Little Pieces

Writing is hard. Sharing is worse.

I’ve been a storyteller since I was little, scripting plays with my teddy bears and reenacting Robin Hood between the swing sets. The packed dirt was the brook, a railroad tie was the bridge, and in my version, Robin Hood never lost to Little John. They ended the fight as friends and equals, since that was what my sister and I were and would always be. Also, she was two years younger, and it was too much for my ego to fall into the brook.

I enjoyed drawing, but I discovered that I was invariably pulled to write and that my sketchpad was a messy writing surface for an eight-year-old hand. Thus began the first in a series of red notebooks–my favorite color–as I wrote and plotted and realized that I could be an author.

My sister read my stories. She and I were two halves of each other, and I needed the ego boost that her unbounded enthusiasm brought. She and I entered into something of a writing circle with three of our friends, and I was jealous to learn that they’d been doing this for years.  They had interesting characters and completed stories and I was behind on the times. I wasn’t used to no longer being the oldest and most experienced of our group. So I wrote, desperately, needing to pull out every shred of story that I had imagined. I wanted to impress, to create, and the writing felt disconnected from me. My characters were strange people to me, and it felt like our collective group was getting to know them together; like strange pen pals, only I wielded both pens.

Then we entered high school, and our little circle dissolved. One girl moved away. Another started public school. The last held on, and we emailed our chapters and scraps to each other. I gushed with pride when my hero died and it made her cry. I used copious punctuation and a multitude of emoticons to encourage her to continue her writing. She didn’t.

Then it was just my sister and I again, and I missed our community. I was writing more than ever, now, but it didn’t feel official. I didn’t feel like an author. The writing was too hard, too painful, too personal. Stress in my real life was encroaching on my writing. It became journal entries on the page, and it was entirely inadequate. No one else was reading it except my sister, and I loathed it and wanted it that way.

The therapy that writing gave me lasted through three hundred and fifty typed, single-spaced pages. My sister read it, but said little. It was enough for me to have written it, to have released it. My own emotional turmoil was over, enough for me to write “real author things” now, as if that was some safe category that I could arrive at and be satisfied with.

I’ve been writing “real author things” for some time now. They’ve been unfinished NaNoWriMos and second-drafter short stories. But there is still something terrifying about sharing it with others. I’ve never regained that disconnectedness I had when I first started writing, and I know that is a good thing for my craft, but not for my person.

My parents and other siblings never–still have not–read my writing. I hated the idea that they would read them and look at me differently. Just because I wrote about a girl looking for her father didn’t mean that I was equally lost. I wrote about trophy wives, but my mother was never one. My characters had half siblings and abusive bruises and loneliness. I grew up in the middle of six best friends; we played Dutch Blitz together and made pizza on Saturday nights.

But there were little pieces of me, scattered among the imaginary.  I remembered the first time I held my littlest sister, and the wonder at the tiny hands and perfect toes. I remembered the confused bitterness of an older sister who loved and hated with equal passion.  I knew about false promises and empty apologies and what it was like to miss someone until your heart ached.

But to give that to someone else? I’m not sure if I’m more afraid that they will attribute false emotions to me … or that they will recognize those parts that are mine.

I tell myself that I’ll let others read it when I’m satisfied. When I’ve parked my trailer and hung my curtains on that plateau of “real author things”. Yes, there is a perfectionist in me, and she can be quite persuasive. I listen to her when I’d rather not hear from the part of me that knows I’m simply too insecure to share it.

I think my perspective is all backwards. In handing over a manuscript, it feels like my story. Like this will be analyzed for posterity as a reflection of my current mental state. But maybe it’s not. Sometimes I forget that I’m writing fiction, that I’m telling someone else’s story. Someone else who is broken and challenged in different ways than I ever was. Yes, I recognize those little pieces in her that remind me of myself. But there’s far more to her than just me. I have to ask myself if her story is worth telling. And if it is … then why am I not?

