Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rewriting! And... GO!

Since I am now free from school (though only technically for a little over a week- then I leave for England and my university orientation there), I have been doing a lot of writing. Last night, I was reading over Q, which I haven't worked on in earnest for awhile, and tweaking a few things. This afternoon, I finished editing another NaNoer's novel (all 248 pages of it... oy) and began a second tonight. And on Christmas day (if I can), I will start looking at my own NaNo novel, The Other Side of Light. I'm really excited to get back to it.

This morning, I went online to check my grades (four A's and one B, the latter in a class I hated and thought I was going to fail, so yay!) Besides the happy fact that two of the A's are in my writing classes and my P&F teacher said he doesn't usually give out A's, I was pleased to find my revision letter from my playwrighting teacher in my inbox.

The letter itself is three pages long, single-spaced, which is lovely. Because while it is full of hard truths and suggestions for improvement, I didn't turn this script in thinking it was perfect and I want suggestions because I want to do something with this play. Additionally, the fact that he wrote so much means that he was willing to consider it for that long, so I'm thrilled.

A lot of the suggestions are going to be really hard to work- they're going to require a lot of thinking about the play from new angles and rewriting scenes I love the way they are currently. But while a part of me cries at the thought of doing this, another part is happy that I'm already at the stage where difficult questions can be asked and that the letter didn't simply read, "Learn how to spell and then we'll talk," (as I suspect some of my classmates' may have.) And what better place to start my revisions than England, the setting of the play? These rewrites are going to be very difficult, but I am determined to be triumphant!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Friends in Writing

Hello, everyone! I'm back, having survived my finals (I hope, anyway.) I turned in my last paper at 5:30 Monday evening, and since then, I've been writing, editing, and typing up some monologues to take with me on my England adventure, as well as visiting my alma maters (I have two- my regular high school and my theatre high school), decorating the house, and hanging out with my friends.

One of my friends, who I also went to visit school with, had a wonderful writing chat with me today. After visiting EAHS, neither of us were really ready to go home yet, so we went to a local cafe. He's a writer as well, and embarking on some pretty exciting territory as one very soon. We also began a joint novel a few weekends ago when he came to visit me at my college. We're both really excited about the project, as it means a lot of new things for both of us. First of all, we'll be writing together. While we've been working together since middle school, really, on films and reading each other's writing, we've never written together. This in itself will be very interesting, as we have very different styles.

The project also includes some new elements for both of us, like writing adult characters, not teenagers or adults who are percieved as teenagers (a challenge for both of us, as neither of us is one of these yet), having the entire novel take place over one or two days, and he writing in a completely female perspective (though he already writes girls very well.) It's going to be difficult, but a good kind of difficult, I think. At least we live in the age of e-mail; can you imagine the two of us sending pages back and forth through snail mail across an entire ocean? I'm just excited to have a new writing project!

In addition to discussing this project, we talked about basing characters off of real people (I don't do this purposely, though it tends to happen; he does, and asked my permission to make a character very like me. It's possible he's going to use the hardest parts of my life, for which he was present, but the way I see it, his writing about it might help me sort it out a little better), characters making decisions for themselves, writng emotional truths, killing off characters, inspirations, poetry (which I hate and declared "one big secret"), and our futures in writing.

I just love having writer friends :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oops...

Sorry for the lack of updates... and there will be no WIP Wednesday today, either, as finals are killing me. I've never had so many papers due (it's about five or six of varying length... ugh.) The only reason why this is even being written is because I'm stuck in the basement of my school library while I scan the many, many pages of my playwrighting and writing journals for my teacher. It is tedious work.

But in good news, I finished the first draft of my Peter Pan play... and now it even has a name, thanks to my friend Caleb. I'm calling it Straight on 'Til Morning. It runs at eighty-five pages, currently. I had to do an incredible amount of research for a scene that I never even planned on writing. At first, I was just doing the research for myself for background information. But then after my class suggested I write at least one scene in the asylum (a.k.a "sanatorium"), I needed to go even more in-depth. And now not only can I not stop because it's so interesting, but new stuff is popping up every day- or maybe I'm just noticing it now. But suddenly, people are blogging about this topic, plays are being produced about it, and there are new websites every day. Very interesting- and very helpful!

Now that my scans are done, I suppose I should go back to my room and actually write these three last papers *cries*

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I Did

So I've been in novel-centered mourning for about four days now, and I think I can begin to talk about the reason.

First of all, I might be seeming dramatic, but I was seriously affected by what went on in my final hour of NaNoWriMo (which was actually about 6 pm, but I had a class and then rehearsal, and so wouldn't return until almost midnight- not enough time to finish AND win.)

I was typing away like a madwoman, sometimes turning to Write or Die to kick my butt. Usually WoD is the thing that forces unexpected (and usually unwanted) twists into my books, but it wasn't the culprit this time- it was all me.

I had no idea how to end the book. No clue. I actually had a couple of ideas in mind, one that involved a sequel. And, in fact, I had already written the cliffhanger ending the night before. But as I looked back over it, I realised that it was really incomplete and kind of pathetic. I decided to see where it would go if I took it further because, as much as I like the characters and the story, I didn't have enough ammo for a sequel. So I just started writing.

And then Lyddie died.

Yeah. SHE DIED. Worse, she was KILLED. About a minute after her aunt was killed. And another minute before the next member of her family would be killed.

This was COMPLETELY unplanned. Even though I had no idea what the end was going to be, Lyddie was always alive at the end of it. At that point, I felt like I was just watching my fingers type these horrible words. I wanted to undo it all... especially the way it happened. I just wrote that method of killing, not knowing how it actually affected someone's body and mind and then, and then after I had won, I was doing some research on the method and found out that I was pretty much right. How did I know that? I don't look up killing methods in my spare time.

But anyway. The thing I'm realising is that it fits. It really fits. It's sudden and shocking and tragic, but it works. It's not overdramatic. And I think the best part is that, because I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't write in that direction. I think that if I had planned it, I would have written some scenes with the attitude that she was going to die. I would have tried to put some extra superfluous meaning into things. But because I didn't, it's even more tragic.

So while I've almost cried a couple of times because she's gone, I also don't think I'm changing it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WIP er... Friday

Sorry about the lateness. And this'll be the last look at The Other Side of Light for about a month, as I have shut it away tonight to get some distance.

“Jake and I have an announcement,” my sister all but squeals. “A very exciting announcement!” She looks at Aunt Kelly, Dad, and me, but none of us says anything, so she goes on. “As you know, Jake and I have been dating for awhile -” Oh, God. “- and we’ve grown really close since we first met -” Oh, please, God, no. “- and we think we’re ready to take our relationship to the next level -” Please don’t say it… “We’re getting married!” OH PLEASE GOD NO!


“What is wrong with you, Lyddie?” Julie demands, glaring at me. I look around at my family (and Jake), who are all staring at me, and realise that I said that last one out loud.


“Sorry,” I say. “I don’t know where that came from. I’m, uh…congrats.” 
 Lie. A total lie. I think this whole thing is ridiculous. I’m all for love and marriage and stuff, but my sister is twenty years old. She may not be in school, but that’s no reason to run off and get married. 


“Well,” Julie presses, “Anyone else going to say something?”

Another silence stretches for eternity until Dad chokes out, “Congratulations. We’re all really happy for you.” He looks over at Aunt Kelly and me. “Aren’t we?”


Aunt Kelly is staring at Julie with a strange look on her face. “Julie, could I see you in the kitchen for a moment?”


Julie’s smile doesn’t falter. “Come on, Aunt Kelly, let’s celebrate! This is exciting! Don’t you think it’s exciting?”


“Julia,” my aunt repeats. “Kitchen. Now.”


Sighing, Julie unwraps herself from Jake’s arms and follows Aunt Kelly to the kitchen door, throwing Jake a “my family is so silly sometimes” shake of the head before disappearing behind the door.


Dad and I are left alone with Jake, who neither of us have ever really talked to. We sit uncomfortably on the couch while Jake looks around the room with feigned interest. I have to know what Aunt Kelly and Julie are saying, so I get up and move toward the kitchen door.


“Lyddie, don’t,” my father warns, but I act like I haven’t heard him and ease the door open a tiny crack. I can only see Julie at this angle, standing with her arms folded and no longer smiling. I move a little closer to catch what’s being said.


“-know your duties and what’s expected of you. You’ve know them since you were seven years old.”


“I haven’t forgotten them,” Julie retorts. 


“And yet you accepted the proposal of someone that you know you can’t marry?”


“I am going to marry him,” Julie say acidly.


“You can’t,” Aunt Kelly answers emphatically. “All the rules prohibit it.”


“The same rules that were bent for my mom?”


“And you know what happened with that.”


Julie raises her eyebrows and moves into her battle stance, shifting all her weight onto one hip, and I know that she’s ready to argue to the death. “No, actually, I don’t know what happened. Why don’t you tell me? My mother takes off when I’m nine and no one tells me why. So go ahead.”


“You know why.”

“No, I don’t.”


“It was too much for her.”


“That’s all you and Dad ever say. ‘It was too much for her’? What does that even mean?”


“I will not allow you to throw away all of your training for a boy you just met.”


“I’m not throwing it away! I never said I wouldn’t still do the job!”


“Julie, you know full well that the rules-”


“Screw the rules! They were invented by a bunch of scared old ladies in the dinosaur age. Times have changed and the rules need to, too.”

“The times may have changed, Julie, but the lanterns haven’t. It’s just as difficult to look after them today as it was two hundred years ago, maybe more so.”


“Then why shouldn’t I try to get as much help as possible? Jake would help me, I know he would.”


“You haven’t told him anything, have you?” Aunt Kelly’s voice has an edge of nervousness tinging the anger.


Julie rolls her eyes. “No, Aunt Kelly,” she chants like a schoolgirl reciting her multiplication tables. “I didn’t tell Jake about our deep, dark family secret.”


“Nothing?”


Nothing. I swear.”


There’s a silence, and behind me, I can hear my dad telling me to come away from the door, but I wave away his order. I need to know how this ends. I shift so I can see Aunt Kelly, who is pacing in the small space between the island and the counter.


“It’s not too late to break off the engagement. It’s never too late these days-”


“Stop!” Julie cuts in. “I’m not breaking off the engagement. I love Jake and I’m going to marry him. I don’t care about the stupid lanterns.”


