Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Time seemed to drag to infinity as I waited for Sarah. The clock ticked loudly.




I clutched the locket in my hand and opened and closed it with my thumb. Finally, I heard a noise outside the front door of my tiny apartment. I went to the door and opened it.

“About time you showed up. You’re half an hour late. I need to get up early to-“ I stopped talking. The person standing in front of me was not Sarah… or at least, not Sarah as I had seen her before.

Usually neat as a pin, Sarah’s clothes were torn, her hair in tangles, and there was dirt on her face except where tears had streaked it clean. As soon as she saw me, she started to cry.

“I can’t take the locket back, Avery,” she sobbed.

This shocked me a little. I couldn’t keep the thing myself. Wearing any sort of finery at the factory, where we worked, was not only against the rules, it was dangerous. Leaning into the machines like we did, it was easy enough for a girl to get a necklace or long hair pulled into the machine, and the rest of her with it. Leaving it at my sad apartment, however, was also out of the question. The door’s lock had been missing since I took the place and I had a good idea that my neighbor was a kleptomaniac.

“What happened, Sarah?” I asked with concern, guiding her to the sagging couch in the middle of the room.

It took her a few seconds to get ahold of herself. “I was walking home from work and I took the back way; I didn’t want to walk through the protest on Park. I was about halfway when someone came up behind me and grabbed me. I couldn’t see them at first, but she told me to give her the locket and I could tell by her voice that it was Kathleen. I had asked her to take care of the locket before I asked you, and she told me no.”

“But… why would she attack you?” I asked. I knew Kathleen- she worked six people down the row and was always dutiful and quiet.

New tears trickled down Sarah’s face. “She said she needed to trade it for money- that her sister Elizabeth was sick. I told her I didn’t have it, but she didn’t believe me and tried to convince me to give it up. I can’t take it back, Avery, I can’t. I want to help Kathleen, but that locket’s all I have.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes as I tried to think. I couldn’t believe the lengths mouse-like Kathleen had taken to get some cash, but we all needed it for one reason or another. I didn’t want to keep the locket myself, but Sarah wouldn’t take it back.

Finally, I got up and motioned my friend to do the same. “Help me.” She followed me over to the woodstove on the other side of the room. It wasn’t lit this time of year, so I instructed her to help me push it away from the wall. We couldn’t move it far, but I didn’t need much room to carry out my plan. I took my small knife- the one I used to cut the threads at the factory- from my pocket and used it to cut a small square in the cheap drywall. I took the square out and set the locket inside, replacing the piece of wall. Sarah started to cry again as we pushed the stove back into place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Non Writing- Related Question

Hello, everyone. Pardon the deviance from my blog theme, but I am in need of some tech help.

I'm creating a new blog on this account to record my semester in England and I found the PERFECT layout. But since it was created outside of Blogger (though still for Blogger), I'm not sure how to apply it. I know you have to do some HTML stuff, but when I tried it, it didn't go well.

Any help at all would be appreciated!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Failure Demonstrated

Today I was told by one of my awesome teachers that one must be willing to fail big. As I told you yesterday, I did that last night. And I'm going to embrace it by posting what I submitted to my class. While you may be tempted to mock me mercilessly for it, I ask that if you must, you also give me some improvement tips. Because God knows this piece needs it. So... here it is. Steel yourselves.

JILL: a woman in her late twenties.
ELIZABETH: a woman in her late forties.

(JILL enters, wheeling a cart full of file boxes. She stops in front of a desk where ELIZABETH is sitting, immersed in something she is reading.)
JILL. Okay. I’m done. They’re all filed.

(without looking up) You alphabetized the submissions?

JILL. Yes.

ELIZABETH. And the book order forms?


ELIZABETH. Did you fax the notes from yesterday’s consultation?

JILL. Last night.

ELIZABETH. Fine. Put them in the storeroom for now.

JILL. The storeroom?

ELIZABETH. Have you forgotten where it is?

JILL. No, but… you told me I had to have this done by five so you could take them to
the meeting.

ELIZABETH. Well, we don’t need them anymore. Damian had them on his computer and it’s just easier to do it that way.

JILL. (defeated) So you don’t need the copies either?

ELIZABETH. (returning to her work) No.

JILL. (under her breath as she makes to the wheel the cart away) Unbelievable.

ELIZABETH. What was that?

JILL. Nothing.

