July

When I’m writing this, it is just past midnight on July 1.

Holy shit. July.

When I was seven, I wrote a poem–my first, ever–and titled it July. When I was twelve, I set my first novel entirely in July. And now, in 2018, I head into my busiest July ever. Busier than all those Camp Nanos I can’t even entertain the possibility of this year. Busier than any job or camp or anything.

I start July with a day of packing and frantic emails, then a week in Ireland, then three weeks straight of teaching summer school English, then Newport Folk Festival.

Then finally, in August, I get a breath.

I’ve been trying to attune myself to reiki, to feel the chi universe energy in my fingers, to make myself relax, but my jaw clenches up anyway and my stomach knots itself up and my forehead is perpetually cinched. My mouth is ablaze with canker sores, my face a minefield of acne. My body handles stress nearly as bad as my mind does.

I feel silly. All I’ve wanted for months and months and months was a job, and now that I have one I feel stage fright. That’s my best way of putting it. I’m scared.

July was always such a magical time as a kid, a month I spent all year dreaming about and writing about and waiting for with all my simple heart. Now…

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Anna Peefer–a short story

This story has been in my “drafts” for over two years now. I’ve not got the energy to edit it over, but I’ll publish it here.

 

Anna Peefer went to Funland Extremepark every Saturday in June and July. She brought her nieces twice, but the other weeks she went alone, riding the nine roller coasters two or three times each and nothing else. She never got sick, or sick of riding. She’d buy a bag of kettle corn worth its weight in gold, munching on and off all day. She often jumped half the line, when attendants searched around for a single rider. No one at the park knew who she was. It was amazing. She was free.

Anna Peefer always went with her wild curls tied back as well as she could. She liked her hair in box braids but on the roller coasters they thrashed about and she was afraid of them getting caught in something, so in the summer she kept her hair loose and frizzy, tied back and out of her face. She liked to see the sky take up her whole vision as the cart tilted backward, all the blood rushing to the back of her head, her heels sliding against the metallic floors, her fingers tighter on the shoulder restraints than the restraints themselves were on her.

Then a swishing in her stomach, and the trees and Ferris wheel would come into view, bit by bit. Anna Peefer, on top of the world.

And then the fall.

She screamed at each fall, louder than is ever necessary, stretching her voice past its limits. She kept her eyes open, her hands tight, her feet clamped around her purse and the bag of popcorn, both threatening to fall out. After the fall, after the g-forces at the bottom of the dip make her feel heavy with relief and she took the first inhale in about ten seconds, the car erupting with laughs and quick shouts, giggling girls and boys pretending to almost fall out of the cart.

Anna Peefer’s mind, at this point in the ride, was already on which coaster she’ll get in line for next. After the big drop, the rest of the coaster was never really worth it.

The thrill of the climb, the fear of the fall. This is why her favorite coaster, the park’s most famous, was the Pink Panther. 150 feet tall and bubblegum pink, the coaster was a torturously slow climb, a steep drop, and a small loop around the area to slow down momentum. She waited in line, munching the popcorn, and was set for the second-next coaster (she was terrific at cart-math by now) when she almost bailed the ride completely.

The attendees at Funland Extremepark have a simple yellow polo as a uniform, meant to be worn with blue jeans and peppered throughout with pins, stickers, and Sharpie drawings to add character. The attendee checking everyone’s shoulder restraints had an elaborate Crusade Warrior design ironed on across his back, and there, right by Markallia Erqus and her warfairy was Anna Peefer’s signature.

She couldn’t for the life of her remember signing a bright yellow Funland Extremepark shirt—she signed about a thousand every convention she went to—but regardless of how little she remembered the shirt, the guy wearing it would remember her.

She fiddled with the twist tie on her popcorn. She’d been in line for quite awhile, and this was her favorite coaster. He probably wouldn’t make a scene. Besides, she thought, the wind making her loose hair tickle her back, he probably won’t recognize me. She couldn’t believe this had happened. She practically knew all of the attendants by sight, and now the first new employee all summer is a fan of Crusade Wars.

She got in the coaster about five minutes later. The guy checked each restraint, down the line. He seemed to falter on Anna Peefer’s, but she didn’t dare look up at him until the cart was beginning to move.

When she met his eye, his furrowed brow shot upward, disappearing behind his bangs. He grabbed a coworker by the elbow and whispered in his ear, making subdued hand motions down at his side, trying to keep from making a fuss. The coworker began scanning the coaster. Anna Peefer stared at the back of the seat in front of her.

“The game designer,” one of them whispered loud enough, and Anna Peefer closed her eyes.

“Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times,” said the girl at the podium. She was also watching the two attendants.

