Post by Jenny
Last weekend, I drove my mom to Wichita, Kansas so she could join some high school classmates for a birthday party. I love road trips—when my husband is driving. When I’m the one behind the wheel for hours on end, I alternate between fidgety boredom and sweaty anxiousness, with no comfortable middle ground. But I’m proud to say that I stepped up as a daughter and volunteered to drive—without so much as a single Google search for Greyhound bus schedules.
At some point during the planning process, my mom suggested that I bring one of my manuscripts. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted a critique session as we sped along I-70 in the close confines of my automobile. My mother is a great champion of my writing, but she doesn’t read fiction, and I have occasionally found her feedback to be the tiniest bit confusing and frustrating. Then I thought, what the heck, it might be fun, and I tossed the hard copy in my bag on the way out the door.
With a few hours of our return trip remaining, my mom started reading. At first, I heard the occasional chuckle or thoughtful “hmm.” Then things got quiet. Very quiet. I hoped it meant she was enthralled, but when I glanced over, I saw that she was sound asleep, her head tilted forward, the pages loose in her hand.
She woke when I hit a small bump.
“Mom,” I said. “Maybe you shouldn’t try to read now.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m able to pick up right where I left off.”
Two seconds later, she was asleep again.
Honestly, I didn’t blame her. She’d had a busy weekend, and it was warm and sunny in the car. But I also couldn’t help thinking, egads, is it really that bad? I don’t think it is, I’ve had other people tell me it’s not, but I won’t soon forget the image of my mother chin-to-chest with my manuscript in her lap.
As writers, we can only control what the readers read, not how they read it. We can’t tell them not to read when they’re overly tired, or half-drunk, or distracted. We can’t tell them not to skip chapters or to never, ever read the last page first. All we can do is write the stories we have in us to the best of our ability and hope that we haven’t also accidentally created a cure for insomnia.
Though there’s probably good money in that. I'll let you know.