Monday, February 27, 2012

More Afraid of Saying No

One thing I need to work on in my writing is dialogue. If a writer is really good, a reader can tell who is speaking just by the way the character talks. You never want your character to sound more grown up than they should be, more moral than they should be, more feminine than they should be, etc. I’ve come up with an insane challenge for myself. If my blog is about me both entertaining readers, and learning at the same time then I need to do writing challenges. This is really scary, because I don’t always have time to make the posts as perfect as a novel will have to be. So be forgiving. I’m going to do something I dare say few if any have EVER tried. I wrote down a whole bunch of different types of characters. I put the girls on pink paper and the boys on blue. I folded them up and put them in a jar.
Every once in awhile, I’m going to draw out a boy and a girl and put them in a closet together and make them talk to each other. I’m going to test my writing of dialogue this way. I’m calling it the Seven Minutes in Heaven writing challenge. I have no personal experience with the game, but it’s pretty perfect for throwing two people into a boring little setting together, so that you can just focus on what they would say.

I was really scared to try this, and felt a little ill when I drew out the first two this morning. But when I got started writing…. Yee haw! It was pretty fun. If you have suggestions for me on how I could make the dialogue more believable let me know! Or if you just want to tell me that I should go ahead and publish a novel right now because you loved it so much then I suppose that would be pretty okay to read in my comments section as well. 

The setting: A comfortably warm closet, big enough for two people to walk in. Its contents are plush, clean carpet, an armful of coats hanging on plastic hangers and pushed to the sides, and one bare light bulb which can be turned on by pulling a string. The noise of a party can be heard faintly from outside the door.

Seven Minutes In Heaven Experiment Number 1

“Well, hi.”
Molly looked up at the tall, lean boy as the door closed behind him, taking the light with it. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“What?” he asked. “You never heard a southern accent before?”
“No,” her voice came out quiet and timid. “No, it isn’t that.”
“You want to hear less of the accent and get right to the kissin’?” James grinned into the darkness.
Molly stumbled back against the closet wall. James, with the dexterity of someone who’d been in the saddle on a bucking horse, with a lasso in one hand and his life in the other, reached out and caught her elbow. He steadied her and pulled the string between them, clicking on a single light bulb. “You okay?”
She shrugged as though she’d like to shrink right into herself, her elbow pulling away from his hand. Intentionally, this time, she fell back against the wall as though she couldn’t trust her legs to hold her up.
James could see that she was shaking. He reached out to her, but thought better of it and held his hands up instead, reassuring her with the sight of them as he backed up two steps and leaned against the opposite wall. He plunged one hand into his hair as he realized this seven minutes wasn’t going to be as heavenly as he was hoping.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t pretty. She was really something with her wide eyes, looking up at him like he was the ruler of her fate. Those eyes begged his understanding even now as he could only see the top of her head, her hair the light orange color of a Tennessee sunset, smooth and soft and undemanding.
“Hey. You wanna sit down?”
“I think I better.”
“Okay. You sit right on down over there, and I’ll sit here.”
She slid to the floor like her whole body was exhaling, but she curled her legs up tight against her. She stared at her knees as she tugged the bottom of her t-shirt down over the exposed skin at the back of her waist.

James thought back to a movie he saw once, where a policeman had to talk a girl off the edge of a tall building. He was that same kind of careful, not moving a muscle from his safe distance across the small space, and he kept his voice gentle as he asked, “You ever had a boyfriend?”
Her head snapped up and he saw a flicker of fire in her eyes, he saw that they were a shade of dark green that was awful complimentary to that light orange hair before she dropped them back to the floor.
“Gee, is it that obvious?” she asked into her knees.
“I didn’t mean anything by askin’. I can just tell you’re nervous.”
He was kind of glad the question ticked her off because it made her talk, and her voice was as nice as her eyes were.
“I’ve never kissed anyone before,” she said, “I don’t know what I’m doing in this stupid experiment.”
“Maybe you just wanted to get to know somebody that you wouldn’t normally.”

"Start with tellin' me your name."

