I Need Your Help!

It’s official: I’m applying to graduate school!


I’ve wanted to go to grad school for a long time, pretty much ever since I graduated college, but it’s never seemed to be the right time (i.e. I never had the $).  I still don’t know if it’s the right time, but I have the money for the GRE and for the application fees, so I’m going for it!  There’s no guarantee that I’ll get in anywhere, the programs are very selective, but I’m giving it all I’ve got.

I’m hoping to get into a Creative Writing program so I can earn an MFA.

All that to say: I need your help.  The most important part of the application is the writing sample.  30 pages or less of original work.  I’ve selected the pieces I’d like to include, but I’d like some feedback/critiquing before I send them in.

Here’s what I’m planning on:

The Painting

The Maidening Ceremony

My Pen

Love is on the List, Chapter Ten: Confession

Love is on the List, Chapter Sixteen: Another Confession

Please let me know your thoughts.  Tell me everything: room for improvement, grammatical or spelling errors, or if you’ve read other pieces you think would be better for me to submit.  I want to send in my absolute best work.

Thank you!

The Maidening Ceremony

Arilya burst through the surface of the water and flung her hair over her shoulder.  Her pink skin shone as it absorbed sunlight for the first time, and she propelled herself into the air, performing a perfect back flip and dive.  Her fins slipped back into the water effortlessly and without a splash.  She felt completely alive.

The dream of emerging from the ocean’s icy depths and feeling warmth caress her skin recurred every night.  Arilya had been waiting for this rite of passage since she was three years old.  Since her mother told her about her own first out-of-water experience, and every day since had just been one wave closer to her seventeenth birthday.

It is amazing above the water.  Sounds are clearer and colors are vibrant.  But I must warn you, Arilya, you may never touch land.  Death awaits the merperson who leaves the water and feels the earth.

When Arilya woke up on this fateful morning, she could barely stop her fins from swimming her straight to the surface, but she knew she must wait for the ceremony that would announce to all she was no longer a merphin, but instead, a full grown mermaid.  No one had told her the ceremony would be a wedding.  That part of the fairy tale told to merchildren had been conveniently left out.

You’ll just have to wait and see, Arilya.  The traditions of the Ceremony cannot be known until you are old enough for your own.

“Arilya, are you ready to go?” Dalphen cried out.  Her father was insistent she be on time for the Maidening Ceremony, but Arilya never liked to follow the rules. While he swam impatiently back and forth outside her cove, she and Finley stole away and made love on a bed of kelp.

“Oh Finley, will life still be this perfect tomorrow when I’m a mermaid?”

“Your life will always be perfect, because you are perfect, Arilya.”  He twitched his long yellow fin towards her, and her pink cheeks blushed a brilliant shade of violet.

“Will the world still be this colorful tomorrow when I’m a mermaid?”

“The world around you will always be colorful, Arilya, because you are like a rainbow among the storm clouds.”

“What is a rainbow, Finley?”

“Ah, you will see, Arilya, when you go to the surface.”

“Will I see storm clouds, too?”

“No, they will depart from the sky as soon as you appear, your loveliness will scare them away.  They only like dark and dreary things.  And you, Arilya, can never be dark and dreary.”

“Will you still love me tomorrow when I am a mermaid, Finley?”

“I will still love you tomorrow, and the day after that, and every day for eternity.”  He took her hands and wrapped them around his neck, smothering her lips with his mouth and caressing her blue tailfin with his own yellow one.  Finley knew if Dalphen knew about his love for the merman’s daughter, the safest place for him to swim would be in a monsoon, but he didn’t care.  He’d face hurricanes and sharks and piranhas before he gave up Arilya.

“I suppose I HAVE to go to the ceremony, now.”  Arilya sighed as she disentangled her fin from his.

“If you ever want to see the surface you do.”

“I definitely want to see the surface.”

“Well, then you must go.  But come find me here, after you taste the air.”

“What is air, Finley?”

“Ah, you will know it when you taste it.”

“But how will I know what to put in my mouth to taste if I don’t know what it is?”

“Ah, you won’t have to put it in your mouth, it will enter without your permission.”

“I don’t know if I like that.  The only thing I want entering my mouth without my permission is you!”  Giggling, she tapped her fin on his chest as she abruptly turned and swam away.  He allowed a reasonable distance between them before swimming after her and making his way to the ceremony.

The curse inflicted on him at his own Maning Ceremony last year prevented him from warning her.  But it wouldn’t prevent him from trying to stop the wedding.  And if he failed, it wouldn’t prevent him from trying to swim away with her tonight after she returned from the surface and met him on their bed of kelp.  He knew the penalty, knew he wouldn’t succeed in either endeavor, but again, he didn’t care, he would try anything for her.

