In all the news coverage of the Cleveland kidnappings, I was most struck by Amanda Berry’s immense courage in initiating an escape. I imagined the feeling she had in choosing that action was a much scarier version of a feeling I had 41 years ago. I am always fascinated by the discrete moments when things change — for example, that split second when a decision becomes irrevocable.
Listening to the news coverage of the story on NPR I realized that after all these years I had edited the telling my own kidnapping down to a few facts, a shorthand. I no longer told the full story of what had happened to me. Suddenly, it was important to do my own story justice. Plus, I’ve had a hankering to learn more about storytelling since I heard a fabulous storyteller reenacting the Battle of Britain at the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. I decided then and there, in the ramp metering queue for I-5, to find and take a storytelling class.
The very next day I got an email from ComedySportz about a new storytelling class that was starting, and I was available for all the class dates and for the final performance. Only a little stunned by the swiftness with which God and the universe had responded to my decision, I signed up. With the help of my classmates and teacher, the wonderful Kelley Tyner McAllister, I told my story properly.
Now, you can listen to it as well: Story of my kidnapping and escape
I know when I was
obsessively googling researching others who’d applied to Viable Paradise, I always wanted to know who got in. So, future googler, I got in!
There was a happy dance, but Jim, mercifully, has not shared the video with anyone. After the week long glow wore off, I started to dig into making sure I’d read something by each of the teachers. It also makes me feel as if it’s more essential to make time to write, as if out of respect for the upcoming investment of so many people’s time, and my own, in my writing.
Bonus is that it gave me an excuse to reread Freedom and Necessity by Stephen Brust and Emma Bull and I love it even more this time, than when I read it 15 years ago.
This process reminded me of applying to colleges. Since I wanted to turn an existing short story into novel, I had to write a synopsis for the first time, and that hurt. AND I had to write a cover letter about my background and why I want to go to VP. I wanted to just say “because I want to write good some day” but refrained.
Submissions close June 15 and from reading other blogs it seems they send out notices pretty quickly after that. So now back to Garbage Day! It should be nice to get back to a story after a month of synopsis and cover letter obsessing.
And then I realized that, whether I sold that story or not, I’d still have to write the next one.
I think I have finally disabused myself of the romantic notion that letting stories “gel” in my “subconscious” will “work out issues” and “develop depth.” Nope – turns out the plot problems are still there, the motivations still fuzzy and the protagonist’s favorite color unknown. Then I sit down to write and discover her name is Genny, she’s afraid of horses and maybe burning down the town is the right idea, after all.
I sent an email about this to my father, but wanted to capture it here too. Because if nothing else, this web site is a place for me to go on and on about Robert Heinlein and his effect on my life.
Reading all the news stories about the 50 people trying to keep the
nuclear factor under control in Japan, I keep thinking of the Heinlein
story The Long Watch. If you’re not as familiar with the story as my father and I am, the hero sacrifices himself to disarm some nuclear warheads and dies, isolated, of radiation poisoning.
I frankly don’t remember a lot about the story, other than hero is self-sacrificing, brave and ironic. But a final scene has always stayed with me: After he’s received a fatal radiation dose, he lights a cigarette, and blows a puff of smoke at the Geiger counter, which chatters wildly. He grins in reply.
We all pray it doesn’t come to this. God bless the power plant workers, and keep them safe.
Red birds in birch tree
Blue sky behind them
Promise of Spring
People have not been knocking down my door, missing my blog updates. But it has been nagging at me that I’ve been absent too long – both from the blog and from fiction.
I went back to work full-time in September. It’s a fun job, with lots to learn. I love learning new organizations, systems and processes – it’s like mental candy. I feel like a Pac-Man gobbling up dots. And no ghosts so far!
My goal has been to keep writing, but it’s taken a bit to sort out a new schedule, commute, gym time, Jim time and have brain cells left over. As I suspected it would, though, the writing is sneaking from the back of my brain to the front with increasing frequency. First an idea for a story that is just a tiny bud and needs some work to grow, then an idea for a blog post (a real one, not this one), and then the thought of returning to a short story that might could be a novel.
The very day I went back to work full-time, I received a response on my latest story from a major magazine editor, saying it wasn’t quite right but they’d like to see the next one. It is so encouraging and exciting to hear from someone to whom I’m not related that my writing doesn’t suck. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a “next one” to send.
My goals for this year is to write and submit four new stories. Unless I go back to that novel……
I know a lot of first drafts are bad. Some people, I hear, write quite decent first drafts to save time on rewrites later, or perhaps because they’re just that good.
My first drafts stink. I write in fits and bursts to get my thoughts down and I try and abandon different paths. I’ll leave an awful sentence if it gets the point across because I need to get all my thoughts down before they vanish.
Now that I’m working on a novel I’m moving forward with a general story arc but there are so very many things I still don’t know. And, since it’s science fiction, I have to create a whole new future, too! It’s a ton of fun, but I’m flying without a chart most of the time.
So, if I should die before a rewrite, please don’t think less of me and my stinky draft. It’s my process, people!
I freaked out a couple of weeks ago. I had written a 2000 word scene for The Novel that I was reasonably happy with. Then I realized I had to do it 50 more times. Holy Crap.
I started thinking about how to break the novel down into three acts, and then roughly allocating the number of words per act. (That’s about 35,000 per act for those of you playing along at home.) Ken Scholes, who is an honest-to-god-published-sf-author, just finished a 34,000 word novella in four months. And he has a full-time job and twin babies. I have a part-time job and two cats. (I know he would also say that he’s been writing a lot longer. Good point, Ken.)
I realized that one of my science-fictional premises invokes a mystery, and I want to have that come home in the third act. The problem is I don’t know who-did-it so to speak. And that’s been hanging me up for a week.
Then today I meshed that hang-up with another one of my fears: that I can’t write a novel because I’ll honestly get bored before I’m done. I mean, I don’t finish a solitaire game once I know I’m going to win. So, as much as anything, my writing method needs to to keep me interested until the damn thing is finished.
I don’t need the answer to the mystery for the first act. So I’m going to write, and let my brain keep working on the puzzle of the upcoming mystery. I don’t know how it’s going to end. And that may be more fun. At least for 30,000 words.