Category Archives: Fran Prescott

Fran Prescott: Pursuing a Dream Deferrred

From: Be Happy the Thorn Bush has Roses

I’m not a jealous person by nature—it’s just not part of my make-up, I’m happy to say. But when I took my daughter to visit Emerson College last week and listened to a young woman on the student panel talk about how fortunate she was to be able to pursue her BFA in writing there, I will admit, the green-eyed monster reared its head for a little while.
If only I had chosen to go to school for writing, where might I be now?
Next week I will be forty-nine years old. I have been writing seriously for only a few years. I have completed two novels, both currently in revision, several picture books, still tentatively being sent out to publishers, and I’ve had a few poems published, but haven’t really pursued that aspect of my writing. And I took no writing classes in all my years of college, way back when. I didn’t believe in my ability to tell a story that other people would want to hear. I kept my dream tucked away inside my heart.
So, as I sat and listened to the young woman at Emerson enthusiastically describing her passion for her major, those two ugly words kept popping into my head. If only. . . if only. . . if only. . .
Which finally woke me up to my own reality.
I have lived a full and varied life. I have traveled, had a family, lived on an island, run a marathon, learned to sing. I’ve seen otters slipping through the woods from pond to pond. I have seen how many of my friends’ and loved ones’ real life stories have ended. I’ve known and loved children who have left this world too soon.
And I realize that coming into the world of writers in mid-life is not so terrible a thing, after all.
Because when I write now, I bring to the table the fullness of my life. It is a life I love, despite the challenges. Or, perhaps, because of the challenges. Because where would we be without those challenges? How would we grow? How would we appreciate how good life can be without understanding, also, how hard it can be?
Becoming a serious writer can happen at any age. Although I didn’t take writing classes in college, I have been devouring books on the craft of writing, reading and studying the works of authors in and outside my genre, attending workshops and conferences. . . and writing and revising, writing and revising ad infinitum.
And I love it.
I have things to say in my writing that I couldn’t have said in my teens, or my twenties. Heck, not even in my thirties. I know things about myself that I couldn’t have guessed at twenty years ago. And I think that informs my writing in a way that no books on craft of workshops could ever do.
So the green-eyed monster has slipped away as I realize that I have been training as a writer all my life. I am happy for those who know at a younger age that this is their dream. The world is a better place because of these young artists, pursuing their craft and maturing into it. But as I head to the New England SCBWI writing conference today, excited about the many different sessions on craft and publishing I’ve signed up for, and ready to apply what I learn to my work as a writer, I realize how very lucky I am to be pursuing my own dream deferred. Because this is a dream which has grown richer with age. And I am ready to savor every last bit of it.

Fran Prescott: Seeking Gold

From: Be Happy the Thorn Bush has Roses
February 02, 2012 at 10:30AM

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When my brother passed away, we made arrangements for his service with minister Carolyn Patierno, the mother of one of my former students.  After my father and I met with her, Carolyn pulled me aside to ask how I was doing. 
“Okay,” I told her.  “I’m trying to get out for a walk now and then, and it helps.”
Carolyn was glad that I was walking.  “It’s so important to move,” she told me.  She had studied with a professor at seminary who emphasized this as well, because “grief settles in your joints” and movement allows us to circulate it—to process it. 
I loved that analogy.  “Grief settles in your joints.”
I come from a family of “movers.”  My father, who coached cross-country and track for his entire teaching career, took up tennis in his retirement.  He is a formidable opponent, ranking fifth in New England in his age group not long ago.  His younger sister, Ellen, bikes, swims, runs, kick-boxes, and does yoga.  She is in her mid-seventies.  Their brother, John, won the Boston Marathon in 1957, won the Pan American Games marathon in 1959, went to the Olympics twice, and was an icon of the runners’ movement which began in the 1970’s.
I’m overweight and plagued by back, hip, and knee problems.  But I am still compelled to be active—it’s in my blood.  After my sister passed away in March 2001, I ran and sobbed through the spring and summer.  9/11 followed, so I continued to run through the pain and questions.  I have branched out to swimming, biking, and walking, but the need to move (outdoors) is deeply ingrained.
For the past few weeks, I haven’t had much opportunity to get out, however.  I attended the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in NYC this weekend, and arrived home all fired up to write.  But my schedule since coming home has allowed for nothing but work, meetings, and volunteer-related work—no opportunity for movement or for writing.  Last night I sat down for a few minutes at the computer, and—nothing.  No inspiration.  No thoughts.  I stared at the screen.
My brain was a jumbled mess of nada. What was wrong?
And then I realized—I haven’t been able to get out and really move since Friday in New York, when I took the opportunity to do plenty of walking around the city. 
Not only does grief settle in your joints, creativity does, too. 
So today I am going to take myself out for a walk.  It’s the one day this week that I’m not working, although I’m still catching up an a million errands.  But I know that a few miles in the fresh air will get my thoughts flowing. 
And I’m reminded of how the old timers used to pan for gold by allowing running water to wash away the silt which hid those valuable flakes and nuggets of gold.  When I move, the circulating blood somehow manages to float away all of the extraneous thoughts from my mind. 
When we are dealing with loss, some of those extraneous thoughts may be the painful aspects of grief—the memories which focus on the loss itself and the anguish it caused.  What’s left behind for me is the essence of my loved ones’ lives.  The truth of why they lived, rather than why they died. 
When we are talking about creativity, movement acts like an opened sluice, helping to float away the extraneous, the unnecessary, the stuff that gets in the way of what’s important.  It clears away the silt which settles in our brains, and it allows us to see what’s real, what’s important.  Again, it allows us to see the truth.
And truth is what we, as writers, need to work with whenever we write.  Sure, we’re making up stories.  Sure, the work is “fiction.”  But fiction without truth is a hollow thing.  Just as life without truth is merely delusional.
Writers find many ways to improve their creativity.  Some are movers—biking, walking, and running their way through life.  Others are listeners, playing or performing music that suits their needs and tastes.  Some are observers, sketchers, painters.  But all of us are miners, moving through this world and swirling away the silt of everyday life, looking for that bright speck of gold.  Looking for the truth.

