Today was “poem in your pocket” day, and so originally, I was going to post some of my favorite poems here. But I realized I’ve been writing and posting a lot of poetry (and prose poetry and uncategorizable prose/poetry hybrids) lately, and so perhaps some of you are forgetting that I’m actually a fiction writer ninety-eight percent of the time. I sort of fall into my poetry shoes by accident, a phenomenon that’s only started occurring within the last year (and I maintain it’s because I live with a poet, which I am no way complaining about). But my fiction boots are what I spend most of my hours sweating and stomping around in. Fiction is where I burrow and hibernate and hope to emerge, years later, with something resembling a finished product. You know, like a book.
So in honor of that perhaps less pocket-able genre, I thought I’d do something fun (and pretty brave, on my part) and post a couple of excerpts from my novels. First, the opening paragraph of my finished novel-in-stories, The Life of Your Making. This comes from the first story (obviously), which is called “Cover the Scars”:
“You moved. Not far, but fast, and distance was distance. You graduated high school, bought an old Mitsubishi, and taped your UCLA admissions letter to the dash–no tackier than glass fruit on a bookshelf, but still, your mother shook her head. As you packed up the car with two suitcases and a purse, she stood never less than three feet away, arms folded, carrying on and on about reason. It wasn’t the opinions that surprised you, but the fact that she expressed them. She, who had mastered the art of silent arguments, and who hadn’t a single objection, at least none she made out loud, to your sister’s leaving last year. But of course, you know why that was: your sister had been chasing a dream, and you were just running away.”
And now, the opening paragraph of the novel I’m currently working on, which is tentatively titled Heaven Bend (and bear in mind that this novel is still in the drafting stage, and so this paragraph will likely go through about seven hundred more incarnations before it finds its final form):
“Carmela Elizabeth Collins used to consult with God on everything–from when to do her laundry, to the type of brownies to donate to Bingo night at St. Mark’s, to what to say to Tommy Vincent when he asked her to miss some questions on their AP English midterm and thereby lower the curve. But she was finding herself less and less inclined to pray in these last weeks of her senior year of high school, until days often passed without her speaking to the Lord. She even began to drift during Father Andrew’s sermons, zoning out on the stained glass window high above the altar, or mentally reciting the chemistry formulas she’d need to know for the next day’s exam. During the parts of mass she referred to as ‘audience participation,’ she muttered the lines on auto-pilot, watching the boy a row over kick the pew in front of him, watching the old lady beside him clutch her beads with such vigor, Carmela wondered how the woman’s hand didn’t snap in half. She couldn’t recall when distraction had begun eroding her devotion, but this, coupled with the lack of divine conversation, was forcing her to question the solidity of her faith.”
So there you go–fiction. You may put it in your pocket if you wish.