I found her, my fairy godmother.
She’s short and spry and feisty. She wears a giant sombrero and spurred boots. She says things like “sugarfoot” and “Let’s get crackin'” and doesn’t think twice about firing that golden pistol of hers into the air. She appears out of nowhere, just in time.
“What’s the matter with you, honey?” she asks.
I tell her I’m trying to write a novel. I explain about all the planning and the bulletin board in the basement, about the first-draft jitters, about the laundry that keeps getting in the way and the dishes in the sink. I say I need more time. A maid. I need to read more books on writing novels first. I’m afraid, I say, that I won’t get this right. I wait for her advice, for her to weave some sort of magic.
But while I’m talking to her, she’s not directly talking to me. She lives in the pages of a children’s book by Susan Lowell, Cindy Ellen, A Wild Western Cinderella.
When she asks, “What’s the matter with you, honey?” she is eyeing up the young cowgirl, Cindy Ellen, who longs to go to a rodeo, ride the bronco, and win the heart of a young handsome son of a cattle king.
Whether you love or hate the Cinderella tale, there’s plenty of reason to appreciate Susan Lowell’s book. Lowell adds a fun twist to a familiar tale, making the story completely her own with her characters and language. It’s terribly fun to read out loud to your kids, especially when you’re a Texan who’s rooted in Wisconsin. I get to revive my Texas twang, say words like “gumption” and “Western fandango” and “you’ll be sorr-ee!”
Mostly though, I love the fairy godmother. She’s all sass, endearing as much as she is intimidating. Not all fluff and fancy. She calls it like she sees it.
Words of wisdom fit for any writer.
There’s magic in crafting a novel. I still believe that. Characters appear out of nowhere. Dialogue sounds off in your head as if you’re remembering a conversation recently overheard. Words fumble and fail and then suddenly fall into line, “like little soldiers,” as Victoria Flynn said in a great post (which I want to link to but cannot find at this late hour!).
But, none of it happens without gumption.
“‘Hit the trail, honey!’ the old lady said.”
(She’s talking to you.)