"It's Molly."
“Well, Molly, you can get to know me. I’d like to know you.”
She looked up again, with the same surprise as the times before.
He caught those eyes with his own this time, and willed them not to run off again. “I bet boys have tried to be your boyfriend.”
It was the wrong thing to say if he wanted her to keep looking at him, but he guessed he couldn’t resist.
“Sorry. We can talk about anything you want. What do you like to talk about?”
“I’m not very good at talking. I’m shy.” She cringed as she said the word. She hated it, he could tell, but there weren’t many words she could use to describe the way she felt.
“I rode a bull for the first time last week.” He didn’t know why that had just popped out, but the way she was shaking had reminded him of it.
Her eyes landed on him again, her interest outweighing her self-concern.
“I haven’t told anybody this, but I was scared. I haven’t been that scared, maybe ever.”
“Come on. Anybody would be scared riding a bull! That’s one of the scariest things anybody can think to do.”
“Doesn’t matter. It might scare everybody, but nobody’s supposed to show it.”
“If it scares you, why do you do it?”
“The thrill, I guess. When you walk into somethin’ scary and you come out the other side? There’s no feeling quite like that. Maybe you knew that when you agreed to come in this closet.”

“I guess maybe it’s about the same thing. I just got tired of trapping myself. I wouldn’t ever have volunteered, but maybe when Dr. Amie asked me to do it I was just as afraid to say no.”
“So what happens if we just sit here like this and we talk for the next, oh, three minutes or so and then you get on out of this closet and you go back to your life just the way it was? You gonna have regrets?”
She thought for a couple of seconds and then he could see little pools of tears in eyes. “I’m used to regrets.”
“I’m not. So I’m thinkin’ maybe I oughtta come over there and sit by you.”
She shook her head, but he was already in the crawling position and he plopped himself down close enough to her that their upper arms were touching.
“Don’t worry. I’m just gonna sit here. Okay? I do like you.”
“You don’t know me.”
“You’re a nice person. Do you have friends?”
Again he’d offended her. “You’re not at all sensitive with the questions you ask, you know that? Yes. I do have friends, but clearly that’s hard for you to imagine.”
“Nuh uh! I was gonna say I knew you had friends, cuz you’re so nice. I bet you’re a really good friend. You wanna be my friend?”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, a smirk on her lips, like she doubted whether he’d really want her for a friend or she doubted it could ever work out that way.
“Of course I’d be your friend,” she said, and she leaned over and bumped him just a little with her shoulder. It was strange the way that little bump felt more exciting than half the kisses he’d had.
“How did your bull ride go?” She was playing with a little piece of string she’d pulled off of something now. Twisting it round and round like it was really important.
“I didn’t get killed, so that was a start.” He laughed a little. “Bull ridin’ kinda runs in my family, so I know it’ll come pretty natural.”
“Do you ever get scared just talking to people?”
He tossed his head back and blew air through his teeth. “Crud yeah! Do I seem like I’d be all that impressive in conversation? It’s not really my thing. You’re smart though. You gotta start believin’ that people are gonna like what you have to say.”
“Oh no. People would much rather hear what you have to say. You do things that are interesting. Tell me more about riding that bull.”
“Well, they have you in this stall. Hey! It is a little like this closet! Anyway, your team helps drop you down so you’re sittin’ right on the bull and the bull starts to get real angry. He starts to grunt and paw at the ground and the adrenaline is just pumpin’ through you! Any thoughts you had of turnin’ back are long gone by then. You just figure you have to go for it.”
She was looking at him like he was describing the day he’d saved a room full of nuns from a fire. He liked it. He took his jacket off, threaded the sleeve between his hands.
“There’s a bull rope. It’s tied to the bull, and you have to wrap it around your hand.” He reached out nice and slow and took a hold of her hand. She tensed, but tried to hide it. He watched the little string she’d been playing with drop to the floor as he wrapped the sleeve of his jacket around her hand, touching her fingers and palm with his more often than he had to. He pulled the jacket tight, and kept her hand in both of his.
“You hold on with just this one hand, you use the other one for balance.”
“Isn’t it dangerous to have your hand wrapped tight in the rope? What happens if you fall off?”
“You have to get your hand out real quick as your fallin’.”
“That’s awful! You could get stuck! Get your arm ripped off!”
She had become adamant enough that her face had gotten closer to his. He let the jacket uncoil from around her hand and let his hands coil around it instead.
“There are a lot of things that could happen. That’s the challenge and the thrill.”
She shook her head, “It’s way too scary.”
“I think you oughta try something scary, Molly. I think you kinda want to, and that’s why you’re here.”
He reached up and touched just the end of a lock of that sunset hair. It was just as soft as he’d imagined, and it smelled nice. She didn’t even back away when he did it; she just blinked and kept on looking at him.
When you’re in that stall, getting’ ready to ride? You gotta be the one to tell ‘em when to open the gate. You gotta yell out that you’re ready.”
“I’d never be able to get a sound out.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t be able to volunteer, but like you said, maybe when it came right down to it, you’d be more afraid of sayin’ no than sayin’ yes.”
It was barely a nod. It’s a good thing he was looking for it, or he would’ve missed it for sure. It was a nod he wouldn’t have wanted to miss. He moved his hand further up that lock of hair, until it wrapped around the back of her head and he pulled her forward. He put his lips on hers. It was gentle as could be, not rushed and desperate like a bull ride, but there was trembling thrill that raced through him. She opened her lips just a little, inched closer to him and he knew she felt it too.
A bull ride last eight seconds, that’s about how long the kiss lasted before the closet door opened. James pulled back and looked at Molly to see her reaction. She looked at him with wonder in her eyes, and not regret. He smiled, and for the first time she could see the deep dimple in his right cheek. He stood up and reached out a hand to help her up.
The question he asked was just for her and not for the onlookers, “You wanna, maybe, face some more fears together sometime?”
She looked terrified again, the real world washing her out like the harsh light from outside the closet. “Come on, Molly. You’d rather say yes than say no.”
“You’re right,” she whispered.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Love Funny

