Independence Day

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I hope you’re having a pleasant celebration with your family and friends. Today, in light of what’s happening in our nation and all over the world, and as I think about my novel which takes place before (maybe during) the French and Indian War, which was a precursor in many ways to the American Revolution, I can’t help but think it would be helpful if everyone meditated on what it means to have to fight for your independence.

Maybe you’re already fighting that fight. If so, keep at it. Don’t give up. Maybe it’s just a history lesson for you at this point, but amid fireworks and hamburgers, I want to remember what this day really commemorates.

I did the whole hamburger thing already today, so I’m going to take this evening to think about the holiday and connect with loved ones I couldn’t see in person today. Serialized fiction will return next week with the next installment of Rings of Saturn, with the next Pathogen the week after that.

Happy writing, happy celebrating, and happy meditating if you choose to do so.

MFA Update: Research Trip

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Later this summer, I’ll be taking a trip to upstate New York. My main goal is to do some research in the collections at Fort Ticonderoga, but I can tell from their massive card catalogue on manuscripts alone that one journey won’t be enough. So, I think I’m going to go ahead and get a student membership for the year.

What I’m Hoping To Find

I haven’t looked through the card catalogue of manuscripts yet but I definitely want to check out any first-hand accounts of the early years of the fort. I’d also love to take a look at the artifacts from the mid-eighteenth century.

Now that I’m moving my book up about a hundred years, it’s amazing how much more information there is. I mean, that was sort of predictable, but I’m really excited about it since I was having trouble finding a lot of primary sources before.

The Rest Of The Trip

Since research appointments can only take up the morning, that leaves two afternoons to explore the fort and the general area surrounding it. This is perfect, I think, for my needs right now.

I’ve invited my mom to come along, because I think she’d enjoy it, and if she does join me, we’ll also take Zoey, our dog, along. Though it will be important to keep Zoey away from any weapons demonstrations as muskets and the like are loud enough to scare her.

Hopefully the weather will be decent, but I will go regardless.

Hotels

There was one hotel that tries to provide a sanctuary from the modern world. I was so tempted to book that one but because of that sanctuary feeling, they don’t offer WiFi. It’s not that I can’t go without the internet, but I don’t really want to–plus the chain hotel where I booked a room is much closer to the fort and accepts pets.

Final Thoughts & Discussion

I’m so excited to take this little three-day trip! I’ve never actually taken a research trip far enough away that an overnight stay was merited. But the idea of traveling to connect with the past in this way, to gain a more intimate understanding for my novel, enthralls me.

If you’re a writer, where have you traveled for your research? How was the trip? Would you take another?

Writing Prompt: Moving

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I have two friends undergoing a move right now. But I think I’ve done a writing prompt in the past about packing stuff so this time I want you to write about getting friends to help a character move. You have 1000 words, maximum. Have fun!

Pathogen: Jana – 8

PathogenJana sputtered and coughed as water doused her face, rousing her from sleep. Shaking off the excess droplets, she wiped her eyes and sat up. “What the hell did you do that for?”

“Time to wake up, sunshine,” Reggie kicked at her feet lightly. “We’re burning daylight.”

“Why aren’t we doing this at night?”

“Easy. We’d be expected at night. No, you’ve got to look just the part. Suit and everything. I think we have one on hand for ya. You can pretend you want to be an intern, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jana agreed, standing and reaching for the towel in Reggie’s other hand. The bleach-spotted towel was scratchy, but it soaked up water well enough. “You don’t need to throw water at me to get me to wake up, you know.”

“I know. It’s more fun this way though. Besides, I have to find some ways to pay you back for breaking my brother’s nose.”

“Reg, it’s been over a month. I think I’ve paid back that crime by now.”

He grinned, displaying several crooked teeth. One was missing altogether. They’d gotten into a scrap with another group of people, who tried to claim that they owned midtown, a couple of months back and he lost it–the man who hit him was no longer alive. Jana didn’t mind Reggie so much as she used to. He’d saved her skin more than once, and she his. His brother still seemed to despise her though, so now when she was given missions, she went with Reggie and no one else. “I was thinking–if you tried introducing yourself to people when you meet them instead of trying to intimidate them right off the bat, you might still have all of your teeth.”

“Easy there. I’m plenty friendly. Just because you and I squabbled…”

“You wanted me dead. I’d hardly call that a squabble.”

“Eh, quit wasting time. Go put on your interview suit. We can do a mock interview on the way.”

Laughter bubbled up until Jana could suppress it no longer. “Sorry–it’s hard to picture you working in a human resources department.”

“That’s because I didn’t. But I interviewed a lot of people when I worked for the CIA.”

“Interviewed…as in tortured? I’m not sure you’re the best person to coach me.”

