#amwriting #IthinkIneedawritinggroup

I am having some real trouble with this story I’m working on.  I’ve hit a bit of a wall.  I have pretty much the entire story mapped out in my head and in about twenty nine slightly disconnected scenes that culminate in approximately 43,000 words.  Novel length.  But something is still not right.  I don’t know how to proceed.

A thought I had today, while struggling with the whole concept of life in the 1950s, my romanticized version versus reality, of how to tie it into a modern setting (aka. something I understand).  But I don’t know that I really want to go there.  The idea was to have the granddaughter of the de facto protagonist be assigned her grandmother’s scholarly work in one of her own college classes and having that be a jumping off point to explore the rest of the story that I’ve already written.*  But I don’t know how I feel about that structure.  I didn’t set out for this to be a story about a young woman understanding her grandmother better, or more wholly; even though I’m all about women understanding the women before them in order to better understand their own place in the world.

I suppose my question is: would it be a cop-out?  Is it the easy way to tie in all the pieces I’ve written so far?  Or should I keep searching for something more organic and stay in the fifties?

*The idea makes me excited because then I’d get to create new characters and I love creating new characters.

Mental Health

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It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.

Literary Tropes

It bothers me quite a bit when, in order to make a female character interesting, writers make her some sort of damaged goods.  She’s been raped, beaten, her father never loved her, her mother never loved her, she’s an orphan raised by wolves/hateful relatives/on the streets, she had an affair with a prominent member of society and his bastard baby was stillborn, she murdered her abuser and buried his body in the garden, etc.  And from the pain of this backstory she manages to pull herself up by her bootstraps and carry on and this makes her beautiful/desirable/interesting.  It makes me a little ill that writers resort to this sort of storyline.

Are they really telling me that a woman can’t be interesting without being damaged in some way?  She can’t be interesting because she’s smart?  Because she reads?  Because she invented something?  Because she made a scientific discovery?  Because she’s really good at fixing cars?  Because she’s spent twenty years studying ballet and is now considered the world’s greatest dancer?  Is a woman really only interesting because of her sacrifices, because she’s overcome some sort of diversity?

I say all this because it’s true: but also because I’m a little annoyed with myself.  The story I’m currently crafting, which I really like, involves my protagonist’s (somewhat) dark past.  She never talks about it, and I don’t really want it to come up at all, really.  But I want it implied that she left America, in part, because she was leaving something [someone (a man)].  But she also leaves America (and this man) for herself.  I want that to be abundantly clear.  But she was also leaving someone and that is actually important.

The real trouble I’m having is plot.  I don’t know what causes the rising action or the climax.  I’ve had a number of ideas that bring her past into the story, but I don’t like that idea.  I don’t want to dredge it up because I don’t want her to only be interesting because of something she’s done before the story starts.

I think I really need to flesh out the rest of the characters.  Maybe something will develop there.

I also don’t want it to be a romance, or about the “friendzone” even though it sort of is.

I’ll keep working.

This Holiday Season I am Grateful for: Library Book Club

Or, that time I crashed the Library Book Club Social Hour.

My sister loves reading.  She loves reading in the nicest, purest, most normal way possible.  People of my generation, you, me, lovely book bloggers on the Internet, we love to read in this weird, exhibitionist sort of way: we take pictures of our bookshelves and post them online, we Instagram the books we’re reading, we write essays and post them on our blogs about the books we’ve read, we keep digital lists of the books we’ve read this year, we buy tee shirts with book covers on them, and artistic prints made from the entire text of a beloved novel.  Let’s face it, we are a lovely group of weirdos.  We are over the top in our expression of love for reading, our love for books, storyline, and plot.

My sister, however, is the Unexpected Reader.  Just by looking at her, talking to her, following her social media one wouldn’t think she devours stories, it certainly might surprise some people who know her very well, but she loves books.  And she recently chanced her arm at the public library’s Book Club.  I was flooded with texts about how much fun it was discussing a book with a group of people, how someone told her they were glad she came, that the group needs more “young people”, she saw people there she hasn’t seen in years!  She went back the next month.  I was super proud of her.

December, there was no book.  Instead the book clubbers had a social gathering scheduled.  Even though I’d never been before, my sister invited me and I’m so glad I went.  The woman who runs the book club brought snacks, coffee, tea, and had a fun (nerdy) activity planned for the book clubbers.  She selected newly acquired books from this year, wrapped them in fun paper and wrote their genre on the paper.  She had us each select a couple of books and we went around the circle unwrapping and sharing the book description.  We got a little silly, well, a reserved silly since we didn’t all know each other, and had fun discussing what we thought of the book based on the description.  We chatted a little bit about the ones we knew more about (I had just read about Welcome to Night Vale and what book did I pull?).  Overall, it was a lot of fun.

My sister checked out the book club book for January and we’re planning on both reading it so we can both attend the January meeting (assuming I’m still in the area then).  I am ever so grateful that a) the library has a book club, b) my sister was brave enough to go on her own, and c) she invited me to the party and got me interested.  I’m always complaining that since I left college I have no one to talk books with, and, yet, every month there’s a group of people gathering across town talking books!

I’m trying to write something creative everyday for the rest of the year using writing prompts and I wrote a piece today from the perspective of a high school freshman in 1999 and I included a really catty detail about the reportedly slutty new girlfriend of a cute boy who dissed my protagonist.  I feel weird about keeping it in, but it’s also based on real life events.  I am now conflicted about that detail.

On the one hand, it’s how a fourteen year old girl would write about current events.  On the other hand it’s super catty and I don’t like that.  But on the other hand, fourteen year old girls, including myself in 1999, are really catty.  But on the other hand, I’m not fourteen anymore and I don’t want to encourage anyone to be casually catty like that.

I’m not sure what to do.