About a year and a half ago I published Bigger Things, a novel very near and dear to my heart. I think every book or story resonates with its author (or I hope it does!), but in the case of Bigger Things, it really was a personal story—complete fiction, but fiction where the characters confront, question, laugh and cry over, obsess and get pissed off about things I’ve experienced (or do experience)—most specifically, body issues and fatism, abuse and/or the sexualization and objectification of young girls, and the way food and body image issues aren’t, unpopular as it is to some folks’ opinions, just “fat girl” issues.
It’s always a nerve wracking, anxiety inducing, cold sweat producing thing for me to release a new story out to the world. (Will people hate it, hate me? Does anyone else relate or “get” any of this? Am I totally alone? And on and on nag the inner voices.) Bigger Things was no exception; I was nervous. As readers found the novel, however, responses and reviews, online and in person, were very affirming. And many, many women and girls ended their comments with statements like, “I might not be fat, but I’m a fat girl too.” And that was one of my hopes in publishing it, that maybe someone out there somewhere would read Jen, Chelsea, and Kyra’s stories—and Fat Girl’s too—and feel encouraged or heard or seen. Would know that whatever their head is doing/saying, they’re not alone. That kind of response, even from a tiny few, was all that I had hoped for.
Then early this spring I was notified that Bigger Things was nominated for InD’Tale Magazine’s RONE Award (Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction category)—then made the finals.
I didn’t end up winning, but I don’t mind. I was (am!) honored Bigger Things made it that far. I did, however, ponder what I would’ve said if I had won and had to go up to the podium—probably some amalgamation of the above and this:
When my kids were little, they and I adored a story written and illustrated by Janell Cannon called Stellaluna.
Stellaluna is the story of a little fruit bat who gets separated from her mother and ends up taken in (grudgingly) by a mother bird who raises her alongside her baby birds. The book is rich with themes about being lost, or losing your home, searching for belonging and what constitutes family, friendship, etc. It’s both heartbreaking and hilarious to watch Stellaluna try to relate to the birds—and to witness the birds try to enhance Stellaluna’s “birdlike” behavior and curb her bat tendencies. They, bat and birds, are all frustrated and a bit mystified that they can have so much in common, yet be so different in such critical ways.
For me, the most poignant part of the story comes near the end when the baby birds and Stellaluna have finally forged a friendship despite their differences, and Stellaluna is musing on this very topic: “How can we be so different and feel so much alike? And how can we feel so different and be so much alike?”
For my children, the most touching part was a tiny story outside the main narrative. The whole book is gorgeously put together and its illustrations are purely wonderful. The primary tale is riveting. It needed no embellishment—yet the top corner of each page holds a tiny drawing revealing a separate-but-related ongoing saga.
All the while Stellaluna is struggling with her identity and trying to figure out where she truly fits, her mother has never stopped searching for her. It’s this search that’s detailed in tiny pictures, no less impacting for their small size or lack of words.
Within these elements of the story—Stellaluna’s musing about differences and similarities and her longing for meaningful connection and in the mother’s quest to bring her baby back to the fold—lies the impetus behind not just my writing of Bigger Things, but behind a lot of my stories and writing in general.
I have long been obsessed with how we humans can be so similar, yet feel so different—and how we can be so different, yet feel so much the same. And I think most of us, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, religion, geography, past history, etc. seek similar things to varying degrees: belonging, companionship, a sense of who we are in the context of other people, a reason for why we exist and a desire to know how we’re supposed to live. And I also believe, as lonely as human existence sometimes feels, there are usually other people searching for us whether we—or they—are consciously aware of it or not. We are, despite so many obvious, glaring, often conflict-causing outer differences—mostly the same under the skin. This notion (and longing and hope) fuels a lot of the ideas I explore.
To celebrate my conviction that Bigger Things is (and bigger things are) important, my novel has just been re-released with a brand new cover and for one week only it’s at a spectacular sale price, just 99 cents!
If you’ve already read Bigger Things and enjoyed it, please share and encourage other people in your life to read it too. And if you haven’t yet indulged, I hope you’ll give it a try. (And please know, despite my blathering here about what it may or may not be about to me, most of all Bigger Things is a just a great story about three lifelong friends and the things that weigh them down—and that eventually, hopefully, also have the power to free them.)
Thanks, as ever, for reading and thinking and just being.
p.s. I’d love to give away some Bigger Things pins! How do you get your hot little hands on one you ask? Easy! Share this post, comment here that you shared, then e-mail me your snail mail address and I’ll send you a pin. (ev_bishopATSIGNyahooDOTcom)