Aunt Kelly turns angry, wounded eyes to my sister. “You’re going to leave your family behind, just like that?”


“I’m not leaving my family behind. I told you, I’m perfectly happy to watch over the lanterns, after my honeymoon. I don’t want to let my family down. I just want to start my own.”


“Julie, you ca-”


“Stop telling me I can’t. I can and I will.”


“It’s dangerous.”


“So is becoming a crazy cat lady, which is the only other choice I have. I am not my mother, Aunt Kelly. I have more training than she ever had, as a result of what she did.”


“Julie-”


“I can do this. I won’t choose between Jake and the job. Either I marry him and keep the job, or I’m out. It’s up to you.”


Aunt Kelly stands quietly, bracing herself between the island and the counter. Finally, she says in a low voice, eyes on the floor, “I’ll consider what you’ve said. But I want you to consider, too, what the danger is if you go ahead with this marriage.”


“I will.”


Julie’s footsteps approach the door and I throw myself back into my seat just as she reenters. I can tell by the look she gives me that she knows I heard every word, but whether the anger I see is at me or just Aunt Kelly, it’s hard to tell. Either way, it’s gone the second she makes eye contact with Jake.

“So. Did you get to know my dad and my sister while I was away?”


“Sure,” Jake says. “We were talking about the lanterns. They look pretty old.”


“Oh, they’re getting there,” Julie says, shooting a scathing glance in Aunt Kelly’s direction. 


“Julie,” Aunt Kelly warns. “How about you and Jake get some dinner? I think you have a few things to discuss.” She leans on the last word, but Julie pretends not to know what she’s talking about.


“Sounds great,” she exclaims, and I know she’s being overly happy to annoy our aunt. “Come on, Jake, let’s go.”


“Oh, uh… okay,” Jake says. He looks awkwardly at the rest of us, probably trying to figure out if he’s obliged to hug us or something, now that we’re his future family. To my relief, he doesn’t. Instead, he looks at my father and goes, “Uh, well… thank you,” before backing out of the room.


As soon as I hear the front door click shut, I let out a snort of laughter. “Did he seriously thank you?” I say to Dad. “Like, for Julie? He didn’t even technically ask your permission. Do people even do that anymore?”


I may find this situation funny, but Aunt Kelly doesn’t. Her arms are folded tightly across her chest and she looks deep in thought. “If this is to be,” she says pensively. “It’s going to take a lot of finagling. I don’t know if the rules will be allowed to be broken twice.” She ends the sentence there, but Dad and I know how it actually concludes: “After what happened last time.” We’re coming dangerously close to the subject of my mother now, something that never goes over well. Best to duck out now.


TOSOL Wordle

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reactions... Good or Bad?

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the ending of my novel. Remember how much I said I hated it? Well, I read it over again this morning and while it seems to fit the novel better... I still am in denial that this is the ending.

In acting, my thought is always that, if it gets a response, that's good. But what does it mean that, even as I thought about the ending a few seconds ago, it gave me disturbed butterflies in my stomach... and not happy ones?

I am a very confused writer at the moment...

The good thing is that I got two review offers on my novel. Tomorrow, I will shut my novel away so I can be away from it before I edit it for minor things like grammar and stuff before I send it off. I doubt I'll make a big enough overhaul in those days to rewrite another ending. I suppose I could see what they think of it...

I'll post a WIP Wednesday entry tomorrow (or, well, later today.) :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The End, For Now

Word Count for November: 50,023

Cumulative Novel Word Count: 66,023

It's over.

NaNoWriMo is over.

And, for right now, so is my novel. I drew it to some kind of conclusion. And that conclusion has left me shell-shocked. As of this afternoon, I had no idea how my novel was going to end and it was plaguing me. There was no law that required me to actually finish the novel itself today, but I didn't know if I could write 5,000 more words of something else; I had filled in many of the other holes.

So I started using Write or Die to make the wordcount, which usually demolishes my novel, and as I was doing that, I got an idea. It was a horrible, terrible, macabre idea, but I didn't know what else to do, so I followed it. If it doesn't work, you can just write it over. Plus, the "ending" I had already written felt sudden and incomplete.

As I was almost finished writing it, my roommate came in and asked, "What's wrong?" Because my face was drawn and solemn and I wanted to cry.

I don't even know if I can talk about it at the moment. I was so dazed and in my head after that that I could hardly walk straight. The ending's not violent or gross, but it's... surprising and sad and so unlike the rest of the novel with its sarcastic tone. I can't get over it.

I really don't like the ending. I want to change it. I know you should always go where the novel takes you, and I did, but I don't like it. It's not what I want for the story. I'm too close to the novel right now to decide if it fits it or not; Lyddie goes through a lot of changes in the book, so maybe it does work. But I don't like it.

I need to think...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dear Self

Dear Self,

Here's the deal. You have two days to write over 10,500 words. Now, don't get daunted. Because here's the other deal: you just made a list of all of the things left to write about and it's over 10,000 words, no problem. But those words won't write themselves, so get on it. No excuses. Yes, you do have three back-to-back classes (including your least favorite) before 10 pm rehearsal, but your first class doesn't start until 1:30 pm. So set that alarm clock and write before class, ya lazy sack o' potatoes. Who cares about your sore throat? It doesn't affect your fingers, does it? No. It doesn't. You are SO CLOSE. Don't give up now! You actually still love this story, so act like it. And you are actually an actor, so I expect you to do it well.

Love,

Me

(P.S... My school has decided that it is August and not almost December. The air conditioner is on so high that we can hear it. *shiver*)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Word Count: 34,648 / 50,000


The lamp’s globe almost slips from my grip for the fourth time this afternoon. Aunt Kelly draws in her breath sharply as I catch it with the ends of my fingers.

“Lyddie, please, focus.”

“I am,” I say, frustrated. That’s the worst part – I’m trying so hard to get this right and am getting nowhere.

“Well, just… try a little harder, okay?” I can hear my aunt’s aggravation, which doesn’t help my state of mind, or the headache throbbing at my temples. “You need to remove the globes carefully and clean every bit of soot off of them. We can’t have any traces of black.”

I am in no mood to do this chore. This isn’t a job, it’s housework. Besides, jobs pay. What do I get for this? Nothing! In fact, less than what I started with. I hate this stupid job with its stupid requirements; Aunt Kelly first had me scour the lamps’ bases to make sure they were perfectly clean, resulting in the beginnings of my headache. Now I can’t even clean a freaking globe right, I can’t even go to college so I might as well just drop out of high school-

I place the globe a little too hard on the table. “I need a break.”

“We’ve only been working for forty – five minutes.”

“Well, I still need a break, okay?

“Don’t give me attitude, Lyddie.”

“I just need five minutes to take some aspirin, okay? Being thrown into this when I had a million other things to do is kind of stressing me out.”

Aunt Kelly retrieves the globe I abandoned, concentrating a little too hard on wiping it clean. “You really need to focus on this, Lyddie. It’s the most important thing right now. You’re having to catch up on years’ worth of training, and it’s going to take all of your concentration.”

“I know that,” I reply, irritated. “But I do have homework and piano and life and stuff.”

“Lyddie, right now, none of that other stuff matters. At least not until you’ve finished your training.”

“And then I start the job, so all of that will be gone for good.”

“That’s not necessarily true. I’m still talking to Dr. Philips about when a good time for me to step down. You may have a few years.”

“So then I can go to school.”

“Don’t start.”

“But I could do both! Things are different now. Insane multi-tasking is part of the high school curriculum these days.”

“I haven’t been lantern keeper for that long.”

“Yes, but even twenty years ago, you could get by without a college degree. Now… you can’t do anything without one.”

“Lyddie-”

“You can’t! Not for what I want to do. It can’t happen.”

Aunt Kelly looks pained. “Lyddie, I can’t believe – I don’t know how to explain it more clearly. You don’t need to go to college now that you’re lantern keeper because… you have no use for it. You’ll never – you can’t… be a publisher. It would be too much. I know you, Lyddie, and I know that you can do anything you put your mind to, but you can’t do this.” She sees the look on my face and hurries to clarify. “It’s not that you can’t. No one can. It’s not advisable. I know what you want, Lyddie, but you’re going to have to switch gears now. Your future has been decided for you.”

“That’s not fair! You don’t understand what a disaster this is for me-”

Aunt Kelly’s mouth falls open. “I don’t understand?!” Her voice has lost all its sympathy. “Do you think this is what I planned for myself? My entire life I watched your mother be prepped for service and I was so grateful it wasn’t me. Then, just after I had gotten a good, steady job, I heard that Leah was gone. Do you think I wanted to leave my job to take over something I never wanted in the first place? No. But your father needed me and you girls needed me. You are in the exact same position as I was, Lyddie, except you have the benefit of being warned before you could start an outside life. You should be grateful.”

I’m feeling a lot of things right now, but I can’t safely say that grateful is not one of them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"How Did I Get Here?"

Tonight I had that writing workshop that I signed up for, dropped out of, and then signed up for again. It was most definitely a learning process.

First of all, we were all given all of the pieces to read over beforehand. Not all of us got all of the pieces- I only got seven out of the ten. But I noticed a certain trend in the pieces I did recieve: they were all either short stories or prose poetry and they were all thoughtful and deep and dramatic. Lord knows what everyone thought when they opened up my dialogue-driven, snarky YA piece.

I'm not saying this in a self-deprecating way. I was confident in what I had submitted. But it was so radically different from anyone else's that it stuck out glaringly, and I still don't know if that was a good or bad thing; no one seemed to know how to react. Throughout the workshop, I was listening to other pieces being read and thinking, "How did I get here?"

The workshop itself was pretty awesome. We were put in this conference room in the castle (which used to be the owner's smoking room back in the late 1800s) and the thick wooden doors blocked out every sound. We could whisper and hear each other. It was a very cool and relaxing environment.

The host of the workshop is an academic librarian here at my school and is also a published writer (of short stories, I believe.) I've seen her around, but we've never really met, and I expected her to be either really mean or too shy to even really speak. But instead she was this quietly lively, fun person who gave everyone great feedback.

I had expected to see some people I knew, but there was only one person I had met there; most of the participants were graduate students, which was a little intimidating. But they all turned out to be very nice, too.

