Thursday, February 28, 2008

1910 Novel: Part III

Looking back over it all has been a little embarrassing. But, that's what this blog is about: public flagullation.

So, here's the last bit:

Now, I know what you’re thinking. But that spot was sacred to me. So much so, that I didn’t ever notice if it had a smell. It was actually part of the venting system, I think, and I could just pry off the screen and slip right in. The time I remember most about my spot was when I was seven going on eight, and I decided that I was going to be a writer.

An older girl had snuck a Harper’s Bizarre magazine into FCF. And inside there was an article on some man, who’s name I can’t remember anymore, but I do remember hearing girls talk about what he did for a living. He wrote stories. And I couldn’t believe that someone could actually get paid for that. It was then and there that I decided that that’s what I wanted to do.

I ended up stealing that magazine and taking it to my spot. I tore out the page like they were covered in gold and pasted them to the walls. I couldn’t really read all that good then, but I could dream like a champ. That was one thing that we all learned at FCF. Dream or die. And in my little spot, which really wasn’t any bigger that three feet squared, I imagined the world. A world where I was paid for writing the stories of my mind, and I was wanted, and I was loved. That vent in the bathroom was how I survived those first twelve years at FCF. And I’ll never forger when I realized that I had outgrown that place. I was afraid that since I couldn’t fit into my spot anymore, that maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t fit into the dreams I created there. When you’re a kid growing up in an orphanage, you have silly thoughts like that.

After my decision to become a writer, I worked hard in my studies. We were all required to attend class from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon. We had one 5-minute break at 10a.m. in which we closed our eyes and placed our heads on our desks to “reverence our thoughts.” Lunch was at noon. We would have 20 minutes to eat, and then we had to run around a path that was in the courtyard of FCF for 15 minutes. Then, it was back to class.

Maybe a few more descriptions of the actual building of FCF would give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. So, let me tell you here, that FCF was shaped like a square horseshoe with the two sides leading away from the main road. Looking straight at FCF you wouldn’t even know that it extended down those two sides. You see, it was imposing from the front because it had five floors while the two sides only had three.

But, enough of that. Like I was saying at the age of seven I decided that education was going to be my ticket to life. And that writing was going to be my train through the world. In fact, when I look back on it, those years flew by because they were filled with learning. That was one thing the orphanage did really well. They made sure to provide all of us “lost souls” with a solid education. And although they wouldn’t allow us any contact with the outside world through radio and magazines, they did allow us to learn about the world through great works of literature.

It’s just occurred to me that I haven’t told you my name. That’s funny. I got so involved with my story that I forgot to include myself in it.

I'm going to retire this story for now. Maybe down the road, I'll decide to do the research, and flesh out my ideas more. But, I'm inherently lazy, so who knows? (It took me an hour to write the stupid thing, and that's all the time I wanted to dedicate to it.)

Thanks for reading and not saying "You suck, Liz!" (even if that's what you thought).

Friday, February 15, 2008

1910 Novel: Part II

So, I’ve already decided to not continue to write my 1910 novel. Why? Because I’ve gone over the list of things I have to research and I’m completely overwhelmed. I think I’m just going to write some young adult fiction. That doesn’t require going to a library. And no research = easier job.

To prove to you how much I’d have to investigate, here are just a few things I’ve come up with:

1. Orphanage policies at the turn of the century.
2. Dialect of North Carolina in the 1900’s.
3. Speech patterns and vocabulary of the poor in 1900’s N.C.
4. Detailed map of the area including small roads, towns.
5. Stores, entertainment, overall culture of the time.
6. 1950’s culture/language/etc. (because of the prologue that I haven’t shown you).
7. Laws of N.C.
8. Laws of S. C.
9. Policies for dealing with mentally handicapped people in the 1900’s.
10. Relations between African-Americans and white people during that time. (You have to be really specific about these things. You just can’t say: bad.)

Well, that gives you a small taste of what I’m up against. Maybe in a few years I'll try to tackle it again. I think there’s an interesting story in there, somewhere.

Here’s the second excerpt from the 1st chapter.

And, I guess my story could have ended there. But, it didn’t. You see that’s where it just began. In fact, it wasn’t until I found out the truth of my origins that I began a journey towards my real beginnings.

But, before I tell you where I went, let me tell you where I left.

My whole remembered life, up until I was eighteen, was spent at the Franklin Children’s Facility, or FCF. Now, FCF was famous all over North Carolina, mostly because it was the only orphanage in the state to hold over eight hundred children on any given day. And the children came from all over, not just from Franklin County. There were kids form Raleigh, Charlotte, and even as far as Wilmington.

From the outside of FCF, you wouldn’t know that children lived on the inside. And on the inside, only seeing children let you know that it was an orphanage. Looking at FCF was like looking at a black and white photograph even though you were standing right in it. And dull was the only color found on the building or the grounds surrounding it. There was absolutely nothing to “stimulate overzealous activity” as our caretakers would say. No pictures. No radio. No magazines. No flowers. No life, really. In fact, there was a joke that if it were at all possible, FCF would place a permanent cloud overhead to stop the sun from shinning and keep all us children “obediently subdued” as the director of the orphanage, Mrs. Wilkins, would constantly remind us.

But, despite all of their best efforts, we children found ways to be. There were lots of hidden places in FCF, places that only small, skinny, forgotten kids like us could find. Most of us had our own special place, a spot where no one else could own your imagination. Mine was located in the bathroom on the third floor.

