Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Club worthy?

Yippee, Hooray, Yee-haw!

Yes, the kids are back in school! (Well, two out of three anyway...but at least I'm no longer out numbered...)

It's such a relief to be done with all the running around that goes with the approaching school year. School supply shopping must be the most universally despised outing by moms everywhere. We avoid it all summer long which is why we ALL end up at Target and Office Depot on the last week of summer vacation. My school mandated supply list for two kids went something like this: 24 pack crayons, 12 pack colored pencils, 24 pack colored pencils, large white eraser (not pink, mind you), 4 folders in specific colors with NO DESIGNS, 2 folders with designs, 1 pack wide ruled loose leaf, 1 pack college ruled loose leaf get the idea. Add in one crying toddler because it was her third store in one day and she was looking at the McDonald's located INSIDE the other side of the Walmart (who's bright idea was THAT?) and you'll see why I hate school supply shopping. I'd like to say it all works out in the end, but when you get home and begin to load the backpacks, you always find there is something you forgot. For me this year, it was a yellow highlighter for my 6th grader (and yes, it had to be yellow).

But there IS a part of back to school preparations that I do enjoy: the summer reading book report. It is gratifying to see how far the kids have come since the past school year - how much their vocabulary and handwriting have improved since June. But reading over my son's report last week, I had to stop and wonder: As a writer, am I ready to have such detailed and specific questions asked of my work? And more importantly: Would there really be an answer?

Was I really foreshadowing the ending when I had the MC plant a willow tree rather than a birch or an elm? (Couldn't I have just always wanted a willow in my own yard?) Was the fact that the nanny's name was Savannah indicative of the MC's southern roots? (Couldn't I have just liked the name?) And most importantly: Was I, the author, really trying to teach a lesson or universal truth during the course of my novel? How would my novel rate as a "book club" book? And does it even need to be?

Is it possible that authors don't always intend for the literary contraptions that appear in their books or could it possibly just be a manifestation of their underlying talent that these devices arise from their subconscious? What do you think? How would your own work rate as a "book club" book?