I wrote the following for a class I took a few years ago. It’s a bit rough and still unedited, but I’m posting it here because (a) it’s been a while, and (b) it goes hand-in-hand with the upcoming March edition of the Yet-to-be-Named Newsletter for the Chico Writers Group.
While at the Pacific Northwest Writing Association’s annual conference in Seattle this past July and waiting for my appointment with the incredible Erin Brown, a book doctor (more on her in a moment ) I chatted with a couple fellow writers. One was a young woman who writes science fiction/fantasy and the other was a slightly older guy whom I believe said he writes suspense. He asked how many works in progress (WIP) we had going. She answered two. I did the like (although in reality, I toy with about three). He said he could only do one at a time. We figured that was just because women, without stereotyping too much here, are probably better at multi-tasking.
A fellow writer, whom I met during the conference (long story, but the short of it is, she lives in the Seattle area, had attended the national romance writers conference, so wasn’t attending the PNWA con), said it’s best to stick to one novel and keep notes for other novel ideas. I’m not so sure I agree with that, but have been trying to take her advice. I find that if I get stuck on one novel, I can shift gears and go on to another WIP, work on that until I get stuck, shift again – lather, rinse, repeat. Since she made the suggestion, I’m trying to stick to just one. So far, it’s been going good.
Until mid-morning yesterday.
I got stuck so bad I was reaching for my cell to call AAA and ask for a tow. So I flipped over to the Young Adult (YA) WIP. Thank goodness, too. I got a problem resolved in there (we’ll get to that in a moment) and was able to return to the suspense-thriller I was stuck on. Progress once again!
The YA WIP I’d sent to Erin back in March had been in the second round of revisions, . Since then I had made a complete rewrite, did some more revisions, and set it aside. So when I was preparing to meet with Erin the night before our appointment, I pulled up the WIP and skimmed it. It was absolutely dreadful! I was mortified to have to go in and face this woman and the very moment she smiled up at me and shook my hand, I burbled out my apology. She was surprised because she said that my writing was strong, I had some very nice character descriptions, a great idea and she just had a few suggestions to pass along.
She had a ton of great suggestions, ones that immediately were put to use. I did spend some time going back and taking her suggestions to heart, reworked the piece. But as I mentioned before, I got stuck.
After today’s near-death-experience with the suspense-thriller WIP, I dusted off the YA WIP and found out why I was hitting the wall in that one. I simply had to cut a scene.
So… along with the high recommendation to hire Erin Brown, I present to you the exiled excerpt from my YA WIP:
Tommy reached his hand out from the sweatshirt’s sleeves, fingers opening like a crab’s claws. He brushed a lock of Dani’s hair away from her eyes. She resisted the urge to pull back from having her personal space violated.
Had she given him the wrong signals?
His hand hovered there and then his eyes closed, his long, curled lashes resting on his cheeks. It was all she could do to keep from bursting out in laughter. She was picturing the flour that had coated those lashes clear back when they were still in third grade after a science project went wonky.
She pulled her head back. His lips were moving in her direction. “Tommy!”
His eyes flashed at her. “What?” His cheeks practically glowed bright red.
She laughed. “You weren’t going to kiss me, were you?”
“No,” he said at a decibel just above silent. Stepping back, he put his hands on his bike’s handlebars.
“Good, because that would be weird,” Dani told him as she unwound the chain from under her bike’s seat.
She shrugged and kneeled down to thread the chain through the back tire’s spokes. “‘Cause you’re more like a brother, I guess. I mean, come on, Tommy. I’ve known you since we were in diapers!”
He laughed too, but that’s when it dawned on her that maybe he had been intending on kissing her. That thought made her stomach gurgle. It also made her sad. She liked Tommy as a friend. But now with that between them, it was like what Amy said, you just can’t go back to being ‘just friends.’
“Tiffany, I just got the bill from the credit card company and am a bit surprised to see the charges were so high. What on earth did you buy?”
“Funny you should mention ‘earth’ John, because that’s exactly what I was doing – saving the planet!”
“Really? And how did you accomplish that?”
“Well, we needed some more wine glasses for the barbecue, right?”
“So, of course buying plastic disposables is out of the question. They don’t decompose well and are toxic to the environment, right?”
“So the story goes.”
“Exactly! So glass is a better bet since it can be melted and reshaped into other goods, or, new glasses for that matter.”
“Windshields you say?”
“Yes, incredible, isn’t it? Who’d have thought!”
“I wouldn’t. I sure hope they do wash them first. For some reason all I can picture is a black fly floating in my glass of Chablis.”
“Very funny, John. Of course they wash them first!”
“Good. So you bought some I take it?”
“Yes, of course.”
“No, Tiff, I meant how much were the glasses?”
“I don’t quite recall, but I remember they’d been on sale and I got a better deal by ordering more.”