I LOVE funny. Already today I’ve laughed out loud a whole bunch.
I volunteered at a leadership group that my daughter is a part of and we talked about being trustworthy. My friend who volunteered with me played some funny commercials:
I LOVE funny. Already today I’ve laughed out loud a whole bunch.
I volunteered at a leadership group that my daughter is a part of and we talked about being trustworthy. My friend who volunteered with me played some funny commercials:

Then she had the kids make up their own honest commercial that advertised undesirable things like smelly socks. It was so entertaining and fun! I think you have to be really brilliant and confident to be funny (on purpose).
It’s Ryan’s day off, so when I got home we lazed around and watched Celebrity Apprentice. So far Adam Carolla is the funniest to me. He declared his charity as “White Kids Without Ipods”.
Ryan and I manage to make each other laugh quite a bit too. The other day we were at a party, playing the newlywed game and he had to answer the question, “What was the last thing you two argued about?” He wrote down three guesses. 1) Getting the last question of this game wrong. 2) She gets mad at me when I work out too much. (False because he rarely works out) 3) She didn’t want me to watch the Jazz game. The last was his official answer. It also was wrong. I guessed: He didn’t come home from work when he said he would. We didn’t fare very well at the newlywed game that night, but boy did Ry have everyone rolling.
We have a pillow that is made completely of memory foam and it feels exactly like a human body. It’s always fooling us. One of us will play footsies with the dang thing for half an hour before we realize it’s an inanimate object! It fooled Ryan today. For a minute, he thought the pillow was me. I asked him, “What did you think it was? My leg?”
He said, “I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out!”

I like my writing to be funny. One of the critiques given to me was that you could see some of my humor coming. You could see that it was being set up. That is really helpful to me! I can see it clearly now, and how to fix it! I often write in my head when I'm upstairs cleaning the house. I think, “It would be so funny if this happened, or if my character said that.” Then I set it up. It’s very valuable to know that someone can sense it being set up. So now I’m thinking humor is funnier as it flows right off of your tongue, or your fingertips. The hard thing about spontaneous humor is that there’s always a chance that you push the limits too far. The lucky thing about humor in writing is that you can usually go as far as your typing fingers and your crazy thoughts will take you, and then you can edit before you’ve revealed to onlookers that you can be wholly inappropriate or uncomfortably lame.
Do the books you read make you laugh very often? Who or what makes you laugh? Recommend a celebrity or TV show to me so that Ryan and I can watch them while playing footsies with our tempurpedic pillow.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My True Love Story

