Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Patience and the Writing Process - "The Fractured Hues of White Light" revisited

The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of unexpected emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source (or the backbone) of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. The Fractured Hues of White Light turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to this one—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it. I have a special attachment to it, maybe I’m a little sentimental about it—some might criticize me and say, “It’s done, it’s out of the nest, let it go.” It’s not that at all, it’s the experience of the creation that interests me most, when I revisit the book (I open it up and drop in now and then to say “Hi.”) I will remember the stuff that went into it, and the events surrounding the time I wrote it. It was a time in my life—a time when my writing started to make sense and I had to learn to juggle writing with life, work, home, and everything else that happens along the way. It’s an immersive experience, very much like falling in love, it’s exciting and exhausting at the time it’s happening, and when I “drop in” to visit the pages, it’s familiar like an old friend. I love what I do, I love what I’ve done.

The Fractured Hues of White Light—is the second one in the line-up of published books that I’ve put out there, but in the “birth-order” of creation, it was the third manuscript that came out of a creative sweet-spot that happened to me between 1999 and 2003. (I have archived files on my computer dating back to 2000-2001, pretty crazy.) It was as if my longtime dream to be a writer went supernova inside my head and all of it burst out at once, I couldn’t write fast enough it seemed. It’s so strange how the books start. It’s magical how they come together, fragments that grow into this larger story, full of layers and characters, their histories, their personalities, quirks, passions, and fears. It’s hard to explain. I love the process so much, the creating, the polishing, then the terrifying, yet satisfying part of putting it out there to be read—learning to accept the likes and dislikes as they come. I do enjoy hearing from readers about their experiences with my books. I’ve had readers tell me very personal reactions, like when I made them cry. Then I get all embarrassed and say stuff like, “Shucks, I’m sorry I made you cry—awwww—let’s hug!”

I’ve pissed people off too—might as well while I’m at it. It’s part of the package. Books are a special thing, readers gobble them up, they lose time while they’re reading, and not every book works for them—it’s a subjective thing. A reader who loves commercial or genre fiction might not appreciate literary fiction. My books are literary—they are gritty, yet they have a silly streak in them, and dark humor—I do try to bring the reader back to a safe place after taking them into the darkest corners of shit happening—the examination of the human condition is messy and can be ugly. I write in the vein that goes deep into the interior of the character’s personality, what makes them tick. In Samantha Ryder’s world, specific things like the sound of the ocean, the texture and color of the old glass windows of her house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, dust motes in a shaft of sunlight, stones on the beach, the sugar bowl and creamer on the kitchen table, and the color yellow have special significance. The things that happen in the past have made her, and the future links with the past. I’ve written the book from four points of view—Samantha, Guthrie, Helena, and Sylvester—there is more than one side to the story, and this is another thing that interests me about writing—how characters influence one another, each one has their own interpretation of events and opinions about what’s happened—and where they’re going. I’ve populated all of my novels with people who have met before, so Guthrie has a small part in Drinking from the Fishbowl, which takes place before the events of The Fractured Hues of White Light. Sylvester pops up in two other books not yet published, but they will be someday, these things take time. A lot of being a writer is about patience.

When I started it, it began with two people driving through Wyoming having a conversation, from there I filled in around this one moment in time. I had no idea who these two were or why they were out there, where they were from, how old they were, their names, nothing, I knew nothing. It was just a conversation between a man and a woman, traveling companions, maybe lovers, maybe spouses, friends, or siblings—eventually, after a good deal of questioning, they became Guthrie and Samantha. Their complex relationship is complicated by the definition of love. It was tragic and yet, in the drama brewing in the cloister of a car driving through a springtime rainstorm in the Red Desert, they could laugh at themselves, and at how things are—by this part in the book, it was time for them to stop avoiding the inevitable and go home. Samantha, being autistic, rarely journeyed far from home where the familiar things keep her sense of security intact—although it was a journey of self-preservation, it was possible that it could’ve been her undoing as she withdrew inside herself, on the verge of shutting down. Then while looking out the car window at the rain, she spied a dildo on the shoulder of the road. Seeing that thing cracked her shell open enough to let out a giggle, and then she started to laugh her ass off. It’s these little happenings that make the experience of writing so fascinating—I’m making things up as I go along, it’s part of the fun.

