Project 1 Chapter 3
If you have read either of my novels, you will know that loss and grief are a part of what I write about. And Project 1 has certainly started with the same theme; Chapter 1 opens at a funeral, Chapter 2 the returning home afterwards, and the bossy neighbour. And here we are at Chapter 3 and there's ice cream.
Let me explain.
Loss and grief are central to the human experience. From the loss of a favourite toy when we are young, the loss of friendships, and other significant relationships. There are so many different losses that I won't spend time listing them here, but we can all think of times when we or someone close to us has experienced grief due to loss.
And it's also something we don't necessarily talk about - or if we do, we often find ourselves in awkward conversations - after all - what it the right thing to say? How do we explain a loss to a child, break the news to a parent, comfort a stranger, adjust to the new reality of life after loss...
My career has also, at times, focused on loss and grief. For some time, I worked with young people and sometimes members of their families, who had, for a variety of reasons, lost their family, their support network, their purpose.
And then, of course, is my own personal experience with loss. There really is no escaping it or its impact, however short lived or long lasting.
So, it's no surprise to me that when characters appear that there will be a situation to face that has to do with a loss and the grief that accompanies it. If you have read Unpacking Harper Holt, Everything We Keep or Project 3, you will know that this is a major theme of my middle grade writing.
What does this have to do with Chapter 3?
One of the many, many writing lessons I learnt from working closely with my first editor, Nancy Conescu, when editing Unpacking Harper Holt, is that a writer can take the reader into a character's grief, if along the way there are moments where the character, and the reader can take a breath. (If you have a copy of Harper, I refer you to a scene on P103 or P192 as examples. And in Everything We Keep - P63 or P126, are two such examples.)
For middle grade readers, ending with a sense of hope is also essential - despite what the character has been through, or the emotions evoked, the reader knows that the character is going to be okay.
(I had a conversation with a middle grade reader, sometime last year, who told me that she knew Harper was going to be fine; she imagined Harper would work part time at the café with Sarah, be a lead performer at the dance school and would most likely be School Captain. Doesn't that just sound perfect for Harper.)
Again - what does this have to do with Chapter 3?
You may notice that the blog image is ice cream and doesn't it look delicious!
By Chapter 3 we find a grieving family - a father who has lost a daughter and is caring for his granddaughters, and daughters who have lost their mother. We know that they have just been through a devastating time, and now there's ice cream fun happening? There's a glimpse of joy, some laughter, a of mystery - still present but unexplained.
As you read Chapter 3, be aware that the ice cream feast is there for a purpose. It's not intended to make light of the situation these characters are facing - they are fully aware of the reality of the situation - it's a moment for the characters and the reader to breathe - which they need - because I know what's coming next!