I was the last to go- I think she went in the order in which she had recieved our pieces, and due to the rehearsal debacle, I submitted mine six days late. Again, it was very weird because, after all of the flowy, deep prose poetry, my excerpt was like having a bucket of cold water dumped over you. It was more marked than one night in Play & Screenwriting when we present our monologues; the girl before me had jut finished weeping as a dying soldier and then I jumped in with a piece of fast-paced, ridiculous excuses.

Overall, though, the piece was well-recieved. People were pretty complimentary of it and they also gave me some fantastic suggestions- some of which I've already taken. I'm really glad I participated; it was awesome to be sitting in a room of people who are just as dedicated to this as I am. I hope I can do something like that again :)


(Also, I'm now officially a creative writing minor at school!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WIP Wednesday

I don't like to put my WIP posts with my "this is what's going on" posts, so here's this week's WIP excerpt. What you need to know is that Lyddie, to take on her job, had to basically have a routine psych exam. Though it's just a formality, one of the tests sent Lyddie into a nervous breakdown and she's terrified of the diagnostic letter that will arrive, sure it will contain notes on her failure. Read on:

“Lyddie!” I hear Julie call from downstairs. “Come get your mail!”

I go down to the foyer to find Julie holding a stack of mail, one smaller than the other. She hands me the former and I leaf through it. Ten thousand college postcards from places I would never go, even before I got the job. My half – term report is in there, so I tear it open. Straight As. Congrats, Lyddie. You’re smart and it doesn’t matter anymore. I place the report on the side table for Dad.

The last letter in the pile has a logo in the upper left hand corner that I don’t recognize immediately, but after another second, I realise that it’s from Dr. Philips’ office. The diagnostic letter.

It takes every ounce of self discipline not to take the envelope and its offending contents and feed it into the flames of the very lanterns that got me into this mess in the first place. But even if I did destroy it, Dr. Philips talks to Aunt Kelly on a semi – regular basis, so he’s sure to ask her about it. There’s no getting out of this.

I’m just about to stuff the letter in my pocket and go back up to my room when the door opens and who else but Aunt Kelly walks in.

“Hey girls.”

“Hi, Aunt Kelly,” Julie mutters, immersed in the pages of some magazine.

Aunt Kelly’s gaze lands on me. “Lyddie? Are you okay?”

“Mm-hm. Totally okay.” I try to inch the hand with the letter behind my back, but of course she notices. “What’s that?”

“Uh… report card.” Technically I’m not lying. It is a report card of sorts and I’m pretty sure it’s the kind I’ve never gotten in my entire life- just one big F written in red across the page. Or, no, probably a C, for Crazy.

“Can I see it?”

It takes me a second to move, but I have to give it to her, so finally, I do. I watch my fate literally pass out of my hands. She’s going to be so mad…

She doesn’t open it right away, though. “How about we get a snack before we discuss this? I’m famished and I’m sure there’s some important and interesting stuff to talk about in here.”

“Yeah. Important and interesting.”

I follow her into the kitchen where she removes some grapes from the refrigerator and sits down with the death letter. Popping a grape into her mouth, she tears it open and unfolds it. Before she looks at it, she catches sight of me still standing. “Sit down, Lyddie, so we can talk about this.”

“I’m okay.”

“What?”

“There’s something about being right by the door that’s really working for me.”

She nudges a chair out with her foot. “Don’t be silly. Sit down.”

Trepidaciously, I do, and watch Aunt Kelly’s face carefully as she scans the contents of the letter. Her expression doesn’t give me a single clue, bad or good. Finally, she sets it down.

“Well.” That’s all she says.

I cringe, looking anywhere but at her. “I know. I’m sorry. I tried.”

“Obviously not hard enough.”

“I’m sorry, really.” I chance another glance at her. She doesn’t look mad, more… disappointed. So she’s going to take the scary calm route. This is going to suck. “I just… I freaked out and I don’t want to ruin anything for Julie and I’m really really sorry.”

“’Freaking out’ is not an excuse for rudeness.”

I look at her now, confused. “What?”

“Dr. Philips reports that through almost the entire session, you were hostile and uncooperative.”

“That’s… all?”

“All? Lyddie, he is very important to our cause. We can’t lose his support.”

“But that’s all he wrote? That I was rude? Nothing about… anything else going on? The results of the test?”

“Well, he can’t report on each test individually – it’s against the privacy code. He did write a general summary of your results, and they seem to be fairly good. But Lyddie, that’s no excuse for your behavior. You’re not a child anymore.”
I’m too busy breathing several thousand sighs of relief to be properly chastised. He didn’t write anything about my breakdown. Thank God. But why? Surely someone who demonstrated such signs of instability can’t be good for the job.

“Lyddie? Are you listening to me?”

“Yeah. Sorry. I won’t do it again, Aunt Kelly. I was just stressed. I’m fine now.”

My curiosity gets the better of me. “What else did he write? Anything good?”

She consults the letter. “That you’re obviously very intelligent. Despite the uncooperativeness, you scored very high on the majority of the tests. But that doesn’t excuse -”

“I know, I know. I have to be nice from now on. I will, I promise.” Now that I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up anymore, I steal a grape. “Can I go now?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

I escape back up to my room, where I practically melt into a puddle of relief. I never thought I’d say it, but thank God for Dr. Philips. I don’t know why he let me off the hook, but I’m grateful he did. Now I just have to pretend that that episode never happened and get on with my life… such as it is now that I’ve been cleared.

Pushing Through

*tries to slip in unnoticed*

Oh, hey... is this where my blog is located? I guess I kinda... haven't posted for awhile, huh?

BUT, guys, I have an EXCUSE. And it is a good one.

I've been writing. And yes, it's November and this is a writing blog, so of course, if I'm posting, I've been writing. But I mean I have been composing like a mad woman. Thank goodness for computers, because I have done so much writing today that I wouldn't be able to move my hand if I'd had to do it long hand.

See, my schedule blew up recently. What with classes, rehearsals, and you know, LIVING, I fell way, way behind on my wordcount. And what's more, when I did have time to write, I'd basically sit there and stare at the screen and maybe get a hundred words out of it.

I know there are sometimes slow periods, especially in NaNo, but this was bad. Because to be honest, I could keep pushing it off until tomorrow, thinking I'd have more time, but every tomorrow brings another 1667 words to be written and it also brings with it my crazy schedule. I mean, seriously... this time next week, I'll be opening a show. So even though I'd sequestered myself for a good four hours yesterday, I got nothing out of it, and I was determined that today would not be another one of those days. I took advantage of my second class being cancelled and went to the school cafe and wrote.

Slowly, very slowly, I began to chip away at the wall I'd been smacking my head against for the past few days. I found my plot again, cleaned up some Write or Die scenes, and in general got my act together. Then I changed my location and did three thirty-minute, thousand-word Write or Die sessions. And finally, after about seven hours, my word count stands thus:

Word Count: 28,421 / 50,000

I am seriously proud of myself. Not only did I write 6,982 words today, I also found a brand new, awesome plot point and had a few new things go wrong for my character. Yesterday, I was desparing that I could write another 35,000 words of this novel, but now I think I might be able to swing 21,579 more.


So my lesson for today, everyone- DETERMINATION. I was about to give up on NaNo this year because I was feeling really overloaded. But in the end, I really want to do it, so I pushed through and it was hard but so, so worth it.



In other news, I had the reading of my first twenty pages of my Peter Pan script in my playwrighting class. It went well. I wasn't too happy with how it was actually read... if only the class were full of actors. But, as my friend in the class said (who I cast as Peter), you can get it from the writing, too. I got some great feedback, both complimentary and constructive, and I'll be returning to that once this entry is finished.

I watched my teacher as he read along with it and I thought he didn't like it. But while he had some questions, in the end, he gave me a compliment so awesome that I am afraid to repeat it to anyone. I'm not going to write it here because a) I don't want to jinx it and b) it's very specific to my school, so you guys might not understand WHY it was such a compliment. But it really was, and it gave me hope, especially since he wasn't so into the idea in the first place.

So now I'm off to work on that! Push through, NaNoers, push through. It'll be well worth the effort.

Last Google search: Write or Die

Last Thesaurus.com search: hurry

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Falling Behind

Word Count: 20,835 / 50,000

I am so, so far behind on my word count. Have cloistered self in library to rectify this. However, play that's due for credit is also begging for attention. And I have two more rehearsals today.

*cries*

It's Week 3, everyone.

Last Google search: TV listings for [my school.] I haven't watched TV in forever. Not that today was the day to do it.

Last Thesaurus.com search: trepidaciously (to see if it was actually a word and not something I just made up. It's a word.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dodging a Bullet by Taking Another

I wrote yesterday about how my plot needed a complete revamp after the introduction of a semi-serious romantic relationship for my main character. While I was plowing through those changes (which I'm still doing right now... so many little details have to be tweaked), I was seeing statuses/reading blogs/hearing that people were suffering from the Week Two Blues. These are common, and I'm sure I suffered from them myself last year, but right now, I'm feeling pretty good. I really like the changes that this relationship has made to the novel. It's made some decisions more serious, given Lyddie a distraction, which is both good and bad for her, and made me look at some scenes I haven't looked at in awhile and that needed a redo anyway.

So I sort of feel like I've dodged the Week Two bullet. Of course, rewriting all of this stuff, as well as adding in a ton, is proving to be hard and meticulous, but I think it's my own little Week Two challenge. What I'm most afraid of is the 30k panic- I KNOW I suffered from that last year. You hit 30k and then suddenly, it all goes to pot.

And you guys get to come along for the ride :p

Now I've got to go read through my Peter Pan play- I'm having 20 pages of it read in Play & Screenwriting on Tuesday night. I'm either going to be very happy or have my bubble burst by 10 pm that day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WIP Wednesday (and a complete reworking)

Word Count: 15,013 / 50,000

Yesterday I decided that my character's semi-love interest (more like a crush that is allowed to have a moment), who screwed up in said moment, was going to turn into a good guy and come back and apologise. I did this for a few reasons: one, I kind of liked him too (I never fail to fall in love with my MC's love interests) and I wanted to redeem himself, and two, if I didn't give him at least one more scene, his presence in the novel would be sort of unnecessary. As much as I liked the scene I had written between my MC (Lyddie) and him, there was no reason for it.

