Saturday, November 1, 2014

Let the writing begin...It's NaNoWriMo time!

It's November so that means it's time for me to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. You know, what everyone does with their November. I participated for the first time last year and successfully completed my first novel. You can read all about last year's entry here. NaNoWriMo is fun and challenging and awesome. I've been looking forward to getting this year's novel started. I hope that you'll enjoy what I have to share.

But before I preview this year's novel, Transient Suburbia, I want to take a moment to address something that happened here yesterday. I received for the first time ever a hate filled, misogynistic comment on my last post about Christmas decorations. I'd like to say that I'm surprised that I received such a comment but I'm not. The state of the Internet today is one of hate and ignorance. I've expected to receive some kind of negativity at some point. I was mostly shocked that it was that it was the post about Christmas decorations. Seriously? I'm angry and annoyed but mostly I'm sad that people can't just let others be who they are. Hate takes so much more energy; I don't know what anyone would want to spend so much time hating. Two things I would like to say and then I will let this go:
  1. I would like to apologize to any readers of the Island, regular or new that may have seen the comment. I removed the it as soon as I received notification of its existence. If you saw it before then, I'm truly sorry. No one needs to see that hatefulness. I hope it doesn't keep you from continuing to visit the Island.
  2. To the anonymous poster - if you're going to spew hate at least have the decency to use your name and stand behind your statements. Maybe you think it gives you power but it doesn't. I don't have time for your hate and I don't know anyone else who does either. You can believe whatever you want to believe; just stay on your side of the Internet and I'll stay on mine.
My blog isn't about politics or hate. I write to express myself and have a creative outlet. I want people to have fun while they visit and maybe even identify with some of my experiences. That's all.

With that said, here are the first two chapters from NaNoWriMo novel, Transient Suburbia. I hope you enjoy it. Please excuse any grammar or spelling errors; NaNoWriMo is not about editing!

 Part One: Pen Pals
Chapter One

Mrs. Henderson’s 4th Grade Class, September 19, 1988

    Harper was getting impatient. Today was the day. She had been waiting for this day since the first week of school. Fourth grade was serious business; they switched classes now for Math, French, and art. She was learning fractions and multiplication tables. Lockers replaced cubbies. Harper felt very grown-up. She felt more responsible and mature and wanted everyone to know it. Today would be a step in that direction. Today she was the project she had been looking forward to and she hoped it would connect her to the world outside of Dothan, Alabama. She knew there was more to life than peanut festivals and Azalea Trail Maids.
Harper Monroe was nine and had already lived in three states. Her dad worked for the government and they moved every few years. Harper had learned to be helpful and to cultivate a sense of adventure. Her father called every move “an adventure” and Harper loved that idea. Her siblings, Flannery and Walker, were five years older and less interested in adventure. Her sister just wanted to be popular and pretty and Walker went along with whatever Flannery said. Since they were twins, they often treated Harper like a pet rather than a sister. Her mother called her thoughtful; her sister called her a pest.
This was her second school; she had gone to kindergarten in Ohio and now she was in elementary school in Dothan, Alabama. She loved school and books and reading and music. To Harper books were the most important thing in the world. Once she learned to read, no one could stop her. She took weekly trips to the library with her dad (she would have liked it to be daily). The librarian knew her and always made recommendations and called her “Mathilda” after the character in the Roald Dahl book. She looked forward to the day that she would be able to read To Kill a Mockingbird since she was named after the author, Harper Lee. She wanted to be a writer someday.
Harper fidgeted at her desk. The morning was dragging on and on. Mrs. Henderson was her favorite teacher so far but the vocabulary review was killing her. Harper aced the quiz this week and was barely listening to her classmates use the words in sentences as a review. She didn’t hear Mrs. Henderson calling her name.
    “Harper! Harper, are you listening?” Mrs. Henderson knew the answer but asked anyway. She liked Harper a lot and knew the girl was very smart. Mrs. Henderson thought Harper was probably bored in class but there wasn’t currently an alternative. The gifted program had been cut so Harper had to stay in this class. Mrs. Henderson encouraged her reading and had recently started encouraging her to write more. She was also fond of Harper and let these little daydreaming moments slide.
“Sorry Mrs. Henderson.” Harper blushed and some of her classmates laughed. Her friend Janie made a face at her. Harper hated it when she got caught not paying attention.
“Stay with us, Harper. I asked you to use “captivate” in a sentence.” Mrs. Henderson smiled at Harper.
Harper thought a for a minute. Captive was both a noun and an adjective. Both forms had been on the quiz. Which one should she choose? She opted for adjective.
“Mrs. Henderson help the pen pal assignments captive all morning long making it hard to pay attention.” Harper smiled at her clever use of the word captive.
Mrs. Henderson laughed a little under her breath. “That’s an excellent use of the adjective form of captive. Can anyone use it as a noun?” She called on Peter to answer her question. As she turned to him, she looked at Harper and mouthed, “After lunch.”
Harper was disappointed. That was so far away. How would she make it through math (stupid long division), PE (stupid dodgeball), and lunch (adequate sandwich). Didn’t Mrs. Henderson know that pen-pal assignment day was the most important day of all time? Didn’t she understand how much this was torturing Harper. She was a captive (noun) of fourth grade vocab and long division. The afternoon could not come fast enough.

