Monday, May 17, 2010

My deepest, darkest confession

I’m toiling away over LET IT BREATHE, the third book in my contract with Sourcebooks, Inc.

One element of the story involves secrets.

Given the haphazard way I write, that element could be gone in a few weeks, but it’s there now and it got me thinking.

I have a confession. I don’t want you to think less of me, but I need to get this off my chest.

I’m a thief.

I actually didn’t realize I was a thief until a couple days ago when I went searching for a poetry book I acquired in high school. I hadn’t seen it for years, but there was a poem stuck in my head and I wanted to remember the last line.

(Incidentally, the last line contains a comma I don’t recall noticing before, and that single comma changes the entire meaning of the line as I remembered it. Let that be a lesson to all of us as writers!)

In addition to discovering the comma, I also discovered this:

Yes, apparently I stole the book. Back in 1991 at the start of my senior year in high school. I don’t remember consciously stealing it. I don’t remember diving beneath the anti-theft exit under a hail of gunfire or paying a man in a trench coat to slit the librarian’s throat so I could nab this book.

But here it is, evidence of my thievery. I’m not entirely sure what to do about it.

Since it’s been in my possession now for almost 20 years, the odds are slim the school librarian is still wandering the streets with a sniper rifle and a copy of my yearbook photo.

Still, I feel bad. Should I return it? Should I keep it? Should I go to my local police station and turn myself in?

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the cop would say to me. “You stole what?”

“A book of poetry, officer. Do you think there’s any way I can avoid the death penalty if I take a plea deal?”

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Or if you have confessions of your own, feel free to share. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I’m not your priest or your lawyer, so if you confess to murder, I might have to call the police.

Either that, or write about it in one of my books.


Candyland said...

Write about it instead.

Lilliana put a couple of cans in the bottom of the cart at the grocery store once. I didn't notice until we got home because she pulled them out and held them in the backseat. I hate to say I didn't have the energy to take them back then but mentioned it the next time we went. They didn't even care.

LR said...

Oh my. I'm going to have to "un-follow" you. You're not the person I thought you were. ;)

My suggestion would be to donate a phallic wine stopper and a signed copy of your first novel to the library.

Bill Cameron said...

I have a copy of the John Ciardi translation of Dante's Inferno from my high school library.

Linda G. said...

You didn't steal it. It's overdue. Just return it, along with the $10,976.35 fine, and your good girl status will be restored. ;)

Patrick Alan said...

I am pure and innocent and have never done anything wrong.

Elle Strauss said...

I suggest making a donation to the library--but keep the book!

Thanks for visiting my blog. So exciting to hear about your 3 book deal. Don't know if that's new news or old, but I'm happy to hear that it happens!

(I may have to blog stalk you now, to find out how....:))

Karla Nellenbach said...

hahaha! the closest i ever came to theft was when i was xmas shopping a couple years ago with friends. we were in a shop gabbing with one of the clerks while she was ringing up my purchase...and i had coupons and discount cards (hey! im frugal!) and as we left the store, i looked at my receipt. $0. She didn't charge me for anything. I stopped in the middle of the mall and just stood there, not completely sure what to bff saw the predicament i was in and helped me out. "Oh, go back. you know you'll feel guilty if you don't." so i did, and this time the girl charged me for my purchases...yes, i am a goody-goody...either that or i just suffer from a very loud conscience. :)

Delia said...

When I was nine, my neighbor double-dog-dared me to steal a candy bar from the local convenience store. I stole a pack of gum (it was closer), showed it to her, and then felt so guilty that I snuck it back into the store when she wasn't looking and paid for it.

I also had an incident like Candyland's, only it was a small glass vase rather than canned foods. It was $1 and nobody cared aside from me, but I was never able to use it and ended up giving it away.

I've also gone back to the bank for giving me too much money and called the insurance company for sending me checks I didn't deserve. So I guess if it were mine, I'd have to give it back. I'd go nuts. Or maybe I'm already nuts. I promise I'm otherwise sane. Mostly.

L. T. Host said...

Okay... I'll confess.

We went to the zoo on a field trip when I was in fourth or fifth grade. We went to the souvenir shop right before leaving to go back home, and I had a sweatshirt draped over one of my arms. I found a panda pencil sharpener that I thought I might want and through the shuffling of other stuff, put it in the hand that was under the sweatshirt.

I'm sure you can guess where this is going. I forgot about it, and LEFT THE SHOP WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT. It was about five minutes later, just as the teacher was starting to gather everyone up to get on the bus that I noticed I still had it! I made one of my friends sneak it back into the store with me so I could put it back. I was so terrified I was going to get caught putting it back.

So, I'm an almost-thief ... ah, memories.

Anonymous said...

I think I still live in fear that I have a library book in my possession. I don't, I just fear it. Those librarians were scary.

