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W.I.P. November

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Happy Halloween everyone, I look foreward to reading all of the fantastic works (hopefully have a chance to post some of my own )
post #2 of 24
I've been beating my head up against this peice for almost six years - off and on - and I could really use some feedback. I have about 30 pages or so that I've cut and added back in and cut again. I've also given up on this story many times. What I'd like is some feedback on what to fix or if I should tuck it away some where to work on in another 6 years. There is something here though that I can't seem to let go of and I come back again and again to this peice. I truly would appreciate any feedback you can give. Please be brutal I need to either get on with it or get rid of it! Thanks in advance, I look forward to participating more here.


Annie's girl

I remember the night the fire died in the stove before dawn, strength stolen by sunrise and warmth abandoned to the chill of the day. Daytime is when we face what we’ve avoided with our heads beneath the covers all night. With the rising of the sun nightmares are revealed and they are truth. The sun only lifts the curtain.

You Ana were tall and grew smiles on your face. At home in laughter, settled in and comfortable. I remember how you would invite me in to sit for a while.

Then one day we found you beneath the shattered, sharp like picture glass lake. Your body was gone three days to the water and the smallest of smiles graced your lips. Or maybe that was my imagination.

In those days I didn’t remember what it was like to breathe, I still don’t. I can remember what it is not like but not what it is like. Sound got stuck in my throat with every simple intake of air and I got lost in the maze of my own words. I found that nothing is ever the same one moment to the next. No promises, no guarantees. The change overwhelmed me and I began to break down. I think much like you did Ana. I saw how living over time became too real to be withstood. I can see you clearly in my mind’s eye the way you stood with you hands on your hips and threw your head back laughing. The sound shook you all the way through your toes. You were standing there before me as yourself and nothing else, no apologies, no qualifications.

God I thought that things would be different for us Ana.

I can still see you running through the backfield the grasses tall to your hips. The glory of the fir trees rise in the distance and a clear blue sky sings overhead.

I don’t remember things I’ve never known about you, though I’m learning now, your writing still draws me in Ana and I am finding that there was so much I never knew.

And I remember the clots of people so tight in our house after the service that I couldn’t breathe. The kind words with hands outstretched and warm voices sucked the breath from my lungs and I found myself gasping and crying. No surprise I guess to the people who surrounded me. No one noticed. That’s what a widow is supposed to do right? Fall to pieces. I cry and scream in my silence about how unfair it is the water has you instead of me, that you are free and I am still here tethered. So no one was surprised to see me decompose before them. And I grew to suspect they had seen it all before. My breakdown was one more entry in a litany of grief.

And I don’t remember you Annie. I don’t remember you anymore. I remember your body pale in death. I remember your stiff face and that smile.
I hate you for that smile.

I hate you for the way your smile taunts me, follows me through this life I am not living. I refuse. I refuse to go on.

I refuse to talk and eat and breathe as though I were a person in this world instead of a shadow. Those first few months our friends called me at night when the darkness huddled in close and I was shut up in our house. When the cat had finally settled in my lap after years of preferring yours. It has always been the days though that reach inside of me and un-tether the confusion that ties me to this moment.

One night the month after you died Ana I was sitting in the living room having the usual conversation with you in my head, telling you I’d taken time off from work and perhaps I’d not go back, when I remembered I’d left the lights on.

Shit. I thought. Janna is here with Sally and they are knocking hard on the door. They knew that I was home and I couldn’t hide, I knew they were on their way to music and probably dancing.

I opened the door that night and there they were, the lamplight making a circle out of the darkness and me standing with a blanket trailing behind me.

Standing in the cold the yellow of the light brought out the lines of life, worry and too little sleep on all the faces framed by the door. I couldn’t meet their eyes. I looked down at the ground and said, “Hey.”

Janna replies trying to catch my eye wit the gentleness of hers, reaching her hand out to grasp my shoulder, “Hey you,” she says softly. Sally pulls me into a billowy hug, her down jacket like a pillow surrounding her and then me. I can feel her strength somewhere beneath the comfort of softness.