ELIZABETH. Jill, if you can’t get over the fact that sometimes plans can change,
you’re going to have a hard time getting along in this business. I suggest you get used to it or start looking for another position fast because the job market is going nowhere good.

JILL. I’ll take these to the storeroom.

ELIZABETH. (calling after her) Oh, and we’ll be here late since David forgot to get samples in yesterday and we have to make sure it doesn’t undo all the work we’ve already put in.

JILL. (turning back) But-

ELIZABETH. I know you asked to leave early, but we can’t spare you tonight.

JILL. Elizabeth, come on. You know I never ask for any favors, but I really need to leave by six tonight.

ELIZABETH. We all have lives, but we both need to put them aside tonight. We’ve got tests to run.

JILL. But-

ELIZABETH. And when you pick up dinner, make sure to get something for yourself. I need you take a look at these papers before the meeting.

(JILL doesn’t answer, just goes over to the storeroom and rolls the cart in. That done, she checks that ELIZABETH is occupied and takes her phone out of her pocket and dials it.)

JILL. (in a low voice) Hey, Sarah, it’s me.

(ELIZABETH’s phone rings.)

ELIZABETH: (picking it up) Harcourt Enterprises, Elizabeth speaking… oh, hi, Terry.

JILL. Listen, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get away in time… well, I know…

ELIZABETH. I’m fine. It’s just a little crazy here today. I think I’ll be here until
ten or so.

JILL. Probably until the end of my life… Ten… I’m sorry, you know I want to be there before he goes in, but I can’t lose this job! We’re lucky donors are covered by insurance, otherwise tonight wouldn’t even be an issue.

ELIZABETH. I could, but I’d rather not. I need to keep busy, you know? Keep my mind off it, otherwise I’ll spend too much time worrying.

JILL. Sarah, stop it, you know I want to be there, but I can’t get away. Anyway,
maybe it’ll keep my mind off it. I know it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t know why my husband has to choose to put his life in danger for someone else’s.

ELIZABETH. I’m just glad we found someone. He’s been waiting for so long that I’d kind of lost hope… No, he didn’t. You know Paul. Never sees the bad in any situation.

JILL. …No, he was completely willing. I mean, how else do you think his name ended up on the list? I swear, he practically did a dance when they contacted him. “Hooray, they’re going to take away my kidney!” I don’t understand it. Does that make me selfish?... (sarcastic) Thanks.

(JILL, after checking that ELIZABETH is still occupied, crosses to a tiny kitchen and begins to prepare two instant dinners, still on the phone.)

ELIZABETH. Thanks, that’s good to know… Well, as much as he wants to, he can’t work for another few months and I’ll even be driving him around for a few weeks. But I don’t mind... Well, when he’s working I don’t get to see him until dinner every night, so I think this will actually be nice.

JILL. It’s going to be awful… Well, Stephen needs to be driven everywhere for awhile, which I’m totally happy to do, but I probably won’t be able to do because I can’t get away from my stupid job, but I can’t quit my stupid job because Stephen can’t work... Yeah, right. You haven’t met my boss. She would have zero sympathy for me. The woman is a robot, I swear.

ELIZABETH. No, no one… I just don’t think it needs to be spread around. Besides, we don’t talk about much beyond business here, and none of them know Paul, so what would it matter to them?... Well, that’s the beauty of being my own boss, I can work my schedule around it and no one questions it.

JILL. Yeah, and get this- I can’t ask for those times off, but I took a look at the schedule yesterday and she’s given herself all of this time off for the next century… I know… Oh, it is? (Looks at her watch) Oh… Yeah, uh, just tell him I love him and I’ll be there as soon as I can… I don’t know, just as soon as I can, okay?

ELIZABETH. Already? Isn’t it a little early?... (Nervous) Oh, I see… No, I’m fine… Yes, I’m sure. I just need to… not think about it for a little while, okay?... That sounds good. Tell him I love him and I’ll be there when he wakes up… Okay, thanks. Thanks so much for helping out, Terry… All right, good-bye.

(JILL sees ELIZABETH hanging up her phone.)

JILL. Listen, I’ve gotta go, I’ll be there as soon as I can… Okay, thanks. For everything. I’ll talk to you soon… ‘Bye.

(She hangs up, picks up the two dinners and carries them both over to ELIZABETH’s desk. She hands one to ELIZABETH and sits down with hers, pulling the file folder toward her. They both eat in silence as they attend to their respective work.
Lights down.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Today was a huge day, writing-wise, because it was my first day of having my writing workshopped in my two major composition classes.

