Local teacher Marcella Pixley publishes new novel: Ready to Fall
Grief is something everyone experiences but manifests differently in each of us. In Marcella Pixley’s new novel, Ready to Fall, the main character, Max, begins this emotional journey when his mother dies of brain cancer. He believes the tumor has taken residence in his body and will soon encumber his own health—a scenario Pixley personally drew upon for her story. “When I was a little girl, my father was very ill. I spent a lot of time worrying and being afraid of what was going to happen to him,” she says. “Some of that eventually became worries about my own health.” Inspired by the experience, she says Max became a symbol for not only herself, but for others in the grieving process who also worry about death.
In the novel, Max transfers to a progressive arts-based school and there meets a panoply of quirky characters,
including a pink-haired girl named Fish, who becomes one of his best friends. “I think that the theme of friendship and learning how to trust people will resonate with teens,” Pixley says, noting how through the novel, Max slowly opens up and trusts people.
“The book also shows how creativity and art can help people to heal. As a kid, I was really involved in theater and that is still something that I love.” Max becomes involved in the school theatrical community and engages in a series of “trust fall” exercises, which Pixley drew upon from her own memories. “I loved how it felt to be part of a cast. I loved the camaraderie of rehearsals and in particular, I loved the exercise we did before going on stage—the ‘trust fall,’ and the exercises that were designed to create a feeling of community.”
Though friendship is a main factor in the novel, Max also meets Dr. Cage, his creative writing teacher, who has nontraditional ways of connecting with the students. The character was partially inspired by a teacher from Pixley’s past, whose guidance and encouragement to pursue writing has stayed with her through the years. “[Dr. Cage] kind of cuts through the fog and shakes Max and [gets him] to open up and say what’s on his mind,” she says.
Pixley is certainly familiar with classroom dynamics, since she teaches Language Arts at Carlisle Public Schools. On Fridays she hosts a weekly “Writer’s Guild” of students who in turn inspire one another’s writing projects. “All through the process I’ve read drafts [to the students] and the kids have always given their feedback,” she says. “They have been the inspiration for me to keep going when the process was hard.” Pixley wrote this novel over the course of four years and fittingly, dedicated the novel to the students in “Writer’s Guild”— or as she puts it, “My zany menagerie of kindred spirits.”
Even though the book is aimed at Young Adult readers, Max’s journey through grief and finally letting go is universal. Pixley hopes readers of any age will be able to connect with his story that includes elements of both heartbreak and joy. “When we are worried and when we have gone through hard times, we can reach out to our community to support us and transform us,” Pixley says of one of the book’s themes. “[Max] learns there will be someone there to catch him,” she adds.
When Ready to Fall is released on November 28, 2017, readers everywhere will surely catch him too.
Pixley will do a reading at the Gleason Public Library on December 6 at 7 p.m. For more information visit http://marcellapixley.com/ for other local readings. ∆