WIP Wednesday

This WIP Wednesday is going to look a little different. It will definitely be more personal. I thought about keeping these feelings to myself, partly because I don’t think I can properly express the emotions that sometimes overtake my mind, and partly because I’m afraid of being judged. But isn’t that part of being a writer? Having your work, your thoughts, your soul critiqued? Bear with me in this post. A lot of it is me processing my own feelings and coming to terms with them.

Sometimes I feel like a fraud writing about my experience as an Indian and even writing characters who are Indian in my books. Because I ignored that part of myself for so long and how dare I even attempt to create a character with an identity I sometimes don’t understand myself.

Over the last few years I’ve come across more and more articles written by Indian authors that have stirred up memories and feelings I sometimes like to pretend don’t exist. These articles, stories, even books, feel like walking into a home that you once lived in and is now abandoned. It’s familiar, everything is as you remember it, but it’s covered in dust and the roof is leaking and there’s debris all over the floor. It’s the same but not the same at all.

So how do you put into words a feeling you’re just beginning to understand and reconcile? You can’t. You simply learn to open yourself up to it and maybe allow it help you grow. For me that feeling is the acknowledgement of my distance from my culture. An identity lost in the folds of assimilation and shame. I love being Indian, I love the colorful festivities, the people and ancient history, the dancing, the music, the movies, and I especially love the food.  But it took me a long time to get here. To this place where I can finally say “I don’t understand what it means to be Indian and me”.

The journey to the present has taken decades. It started in 1992 when my family immigrated from India to the United States. I knew nothing about America except what I had seen on television from old episodes of I Love Lucy, Superman, and The Bold and the Beautiful. I remember being amazed every time I saw a white tourist walking around in New Delhi. I had no expectations and many fears.

I cried almost every day at school for the first few weeks in my new American school. I understood some of the language, could speak a little of it, but  I didn’t know what it was to be an American. I didn’t know how to fit into this strange new world. I was lost and afraid and desperate to carve out a space for myself because despite everything I wanted to belong. Just like everyone else.

My parents wanted us to have a smooth transition so speaking to us in English became the new normal, and Hindi took a back seat. And there began the first step into becoming the American version of Prerna. I allowed my name to be mispronounced as Perna because I didn’t want others to feel uncomfortable when I corrected them. Saying Prayer-na after all is so much more difficult than Perna. Another step into my American evolution. (It took me until freshman year in high school to finally gain the courage to tell my friends that they were saying my name incorrectly. You know what they did? They listened and started calling me Prerna.) This continued on and until I had almost completely shunned my heritage. I scoffed at my relatives, I cringed at my dad’s accent and how he sometimes confused words and phrases, I complained about how the only thing we were ate was Indian food (which, I can’t even believe because now I love it so much and the idea of taking it for granted really angers me). I hid behind a mask of indifference and rolled my eyes at the Indian-ness of it all. I became the epitome of American teenager.

I am ashamed by that version of myself. The self involved, self-centered teen Prerna that couldn’t wait to get away from everyone and everything that reminded her of who she used to be and how uncomfortable it made her that she no longer felt like she belonged in her own family and how her culture no longer felt like hers either but someone else’s, like she had handed it to the the TSA officers when she stepped off of that plane at the age of 6 and accepted the American Dream in exchange.

And now I’m here. At a place where I wish I could go back and change it. (Not all of it because let’s be honest, some of the steps I took to transform into my new identity were necessary for survival as an immigrant in a country that places a lot of value in nationalism.) I’m at a phase in my life where I feel stuck in the middle of where I was, where I am, and where I want to be. It’s a precarious position and I’m not sure how I got here.

Maybe it was after I married a man who encourages me to get in touch with my heritage. Maybe it was after I had children and they started asking me questions about India and my childhood and I realized I had no idea how to teach them my native language because I remember so little of it. Maybe it started during the 2016 election.

