From My Window: All the Places The Water & the Wild Was Written
In The Water and the Wild, twelve-year-old Lottie Fiske lives in a boardinghouse owned by her stuffy guardian, Mrs. Yates. Outside Lottie’s bedroom window grows a green apple tree—a familiar sight that, unbeknownst to Lottie, can grant her access to a new and wondrous world.
When I first imagined Lottie’s story, I had no idea I was about to embark on a seven-year writing journey. During those seven years, I moved around a bunch, constantly altering the landscape in which The Water and the Wild was written and revised. Today, I’m excited to share a few of the stops Lottie and I made on our way to publication.
An ice cream shop
I dreamt up what would become The Water and the Wild the summer after my freshman year of college, when I was working at an ice cream shop. Though I spent most of my ten-hour workday making waffle cones and serving customers, there were some dull moments. It was during those pockets of time, when I was mopping the floors or grabbing a new pan of ice cream from the walk-in freezer, that I got some of the most vivid ideas for Lottie’s story. I would scribble down key words on napkins and hope that I remembered what they referred to later, when my shift was over. Then, late that night or early the next morning, I transcribed those scribbles in a Word document. By the end of the summer, I’d created an outline.
A London townhouse
I didn’t pick up that outline again until the next year, during Jan Term—my college’s six-week holiday break. During that time, I feverishly typed out a very rough draft of The Water and the Wild. Just after I finished the draft, I hopped on a flight to London, where I would be studying for the spring semester. There, I lived in a townhouse that had once been a hotel and was now five floors of student bedrooms and classrooms. I lived on the very top floor, in what my friends and I called The Tower. Here’s the view from my bedroom window:
While in London, I shared my rough draft with several good friends who gave me valuable and much-needed critique. I revised, and I revised again. Then, just as I bid London adieu, I began submitting the manuscript to agents.
A room on King’s Parade
That summer, I lived in Cambridge, where I took three summer courses at King’s and Pembroke colleges. It was a magical summer. I spent many muggy nights watching Shakespearean plays in the college gardens. I learned how to punt the Cam River on my, um, third try. I made a lifelong friend who had matching ginger hair and an anglophilic heart. And on my birthday, I got an email from an agent offering representation for my book. I accepted the offer in my bedroom, while looking out my window at the sinister grasshopper clock on King’s Parade.
It wasn’t until a couple years later, when I was teaching English in Seville, Spain, that The Water and the Wild finally went on submission. I was a bundle of nerves, but I found encouragement from my fabulous roommates and in the strangely endearing graffiti on the narrow city streets.
A hammock swing
Three years later, back in the States and sitting in this very hammock swing, I held the hardcover copy of a book that had evolved in two different continents, three different countries, and six different cities.
K.E. Ormsbee currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She lived in lots of equally fascinating cities before then, from Austin to Birmingham to London to Seville. She grew up with a secret garden in her backyard and a spaceship in her basement. This is her first book.