Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Grab Bag

I have to admit to being an incurable optimist, a pie-eyed (why "pie-eyed"? Must look that up*) dreamer. Think "Cock-eyed Optimist" from South Pacific. Think "Could Be" from West Side Story. Conversely, I am daily be-deviled by a Sadistic Inner Critic (SIC) whose sole aim is is to persuade me that whatever original merit or originality I once brought to my writing vanished some years ago, and would anyway be out of fashion if I did find it again. It makes for an interesting life.

The reason for the previous paragraph is to explain the story I'm going to post today. Up till now, I've had a clear aim every time I've chosen a story to post here. Some of those aims still hold--I still believe that every story written wants to be read. I still accept that many of my stories may disappear without that happening, so that posting one here gives it one last chance to find a reader or two who may love it.

But today it's been hard to pick a story to post, because my stubborn dreamer looks at a possible selection and says, "Wait, don't give up on this one. It has some possibilities. Someone may publish it yet." (Don't forget, each story is my baby, and I am a fierce mother.)

Then I hear the snide voice of  SIC who peers down at the selection and says, "By all means, post that. Let people see how weak ( Or perhaps, because SIC has an extensive vocabulary, "trite, unoriginal, verbose, commonplace," etc.) your writing really is."

I'm stymied. I'm paralyzed. I decide not to blog anymore. Why am I doing it anyway? I start to close the file drawer, then stop. I close my eyes, reach in and pull out some paper-clipped pages. The dreamer in me says, "This story is loooking for someone. It wants out."

* Most dictionaries, as it turns out, indicate that the prime meaning of pie-eyed is intoxicated. (They vary in their assessments of how intoxicated, some saying "slightly," some saying "extremely.") That's not what I thought it meant when the word spilled from mind to fingers to keyboard. I must have been influenced by a subliminal association with the expression "pie in the sky" and by preparing to mention the "cock-eyed," (another intriguing phrase) optimist Mary Martin sang about. This conclusion is the result of a half-hour or so of happy, irresponsible web-dictionary wandering, and this is why tonight I'll go to bed wondering again how I managed to accomplish so few of the things on my to-do list. All I really meant to do was intensify the meaning of dreamer, but now I'm wondering if a glass of wine wouldn't help clarify my thoughts.

How weird. This isn't something I've given up on. It's just the short prologue of a middle grade novel I am still sending out. It's in this file because I have read articles that advise against prologues. (And of course it's common for a writer to be told that the first one or two chapters of his or her novel are actually unnecessary.) I may still include this prologue. But in case I don't, and in case the novel is never published, here it is--for some reason.

118 Pear Street
                        by Sally Derby
          Under the cloud-filled Maryland sky, Chesapeake Bay stretched into the distance.  An easterly wind whipped up the waves, and a gull wheeling above screeched angrily at the woman on the shore.  The woman had seemed to come from nowhere, emerging from the morning mist to stand at water’s edge with the wind wrapping her skirt around her ankles and fluttering the ribbons of her bonnet. She clutched her shawl tightly to her, then turned and walked slowly down the narrow strip of land between water and reeds, her head bent as if in thought. She waited.

          Maggie pushed through the reeds into the open, smiling at her first sight of the Bay.  The water was empty this morning, no freighters on the horizon, no crabbers close to shore, no sailboats riding the waves. Just what she’d hoped, she had the shore all to herself on this early Saturday morning with its threat of rain. The wind blew harder, and she shivered inside Gram’s  “Save the Bay” sweatshirt, glad that she’d decided on jeans rather than shorts. Raising her arms above her head, she stretched and smiled again, then began her solitary walk. Her eyes lit on rocks, on the tall reeds to her left where red-winged blackbirds hopped and chirped, on the white-flecked waves that reached toward her sneakers.

          If she had looked back, she might have seen the bonneted figure behind her, the shadowy woman who watched her appraisingly, the woman whose face bore an unmistakable resemblance to Maggie’s own.

          But she didn’t look behind, and as the day grew lighter the figure of the woman faded and dissolved. The hovering gull landed where the woman had stood and trod a suspicious circle before reclaiming his bit of beach.



  1. Interesting, Sally. I think this is a good beginning, and I am glad you are still working on it. Kathleen B.

  2. Don't ever give up on this novel I love so much. And "pie-eyed" indicates eyes as round as pies for whatever reason.