AN ADVENTURE I THOUGHT I'D DIE FOR
Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a thousand foot cliff, with a ferocious wind whipping your hair and sand blowing in your eyes and nothing below but threatening, rocky space. Your oldest son has just persuaded you to launch into that space, a tandem passenger on his hang glider. The only problem is, you are a forty-four year old mother, a devout coward, with plans to stick around and raise your six kids. What on earth are you doing here!
Thus began one of the most terrifying events in my life, an experience I Iook back on now with utter disbelief, wondering still how I ever strapped myself into such an elemental contrivance as a hang glider and flew off a cliff so awesome I couldn't stand near its edge . . . how I soared to two thousand feet--with small planes flying below us--and managed not to faint . . . and how, though I shamelessly begged my son to bring me down, I eventually came to love it!
None of it makes sense now. Why did I momentarily stop being the person who has steadfastly refused to ride on Space Mountain and who, in the movie theater, subconsciously feels around for a seat belt?
In fact, why did I do any of the things I did back in the early days of hang gliding?
I’ve tried to explain all this in my book, HIGHER THAN EAGLES, which is an account mothers everywhere will understand. It is the story of how life creeps up on you: how one can have five sons and a daughter and never imagine that three of the boys will become flying-mad kids and persuade you they must fly; how rational parents are talked into starting a hang glider manufacturing company and then persuaded to help run it; how sons drag their parents to championships, claiming they can win . . . and then WIN; how boys imagine they can set world records . . . and then SET them.
HIGHER THAN EAGLES is about being a parent who follows her kids' dreams--and because of them lives richly for a time, more richly than she ever imagined. But it is also about loss and coming to grips with tragedy. About trying to understand the why of losing a child, and realizing in the end you will not only never fully understand, you could not, looking back, do anything differently. That it was the children themselves who led you to make decisions you would make again in a minute.
I wrote HIGHER THAN EAGLES because I had to. Though it took fourteen years to find a publisher (and I sold six other books meanwhile), I knew I'd never give up. Once it became the lead title for Longstreet Press, I was free to go on to other books--and to continue teaching novel-writing, which I love as much as writing itself. For who else but a budding novelist really wants to know how to make a scene come alive . . . or finds daily discoveries about the craft of writing as exciting as I do.
If writing were as lucrative as it is compelling, there would be few other professions, for how else can we preserve forever the things we've experienced. The images. The ideas. The feelings. The logic. The lack of logic. The sheer craziness.
And so I live both in the "real" world and the world of the imagination, and I cannot see myself doing anything else.
(When a writer’s club asked for an essay in advance of my appearance, this is what I sent.)