Why do I write about waifs and orphans? I am neither, but they stir me. Why?

Recently I realized that the characters in my novel-in-progress are all, in some manner, orphaned. I’m still uncovering, discovering, or making up the extent to which this manifests itself (and matters) in the mess. But I know that’s an emerging, and somehow important, current through this work, and much of my other work.

In my novel, The Watery Girl, Claire and the watery girl are both alone.

I am an only child, and the mother of an only child. But I don’t think my obsession with waifdom and orphandom is that simple. It could be the notion that we are all alone in some deep sense. I’m still figuring it out.

Community and family are really important to me, and day-to-day, I don’t feel alone. Honestly, I would like to have more actual time alone. But I don’t want to feel alone inside. There’s something scary about that feeling. And yet I also understand that independence is important, dependence can be tricky and dangerous, and I am okay with the occasional loneliness of being alone.

But the waif. The orphan. Something about their vulnerability (which is, perhaps, in all of us, in some deep, hidden place) attaches itself to what I am doing, or trying to do, in my fiction. Do these waifs and orphans need me to tell their stories? Does this render me less alone?

One thought on “Waifs and orphans

  1. My favorite childhood books are the ones where there are no parents. How I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking and live in Villa Villa Coola! For me, I think it was about FREEDOM, and no parents = freedom to my young mind.

    I wanted a life where I could eat dessert before dinner and have a pet monkey and decide when to go to bed and could stay up all night when I wanted to.

    I am still looking for Villa Villa Coola, but I’ve gotten over the whole monkey thing.

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