Just so you know—I really did see a dildo on the side of the road one rainy night many years ago, it was the funniest random thing to see, that’s something you don’t see every day—I’ve seen some weird shit in my time, but that just seemed curious, standing up like it was hitching a ride. So odd. Who knows how it got there, god knows where it’s been! It’s long gone, but the memory is still there. When you see stuff like that, it’s all fodder for later. I have a head full of this nonsense. (It was on East Genesee Street in Syracuse, on the way to DeWitt, near Nottingham High School, as if that matters at all, but it’s funny every time I go by that spot, I still laugh.)

The Fractured Hues of White Light was a tough one to write in some respects, but once I started it, it flowed out of me like I knew what I was doing. Yet there were so many surprises that I did not foresee—like the ending. I had no idea how it was going to end when I started it. Most of the time, writers have the beginning and the ending figured out, it’s the stuff in the middle that’s hard to get through. I was all over the place while writing this one, and then printing it, and piecing it all together, sometimes getting out the scissors and tape. (Yikes, right?) Occasionally, I would ask myself “Where is this going?” Then I’d shrug and kept writing because I knew it could reveal itself eventually—“I’ll know it when I see it.” When it happened—I was surprised, yet not. It was there the whole time.

Patience. It takes patience to write a book.

I’ve also come to grips with the fact I’ll never get a six figure advance from Alfred Knopf—I’m okay with that, I’m not one of those real “go get-ers,” chomping on the bit to do a book tour, and all that, best seller list stuff. Nah, it’ll never happen, I have a lot of patience, but I don’t have the patience for that shit. Nope.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Mockingbird...

Harper Lee passed away in her sleep…I’m sad, but not too sad because she had a good life and was an inspiration to many—she was my inspiration. I am the writer I am today because she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. A book and the woman who wrote it. She’s gone, but the book lives on—

You know how certain songs are part of your life soundtrack? Well, Mockingbird became meshed with the soundtrack of my life—it was in there, nudging me to think, to look, to be an observer, to be a writer—not much of what I do or have created had too much to do with what I learned in school—I did get exposed to things, some not so pleasant—I seemed to be forever swimming against the current of what was expected of me—I clearly had my way of doing things, and school, even college, never lived up to my expectations. I was looking for “immersion” and never truly found that, nor did I get much guidance—a few bits here and there, but not whole lot of encouragement that didn’t have tags of negativity about it being “hard” or something that implied I didn’t have a snowball’s chance to “make it.” Seriously, I’m more satisfied with creating the things I create than receiving prizes or praise—that’s the shit that makes me crawl under a rock and hide while shrieking “Don’t look at me!”—so if anyone understands Nelle dusting off her hands and saying “I’m done!” I do. I learn by doing things hands on, getting my hands dirty, breaking my fingernails, and absorbing or being so focused that nothing else gets in—and sure, making mistakes along the way. I don’t like being told what to do—or what I should be doing. It took a long time to achieve what I have envisioned for myself. A long, slow simmer in a pot of life experience—along the way, I have carried the essence of what I learned from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it was a long time before I set down the first words for my first novel. In spite of my observations of Nelle, and stuff that I’ve read about her, I can’t pretend to know her at all, but the book I do know—I never felt compelled to meet her (meeting your heroes is rarely a good thing.) Mockingbird was magical, its vision precise and formidable—my various journeys through it over the course of my life—from a child to adult—I never faltered in my feeling for it—the wisdom, the quiet, thoughtful prose, the intensity of emotion, it was visual—partly because of the film, which I saw well before I read the book, but the book expanded the limited scope of the film, filled in those hungry places that I had gurgling in my brain’s belly—it’s always good to be a little bit hungry all the time. I’m always hungry.

