I’m having a moment here.
Eighteen years ago I was in the second semester of my senior year of high school. I attended an all-girls school but was enrolled in a coordinate program with the all-boys school across town. It wasn’t about the boys, lest you think so. McCallie had better writing classes, like Journalism and Short Story, and I’d heard good things about Senior English with Mr. McNiff. (Damn his pop quizzes!) I know a lot of girls enjoyed being around the boys, but I was painfully shy and didn’t socialize much. My sole interest was in writing.
This time, eighteen years ago, I sat in a classroom surrounded by boys reading and writing short stories. Today, I’m sitting in a “classroom” surrounded by boys (two humans and two pets) reading and writing short stories. To make this time warp even better, I still have my notebook from high school. In it are all of my old stories and the stories of my classmates. Time warp, indeed.
Stuffed between the short stories are reports and exams from English class, and on each piece of paper is the pledge. At the time, it was an annoying little task — to scrawl the same line of promises over and over again — but now I think it’s brilliant. I wonder what would happen in our public schools if we enforced the honor code.
I also have pages of unrelated scribble of other things that consumed my brain at the time, like calculating college tuition and – sadly – how many calories I needed to cut to lose more weight. Maybe this is why I hate numbers so much. I weigh a good twenty pounds more now than I weighed when I was a senior, but you can’t tell an 18-year-old girl that her weight is fine. Heck, you probably can’t tell a 35-year-old woman that her weight is fine.
It’s a bit of hoarding, I know, but I’m glad I kept things like this. Sometimes your memories lie to you. They get rewritten or forgotten. In notebooks like these, the handwriting is a transportation device. I’m launched into the past by its familiarity, by its honesty. Even then, I wanted to know how to write a good story, whether in fact or fiction. Writing has always been that one thing.
I’ll start my first short story this week. The plan is to use cursory characters from the novel as main characters. It sounds a little lazy (or is it genius?), but ultimately I think it will help refine plot lines when the editing process starts. Since I intend on making the novel my capstone project for graduation, I think short stories are a great way to weed out what’s unnecessary in the novel or add something that might be imperative.
Speaking of, I’m hovering around 110,000 words, which is roughly a 450-page book. The end is at hand.