I thought this would be a perfect topic for me. Here I am, a mom of six, a kindergarten teacher, and I just published my third picture book.
I was planning on writing about “writing on the fly.”
I was planning on writing about using my kids for inspiration, beta readers and cheerleaders.
I was planning on saying that you CAN make it work.
And then Covid 19 hit and I had to move my classroom into my already overcrowded bedroom/writing studio.
Even worse, teaching online took time. Real time. While I used to get away with preparing for three hours a week, I found myself chained to the computer for at least four additional hours a day. I needed to supervise my first grader’s schooling. I was consistently monitoring my kids’ varied emotional and psychological needs, dealing with meltdowns. (Think: 8 unique personalities in a 1900 square foot house.) I was a full-time referee to all their arguments. (Yup, even got myself a black and white striped shirt.)
When I tried to write something to bring along to our virtual critique group…. I couldn’t.
And I knew why.
My creative brain cells were all hard at work. Every. Last. One.
- Translating in-person lessons to virtual.
- Creating over 150 videos for those lessons.
- Coming up with a kickass end of year party for my students.
- Finding the right words to keep my kids calm and at an even keel.
There was nothing left for my fictional character stuck in 1845 in a village somewhere in the Ottoman empire.
And do you know what happened? My writing didn’t run away. It was ready for me on a day in July when life finally calmed down just a tiny bit.
My daily walks were conversations with Zalman, my sweet protagonist. I started interviewing him about the robbery he had witnessed. He was so forthcoming and descriptive that I was able to see the chapter unfold. Next, I had to gently coax Zalman to speak to the world in the person. He didn’t want to, so we compromised. Zalman agreed to write the experience down in a diary, and if I may say so myself, we did an awesome job together.
For two hours, I channeled Zalman’s lively Yiddish voice into English on my computer, and the results were a chapter I was proud to bring to my critique partners.
The next time the group met, I couldn’t join. Again.
But that’s ok.
When the time is right, when the fires are only smoldering instead of burning, I’ll be back.
Zalman will make sure of that.
Rochel is the author of three Jewish concept picture books all published by Hachai Publishing. The most recent one, I Have a Jewish Name, was released in February 2019. She credits her kindergarten students at the Charlotte Jewish Day School with inspiring her writing. Her own six kids provide material as well, but more frequently roll their eyes when forced to listen to another one of their mom’s “great ideas.” Rochel moved to Charlotte at the age of six months old. After a few detours, she moved back with her husband and toddler just before the birth of her second child.
You can follow her on Instagram @rochelvorst.