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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Soul-Mates

Today, I met my soul-mate.

I know, it's an over-used concept, especially in the romance writing arena. But I'm not talking romance. After all, I write YA and literary. And, the truth is, I've known Clara since she was a baby. Watched her grow up. But today, this junior high girl and I realized we were really twins. Separated by a few years. (Maybe more than just a few).

I occasionally volunteer with my church's you group. For some reason, I decided to spend the day with them. We headed downstairs to the kitchen area. Normally the group meets in an attic loft, but today they had a luncheon planned for the youth and parents, so we headed downstairs to the kitchens to prepare. Clara, who has reached the age where she doesn't always attend church (we all know how that works) was down there sitting at a table. Her mother was in charge of the kitchen, and I bet she thought she'd have time alone. Dressed in pajama tops (a story in itself) she was bent over a notebook as our group trooped down. The youth group gathered around her, making noises about the pajamas. I looked over her notebook. Several handwritten pages covered with red marks easily identified as a teacher's attempts to show her where she'd gone wrong.

After the other kids left, I sat down and asked her about her writing. I only intended to be there for a few minutes, but I remained for the next hour. First I had to coax her to say anything about her writing, which she said wasn't very good. (Something I'd have said only a few years ago, and definitely sworn to at her age, before wandering off in embarrassment). Instead I talked her into reading it to me. Turned out to be a very creative story involving a murdered high school student, a cast of suspects, police detectives chasing the wrong people who lie on each other, and a hidden villain who literally gets away with murder.

My kind of writing.

She had been given a random topic, her teacher's attempt to have her write outside her comfort zone. And she was successful at taking the original idea and turning it into something different, attaching her own voice to it. And yes, I can see her VOICE already.

The teacher had problems with her spelling, and an occasional turn of grammar. She writes her drafts longhand, just as I do, so she has no spellcheck to help her in the early going. The teacher wants a maximum of eight pages, and refuses to read anything longer than that. Clara admits to going on and on and needs closer to twenty pages to do a story. Me, I never have understood or mastered the art of short story. Most of all, I loved the way she described the victim, her death, and the array of suspects. She and I ended by brainstorming different ways to let the audience know who the real killer was without having the police discover things. And when she told me she sometimes needed eight or nine drafts to get things just right, I knew I had found a writer just like myself.

Next thing I knew, we had signed on to be each other's critique partners. She's serious about her writing, and understands story structure and dramatic tension more than most students her age. We both agree that the mechanics of spelling and comma placement are minor details. Big difference between us - she has an eye for setting and the art of description that I envy. Me, I'm still the queen of dialog.

Absolutely a match made in heaven.

I've already arranged with her mother to cart her off to a writing conference next month. She's that serious about her writing. And just dying to meet published authors. Clara is an artist, and, if the school system doesn't cost her her art and enthusiasm, has a true future in writing.

The soul mate concept is more than just a cliche, it's alive and well.

2 comments:

Jo Anne said...

Barbara, I love this story. And I wish you and Clara a long and successful writing relationship. It'll be a wonderful thing for both of you.

b_writer said...

Thanks, JoAnne. I have to say, this being a mentor thing is an interesting feeling.