Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bogging Down in My Writing about Oregon Trail.

Trick or Treat Blog Adventure to be Posting  on Halloween with giveaway and links to Author Blogs
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On August 3 I gave you the prologue to my Oregon Trail, work in progress, and on Sept. 12 I shared the first chapter.  I guess I am ready to revisit that trail again, and try to figure out why something that was flowing smoothly has become bogged down.

 I keep avoiding opening the document, finding that blogging, or facebook, or planning an entirely new novel have a lot more appeal at the moment.  I suspect that it was so easy to write at first, and I have the whole thing outlined and finished in my head, and somehow that has translated as "finished" in my motivation too.  Why was it easier to write two Duffy Barkley novels, when the actual writing was harder, than to force myself to finish Della and Kenyon's story?

I find myself re-reading what I have, with pleasure, but when I get to the final chapters, where all I have is a paragraph, planning where the chapter will go, I suddenly find that even sitting down to write out bills has more appeal.

Chapter 2  Kenyon (From 1990s) 

  “Dear Diary,
     Dad is trying to get me to smile like he can just trick me out of a “bad mood.”  Why can’t he see that this isn’t just a mood – it is my life ruined forever!  My Whole Life!  Just now he slowed way down and leaned forward like he was trying to crawl up on the dashboard and I yelled at him, “What are you doing?  Keep you eyes on the road!”  but he was staring up in the sky like he didn’t care if we ended up dead in a ditch.  I should want to end up dead but that convinced me.  I’m not ready to die yet. But I am ready to drive!
     “Girls – Look!  It’s a bald eagle!”  He looked back with this hopeful smile on his lips like some dumb bird could make me forget that my friends were getting farther behind us at every mile.
     Melissa started to twist around to see but I pulled her back down and snapped at Dad, “The only Eagles I care about are in Philadelphia – and that is only if Pittsburgh isn’t playing.  Stay on your side of the road!”
       He looked sad, and angry – I thought maybe I’d gone too far and held my breath but he shut-up and started driving again.  Doesn’t he get that my whole life can go by and I won’t forgive this?  There is no justice in the world when you’re 15.”
     Kenyon snapped her book closed and clipped the pen to the front cover.  Her mind drifted back to the late night Deli where her Grandfather had given her the desk.  They had just come from a Pirate Game and it had been a long standing habit to go to the small, corner deli after a game.
     Kenyon had felt bittersweet.  Happy that her beloved Pirates had won but anxious because she didn’t know if she would ever sit in their stadium beside her Grandpa again.  She bit into her sandwich.  Nothing had as much flavor as a hot pastrami, on rye, with mustard, onions, and sauerkraut.  Did they have sandwich shops in Oregon?  She swallowed the suddenly flavorless mouthful and blinked against the burning in her eyes.
     Grandpa reached out gently, and dabbed a bit of mustard from the corner of her lips with a rough, paper napkin.  “Penny for your thoughts?”  Kenyon shook her head abruptly and forced a small smile.
     Grandpa picked up his own hoagie and made exaggerated signs of enjoyment as he chewed, rubbing his tummy and smacking his lips, eyes rolling and tongue flicking out to lick his lips.  He snatched the dill pickle spear off her plate and dangled it between his thumb and pointer finger, “Ah, Heaven.  The Pirates win and I share Manna with the world’s most beautiful sport fan.”
    Kenyon laughed and found that she could eat again.  He patted her back approvingly and waited until the sandwich disappeared before pulling a large box out from behind his chair.  She had seen him take it from the car, of course, but wasn’t sure she could accept his gift without melting down into puddles of tears.
     She turned sideways on her chair and allowed him to place the package on her lap.  “What is it?”  Smiling right then might have been one of the bravest things she had ever done.
     “Just a little something I found at a garbage sale and thought it would be perfect for keeping you from forgetting your tired, old Grandfather.”
     Garbage sale was his only name for the garage sales he loved to frequent, more for the chance to snoop into peoples lives, and exchange gossip and chatter, than for any real interest in the items being offered.  Pittsburgh had a tradition of visiting with neighbors, family and passers-by on the swings and gliders on the wide front porches.  For Grandpa the yard sales were a happy extension of that tradition.
     At first, Kenyon hadn’t figured out how to open the seemingly, seamless box, but as she explored the stationary and exclaimed over the malachite pen, she found a cellphone with pre-paid minutes and she had been comforted by the evidence that her Grandfather intended to hold tight to the ties that bound them together as both family and friends.

     Now, she reached into the desk and extracted a sheet of writing paper and an envelope.  Instead of her diary, she needed to write a thank you note and up-date to let him know that she felt his love with her every time she set her hand on the silky smooth wood of the desk.  She glared out the window at the landscape, which was so not Pittsburgh.
     She set the tip of her pen to the paper as her Dad swerved to avoid a plastic bag filled with garbage in the center of his lane.  The van swerving made her draw an angry line across the clean paper.  In frustration she balled the paper up and flung it on the floor of the van.  She started to put her pen away, but drew a calming breath, sighed, looked out the window and took out another piece of paper.  Grandpa would still love to hear that she was using his gift.  Melissa looked up from her electronic game and smiled but didn’t try to make any demands for the moment.


I do realize that I am not being much more co-operative than my protagonist here.  Kenyon is stubborn but, in refusing to finish her story, so am I.  I told myself, I have to finish this first draft before I can start a new NaNoWriMo novel in November.  I hope to keep that promise.  At lest, I have opened the file and am rereading the words I wrote, and trying to hear the voices of the two girls as they travel the Oregon Trail, 150 years apart.  I just never realized when I first conceived of this book, that even the 1990s girl might be history when I finally put her in front of an audience.


  1. Hoping your block passes soon.

    Where did you get the doll quilt? My mom had one similar to that....

  2. Beautiful pictures and words!!! When I was doing my research, I discovered that any intuitive act goes through a process of incubation...In other words, an idea needs to cook. Give Psyche a chance to allow the idea to form properly. Maybe something new is brewing. Maybe you do want to write something else at the moment!!! We cannot force Psyche to yield her fruits. She does so in her own time. And sometimes she produces the unexpected!!! Trust the block...Best!

  3. Well, Ms. Diva, my Grandmother made that crib quit from my mom's old playdresses for my crib (nearly half a century ago!) I think the pattern is called Sunbonnet Sue. No wonder it caught your eye.

  4. Oh my, if you need to work through your block a little more, consider staring at your lovely photos. There's a story in each and every one of them.

  5. Love your photos! Good luck with the writers block. Following you back :)