So I guess it starts with… Part 1

Who can wait for the new year? Ahead of schedule, please enjoy the first installment of what could be a horrific mess of a novel. Yay!

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So I guess it starts with a girl…

Is it already cliché? I promise she’s not beautiful. Or a vampire. Or from a tragic background. Still? Fine. Then how about:

So I guess it starts with a murder…

Is that too melodramatic? What if it’s true? Okay, I’ll try again.

So I guess it starts with a broken down truck and a baby and a miscommunication…

 

My father used to drag my high chair into the garage where he would inexpertly tinker with a partly dismantled piece of junk “classic” car while narrating his actions. He’d leave me with a stack of those special baby-formulated dissolving cracker-cookies, most of which would end up on the floor, or in my hair, or on the corner of the work bench that was just within reach of the fingers I had recently discovered were connected by invisible wishing strings to my desires.

I’d study the shiny silvery tools that shot sunbeams into my face and shaky spotlights onto the rest of the garage while he used the wrong words to refer to parts of the car that he was restoring. I had tested a number of those words in my mouth, operating under the theory that if invisible wishing strings could command my fingers, they could also command my noises. Most of them came out as a sort of garbled screech, but motor was a bit easier. The mmm was one of my favourite sounds and possibly the pinnacle of my vocabulary. The terr was fun to practice, like spitting out letters. The oh was the hardest, but after a week or two I had figured it out by making kiss lips and pushing noise from the back of my throat.

When I was ready to put them all together, I waited for a break in my father’s babble. I wanted him to know that I had been listening – that his chatter wasn’t in vain. I wanted to show him that I appreciated the cookie stacks and the fresh air from the open garage door and the silly bouncing refracted light and the intrigue of him creating a mess slowly, piece-by-piece, over hours and then becoming overwhelmed all at once by how much there was to clean up. He reached for a screwdriver – flathead, he told me, not Phillips – and I responded with my hard-earned word.

Motor I told him.

He looked at me. “What did you say?”

Motor I repeated.

He hopped up and ran to the inside door.

“Jane, you’ve got to get in here!” he yelled.

Motor motor motor I said, enjoying the active spectacle I had created.

“Jane! He’s talking!” my father yelled again, and then ran back to me. “Your mom is going to be so excited. Though you couldn’t make it ‘daddy’ huh? Oh well. Maybe the next one.”

I smiled at him. Daddy seemed like a pretty challenging sound to make, but for him, I would do my best.

My mother jogged into the garage. She was wearing the terrifying dish-washing gloves that gave her monster hands. I tried to keep my eyes on my father to distract me from the threat of them.

“Okay buddy, can you say it again?” my father asked. I gargled a little in my throat to regain my composure.

“Come on baby, talk for mommy,” monster-hands said.

Motor I repeated, and she squealed.

“Didn’t I tell you?” my father said, smiling his big bearded smile.

“Amazing!”

She reached for me and pulled me out of the high-chair with her monster hands, and I squirmed as hard as I could to get away. “Can you say it again?” she asked, and I weighed my options. If I talked again, maybe she would put me down, or give me to my father.

Motor I said, and she laughed.

“What a funny little gentleman you are. So formal!”

“I know,” said my father. “Who’s ever heard of a kid’s first word being ‘mother?’ It’s usually mommy or mama or something. That’s one classy baby we’ve made.”

I shook my head. I wasn’t saying ‘mother,’ obviously. How boring would that be? Plus, why would I have needed another word for her? She already came when I made the screechy cry noise.

Motor I said, trying to annunciate, Mmm-o-terr.

It was no use. They threw me about and clapped and petted and hugged and kissed. Their excitement was funny, and after a few minutes I got into the spirit of it as well, especially when my mother remembered to take off her monster-hand gloves.

Sometimes I think I should have tried harder to make myself clear – that giving into the first misunderstanding set the tone for the rest of my life – that I created this destiny for myself by giggling while they twirled me around and doted on my brilliance in that garage – but, then again, maybe I would have become who I was regardless of that mistake.

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obvs:
© 2014 Sarah Lund

The surprising dullness of entering a writing contest

Last night I entered the “Canada Writes” CBC Short Story contest. Instead of feeding the online submission form a piece that I wrote a long time ago, re-read, edited, and perfected, I provided it with something new. I wrote” Comfortable” on a whim last Thursday. It’s about a man who hates his job and dies choking on his ten-year anniversary cake. It’s decent enough – it’s the right length, anyway – and now it’s off in the universe, ready for judgment.

This is the first time I’ve ever submitted my work to a large writing contest. I thought it would be exciting, but it’s hard to be excited since it will take three months to know if I even made the long list (don’t get your hopes up, friends). Oh well.

I should be happier, since I’ve set some goals (shocking, I know) to more aggressively pursue writing, and submitting to three contests before June is one of those goals. I guess it does feel rewarding,  in a vague kind of way.

