STORIES BEHIND THE STORY
Mylo and his mom in the original "The Something"
So, in the animated short of my mother's book, "The Something" was received well by some - most notably by AI-AP at their 4th Annual Motion Arts Awards - so this gave me a measure of confidence. And at one point, I screened the movie for a contact I'd made in Boston, and he talked about "franchise," and how, perhaps, if my mom were to write a sequel of some kind, we might begin to generate some commercial interest...
My mom couldn't have been less interested, really, and so that was kind of that. Until - about 2 weeks later, she sent me an idea anyway, a very short sketch of an idea. Now, I have loved almost all of my mother's great writing, but this particular idea just didn't strike a chord in me. So - I shyly worked something up myself - the working title being, "Mylo School," in which our hero learns, through trial and error, what he is not - and so who he is.
So, "No, thanks" to the woman who the New York Times called, "Indisputably one of our most gifted and ambitious writers for children" and hello to, well, me. No reason to be intimidated... Do I mimic her style? What's my voice?
Anyway, so I did actually write something (way too long) - and gave it to my (also-a-published-writer) Dad to work with, edit, etc. He did so, and chopped out about two-thirds of it (perhaps rightly so) and handed it back. But this time, I felt he had removed the only emotional arcs and themes that I truly connected to... So I rewrote again and put it in some folder somewhere.
Some months later, my mom introduced me to a New York publisher, who looked it over. His comment was unequivocal. He said it there was nothing at all there - and suggested I not waste my time shopping it to anyone else, as he was sure they would react the same way... Ouch. (Some weeks later, he emailed to say maybe he went too far and would give me some names of other editors or publishers - but then never did.)
As Mylo says, "Oh-kay... That didn't go well...."
But Francine, my wonderful creative and life partner, kept periodically referring to the story, and insisted she wanted to see more of Mylo and the crazy characters I might invent... I resisted. And then I didn't. So I dedicated the movie to her - for keeping Mylo alive. I'm very grateful she did.
hanging out with my mom
In "The Something," there are just two family members: Mylo, and his Mom. As I worked with the writing, I could see how my mom was slyly commenting on her own role as mother - one she certainly had mixed feelings about.
For example, early in the book, Mylo expresses his profound fear of "something" coming through his window at night. The mother's response is kind of disconnected and rambling (and funny), as the narrator (explains) that Mylo's mother "likes to explain things..."
Later on, Mylo labors over, and then successfully creates, a clay model of his biggest fear - and proudly presents it to his mother. She responds by exclaiming, "That's beautiful, Mylo!" - in, the narrator explains, "such a special voice, that he knew she had no idea what it was..." This kind of response from her to the arty stuff I would make, rang true for me, honestly - maybe she saw this, too.
At any rate, I'm now writing dialogue for a character based on my mother and giving words to (my version of) Mylo. It's like we're hanging out - some 13 years after her passing. Inside the words, inside the pictures - that where she really lives. What's cool is - me, too. Here, at least, we speak the same language.