If you can think of anything else to include on the list, drop me a line in the comments. And, if you can stomach it, my next post will be the last part of the first chapter (and the final post on this story).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Change of Pace...

Well, since I've started this blog especially dedicated to all my creative endeavors, my creativity has put on cement shoes and is now swimming with the fishes.

Seriously, I feel like the crapity crapest poet on the planet. And it's making me afraid to write because I know I'll have to post it. And then the world (i.e. three people) will read it, point and laugh.

So to say I have writer's block is an understatement. I have writer's coma, or writer's amnesia, or writer's "Holy Moly! What was I thinking? Me? A writer! You've got to be kidding!"

In order to get myself out of this phase (fingers crossed that it's only temporary), I thought I would switch gears. Mix it up a bit. Not think about poetry. In fact, completely forget that I ever thought I wanted to be a poet.

Don't worry though. I'm still going to share something painfully bad exposing. That's what this blog is for, after all!

Now, you all (the three of you) know that I participated in NaNoWriMo in November and wrote a novel. Well, before I wrote that one, I had started another. And, recently I've been working on it a bit, trying to decide if it was worth continuing.

It's a novel about my great-grandma’s experience of being in a small North Carolina town in the early 1900’s, and dealing with the fact that she was a product of rape (and that her mother was mentally handicapped), and the journey she embarks on to discover the truth of who she is. The book is part family history, and part fiction.

So, I thought I would share some of it with you. That way you can tell me if you think it's worth the bother of all the research it's going to require.

Keep in mind this is a VERY rough draft. As in, a lot of it will be tossed as I continue to revise it.

I guess I'll stop talking about it now, and just let you read it.


When you find you’re a product of rape, and how that rape happened, it changes the world. Really. Now, I’m not saying that the sun stops being bright yellow or the green grass turns bleak, but it does color other parts of life—mostly, what you think about yourself and how you fit inside, way down deep where there’s no wind, only a stillness that tells you who you are and where you belong. So, I guess it doesn’t so much as change the world, but changes you in the world.

At least that’s what happened to me. And it’s kind of funny when I look back on it. I thought that finding out the truth about who I was and where I came from would give me a sense of everything else. And with that knowledge in my hands, I would be able to be me—at last—and the life that had been living me wouldn’t be real anymore because I was finally real.

But all the truth did was add to my already unknowness. Now, don’t get me wrong, it did provide some fundamental answers. It explained how I found myself in an orphanage on the outskirts of Franklin County in North Carolina, and it also answered why nobody ever loved me. But it didn’t tell me what I was hoping for. It’s a hope that all us orphans dreamt about—that our families lost us, not left us. And that if they only knew where we were, they’d pick us up quicker than coins at a card game. But, all the truth did was tell me what I feared—that I was left and I was nobody.

Stay tuned for Part II...

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Toughest Part…

There are two steps that one needs to accomplish to become a writer.

The first step is actually calling yourself a writer (out loud, and said to a real person—no imaginary friend counts), and as I discussed in my previous post, this is fraught with fear and trembling.

But once you get this painful right of passage out of the way, you can begin the second step. And this one is even harder because it’s a step that never ends: namely, you have to write.

Yes, I’m sorry to say that to be a writer, you have to write! And you have to do it pretty much every day. That’s what separates writers from idea-jotter-downers.

Now, in this post I’m not going to talk about the quality of what is written, and whether or not this could be labeled as “crap” (which, incidentally, most of it could probably be the poster child for crap). No, I’m just going to focus on what stops us from actually making our writer-butts sit down and come up with something intelligible. Not good, mind you, just real words on a page.

Really, there are tens of thousands of reasons not to write. But for the sake of brevity, and because all of those reasons can be boiled down to two things, I’m just going to list those two.

So, without further ado (to use a trite phrase that all good writers should avoid), here they are:

1. We don’t want to. I mean, we do, but we don’t. It’s the whole failure thing. What if what we write stinks more than a dumpster of dirty diapers? (Some of it will.) What if what we write has already been written and we’re not original? (Some of it has been, and we never are.) What if people laugh at us? (Someone is lined up for that job, don’t you worry.) What if…blah, blah, blah!

2. We’re too busy. We just have too much going on, right? I mean, someone has to organize the pots and pans in alphabetical order by brand name, dust the collection of thimbles given to us by our grandma, and search for that episode of that show we watched that one time that we think we liked! Those things don’t happen by themselves, do they? Of course not!

Well, there you have it. Yep, that’s it. And if you’re an astute reader, you will see the connection between one and two (for the less perceptive, here’s a hint: fear leads to procrastination).

Now, what are we going to do about it? I have few ideas, but I’ll save them for another post.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Poem 1, Rough Draft 1

Sorry, I'm a day late...

I don't know what's going to be harder, posting a new poem every week, or not complaining about the quality of the poem.

Right now, I'm struggling with both aspects...

This was a poem a wrote in December that I've been trying to work with. But, before I show you what I've done with it, I thought I'd show you the original.


Before I knew
what competition
was, I knew I wanted to
best you. I wanted to win,
and run home to regale
my family with stories
of my conquests,
the details of
your defeat.

But, you, Lucy,
with hair ribbons
matching your dress
—hair cutely curled,
dress with pink butterflies—
your hand in the air,
answer on the tip of
your tongue. You
never gave me
a chance!

Yes, before I knew
what competition was,
I knew jealousy, and it
came wrapped in
pink butterflies.