Writing 101–Clare’s Progress…..ECK!


One of the best things about writing the Clare stories is that I don’t really care if they’re ever read or not.* I really don’t. I care about creating them, untangling structure, making sure the girls are moving along in their way. I spent weeks, daily scrapping away, on the second one after I realized Clare and her friend were sticking around (see below: that’s the one with the seven readers, in case you’re interested). But the reality is, I’m writing them for myself, publishing them online by myself, and not really paying attention to the current eleventh ring of hell which is publishing today. **

The third story I’m writing now shows what not caring does for me. Clare thinks artistically; her friend imagines numbers. One is seeing the world through her ability to make something out of nothing through art. The other puts order to the world and understands its mystery and beauty through numbers. They are sixteen, soon enough seventeen and they think about being dateless or oversexed, straight, gay, bi, or even a whole other gender/species all the time. But in no way do they think of all this as much as they are beginning to think about art and mathematics.

This is my memory of being a sixteen soon enough seventeen year old girl. My friends and I struggled harder to understand what our abilities were–and thus our worth–than our angst over sex, and what to wear, and who’s saying what about you and to whom. This is the age where the awareness of something else other than the outside world begins to push forward inside you and for girls it’s a make or break moment. Teenage girls have nothing and everything to lose and the outside world will either impede them or support them but they don’t know that yet. They’re on a high-wire and beginning to have dreams that will bring them balance or a fall.
Now, I could tell this third story straight but really it’s a complicated, loaded situation because it’s all in the girls’ heads and few outside themselves are aware of what is going on inside them. And yet, what happens to them now will factor into their eventual fates. Prose just doesn’t seem enough to me to explore this fully. So I’m using graphics and illustrations, clip-art, some photos I’ve put together, and am now contemplating embedding a vine, all strung along from one to another on sentences–clothe lines to pin them all together. Collecting the visuals and placing them together in logical sequence has been absorbing, confusing, and tricky. I am now about a week into it and I have to tell you, there’s no talking to me lately because I’m always trying to figure out the true way of portraying what is going on in Clare and her friend’s heads. ***

I’m hoping to tell the story of two girls diving into their real desires and realizing the shape of their true character. These two certainly will have a lot to overcome–as any child does–so whether they survive and preserve who they are is the real meat of these stories. I don’t think this is a profound thought or such an original observation. It’s the way I find to tell it that hopefully will put a different spin on girls growing up. ****

Yeah, self-publishing. It surely allows you to try all kinds of way to tell stories. I’m seeing about a month to complete it. Let’s hope it comes out. *****

*Disclaimer: Yes I do. I check the site where they’re on–usually in the dead of night or in the middle of the work day–and cringe: only 15 people, only 7 for the other!! What the hell!!!! Aughhhhhhhh!!!!!
** I once had a student that gave his high-paying job six months notice that he was quitting because that was when he expected the book he was writing would be sold for a gazillion dollars–including movie rights, of course. His story had everything, even a little sensationalism, notoriety and talent. That was five years ago. He has twenty drafts in his garage and he now works as a consultant. I tried to warn him but, you know, you have to get to this point all by yourself.
***I’ve been close to several budding artists, but I have no talent whatsoever that way. And I’m math illiterate–beyond illiterate, I’m actually an imbecile. This means I’m pretty much buried in discarded drawings and equations, and doing research on where Clare and her friend would be in their skills and what that may entail. As I said above–confusing and tricky. Oh, and very very anxious. This is a good portrait of me right now:


****Seriously, that sounds so pretensions! So full of myself. What do I know–I’m an old lady. I can’t remember what it was like at forty, let alone sixteen soon enough seventeen. All I have is a box full of overheated diary/journal entries from high school that my mom mailed to me when she was cleaning out my room. Have you ever tried reading what you wrote when you were a teenager? It’s both embarrassing and fuel for a second martini. They’ve helped, though. I’m just waking up at night because of troubling memories and panic attacks over what was then and what is now.  Oh, wait, that’s the Clare stories right there in a messy ball–and they’re not even autobiographical, heaven’s no, not memoir either! Don’t say that!

***** You can weigh in on that one. But then you’d have to read it when I’ve uploaded it.

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pat willard

Grew up in Philadelphia. Live in Brooklyn. Written four books best described as about memory and cultural history, food and some pretty good recipes. Works in progress may be viewed at www.patwillard.org

One thought on “Writing 101–Clare’s Progress…..ECK!”

  1. I’ve been reading about Clare and her friend. It felt like eavesdropping. Something forbidden. That might mean you’ve succeeded in establishing time and place. You’ve discovered a way to time travel and you’ve taken me along with you.
    But I wanted to respond to the question (or lamentable size) of audience with an interview I recently found in The Guardian. It has to do with what constitutes an writer’s success, and I suppose time travel.
    My interest is children’s literature, and I discover the depth of my ignorance on that subject every day. The other day (via a Virginia Woolf listserv, no less) I stumbled across British children’s author Clive King and his work “Stig of the Dump.”
    Now, I love that word “dump. We don’t have nearly enough of these words. It might have come straight out of “My Man Godfrey, ” but there it is for children to read. This Clive King fellow invented a caveman named Stig, who lives in a chalk pit (or dump) and befriends a little boy . . . This classic was written in 1962. We don’t allow these sort of adventures now, imaginary or otherwise.
    The Guardian piece was written last December, and King addresses some of the changes in the fifty years since Stig’s appearance. We don’t encourage children to go on adventures by themselves, or hang around dumps or chalk pits, or meet strangers, imaginary or otherwise. King wonders if our childhood and then adult imaginations are taking a shellacking. I wonder along with him. And he reveals that life for the author of a classic in children’s literature didn’t translate into wealth or fame. There was fame, but there was never wealth. He speaks of having to walk from his previous home in Camden Town to a BBC script meeting in London because he couldn’t afford bus fare. That’s an adventure, but it’s not how a wealthy author travels. However, it may be how a successful writer travels.
    So, keep up with Clare and her friend, and write her adventures, even if just a few of us read them. You’re good at it. So few would be.
    Here is the Clive King interview:


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