Greetings from the shores of words, chapters, and progress.
The progress on the book proposal advances at the pace of a banana slug in reverse. I am the only bottle neck on this project. Ten chapters are outlined, two nearing completion.
On writing contests. The submission entered in February came in this week. When I saw the envelope, my hands imitated a Mexican jumping bean.
And the finalist is . . .
“We regret to inform you that you were not selected as one of our finalists this year.”
Now the real excitement, the reason I entered in the first place. The next two attachments—the critiques—the best I’ve ever received. And they went into detail explaining the holes in my story. YES!!!
*Fannie dabbs the luster from her lower eyelid.*
The critiques evaluate 10 categories of story telling worth five points a piece: Plot, Viewpoint, Characterization, Pacing, Dialogue, Setting/Description, Narrative, Mechanics, Audience Appeal, and the subjective/emotional question—Would you read more stories from this author?
My favorite comment to category 9:
“Do you feel this would appeal to the intended audience?”
One of the evaluations read, “Yes. It is funny and descriptive. The images leave a mark, the kind that scare me. I especially love the beginning with the rules – these really set the stage.“
I’ve worked through my dangling modifier stage, only to have contracted a case of extreme metaphor usage.
As evidenced by the comment to category 6:
“Is the setting believable? Does the author establish time, staging, mood and atmosphere?”
Again from the same evaluation as above, “The story is full of colorful metaphors and lots of description. It really adds to the mood and atmosphere of the story. Especially in the Nordstrom and later when they are walking along the sidewalk and see the dress in real life.
One thing to be careful of is too much description and use of metaphor. They are really funny and descriptive, but too much can pull the reader out and be confusing.“
* Fannie press the back of her hand to her head. “Oh Preparation M, where art thou?”*
The Pay Off—category 10:
I won’t quit my day job, but those few sentences tasted of honey and inspiration.
For those of you with a little extra time on your hands, here is the story I submitted. Some of you read the original before I spruced it up shopping the truck load sale of metaphor.
* * *
Fannie Cranium’s Shopping Rules or How to Avoid Buying the Wizard of Oz Dress
- Take a friend who will tell you the truth.
- Maybe means NO, you’ll never wear it.
Suggested Guideline: Don’t bring a camera, you might regret it in ten years.
* * *
Sunlight filtered through the top of the red and gold maple leaves cresting the home of George and Bunny Gutierrez in Gig Harbor, Washington. It cast a crown-like shadow on our driveway. Bunny and Clarissa Taylor walked shoulder to shoulder toward our house among the jewels reflected from the white cement.
When I opened the front door, a bit of crisp air brushed passed me. Goose bumps landed on the arms of my dark green turtle neck.
Bunny entered first. She sniffed the air. And smiled with the knowledge of a riddle revealed. “Fannie, honey, is that the legendary chocolate mint Frango cocoa you’ve been tellin’ me about?” she asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back in a pony tail, crowning her statuesque figure. Her signature blue sweater set arrayed her pearl necklace like a Tiffany’s window vignette.
Clarissa twisted one of the red curls framing her face. She said, “I remember that smell.” A small smile tented the ends of her lips. “That should be illegal.” She adjusted the white, lace t-shirt under her cardigan.
“Well, it’s fall after all,” I said, trying not to smile my I-swallowed-the-canary smile, “so, what did you two bring to go with it?”
“I was feelin’ nostalgic last night and made some of my grandmother’s short bread cookies,” Bunny said, handing me a small metal tin.
“In a tin no less,” I said, nodding, nibbling on my lower lip.
“I had insider information,” Clarissa said, nodding toward Bunny, “so I brought some raspberry jam—and I pulled a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints from the freezer last night.”
Laughing, I asked, “Does your mom know you’ve crossed over?”
“No, and you have to pinky swear you won’t tell her,” she said, holding up the pinky of her right hand, returning to our childhood.
“You’re on,” I said, hooking her pinky.
