You read that right. I’m actually writing a novel. We’re a little over 1,200 words in. The goal is to have 50,000 words by the end of November, as part of the challenge from NaNoWriMo. Beyond the challenge, but I have no delusions of grandeur, y’all. I won’t finish. But I’m headed in that direction. All those italics mean 1) I love italics; 2) I’m super excited; and 3) finishing by the end of November isn’t necessarily the goal.
More on Point 3. I’ve had the desire to write a novel since I was 13 years old, when, during one summer vacation, I began a novel about three girls who go on a road trip. I’ve had the desire to write a novel since I was 16 years old, when I began a novel fictionalizing the antics of two pretty memorable boys that were in a few of my classes in high school. I’ve had three solid novel ideas roaming around my head for a million years. You get my drift. The novel has always been the thing. But the novel always ended up on the back burner. Too busy, too in love with writing my short stories, too this and too that. In fact, it was almost like the novel was the pinnacle of my life as a writer, and I wasn’t quite ready to go there yet. Nevertheless, that was the past. We writin’ a novel!
Plot? Theme? What’s it all about, Alfie? I will remain quiet on all that. But I may post some chapters on here as I go. We’ll see. I will say that the whole “write what you know” adage is quite a concept when you actually do it. Sure, aspects of my life and my experience permeate my fiction (it’s all me, really, in some way), but this particular experience is different somehow. It’s almost more authentic, if that makes any sense.
Which one of you have written a novel? Tell me about the experience, please and thank you!
So, 11 years ago, I had this crush. (What’s new, right?) Anywho, in response to where the crush went–absolutely nowhere–I wrote a story. It was my way of catharsis, as I like to do.
I’ve decided to share this story with you! I’m largely proud of it; it was a great accomplishment for me; and…my sister wants me to share it with my readers, so I have to listen to her, even though I’m older. Each week, I will bring The Cruelty Papers (the title) to you in installments. You can find Part One here. I’d love to get your thoughts, your comments, whatever you’d like to say. Please and thank you?
Eleven years later, I have to say that my writing has changed in certain ways, but at the core, this is a definitive sample of my work. And it was nice to read this story and reminisce.
Enjoy, and be sure to let me know what you think!
p.s.: This is only the beginning of sharing my stories with you by installment. Again, enjoy!
Stating the obvious and the thoroughly discussed: I love books. I love how they smell. I love how they look. I love the feeling of a book gently bouncing in my bag as I walk to and fromwork. I love flipping the pages. I love bookstores and libraries. I love, I love, I love.
Which is why I’m feeling guilty for what I’ve done. No book burning rallies or anything like that, of course. Worse.
I purchased this:
It was Cyber Monday, and I’m all about the deals, and I looked at the one my Sissie has and my eyes grew hungry and wanting, and…and…I lost my mind. I bought one. Me, who has long decried the advent of e-books and their ruination of actual books. Me, who realizes that these things largely helped destroy my beloved Borders Books. Me, with the narrowed eyes and the endless head shaking as I watch fellow metro riders pull them from their bags during our morning and afternoon commutes. Me, the obvious Book Snob. (I think the previous sentences prove that, don’t they?) I gave in. I gave in!
I won’t even begin to list the pros of the Nook (for a book lover, this is kind of great; I can buy books in seconds, I can borrow books from the virtual library; I’ll stop now) or provide an overview of the product. Suffice it to say that if there were a Book Altar, I would be sacrificing a sound animal for the purposes of atonement and forgiveness. Never mind that my guilt almost matches the giddy excitement I feel at the prospect of receiving my new purchase in the mail. Ignore that last statement. Anyway, there you have it. My admission of guilt. Nevertheless, I don’t intend to give up on my actual books or my bookstores or libraries. The love and snobbery will most certainly continue.
I’ve been given a task by my fellow blogger, Nika Yuedan, to write about a book that had a major impact in my life. (Thanks, Nika! What a great idea.)
At first, I had to think it through. I’ve read an inordinate amount of books, all of which have accomplished something for me—either personally, as a writer, or both. Which one stood out? Which one knocked me over? Which one bypassed the boundaries of paper and page to enter my heart and significantly touch my life?
I don’t even remember how old I was when I read this book. 10, 11, 12. I just remember feeling kind of stunned, because the story of Margaret and her growing pains resembled the same things I was going through at the time. I remember reading the book so quickly that I couldn’t believe it was over when I completed it. I remember sitting in the couch in our basement, my eyes swallowing words that were affecting me in a way a book never had before. It wasn’t a Greek myth or a children’s book. It was Margaret wondering about faith, boys, growing up girl, her family.
