I’m not one for collecting things. I like a sparse house, and I sometimes kid Tim that my goal is to have so little “stuff” that I can pack up in four hours and be on the road in five. It will never happen, but I’ve gotten good at throwing things out. About the only place I will buy “stuff” anymore is for the yard, and I lavish on it like it’s my last child.
There are exceptions, and I have a few talismans on my bookshelf with my reference copies to remind me of things I need to not forget. There’s a string of three bells that mean nothing unless you read LOST TRUTH. A recorder I bought in Ann Arbor when I was like twelve because I wanted to be just like The Doctor and I’d already knitted the scarf. The bunny might stay . . . I’m not sure yet how deep it goes in my soul. There’s a pincushion you can’t see that reminds me I’m my mother’s daughter, and a piece of Petoskey stone my grandfather found and polished to remind me love is thicker than blood. There’s a red-bandanda GI Joe with a drink sword and wings. (Enough said about that.)
The nub of the orange pencil I used to copy edit all the Hollows books was added on a whim, but I think it’s going to be with me forever now. I bought a new pencil for The Drafter, but alas, I will never use it as that’s not how we do things in NY anymore. It’s a shame that I’m the last generation who will correct on paper, and I remember being terrified the first time I did it–writing on my manuscript. Soon, the elegant language of proofing will be dead at the hands of the “accept changes” button. Sure it’s faster, but who learns anything that way? It pains me that I will never know the intimacy of my editor’s handwriting again.
The candle, burned once and stuck to a coin, has been with me for over two decades. It was on the thank-you cake I made for Gwen (Faith) Hunter when our writing critique group got back from Atlanta and the Mystery Writer’s convention where, because of her, I met the man who later became my agent. There were five of us wannabes under her wing who went, and I made a vow that no one probably remembers that when we all got published, we’d get together and burn our candles down to nothing in celebration. I have no idea if anyone else even saved their candles.
Most of us did get published. Maybe all. I’ve fallen out of contact with the last and don’t know. Even so, I don’t know if I could bring myself to burn my green candle down to nothing now. It’s become a talisman of the stupid, frustratingly obstinate me who still thinks everything is possible when everyone says otherwise. I still feel that way, and I weep for the day I do not, but now I know how hard it is to balance on that high wire. I’ve been working there all this time not knowing the net was an illusion.
Good thing I have wings.