So my birthday was earlier this week, which means that this is my first post as a twenty year old. Also known as: no longer a teenager. Craziness.
Twenty’s not generally a super huge year for people, since it’s conveniently caught between eighteen and twenty one. But it is a big year for young writers, because a lot of us have this sort of insane goal of getting published while still teenagers.
I did manage to succeed in this venture in little ways, with short stories and poems appearing in (primarily small-time) lit mags. But the ultimate goal–publishing a novel–never happened for me. And honestly I’m okay with that.
While some people’s writing is good enough to snag an agent and book deal when they’re fourteen or sixteen or eighteen, mine wasn’t. But that’s okay, because it was writing all those novels that weren’t ready yet, and getting all those critiques and rejections, and working so hard to construct better sentences, create more realistic characters, and craft more complex and interesting plots that allowed both my writing–and me as a writer–to mature.
Looking back on it, I would be horrified if something like my first novel had somehow magically made it to print. (It was called Pennamed. Basically a Hannah Montana knockoff. I am prepared to pay copious sums of money to the people who have the file to keep them quiet.)
So: I might not have been able to publish a novel before I turned twenty. But I still did do so much with my writing before now. And I’m really proud of that and grateful for all the support I received as I pursued publication throughout my teen years. I’m glad I had the freedom that comes with being an Unpublished Little Nobody to explore, and make mistakes, and figure out my voice and the types of stories I want to tell.
I’m going to miss being a teenager. But I’m also really excited for what the next stage of life will bring.
So here’s to being an aspiring author without the “teen” part attached. Here’s to working hard and dreaming big and never giving up. Here’s to being twenty.
In other news, today was the Hopwood Graduate and Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. I was extremely grateful to receive the Arthur Miller Award for a short fiction collection. It was an honor to be in the company of so many talented young writers, and it was really nice having my family there to celebrate with me. (Thanks for coming, guys!)
Here’s me with my coolio certificate:
And here is my beautiful signed copy of Death of a Salesman:
This post is already a thousand years long, but finally getting to what it’s supposed to be about: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 Camp NaNoWriMo project The End Where I Begin.
As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.
Read previous chapters:
By the time I finish collecting my missed assignments, it’s well pasted 1500 and the rest of the students are gone for the day. I walk alone to the subway station with my backpack heavy against my spine. The sun winks from between the tall buildings of downtown, and dampness collects beneath my armpits. It’s warm for the end of September.
I pull apart the top few buttons of my blouse so I can breathe more deeply, and trundle down the stairs to the subway station.
A heavier, middle-aged man falls into step beside me, smile plastered on his face like he has never frowned before in his life. Crow’s-feet crinkle around his dark eyes. “Hello there. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” He says the words with an unrecognizable accent.
I force a polite smile as I say, “Yes. The sun is lovely.”
“Have a nice day, Alexa.” He waves and moves further into the station.
It isn’t until I’ve passed through the Identiband scanners and boarded the uptown train that I realize he used my name, even though I have never seen him before in my life.
A cold alertness spreads through my limbs. I grip the safety pole I’m standing beside more firmly.
A woman reading a newspaper on her tablet glances at me then lets her gaze fall back to the screen. It is difficult to swallow.
It feels as if everyone on the train is staring at me. Was Ramsey’s attack on the news? Why would anyone care but me and the Clinic?
The train reaches the stop before mine, but my palms are sweating too much to keep my grip on the safety pole, so I exit here instead and hurry up the stairs from the station, eager to feel the sunlight on my cheeks.
The voices and automated announcements of the subway station fade behind me as I walk, and my heartbeat slows. I become aware of the weight of my backpack again.
I am a good twenty minute walk from home. I am only on the outskirts of Riverhorn. Sometimes the gangs who frequent the slums venture out this far, and although no one is in sight, I still quicken my pace as I walk past the condominiums and smaller homes that dominate this portion of the neighborhood.
I don’t know why I’m spazzing so much, but some of the earlier lightheadedness returns as I try to block out the thoughts of all that has happened today and all that might still be to come. I wish I’d gone to Joe’s with Eric and Amelia and the rest of them.
You’re being as crazy as Ramsey is, I tell myself as I turn a corner. My house is only three blocks away now. A couple passes on bicycles, on their way home from work.
I hold two fingers to the pulse at my neck and deepen my breathing. I slow my pace.
A footstep falls behind me.
I don’t look to see who’s there. I just take off running.
My backpack thumps against my tailbone in time with my frantic steps, and I race past house after house, street after street. The heavy stomps of a man out of shape chase after me. My breaths come in short gasps that leave me dizzier and dizzier.
It’s as I turn the final corner to my street—just as my house comes into sight, so close—that a body slams into mine. The man pins me to the sidewalk and shoves a needle into my arm. I thrash against him, try to call for help, but my tongue is heavy and clumsy.
My eyes refuse to focus, but I can just make out the squinty eyes and natural smile of the man who spoke to me at the station.
In a tone not nearly as chipper as the one he used before, he says, “It’s all right, Alexa. Go to sleep now.”
I don’t want to, but I have no choice, because my eyelids are already slipping closed and I cannot think anymore.
Countdown ’til summer: 2 days!