Go Jump In A Lake

My mom was a teacher and a hippie. She had summers off and liked to spend them with her hippie mom friends, also teachers. That meant a giant group of kids living in an old farmhouse in upstate Pennsylvania, Bodines to be exact. There was a huge dilapidated barn which we were sure was haunted—bats circled the place at dusk just to prove our point.  One night, a bat got in the kids’ room. We all slept in a giant room on the main floor. Some kids got the double bed, others mattresses on the floor, others still holed up in sleeping bags. I remember my dad grabbing a blanket and  scooping up the bat. I thought he was a superhero.

We used to roller skate around the barn and put on plays and mock trials in that giant musty shell of a building all the while daring each other to venture to the lower levels where there were sure to be ghosts. In the evenings we’d play baseball in front of the house. Most of the kids were boys so I took on a toughness already brewing in my psyche. During the hot summer days, we’d walk along dusty roads to the local creeks to swim. We were a sight for the locals—a bunch of middle class Jewish hippie city liberals descending upon this poor country town every summer.

One year while we were swimming in the creek, a group of tough townies came along and started jumping off the bridge in to the water. It was about a 30 foot drop. They had an awesome recklessness about them. My father was there. Since my parents had already split by this time, I’m pretty sure my parents alternated who would stay at Bodines. They may have left us there with the communal pack and driven back and forth to Philly, I don’t recall. My dad was taking pictures with his Leica—he was a professional photographer and always had several rolls of TRI-X and a camera. When I saw that lanky stringy haired local boy jump off that bridge I knew I had to be next.  “No girls,” said the townie. “What?” “No girl has ever jumped off.” That was it.

“I want to do it, Dad.” I don’t remember how the conversation went, but he let me. I was scared but he stood below, camera in hand. I’m sure someone was up there with me, some of my buddies. And I jumped. And it was magnificent. It was freeing and terrifying and exhilarating and amazing. And I was the first girl to do it. None of the rest of our crew wanted to try. I wonder if my dad still has that great black-and-white shot of me soaring through the air.

When I went to jump a second time, something new happened for me. I was more frightened. Something about knowing what was going to happen made me fear the experience more. I did it anyway; it was different but still great, and I did it again another day. When my mom found out I’m sure she and my dad had it out, but I’d done it and thus fueled my as yet never quenched sense of adventure.

Several years ago, I decided I wanted to write a mystery novel. I took an adult education class at the University of Washington on mystery writing and set to work. Eventually after many days, weeks, months, a few drafts, a lot of mistakes, and some helpful guidance and editing from both my instructor and agent, I finished a publishable novel. I’d done it. And then I got it published. And people read it. They liked it. And they asked me when I was going to do it again. And I felt like I was standing on top of that damn 30 foot bridge getting ready to jump for the second time.

But, I wrote and I wrote and I got stuck but the story was still in my head. And then I had small kids and I was beyond overwhelmed and I knew the timing wasn’t right and it was easy to wait. And that was OK, then.  I let the story brew in my mind and sit—partially told—on my computer. But now, my story is bubbling to the surface and my youngest son is starting kindergarten in two months.

The other day, I decided I was ready to take the plunge, pun intended. I hired a professional editor to work with because I am stuck and I need guidance. (If you’ve ever read the acknowledgements of a novel, you know that many people help authors when they work: editors, assistants, researchers, “early readers,” agents, friends, family.) I was going it alone on top of that bridge but no more. I’m ready. I’m going to jump in a lake. Again.


  1. heartwriter says:

    JK…you go girl. Jump and keep jumping. I love it. Beautiful summer memory applied to your current world. Lovely piece…now go write your lovely book. oxoxo


  2. polly Kanevsky says:

    great blog. That’s the real stuff…. you definitely have it, can’t wait to see how th stories get told in the book


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