Bunny stared at us. Her pony tail wagged out of alignment. Her mouth open wide enough to admit a dragonfly. “What in heaven’s name are you two goin’ on about?”
“Clarissa’s mom led our Campfire Girl troop,” I said, leading them into the kitchen. “She was also the local candy depot coordinator.”
“So if she ever found out I was eating thin mint cookies instead of the time honored mint patties, she’d have a cow and two cotton-kittens,” Clarissa said, laughing, followed by a small shiver.
I poured cocoa while Clarissa plated the cookies.
Bunny wandered into the library. She stopped behind the Chair of Much Nappiness, an overstuffed, over-large brown chair. She scanned the photos tucked between the books. A quick, sharp gasp escaped her lips.
My heart played a quick round of tiddlywinks. I spilled cocoa on the counter.
“Bunny, are you all right?” I asked, putting down the pan.
She grabbed a picture from the shelf, and waved it in the air in front of her. “What . . . what . . . what were you two thinkin’?” she asked, her drawl thickening over the words like rubber cement.
Clarissa and I shared our we’ve-known-each-other-too-long-to-pretend-not-to-know-what-she’s-talking-about look.
“You didn’t, did you?” Clarissa asked, rubbing the back of her hand against her forehead, taking a swath of red curls with it.
“I couldn’t help myself,” I said, laughing. “Richard and I found the photo in a box in the garage. When Aunt Verla saw it, she said she had the perfect white elephant frame for it.”
Clarissa grabbed the black-and-white, zebra-stripped and polk-dotted frame out of Bunny’s hands. She stared at the picture. The corners of her lips twitched up and down like a quivering aspen. She cranked her eyes shut. In slow motion, her head moved back and forth like collision balls. Laughter burst through her lips deciding the battle.
Clarissa drew a deep breath. “The Wizard of Oz Dress?” she asked, rocking back and forth on her feet, “I don’t know which is worse, that I let you talk me into this ridiculous photo, or the woman we saw wearing that dress in public.”
Clearing her throat, Bunny asked, “Are you goin’ to tell me how somethin’ like this could ever happen?” She wagged her index finger at the photo with such intensity, Clarissa inched away from her.
“Bunny, it’s not as bad as it looks,” I said, flipping my bangs out of my face. “We were shopping for Bride’s Maids dresses for my wedding.”
Bunny’s blue eyes widened far enough I could see myself.
“Here,” I said, handing her a mug of steaming cocoa, “have a seat and I’ll explain.”
* * *
Live piano music greeted us when we walked into the Nordstom’s flagship store in downtown Seattle. Clarissa traipsed onto the escalator in front of me. We wore matching sky blue baby doll dresses and our best white wedgie sandals for the occasion. The smell of perfume and leather followed us up the escalator. We stepped off at the second floor.
Clothing spread out before us like the fruit from the garden of Eden. Dresses draped mannequins under jeweled display lights. The speakers above us carried the enchantment of the piano. Clarissa stood next to me in the aisle. Mesmerized by the magnitude of choices, our feet attached themselves to the floor like magnets adhere to metal.
A tall woman with long, curly blond hair, deep green eyes, and wearing a tan blazer, red silk blouse, black, red, and tan silk scarf held together by a gold and silver knotted pin, black skirt, and red flats approached.
“Hi, I’m Jessica, can I be of assistance?”
I nodded. The words made a U-turn at my lips.
Clarissa elbowed me.
I wiped my hands on my dress. Laughing one-third octave higher than normal, I said, “We need help. I need to find Bride’s Maids dresses for my wedding.” Pointing at Clarissa, I said, “She is the only tall red head in the group. My sisters are short and busty like me, with the same brown hair.”
“Do you have any colors in mind?” Jessica asked, folding her hands in front of her.
“Green,” I said.
“Full length or cocktail?” she asked.
I rubbed the back of my neck, it felt like over tightened guitar strings. “Cocktail, I guess,” I said, the pitch of my voice jogging up a short flight of steps.