“That’s classified information. I could tell you, but then I’d have to utterly destroy you. Enough stalling–go and get ready or I’ll come back with two buckets of water.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re all talk.” Except Reggie wasn’t and she didn’t want to get two buckets of ice cold water dumped over her head. Jana bustled out of the room and down the maze of corridors to wash up. The water was a good start but she needed soap. One of the women who had bathed her when she first came was in the bathing chamber. Jana offered a smile, which the woman did not return. “You probably think I’m a coward or something.”

The woman just stared at her.

“You lost your tongue rather than willingly give in to their demands. But what do you have for it? You don’t ever get to leave here and you’re treated like a servant.”

This time, the woman’s lips stretched into a grin.

Jana’s smile vanished. Why would that make her happy? She might still be, in a way, a prisoner of this place, only allowed to leave with Reggie’s supervision, but at least she could speak and get out of the dark rooms and hallways. While Jana bathed, the woman’s ill-timed smile bothered her more and more. She knew asking was useless though, and so took out her frustration on her body. She scrubbed until her skin felt raw.

The suit provided for her “interview” seemed tailored to fit her perfectly. “Not bad,” she remarked to the silent woman, “I haven’t looked this good since before the outbreak. Of course, my hair was a lot longer then too.” She’d chopped it after living on the streets for a week or so. The summer air was too hot to abide her long mane. Jana ruffled her hair with her fingers to add some volume.

She found Reggie waiting in her shoe box of a room. “You’re going like that?”

“I’m going to wait outside for you. But don’t worry; I’m ready.” He patted the gun holstered at his hip.

“For what, the event that they don’t hire me?”

“I don’t care if they hire you. You just need to get what we need and then we’re out of there. This is for you in case you try to escape.”

Jana rolled her eyes. “Aren’t we past that yet?”

“We’re not. Look, I’d rather not kill you. At least I don’t want to anymore. You’re useful–“

“Thanks,” Jana interjected.

“Don’t interrupt,” he held up a finger like a parent scolding a child. “As I was saying, I’d rather keep you alive. But I’ve not let you go off on your own yet and I don’t want you getting any ideas. There’ll only be one entrance and exit and your theft will have to be flawless because they’re going to scan you before you leave.”

“I’ve been to quarantine centers before.”

“But we haven’t gone into Q1. If they used a standard network we could go into Q4, but the security is going to be tight. Not to mention you could actually catch the Sweats.”

“I’m not going to get sick, Reg. I would have already if that was going to happen.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’ve told me about Ryan. Alright, let’s go.”

MFA Update: 3rd Residency

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I had a great time last week visiting the Mountainview Grand Resort for my third residency week in the Low-Residency MFA program offered by SNHU. The week started off with the usual “What to expect this semester” meeting, except this time instead of talking craft essays, we talked about the close reading essay. I’ll be doing mine on “The Flower” by Louise Erdrich.

Peer workshops went really well and I got some excellent direction for a story I wrote that felt as stuck as my main character. Turns out I can actually get two stories out of it if I craft them properly. I think I will at least try to do so!

The craft workshops were amazing, especially the Epiphanic Moment session. I won’t go into details because the stories used were not mine, and therefore the lives used were not mine, but it was like witnessing first-hand a therapy session that brought the core of the writer’s pain into the stories used. It was beautiful and surprising, and something I will always carry with me. And the writers whose stories we used will always be brave in my eyes, braver than most.

This summer’s guest author was Danielle Evans, who is as kind as she is brilliant. Seriously, if you’ve not read her collection of short stories, titled Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, get on that. You won’t regret it. We also had a guest editor visit from FSG, who gave a talk and then joined two recent grads who already have book contracts a year after graduating.

I taught a self-defense seminar that was a great deal of fun, and would have gone on longer if my voice hadn’t been drowned out by a lawnmower. I learned later in the week that there’s studio space in the fitness center (I’d probably have known that if I worked out while at residency), but alas–it was days after the workshop.

For readings, I chose three: a portion of my thesis for the pre-dinner reading, and a portion of a short story I’m working on as well as a Hamilton-inspired political rap. All of them were lots of fun to give, but what I’m happiest about is that it’s getting easier to read in front of what I consider huge groups (60+ people) without reading so fast no one could possibly hope to understand me. I owe a lot of that to the advice I received from David Simpatico, Mountainview MFA alum, actor, and fabulous playwright.

Overall, it was a week of learning, a week of not enough sleep, and a week at the end of which I struggled to keep from getting choked up as graduates returned for a final celebration of their work. I’m halfway through the program–actually 3 credits more than halfway now–and I feel like the next two semesters are going to fly even faster than the first two.