Wordy Wednesday: This Is a Love Story

Okay, so I’m writing this Tuesday night because over the course of the next two days I have a short story, film review, and midterm paper all due and I haven’t begun any of them yet. And, you know, who doesn’t love to procrastinate.

The reason I haven’t begun anything yet is because I spent my entire weekend sleeping and reading and watching movies/the Oscars, because I am SO FREAKING TIRED and it needs to be spring break. But here we go: Survive these next two days, and I get a whole week off from school.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for class, fall semester 2013. It was one of the weaker stories of the semester, but I still think it’s cute, so figured it was worth the share.

**********

We were stumped. The entire 100-level Classic Literature class just stared at Professor Robinson while the question hung in the dry classroom air: Had she really just asked us to rewrite Romeo and Juliet minus the dying part? Or Pride and Prejudice without Mr. Darcy being a total d-bag for ninety percent of the book? Or The Notebook sans shirtless Ryan Gosling?
“Come on, people,” Professor Robinson said. “It’s not that hard. Which part of the love story is the most important? How do you know which is which? How can you tell what part is the most significant until long after the entire thing is over, the lovers dead and gone and no longer important to anyone at all? Which parts aren’t necessary to weave a good tale? A writer can’t talk about literally every moment in a relationship, so how do they decide which ones to catalogue and describe? How do you tell a love story?”
I leaned forward with my chin propped on my fist and watched the girl in front of me take duck-face pictures on her webcam. The boy beside me had fallen asleep about five minutes before, and was snoring to the tune of what I assume was Star Wars. The girl on the other side of him was in an intense staring contest with the clock above the white board.
“Renee?” Professor Robinson’s tone was hopeful.
I jumped and shook my head. “Sorry, Professor. This time I’ve got nothing.”
She sighed. “Fine. Anyone else?” She glanced at the clock. We still had another twenty minutes, but the loudest noise in the room was the Star Wars theme a la Nose Whistle, so she closed her eyes and took a deep breath and said the two words every college student lives to hear: “Class dismissed.”