I’m finding that piece of myself that got lost in the shuffle of shedding my former skin. I barely resemble the 6 year old version of myself. Sure I still have insecurities and fears and I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in this country and even in this world, but the me that used to be is gone. Now I’m someone different. Someone new. Someone who is still learning and listening and slowly finding her way to a place where she feels like she isn’t an anomaly.

Every immigrant has a different experience with assimilation. I’m sure mine looks vaguely familiar, maybe parts of it resonate with a few, but the way each of us deals with the process of molding ourselves into an acceptable version of ourselves for America is different. I wanted to take the time to write down mine for those who may feel like they’re on the outside of their culture and heritage like I often do and to let them know they’re not alone. There are a lot of us. We’re all trying to figure these things out in our own uncharted ways. I hope we can all find the place where we need to be in order to be comfortable with who we are.  Where we can love and accept ourselves and not have to make excuses for how we fit into our identities. I hope we can feel like we belong somewhere. Even if it isn’t where we used to be.

WIP Wednesday

Today I’m sharing a snippet from my old WIP titled Keepsake. It’s a YA contemporary about four best friends and their last summer together before college. I loved all the characters but stalled and then got distracted by other projects. It was a lot of fun to write and my first time attempting 3rd person. Hope you enjoy!

****

All her life Kayla had prided herself as being exceptional at all things. School? She was the valedictorian. Sports? She was the star volleyball player. Social status? Everyone knew her and she knew everyone. She had it all. But when it came to waitressing, it was the first time she’d experienced failure. And she did not like it one bit.

“Could this night get any worse?” she whined, sitting in the employee room with Lucia as they counted their tips. She’d barely made twenty bucks.

Priya snorted and shook her head. “It’s only eight. There’s plenty time left for you to mess up. “

“Oh, you shut it.” Kayla narrowed her eyes at her cousin. Priya had only just come in for her shift and had no idea the kind of humiliation Kayla had endured.

After falling on her ass in front of Bellamy and Lindsay, who couldn’t stop laughing for at least fifteen minutes, she managed to screw up three orders, got spaghetti sauce on her pants, and dumped a drink on one of the costumers.

“Why did I think I could do this job?”

Lucia reached a hand across the table and squeezed Kayla’s arm. “Because you think you’re good at everything, but you’re not.” She smiled sweetly.

Kayla snatched her arm away and pointed a finger at her. “You did this to me! Come work at Gio’s Kayla, it’ll be great. All four of us working together, raking in the tips!” she mimicked Lucia’s voice, making it nasally and high pitched.

Lucia’s mouth dropped. “I do not sound that annoying.”

“If only you knew,” Kayla quickly ducked, narrowly avoiding the breadstick Lucia threw at her.

“My feet are killing me.” Lindsay plopped down on an empty seat. She lifted her feet onto the table and proceeded to take her shoes off.

“Lindsay!” Kayla screeched, aghast. “Manners!”

Lindsay rolled her eyes and made a point of taking her feet off, but continued to pull off her socks and shoes and began to rub her feet.

“You’re disgusting.” Kayla gathered her tips and went to grab her things from the locker.

“Are you still mad because I told the hot new cook about your nickname?” Lindsay asked innocently.

Kayla slammed her locker shut. “You know if you weren’t my sister I’d disown you!”

Lindsay laughed. “You know that you can still disown someone if they’re related to you? I thought you knew everything Ms. Harvard.”

Kayla ignored the insult and instead reveled in the knowledge that in two short months she was finally leaving Keepsake and heading to her dream college. The thought took some of the sting out of her disastrous second week on the job. She pulled on her sweater and began to button it back up.

“What are you doing here, spy?” Gio yelled from the kitchen.

“The competition hasn’t even started, Gio,” replied Trey’s familiar cocky tone.

“Doesn’t mean I’m not working on my secret dish to take you down this year!”

“Don’t worry, Gio, you’re secret’s safe with me!”

Lucia’s face lit up, as always, when she heard Trey. Kayla swore the girl glowed whenever he was around. She acted annoyed to see her best friend get so frazzled around her boyfriend of six years, but a slither of envy accosted her usual impenetrable armor of not caring.

