They’re called Icebreakers. You know the questions designed to break the ice in a conversation, like what famous person living or dead would you like to have dinner with? Or if you could time travel, when would you go? Another one is, if you were stranded on a desert island, what one book would you like to have with you? Well, imagining myself on a desert island while doing an icebreaker kind of presents a clash of terms and pulls me out of the narrative I’m trying to create in my head. So, being the writer that I am, I respond to the question with some initial revisions.
First of all, I’d rather not be on a desert island, so I’ll backspace that out of there and type in porch swing. If I was stranded on a porch swing, what one book would I like to have with me? While I’m revising, let’s go ahead and add that I have an ice-cold glass of lemonade in hand and it’s a cool afternoon in June—before the mosquitos have come out.
There, now we’re getting somewhere. So, what book would I pick? Toughie. The answer might vary on any given day. I could pick Lord of the Rings because it’s a great story and I’d really be getting three books instead of just one. I could pick the Bible. I’d get a whole bunch of books in that one! Hmm, I need to give it more thought.
In the meantime, let’s go back to the question about what person living or dead would you like to have dinner with and change that one to what person would you like to be stranded on the porch swing with? Any good porch swing is at least a two-seater. So maybe I’d invite the author Eudora Welty, because I visited her home this summer and she seems like a person I’d really like. Plus, she’s from the south so she would probably enjoy a good porch swing. But if Eudora’s coming, maybe I should pick one of her books. I’d love to hear her talk about her book on writing, One Writer’s Beginnings. That would be a great icebreaker. We’d have all kinds of things to talk about. Things are looking good on the porch swing. Eudora is a talker and she has a great Mississippi accent.
Now we might as well bring in the time travel question as well, so I would time travel with Eudora Welty on the porch swing to a typical day back in the 1940’s – before television and an overabundance of technology. Perfect for porch swinging. Unfortunately, Eudora decided to go home because she missed air-conditioning.
So here I am again, stranded by myself on that porch swing. Still without a book to claim as my one book. But I do have a pen. And a notebook. With lots of blank pages. And I’ve already been wandering down an imaginative path with these hypothetical questions. For me, that’s where all of my stories begin. With a lot of questions and a healthy dose of imagination. So, I guess my answer is, I’d stick with the blank notebook as my one book. I would have countless stories to explore and a variety of characters to accompany on their journeys.
Definitely, a blank book. It’s not so bad being stranded on a porch swing.
CLARE VANDERPOOL lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband and their four children. She is the author of the 2011 Newbery Medal-winning novel, Moon Over Manifest. Today is the book birthday for her second novel Navigating Early, an extraordinary adventure of two boys’ quest for buried secrets on the Appalachian Trail. Learn more at ClareVanderpool.com.