Road Trip Wednesday #182: Carried Away

This week I’m joining the YA Highway road trip, which asks the following question:

This Week’s Topic: What’s been your most surprising read of the year so far—the book you weren’t sure about going in that really swept you off your feet?

I saw this question and knew it was an opportunity to gush about my latest reading love. While I’ve already written about my unexpectedly enjoyable read of The Raven Boys, this latest set of reads has me singing its praise and trying to convert everyone in my near vicinity to see its amazingness.

 

Goodreads description for Cinder and Scarlet

Oh, yes.

Let’s elaborate, shall we?

The setting…

It’s semi-dystopia, semi-fantasy, semi-science fiction, and all perfectly meshed together. I was surprised by the introduction of the Lunar queen, because I was so well settled in the plague-riddled world of New Beijing. But it fit together so well, even with the mechanics and androids thrown in. This world was expanded perfectly in Scarlet, with my favorite being a crumbling opera house as a scene-stealing third party in the final act.

The characters…

Cinder is exactly the sort of girl who I’d like to be friends with. Funny and smart, with plenty of convictions and a well-realized sense of who she was/is in her world. The fact that everything she knows is changed by the end of the first book only allows her to expand as a character. Scarlet, on the other hand, jumps out as a passionate fighter, and she’s kept distinct from Cinder, yet just as likable. The supporting cast: Iko, Thorne, Wolf, Kai…they are intriguing, funny, and characters worth rooting for.

Just one thing…

I finished Cinder wondering how the Lunar’s glamour worked, and why Queen Levana didn’t just spell everybody into submission. Scarlet helped explain a little bit more, showing off the Queen’s power, but I feel like I’m still waiting for a little bit more to be explained. If Earth people are so vulnerable, how is Kai even able to hold any conversation with the Lunars? His reaction is described in detail upon his first meeting, but despite the difficulties, he seems to have plenty of cheek (good for him!) in later conversations. He does end up literally tongue-tied in Scarlet at one point, which makes sense considering Levana’s abilities. But how did he get away with his fabulous responses without that being used previously? I just don’t know where the boundaries are, and that makes the power feel a little underused.

So…

Quibbles aside, I loved these books. I didn’t expect to have so much appreciation for them. They’re page-turners filled with interesting characters and a fresh, exciting world. And my favorite part? They’re based on fairy tales, which were my bread-and-butter when I was growing up. Rather than be constricted by the basic storyline, the books are allowed to expand beyond them, and the nods to the original material are woven in with care and detail. Marissa Meyer never detracts from the main storyline to offer some homage to the fairy tale. Instead, she makes it an integral part of the story, and it allows you to be surprised and pleased as you retroactively recognize the elements of the basic tale.

So, what book has kidnapped you and happily stolen your time recently?

Tell The Truth Tuesday

Today’s list is Things-I-Should-Have-Done-This-Weekend-And-Didn’t-Because-I-Was-Doing-Other-Things

1. Grad pictures. My sister is graduating this year, and she’s having a party in June. We were going to shoot a fresh batch of pictures for these invites, but it keeps not happening. This is mostly thanks to the rainy weather, too much traveling, family coming to visit, and general lethargy.

2. Comics. Three years ago a good friend of mine had major leg surgery. He was in a children’s hospital in St. Louis for over a month, and wore a leg brace with sixteen pins inserted into his leg, allowing the doctors to rotate the lower leg bone into the proper position over the course of nine months of therapy. Yeah, it was a big deal. As a get-well gift, I drew him a series of comics detailing our friendship, including the origins of our nicknames for each other: Charlie. Well, Charlie is graduating, and I have given myself a deadline of two weeks to finish a second Charlie-is-an-adult/goes-to-college comic. For being mostly stick figures and colored markers, it takes far more time than I usually give myself through my endless procrastination.