Kayla couldn’t remember the last time she’d kissed someone, or had looked that happy to see anyone. In fact, she was sure it had never happened.

“Hey, Baby.” Lucia jumped up and wrapped her arms around Trey as he entered the room.

He stumbled slightly, taken by surprise. “Hey,” he pulled away from her, face red.

That was new, Kayla thought. Trey never blushed. Usually he reciprocated Lucia’s advances by sucking her face.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were hanging with your brothers tonight?” Lucia bounced on her feet.

Trey cleared his throat. “Yeah. Uh. Can we talk somewhere? Privately?” He whispered.

Lindsay and Kayla exchanged a look. That was also new.

Lucia shrugged, unfazed. “Sure. Let’s go out back.” She dragged him out by the hand.

“That was weird,” Lindsay noted, biting her thumbnail.

Kayla made a face. “You are so disgusting. And uncivilized. How are we related again?”

“By blood.”

Kayla watched her little sister, fascinated. Even though they were only a year apart in age, the girls looked a lot alike. Brown hair, large green eyes, round heart-shaped faces. They could have been twins. If it weren’t for the fact Kayla already had a twin, Kevin. And where Kayla was tall and leggy, Lindsay was petite and cute.

“Do you need a ride home, or is Pete stopping by?” Kayla asked, shuffling through her purse to grab her keys.

Lindsay stood up, both shoes and socks in hand. “Yeah. Pete’s got a family thing tonight.”

“Okay, you definitely need to cover those disgusting things before you get into my car.” she pointed to Lindsay’s bare feet.

Lindsay wiggled her toes and smiled. “But they’re so cute.”

“And stinky. Seriously, why do your feet always smell so bad,” she gagged as they walked out to the kitchen, heading to the back door.

“Heading out?” Toni sashayed into the kitchen, dropping off a ticket for Bellamy, who was proving to be quite the chef.  The girls nodded. “How many did you break tonight, Kay?” Toni asked, placing her pen back in her bun.

Kayla crossed her arms and glared. “Only two.”

Toni smirked. “Settle up, little miss,” she held her hand out to Lindsay.

“Aw man!” Lindsay pushed her hand into her pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill. “You only had to break one more, Kayla!”

Kayla stared between the two of them, mouth gaping open. “You two bet on how many dishes I would break tonight?!” A furious blush of anger rushed up her cheeks and neck.

Lindsay only shrugged. “We have to find a way to keep ourselves entertained around here.”

“Toni,” she beseeched her best friend.

“Sorry, girl, but you are a disaster. Entertaining as hell, but a disaster.”

She heard Bellamy chuckle from his cooking station. Kayla tried to ignore it, but for some reason the new guy mocking her grated on her nerves.

Kayla stormed over to Bellamy and poked a finger into his chest. “You keep your mouth shut. You are not a part of this.”

Lindsay cleared her throat. “Actually he is.”

Bellamy sidled up a smile. “Yeah. I won ten bucks.”

She was fuming. Kayla had never fumed before. She was angry, humiliated and wanted to punch something. Or someone. Before she raised a fist to one of their faces, Gio waddled in from the bathroom.

“So, what’s the verdict? Did I win?”

That was it. She was going to quit. Even as she thought the words, she knew she couldn’t. Kayla had never quit anything in her life. Not ever. She’d just have to talk to Gio in the morning about the hostessing gig and pray that he agreed.

WIP Wednesday

This is a section from a manuscript I wrote years ago. Maybe I’ll get back to it someday.

*****

The air was crisp, almost good enough to take a bite out of. My favorite kind of fall day. Tree roots and wet leaves covered the path ahead of me. I maneuvered my feet around them, legs burning, lungs heaving, arms pumping. I knew the way like the back of my hand. Could navigate through the low laying clouds ,creating a white wall of whispering tendrils, blindfolded. Being alone left too much time for me to think and nothing else. Running the forgotten trails of the forest helped pass the time. Part of me searched for Margaret. Hoping  to stumble upon her and convince her to finally end my misery. For almost eighteen months I had done so and not once did she ever turn up.