Chapter Two


Somehow, Harper survived the rest of the morning and lunch. She practiced being patient and focused on what was going on in class. She did okay on her math work; math was not her thing. She tried but it never made sense. At lunch, she gossiped with her friends and they started planning Janie’s birthday party. It was going to be a boy/girl skating party. It would be the first boy/girl party for all of them. They were all very excited and had been obsessing about about what to wear and who would skate with which boy in their class for couple skates. Harper volunteered to help decorate.
When they returned to class, they saw that Mrs. Henderson had set up the room differently. At the front of the room there was a large box that was covered in stamps. Harper couldn’t tell if they were stamps or stickers but she didn’t really care. It was finally time.
Harper had always wanted a pen pal. Her mom had first told her about pen pals. She had one when she was younger. She even showed Harper some of the letters she saved from her pen pal. They had fallen out of touch at some point. Her mother got that look she had when she talked about her childhood. Harper just let her talk.
Since that conversation, Harper had imagined what her pen-pal would be like. She would be nine and unlike Harper, live in a big city. She and Harper would have the same favorite books and tv shows but would also find things to introduce to one another. Harper would be able to tell her pen pal how much she didn’t like having twins as siblings. They would stay in touch forever and become lifelong friends. Maybe they’d be in each other’s weddings and vacation together (like her parents and their friends).
In her heart, Harper knew this was probably not how the whole pen-pal thing would work. She wasn’t that naive (she heard that word on tv and looked it up) enough to think this stranger from another state would like her or that she would like them. But she hoped. A girl could dream.
At the front of the classroom a new map had been hung on the bulletin board. Harper guessed that Mrs. Henderson had plans to turn the pen-pals into some sort of geography lesson. Where would her pen-pal live? Was it better than Dothan? As Harper made her way to her desk, she noticed new supplies waiting. Mrs. Henderson had placed two new pens on each person’s desk. Pens! Homework had to be done in pencil so the idea of pens was too exciting. Harper examined the pens as the rest of the class made their way to their seats. They were regular Bic ballpoint pens; one blue, one black. These were the same pens Harper’s mom used for her grocery lists and paying bills. Ballpoint pens signified adulthood and responsibility. Harper was ready for it. Now.
Mrs. Henderson finally closed the classroom door as the final end of lunch bell rang. She took what seemed like centuries to get the class settled. After lunch was always a challenge; there was too much energy and movement. Mrs. Henderson liked to give her class a quick active task after lunch to get them to settle down and burn off some of that lunchtime energy. Today would be no exception.
“Alright let’s get started. As Harper reminded us during our vocabulary review, today is the day we start our pen pal project. We are one of three schools in Alabama participating this year. Each of you has been assigned a pen pal from another state. You’ll get your assignment in a few minutes.”
Harper did all she could to focus her attention on what Mrs. Henderson was saying. What she really wanted to do was jump out of her seat and go through the box and find her pen pal. She showed tremendous restraint. She didn’t want her behavior to impact her match.
“Before I introduce you to your pen pals, let’s talk about a new map. Who can find Alabama on the map?” All hands shot up. “Good. Now, how many of you were born in Dothan?”
Six hands went up. “Each of you come up and grab a blue pin.”
The group went up to the map and grabbed their pins. Tony, the most popular boy in class, found Dothan and they planted their pins. Mrs. Henderson moved onto born in Alabama (twelve people) then to a Southern state (six people), and the Harper and James. Harper was born in Michigan and James in New York. Their pins were so far away from the rest.
“Once you “meet” your pen pal you’ll use a red pin to plot where they live. We’ll connect them to Dothan and to the other locations on our map so we can learn more about the different places we come from.” Mrs. Henderson looked at her students and just saw blank stares. She was hoping that this pen pal project would get them all excited about.
“Each of you will receive your starter pen pal kit. Remember when we filled out those biography sheets and wrote about ourselves? Well, those sheets were used to match each of you with a pen pal. Inside your kit, you’ll see a similar sheet about your pen pal.” Mrs. Henderson started passing out the kits.
Harper sat in the fourth row and the fifth seat. She was practically last and the wait was agony. As Mrs. Henderson passed out the kits, she explained that the kits also included stamps, stationery and envelopes, and some an assignment book they would use throughout the project. There were a few questions from the group about how pen pals were matched and how many letters they would have to write. Mrs. Henderson answered them all.
