I’m a Survivor…(take 2)

So the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone. What do we do next? How do we live our lives without the end of the world looming? We prepare for the next apocalypse, of course. We throw ourselves in to being better people= better friends, better spouses, better parents, better coworkers, better neighbors, better puppy-mamas. We do this by re-evaluating what’s important in life and what accomplishments we’ve made in the meager lives we’ve lead thus far. And then we strive for better.

Huh. Apocalypse preparation sounds a lot like New Years Resolutions. Every year, I set New years goals. I’d rather strive to do something than resolve to do it. The verbage is just more inviting, The goals are all over the place, but I usually try to set goals that pertain to body wellness, mind wellness, heart wellness, and “soul” wellness. I put soul in quotes because I think we all define that word a little differently.

This year, like last, many of my goals have to do with writing. Last year I wanted to develop a writing habit and write a lot. And in reflection I really did. Sometimes it was easy, most of the time it was tough. But when I take stock of what I accomplished toward my 2012 writing goals, I feel proud. I am currently sitting on 8 pieces of writing in one stage of completion or another. Eight pieces of writing done in one year, while I worked full-time, and for most of the year worked as a classroom teacher, the most time-consuming job I can think of. It’s something to be proud of.  So here’s a recap of 2012 writing:

1 short story written, revised, edited, and submitted. Submission accepted and published in an online literary journal in May and then republished in a hard-copy anthology in July (https://www.createspace.com/3947262).

1 short story in draft phase, taken from a writing exercise I began a few years ago.

1 handwritten novel in draft form, perhaps 20-30,000 words done. This was the piece that propelled me into writing this year. I had this glimmer of an idea and then everywhere I went I heard news stories, saw movie titles, read articles about the topic. The universe was talking to me, loudly, so I listened. I’d love to get back to this piece soon, I’m just putting it off because of the dread of having to first read my messy draft scrawl and then having to type it out.

1 late-chapter book/ early middle grade story that is being revised with the help of my writing group. I picked this story up when I dropped the handwritten one. This was meant to be a picture book, but the character came alive to me, so I kept writing his story. I completed one draft of this, had a former student read it and give me some notes, then reworked it a little.  I’ve been working with my writing group on notes and am currently rewriting the beginning and trying to carry some of those new threads throughout the rest of the story.

1 middle grade stab at supernatural/ fantasy-ish. It’s probably 20,000 words in and then I got stuck. I have the story outlined, so I know where i want it to go, but I need to do more research on Salem and magical gems.

1 YA novel, draft 1 completed during Camp Nanowrimo in June.

1 adult-ish, I’ll admit veering dangerously close to chick-lit, novel started before Nano. One chapter, about 20 pages written.

1 YA novel, draft 1, completed during Nanowrimo in 2012. That’s a lie, 50,000 words of it were done in November. I kept writing it to bring the story to some sort of completion for my writing group. It’s currently in their hands. We have plans to spend the month of February revising our work together.

So, proud as I am about my first year of really trying at this writing thing, one big thing jumped out at me when I reflected on all this work. The word draftdraftdraft. I wrote a lot. I got caught up in story telling and embedded myself and my characters in new worlds and new activities, but I didn’t get past that fun part of making stuff up. So my 2013 writing goals are simple enough. Get over making stuff up and start making stuff better. This is my year of revision and editing. I’m going to rework, reimagine, rethink, reinvent, redraft, redefine, retell, and revise my little writer’s heart out this year.

The ultimate goal of all of this will be to get 4 pieces revised, redrafted, edited, and ready for submission by the end of the year. Next November, I’d like to be sitting down to write my Nanowrimo novel knowing that 4 of my novels are currently out there in the world being read and reviewed by people who could make publishing a reality.

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Here it is- Part of Chapter 1

In addition to writing fictional pieces, I keep a writer’s notebook. I jot notes and ideas to myself everyday.  Somedays I use it like a journal and chronicle what I’m thinking about that isn’t related to writing (or hasn’t been molded into a story idea yet). Thanks to a comment on my last post and some writing I’ve been doing for myself, I discovered a fear of sharing my work. I started this blog to put my writing out there, and realized I’ve done everything but. I’ve posted student work, I’ve lamented and complained about my writing, without sharing it. That changes today. When I hit the Publish button, I can say with some trepidation and pride- I’m really putting it out there.

You maybe familiar with NaNoWriMo, the novel-writing project in the month of November.  Well, the awesome people who put that together organize two summer camps using the same premise write everyday, around 1,667 words, in order to get a messy draft out of the way. By the end of the month you’ll have 50,000 words, or a short novel at your fingertips. June Camp NaNoWriMo started today. I wrote 2090 words. I’m using this month to draft my book, tentatively titled, “Punx Not Dead (Yet).” It follows a nerdy high schooler who gets in with the punk crowd at school.  She changes herself to fit in, falls in love with a drummer and  learns all about the cardinal rule of punk rock- Be Yourself. What I’m posting here has not been edited in any way. In fact, I just finished typing it 30 minutes ago. I won’t go back to do any revising and editing until I’m done with the draft.  So, sorry if there are tons of errors. I’ll get to them later. Right now I’m working on taming the inner critic and just getting the writing out of my mind and onto the page. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

As I’m talking my words slip to the floor
and they crawl through your legs and slide under the back door
rendering me freakish and dazed.
Well here I am. I don’t know how to say this.
The only thing I know is awkward silence.