The morning fog slowly lifted, clearing and revealing the narrow trail I ran, the bare trees suddenly stretching along the sides in a yawn. It would be back again. The fog had a mind of its own in Haven Cove, it came and went as it pleased, unable to settle on a mood for the day. I kept an even pace, focusing on my breathing. In and out, I told myself while my heart galloped, waiting for me to finally grow tired. The cliffs weren’t too far now. The roar of the ocean breached the wall of dispersing fog, but beneath that another sound caught my ears. The snap of a twig, the soft muttering of a curse. I almost tripped on a root but caught myself against the trunk, hands scraping against the bark. I made myself breathe calmer and searched for the source.

The outline of another body, about twenty feet away, caused my heart to lodge in my throat. It was too tall to be Margaret. Not that I expected her to ever show up when I actually wanted her to. No, she would make me wait. Until I lost all hope. I knew who it is though, even with the thin cloud of white surrounding him. Cooper stepped forward, his face flushed and the sweat slicking his hair. The sight of him nearly caused me to collapse.

Our eyes met and instead of the usual indifference or suspicion he started sending my way after the curse, there’s confusion, desperation, familiarity.

Not again.

I took a few shuddering breaths as he approached me, hoping the tears wouldn’t break free. Forcing myself to stand still, all I could do was wait for him to cross the distance between us.

This was the worst part of the curse. The remembering. It happened every couple of months with Cooper. No one else. Just him. It was another way for Margaret to make my life a living hell. I would finally get used to the loneliness, the hatred the rest of the town sent my way, then suddenly Cooper remembered. Everything. Remembered us. And for a brief moment I allowed myself to believe that it was over. That Margaret was done torturing me.

My heart sped up and it had nothing to do with the running. I craned my head back and looked up at his face, the deep green of his eyes, the way his hair fell over them.

“Hi, short stuff. I’ve missed you.” His thumb trailed the side of my face and I held so very still and closed my eyes, relishing the feel of his skin against mine. I didn’t dare take a breath and ruin it, make him forget before he could fully remember. It was painful, it hurt, it felt like a knife to the gut, but it was better than the empty glances that filled every other day. The memory of it was what kept me going most days.

I fluttered my eyes open. Cooper stared down at me.

“I see you, Bailey Eve. I see you,” he whispered.

I nearly choked on the grief fighting to shoot out of my chest, my skin, my limbs. Waiting to pull me under its heavy waves. The memory fought to the surface. The one that cemented us as Bailey and Cooper, you couldn’t have one without the other. The memory of the day I fell in love with him.

“You always did, didn’t you Coop?”

His hand lingered on my cheek. “Can I kiss you until forever?”

I nodded.

******

I really do love this story! I forgot how much until I read over this scene. Hope you all enjoyed this short excerpt. Still chugging away on some other projects right now. We’ll see if I ever finish anything ever again. Editing has taken a lot out of me these last few months. But I think I’m getting back into the groove. And feel free to join in and share your own WIP Wednesday posts! And definitely tag me!

 

 

WIP Wednesday

I had a whole post written that waxed poetic about why I decided to start sharing my not so great writing, but I’m not going to make you wade through all of that when I can just say this:

  1. Writing is hard and it isn’t always pretty
  2. Sometimes we write things that we don’t like but it helps us get better anyway
  3. I want to start being more honest about my process and show others just what a mess writing can be
  4. Writing doesn’t always have to be serious and neither do you.

With that said I’m going to start posting all my ridiculous and messy practice words. Whether it’s poetry (laughably bad poetry), an essay, or short story, or sections of my new manuscript, I’ll try to get it up here for you to see. Probably not every week because life happens, but more often than not. You’re welcome to join in! For now here is a little something I started but didn’t finish:

The sun is shining in a way that does little to block the glaring darkness that seeps itself in my body. I cover my eyes and all it does is make the pain brighter, hungrier, more unstable. 

Mother came in earlier and pulled apart the heavy, red, velvet curtains because she loves to torture me. She wants the light to eat away what little bright spots remain inside my soul. 