To Kill a Mockingbird was the perfect book. Nelle didn’t need to write another, tho’ I selfishly wished she had because I sensed she had more to say—much more. Go Set a Watchman came along last year, as a surprise, and of course, the collective “they” made it into a literary scandal of sorts—to be honest, I didn’t see Atticus as the outrageous racist that they made him out to be in the headlines. He was a man of his time and place, he was mixing with them because he had to keep an eye on what they were up to, he saw them as dangerous—and he had his own personal concerns as well, perhaps selfish ones, and who isn’t? Especially, once you’ve become older and feeling vulnerable to the whims of others, it’s that time when the young are coming up behind you, tapping your shoulder, expecting you to step aside so they can take their place in society with their own vision of how things should be. Naturally, the elders feel threatened—(I catch myself saying to the twenty somethings—wait until you’re fifty, you’ll know then—I might still feel like I’m nine on the inside, but I’m not ignorant of the fact that I’m getting on in life, I’m flat out tired and cranky, and I have aches n’ pains that are annoying me to no end. It’s not a pretty sight.) I read Watchman and accepted it as it was—the firstborn. To Kill a Mockingbird grew from it, and it was well nurtured in comparison—it’s a big book—it was her gift to the world, and now it’s her memorial.

My sympathies go to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.

I will have to read it again.

Post from my website:


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Curses! The Bad-Boy Four Letter Words and Their Place in Literature—

Swearwords, dirty words, swears, cussing, profanity, salty language, foul language, slang, spicy talk, raw, naughty, shocking, rude, cheap, vulgar, racy, immature, ignorant, ugly, gratuitous, offensive, obscene, risqué, crude, objectionable…Some of these objections to “such language” are badges rightfully acquired. In my honest opinion, their relevance are at the discretion of the writer—therefore, readers beware—beyond this point, there be dragons—big motherfucking dragons…

Ooooo, you just swore, I’m going to tell your Mom!
Go ahead, I dare you—and I’ll tell your Mom what you said five minutes ago when you stepped in that big squishy pile of dog shit. (Wild giggling with hands firmly clamped over our mouths.)

Remember those days? Being nine and testing the waters with some bad words—I still smirk a little when I swear. I was quite young when I first let rip a few to try them out, and although I knew they were very naughty things to say, I found them hilarious. When George Carlin recorded his long list of words that couldn’t be said on television—the world of bad words changed forever. I still hear my mother’s voice chiding “Here-here, that’s not the way to talk.” It was impressed on me that a young lady, such as myself, shouldn’t say such things. Well, being the sort of girl who couldn’t resist the temptation to do something I was not supposed to do, swearing just tickled my fancy, it set me apart from the rest of the girls—I didn’t fit in anyway, so I let ‘em fly.

A side note, my mouth did get washed out with soap once. For the life of me I can’t remember what I said, I was so young at the time, I probably repeated something I heard, and didn’t know what I was saying was bad. Lot of good it did—

(It was Sweet Heart soap for those who care to know.)

I must confess—I have seen and heard enough in my lifetime that I’m likely to drop and F-bomb before 8 AM—or as the image above implies, when I start using “fuck” like a comma, I can gauge how my day is going to be—it’ll be a real day.  As I work my way through editing my manuscript, Drinking from the Fishbowl, I have made a point to deliberate over the use of “such language”—just because I should—yes, I counted them, there is a lot of them sprinkled around. Have I taken any of them out? No. I haven’t found a reason to—I figure my readers are adults or maybe precocious teens—I’m confident that they can handle it. Tho’ I do realize some adult readers can be sensitive—that cannot be helped—I understand “there’s an app for that” so censorship is alive and well in the e-book world. I’ve heard good old white-out is an option if one is so inclined, it’ll take more than one bottle, I’m sure…