So I'm happily typing away at this new scene and I'm really liking it. It's working out, both characters end up in a good, believeable place at the end... but then my bubble was burst. Because the whole reason Lyddie was even at the dance with him was to get her out of her house so something bad could happen there... towards the end of the book. After that, it was all action-packed drama and then the conclusion of the novel. My heart broke- there was no way I could get this new scene in there, not with the pace of the scene after the dance.

But the more I looked at the new scene (and the next scene I wrote between Lyddie and her guy... because I couldn't stop) the more I saw its value. A huge theme in the book is whether relationships are valueable enough to preserve over a family duty that must be performed, and Lyddie didn't have enough exposure to anything beyonf family relationships and friendships. Both of these are very valid, but the reason certain things happen in Lyddie's life is because of her mother's choices about other relationships. Lyddie couldn't begin to understand, for better or worse, why someone would make that kind of sacrifice because she had no life experiences to have that understanding. I need this in my novel, and while I'm 80% sure that I'm going to include this newly formed relationship, there are three catches to this:

a) It's going to include a complete reworking of scenes, which I'm perfectly willing to do, but I also have to get my word count up each day as well as reorganization.

b) Lyddie is seventeen and a crush that forms into an only semi-serious relationship (there will be no purple prose in my book, for many reasons). While I would never claim that someone couldn't find true love at seventeen, it might not be true love here. It's just a strong "like."

And c) Lyddie, at this point, has more experience with a boy than I do. I've actually gone beyond my own understanding of a romantic relationship already, and it' going to be hard for me to take it further as far as even emotions go, simply because... I don't know. This is embarrassing for a twenty year old to admit. Let't get off the subject and look at today's WIP.

So what you need to know is that Lyddie's mother has been out of her life since she was six. Lyddie has deduced from the behavior of her father and aunt that her mother ran off for her own personal desires. Whether this is true or not is revealed at the end of the novel, but Lyddie is pretty bitter about what she believes to be true.



“Before we go onto our next test, Lyddie, I wanted to ask you a few questions.”

“About what?”

For the first time, Dr. Philips seems unsure. “About… your mother.”

I blink. Aunt Kelly must have given him a heads up. Otherwise, how could he have known that this was a sore point with me? I can tell from his expression that he expects me to be ruffled by this and I won’t give him the satisfaction. I sit up straighter and clear my throat. “Okay. What about her?”

Dr. Philips consults a manila folder lying flat on his desk. I want to know what’s written in it, but I can’t see from where I’m sitting. “Well, I know that your mother left you, your father, and your sister when you were six.” He looks up for confirmation.

“Yes…” I mutter grudgingly, hoping he’s not going to check in for my reaction after each fact.

“And then a few months later, your aunt Kelly moved in to help take care of you.” He says it like a statement, but doesn’t move on until I give another perfunctory confirmation. “How did you react to suddenly having another mother figure in your life?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember how you felt about another woman stepping into your mother’s place?”

I let out a sigh. “I didn’t see her as stepping into my mother’s place. I was six; for awhile, I didn’t really understand that my mom had even left me. My dad never actually told me what happened, so, for awhile, I just assumed she was on a really long trip.”

Dr. Philips picks up a pen, poised to record my life story. “So how did you find out?”

I raise an eyebrow. “I asked.”

“Asked who?”

I shrug. “Everyone. Dad. Aunt Kelly. Julie. My teachers. People at the grocery store. Everyone I thought might have seen her.

“And what were you told by your dad and aunt?”

“Well,” I begin. “Every time I asked my dad, he looked like he was about to cry. Sometimes he did, though he always made excuses about dust and allergies. The only thing he would be able to get out was that it wasn’t my fault and I should never blame myself. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t like making him sad, so eventually, I stopped asking him altogether. So I asked my aunt, and she told me that my mom wasn’t able to do her job anymore. I didn’t know what that meant.” I pause, then admit, “I still don’t know what that means.”

Dr. Philips is scribbling in the folder and suddenly I get an idea. “Do you know?” I ask, so suddenly that his pen jerks across the page.

“What?”

“Well, you’re one of the only outside people that knows about my family and the lanterns – do you know why she left?”

The doctor hesitates for a moment. “Lyddie, I have nothing to tell you about your mother that you don’t already know. As I’ve said, the rules are put in place for a reason. From the outside, the job seems easy, even trivial. But once you’re doing it yourself, you’ll find out that it’s not. Neither is raising a family or even having a serious relationship. Put those together and you have a recipe for disaster.”
“I don’t get it. Why couldn’t I just tell my hypothetical family about the lanterns and get help from them? It would make the job a thousand times easier.”

“So it seems. But something you may not know is that, with each outside person that is told, the security of the lamps diminishes. They took a great risk telling me enough that would allow me to evaluate candidates accurately. So your mother telling your father about them was -”

“Really, really bad.”

“Precisely. And even if she hadn’t, the strain that the lights put on any relationship your mother had would have been difficult. A romantic connection often thrives on experiences, and those are limited when half of the couple is required to work twenty four hours a day. Similarly, any job suffers when there are distractions, and, as you can imagine, a romance or a family is the ultimate distraction.”

“So instead of choosing one over the other, she just bailed. Responsible,” I remark wryly.

Dr. Philips clicks his pen and sighs. “It seems that way, doesn’t it?”

“And that’s it?” I probe. I don’t want to accept that what I’ve been told for the past eleven years is the truth. I guess I wanted to learn that my mom went off to have an adventure. That she was a spy and was called off on a secret mission. Even that she was harboring a secret so grave that she had to run away from everything she knew and start a new life. Anything that rescinds the fact that she abandoned her husband and two young daughters because they were a hassle.

“Lyddie?” Dr. Philips’ voice breaks into my thoughts. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that this sucks,” I answer. “My mom abandoned me for no better reason than she was stressed out. How is that supposed to make me feel? She didn’t just hurt me; she broke my dad’s heart. He never seems truly happy. And you should see the look on my aunt’s face whenever the subject comes up. She hates her own sister. Did my mom even consider how her running off was going to affect the rest of her family? The family she wanted so badly that she broke all the rules? She just decided to go start a life of ease and left the rest of us to suffer.”

“Well, while I think your mother made some poor decisions, I don’t think you should be so quick to judge. Her situation might not be as pleasant as you imagine.”

I practically tip my chair over as I lean toward him. “Do you know where she is?” I demand.

Dr. Philips looks taken aback by my question, but says calmly, “No, I don’t.”

“Could you find out?”

“Why would you want me to do that? Do you want to contact her?”

“I -” I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what I’d do if I had an address or a phone number for my runaway mother; I don’t want to speak to her. But having a concrete locality, proof that she’s somewhere besides where she’s supposed to be, gives me some sense of stability, as strange as that sounds. It’s a fact, and I can deal with facts. I know what to do with them.

“No,” I say in answer to Dr. Philips’ question. “But I’d still like to know.”

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. In fact, I don’t know if anyone can – as far as I know, her whereabouts are unknown.”

Suddenly, I’m tired of talking about this. Every attempt to get anyone to discuss my mother has just led to a wall, and I’m sick of trying to force my way through. What difference will it make anyway? “Never mind,” I sigh, slumping back in the chair. “Are there more tests?”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Physical Reactions and Things Working Out

Today was the first day since I was fourteen years old that I shared a poem I had written with my class. The last time I did it, I was in an extremely challenging advanced communication arts class. Well, it was challenging for me, anyway. I had worked my butt off on the entrance test two years in a row and only got accepted the second time around... and everyone else was smarter than me. (Or so it seemed. Talking to my then-classmates now, I've heard that everyone felt the pressure.) Because the class was so hard and my attitude toward poetry so bad, though I was nervous about sharing it, I somehow knew I would be inferior, so I wasn't too concerned about it. It was just another unit.

Fast forward to this year, me ignoring the fact that a class entitled Writing in Poetry & Fiction might include some poetry as well as fiction. I ignored it up until a couple of weeks ago when I bit the bullet and started to compose a poem for class. It was sort of based on a dream I had, and I hated it when I was finished. I got butterflies just thinking about my classmates reading it. I had established myself- along with pretty much everyone else in the class- as a fairly good fiction writer who turns in pieces filled with snarky characters. What would they think of this dramatic, semi-period, fever-delirious piece?

I almost skipped class, I was so nervous. I had to go second and by that point, I was shaking and my palms were practically dripping sweat. I wanted to cry. "Why are you hiding?" my professor asked, since generally I don't shut up in that class and had said very few words in today's class. I asked him if we might just get it over with. I forgot that part of the poetry presentation was that it had to be read out loud. Cue me cringing. Thank goodness it was short(ish).

The class ended up liking it, for the most part. There was some confusion (that I hadn't purposely built in) that is easily solved if I ever am brave enough to open up that document again. So I guess it went over well.

Though I knew I was going to be nervous about this presentation, I can't believe my physical reaction. I am kind of a nervous person in general, but it takes a lot for me to get so worked up that my palms sweat. The last time that happened, I was getting my flu shot all by myself (I have a deathly fear of needles and have never gone without my mommy there :p)


Anyway, it's over and it wasn't a terrible experience. And some good news arrived in my inbox while I was panic attacking it up. I had had to drop out of the writing workshop I signed up for because I was told I had rehearsal on that day. Then I found out I didn't. I instantly e-mailed the organizer of the workshop... and for three days, he didn't e-mail me back. I figured it was hopeless, but re-emailed him this morning... and it turns out he was saving a place for me all along! He said he needed my piece and there was the problem- I didn't know what I was going to send in. I didn't have anything short/long enough. Finally, after an hour of cutting, pasting, and rewording, I was able to send him an edited scene of Q, excerpts of which I've shared on this blog before.

Phew... what a day. And it's only 3:15. Can't wait to see what tonight's writing class brings!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Word count: 13,161 / 50,000

A responsible person would have realised that her schedule was way too full to try to do NaNoWriMo this year.

A responsible person would realise eight days in that even though one show was over, that doesn't mean more time, as serious rehearsals for the next one kick in, uh, NOW.

A responsible person would take a look at her linguistics grade and realise that she should DROP. OUT. NOW.