That was three days ago. Since then it has rained twice, and the sun has set and risen three times, and I have sat just as quietly as I did in that classroom, only in the front passenger seat of my mom’s minivan as we battled traffic all the way back to the little town of Miller, Wisconsin, because I promised Trish before I left for Northwestern that I would come home for the Homecoming game no matter what, even though coming home for Homecoming means coming home to all the problems I left behind.
And all this time I’ve thought about Professor Robinson’s question of what makes a good love story, but I haven’t been able to come up with a single idea. Until this very instant. The instant that I’m thinking all of this.
Because in this instant, someone is tapping me on the shoulder while I wait in the concession line at the Miller High School Homecoming game, and I’m turning around with my heart already in my throat, and Max Barton is standing behind me with one arm outstretched, the other tucked in the pocket of his faded Miller High Matterhorns hoodie, and a smile stretched across his lips. His brown eyes light up like I don’t have dog hair on my skirt or mascara smudged above my left cheek. He is exactly as tall as I remember—five foot eleven, the perfect height for me to tilt my head up to meet his gaze.
Professor Robinson, I promise I will write this down when I get home, because I can answer your question: A love story is a touch.
“Renee.”
A love story is a name.
“Hey.” I can’t get enough of the crisp September air in my lungs, and my sweater is both too heavy and not warm enough, and I haven’t seen Max Barton in months, but suddenly he is standing right behind me. “Long time no see.”
His smile broadens and he runs a hand back through his straight chocolate brown hair. “How are you? How’s Northwestern?” He has the voice of an old-time movie star, deep and lilting. The stadium lights make the freckles spread across his nose and cheeks stand out from the rest of his skin like one of the constellations just popping into existence above us as the sun sets over the parking lot.
“I’m good. It’s good.” I force a shrug. “How are you, Max? How’s the University of Wisconsin?”
He copies my movement. “It’s nice. It’s also nice to be home for the weekend, though. I missed everybody.” He takes in my rumpled sweater and frizzy chestnut ponytail; the scuffs across the toe of my right combat boot.
When I’m nervous, I dig my right foot into the ground. I’m doing it right now.
“You look beautiful, Renee.”
The temperature in my cheeks rises by a hundred degrees. I cross my arms and stare down at the trampled yellow grass, then swing my toe into the mangled strands again and watch as some of them break free. I close my eyes.
The truth about love stories is that you aren’t telling the reader about the relationship in general. You’re telling them about a specific moment that defines not just the relationship, but the characters themselves. Like a children’s book, a love story teaches a lesson. And maybe that lesson is Kissing Is Great rather than Stealing Is Wrong, but it’s still a lesson well-learned.
So I could tell you about the day I met Max Barton, when we were in the ninth grade and I was new to Miller and he said I could eat lunch at his table even though I’d just met him five minutes before at the end of fourth period geometry; I could tell you about a hundred dates, and all the times his fingers curled around mine on the walk home from track practice, and how I was never cold as long as his arm was around my shoulders. I could tell you about our first kiss, and our last, and all the jokes and fights and stories in between.
But instead I will tell you about right now. This moment. When my cheeks are burning up while my sweater is too cold, and Max tells me I look beautiful even though I don’t, and he smiles down at me with his freckles and hair and eyes all exactly as I remember. And I simply step away, say, “Thank you,” and turn to the concession stand to place my order.
Because if all love stories have one thing in common, it’s this: They end. And the love story of Max Barton and Renee Smith is already long gone.
I slide a five dollar bill across the counter to the booster parent scooping my popcorn, and accept the overstuffed bag she hands me with a grin. I slip the wallet back into my purse and tell her to keep the change.
“Have a nice evening, sweetie.”
I nod. “Thanks. You too.”
I wave at Max as I walk back to my seat beside Trish in the stands, but I don’t let my eyes linger on the way his hands are shoved haphazardly into his hoodie pocket or the breeze makes his hair dance across his forehead like a modern day Clark Kent’s. I don’t pay attention to the sound of his deep, lilting goodbye or the half a second his stare catches on my figure or the way his eyes slide so easily away from my retreating form as he approaches the concession stand himself.
I don’t pay attention to the fact that this moment is not a love story, but just an echo of one already told, no longer important to anything but my memories.
I squeeze onto the bench beside Trish and offer her my popcorn.
She raises her eyebrows, but takes a handful anyway. “Was that Max?”
“Yeah, but it’s okay.” I shrug and turn to watch the game. “We’re okay.”
“Good.” She nudges me with her shoulder, and I nudge her back. Out the corner of my eye, I see her grin. She grabs another handful of popcorn. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“Me too.”
A love story is a lesson, and the lesson of my story is this: Not all love stories are between two people. Sometimes they’re between your past and your future, trying to figure out the present. Sometimes a love story is about yourself.
It’s deciding whether or not to move on—whether or not it’s okay to be happy again after something crappy has happened; after someone has broken your heart.
A love story is told through the moments that matter. And in mine, this is the one that does: Seeing Max Barton again, and wanting nothing more than to ride off into the sunset without him. Seeing Max Barton again, and loving myself enough not to love him.

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Keep Going

First off: links you should check out!

  • Registration to attend the 2015 Chapter One Young Writers Conference has opened! And we’ve announced three of our five speakers, including YA author Kat Zhang (The Hybrid Chronicles, HarperCollins)! Aaand our next live Youtube chat is tomorrow (Thursdsay, February 19) at 8:00 PM if you’d like to join us. Check it all out on the Ch1Con blog: www.chapteroneconference.com
  • People have been responding to my Liebster Award tag nominations! Check out Hannah (of Hannah and Julia’s Vlog)’s post here, Ariel (of Ch1Con and TCWT)’s here, and Kira (also of Ch1Con and TCWT)’s here. (Also: Kira nominated me to complete the tag again, so watch out for that.)
  • Also, Ariel wrote this hilarious post on procrastinating from writing and I highly suggest it for if you are in the midst of procrastinating from writing. Find it here.
  • And finally: my arch nemesis John, aka the head of Teens Can Write, Too!, wrote a post about surviving waiting (in relation to, like, querying) that includes a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head and it is beautiful. Find it here.

