Four years ago I tried the wacky adventure that is National Novel Writing Month: 1600 words a day for 30 days to a 50,000 word manuscript. I was right on target straight out of the blocks. And then — Thanksgiving, a friend’s baby, life. I didn’t finish. But I had a toe in the pool of creativity and my first introduction to an online creative community via the forums, message boards, encouraging emails all created to make sure people keep going. There is more advice during this month than perhaps the rest of the year combined because nearly everyone in the independent writing community is talking about, sweating toward, and churning out those precious words. Free books on writing and I’ve joined in by making my e book on writing, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies free until the end of the month.
This year I’m back, using it to work on a project based on real life events that have happened around my undergraduate women’s college becoming co-ed. Using third person point of view (she rather than I) the story begins as three friends have very different reactions to the news of men being admitted to their beloved campus and follows a diverse cast of characters including their spouses and children. We learn secrets from the past and how they impact whether on not Sibohan, Mary Alice, and Mae will be able to save the Peace that they know or whether their choices will destroy the semblance of relationship they have left.
It’s been ten years since I graduated (more actually) and I got the idea to work on this novel when there were very few submissions to a commemorative anthology project suggested to alumnae. While there weren’t a lot of people writing in about their recollections at Peace, there was (and still is) a lot being said about the changes on Facebook. I can’t wait to hear that their reactions to this fictionalized version of events, past and present.
If you’ve ever considered writing a book, or short story, there’s no time like November and Nanowrimo. Not only is it cool sounding and you’ll have a built in excuse everyday to wander away from your regular life (or stay up into the wee hours meeting your word count) but you just might discover that this writing thing is for you.
Below is the opening to my project Saving Peace. I hope to finish up and edit in time for the holidays.
Unlike most calls bearing bad news the call came in the morning, during daylight, while the sun was still outside. But Sibohan was still asleep. She let the phone continue to ring or rather buzz,, and it rang itself off the night stand and onto the floor, under her bed. The home phone had one handset in the kitchen. While calls began coming in, she slept solidly. Yet again she wasn’t there for the others when they needed her most. It was as she sat in the makeup chair, having her hair and face prepped for the six o’ clock news that her assistant, Peggy, poked her head in.
“Did you review the notes?” Peggy asked.
Sibohan shrugged. She would wing it as she had been doing for the nearly ten years she anchored for the station. It was a miracle she had shot to straight in front of the camera so fast, everyone said, and yet unlike Oprah, she hadn’t progressed.
“Sure, a home intruder, police chief anniversary…” she waved her hand to indicate this was more of the same.
“You didn’t see the headlines?”
But the producer strode in, shouldering Peggy aside, waving in new pages, with instructions about the sponsors and the salient points they were supposed to avoid for the evening. The co-anchor arrived and it was time to go onto the set. She brushed the wrinkles out of her blouse.
The intro music started and Sibohan shuffled her papers, trying not to touch elbows with Dan, the newest (and youngest) in a series of male anchors using WRAL as a stop in on their way to syndicated networks. He did have a deep voice, she would give him that much. The previous guy Nathanwhatshisname had the face of a choir boy and the prepubescent voice to match. He had done well between twenty and thirtysomething white males, interesting. But twentysomethigns didn’t really make a channel’s ratings.
“A woman wakes to an intruder in her bed, the city of Raleigh honors a police chief that’s served for nearly thirty years and the historic Peace College changes its name and begins to admit men. All of this and more at the top of the hour.”
Sibohan nearly fell off her chair. They held their frozen smiles in place and waited for the ON AIR sign to click off.
“What did you say?”
“I’ve got two tickets to STOMP at the convention center.” Nathan’s chiseled lips curved into what she was sure was a practiced smile – the kind she learned to avoid from frat boys at North Carolina State. The university where they had prowled as girls, when boredom of the all female campus was too much to turn away.
“No, the other part. On air.”
“We’re back! Camera two, Nate,” Peggy said. “Quiet on the set. Rolling.”
Even after all these years, those two phrases managed to send a shiver up her spine. Sibohan straightened in her seat with a posture her college theater professor would have been admired. It was one of the few things she hadn’t let slide over the years – that the studio wasn’t responsible for.
“After over a hundred years as a school for women, Peace College has decided to open her doors to admit men.” Sibohan hear her voice reading the prepared segment, probably by some student news intern, feverishly typing as updates came in through the day. She kept the car salesman smile on her face as she read the rest of the report: an all too familiar list of financial woes, a stalled economy, a new president. It was a testament to her training that she made it through the segment about her alma mater becoming William Peace University without stopping. Or someone, certainly her former roommates, would have though this a defect, a sign of how low she had sunk.
William Peace University?
The rest of the show passed in an even faster haze than normal: the insipid details of life in the Triangle area were the least interesting they had ever been. She couldn’t wait to get off set and make some phone calls. As the sports report wound up, the sub commentator with one of the worst spray tans she had ever seen, Sibohan wanted to woop for joy that she had made it through another night. She did a quick exit, not even stopping back into the dressing room for her notes from Peggy. Instead she made a beeline for her car. Once inside she turned on the AC on full blast, wiping sweat from her upper lip while sliding out her Blackberry from its case. There they were: a deluge of missed calls from the others as well as email messages.