Writing, writing, and Parkland

Brilliant week of writing at my little job. Monday I did nothing but write — I wrote “Words From Our Founding Director” pieces through December. I had noticed that they didn’t post the piece I wrote for March, and that disheartened me, but the director’s assistant, who does all the work, assured me that I am doing a great job.

And I even got into a conversation with a student!

Wednesday I wrote a letter, which took me about 5 minutes; a list of questions for an exit interview for interns, which took me about 15 minutes, and then I volunteered myself to rewrite all the bios of the advisory board members. There is one man, who happens to speak Arabic and Aramaic. Gee, wonder why they chose him? He needs a better bio. I will try again.

I have finished Chapter 2!! I got Emmy on and off the train, and now I’m on to Chapter 3. I have introduced her to Bootscrape and Captain Manderley, through she doesn’t yet know either of them. Now I have to kill off that poor lieutenant and get blood all over the floor.

Tonight I’m going to see the play “The Snow Geese,” about World War I, and tomorrow I’m driving three hours to Grand Rapids to see the ballet. I missed the last performance because of that terrible storm.

I watched a little of the March Against Gun Violence while I was on the treadmill at the gym and could’t escape it. I hope millennials actually vote this time. They had tremendous power in 2016, too, but they couldn’t trouble themselves to get to the polls.  Women demanding rights, students demanding gun reform — if I were an old white Republican man, I would be worried. Very worried. This could not only change the face of Congress, it could change state legislatures across the country. I hope the millennials vote down ballot, too.

The less I know about the Parkland shooting, the better for me. I still have sentences from the Time magazine coverage of Columbine ringing in my memory, and I need to not remember them because they are linked to a whole series of other terrible memories that can make it hard for me to sleep. Running these things through my mind don’t make any difference to anyone else.

But watching the students might. For the first time since 2016, I feel hopeful about our country. If this could be just the first time politicians vote to reflect the actual will of the people, it would change the world.

Progress!

Yesterday I ate a blueberry muffin, some popcorn (a lot of popcorn) and some tomato soup. Campbell’s Slow Kettle Tomato and Sweet Basil Bisque. I love that stuff. I don’t know what was up with that eating, though. I did drink a lot of water.

Also yesterday, I met with my trainer. We discussed my terrible shoulder, then did a lot of lower body-core work. I can do a lot of things I would never have tried. including Downward Dog and then you raise one leg behind you — I’m sure there’s a name for this in yoga, but I don’t know any yoga names beyond Dog and Lotus. We did some yoga stretching, too. It felt pretty good, and again, I was surprised I could do it. I underestimate my strength and flexibility, especially my flexibility. We are also working on balance, to prevent, I hope, my little habit of keeling over. I rarely hurt myself, but’s unnerving.

Wednesday I spent hours at my “job” writing the foreword Our Founding Director posts on the website each month. Obviously, she doesn’t do the actual posting — that’s what students are for! — and she doesn’t write the Words from Our Founding Director posts, either (I did not write this one for March). I put words into her mouth for May, June, July and August, and fixed April up a little. It was fun, although it was so quiet in that room that I thought crunching my salad must sound like machine gun fire. I said so, breaking the apparent no-talking rule. Everyone laughed. They were probably astonished that I could be amusing. I otherwise have all the personality of recessed lighting.  It’s a weird place to work, but it was fun to do all that writing.

And speaking of writing, I FINISHED CHAPTER 1! I wrote about 15 pages on Tuesday. There’s so much more to the story now. It’s deeper, not moving faster. I got her to her big decision, to run off pretending to be her dead sister. Chap. 2 starts, in a little while here, I hope, with her getting to the train. I think the train ride will take a lot longer than it did in the first draft. I know more, and I just can see how to up the tension in several layers at once.

I think it’s better, but can’t really tell. Maybe it will just be a bigger flop than before. It’s hard for me to make things sufficiently creepy, but maybe that’s because I haven’t really tried to imagine finding yourself face to face with someone who has no face.

Whoops, I just got distracted by considering where Emmy and the other VADs and nurses live and how she could hear the ambulances so clearly.  It’s hard to sleep, can be hard to sleep, when I’m writing. I get started planning a scene, then I act it out in my head, then it won’t let me alone for another hour.

German ambulance driversGerman ambulance drivers.

1st day at my “job”

Yesterday I spent the day at HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher), a program at Wayne State founded to help homeless college students. The office is in an incredible mansion, beautiful woodwork and a grand staircase. At first I was OK, even though I had to watch umpteen videos about making videos. I got signed up to follow most of the program’s social media platforms, except Instagram. I got bored when I got to Instagram. Then a little chica led me around the office demonstrating the copier, the laminator, the binder (but not the coffee machine, which would have been helpful) and gave me a scolding because I declined to be checked out on the various cameras. She said, very seriously, that if the official videographer weren’t in the office and something came up, I might be sent to make a video.