And now that we’ve gotten all of those out of the way: I had a super busy but awesome weekend (opened registration for Ch1Con Friday afternoon and hosted a potluck in the apartment Friday night, spent Valentine’s Day in Detroit with one of my lovely roommates and our moms, and Sunday celebrated my dad’s birthday because I wasn’t home for the actual day). And since then I’ve had a billion classes and two writing assignments and a midterm. So yeah. I’m really tired and ready for the week to be over, but also really content with how things are going right now.

It also helps to come home–as in back to U of M–Monday morning after a weekend away to find your roommate’s done this to the bathroom door between your two rooms:

door

Hannah, stop being amazing.

I feel like this sign (and the “Room of Requirement” sign leading into the area that contains our bathroom and bedrooms and the “This Way to the Ministry of Magic” sign over our toilet) is the perfect transition to today’s Wordy Wednesday topic: All those words on our signs are manmade, whether they refer to real places or fantasy worlds or random phrases. They all exist–and matter–because someone had an idea one day and pursued it.

It’s easy to get discouraged. To see someone else’s success and feel inadequate in comparison, or to put in a ton of hard work and realize it still isn’t enough, or to wonder if it’ll ever be your chance to be the one with the celebratory tweets about book deals and starred reviews and awards.

So many people have done so many great things in the world. Joining them starts feeling crowded. Impossible. Like success is an Olympic event for which they’ve already awarded the medals.

I was feeling a teeny, tiny bit bad for myself tonight, I’ll admit. I’ve been doing this Writing Thing for a long time now. I finished my first novel in middle school and have been querying projects almost constantly since sophomore year of high school. And while I’ve been lucky and am so, so grateful to have had a lot of smaller successes along the way, with contest wins and small-time lit mag publications, I don’t have that New York Times bestseller thirteen-year-old me figured I’d have under my belt by now. Heck, I don’t even have an agent.

Then, in the midst of my pity party for one, a friend who’s critiquing one of my novels right now messaged me on Twitter to tell me how much she’s enjoying it. And it’s funny how sometimes someone says exactly what you need to hear without knowing you need to hear it.

And what getting that message reminded me is that it matters. What you’re doing, what we’re all doing: It matters.

Sometimes it gets hard to remember–other people’s success can be blinding–but if we keep working, keep putting ourselves out there, keep dreaming these big, impossible, irresistible dreams, we will make it someday.

We all have the possibility within us to do amazing things. Instead of being frustrated by others’ success, it’s important to remember that those people have felt just like us and been in the same places as us before. We all have our low moments and high points and it’s all worth it, from the best to the worst, in the end. We can do this. We will do this.

The really great thing about the publishing industry is that it isn’t like the Olympics*. There isn’t a medal podium where only the three best writers in a genre get recognized while the rest of us go home disappointed. There’s space for all of us. We can all be successful.

Keep going.

You never know when you’re going to create the next Narnia or Hogwarts. (Or Canada. You could always create the next Canada.)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

*Not saying that I don’t love the Olympics, because I freaking adore the Olympics. It’s just that it must suck to go all the way to the Olympics and come in fourth, you know?

Blogging Is Hard

I should be finishing a research paper right now. Or reading in prep for a quiz I have tomorrow, or doing a film project, or working on Ch1Con stuff, or revising, or at the least putting up the giveaway post I’ve been promising for the past month.

Instead, I’m lying in bed with a mug of Lipton going cold beside me and I’m staring at my blog like it’s a monster I need to slay.

When I began blogging two and a half years ago, it was with no clue what I was doing and arguably too much enthusiasm. I did it because it was something agents looked for when considering representing a writer and, honestly, I was in need of somewhere I could talk and talk and talk as much as I wanted, because it was my space, so no one could make me shut up. (Although someone really should have made me shut up. Like oh my gosh, CAN WE DISCUSS HOW MANY CLICHES ARE IN THIS POST? I should not be allowed to look at my old writing.)