I drop my hand from my eyes, no longer desiring the shield, and fist the blankets. I could lay in the warmth my body created after a long night’s rest but the sound of movement from the hallway breaches through my door. Forcing myself to stand, I grab my silk robe and make my way downstairs. 

The statues move when I walk past them. They pull away in jerky movements, the sound crunching in my ears and down the hall. Echoing until I can’t stand it any longer and cover my ears until I reach the stairs. My presence repels. It can’t be helped. One look at the darkness that looms beneath my eyes and people turn away. They run. They avert their gazes. It’s written all over my face. What I am. An unwanted stain. A reminder to what once was and will never be again. 

Thick tendrils of my hair fall loose from my hair tie and I pull it out and remake the bun. Cold seeps through the soles of my feet as I walk along the dark hardwood floors. I want to check my reflection but all the mirrors were removed from the house years ago. I don’t know what I look like anymore. I can only imagine and remember from before. What little I do is of a small child with dark lashes and dark eyes and dark hair and skin a few shades too light to be healthy. 

Mother stands in the kitchen, cooking by the sink. I glance at the microwave. Do I dare check for my reflection on its sleek surface and risk invoking her wrath? I tap a finger against my thigh while my legs contemplate their next move. 

“Don’t you dare,” Mother doesn’t bother turning from the stove. 

I let out a small breath and approach the table. 

“Don’t I dare what?” I ask.

Mother’s movements still, the spatula in her hand hovering over the pot. “Not today. Don’t you pull that with me today. You know what day it is. I need you to behave.”

I sit down on a chair and swallow the lump forming in my throat. Of course. Today. I know exactly what it is. The lump drops down low until it hits my belly and floats there until I think I might throw up. Today the darkness will try to eat away what bits of light I have left. Today I might become everything I am afraid of. Everything everyone else can see but I can’t feel. 

…..

And that’s it. That’s all I have. No idea where this story is going or if I will ever try to finish it, but it was fun to write. It’s not perfect, it needs work, but I’m still proud of it. Hope you all enjoyed!

Trying Something New

I’m a pantser. Always have been. I hear a voice, or imagine a scene, and off I go to the laptop, fingers typing furiously as I try to grab a hold of the story being woven inside my head with each new word I write. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and I figured that was the way it would always be. It was my jam.

BUT…

Then I got this idea to write something I’d never attempted before. Not going to tell you what it is because I’m a bit superstitious. But I will say that it is an ambitious endeavor and if nothing else I’m learning from it.

So why am I here? With my pantsing self? Well, turns out I can’t just go with the flow and wait to figure things out with this one. I have to PLAN.  The kind of planning that requires visuals. How did I get to this conclusion? When I tried to write it the way I’m used to and hit a big bump that caused me to stall in my progress. I knew fairly quickly what I needed to do in order for this story to come together. And there was no way I was going to abandon it because the spark refuses to be put out and it’s growing by the day.

What did I do?

The other day I went to the store and got myself a board, then some index cards, tape, and pens (I will find any excuse out there to purchase new pens). Then I came home and started working on a story board. Which I have never done before. I took out those index cards and started working. From the characters’ names, their physical traits, as well as personality traits, to the plot points, and world building. I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore when I started taping up all my index cards. I kind of had an author identity crisis.

How could I, a self proclaimed pantser, betray myself by actually PLANNING AHEAD? Who had I become?

The truth is, it actually helped. A lot. I don’t have the whole thing figured out. The outline is still pretty basic, but it is so much more than I usually do when it comes to my writing. I’m growing, I’m experimenting, and I’m finding my groove. The fact is, with every new project you undertake, you find that what worked before doesn’t really fly anymore. You have to figure out new ways to make the story come to life, for it match the vision in your head.

That’s the scary part about writing. It never gets easier. It’s always changing. Especially when you’re growing into your craft. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the story board making with my next book, but I do know that right now it’s what works. And I’m up to trying most anything (not including stealing, or cheating or any kind, or murder) in order to get the words out.