But I can't. I have to do it and I want to do it. I love writing and I actually think it's what's keeping me sane right now, besides rehearsals. School is overwhelming me in ways I don't know that I've ever experienced. I was that good student that passed classes with pretty much no effort, but this year I've hit some walls that I didn't anticipate- like just how bad I'd be at Acting in Film & TV and just how much I want to please my Play & Screenwriting teacher. Not to mention the fact that tomorrow, my first poem for Poetry & Fiction will be analysed and I'm practically giving myself a heart attack worrying over it. The show-offy, teacher's pet seven year old in me is stomping her feet and whining.

*ahem*

Excuse me while I complain. I'm going to chill now and realise that just because today sucked doensn't necessarily mean I do. I'm only a day behind on my word count and I have many, many free hours that I can fill with writing now that I'm completely off-book for my next show.

Last Google search: Anglo-Norman French (sadly not for my novel, but for a linguistics essay that, if it earns a bad grade, I will cry.)
Last Thesaurus.com search: predecessor (I can never remember the antonym)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Playlist

Since I don't have much time to write at all today, let alone a blog entry (I'm dashing this off before a day that includes seven hours of rehearsal and a performance), I'll give you what I have a of a playlist for this year's NaNo.

All That's Known- Spring Awakening
21 Guns- American Idiot
Trainers in Love- ALL CAPS
There's a World- Next to Normal
Hey 1- Next to Normal
California Dorks (Parody of California Gurls)- Skyway Flyer
Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind- Spring Awakening
Totally F*****- Spring Awakening
Clark Gable- Postal Service
Everything Else- Next to Normal
Who's Crazy/My Psychopharmacologist and I- Next to Normal
Maybe (Next to Normal)- Next to Normal

It's surprisig to me that all of these songs have lyrics; I generally find any non-instrumental music very distracting when I'm writing. But all of this music fits at least one part of my novel so well that I had to use it.

(Oh, and if you haven't heard any of these songs, you should check them out, but especially ALL CAPS! They're my favorite band :) )

Now off to rehearsal!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cover Art!

I'm pretty hopeless with computer stuff; the last time I felt tech savvy at all was when I was trying to help my grandfather figure out instant messaging. Even when my mom needed help setting up her Facebook this summer, most of our conversations went like this:

MOM: And what is that over there?
ME: ...I don't know. I've never seen that before. What does that do?

Which is why I am extremely proud of the "cover art" I did for my NaNo novel. I know it's simple and a little rough, but I actually wanted it simple and as for the rough part... I think it looks pretty good!



(I did have my last name on it, too, but "painted" it out for internet purposes.)


I also had a meeting this afternoon about the playwrighting job. It's all working out really well. I got a little worried when the head of the project said that many of the programs don't get started in earnest until the spring semester and some of the programs aren't jump-started yet. Thankfully, the level I'm working at (third and fourth graders) has been involved for twenty years and they get most of their work done in the fall. Phew! I can't wait to get started!

Now I have to go submit myself to Write or Die... otherwise I'll never make my wordcount for the day. Second-to-last performance of Alice tonight :(

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rachel 101

Word Count: 6,667 / 50,000

The thing I love about NaNoWriMo (well, one of the things) is that it teaches me so much about myself. And not even about my work habits or top procrastination tools (though it covers those, too.) This novel, especially, is really showing me what I'm like as a person. The main character, Lyddie, is not at all based on myself- or at least, I never set out to make her so. But she and I share so many of the same fears- big and small, personal, relationship-centered, school issues- that I don't even realise I have or still have until I write a sentence or paragraph that makes me go, "Oh..." Normally, I would detail my findings, but honestly, most of them have surprised me so much that I'm not sure I'll ever reveal them to people who might actually read this book. And since I post excerpts here, you count!

Another thing that writing my novels has been teaching me, sort of a branch off of the last topic, is what about a situation scares me. I've rediscoverd a few fears while writing this book, but I also effectively creeped myself out today (writing one of the climactic scenes) enough to realise that complete calm from someone threatening is way scarier to me than anyone yelling anything. And the nice thing about actually feeling scared when I wrote the scene is that I just took what I was feeling sitting here in the library, typing, magnified it by ten, and wrote it in.

And now, after falling behind last night, I'm all caught up on my word count AND I'm pretty happy with what I wrote, which is rare when I cram in writing like this. So, smiles all around (except for my main character... she's not smiling right now.)

Last Google search: Naked Chocolate (the cafe where the write-in today is being held. Sadyl, I cannot go.)
Last Thesaurus.com search: glare

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Hooray, a WIP Wednesday where I'm not scrambling (or, er... skipping...) Here's a brand-new, just written yesterday exceprt from The Other Side of Light (NaNo2010):

I’m almost out the door when I notice an unattended table at the end of a row. There are a few brochures stacked on a corner and a few loose sheets of paper, but nothing else. Curious, I pick up one of the leaflets and unfold it. Inside are listed individual study opportunities. “Save the cost!” reads the first page inside. “Study with the College of Autarchical Studies and learn what you want on your own time, resulting in a degree you can take pride in- because you created it!”

I raise my eyebrows when I read this sentence. This sounds like those types of for – profit colleges that you hear about on t.v. and I’m kind of surprised that the school even let them into the building, let alone set up a table. I guess it’s an option, but not for me. I’ve just put the brochure back on top of the pile when I hear someone come up behind me.

“Interested in our school?” the man says. He’s so tall that I have to tilt my head back to see his face clearly. He makes it easier by coming around the table and sitting behind it so that we’re eye to eye.

“Um… just looking,” I respond, not wanting to be rude.

“Well, we’re taking applications now and the benefits of our school are great, especially if you don’t have the funds or time to go to a full – time university.”

“Oh,” I say, wondering how I can sneak away without too much more conversation. “Sounds… convenient.”

The man is still trying to hand me the paper, smiling widely behind his brown moustache. “Oh, it is. Take a look at our website when you get home, you’ll see what I mean.”

“Okay,” I nod, scanning the people around me for someone I know so I can pretend to need to talk to them. Sadly, I see no one.

“And maybe,” the man says, still grinning widely and holding out the pamphlet, “Someone from the college could pay a visit to you and your family? Explain to them a little about our mission and what you can glean from the program. Does that sound good?”

Now I’m getting weirded out. “Uh… I don’t know, we’re all pretty busy.”

“I’m sure we can work something out. Does your mom work?”

“My mom isn’t… around,” I answer and immediately regret responding at all. “I really don’t know if a meeting can be arranged.”

The papers are still being waved in my face. “Well, at least take the brochure. I’m sure you’ll see the benefits if you take the time to look into the program.”
Finally, I give in and take the booklet. “Sure. I will,” I say and scurry away as quickly as possible. The bell rings and I shove the brochure into my bag and take the steps two at a time.

At lunch, I set my tray on the table and plop down next to my best friend, Michelle. If you look at us quickly, we seem like an odd match. While we’re both thin, she’s about four foot nine and the tininess suits her, whereas I walk around next to her feeling like a giraffe. Where I’m awkward, she’s graceful. While I sit there in jeans and a t – shirt, she’s dressed in adorable little skirts and cute blouses.

“So where have you been?” Michelle inquires, putting aside the bread from her chicken sandwich. “I haven’t seen you all day.”

“Yeah, sorry. This morning I had to talk to Mrs. Taylor about going to McKinley in a couple of weeks to take the SAT-2s again. I want to get my writing score by at least a hundred. And then physics got out early for the college fair. Speaking of -” I open my iced tea. “Did you see that one table, the College of Autarchial Studies or whatever?”

“No,” Michelle says. “What is it? Sounds weird.”

“It was, and not just because of the ridiculous name. First of all, I can’t believe Principal Foeller would let them in – they didn’t look or sound very reputable. And then the guy running the table was just a creeper. He wasn’t there when I got to it, and then he came up behind me and started asking me all of these weird questions. I didn’t want to be rude and be like, ‘There is no freaking way I am going to your school, so bug off,’ but he wouldn’t let me go.”

“Awkward,” Michelle remarks, drinking her water with a straw.

“So you didn’t see him?”

“I didn’t even go.”

“Michelle!” I exclaim.

Though you might not be able to tell, Michelle’s crazy smart. She and I have been best friends since second grade and when we were kids, she was just as outwardly nerdy as I was- the books, the glasses, the constant raising of the hand. These days, she hides her intellect behind contacts and slightly too-short skirts, but in reality, she’s reading on her Blackberry, not texting, and she could whoop your butt at calculus while carrying on a conversation about the latest issue of People magazine. But as intelligent as she is, I sometimes suspect that she has no common sense.

“You need to get on this stuff,” I chide. “The process has to happen eventually; why not get a jump start? College is just around the corner.”

Michelle examines her perfect manicure. “Lyddie, calm down. It’s March of our junior year. I’ve got plenty of time. We all don’t need to be you, okay?”

A little stung, I take a sip of my tea and don’t say anything. Sometimes I forget that people aren’t as manically committed to things like perfect SAT scores and early decision as I am. Admittedly, I can get jealous of these people – they somehow find the time to relax and go to concerts or whatever. I wish I could be more like these people, like my best friend – she knows she’s smart and that’s all she needs; she doesn’t feel compelled to constantly prove it to others and to herself like I do. All of those tests she gets As on barely get a passing glance, while I pore over my A minus wondering how I can talk it into an A plus. What is it like to be calm about these things? I guess I’ve never considered that maybe Michelle isn’t hiding her smarts; maybe she’s just gained those I haven’t. I do have the contacts, though. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Missed Opportunities

Word Count: 3,475/50,000

Well, I'm still in I-love-my-novel mode. It will fade, I know, but right now, it's still (mostly) puppies and rainbows, and, even better, tomorrow I have some class time to write, since not only am I watching for nearly two hours in one class, but I'm sort of supervising a headshot photoshoot tomorrow. This will basically require me to make sure so-and-so is there and that's all, so... writing time! Though I'm a tiny bit ahead of where I need to be today, I wanted to write more than I did, so hopefully tomorrow, I can rectify that.

My two writing classes have showed me that, though I can often turn out good material, I also miss a lot of oppotunities. Thankfully, since it has been caught this entire semester, I've begun to spot it myself. I wrote a scene earlier today and pronounced it done (for now), but as I was writing the moments directly after it, I realised that the encounter had to be much, much creepier than it was. I made it so when I got back to my computer, and it's so much better for the story this way.

