Today She Needs to Write

Homework, Girl, Education, Studying, Student, School

 

A short story about a short story.

When I announced to my third grade class that one of my Harley stories was going to be included in an anthology coming out next month, a serious-looking girl in the second row shot up her hand.

“Did you have a question?” I asked.

“How long did it take you to write the story?”

Hmm. I knew this student loved to write in her journal, and her quick write responses often filled the entire page. Adults who share my writing addiction know that years can pass before a story or book is exposed to the light of publication. Would my answer cause her to close her journal and pursue another dream?

How long did it take?

Last fall I went on the Harley overnighter that became the subject of my story. When I returned, it was back to my normal life as a teacher. (Often I have compared my life to Indiana Jones, especially the part where he has to go back to his job as a college history professor after outrunning the Nazis.) A few months passed before I found time to sit down and think about that adventure.

Actually writing it didn’t take more than an hour. I read through it, adding and deleting for another half hour. After I thought it was finished, I sent it out with my other submissions, the dark hole where you rarely find out your story’s fate. Meanwhile, some of my other short stories were accepted into online magazines. Nothing for that story. I took UCLA extension classes and worked on my YA novel.

Early in the summer, I heard that my California Writers Club branch was going to publish their first anthology. I took back out that Harley story, edited it again, and submitted.

That story was accepted into the book. The editor wanted some minor revisions. Five months later, the book is almost ready to come out.

So how did I answer? My smile reflected in her eager eyes, I replied, “Only about an hour.”

She’ll find out about the rest someday, but today she needs to write.

 

 

 

 

Another perspective on “Blue Horses”

I’m taking a short story course at UCLA Extension with author/instructor Michael Buckley. One of our assignments was to write in the style of Franklin’s “Blue Horses.” I decided to write from Evelyn’s point of view and add some plot twists:

coffee

His coffee cup was still dripping water on its hook when Evelyn stumbled into the kitchen. She sighed and poured herself a cup, as black as a moonless night, and twice as bitter. Looking out the window, she knew that Earl’s truck would already be gone. Two fools on a fool’s errand.

Evelyn gently sat on the cracked vinyl chair and forced herself to down the entire lukewarm coffee in an effort to clear her fog. Something crackled in her pocket, and she pulled out a folded up, yellowed paper. A truck rumbled by, and she stuffed it back into its hiding place. Looking around at the overflowing piles of dishes in the sink and faded green metal cabinets, she wondered how she managed to stay married to that loser for fifteen years. How did she end up back at Earl’s place when she had sworn to never return? She replayed the previous night’s conversation in her mind.

“Why, Evelyn! Don’t you look purdy tonight? Sumthin special going on at the church?” Earl wobbled at the screen door when she arrived, already a few beers into the evening.

“Don’t have to be anythin special for me to stop by my old place,” she purred. She looked past her ex-husband, into the dark room lit only by the blue T.V. light. It had to be here. She knew him as well as she knew her face in the mirror, and a paper that important he would hide in the house.

“Well, come on in,” Earl said with a sweeping gesture that nearly toppled him over. “I got some of that elderberry wine you used to like. Member, you left it here, last time.”

“That sounds good, hunny,” she said as she swept past him into the house. He followed her like a faithful hound, picking up the newspapers and empty bottles to reveal a relatively clean spot on the couch. Evelyn sat down primly, and crossed her legs, showing her new stockings. Since she had left a year ago, she had found work at the new mill office, and had money for silk stockings. If she’d still been with him, it would have all gone for his beer.

After the clunking and slamming went on for some time back in the kitchen, Earl returned with a cut crystal glass filled with a blood-red liquid which he managed to deliver to her without spilling more than a few drops on the carpet. Evelyn took a sip, hoping it would give her the courage she needed to pull this off.

They chit chatted for a while about nothing, all the while he moved closer to her on the couch. Finally he planted one on her, which wasn’t so bad even after all that time, and they ended up in the bedroom like old times. She knew it would be short ride, and then she’d be able to search for that letter. Sure enough, he soon was fast asleep, and she pulled on his shredded bathrobe and escaped to the living room.

As she searched every drawer, and sifted every pile, she discovered scattered remnants of their life together. Movie tickets, photographs, Valentine cards, and stacks of past due bill statements. She didn’t give up, because she hadn’t come all this way and let him sweep her off her feet just to go home empty-handed. Maybe it was in the kitchen.

Opening the junk drawer by the phone, she found it. A folded paper tucked in the back of the drawer, behind the duct tape, batteries, rubber bands, and assorted screws. She opened it with shaking hands, the words on the page dancing in her head. “Deed and Title to property at Rural Route 2, Blue Mountain Lake.” It was in her name, a wedding present from Great Uncle Tommy. Its faded yellow pages promised freedom from the run-down carnival ride she’d been on all her life.

 

The Dragon of Doubt

The hardest part of being an unpublished writer is the doubt. Even though you may try to surround yourself with your companions (spouse, coworkers, friends, writing groups) eventually you must face it alone.

A writer must be as brave as a knight on a quest. Stories are adventures, but the greatest adventures contain dragons and trolls. That’s why writers wear armor and carry big swords. Every time I sit down at my computer, I am ready to do battle.

In the middle of an early chapter, a huge Doubt Dragon swoops down on me. “Hey, I’m trying to work here!” is the sharp edge of my sword that bounces off the dragon’s diamond scales. “But you’ve never published the first book! You’re wasting your time!” the creature roars, its fiery breath scorching my cheek with truth.

Desperately, I glance down at my armor for strength. The plays I’ve written and performed for over 1,100 children are reflected in my breastplate. The chain mail peeking out from the joints remind me that my story is worthy. My helmet whispers that my story must be told, in my way.

The Dragon regards me with hesitation. I have not fled in terror. I cannot. For I have not chosen to be a writer- writing has chosen me. With renewed strength, I thrust my sword once more, this time piercing the creature’s critical eye. With a piercing scream, the Dragon beats its wings raggedly and flies away.

Victorious once again, I return to my work. After I clean my weapon, of course.

dragon

About Color

Blue is the name of Frank’s car. You can pick it out easily when you follow it on the freeway due to its brilliant hue. Frank and I both had only owned cars that were silver or white before acquiring Blue. We never would have dared to drive anything flashy.

But then Frank and I started  dating. Our color preferences changed gradually after we were married. We started camping, and taking photos of all the colorful places we visited. We screamed and cheered from the front row of rock concerts. I dyed my hair bright red and Frank grew a goatee. The natural progression of all this colorfulness was that we traded in Frank’s white truck for a bright blue Yaris. Since we name our cars, the Yaris was named Blue, not very original of course.

Some time later, my silver Explorer died, (never name your SUV Magellan after an explorer who died in the middle of a historical voyage) and we purchased a screaming red Ford truck which we named Blaze. At this same time, my daughter had a white XB, and we had red, white, and blue vehicles in front of our house.

What’s the point of all this? I’m not sure, but somehow the colors you choose reflect your outlook in life. Or maybe they’re just colors.

Last month, we traded in Blaze, and bought a silvery green Tundra. Does this mean we’re settling down?