WeWriWa—A well-loved manger

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This scene comes right after last week’s, as antagonistic houseguest Urma Smart is horrified to see the beaten-up manger scene her hosts see fit to proudly display under their Christmas tree. Though the Filliards had plenty of money before the Stock Market crashed, and could therefore just as likely have a really beautiful, upscale crèche, I chose to model theirs after an old, beaten-up crèche I’m familiar with.

German Nativity scene made about 1920, which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life beaten-up crèche I based the Filliards’ on, Copyright Hewa

“You’re making Christ weep,” Urma said. “How dare you display such a degraded manger scene!  If that’s all you can afford, just don’t display it.  There’s no law saying you must have a crèche, though it’s certainly the best part of Christmas decorating.  All these other decorations, like the tree and wreaths, are pure paganism.”

“Well, unluckily for you, this ain’t your house to be dictating rules in,” Mrs. Filliard said. “It’s a well-loved manger scene that’s been with us for many decades.  A brand-new manger scene wouldn’t have the same type of history and emotions invested into it.”

“You people are hopeless.”

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I love seeing all the different manger scenes from various cultures. It’s so beautiful to see how every people reflects themselves and their culture in their depiction of the Holy Family, not just in terms of things like skin color, but also the manger itself, the animals, the clothes, the artistic style, and the materials used. It just shows how the Divine really does have many names and faces, none of them wrong so long as one has a true, sincere belief.

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If you’d like to come back this week, I’ll have a series about Battleship Potemkin at 90. Appropriately enough, Part I goes live on the 21st, the film’s actual 90th anniversary. My remaining posts for the year will be my usual year-end wrap-up posts, the year’s final WeWriWa post, and a post about the 120th anniversary of the first time a film was shown to a public, paying audience.

WeWriWa—Halloween-Haters

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the book formerly known as The Very Next (new and improved title a secret till its eventual release), my chronological second Atlantic City book. It’s set from March–December 1939, and introduces mother-daughter antagonists Urma and Samantha Smart, along with the first two sets of European characters linked back to the Atlantic City characters.

I put a huge amount of work into the third draft of this book, to the point where it’s almost entirely a brand-new story. It was a 24,000-word hot mess when I began rewriting and restructuring it earlier this year, and I made it into a 75,000-word story with an actual structure and focus. 75K is pretty long by the standards of my Atlantic City books, but in this case, the length is perfect.

Chapter 33, “A Heavy Halloween,” opens with the antagonistic Urma and Samantha, unwanted longterm houseguests, sniping at Cinnimin about her household’s celebration of the holiday. Some of you may remember Cinni from the excerpts I shared in the days of Six Sentence Sunday, when she’d just met the love of her life, Levon Kevorkian, in May 1942.

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“You people are nothing but pagans,” Sam declared as she sank her fork into a sausage. “It’s a miracle my mother and I ain’t gone blind yet from looking at all your heathen decorations.”

“They’re our Halloween decorations, and if you dare rip ‘em down or otherwise destroy ‘em, you’re gonna get it.” Cinni poured more maple syrup over her chocolate chip pancakes. “Thank God your insane mom won’t force us to bring you along for trick-or-treating.  Even Sparky went last year, even though she’d never done Halloween before.  It’s just a fun holiday about dressing up, getting candy, and telling spooky stories.”

“It’s a holiday about worshipping the Devil, is what it is,” Urma said. “You even dressed up as the Devil himself.  If I find out Samantha got punished for refusing to come to school in costume today, I’ll have some very strong words for that heathen at the helm of your Satanic school.”

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Urma and Sam became Methodist fundamentalists in 1936, and now firmly believe everything but breathing and reading the Bible their way is a sin. Deep down, Sam just wants to be a normal kid and is afraid of her mother, but she’s years away from being strong enough to develop her own life and stand up to her mother.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For two more weeks, I’m sharing from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Adicia, four of her sisters, and their surrogate mother are at an uptown Woolworth’s, where they ran into some of the mean girls from the nice part of the Lower East Side. Though the Troys live just inside the boundaries of what was to become the East Village in less than ten years, they’re decidedly not as gentrified or well-off as these girls. One of them has just asked what 5-year-old Adicia’s name is.

***

“Her name is Adicia,” Emeline says. “It’s an ancient Greek name, the Latinate form of Adikia, who was a goddess.” Though Emeline typically bubbles over with her wealth of knowledge, she leaves out the fact that Adicia was named for the goddess of injustice because their parents thought it was an injustice to be saddled with a seventh unplanned child and yet another girl in a row.

“Ew, Greek mythology is so boring. I’d rather read fashion magazines and love stories, not stupid stories about made-up gods and goddesses thousands of years ago,” Linda Hopkins scoffs. “And I love having the same name as a lot of other girls. It means I’m popular and boys will pay attention to me.”

“Oh, people will pay attention to these losers too,” Karen Becker says haughtily.

***

The names booklet I found the Troy siblings’ names in claimed Adicia means “mal-treated.” When I looked up the name when starting over with this story so many years later, I found out it doesn’t exactly mean mal-treated, but the real meaning fit the intended symbolism just as well.


Adikia being beaten with a hammer by Dike, the goddess of justice.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For a few more weeks, I’ll continue to share from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the six Troy sisters are at an uptown Woolworth’s to buy back to school supplies in 1959, but their shopping is delayed when they run into a bunch of mean girls from school. One of the mean girls has just criticized their decidedly non-trendy names.

Once again, no offense to women with the popular names of that era! I just used those names as an example of extremely popular Boomer girls’ names and don’t have anything against those names or the women who bear them.

***

“What’s the baby’s name, Eunice?  And the name Ernestine belongs on a smelly old lady who has fifty cats!”

“I’d much rather be the only Ernestine at school than lost in a sea of Lindas, Barbaras, Susans, and Debbies,” Ernestine retorts. “I like being unique.  At least no one will ever forget my name.”

“Our baby’s name is Justine,” Lucine says. “A very pretty French name.”

“What’s the little ragdoll’s name?” Nancy Jenkins asks.

***

When I created the Troys at thirteen, the only name I chose with any deliberate significance was Adicia. When starting over from scratch and memory so many years later, I realized four of the sisters have French names, and discovered the surname Troy is also French. So I made their father of 100% French Huguenot descent, and so proud of his ancestry he gave all his kids at least one French name. The ones who don’t have French forenames have French middle names, and a few have two French names.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the Troy sisters have gone to an uptown Woolworth’s with their surrogate mother, and have found a number of girls from their own neighborhood who also wanted to go uptown. They haven’t had anything nice to say about the girls or their family. One of them has just said 5-year-old Adicia looks like a dirty, ugly, torn-apart Raggedy Ann.

***

Adicia hides behind Emeline, too shy and scared to say anything.

“Do you have a boyfriend yet, Lucine?” Helen Johnstone asks. “All the boys are fighting over me and competing to ask me to the dances.  I guess nice boys prefer girls who wear new clothes and don’t live in tenements.  Imagine that.”

“Unlike you, I have more interest in school than getting a date,” Lucine says. “I want a real diploma, not my Mrs. degree.”

“Why do you and your raggedy sisters have such stupid old lady names?” Sharon George asks.

***

A largely unspoken irony of the names insult is that all the girls making fun of the Troy sisters have names which are now largely considered dated and middle-aged, no longer popular or fresh-sounding. (Nothing against those names or people with them, but you can’t deny a name like Barbara or Linda doesn’t exactly conjure up images of a young girl anymore!)