Although sometimes it was difficult to keep up with blogging, I loved doing it. I relished the challenge. It was fun to put together new posts, exciting to see readers’ reactions. I loved meeting and getting to know new people through each others’ blogs.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped being an aspiring author who happened to blog and became an aspiring author + blogger.

But slowly, blogging has become a chore more than a reprieve. Slowly, I’ve stopped being excited about sharing things and begun wondering each time if it’s truly worth it. Especially with Twitter and Facebook as other mediums to share information that maybe doesn’t merit super long blog posts.

And I’ve begun blogging less. And less.

I guess what it comes down to is that I no longer know what this blog should be about. And I’m no longer sure how much of myself I want to share on it.

I don’t know if sharing goofy selfies is funny or self-absorbed (or annoying). I don’t know if writing Wordy Wednesdays is a good idea, when the only writing I’ve shared in forever is the stuff that’s not good enough to bother submitting elsewhere. I don’t know if I should go back to writing Fashion Fridays, or share more How To and Story Time posts, or what.

Is this blog about me or my writing or my opinions or my travels or none of the above? I don’t know.

What I do know is I miss enjoying blogging. And I’m going to do my best to make it something I like to spend my time on again.

So here is a mission statement as we move into October 2014:

I will continue to blog every Wednesday, because it’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning, but I will also blog at least one other time a week. It could be about clothes or a current issue or a movie or a book or something weird that happened to me or anything. Or nothing. The point is that it will be a post and it will be on this blog, no matter the quality or length. (Blogging every day last November was one of the best times I’ve had and I think it was because I honestly didn’t. care. about making the posts good.)

I will set time aside to write these posts, rather than grumbling about having to do them with time that would be better spent on homework or work or with friends.

I will stop worrying about annoying people by posting too much or on topics they’re not interested in. I’m here and this is what I’m doing and they can deal.

Lastly, I will stop wondering what readers think of me (at least actively) and focus on having fun writing. Because that is what this blog should be about: Me having fun.

Now, for your part of the deal: Put up with the bad posts. Let me know if there’s something you want to see more or less of. And hang in here with me, because I’ve got lots of stuff planned for the next few months.

And I’m excited to share it with you.

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Actor on a Stage

Thank you SO MUCH to all the wonderful guest posters this summer. You guys are my favorites. 

I’m (semi) moving back to college today, which means things will be getting back to normal soon, so prepare for lots of posts this semester!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is song lyrics.

*********

VERSE1
I know no one cares
At least not the way they should
But that’s okay, I’m just a number
Marching on, towards the greater good

It’s okay to be afraid,
It’s the way we were made

CHORUS
My friend you have changed
Since you were a different age
Since the rain came down with rage
And your life became a cage
And you, you, became
An actor on a stage
Built of broken promises
And you, you became an actor on a stage
Built of broken promises

VERSE2
And I want nothing more
Than to tell you you’re beautiful
But your ears stopped working
Miles and miles ago

So I write a letter
And let it blow down the road

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE
And tell me where’s this ship sinking today?
You might find a bank if you lead it that way
But I can’t tell you anything, not when you’ve forgotten how to read
So now it’s just the blind and deaf, leading those who’ve forgotten how to lead

[Repeat CHORUS, 1.5x]

END
And you, you became
A number on the ledge
As you stepped off the edge
Of the world

Walking in a line with the other numbers

**********

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

 

Wordy Wednesday: Interview with Rachel

I’m currently on vacation in Europe with la familia, so this week’s Wordy Wednesday is one of our many wonderful interviews and guests posts for the summer!

Please welcome the incredible Rachel!

