Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meeting Claire

I met Claire Downs, the main character of After Elizabeth, in North Carolina, just before I went crazy (possibly while I was going crazy).

I've always been fascinated with smokers, especially because there are so many song lyrics about them. (On my iTunes, I actually have a cigarette playlist made up.) It's strange because I grew up loathing when my parents smoked, riding like a dog with my head out the window of the car, or leaving the room when they lit up in my presence. It's gotten to the point, when I visit Michigan, my mother knows better than to try to smoke with me in the car or in her house. Personally, I don't smoke...but I do have three unopened packs of cigarettes in the dashboard of my car in case I ever decide to take up the habit.

Yep, had these since North Carolina.
Smoking is gross.
Either way, one day I was sitting there, thinking about how strange it would be to see a girl in a neon pink sports bra running and smoking a cigarette. I started writing about Claire before she even had a name. Instead of being a girl as I wrote, I was a boy checking out a decently hot chick. I remember sitting on the couch and reading aloud to the people I considered friends (like I said, I went crazy), and they agreed that this girl sounded hardcore. I saved the document, and went to sleep with a massive erection. Wait, in real life I'm a girl...and I like boys. Okay, whew.

In the morning, when I checked my computer, the document was gone, and the page worth of stuff I'd written disappeared with it. But the memory of this girl never left me. I didn't care if what I'd written was saved. I just knew she existed, and I loved her, though now, she may never resurface.

Fast forward about six months. My Sister's Memories is on submission, and getting page and manuscript requests (cool! My query letter doesn't suck!). Sadly, each and every one gets rejected (sadface, my writing does). I tell myself that I'm not going to write another novel until My Sister's Memories, Character Defects, Igniting a Firestarter, and my memoir go through a hard round of editing. I only end up editing My Sister's Memories and receive more rejections, some with feedback, and for the first time, I start to hope...maybe...maybe...I have something worthwhile here.

In the meantime, I work my day job and get invited to a middle school to speak. One Wednesday morning, I drive to Fryeburg and talk to kids who ask me about cutting, depression, and coping mechanisms. I am humbled and awestruck with every single student I meet. We take pictures together, I offer candy, and I come back the next week. And the week after that.

They refuse to leave my head. The girl who smokes refuses to leave my head.

My sister and I
Her approval of my writing means a lot to me :)
On May 29, 2012, I sit down at my computer, and see a girl typing with a friend the way Kellie and I used to. I see a girl read a message that says something like, I'm sorry, I can't handle this, the same message I'd received when a good friend tried to kill himself a thousand miles away from me. And then, for the first time since I'd written about a girl smoking a cigarette and running, I saw Claire Downs emerge in the aftermath of her best friend killing herself.

And today (though I'm scheduling this post for tomorrow) on June 19, 2012, I am excited to tell you that After Elizabeth is complete. Even better? Armed with the critiques that I'd received from agents and Callie Kingston, though I wrote quickly, I wrote with showing in mind. When I read the ending to my sister, for the first time she said, "Yea, I can see everything you've just read, it was well written."

For the first time in my writing career, I'm proud of a rough draft, mainly because my sister didn't tell me that it sucked. Although she did tell me she had a beef with my ending. (Psshh, whatever.)

Now I step away for about a week, play, drink, and have fun.

Next week, the real work begins.


  1. Still have a beef with the ending, BUT, that's what makes you a writer... Your ability to take criticism and still say: "no, I think I like the way I have it."
    Glad it's finished. I'm excited to see it on the big screen :P

    1. Hahaha, you're a butthead. Just so you're aware :)

  2. Wahoo! It's an amazing feeling to complete something. I wish you the best with your queries!

    1. Thank you!! This one was a little weird, I wrote the query before I wrote the we'll see what happens


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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