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“Stuff we keep” doesn’t sound half so poetic as “the things they carried,” nor should it.

It’s just stuff, right? But I’m bad at throwing things away.

Among the stuff I’m still sorting through from my recent move, I found this stack of index cards with plot points for the novel I’m revising for Harper Childrens, Don’t Touch. IMAG1042

Except when I made the index cards, the novel was called Manatee, and it included a manatee. That light blue card in the center reads: “Caddie swims with the manatee in springs — her last free day.”

Um, no she doesn’t. She hasn’t done that since 2008.

That book included lots of ballet recitals that have since been cancelled. Caddie doesn’t dance anymore.

It included characters named Trevor and Mac and Ms. Likerman. Trevor got eaten by his rival when I decided I didn’t need a love triangle. Ms. Likerman muddied the waters, but I LOVED her. I’m hoping she’ll find her way into another book. Mac’s name changed to Oscar. Why?

I’m not sure, but Mac was kind of a dick, and when I made these notecards, I didn’t know anyone named Mac. Since then, my friend Sarah met a Mac, a keeper. I met him on election night, 2008. We saw Obama in Grant Park. Later, we’d go camping together, paint a house together, work together. I was a bridesmaid at their wedding.

Now my Mac is an Oscar. I don’t know any Oscars.

There’s a girl named Lena in these cards. I killed Lena several years ago, but she crawled up out of the graveyard (that’s what I call my file where I paste stuff I cut — the “graveyard”). She’s got a bit part in my latest revision, so maybe Lena’s a keeper too.

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing this book, I don’t know. The novel formerly known as Manatee went through a total gut rehab in 2009. So, 2009? Sort of?

I think of Manatee as my novel’s conjoined twin that had to be sacrificed so the healthier twin could survive.

Even Manatee had an older sibling–or maybe a crazy aunt in the attic–that shared some of its DNA. 13 years ago, I wrote some lines about a girl named Caddie and a boy named Peter.

Everything else is different, but that stayed the same. So is it still the same book?

And do I have to keep the cards?