I crumpled to the ground and the cold of the cement step reached up through the thin cloth of my pajamas. Sally and Janna followed me to the ground, their arms still around me though I couldn’t feel much other that the cold of the porch. I knew their arms were around me, I could almost feel them and I know Sally and Janna.

I’ve known them longer that you Ana and will still I suppose. I hate you for that. I hate you for being gone. I hate you for the way you left.

Between the two of them that night on the porch they gathered me up and I found myself on the couch by the fire instead of the cold porch step. I wished I could still feel the cold. The cold is what keeps me separate from you and connected Ana. You don’t feel the cold, you have become the cold, but you don’t feel it.

The smooth heat of a mug was thrust into my hands and somehow I managed to hold on.

I realized finally seeing the worry toss about long enough in the stormy pools of Janna’s eyes that I must have been speaking aloud. Talking to you Ana. She must have truly thought me crazy. The fog had come in thick like spring when there is only room for a hint of warmth in the air. Exhaustion covered me as if I’d been wandering for a decade or more and haven’t found my way through. And in the fog I kept reaching for what I thought was a sound, an echo, some hint of how to pull up to the surface. The problem was that I had become the fog. Not that I needed to escape somehow, but rather that I had become fog, which is as you know hardly anything at all. Fog holds no substance and neither did I. Each time I tried to gather myself together I slipped and fell through like sand and fingers. As fog my only hope was holding on tight to the ground. And so the cold becomes my salvation.

I knew the way you know things when you can’t think, breathe, feel, hear, see, that I would not be free unless the cold could reach in and turn me to frost. Frost, solid and secure to the earth. Frost seemed so much more tangible that fog. Fog is nothing. Fog was the feeling that I didn’t exist, if I could become frost I could manage to exist.

I sat back inside watching the effort working to look ‘fine’. Sally and Janna weren’t fooled easily. They sat and waited with me. I could hear them in the kitchen ‘discussing’ what was to be done about me. My mouth couldn’t no matter how hard I tried make the words dance, play echo in the way they needed to in order to convince these friends that, ‘really I was going to be okay.’

Time passed at least according to the clock on the mantel and finally Sally and Janna slept. I crept from room to room then, my slippers abandoned at the foot of my chair my feet didn’t feel the cold. The cold of the ground didn’t seem to anchor me anymore. And I was floating away.

I felt my robe flying behind me as I ran through the backfield and the moonlight streamed from above. In my mind the robe wasn’t a robe but a great tail of fog.

This was the same field, the same field that held the grasses high as your waist Ana. And even in the darkness I could almost see the line of firs like sentries guarding the drive.

No one was guarding the lake. No well-meaning friends. No stand of tall firs. No Ana.

I remember stepping barefooted onto the edge of the frozen shore where the water and the land met in ice. I felt nothing, I didn’t exist. That feeling of heavy fog was the feeling that nothing mattered anymore, that I never existed anyway. You tore through my world Annie. You with that smile that is all you left me. I realized then that I was screaming and pounding the ice in protest with my feet.

I needed the cold. I needed the ice. That is all I really had left of you Ana.

The tears that were flowing down my cheeks, turned icy as they fell. As I slipped to the ice all I remember is how smooth the lake was in winter. Covered over with what I needed most. Why wouldn’t the lake give me what I needed, what it held in such abundance? Frozen realness.

I even dreamed that night as I cried myself to delirious sleep on the ice. I dreamed I was walking through the desert on my knees. The heat bore through me, every ray of sun a nail driven hard and fast. I lay in the sand, which radiated wave after wave of heat I felt every cell in my body screaming in protest. Each cell protesting it’s own existence. Each petitioning for freedom to become pieces of sand intermingled with sand. And I lay dying. The wind began to blow and the mountains of sand took mere seconds to overtake me. As I moved forward my hand touched something smooth and cool through the grit. A strong surge like the turning of the tide ripped through me and with aching heavy limbs I dug through the sand until my fingers grazed again the coolness. I pulled a tiny metal box out of the sand and knew the way one does in dreams what I would find inside. The lid creaked and inside was a folded piece of paper from one of those yellow legal pads Ana used the take notes. I didn’t want to then open the note even though I could see Ana’s writing through the wrong side.

