Every writer has her muse. Mine just happens to wear braces and live down the hall. She answers to Gaby, and some say she’s my daughter. But I know better. I am inspired to write by my daughter. She’s a muse in middle-schooler’s clothing.
I first noticed this a few months ago when I was thinking about writing my first novel. I’d written lots of articles and short stories, but had yet to climb the Mt. Olympus of 200-plus pages. Gaby, who does her homework in my office, asked me one day, “When are you ever going to write a book?” “When I have something to write about,” I said. She sighed, then launched into another episode of “My Life in Junior High.” Listening to her describe how the bus kids had pasted a sticker to her head, it hit me. Gaby’s life provided enough fodder for 10 books. Why not purloin it for one volume?
So I began writing about Lena, a half-Jewish, half-Mexican girl preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, a girl whose best friends were at odds. Gaby had just had her Bat Mitzvah, so the foibles of the soon-to-be-anointed were close at hand. Of course, the day I started my novel, Gaby sniffed out my thievery. “Why are you looking at me that way? What are you writing?” she demanded. “Read that to me.”
I read as directed, my voice cracking like an eighth-grade boy’s. When she laughed in all the right places, I felt like I’d won the Pulitzer. Her only comment was, “Isn’t stealing my bus number a little much?”
Now when she races in from school, she chides me if I haven’t written any Lena that day, and if I have, demands to hear it. Her criticism is right-on, and I always take her advice. I’ve learned not to look a gift muse in the mouth.
Our editor-writer relationship also gives Gaby something: the joy of having her opinion valued and the confidence that she can shape a story.
My drive to complete this book is simple. I want to see the look on my daughter’s face when she cracks open Lena and the Rejects and reads, “To Gaby, my middle-school muse.”
Bliss Goldstein writes from Bellingham, Washington.