Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Eleven

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 I’m glad I had the freedom that comes with being an Unpublished Little Nobody to explore, and make mistakes, and figure out my voice and the types of stories I want to tell.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:

Arthur Miller Signed Book

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:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

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Chapter Eleven

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.

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88

Countdown ’til summer: 2 days!

 

~Julia

Camp NaNoWriMo, Flat Characters, and SUMMER VACATION(!!!)

Today’s blog post is going to cover several different topics (as you can see by the title). So, without further ado…

Camp NaNoWriMo

(Please note that this picture is from a year and a half ago, at the Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, and I’d just been on a plane for like four hours.)

For anyone who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, get out.

No. I’m serious. GET. OUT.

For anyone who does know what it is: You guys should totally participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this summer. It’s just like regular NaNoWriMo, except that it’s happening in June and August (I think you’re supposed to spend July catching up on having a life?) (I’ll probably spend it sleeping, instead)… and yeah. Plus, it has a cool camp theme. You get to have a virtual cabin where you “bunk” with five or six other WriMos, through which you get a message board to talk with each other and stuff, and it’s really super cool. I did it last summer — without actually writing a novel; I was just in it for the cabin — and it was one of the coolest writing-related experiences of my life.

So yeah. You should go check that out.

Next topic:

Flat Characters

(This is what I look like when I encounter flat characters.)

I feel like I should start this off by saying that I. HATE. FLAT. CHARACTERS. Aaaand, I’m reading a book right now that stars an entire cast of them. Out of like fifteen people, I’ve met maybe … two? … who weren’t completely flat? And I’m pretty much at the end of the book, at this point? And did I mention that neither of those “maybe two” not flat characters are even main characters, but rather vague-barely-there-secondary-supporting-characters?

Now, I’m not going to say what book it is, because I don’t want to be mean about it, but here are some hints:

  • It’s a YA dystopian novel that’s a NY Times bestseller that’s neither The Hunger Games nor Divergent.
  • It’s similar to The Giver.  (Like, it’s THAT kind of dystopian society, not The Hunger Games kind.)
  • It stars a poorly crafted love triangle. (I say “poorly crafted” because the main character doesn’t show any real emotion toward either of the guys, although she attempts to — but it’s all telling instead of showing, so it doesn’t come across properly — and neither of the guys are even very attractive. Like, one is the stereotypical I-am-perfect-so-you-should-love-me dude, and the other one is the I-am-dark-and-mysterious-SO-YOU-SHOULD-LOVE-ME-INSTEAD dude. And of course Main Character Girl chooses Dark and Mysterious Boy — hello, it’s like Twilight ALL OVER AGAIN, and that wasn’t a good love story the first time around!

But anyway, I’ll stop ranting now and let you guess away, my friends. (Meanwhile, I’m going to go re-read The Hunger Games for the zillionth time to get this bad taste out of my mouth.)

(Oh and EDIT TO THIS POST: I finished the bad Flat Character Book, and it actually ended pretty well. Predictable, but well. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, and the characters look like they might actually have real personalities in the second book, so: Ignore this ranting, for the most part. They’re still flat for 99% of the novel, but the ending semi makes up for it.)

Last topic:

Summer Vacation

(IT’S SUMMERRRR!!!!!!!!!!)

Due to my summer vacation beginning so early this year, due to me being a senior — I usually get out halfway through June — I, of course, am spending my first weekend of summer vacay with really crappy allergies. Like, my throat is basically clogged shut with gunk right now. It’s nasty. I’m beginning to look like this again:

(Wasn’t this so lovely? We should just relive it again, and again, and AGAIN!)

I still can’t quite believe that high school’s over (it was really weird yesterday — one of my underclassman friends texted me about how she had just finished  reading Divergent during school, because I was letting her borrow it, and I was like, “Wait, why were you in school today? Oh. Right. IT’S ONLY THE SENIORS WHO ARE OUT ALREADY. DUHHH.” — IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING!!!)

Oh, and bonus topic before we wrap this blog post up:

Yesterday was my big brother’s 21st birthday! EVERYBODY SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIM!!! 😀

(Thanks!!!)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“On Seventeen”)

Hey guys! I’m back from being sick! (Somewhat. My nose is still running enough to get me a Guinness World Record, I’m pretty sure, and I’m still coughing a lot, but my head’s cleared up for the most part, which is my definition of No Longer Being Sick. Kind of.)

This past weekend was my eighteenth birthday and the state bowl competition for Future Problem Solvers! This was my eighth and final year in FPS, so it was a bittersweet occasion. I participated in team booklet writing and scenario writing — my team got a third place medal for our action plan presentation, and I snagged second place for scenario writing. It wasn’t as impressive of an ending to my FPS career as I would have hoped, but I’m just happy that I got anything. Plus, this way I don’t have to miss any of my friends’ grad parties to go to international bowl.

Meanwhile, I had a really, really awesome birthday, which I’m sure you guys just want to read on, and on, and on about, because my birthday’s just that interesting (not)… but yeah. It was amazing. 🙂 My parents threw me a semi-surprise party, where I already knew about it and who was going, but I didn’t know where we were going, and they ended up renting out a party room at a local movie theatre, where we had dinner and unlimited popcorn and drinks and Wii games and a movie, and ALL KINDS OF AWESOME. I was nearly in tears, it was so amazing, especially because I haven’t had a regular birthday party in like five years. 🙂 I swear I thought they were just going to take us down to our basement and be like, “Little Caesar’s pizza. TV. Done,” so you can imagine my surprise when the secret location ended up being the movie theatre. 😀

But anyway, enough about me — onto writing! (Which, ironically, happens to be about me too.) This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a memoir I wrote last Friday, about my last day of being a minor. It’s a little bit rough — I’m aware of the typos and the occasionally awkward wording — but I don’t have time to go spiff it up right now, because I’m super busy getting caught up on homework and tests I missed last week, along with my AP lit project and getting ready for the spring musical to open this Friday, and basically just trying not to die from this horrendous cold. Sorry! Everything should be settling down over the course of the next couple of weeks, so expect me to be a lot more sane, soon. 🙂

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— Taking this down to submit for publication. Sorry! Thank you for the interest! —

In memory of Jesse, who was regularly my pillow, my heater, and my shoulder to cry on.

“I miss you” could never be enough.

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~Julia