**********
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Rachel, I have been reading Julia’s blog for over two years and she is the reason I write and have a blog. My blog is rachelrecaps.wordpress.com and I have been doing it for less than a year. I am a college student at University of Rhode Island and have completed my first year as an environmental science major with a film minor. Ideally I want to save the world through film so documentaries (I like to edit) starting with water purity or plastic/energy alternatives.
What kind of writing do you do?
I write for fun and do not plan on publishing a novel or any large body of work but life takes you in unexpected ways so I really don’t know. I am currently working on my novel that I started in November for NaNoWriMo called Collin and Jade. The first draft is almost done. I think in another 10k words it will be there. I want to finish writing it before I start a new project. I have never written a “novel” completely before so this one should be my first. But writing is rewriting so in like a year or two I may feel good enough about it to show people the entire thing. If you want to read some of the story the first four chapters are on my blog just search Collin and Jade.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
 If I could travel anywhere I would want to go back to Ireland, it’s so green and beautiful and the vibe is really chill I would trace my heritage and never leave. Well maybe I would like to visit Scotland occasionally but I loved it so much I do not understand why anyone would want to leave.
Favorite drink?
Water
Favorite activity outside of reading and writing?
Quidditch (like from Harry Potter, it is a real sport you can look it up.)
Favorite Youtube channel?
VlogBrothers (I have watched all of their videos in under 2 months that is 7 years worth of content 1200+ videos.)
Favorite book?
The Hunger Games
Favorite board game?
Clue FX
Favorite language (other than your native one)?
Latin (I took 3 years in high school and really respect it)
Favorite candy?
Candy Crush (I have run out of levels a few times)(I don’t really eat candy so I know this answer is cheating but it’s honest because I do not eat chocolate or gelatin so that eliminates most of the candies)
Favorite instrument?
Bass Guitar, because I used to play it in a girl band
**********
Thanks for letting me interview you, Rachel! And thanks for reading!
~Julia

Chasing Excellence

I’m a writer. I’m nineteen years old, unagented, practically unpublished, and I’m afraid I’ve already peaked.

This isn’t a new fear, but it is a pretty dumb one. It crops up every few months, after I reread the comments on a Figment contest entry from a couple years ago or go over a critique partner’s thoughts on an old novel, and suddenly their compliments and gushing praise don’t feel like they’re directed towards me, but a different girl who wore the same face and hands but somehow, despite knowing less about writing, was better at it than I am. That Little Ol’ Past Julia was better at everything.

I don’t know why that girl was, or how, but Past Julia seems to have had a lot more figured out than I do now. After all, she was the one who wrote Dreamcatcher–a novel that needs so much work it’s barely worth rewriting, but my critique partners raved would be taught in classrooms someday as the Great American (Young Adult) Novel. She’s the one who wrote “The Things I Leave Behind”–the first short story ever penned by Julia Byers for a college-level creative writing class, which went on to receive hardly any critique, an “excellent” from the professor, and first place in the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition–whereas everything I’ve written since then has received a “very good” and nothing more.

No matter how hard I try, it has been impossible for me to match the response of that first short story. The people who’ve read it compare everything else I do to it, and always their response is, “Good, but not as good as the Colorado Story,” or “Well-written, but I prefer the voice from the Colorado Story,” and always, no matter what I do, “The Things I Leave Behind” comes out as the best thing I’ve ever written, period. I can’t beat it.

When I wrote that story, I was just afraid of my professor telling me I sucked and that I shouldn’t be a writer. I had just finished the first draft of Cadence a week or so earlier, I’d never had much instruction in creative writing before, and I was used to being a big fish in a little pond, after spending so much of my childhood as Julia the Wonder-Kid-Writer, with constant support and very little competition.

It was pressure, but it wasn’t personal–so it made me nervous, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Now, when I write a story for creative writing class, the game is different. It’s a competition against Past Julia–against the person I was at the beginning of winter semester 2013. I open a blank Word document, and the only thoughts running through my mind are, “Will this one be good enough? Will this one live up to the bar set by ‘The Things I Leave Behind’? Will this one finally beat Past Julia, or at least fall even with her abilities?” Every time I go to work on a novel, the questions become, “What will my CPs think? Will they read this and still tell me Dreamcatcher was better? Will I ever be able to write something better than that?”

It’s been almost two years since I wrote Dreamcatcher–I was seventeen. I wrote “The Things I leave Behind” when I was eighteen. And now, at nineteen, I almost wish I hadn’t written them at all, because they have made it impossible for anything else I’ve written since then to be “good enough.”

Everything I write now is a comparison that falls flat. Anything that is not as good as Past Julia’s best is bad.

