(Me: first day 1st grade; altered)
The Wednesday after Labor Day was always the first day of school in the town where I grew up, so even though it's been years since I've sat in a classroom, the air felt damp with a chalky smell when I woke up this morning. Something about the first days of elementary school always felt oddly magical to me, but magical in the fairy tale sort of way where anything, good or evil, was possible in the world. (I was strangely introspective child.) There was something about the world that looked and smelled differently on those days.
It seemed to me back then that colors changed overnight as I slept. Gone was the glossy glow of summer, replaced by the matte finish of autumn. The air grew thinner with the far off threat of winter. And like the weather, you were a different person than you had been the day before because now you had a new identity that came with a new class and new teacher and new grade. The first day of school was the measuring day of your life's calendar and the tone of the next year was going to be set in the next several hours. It's a weighty thing for a child and needless to say, left me most often with a stomachache.
In a way, starting to explore the story of a new novel is similar. It's like entering the woods and not knowing what lurks around each corner. Some trees may hide friends. Others hide wolves and witches. It's up to you, the writer, to shed light into the underbrush and make the place exactly how you want it to be. Elementary school and childhood for me was kind of the same way. Imagination is so powerful at that age, you can make the world whatever you want it to be...at least within your own mind.
So it's back to school for me today in a sense. It feels like as good a day as any to make some of the difficult choices that must be made early on in writing a novel. These are the kind of pivotal choices that define the type of book it's going to be. Let's hope I make the right ones and that this is going to be a good year.