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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guest Post: Author Kathleen McCleary

Please welcome Kathleen McCleary, author of HOUSE AND HOME. I
reviewed and loved her book last year, and I also had the opportunity to meet and video her at the 2008 Baltimore Book Festival. Her novel is now available in paperback and she is on tour with TLC Book Tours this month.

Childhood Imagination
By Kathleen McCleary

When I was nine, my best friend was a girl named Joanna who lived around the corner from us, in a rambling old Victorian house with an overgrown garden. In those days of no Internet, no cell phones and just three TV channels, we spent a lot of time playing “imaginary games” in the corners and cubbies of our respective houses, or roaming through the woods and meadows beyond our street.

The favorite game in my house, on Wakeman Road, was called “Falling through the floor.” We’d pretend the floor would give way and each time we’d find ourselves in a different world. In another game, called “Krakatoa,” we were survivors of a volcanic eruption, fleeing the burning lava and trying to survive a harsh new landscape. We ran a dancing school in the bonus room above my garage, teaching elaborate dances to other neighborhood kids while Diana Ross’ “Love Child” boomed from our tiny turntable. We found an old trunk and “sailed” it down the small river beyond our house, pretending to be explorers.

We moved when I was twelve, and I lost touch with Joanna. A few years ago, though, I discovered what she’d been doing. Joanna was a novelist, an amazing novelist, who had received a MacArthur “genius” grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Two years ago, I wrote my first novel, and sent Joanna a note asking if she’d “blurb” it for me. Even though we hadn’t been in touch in more than thirty years, she wrote back right away, a wonderful letter full of reminiscences about those childhood games. “I wonder if in all the imagining we did as kids,” she wrote, “we ever came close to guessing what lay in store?” (She wrote a lovely blurb for my novel, too.)

This is why I push my kids to turn off the TV and computer and lock up their cell phones. This is why we vacation for several weeks every year in a cabin on a mountain lake without any technology (not even a phone). This is why I believe letting kids get just a little bit bored is a good thing.

So here’s to the power of the imagination, to cultivating it, nurturing it, letting it run wild. You never know where it might lead.

Note: Kathleen’s childhood friend, the novelist Joanna Scott, is the author of Follow Me, The Manikin, Arrogance, Make Believe, and Everybody Loves Somebody, among other works.
Thank you, Kathleen, for stopping by today. I hope my readers enjoying hearing from you as much as I did.

And to my readers, if you haven't read HOUSE AND HOME, I encourage you to check out this book trailer - it will give you a very good idea if this is a book you will enjoy as much as I did.


bermudaonion said...

What a great story. I so agree about turning off the electronics. An empty box can bring out the best in a child's imagination.

Lynette said...

What a lovely post about the richness of imagination in childhood (and beyond, too, it sounds like)! I am so thankful that my son spends hours playing outside (yes - gasp - horrors - in this day and age) with his neighborhood friends. They play pirates in the treehouse, set up the Olympics in the yard, make tent cities with sheets alongside the backyard fence, and also devise complicated games and scenarios that are all their own. My suspicion is that too few children nowadays play in that way, either because they don't have the physical space or the ability to play creatively because of all the hours they've logged in in front of a screen.
Let's encourage our kids to get outside and PLAY. They learn so much in the process!

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