You may remember how a couple months ago I found out I won first place in the Children’s/Young Adult category of the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.
Well, check out what came in the mail this weekend.
And if you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of my short story “The Things I Leave Behind,” Writer’s Digest is going to publish an anthology of the winning stories, probably sometime in November! Keep a lookout for a link to the order page on the blog.
Off to have a dance party with my copy of the magazine! (Because having my name in it makes that 10% less weird.)
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for Lauren Oliver‘s (Don’t) Panic Contest, in honor of her new YA contemporary thriller Panic. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until after I’d written it that I missed the contest deadline by a day, because I’m super intelligent like that (blame it on the summer vacation), but oh well. It was fun to write, anyway.
You can read the winning entries from her contest HERE (and I highly suggest you do, because they are brilliant).
(By the way, I don’t really know what that title means, but it was the random thing I saved the document under. And since at the moment I’m not really feeling figuring out a proper title, it’s staying.) (Boom. Look at them writing skillz.)
You are small. You are the teeniest, tiniest little ball in the grass. No one can see you. No one. I swear.
Open your eyes. Slowly. That’s it. Sloooowly. Slow is okay. This isn’t like ripping off a Band-Aid. Slow won’t hurt more. Slow is cautious. Safe. Good.
Look up. It’s a blue sky. Endless blue. It’s the shade of an Easter egg pulled too quickly from dye.
The grass is just tall enough to tickle my chin when I raise my eyes to the sky, still huddled in the fetal position.
That’s it. That’s good. Keep looking. The sky is safe. Blue, so blue, so light, like I’m up in the mountains and there’s not enough air.
The sky is safe. There you go. Not so quickly now. Don’t look too deeply. Don’t think.
Stop it! Breathe. Slowly, now. One… two… three… Tell your heart to beat with your breaths. My lungs could collapse, they can’t suck the air. One… two… three. Slowly. Easy, now. Gentle. Don’t close your eyes. I’m fighting not to close my eyes.
Now peel yourself from the ground. Sit up. You can do it. What did I say? Don’t close your eyes. The air, my throat, my eyes are too dry. Careful—careful. You’re doing so well.
Hands in the grass. Fingers, palms, thumbs against the soil with green-brown blades wrapping around you like chains, but they are easy to break. Push yourself up until you stand.
Standing. I’m standing now.
The trees are too far, the sky is too close, the air is thin and thick and spinning all aroun—Stop it. You’re okay. Stop it.
Breathe. One, two, three. Slowly, now. Breathe.
I can do this.
It’s just a field. It’s just a cloudless sky. They’re just cameras. The cameras are focused on me, lenses as big as plates zoomed all the way in to see the expression on my face.
Don’t lick your lips, that’s a tell that you’re nervous. Keep your eyes open. Wide. Open.
A breeze sweeps across the field, makes the grass sing, whips the ponytail off my shoulder. It is shards of glass against my arms, my legs. It is acid licking my face. It is fear, a knife through my stomach. I am afraid, I am afraid, no you’re not. You aren’t allowed to be.
You’re okay. Shut up. Focus. You can do this. Just focus.
You just have to make it across the field. You just have to reach the cameras in the trees and press the red button. It’s easy. Easy. You can do this. I have to do this.
You knew what you were getting into when you signed up for this. It’s too late to back out now. The only way out is through. You can do this. I was so stupid to sign up for this.
You just have to get to your feet. Walk across the field, one step after the other, and press the button. That’s all. This would be easy for anyone else. It’s not spiders. It’s not bees.
It’s just a field. Just a blue sky. Look—there are even flowers around your feet.
Dandelions, turned to white cotton that dances in the air around me as the breeze swoops past, rushes through, brings with it the grass’s song.
I can hear their voices. “She’s been standing there for three minutes.” “Are you serious, this is what that girl’s afraid of?” “This is going to make for pretty crappy television if she doesn’t get a move on soon.”
They’re right. They’re right. This is stupid to be afraid of. You’ve been standing here for long enough. You need to move.
Come on. Just take one step. One step. Let the breeze swirl around you, it’s just a breeze, you can do this.
I can do this.
It could have been the top of the Empire State Building. It could have been zip lining through a rainforest. But instead they gave you a field. A nice, easy field. This isn’t bad. The sun is overhead, warm on your back like Lipton down your throat, and it smells like dandelions, grass, sunshine. I want to smell laundry detergent and mint gum and—Stop that.
Focus on the details. The here-and-now ones. The little, teeny, tiny parts. Focus.
The tips of the grass blades are gold in the sun. The birds are chirping from the trees. The dandelion petals are a thousand million wishes floating free in the air.
You’re not alone. You’re not alone in this field. Just take one step. One. Show them that you’re strong. Show them that you aren’t dizzy with too much space; you’re not suffocating from too much air.
I take a step.
Breathe, now. Breathe.
The breeze is growing, growing stronger—wind, a gust like a slap to my cheek and I’m running.
I’m running now. It could knock me over.
It’s just wind.
It could steal my breath, my heartbeat, my thoughts.
Don’t show them that you’re afraid.
It’s too late.
You’re not afraid.
I’m terrified. My heart must be a hundred pieces all beating simultaneously, fast, fast, fast, for how quickly it’s racing.