Happily Ever After

Day 2,745ish

I’m upstairs in my bedroom, talking on the phone with a college roommate from years ago. Ryan has just returned from a trip to Seattle to visit his older sister and is downstairs being entertained by my parents. My brain has never handled multi-attention giving. I have to give all focus to one person or another. Call waiting, for example, is out of the question. So I’m pacing with the phone to my ear as I fill C in on the latest, while Ryan is left to his parent-impressing devices.
A lot of people are subjected to your romance-in-limbo when you’re writing to a missionary. They’re privy to so much whining, both current and past. They know about how you were young, too young and na├»ve, and in love. He went through an arrogant, heart-breaker stage. You went through half a dozen swear-him-off-forever rituals, the last one resulting in burying every reminder of him in your backyard. You finally moved on. He finally showed up, outside your window and saw you cuddled up with the guy you were moving on with. This somehow surprised him. He apologized… quite a few times. You agreed to write to him. These dear new friends that learned of your past, watched as you continued to be conflicted over two years of him being gone. They watched as you dated other people. They watched as you checked the mail every day, even on the days you knew there wouldn’t be a letter. They sometimes had to snap you out of your over-dramatics by shouting “Hell’s Bells!” when a letter came that made you doubt your future with this boy. Now the boy is home, and you’ve disappeared into an enchanted land of bliss. The outsiders deserve to know how it ends… or how it begins.
“So… how are you two getting along?”
“Oh C! I could probably make you throw up with how awesome it is. He is so- everything. I mean, yeah he’s totally got that whole nerdy return missionary thing, but to me it’s just proof of how focused he’s been. I love that about him! He’s still funny and confident. He’s got everything I loved from before and everything I think I could dream of for the future!”
As I gush, I poke my head out of my bedroom door and try to listen to whatever uncomfortable conversation might be happening downstairs, but I can’t hear anything.
“So… any talk of marriage? I mean I know he pretty much just got back, but two years and all.”
“A little talk about that. We keep trying to take things slow, but it’s hard to hold these feeling back.”
C makes an excited, girl friend sound on the other end.
“I know!” I say. “When I think back to that calendar I had hanging up in our room with his picture on it, and how I crossed off every day of the first four months, I honestly can’t believe I survived it. I didn’t know anything back then.”
“You knew enough to wait for him for two years.”
“True. I was a genius.” We giggle together as only girl friends can.
C asks another question, but it’s hard for me to pay attention because further neck lengthening out of my bedroom door has revealed Ryan sitting at the bottom of the stairs on a sofa, having a one on one conversation with my Dad!
“C, it has been so great talking to you, but I think I might have to go soon. Ryan is here, and he’s downstairs alone being forced into awkward conversation with my Dad.”
“What do you think they’re talking about? Amie. Do you think he could be asking for permission?”
“Oh my gosh. No. No. Too good to be true. But I’m all stressed, leaving him down there like this. I think I better go.”
C and I say our goodbyes, and I bound down the stairs in loud warning of my approach. “Hiiii!” I say. The two men in my life stand up and Dad saunters out of the room as I greet Ryan with a hug.
“Let’s go for a drive,” Ry says.
It’s dark and cold on this December night. I seem to be chattering to fill the silence. How was his trip? How was his sister? The nephews? The nieces? His mind is elsewhere and for some reason it makes me feel a little nervous.
He drives about two blocks to our church building. The building where we got locked in the closet together once. The building where we learned how to country swing together, where we first danced a real slow dance together to the love song from Aladdin. The building I’ve spent the last two summers cleaning, and thinking about Elder Leonhardt and what might happen when he returned home.
He parks and starts to get out of the truck, so I follow, sensing that I shouldn’t ask what we’re doing. He lets me walk ahead to the sidewalk, but he takes my hand from behind and pulls me gently to a stop when we’re standing directly under a street light. It’s a street light that I love. It’s a street light that we once danced under as giant snowflakes fell around us, the first time we ever acknowledged that we might have real feelings for each other. We were fifteen years old.
I turn around, and he’s on one knee. There’s a little velvet box in his hand with a sparkling diamond ring inside it. It’s all such a surprise, the extra good kind. I haven’t ever seen this ring, but it’s love at first sight. My free hand, the one he isn’t holding, flies up to touch my lips. He’s saying all of the right things, because that’s one of the things he knows how to do, but I’m remembering a moment from 1,745ish days ago. I wrote a poem about that night once.
We’re the enigma of Ferron First Ward,
Best friends who won’t admit to being more.
Sharing laughter, advice and everything else,
We’re even a mystery to ourselves.
Our activity ends, so outside we go,
To find the scene is washed white with snow.
My instant though is (what else?) romance,
So I challenge Ryan, “Can you ballroom dance?”
Suddenly I’m waltzing through the air,
I’m Ginger Rogers and he’s Fred Estair.
The church lamppost serves as our spotlight
As the snowflakes turn our ballroom white.
“Friends” with stronger feelings indeed-
But no inkling of where this night will lead.

