It's summer time, a.k.a. editing time.
I wonder what the ratio is between writing and editing. I think it would be something like 1 to 15. For every hour you spend writing, you spend at least fifteen hours editing.
Ah, editing. That very necessary task. It shapes creativity into artful words. It changes scribbles into powerful stories. It turns simple scenes into visual masterpieces. It makes me want to scream.
I don't mind editing. In fact, I find the practice to be most beneficial in developing my writing skills. There's nothing like correcting the same grammatical error ten times to break you from writing its when in actuality you mean it's. At the very least, editing teaches patience.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Please enjoy a sample chapter from my work in progress, Amaberis. It's a YA about the consequence of dreaming up Mr. Right. Click on my webpage to contact me and view other writing samples. http://www.cindycipriano.com
My mother’s footsteps hesitated. I tapped numbers into the alarm system and the confirmation sounded. Satisfied I was locked in for the night, she continued down the brick walkway to her car.
Mom was the last one hired at Peacehaven Retirement Center and her non-seniority status guaranteed horrible hours on the graveyard shift. She hated my calling it that, but only because it was true. Many of her patients choose the middle of the night to pass from this world.
Mom worried about leaving me alone when she went to work, but I didn’t mind. Nothing ever went bump in the night in Woodfin, North Carolina.
“Come on, Sam.” Our black lab pulled his nose out of the blinds covering the door and padded down the hallway behind me. He was a big-hearted, goofy dog, forever stuck in puppyhood. Sam jumped onto my bed, staking his claim to the side by the door. I brushed my teeth and climbed in beside the already snoring dog.
Dad had found Sam on the side of a busy road three years ago. He dropped Sam at home, went to buy dog food, and a drunk driver made sure he never came back. I had fourteen years with my dad. That sounds like a long time, but it wasn’t near enough.
Dad taught me everything he knew. Because his knowledge included camping, fishing, and throwing a football, I was a full-fledged tomboy by the time I turned ten. This was bound to happen because it was my dad who gave me a boy’s name. Leath. From the moment he knew mom was pregnant, Dad had it in his head I was a boy. But, if he was disappointed, he never showed it.
When I turned thirteen, Dad and I joined the local gun club. We entered and won our only Father/Daughter shooting competition two weeks before he died. Of all the things we did together, competitive shooting was the only activity I stuck with. It was in that way I kept Dad close to me as I transitioned from tomboy to girly teenager.
I think Mom was secretly thankful I knew how to handle a weapon when she left me alone at night. Her confidence in my abilities eased her fear of someone breaking into the house and stealing me away. I snuggled close to Sam, and tried to ignore the bumps in the cold January night. Second-guessing my mother’s intuition, I fell asleep mentally checking the gun safe and calculating how much ammo we had in the house.
The next morning marked the first day of the second semester of my junior year. I found myself waiting at the end of a long line outside the guidance office. When the warning bell rang, everyone else scattered to get to class. I checked my watch and decided a tardy would be worth it. There was no way I was going to be stuck in Advanced Colonial Studies. Now the only one in line, I entered the tiny office.
“I’m here to change my schedule,” I announced to Ms. Wakely, the guidance secretary. She was as round as a plum, and had been at Martin High for twenty years.
“Who isn’t?” she answered, clearly overwhelmed by the stack of yellow schedule cards on her desk. “It’s going to take me all day to sort these changes. No one will know how to find any of you kids.” She sighed, “Okay, let me see your schedule.”
“I don’t know why I was assigned Advanced Colonial Studies,” I said, handing her the card. “I signed up for Life Skills.”
Ms. Wakely typed something into her computer. “Well, it appears you didn’t turn in your registration on time. Life Skills fills up fast. You were put into Advanced Colonial Studies because that’s all that was left.”
“But there’s got to be something else. I don’t need another history credit.” I smiled and tried to look deserving.
“The only other option for you is to work as an office helper.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Sign me up.” I added please at the last possible second and smiled again.
