Abandonement by Numbers (an exercise)

 

abandonment

As some of you may know, I participated in the MOOC from Iowa Writer’s Workshop again this year. I actually wasn’t able to finish due to some demands on my time but I did wind up in an online writing group with my friends from last year. It has been wonderful to reconnect and be able to give each other feedback, suggestions, and support from the comfort of home. I wanted to share an exercise I completed in the group because I think the prompt is pretty challenging and I had a lot of fun writing this. Let me know if you attempt a numbered writing – I’d love to read it!

The prompt required each sentence to contain a number, 1-10. They are, of course, not in order.

I was nine when I watched the family station wagon lurch down the drive, spraying mud when it dipped in low. I wasn’t surprised; I’d seen it coming for six months or so but, from my mother’s hiccuping sobs I could tell it had broadsided her. My father had never really been in the picture, popping in for a birthday when I was three and popping back out for what felt like forever, always ready with an apology and a stick of gum; like that would make everything better. I felt bad for my mom; she always believed the best, even after two divorces and three kids. But the reality of our situation was that none of us would ever find a way to make him stay; though there were four of us to love him, it would never be enough. I remember standing under the light of the Christmas tree, begging for just ten minutes to talk with him, to make him understand how he made us feel, made my mom feel. But Santa or God or whoever was supposed to be up there never seemed to hear the prayers of an eight year old boy who needed a father, not just for himself, but for his brothers and his mom. Not one of my desperate kid prayers was answered. So I watched the lights wink, three, four, five times in the distance and then fade away to nothing. I slipped one arm around my mother’s waist and draped the other over my seven-year old brother’s shoulders; we would be fine, we would always be fine.

Copyright 2016 Katharine Brown

The Girl Who Dreamed

In our first week of class, we were required to write a piece featuring a female protagonist. It was important to pay attention to voice and identity because so often we can reveal what we want known through interactions and what is left unsaid rather than directly coming out and speaking it over the character. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote for class. Hope you enjoy it!

Once upon a time there was a girl who dreamed. She didn’t dream of flying or being free or other happy things. Instead, she dreamed of faces she had never seen, of people facing challenges that she had never heard of, obstacles that she didn’t understand. Sometimes they won and sometimes they lost and she watched it all play out in her head in black and white.

The first time she told her parents about her dreams, they encouraged her to forget them. The daughter of an innkeeper shouldn’t be bothering herself with such fantasies, they would tell her. Get on with your chores. While the dreams became more regular, her confessions of them became less frequent until she stopped sharing them all together. Her parents were relieved, believing the dreams to have stopped, as they had hoped for. Her friends wondered why she didn’t wish the faces away, or take something to help her sleep a dreamless sleep. Why did she care what happened to strangers she would never know? And so she soon ceased to confide in them as well. No one, it seemed, could understand how she felt.

Because the girl had come to love her dreams and the people she saw there. She kept a sketchbook of their faces under her mattress; a testament to their struggles, a memorial of their outcomes. She rejoiced when the strangers were victorious and she wept when they were overcome. She felt as if she were taking part in the drama of a life that was bigger and more meaningful than the one she lived out in her small village. And her life was more exciting than most since all the strangers that visited their hamlet had to pass through her father’s inn. Even the travelers from across the lake were not as exotic as the people from her dreams.

Until one day, when the face in her dream was a familiar one. And the obstacle, which seemed so trivial, was not overcome. The girl awoke in a panic, tangled in her sheets, her face wet with tears. She felt that she must tell the blacksmith’s wife what she had seen, but was unsure of how to go about it. She was distraught. For days she prayed for a happy ending, tried to convince herself she’d seen the wrong ending. But each time she looked at her sketchbook she knew it was only a matter of time. She wrote a letter and then another and another and then burned them all and finally went to seek the counsel of her mother.

Her mother seemed deeply bothered by their conversation, refusing even to look the girl in the eyes while she pleaded for help regarding the best approach.  She offered no comfort or counsel and, as the days passed, seemed to avoid the girl altogether. Even during the funeral, she still refused to meet the girl’s eyes and the two became like strangers.

© 2016 Katharine Anne Brown All Rights Reserved

Sabbatical

Blank notepad and pencil

If you come here often, you may have noticed that it’s been just about six months since I’ve written anything at all. In fact, it was exactly six months on the 21st and I had every intention of posting this then and making a big deal out of it, a fresh and exciting start! But that just didn’t happen. There are lots of reasons, but behind them all I think I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to stick with it, that I would let it fizzle out again because life is pretty crazy right now and lots of times, I feel overwhelmed.

That’s when I realized that writing actually takes away some of the days worries and stresses. I have a safe place to release my feelings about things and doing that is making me a better writer. After all, practice makes perfect! So what can you expect to see over the next few months? There are actually a lot of exciting things coming up!

October:

Right now I am taking a class through the Iowa Writers Workshop called How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women. I am really, really excited to be taking this class and even happier to find that all my dear friends from last year are taking it with me! There is just something about being in a group of like-minded creatives that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We are only one week in and I am already learning so much about how to craft stories. I am hoping for some great short pieces to come out of this that will be perfect for publication!

I am polishing some pieces that I wrote over the summer and planning on sending them out in the next few days. It’s always scary to face possible rejection but it’s a necessary evil so I’m learning to cope! That being said, if any of you dear readers are available to read short pieces and make suggestions, please feel free to contact me! I need all the help I can get!

November:

As some of you know, I’ve been participating in a fall writing competition that started in August. In round 1, I placed 9th out of 30 competitors and earned some bonus points for round two. The announcement for this next round comes on November 1st and I am hoping for a great start to the month!

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to us writerly nerds) and I will be working on a story idea that had been in the works for the past three years. I am crossing my fingers that this is the year it comes together in a little more orderly fashion. Ideally, I’ll be able to spend a good part of December and January editing and revising and getting it ready for the publishers.

So that’s where my head is at for the next sixish weeks. Be sure to stop by again as I’ll be posting here with book reviews, snippets of fiction, and random musings!