As Arilya arrived at the preparation cove, her mother Chaslie, and sisters rushed out to greet her.  Chaslie enveloped her youngest daughter in a cold embrace, and when Arilya pulled away she found a necklace of shimmering black pearls encircling her throat.

“A tradition of the Maidening Ceremony.  The pearls will keep you young and beautiful for as long as you wear them,” Chaslie crooned.

“Is that why you forever have looked seventeen, mother?”  Arilya asked, touching the beads around her neck.  As her fingers brushed across their smooth surface, an electric jolt pulsed through her hands and down her arms, moving into chest and fin.

“Yes, I have worn my pearls ever since my own Maidening Ceremony, many, many years ago.  Should I ever remove them, I would shrivel up and die!”  Chaslie and her daughters laughed at the joke, knowing she would NEVER remove her strand.  But her mother grew serious soon, and continued, “The jolt you felt when you touched the necklace was the power of the pearls being transferred to you.”  Chaslie ended her explanation, unable to inform her daughter of the full extent of the pearls’ power.  Arilya could not learn of the curse of the merpeople until after her Maidening Ceremony.

Arilya again touched the precious jewelry, but her admiration was cut short as her gaggle of sisters flew at her and stripped off the blue seashells covering her breasts.  She protested, but her mother placed a firm hand on her shoulder, ending her cries.

“All merphin wear white seashells on the day of their Maidening Ceremony.  ‘Tis another tradition.”  Producing a pair swathed in seaweed, Chaslie handed them to her daughter, who eagerly unwrapped and held them up.  The whiteness of the shells stood in sharp contrast to her pink skin and blue fin and her hands trembled as she traced her fingers along the outer edges.

“I do not believe I have ever seen anything so white before.  I did not know color could shine like this,” she said with reverence.  “I wish I became a mermaid everyday so I could always wear shells as beautiful as these.”  With all around her watching, she pressed the shells firmly around her breasts and floated back to admire the effect in a mirror.  No sooner had she confirmed her belief that these shells would make her the most gorgeous mermaid who ever treaded these waters, than the shells began to melt into her skin.

“What is happening?  Owww!  Owwwww!  What is going on?  Someone take them off!  Take them off!  They are burning me!”  Her fingers scratched and clawed at the shells while the harem looked on horrified, but to no avail.  The shells would not release her.

Chaslie grabbed her daughter’s fin and bellowed, “Arilya!  You are a filthy whore!  The purity shells have exposed your misdeed.  With whom did you have sex?”

“Whaaat?” she sobbed back, still desperately trying to peel the shells off.

“No matter,” Chaslie regained her composure.  “The burning will only last a few moments longer, and then it will not be visible to your husband until after he removes the shells.  He can punish you as he deems fit.”

“My husband?  What do you mean?”  Fear replaced the pain around Arilya’s heart and her hands fell away from the evil shells.  “Finley and I wish to get married, but we have not told anyone yet.”

“Finley?  Oh, so he is your wicked merman.  It is a good thing the tradition prevents him from warning you.”

“Warning me?  Mother what is going on?”  Tears flowed out of Arilya’s eyes and mingled with the ocean around them.  Chaslie did not answer, but grabbed her daughter’s arm and jerked her away from the preparation cove.  They swam to the entrance of the cavern where all Maidening and Maning ceremonies took place.  Arilya had never been permitted inside before.  Merchildren weren’t allowed to come to the ceremonies.

Chaslie dropped her arm as Dalphen approached them.  He frowned at Arilya and turned to Chaslie. “She is late.  Did all go well with the preparations?”  He glanced from the pearls around his daughter’s throat to the pure white shells covering her chest.  He seemed satisfied, for he did not require an answer of his wife.

“Come.  The ceremony needs to begin.”  This time he gripped his daughter’s arm and pushed her in front of him into the cavern.  Arilya gasped in terror as she saw her friends and family chained by a thick gold coil wrapped around each individual’s wrists and connecting each member of the merpeople community together.  No one looked up as she entered, save Finley.  Catching his eyes as she was pushed past him, she saw anger mingled with pity and sorrow.

“I’m sorry,” he mouthed.

Suddenly, she was thrust forward into the center of a smaller circle of merpeople she didn’t recognize.  They did not belong to her community.  Opposite her, a merphan unfamiliar to her was thrust into the circle as well.  His eyes widened as they fell on hers and she knew he shared her fear.  The circle closed in around them and a bright red coil ensnared the wrists of each member.  Arilya cried out in pain as a blazing white coil appeared in the water and began wrapping tightly around her fin and wrists.