Fran Prescott: Villains as Heroes

From: Be Happy the Thorn Bush has Roses
January 26, 2012 at 05:46PM

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Are you a hero?  How about your cat?  What about your grouchy neighbor—the one who gives your kids the evil eye when they’re playing kickball in the back yard?
Of course you are.  And so is Fluff-ems.  And mean old Mr. Wilson.  Each of you is the hero of your own story.  You are the protagonist in your own life’s journey.
As I work on my revision of Sepia, I’ve been thinking about the hero of my story, Cara, but I’ve also been spending a lot of time examining the antagonists and the minor characters in my work.  Although some of them do not play large roles in this particular book, each of them has his/her own story arc—they have their own lives, with their own goals and hopes and dreams.  They are heroes, too, if we follow them through their lives.  They are the most important characters in their own stories.
My writing becomes much stronger when I remember this:  none of these characters exists solely to inhabit my novel.  They are only included because they have a role to play in Sepia—but when they are offstage, they are pursuing their goals as if the spotlight never left them.  This makes them much more vibrant and three-dimensional when they cross paths with my main characters.
I am having the most fun thinking about the antagonists of my story—my villains.  Surely, they don’t see themselves as villains!  They aren’t running around doing evil for evil’s sake.  As a matter of fact, my main villain is pretty sure she is doing a good thing for the world of Sepia—it’s just that she believes the other characters are too ignorant to understand her.  This makes the scenes between Cara and the Magistrina much more interesting to write (and, I hope, to read!)
So, how does this translate to real life?  To my days growing up with Bobby and Jeannette?  Well, when I think about the “villains” in my life, the ones I really wanted to disintegrate with one well-aimed blast of my laser-beam eyes, I realize that those villains were other kids, just like me.  They just happened to be other kids who were staring at my brother or sister. 
Did they think of themselves as “the bad guys?”  I doubt it.  They were just busy living their own lives, suddenly being confronted with the unknown.  They stared at my sibs to examine something they’d never seen before.  Some of them laughed—they had their own set of issues which I might examine in greater depth in another post—but most just stared.  And I hated them for it. 
Now that I have some perspective, I can see that they weren’t evil.  Maybe ignorant.  Maybe rude.  But not evil.  They were the heroes of their own lives, seeking out new information.  I certainly don’t agree that staring was the way to do it, but most children don’t really know any better. 
So the next time I’m confronted with a “villain” in real life, maybe I’ll try to get into their heads the way I explored my characters’ motivations in my novel.  Maybe I’ll try to figure out what their perspective is, and why they might believe that they are right to act the way they do.  Maybe Mr. Wilson the neighbor has a sick grandchild visiting, and he’s worried the kickball game will disturb her.  Maybe the cat who just ripped up a new set of curtains was valiantly hunting a mosquito which snuck into the house. 
I might not agree with their approach . . . but maybe if I look at things from their perspective, I’ll understand them enough to find new ways to improve our interactions. 
Although these days, I might be tempted to pull out my laptop and plot out an interesting scene which escalates the confrontation and results in a dramatic and exciting conclusion, completely vindicating our hero, yours truly!  (Isn’t writing wonderfully therapeutic?)
Carry on, friends.  You are all heroes.
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