“Yes!” I say, “Yes, I’ll marry you! I love you!” He stands up and wraps his arms around me. We hug and spin and laugh. He puts the ring on my finger, and I can’t stop looking at it. Then he asks me if I’m cold, and if I want to go inside the church to get warm.
We do go inside, and he reminds me that our Moms are both here for a meeting. “Should we go and tell them?” he asks.
My tongue, as with all of my parts, is near paralyzed with happiness and hardly wants to function, but I manage to smile and nod.
The meeting is breaking up with refreshments and mingling, so we interrupt nothing as we float into the room, Ryan holding my hand up in front of me on display while I fan out my fingers so that our Moms and friends can see the ring. Oh my gosh I’m wearing a diamond ring!
I look at our Moms and I see the years of creased brows and concerned eyes disappear before me, replaced by pure, self-less joy because this is right. This is finally, finally right.
Cue smiles, laughter, hugs and congratulations for a good while. We finally make our escape back into the night. I gaze up at the street light as we go by and we get back into the truck. As a possible foreshadowing of engagement and marriage not being the vague “happily ever after” that it’s laid out to be in the fairy tales, my mind jumps back over the years, all the way back to that beautiful, expert flirter who had her pretty little hands on Ryan’s chest in Sophomore history class when he was my boyfriend. It still smarts a little. I look down at the ring on my hand and then turn to him. “This means that we’re officially not dating other people anymore, right?”
His face snaps from the road to me at the audacity. “That’s usually what getting engaged means. You okay with that?”
I smile. For years he’s been making me smile. In all of the most glowing ways, this one feels like it’s the first. One day we’ll laugh that I asked that question, actually later tonight we’ll laugh that I asked that question. One day we’ll laugh about that history class. One day we’ll have a house, we’ll have kids, we’ll have grandkids. One day I’ll write our story, and share it with my friends. We are looking ahead to a future full of “one days”. I do believe in happily ever after, I just don’t believe in “The End”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Meat

I juggle like a mad woman, and yes, that includes dropping lots of balls. Just a snippet of my morning so that you will understand:

My middle-school aged daughter wakes me up at 6:50 every morning so that I can drive her to school. Today we drove in the snow, and I've already admitted I'm a scary driver so you know that started the day out with some stress. The other three kids were all bright eyed and bushy-tailed by the time I got home. My warm bed was calling to me, and so was the last three quarters of the book I've been reading, but the phone rang. It was the daughter I had just dropped off. She forgot she needed a flash drive for an assignment... today. I spent the next half an hour trying to find one. Nothing. Ryan Edward said, "Forget about that, I'll take care of it. I'll buy one and take it to her on my way to the radio station, but for now I need your input on this ad."
We helped each other write a radio ad. President's Day Weekend is huge in retail and Ry is working overtime to get ready. That alone could be my soul focus and keep me busy. My muscles are sore from jogging house to house to put out fliers. I got bit by a small dog that day, but I'm too busy to make much of it! Just another humorous incident among many!

We finished the ad. Ryan amazes me that he can sit here and deliver it with so much enthusiasm and perfection just practicing in our family room. He rushes out the door, leaving me with the youngest two asking endless questions about super heroes, a messy house, meals to cook and carpool for dance lessons to get to this evening. Right now I should be getting the youngster ready for afternoon kindergarten. A minute ago the three year old hid in the pantry to scare me. My mind was racing so fast that even when I opened the door, it took me a full two seconds to realize he was there, after which I was absolutely stunned and terrified.
Every moment of every day is this same way.

Therefore, I've been thinking of doing more writer's blog posts in journal type format. I will pop on, share some quick thoughts or inspiration and pop away again! That's what my life allows, and that's quite honestly what I find interesting and entertaining in other blogs anyway. Plus I'll be able to update more often.

Here's what I learned about writing from writing a radio ad this morning:

First you figure out the most important information that you need your customers to know. Then you come up with a creative attention getter. Then you write the ad. You come up with a few sentences that you think are super clever. Then you time it. You find out it's twice as long as the thirty seconds you're allowed. You cut out everything extra that can be cut. It's still twenty seconds too long. Your husband cuts out your beloved "super clever" sentences. You pout. Then you realize that this is not that different from the critique group you attend. :) I think people really just want the meat. They want the meat to be well flavored, tender, juicy, delicious and cooked to perfection, but they just want the meat.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My True Love Story

Agh! So rushed! Ryan and I are taking the kids out of school and we will be in Ogden putting advertisement fliers on houses today. So if you see a cute family putting a flier on your door, don't yell at them. Think of the four cute, dimple cheeked children they're trying to put through college one day. ;) Here is the Monday story!

