Monday, January 30, 2012

The Rebirth of a Story

A photo of two street kids saved on my hard drive with no other story

My post last week on letting go has become a lesson in irony. Ever noticed the projects listed on the side of my blog? Depending on how you read my blog, you might never have seen them. I update it with my current projects, but also list two long-shelved projects because they're important to my growth as a writer.

Apparently, agents do read blogs and they do read those project lists. A lovely agent asked me about ANGELES OF ITHICA, a YA contemporary about homeless teens I hadn't opened in years. Over the weekend, I dug it out, dusted it off and dove into edits. And it is hard.

It's hard because ITHICA is the most personal thing I've ever written. While the stories aren't true, thousands of stories just like these ones play out on our streets every day. I spent some time as a teen working with kids in crisis and bringing awareness to the issue of homeless teens in America. I devoted an entire semester of high school on a research project about street kids. Those stories burned into my brain and I had to write them.

It's hard because after five years, I still feel all the emotions I poured into it. I still remember each character, each moment. I remember backstories and hopes and dreams.

It's hard because I'm a different person than I was when I began writing it. I'm harder now, more seasoned. I was a sixteen-year-old living in suburban Ohio when I first dreamed up these characters. Now I'm nearing 30 and live in Los Angeles, where I navigate through aggressive homeless men and women begging for change almost every time I leave the house.

It's hard because it's so different from my other projects. I like my happy, shinny, romantic fantasy worlds. I like bad guys who are bad (even if complicated) and good guys who are good (even if complicated). I like the magic and escape of fantasy. I like tackling real issues in totally unreal ways.

It's hard because ITHICA is real. It's dark and gritty. There is so much cussing (compared to the three h-e-double-hockeysticks in The Alterae) and while it's not graphic, it deals with drug addiction, child prostitution and abuse. I feel the burden to tell these stories honestly on behalf of the kids who can't and that means going to places I'd like to forget exist.

It's hard because I've grown so much as a writer. The current version is a mess, with the POV jumping all over the place and SO MUCH TELLING. It does not even begin to do justice to the stories.

So I'm digging in. I'm about 1/3 of the way through rewrites and I'm exhausted. This one is taking a lot out of me as I fight to breathe life into it again. But I think it's worth it. Years after letting go, I'm watching a story come to life again. Even it never sees publication, it's forcing me to grow and that is never a bad thing.


  1. Bravo! You are courageous. It's hard enough to look at things we have stuffed in a drawer, hidden under the bed, tucked in the back of the closet. Things we thought we'd finish but didn't. Things we can't believe we wrote (for good or ill). But what makes a real WRITER in my mind, is the one who writes the stories her heart tells her too, regardless of marketability. If Fate and your heart are pushing you back to this project, it's gonna be something great! Go get 'em, girl!!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I think the hardest part right now is giving myself permission to enjoy the project since it's such a dark topic. But the act of writing, of making a story shine, is it's own reward. The other thing is that I don't have much experience with contemp! I'm loading up my Kindle with a few comparable titles in hopes of finding some direction... Then I need to find some beta readers outside my circle of wonderful fantasy writers!