Fine. Give up then. You’re almost there.
The red button the red button the red button. It’s only twenty feet; ten, five, I’m there.
My skin is sticky with sweat or tears or blood I cannot tell.
It’s not blood. Press the button. I can’t believe you’re afraid of a field.
My fingers are shaking.
Press the button.
I can’t breathe.
Press the button and this will all be over.
Everything’s spinning in five different directions and I can’t feel my feet and I can’t tell which way is up, which way is down.
Press the button. Easy, now. Just press it. They’ve stopped laughing. They’re concerned, now.
Red plastic under white skin. Press down.
There. It turned green. You’re done.
PS. I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much the past couple weeks. I’ve been busy with other stuff (*cough* watching Once Upon a Time), but don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten about you. Things should slow down soon (I hope), and I should be getting back onto a schedule of posting more often. (You know. Just in time for fall semester to start. Oops.)
So. Things that have happened since last Wednesday.
A) A massive storm blew through my area and tore out seven of the trees in our yard (we’re in a woodsy area, so there are a lot more where that came from, but still). My backyard looked like the set of a disaster film over the weekend. We’ve got it mostly cleaned up now, but there are still a couple of dead trees that we just aren’t quite sure what to do with, so hopefully no more storms come through and decide to make the already crappy situation any worse.
B) That same storm also blew the power out, and we were without air conditioning or freezer-type food (read that as ice cream) for two days. During which we were outside in the heat, chopping up fallen trees. I WAS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER.
C) Because of the lack-de-electricity, I also couldn’t work at all on writing-related stuff over the weekend. Which made me look like this:
I really need to learn how to use GIFs so I can stop posting such terrible pictures of myself.
D) But then the electricity came back (air conditioning! hot water! iPhone and laptop and AIR CONDITIONING!), and yesterday I got an email with some pretty freaking awesome news which kinda, sorta made up for all the bad stuff over the weekend.
I spent the better part of yesterday alternating between floating on cloud nine and trying to figure out what exactly winning first place means (apparently Writer’s Digest is publishing a collection of the winning stories in November? what?). I’ll make sure to keep you updated on what happens. (And if you’re looking for getting news a little quicker, these days I’m sharing more of these small-detail types of things on my Facebook page than here.)
In other news, though, it’s time to move on to what I’m actually writing this post for: this week’s Wordy Wednesday. We had a tie for short story and poem/song lyrics, so–since we just had a short story last week, let’s go with a song this time.
This is “Stupid and Young,” which I wrote earlier this summer. I was trying to tell the story of someone who was falling in love with their best friend, only to have him leave. (I feel like we’re on an especially depressing stint of WWs here. Sorry about that.)
UPDATE: Here’s a really crappy recording of the song. I did it in one take, without warming up or tuning my guitar or anything, so emphasis on the “crappy.” But it’ll give you an idea of how it should sound. (Also: I look like I’m in pain throughout the majority of this video. I’m not really sure why. I apologize.)
VERSE1 [D, Bm, G, A – D, Bm, G, C]
Everything’s been silence since you left
Crazy how quiet things get without your breath
We try to fill the emptiness with empty words
But the truth is your absence is all that’s heard
And it’s stupid how we go through our lives
Wishing to speed up, wishing for more time
And then you wish to go back
And do it all the same
If I could wish on raindrops
And have it come true
You’d have a thousand million wishes
For just one more day with you
And how stupid is that?
When all I wanted was for you to leave
So I could get on with my life,
But all that’s left when you’re gone
Is to believe, to believe that
You and I
Could have learned to fly
If we’d tried to
But we never pumped our legs that high
And you and I
Could have learned to swim
All the way across the ocean
But instead all we ever did
Was learned to love and then we hid
And how stupid is that?
Being stupid and young
Stupid and young
And now you write a letter from across the sea
With a wish in a bottle that it’ll reach me
And it takes five years to make it past the tears
In my hands
And I’ve bitten my nails down to stubs
Thinking about the waves in your definition of love
And no two friends ever loved each other more
If I could wish on starfish
You’d have all the stars in the sky
Asking for you to come back,
And I wouldn’t have to wonder why
I see you in the mirror
When my reflection isn’t clear
When the steam from the shower
Makes the clock tick back the hour
And you might think it’s nonsense
All these words that I am saying
But they feel the way I feel
Like I am empty without your hand in mine
Which is stupid because we never did find
The answer to that question of
What is love?
Is it just chemicals inside my brain
Or is it something more we can’t explain
That somehow explains my reasons
For missing you
Like a flower in wintertime,
Does this song exist without my mind
And does the happiest thing, the sun, shine
Silence is all that’s left without you here
I try to fill it with this song to make it disappear
But all that happens when you fill emptiness with empty words
Is you hear a lot of nothing, and nothing is all that’s ever heard
And I miss you, just thought I should let you know
That I miss you
PS. Figured I’d mention just one more thing: Cadence was in the 2013 Xmas in July novel pitch contest, which happened last week, and it garnered requests from three awesome agents! If you’d like to go check out what that’s all about, here’s a link to my entry.
PPS. There are currently a bunch of birds chirping right outside my window. I feel like a Disney princess.