If you asked me my favorite food, movie, or song, or even favorite book, I would hesitate. What would follow is probably a few pained seconds of contemplation, and then a blurted out answer I immediately try to take back. But—if you ask my favorite children’s book? I’ll smile—And tell you all the reasons why I have always loved THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK.
It’s not just because of my affinity for Sesame street, or Muppets (though that helps.) Or even Grover, who is severely underrated, IMHO. THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK didn’t talk down to kids. Sure it’s silly. But the message is all about fear. It’s a little existential too. Mostly though it was hilarious to me as a kid, who on some level could appreciate meta humor before I even fully knew what that meant.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my childhood love for THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK. It’s not that I believe in omens or anything. But facing down the tenth year since I first began trying (on some level or another) to traditionally publish has me fearing flipping yet another page. In 2015 I got so close. Signing with my literary agent in NYC. Then after a year of working on edits with her having my 3rd completed, queried manuscript submitted to publishers at all the major houses….I could almost taste that joy of seeing my words in print, my name on a thick hardcover.
Yet then something that happens to plenty of authors happened to me. The book didn’t sell. Three rounds and no bites from editors. Not an uncommon occurrence. And yet…Then my agent wasn’t interested in the next manuscript I brought to her. That’s just how it goes sometimes. I knew that. Publishing is like that. It’s not personal. But when I tried to peek behind another page of my own monster book in January of this year, I got the email I was so scared was coming. The one I had been blockading my self against. Stacking the mental and emotional walls higher and higher to protect myself from. But like Grover, it was foolish. I didn’t have an agent anymore. The Monster at the end of the book was me.
In the children’s book Grover tries to convince the readers that he was in on the joke all along. That you, the reader were the real scared one. His embarrassment is clear though, and you laugh at him, even as you feel bad for him. Silly Grover. Who would ever be afraid of themselves? Couldn’t you see this coming?
Welp. I’m at the end of my pages. It’s just me and the shiny aluminum foil glued to the paper distorting back my reflection. Maybe I don’t want to be a monster. What happens if when you get to the end of the book you realize you want to be something else entirely? Like the person you thought you were going to be at the beginning?
These are questions with answers I know I’m not going to find in the pages of children’s literature. No matter how much I love it. I’m planning on going over them with someone qualified to help me tackle them. Because now that I’m an adult, I can see that living with fear of the unknown isn’t fun. Although living with a self-referential Muppet definitely would be.
I have more words in me. And I’m not giving up. There’s always another page to turn.