The nice thing about all this new writing is that I won't have to scramble for WIP Wednesday stuff for awhile!

Last Google search: how to become a publisher
Last Thesaurus.com seach: autarcical

Monday, November 1, 2010

And... GO!

Word Count: 1,913/50,000

NaNoWriMo 2010 has begun as of this morning, and I started typing at 12:00 am! I'm very happy to be ahead on my word count, since I will no doubt be falling far, far behind later this month. Besides having my usual schedule of classes, club rehearsals, and previously scheduled rehearsals, the director of my next show panicked this morning and schedule rehearsals for almost every single day/night... including nights that I absolutely cannot make due to classes. Still trying to work that out, but I'm digressing. What I'm trying to say is, I am going to be victorious despite everything!

Who else is doing NaNo?

And now I'm going to copy Kristina Horner's long-standing idea of a blog outro that will give you a fun look into my writing process:

Last Google search: history of security alarms

Last Thesaurus.com search:
predecessor antonym

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spoke Too Soon?

Whoops... sorry about not doing a WIP Wednesday yesterday. Though I did have an invited dress of Alice, I also had a cancelled class, so I don't really have an excuse.

I do have unfortunate news. I was talking to the head of the theatre department yesterday about submitting my piece. As I was filling out the form earlier that day, there was a part that asked that, if you were chosen, would you be at the festival? "Do you have to be there to submit?" I asked him. "Yes," he said. "They work really closely with the playwrights and the whole workshop process is part of the package. Not being able to go will really lower your chances of being chosen."

CRAP. As excited as I am to go to England, it's stuff like this that makes me sad I won't be in America. And the worst part is, I'm only missing this festiva by about two weeks. But I just keep reminding myself of all the great opportunities over there.

Anyway, the point is, since I can't go to th festival, it would be smarter to hold onto my script until next year. That way, not only will I not be teasing them with it, should they want to choose it, but if I DO get chosen next year, I won't have to endure the heartbreak of turning it down. I already almost cried when I heard I had to attend the festival in order to be considered.

But what I need to remember is a) there is a festival next year, and the year after that, and so on, b) I'm not a senior this year, c) I can submit peices up to two years after I've graduated, and d) not being able to submit this year should not detract from the exitement of just being asked to do so; I'm thrilled that my teacher thought enough of my writing to ask me to submit it to a huge competition like this.

That said, he hasn't answered my e-mail about this topic. I could call him- I have his number. But I don't want to break it to him or hear him disappointed or hear whatever I'm going to hear. I'm going to work on the piece until he says stop, just in case there's some way for me to enter.


In other news, I'm testing out the new Scrivener for Windows Beta. I've wanted Scrivener for years, and though it took me awhile to figure it out, I'm loving it so far.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

!!!!

More excitement!

I was super early to Play & Screenwriting today because I'm a nerd, and when I got there, my teacher handed me my six-week evaluation. First, there were surprises- like that he liked my first terrible piece more than I thought he had (I was literally in tears over it), and that he didn't quite understand the last piece I submitted (which wasn't exactly a blow... I was never too enthusiastic about it myself.)
And then there was the awesome- when he wrote about my first ten-minute piece, he said he wanted to send it to this great theatre fesitval that my school took part in last year, and will be again this year. AHHHH!!!!!! I am so excited, because he'd already offered it to another girl in my class and I had wished that I could do that- and now I am!

Now the challenges begin- all submissions are due THIS week, and I need to get it down to ten pages (it's fifteen at the moment, though in the original draft, it was ten.) It's going to be hard, mostly because Alice shows begin tomorrow (invited dress... eek.) However, since we don't officially open 'til Friday, I have a whole night free on Thursday, so though I had thought I might go see a show, I think I'll stay in and work on this script. I'm so excited!

(And a little fact about this scene that I think is cool- I began writing it at last year's theatre festival, sitting in the middle of an auditorium surrounded by my fellow artists.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Awesome Day!

This morning, I rose at six to get ready for my day. By eight fifteen, my group and I were on the road. The road to where, you ask? The road to a workshop for my new job!

If you don't remember my news, I got a position as a teaching theatre artist assisting a teacher in helping kids K-12 write and produce their own plays! Unfortunately, I'll only be there half as long as a lot of other people, since England is pulling me away. But I'm excited to do what I can.

So today's retreat was a ten-hour workshop where we did ice breakers, practiced the teaching methods we have the options of using, brainstormed, improvised, wrote, presented, read, and lots and lots of other stuff. It was so much fun! Though it was tne hours, it certainly didn't feel like it (well... there was one point right before lunch where I found myself not paying attention, but that's just my childhood habit of getting grumpy when I'm hungry. And I had an awful headache. But once they fed me, I was good.)

There's a lot to write about the workshop, but here were some of my favorite parts:

-Using imaginary binoculars to spy on imaginary people and relaying their thoughts to the rest of the group.

-Yelling during an improv exercise: "BUT GOD WANTS ME TO GO ON THE SKI TRIP!'

-Brainstorming a list of important events/occasions that included the return of the dinosaurs, the apocalypse, Wear a Wig to Work Day, parent/teacher conferences, and birth.

-The amazing pizza at lunch.

-Getting 45 minutes after lunch to write a complete scene.

-Presenting said scenes to a group of teachers, teaching artists, and a professional playwright, all of whom gave me great feedback.

-Having one of my group members say that her love for my scene was so great, she wanted to use it for her acting class. I'm revising the scene for her now.

-Being pleasantly surprised at the quality of 98% of the scenes. I don't know what I expecting, but WOW could the people in this workshop write!

-Meeting amazing and talented people that I want to get to know better.


It was, in a word, awesome.


I've also been utilising my new writing journal. I've always written in notebooks, but never in ONE notebook just for writing. Usually I just write it on a page, rip it out, then hope I don't lose it. But now I've got a beautiful black writing journal and most of my pages look like this:



Last night, I traveled into the city to see a show for school. Usually on the train, I listen to music, but my Zune is currently being repaired. Instead, I wrote. I wrote 2,410 words while on the train! Maybe my Zune being broken is a blessing in disguise!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plotting and Planning

So not only is NaNoWriMo fast approaching (11 days and counting), during which time I will be asked to produce at least 1,667 words every day or risk falling behind on the ever-important word count, but I'm working on two shows AND I have all of my writing classes that will be going strong in November as well.

I know you know this; it's the purpose of this blog. But I thought I would just reiterate just how much writing I'm doing this semester, and especially in November. It's crazy. It's great. And it's going to be really hard to keep up.

I'm having kind of a moral crisis about NaNoWriMo. It centers around the fact that I've already begun the novel I'm going to be working on. I feel like I'm in one of those angel-and-devil-on-the-shoulders type of situation.

DEVIL: If you fall behind on your word count, it's TOTALLY acceptable to count the 14,679 words you've already written in for the day. You're busy, it's understandable. Besides, it's not like you're writing this in a blog or whatever- NO ONE WILL KNOW!

ANGEL: Are you doing National Novel Writing Month or National I Wrote Most of This in a Month But I Cheated Because I Was Lazy Month? Do you think you'll really feel fulfilled if you take teh easy route? You know if you don't compose 50,000 BRAND NEW words this month, you won't let yourself count it.

DEVIL: She can't do math anyway, so why not make it that much easier?

ANGEL: Yes, but starting her wordcount from scratch will push her to explore her characters and situations more deeply, especially if she's short on words for the month.

DEVIL: What do you think she's been doing for the past several months? Exploring characters and situations!

ANGEL: (sing-song) Cheating, cheating, cheating...

DEVIL: It's not like she didn't put work on what she's written for the past few months-

ANGEL: (putting her fingers in her ears) La, la, la, I can't hear you!

DEVIL: Aren't you supposed to be the good one?

Yeah...

Anyway, in addition to continue to work on the plot of my NaNo novel, I spent this afternoon sorting out the plot of my Peter Pan play. I'm so, so excited that this is going to be my final project because it's going to push me to finish it. I also found out, as I was filling out the breakdown table I made in Word that technically, I have the most of the first part of the assignment done. If I wanted, I could call the first act (of, I think, three) done. Wow... It's still going to take a lot of work for me to finish this play in a way that my Type-A personality will accept as "good."

Speaking of well-written plays, I just bought my ticket to see Time Stands Still (by Donald Margulies) for a second time. The writing in it is just incredible, so great that I was willing to pay through the nose to sit in the orchestra section (I was in the very very last row last time- they actually had to give my friends and I booster seats to see.) Also, Laura Linney, one of my favorite actors, is in it, along with Brian d'Arcy James, who I also love. They're electric onstage. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WIP Wednesday

I wrote this monologue for Play & Screenwriting. I had planned on composing something completely different- a not-so-great experience from my life that caused me to make a few choices I still hold fast to today. However, as I was writing it, I realised that, though it had actually happened to me, it sounded convoluted and over-dramatic. Plus, I thought I would be okay with people reading it, but in the end, it was too personal.

So in the end, I wrote this. It's kind of surprising to me that I did because, as an actor, I LOATHE monologues like this- where the delivering character is listening to someone who's not there. There are other parts that I like though, so I'm all right with that.


HANNAH: I was actually on time for class, Mrs. Collins, but honestly, I’m lucky to have made it here at all. See, this day has just been terrible. I mean, awful. It’s like that- that thing you were talking about a couple of classes ago, the whatsit… some guy’s law about things going wrong. (Beat) Yeah, Murphy’s Law, exactly. Well, it’s been like that.

I got up this morning and things immediately went downhill as soon as I looked in the mirror. I don’t really consider myself a vain person, Mrs. Collins, but seriously, this morning, my hair decided to stage a mutiny. I won’t bore you with the sordid details, but suffice it to say that scissors and an excessive amount of gel were used. It wasn’t pretty.