What did Past Julia have that I don’t now? I’ve studied those pieces, tried to replicate the parts that readers praised. And when that didn’t work, I tried to write stories that were so entirely different that it should have been impossible to compare them to their predecessors–but still the comparisons came.

I am chasing a shadow that I will never see solidified. Even if I do manage to write something better now, why do I have to be in competition with the things I did in the past?

I want to be proud of my best work, not resent it. My past-self should not be someone I feel like I need to live up to, but instead someone I am proud to have been.

I want to be proud when people ask me what’s going on with the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition, not ashamed that I haven’t written anything better since the piece that won first place. I want to be proud when my critique partners ask me if I’m going to start on the Dreamcatcher rewrite soon, not disappointed that they aren’t as enthusiastic about my current projects too.

I am done. chasing. excellence.

It doesn’t matter if my critique partners like Dreamcatcher more than what I’ve written since. It doesn’t matter if “The Things I Leave Behind” remains the best short story I have to my name. Because while I want to believe that someday those statements will no longer be true, my chasing after that elusive “excellent” scrawled at the end of each story I turn in for class is not helping Present Julia become a better writer, or Future Julia be the best writer she can be. All it’s doing is making me look back at someone I can never be again and wish that I had never left her behind to become who I am now. And that isn’t fair to anyone.

I’m doing amazing things with my life right now. I’m living out dreams I never thought I’d be able to realize, and I’m sick of the paralyzing fear that comes with looking back, trying to reach into the past to shake some answers out of the memories I never thought would be important at the time. I’m sick of people comparing me to Past Julia, but more than anything I’m sick of the comparisons that come from myself.

Maybe what I’m writing now isn’t as good as what I wrote back then, sure. But that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough. Because I am. And it’s time I let Present Julia admit it.

I’ve changed. My writing has changed. I’m done chasing after the writer I used to be. It’s time to chase a new kind of excellence–becoming the best writer I can be now. No comparisons attached.

I will continue to get better with every short story and novel I write. I will continue to grow, and improve, and someday I will stumble across “excellent,” just like I did before. But it’s not going to happen as long as I’m sitting here drowning.

I wrote this on the whiteboard on my desk the other day:

If you know where you're going, don't look back.2

It’s time I started living by it.

No more comparisons. It’s time to let Past Julia stay in the past.

I know where I’m going. I’m not looking back.

 

~Julia

Want to Guest Post?

Hey there! I’m going to be going out of town for a couple of weeks in June, and since I won’t have internet access during the trip, I’m going to need to get a nice queue of blog posts put together before I leave. And because I don’t have time to write a thousand and one posts myself before my departure date, I figured I’d see if anyone wants to write a guest post instead.

Your post should be between three hundred and a thousand words, and it can be about pretty much anything you want, minus porn or Twilight (unless you’re bashing S’meyer’s writing, in which case be my guest). Want to talk about a book or movie or author you really love? Want to share a short story you’ve written? Want to gush about a fashion trend you’re obsessed with, or how to dress like a certain book or movie character? Anything goes. Send your ideas in.

If you’re interested, email me with your idea and a sample of your writing (or just send me your proposed post) at: jbyerswriting@aol.com. I can’t wait to read all your awesome ideas! (Watch them be so great nobody even wants me to come back from vacation.)

Thanks for the help!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Innocent”)

Three awesome things happening this week:

  1. Hunger Games tickets are on sale (YAAAY!!!!!!!!!)
  2. Miss Snark’s First Victim is starting a new sort of contest (talk about exciting — the contests Authoress already does are pretty freaking awesome, so can you imagine a new one? WHOA.)
  3. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday (SO MANY DONUTS, SO LITTLE TIME!)

One not-so-awesome thing happening this week:

  1. I gave up ice cream for Lent, and already I’m craving it. This is going to be even worse than when I gave up Youtube last year (and that was horrific).

Mmm. Paczki, paczki, pazki!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is going to be a short story I wrote called “Innocent,” which garnered an honorable mention from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards this year, as a part of my senior portfolio. Enjoy!

