The Reader and the Writer

I remember when I said I’d write a new post every day.  That was optimistic.  I’m still not sure what to do with Charlie, but I wanted to write a little about the connection between reading and writing.

I think it is impossible to be one without the other.  You can’t be a good reader without appreciating how hard it is to create something out of nothing, and you can’t be a good writer without understanding how words sound on a page as well as understanding why good writers are good writers.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to emulate a writer you admire.  It doesn’t have to be freaking Charles Dickens or Ernest Hemingway, just someone you enjoy reading.  Don’t worry about copying them, just learn their cadences and their pacing.  I wrote a story based on Chuck Palahniuk’s style for one of my college workshop classes, and it wasn’t great, but it was a good lesson.  It teaches you to think about why you like what you like.  Why, exactly, does JK Rowling pull you into her Harry Potter novels?  Why did you devour the entire Hunger Game series in one week?  Why did you finish that book by John Irving with such a satisfied feeling?  Pay attention!

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case because, apparently, Stephanie Meyers has never read a book in her life.  Or never took a grammar class in her life.  Or doesn’t have an editor.  Or all three.  Check out the link at the bottom of the page, it is my new favorite thing to read.

http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/

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Writing is Hard – and I only do things I’m good at

I told myself I’d write something every day, because honestly, that’s the only way you get better as a writer.  You practice.  And practice.  And rewrite.  And practice.  However, if you know me, you know one thing about me:  I rarely do anything I’m not good at.  I’m not bragging, and I’m not trying  to say I’m good at everything.  What I’m saying is that I know I suck at tennis, so I don’t play.  I know I’m not a great cook, so I don’t plan any dinner parties.  It’s a fault, definitely, but I like when people say “Omg, Patsy, that was great!  You did such a great job!”  I mean, who doesn’t?  Which is why writing is so hard.  When I wrote as a kid, my teachers praised me.  My parents encouraged me.  But when I wrote in college and in high school, teachers edited the shit out of my papers and gave me C’s on essays.  My parents encouraged me to pursue science.  When you pour your heart into a story, it becomes a part of you.  It is hard to listen to critiques on your writing and understand that people aren’t critiquing you as a person.  They’re only trying to make your story stronger.

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A Post a Day…

It’s been a long day, so this post will be short.  Please keep in mind that this is a first draft and there has been no editing!

#3

Charlie rested his head against the bus window and willed himself to be excited about this new school year.  Last year ended in a debacle featuring his underwear and the cutest girl in the fifth grade.  He prayed no one remembered, but wasn’t too hopeful when Keith walked on the bus.  “Hey, tighty-whitey,” he greeted Charlie.

“Hey, don’t worry about him,” Kumar said.  “No one else remembers.”

But what if everyone did?  What if, gulp, Sonya remembered?  What if she remembered his dinosaur patterned underwear?  Or the way his mother wrote the name on the elastic?  His cheeks reddened at the memory.  His mind flashed to possible nightmare first day of school scenarios.  Underwear in his desk.  Keith.  Sonya laughing in his face.

“Charlie?” Kumar asked, but Charlie didn’t answer.  His thoughts bounced from scenario to scenario.  “Charlie?” Kumar asked a little more urgently.  “CHARLIE!”

Charlie snapped to attention and found his body floating five inches above the bus seat.

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The Incredible Floating Boy

When I tell people what I do (mostly more creative, artistic friends) they give me a sympathetic frown.  “Well, at least it’s a job,” they say.  Or “You’re going to keep writing, right?”  They’re shocked, like I sold out or that I work for “the man,” someone our English teachers warned us about.  But I don’t feel the need to apologize or defend my choices.  Do I have to starve to be an artist?  Do I have to live in my parents basement until I’m 30 because I never have the money to move out?  God knows freelancing doesn’t really pay the bills.  You can sigh all you want – but I have a job and an apartment! And yes, I’m going to keep writing.

Charlie’s Adventure, Continued:

As soon as he woke up, Charlie crashed back into his bed.

“Charlie!” His mother called, running into his room.  “Are you alright?”

He felt like someone had thrown a bucket of water on his head. He could feel the terror in his stomach, like a ball of ice that just would not melt.

“I’m fine, mom,” Charlie answered, a little confused.  He had never gotten that high before.  He always levitated at night – his mind never focused on anything.  He raced on a speedway at the Indy 500 or tossed a football with Michael Ohr.  He couldn’t focus on keeping his body on the ground while his mind was busy.  But to have risen feet into the air?  It unnerved him.

Charlie dragged himself out of bed and shuffled over to the clothes his mother had laid out for him the night before.  He was really too old for her to do this anymore, but he knew she got some sort of weird pleasure from dressing him.  He pulled on some blue jeans and an Optimus Prime t-shirt and flexed his muscles in the mirror.  Puny. No wonder Liz only had eyes for Brodie.  He made being a 12-year-old boy look easy.  His face never broke out, his voice never cracked, and braces only made him look better.  All the girls swooned when he walked by in the hallway, breathing in the Axe smell that rolled off of him in waves.  He even modeled tube socks for Modell’s.  Liz didn’t even know Charlie existed.  He sighed and trudged down the stairs.

