What: Reading an excerpt from my novel, White Elephant
When: Thursday, May 2, 2013 in the 2:50-4:05 time slot
Where: Birmingham-Southern College, Harbert Auditorium (HB 128). The Harbert Building is the large building behind the Belltower in the photo below.
Notes: Free and open to the public. I’m in a time slot with three poets and one other fiction writer. Come hear the medley!
Back story: A year ago, I was asked to read my short story “White Elephant” on Honors Day. I go to a small, private liberal arts college where Honors Day is the equivalent of a national holiday. All classes are canceled and students who are hand-picked by professors showcase what they’ve been working on for the past semester or year.
At the time, I had no idea that short story would become my novel. In fact, I wasn’t even sure why I was asked to read it or why my fiction workshop class seemed to like it so much. It was a character sketch gone wrong. We were asked to write a character sketch and I elaborated into flash fiction. Only in a writing class is breaking the rules of the assignment rewarded, not punished.
But I read. It was my first time reading on Honors Day, and though you’re supposed to feel honored, I was indifferent. I was mad at myself for not having accomplished my goal of finishing a novel before a graduated. I recognized that if I wasn’t seriously working on anything by the end of my junior year, it wasn’t going to happen.
After I read, I received what I thought were the obligatory congratulations of Honors Day presenters; the you-were-picked-to-present-so-your-professor-thinks-you’re-good-and-you-worked-hard-so-even-though-I-myself-didn’t-like-it-I’ll-shake-your-hand type stuff. My then-friend, now-boyfriend was there and he told me he enjoyed the story. By this time I was pretty sure he liked me, so I thought his congrats was obligatory too.
But then a strange thing happened… My professors who weren’t at the event began telling me they were sorry they missed it, some even weeks afterward. My advisor emailed me about the number of professors who came by to say he should’ve been there and that they hoped I’d expand the story. Other English students who weren’t there kept asking me to email it to them because they’d heard from the ones who were there that “they really missed out.”
The next day, I found out I won the coveted Patricia Finley Watkins Scholarship for Excellence in Creative Writing.
I figured after garnering such responses, I ought to expand the story from its current 12-page form. I didn’t see it becoming a novel. I honestly hadn’t even considered the prospect until last November when it was 74 typed pages and I still wasn’t into the meat of the story.
I’d never written a novel before, so I told myself that even if it was terrible, I was going to write out the entire storyline for the discipline of writing a novel-length work. I took another semester of fiction workshop where that was my sole project, then contracted my novel writing class for individualized study. My goal was 50,000 words, which I based off of NaNoWriMo, but when I hit 50,000 and realized I still had a ways to go (and had already written 16 pages of another story that I could tell was going to be long), I knew I was meant to be a novelist.
Now, a year later, the writing portion of my novel is complete and I’m editing it now. I was asked to read on Honors Day again this year, where I’ll be reading a humorous excerpt. It’s still surreal to me that only a year ago my novel was a directionless short story that I was hardly passionate about, and now I’m launching my novelist career with it.
I don’t know that I’ll win any awards or scholarships this year, but I do know that if you come to my reading, you will have an enjoyable afternoon. Event details are at the beginning of the post. Campus police and signs will direct you to the appropriate location on campus. Contact me with any questions.