It was me, rendered in book form.
Years later, there was some kind of event in USA Today, where you could send Judy Blume a question. I quickly sent my message to her: no question, just sincere appreciation for the book that changed my little life. She replied. She replied! I have no idea where that email is now, I don’t recall what she said—but I remember jumping around the house, nearly in tears, because the author who penned that amazing, thought-provoking book sent me a message. It was out of this world.
Out this world, a bit like the book that pretty much changed everything.
She was fiercely intelligent, hilarious, insecure, brave. She was my age. She wanted to answer the telephone by saying, “for whom does this bell toll?” (Awesome or what?) She was obsessed with psychology and Sigmund Freud. She was everything to me.
I discovered Anastasia Krupnik in the books of Lois Lowry, one of my favorite young adult authors growing up, but I truly believed that she could be found on her surburban street somewhere, hanging out with her brainiac parents and her annoying little brother, Sam. She was so real to me. This morning, as I read a feature about the recent boon in young adult novels, I broke out into a silly grin when I turned the page and saw an interview with with Ms. Lowry herself, in which she discussed how she loved writing the Anastasia books. (The series has since ended, to my chagrin. Apparently, her publisher felt that the series was “outdated,” being that Mr. Krupnik, at one point, used a typewriter. What-ever.)
I decided this morning that I want to revisit the world of Anastasia. (A few years ago, I ignored the curious looks of a few kids who watched as I nonchalantly sauntered over to the young adult section of the library and commenced with squealing as I looked through those old books.) The article in the paper reminded me of the joy those books brought me, and as I remain a sucker for nostalgia, I resolve to go back in time.
The Anastasia Krupnik Series
Anastasia At Your Service
Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (my personal favorite)
Anastasia On Her Own
Anastasia’s Chosen Career
Anastasia At this Addressen the special “he” wants to meet her.
I read a pretty dismal article in the newspaper this morning. Borders Books has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will close about 30 percent of its more than 600 stores. Apparently, they were late in joining the Internet/ebook/iPad revolution and have significantly suffered (more than $1 billion in debt) as a result.
That royally stinks.
I have a special place in my heart for Borders Books. Not only because I suspect I’m part of the rapidly diminishing number of people who actually love the feel of an actual book in their hands (not on a computer screen, not being tweeted, not Kindled); not only because stepping into a bookstore fills me with the kind of giddy anticipation that I can’t fully describe (but oh, what a feeling!); but mainly for reasons quite close to my heart.
For three years, ages 19-21, I was a bonafide Borders bookseller (never cashier; always bookseller, they told us on the first day). It remains—despite growing up and “real” jobs and all that—one of the most interesting and eye-opening places I’ve ever worked. Why? Make way for my beloved bullets:
- Desire of a Book Nerd Fulfilled: it was the best environment for a happy English major and her obsession with books. I worked at Borders during college and I relished it. I literally cried when they hired me. Next to wanting to work in a library, it was my dream job.
- Of Like Mind: I was working alongside people with whom I had a lot in common, which meant something at age 19. (These days, forget commonality. Give me a paycheck and send me home at 5pm.) Fellow writers, avid readers, just plain awesome people.
- Um…: a fellow bookseller, pure infatuation, but it felt like love. A wonderful, wonderful him. I think about him still, from time to time. ANYway, that’s entirely another Kitten Heel discussion, after I’ve had a few drinks and am quite ready to sink a few ships with my loose lips. Ok–currently inundated with memories, moving on.
- A Little Learning, For Sure: I got to see and learn about the merchandising/business-y side of the book selling game. Pretty interesting.
- Oprah, Power, Still Blows my Mind: She released a book on her show. MINUTES after the airing of this show, a gaggle of women raced into the store and asked for the book. It hadn’t even been released yet. Their disappointment (“But Oprah recommended it. Why don’t you HAVE it?”) was utterly comical. That scenario happened more than once. Yeah. Power.
- Java Girley: most booksellers work all over the store. The front check-out area, the music desk, the information desk, and the café. During my stints in the café, I really took to making the cappuccinos and the mochas and the other coffee drinks (because of my deep, abiding love for caffeine? maybe?). I still remember how make those drinks, many moons later…
End of my beloved bullets. A few memories from that sweet, kind of incredible time in my young life.
I find the situation with Borders undeniably sad and disconcerting, beyond my personal memories. Universally, it would be a terrible loss if these stores disappeared. That giddy bookstore feeling really can’t be beat.
I wrote this book. I’m so proud of that. Just giddy and proud.