In Ana’s scrawl I read squinting against the blowing sand:

‘Dear Grace, Hate me, but live. You have all of my love. Ana’

I screamed then with an ache that reached past everything and I threw the note sweat soaked and crumpled to the wind.

My eyes were open then and I was on the ice where we found Ana. Looking toward the house I could see Sally and Janna running across the field that field again, an odd assortment of clothes flapping about their limbs.

The ache stayed put at a point of no return in my gut and I retched with the force of a torrent of held back tears. Sally and Janna reached the lake and held me close to them.

The cold beneath me became an unbearable burning and the air frozen in my chest like knives. I could see the sky again though the fog clung to the edges of my vision the rest became the frost that covered the ground. I felt the smallest of all smiles twist at my lips, Ana’s smile. All I had left.

And now Ana, Jann she still thinks I’m drowning, sinking so fast that there’s nothing she can do. I’ve frightened and worried her for so long I think she doesn’t know what to do next. She thinks I need to somehow scrape off the mud and pull myself up out of the mire and keep walking. It’s funny isn’t it I always used to tell you that didn’t I. Annie please just keep walking, promise me no matter what keep walking. I can see now so clearly the impossibility of that promise. I can see now, you couldn’t promise, I asked for the one thing you couldn’t give. I know now how the world can lose all color, shape and form, when the numbness begins to extend through everything coming from within you. A deep and desperate cold growing from the knowing panic that runs through and through. Ice that builds up in layers, night after night. And just as the cold reaches past the point of return the barriers drop and what has always been becomes evident. That the rain will wash out the rest.
I remember the nightmare time. I remember the days after you died, Ana. The way the rain pulled itself down from the sky. I remember, I remember, I remember and I chant the phrase over and over again and lose myself in the confusion of over and over again words that stumble and trip on one another. And there is never enough, like the covers on the bed in winter, which you’ve pulled up over your frozen nose leaving your toes to fend for themselves.
And tonight the pattern of the plaster and the memory of her warmth and her skin isn’t enough. My leg itches and my backaches, my throat is dry and my stomach rumbles. I toss and turn trying to forget the ceiling forget Ana.
Damn it. Wally yips at the door begging to g out. I plug my ears to his whines and plead for sleep, dreamless sleep. Out of the darkness he keeps whining, more urgently and paws at the door.
Rolling over I throw off the covers and lay for a moment before jumping up and walking heavily over to the door. Damn it. He looks up at me with big eyes, unsure if he can trust me. Freed by the opening of the door he takes off like a shot towards the back door and waits to be released again.
I stand shivering, nearly naked in the moonlight and see that frost has glazed the back yard. Wally finally scoots back in just as I get set to stomp and yell. He shakes off the cold with the clatter of his collar and tags and prances off to the couch where he makes himself comfortable.
Colder than cold I dig out sweatpants and shirt from the dryer and turn on the teapot. I look over at Wally now asleep, knowing that sleep is far from me now.
The hot tea steams my face, thaws my hands and I remember raggedly somehow to breathe. And in the moment when I think that everything is going to be all right, my heart explodes and I want to throw the mug, splatter the heat across the floor.
I sink to the floor holding tight waiting for the storm to pass. I remember an old song Ana sang once, a sailors prayer. And I hum along with memory ‘I will not lay me down with rain a’ raging, I will not lay me down in such a storm…’
The phone is on the floor at my feet, so it’s easy to pick it up and dial the number I’ve called too often.
“Janna?” My voice cracks, when I speak aloud. I speak so clearly in my head, these conversations we have Ana, are so clear.
Her voice throwing off echoes of sleep and dreams, Sally says, “Hold on honey, I’ll get her”.
If I listen closely I can hear her nudging Janna awake, all she says is “Grace” and Janna is on the phone, breathing lightly as she kisses Sally back to sleep and pads over to the chair by the window.
“Hey,” she says her voice heavy with sleep. My stomach drops down low and I am sorry I called. “Why.” I say, knowing well the full question played readily enough without being spoken.
“Sweetie,” she says her voice soft still with sleep, “Sweetie, sometimes no reason is enough.” I can hear her shedding sleep and dreams. “Sometime no matter how much reason, how many reasons we discover they don’t add up to making sense.”
I breathe, slowly but still breathing.
She says “I can hear you Gracie, did you make some tea already?”
“Yeah I can’t sleep, Wally got me up to let him out.”
“Go on back up stairs sweetie,” she says, “take the tea.”
And already I am up and going, I know she can hear me as I walk. The dull thud of carpeted stairs betrays my obedience.
“Good,” She says to the creak of the bed as I climb in. “You’ve got your quilt?”
“Yeah,” my answer muffled as I cover myself with the quilt.
“I’ll go now, you go on and get some sleep.” She stifles a yawn. “You give me a call in the morning ok? I love you Gracie.”
I can hear her now climbing back into bed and I hear Sally roll over.
I whisper, “goodbye” and “love you” just as she disconnects. I wish I could stay connected and hear them breathing somewhere near by.

