MommyHawk, I'm shooting for having something ready every Wednesday. Do what works for you. Kelly (BelovedK) suggested starting a new thread every week, so this one doens't get crazy long. Since it's still short, I'm putting mine here. (Just stick yours here when you're ready!)
So, all you novel buddies, stop stalling, trust yourself to have done something GOOD.
Oh, a quick reminder for critiquing....Use the sandwich technique, say something nice FIRST and last, put your suggestions for improving in the middle. Be kind, remmeber there are lots of writing styles. You might not care for a story, but you can still offer good advice on making it flow better, or on the dialogue, etc.
If you're a BIG chicken
just post and ask for NO critiquing! You won't learn much, but it's a good way to get used to seeing your work up for everyone to read, without having a heart attack.
Here's part of my novel. Sorry, I know this is starting in the middle. I'm really happy with the beginning at this point and don't want any help with that. I could use some help making htis more true-to-life. And I've been at this a long time. I have LOTS of rejection letters. Lots. My feelings are NOT going to be hurt by your opinion. Feel free, with me, to let it rip, ok?
While making her dinner, she turned the TV on so she could catch the news; the usual litany of horror and terror, war and murder. When they reached the local news, the reporter said, “Tonight, we start a new feature. For the next four Sunday nights, Becky Randolph will take a hard look at our foster care system, it’s triumphs and it’s pitfalls. Tonight, we’ll be looking at the adults involved, the social workers, the foster parents, the judges. Next week we’ll concentrate on the children. Join us for this series on the good and the bad in our system. Becky?”
Becky had started her piece with a dedicated social worker who struggled to keep up with her caseload, then a family who sheltered the states children.
“Of course,” came the voice of Becky from the TV, “there are wonderful parents like the family we just met, and there are parents, even foster parents, who are abusive. Just last month three children were found caged in the basement of their foster home.”
The screen showed the rickety homemade wooden crates the three handicapped children had been kept in up to 20 hours a day. The foster parents claimed to have taken good care of the children, but said they couldn’t watch the kids every minute and the cages had kept them safe.
The phone rang as the piece ended.
“Tell me you’re not watching the news.”
“I just did. I feel sick.”
“God! What are people thinking! They put handicapped children in cages! One of those kids was four years old!”
“Julie, what the Hell am I going to do? I had a nightmare that I got caught and they took Angie and I went to jail! I woke up, got a drink, went back to bed and had one where Angie was left crying in a crib, in a room full of cribs, like a thousand cribs! No one ever came to her and she was dying of neglect.”
“Someone must be looking for that baby.”
“I know! Like the girls parents, or grandparents. Or Angie’s father! I feel like I’m getting sucked in to a giant spiders’ web, the more I struggle, the worse I get caught. But if I don’t struggle, Angie is the one who suffers.”
“That baby is going to a foster home anyway, when you get arrested.”
“Julie! Give me a break!”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I mean, I know you should call the authorities, but I wouldn’t want to do it, either. You haven’t thought of anything else?”
“I don’t know! Something. Anything!”
“I still only see two options,” Lisa said wearily. “Make the call. Or don’t.”
“Well, whatever you decide to do, I’m with you. If I can help you, I will.”
“I love you, Jules!”
“I know. I love you, too.”
Waking from another night of broken sleep, Lisa called in to work on Monday morning. She was calling early, so Mr. Harker wouldn’t be at his desk yet, and she could leave a message on the answering machine.
“Hello?”Great! Of all the days for Mr. Harker to go in early!
“Uh, hi, Mr. Harker. It’s Lisa. I’m not feeling well today, so I won’t be in,” she told him nervously.
“Today? Lisa, we have a big report due! I need you today. Come in until lunch, then if you still feel sick, you can go home.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry, but I can’t. I think I have the flu. Really. I feel terrible.”
“Are you coming in tomorrow?”
“Oh, yes! Absolutely. I’m sure I’ll feel better by then!”
“Great,” he said, clearly not meaning it. She thanked him for his understanding, though he missed the sarcasm.
Another round of feeding, burping, changing, bathing, changing again, before Lisa managed a quick shower and headed back to the store. This is it, she told herself. If you don’t find her mother, you make a call. Or go to jail!
The store was nearly empty. Few people shopped early on Monday morning. As she was turning to pick up a bag of diapers, a figure caught the corner of her eye. She whirled to see a young woman with greasy hair and worn jeans bending over to look at the display of earrings across the aisle. Heart pounding, she darted away down one aisle and around a corner out of sight.What am I doing?!
After only a second she hurried back to the jewelry counter, but, she found a woman much older than the girl she’d expected, missing one front tooth and with a tattoo of a rose on her upper arm. Shaken and appalled, she headed for the check-out. Here she was, driving ‘cross-town every day to look for Angie’s mother, only to hide if she thought she saw her.
It’s time. Time to make the call. Lisa pulled into a fast food parking lot and called 411. Asking for the number of the CPS office, her hands sweating so badly she could barely keep hold of her pen, she scratched the number on a scrap of paper. She tried to think of what her parents would say. Most foster parents were good people, most of them would take excellent care of the babe.