Bliss, and Other Words People Might Make Fun Of

Day 2,714ish (still)

It doesn’t matter where we are when we are together. We’re always wrapped in a single blanket. We’re always tucked away in a little corner. The lights are always dim, the music is always soft and romantic, and he is always the only person I can see. Tonight it’s in his sister’s basement. We’ve talked with Tash and her family, we’ve laughed and we’ve watched movies, sitting side by side, enjoying the renewed sensation of our hand-holding. It’s late, and the rest of the world is tired. I don’t seem to get tired anymore. Sleep means hours away from Ryan. I do it only because it’s required for survival.
I think he does it because it’s the right thing. Say goodnight. Pat my shoulder. Take me to the guest room. Close the door nice and tight. Walk down the hall to the couch with his blanket and his pillow. Lay there. Stay there. I wonder if it’s at all hard for him.
He goes to a hall closet to get bedding for that temporary couch/bed. I stay sitting on the place where he’ll soon be sleeping. I lay my hand on the spot where his rustled, boyish head will be. The lights upstairs turn off one by one. The house grows silent around us. The screen of the TV is blue in the cozy family room and the light from the hallway reveals Ryan’s silhouette as he comes back, carrying a stack of quilts and pillows. He plops the blankets near my feet and falls to his knees beside them.
I’m a girl and maybe not one of the subtle ones when it comes to speaking my feelings. I could say goodnight, be demure. Wait for this used-to-be-totally-successful-womanizer turned carefully-standoffish-returned missionary to either swoop me into a passionate embrace sometime in the next three months or stun me with an out of the blue trip to the office of a travel agent to plan the honeymoon that I had no idea was a consideration.
“About that little stop we made at the ring store earlier,” I say.
His expression wishes it could warn me not to ask, but knows I probably deserve to ask why I was suddenly ambushed with sparkling dreams, when I had resigned myself to a tortoise pace and a maybe never gonna happen.
Now that I plowed in and brought it up though, where to go exactly? “Sorry I freaked out. Can we please go back? Hold my hand, put a diamond on it. What’s the difference really? You can feel free to do either one of those things any time and in any order you want to.”
I end up with, “I really am glad you took me there. I was just a little shocked. We haven’t really talked about our feelings very much.”
“Yeah, let’s just forget about that for awhile. We can take our time.”
What have I done?
“No! No, I don’t want to forget it. I want to know why you took me there. I want to know how you feel about me.”
“I can’t talk about that.”
“Why not?”
“It’s just not time. It’s not something I planned to do. It’s too fast.”
“It’s not too fast for me. How can there be a wrong time to tell somebody how you feel?”
He looks at the ground, closes his eyes, shakes his head. It gives me a second to ask myself what the heck I think I’m doing. I’ve somehow become the girl I promised myself I wouldn’t be. I’m practically begging him. I need to shut up and back up.
He lifts his head. He’s still on his knees in front of me, so he’s looking right into my eyes when he says, “I’ve thought about this. If I tell you how I feel, then I’m gonna want to kiss you and if I kiss you then there’s no going backwards, it’s just full speed ahead and…”
I lift my hand to stop him. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. I did not plan on rushing anything. Stupid, stupid idea. Forget I said anything.”
He grabs my shoulders, slides a little closer. “No. I want to tell you. Every day, I want to tell you. How can I stop myself when you ask me to tell you?”
I wrinkle my nose, looking like a chastised school that’s only sorry for what her cuteness won’t get her out of.
He takes a breath. “Amie, since that day in the eighth grade when I saw your picture and found out you were moving back to Ferron, and probably even before that, I’ve wanted to be with you. I know I said I’d date people, but it’s hard because I just want to spend all of my free time with you. Being with you just makes sense. It feels right. Amie, I love you.”
He takes my face in his hands and he kisses me. The ever-successful-womanizer is still alive and well inside Ryan Edward, concealed just below the surface. Being out of practice does not diminish his set of skills even a bit. If anything, the forbidden fruit just got a little sweeter.
The kiss bursts with more emotion than any kiss from our past. It’s passionate, but controlled because we’ve come too far and we’re now too close to spoil what we’ve waited for. What we’re dealing with now is so much bigger than chemistry and pheromones. We’re dealing with forever, but the weight of it isn’t on us. It’s under us, lifting us until we could fly.
We break apart at the same time and look at each other, and I’m gonna go ahead and use the word rapture. So what? Rapture. People who don’t like that word probably don’t know how to kiss like Ryan Edward does.
I’m smiling. I can actually feel happiness radiating from my face, all warm and tingly. My voice is a quiet song when I answer him. “I love you too. I can’t believe this is real.” I realize I’m a little out of breath. “This can’t be real, it’s too perfect. It’s everything I ever wanted. It’s everything.”
He’s smiling too. Then we’re kiss-smiling.
He stands and pulls me off the couch, draws me in close, holds my head against his shoulder.
“I’m going to walk you to your room now.”
Strange how I feel every molecule in me dancing around. Strange how the basement hallway is covered in green meadow grass, wild flowers, and singing birds. Strange how every beautiful memory I’ve ever had is culminating and bringing itself to me right now to mix with this, the most beautiful.
The spell isn’t broken, even when he stops at the threshold of the guest room, hugs me once more, gazes into my eyes with a smiling face equaling the radiance of my own, and tells me goodnight, shuts the door nice and tight as predicted and walks back down the hall to make his bed on the couch.
I’m wide awake lying in bed, wondering if he might disappear because of too-perfectness. Rolling his words around and around in my head, knowing they’re mine and nothing can ever, ever take them from me. Deep down, feeling the end of all heartache in my life, the end of loneliness, the end of doubt, the end of trying to make life work without him. The tears were small. Small enough to dry up. Small enough to wash away. How small they were compared to this! Young girls, crying over a boy in your pillows tonight, take a glimpse of a future where one single night makes it all worthwhile. Look to a time you don’t dare imagine when the man of your dreams is brought to his knees, when restraint fails him and he whispers of his love and you share looks that say everything and you know there is a person in the world who feels everything you feel at the exact same time and it is the best kind of euphoria and heaven smiles down on you and sings hallelujah because the two of you made your way through this dark, mixed up world and you brought yourselves to a moment that you know with your heart and soul is so right and good and true. These words sing me to sleep like a love song lullaby, and I dream of seeing his face in the morning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reality TV as a Learning Tool

