Friday, June 14, 2013

Kicking Stones

Last night I went to a new writers group. Well, it's not new; it's new to me. I heard about it just a little over a week ago. A friend from church told me about them. They meet at a coffee shop less than a mile from my house. Well, I should say they met at a coffee shop not less than a mile from my house. That coffee shop is going to close today due to lack of business, so last night was the last meeting for the writing group in that location. Henceforth they will meet at the Bella Vista Library, shifting the meetings from Thursdays to 2nd/4th Mondays, the only day the library is open late.

This group works differently than the others I've been involved with in the past. Rather than bring your work and read it to the group and have them comment on it, they e-mail their items for critique ahead of the meeting. The others print them and critique the printed copy; or some may make comments on the electronic document, make comments during the meeting, then e-mail the doc back with the comments. I know many groups work this way, and those who do say it's a superior way to do things. Since I entered in the middle of a cycle I can't comment one way or the other.

But I found the group and had the e-mail addresses early enough to make a submission this month. I gave them my short story "Kicking Stones". This is the third story involving Danny Tompkins, a boy who loses his mother when he is 13 years old. The first one was "Mom's Letter", telling about the time that Danny first learned that his mother's death was imminent. The second was "Too Old To Play", where Danny deals with the wake after her death, and especially with all the people who came to the house after the funeral. Each of those stories began with a scene of Danny as a boy, then of him as an adult and his adult memories of those incidents.

This one takes up the story two weeks after his mother's death, when the new school year begins. It's all in the present, the adult Daniel remembering how that first day of eighth grade he began kicking stones on his way to school. He's on a visit to the area and drives by the old house and, full of convention food, decides to walk the mile to his junior high school to get some exercise. The adult Daniel finds a stone on the sidewalk and kicks it, just as he did those many years before. He hasn't kicked stones while walking since he walked to that school. Why not, he wonders.

In this story I try to make metaphors. And I'm shooting for the play on words. "Kicking" can be both a noun and a verb. He's kicking stones down the road, and the stones he kicks are "kicking stones"—stones for the purpose of kicking. The story includes a poem, written by the adult Daniel about those childhood memories. The metaphor and word play feature in the poem as well.

I was thinking I might publish the story this weekend, but may take more time to edit it. In the meeting last night one of the writers said, "You have a great opening paragraph. Unfortunately it's in the middle of page 3." She's right: That particular paragraph is a good one, and with the change of one or two words could be the opening. But then I need to decide what to do with the two and a half pages before it. Do I blow it away, or work it into the latter parts of the story? This will take some time to work out.

But I will work it out, and I'll publish it in a week or so. Then I'll move on to the next story, then the next, or maybe it will be a book. Kind of like Danny repetitiously kicking stones as a schoolboy, I'll knock out story after story, at least for the next few years.,

1 comment:

Gary said...

How about copying that paragraph to the beginning and then replacing it with a paraphrase or reinterpretation of it on page 3? That way you don't leave a gap. Since the story is revisiting the past, why not "revisit" or recapitulate the opening -- sort of a sly metaphor inserted into the structure of the story.