WeWriWa—Back to skating

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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’s sister Irina and cousin Platosha told her how lucky she was to get a cute older boy helping her. Sonyechka said she wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like, and Irina said she won’t think like that much longer. The conversation then turned to Irina’s crush on Vadim, one of family friend Yuriy’s brothers.

Sonyechka has just asked if they can get back to skating, and promised she’d be more careful.

Irina puts her hat back on and hobbles out of the ladies’ room. “It’s no fun walking on knives on solid ground. Now I know how the Little Mermaid felt.”

When they get back on the rink, Adrian and Polya are still with the younger half of their group, now joined by Beatrisa. Irina feels a bit sorry for them, only there with one another instead of friends. Teenagers are supposed to have lots of friends, unless they’re outsiders in a hick town like Melville.

“Is Sonya okay?” Adrian asks. “I hope that blade didn’t cut into bone, muscle, or vein.”

“She’s as stubborn as everyone else in our family,” Irina reports. “Thank God that’s not her dominant hand.”

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WeWriWa—A very high pain tolerance

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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’s helpers introduced themselves as twins Poliksena and Adrian (though the reader knows they’re not true twins). Family friend Iliana asked if they were born in the U.S., and Poliksena said they were born in Prague, though their parents immigrated from Russia years earlier, and returned to the U.S. shortly after their birth. They didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina has come to help her, along with their 15-year-old cousin Platosha.

Irina immediately takes Sonyechka’s left hand and skates off with her, Platosha supporting her from the other side.

“Thanks for helping,” Irina calls back.

“Some people on this rink are crazy,” Platosha says. “A lot of New Yorkers in general are crazy, but people often lose their senses and common decency in a crowd. I doubt someone would’ve done that in the days of skating on ponds.”

Platosha gets her purse from the bag check, then shows them the way into the ladies’ room. Irina rinses off Sonyechka’s bloody hand, washes it out with hot water and soap, and blots it dry with a hand towel from an attendant. Platosha then coats it with black iodine, which produces Sonyechka’s first pain noises.

“I would’ve been screaming since that mudak ran your hand over,” Platosha says. “You’ve got a really high pain tolerance.”

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In December, I was chosen as one of the ten winners whose stories will be in this year’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology, Masquerade: Oddly Suited. It releases 30 April, and the genre is young adult romance, with the theme of masquerade. My story is set in 1767 Charleston, featuring a character I created at 5-6 years old and thought I’d shelved forever in 1992. This is our cover:

WeWriWa—Sonyechka meets Adrian

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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 Lyuba and Ivan’s next-youngest child, Sofya (Sonyechka), was knocked over at Rockefeller Rink. The offending skater then skated over her hand.

An unfamiliar voice shouted at the guilty party to watch where he was going, and skate into someone his own size. The offender said “Accidents happen” as he skated off.

The boy who comes to Sonyechka’s aid will become her husband in the future sixth book (set from 1957–64). Their complicated, passionate romance will be one of the two main storylines.

Sonyechka looks in the direction of the unfamiliar voice and sees a brunet boy who looks a bit younger than Irina, with a redhaired girl about the same age. Though the boy wears black skates like all the other boys and men, his companion has malachite green skates with turquoise blue laces. She also stands out with her ultramarine ski jacket and what look like boy’s pants under her knee-length red skirt.

“May I help you up?” the boy asks. “No insult to your friends, but I think I’m stronger than they are.”

Sonyechka nods, her hand still throbbing. The boy lowers himself to his knees, hooks his arms under hers from behind, and pulls her up. His companion quickly helps him to support Sonyechka.

“Do you feel light-headed, dizzy, or nauseous?” he asks.

WeWriWa—Run over at the rink

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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 shifting to Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at UniversityIt’s December 1949, and the Konevs have gone to New York City to celebrate Lyuba’s 50th birthday. Lyuba, Ivan, and their youngest daughters are staying at the Waldorf–Astoria.

While Lyuba and Ivan spend the day before Lyuba’s birthday with their friends and relatives, their daughters Irina and Sonyechka go skating at Rockefeller Center with cousins and family friends their age. Sonyechka, who’s just turned eleven, is having a great time until she encounters a very rude skater.

Sonyechka raises her right leg to copy the more advanced skaters gliding along on one foot, and leans forward as far as she can. She then tries copying the jumps she sees, making sure to stay as low to the ice as possible. Most of the time, she lands on two feet, or very shakily and sloppily. She’s thinking about how to execute a one-footed spin with one leg out, in a crouching position, when a boy about Irina’s age knocks her forwards onto the ice and proceeds to skate over her right hand. Sonyechka’s hand throbs in agony, blood gushing from it.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” an unfamiliar voice shouts in a Russian accent. “Skate into someone your own size!”

“Accidents happen,” the guilty party calls as he skates off.

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?