Novel Share Saturday is the newest in weekly segments on What A Nerd Girl Says. Saturdays are a day to take a break from talking about all the books I’ve read and focus on my other hobby – writing! In this segment, I’ll post excerpts and passages from past, present and future projects, I’ll share short stories and poems, I’ll give advice and answer any questions and so forth. I hope you enjoy!
This week I’m talking briefly about abandoned manuscripts and sharing an excerpt from a manuscript that I’ve abandoned for maybe the moment, maybe for good.
Very recently, I was thinking about abandoned manuscripts and what makes us, quote on quote, abandon a manuscript. Its hard to say for each individual author but I can this as an writer myself – I have a lot of ideas. I’m always constantly full of ideas. That can be great but it can also be hard. Some ideas come at the most inopportune moment – like when you’re on another novel and you really really can’t be concentrating on a new idea. Sometimes, you put everything you have into this new idea and it just doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to put something aside because you’re trying to force it and its not happening.
While there is definitely a part of writing that cannot be just…waiting for creativity to happen, there’s a lot that’s based on how good it feels. I had to write the sequel to my debut novel, even though there were times I really really didn’t want to. I had to, though, and I couldn’t wait for the muses to just strike. I had to sit my butt down in a chair and make myself write. When I’m toying with a new idea though, I have some wiggle room and if that idea isn’t working, I don’t force it. I move on to a different idea.
This is what happened with the novel from which the excerpt I’m sharing below comes from. I still very very much want to get back to this novel because its very personal and close to my heart. I wanted to write the story of an eldest sibling, buried under responsibility and struggling with her own identity. Sound familiar? Its not exactly biographical but its definitely a story I know that I want to tell. Its just not the right time yet but I’m hoping to get back to it someday soon.
Mimi fails to get a picture of the new boy that night at Tony’s, something that I tease her about mercilessly while I spend the weekend at her house. She’s an only child, which is somewhat of a rare thing for a Hispanic family, and when her extended family isn’t making its way through her living room (which is often), her house is so quiet that it just feels wrong. I almost never sleep well at her house; it’s just too quiet to be normal. But it’s always worth it to spend time with her and so I always go.
It doesn’t matter that she isn’t able to take that picture though because it takes less than five minutes for me to come face to face with him. I notice him almost immediately. First off, my school is just small enough that most of us have gone to school with each other our whole lives, so that, even if you don’t personally know someone, you at least recognize their face from seeing it in the hallways or glancing at it as you flip through your yearbook.
Secondly, he was exactly as Mimi had described him, tall, skinny and definitely a white boy. My school was predominantly Hispanic; even I felt a little white sometimes, being half Irish and half Mexican. He had reddish brown hair, that probably shone mostly red when in the sunlight, and freckles spread across his thin face and long nose. He was tall, almost freakishly so, and all long limbs. I was almost afraid to touch him; surely his bones would break at a mere handshake or pat on the back.
Thirdly, he was in my first class of the day. This would probably be unremarkable except that it was my advanced art class and it was not something that anyone could just stroll into. I had worked hard for three years to get into this class, which was made up of only fifteen students, in a high school that was overcrowded enough that you were lucky if there was less than forty kids in a room.
There was nothing truly remarkable about him that stood out though. He was cute enough, and yes, he was exactly my type, Mimi had gotten that right. He walked with a confidence that reminded me a lot of Mimi, something that I only dreamed of trying to copy. The boy handed a slip to our art teacher, Mr. Moreno, who read it quickly and then pointed him in the direction of an open seat, near the back, on the complete opposite side of the room of me.
When he walked by, I saw that he was holding something in his hands, even though he had a backpack slung across his back. It was what appeared to be a white sketchbook but it was covered in ink drawings, looking as if they were drawn with nothing more than just a simple ballpoint pen. I caught a few angles here and there and before I could stop myself, I was craning my head to get a better look.
The notebook shifted ever so slightly in his hands and my eyes shot up, brown meeting green. I flushed, totally busted. There was a slight smirk at the corner of his mouth and I watched as his eyes left mine and drifted to my own sketchbook in front of me. I slid my hands casually across the page, spreading my fingers, covering the drawing I’d been working on for three days, the one I knew was pure unadulterated crap that I just couldn’t let go. His smirk grew wider but he said nothing as he passed, taking his seat in the back and immediately striking up a conversation.
I force myself to look away and toward the board. There’s nothing much up there besides artwork, a lot of it done by Mr. Moreno himself. My advanced art teacher has a talent, especially with the human body. His drawings of hands are all over the room. Sometimes I catch myself staring at them, wondering how someone so talented ended up in this dingy, improperly lit classroom. Whatever the story, I am grateful he is here. He’s not much of a teacher in this higher level. He usually spends this period drawing, letting all of us work on our own projects. As long as you have something to show for, you earn a passing grade.
