When starting over is a good thing

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The miraculously resurrected, mostly unreformatted file containing the first part of the discontinued first draft of Adicia’s story is such a nightmare to wade through. Not just because of the extreme purple prose and heavy-handed narrative moralizing, preaching, and pontificating, but also because it’s the worst file yet I’ve pulled off of MacWriteII. All the others have been fairly straightforward to fix, with only double-spacing, auto-hyphenating, taking out extra spaces and hyphens resulting from how the files HAD been auto-hyphenated in another format, and misplaced text blocks to find and fix. This one not only has misplaced text blocks, but also frequent run-on letters (e.g., ssssssssssshe, miiiiiiidle, booooook) and completely fouled-up left margins.

I’m wondering if this is so because, despite the fact that the file itself was created on a ’93 Mac, most of it was written on a 128K Mac, the dear little computer I really miss. Sure it was way behind modern computers, and had a lot less memory and capabilities, but I feel sentimental for its sweetness, newness, and simplicity. I liked playing the old black and white games, like Alice in Wonderland, The Manhole, and Puppy Love. I had never known any other computer to feel I were missing out. That was what I knew. The IBMs and other non-Macs I used at school were poor imitations, though I vaguely remember how to navigate my way around vintage non-Macs from the Eighties and early Nineties.

Because the file is so damn old, and was created on such a dinosaur of a computer, on such a dinosaur version of a dinosaur word processing system, the translation is all kinds of fouled up. This was also the file I typed in Bookman, the font I thought best resembled a typewriter font, which I’d read was encouraged if one were typing a book on a computer instead of a typewriter. (The book containing that advice was written in the very early Nineties!) I’m old enough to have typed on a typewriter, both manual and electric versions, more than a few times, but for the life of me I don’t remember how to start one up. I would like to buy my own typewriter, preferably a purple Remington Portable. (Here are some typewriter-inspired computer fonts available for free download. Some of them are so pretty I’m almost tempted to betray my 18-year relationship with Palatino!)

It kind of makes me sad to think how kids nowadays would probably find the computer I grew up using to be old and boring, and not find the games fun enough because they’re slower, in black and white, and with less features. They’d also probably find the old MacWriteII and even ClarisWorks to be old and boring, but that’s why I loved them so much and why I still miss being able to type in them. Sure Word has more features, but it’s harder for me to navigate my way around and figure out how to do things that were a lot simpler to find and figure out on MacWriteII and ClarisWorks. It’s downright scary to think that the people entering college now have never known a time before the Internet or probably even cellphones. My childhood and adolescence of the Eighties and Nineties really is the stuff of historical fiction now!

Anyway, this is the original character list. I remembered too late, while writing the finished first draft after finally starting over, that Lenore’s surname had been Lennon. Oh well. I like her last name better as Hartlein, and I like how it’s one of my family names, my five-greats-grandma’s birth surname. (For reasons too off-topic to get into here, I really hate the term “maiden name.”) And I’ve already used the surname Lennon in my Atlantic City books, for Charlotte Lennon, Cinnimin’s 12-greats-grandma, and Jennifer Lennon-Zargovich, her 11-greats-grandma, who is currently periodically coming back as a ghost to haunt Cinni’s granddaughter Daphne. Jennifer first appeared to Daphne right before her ridiculous, very unpopular wedding at age 17 and urged her to call it off. Daphne made a comment that really pissed Jennifer off, and Jennifer placed her first curses on Daphne and the joke of a marriage. She’s not an evil spirit, just one who’s having fun torturing a very annoying, disagreeable person who acts like she’s living in Jennifer’s era and not the late Nineties.

I just love how naïve and heavy-handed my 13-year-old self was. The introduction isn’t meant to be funny, but it just seems so self-righteous and like I were taking myself too seriously. This is just one example of the heavy-handed moralizing that’s found throughout this mess of a discontinued first draft. Thank God I lost it for so many years, since I have no idea how the hell I would’ve found a way to even halfway salvage this mess when I began again last November. It had no real plot, it was painted in extreme shades of black and white, and it was like a Grimm’s fairytale on acid.

Little Ragdoll

by Carrie Ann Brown

7-17-93-20-Sun.

Dedicated to the girl I know only as Ragdoll.

Introduction

This novel was inspired by a story I heard on the radio.  The story was about a girl who was a poor little girl in New York City in 1964.  Ever since I heard that story, I feel I cannot do enough for her, even though I don’t even know her.  So I wrote this novel to be assured that she had a happy ending, even if she didn’t or her story is drastically different than the one in this novel.  It is all fictitious, except for the part that comes from the story on the radio.

Anyway, the theme in this novel is that beauty is only skin-deep.  The world many times won’t accept people who don’t look as beautiful as others, even if these people have the most genius minds in the world.  Our society is run by people who process a message to youths that beautiful people are better.  You see examples of this all around (e.g.  boys only asking out beautiful girls and laughing at girls who are fat or are bookworms).  That message is not a very good one.  Instead we should be sending young people a message that what’s on the inside counts more than superficial things.  We know we cannot undo what has already been done, but we can hope that someday in the future people will see the light.

And who really knows?  Maybe 50 years from now, when we are working toward a harmony of being universal citizens, you will look in a book of names and find the name “Ragdoll” as meaning “underlying beauty.” In the meantime, you can read this novel and maybe change your views on beauty and ugliness when you’re done reading it.  I hope you will.

Characters in this book:

Mrs. Troy, the mother of 9 children.  She wastes all her money on things for her sons and her eldest daughter and runs a falling-apart household in New York City.