“What was the company’s name? Glass Implosion?”
“Yes! Yes, that’s it!”
“And you said you got a good deal?”
“I see. Did you happen to check the Sunday ads?”
“We don’t get the paper anymore, John. We have an online subscription, remember?”
“Yes, but we still can look at the ads, right?”
“I believe so, why?”
“Well, Tiff, did you check there first?”
“What are you asking, John?”
“So you didn’t see the ad for the set of twenty-four glasses on sale at K-Mart for less than a buck a glass?”
“K-ame-a-Part? Don’t be absurd, John! I’d never be caught dead shopping there!”
“And yet you have no qualms about buying recycled windshields out of a warehouse less than six miles from 3-Mile Island at thirty-five times what it would have cost to buy them from – what did you call it?”
“Yes. And did you also realize this Kame Apart offered free shipping? Meaning you wouldn’t have had to step foot in their wretched store?”
“I suppose next you’ll tell me the money you spent is recyclable too.”
“It’s safer for our environment!”
“And I suppose the computer and the electricity is safer than the newspaper that’s (a) recyclable and (b) printed on recycled paper and is better for the environment, too.”
“Of course it is!”
“Really? And what do you do when the computer stops working, Tiffany?”
“I see. And the plastics? They’re recycled how?”
“I’m not sure. I suppose they’re melted down too.”
“Really? You can safely melt plastic?”
“Stop it John! You’re giving me a headache!”
“Well wet a towel and go lay down.”
“I’ve too much to do to lay down. I’ll just take some Motrin.”
“Out of a plastic bottle ….”
by Kathie Leung
All Rights Reserved
I’ve always said to my husband when asked for a gift list that I prefer things with careful thought and consideration, home/handmade for instance. He’s caused himself immense amount of pain trying to come up with any satisfactory ideas and winds up having to rely upon the “can’t go wrong” list I grudgingly supply him with.
I know, I know. This from the very same man who manages to make me laugh (even though I grouse about his teasing that can go overboard and me, Miss Sensitivity on a rather frequent basis, overreacts – shhh… that’s our little secret), has created some pretty interesting ways to Topsy-Turvy our tomato plants, did a fair job at reupholstering the boat seats during the short 4 months or so we actually owned a boat. I was pretty surprised myself he couldn’t come up with anything.
In his defense, I must say that he was pretty good about involving the kids in coming up with some thoughtful, personal creations; such as the ceramic plate they put their handprints on and then painted, had it fired and presented it to me when they were about five or the beautiful beaded necklace and bracelets they created and gave to me for Mother’s Day a few years ago (ones that I still get raving comments about whenever I wear them and can proudly say “my sons made these for me”).
But then, something truly amazing happened. Oh, I won’t just tell you, how about I show you? Let’s take a gander:
After unwrapping this very heavy box, I see that it’s a case of the only diet soda I can drink, Pepsi One, because it has Splenda in it (I can’t drink saccharine or aspartame because it gives me an instant migraine that shuts me down for several hours). Nice. But then I break it open and find that it already was opened once before. Inside, each individual can is wrapped with Press-n-Seal plastic wrap with a Dutch Bros. $1 gift certificate underneath. Twenty-four (he gave me the remaining 6 after I got them all off the cans.
This was a few years after I’d found these (see below) in my Easter basket from him…
Which was seven months before I opened this…
a photo album with printed copies of all the digital pictures we’d taken over the past year, with…
you guessed it, Dutch Bros. certificates tucked into several (about 19 in total not including the one in the front pocket) of the sleeves. But that one I figured out already because they had been in such a hurry to get the gift assembled and then out the door to go play a round of golf before sunset and forgot to clean up after themselves. The only trick was, trying to figure out how they “hid” the certificates.
This particular gift, a table-top Lazy Susan style rack of seasonings, was more-or-less regifted. I’d bought my husband, a master chef (well, more or less, he’s one mean tri-tip griller among other things) a similar rack but several of the lids were broken and so he took it back. There weren’t any more left and then along came my birthday, so, voila! Anyway, this was the hardest one the boys and he put together for me. They wrapped the bottles with the certificates and then put them back inside the rack. The problem was, the paper kept uncoiling and sliding down the center. I was completely surprised, though!
And finally, the recreated picture of the very first time he did this little project and presented it to me. He bought $20 worth of certificates and then pushed each one into a paperclip strung through the end of a zip-tie to create a colorful bouquet and then used a travel mug as the vase. I burst out into tears when he gave that to me, it was so very moving. It’s now become a joke to see (a) if he can outdo the previous gifts he’s given me and (b) if he can surprise me with the new creation.
Does this mean I’m cheap? That I can be easy with a mere $20 worth of coffee certificates? Oh, I won’t answer that one! Only he gets to know that answer! ;0)