But she didn’t know the Angie’s real name, or her mothers’, or where they lived. Angie would be a “Jane Doe.” They’d have to go to court to free her for adoption and that would take months, maybe even years. Years of Angie living with first one family and then another. Years of having no family to call her own. And possibly years of living with people who’d cage children.
Call. Get it over with! She glanced at her watch. Eleven o’clock. Plenty of time for CPS. Plenty of time for a walk on the beach. “How about it, kiddo,” she asked the babe, “a walk, before we call?” A few more minutes wouldn’t hurt anything.
The beach was much quieter today. Only a few people were scattered along the sand, no one was in the water. With Angie in the sling, and the breeze in her hair, she set off along the waters’ edge, her thoughts tumbling and crashing like the waves. As the ocean gradually worked it’s magic, she felt her head clear. For days she’d made this all seem like a huge thing, worrying over every little detail! The choice before her was simple enough; make a phone call, or don’t. Just a simple phone call.No, that’s not fair. Be honest. The decision is to turn this baby over, or to keep her. Keep her! Just keep someone else’s child!
The wind was picking up, pulling her hair loose and blowing it across her eyes. She stopped walking and faced out to the ocean, to the horizon, so that her hair blew straight behind her. The tide was coming in, the waves reaching a bit higher with every passing minute.
Of course, none of this was my idea! I was looking for a book. A book I haven’t had much time to read. Too bad I wasn’t reading it last night instead of watching the news, she thought, wryly.
The piece on the foster care system had stayed with her all night, invaded her dreams; Angie in a wooden crate, screaming with colic, desperate for help.
And her mother did ask me to watch her. I could just keep watching her. Her mother could have taken her to CPS if she’d wanted her to go there.Pros and cons, Lisa, that’s what Dad would say. List the pros and cons. Use logic.
In her mind, Lisa imagined a piece of paper with a line drawn down the middle. If she kept Angie, no, this baby- I should never have named her! I need to try to think about what’s best for her, not how I feel!- then she’d face legal trouble, possibly jail, if she was caught.
If she called CPS now, she would probably be let go, but Ang-, this baby, would go to a foster home. Of course, it might be a great foster home. They did exist. She might have a wonderful family who’d love and care for her, but they’d be temporary, if she was lucky. Lucky children moved quickly through the system. If her parents couldn’t be found, she’d be put in an adoptive home, and if it worked, adopted by that family. Still, it would take a few years to terminate the parents rights, get the legal stuff done. Angie would still be young. She’d never remember all of this.
Or she have Lisa’s own luck. She’d been in a few adoptive homes. One possible mother had gotten sick, another family had decided to move out-of-state before the six month trial period was up. By the time you were two, your chances of ever getting adopted fell off drastically. Being adopted at thirteen by strangers was a miracle.
Then again, she could wind up like Julie. Julie’s mother had popped up from time to time, just often enough to keep her from ever getting adopted. Every few years she’d go to live with her mother for a few months, then her mother would start drinking and shooting heroin again and she’d go to another foster home.
She peered down into the sling, meeting the crystal blue gaze and touched a downy soft cheek, as two tiny fists jammed a soggy and matted stuffed lion into her mouth. Pulling the baby up close to her face, she kissed the downy soft spikes of hair, smelled the soft, clean, sweetness as she rubbed her check against the child’s. The babe reached a hand out to grasp some of her hair, and hung on tight, trapping Lisa’s face close to her own, until she could untangle the tiny fist and free herself.
“If I keep you,” she whispered to the baby, “I could go to jail, or at least have a lot of legal trouble. But I’d love you. I already do.
“If I call? You’re the one who’d suffer. Poor sweetie.”
She remembered the little girl she’d known years ago, in foster care because her mother was dying, raped by her foster father. And that social worker, the one all the foster parents had loved, who’d been molesting the parentless boys he’d been charged with protecting.
What, then, to do about the baby’s mother? CPS would at least look for her. They put those ads in the newspaper, in with the housing foreclosures, and they might go to the local TV stations and have something put on the news about the child abandoned at the department store. It seemed only fair to give the girl a chance to realize her mistake.
But her goal here was the best possible life for Angie, not to protect her mother’s rights. Would the child hate her in the future for not finding her mother? For not trying harder?
Or would it be worse to find her, for Angie to have to go back. She imagined handing her over to her mother and cringed inwardly. She thought about the grubby infant with the sweat and lint caked in the creases of her neck, the stained sleeper, of this sweet baby lying on a receiving blanket in the bottom of the hard, metal shopping cart, her belly cramping, screeching in misery. Her thoughts swirled and tumbled, roiled and churned.
“That’s it!” Lisa spoke in a loud voice, startling Angie, who began to fuss. It was done. “Oh, sorry, sweetie,” she said in a quieter tone. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay now.” Suddenly, seconds after making the most daring decision of her life so far, all her fears disappeared. Her stomach released it’s tightly held knot, her headache began to wash away. She rolled her head on her shoulders, felt the kinks relax.
“We,” she stated with love and some pride, “are going home