I love this class. I love to draw. It’s been the one thing I’ve always been good at and I don’t often get the chance to do it. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do that and I am often too tired at the end of the day to even bother. This hour in Mr. Moreno’s classroom is all mine.
When my brother was younger, he struggled with reading. His teachers were always telling my parents that he was below his grade level in reading and that, in order for him to catch up, they had to focus on his reading while he was at home. A lot of that responsibility fell to me. I loved to read but most of the books that I loved were either beyond his level or, in his words, “girl books”. I did what I could to figure out how to get him to read – buying books like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and other books that boys his age were reading – but he wasn’t interested. I was about ready to give up when a comic book shop opened up right in the same shopping center as the grocery store right around the corner from our house. We often stopped by there on our walk home from school and that’s when I noticed. Toph was seating in the corner of the store, every afternoon, devouring comic books. He loved The Flash especially but he made his way through Batman, Spiderman, and all the rest. It improved his reading skills immensely and soon there were comic books all over our house.
Eventually Toph abandoned his love for comic books when he discovered his natural talent and ability for soccer but the comic books still remained in nooks and crannies around our house and I began to read them myself, keeping myself occupied while I supervised Christian’s bath or helped the twins with their math homework. Soon, though, I was just obsessed as Toph had been except that I couldn’t stop. I spent all of my free time – which admittedly wasn’t much – at that comic book shop, reading in that same corner that had Toph had. When I made my way through the superheroes, I read more and more and more. I read Robert Kirkman and Alan Moore, I read Maus and Akira and Watchmen. I read more and more and I felt a fire burn up in me every time I walked in the door and Hector, the shop owner, had something new for me.
I’d always loved stories but the stories that existed in graphic novels was an entirely new world. I was obsessed and suddenly, I was tired of drawing still lifes and portraits. I wanted to draw stories. It was the only thing I could ever remembering wanting so badly. I had been working on the same story for years, but only halfheartedly. The only time I was able to work on it was in this classroom and I always lost myself to it.
So much so that it took several seconds for me to notice that Mr. Moreno was calling my name. In fact, I didn’t take notice of him until he was right in front of me, waving his hand in front of my sketchbook. I blinked a few times before meeting his eyes, ignoring the laughs of my fellow classmates. “Sorry, Mr Moreno.”
He shook his head, an amused look in his eyes, as he passed me a small yellow slip. “You are wanted in the front office.” I glance at the clock; it’s not even yet nine-thirty in the morning. I hadn’t done anything that day to warrant a reason to meet with the dean or the principal. Which only meant one other thing…
I gather my things, and walk out of the classroom, making no effort to hurry to the front office. I knew I was not going to like what I found when I got there. Sure enough, when I walked in, my mom was waiting at the front counter. She was leaning on the counter, chewing the inside of her cheek, a telltale sign that she was anxious about something. I had the sudden urge to hightail it out of there and back into the boring safety of the classrooms behind me. Whatever was being served there was most definitely going to be better than whatever was the crisis now in the Mendez house.
My mom perked up as soon as she spotted me. She smiled, but I could see the strain behind it. “Baby, hi, I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well. Let’s get you home, okay?”
I don’t say anything in response, just watch quietly as she fills out the necessary paperwork to take me out of school early. I’ve been here for less than an hour. I’m wracking my brain to try and remember if there is anything important that I’m missing but I can’t remember. I suppose it doesn’t really matter now. I follow her out to the car and only once we’ve pulled out of the parking does she speak, rushed.
“I’m so sorry to take you out of school early, but I really didn’t have a choice. There’s a rehearsal dinner down at the Embassy in Anaheim tonight and the catering company fell through and, of course, everyone else is booked and we weren’t so we took the job but we have to come up with a complete menu for roughly about 75 people tonight and of course, Christian had to come down with the flu today of all days so I need you to come home watch him so we can get everything done because we honestly really could use this job.”
I hold my hand up to stop her, “Mom. It’s fine. I can watch Christian.”
My mom slumps in her seat. She looks exhausted and it’s really no wonder. She and my dad have barely stopped since starting the business. Its often hard for a business to survive past its first year and my parents were working hard to beat that. They often took a client or two every single weekend, just to keep going. They kept saying once they made a profit, they would start to slow down. I knew nothing about business except that I definitely had no interest in it myself, not if it gave me permanent dark bags under my eyes, like the ones under my mom’s. They stood out even more on her pale white cheeks, obscuring the freckles that I knew were spread across her cheeks.