Home Is a Handstand

Dear Writers:

I spent part of Thanksgiving break at home in Idaho, staying at the condo of my former gymnastics coach. I slept on a huge air mattress in his office; the mattress is like a big crash pad, so I felt right at home. In the morning, I sat on the comfy “crash pad” in my sweats, hair uncombed, teeth not brushed, and tearfully told Coach how much I still miss IT after all these years.

IT meaning being up on the balance beam, swinging around on the unevens, or flying over the vaulting horse.

IT meaning hanging out in gyms, working out barefoot, owning more leotards than other clothes.

IT meaning the athletic life I’d always thought I’d have as a coach/dancer/choreographer/fitness guru—the specifics weren’t formulated in my teenage mind, but I’d known my career path would be an outgrowth of being a high-level athlete.

I could have still done some of those other things, but along with losing the ability to land my stunts, I also lost my belief in myself.

Idaho Statesman Bars

Me back in the day

I often tell writers that they can get away with anything in a story—as long as they do it boldly. For example, not bothering to have a transition but just hopping over to another part of the story. Poof, we’re there, without even an “and then.”

Actually, please not an “and then.”

Because you have to be enough of a smartass writer to break convention often and wisely. What’s critical though is to understand and to be able to effectively employ the convention that you’re breaking. That’s what I think, and I think I’m right. I’m a pretty skilled editor, especially when it’s not my own story and I’m therefore not traumatized about it and can get in and diagnose its issues.

It’s incredibly fun to figure out what’s not yet working with a story and how to maximize its potential. Because there’s always potential, and there’s always that one awesome thing that made the story worth writing and will make it worth reading. And there’s that awesome author behind the story, who sometimes just needs a little thoughtful coaching to help them keep their stride in the home stretch of their revision.

I crashed on my bar dismount and blew out my knee. Back then, there wasn’t a surgery that could fix it. There was what I call my “I don’t give a rip because I can no longer do gymnastics” era. I took a lot of risks and am alive out of sheer dumb luck. I suppose I was seeking an adrenaline rush. Continue reading