Something else to be jazzed about: I wrote a complete and creative short story in a day. Usually it takes me much longer to go from inspiration to finished product… though now that I think about it, the short stories of which I’m proudest were all basically complete in one sitting. Holy shit. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.

Mind = blown

Innovation and Penguin PR: #TwitterFiction

Good morning dear readers.

How has the writing been going? Are the prompts helping? The quote from Emma led me to a  story of two upper-class girls in modern New York, but told as if they lived 200 years ago. Think “Gossip Girl” as narrated by Jane Austen. Really fun to write. I’d love to hear about where the prompts have taken you so far.

In other news:

Tomorrow is the beginning of Twitter Fiction Fest – a five-day online festival exploring the question, “Can one use Twitter to tell a story?”

Penguin Random House is the figurative host of this fiction party, having selected several Twitter authors to showcase . The neato thing about this charming PR gambit is the innovation in storytelling. It’s more than just writing in 140 character chunks; the chosen authors have employed creative techniques to take full advantage of the specific medium to which they’re bound.

Whether it’s linking photo- and video-sharing sites to their feeds to create a vivid sensory experience, or setting up feeds under the names of multiple characters to tell the story from several viewpoints at once, #TwitterFiction challenges the notion of what it means to be an author, and proves once again that it’s quality and not quantity that counts.

Follow @twfictionfest to indulge in the experience and use #TwitterFest to participate yourself. For good measure, also follow @americanpublish, @randomhouse, and @penguinusa. Oh, and me: @sarahelund.

S.E. Lund

An archivist’s dream.

Hello and happy bunny day to all you Easter-minded ink splAters. Hello and happy long weekend to ink splAters of non-bunny-loving denominations.

Well, it’s spring. Aside from being able to run outside again (yay!), and the looming joy that is graduation, spring means cleaning. This year the cleaning has taken on a bit of a morbid mood in my house.

My sister and her boyfriend are moving out, so family heirlooms and take-with-able inheritance items are being identified and divvied between us. This is actually fun. In the past couple of days I’ve amassed an impressive collection of cutlery, crystal, and cookbooks.  My favorite, The New Delineator Cookbook, was given as a gift to my great-grandma on my Dad’s side in 1929. I looked it up…to collectors it’s worth a whopping $20 now. But its real worth – and the worth of the collection of my ancestor’s books – is the legitimacy these old, worn, written-in cookbooks will lend to my kitchen. They’ll stand in sharp contrast to the newest version of The Best of Bridge and The New Moosewood Cookbook on my recipe shelf. In a few days I’ll post pictures of these old but new-to-me treasures.

The morbid part of the sorting  was the stack of things that my mum asked us to choose our favorites from,  but which we won’t be getting “until after your dad and I die.” I have to say, I felt a little creepy with that process.

SPRING SORTING

Going through household treasures inspired me to make an attempt at organizing my personal piles of junk. I try to keep my work and school life highly scheduled and organized – successfully I’d say – but my living space is a complete disaster. My bookshelves have overflowed to the point that I keep piles of books on my floor (though they are stacked alphabetically and by genre). Loose paper is my real issue. Like any budding writer worthy of the title, I have a tendency use a lot of paper. Musings, stories, assignment brainstorms, old essays, scribbles, collages, notes, mail, to-do lists… these scraps flood my life. To “solve” this problem, I took all my papers and put them into one giant keeper, so I would be able to sort through them all at once. But what actually happened was that I kept adding papers to the keeper until I needed two keepers and while there was less mess scattered about, old assignments and specific stories became rather impossible and daunting to find. So Friday saw me haul the original giant bin down to the living room, where there is ample sorting space, and spend the next while weeding my collected documents down to the essential.

I did a fairly good job I think, assisted in part by the realization that my last week of classes is next week and I likely won’t need 95 per cent of the handouts from the last two years. (School stuff that made the cut: photoshop notes; PR notes; journalism streeters from first year; broadcasting budgeting notes; and one page of radio notes that had some really impressive scribbles.)

ARCHIVES

I couldn’t help but keep anything even vaguely connected to creative writing, and for a good – if ambitious – reason. On Thursday, my creative writing class visited the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Manitoba. We got to root through the correspondence, notes, and drafts of a bunch of authors. This collection of papers included some flirtatious letters to an author soon-to-be married (from a couple of other women), and an email chain between another author and her dry cleaner.

Visiting this place was enlightening. I learned that if you have even moderate success as an author, someday students might want to write essays and theses on you. If that is likely to happen, libraries might be interested in collecting the piles and piles of writing you’ve done over your lifetime, sorting it for relevance, and making it available for the world to access. CRAZY.

Thus, I couldn’t make myself throw out the six printed drafts I have of my novel from July to September (even though I have them saved by date on my computer). Also, I’ve been given a new excuse to keep my terrible middle school writings. One day, they may amount to a tax break. Excellent.

Eat chocolate.