A few years ago, while attending my mother’s wake, one of her friends came up to me, shook my hand and said, “I loved your book (Dusty Waters), but it had so many bad words.” The lady scrunched herself up into a guilty cringe; she giggled and smiled in that coy little way of proper ladies who might’ve done something that made them feel guilty—I’m not sure, but I think she meant to scold me, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Of course, I was still feeling stunned by my mother’s unexpected death from a stroke, but I was gracious enough to thank her for reading my book and was glad she liked it in spite of my liberal use of bad words. Yes, my character, Dusty Waters, has quite a potty mouth—I’m up front from page one how things are going to be so anyone cracking it open for a test drive will know right away if it’s their cup of tea or not. (In this SJW climate less than ten years later, I’m sure it’s politically incorrect, some readers might expect trigger warnings, comfort stations, and safe spaces…)

All of my characters creatively express themselves with less than polite language—It doesn’t make my characters bad people when they drop an F-bomb because they’re upset, or express their surprise with an expletive—or just casually cussing away in regular conversation, it’s their personality—not a character flaw. People do talk this way—not all of ‘em, just some of ‘em. It might not be proper, it might not be professional, it might not be ideal to say such things in front of the “little pictures” learning how to talk because they repeat EVERYTHING Mommy and Daddy says. (Just hear it, don’t say it, and especially, don’t let Gramma hear you say that! Tho’ Grampy might laugh.) Profanity exists in our language—it’s a revealing element pertaining to the reality of the human condition, the anger, the amusement, the frustrations, and distress of people as they experience life—life is certainly generous with one thing after another. It’s always something.

My mother’s friend isn’t the first or the only one to comment on my use of such language. Her cringing posture made me feel a little bad that my book forced her out of her comfort zone. To be honest, my comfort zone is challenged whenever I step out my front door to witness the world for as long as I can remember, so I can sympathize as I cringe too—yet I push myself to go “there”—where ever, whatever “there” is because it’s what I do. It’s part of being an observer, being a writer. I’m amazed when I meet people who have allowed themselves to remain sheltered and have never looked the cruel world in the eye and said, “What the fuck!” But I guess, some folks don’t want to look at it too closely—it’s safer in the over-rated protection of the shelter—or the trendy “safe space.” That’s fine. I’ve always been too aware of the world, so I tell it like it is—it might not be pretty, and not too many people want to hear it, but it is what it is. So I reach for the default phrase—“What the fuck.” (This use is casual, like a shrug, “C’est la vie!” It works just as well when it comes to the five-second rule.) Then I could say, “What the fuck?” (An inquiry in regards to something unbelievable, like that asshole who just did a U-turn from the right lane in front of all oncoming traffic to get to the far right lane going the other direction, it was truly amazing that he didn’t cause an accident—give that guy a gold star along with the finger.) And finally, “What the fuck!” (Dude, you scared me, I think I peed a little—or a bad-ass case of frustration, because something just wormed its way under my skin just enough to trigger righteous indignation.)

Ooooo, you just swore—

Yup, I did.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My thoughts regarding "Einstein's Beach House," Stories by Jacob M. Appel

