There are so many reasons I chose to quit my full-time job, start writing fiction, earn my MFA, and complete a novel. In part, I was frustrated by inequalities I observed in the world and angry about how helpless I felt to change them.
I wanted to talk about racism and sexism, ask questions, challenge cultural norms, and TAKE ACTION.
Or at least, have a conversation. Maybe just a moment or two of deeper reflection.
But I was busy, and everyone around me was busy working, parenting, surviving. We barely had the energy to keep our lives together.
Still, at night I would stare into the darkness of my room and consider the origin stories of love and hatefulness. I would wade into the deeper waters of my mind and wonder, How do people become bigots? How do people become great humanitarians? Can we be both at once?
Am I both?
I thought about my own origin story. My town. The faces of everyone I had ever loved. The faces of the people who had hurt me.
Do I hate them?
One day, I attended a free writing class at my local bookstore. This was when I was still employed, and I’d squeezed the class in during a weekend. The prompt was a common one: write your earliest memory. I had a foggy sense of a time when I was maybe four years old, trying to impress my uncle with the snazzy pink socks I was wearing. In the story, the little girl—me—falls on her face, and the father gets angry. I wondered, Why did that girl want to impress her uncle so bad? Why was that father angry?
I wanted to know, so I began writing more about this girl. My present and my past weaved together. I felt no loyalty to the facts of the experiences; I privileged the questions over all else. I wrote to interrogate the memories. I wrote to understand the people.
I named her Meri. The more I wrote about her, the less like me she became. That made it easier.
Questions lurked in the deeper waters—about parenting, politics, whiteness, the environment. Exploring these questions required me to dream up new scenarios for this fierce and vulnerable teen girl, Meri, to investigate both her own preconceptions and those of the people around her.
I began to think of Meri in ways I think of my daughter, holding both girls in my heart with compassion, forgiveness, and a dogged love. This helped me push through difficult parts in the story, and also helped me acknowledge and accept certain uglier parts of myself.
Initially, I thought I’d write a series of related Meri vignettes. However, the more I wrote, the more connective tissue grew between the best of the vignettes. As I cut away pieces that didn’t work, the bones of a young adult novel emerged.
The day the Advance Reader Copy of the book arrived in our mailbox, my daughter excitedly opened the package. She snapped a picture and shared it on Instagram with the caption:
Words cannot express how proud I am. Many years in the making, much love. The Ocean in My Ears, by none other than my mom.
I can’t explain exactly why her reaction meant so much to me, but even now I well up when I think of her then. Never had I realized so much as in that moment how even as children want their parents to be proud of them, so, too, do parents appreciate the admiration of their children.
The book required deep reflection to the point of exhaustion. It required me to listen and ask questions and challenge cultural norms. It took me to uncomfortable places and forced me to wade into deeper waters. There’s ugliness inside this book because there is ugliness inside me.
But there is also beauty.
Meagan Macvie was born and raised in Soldotna, Alaska. Her debut novel, The Ocean in My Ears, is set in her hometown. The novel was published in 2017 by Portland State University’s Ooligan Press and was a finalist for the 2016 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. In their starred review, Kirkus calls The Ocean in My Ears an “unforgettable journey to adulthood.” Meagan is a former government communications director and college composition instructor who now writes full-time and teaches writing workshops through her local schools and libraries. She earned her MFA in fiction from Pacific Lutheran University and a BA in English Literature from the University of Idaho. Her work has appeared in Narrative, Barrelhouse, and Fugue, as well as the regional library anthology, Timberland Writes Together. In 2017, her short story, “Dinosaur Guys,” was awarded second place in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Contest. Meagan now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter, as well as a dog, two goats, and seven chickens. Find her online at meaganmacvie.com and on Twitter and Instagram as @meaganmacvie.
UPCOMING EVENTS in ALASKA
Friday, December 15, 2017 | Palmer
4 PM ~ Fireside Books, in-store book signing
6:45 PM ~ Ticketed author dinner at Turkey Red restaurant – $30 per ticket
Saturday, December 16, 2017 | Anchorage
3-5 PM ~ Workshop: “I’m Just Being Myselfie: How Young Narrators Come Alive on the Page (Without Coming Off Like Posers) Register here.
7 PM ~ 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series event, “Writing from a Big, Small Place”, Indigo Tea Lounge. Author craft talk, Q&A and book signing, FREE. More info
Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Cooper Landing
2 PM ~ Reading, Q&A, and book signing at the public library. Free
Sunday, December 17, 2017 | Seward
6 pm ~ Resurrect Art Coffee House in Seward. Reading, Q&A, book signing, with local writers. Free
Friday, December 22, 2017 | Soldotna
4:30 pm ~ Reading, Q&A, and book signing at the library in Soldotna. Free