Writing the Book Part II

As I journey with this book, Things You Forget, in person and sometimes on this blog, I want to remember this particular incident because it encourages me, and we all need a little encouragement, don’t we? It happened a while back, April 2017, to be exact.

I submitted to a first page critique by literary agent Holly McGhee at Pippin Properties on Kathy Temean’s wonderful Writing and Illustrating blog. I sent on a whim, not expecting any results. And then I forgot about it. When I finally remembered to check the status of my entry, I learned my first page had been selected.

The April 2017 results are here. My specific results are below. I know I’m going to come back to this moment as I try to stay centered and finish this book.

THINGS YOU FORGET by S. K. Van Zandt Young Adult

It’s late November and lousy cold. Wind mixed with sleet gusts across the parking lot. Jordan Rutherford crosses to his truck, yanks the door hard against the freezing blasts, and climbs in. Engines start around him. Headlights blink on. Cars pull slowly away from the church for the long drive to the cemetery. Jordan looks toward the front of the line at the white limo, a foggy stream of air pouring from its exhaust. His mother wants him to ride with her and his grandmother, but forget that. He wants to be alone.

He pulls in somewhere near the end of the line of cars, and they drive onto the main road. People steer their cars onto the crusty edge of the pavement to let them pass. Some stop completely. A little kid leans out the window of a parked car and smiles and waves, like he’s watching a parade or something. Jordan wants this to be over.

When he finally gets to Woodland Memorial Cemetery, a crowd has already gathered, huddled beneath a dark green funeral tent that bends with every burst of wind. Several friends from school hang at the edge of the crowd, including Jordan’s best friend, T. J. Bradley.

Jordan stands on a nearby hill, apart from everyone. He looks past the crowd, at the rows and rows of graves dotting the icy ground, then back to the funeral tent and the waiting grave beneath. If he narrows his eyes just right, everything blurs. As the pastor begins talking, Jordan walks back to his truck, climbs in, and drives away without looking back.

HERE’S HOLLY:

THINGS YOU FORGET–S.K. Van Zandt

I was really moved by this one; it grabbed my attention and I wanted to know more about these characters and what Jordan’s role in the death was. I felt genuine emotion coming through the words. I think this is a strong first page. My only comment is to choose every word carefully, and where there is an opportunity for an appropriate extra detail, grab it. (I’m thinking of the line with the little kid leaning out the window, that seemed like a chance to add a telling detail and use fewer words as well.)

 

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Writing the Book

Things You Forget. I’m working on this young adult novel right now. It’s a story that won’t leave me alone. It’s the story that made me ugly cry during a workshop at VCFA. I put it away after workshop, then worked on it again while my husband was going through cancer treatment. I typed in the bedroom closet of our condo, which was located close to the hospital. We came back to the condo after each treatment, and when he slept, I typed. Furiously. Back at home after a successful treatment and good report, I put it away again. That was over two years ago. But this story won’t go away. So I have made a decision. I will write it and be done. And I wanted to make it official, so I’m saying it here.

Memory is a funny thing. It can both destroy and restore. And mining our memories, the good ones and the ones that haunt us, can often bring healing.

Hemingway’s Way

EH

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over. Ernest Hemingway

Writing tight, concise prose is difficult, no matter what age group we write for or what genre. I stumbled across an article concerning this and tried the app mentioned. The creators of the app wanted to help writers realize when their writing was too dense. I got some interesting results when I pasted a few paragraphs of my own writing into the app. As for this blog post? It got a grade 5 readability. One of fourteen sentences was hard to read. The post contained one adverb and two phrases in need of simpler alternatives.

Using this app might be helpful if someone wants a quick look at how their prose is coming along. Or if you just need to do a little procrastinating. Keep in mind, though, it’s just an exercise.

Interestingly, Hemingway’s own writing didn’t fair so well.

Happy writing!

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Time, You Know…

Wow. It’s been a while since I posted on my blog. Longer than I realized. But I’ve been busy. Life stuff. Family stuff. Finding my way through it all. Finding me, in a way. And I’ve been writing, too. Skimmering around a bit from one project to the next. But writing. Sketching. Picking at my old guitar. So I’ve settled on one project in particular. Well, two really. Working on projects simultaneously is nice. When one project hangs up or begins to smell, and not in a good way, one can always turn to the other. But really, the process of writing for me has gone from a frenetic thing, a high energy thing, an I HAVE TO DO THIS AND I HAVE TO DO IT SO WELL thing, to hello, old friend. Let me sit a while with you. Let me be real. Let me listen.

It’s a process, right? Life’s a process. And time is a slippery beast.

Seasons

 

Picture from fccshelbyville.org