Life can be stranger than fiction on any given day, so of course, the hedgehog is depressed, not the human who has focused her energies onto the small creature’s well-being—that only makes sense. The collection of stories in Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel is an amusing, yet horrifying exploration of personalities and human flaws that is darkly humorous—in order to have light, you must have dark. These eight bite-sized human documents are light-hearted at their core. Populated by characters who have the best intentions that have gone awry; tail-chasing frustration; anxiety, depression, gullibility, family secrets, colossal failures, maddening second-guessing, nigh irreparable damage, on the verge of suicidal moments, and the moments in time that are barely saved—and amidst the flawed individuals seeking acceptance, there is still hope and generosity in spite of misgivings. We all know (and expect) the past has a knack for haunting the present, and it’s certain that the future will be full of that bothersome shit later, coming back up like a regretful meal—or a bad penny. It’s only logical that the neighborhood sex offender only liked boys, so two girls snooping around in his house should be safe; the tortoise would desire freedom; the imaginary friend would most certainly have parents; and the rightful ownership of a house that had been in the family for generations can be usurped by a misprint in a travel guide. In Strings, there is that extraordinarily familiar gut feeling when it comes to facing the “takers” who worm their way into your life because they know how to press your buttons—you know the ones, kindness and guilty conscience. They always demand more from you than you should give, and every time you give in to their pitiable self-inflicted dramas, you’re enabling them to continue to be the chaotic clinging vines they are—seriously, get an axe, start cutting, and don’t look back, you’re not going to be canonized for your patience (but of course, there wouldn’t be a story if you did.) These stories possess a palpable psychological tension—enough to make me grit my teeth while reading along at a steady heart-breaking clip—admirable squirm-factor, yet so nattily hi-lar-i-ous that the “squirm” is forgivable. Good show, I say, good show.

Friday, September 18, 2015

This scribble is one of many ideas for the book cover design for my third novel, Drinking from the Fishbowl the manuscript is so close to “done” I can just about scream! So the doodling on yellow legal pad paper is part of the process. I’m looking at the bedraggled manuscript that I’ve puttered through since the beginning of August and wonder if this is “it”. Can I really start thinking about how I want it to look?

I ask myself: Should I comb through it one more time?

When people ask me, “So what is your book about?” I tell them… “It’s about dreams and realities…” I let it settle in what that means, and then I say “We dream about all this stuff we plan to do, what we want to “be”, but the reality of those grand plans never quite turn out as expected…reality can be disappointing…or unexpected…”
The first line goes like this:

…and then he asked, “Why do you want to be a poet, Georgia Sullivan?”

It’s hard to believe it’s become this…it grew from the smatterings of notes scribbled on scraps of paper, post-it notes, and long hand passages in a salt n’ pepper notebook as far back as 2000, back when I had no idea where it was going and I was getting to know the characters, now it’s this… an untidy pile of paper, and now I’m planning a book cover…  I love the process of making a book, from those first scribbles to the first draft, and all the subsequent drafts, the frustrations, the surprises, the doubts, and the certainties. The editing, the blood bath of the red pen, the cutting of words, sentences, and the obliteration of entire chapters…I can’t say for sure when it will be available…should I do it before Christmas or wait until 2016…my first reader has settled down to read it… (she’s been my first reader for all of them, she read this one in its second draft infancy.)

I think I’ll stick with Sabon for a font…I should make more scribbles…should I do a painting? Incorporate the scribbles in a flood of watercolor washes and rice paper? I know when I finally turn it over to my Fred to design the guts and cover, he will make it beautiful…unique. (I love making my books.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

My thoughts regarding "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee

There are a handful of books that I hold close to my heart...To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of them...and now a new arrival has slipped in to join that little party...

Go Set a Watchman made me laugh and it made me cry, it broke my heart and then pieced it together again. It was an intense read—it is a human document containing all the ugliness and beauty of the human experience. Bittersweet—that’s the word I’m looking for— it is bittersweet—to learn after years of believing there was only one book—that Nelle wrote the one and stopped there—so, learning about the existence of Go Set a Watchman was a heady joy only to have the ratty controversies and negativity disrupt what should be happy news. The cynical part of me crawled out from where it hides and sparked, “No duh, that’s a no brainer—upon such a discovery, the publisher would ram it though doing the least amount of effort possible as this is clearly a bestseller—just add a book cover with Harper Lee’s name on it, it will sell itself…even if it isn’t any good people will buy it because a second book by Harper Lee is the biggest literary event this century.”

