Anyone knows that along with acne, menstrual cycles, and teenage angst, your magical power emerges no later than your 16th birthday. That is, if you are anyone but Mae.
Mae will never have a magical power, which means an uncertain and dangerous future, given her potential inability to defend herself from the criminal use of magic by others.
While her friends and peers become seers, invisibles, flyers, and other magically transformed teens, Mae learns the secret her parents have been keeping from her since her birth: she is the only known unmagicked girl her world has ever seen.
So how does a private recruiter learn about her secret? And why does he want her for an exclusive school no one has ever heard of?
Confused feelings about a boy, whose extraordinary power enables him to “borrow” the magical abilities of others, make Mae even more stubborn, more determined to go it alone, an increasingly difficult plan considering she is an unmagicked girl in magical harm’s way.
That’s the idea behind my latest YA novel, The World’s Least Magical Girl (working title), which explores how being different can be the source of one’s greatest strength. I’m working on it while my unsold novel, Naming the Stars, looks for a home.
Like each novel I’ve written, this latest novel is a new challenge. I want each book to be better than the last, and stretch me while I write it. I think The World’s Least Magical Girl is doing that!
Strange how nearly four decades have gone by, yet last night I recognized friends I hadn’t seen since high school and chatted with them as if it was only yesterday when we last spoke. As if nothing had changed.
We, a group of high school thespians from the 70’s, had a gathering to visit with our high school theater director, JB, and his wife, the high school art teacher, who were passing through town.
It looked for all the world like JB had stepped right off the stage of that last performance in the late 70’s, just the day before. His shirt, some commented, seemed straight out of the 70’s. (Or the bottom of our friend and favorite actor’s steamer trunk, lovingly preserved in the pages of his scrapbook.) His face had a few more wrinkles, for sure, but his eyes were still sparkling, his wit sharp.
35 or 40 years come and gone as if just one day passed.
Yet, far more has happened. Life has happened. We’ve married, split, remarried, (or never married), had children, some of us grandchildren. Some of us childless, by choice or not.
For others, it took those four decades to be legally allowed to marry the person they loved. Everyone knows how brutal high school can be to people who are “different” and theater kids are more different than most.
We’ve each had a share of happiness & heartbreak over the past, almost four, decades since high school. It seems to take about four decades to heal from that tumult of high school — to stop having the nightmares about forgetting locker combinations, the boys or girls we loved who didn’t love us back, or loved us for awhile and moved on to others, the dances we didn’t get invited to… all of that teenage stuff that – to be honest – doesn’t really end when we enter our 20’s.
Or our 30’s.
Last night was a graduation of sorts. We compared the wounds life gave us and the accolades we’d worked hard to achieve. We passed another test, and got rewarded for good results. It was a simple lesson that takes, ridiculously, three to four decades to learn: the greatest joy comes from the community of friends, the shared bottles of wine, the shared experience of art. As simple as that. You’d think you’d learn that in school, but you don’t.
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
2100 North Snelling Ave
Roseville, MN 55113
Join me and other Twin Cities Sisters in Crime authors for a Festival of Crime book signing. Books available for purchase! My story, “Iced,” is in the anthology. Books are going fast, so be sure to grab one soon!
October 21, 7:30 PM – 9 PM
ST PAUL, MN
420 Summit Avenue
St Paul, MN 55102-2699
I will be reading along with other mystery novelists at the October “Readings by Writers” event. Sponsored by Public Art Saint Paul/Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk and hosted by Saint Paul’s first poet laureate, Carol Connolly. All three Arvo Thorson mysteries － Burnt Out, Broken Down, and Washed Up －will be available for purchase.
Big news. Along with my Twin Cities Sisters in Crime friends, I will be appearing at a couple of really fun events very soon! Including, the very fantastic Minnesota State Fair! Details below and as always, on my Events page.
Stop by the MELSA tent during Read and Ride day at the Fair to visit me along with other Twin Cities Sister in Crime authors. Giveaways galore! All three Arvo Thorson mysteries － Burnt Out, Broken Down, and Washed Up － will be available for purchase.