Please, Anna Peefer thought as loudly as she could, glancing at the slits of sky through the ceiling boards. Don’t let the girl know Crusader Wars. Don’t let her be a gamer. Let her think the attendants are crazy. Please don’t let her say—”

“Enjoy the ride,” the podium girl said into the microphone. “And may heaven’s light illuminate your way.”

Anna Peefer snapped her eyes shut again. People in line were laughing, clearly getting the reference. Someone mispronounced her name as Anna Pfeiffer. The cart lurched.

“You can’t go here anymore,” said a tinny voice Anna Peefer thought she left at the entrance gate. She kept her eyes tight shut. “It’s too much, it’s too much. This stupid game follows you everywhere.”

The roller coaster lurched, and the warfairy, six inches tall with the wings of a dragonfly sprouting from her back, dove into the ponytail gathered at the nape of Anna Peefer’s neck. She dug her tiny claws into Anna Peefer’s skin.

“We gotta get off, the restraints are too tight,” the warfairy whined.

Anna Peefer cracked her knuckles one at a time. The coaster ticked its way up the first incline. The fairy screamed all the way up, her feet latched around Anna Peefer’s throat and holding tight. At the top of the peak, the fairy’s grip loosened, and Anna was free to scream. Anna screamed alone, everyone else holding their breath for the fall. She screamed so loud, and so high, for so long it hurt her. She could feel the rawness in her throat as the coaster sped down the hill. She sucked in the cold, biting air, riding the rest of the track in silence.

writing, during all this

Writing my actual novel tends to take a backseat during times of great stress. I suppose that’s why adults have fewer hobbies than children. I remember a time when every second of my day was eaten up. Dance classes took up most of my free time after school, but I also had Brownies on Mondays, church choir on Thursdays, soccer practice on Tuesdays, cello lessons on Thursdays before choir….

Why do I feel infinitely more burned out now?

I think it’s because little girl me knew how to take a break. I never practiced cello or soccer or my dance routines–of course, I should have practiced all of them, and maybe if I had more time I would have. No, after I left that building, I was done with it for a whole week.

All my activities now are things I should be doing when I want to be relaxing. Writing a novel is something that  feel like should take up every free breath. Learning Spanish, they emphasize, needs to take place every day. Even my job as a summer school teacher is taking up my free moments, if not in work than in anxiety and nerves.

Even “relaxing,” when I manage to do it, is productive. Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe it points to a deeper issue inside myself. I can’t just chill and watch something on television, I have to be working through a series, or reading a book, or meditating, or drawing…I have to be completing a task or creating something new at all times.

It’s exhausting. I want to be able to put it all aside and play with dolls for an hour, then move onto Playdough.

But still I write, and it is good, because I do enjoy it. It is hard, and it takes time. But I love it, I do. And I am so close to being done with this novel, and then I can send it out places and get it published and start a new one, and let the whole thing start over again.

 

New Novel

I’ve been almost done with this novel for months now.

Maybe that’s actually fast in the literary world. I once read that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the author like, nine years to finish. Of course, he probably had a job and kids and a wife or whatever. Me? It’s just me.

I get discouraged. I open it up, all of its 88,000 words and like, 250 pages or whatever, and I see all of my 145 comments of things to change, and I just get sad. There’s so much more to do, and I’ve already written it over three full times.

Going into a bookstore is like getting reprimanded. LOOK at all these books. Surely, by odds alone, mine has to be better than some of them. At least one. It would be statistically impossible, otherwise. Someone would publish my book as is, right? It’s interesting. It’s well written. It’s certainly long enough, for the first time.

So why can’t I just finish it and send it somewhere?

Because I’m scared. Not of a publisher rejecting it, but of a publisher accepting it, and giving me a sign-on bonus or whatever, and going through cover design and marketing, and holding my first hardcover copy and crying and flipping through it, and going to Barnes and Nobel and not finding it but a week later finally seeing it…and then only selling 400 copies.

Not terrible, but nothing good, either. And no awards, no nothing. And then years later seeing it in a bargain bin at Big Lots.

All those books, even the worst ones, went through a similarly heart-breaking process of writing, rewriting, rejection, waiting and waiting…I am fragile, I am sad, I am overwhelmingly pessimistic to the point where it’s annoying even to myself. I don’t know if I have the strength to do this, despite my finger-trembling desire.

I’m going to, obviously. I just keep putting it off. Which is horrible.

But you, metaphorical you who knows me better than I know myself, who can bear to read back in this blog and see the “ME” I pretended to be for you, the ME who viewed my wordpress stats and had high hopes for advertisers and supporting myself off this silly blog, YOU say it’s worth it. YOU say being an author is all I’ve ever wanted, what I’ve been working for every day of my life since I was in second grade.