Is that cynical or what? It happens to the best of us. I’ve gotten to a point in my life when I’ve seen and heard much too much—it’s enough to make me drop an F-bomb before 8AM on a daily basis—I’ve become “well-seasoned” by life, so I come by it honestly.

The money grubbing mentality that is implied on the part of the lawyer, the agent, the publisher—the varied enthusiasm and outrage about Nelle’s ability to make a decision without her sister at her elbow advising is uncomfortable and messy. Then, finally, the book is out, and so began the spoilers on headlines the first day after its release—Oh! Oh! Oh! Me-first-me-first, let me tell all before everybody else gets a chance to read it! Since I knew this sort of thing would happen, I steered clear of the news and reviews until I read it—and still, there are people fussing—a variety of fuss—pick your poison. Honestly, it makes me want to spit the bad taste out of my mouth—my Fred said, “Just read the book.”

…and so now that I’ve gotten that shaken out, I can talk about this beautiful thing—a book by Harper Lee. It took me a long time to decide to enter the fray with my thoughts—I wanted to do it right. Long awaited? No, longed for—because I always felt that she had more to say. Unexpected? Well, yes, in the way that it was wished for, but I never expected the wish to come true. I was good with that, though  I’ve always felt cheated that she didn’t continue to write more—but yet, I completely understood why not—the expectations of others, the pressure to perform—the judgmental critics making their noises—sometimes praise can sound just as derisive as scorn. It’s a feat of bravery for a writer to stick their neck out and be read—and after the overwhelming success of To Kill a Mockingbird it’s easy to imagine her not wanting to deal with the nonsense, the celebrity worship weirdness that drives our popular culture.  After witnessing the three-ring circus fuss since February—I can’t say that I blame her. Tho’ it does sadden me that she may have cheated herself of fulfilling those things within her that she never let out.

I have to wonder what Nelle thought when the first copy of Watchman was placed into her hands, I imagined she’d say—“Well, hello old friend, long time no see.” It had to be a reunion of sorts, after so many years. It doesn’t surprise me that Go Set a Watchman came first, that it is the “parent” of To Kill a Mockingbird, which was a more mature, thoroughly composed book. Second books usually are because the writer has learned from the first one—the metaphor having to do with the raising of children comes to mind—the second child gets a different experience than the first. There’s something special about the first fully realized manuscript—the “first born”. For me, personally, there is an emotional attachment to the first manuscript of a completed work—it is raw and full of the passion of a first love, and it’s sentimental. This sort of feeling does not belong to one of those false starts scribbled down and fretted over in the heat of the moment—those are ephemeral and disjointed fragments with very little traction to develop into something larger—I’m talking about the first completed manuscript with a beginning and an end and threads of related shit happening in the middle. This is something that took a great deal of time to accomplish, months, years—who knows. There’s investment—I don’t even like that word, because of the financial implication because it’s more than that. Of course, when one sets out to be a writer, part of that is to want success, to be self-supporting, but then there’s that other thing writers and all artists have—the desire to do. Do it all. Make it so. Write it because it has to be written. If you don’t you’ll regret it later. Go Set a Watchman contains Nelle’s endeavor to write about something that matters. From that first manuscript came To Kill a Mockingbird —she had what so few editors/ publishers do anymore, investment in the individual writer to nurture talent. Mockingbird may have never come into being if she didn’t get that extra push to turn her attention to Scout’s past and the deeper story that she had lingering in between the events in Go Set a Watchman. It gives me the chills thinking—to now read the first page or two of Mockingbird, I get the feeling that this version of Scout is even older than the one in Watchman, and Atticus is gone.