I knew I was running late so I literally ran to my car because there is nothing more important to me than your English class, as shown by the hours I spent finishing up that essay last night. (Beat) Well, I don’t actually have it on me… that Murphy thing again, it’ll kill you, right? (Laughs, but gets no response) Anyway, I ran to my car, turn the key and what do you know, the battery was dead. Unbelievable, right? I thought so, too. Luckily, after a good twenty minutes- that believe me, Mrs. Collins, were spent in tears on my part, I was so distressed- my dad found some jumper cables and brought good old Sammy the Saturn back to life. (Beat)

Well, yes, you would think that that would have been it, but as I was racing here, I realized that I hadn’t had any breakfast. You may not understand this, Mrs. Collins, due to your slender frame and will of iron, but when my stomach asks for something, I have to oblige. Otherwise, things get ugly. Plus, you know by my outstanding academic record that I am nothing if not a rule-follower, and I would not want to cross the United States Department of Agriculture if they found out I had skipped the most important meal of the day.

But did I stop at my favorite cafĂ© for a delicious croissant and fragrant cup of coffee? No I did not. Because making it to your class is worth the health risk of fast food. Unfortunately, today McDonald’s seemed to be operating under a… oh, that thing you talked about when we were reading A Tale of Two Cities… a paradox! Am I using that right? Well, anyway, what I’m trying to say is that today, it was slow food. I mean, how long does it take to make a freaking breakfast sandwich?

Eventually they finally coughed up my food- not literally of course, that would be gross, and then I would have had to wait for another sandwich. So then I jumped back into my car, pulled back onto the road, thinking I was going to sneak in right on time… but I hit every single traffic light. Like, all fifteen. (Beat) Well, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but I’m not lying when I say I hit all of them. (Beat) Okay, I hit both of them. Then I pull into the parking lot, stumble out of my car, race into the building and I’m practically to your classroom when Principal Harris demands to see me in his office. Can you believe him? Denying me the pleasure of attending your class to have an impromptu talk with me? And the subject of the discussion was completely ridiculous- he claims that my file includes several more tardy arrivals. I told him I resented the slander to my reputation, but he just kept talking.

He finally let me leave, but when I got out of the office, I saw that the janitor had just washed the floor, and I don’t believe in disrespecting our maintenance staff by traipsing across the spotless floor and undoing all of their hard work. So I had to go down the language wing and then up the mathematics wing, and that was slow going because numbers make me dizzy and I was concerned that I might faint and then not make it to class at all.

So Mrs. Collins, I just wanted to return this detention slip to you because not only do I believe it’s unnecessary due to the unforeseen circumstances that prevented me from arriving to your class in a timely manner, but the thought of a tree dying for a mistaken gives me a pain in my heart… although that may be the breakfast sandwich. So here you go. I’ll turn in my essay tomorrow.



There are a few changes to be made- my class gave me some awesome suggestions.

In related news, I got permission to write the complete adaptation of my Peter Pan prequel. My teacher's a little skeptical about whether my main character (Mrs. Darling as a child) is interesting enough, but nevertheless, I'm jazzed that he's allowing me to explore that- in a full script. I've got what accumulates to about half of it (40 pages), but I think he wants me to write the first act first... eep! I'm not a linear writer at all! Thankfully, I have the advantage of knowing my project pretty well already.


Hm... I think someone's smoking under my window... gross.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What to Workshop?

During Thursday's class, my Poetry & Fiction teacher informed us that there was a writing workshop happening on campus in November and if we wanted a spot, we had to submit our material immediately. I looked on jealously while my classmates with computers fired off e-mails to the organizer.

Thankfully, I sent him an e-mail right after class and got a spot in the workshop. Hooray! But now I have no idea what to submit. I need to give them up to six pages of double-spaced prose (or some poetry, but, er... I don't have any), and I have NO idea what I'm going to turn in. I have six pages of fiction that I really like, but it's six pages single-spaced and once I work on the suggestions given to me by my classmates, it'll be longer. What am I going to submit?!


In other news, I completed my rewrite of my second scene for Play & Screenwriting and I'm really happy with it. It went from ten pages to sixteen pages and I had to add two more very minor characters, but I'm still pleased.
I have a two-page monologue due for that class tomorrow... though I've been thinking about it a lot, I haven't started. But I think that may be for the best- then I won't over-think it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writer on Campus!

Tonight, I went to an awesome talk through the Writers Return to Campus program at my university. The YA author Frankie Mallis spoke tonight about the publishing business, the process of getting an agent, networking, and a few other things. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and took pages of notes! It was inspirational to see someone from my own school doing so well! Frankie, if you're reading this, thanks for coming!


In other news, I'm sorry about being so lax with posting lately. I've been super busy with the start of rehearsals for my next play and continuing rehearsals for Alice. But still, I don't want to be slacking, considering that I'll be doing both shows during NaNoWriMo- which is only two weeks away! Ahhh!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reexamining

Wow... so remember back in August when I was talking about how my free, easy schedule would make NaNoWriMo super easy because I'd have all of this free time?

Yeah, that was before I was cast in two shows that overlap each other. Alice in Wonderland runs from the end of this month until the first weekend in November, and then yesterday I was cast in another show that starts rehearsals tomorrow and runs from the end of November to the beginning of December. And since we're getting started so late, pretty much every day from Wednesday to Sunday is a rehearsal day.

As an actor, I'm not complaining- I'm jazzed that in the next four days, I have seven rehearsals. But it IS going to my NaNo really difficult because not only do we have rehearsals, but I am playing one of the leads with A LOT of lines and I have to have them all memorized by the last day of Alice performances.

But I shall pulol through. In the end, I may have to compensate for lost words with the 9,000 or so I already have written, but I hope I won't have to. I just have to reexamine my plan of attack.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exciting News!

I got some amazing news this afternoon when I went down to the theatre office. The "office" is a triple-wide trailer where they stick all of us theatre types, and when I arrived there to sign up for tomorrow's feild trip to NYC, my teacher told me something exciting- I'd gotten the job I applied for on Friday!

The job entails working with kids of various ages (from elementary up to high school) to create their own plays which will then be performed by professional actors, or so I've heard. Thirteen of us applied and they were meant to only take seven, but in the end, they liked all of us so much that they hired all thirteen!

I'm really excited. Though I have no actual aspirations to be a teacher, I do like working with kids and I love playwrighting, so this will be great! As I was working like a crazy woman on my writing resume two weekends ago, I couldn't figure out why I cared so much. Only then did I realise just how much I wanted the position.

So now that I am embarking on this new adventure, expecting to read my chronicles of being a playwrighting TA!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Planning Phase

I've started into the novel planning again. I'm very excited about this novel, and I've been discovering a lot about my characters these past few planning days. It's exciting.

In working on a scene that will come at the end of the novel, Lyddie is discussing an issue with her mother, a similar hardship they both faced at almost the same times in their respective lives. When I first thought about her mother, I saw her as a much different person than Lyddie. She is, in some ways- she's not as abrasive, a little less ambitious. But they're also incredibly alike- overconfidence is their weakness, as is taking on too much. It was so cool to find this out as I was writing a semi-monologue for Leah (Lyddie's mother.)

Sorry for the random post... I'm just excited :p

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WIP Wednesday

This is a piece I wrote very quickly for an English assignment last week. It's semi-autobiographical up to the point after her agent calls. To the actors who might read this, I apologise if the film stuff is incorrect. It's shamefully been years since I've been on a real film set. Enjoy!


When people think of actors, they think of movie stars- Tom Hanks, Kate Winslet, Steve Martin. Or sometimes they think of Broadway performers- Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Hunter Foster. Who they don’t think of are people like me- those at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. Today, however, is my first step toward changing all of that. I plan to knock today’s audition out of the park, nail the role, and get my name in lights… or at least in the credits.

I locate the office of the Gilmore Group, a brand-new casting agency here in town. It’s very small, but the interior is like most casting offices I’ve been to: sparse and stylish with posters of past projects on the wall, usually signed by the leading actors. The posters here are for movies I don’t recognize, probably small indie projects filmed somewhere in Colorado. But hey, I’m not knocking it. I would give my left arm to be doing one of those. In order to do that, however, I need to focus on today’s audition.

What everyday people (as we term them, “non-actors”, or sometimes just “normal people”) don’t understand about films is that every single little part is laboriously auditioned for by people like me. In a huge movie, when the main character enters an office building and asks for the office of Mr. Smith, the woman behind the desk who says only, “Just go down the hall and to the left,” had to come to a casting agency just like this and sweat over how to make those nine words interesting enough for the directors to choose her. It’s not easy. The amount of time I’ve spent pacing around my tiny apartment saying single lines like, “I’d recommend the salad special,” and “She came by a few minutes ago,” over and over, trying to get just the right inflection, is embarrassing. But it’s also necessary for the reason that I see when I walk into the lobby of the Gilmore Group.

There, sitting on the various couches and chairs, are twenty girls who look exactly like me. I tried to mix it up this time- the character description said that the role I’m trying out for (Girl Walking Dog) could be either funky or conservative, and I went with the former, thinking that the cool red blouse I got would be perfect. Apparently, however, every other 5’5” not-as-slender-as-we-should-be dishwater blonde in the city also had the same idea, and we’re all sitting in the same room. I should have gone conservative…

I try not to let it bother me as I go over to the sign-in table. I find my name on the list, write in my arrival time and the title of my agency, and hand over a copy of what is my only identity in this world: my headshot and resume. In the picture, I actually do look pretty. The hair and make-up lady easily tamed my hair in a way I never seem to manage and my blue shirt brings out my eyes. I should have worn blue today! That would have made all the difference! Well, no going back now. I see the assistant on the other side of the table reading over my resume. Hm, a raised eyebrow. Is that her being impressed by my long list of theatre credits, or is she silently scoffing at the fact that my “big” TV appearance was as “Mennonite Girl” in a Lifetime movie?

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. My resume is my resume and I’ve worked hard to get it in the shape it is now. I take one of the few remaining seats among my doppelgangers and fish around my bag for my script. It takes a second as my hand selects, then rejects, the emergency make-up, the extra headshots and the cell phone, finally locating my lines. I pull them out and skim over the words highlighted in yellow. I have to get this right. This is the kind of audition I’ve been waiting for since I started acting ten years ago. Because this isn’t a try-out for a one-liner. No. No, this time, I have five lines. Five! That’s enough to pass as a “featured” role! It might seem paltry, but this is the stuff of dreams for people on my level. I can’t screw this up.

While some of the girls around me are sitting quietly- some reading over the same lines, others listening to music- most are doing that actory thing that I detest: “chatting” with their competition while slipping in the titles of companies and people that they’ve (supposedly) worked with. Personally, I don’t think any of us has much bragging to do, because if we did, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now, waiting to prove just how naturally we can speak. I try to block out the inane one-upping game and turn my attention back to my lines.

