So, I have taken an unlikely plunge. I started my writing career as a poet. I was shoved into writing non-fiction by my first graduate school advisor (Thanks, Jaime), but kept writing poetry, too— finishing grad school with a dual focus in poetry and non-fiction. But let me tell you what I don’t write? Fiction. Well, I lie: I wrote a lot of fiction when I was a kid, and I wrote a short story in my mid-20s that I used as part of my grad school portfolio but, in any grand sense, I don’t write fiction. Except for maybe right now. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where tens of thousands of people sign on to the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. And because I just wrapped up the bulk of the touring for Hijas and am totally out of practice with sitting at my desk and writing for chunks of time, I thought it would be good practice for me to get back into the writing saddle. So, I’m saddled up and typing away at the computer. There is no working title and my main character does not have a name (got any suggestions? She’s a Latina art teacher whose mom died of breast cancer when she was 14), but I’ve got about 8750 words done so that’s something.
Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning:
I am eating chocolate truffles as if they will otherwise disappear, as if they are all that I need, as if the speed at which I am inhaling them implies I will soon be satiated. I am eating chocolate truffles as if I have not just lost fifty pounds, as if I have not just made out with my best friend’s brother, as if my best friend is not sitting beside me now, unaware.
We are on the shore of the lake beside her house. The water lapping in front of us, truffles between us, the sun gentle in the sky, a nap lazily behind us.
“How is your family?” I ask, as if I don’t know, as if I have not just seen her brother, as if I feel nonchalance. I laugh at my absurdity, catch the smoothness of the truffle in my throat, cough deeply, tear up, stare away from Anna, the caught truffle calling me out.
“Why are you laughing?” She asks; and I stall, swallowing lemonade and reacting bitterly to the mix of chocolate and lemon. I take a moment to reply.
“You know how I laugh when I am in pain.”
I nod, knowing that I am on the cusp of revealing myself and trying desperately not to let on that something is churning inside of me.
“Well, Mom is fine; still teaching and not at all affected by her birthday. Dad is good; I told you they got all the skin cancer, right?”
I nod again, edging her forward.
“Sarah should be here sometime tomorrow. She’s got an exam and then she is coming, and Zeke proposed to Robin last weekend.”
My breath stops, and my stomach flips over more violently than it already was.
“I didn’t see that coming; did you know?” My face is flashing red, my mouth flooded with saliva.
“No. I don’t think any of us did. They fight so much. I just figured at some point they would hang it up, but when he got here yesterday, he said that he proposed last Saturday. She can’t make it to the party, though. She has some business meeting in Omaha for work.”
I forget that the lemonade is too bitter with the truffles and take another sip. I retch from the taste and finally feel the build-up of sugar in my stomach. Too much, I know, as my heart starts a mild race. I roll my eyes at myself, at how I have never been able to balance excess and deprivation. There is no moderate in me. In the metaphor of my life, there is only starving or flush.