Shakespeare only wishes he had these references.

First of all- sorry about no Monday story this week! It was my Mom’s birthday on Sunday, and then my youngest started throwing up in the middle of Sunday night and I decided I couldn’t pull everything off. My daughters had dress rehearsals and dance recitals the last two days, and my bedroom STILL isn’t put back together from the painting! I’m going to have to post pictures when it’s all finished! To those of you who noticed, and missed the Monday story- thank you sooooo much!
I’ve been wondering what misconceptions might have been born thanks to my pouring out “things you feel but don’t want to admit” in the last post. My youngest brother, for one, told me, “I think you’re too hard on yourself, Aim.” It got me thinking. He’s right, and maybe if I take advice from him, he’ll take advice from me. Heaven knows I try to get him to every time I talk to him. ;)
So here is what you shouldn’t take from my last blog post.

1) Amie is the exact equivalent of one of those pathetic American Idol try-outers who had to find out how pathetic they were when they outed themselves publicly. :)

No. NO. I am not the William Hung of the writing world. I have skills, natural talent, dedication, determination, creative ideas, etc. The critiques I received were telling me to get better because I have too much promise to quit.
Besides, let’s face it, we all like William Hung. When someone has a lot of heart, you can’t NOT like them.

2) “I read Amie’s blog and I LIKE it. I tell her so. Then she got a harsh critique. Was I wrong?”

No. NO! :) The things that critique groups catch are not the things readers would EVER be expected to notice. Reality show lesson number two:

Ever watched America’s Next Top Model? At first you think, “Oh man, it’s entertaining to see shallow people make a big deal out of posing in front of a camera.”

Watch a few more and you think, “Huh, there is actually more to being a model than anyone really suspects.”

Watch a few more and you’re like, “Oh. She is totally ‘smize-ing’. Nobody can smize like she can, and her pose is fierce."

There are little writing tricks, things to engage a reader more without them even realizing it. There are silly writing terms, ones that don’t sounds as pleasant as “smize-ing”. A reader shouldn’t ever have to think about them. They should just think, “This book is good and I don’t know exactly what I like about it, but it flows and my mind accepts it and all is well with the world because I’m reading it.”
I will probably blog about more specifics in writing soon, as a way of teaching myself and other new writers who come to read. Until then, keep visiting! I will entertain you, my writing will improve, you will probably barely notice… but it will, and when my first novel gets published I’m going to send free stuff to all of my first followers for your amazing support! Thank you and do come back Monday… my kids have all vowed there will be no more throwing up, however there have been no guarantees against sneezing with horrifying results.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My First Critique was not Without Drama.