Thank you for reading this far, I look forward to hearing what you think.
post #3 of 24
post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 
Emey, I have no constructive feedback for you except to say that was wonderful. The imagery really got to me, it must be a true story (is it?)

It shocked me a few times to realize that it was a communication with Ana, esp after the vivid story you told. I like the way you slipped that in though it was the point of the whole essay (or fiction)

I would've liked to see another communication with Ana at the end, it kind of felt a little unfinished to me...perhaps that is because i wanted more.

Loved it.
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Shelley, I really like the whole premise of the poem...I hope you continue to work on it to polish it up. I esp like the ending line.
post #6 of 24
This is the first draft of the intro to my book on gardening. The book itself is more instructional and educational, but I thought I'd begin with this to set the mood. I'd appreciate any feedback, specific or general.


They gathered around the circle of stones just as an orange moon began to rise. Each of the women brought an offering; they placed their gifts on the flat round of granite that served as an altar. A carrot, a bunch of sage, a late rose, a squash blossom. The warm summer breeze teased their hair in welcome, carrying the fullness of damp earth from the recently watered garden beds. They breathed in perfume of tomatoes, marigolds, and grass.

They grasped hands beneath the soft bright moon glow. Beneath the soles of their muddy boots churned a hum of energy, a buzz that rose up their legs and wound through the circle like the bean vines that grew at their feet. Poplar trees at the edge of the garden whispered softly, and the crickets sang louder in response. The women began to hum as sweat pricked the backs of their necks and goose bumps rose on their bare arms. The buzz from the earth crackled in their veins. Their breath came more quickly, and they tightened their grip on each others’ hands.

Thirteen pairs of hands that held the wisdom of the land, a wisdom learned from working and playing with the great garden over many months. To this land they had brought their pains and sorrows, triumphs and joys, and the land had received them as only a mother can. In turn, the women had planted seeds with love, and tended the growing green children with patience and honor. The land fed them, and they fed the land.

On this summer solstice night, they gathered to give thanks. Facing the moon, their leader spoke with a quiet, firm voice.

“Tonight we honor the Earth and her bounty. We give thanks for the food, the shelter, and the unnamable gifts She has bestowed upon us. We give thanks to the Great Mother.

“In the beginning, Pachamama taught women to grow maize. The great Mother Dragon came down from her mountains to show her children how to work with the land and feed their people. We call on Her, and her daughters, to help us with our work.

“On this night, we reclaim our heritage as Women of the Earth, Sisters of the Sacred Garden. We call in a new era, a sacred marriage of old wisdom and new understanding.

“We pledge ourselves as women of wisdom, and ask that we be shown how to share this wisdom with others. We ask for guidance as healers of the disease of ignorance, healers of the Great Loss, the disconnect with the Earth. We wish to walk in cooperation with the land, to feed and nourish our people while honoring all our relations.” The Priestess paused, and nodded to one of her sisters.

The woman took a step into the circle, and recited the Charge of the Goddess.

Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month and better it be when the Moon is Full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place …

As she spoke, the women began to circle around her, stepping, stepping, as their hands rose slowly toward the indigo sky.

