On My Work-in-Progress

A few days ago, Laurie asked me and some other writer friends to complete this little survey about our current WIPs and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. This is weird for me because I usually don’t share much about what I’m writing — and this is still a fairly guarded summation of what’s going on in my book. Maybe it’ll pique your interest though. Oh, and since I said pique, how about I share that graphic I made once again:

 

Because it cannot be said enough. You can file that under “Proof Elizabeth would have been one of those scary, yard-stick toting English teachers.”

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?

It’s untitled right now.

2. Where did the idea for the WIP come from?

I had the opening image in my head for a while and then it started to flow into a narrative from the point of view of a girl living in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

3. What genre would your WIP fall under?

Young adult — it’s free verse historical fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My main character is around 12 years old, so it would need to be a young girl, but it would need to be someone with some serious presence. The character goes through a lot and has to handle very difficult situations for someone her age.

This WIP is not one that I’ve really thought about casting, however, I have another WIP about a young wildcatter and his wife that I want Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in SO. BAD.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?

After the death of her mother and infant sister, a young girl is moved from a lifeless house and into the home of her newly married sister, placing her squarely in the middle of a family that, behind a well-to-do facade, is steeped in abuse and political corruption.

Ha. That was the first time I typed it out like that. I think it’s more interesting than it sounds.

6. Is your WIP published or represented?

Nope, but if anyone is interested…call me 🙂

7. How long did it take you to write?

I started working on this in early April 2012.

8. What other WIPs within your genre would you compare it to?

Hopefully books like Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Burned by Ellen Hopkins, and What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones. Of course the historic angle makes it quite a bit different from the latter two.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?

Karen Hesse, Ellen Hopkins, Sonya Sones, Anna Myers, Rilla Askew

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your WIP.

There are a lot of very serious issues that the main character deals with (death, witnessing physical and psychological abuse, alcoholism, abuse of power) that I think the verse novel presents in an interesting way. You are a witness not only to the actions, but also the inner thoughts of the protagonist. Writing it in verse touches on these things in a more personal, deeply affecting way. Setting the story during the Prohibition era in Oklahoma gives rise to a number of dramatic conflicts that I hope will spark an interest in the history for young readers.

Are you working on something right now? Please feel free to post these questions on your own blog, but let me know if you do because I want to read about what you’re writing!

Being Brave

family farm

As far as I can tell, all the responses I have gotten to the news that I quit my job to write a book fall into two categories: the excited for me crowd and the raised eyebrow, “okaaaay,” secretly-think-I’m-crazy people.

Amongst the people who have expressed excitement over what I am doing, there have been a few who were awed by the news as well as some who have called me brave.

Me? Brave?

The first time I heard it, I just thought, Really? But I would rather be called “brave” than “stupid” so I let it go.

But it happened again. And again. A few more times and it was stuck in my head.

Do these people know me? I am no risk taker, I thought. I don’t think I’ve really shocked anyone with my decision, but the idea that it took courage was puzzling to me. My response was to shake my head and move on. The words I wanted to say — to convince them that it wasn’t at all what they thought — wouldn’t come. Because I hadn’t worked it out for myself yet.

On one of my last days in the office, a coworker was talking to me about my plans for the summer. She had somehow missed my news over the previous weeks. She sat, mouth agape, as I told her what I was doing. After answering a few of her questions, her mouth crept into a tiny grin that grew into a wide smile.

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?”

“Being you. Being brave. Following your dream.” She proceeded to tell me her dream — a detailed image of a cabin in the woods and the life she would have in it.

“You’ve helped me see my cabin in the woods again.”

Not that I needed any more confirmation at that point, but her words kind of did it for me. My decision was primarily about me and being true to the things that I want from life, but if my choices could have that kind of impact on another person…if they could be inspired to remember what they want…how could I fail at this?

On June 2, 2012 I picked up my favorite journal, a well-loved Moleskine, and wrote these words:

I wish I was brave. People have been telling me that I am lately, since I am leaving my job.

I don’t believe it is bravery. For me, there was no other choice. Somehow, I have gotten back on this path. This was where I was meant to be from the beginning.

You are there. You have always been there. I am sorry it’s taken me so long to come home to you.

All I am doing is returning to the thing I have loved since I was a little girl…to the desires of my heart that have been there for years. This is the only thing I know to do.

Is it brave to be honest with yourself?
To acknowledge your hopes for the future, even if they are incongruous with the present?
To dig up the best version of yourself and revive it?
To return to your first love?

Seven years and one day before that entry, there was this. Maybe it won’t make much sense out of context. But the pieces fit.

Excavation

Perhaps in a past life they died together and were buried under miles of sea. And now they’re being discovered. Bones…bodies all tangled up and together and keeping the other warm. But a hand reaches out now and it knows, hesitates in touching that flesh it has longed for. For the first time in centuries, eyes meet and stop, breathing. You’ve been there. Forever.

On Writing Exercises

Working on this book has brought me back around to some of the texts that were used in the numerous writing classes I took during college. I have kept the notebooks and journals that are full of my scribblings and writing exercises from 2003 and onward and it’s really nice to be able to look back and see some of the ideas that I had then. Some of them are still alive, some things that I work on now reflect ideas that I originally came up with almost 10 years ago. They have grown and changed, but it’s very interesting to see the ones that remain–really the stories that insist on getting out.

In my favorite Moleskine, the one I still write in because it’s not yet full, I found a list that I’d written in 2005–a writing exercise from one of my first creative writing classes. I had a difficult time remembering what the list was exactly, luckily though I had a page number scrawled across the top of the page. Recalling the book I used at the time, I went to the study and pulled it off the shelf that houses all my books on writing. Thumbing through the pages, I found the particular exercise I had been assigned and then I remembered.

My list is a string of essay titles with the conventional way of titling them: “On _______.” This was a very cathartic exercise for me and I found that it opened up my mind to some very different possibilities. The instructions were to make a list of titles according to the following parameters: 6 things you might like to write about and that you feel confident you know something about, 6 subjects you would not want to write about and would not show anybody if you did (I dealt with more of the latter in my list), 6 titles in which the preposition “on” could be a pun, and 6 titles dealing with subjects about which you know “nothing at all.”

It’s a great exercise and makes you think a lot more than you might imagine. To all my writer friends, if you decide to do it, please leave a link!

I present you with my list. Without page breaks and with the groups out of order so you can try to guess which things are which for me, if you like. Hint: Not all of my groups had 6 titles. Enjoy this tiny peek into my psyche.

4-4-2005

On an Elephant
On Stage
On Cue
On Foot
On Buddhism
On Chinese Cooking
On the History of Belgium
On the Royal Family of Monaco
On Being a Queen
On Long-Distance Relationships 
On Leaving
On a Broken Heart
On Forgiving
On Letting Go
On a New Home
On Stagnating
On Finally Getting Kissed
On Being in Love With Him
On My Trip to Scotland
On Finding Home
On Letting Him Go
On Keying Cars