Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So You Wrote a Novel? What's it about?

When I met Brian, I was in pretty bad shape. We’d just moved across the country, I had no friends, and I had a crush on Christian Slater from Gleaming the Cube.

So I wrote about Brian Listo.

He was a skater and he had a half pipe in a cave on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean, hidden like the canopy bed in Lost Boys.  He had a team, The Crew, and they competed at Ratwall, which was a half-pipe in the sewer system of an undeveloped part of town.

I read Thrasher magazine and wrote about how to skate those half-pipe ramps. I even described hand plants and front-side-ollies.

The Crew had Tony, Brian’s best friend, and Joel and Jason, identical twins, and Kevin who turned out to be a bad kid. Kevin got mixed up in a drug dealer’s business and when Tony confronted him about it, Kevin stabbed Tony.

Tony died in Brian’s arms.

There was a great final scene on a train from Santa Cruz to Watsonville, down the length of the coast, the ocean crashing not far away, Brian fighting for his life against the drug dealer’s evil henchmen.

I wrote that novel in 1989 and 1990, in the window seat of my bedroom in Aptos, in four spiral notebooks filled in this order: Green, Yellow, Purple, Pink.

I called it A Moment When the World is Silent.

On Monday, after 25 years and four other versions, I submitted the most recent manuscript to a contest for first-time novelists. 
360 pages of Kasie Whitener, Novelist

Thing is, I don’t feel like a first time novelist. I feel like I’ve been one for 25 years. I have a handful of other stories in various stages just waiting to be completed including 60,000 words about time-traveling vampires. Yep.

So Monday was a milestone, but not in the way the SC Arts Commission means to reward it. Not in the support-the-arts-with-public-funding kind of way. Not in the get-yanked-from-obscurity-unknown-author kind of way, either.

I’m already a professional writer.

It’s a milestone in the way that walking across the stage at commencement next weekend will be. It’s an outward and public ceremony that indicates transition from one thing to another.

Transition from Writer to Novelist.

In this version of Silent, Brian struggles with his ex-girlfriend’s betrayal and his best friend’s suicide. In this version, he’s fighting the most important battle we all fight in our 20’s: growing up. And I grew up, too, while I told his story through all those versions.

I thought Silent was the story I wrote when I was a kid, the friends I’d had my whole life, and that it didn’t have much else to give me now that I’m settled in: 37-years-old, mom, PhD, wife, and professional educator, consultant, writer.

But I still had something to teach The Crew.

That something may be the lesson I’ve been teaching myself since I was 13.

Love changes us. Be willing to be changed by it.

Submitting A Moment When the World is Silent (totally sounds like a 13-year-old came up with that title, by the way) did not end my journey with Brian and The Crew. I look forward to the opportunity to work with a professional editor and revise it yet again.

But it did send the work out into the world for consideration by people who don’t know anything about me or my friends. So we’ll see if the work can stand up on its own.

This sort of feels like the test Khara House’s October Submit-o-Rama was preparing me for.

Have you completed a milestone and found perspective on it? Share by leaving a comment.

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