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Joe DeRouen, Author of the Small Things trilogy: You can go home again, but just for a while

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You can go home again, but just for a while

I went to the Carthage, Illinois (population: 3,000) school system from Kindergarten through 11th, then moved to Dallas, Texas for my 12th. As you can imagine, I never really bonded with the kids in 12th, so always considered Carthage my school. Even though I hated it. (More on that later.)

Anyway, I found out a couple of weeks ago that they were having the 20th high school reunion. I vacillated on going, and finally decided last Monday to take the eight-hour drive. And I'm glad I did!

I didn't have a good school life. I was a chubby kid and constantly picked on. My dad was a violent alcoholic and so I had that to contend with at home. All in all, it made for a rough life growing up. And having not seen these kids in 21 years, well, I had no idea what to expect, and was nervous as hell going back there.

But my first instinct was that, if nothing else, the experience would be cathartic, and my first instinct was right. All the pain and grudges I felt over school have pretty much gone away. Everyone was happy to see me, I was actually one of the most gregarious of the bunch at the reunion (I was painfully shy in school,) and had a great time.

But, more than that, it was great to reconnect with friends and classmates. I even confessed my school crushes to each of the crushees, something I'd never done in high school. It was very freeing. And, amazingly, all five of us that bowled together on a team were there, so we managed to take a bowling picture together.

Here are some pics of the trip:

So what's all this have to do with writing, you might ask? (You there, in the third row. Yeah, you, wearing the hat, I just heard you.) Well, my first two novels are set almost entirely in Carthage, and Carthage makes a cameo in my third novel. There's a lot of material there, in my past, and even more now that I've made the trip home again.


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Mela said...

I'm glad you had a good time. I never went to high school, so it's hard to imagine how I'd feel in the same situation.

Setting a novel in my hometown is something I'm sure I will do, someday. I just haven't done it yet.


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