Sunday, October 24, 2010

...she returns

"...the most traumatic event in one's life will more times than not, become their mission."

...I was mowing the backyard over the weekend when she returned. A skinny thing, her complexion blanched as if fearing any contact with the sun. The foster girl of twelve requested, and was granted, another weekend visit. This one her third.

From a distance she appeared frail for a young lady approaching teenage status. Upon closing the gap between us however, a smile breached a set of chapped lips, her wiry frame boasting of hidden muscle. To live a day in her shoes, one would realize that most of her strength had nothing to do with the flex of her biceps.

I wrote a post of "the girl" roughly a month ago, a foster child being held under state's custody who's expressed a desire to join my family permanently, and have since been asked by many for an update.

We were granted three more days with her living under our roof. We attended one of her soccer games, watched as she assisted in the matchup's only goal. She revealed to us that she'd been grounded by her current foster parents since her last visit...punishment for a poor grade card, yet worsening an already volatile relationship within the homestead she's resided for the past two years. No outdoor activity, no cell phone, no computer, no communication. This explained her pale complexion, and my wife's inability to contact her through Facebook.

She'd also received harsh criticism for a movie we allowed her to experience the last time she visited. Twilight's New Moon. Rated PG-13. A movie we've let our own children watch countless times, considering it harmless.

As was the result of her past two visits, the weekend became an adventure. And as before, the girl and I shared a conversation upon the Sunday night of her departure. The therapy has increased. Professionals scouring for a reason behind her foster home's dysfunction, pushing pills down her throat like an ice cream in August.

The girl's relationship with her foster dad has never been a positive match, but has worsened since her twelfth birthday. This news haunts me with each passing day. He's a man of strict religious upbringing. Because of this, he expects the same compassion from every member of his household. Even a young lady who's childhood was spent under the tumultuous reign of a mother suffering from a mental disorder. Later deemed incapable of raising her daughter.

My angst dates back more than twenty years, to a time when I found myself living the very same nightmare that I hear from the mouth of this child. My younger years were also disrupted by a parent battling a set of ghosts from within her mind. An ongoing struggle to this day. Also the inspiration behind, "South of Charm," my soon-to-be-released novel.

I see this girl, and I see myself. I see her tears, and I recognize them as my own. She needs help, but not the type she's currently receiving. It's reached the point where unless alternative steps are taken, a dark future looms.

I've sent a lengthy email to our social worker. As foster parents, she's our licensed representation in all matters child-related. The letter was a jumbled mess of feelings, my point to make clear our intent to help this girl, to bring her home if need be.

A response was returned a day later. My email had been forwarded to our worker's boss, every worker in the building, and the girl's social representation as well. Accompanying the news was a one line message..."Thank you for your emotional, yet eloquent input. We'll be in touch."

I have no idea what that means. Sleep now comes a bit easier however, knowing that at least I tried.

Until then, unfortunately, the story continues...

There are those of us who are striving for goals...reaching ever closer to achieving that dream...ultimate recognition. But what of those who see goals as nothing more than glass slippers from a Disney classic...slippers left behind...goals unattainable due to lives held in Purgatory. What about those kids? Who's listening to their goals?

...thanks for reading:)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


...I'm only a month or three late getting this knocked out, but was finally able to pen the acknowledgment for "Charm." It's getting posted in hopes of receiving critiques and insight before I ship it to David.

:The thing about writing a story of significant length that some fail to consider, is that one must be comfortable in their solitude in order to succeed. Penning the next Pulitzer while changing Junior's diapers in one hand, and programming that new Blackberry with the other, more times than not, breeds disappointment. Despite being surrounded with such modern conveniences as high-speed internet, and GPS directions with the push of a button, when writing, there's simply no substitute for peace and quiet.

Which was why, shortly following the collapse of our economy, when the career I'd grudgingly stumbled upon, reared its ugly head and offered me a set of fangs, it was my wife who set me on course.

She sat me down in front of the computer and said, "It's time. Write the book."

In the second Rocky movie, the one where Balboa's maimed form somehow manages to find a second's worth of equilibrium as the referee finishes his ten-count, thus securing the heavyweight championship, there's an earlier scene I thought of while offering my wife a nod, my heart's pace quickening.