“NO!” Finley shouted from the back of the cavern. He struggled against his bindings, flapping and twitching like a fish caught in a net.  “No!  Leave her alone!”  The community ignored his distress.

“Finley, what is happening?  Finley, please stop this, please get me out of here!” Arilya shouted out.  The red circle around her grew tighter and she realized the merphan’s fin and arms were bound in the same white trap.  Dalphen and Chaslie suddenly swam above her head, along with another couple she didn’t know.  Finley screamed, attempting to drown out the beginning of the end.

Dalphen addressed the crowd, “Today, my daughter Arilya becomes a mermaid.”

The unknown merman spoke next, “Today my son Japhet becomes a merman.”

Chaslie and the unknown mermaid spoke together, “The merphin becomes a mermaid, the merphan becomes a merman, only when wed together.  This is the joy of the merpeople.  Only when two becomes one can the other world be known, only when the mermaid and the merman are joined together can their heads break the surface of the water.”

The inner circle began to chant, “Marriage is right.  Love is wrong.  Marriage between two young souls brings peace to the merpeople.  Love between two young souls brings death to the merpeople.  Marriage is right.  Love is wrong.”

Arilya choked on the vomit rising in her throat and struggled fruitlessly against the hot coil burning her pink skin.  “Why are you doing this to me?  I do not wish to marry this stranger!  I am in love with Finley.”  The words tumbled from her mouth, silenced the chant, and carried to Finley.  A sword appeared in front of him and he braced himself against the golden coil restraining his arms, staring death in the face.

Arilya twisted and turned, desperate to see her beloved Finley, but the circle continued to grow tighter around her.  His piercing cry as the sword plunged into his heart was the last sound she heard before the white snake around her cut into her wrist and dragged her into the arms of Japhet.  The coil grew longer and thicker and fused their bodies together.

His fin slipped around hers and she screamed, “NOOO!  I don’t want this, please.”  But there was no escaping the white prison.  The community watched as Japhet plunged his fin into hers.  She sobbed uncontrollably as the rape continued and pleaded with her parents to end the torture.  They merely smirked at her.

When he was finished, Japhet floated backwards, the white coil around his fin and wrists dissolving.  “I’m sorry, Arilya, I did not want to do that to you, the coil made me.”  The guilt smeared across his face told her he was not lying, but she could not look at him for long.  The cords around her disappeared, too, and she tore through the circle back to Finley.  The golden chains holding the community together had fallen away, and Finley lay face up on the cold floor of the cavern, a gaping wound in his chest the only indication a sword took his life.

“Tis the curse of the merpeople, Arilya.  We were given a choice between a life underwater and a life with love.” Chaslie floated above Finley’s lifeless body, “We chose life underwater.  We are given the opportunity to go above the surface once we have sealed the commitment to our choice with an unloving marriage.  Finley himself was married in his Maning ceremony last year.  His wife’s name is Gorschen. He would have left you in a few years anyways.  When a merperson turns 21, they must go and live with their spouse.  He wouldn’t have a choice.”

Arilya did not respond.  She gathered Finley’s head in her hands and cradled it to her scorched bosom.

“The pearls you wear seek out love and destroy it.  Mermen do not have such a precaution bound to them, thus your life was spared.  Finley knew to love you meant death for him.  He was foolish.”  Arilya still did not respond in voice to her mother’s words.  Rather she ripped the pearls from her neck and the broken strand flung the beads in all directions.

“It makes no difference whether you wear the necklace now or not, save that you will not have eternal youth, for the power of the beads already lives in you.  From the first touch, they destroyed your ability to love.”

“No, I still love Finley.  They destroyed my ability to live.”  Arilya shot upwards through the water, sending currents into the cavern.  She kicked her fin ferociously, striving to get to the surface before her mother or father attempted to stop her.

After swimming a few leagues she glanced behind her, only to discover she wasn’t being followed.  They didn’t care if she left.  They didn’t love her.  She pushed on, her heart both broken and numb to the pain caused by this realization.

The water around her became clearer, bluer.  Her fin appeared darker than ever before and she thought she could see a golden orb ahead.  She changed direction slightly and sped along just below the surface.  Every few seconds she would glance upwards, looking for an indication her destination was approaching.  Finally, she saw it.  Finley had described it to her.

Boldly, she thrust her head out of the water and used her arms to propel herself closer.   The waves offered their assistance, and soon she was only a breaststroke away.  Her fingers closed around the grainy sand and she heard Finley’s voice, “I love you, Arilya,” before darkness closed around her.