“Good morning, little man!” said his mother in a cheerful voice.

“Morning, mom,” Charlie mumbled.

“How’s your condition today?” she asked.  She never failed to ask.

“Fine, mom,” Charlie assured her.  “Everything’s fine.  You know, I really think it’s starting to go away.  I’ve really gotten an handle on it.”

“That’s great, hon!  I don’t want you to end up like your grandmother.  Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but there was always something a little weird about her, if you ask me.  I’m so happy you finally figured out how to control it.  How do you do it?”

“Well, you know, I concentrate.  Like always,” said Charlie quickly.  “I think my mind is just getting used to telling me to stay down, you know.”

His mom gave Charlie a quick hug.  “I’m so happy, honey.  So happy.”

And that pretty much told Charlie he would never tell his mom what happened.  Nope, never.  She’d think he was a freak.

“The bus!  The bus!” Charlie shouted.  “Bye, mom.”

The bus rolled down the street, slowing down as it reached his corner.  Stay on the ground, Charlie whispered to himself.  Stay on the ground.

“Come on up, sugar,” the bus driver wheezed from way too many packets of cigarettes.

Charlie ran up the steep steps and sank into the first available seat next to Kumar.  Kumar was safe.  Kumar was someone Charlie felt safe around.

“My man,” Charlie greeted Kumar.  “How’s that chest hair coming in?”

“Please, like you know what chest hair even looks like, Kumar,” scoffed Charlie.  Truthfully, neither one of them really know what chest hair looked like, or why it was even there, it just sounded manly to them.

“I’ve got more hair on my chest Sonal has on her legs,” Kumar retorted.  Sonal, an unfortunate eleven year old, had thick, black hair on her legs that her mother refused to let her shave.  Sonal’s mother said god made her hair like that so she wouldn’t be tempted to wear anything “indecent.”  This became a problem in the summer for Sonal, because, unfortunately, she also had a sweating problem.

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The Beginning

As someone who graduated with a BA in English, I like the creativity writing affords me.  Writing feels like a release and something that keeps me sane.  I always thought I would write for a career and work somewhere with other, literary people who talked books all day.  Enter real world.  I work for a defense contractor in DC and, while I like it, I’ve realize I need to keep writing stories and creating to keep myself happy.

So, I created this blog site to post my stories.  I’m challenging myself to post something every day – whether it be 2 pages or 1 paragraph – of an original story.  I have slipped into the bad habit of saying I’m going to write “someday.”  Instead of waiting for someday, I’m making that day today.

My first story is about a boy named Charlie.  Charlie is your average 11 year old except for one thing – he can float.  In fact, his body will float without his consent unless he constantly tells himself to stay down.  I appreciate your comments as to how I can make these stories better!

Charlie

This is the beginning of something great.  Something strange.  If you don’t like strange, great things, put this book down and walk away.  Run away, if possible.  Because strange, great things have a way of pulling you back in even after you thought you escaped.  It grabs you from behind.  It whispers intoxicating words in your ear.  Come with me, it beckons. Its touch is lighter than air and feels like the wind on the first, perfect spring day after a long winter. So, on second thought, maybe you shouldn’t put this book down.  It would only call you back.

The strange-great thing involves a boy.  And a talent – or curse – depending on whether you see your glass half full or half empty.  So sit down, get comfortable, and listen to Charlie’s story.

On the outside, Charlie was like every other boy on his street.  He played baseball and knew the stats of every player on the Yankees roster.  He hated peas and always tried to hide them under his plate when his mom made them for dinner.  He had a collection of magnets from every state he had ever visited – 26 so far.  But no matter what he looked like on the outside, Charlie was different.

Charlie didn’t know when it started, but he knew it was getting worse.  If he didn’t constantly remind himself to stay firmly planted on the ground, Charlie would float.  If his mind wandered, his body would forget the laws of gravity and his feet would leave the ground.  Charlie would float a few millimeters at most, almost indiscernible to ordinary people, before he snapped back to attention.  He would be pondering the songs of birds.  How did they learn them?  Were they always the same?  What were the birds saying to each other? And feel his feet leave the ground.

Charlie used to be able to hide his condition quite well.  Only his parents knew.  His grandmother, a great artist, had suffered from a similar condition, only she could reach the clouds if she got too carried away.  Charlie had only ever managed about a foot, although he’d never tested himself.  The ground felt safe and solid to him.  The air just seemed full of uncertainty and impending disaster.  Charlie was always able to live with his condition and keep it a secret from everyone at school.  But one day he woke up on the ceiling.

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