I am the Gracious Goddess, Who gives the gift of joy unto the hearts of men and women. I am the Mother of all living and My love is poured out upon the Earth…

Quietly beneath her voice the others began to hum.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, She in the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven, Whose body encircles the Universe...

The circle moved quickly now, their hum a drone to match the crickets and the wind.

I am the beauty of the green Earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the Mysteries of the waters, and the desire in the hearts of humans… I am the Soul of Nature, Who gives life to the Universe. From Me all things proceed and unto Me all things must return…

Their hands clasped, spinning in a spiral like water and wind, the women raised their voices to sing into the night. They swirled faster and faster, until just short of breaking apart, they released their hands and sent the energies of love, healing, and power into the night.

“We call to all the women of the earth who wish also to reclaim their power! We call on you to know the sacred garden, and to walk in the world sharing this wisdom with others. May your life be blessed with the bounty of the land; may your families and communities know the wisdom of the garden; may you walk with us, Sisters of the Sacred Garden.”

Around the world, women felt tickles and tingles down their spines. They looked up from their work or shifted in their sleep, as all women everywhere began to dream one dream. Together they dreamed the healing of the Earth, the new wisdom of Sacred Sisters.

This book is part of that dream.
post #7 of 24
Emey, I will take some time to look at your piece off the boards and email you...

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
danaan, What a great opener for a book, I hope you will share some more as you write (if it is not already written) It really makes me wish that we could pull our own Womens circle together here in Richmond, VA. We are trying, but so far to no avail....when times are right.

Shelley, I wish you had not deleted your poem, I hope it wasn't something I said. I still remember parts of your poem and i really liked it. A love affair with poetry if memory serves me, I just thought you were looking/asking for feedback, and I thought you said that it was unfinished...
post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 


I suppose this is a reminder that if you want feedback on your peice, ask for it and be specific in the kind of feedback you wish for. If you don't want any feedback except the kind, that is perfectly okay and sometimes just what is needed. If you ask for general feedback, then you are leaving yourself open to any kind of *respectful* opinions.
I think that is the best way to handle things and what had been decided before. It is also okay to IM between yourselves to give a more private opinion. Remember that the feedback is only an opinion and there is no need to take it to heart if you don't agree with it (take what you need and leave the rest)
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

More on feedback

Read Jesse's sticky on feedback, there really is some great clarifying info to be found
post #11 of 24
oh no, it's nothing anyone said.. my feelings can't really be hurt like that! the reason why i like this board is because it's pretty anonymous.. i couldn't just ask for feedback from my friends/family and not take it personally, but here, if a stranger doesn't like it, who cares i really do appreciate any feedback i get, positive or negative. it helps make my poetry better!

my poem is really unfinished, and i just decided to take it down/rework it and i'll post it again later when i'm feeling it's closer to being finished
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Can't wait to see it bc i really did like it
post #13 of 24
Emey - here is my feedback for your piece. It is full of striking images. The ones that stick with me are Ana under the ice and her smile, the tall grass she walks through, the fog metaphor, the warm cup of tea, clothes and Grace's robe flapping around her, the clink of the dog's tags. I see the play between warm and cold - the tea and the quilt vs the ice. I also see how the narrator is drowning in her sorrow and grief like Ana drowned. The whole piece is very dream like.

It seems like you have several scenes and the narration flips through them in a way that is a little confusing. I see the remembrance of drowning, the immediate time after the death with the funeral and then her friends coming over, and the night she awakes with the fire dead and she calls her living friend who walks her back to bed -- and maybe to healing? I wonder what your main scene is, and how you can stick to that one with only flash backs to the other scenes. Much of the piece is her talking about what she remembers, both Ana alive and the death. Can you group those parts together? That would help with flow.

At times your verb tense gets inconsistent; checking this will help clarify past vs present.

I couldn’t meet their eyes. I looked down at the ground and said, “Hey.”

Janna replies trying to catch my eye wit the gentleness
Also there is a point where you refer to Ana as "she" instead of "you." I would stay consistent to avoid confusion.

