WeWriWa—Penpal specifics

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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 right after last week’s, when 23-year-old Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov came to see his 18-year-old crush Inga Savvina before his furlough ends and he has to go back to Canada.

Inga was reticent about letting an unrelated man into the house without a chaperone, for fear of what people might assume, but Yuriy explained Greenwich Village is a very Bohemian neighborhood, where strict social conventions aren’t always observed.

She leaves the door open after she lets Yuriy in, and stays several feet away, just in case anyone who’s not Bohemian is watching from a window.  She also leaves her door open when Yuriy comes into her bedroom, grateful no one’s in the courtyard.

“Very nice.  Your father must really want a relationship with you, if he’d buy all these things and set this room up so nicely in under a week.  Will you send me letters with the fountain pen and stationary instead of the typewriter?  Even after you get good enough at English to use a typewriter, I’d like a traditional pen and paper letter.”

“You can read Russian?”

“My mother insisted, though I speak better than I read and write.”

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WeWriWa—Invited inside

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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 right after last week’s, when 23-year-old Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov came to see his 18-year-old crush Inga Savvina before his furlough ended. To avoid confessing his real feelings, Yuriy asked if she’d be his penpal.

“Sure, that’ll be great.  I never had a penpal before.  If my father were home, I’d invite you in to see my new room.  I trust you, but you know how people will talk.  I don’t want to ruin my reputation when I just came here.”

“This is Greenwich Village.  Do you know how many Bohemians live here?  I’ve heard this neighborhood even has people who prefer their own kind, if you know what I mean.”

Inga blushes. “If you say so, you can come in, but I’d prefer to be outside.”

WeWriWa—Penpal invitation

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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, I’m skipping a bit ahead to the last section of the chapter I’ve been sharing from.

Eighteen-year-old Inga Savvina has just settled into her father’s Greenwich Village townhouse, after spending a week in the boarding house run by her 23-year-old admirer Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov’s grandmother and spinster aunt Zina. Now Yuriy comes to say goodbye, with a plan to stay in touch with Inga without confessing his true feelings.

Monday morning, while Ginny meets with the couple he’s selling a house to, Yuriy drops by.  Inga sets down her English textbook and goes to answer the door, smiling when she sees him in his uniform.  He looks so much more distinguished and intelligent, though the drab olive-green doesn’t set off his red hair enough.  He looked better when he wore colors like blue, darker green, and yellow.

“I have to go to the depot so I’ll be back in Toronto in time, but I wanted to say goodbye to you before I left.  I can’t tell you any military secrets, but I think it’ll be awhile before my division ships out.  Would you like to be my penpal?  I already know this address, and you can see where I’m stationed from the envelopes.  You can practice your English with me, and it’s always nice to have a friend to write to when you feel alone.”

IWSG—Fighting for writing

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month. Participants share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

This is a perfect question for this month, since I’d planned to address just such an issue. After dealing with so many fits and starts for so long, I finally got to the place I need to be to move forward speedily on my fourth Russian historical, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University.

I also finally resumed work on my alternative history, about the rule of Tsar Aleksey II. I’d been really worried I wouldn’t have the same level of inspiration, passion, and motivation I’d been filled with during my first several rounds of work, but I needn’t have worried.

The words automatically, swiftly began flowing from the moment I got back to it, as though that dear boy were right there beside me, telling me exactly how to continue his story. I have a powerful obligation to finish this book for him, and to release it on his real-life 100th Jahrzeit (death anniversary).

In both cases, I pushed through to fight to regain my writing mojo the way an ice-skater fights for a landing after realizing s/he’s off-kilter in the air, or had bad form to begin with. Some skaters just give up the moment they realize their error, and let themselves fall like a limp ragdoll, but a skilled skater will do everything in her or his power to save a landing.

Even if a skater isn’t able to land with perfect form, it’s better to have a two-footed, bobbled, shaky, scratchy, hand-down, or far-forward landing than it is to fall. Even in the case of a landing that can’t be saved no matter what, it’s better to fall without falling apart.

The rest of the program can then proceed normally, with much better artistry and athleticism. There will always be difficult patches, but when one is committed to one’s craft, one should reach far down inside to reconnect with the initial spark.

As previously mentioned, a lot of my writing mojo was also regained thanks to writing my 12-part series on the 90th anniversary of The Jazz Singer in November. Fictional words had been so strained for so long, but creative non-fiction brought them back.

I don’t regret the decision I mentioned last month, to stop going to the local writers’ group that hadn’t worked out for me. While there were some very strong writers (like a guy writing a sci-fi comedy), a lot of them needed line-by-line critiques instead of gentle roundtable comments and suggestions.

I’m sure I would’ve been seen as even more of a foreign intruder had I suggested doing full critiques, or given my own honest comments about everything. One gentleman even submitted a freaking tax plan! The librarian hosting another branch of this group rightly refused to accept it, since it was neither fiction nor creative non-fiction, so he took it elsewhere.

Not one person said anything about how inappropriate and off-topic that was. I care less if a character or storyline is political, regardless of how far Left or Right, so long as the writing is strong and the author isn’t doing it to force in her or his own politics, but this was a freaking tax plan!

When was the last time you fought to regain your writing mojo? Any odd stories from a writers’ group?

WeWriWa—Inga’s new room

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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 skipping ahead quite a few pages from last week, after 18-year-old Inga Savvina got settled into a room at the boarding house.

After the initial shock, her paternal grandparents warmly welcomed her into the family and got her father a 3–A draft deferment (for men whose deployment would cause hardship upon dependents). Her father, Ginny (real name Mikhail), knows she’s undeniably his child, but needed more time to process this unexpected news.

Yuriy, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a chance to be around her. Inga’s new friends understand he’s got a crush on her, but Inga innocently believes Yuriy only has friendship in mind.

Inga now arrives at her new home, her father’s Greenwich Village townhouse.

Inga follows him up to the second floor and into a room overlooking a small courtyard.  The bed has an indigo and white patchwork quilt with indigo linens.  A simple green dresser with four drawers is on the other side of the room, with a plain lace dust runner topped by a silver brush, comb, and mirror.  A larger mirror hangs above it, and a side table topped by a simple white cloth has a yellow lamp and red alarm clock. 

Near the table is a red bookcase with six shelves, on which Ginny has already put some Russian books and a few elementary English books.  A professional black desk with a real leather chair has been set up near the door, with a small woven cup filled with writing instruments and rulers.  Best of all, there’s a brand-new blue Remington portable Envoy. 

Inga also finds a blue and white marbled fountain pen, an inkwell, and stationary with her name and address.  The closet is filled with sandalwood hangers, and the wall nearest the door is hung with framed pictures of Georgiya, Inga’s grandparents, Nelya, Leonid, Marx, Engels, Trotskiy, and Lenin.  Mrs. Kharzina hangs her head in her hands at the sight of the Communists.