For Poetry & Fiction, we're required to submit our pieces the class day before our work is to be critiqued, and when I submitted mine on Thursday evening, I was pretty confident about what I was sending in. After all, it was just a continuation of what my classmates already liked. We weren't really encouraged to submit "past" work (though it's still a WIP), but we were allowed to if we so wished. I decided to turn in something I had already worked on because I don't write well on demand. I like to fine-tune things until I don't think they can be fine-tuned anymore.
So anyway, I turned this piece in and I was feeling good about it. I felt good about up until last night. Then I woke up this morning with butterflies. 'Why did I send that?' 'What if they hate it after they liked the other part?'
Of course, there was nothing I could do to stop the inevitable. They'd already read it anyway, so my worries were moot. I walked into class very nervous, sat through the first person's presentation very nervously. Then it was my turn.

And... they liked it. They liked the dialogue and the pace and a good number of other things. Of course, it wasn't all rainbows and flowers- there was critisism. My teacher's pretty good at asking probing questions that get the class and the writer thinking. So after this, the class asked me a lot of good questions and gave me suggestions. And while it was technically "critical"... it was incredibly HELPFUL. Like, there was some stuff that really got me thinking and will cause some big tweaks to be put into not only the scene I gave, but the larger story. It was great.

So because of this success, I was excited to go to my Play & Screenwriting class. My first scene, a five minute piece, would be read and critiqued. I put in a ton of work into the piece- it took me about a week and a half to get the structure that I wanted and I was pretty proud of how it went. So I skipped off to class this evening and had my scene read second.
Almost as soon as it started to be read, I knew something was wrong. When did the pace get so slow? Why were there so many run-on sentences for the older character? And why was there so little conflict in the beginning of the scene?
But these were only the minor problems. The further we got into the reading, the more the tension grew in the air. Part of our workshopping is that we start off with something we liked and you could just feel people going, 'What on earth am I going to say about this?!'
It wasn't that it was terrible written. It wasn't. But I guess I was so focused on making that certain structure work that I forgot about other important stuff, namely characterization, and it was a glaring problem.
When we finally, blessedly reached the end, there was a long silence as people desperately tried to think of things to say that were complimentary. Thankfully, they actually tried and didn't resort to things like, "Well, the paper you used is certainly... white..." But there wasn't much to be said.
My piece was (nicely) torn to shreds. But it wasn't even the critiques they made- it was that the things they felt were going on- that the older character was this evil, evil woman and the younger character was this poor overworked girl and the main theme was that the latter felt overworked... that wasn't what I was going for at all. When I wrote it, I saw the older woman as a person who was covering up nerves through bossiness and I actually worried that the younger woman would come off as ridiculously shallow.

I read a quote recently that if there is any confusion as to what's going on in a book, play, or any piece of writing, it's always the writer's fault that the problem is present- the reader's just doing the best they can with what they're given. So I wasn't upset with my class for not understanding what I was going for, because I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't there.
But to be honest, I was still shocked at how badly the whole thing went. I had set mysef up for success, so excited from the afternoon that I honestly hadn't even considered failure. So when it came, it was ten times worse. I almost cried in the middle of class.

Now I'm a little overwhelmed. Not only do I have to have the rewrites for this awful scene, which is going to be painful and due in two weeks, but I have a ten-page scene due next week, a new fiction piece in two weeks, and other stuff to memorize for, like, yesterday.

Sometimes, the things you love can be the things that stress you out the most.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taking the Plunge

Today was a day I've been dreading since my first day of Poetry & Fiction- the day that I had to compare a piece of my writing to an author that had influenced me. Though Libba Bray is my #1 favorite writer, I just couldn't compare my writing to hers, so I went to another of my favorite authors- Maureen Johnson.

Actually, MJ and I do have sort of similar styles, or at least the way we implement our comparable senses of humor into our work is similar. So even though I can only wish I was as good as her, I decided to do my project on that comparison.

When I got up in front of the class, I was shaking, I was so nervous. I always speed-talk, but when I get nervous, it's gets worse by about a thousand percent. So I sped through her history and why she ifluenced me and then read a short excerpt from Devilish, one of my favorites of her novels. And then I read my excerpt.

