Steeple in the Distance
She had gone to sleep the night before certain to be disappointed in the morning. She was not. The pink book lying next to her on the pillow plainly demonstrated that some one had remembered her birthday. She felt a tickle of pleasure and excitement rise from her stomach. Anxious to greet the day she stretched and leaned forward, her fingertips just touching the curtains that held the rising streaks of the sun from her room. She pulled gently and the curtains parted. More daylight than dawn flooded the room. She sank back on the pillow. It was early enough. There was no need to rush down to the kitchen.
Beyond the window the birds left off the morning chorus and chatted noisily amongst themselves. A squirrel scolded, irritated already at this early hour. The crows settled and flew and settled again, each thinking another’s branch better than their own. From farther away came the intermittent drumming of the woodpeckers. She listened lazily and then pulled the pink book to her. She turned on her side so morning cast its best light on the book.
Randomly she paged through it. Blank and white, the leaves stared up at her. It said nothing on the cover. A journal, she thought, a journal for my thoughts. She opened to the fly of the book and there, the firm strokes of her mother’s handwriting lay. Tears stung her eyes. She looked away as the hurt and longing welled up and inundated her with memories. Time could not erase the grief of her mother’s passing. And yet, she smiled, for her mother had reached once more to embrace her and greet her on her birthday.
For our Annabelle on her 15th birthday, may your golden day be blessed, with love, Mother and Father.
There wasn’t much that I knew about the novel when I began. I knew I wanted to write one. I knew the girl’s birth date must be July 14, 1900. I knew her name would be Annabelle. My plan was to make it a science fiction story, a time swap. The Annabelle born in 1900 would get switched with the Annabelle, her descendent, born July 14th, 2000. The dates were dictated by my grandmother’s birth date, July 14th, 1900. A journal kept by Annabelle 1900 would be the key to solving the entire problem.
The next thing I knew was I needed a lab rat, an unlucky friend who would be subjected to all the words my efforts produced. I needed someone to keep me honest, someone to keep me responsible. I found one on the first try, Gwen was as enthusiastic as I about the entire project. So I began my book.
Somewhere in the above italicized passage is the first skeleton of what I produced. I am disappointed that the first draft did not get saved. It was as pathetic a collection of words as ever occupied a page. The above paragraphs are no longer the opening ones of the book. But they are where I began.
I learned a few things very rapidly in those first couple of weeks. The first was that this book was not going to be science fiction. With five of the six original facts still in tact, I kept writing.
To be truthful, I kept making myself write. I had to set goals, three pages a day, four or five days a week. I was stern and unrelenting even though I begged and pleaded with myself to quit. I encouraged myself with the fact that I didn’t have to write well, I just had to write.
I learned that conversation fills pages, rapidly. My writing time became less painful.
I learned that I had to pick a new center for the book. I will sum it up here quickly by saying I decided to replace the science fiction with coming of age. I decided the book would end with the end of WWI. I decided to move the girl’s birth date back one day. Sorry Grandmother, but if her birthday, her golden birthday, is July 15th, that means one less year to deal with in the story. Annabelle became 15 on the 15th instead of 14 on the 14th. Poof, an entire year gone!
What I know now is that pages of conversation make for agonizing days of rewriting. That I am not satisfied with anything but the best writing that I am capable of doing and I am very glad I moved her birth date by one day.
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