Maybe if the zombie apocalypse came — no, I’d be too busy running away. But she was cute.

Anyway, after that I started to hate the job. I knew that would happen: I’ve hated and wanted to go home from every job I’ve ever started. Probably going back to my Burger King experience. There’s always a point during the day when I want to leave.

Then in the afternoon I was asked to check one of the students’ writing. I felt like myself again. Constant mistakes. I actually had to stop and ask her what one word meant. (She was trying to write “co-align,” which I don’t think is a word.) I did a lot of work on two pieces of writing and could have done a lot more. I don’t know, was I meant to rewrite the entire thing? I opted not to.

None of the social media posts were recent. Maybe they use Instagram for most of their posting, because there isn’t much anywhere else, not even the blog. I wonder what the kids are doing. It’s important for the program to spread its news as far as possible. I’ll look into it a little more tomorrow.

It’s what I wanted: a nice office where I can wear my office clothes and never work nights, weekends or holidays. I work 9-5, which means rush hour, but you be patient (and pee before you leave). I JUST WISH THEY WERE PAYING ME!!!

Trench with water up to knees
Great War British soldiers in a flooded trench.

This is not the job I want.

Today I had a guy come and finish the bookshelves. It turns out that Buster and I could never have finished them ourselves. They had to be glued and hammered together. Anyway, now I can clean up some of the piles of books that are presently on the floor and the dining room chairs. The living room should look positively airy without all these books.

My writing group meets tonight, my Meetup group. I submitted the first half of “Wendy.” The first comment I got came from a guy who didn’t understand the structure or the setting and suggested that the story come with an explanation in the form of an introduction. Thanks, dude, but it has to stand or fall on its own. And you just didn’t get it. Hopefully someone else will. They are all very bad writers, but that doesn’t meant they won’t be helpful critiquers.

I sort of wish I weren’t going there.

Next week I start working out with my new trainers Tues. and Thurs. So, that makes four days I have a reason to get out of bed. On Fridays, I will have to make up something. Buster was coming here every two weekends. We agreed that once a month would be good enough, but that means another Sat.-Sun. I have to find something to do. I will miss him terribly. Last Sunday I wrote seven pages of “Tin Soldiers.” I sent my critique group — the good one — the original 2-1/2 pages of what, apparently, was a second draft. I don’t remember writing a second draft. I think I should print out the entire version I gave to the novel seminar I went to, the one where my poor novel was shredded. And deservedly so, which is why it hurts so much.

The central questions remain: Why does Emmy run off? That’s obvious to me. She has nowhere else to go. She can stay and be a servant at her present landlady’s, or she can go into the convent and take the veil. Why does she pretend to be Edwina? Because she’s not old enough to go to be a VAD as herself. WHY DOES SHE WANT TO BE A VAD??

And what hospital does she go to? That $150 book I ordered got canceled. Turns out they didn’t have it in stock… The things are rare as hen’s teeth, so they just plain sold the single copy they ever laid their hands on. I can get one for $300 — do I dare? Is this novel worth that amount of money? If I don’t get a job, I will be living on a dime. No money for tickets, no money to travel. Right now I have that money, though I would be smarter to save all the extra. I am saving some. But I want this book very badly.

If only I could find a job. I’m hoping that I make enough of an impression on the president’s wife who founded HIGH that she will find me a campus job… Well, it could happen! Meanwhile, the ineffectual hunt goes on. When I get back from Roanoke, I will throw myself into the hunt more vigorously, and maybe I will even dare to try for a copy writing job. Go to Kelly Services. Anywhere.

Maybe, maybe.

 

Will I fit in?

Today was my first day as a volunteer at the HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) program at Wayne State University. The program was founded when the president’s wife heard about a student who had paid her tuition and bought her books and was living in her car. The goal of the program is to help indigent students with essentials such as housing, transportation and child care so they can make it through college.

I volunteered to be a writer for the program. After reading the student volunteers’ work, I can see that I am badly needed. But I disappointed them by announcing that I would not be available every day. Their post at VolunteerMatch.org said they wanted someone to work 4-6 hours. Apparently, they were hoping for somebody 4-6 hours A DAY.  Sorry, wrong girl. I hope they want me, anyway.

Will the kids like me? I need companionship.

Last night I wrote four pages of “Tin Soldiers.” That makes nine pages this week, but I’m not confident of them. I might have to rewrite my second draft as I go. I started to waver last night, thinking this is too much of a goal and I’ll never make it. I did some research and realized my understanding of the war on the home front is pretty shallow. I can buy some resources that include newspaper articles of the time for each city in a Great War project in Britain, but do I want to spend the money? And which cities do I want the details of? And should I get the Kindle versions, just so I don’t have more books lying around? The war shelves are overflowing as it is. I have too many books about the American Army that I don’t even want.

www.amazon.com/wishlist/war

I gave in and purchased a $150 book about VADs. Can’t send it back. I felt a little sick, like I was jumping into a river, just like Emmy, only I was trying to rescue myself.

