Alison Miller, Katy Upperman, Jaime Morrow, and Erin Funk are once again hosting the summerlong Ready. Set. Write! initiative. Each week there will be a few headings, with short responses to allow for more writing time.
- How I did on last week’s goal(s)
I finished Chapter 86 of my WIP and am almost done with Chapter 87. Both are mid-length by my standards. Chapter 86, “Return to America,” which opens Part IV, ends in an upscale sheitel-macher (wig-maker)’s shop in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Darya and her friends want to look normal while their hair is growing back, instead of like premodern peasant women with scarves over their heads.
- My goal(s) for this week
Finish up Chapter 87 and move onto 88, title TBD. I omitted a few rather important events in the book’s timeline from my table of contents, so I started tinkering with that. This means I’m going to run over 100 chapters, but that’s not a crisis. Even if the book does go over 700K, it naturally worked out so that each Part reads like its own self-contained story, with a focus on different characters and storylines. They’re all ultimately connected, but if I published the book in four volumes for the print edition, it wouldn’t feel artificially split up or unresolved at all.
- A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised
This is spoken by Vitya Zhirinovskiy at the welcome-back dinner for Darya and Oliivia in June 1945. Vitya is a survivor of the Holodomor, the deliberate famine which killed millions of Ukrainians, and ethnic Russians like Vitya who lived in Ukraine, from 1932-33. The memory of the Holodomor has had a profound impact on Vitya’s character, not just because of the famine, but also because he engraved all the headstones for the children at the orphanage where he and his sister Inna grew up.
“Eventually you’ll get used to having enough food at every meal,” Vítya says. “I still worry about going hungry and always take home leftovers, but I don’t eat so quickly anymore. I lived through a horrible famine in Ukraine when I wasn’t much older than you, and I’ve never forgotten how it feels to be so hungry you’d eat anything, and to be kept awake at night with a growling, screaming stomach. I had to step over dead bodies piled up in the streets on my way to try to find food, and had to engrave so many headstones for orphanage children who died. The memory of being hungry will always be a part of who you are, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”
- The biggest challenge I faced this week
Deciding between Queens and Staten Island for the postwar relocation of several branches of the Zyuganov family. Both have very good points, and some lovely areas with real houses and wide open spaces. I finally decided to put Inessa’s family and Olga and Rustam’s family in Tottenville, Staten Island, and the families of my two former Marines in one of the suburbs of Eastern Queens. Each choice makes sense for each respective group, and plus I felt like Staten Island needs more attention and positive representation.
- Something I love about my WIP
Though it’s obviously a very dark point in history, I like how my Shoah chapters highlight some of the lesser-known persecuted groups—Poles, political prisoners, Americans abandoned by their own government. The Shoah was a uniquely Jewish tragedy, for reasons too long to get into here, and many people have a racist ulterior agenda to downplay its unique Jewish nature by going on about how non-Jews suffered too. However, I definitely feel the five million Gentiles who were murdered, and those who survived, need more representation in the Shoah narrative. Their stories matter too.
Believe it or not, more than a few Americans ended up in the camps. Many were obviously POWs (mostly Jewish, but not all), but others were like Darya and Oliivia, Americans living, working, or studying abroad, and unable to come home. Because of their American citizenship, they haven’t gotten nearly the reparations they deserve, nor has their tragedy been publicly acknowledged.