Short Story- The Painting

I don’t know if other things remember their birth or point of creation, but I don’t.  The first moment of existence I can recall is being surrounded by darkness- but I know I existed before that moment because I’ve heard talk of where I came from before it.  But that is my earliest memory: blank darkness, the rustle of paper, and being jostled around while steadily gliding forward.  Or perhaps it was backwards, or sideways even.  And muffled sounds- music: percussion, hard strings, and indistinguishable lyrics.  No talking at first.  No human conversation.  That came later.

I don’t know how much later.  Time moves differently for me than it does for you, I would imagine.  You have the luxury of clocks and calendars; you can quantify time in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.  I can’t.  It almost doesn’t exist for me.  The concept does, but not the measurement.

The next moment I knew I existed started with ripping and then, finally, light.  I wasn’t blind before, but covered in a plain brown paper I watched get thrown aside as a young woman’s pale and dainty hands gripped either side of me and held me up for closer inspection.

“Beautiful,” she sighed.

“I knew you’d like it.  The instant I saw it at the gallery, I knew it belonged to you,” another voice said.  Deeper in tone, it came from behind me, I imagine the man it belonged to wanted to see the look on her face when she first saw me.  And I like to believe he got the reaction he’d been hoping for, because her face was pure loveliness as she gazed upon me.  Bright blue eyes, whose intelligence seemed to grow as she let her attention scan up and down, back and forth, taking in every detail I had to offer, rested above a straight, simple nose and flushed, well-defined cheeks.  Her smile stretched wider and illuminated her brilliant eyes when she redirected her sights to the gentleman behind me.  One hand released my frame and pushed brunette hair off a smooth forehead.

“It’s perfect.  Thank you.  I love you.”  With that, I was set aside and could no longer stare in wonder at her face- but it wouldn’t be the last time I saw it.  In fact, I saw it forever after that- sometimes in fleeting moments as she’d walk past me, going from one room to another, and sometimes in marathon sessions when she’d sit alone on the brown leather couch, her feet tucked under her, a narrow knit blanket around her shoulders and a mug of hot chocolate warming her hands as she lost herself in whatever world the sight of me created in her imagination.

Of course, once I had a permanent place, I saw his face, too.  It never seemed to express any honest emotions, though.  At least, that was my assessment.  In the beginning, she didn’t seem to notice this- she would hug or kiss him any chance she got- he alone was rewarded with her most joyous laughter.  And he generally seemed pleased with her, but gone was the anticipation, the eagerness with which he’d waited for her reaction over me.  I never heard him say, “I love you.”

I didn’t know her laughter had stopped until one day I ached from its obvious absence.  She began looking at me more and more often, with an earnest desire of longing and hopeless sadness etched in her pretty eyes.  I wanted to find a way to comfort her, knowing all her contemplation was no comfort at all.  Torturous, more likely.

I did know when she reached her breaking point, though.  It would have been pretty difficult to miss.  The man had long ceased to pass by me and she had begun to revert her eyes whenever she was in my room, until suddenly, things were in boxes and two strange men carried the brown leather couch out of my view.  A blonde lady I’d seen many times before gripped the sides of my frame and lifted.

“Is this going with you or him?”

“It’s mine.  It was a present.  But I don’t think I can look at it anymore- too many memories.”

“What are you going to do with it, then?”

She shrugged and started to weep.  The blonde set me down, turned against the wall so I could no longer see either of them.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it for you.”

Darkness once again and the sick feeling that I’d never see her again- that there would never again be a smile so genuine in the face of anyone who looked at me.

When the darkness lifted, some time later, I found myself in a white, square room.  On the opposite wall hung other paintings and portraits whose stories I’ll never know.  I could see the outlines of more frames in my peripheral.  People walk by in streams.  I can see their faces.  Their pensive, intelligent, stupid, bored, happy, sad faces.  Their smiles are never enough.  No smile belongs to her.

I Won A Writing Contest Once

when I was ten years old.  I was in the fifth grade and my AG teacher, Ms. Pyles, encouraged me to enter.  (AG stands for Academically Gifted.  Shortly after I left elementary school, they changed it to AIG, Academically and Intellectually Gifted.  I cannot attest to the truth or suitability of myself being labeled as AG, but I was tested in the third grade, and there you are.)  My best friend, Ashley, also entered and won.

I don’t have a lot of memories about the actual contest, I don’t know if other members of our AG class entered or if it was just Ashley and I and so we won by default, but I do remember Ms. Pyles inviting me to her house for tea so we could “edit” the story before it was bound into a little book.  My sister Theresa, such a great big sister, drew illustrations to go along with the story.

I’m very surprised I’ve never posted the story on this blog, because it really cracks me up, so I’m going to post it now!  I posted it on The Next Big Writer a long time ago and here are some of the remarks I got:

Well, Rachel, LOL! What a cute story for a ten year old to write. I can see how you won the contest, and I know you’re proud to look back at the little book and reminisce. While I was reading it I couldn’t help but think about that old song “Purple People Eater.”

