Monday, April 1, 2013
The Almost Crime: No Beyers Remorse
I have been writing since I was in the second grade.
A a. B b. C c. Ha, ha!
No, my first real author steps were not in the fiction genre, or even in paragraphs. Rather, the first thing I remember about being a writer is having a piece of paper in gym class. And there was a girl I wanted to show this piece of paper to. Like, before I perspired.
(Before this, my English teacher had lauded a poem I had written, as "worthy of a 12th grader." But this was teacher-talk. This didn't count.)
I think I was in 9th grade, but I could be mistaken. We (the country) had just invaded Iraq, and were looking for WMDs, and failing to find WMDs, and loosing interest in what W, M, and / or D stood for.
I was feeling clever.
So I showed this girl this piece of paper I was so proud of, about Iraq and oil crises and George W. Bush, all in AABB rhyme-scheme and stanzas. And she sort of shrugged, and was nice to me. She may have even said it was good.
She was lying.
Henceforth, I remained not-a-writer. My sophomore year of high school, I became involved with the school newspaper, The Tattler. Over the next couple years, I wrote several April Fools pieces, set an unofficial record for letters and poems to the editor, and wrote maybe one news story (that wasn't very good).
My technical writing faltered throughout this time. I entered a Tattler column contest, and was told unofficially - by a friend - that my entry was unreadable. (By comparison, reading this blog post is like trying to find a needle in a pincushion). I turned in one essay that came back to me with the comment, "Is this a joke?"
And no, it wasn't.
But I also did a bit of experimenting. I wrote some of my first short-stories, including both fiction and non-fiction. Some of them caught some attention: by my closest friends and family members, who would have shown me attention (I would assume) no matter what.
And/but I was ambitious, back then. I wanted the moon, or nothing. So I began the thing I thought would make me a writer, once and for all, and which nobody could argue with.
It was not The Almost Crime. It was a book called, Suggested Changes in Bold.
Like many grand ideas I'd had, I entered college without finishing Suggested Changes in Bold. Once I was there a couple short stories trickled out of me - but they were John-Irving-inspired, and preachy, and longer than they needed to be, and more-or-less plot-less. And none of them are worth mentioning here.
However, a wonderful thing also happened my freshman year. It came with cash-money, and a picture, and some free desserts. (Just? I don't know.) It was called a James E. Rice, Jr. Prize, and came with publication. I was officially kicked in the pants.
That summer, I went home and had a bout of two-dimensional writing circles (the opposite of a "writing block..."). I wrote about half of Suggested Changes in Bold in a week, and had my dear, darling dad print and bind a couple of copies for me. I did some editing (not enough) and asked around for some editing (not enough), and had grand schemes for what I was going to do with my finished product, now.
Again, I didn't follow through.
One good thing became of Suggested Changes in Bold, however -- before I decided to self-publish it and be done with it. My then-friend read it, and thought it was okay. Four years (and change) later, I married her.
I continued to write at Cornell, taking Verse Writing and then Narrative Writing and then Narrative Writing and then Narrative Writing. (I figured out that you could get credit more than once, if you changed professors.) I had some swings, some misses, and perhaps some RBIs. But I also had another wonderful thing happen to me my junior year, which may explain why I wrote The Almost Crime, and why I'm writing this blurb here. It came with cash money, too, and was called an Arthur Lynn Andrews Award for fiction.
Once was a fluke, but now I was on to something... and for once, I knew what I was on to. It turned out, I could get inside a person's head pretty well. When I won the James E. Rice, Jr. Prize I had pretended to be Freud. When I won the Arthur Lynn Andrews prize, I had pretended to be a college student with an autism spectrum disorder, trying to find love. My plot-lines were still crap and my scene-setting was still crap, but I could more-or-less characterize.
And I could do almost anyone.
Since then, this is what I've built on. I've poured my mental energy into my characters, and let my characters dictate my stories. My writing has relied more on thoughts than actions (and hardly at all on setting scenes) - and The Almost Crime is no exception. Yes, there are car accidents. Yes, there is armed robbery. Yes, there is murder. But I swear to you that 1) The Almost Crime is my crown jewel, so far, and 2) the plot isn't where the action is.