Ryan Edward has been out of town for the last three days and I had big plans. One of my goals for January was to deep clean and repaint our master bedroom. The three days Ryan would be out of town seemed like the perfect time, cereal for dinner, dishes stacking up in the kitchen, me with no time for hygiene of any kind. I was up until the a.m. hours painting for two nights straight. Mix in the needs of four kids, visiting teaching appointments and a middle school newsletter deadline. It was an experiment in psychology!
I wasn’t even daring to think about the upcoming writer’s group meeting when I took a break to check my emails and facebook. I was hoping for a little contact with the outside world. A funny video clip, an inspirational song, a hint that there was still life outside of the paint fumes and the stark colors I had been staring at as they left the roller and clung to the wall (and were desperately scrubbed from drips on my carpet).
I wasn’t prepared for a reply to the first chapter I had sent out to this new critique group. It was from a man that I immediately respected at the first meeting. He’s a man, mind you, and he writes (probably among many impressive things) articles for fishing magazines. He writes beautiful, funny, manly, crass-in-a-good-way articles about the outdoors and life. He’s far from my target audience, but he’s brilliant at writing and critiquing. I knew right away that I wanted to impress him and I knew that he’d be one of the most helpful people I would ever get to read my work… if I was tough enough to handle it.
I wasn’t. *insert weak, weak shrug* He had a million genius suggestions for me. He told me about rules I was breaking that I didn’t know existed. He had a blunt but funny way of critiquing and I found myself laughing and snorting through tears. I suddenly needed Ryan and he was out of town. I suddenly needed to climb into my bed and not have to weave through wet paint and drop cloths to get to it. I suddenly wished I was well rested and at my most sane.
I wasn’t upset that my work wasn’t as good as it could be. I knew that. I was upset because I had deemed myself good enough to go and become a part of this group, and the truth was they knew a lot more than I did. I was a newbie, wet behind the ears, making mistakes that they shake their heads at. I didn’t want to go to the next day’s meeting. I knew they’d all tell me the same things that the email had. I could suddenly identify with those unfortunate American Idol try-outers who are so hopeless it’s embarrassing and nobody ever told them until they “out”ed themselves, publicly, to strangers.
I would find a way to justify missing the meeting and never going back. I would tell myself that I needed a few more years of practice before I was ready for a writer’s group. I would hide, make excuses and somehow find a way to live with my cowardice. I would give up my dream of writing. I would donate plasma for an income when my children would all be in school full time.
My husband would tell me that he understood my decision, but I would know deep down that he was disappointed in me. When my Dad passed away, Ryan told me that I was brave. He said that he saw something in me that he didn’t know was there.
I got to thinking, all writers get critiqued and the only difference between a critiqued writer who fails and one who succeeds is that the one who succeeds doesn’t quit. I’m a beginner. I’m starting out. There’s only one way to learn most of these techniques, and that’s to make the mistakes and have someone point them out. To swallow your pride and own your inexperience and humbly say, the one thing I can definitely keep doing is trying.
I cleaned myself up. It was tough after three days of no hygiene. No sleep +crying= puffy eyes. I scrubbed the paint splatters from my arms. I changed my clothes three times. I said hello and goodbye to Ryan and turned the kids over to him. I walked into the meeting ten minutes late.
It took forever for it to be my turn. The guy who had sent me the email critique was sitting next to me. I made a little joke about how he had baptized me into the group by fire. Everyone chuckled. Then everyone, especially he, encouraged me! They told me what was promising about my writing and about my book. They gave me ideas. They discussed and debated what direction I should go in. Two of the girls whom I adored at the first meeting and who write in the same genre as I do approached my friend and me about having a secondary, smaller, critique group. It was what I’d been hoping for!
On the way home I realized it. I’ve never been closer to being a writer than I was in that moment. That moment when I laid it all on the line, accepted the fact that it wasn’t good enough yet, decided that one day it would be and stared down the challenge of making it so. The reality is I’ll be re-writing a lot. The reality is being a writer is hard work. The reality is that it will all make me better and that’s what I want. The reality is I was really proud of myself… and to think… I almost quit.