.

But not once did a girl character have one leg (Kimber had one arm). Not a single one.

There was a book where a miracle happened the girl got to keep her leg. I remember throwing that book across the room. It was a terrible plot device even to teenage-me. I wrote and asked if she planned on ever writing one. And she told me not at this time. I felt flawed. Like I didn’t exist outside of my own life in any popular culture.

I just wanted to see someone who was like me. Everyone needs to see themselves.

Today while scrolling facebook I saw this video.

Do you see this little girl’s reaction to seeing herself? This is why representation matters. She will need to see herself in a book someday.

And I’m writing it.