My confession? I lied...boldly. My last semester of college, I had a jam packed schedule because I was frantic to graduate (crazy people expect you to actually leave at some point). One of my classes was via video, but the professor wanted us to attend class once a week to discuss the videos. I didn't want to go...hello, it was a government class! So...I went to my professor and told him I couldn't attend the class because I already had one night class and my sons' babysitter couldn't come in but once a week. I was nervous, very nervous which he took to mean "stress". The lie part? I don't have children. I was the babysitter for my sister's sons and I needed the money she was paying me to watch them.

In the end though, I got a "C" in the class and did graduate, which is all that mattered to me. Sorry, Doc...I was in dire need of drinking money that semester!

Cynthia Reese said...

You know, if it were a public library, you could drive-by drop it in the outside bin. That's what I did when I racked up a tremendous overdue fine. I don't know why it was easier to pay the fine later, without the stack of books, but it was.

Mama Bear said...

If it were me, I'd call and ask the school if they wanted it back, then buy myself a used copy online. I also like the idea of making a donation to the school - perhaps to cover the cost of the book. I'm just a goody two-shoes; I couldn't help but feel bad that I accidentally kept the book.

Jade said...

I totally decided to keep three of my English books from high school. I always thought that the English department would consider my theft a job well done because it got me interested in their book selections...No? Maybe not?

The funny thing is that I actually 'kept' the exact same book that my mum 'kept' when she was in high school--THE CRYSALIDS!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Confession is good for the soul. I agree with the "write about it" suggestion. :0)

Tawna Fenske said...

Candyland, what was in the cans? Too funny that no one cared!

LR, I'm not sure my novels would be suitable for a high school library, though now that I think about it, I read much racier things in high school.

Bill, did you have to kill the librarian to get that?

Linda G, great idea. Can you loan me the money?

Patrick, tell me you didn't type that with a straight face.

Elle, stalk away! I enjoyed your blog post this morning!

Karla, good for you going back! I do the same thing.

Delia, I'm a big believer in karma, so it sounds like you're building up some good stuff!

L.T. Host, that's hilarious about being terrified to get caught PUTTING IT BACK!

danicaavet, you have a fake kid? That's classic! Probably much easier to take care of than a real one.

Cynthia, alas, it was a high school library, so no drive-by drop box.

Mama Bear, you know, I might have to take it back in person just to see the expression on the librarian's face.

Jade, too funny about the thievery running in your family. You and your mom should form a gang or something.

Kathi, I will make a special note to myself to write a book-stealing character. Oh, wait. I already did that. It's actually in my debut :)

Thanks for reading, guys!

Liz Czukas said...

Oh my gosh, if I tried to return all of the things I'd borrowed and kept too long, my house would be a lot emptier, and I've have almost no glasses.

I say keep it, and dedicate this book to high school librarians everywhere.

- Liz

Patrick Alan said...

No, I was borrowing a gay face at the time.

middle child said...

I say - go to Blockbuster and drop it in the return slot. That should confuse the shit out of everyone and nothing will be traced back to you.

Jeannie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lani Woodland said...

I hate it when this sort of stuff happens to me. Somehow I have two linen napkins from my favorite restaurant. I have no idea how I ended up with them. I keep washing them and setting them aside to return. Before I get a chance to take them back, my kids keep using them!
Maybe you can buy a new copy of the book for the library, donate a copy of your book and volunteer to speak at your old school. :)

Dawn said...

Definitely write about it.

One day I was flipping through a magazine while the cashier rang through my grocery order. It came time to pay and I reached into my purse to grab my wallet and somehow put the magazine inside as well. Whoops. I did return it - after I finished reading the article that so obviously distracted me.

Jennifer X said...

Eh, just call them up and see if the book is available. If they have it, don't worry about it. Send them an anonymous donation. If they don't have it, send it back or walk it in. I'm sure they'll take pity on you. Did your school charge fines? Mine didn't, but the books had to be replaced or you couldn't get your diploma. Definitely write about it!

Tawna Fenske said...

Liz, LOL on the book dedication. Not sure they'd all appreciate it, but some might!

Patrick, borrowing? OK, whatever you say.

Middle child, you have a warped sense of humor. Is that why you keep visiting me here? :)

Lani, not a bad idea about volunteering to speak at the high school. It's a fine line for me, since my books border on risque in places (OK, they're a lot risque in some places). I don't want parents beating me up.

Dawn, now I'm curious what the magazine was! Something smutty, I hope?

Jennifer X, at this point, I'm tempted to walk it in just to see the look on their faces. I remember checking this book out A LOT, so my guess is that one time I just failed to actually check it out (and therefore, forgot to return it). Whoops.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Claire Dawn said...

My Dad totally has a book check out in 1976! A guide to Learning German!!! And he so does not speak a word of German. Incidentally, he had the book so long, the library burnt down and was rebuilt!

Margaret said...

I was reading an article in the last couple months...don't remember it enough to find it...but it was about a man in his 50s or something who returned a book that his parents had nabbed from the school library because it was the reason they fell in love. The librarian was thrilled enough with the story to report it to the press :).