Monday, August 30, 2010

"Her Room" -- The Result Of A Writing Exercise

Two summers ago, I went to a writer's conference at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. The conference was called "Teachers as Writers" and my father had stumbled upon it while looking at the school's website. At the time, my youngest brother was considering going to school there, so my dad had been researching it. (By the way, my brother was accepted into the university at the beginning of his senior year of high school. He just started his freshman year of college there. It's a good school and perfect for him, so he is very happy with his choice. Anyways, I digress...)

The conference featured several published children and young adult writers, each giving a day-long lesson about a different topic of the writing process. Each of these workshop sessions, we did writing exercises and had discussion with the authors, along with their presentation. I loved every minute of it and meet several wonderful people! I even bought one book from each author-presenter! But other part of the conference was each evening we meet in our designated groups to have a writing critique session. (We were given several "writing breaks" throughout the day, the longest being the 2-hour period after dinner before group time.) We were expected to turn in at least one writing piece every night and after reading it aloud to the group, would receive a critique by our peers. For me, this is the most terrifying part of the writing process: having to read your work aloud to others for them "judge" it. O.O (I have a slight reading problem, so I tend to stumble with the words by misreading or mispronouncing them. I hate reading aloud! And yes, I’m in theatre…figure out that one!)

Of course, that first night I “dodged the bullet” since we were too busy introducing ourselves that we barely got to everyone's pieces. Though the second night, I was chosen to go first since I was one of the youngest people at the conference. (And the youngest in my group!) I wrote my piece based on a writing exercise we had been that morning. We had to descriptively write about a child’s room from the perspective of the parent after the child’s death. The child could be little or an adult at the time of their death. I wrote a little something that I still have somewhere in my mass collection of writing journals, but I didn’t think it was that good.

Then, during one of my writing breaks as I searched for some writing inspiration, I stumbled upon a novel idea that I started for a creative writing class earlier that year. I’ll probably post more about that story later, but something about the main character’s back-story gave me an idea. The main character is an orphan and has been raised by her brother since their mother’s death. I decided to use my writing exercise, but reverse the “dead person” from a child to a parent. But as I started writing, it didn’t feel right somehow. And the more I wrote, the more I realized I was writing from the wrong perspective…not that of the daughter, but that of the older brother. Quickly changing the piece to his “view,” I was able to finish a piece that felt adequate enough about to share with others.

So, long story short…too late! Here is that writing piece, though I’m not set on the title yet. (Yes, I know I wrote a long back-story to explain why I wrote this story…but hey, it’s my blog!)

“Her Room”
Daemon flipped on the light switch as he reached into the dark room. Her jasmine-lavender scent still lingered in the room’s stale air though it’d been empty for months. He swallowed hard as his eyes noticed the tidy order of the room. Her bed lay neatly made with its lilac comforter; her cherry-wood desk and dresser organized with her supplies and personal affects. Colorful artwork and various photos in delicate frames decorated the soft cream walls. Everything was untouched and left just the way his mother had always kept it.

As if she never left…

Memories of his mother flashed before Daemon’s eyes as ghostly visions. He saw her rushing about as she did every morning before work. Occasionally calling out for him to wake up and eat breakfast or stop torturing his baby sister as she rushed to get ready herself. He saw her at the darkly polished desk, hard at work grading the latest test or assignment she had handed out to her students. He saw her sitting in the bed holding his baby sister the day his father had brought them home from the hospital. He saw her collapse into a heap of tears and screams the night she received the news her husband had died. Daemon remembered it all, both good and bad, in a matter of minutes while standing in the doorway.

Gathering up his failing strength, the young man entered the room filled with a lifetime. How long been it been since he walked on this carpet? It seemed like forever. He had taken his first steps on this floor. Now Daemon stumbled as awkwardly as that first time.

The fear of losing her had kept him from the room since he’d returned home from school. His sister or family friend would occasionally go in to pick up something for his mother, but Daemon had avoided it. The empty room was a painful reminder that she was still at the hospital when he passed it every morning. Now that she would never come home—the pain of losing her made him finally cross the threshold.

The bed gave a slight creak as he gingerly sat and turned to the picture on her nightstand. A silver etched frame held a photo of his parents on their wedding day.

They were so happy… Why did they have to die? Why did they die and leave us alone?

Daemon pulled down the frame onto the table-top as he turned his head away, unable to stand their smiling faces gazing up at him. His eyes fell on the items on the dresser across from him. There rested the only family portrait they had taken after his sister’s birth in another metal frame. His sister was only six months old at the time of the picture.

Two months later, his father died in an unfortunate accident while on an excavation site. Daemon had answered the phone that night when his father’s assistant had called to tell the family. He knew something was wrong when it hadn’t been his father’s voice on the other line. He always called them at the same time every night.

His mother had taken the phone from him and walked into her bedroom to escape the noise of the television. He could still hear her piercing cry of disbelief as she threw down the phone. Daemon had rushed to her side, grabbing the crackling phone.

“Jenna, Jenna…I’m so sorry! There was nothing they could do. It was too late…Jenna?”

The words rang clear inside Daemon’s mind. He had been only ten, but he instantly knew he was now the man of the family. He had to protect his mother and baby sister.

I failed, Dad… I couldn’t protect her…

His eyes moved on to the infamous phone on the edge of the dresser. Daemon imagined his mother picking it up and softly punching his number on the key pad. She had been so calm when he answered the phone that dreaded day. He thought she was just being motherly and calling to visit with him.

“Doctors always said there would be a chance of remission…”

The doctors’ diagnosis gave her one year at best, but his mother continued on her fight for two more. She’d never lost her will, just her strength. Her body finally gave out one night while she peacefully slept. The doctors tried their best, but her spirit simply slipped away.

Daemon wished he had been there. His mother had actually been feeling better, so he thought he would run home to take care of a few minor things. But Meridith stayed. She always did. He remembered her solemn face when he returned to the hospital. Her vacant gold-green eyes stared at him from the hall as he exited the elevator, telling him everything.


Daemon snapped out of his daze. He twisted around, rising to his feet, ashamed of being caught in a vulnerable state. His baby sister stood at the foot of their mother’s bed. Her face streaked with dingy tears stains and dark circles hung beneath her lifeless eyes. Daemon’s heart winced at the sight of the young teenager. His mother’s death was painful enough for him, but his sister was at the age when a girl needs her mother the most. And now she had no one…

Except him. And he had her.

After reading this piece to my conference group, there was silence…which is not good for someone who wanted nothing more than to throw up and/or run out the door. Then I actually looked up from my paper and at the group…and found two people crying… O.O One person asked me if this was from personal experience, while placing a hand on my shoulder (no, it’s not)…and someone else asked why I wrote it from a male’s point-of-view (because I chose a male character? *shrugs*)…and various other quick questions like that. Finally someone told me they thought it was good and others joined in. While I know I should want more from a critique than “I liked it” or “it was good”, it’s nice to hear that someone liked it (besides me)! Plus the group did give me some great critiques (which I added into the version you read above) once they snapped out of their surprised or grief-stricken dazes.

I’m going to try and post more of my writing stuff, mostly as a way to force me to write and to break my fear of sharing my writings. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and that is often my downfall. With that being said…Comments? Questions?

1 comment:

  1. Great writing, the opening descriptions really stick out!! :) I'm going to my first writing conference in November, and I'm sure I'll be one trying to dodge the bullet.