Through a writer’s eyes. I’ve spent most of my evenings, and weekends, this month working on my book for NaNoWriMo, which is why I haven’t been posting. I have to say that regardless of if I “win” or not it’s been an awesome experience. This afternoon just added to it. You see, I went to one of the regular meet-ups for the Boston participants. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I wasn’t really sure what time it was supposed to be at, and ended up guessing incorrectly. But that didn’t matter, because I’ve learned that writers see the world through different eyes. My story is about a young girl (thirteen) who dies and joins the ranks of the Grim Reapers. So, I didn’t ride the T. I scanned the crowd for interesting people and pondered the various ways they might meet their demise. I contemplated the wonderful curve of a curvy black woman’s equally curvy upper lip. Oh, to kiss lips such as those… When I arrived I had an agenda. You see, my story is set in Boston. It’s the only city I know well enough to incorporate, and the Reapers spend entirely too much time hanging out at IHOP, because it’s affordable and open later than anywhere else. So, they spend their time at the Harvard Square IHOP, which I’d never been to, but knew existed. As a result, I’ve avoided actually describing it. So today’s agenda was reconnaissance. To check out the IHOP, and the Goodwill in Central, because that showed up in the book too. But what I found by watching the world through writer’s eyes was so much better than I’d hoped for. As I sat at my table, typing my story, and contemplating when the meet-up really was because it definitely wasn’t then, a family with a young deaf girl sat down perfectly positioned for me to watch them, which is notable, not only because of the relatively small number of deaf people in the world, but because one of the characters in my book is deaf, and the main character has found herself living with her. So I watched the young girl signing to her mom while her dad gazed out the window people-watching. A freshmen girl with attitude to spare gave me a decidedly unpleasant look and said something that made me wish I knew how to read lips. A trio of college students sat outside in the cold and started filming one of them looking through a newspaper with eye-holes cut out of it and holding a dress shoe up beside it. One of them wore a shirt that proclaimed that he was “Not a Ninja” despite his Asian appearance, the laptop bag he had handcuffed to his wrist, or the two guitar cases they’d leaned up against a concrete column, but never opened. And then there was the man who walked amongst the tables with people dropping off business cards with the American Sign Language alphabet on the back and a message on the front that asked if you were interested in having an experience with “the deaf” and that “Any Donation” would be accepted if you wanted to “Buy this card”. Unfortunately for the man with the cards being deaf is no excuse for not grasping the distinction between buying something and making a donation or giving the people he wanted money from absolutely no hint as to what they would be donating to (was it just him or some deaf community project) or why they would want to buy the card, unless they were so desperately in need of an ASL alphabet guide that they would put up with the almost indecipherable printing quality of this one. I would have asked him about it but my ASL skills have been degrading (although writing this book is helping) and even when I had more signs still trapped in my brain I know from experience that my trying to sign with deaf people rarely goes over well. They get all excited that you have actually taken the time to learn their language and then proceed to sign at a speed that risks breaking the sound barrier, which, to me, is totally incomprehensible, and then they get frustrated, and I feel like an idiot, and …. yeah. I think I’m going to take classes over at Deaf Inc. when they start up again, although they’re in risk of being challenged by my desire to take Japanese classes, which the deaf character is also (although I don’t know yet if she’s actually from Japan or just of Japanese descent). But that, is another discussion entirely… Of course, this being my life, and working in the fantabulous way that it does, there was a Japanese family sitting where I could watch and hear them too. Then there were the chess players, playing the pick-up games of speed chess that that the Harvard Square Au Bon Pain has become so well known for. They’d play contemplatively by themselves until a stranger walked up and, through some ritual too quick to follow, joined the table. They’d sit, focusing so intently: Move, tap. Move, take, tap. Move take tap. Move tap. Move tap. The digital timer flipping and resetting the countdown from one opponent to the next with a tap from each side. The IHOP sandwiched in between a comic store, a hair salon, and an Indian restaurant, under a Thai restaurant and possibly above a Japanese restaurant was no less inspiring. Who could consistently make up a scene that cool? My mother was an artist. Always seeing, and creating, beautiful things. But writers… they’re not limited to frozen frames of light, and the world seems to offer up such a wonderful bounty of characters. I don’t know if fiction is my forte. I know I can write well on topics I am passionate about, but I’m still learning how to translate that passion into tales that don’t yet exist, with people who don’t either. What I do know is that I’m loving the experience, and am very grateful for this totally crazy challenge. You should totally join me next year. I’ve got this comfy couch, with plenty of nearby electrical outlets, and a ready supply of junk food just around the corner.