Before I set out on my journey, I always keep in mind that every book is different—the same writer, different book. Watchman being the foundation to Mockingbird is what it is—the first book, the ground zero of things to come.  I enjoyed every page—savoring it—I spent a good part reading on the front porch (too hot to do anything else by noon) and other times, I read it before going to sleep at night. There were surprises (in spite of the unsurprising spoiler headlines that I mostly ignored.) It was kind of funny that I was reading Harper Lee and Joyce Carol Oates (Mudwoman) during the same week—both books are intense in their own way—both authors have been the inspiration for me to become a writer. I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened, and then I started to read my own book Dusty Waters on the Nook for something to read on my lunch hour at work. (I know, how narcissistic can you get, right? Reading your own shit and loving it—what the fuck.) It seemed appropriate in a way to compare and contrast and to be caught up in a conjunction of words and inspirations, and holy shit—I thought my head was going to pop off my body because it was a little too intense some of the time…

Is it Mockingbird revisited? In a sense, sort of—but it stands on its own well enough—I had to forget Mockingbird because when this book was written, there was no To Kill a Mockingbird, and I could see that right away. First in line is Atticus. Gregory Peck will forever be the iconic, beloved figure of Atticus Finch, there’s no escaping that stunning Hollywood image—so pitch perfect. It hurt my heart to imagine that he’s going to be found out—and I had to ask myself, how is Scout going to come back from this? I reread Mockingbird during the wait for Watchman to come, and I watched the movie (twice) and after such immersion I knew how Watchman was going to go down—because every child learns eventually that their parents are not gods—they are people—humans. Suddenly we wake up and realize they are not perfect (tho’ some learn that early—every household is different.) Atticus, oh Atticus—you couldn’t remain this wise, thoughtful man—flawless in every way? No. Scout—well, Jean Louise—she was bound to find out that you are what you are—a man named Atticus Finch, a human being—still wise and thoughtful, only with human flaws. He is not a god, and it is terrible to go through life believing in someone only to have them disappoint you—your dream of them is not their reality.

Change—part of growing up is accepting change. That small town called home changes the moment you leave it—the comfort zone is now uncomfortable—so much of our innocence is lost the moment we depart the nest. I grew up in a small town, an old Erie Canal town, another tired old town that had its day once upon a time, and now its struggling to remain relevant in the contemporary world where everything changes with the latest gadget in hand. All that is left is sentimentality for the sounds and smells of home—but you can’t go home and expect it to be the same. Parents grow old and die. Buildings get knocked down, new ones are raised in their place. Life goes on—if you do go home, it’s to bring something with you to build upon the foundation left behind—one lesson learned, nothing is static.

“Bigot,” she read. “Noun. One obstinately or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion.” (page 267)

Regarding the disagreeable subject of bigotry—it’s not just about Atticus being a bigot, it’s about Scout’s being her own version of a bigot, and then going a step further, looking at the big picture, ours—like it or not, we’re all bigots—human nature has this natural suspicion of “the other”. We come up against someone we don’t agree with, someone we feel threatened by, we don’t give ground, we will not bend to compromise, and what’s worse, we won’t listen—then we do everything we can to try to get it out of our sight and stamp it out of existence. (Our way or the highway!) What I’m saying is this—no matter how self-righteous, exclusive, or squeaky-clean you think you are—you’re still a bigot (perhaps a “turnip-sized bigot”) when it comes to protecting your own from the other that is “not like me.” I’m sorry, is there someone different from you threatening your ideas—your ideals of how things should be in the world of you? Get over it. Our country is getting way too fucked up by this shit—if there’s any lesson to learn in the treasure of Watchman—that’s a big one just to start. Scout had to learn it. We all do. If we don’t learn to get on with one another, acknowledge our differences without shaming or censoring or going to war over perceived insults, then to put it bluntly—we are fucked.

After I read the last page, I wished for more—because Nelle clearly had so much more going on—so much more. Rumors of a third book make me squirm on an uncomfortable fence with anticipation—more fuss, more controversy, more dredging up negativity, and of course, the implied third-party greed.  If a third book does emerge—I’ll read it like I read this one, and I will grow from the experience.

I want you to read it—love it or hate it on your own terms.