Back on the High Dive

As a child, I was pretty much a wimp. Adventure was something to read about, not to actually participate in. Every now and then, though, something would snap inside me, and I would decide that I was going to do…X.

When I was, oh, ten or twelve, X was the act of diving off the high dive in swimming lessons. We were required to jump off, but it was our choice if we wanted to dive. For most of the week, I climbed up that ladder, walked to the end of the board, and jumped. None of this did I do happily.

And then, toward the end of the week, I decided I was going in head first. As I climbed out of the pool after the last jump and walked briskly back to the other end, I stopped at the chain-link fence separating the pool from the parents. My mom always brought a book to swimming lessons (hey, we must be related!), and I made sure that I stopped, got her to pull her nose out of it, and promise that she would watch–all without telling her what I was going to do. Then up that ladder I went again.

Keep in mind, these were the days of required swimming caps for girls, even though–in the early seventies–my pixie cut was several inches shorter than most of the boys’ hair styles. And keep in mind that, when I dove off the low-board or the edge of the pool, I would “part” the water with my hands, then pull them down to my sides.

Off the high dive, of course, I parted the air and had my arms at my sides miles before I hit the water. With my head. That had a rubber swimming cap stretched tight across it.

Say it with me…OW!!!!

Probably needless to say, that was the last time I ever dove off anything more than a few inches away from the water.

About two years ago, I wrote a complete first draft of a middle-grade mystery. Today, that mystery is complete and would love to find its way into an agent or editor’s hands. Meanwhile, what am I doing? I’m back up on the first-draft diving board. The completed novel is a long, long way down. What’s it look like from up here?

  • There’s a little extra confidence, because I’ve done this once. I believe (usually) that I can do it again.
  • There’s a little extra worry, frankly, because I also know how much work is ahead of me.
  • There is some serious excitement. In 4-6 weeks, I will have created something new. It will be a mess, I’ll probably have had my share ofΒ  tight-swimming-cap headaches along the way, and I’ll be a long way off from a swan dive. But I’ll have added a new piece to the world.

Perhaps the best part. I am liking myself a whole lot right now. I remember this feeling from walking back along the pool, from saying, “Mom!!” half a dozen times in a progressively louder voice to make sure I had a witness, from knowing that I–the wimp–was going to do something big and brave. It’s a much happier place for meΒ than standing on the sidelines watching all the other kids dive right in.

Today, let’s celebrate our courage. What are you doing this summer that might be pushing your usual limits, just a bit? Let us know, and we’ll all clap like crazy. Well, once you’ve got your swimming cap off and have taken a couple of aspirin. πŸ™‚


  1. Terri Thayer says:

    Sweet post. I tried out for cheerleading with no experience, and no ability and fell on my ass. Still it was fun.

    I’m going to try and write a different kind of book. Can I borrow the swimming cap? I might need it.


  2. Shari says:

    Great post, Becky. I’m definitely going to be pushing my usual limits a bit this summer as I embark on my first ever revisions for an agent. It’s got that whole thrilling-but-completely-freaky thing going for it, just like the high dive. πŸ˜‰


    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Shari! Congrats on the agent AND one who works with you on revisions. VERY exciting. I think your swim cap has those little plastic flowers all over it. πŸ™‚


  3. Kimi says:

    Thanks for that blog, Becky! I’m going to get my own swim cap going now & submit something for the first time. Can I have sparkles on mine?


    • beckylevine says:

      Kimi, that first submission is SO the high dive–seriously scary AND exciting. You can have sparkles AND bows. πŸ™‚


  4. Linda Covella says:

    Hi Becky: I never was a great diver :-), so I hope I’ll be better at my writing attempts this summer: trying to get more into the social networking thing (can you say brain implosion?), and working on a revision and a sequel to a MG novel. Glad it’s still only May!


    • beckylevine says:

      The social networking thing is a great challenge. Have you seen the SCBWI workshop Susan Taylor Brown and Lynn Hazen are doing on the topic this summer?

      Good luck with it all. πŸ™‚


  5. uppington says:

    Congrats on facing the writing high dive! I’ve undertaken a major revision of a novel I thought was done, in a make it or break it gamble. At the moment, I think it’s better for the revision, sometimes I think I’ve ruined the work completely. So, yeah – fear. From now on I’ll have a nice image of you smacking your bathing capped head on the surface of the pool. Thanks for the story!


    • beckylevine says:

      When you go to clean out a closet, the room looks like a disaster before it all gets sorted and thrown out and put back together. (Okay, maybe just MY closets!)I’m guessing the revision will make your book better. I felt great, despite the smacked head! Good luck. πŸ™‚


  6. Barrie Summy says:

    Way to go, Becky! Hmmm….my high dive has been public speaking. I started last September and, while it’s gotten easier, yikes! I’m doing a school visit tomorrow. 200 kids!


  7. First time I went off the 12-foot platform at Verdugo Public Pool, I banged the water crushingly hard on top of my head. Hurt for a while. 58 years later, I’m bald. Do you suppose that’s why?

    My brave thing now will be bugging agents with query letters even though I know every t is not crossed in my “finished” novel. (I just remembered, I still have a dead guy who came back to life. #$%@%#!) I’ve heard a novel is never really done. What’s my next excuse?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: