Picking the Bones
I have written two failed novels. The first one I didn’t finish; the second one I did. Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about it: “Failed Novel, Anyone?” As I noted in that post, the whole of the novel was less than the sum of its parts, the parts being in some instances short stories, in other instances mere vignettes.
Facing that fact, I pulled out the stories, did some revision, and submitted them to literary magazines as short stories. The following nine have been published:
- “1950: New Neighbors”
- “A Modern Woman Visits Her Brother’s Wife”
- “Cousin Charlotte’s Story”
- “Her Mother’s Eulogy”
- “Norman Archambeault Meets His New Neighbor”
- “Return to Nova Scotia: 1925”
- “The Strange End of Laura Farnsworth’s Marriage”
But It Was the Most Intriguing Novel Premise Ever!
The odd thing about the stories that have been published is that all of them have been centered on secondary–and even incidental–characters having nothing to do with the character and the situation that had so intrigued me in the first place:
An elderly woman has bought into an assisted facility, put her house up for sale, had all of her furniture moved out, and then refuses to leave the farm.
Can you get a more intriguing novel premise than that? The way I wrote it, yes, you can!
A Year Goes by . . .
I decided to pull out the carcass of the novel one last time to see if there was any meat left clinging to the bones. Much to my surprise, it looked as if I could salvage that intriguing novel premise, after all. I gave it a go, sent what was now a 30-page story instead of a 283-page novel to Sunspot Literary Journal–and they accepted it. Go figure! Click here or on the first image in this post to read the story.
And Now for the Self-Indulgent Bit
I had great fun with the research for the novel, some of which wormed its in when it should have stayed in the obscure little volume where it was found. If you have any interest in what self-indulgent writing looks like, here you go!
* * *
President Coolidge did not say a single word during the entire luncheon. He did not speak to Mrs. Hoover on his left, nor to Mrs. Coolidge on his right, attacking his food like a ravenous child.
When the President had finished eating, Mrs. Hoover gave him a script to read. The script summarized the history of the Golden Eaglet, the requirements for earning it, and the great honor for the girls upon whom it was bestowed. The girls at the table smiled and blushed, then looked to their parents and their troop leaders to be excused, now that the presentation was over. But the President was not finished. He had lines of verse to read, and read them he did, in a queer nasal dogtrot that made the corners of Livy’s mouth twitch with suppressed laughter.
“I would wish you the range of the eaglet’s eye
The strength of his wings that your spirit may fly
Over all of life’s turmoil–your purpose held high.
I should wish you the courage to walk unafraid
Wearing proudly the symbol of your accolade.”
There were publicity photographs afterward, first a group photograph, then individual ones, when each girl received her award from the President. The thought crossed Livy’s mind as she waited her turn that the President of the United States should have better things to do with his time.
Up close, Calvin Coolidge had a thin, deeply lined face and smelled strongly of cheap cigars. Livy was surprised to see that he had red hair, a light, sandy shade, but still red. She hadn’t known that about him.
Weeks later, when she received her photograph, she was pleased with how well it had turned out. She was standing at the President’s side, receiving her framed certificate, her bearing strong, her smile confident. Calvin Coolidge was seated in a chair looking for all the world as though he were afraid of this young, strong Girl Scout who was shaking his hand so firmly.