— Marsha Norman
Just another crazy idea, but a fun game to play that can be inspiring to your writer’s craft. Consider your birthday in numbers, yy/mm/dd. Now, go to your bookshelves where you keep your fiction. From top left, count until you find the book that represents your birth year. For me, it’s book #64. Open the book to the chapter that represents your birth month (5, for me). Then count the sentences until you reach the day on which your birthday falls (13). What did you get? Can you use this sentence as an opening line?
My first try was a wash-out. But then, my books are not organized by genre, but by colour. This is what I first unearthed as an opening line:
“Divide the rate of return into 115.” (1).
Uhhhh… No. So I moved ahead on the shelf, to the next work of fiction. Better, but kind of an odd opening line:
“Of course, of course,” he said, collecting himself, smoothing down his hair and rubbing the sleep and surprise out of his eyes.“ (2).
In the interest of rigorousness, I restarted and counted only the works of fiction. This yielded:
“Your father is a charlatan.” (3).
Much better. Next step: Let’s see what I can make of these opening lines. A paragraph? A page? A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? (4). We’ll see.
1. Tigue, Joseph and Joseph Lisanti. The Dividend Rich Investor. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999. Print. 2. Garland, Alex. The Coma. New York: Riverhead Books, 2004. Print. 3. Maguire, Gregory. Wicked: the life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Print. 4. Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Vintage, 2001. Print.
Okay, I have to admit it. I actually have 4 blogs that I’m contributing to write now (visual pun intended). I think I’ve been bitten by the blogging bug. Blugger me. I actually have a book that I’m supposed to be writing. A post-apocalyptic thing that I’d wanted to get published before the world ends this year. Doesn’t look like I’m going to make it. Unless, like Dashiell Hammett, I can pound out a whole book in a weekend? Not likely. There’s drywall to be put up. And children to amuse.But when I lay me down to sleep, I pray my mind not utter a peep. Instead I muse, enthuse and peruse, My brain too loud for me to snooze.
Terrible, I know. But it is one in the morning. So please accept this, my contribution to the End of the World assignment. Since we are now a full month beyond the Shortest Day of the Year, and the days do not appear to be getting any longer, it is my prediction that we have uneventfully left the Sun’s orbit. As we slowly drift away from the sun, our days will become shorter, our winter colder, until on December 21st, 2012, we lose all sight of the sun and are left in total darkness.
Bleak, huh? Well look at it this way. I’ll have more evenings in which to finish my book. A.
So, for this month’s Inspirations, we’re looking for short answers. Two or three well-written sentences, up to a paragraph, on your prediction for the coming END. What will it be? Floods? Tornados? Locusts? ZOMBIES! Will the Earth be shattered by a meteor, or ripped apart by the shifting of the magnetic poles? Will Polar Bears now have to live in Antarctica? What will happen as a result of your apocalypse?
— Steven Wright
6. I have no memory of any Christmases with my Dad.
7. This is a story about the one over-and-above thing that I can remember my husband doing for me during our marriage. I mentioned that I played the violin as a kid. I chose the violin because my Grandfather was a fiddler. Self-taught. Grandma played the piano, and Grandpa played the fiddle and they would go to the Seniors’ Centre near my house and play cards or music and get to know the others. Grandpa died shortly before my first child was born. The hubby and I had fallen on hard times. Well, we were always on hard times, but he was too clueless to notice, and I married him before I figured that out. Anyway, we’d moved from Toronto to some acreage about an hour east. The idea was that we’d live simply and cheaply and try to grow as much of our own food as possible while we recouped our losses from his bad money management. It turns out that the hour’s commute, the lack of running water or electricity and lack of refrigeration meant that we were actually spending a lot of money just to get by. And guess what else I learned? When tomatoes are in season, they’re pretty cheap. Same with peppers and peaches and apples. You know what’s expensive? Meat. Did we grow any of that? No, because I laid down the law pretty quickly: either it’s cute and furry, or it looks like I bought it from the store. I don’t want to know about any of the in-between parts. Anyway, he was a guy who was pretty easy to read, and while he could keep a secret, you always knew that something was up. He was VERY excited about Christmas that year. I suspected what he was up to, but couldn’t imagine how he would pull it off, since we had no money. So, it was with cautious anticipation that I opened my Christmas present that year. It was a rectangular box, poorly wrapped since he was no good at it, about 10 inches square on the ends and about 3 feet long. When I drew it out I feigned surprise with a gasp, since I’d guessed correctly. He had contacted my family, and bought my grandfather’s best violin for me. It was not a masterpiece of workmanship nor some dead famous person’s violin, but the tailpiece was inlaid with mother of pearl, and it was my Grandfather’s and so it was beautiful. I was still shy about playing, but as we were boiling sap in a cauldron one year back in the maple bush, I took it down to play while I tended the fire. Sometimes I would get it out and show my firstborn the instrument, and let him draw the bow across the strings. My last memory of that violin is when it went up in flames on March 19th, 1992, with the rest of the house.
8. My relationship with my mother had been rocky since my adolescence. Maybe she couldn’t stand my growing up. Maybe she was afraid to be alone. Maybe she still wanted to have some semblance of control over me. But in my teenage years, whatever closeness we’d had had blown away like the ashes of my house. We never regained that closeness, but we tried various versions of a superficial relationship. Short, casual visits, were all I could endure. My mother’s disability prevented her from visiting us often due to the many stairs in our townhouse, stairs being a sin for which she has not forgiven me. She did deign to come one Christmas and endure the difficulties of mobility, a grand gesture on her part which I recognized and for which I was indeed grateful. As she made her slow way up the tall entry steps, I fetched the Christmas presents from the trunk of her car. My fingers slipped to cover my nose as my mind slipped to the day in my childhood when I got in the car with my Sunday School group for our annual trip, and revolted all the other passengers with the offensive odor of stale tobacco smoke on my clothes. I had no idea how bad I smelled until that day amongst the non-smokers. I could not even offer to go change my clothes, since I knew they would all smell. I was humiliated. And here was that smell again in the trunk of her car, saturating the wrapping paper of the children’s presents. Such a trivial thing to be so deeply affected by, but remember, I am a sensitive, foolish child.
It was a day visit. An overnight would have been intolerable. We ate, and then the children opened their presents from their grandmother. Pajamas for all and a few trinkets besides. Maggie said it first and clearly. “Oh Gram, these ‘jamas smell like smoke. Eww.” This was the first time that my mother had any idea how bad she smelled. She’d been smoking for 40 years.
9. I can’t talk about this one.
10. He’s still not speaking to me. I guess we won’t see him for Christmas this year either. I hope he’s okay.