As middle grade writers, we find joy in putting ourselves into the young characters we write about. One way I love to do this is re-visit pictures of myself as a kid.
I stare at them, sifting through specific memories connected to that photo. What was I excited about? What did I most want? What made me sad? What made me happy? What was my biggest worry?
Then I journal in that moment, bringing in all the details on the edge of that photo and just out of reach. Often the details outside the picture are the ones that tell the story of that photo. I did this recently with this photo.
Bethel Woods Campground, 1978
Every day I dream about getting my first dog. I imagine she is so real that when I come home from school I run to meet her (her name will be Beauty after Black Beauty). But not yet…so while I wait, I keep busy roaming the campground we own.
It’s fun to wear my strap-on roller skates and hunt the woods for dead butterflies and shotgun shells. They make cool noise makers when you put them in old coffee cans.
I’m lucky because there are always kids here to play with and swim with at the pool (awesome for an only child like me!).
I especially love to hang out in the recreation hall and play pinball machines and records on the juke box. My favorite song is Escape by Rupert Holmes. I asked Dad what a Pina Colada is and he said it’s like a party in a glass for grownups.
Each morning as I pick rotten apples in the orchard to feed our fat hogs, I get to pretend I’m my favorite hero, Laura Ingalls from Little House in the Big Woods. Mom says we’ll even be butchering the hogs soon – just like Laura did!
Mom wants to make head cheese Like Mrs. Ingalls did (ewww!) but I want to blow up the pig’s bladder like a balloon and roast its tail over the fire, just like Laura did. Little House on the Prairie is my favorite show and sometimes I even pretend that Mr. Ingalls is my dad.
After hog feeding time, I get to gather the eggs in the chicken coop. Today I found a double yolk egg without a shell. It was see-through and wobbly just like a Weeble. Although, I think it would fall down if I wobbled it.
Tomorrow is dump day. I get to collect the trash with Dad from all the campsites (we even saw a bear last week!). It’s a totally smelly chore but the best part is that I get to stand up in the back of our 1965 Ford truck and hang onto the wood sides as we cruise to the dump. Wheeee! It’s almost as fun as snowmobiling on the camp trails in winter.
If I help Dad out good, he even promised to take me fishing on Squam Lake this weekend to use my new tackle box. I caught my first pike there last month. Dad almost crashed the boat up on the rocks just so I could reel it in!
Oh, and there’s a big thunderstorm coming tonight so I plan to sleep on the screened-in porch and watch the lightning all night long (just don’t tell Mom, okay?). Well, time to go practice my after-dinner show for Mom and Dad. I’m singing and dancing to The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers and On The Good Ship Lollipop on my record player. I even made my own sailor and Tigger costumes (I’m a blue fuzzy Tigger in my one-piece footed pj’s, Dad’s striped tie for a tail, and Mom’s wig).
Being nine is the best. Getting a dog would make it even better.