Anyways, thanks for sharing this with us. It made me laugh!


Ooohhh, I have three brothers, does this martian have any friends? Especially for my older brother, I would love to control him for just about ten minutes MWaaaaaahhhaaaaaaahaaaaaa. Very cool story. I wrote a novel when I was 9 called the mystery of the doorknob. My older brother found it a little bit ago and had to point out all my faults. 😦 . Very well done, a neat little story.


LOL Rachel! THere’s still not a frickin nit in this blasted thing! And you were TEN! Oh man, you read my stuff when i was ten and you’d realize how incredibly talented you really were and still are! You’re right, your voice hasnt changed all that much, just you’ve gotten even better at storytelling.

I’d hate to be your little brother! LOL! 🙂


Rach, when you said ten, I couldn’t resist. That’s the age my students are! I love your story! It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, which is the hardest thing to get them to do. Most of the stories end with one sentence, like: And then they went home and everything was okay. 😦

I see some typical ten year old stuff, like what is it with ‘whispering excitedly’?? lol Everyone in a story by a ten year old girl whispers excitedly.

Darn good story, dear!

Does that make you want to read it??? Okay, here you go, my contest-winning short story: “The Summer Aliens Ate My Brother’s Brain”



Dedication: This book is dedicated to Theresa Hamm for illustrating my book and being a great big sister.

Hey!  My name is Rachel.  I have a brother named Danny and a sister named Amanda.  We live with Mom and Dad in Burlington, North Carolina.  My story begins on a windy July afternoon…

“Hey Danny!  Wanna play some football?  You can be the Buffalo Bills.  Please!!”  I shouted to Danny, who was in Amanda’s and my bedroom looking for something.

He came down slowly, looking smug.  “I’ll play if you let me read your journal.”

“No way!  I’ll get Manda to play with me.”  I went outside where the wind blew my hair back.

“Amanda! Where are you?” I shouted in the wind.

“I’m right here!” she yelled, jumping out of our treehouse.

“Wanna play some foo…”

“Dinnertime!” interrupted my mother.  We ran inside and ate dinner.  Then we went to bed.

* * * *

In the morning, I slipped quietly out of bed and tiptoed downstairs to Danny’s room.  The door creaked when I opened it, and I crept softly to his bed.  I slid my hand under the covers and tickled his feet.  He opened his eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling.  He didn’t laugh or say anything.  I figured he was putting on an act.  Then I saw it!  A small green and purple polka-dotted, well, thing, climbing out of Danny’s ear.

He was shaped like a human.  He had arms and legs and hands and feet.  He was just as tall as my pinkie finger.  His ears were huge, as big as his face.  He looked a lot like Ross Perot.  He stared at me blankly.

“What are you?!” I asked.

“Huh-oh, Me?! I’m a Martian!  I now own your brother’s brain,” he said gleefully.

“You mean you invaded his brain?!  I can’t believe this.  Are you sure?” I asked in one breath.

“Yes, quite sure.”

I was speechless.  I didn’t know what to do.  Suddenly I grabbed the creature. “Fix my brother now or I’ll fix you!” I was angry.  With Danny’s brain being invaded, I couldn’t tease him any more.

“Rachel, are you in there?” Amanda asked slipping into the room.

I turned around. “Look at this!” I cried thrusting the Martian in front of her.

“Cool! What is it?” Amanda exlaimed.

“A Martian!  He invaded Danny’s brain!”

“Wow!  Let’s keep him.  It’s so cool that he actually invaded Danny’s brain,” Amanda whispered excitedly.

“You know, now that I think about it, it is cool.  Let’s keep him a secret,” I said, suddenly realizing this could be exciting.

“Hey! What’s going on here?” asked the Martian.  I’m not a toy, you know.  I don’t like this!”

“Don’t worry.  Everything will be fine, just fine.  You keep controlling his brain, and we’ll keep you safe!”

“OK,” the Martian answered warily.

We all went upstairs and got dressed.  I put the Martian in my jumper pocket.  Then we went downstairs to eat breakfast.

“Mornin’ girls!  Go wake up Danny for me, will ya?” sang my mother.

“Sure thing, Mom,” I replied.  Amanda and I dashed to Danny’s room.  We went in and I got the Martian out of my pocket.

“Tell Danny to get out of bed, get dressed, and eat breakfast!” I told the Martian.  He climbed in Danny’s ear and went to work.  Danny got out of bed, dressed, and went to the table.

“All right!” Amanda shrieked.  We ran out and had breakfast.

