Monday, November 24, 2014

The conclusion - Actually, It’s Pronounced Mil-e-wah-que

And so another NaNoWriMo has come to an end. I have successfully completed my second year and second novel. It was another year of people asking me "You're doing what exactly?" and "You mean you don't really win anything?". I take these questions as one should, with a smile and the knowledge that I did win something at least to me. Now I have two novels that are in some shape that I can do something with. That may be very vague but it's what I have for now. I commit to editing my novels this year and doing more with them. And of course, sharing it with all of you.

Let's take a look at this year in numbers:
  • Days to complete the novel: 22
  • Final word count: 50,963 (I thought I would be 1K over; I was close.)
  • Most words written in a day: 6,202 (done on the day I finished)
  • Least words written in a day: 591 (all other days were over 1400 words)
  • Number of pages: 106 (everyone asks me this)
  • Number of chapters: 33 and an epilogue
  • Alcohol consumed: 2 beers, 1.5 bottles of wine over 22 days (#hemingwaywasadrunk)
  • Number of times Pumpkin gave me the "you are a horrible pet mom" look: 4000
I finished early again this year (four days earlier than last year) only because I gave myself a deadline of finishing before going to visit family for Thanksgiving. I like my characters a lot and am looking forward to revisiting them in a few months.

Here's the epilogue of the novel. It may be a "spoiler" of sorts but it was one of my favorite parts to write so I think it's fitting that I share it here. It's the final column Harper writes for the magazine that she's written for since graduating from college. She named her column after a line in a song by The Replacements.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

I Never Travel Far, Without a Little Big Star

Actually, It’s Pronounced Mil-e-wah-que
By Harper Monroe

I live a very privileged life. I have a family who cares about me, a job I love, and the possibility of a future with a person who sort of fell into my life. I can honestly say that the worst thing that has ever happened to me is that one day a long time ago someone that I thought was my best friend, that I would know forever decided to end our friendship. He ended it because adolescence is a confusing time and hormones and petty jealousy make things seem like more than they actually are. At the time, I felt nothing. Then I felt anger and rage and sadness. Then nothing again. Until now.
First loves are magical and awkward and hurt more than any other love you’ll ever experience. It’s especially hard when you’ve never met the person you’re in love with, when you only have their words to rely on to figure out who they are. In our hyper-connected, tendency to over share world, it’s easy to hide behind a status on Facebook or a tweet. You can craft and re-craft your image and how you want the world to perceive you. You can be casual and impersonal all the time. You can respond in haste and anger without any meaning. If you wait long enough, people will forget. That’s how social media works. Wait a news cycle and it’s all forgiven.
Writing a letter is more personal than that. Sure, you can paint the picture that you want to in a letter too but the mere act of sitting down and taking pen to paper is more personal than any status update, text. or email. You have to know the person. You have to be personal. You have to ask questions and answer questions. You have to give of yourself in a way that we don’t when we tell everyone in our network what we had for lunch. You have to believe that those letters and the conversations are the conversations you’d have if you were face to face. There is trust and the expectation of privacy when you send a letter to someone.
When I was in the fourth grade I met a boy named Ben. Well, I never actually met him. He was my pen pal, assigned by some company that created pen pals kits for elementary schools. I’m sure a very sophisticated algorithm was used to match us. We were supposed to learn about how to write letters, practice our cursive writing, and learn about someone who lived in a town that was different from ours. There was no expectation that we would remain friends or even write to one another after the assignment ended. The only expectation was that we would send twenty letters to each other. Our teachers couldn’t force friendship. I was crushed when I found out that my pen pal was a boy. What would I have in common with a boy? What would we talk about? My teacher, Mrs, Henderson, wouldn’t budge. She challenged me to write to this boy, to stop being the hyper serious nine year old that I was. She wanted me to have fun and be myself.
In the end, Mrs. Henderson was right. I had fun and I was myself. Ben and I became best friends, something I don’t think Mrs. Henderson would have ever expected. We learned from one another, shared music and books and movies. We made each other mixtapes. We grew up together. We told each other secrets. We were ourselves and the start of who we would grow up to be.
I have almost 200 letters from Ben. We wrote to each other almost weekly from 1988 to 1994. One day, Ben met a girl and fell in love in the way that ninth graders fall in love. The only things that mattered to Ben were his band and that girl. He decided that it was time stop childish things and that included being friends with me. The thirty-five year old me totally understands. The fifteen year old me did not.
Twenty years is a long time. In that time I’ve graduated from high school and college, moved to California, and started the only job I ever wanted to have. I have a book coming out in the fall and might even have a television show out later this year. My siblings have both married, my parents moved back to Michigan, my sister has twins of her own. All of these things are significant and important. All of things are what normal people do (well maybe not the book and the tv show but you get my point).
Ben became a rock star.
That’s something that I cannot wrap my head around. It happened but it does not compute. Of course, he’s not really Ben anymore. He’s Martin Hendrixe, lead singer of Transient Suburbia. His life involves studios and tours and adoring fans. He both is and is not the boy I knew.
I am sitting at a place called The Diner. It’s in Milwaukee, WI and it’s an actual diner. You can order breakfast all day long if you want. Frankly, I could use some pancakes but I am not here to eat. It’s 10 pm on a Thursday in the middle of August. It’s the corner booth, the best booth in the place. This is the booth where Ben, Jane, Adam, and Dave became Transient Suburbia. I am waiting with 100 Transient Suburbia fans who followed the clues on Twitter to find the secret show at the place where the band was born. I was brought here partially because this is what I do and partially because I am as much a part of Transient Suburbia as Ben or any of the band members. All those letters to Ben inspired the lyrics for some of the band’s most famous songs. I called my life “transient suburbia” in a letter once and that became the band’s name. I am what you hear between the lyrics and the music.
The audience is getting restless in the way excited concertgoers get restless. The crowd buzzes with a mix of anticipation, boredom, and rock and roll. They’ve been standing for two hours. They are ready for the show to start and their heroes to appear and sing their favorite songs. Or disappoint them by only playing new stuff. Such is the life of a music fan.
A young woman, maybe seventeen or eighteen, keeps looking at me sitting in the booth, jotting notes and observations in my trusty notebook. She and her friend consult one another in whispers. After ten minutes of this, she decides to ask me what my deal is. That’s her actual question. It’s not rude, not really. I tell her I’m a journalist and that I traveled with the band so that I could see this show. I introduce myself. She freaks out; she knows who I am. She reads my column and more importantly, she knows that I am the girl that “Outlaw For Your Love”  is about. It is her favorite Transient Suburbia song. She asks if I would be in a picture with her. I agree as long as she agrees to send it to me so I can add it to the web version of the article. Her name is Marlene. Marlene’s excitement has drawn attention from others nearby (it’s a diner after all and not that big). A murmur goes through the crowd. They know I’m her, the girl that Martin/Ben let go. The girl all the songs are about.
I wave at a few people and go back to my position as observer and recorder.The show should be starting any minute now. The lights will dim, the crowd will get quiet for a split second, and then erupt in the exuberant way that concert crowds do. I suspect this show will be very loud; diners are not really designed for rock concerts. No one in the room cares about that of course. They are ready for this once in a lifetime experience. None of them have ever been this close to their favorite band before. This is a night they will never forget.
The lights dim. The crowd gets quiet for just a second or two. And then bam! The lights come up and there they are. There is Transient Suburbia. There is rock and roll glory. They launch into their first song and I can feel the crowd move with them. The acoustics are such that I can feel the drums in my stomach and the guitar is in my head. I am in the song. I am the song. We all are.

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