You’re always so right.

The stories others remember 

Today for class my professor had us text our friends and family and ask them, “what’s your favorite story about me?” She then had us put away our phones and wait.

After awhile, we were to pick one of the responses and think about why that person remembers that story, and what it says about you. The idea was to deconstruct why we tell each other stories–to see the stories we tell at parties as a (true) mythology of ourselves. This is how we cement our personal identity in a group.

My sister told me her favorite story was the time we were playing hide and seek in my grandmothers house. It was my turn to hide, and the grown ups were telling me ideas on where to go. Now, my grandmother collects dolls. Three-foot-tall, life size dolls that live in the corner of her living room. My sister is counting down, and I decide, hey, I’ll be a doll.

So I posed in the back, smiled, and waited. My sister hunts around the house for a long time–she even makes eye contact with me and keeps looking. She actually thought I was a doll.

I thought for awhile why she remembers this and what it says, both about me and about her. It was funny, sure, and I do love making her laugh. But why does she tell other people this story? What trait of mine does it show, in disguise? 

I realized that this story shows that I don’t shy away from a challenge. Yes, a “safer” hiding spot would have been under the table or in a closet. But I chose to be a doll, the more interesting and difficult path.

This class literally just ended about 10 minutes ago, but I can tell this will be something that sticks in my mind. Why d we tell stories? Funny stories, cool stories? What does it say about us and our relationships? How is it that we bond through storytelling?

Telling stories is, of course, what I plan on spending my life doing. I guess it had never crossed my mind why stories exist in the first place. It had always seemed so obvious, just an integral part of humanity. It is, I think, integral. 

First anniversary

So, turns out today marks my first year since I registered with WordPress. I got an achievement for it and everything.

This blog has changed a lot over the year. At first it was deep and depressing and then it was day to day and then it was A to Z and then it was a bunch of things and now it’s…whatever this is. I guess just whatever I’m feeling, approximately once a day.

Jeez, not the best blog theme, is it?

I’m sure I will start up Conversation Starters and Short Fic Friday and other stuff soon. I’m just in a weird place and not ready for that sort of thing yet. It’s been a time. Not necessarily a bad time or a good time, just a time. And that time has required a lot of energy.

Anyway, before the notification that I’ve spent a year here, I was going to write a post about happiness. I’m writing a novella around the theme of happiness. What makes us happy, how do you find happiness and keep it, etc. I am working on it because it’s a problem I’m working on in my personal life as well.

I find it frustrating that my happiness is dependent on my surroundings. I wish I had an inner peace that could just let the outer stuff go. I want to go to sleep generally happy no matter the circumstance. Maybe that’s a lot to ask, but I find myself overly emotional (both positive and negative emotions) over events, people, etc. in my life. Minor things can make or break a day for me. I wish I wasn’t like that.

How can I make my happiness independent from the situation that I’m in? Is that even possible? I guess I don’t mean happiness, just peacefulness. I want to be peaceful.

Of course, I’m about the worst candidate for “peaceful” ever. I bounce my knees and move my hands around constantly. I can’t stand silence, because I get tinnitus, and I don’t like darkness, because I get visual snow, which I just recently learned isn’t something everyone has. Meditation makes me jittery. I’m even stressed out in my sleep–I grind my teeth so hard I’ve broken four night guards.

I guess it’s a good goal to strive for, anyway.

This blog has always been tied someway or another to introversion, and this is no exception. Introverts spend a lot of time doing introspection, and maybe this is what this new leg of my journey is about. Introspection, concerning happiness and peacefulness and a general sense of love. Not a bad new year resolution.

The introvert alone

So often, we speak of introverts out of their natural habitat. Today, we journey into the unknown to observe an introvert in the wild.

As we approach the nest, be sure to keep quiet and hidden.

Ah! A female introvert, going about a daily morning ritual of yoga with coffee. She seems to be spending the day just as she likes–no work today.

Look–what now? She is settling into position on a couch and browsing the internet. Such calm beauty! And now she chooses a book. The hours fly by.

Dinner time, already? She puts on light music and begins to flutter about the kitchen when–NO! Disaster strikes with the sound of a ringing phone!

My friends,  the biggest danger to the introvert is destruction of habitat. A single phone call or doorbell can turn the introvert’s quiet space into an infestation of humans! Alas…as she chats on the phone she discovers it is her friend, another introvert. She invites him over for dinner, having had the whole day to recharge.

They share a meal and watch a movie. Truly, nature is a mysterious, wonderful, beautiful thing. Even the smallest of moments can be a wonder.