Long story short, when Rocky's wife, Adrian, drifts into a coma following the birth of their son, then awakens several days later and stares into her husband's eyes with a gleam very unlike Talia Shire's character, Rocky asks her if she would prefer him to retire rather than fight Apollo Creed.

From her hospital bed, newborn baby cradled in her arms, Adrian says, "There's one thing I want you to do for me."

Rocky asks, "What's that?"

"Win," she says. "Win!"

Despite sharing duties in the upbringing of our children, while generating enough funds to maintain a thumbs up from our creditors, I completed the book. But not without help. For there is no novel on earth where the writer can take sole credit.

I would like to thank Pam Vogt and Sandy Clifton for their thoughts and continued support throughout the reading and editing process. To the staff at The Wooster Book Company for their undying loyalty. To David Wiesenberg, whose tutoring and creative insight can only be described as priceless. I fear the thought of undergoing such a task without him by my side. A special shout out to my internet colleagues and the readers of my blog, whose critiques and support have been an overwhelming gesture. A nationwide family of writers, each of us holding hands and striving forward, one word at a time. To my children, whose many ideas on the life of Danny Kaufman I often encouraged, for who could possibly know the mindset of a ten year old boy more than a kid of the same age? My oldest son has requested the first copy. I'm more than happy to abide.

And of course to my wife, whose patience throughout the writing of "Charm" was an effort surpassing any favor I've ever asked of her. For the only job more frustrating than that of a writer, may in fact be a writer's significant other. I'm forever grateful...

"South of Charm" has been edited a fourth time, trimmed down a bit, its waistline now a bit roomier. I'm anxious to move forward, but hesitant of the final product. Is it ready? How does anyone ever know for sure?

These are questions I asked David, my editor. His response was simple. "When a story reads the way life travels...sometimes smooth, often a bit rough, at times twisting and winding with an unknowing future around the bend...then you've got it. Then it's ready."

I finished reading it again. This was the seventh or eighth time. There'll be at least one more. It's close. So close, but...

Thanks for reading,
EL :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Dumb it Down..."

...received some interesting advice from my "reader" who's involvement has sparked a fourth...kind of mini-edit on "South of Charm."

A former editor, now more or less a hired hit-man for those of us clawing our way toward some shelf space at Barnes & Noble, she finished up my novel a week ago, assembled her thoughts, and suggested to David that I should perhaps, "Dumb it down" a bit.

My response was, "Huh?"

David managed to clarify. "In a nutshell, she thinks maybe you're writing gets too cute in a few scenes. Don't huff. Overall she enjoyed it, but you know how it is...every critique has to come back with something, thus earning them their blue chip."

"So...she's wanting me to cut out some of the more colorful phrases, and replace them with, what...newspaper print?" I asked.

This sparked a grin. "Not quite that extreme, El. Her take was, during a few of the more intense moments of the story, your prose blossomed a bit too much, causing her to go back and re-read the scene, making sure she fully understood what was going on. She fears some readers may put the book down if they find themselves in the same position."

"I'm assuming you've read Wroblewski's "Sawtelle," or Susanna Clark's "Norrell," right?" I asked.

David nodded.

"Okay then, how many times did you have to go back and re-read that craziness?"

"More than I'm willing to admit."

"How about 'Tinkers?' That one won the Pulitzer, you know."

"Don't remind me."

"And those books are considered some of the best work over the past decade. So what gives?"

David expelled a breath, his patience creating the type of silence only a newborn would feel comfortable in. Then, "Who's your main character in 'Charm?'

"The Kaufman kid."

"And how old is he?"


Then I got it. "Wait. Okay. I see what you're getting at."

David's smile returned. "Sometimes you writers like to show off, wanting us readers to shake our heads in awe...which is fun. But sometimes, depending on the scene, and the character in question, thinning out some spice can make all the difference."

"Okay. I'm not on my deathbed," I said. "There's time. Send me another copy and your ideas, and I'll see what I can do."

Revision number 4. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" went through 15 rounds of revisions before getting shoved into the press. "South of Charm" is based on the troubled life of a ten year old boy with a special gift, but a family secret...more or less a curse as he sees it. And that's the key. As he sees it. Through his eyes, not mine. A ten year old boy...

"Dumb it Down." I've got two weeks and she wants to read it again.

Okay Kaufman, tell me what you see...