3. Reading. I was going to read non-fiction this weekend. Get through some of my fat biographies that I really do enjoy. Instead I curled up with To Kill A Mockingbird and was treated to a stunner. While I’m sorry that I didn’t get to read more, I’m not sorry that all I got was this fantastic book. Wow. Sometimes we give classics a free pass because the author is famous or his/her books are revered…but then you get a book that can stand on its own in every decade.  This one needs a reread.

4. Writing. Sigh. I didn’t get a scrap of writing done over this extended weekend, and I’m fit to burst with the need to write. I’m finally settling into the idea of rewriting this old project, and it isn’t taking long to reawaken my love for it. Must. Write. Now.

5. Rest. One of the things I love about my family is our ability to just be together. We don’t have to be planning maniacally or driving six different places to have fun. We can lounge together and drink coffee and tea and make waffles and watch Finding Nemo and be hermits all weekend and simply enjoy the fact that we’re together. Unfortunately, this weekend was travel and traffic and rainy days and less time together than a non-holiday weekend. I was on the road fighting Memorial Day traffic, driving 6 hours to my hometown in order to spend only 16 hours there. We had fun, but it wasn’t restful, and I’m still discombobulated from the whole thing.

How was your weekend?

In Memoriam

(source)

In memory of my cousin, who is recognized on Memorial Day, but remembered every day.

They played these songs at your funeral, and a thousand hearts cried in that auditorium.

Hawkeye sat at your casket, and the world caught sight of it.

The American flag was hung from the firetruck ladders, and hundreds of flags were carried by the Patriot Guard. I will forever love those people. They were the wall against Westboro and the wall keeping us together. Their flag line at the cemetery was unforgettable, as the sun blazed and they stood motionless, holding their flags and holding our hearts.

(source)

I will never hear taps the same way again, and the trident symbol is no longer just a symbol. It’s a memory, of row upon row of pins in a cherry red casket, pounded in with hurt and anger and without a spoken word.

There are a thousand more things to remember that day, because you never forget. Sacrifice is unforgettable, and this is our chance to remember.

Thank you.

What’s Up Wednesday

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. It’s hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, and after a few weeks of this popping up on the various blogs I follow on Feedly…I’m loving the idea.

What I’m Reading

I kept seeing Cinder and Scarlet show up on various blogs, including multiple recommendations from Colin. So I took the plunge and read Cinder the night after I turned in my finals. Yes, I read the entire thing in one evening. With the addictiveness of Cinder, I was almost afraid to start Scarlet since I knew I couldn’t finish it before other commitments came due. But I caved and read the first three chapters. Setting it aside and leaving for the weekend was ridiculously difficult, and I am beyond excited to finish it.

What I’m Writing

I was on an unavoidable writing break for most of this semester, and now I’m finally able to get back to writing. But I’m in something of a dilemma; I have a cast of characters that I’m in love with, but I can’t get some plot bugs out, and it’s really stalling me. I was going to set that project aside and head into a total rewrite of an older project, but I can’t seem to let go of that first shaky plot.  The two projects are totally different genres/time periods, and while I’m equally in love with both, I need to get into either one or the other.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I spent the weekend working at a children’s conference,  and tonight begins my second stint as Wednesday-night-summer-program coordinator for our church. This weekend I have a grad party, birthday party, and family reunion…in different states. I need to learn to drive a suburban backwards with an attached trailer, since this skill is going to be required for my drive out to my hometown on Saturday. I’m also taking my dad to see Star Trek on Thursday, and on Memorial Day I’m driving my younger siblings up to see my grandpa, who is successfully recovering from open heart surgery. Yeah, not much going on.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Does anyone else love commercial music? One of Google’s commercials featured The Temper Trap’s song “Sweet Disposition”, and I promptly fell in love with the whole album. In between the Midwest storms that keep knocking out our internet, I’ve also been enjoying Anthem Lights’ covers of popular songs–who knew that “As Long As You Love Me” could sound so good?

What’s up on your Wednesday?