Last night, my ten-year-old daughter slept in the bedroom
with my husband and me.
She was freaked out.
I didn’t know I was until I woke up in the middle of the
night, and the previous five days’ events whipped around my brain.
When 09/11 occurred, I lived in New York. The magnitude of
what had happened shocked our nation and the world. I lived an hour away and
knew people whose lives had been irrevocably changed as a result.
Monday, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.
I’ve never gone to the marathon. Each year I mean to, but
somehow don’t. I wasn’t directly in any danger. I knew someone who raced, who
was fine. Later, I found out a woman who died worked not far from my house.
But I felt it profoundly. Boston is my home. Not Cambridge.
Not Arlington. I don’t identify just with a street or a neighborhood or even a
town. The reason my husband and I moved here is because we’d vacationed around
Massachusetts when we were still in college and fell in love with the state.
The whole Boston-area is home to me.
I wasn’t alone feeling Bostonian. Yankee Stadium played
“Sweet Caroline.” Each time, I think about it, I get chills. Other cities,
other people made similar gestures at other stadiums, plastered posters of
solidarity on Facebook, set up races to honor Boston’s fallen.
The whole week felt surreal. It was spring break, but there
was this unease. The persons who committed the atrocious acts were out there…
somewhere. Would they be caught? Would they strike again?
Then Friday morning at 6:15, the events familiar to all of
us began to unfold. For the next 16 hours, I was glued to the radio and TV and
social media. Even though Arlington wasn’t on lockdown, the towns around us
were. I had faith in the Boston Police and every unit of law enforcement on the
But other parts of the day were even harder. The picture of
the suspect who’d escaped. He looked so earnest.
I’ve taught children about the age he was in the photo in Cambridge for years.
I’d even subbed at Cambridge Rindge and Latin two of the years he was there. I
lived just blocks away from the suspects’ home. I had just PARKED MY CAR right
by his house and walked past it on WEDNESDAY. Were either of the suspects in
there at the time? What were they doing?
Had I walked the same streets with him at the same time? Had
our paths crossed?
Even though the terrorists didn’t affect me directly, I was
He looked no different than the kids I’d taught, the
children my kids went to school with, the people I saw in the street. I’ve met
the teachers in his elementary school. I can picture the kindergarten classes
I’ve seen terrorists on the TV before. It was easy to
demonize them. While I know this suspect should
and will be punished, I know he was
here living with us.
How did he live with us, yet still de-humanize us? How could
he plan something so big and horrible?
He was a part of Boston, yet he hurt it.
He hurt us.
More than ever, I am not just a part of my street or
neighborhood or town. The Boston Marathon is an international event. Our world
is as big or as small as we make it.
If we make our world big, then there is nous vs. them. There’s just us.
Kilgore visits to tackle what we writers wrestle with, rewrite…
Once upon a time . . .
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive . . .
We remember the perfect ones.
They seem so easy, so
For me, beginnings are the most
difficult part of the story to write.
They’re not so hard to draft –
we’re all excited to get those words down while we’re chasing after the latest
Bright Shiny. But those first draft words are sly and deceitful. What was full
of promise on Day 1 becomes dull and plodding when we’re back for a second look
on Day 101.
Our mission is simple – entice
the reader to turn the page.
Start with the first line. The
first paragraph. The first page. The first chapter.
Think about words, tone,
Think about pacing, building
suspense. Surprise. Laughter. Whatever direction leads into your story.
Make the reader care enough to
turn the page.
Cast your bright, shiny hook
her way, and reel her into your story.
For as long as I’ve been
writing, I’ve tried to write a fast first draft. I go at a fair clip once I get
my sea legs, but that doesn’t happen until I introduce the main characters and
some (meaning more than two) of them interact. That usually takes between 20-30
pages before I’m comfortable.
During this time, it’s slow
going. I write. Rewrite. Write. Rearrange. Write. Change some preconceived
ideas. Write. And so on. I change the beginning again and again. Sometime
during the process, the first lines start to gel. I only pick at a word here
Each time I put on my writing
hat, I move deeper into the characters and story. But I also go over and over
these first pages each time.
In revisiting them each day, the
prose becomes smoother, the ideas become more solid, the backstory and banter I
didn’t think I included gets written out. But the most important thing for me
is that I get to know my main characters better.
By the time I do move on, the
beginning is as good as I can make it . . . for first draft.
Then comes the next draft. And
the one after. They all go the same way. When I no longer spend more time on
the opening than on any of the other pages, I finally feel like I’m good to go.
I continue to hope for a speedy
first draft beginning with the first word. Maybe one day I’ll succeed. I wonder
if I’ll miss the extra time with my characters?
And check out Solomon’s
Compass. Here’s the blurb:
belt—her uncle’s prized possession. The lure of buried treasure. And a sexy
former SEAL who makes U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell crazy. What
more could any woman want. Right?
Taylor is in Rock Harbor, Texas, on a quest to unearth
her uncle’s treasure—a journey far outside the realm of her real life. There’s
one glitch. Taylor's certain the buried treasure was all in Uncle Randy's
dementia-riddled mind. Now he’s dead.
Former SEAL Jake Solomon is in Rock Harbor
under false pretenses to protect Taylor from the fate that befell her uncle and
the other members of a tight circle of Coast Guardsmen called the Compass
Points who served together on Point boats in Vietnam.
Jake is definitely not supposed to become
involved with Taylor. That was his first mistake. Taylor is attracted to Jake
as well, but she refuses to wait for him to locate the killer when she knows
her plan will force her uncle’s murderer into action.
But the killer's actions are just what
Jake is afraid of.
Writers and established authors have provided wonderful
words of encouragement.
It’s not them, it’s me.
I’ve followed all the rules. I read the books in my genre. I’ve read and applied
how-to-write advice. I attend conferences. I took poetry and grammar classes. I
ask other writers to critique my manuscripts. I revise my queries and
manuscripts a zillion times before I submit. I research agents thoroughly.
There are glimmers. A full request here. ABNA rounds or
contests won there.
But it goes nowhere.
My biggest hurdle is networking. I’m intimidated when I talk
to agents and editors. My friend said they wear pants like the rest of us. I
say, “But they’re fancy pants.”
I’ve been querying a middle grade since December. There were
a few promising developments. Now I find out that, after a zillion rewrites, my
query is “too vague.” So I’ve rewritten. AGAIN. Since many agents will ONLY view the query before they
request pages, I feel I’ve blown a few promising chances to have pages read.
There are more agents out there. Small presses. I’ve
received some promising feedback from agents on this manuscript. There are
certainly more chances for it. It’s not finished.
But sometimes I feel like I am.
4 writers have read my current YA. It’s now out with the 5th.
I envision a trilogy. But I won’t let myself write the other 2 books. If the 1
doesn’t sell (and I must face that my track record of 0 books published is not
great), then how will I feel if all 3 are written?
3x as worse.
But here’s the thing, I tell myself to move on to the next
story, which is why I have an upper-middle grade rough draft ½ finished. But
the YA story writes itself in my head. All. The. Time.
In my mind, I have these wonderful stories. I itch to share