“I am already breaking away, but not quite as rapidly as I would like.”
Illustration by Olga Todorova, 12, for “Flying” by Margaret Bryan, 12. Published in Stone Soup March/April 2007 and The Stone Soup Book of Sports Stories (2018)
A note from Emma Wood
I am a runner. I usually run at least five miles six days a week, rain or shine, whether I have time or I don’t. I make the time. Or it’s more like that time doesn’t “count” to me—I have to run, so I find a way to do so. I recently ran my sixth marathon, but I didn’t really think of myself as a runner until I was training for my fourth marathon, in the spring of 2018. At some point during those four months leading up to the marathon, in the middle of what runners call a “training cycle,” I realized that running no longer felt like a chore. Ever. It was, in fact, usually the best part of my day.
I love being outside in the beautiful Santa Cruz landscape, either running on trails through the forest or by the ocean. I love that it allows me to step away from my computer, from my work, from my mind, from myself, and simply be. I love running alone and with friends; I love having friends to run with; I love running with my dog, seeing her joy at simply running and trying to mirror it myself. Most of all, I love that it serves as a constant, humbling reminder that every day, I am starting over again—that it doesn’t matter how far or how fast I had run last week or last month. It is always about showing up and putting in the miles. In this way, running reminds me of writing.
One of my writing teachers in college and a famous poet, Jorie Graham, once said to me, “Your next book isn’t going to write the next one for you.” I wrote her words on an index card, which I have taken with me and tacked to my bulletin board every time I’ve moved since then. Though I don’t have a published book yet, I do have a couple of manuscripts that I have been submitting and trying to publish.
It is gratifying to finish a project after months after writing—just like it is gratifying to finish a marathon after months of training. But the last marathon won’t run the next one for you: you still have to lace up and put in the miles every day; every mile, whether it was hard or easy, makes you a stronger runner and brings you closer to your goal. With writing, too: you have to sit down and put in the words. Every word you write brings you one word closer to your goal. Even if you end up cutting it from the piece in revision, the writing is making you a better writer.
I encourage you to try to sit down and write at least six days a week this summer. Maybe you want to write for 10 minutes. Maybe you want to write one page a day. Regardless the goal, remember it is about showing up, putting in the time, and doing the work. Anyone can be a runner, and anyone can be a writer. But you have to be willing to work.
Until next time,
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Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com.
Do you play the popular video game Fornite? On Monday we published a piece that discusses whether or the not the phenomenon is to dying down. See what Daniel has to say here.
Lukas reflects on happiness in his post from this week: “As I thought back, I realized that in all the times where I had fun, had joy, there were people surrounding me.” Is this true for you too? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Tara reviews the classic Ramona Quimby series of books. Why does she enjoy them so much? “Maybe it’s because author Beverly Cleary developed the characters so well in our minds, it’s as if they are your best friend. Maybe it’s because the adventures Ramona gets into are so relatable and funny.” Read more of Tara’s thoughts here.
Contest and partnership news
Contest: Write a Book!
Why not use Emma’s writing tips to finish your entry for our summer contest? We are looking for book-length writing in all forms and genres by kids aged 14 and under (we have extended our usual age limit for this contest). The deadline for entries is August 15th, so you have the whole summer to work on perfecting your book, whether it is a novel, a collection of poetry or short stories, a memoir, or other prose. There will be three placed winners, and we will publish all three winning books in various forms. Visit our contest page and Submittable entry page for full details.
From Stone Soup
By Margaret Bryan, 12
Illustrated by Olga Todorova,12
I roll my head from side to side in an attempt to be nonchalant. My teammates look at me questioningly, and then ask, “Can we go now?” impatiently I nod vaguely, lead them in a jog for about thirty meters, then turn around and run briskly back to the starting line. Once there I straighten my tie-dyed knee socks and perform an exaggerated walk in place. I glance at my teammates, making sure only five of our runners are in the front row and checking to see that everyone’s shoelaces are tied. I focus my gaze ahead as a man walks out before the competitors and gives a brief introduction, giving the usual instructions of there being two commands, one which is vocal, and then the sound of the gun. The man disappears in the herd of runners, and another walks out.
He utters the familiar phrase, “Runners set.” There is a brief pause, and then the resounding sound of a pistol pierces the air. I am off.
The sight of the other runners disappears in a flash, and the grass is rolling under my feet. My sneakers are white trimmed with red, accenting my maroon socks and uniform flawlessly. I glance back quickly as I round the bend; I am already breaking away, but not quite as rapidly as I would like. I pick up my pace, knowing that once I reach the woods I may slow down to my 3K pace and compensate for my overly swift start.
I leap over the railroad tracks and head toward the pond, only slightly aware of the crowd standing on either side of me, applauding politely Leaping over an obstacle reminds me of a book written by one of my favorite authors, and I run through the plot briefly in my head; anything to keep my mind off the rhythm of my breathing or the length of my strides, so that I may just enjoy the run and feel the wind rushing against my face. It’s a chilly day, and it will be even colder in the woods, so I pump my arms vigorously to keep the warmth flooding through my body. . . ./ MORE
Stone Soup’s advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.