May 5th, 2004

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Write a Book in 14 days

I signed up for this email newsletter that promises writing tips and results if you purchase some random seminar system. Basically, it's a like an infomercial for writing. The 'newsletter' comes filled with lots of promises and a proliferation of exclaimation points. I don't know that I expect any results, but I've always been tempted to know if it's possible to write a book in 14 days. I doubt it, severely. But for now it's keeping me entertained. Below is the sample I wrote for the first exersize, which was to incorporate three words - fire, clocks, and certainty - into the first paragraph. Judge results for yourself. I had five minutes:

Nora and I were going to get fired if we left one minute before the clock stuck seven, Mrs. Brummel had said with a kind of arrogant certainty. Mrs. Brummel couldn’t fire us. She was the night supervisor, but she didn’t have any real power. Her plastic badge said, “Night Manager” and she took herself too seriously.

“I don’t care if she does fire us,” Nora said. She brushed her mop of thick curly hair away from her face. Lately she’d taken to winding it up on top of her head and sticking two ballpoint pens in the tangle. “I hate this job.”

“She can’t do anything,” I reminded Nora.

Neither Nora nor I had a car, and so if we weren’t at the bus stop across the street by five minutes after seven, it was a five-mile walk home. The owner of the bookstore, Gary, didn’t care when Nora and I left a few minutes early. When he still ran the shop he’d barely noticed if we were there or not. He’d move to Florida last year and hadn’t been heard of since.

Mrs. Brummel never told us her first name, because, as she said, “It would not convey any authority if you went around talking to me so familiarly.” Her first day as supervisor she’d nearly burst a blood vessel when Nora and I tried to leave ten minutes before our shift ended. Explaining to her about city buses that only ran once an hour did no good.

“Make another arrangement for transportation,” she’d said, her crooked jaw quivering.

“We can’t,” I said. “I don’t have a car and Nora…”

Well, I wasn’t going to go spilling Nora’s secrets to Mrs. Brummel, who had all the markings of a first class bitch. People like Mrs. Brummel, who believed in order and rules and not calling supervisors by their first name did not understand people like Nora.

“Ask your parents,” she’d said.

"My mother works the night shift at St. Vincent’s,” I said.

“What about Miss Smith’s parents?”

I wasn’t going to say anything, but Nora kicked me anyway as a warning. Since sixth grade, Nora had been developing a wicked, nasty kick to the shin.

Mrs. Brummel went on, “It is unacceptable.”

“Look,” Nora said, the first time she’d spoken directly to Mrs. Brummel the entire shift, “Gary didn’t have a problem with it.”

Mrs. Brummel squared her shoulders. “I am in charge now.”

Three months later, we were still fighting the clock war with her. She kept threatening, and Nora and I kept shaving minutes from the clock in order to make the cross-town bus to Chapel Steep, our neighborhood.

Nora’s dislike for Mrs. Brummel was obvious. Unless spoken to directly, Nora didn’t respond to anything she said. She left all of that to me and to Mitch. Mitch worked until closing, so his shifts overlapped Nora’s and mine by a few hours each day. Occasionally I felt bad about leaving Mitch alone with Mrs. Brummel, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was sixteen and Mitch was twenty-eight.

“You know why I hate her?” We’d had to sprint to catch the bus. Nora’s hair, which now boasted three pens and a yellow plastic barrette, was falling in her face worse than ever. My mother’s favorite thing to say about Nora was, “My God, she’d be such a pretty girl if she’d just do something with her hair.” I could almost never look at Nora without thinking about it, as I heard almost daily.

“Because she’s an evil cow,” I offered.

Nora grinned in her lopsided way and said, “No, though, that’s a given. I hate because she doesn’t use contractions. Not one. It’s like talking to a text book.”

- Well, I think it's a start. - Melissa
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