Join me and other Twin Cities Sisters in Crime authors as we launch our fun anthology, Festival of Crime. Books available for purchase! My story, about a murder at the Winter Carnival ice-carving competition, is in the book!
Some time ago, a boss was comparing me with my coworker as the three of us met in the boss’s office. Specifically, this boss was reacting to a complaint my coworker made about a work problem that the boss had not taken care of.
At the time, I thought that maybe my coworker had the right idea. That it was better to be the squeaky wheel. That even my boss, who was quite the squeaky wheel herself, would find me lacking in the gumption department. In fact, this particular boss had an energy for squeakiness that I found admirable, though wearing. She was a tiny spitfire of a woman with glinting eyes who had an admirable grasp of office politics and hidden powers of influence.
She could also be quite scary when things weren’t going her way.
“You need to be more like Susan,” the boss said to my coworker. “She does her research, presents me with the issue, then waits, patiently.” She smiled at me and my coworker slumped back in her chair, scolded. I know she meant this as a compliment. She was saying that in due time the issue would be dispatched, but trying to get things done faster, on one’s particular schedule, punctuated with much nagging, simply doesn’t help one’s case. She even may have suggested that she herself would be better off with a bit more of my patience.
I don’t know.
One of my best friends from high school signed my yearbook “To the calmest person I know.” I learned what this meant years later, long after we’d lost touch and then met for lunch near our workplaces. By then, she was a scary thin chain smoker, a not much recovered drug addict. She was quivering as if her body was a dragonfly wing, barely settled, as if even the most innocuous comment would send her flitting away. A calm personality might have saved her from some of her troubles, and when she looked at me, perhaps she saw in me what she lacked.
I don’t know. Here’s how impatience lives in this writer, who appears to be all patient and calm on the exterior.
There are all of the little stories huddled inside of me, bored children demanding their next adventure. “What are we doing next?” they whine, these unborn characters from tales I have yet to tell.
“Hush,” I say. “Be patient.”
“Why?” They chorus.
“Any number of reasons. Isn’t it obvious?” (The dog is impatiently barking for attention, the sink is full of dirty dishes, and I’m getting over a recurrent bug, and, by the way, I have a day job? etc.).
And so they settle down, my little unborn story children and other story people who have been paused, mid-story, sometimes for several years.
Their patience with me will be rewarded at some point down the line, I say, just like my boss said, years back. But that was more for her own benefit, right? And my friend who wished she was someone other than who she was? They were both reflecting on what they saw as their own failings, dreaming in my character a strength they wished they possessed.
I don’t know.
I may be far too patient for my own good, writing-wise. Too accommodating to the demands of the real world.
I’m secretly hoping that a squeaky wheel amongst those hibernating story characters might stand up for all of us and make a fuss that it isn’t right for them to be lying about, un-imagined. Un-realized.
Maybe they will organize and spill themselves out of there and onto the page, an unstoppable force that no amount of real life or so-called patience can deny.
So begins Rainer Maria Rilke in his first of a series of letters to a young poet. Scary, brutal frankness to a 19 year-old from a young man not much older than he is (Rilke was only 27 when he wrote the first letter).
You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
There can be no better writing advice in all the world. I’ve reread Rilke’s letters from time-to-time, relearn that like any other condition, the desire to publish sometimes needs to perish before one can learn to write.
And to learn to write, one must simply write. And write again. And keep at it because you can do nothing else to express that peculiar art you have been condemned to perform.
That’s the premise of my novel-in-progress, Naming the Stars.
In Naming the Stars, 16-year-old Mary-Louise comes home from swimming lessons one day to find she is absent from family photographs, her bedroom has turned into a linen closet, and all of her possessions have disappeared. More troubling, her family goes on as if she never existed. The only person in town who can actually see her is a boy she calls Fish, a YMCA swimming instructor, but Fish is hiding from a troubled past and the person he sees is entirely different from who she thought she was.
What if everyone acted as if you didn’t exist?
With dreamlike realism and with a dash of cosmology, this coming-of-age story explores the important and often fragile connection between the roles we play in others’ lives—as siblings, children, friends, and partners—and the unique identity we must find in ourselves.
Coming someday soon (I HOPE!) to book places everywhere.