“Follow me,” she said.
We walked to the section next to the couture dresses.
In the glass case by the couture entrance, a mannequin wore a black-and-white gown. The black-and-white polka-dotted bodice bore a sweetheart neckline. Attached to the padded shoulders hung a black-and-white broad-striped cape. Three-quarter puffed, black-and-white polka-dotted sleeves ended in a one-inch black-and-white striped band. The full length black-and-white broad-striped skirt flared from the hips of the mannequin touching the floor with its scalloped hem and a train draped to one side.
Clarissa stopped me in front of the case. Her eyes blinked with the speed of a strobe light. “Oh dear god, did that escape from the Wizard of Oz movie?” she asked. She slapped her own mouth shut. Her cheeks turned pink. She glanced at Jessica.
Jessica laughed. “You know, I felt that way when I put it on the mannequin, but I couldn’t say anything.”
My checks strained to reel in the grin on my face, and my voice teeter-tottered when I asked, “Can we try it on?”
Clarissa’s bright blue eyes launched a volley of letter openers. “Fannie, I don’t care that you’re my best friend and it’s your wedding. I’m not wearing that dress for anyone.”
“Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” I asked, jabbing her in the ribs. “This is not for the wedding, maybe think of it as the warm up to a dress you might want to wear.”
“Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes, “but you owe me big time for this one.”
Jessica carried the dresses into the dressing room. She detached one side of the cape to access the zipper. I climbed into the stiff taffeta bodice, shimmying into the rest of the dress. It rustled like a pair of maracas.
Clarissa tipped backwards into the wall. She held her ribs, laughter vibrated her body like a cheap motel bed and one too many quarters. “You look like an out-of-control Munchkin.”
With a judicious wipe of her sleeve, Clarissa dammed the avalanche of tears cascading over her cheeks.
“Uh huh. I’ll bet you look like a red-headed Glinda when we’re all done.” I said, the horseshoe sailing over the stake and rolling into a ditch. Even a hand grenade wouldn’t have helped that one.
Clarissa steadied herself. She climbed into the dress. Pressing her right hand to her chest, she asked, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”
I grabbed the camera from my purse and handed it to Jessica. “Would you take our picture?”
Jessica took the camera. She shook her head, the I’m-glad-it’s-you-and-not-me expression flitted across her face when we posed like two escapees from Oz.
“I know some day that picture is going to come back and haunt me,” Clarissa said, her nosed wrinkled like the folds in the dress.
* * *
Bunny tilted her head to one side. She scratched her jaw. Her pony tail came to a stop, it allowed gravity to regain control. She twisted her pearl necklace. Leaning forward in the Chair of Much Nappiness, she asked, in a quiet, low voice, “You actually saw someone wearin’ that dress?”
Clarissa shifted in her chair. She adjusted the sleeve of her pale blue cardigan. “Yeah. Two weeks after we escaped from Oz, we met in Pioneer Square for dinner,” she said, pulling dog hair from the lace at the bottom of her t-shirt.
“When we walked out of Umberto’s, Clarissa spotted the woman across the street,” I said, turning pink. “It wasn’t our most shining moment.”
“What do you mean?” Bunny asked, her gaze shifted from me to Clarissa, who organized the dog hair into a neat pile on the right leg of her jeans.
“We may have had a little too much wine with dinner. Because we laughed loud enough,” I said, tugging the collar of my turtleneck, “the woman looked at us. And her little Yorkie poked its head out of her purse.”
“I couldn’t help myself,” Clarissa said, admiring the pile of dog hair on her jeans, “it just popped out of my mouth.” She knit her hands together, scattering the dog hair. “If she would have followed Fannie’s shopping rules, it would never have happened.” The color drained from her hands and climbed into her cheeks.
Bunny eyebrows formed a wigwam.
Suppressed laughter made me shake like the gym floor during a Zumba class. I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and said, “She said, ‘I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too.’”
* * *