Ms. Wakely pulled one of the three pencils from her hair, and scribbled a note. “You can work with me. Give this to Ms. Babbitt so she’ll take your name off her roster. I’ll see you seventh period.”
“Thanks.” I snagged the note and hurried to first period. Anything’s got to be better than Advanced Colonial Studies. Advanced Colonial? Am I the only one who found that ironic?
I thought I’d learn all sorts of dark secrets as an office helper. But my job in Guidance was just a glorified study hall. There were only two good things about this arrangement. I got a head start on my homework. And, I was given the freedom of extended bathroom breaks.
On Fridays I was assigned the important task of putting handouts in teacher’s mailboxes. I spent the rest of the week cooped up in the small office with Ms. Wakely and nothing to do. By Valentine’s Day I had settled into a routine. I was counting the minutes to the end of the day as I walked through red-hearted hallways. I entered the Guidance office and set my book bag on the floor beside one of the two chairs. The other chair groaned against Ms. Wakely’s large bottom.
“Here are your handouts,” she said. Her breath smelled of peppermint. She had bought a box of mini-candy canes on clearance last month at the wholesale grocery store. From the look of the bag, she only had about a thousand left.
Reaching for the flyers, I noticed the red folder on the corner of her desk. I’d been here long enough to know it held information about a new student. After all the paperwork trickled in, the contents of a red folder were placed into a purple folder. Purple, for permanent. And, permanent folders were kept in a locked file room. That meant I only had a couple of days to peek inside that red folder. After all, a girl has to find her secrets where she can.
Woodfin High School had 714 students. On a good year, we’d get one or two students transferring in. Oddly, no one transferred out. The last red folder appeared in January while Ms. Wakely had been out with the flu. That folder contained information for Mark Thomas Polder, aka Polder. I had read Polder’s file with anticipation, but was quickly disappointed. He was an average sophomore. Good grades, chess club geek, and history bowl winner. The kind of kid who would have been right at home in Advanced Colonial Studies.
Aside from Polder’s love of history the only other secret I’d discovered was Ms. Wakely’s smoke break. She took her break every day in the middle of seventh period. Right about now.
“I’ll be right back,” said Ms. Wakely, maneuvering her massive frame around the desk. She closed the door and left me alone with the red folder that screamed at me to pick it up. I opened the folder and scanned the brown pupil data sheet. NAME James Turner. AGE 17. PARENTS Emancipated Minor. Emancipated Minor? The phrase conjured images of a boy in a courtroom suing his parents for his freedom. I flipped through the papers and found the court documents. James had been in a courtroom but hadn’t sued his parents. He sued the state to declare himself emancipated, after the death of his parents. James had lost his dad, too. Lost both of his parents. Immediately, I felt a connection to him.
I glanced at the clock. Ms. Wakely’s break was almost over. I quickly looked for James’ schedule. A yellow sticky note on the front of the card gave an enrollment date of the following Monday. My eyes flicked over his schedule. We had third period together, and like me, he had fourth period lunch. I felt the seconds racing past me as I searched for the white photo card, anxious to get a look at James. I found it, but was disappointed to see all of the photos had been scrapped of the card. I guessed that had something to do with his legal status. I straightened the papers and returned the folder to Ms. Wakely’s desk three heartbeats before she opened the door.
“Just about time for you to go,” said Ms. Wakely. She raised her eyebrows, looking at the red folder, and then at me. I stared back defiantly and we both understood neither was in any position to tell about the other’s secret. “You didn’t finish counting out the flyers,” she said, picking up James’ folder. Ms. Wakely turned and dropped it into a tall black cabinet, which she locked with a paperclip sized key. “That’s okay. The ninth grade helper can finish.” The bell sounded and I grabbed my back pack.
I walked down the hall wondering, but not really caring if Ms. Wakely knew I’d read the file. I searched the hallway for my best friend, Javier Cruz, and found him by the junior lockers. He was surrounded by giggling sophomore girls. I quickly swapped books with those in my locker and caught up to him.