I wonder what Grace wants. It seems like maybe her struggle in the story is between giving up:
I would not be free unless the cold could reach in and turn me to frost.
and healing.

Keep at it! It is a powerful piece about loss and questioning:
“Why.” I say, knowing well the full question played readily enough without being spoken.
The way you organize your images around this question will make it all the more powerful.
post #14 of 24
Thanks for the feedback, as I said I've been working on this peice for so long I can't even see it anymore. New eyes are so helpful. I have a revised draft that I will post later, it's quite pared down. I am thinking now that perhaps this is a story in two parts. I think I have the tense problem sorted out - this is my biggest weakness.

Danaan - your peice filled me with the want to be out in my garden again - though I'll need to wait for spring (the rain here is incessant and cold). I especially like the last line. I only have a moment now (toddler needs me) but I will read your peice again and post more feedback.

Thanks for reading, Emey
post #15 of 24

Babies or Not

Let me first say that this is my first post to this forum, and I'm glad to have found this group! I look forward to reading and offering feedback as well as hearing your feedback on my writing... Where I'm at: been writing and writing but never putting anything out there to be rejected or better yet, published. My sense is that a 9500-word personal essay on miscarriage, abortion, aspirations of motherhood, and trying to make a satisfying life, babies or not, might be difficult to place in the publishing market, but I have no idea really. I'm interested in feedback on the writing itself, and on where I might submit this for publication (if you think it worthy), or where I might find a home for an aspect or edited version of or spin-off from this story... here it is: (all names changed, by the way)

Babies or Not

--- I've edited this post to exclude my essay, since I received a message (from annabanana) on another thread saying: "from what i have been reading lately on first rights -- if you hope on publishing the essay, it cannot be posted on the web. if it is posted on an open forum, like here, it is already considered 'published', as it is available to everybody to read."

Since I don't consider this a final version of the essay, I don't know if this applies, but just in case, I'm taking it down. Not that you can't read it, by approaching me via email.

Does anyone know any more about this? thanks

post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 

Your essay really drew me in. I printed out a hard copy and settled in my chair to read it. It sounds like a piece 'Brain Child' would publish.
I'm not that good at negative feedback and I didn't find much to be negative about...I could see more of a transition from 'Nunzio' to Andy, I had to read back to make sure that he was the same guy (I assumed it)

Also, the analogy of the oil black eyes was great, i would only use it once though. Otherwise I could find nothing I didn't like about your essay.

I will say that I don't think you are being punished...you never know. BTW, I'm adopted and while I am somewhat "damaged' by my babyhood lack of attatchment, I am now pretty well adjusted and well loved by my parents. It is hard and expensive to adopt...fostering can be so rewarding (I've never done it but know those who have) It can also be heartwrenching to send the child back to the wolves. Have you considered being a 'Big Sister'?

Whatever your decision, it will be the right one. You have to trust that...Peace, and I'm sorry for your loss.
post #17 of 24


thanks, K,

I really appreciate your feedback, what you say makes sense. I had already bookmarked the Brain, Child submission guidelines - I agree, this does seem like a good venue for these thoughts. Though they do say the longest personal essay they want to see is 4,500 words, which means I need to cut away 5,000! I think it's a worthwhile task, this condensation effort, so I will makes some effort at pairing away to the essential. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.

thanks again!

ps. by the way, I just started a blog on this topic, if you're interested, the blog is called Babies or Not, at http://babiesornot.blogspot.com (I wanted to link it here, but I don't know how to make a link within a message, do you?)
post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 
I have no idea about the link, but maybe you could create two personal essays out of your one. There is just so much good material and 5,000 wds is alot to cut, though it would be a good excersise in painful editing (I hate it when you have to cut out things that you love)

Let us know what becomes of it...
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
I think you did make a link within the message BTW. I'm not sure how you did it, but you did
post #20 of 24
machepap, Your essay touched me, you've written so clearly in the face of your pain. I will be going back to re-read. I do think that length may be an issue if you want to publish your piece. And BelovedK is right Brain, Child would be a good place for it. Thanks for sharing. Emey
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