“Believe in your work.” That’s what I tell other writers. Never stop trying to make it better, and never stop. You’re not a loser if you decide to set one project aside and go on with another. Just go on.

This is the only project I want to go on with. “Egypt” is what it is. I’m showing “Wendy” to my other group. And I’m showing my memoir to no one, not right now.

I have to set my heart on “Tin Soldiers.”

101-0167_IMG

Night Soldiers — what?

The title of my book is not “Night Soldiers”! I gave that up years ago, when the heroine was Polly and she was a nurse, then a maid, then a nurse again.

It’s “Tin Soldiers”! “TIN”! Mary Margaret (Emmy) Leary runs off after her sister drowns to become a volunteer nurse aide, known as a V.A.D., in World War I England.

I figured out that if I wrote 10 pages a week, by my birthday, June 27, I should have 200 pages, and one of them should include “The End.” It’s a second draft. It has to go faster than the first draft. I just have to factor in time for research. I made some stuff up the first time that was not all accurate to period. There’s a limit to how close I can get to reality from this side of the pond, but I’ll do my best. I just needed more books, which I’d rather not buy … but there’s no place I can borrow them. The Detroit Public Library system doesn’t happen to have anything on Britain on the home front during the Great War.

10 pages a week should be doable, right? The big question I have to answer is: Why does she run off impersonating her sister?

Why would she do something like that? It’s the sort of thing I wish I would do myself, but I’m much too shy. I could never make myself walk onto a ward of wounded soldiers — I wouldn’t even be able to speak to the nurses. It takes me a while to warm up to people. Emmy doesn’t have that kind of time, she jumps into the deep end of the pool — sorry, bad taste, considering her sister drowned — and has to swim no matter what.

Connie is her advocate, but why? What is it about Emmy that draws Connie to her from the outset?

So, there are two big questions and then lots of little ones, all of them starting with “Why?” If I can’t make sense of these things, the reader will never believe me.

Helmet girl
Here I am in my tin hat in Romagne, France, near the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.

10 pages a week. I can do it. I’ve carried this book next to my heart for years now. It came to me after my first three trips to the Front, after I got over my sex novel. Everyone should write a sex novel. Then destroy it.

Back to WWI

Hand

I decided to rewrite “Night Soldiers,” getting more accurate to the period and putting more emphasis on the mystery. I started with a much more detailed description of the drowning. I want to try for a more original use of language in descriptions, better similes and so forth. When I get stuck, I’ll pretend to be Hemingway and rewrite the last sentence again and again. I don’t know that he actually did this, but it sounds like a good idea, anyway.

My nails are too long for typing — a stupid problem, but troublesome all the same. Now I’m started, I don’t want to stop and cut them.

Maureen recommended printing the manuscript out again and re reading it. I can only remember the big set pieces, none of which satisfies me. Maybe the in-between parts are better than I can recall.

Unfortunately, the printer has stopped working. For some reason, the computer no longer recognizes it. I had to go to Kinko’s on Tuesday to print out pages for my Meetup writing group (Good Lord, are they ever terrible).

I think I’ll take Buster with me to buy a new one. He can help get it connected. Or I’ll get him to do it himself. It will be a good learning experience.

I’m going to stop expecting him to come over every other weekend and propose that we just get together once a month. I don’t know what Alix will say, but I bet he will be pleased.

I woke up depressed this morning after last night when I felt so positive and hopeful — unfortunately that was mania, not real life. I’m keeping to my decision to hire a trainer. I think it will make a huge difference in terms of energy, focus and just to have the company. I want to go six weeks; that’s how long it take to get into a habit. My mother used to say, “You can stand on your head for six weeks if you have to.” I’m not sure how that was meant to be helpful

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Starting with a trainer should help me reverse my sleep cycle so that I can get up and blog or work on “Night Soldiers” instead of staying up till 3 and waking up, slowly, at noon. I need to eat now. I did have breakfast at 10, then I went back to bed. So that was a long time ago, food wise.

I bought a fancy Here-are-the-ingredients-and-instructions-ready-set-GO meal. It serves two so I will have to eat it twice, even if it sucks.

I got Kathy some raspberries, but I’m not sure when I can see her. Maybe Monday? I need to get a locksmith and take Mocha to the vet — I think his ears are infected again.

And I need a handyman. I just need light bulbs for him to install and smoke detectors, and then I can hire someone. I miss Roger.

I wonder what all I will have to do this house in order to move out of it. I can’t imagine how I will be able to sell it to make enough money to buy another house, but I don’t want to rent for the next 20 years.