“Hey Leathal,” said Javier, in his heavy accent. No one else dared to call me that. Because if they did, I’d have to kill them. Javier’s stepfather had been on a medical mission to El Salvador when he met and married Javier’s mother, Blanca. Javier transferred to Woodfin in the seventh grade and we became friends on his first day of school. But recently, things were changing between us.
It started right after my break up with my last boyfriend, Dave. Dave and I had been friends since kindergarten. Although we dated for only a few weeks, it took several months to mend our friendship. We finally patched things up over Christmas break.
After Dave, Javier started looking at me differently and it made me feel different about him. Partially warm, fully wanted, and a little self conscious. But while everyone else around me had no problem dating kids they’ve know all their lives, it never worked for me. And after each break up there was the unavoidable awkwardness that comes from living in a small town. I decided to give up on dating until I was in college surrounded by boys who were not from Woodfin.
“Ready to go?” asked Javier, sweeping me into bear hug. A couple of the sophomore girls glared at me.
“That’s really not very nice of you,” I whispered, hugging him back.
“What-do-you-mean, love?” he asked, innocently. He stepped back and straightened his vintage Adidas t-shirt.
“Flirting with the young ones and then acting like we’re a couple.”
“We could be a couple,” he said, flashing super white teeth.
“So funny today, aren’t you?”
“What can I say? Can I at least get points for trying?”
“Uh, no,” I said. “The day we become a couple, we’ll…”
“Quit being friends,” he finished. “Do you really think that?” Javier looked into my eyes and saw my answer. Being my best friend, he’d had a front row seat to every one of my break ups. “Ah, another time.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and we made our way out of the building. Javier had his own car, something Mom said we couldn’t afford just yet. I loved riding to school with him, especially since we didn’t have one single class together, not even lunch. I hoped to use my pull with guidance to rectify that situation for our senior year.
“Annamae told me she’s going to the Valentine’s dance with you,” I said as we walked to the student parking lot. Annamae Liano was my closest girlfriend. “You cut it a bit close, didn’t you? Asking her the night of the dance.”
“I didn’t ask her. She asked me,” said Javier, with a sly grin. “Your thoughts?” he asked, opening the driver’s side door of his BMW.
“I think you guys will have a great time.”
“We always do,” he said. “When the three of us go together. Why don’t you come with?” He stood too close and smiled too sweetly and I almost gave in.
“Because Annamae didn’t ask me,” I said, pointedly. “You go ahead. You guys are perfect for each other.” I almost believed it myself as I slid into the front seat. “Besides, what could be better than my two best friends dating?” Javier raised an eyebrow.
As soon as the car doors shut, I grinned.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“We’re getting a new student,” I said.
Javier’s lips pinched together into a smirk. “Another Polder?”
“No, this one’s different,” I pressed. Javier distractedly looked for an opening in the endless line of cars. “He’s an emancipated minor.”
“That is different,” he said.
I filled him in on the James situation as he inched the car towards the exit. He cut his eyes at me when I told him James’ parents had died. Fifteen minutes later, we rolled into my driveway.
“Have fun tonight,” I said, opening the car door.
“Hey, want to go to a movie tomorrow?” he asked.
“Can’t. I’ve got a major paper due in AP English. I’ll be working on it all weekend.” I hated telling him no. Like me, Javier was an only child. I knew the boredom he sometimes felt. “We can do something next weekend,” I promised. Hoisting my book bag to my lap, I heaved myself out of his car. “See you Monday.” I slammed the car door with a swing of my hip. Javier gave me a quick wave and drove off.
“Leath? That you?” asked my mom when I entered the house.
“Of course, it’s me,” I sighed. Who else would it be? I found her in the kitchen peeling potatoes. She was humming. Mom looked different. She looked happy. I knew something was up when she looked at me without a trace of sorrow in her eyes. Mom always said I was my father’s daughter. I had his jade green eyes, full lips, and easy smile. The only thing I got from Mom was her yellow blonde hair. I knew how hard it was for her to look at my face and not see his. But today, only happiness showed in her blue eyes.
“I got a call from one of my friends from high school. Beth. You remember her, don’t you?” she asked.