The snippet I read was one I showed you guys a long time ago, from Q when Eliza and Jonah first meet. But something you guys probably already know is that sharing your work over the internet, to live yet invisible people, is completly different from standing in front of a bunch of people and reading your own words to them. I was terrified and shook a lot and kept my eyes on the paper only like you're not supposed to do. Finally, I reached the end of the page, looked up at the class and was astonished.

Because guess what? They all looked interested, some even impressed. And during the question and answer session, one girl asked me if I was still working on the novel and how far I'd gotten, and the girl after her said she really wanted to read it when I was finished.

Now I know. This praise from my fellow college kids is not the road to publication, necessarily. But I was on such a high afterwards that it almost felt like it. People liked what I'd written. They liked my little WIP baby!

This makes me a little (though not completely) less scared for next week, when I have to turn in ten pages of my fiction for a class-wide critique.

Tonight, another writing class! I've been working on the assignment (a five-page script) and am stuck on page three due to my determination to choose a really hard style of writing for my first piece. Someone save me from myself :P

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WIP Wednesday

I'm doing what I've always read that I should do as a writer, but never actually did: I am setting aside a few hours out of each day to devote solely to writing. Right now, it's at three per day, and I've scheduled them outside of my normal writing hours (9 pm- 3 am) so hopefully I can get some product in the beginning of the day by force and then continue working on that product when my brain is actually working. The curse of being a night owl.

So anyway, what I'm working feverishly on right now is my Peter Pan Inspiration, so here's a scene from it. All you need to know if that this is a teenaged Mrs. Darling after she ran away from Neverland after she had a big fight with Peter.

(MARY is in her room when she hears a tap at the window. She drops what she’s doing, runs over to it, and throws it open. PETER flies through and lands on the toy chest.)

PETER. Found you!

MARY. Peter! What are you doing here?

PETER. Where have you been, Mary? The boys all miss you so. Our house is such a mess.
MARY. I came back, Peter.

PETER. Well why’d you do that? (He looks around) It’s so dreary here.

(MRS. LIDDELL approaches on the other side of the door but stops when she hears her daughter speaking, apparently to no one.)

MARY. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again…

PETER. Here I am! You must come back right now- the mermaids and the boys are having a swimming contest!

MARY. Do you forgive me then, Peter?

PETER. Forgive you? For what?

MARY. Well… I left Neverland.

PETER. Well, you did break the rules of hide and seek, but you’ve always been a good hider. Of course I forgive you. Now come on!

MARY. No, Peter. I left because you were angry with me and I said… some terrible things. I’m sorry for that. I was just homesick and upset. I didn’t mean them at all.

(MR. LIDDELL comes through the hallway and MRS. LIDDELL silently motions for him to join her.)

PETER. (hardly acknowledging her apology) It’s fine. Now, I’ll just sprinkle you with some fairy dust and we’ll be off. The boys will be so happy I’ve found you! (He grabs her hand, but MARY doesn’t move.) What’s wrong?

MARY. I can’t go, Peter.

PETER. Yes you can. Just move your feet, silly. (He pulls on her hand again, but still she doesn’t move. He thinks she’s playing a game.) Ma-ary!

MARY. Peter, you don’t understand. I can’t go. My parents were so angry when they saw I had left-

PETER. Parents don’t know what fun is.

MARY. But they know other things, like how to send me away if I don’t act like a young lady.

PETER. (alarmed) They’re sending you away?! Where?

MARY. They won’t if I act like I should. But that means I can’t go to Neverland again.

PETER. Ever?

MARY. That’s right.

PETER. I hate your parents.

MARY. Peter…

PETER. Don’t you?


PETER. I do. They’re mean and I hate them. I don’t want you to live with mean people. You need to come with me. Now.

MARY. (pained) I can’t…

PETER. Yes, you can.

MARY. (tearful) I don’t want them to send me away, Peter.

PETER. They can’t get you in Neverland! No grown-ups allowed! You’ll be safe!

MARY. I’m not going.

PETER. Yes you are.


PETER. (stomping his foot) Mary!

MARY. (turning away from him) You need to go now, Peter. I don’t want my parents to hear me talking to you.

PETER. I’m not leaving without you.

MARY. You’ll have to. (She walks over to the window and holds it open for him. They stare at each other for a long moment.) Good-bye, Peter.

PETER. You’re wrong, Mary. You should be coming with me. They won’t be nice to you here.

MARY. I’ll miss you.

