My grandson, Ezra, lives in San Francisco. His second-grade class hosted a book release on the Friday that I was attending the San Francisco Writers Conference.
I love all things about writing. How could I miss my own grandson’s book launch? I went AWOL from my conference. At 7:00 a.m., in the pitch-black darkness of a beastly February morning, while the sky poured wind-driven rain that turned my umbrella inside-out, drenched me to the skin, ruined my wool dress, and caused major damage to my leather boots, I bravely hailed a cab and attended Ezra’s book release.
On the wall of his classroom, his teacher had posted a chart:
1. You need a good story.
2. You need to write it.
3. You need to edit and re-edit and re-edit.
Sound advice for writers of any age. Parents, grandparents, and an uncle sat, circled around Ezra as he read his book aloud. I was giddy. He was learning about publishing at eight years old!
Ezra gave me his only copy of All About Ancient Egypt. The treasure sits on my bookcase with other cherished memorabilia. In return, I gave my grandson a draft of Ardent Spirit. My novel is for adults, and he wasn’t expected to read it. The exchange symbolically sealed a bond between us. A week ago, when I got the first hardcover copy of my book, I autographed and gave it to Ezra, along with instructions to burn the prior draft.
Sunday at Family Night Dinner, after the main course and before dessert, Ezra announced he was reading Ardent Spirit. I was flabbergasted. The story is the fictionalized biography of Magdelaine La Framboise, a Great Lakes fur-trader who lived from 1780-1846. The novel is 470 pages and 140,000 words. It has several appendices, genealogy charts, background notes, bibliography, and glossary. It is intended for adults. Ezra is eight.
“You’re reading it?” I asked.
“I’m on chapter seven.”
I thought to myself, hmmm, he’s already past the murder of Magdelaine’s husband, the death of her daughter in childbirth…who knew he’d actually read it?
Ezra is an early riser, a habit he shares with his Nana. He is forbidden from waking anyone else in his household before 6:30 a.m. His mother confirmed that he gets up and reads a chapter of Ardent Spirit each morning before school.
I imagined him sitting in bed, reading my book. He broke into my thoughts with words that melted my heart. “It’s a good book. You’re a good writer, Nana.”
If I could live long enough or write well enough to get a positive NYT’s review, it would not mean more to me than those seven words spoken with the love of a grandson.