IWSG—May odds and sods

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and gives participants a chance to share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What was an early experience where you learnt language had power?

I don’t think I can pinpoint any exact experiences. It was probably more like a gradual realisation than one big epiphany. To point to individual examples, perhaps when I read adult non-fiction books on the Shoah and Pres. Lincoln’s assassination at age eight, long before I was intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically ready to handle such material, and came away profoundly disturbed and haunted.

A happier example is my experience with Ida Vos’s Hide and Seek at age twelve. It was a revelation to discover books could be written in present tense (in that case, third-person). That stylistic decision make the action seem so much more immediate, gripping, intense, uncertain, evoking an entirely different mood than past tense. I chose to make my first Russian historical present tense because of that experience.

I met my lowball Camp NaNo goal on Day 18, though I didn’t overachieve nearly as much as I usually do. Going in, I suspected I might have a slower April, in part because I’ve been using quite a lot of my library time on genealogy research instead of writing. It’s just so exciting, and I can’t use those databases at home without paying.

As promised, I’ll introduce some of my illustrious ancestors in future posts. Though I’m by and large descended from nobodies, one branch of my family tree has knights on it, including members of the Cromwell family. Another direct ancestor founded Lancaster, Massachusetts and is also a common ancestor to the Bush family.

Shortly before Camp NaNo began, I came to the conclusion it’s best to split A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University into three volumes. The chapter-by-chapter notes I made in 2015 never included the subplots and characters which organically unfolded during the actual writing process. Their inclusion has made the wordcount increase quite a bit past my initial conservative guesstimate of 400K.

More and more, I feel one of those unplanned subplots was either a complete mistake or needs more time to simmer. Long story short, Katya and Dmitriy befriend another young Naval couple, Dagmara (Marusya) and Zosim (Sima), who strongly seem to have a connection to Katya’s family.

Sima turns out to be the firstborn son of Katya’s step-great-uncle Grigoriy Golitsyn, a prince by birth. After so many years of private pain, Mr. Golitsyn begins expressing doubts about the former Vitya’s death, owing to his little body mysteriously vanishing between the time Mr. Golitsyn and his friends ran away to the time they came back to their home to gather important possessions.

Additionally, Marusya turns out to be the unknown baby sister of Katya’s godfather Aleksey. Their parents escaped the USSR and settled in Los Angeles, neither having any reason to believe the other had survived. After building up this storyline, the resolution seems too rushed and just dumped on the page, after which it’s never spoken of again.

The reunion of Mr. Golitsyn and his long-lost son is too precious to excise, esp. since it’s only intended as a minor subplot, but if I want to keep the other part of it, I have to move the resolution up or hold it back till the future fifth book.

This year’s IWSG anthology, which features ten stories including mine, released yesterday. We’ve put a lot of hard work into building buzz and promoting it. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join in the live Q&A panel on the 11th, since I don’t use my computer on Shabbos. I’ll be happy to answer any questions fielded my way, though.

WeWriWa—A surprise present

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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. I’m currently sharing from my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This week’s snippet comes early in the next chapter after “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee.”

It’s now several days after 11-year-old Sonyechka had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink, and she and her family are on their way to family friend Katrin’s 50th birthday party at the Waldorf-Astoria. A deliveryman stopped them in the hall, with a surprise present for Sonyechka.

Sonyechka takes the parcel and skips back to her room. As soon as Irina unlocks it, she goes inside and pulls off the deep blue wrapping paper. A stuffed hippo, with deep brown plush fur, awaits her, along with a short note.

To Miss Sofya Koneva,

I hope your hand feels better really quickly. I thought you might like this to make you feel better. Hippos are really tough animals, and you were really tough to not scream or cry when that jerk ran over your hand. My parents told me your birthday was Friday, so this is a belated birthday present too.

Regards,

Adrian Furtsev

“He must really like you!” Irina teases. “No older boy gets a girl your age a present when he doesn’t have to.”

WeWriWa—A secret connection

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s helper Adrian complimented her and her sister Irina on their fancy, custom-dyed skates and told Sonyechka he hopes her hand heals soon. Now Irina, who’s old enough to understand certain things and keep important secrets, realizes just who Adrian and Poliksena are.

As Adrian skates after Poliksena, it dawns on Irina that these must be the shunned Anya and Alya’s children. She doesn’t envy them, having to keep so many secrets at all times, spin plausible cover stories, and avoid other topics altogether.

“What a nice young man,” Platosha says. “I wonder how he and his sister know our family.”

“Probably from church,” Irina lies. “It’s probably one of those cases where someone remembers or knows you a lot better than you do them. I’d surely remember someone with an unusual name like Poliksena.”

“That’s the kind of boy you need to date when you’re old enough, Sonyechka,” Beatrisa says. “Adrian is very mature for his age. I assume he’s about fifteen.”

Anya and Alya are longtime friends of Lyuba’s who were shunned from their circle after their lesbian relationship was discovered on Coney Island in 1923. In 1927, out of desperation, Lyuba came to them to beg for financial help, and was told they’d forgive her and give her money regularly if she came for weekly visits and genuinely rekindled their friendship. All these years, Lyuba and her four oldest children have kept their friendship a secret from everyone.

A gay friend provided the material for an artificial insemination at a radical underground clinic, and they publicly pass Adrian and Poliksena off as children they adopted in Prague. A few extremely trusted people know they’re natural children, but not about the lesbian relationship.

WeWriWa—Fancy skates

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when one of Sonyechka’s helpers, Poliksena, asked if her family are the Konevs from Minnesota. Sonyechka’s sister Irina nodded and asked if their families are acquainted, and Poliksena only said that’s a very long story.

“I like your skates, Sonya,” Adrian says as Poliksena skates off. “Your sister’s skates are nifty too. I thought only Polya dyed her skates fancy colors.”

“I love making my own fashions,” Irina says. “Who wants to have plain white skates like everyone else when we can have eye-catching colors like turquoise and royal blue? I’d rather be one in a million than one of a million.”

“That’s what my parents say too. It’s nice to blend into the crowd and be just like everyone else, but human beings aren’t supposed to be like coins who come out of the mold identical. I hope your hand heals quickly, Sonya.”

WeWriWa—A strongly left-handed family

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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. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka came back to the rink after her sister Irina and cousin Platosha gave her first aid. Sonyechka’s helpers, Adrian and Poliksena, have waited to see if she’s alright, and Irina said the hand that was injured isn’t her dominant hand.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

Adrian smiles at her. “I’m left-handed too.”

“All three of our brothers are southpaws, and so are both our parents and youngest sister, though our mother’s a switched righty. One of our older sisters taught herself how to write left-handed, to impress our father. Her husband’s also a southpaw. So far, we have four southpaw nieces and nephews.”

“Do your teachers bully you?” Sonyechka asks. “The teachers at the stupid school I’m leaving were so mean about it, and one of them broke my baby sister’s arm to try to switch her.”

Poliksena looks at them more closely. “Are you by any chance the Konevs from Minnesota?”