Dear 8-Year-Old Kat
October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
Dear eight-year-old Kat,
No, wait, really—
Okay, really, let me talk a minute. Yes, this is from the future.
What, you don’t believe me? Kid, you talk to trees. Give me a break.
Yes, thirteen years later, you will still remember the time you mediated an argument between a jump rope and a willow branch about which was more useful. You will remember reading WELCOME TO THE ARK and trying to become a tree the way Taryn describes it in the book. You will still be writing poetry because when you were six years old, your father bought you the complete tales of Winnie the Pooh, which had all of A.A. Milne’s children’s poetry in the back, inspiring you to give that writing thing a go of your own.
It’s true. Even at 21, you will remember how you were shaped by the books you read as a child. A.A. Milne introduced you to poetry. In about 3 years, you’ll discover William Blake, and until high school, your favorite poems will be “The Tyger” and “The Lamb.” You’ll spend late elementary school and all of middle school writing a ton of terrible poetry about “twirling squirrels” and birds pooping on your head (this will actually happen one day in Spain when you are 20, just warning you. It will be gross) and “sighing moons” and “brave dewdrops who do not fear the sun.” In these poems, your spelling will be atrocious. To be honest, it’s still quite bad. You will never learn how to spell “squirrel.” Thank God for spell check.
You’re in third grade now, so your first year at your new and last elementary school. You’ll finally stop moving around now, which is great in some ways, but a bit too late, it seems, because all that early movement will create a sort of desperate wanderlust in you. I know you’re not a big fan of elementary school, but hold in there. It’s almost done, and school will mostly get better from here on out.
In middle school, sixth grade, you’ll read BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, which will be the very first book to ever make you cry. The memory of that will stay pressed in your mind—the blue and white wedding-ring coverlet on your bed, the yellow overhead light, the way you have to set the book down for a moment and lie there, staring up at the ceiling.
You will also read ANIMAL FARM this year and completely miss the “commentary on socialism” your 8th grade Language Arts teacher brings up two years later (“It was about animals,” you’ll think. “On a farm. What the heck is socialism?”), TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and completely miss the racial tension (“Scout’s dad was involved in some kinda case,” you’ll think. “Wasn’t the interesting part. Ignored it.”), and DRAGONFLIGHT and completely forget about the sex (I’m pretty sure you’ll notice the sex, but it’ll be such a non-issue that it won’t even merit the brain cells to remember it when there are such cooler things to remember like Lissa’s dragon carrying off an entire runnerbeast. What that says to people trying desperately to give kids only the most sanitized literature, I’m not sure).
In seventh grade, you’ll read THE GOLDEN COMPASS. You still remember the first time you opened the book, sitting in your Science class before the bell. That first sentence, “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen,” will pull you from that classroom of bright, shiny desks and gleaming floors to the darkened hallway, the rich carpets of Jordan College. This book will be the first to make you realize a sentence can be beautiful.
You’ll also read ENDER’S GAME this year, which will be the second book to ever make you cry, and the first you will read with a more critical eye. This part made you feel this way. That part made you feel that way. How did the writer do that? Could you do that?
You will decide you can. So at twelve, you’ll begin your first novel. You’ll still be scribbling that terrible poetry, as I said before, and you’ll have already been writing short stories for about a year, but twelve is when the attempts at novel writing begin. That first novel will not get published. Sorry. Neither will the next idea, nor the next, nor the one after that.
Hint from the wise (or just older): to publish a novel, it helps if one actually finishes one.
Well, little Me, this letter has gone on far too long already, and cross-time mail service is horridly expensive, as you might imagine. I suppose I’m only writing to say that despite the fact reading non-stop will quite ruin your eyesight, it’ll be worth it in the long run.
No, stop arguing.
Yes, we already established at the beginning that this is from the future. I know you’re not the best auditory learner, but—
All right, go back to talking to your trees, really. Geez.
P.S. Stop putting gum on your Barbie’s feet. Sewing old socks into dresses is clever. Molding chewing gum into shoes is just gross. Go ask Mom and Dad to buy you some clay. They will, I swear, especially if you tell them what you’ve been doing with that chewing gum.