Mr. Troy, the father of the children.  He is a miser and a drunk who spends all his money on alcohol and prostitutes.

Sarah Klaus, the nanny of the children who has just come from Germany and barely gets any money for her work.

Gema Troy, age 16, the eldest daughter who gets all the new clothing and things such as records and books.  Mrs. Troy comes to all her cheerleading practices and spoils hers.  All the boys like Gema.

Carlos Troy, age 15, the eldest son.  He gets high on all sorts of drugs he gets from his friends on the streets.  He gets all the new boys’ clothing and is spoiled by his father.

Allen Troy, age 14, the next in line.  He has every girl in school hanging over him and has a reputation for using drugs also.  Allen’s problem is that he really is scared of using the drugs and just started taking them to escape from his real life.  But he knows that if he ever stops taking them, his father, brother Carlos, friends, and girlfriends will all reject him for wanting to be seen as a really nice guy, not simply some stupid drug-user boy who can’t fight the feeling.

Lucine Troy, age 13, the next-born daughter.  She has a few boys notice her, because by the time she gets Gema’s clothing, it is still fairly good-looking.  She is fairly pretty.

Emeline Troy, age 12, and the nicest of the Troy girls.  She wants to be beautiful, but she knows that is impossible.

Ernestine Troy, age 8.  She is always living in fear of boys because boys at her school all hate her for being different.

Adicia Troy, age 5, and the main character.  By the time she gets her clothing, they are rags, and this causes her to be the laughing-stock of the town.  She wants people to like her, but everyone at school hangs out with beautiful rich children.

Tommy Troy, age 3.  He is a spoiled little baby who is always getting his way because his mother likes him best of all her children, next to Gema.

Justine Troy, 6 months old.   She doesn’t stand too good a chance in life because her family is becoming so poor they might be moved from their apartment to the ghetto because of unpaid rent.

Ricky Carson, the son of 2 very rich people who move into New York City around 1968.  He does not believe everybody’s negative thoughts about Adicia.

Jack Rogers, Adicia’s boyfriend in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  He doesn’t really love her for who she really is, but he listens to her and buys her things, so to her that is better than nothing at all.

Girl, Ernestine’s best friend that she meets at the squat.  Girl teaches Ernestine all about real life and how to fight off the system.  From the moment that the 2 girls meet, they are instantly inseparable.  They do everything together, such as going to different churches, working at the same job for the same low pay, learning to read, shopping, celebrating holidays, going to concerts together, and eventually learning about life and reality together.

Lenore Lennon, a beautiful girl who was sexually abused by her father.  She runs away one night in late December of ‘61.  She and Allen meet in a bus stop waiting for their trains, and he instantly falls in love with her, although it takes some time before she loves him too.

Dolly, a very stuck-up little blonde girl who is always running into the Troys for some reason or the other.  She loves to shun and humiliate them in public.

Palatino

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One of the (by now rather dated) pieces of advice in Olga Litowinsky’s Writing and Publishing for Children in the 1990s was to use a font that looks like it came from a typewriter, if you’re using a computer, since many editors and publishers are used to dealing with typewritten manuscripts. I’ll admit that I’m old enough to have used a typewriter more than a few times (though it seemed a bit archaic since I literally can’t remember a time before computers, having begun to permanently remember in 1983 and having had at least one computer in the house ever since), but how many people under the age of, say, fifty were still using typewriters instead of computers at the time that book was published in the early Nineties?

So when I started working on my lost first draft of the book I just completed in February, I decided that Bookman looked like a good of a font as any. I thought it looked closest to what I was familiar with from a typewriter. When that old ’83 Mac had a short-circuit on the monitor only a few months into having it in my room, in the fall of ’93, I had to move to working on the new ’93 Mac in my parents’ room. Lo and behold, they didn’t have Bookman on the new Mac’s version of MacWriteII (which still remains my favorite word-processing program, since it was so easy to understand everything, in spite of how it’s considered extremely obsolete now), so I settled for what looked like the second-closest, Palatino. That was also the font I changed my Russian novel into, after having had it in the default font of Helvetica (which I think is rather ugly, not least because it doesn’t even have bars on the top and bottom of its capital Is). And that’s what I’ve been using to type ever since, unless I’m using a fancy font for something special like a title page.

I’m glad to know that it’s considered outdated advice by many people nowadays to submit manuscripts in the butt-ugly Courier, which looks so machine-generated and devoid of personality. Many people recommend Arial, which I also think looks kinda devoid of life and substance. Times (NOT Times New Roman, mind you) I can sorta get behind, since I got very used to it from it being the default font in Quark on our computers at work (I work at a newspaper), but it still doesn’t have that special something that Palatino does. Palatino just has a home-like quality to it, a familiarity after about seventeen and a half years of typing in it almost exclusively, a special personality that you can’t get from an overused, computer-generated-looking, or default font like Helvetica, Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Personally, I think Courier is the ugliest font I’ve ever seen.

I love Palatino so much that if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be a typographical tattoo and in Palatino. (Not that I think I ever will, since the traditional halachic prohibition against tattoos is so strong, even knowing that many modern non-Orthodox commentators have reinterpreted that passage to mean gashing or scarring oneself for the dead, not getting a modern-day tattoo.)  And even though I only chose it originally because it seemed to resemble Bookman and because I thought it was best to use a font that looked typewriter-generated, I just fell in love with it over the years. It’s sort of like my pen name, initially just a random thing but then turning, over time, into something that just fit me perfectly and seemed just right. Once you’ve been working with a font for so many years, no other font seems quite right.