After breakfast, I had to do the dishes.  I didn’t feel like it, so I told the Martian to tell Danny, “Clear the dishes off the table, rinse them in the sink, and put them in the washer.”

“Right.” said the Martian.  He climbed in Danny’s ear and told him, “Clear the dishes off the table, rinse them in the sink, and put them in the washer.”

Danny went in to the kitchen and got to work.  I went upstairs where Amanda was waiting.  She had set up Monopoly, and we started playing.  Then, all of a sudden, I heard the washing machine running.  I flew down the stairs and raced to the kitchen.  Danny had put the dishes in the washing machine.

“Oh, no!  What did you do?!  Oh no!  This is my fault!  I gave the wrong directions!” I exclaimed.  I turned off the washer and looked in.

“Even worse!  The dishes are broken.  What now?!” I asked myself.  I took out the pieces, and tried to put them together.

“Oh, what’s the use?”  I threw down my hands and put the pieces in the garbage.  I was just about to slip out the back door so I could go and buy new dishes, when my mom came in.

“Where are you goin’?” she asked suspiciously.

“Just out for fresh air,” I replied.  I went out and ran across the lawn.  I walked timidly to the store to buy some new dishes.  I got them, and I was out of the store.  I ran as fast as I could home.  I ran inside and put the dishes away.

I decided that this Martian thing wasn’t going to work.  Sure, it was fun for a little while, but not any more.  I talked to Amanda about this, and she agreed. So I got the

Martian out of my pocket and said, “You need to stop controlling Danny, please.  This isn’t going to work.  Will you please go back to Mars, so that we won’t get in any trouble any more?”

“Yes, I’ll go home.  Besides, I was planning on it anyway,” he replied.

“Oh, good!  Thanks so much!” Amanda shrieked.  We said goodbye to him as we watched his spaceship float in the sky.

Everything at our house turned back to normal, and no one ever heard from the Martian again.

Giving Back, $10 At A Time

My mother and I went to the charity book sale at our local library today.  They were selling tote bags for $10 and you stuff said tote to the gills with as many books as you can.  So for $10 I got 18 books!  Score!

Here’s what I snagged (in no particular order):

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Fiction: A Longman Pocket Anthology Edited by R.S. Gwynn (a collection of short stories)

Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan

Possession by A.S. Byatt

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Poetry U.S.A. edited by Paul Molloy (a collection of American Poetry)

Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy edited by John Crowe Ransom

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham

Listen to Their Voices (20 Interviews with Women Who Write) Edited by Mickey Pearlman

Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman


I’m very excited to start tackling this stack, but I do have a couple of other stacks of books waiting to be read as well, so who knows when I’ll get to them all.  I’d really love to hear everyone’s opinion- have you read any of the books on this list?  Did you enjoy them?


My Spot on the Shelf

I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last posted!  I’ve been busy, which is nothing unusual, and I just haven’t given much thought to writing the past two weeks.

I hate that.

But sometimes I don’t have control over everything in my life.  It kinda sucks, but it’s kinda okay too.  Okay because I’ve been working with a lot of wedding clients and I’ve been hanging out with some friends and, you know, actually having a life!

I thought about writing today, though.  First, at work, I had a minute or two of downtime here and there and I started created a family tree for my next project (A serial story about Family Dynamics- get ready for it!), then, I was in Barnes and Noble for a brief second and I couldn’t stop myself.  I went to the Fiction and Literature section and glanced at the titles.  I found my way to the H’s.  I found the spot where my book would be if I ever get published.

Is it weird that I do this?  Because this isn’t the first time I’ve looked for where my book belongs in a bookstore.  (And just for the record, I’d be to the left of Seeing Stars by Diane Hammond- in case you don’t know my awesome last name.)  It’s motivating to me.  The idea that maybe, possibly, someday I could walk in a bookstore and when I find that spot on the shelf my book will actually BE there.  It’s a pipe dream, I know.  But maybe.  Just possibly.

I got a review on TNBW the other day for my poem “Observations in Ten Minutes” in which the reader/reviewer asked if I’d ever thought of publishing my poetry.  Of course I have!  I’ve thought about it and dreamed about it.  But I haven’t really done much to make it happen.  I know I need to.  I need to send out queries and letters and let the publishing world know that I exist.  But when?  When’s the right time?  I don’t think I’m ready.  I want to be.  But I don’t think I am.

I read a few poems I wrote in high school last night.  Oh my God were they awful.  TERRIBLE.  I can’t believe I ever thought they were good (which, PS, I did).  What if I think the same thing about the stuff I’m writing now, the novel and short stories and poetry I’ve written over the last year and a half?  I want my best work out there.  I don’t want to put my name on something that isn’t perfect.