(After another long moment, PETER takes his leave out the window. MARY watches him sadly, but then closes the window firmly, latches it shut, and pulls the curtains over it.

Out in the hallway, MR. and MRS. LIDDELL look at each other in alarm.)
Lights down.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


So I finally finally FINALLY had my first session of a class I've been wanting to take since before I was accepted to my school- a class for playwrighting and screenwriting. I was excited. I am excited. But here's the thing:

It's going to kick my butt.

Yes, my other writing class (Poetry & Fiction) is going to be a challenge for me because, well, there's poetry in there, and sharing/workshopping my work is always hard for me. But playwrighting... that's something totally different. I'm even more precious about my plays than I am about my novels. Maybe because there's less there to protect it? It's easier to realise that you need to cut out that overdone paragraph than hear that five lines of dialogue in a scene from a play need to be cut out. I thought I was ahead of the game, already having a good chunk of a new play written but... now I'm starting to second guess myself. I'm very, very daunted.

I guess I'm just getting to the point in my writing where I'm coming across roomfuls of people who are just as serious as I am. I had the same moment in my freshman acting classes, that realisation that there are people out there who care as much as I do.
My freshman writing classes, however, were a joke. I wrote stuff for those classes that, had I turned in while taking my high school AP classes, my AP teachers would have gone, "What is this crap?" and torn it up in front of my face. I was the star writer in my freshman writing classes largely because I was the only one who cared.

But now I'm going to classes where my classmates also read before class. They write every day as well. I'm not the only one nodding in understanding. AND IT'S FREAKING ME OUT. In a good way. And also in a what-is-this-parallel-universe? kind of way.

So here are my assignments for this week: start work on a project that discusses one of my inspirations as a writer and then produce and/or choose a piece we've written that shows how we're like them. Compare myself to my favorite writers? That seems sacreligous somehow.
And also write a five page scene with a conflict. I'm excited about this one. But scared, too.

And amid all of this writing will be lots of memorization. 'Cause guess what? I'm playing Alice in Alice in Wonderland :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Bit down at the moment for things non-writing related, so I shall not bore you. Instead, I will live up to my obligations. This is a short story I wrote my freshman year of college, off the prompt that asked me to begin a story with "The hallway was silent."

The hallway was silent, and that was what put me on edge. Had the corridor been filled with the usual rush of people, I might have been easier. But as it was, I could hear my own heartbeat as I slunk down the hall, trying to get to my destination as quickly as possible.

In the movies, people always have really cool moves- they roll across a hallway or do back handsprings over motion detectors. I, on the other hand, can barely even walk down the hallway without tripping over my own feet. Anyway, I didn’t have time for fancy moves- I was on a mission. I was here to get… my English homework.
Okay, I know I built that up, but this was seriously important. We had been working on a paper in class, and so many people were trying to print theirs out at once that I didn’t have time to get mine. Then, of course, I completely forgot about it at the end of the day. The paper was due tomorrow, worth twenty percent of our grade, so I needed that paper.

‘But Julianna,’ you are burning to ask, ‘Why, in this age of e-mail, didn’t you just send it to yourself?’ I have one thing to say to you: shut up. I was busy, okay? I was working on my paper (and maybe playing around with the photobooth on the computer) and I didn’t get a chance to send it to myself. That’s why I’m here, poised at the classroom door, bobby pin in hand.

In the movies, the person doing the breaking in always sticks the bobby pin in the keyhole, jiggles a little bit, and voila! But it wasn’t until I had inserted the bobby pin into the lock that I realised my error- the keyholes in movies are always those old-fashioned ones. This was a brand new, tiny lock in the middle of a handle. I made to pull the bobby pin out, but it wouldn’t budge. Now Mrs. James has a straightened-out hair clip poking from her door. I think she’ll like it.

As I tried to pull the pin free, the door came open. Oh… it was unlocked the whole time. I slipped in and looked around furtively. In and out quickly, Julianna. Do not get distracted by that book you wanted to borrow. Just get the paper and get out.
I saw the printer out of the corner of my eye. Paper was resting in the tray. I dashed over and grabbed it. My paper! Yes! It was as I was making sure all of the pages were there that I heard a shuffling outside the door. Crap… crap… How could I escape?

My eyes fell on the window. The windows at my school are not easy to get out of, but it was either get away or stay here and get caught. So I opened the window as far as it would go and squeezed through, falling to the ground underneath it. A graceless getaway, but a getaway nonetheless.