“Today we’ll start with some basic letter writing exercises to get you all started. We’ll practice our writing and using our new vocabulary words. You won’t have to to turn in all of your letters but we will go over letters in class throughout the next few weeks.” Mrs. Henderson was almost to Harper’s row.
“You’ll also have to share things about your pen pal one time per month. This will help us learn about new places and people.” The last packet made it back to the last student in class.
“Now that everyone has their kit, I’ll give you a few minutes to read about your pen pal. Then we’ll start our first lesson on greeting and salutations.” Mrs. Henderson dramatically pulled up the screen at the front of the room. Different greetings were all over the board.
Harper didn’t notice. She had tuned out her class as soon her kit arrived at her desk. The kit was a large envelope. Her name was across the top in bold orange lettering. Harper thought that was a good sign since orange is her favorite color. Postage stamps and other stamps made up the background. Harper carefully opened her envelope and removed each item, carefully inspecting each item.
The stationery was white and lined. There were geometric patterns along the bottom edge in different colors. The envelopes had the same design. Harper had never had her own stationery before. It was as amazing as the pens. Next was a book of twenty first class stamps. Flags. Not her favorite stamps (her dad let her pick the stamps at the post office) but they’d get her letters there. The assignment book was next. She put that to the side. She knew she’d be spending lots of time on the lessons. The only item left was her pen pal sheet. She would finally know her new friend. Weeks of waiting would finally be over. Harper would have a new friend.
She slowly pulled the sheet from the envelope. She said a final wish for the perfect pen pal. She slowly turned the paper over. She looked for a name and her jaw dropped.
Her pen pal was a boy.
How could this be? This wasn’t what she had imagined. What would she talk to a boy about? There had to be a mistake. A boy? It made no sense.
Benjamin Riggs, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harper couldn’t focus her eyes enough to read the rest of the sheet. It all just blurred together. She was fighting tears. She would not cry in class. Mrs. Henderson would fix this. Ten minutes flew by and Harper tried to focus on the lesson on greetings and how to begin a letter.
“Your first letter is due this Friday. You’ll need to use what we learned today in your letter. Start short, ask a few questions, and tell your pen pal a little bit about yourself. Each letter will be easier to write.” Mrs. Henderson’s voice was encouraging.
She went on to explain that each student would be responsible for twenty letters. Mrs. Henderson would not read them but would mail the letters so everyone would get credit. They would receive their letters at home. She encouraged them to write more frequently if they wanted to. If they needed help there would be writing time during the week.
The final bell rang and Mrs. Henderson’s class gathered their books and pen pal kits. The mad rush to buses and the pickup line began in earnest. Harper was a walker; she waited for her brother or sister to pick her up and they walked home together. She took her time gathering her books and homework. She wanted her classmates gone before she talked to Mrs. Henderson.
“Do you need something Harper? Your brother is probably waiting for you.”
Harper hesitated. She wasn’t sure how to start so she just blurted it out. “Mrs. Henderson, I need a new pen pal. They gave me a boy. I can’t write to a boy.” Harper was beyond upset and on the verge of crying.
Mrs. Henderson sat down next to her and took her hands. “Harper, it’s going to be okay. You talk to boys all the time at school and you do just fine.”
“But what if he doesn’t like anything that I like? What if we don’t have anything to say? I don’t want to write to a boy.” Harper continued to protest.
Mrs. Henderson was not going to let Harper out of this. She knew that this was the kind of challenge the girl needed.“You need to think of this as a challenge. You know you like a challenge. I know you can do this.”
The word challenge hit Harper. She understood that word and knew in her heart that Mrs. Henderson was right. There was nothing wrong with having a boy for a pen pal. Maybe he would be nice and they’d like some of the same tv shows. She could do this.
“Okay Mrs. Henderson. I’ll try my best.”
“Just remember that letter writing is about being yourself. Just be you and you’ll be great.”
“Thanks Mrs. Henderson. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Harper gathered her bookbag and waved goodbye to her teacher. She had to figure out how to be herself and talked to a boy in a letter. Easiest thing in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment