Tuesday, March 13, 2012


My writers group - this wonderful collection of warm-hearted souls in this Steel City of mine - meets tonight. Among the works that they will be critiquing is Chapter 1 of my own novel in progress.  Some might be too intimidated to submit to folks that one has only known since December, but for me, it feels like the right time to let this story out a little bit more into the world. It is, I feel, a necessary step in the evolution of this story.  I need to know if this has potential, what the early impressions are to someone brand new to this story, if there is interest enough for more.

Early feedback from two members of our group indicate that the answer is yes, and for that, I am grateful - more than you can possibly know. K. and C., I thank you for your kind words.

Because this story is so personal, I thought I'd be more nervous embarking upon tonight (and maybe my crazy dreams last night of basketball courts encircling houses, holding tight to The Husband, being late to writer's group, and a cameo appearance by Hillary Clinton are a subconscious indication of such). Instead, I'm more eager and anticipatory to hear what the members of the group have to say, what nuances they've picked up on or not.

And because you, my blog readers, have been hearing about this novel for much longer than these new kindred writerly spirit friends of mine, here's a taste for you, as well:

He took the boxed cake from me as I dropped my laundry-laden duffel bag to the floor, followed by my backpack. He bent down slightly for a hug, steadied himself by placing a hand on my shoulder.  As he did, the nubby wool green blanket that he had draped across his shoulders, despite the spring weather outside, fell to the tiled floor, revealing a thinner frame and more purple bruises to those in the lineup on his inner forearm. I was grateful for the hug, as it allowed me to avert my eyes.  Still, I smiled, leaning over to kiss him on his rough, sandpaper-textured cheek.
“God, when was the last time you shaved?” I asked, following him from the foyer and into the kitchen.  The Formica countertop was cluttered with a mélange of clean and dirty stoneware dishes, tomato sauce stained Tupperware containers, and utensils with food still caked between the prongs. “Or ran the dishwasher, for that matter?” 
“I’ve been busy,” he said.  “You know, this dying business takes a lot out of a person.” 
Another attempt at a joke.  I rolled my eyes and half-smiled for his benefit. He began laughing but caught his breath as he turned and stopped, a staccato series of gasping coughs replacing his sardonic humor. Gripping the counter with his right hand, he grabbed a dirty, overturned, opaque-spotted glass from the sink with his left, using his knuckles to knock the faucet on. I reached to thump his back, as one would a toddler, and quickly withdrew my hand as I felt the serrated ridges of bones beneath his faded red Phillies t-shirt, feeling guilty and simultaneously grateful that he wasn’t facing me to see me flinch.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Anna said...

Wow, that's great! I definitely want to read more! You'll have to let us know how the meeting goes.

Amy said...

It sounds heartbreaking already :(

(but also good..I'd definitely keep reading!)

Melissa said...

Thanks so much, Anna and Amy!

Kenneth Goldman said...

Great opening...I like the conflicting emotions your narrator demonstrates through her simple everyday comments and her darker thoughts, and this creates an interesting groundwork for whatever circumstances will follow. The story seems, at least at the outset, more character driven than plot driven (the comedy counterpart being episodes of Seinfeld), and I find these types of stories much more interesting.

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

I agree with Ken - very character driven, and I love the use of details to set the stage and tell so much about this person. You have a sense that he lives alone, probably not very wealthy, He has neglected his home which tells me how lonely he is, he has a terminal disease, and he is most likely a relative to the woman narrating the story (I know who it is but trying to be objective) You also get a very good sense of the conflicting emotions from the woman, she loves him, but finds it hard to hide her feeling of uneasiness, and probably, some guilt. Incredible to convey so much in a few short paragraphs - looking forward to reading more!