Having never before participated in NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month), I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve had a YA novel living in my brain for at least a few years and decided that it was high time I got it out onto paper – or onto GoogleDocs at least – so I signed up for NaNo. This means, according to their website, 30 Days and Nights of Literary Abandon, where millions of nutcases like me commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. Yes, you read that correctly – 50,000 words. Now, thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a good novel and doesn’t even have to make a great deal of sense – get the 50K down and submitted in November so you can “win” NaNo, then spend the next few months turning it into something actually readable. My good friend’s 10 year old is chomping at the bit to read my book, which is at least good for my ego, though I told her she has to wait. She suggested I share my googledoc with her (which disturbed me – I didn’t know what the internet was when I was 10) but I assured her she would enjoy it a great deal more when it’s a real novel and not just the skeleton of one 🙂
Below is a selection from my first week of writing. Keep in mind that one of the “rules” of NaNo is NO EDITING so there are likely some glaring errors, and many more places where the writing just doesn’t work yet, but I’m forcing myself to leave it alone and just keep going.
(Near the end of the first 1/3 of the book)
She turned her attention to her mother and grandmother, still sitting at the kitchen table. Her mother had pulled out a small velvet bag and placed it in front of her on the table. Ella stepped close to her grandmother, pulled out a chair and fell heavily into it, concerned about what her role in tonight’s ceremony might be. Her grandmother took the velvet bag from Celia and slipped her gnarled hand inside to pull out a ring. Ella felt certain she had seen all of her mother’s and grandmother’s jewelry but this was a ring that she had absolutely never seen before. It consisted of two white gold circles joined at the top with a disc of the same pale hue. Twining across the top disc were a series of web-like strings creating,“It’s a dream catcher!” she exclaimed, eyes riveted to the ring.
Nokomis smiled, “Yes, but not just any dream catcher. This has been handed down among the first daughters in our family for generations.”
Ella let that sink in for a minute before responding, “but I’ve never seen either of you wear it.”
Her mother and grandmother exchanged a look before her mother responded, “only some of the first daughters can actually wear the ring. On the night that you turn fifteen, you will wear the ring and depending on what happens, you might keep wearing it or you might not.”
Ella stared at her mother, mystified. “Well, that’s not cryptic now, is it?”
Her mother smiled back, a bit of sadness creeping through the smile, “I know it sounds weird, but for tonight you just need to sleep with the ring on. We’ll talk in the morning and will answer any questions you still have when you wake up.”
Taking the ring as her mother handed it to her, Ella slid it onto the middle finger of her right hand, where it fit perfectly. She thought she saw her grandmother exchange a loaded glance with her mother, but she was too busy marveling at the tiny perfection to worry much about it. She twisted her hand, watching how the stringlike webbing of the dream catcher caught and reflected the dim light of the kitchen and wondering if she would get to keep the ring or not. She glanced up at her mother, “so, what now?”
“Now, it’s time for bed.”
“It’s like 7pm. I haven’t gone to bed that early since I was like 8.”
“Trust me. Tonight you’re going to need all the sleep you can get.”
Ella climbed the stairs and slid between the sheets, examining the ring and twisting it around on her finger. She was perplexed by this whole situation, but a little excited at the same time. The light from her bedside lamp reflected in the facets of the metal threads that connected to the top disk of the ring in eight links. She held her hand in front of her and wiggled her fingers a little to watch the light dance on the ring. Smiling to herself, she snuggled down beneath her covers and reached up to switch off the light, wondering how exactly she would fall asleep tonight. Placing both hands on top of her bedcovers, she fingered the ring with her left hand, wondering at the relative comfort she felt, though she typically didn’t wear any rings at all. As her mind started to settle, she realized that the weekend had kept her pretty busy and she was actually quite a bit sleepier than she had realized. Her eyes drifted closed.
I open my eyes and step carefully into the Painted Wood. Breathing deeply, I pull the scent of loamy soil and lemongrass into my lungs and climb up the slight incline toward the large trunks of the ancient trees. The foliage at the tops of these trees effectively blocks the scattered sunshine from reaching the base of the wood, leaving very limited bushes and scrub brush around the forest floor. My feet are cushioned by a bed of leaves and pine needles as I continue up toward the top of the low hill.
In all my previous visits to the Painted Wood, I have noticed that there is a definitive border to the space – not exactly a physical boundary, but more an invisible edge. I could walk a certain distance in any direction, but at some point my body was always dissuaded from continuing further by an urge to turn around. Today, I notice this compulsion has disappeared and I can travel further into the wood than I have ever been able to before. At the top of the knoll, I see that the wood continues down a gentle decline toward a creek, bubbling and burbling over softly glowing rocks. Perplexed, I am walking closer to the stream to examine the rocks when a figure suddenly appears in my path.
I stop abruptly and gaze up at the tall, lithe figure blocking my approach toward the stream. Her skin is pale and her body strong, with markings on her skin that I can’t decipher – appearing to be a cross between hieroglyphs and a foreign language I am unfamiliar with. Lifting my eyes to meet hers, I find they are a very pale blue, almost pale enough to be transparent and I have a feeling that if I examined them in profile they would seem to disappear. She reaches for me and before I can decide how to react she has taken my right hand in both of her own, examining my grandmother’s ring. I fear for a brief moment that she is going to try to take it from me but then she releases my hand and meets my eyes again.
“Asabikeshiinh” said the pale woman, causing me to jerk back. When people asked what my middle name was, I usually answered that I didn’t have one or said “Asa” because I hated having to explain my weird Ojibwa middle name.
“How do you know that name,” I finally spit out.
The pale woman smiled, causing her face to look even more wrong and malicious, “I have known you all your life and all your many lives before. You have come to me many times but only a few times before have I let you leave the Painted Wood.”