And therein lies another problem.  It will never be perfect.  Even books I LOVE have moments of terrible writing (Jane Austen being the obvious exception).  So do I take the chance now that someone will see the brilliance in my work (not that my work is brilliant by any means, but I think you know what I’m going for) and overlook the horridness?  Or do I spend another year or so editing and perfecting, making it better?  I feel like life is too short for that.  I need more time though!  I started a round of edits on Twenty-Five, but I think I only got through chapter 6 or so.  I’ve been so exhausted in the evenings and busy on the weekends, I haven’t gone back to it.

Okay, seriously Rach.  Enough whining.  Just do it!

It’s the only way you’ll ever get anywhere- you can’t move forward by standing still.

So I guess I’ll be getting off my ass now.






And a little thing that makes me happy: Getting comments from People who read my blog! (HINT HINT!)






Quick Update on the Trifecta of Milestones approaching:

This is my 92nd post.

I’ve had 4,895 views to date.

And there are 6 weeks and 4 days left until my One Year Blogiversary!

Short Attention Span

It’s funny, I’ve spent the past couple of days wishing I had time to write a blog post, and yet when I just opened up the “Add New Post” page and set my fingers on the keyboard, my mind went completely blank.  I had nothing to say.  So that’s why you are getting this little rambling to kick things off.

Let’s see, what’s been going on?

Well, I just spent the last couple of days in Marilla, New York with my dad’s parents (so for those of you who commented on my last post, I’m so sorry I haven’t responded yet, I’m going to right after I finish this post).  For those of you who don’t know western New York, Marilla is close to East Aurora which is close to Buffalo.  Marilla is such a small town that my grandparents mailing address is East Aurora.  But anyways.  Being with family you only see once every couple of years or so (if that) is always awkward, but it’s nice too.  Like seeing my dad get hammered with his brother and sisters around makes me realize how all his children got to be the smart asses they are today.

Of course, there’s always the inevitable “we’re interested in your life” conversations which lead to things like my uncle checking my hands to see if there are any engagement rings there (for the record, there aren’t) or being told by my seventeen year old cousin that I need to get married soon so he could come down and visit us again (he and his family came for my younger sister’s wedding last year and we had a blast) or being told by my grandmother that there’s always the internet to find someone or being asked by my aunt if I even have a boyfriend.  At least my grandfather told me I looked slimmer than the last time he saw me (though I’m probably not).

I did get some time on the plane ride to Buffalo to type up a few random chapters of The Death Effect that have been waiting in my notebook for a week or two.  My current word count is 37,163!  I’m about 1/2 way there.  I can’t believe how long it is taking me to write this book, but I should remember that writing Twenty-Five in a month was a real fluke, and I shouldn’t expect that from every book I attempt to write.  It got me thinking about how much I’ve written on some of my other ideas, probably not much!  So, of course, I looked.  Here it is:

Thirty-Four: 35,988

30 Dates in 30 Days: 2,598

Anita’s Dream Diary: 21,525

Aribelle: 5,328

David and Adrian: 14,551

Love or Friendship: 4,133

The First Mermaid: 1,870

Apparently the long novel is not something I’m very good at, the longest one on this list is the “sequel” to Twenty-Five!  Or at least, I don’t have the attention span for it.  My friend Ang once asked if I’d ever thought of doing a collection of short stories.  She may be on to something, since it seems I think in 5,000 words or less most of the time.  I’d love some suggestions of what to write about- what would you guys enjoy reading?

And a little thing that makes me happy: A pen that writes really really really well.

A Short Story/Poem For Your Enjoyment

I haven’t had any time recently to post anything new, obviously, since I haven’t posted anything new.  And I probably won’t this week either, so here’s a short story/poem I wrote based on events that happened on my birthday.  I say short story/poem because I can’t decide which it is.