-“Freakish” Saves the Day

I look at their excited faces and I can read their minds, “Yay! High School!” I’m pretty sure they can look at my eyes and read my thoughts just as a loud and clear, “Yay. High School.” Notice the difference in punctuation there. It helps you read the same words in a different tone. My parents’ tone is joyful, excited, she’s got the whole world in her hands. My tone is ambivalent, reluctant, let’s get this show on the road.

My sister, Davina, stands next to me, while my mom readies the camera.  Dad bounds forward and brushes hair from Davina’s face. He sing-songs, “A smile won’t kill you, Adva,” while smiling. My family does a lot of that- smiling. I think I used to, too, until puberty and adolescence and middle school, and boys, and bitchy girls. Now there is not much to smile about.

High school starts today and I’m ready for the four years to be over. I’m not one of those girls who will go to prom and spring formal and winter carnival and homecoming and whatever other occasion might come up requiring a disgusting sequined, off the shoulder dress and blistering heels. I won’t join the yearbook or soccer team. I won’t go to parties when other kids’ parents are out of town and get rip-roaring drunk. High school, for me, will be four years (hopefully less) of doing work I could have done years ago. My parents refused to let me skip a grade in elementary school because they were afraid of the social and emotional ramifications.  So this morning, instead of being almost halfway through with this major hurdle that I have to deal with before my real life begins, I’m just starting. I’ll do well in all of my classes without even trying. The only classes I’ll excel in are my language arts classes, and I’ll do so well because I’ve already read all of the district-mandated books. On top of all my school work, and to keep boredom at bay, I’ll continue reading anything I can get my hands on, blogging, and writing freelance articles for whatever magazines will take my submissions. After I graduate I plan to go to NYU. I’ll study  English and become a magazine editor.

All I want to do in life is to read and write. I hate math. I hate science. I can tolerate Social Studies, mostly because it’s all reading. P.E., art, and music give me hives. I hate that we have to take artsy electives. I’d rather take core classes and finish school early. I know I’m in a minority here; adults talk about high school like it was the time of their lives. The glory days just mean something different to me. We live in a fairly small town and it’s confining. You’re grown into the person everyone at school thinks you should be. My glory days will come later, when I’m free from the small town bullshit. So today I start down the road that will lead to my real life, my own yellow brick high school.

“Adva, honey, please look at the camera. All these photos of you are practically in profile!” My mom smiles over the digital camera and waves me back into the moment.

Davina looks up at me and squeezes my hand, “Are you so excited about starting high school? NYU is only four years away now!”

She looks adorable in her plaid dress with lace details, knit white tights, and shiny patent leather mary janes. Her dark curly hair is pulled back into a loose French braid, though lots of strands are already blowing wild and untamed. I run my free hand over her face and squeeze back, “I’m excited for you! Fourth grade! That’s a big deal!” My mom, the one family member with some sort of artistic vision, captures this exact moment. One younger sister, one older sister, and one big day.

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride?” My dad asks through a half-eaten bagel hanging out of his mouth.

“No, Dad. I’m going to ride the bus with Cyn. I told you a thousand times,” I roll my eyes. Parents are always saying we don’t listen, do they really wonder where we learn our selective listening?

He puts his hands up guiltily, “Okay okay! Do you at least want some breakfast?” He gestures toward the bakery bag, lumpy with more bagels.

“Do we bagels because we’re Jewish? I swear I’ve never seen anyone else in this town eating bagels. Where do you even buy them?” As the only Jews in town, that we’re aware of, and possibly within a 20 mile radius, we take to ourselves to stereotype our people. It wouldn’t be acceptable, for say our mailman Stewart, to joke about our bagel consumption, but within the family it’s how we kept our faith alive.

We really only practice our religion for Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah. Without a temple or an active Jewish congregation, my parents had become fair weather Jews. We probably could have slipped below the Christian radar in our community,  however,  thanks to the tell-tale signs curly black hair, accountant father, Hebrew name- I’ve dealt with a lifetime of teachers planning  Christmas parties in class, only to realize a few days before that there was “a little Jewish girl” in class. Usually on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Friday party, the teacher would call my mom and explain the situation in the most embarrassed and reverent voice she could muster. My mom would hem and haw and lecture the teacher on cultural sensitivity, and then send me to school in a red and green sweater with Christmas tree cookies just to screw with the teachers.  She’s weird, but pretty awesome.

My dad pours dry cereal into a plastic container. “Fine, you don’t want the food and sustenance of our people? You can have corn and rice oh’s.” He slides the container across the counter and smirks. Davina walks by and places her dish in the sink. It’s sometimes hard to believe we’re sisters. Looking alike seems to be all we have in common.  Davina is popular and sweet. She’s always getting invited to sleepovers and birthday parties. She has a big group of friends. She’s athletic and perky. She cheerleads for a YMCA football team and plays field hockey. I have no doubt she’ll be homecoming queen and all those other fancy titles popular girls get in high school.

I check the time on the microwave, “Gotta go.” I holler goodbye to my mom and give my dad a quick hug. “Have an awesome day today, V. Enjoy Mrs. Trudy, you’ll love her!” I call over my shoulder as I head out to catch the bus. The truth was, Davina would love, and be loved by, all of her teachers. She never gives them a hard time and never causes them to have to repeatedly write, “does not work to potential” on her report cards.