A few years ago I went on a trip. I left home, and I was seeking something. You could call it a journey, I suppose.
I was working on a book, and I was stuck. It’s a story that was immensely important to me. It was about a boy, Mark, and his dog. Mark is battling cancer, and maybe losing. So he runs away with his dog to climb Mt. Rainier. And maybe die trying.
I was writing it in memory of a friend of mine, also named Mark. Who loved climbing mountains. And loved animals. And battled cancer. Right up until the end.
Since the story was centered around Mt. Rainier, I figured that might be a good place to go to get unstuck.
I had a lot of questions. Big ones. Would the story ever come out right? Could I translate the truth I had inside me into words that others would ever read and connect with? Was my dream of being a writer floundering, destined to just wither and fade like so many dreams do?
I took a room in a rustic bunkhouse near the mountain’s entrance, a humble former lumbermen’s quarters now serving as a home base for climbers about to make the attempt. It seemed appropriate.
I drove around. I wrote. I drove some more. I entered Mt. Rainier National Park and wandered up to the Visitor’s Center. Looking for something. I walked a bit up the packed snow that led, eventually, right up to the top. And all the time, while I was looking inside myself, I was also looking up. Looking for the mountain.
And I never saw it. The whole two days. The mountain was lost in clouds, hidden in a spring storm. This is a momentous mountain you can see from hundreds of miles away – and to me, standing on its very flank, it was lost and shrouded. It seemed to symbolize so much.
But still I wrote. Looking for the words through the clouds. The story through the storm.
And then: on my way down, driving home, I rounded a corner. It was one of those mornings that is a magical mix of golden sunlight and dripping rain. I was only ten minutes out of the hotel, and there it was. Front and center, and not a cloud in sight.
The mountain. Mt. Rainier. It’s a big mountain; it looks big from Seattle, a couple hours drive away. When you’re in a pickup at its very foot, though, it is much more than big. It fills the windshield. It overflows your field of vision…you actually have to turn your head to see it all.
I was lucky I kept my truck on the road. It is a beautiful mountain, that Rainier.
The road turned through an S-curve and I lost sight of it, but I leaned eagerly forward when the road turned back around toward the mountain. But, impossibly, the mountain was gone. All that the sky held was an impenetrable wall of gray. It had retreated back behind its clouds, but not before it had given me that one glorious view.
Long story short: my story got written. Not that weekend, but eventually. It took a few years, and a couple rewrites – but it got written. Longer story short: my story is getting published. It also took a few years, and a few rejections – but it’s getting published. In early 2015. It’s called THE HONEST TRUTH, and it is a dream come true.
It was hard, sometimes, to hold onto the story when it seemed like it just wasn’t going to ever come out right. And it was hard, a lot of times, to hold onto the writing dream when it seemed like it just wasn’t ever going to happen. Dreams and stories can spend a lot of time hiding behind clouds, just like mountains. You have to believe that they’re still there, through the storm, and that you’ll find them eventually as long as you never stop looking. You have to believe in the mountain more than the clouds.
And now, in the latest phase of this crazy journey, I get to reveal the beautiful cover. Designed by Nina Goffi with Scholastic Press, it is far better than anything I had imagined. I love the drama of it, the peril. I love that the boy and the dog are apart, but seeking each other. I love that death stands between them, but they are still looking toward one another. I love that maybe they cannot see each other, maybe they each seem lost in a storm, but that they still have faith that the other is there, somewhere through the darkness. It’s perfect.
I am so thrilled to be where I am. So lucky to have had the support of friends and family through the years. So excited that after a decade of sharing great books with great kids as a teacher, now I’ll get to share one with them that has my name on it. And a really kick-ass cover.
All the climbing’s worth it when the clouds blow away, and you’re finally looking at the mountain.
That’s the honest truth.
|Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.|