_____

“I can’t believe you’re making me drive five hours for this.”

Adelaide’s voice is terse, but not angry. I rest my head against the window and don’t reply. On the other side of the glass, the highway glides by, on and on and on, but inside everything is quiet, save for my friend’s exasperated voice.

“Do you hear me, Maggie? Five hours. That’s a long time just to visit some stupid playground.”

“Shut up,” I murmur, blinking my eyes shut. I can picture the park in my mind – the slides and monkey bars and swings – and there’s no way she’s going to talk me out of it. She already knows that or she never would have agreed to drive me in the first place.

And if my car hadn’t been totaled in the accident, I never would have asked.

But still she goes on – “I just don’t get it.” – as if I never spoke.

“It was my childhood, Adelaide,” I sigh, not opening my eyes.

However, then I do open them, because I’m picturing myself soaring, soaring through the air, and tears bite at my eyelids. Last time I flew, it was into a windshield.

“Don’t you start in on that innocence kick again,” she says.

I think, Sometimes innocence is just what you need.

 

When we reach the park, it’s nearly dusk, but even in the lowlight I can tell that it’s changed from when I last visited. The trees are taller, the benches are maroon instead of that putrid green that I remember, and the metal structure of the swing set has given way to rust. A couple of children play in the sandbox, laughing, but otherwise the place is empty.

I feel almost like an unwelcome bystander, staring at it, and I wonder, as I have every moment since I saw that truck swerving towards me, if I turned out the way my childhood-self wanted me to.

With a determined inhale, I walk to the swings and plop down in the one on the right. My fingers trace over the chains before looping around them.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

The grass tickles the arch of my left foot like a thousand fingers reaching up from the dirt as I drag it over the ground, swirling my big toe in the soft strands and closing my eyes, letting my skin soak in the sunset, trying not to think, trying to slow my heart.

Adelaide sits beside me and I feel her gaze settle on my face.

“I just don’t get it, Mags,” she repeats.

I don’t look at her as I say, “Everybody has a dream, Adelaide.”

She’s silent after that, for once, and I can’t help but notice the crickets chirping, and the children laughing, and my skin tingling in the cool breeze; how alive I am.

Without thinking, I lean back and kick off – feel the air breathe over my bare feet.

Innocent.

Higher and higher, and for an instant it feels like I’m flying.

_______

 

Have something you’d like me to talk about in a future post? Leave your ideas in the comments!

 

~Julia

WDC Weekend: Saturday Morning

Hey guys! I’m currently sitting in a ballroom crowded with other writers, waiting for the second session of the day to start, and so far the conference has been amazing! (But why am I surprised, right?)

Last night there were some fantastic sessions on writing in the digital age, how to pitch your novel to agents, etc, and then so far this morning I’ve attended an editors’ panel — right now the Ask the Agent panel is about to begin — and I’ve got notes on all of them to share with you guys (but later, because the panel’s beginning ;)).

Talk to you all later!

~Julia

(Oh, and I guess I jinxed myself, because I forgot to pack my shoes. Stupid packing list.)

Writer’s Digest Conference Weekend: Friday Morning

Proof that I should not get up before 7:00 AM:

  • 5:45 — I tried brushing my teeth with my retainer still in
  • 5:50 — I painted my nails and then immediately took all of the polish off of one when I tried screwing the cap back onto the paint bottle
  • 6:00 — I thought I lost my straightener and went into a fit, only to realize two minutes later that it was right where I left it
  • 6:52 — I’m currently making a blog post listing embarrassing things that I did this morning (this totally counts)

Hey guys! My mom and I are just finishing packing up right now before we head to the airport, and I AM FREAKING OUT!!!! 😀

(Remember this face? It’s back again. WHOOOO!!!)

I’m so scared I’m going to forget to pack something, but hopefully that doesn’t happen, right? (I’m eyeing my packing list as I type this. If anything goes missing, it’s totally the paper’s fault, not mine. Yup.)

Talk to you all when we get to New York!

T-minus 0 DAYS TO THE WRITER’S DIGEST CONFERENCE AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

~Julia