“Sure,” I lied. “How is she?”
“She’s great. Well, she’s recently divorced. Turns out he was a real jerk. Anyway, Beth’s on our high school’s reunion committee. She called to invite me to our twentieth reunion.” Mom paused and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I thought I might go,” she glanced at me, hesitantly. “It’s in South Carolina, first weekend in April.”
I never understood the whole reunion thing. I was itching to graduate, and shake off my small high school. I couldn’t imagine coming back for a reunion. “I think you should, Mom. You never go anywhere.”
“You know, you’re right,” she said. “But, since I’ll be gone the whole weekend, and out of state, I think I’d feel better if you stayed at Annamae’s house while I’m gone.” She set the pot of potatoes on the stove top, turning the knob to high heat. “I’m going to go call Annamae’s mom to see if you can stay there. Then, I’ll call Beth.” Mom practically danced out of the kitchen and I was truly happy she was going to do something besides go to work.
I wrote the entire weekend away. Mom must have camped outside my bedroom door because every time I opened it to take a break, she was there. She showed me all four of her high school yearbooks and made me read the inscriptions. Some could have been found in my own yearbook. HAGS, LYLAS, and RHTS. We were flipping through her senior yearbook Sunday night at the kitchen table before she left for work when a neatly printed inscription caught my eye.
“I’ll never forget your face, your smile, or your laugh. Take care of my heart while I’m away. Love Desmond. Ewww, who was Desmond?” I asked in my most dramatic voice. Mom actually blushed.
“He was my boyfriend,” she answered, and quickly added. “Way before your dad.” I knew my parents met in college, I wasn’t at all concerned that Desmond had somehow wronged my father. “I dated him all through high school. He was really sweet. And, handsome,” she smiled. Mom flipped through the pages and pointed to a small rectangular photo. A smiling boy stared back at us. His hair was thick, blond, and long. His brown eyes sparkled.
“He’s dreamy,” I said in a teasing voice. “What happened?”
“Well, he went to school in Pennsylvania. I stayed behind in South Carolina. And, it was a good thing, because that’s where I met your dad,” she smiled. “Dez got married around the same time we did, but I don’t know what happened after that.”
“Maybe you can find out at the reunion,” I gushed. “He’s probably long overdue for a visit with his heart.” I fanned the center of my chest and batted my eyes.
“On that note, I think I’ll head to work,” she said, throwing a kitchen towel in my direction.
“Really, Mom. It’d be okay with me if you wanted to, you know, date someone.”
She looked at me, her eyes misting. “Thanks honey. But, I’m just not…ready.” She avoided my gaze as she gathered her purse and keys.
“Well, I just want you to know, it’s all right.”
“I’ve got to go,” she said, giving me a quick kiss. “Don’t forget to put on the alarm.”
“I will, Mom,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Goodnight, I love you,” she said, going through the door.
“Love you, too.” I locked the door behind her and set the alarm. Picking up the yearbook I read Desmond’s words again. Sure it was corny, but it seemed heartfelt. I wondered if I’d ever meet someone to love me the way my dad, or even Desmond, had loved my mom. Someone other than my best friend.
- Cindy Cipriano
- Cindy Cipriano lives in NC with her husband, son, and 27 pets. OK, maybe not 27 more like 2 dogs, 2 cats, and many, many fish. Cindy has taught middle school science since 2001 where many of her students voluntarily critique her writing with seemingly no regard for their grade. Cindy was named a NC Outstanding Science Teacher in 2009 by the NC Science Teachers Association. She has an M.Ed., and is a National Board Certified Science Teacher. Cindy is also a NC Certified Environmental Educator. Two of Cindy's short stories, "Miller's Island," and "What Lance Saw," were published in DOORWAY TO ADVENTURE in 2010. Cindy is a member of SCBWI, and the Drawbridge Writers Group. Please visit Cindy's webpage to enjoy a sample chapter from Cindy's work in progress, Amaberis. It's a YA about the consequence of dreaming up Mr. Right.