Observations in Thirty Minutes

I’m exhausted

My brain feels wiped clean

And I have an hour to kill

My fingers close around

The steel handle

I wonder how it stays cool

In this June heat

The door yields easily

And the delicious aroma of coffee

Greets me as I step inside

A quick survey reveals

Four open leather armchairs

Exactly what I need

I drop my bag

Let my body fall into the cushion

And close my eyes


But I can’t sleep in such a public place

So I open my eyes

Tuck my bag between the chair and my legs

And I look around

Not many customers for a Saturday

The only people

Who really catch my eye

Are the barristas

One guy, one girl

He has blonde hair

A clean and pressed white button-down shirt

Khakis and a dark green visor

Matching his spotless apron

She has a long, dark ponytail

Messy strands stick out

Beneath her visor

A bottle-green polo shirt clashes

With her apron

She loudly tells her co-worker

A story about her mother’s cat

I watch them for a minute

She gestures widely

To emphasize the important parts of the tale

He stands still

Hands behind his back

Slowly scouring the small crowd

But I can tell he’s paying attention

To her uninteresting narrative

He looks in my direction

I turn my head

Embarrassed to be caught staring

But she really shouldn’t speak so loudly

I check my phone for the time

Only ten minutes have passed

I groan, but internally

Not wanting to draw any more attention to myself

When I look up

I’m conscious to keep my sight

Away from the barristas

Instead it lands on a young guy

Probably around my age

He’s wearing those old school headphones

Black, the kind with a rounded arm

That fits over your head

And large, circular, ear muff- like sound receivers

But he’s wearing a baseball hat, too

Tan, with no team name or logo

So the black band is sitting

On top of the hat

His face is scruffy

Three or four days worth of growth

It suits him

Makes him seem warm

Like the kind of guy

Who gives really great hugs

He’s writing, like me

I wonder what he’s working on

He has a laptop open

And a thick book beside him

Is he studying?  Taking notes?

Every now and then

He raises his pen to his lips

It’s silver and looks expensive

I compare it to the cheap Bic

In my hand

Mine writes well enough

But probably doesn’t look as good

Pressed to my lips

The slender cylinder smushes his pout

He rolls it side to side

I’m entranced

He’s completely in his own head

No self-conscious embarrassment

He’s not aware that I’m watching him

But the guy barrista is

I happen to glance to the counter

And see him looking at me

I turn away again

And the pen has been lowered

By headphones guy

Did he look at me

When I looked away?

Probably not

Did he look at me

When I looked down to write?

Probably not

I’m drawn to him

I want to stand and approach him

Sit down at his table

Smile, introduce myself

But I don’t

The headphones are removed

And placed on the table

He pushes his chair out

Stands, leaves his laptop and book

And walks out the door

Where is he going?

Why’d he leave his stuff?

I check my phone again

Twenty more minutes have passed

Only thirty to go

Snow Angel

It’s snowing in North Carolina, which let’s face it, doesn’t happen very often.  The result of which is that I’m probably stuck inside my house all day Saturday.


But, on a happier note, I was inspired by the snow to write a piece of flash fiction for The Next Big Writer‘s current contest.  Since this blog is all about my goal to become a “real” writer, I thought I should maybe share some of my writing with you!  So here it is, my flash fiction piece, Snow Angel.

We walked hand in hand along the side of a snow-covered road.  He stopped and scooped up a handful of ice, packing it together and rounding it out.  I ran as he stretched his arm back, preparing to throw…


He just laughed and hurled the snowball above my head.


He laughed again and ran towards me, grabbing my waist and lifting me off the ground, spinning and twirling us both until we dropped to the earth, the blanket of white fluff cushioning our fall.

“Gosh, how old are you?”  I slapped his arms, he released his grip on me.  Rolling over, he lay flat, flaying his arms and legs out, making a snow angel.  He stood, pulling me to my feet.

“It’s beautiful.”

“An angel for my angel,” he whispered.

“That’s so cheesy!” I smiled, turning to face him.  “But sweet.”

He dropped to his knee and took my hand, pulling a velvet box out of his pocket at the same time.

“What’re you doing?”

He peeled my glove off and let it drop to the snow.  “I was going to wait til we got back to the house, build a fire, light a bunch of candles, and get cozy with you on the couch, but I can’t wait.  I love you so much.”  He popped the top of the box.  “Will you marry me?”  The ring could only hold my attention for a second, my gaze immediately found his.  Tears swam in both our eyes.

“Yes!  Of course!  I love you, too!”

He fumbled with the ring, sliding it on my finger, then jumped up and kissed me.  The box tumbled out of his grasp and slid on the ice into the middle of the road.

“I should get that.”  But he didn’t release me.  His hands were on my hips, his eyes staring into mine.  In that moment, I knew I’d love him for the rest of my life.

Kissing the tip of my nose, his hands fell.  He turned to retrieve the box and I looked at the square-cut diamond and platinum ring on my hand.  The stone was incredible, but its beauty was eclipsed by the love and commitment it symbolized.

I bent to pick up my glove and the sound of squealing tires reached my ears.  Whipping my head around, I saw an SUV fishtailing on the icy road.  He was straightening up, too, putting the ring box in his pocket.  The vehicle skidded towards him, but he didn’t move.  Maybe there wasn’t time.  Maybe the world only seemed to slow down as I watched the car plow into him.

When the ambulance and police arrived, the angel in the snow was tainted with blood and glass.  And he was gone.