“Taryn Kinsley?” We all fall silent as a casting director’s assistant opens the door to the audition room. “Is there a Taryn Kinsley here?” No one responds as we all look around for the absent actress. Who on earth would miss this opportunity? Finally, a girl across the room, who has been listening to music, starts and pulls out her ear buds. “Did you say Taryn? That’s me, that’s me, I’m coming!” She drops her iPod in her bag, takes her script from a side table, and hurries over to the assistant. “Emily Davis, you’re on deck!” the assistant calls just before the door shuts behind Taryn.

Upon hearing my name, I sit up a little straighter on the couch and make sure that my hair is not frizzing out. Taryn will spend approximately three minutes in that room and I need to be ready for my respective three as soon as they summon me.

It passes both too slowly and too quickly. When the assistant opens the door to dismiss Taryn, I stand, the script shaking in my hands. I should have memorized it, then my nerves wouldn’t be so apparent. Oh, well, they know I’m nervous anyway. We all are. And not just today; the fact that we’ve basically chosen a life of unemployment makes us all perpetually anxious.

I step past the assistant and into the small room. Squeezed into it is a big TV monitor, a camera, a table and three chairs, at which the casting directors are sitting, a cameraman, and also a potted plant, which I guess is supposed to make us feel more comfortable but only makes the space even more cramped.

The assistant reminds the agents of my name and one of them reaches her hand across the table. “Hello, Emily. Thanks for coming in today.” I shake her hand, hoping she can’t feel it shaking. “If you could just take your mark, we’ll get started.”

My gaze automatically drops to the floor as I seek out the tape that will show me where to stand. There are a variety of markings, each meaning something different, and finally I locate today’s: a blue ‘T.’ I step over to it and place my feet on either side of the T’s base. That film acting class might have cost a fortune, but I’d have looked like a moron just then if I hadn’t learned stuff like this.

“Okay, Emily, you’ll be reading with Frank today, so whenever you’re ready.”

I look down at the script and for a second, the words look foreign to me. But then I take a deep breath and remember the time I put into this. I practiced these lines. I gave my character a name. I even gave her a backstory, for God’s sake! I probably know more about Girl Walking Dog than the people in front of me. Now I just have to prove that to them.

Frank and I read through the short scene in less than two minutes. It’s not exactly plot-furthering material, but I get a laugh on the third line about the pigeons from the guy sitting to the right. That’s something, at least.

“Good.” It’s the woman talking again. “That was great, Emily.” There’s a pause, something that usually indicates that a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” is forthcoming. But just as I start to utter the requisite “thank you” that comes before an exit, the man on the left- who didn’t change expression during my entire read- sits forward.

“Can I see that again… Emily?” he says, his eyes straying to my resume to check my name. “But can you do it with a French accent? And maybe make her a little more dead-pan?”

I say “Sure!” as I give myself a second to internally celebrate. Getting direction is like gold. Direction is like getting a “maybe,” and a chance to turn that “maybe” into a “yes.” But my inner party dies down when I recall what he just said. “You wanted a French accent?”

“Yes,” the man says. “We were thinking it might be funnier if she weren’t American, and I see that you have ‘French accent’ on your resume.”

Crap. I knew I should have taken that off. I used to be able to do a great French accent, but the last time I used it was years ago. I don’t even want to know how rusty it’s going to be if I haul it out now. But there’s no saying no at an audition. Fake it ‘til you make it, as some say.

I clear my throat and hold the script up a little higher. ‘Think Marion Cotillard. Think La Vie En Rose!’ Why didn’t I watch that movie more closely? Well, can’t fix that now. Frank says the first line and I respond with mine. And to my surprise, my accent isn’t too bad. I slip into something that sounds like British/Spanish at one point, but overall… not cringe-worthy. At the last minute, I remember that the casting director wanted it more dead-pan and rather than giving my pigeon line the usual comic nudge, I just say it without inflection. The guy on the right chuckles more heartily than last time and as the reading comes to a close, I’m delighted. I did it! And they liked me! Sally Field, I understand your speech now!

“Nice job, Emily,” the woman says as the cameraman. “We’ll let you know.” And then I’m escorted from the room. This is a little disappointing; I had been hoping to be offered the part then and there, but again, I’m not Kate Winslet. But as I pick up my bag and head for the door, I feel great. I did what I came here to do. I give the girl behind the desk a cheery wave as I breeze through the door.

* * * * * *

I didn’t get it. The audition was two weeks ago and my agent hasn’t called. This is so disappointing. No, cut the professionalism- this just sucks. I worked so hard. I thought they liked me. But I guess one of my identical competitors was what they wanted.

I’ve been on a few auditions since then, but none of them went as well. Maybe I’m just not cut out for film and television. I’ve always considered theatre my strong point anyway, although I haven’t been getting any of those parts either. I used to get parts all the time! I used to be in three shows at once! What happened? Did I peak in my teens? Oh, God, that’s depressing.

I return to the spreadsheet I’ve been making for my boss. He always tells me how good I am at my job, so I guess I could just keep doing this for the rest of my life… But I don’t want to! I’m trained to be an actor! I want to do that- I have to do that, I don’t have any other skills (making spreadsheets doesn’t count.)

On the floor, my bag starts to vibrate and my heart can ‘t help but jump. Could it be-? No, it’s ridiculous to hope that it’s my agent about the audition after two weeks have gone by, but try and tell that to my heart. It pounds as I frantically dig for my phone. I finally pull it out and look at the screen. It is my agent! I press the ‘answer’ button too many times in my hurry and worry that I’ve hung up on him.

“Hello? Hello?!”

“Emily!” My agent, Bill, sounds cheery as always. I feel like he uses that voice to counter the cutthroat business we’re in.

“Hi, Bill,” I say nervously. “Do you have an audition for me?” That can be the only other reason he’s calling.

“Actually,” Bill begins and my heart tries to pound out my chest. “I’ve got some good news for you. The Gilmore Group just called and they want you to be their Girl With Dog.”

“Really?!” I squeal, abandoning all pretense. “Oh, my God, that’s great!”

“It sure is,” Bill says. I can hear his smile under his bushy moustache. “You’re filming tomorrow. Be at the Paramount lot by five a.m, and make sure to bring that accent. They loved it! I’m having a messenger bring over your pages and parking permit tonight. Great job, kid, and have fun tomorrow.” He hangs up.

My hands are shaking. I did it! I’m Girl With Dog! Me! I immediately run to my boss’ office and ask for the next day off. If you wonder why actors are always working boring paper-pushing day jobs, this is why- we won’t be missed should be actually get to live the dream for a day or two.

The next morning at 4:45 a.m., I pull into the Paramount lot. I feel like a star as I flash the guard my permit and pull into a parking space. I feel even cooler as I sit in the hair and make-up trailer with a cup of coffee, trying to wake up as they powder my face and style my hair.

Before I know it, I’m standing in the middle of a backlot park, surrounded by trees and benches. I’m wearing a stylish jogging suit, my hair swept up in a simple yet somehow flattering ponytail. When we start to film, the animal trainer will hand over “my” dog, an adorable huge, friendly Golden Retriever named Boris.

“Hey.”

I turn and my mouth immediately goes dry. Because standing right in front of me is Brian Greene, a new but wildly famous actor and the star of this movie. Though I read with Frank at the audition, today I’ll be exchanging lines with the real thing.

“H-hi,” I finally stammer.

Brian smiles perfectly. “Have you done much film work before?” he asks as a make-up artist swoops in to take the shine off of his forehead.

“Uh… a little.” No need to bring up what the roles were.

“It’s great isn’t it? Nothing like it.” He smiles again, but before I can answer, the director shouts, “Quiet, please. Actors to places!” Brian and I situate ourselves over our respective tape marks. “Okay, we’re going for a take!” The animal trainer hands me Boris’ leash as another man snaps a slate in front of the nearest camera. “Scene thirty-four, take one.”

“Background action! Sound!”

“Rolling.”

“And… action!”

Brian leisurely speaks his first words and I respond, accent and all, while patting Boris head like he’s my own dog. Since I only have a few lines, the scene is over in just a few seconds. The director pronounces it fine, but we do another one for safety. This is thrilling- my dreams are coming true!

But every thrill must come to an end, and this one does much too quickly. Before I know it, Boris is being led away by the handler and Brian is giving me one last smile before he goes off to get ready for his next scene. I’m quickly escorted to wardrobe to change into my own clothes and then it’s time for me to go. I’m told that the movie is expected to be released in seven months and to watch out for it.

Ten months later, I’m watching TV and suddenly, there’s the trailer for the movie. I sit bolt upright and immediately call my best friend and make a plan to go see it on opening day. Maybe it’s narcissistic, but I want to see myself on the big screen!

At the cinema, we settle into our seats, soda and popcorn at the ready. I have only a vague idea of when my scene might be, as I never saw the full script. But as soon as I see Brian jogging in a familiar-looking park, dressed in the same suit he was wearing when we filmed together, I nudge Chloe. “This is it! This is it!”

Brian jogs around a corner and I know that any minute, he’s going to approach onscreen me. But then he makes his way over to a police officer, exchanges a few words with him, and jogs off. The next shot is of him unlocking his car and climbing in.

“Where were you?” Chloe whispers. “Did I miss it? Is it coming later?”

I’m so confused. “I don’t get it… we filmed in that park. He was wearing that same outfit…” I trail off, realising that my scene has met the dreaded cutting room floor. I shake my head at Chloe and sigh. I had always known that the scene could suffer that fate, but I’d hoped that my incredible and Oscar-worthy performance (I’m kidding, of course) would make it worth keeping.

“Well,” Chloe says. “At least you got to film with Brian Greene. And hey, maybe it’ll be on the extras!”

“Yeah, maybe,” I say, taking a handful of popcorn. I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t get to see myself onscreen, but Chloe’s right. I got to exchange real and fictional words with a major movie star- who proved to be a nice guy. The $1500 check didn’t hurt either. I make a plan to buy the DVD as soon as it comes out. If anything, I can put the scene on my reel. I smile, sit back in my seat, and watch the rest of the movie. One day- one day for sure- I’d see myself up there.