Happy Halloween! Today is a day when spirits roam the earth in the form of little witches, ghosts and goblins running along sidewalks shouting trick or treat at every door.
I have fond memories of Halloween. The memories are so dear that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I thought, in honor of the day, I would share a snippet of a story I am currently working on that entwines my memories of past Halloweens with my imagination. I hope you enjoy it!
The crisp October wind blew swirls of leaves through the gutters and in-between cars as children in gaily decorated costumes roamed the neighborhood. The acrid smell of crushed leaves and tantalizing scent of popcorn danced on the breeze, enticing people to partake of the festivities of the holiday.
Walking along the concrete path, dodging small ghosts and goblins, I remembered when Dawn and I used to be part of the spookies haunting the houses for candy.
Part kids and part teenagers, we were just getting to the age when it looked suspicious for us big kids to be out. This would be the last year we could get away with it and we worked it for all we could.
So much had changed in the old neighborhood. People who lived there back then no longer live there; houses looked old and worn from the harsh North Eastern winters and humid summers. Yet, on this night, with the jack o lanterns glowing bright and the autumn colored leaves falling from the large oak, maple and hickory trees that lined the old streets, the place didn’t look so bad. Flipping strands of long brown hair from my face, I smiled as I watched two young girls race up a stone path to an old gray house. I could almost picture Dawn, dressed as a cowboy, and me as a ghost, flying up the old gray steps to see what goodies we could get. Candy was always the best treat, but sometimes, pennies and dimes would be given. The dreaded treat was always the toothbrush. What were those people thinking?
As the girls came back down, talking excitedly and showing each other the contents of their treat bags, I knew they were discussing some unexpected treat they received.
The ghost girls of my friend and I ran ahead of me as I continued my way down the road. I could almost see the old Dodge that Dawn’s Aunt Norma used to drive, slowly following behind us, waiting for us to get tired of this street and moving on to the next one.
I walked the end of the block, reaching my own car, and drove to the Dairy Queen. The building was dark and boarded up. The outside lights had been smashed by rocks and glass covered a good deal of the parking lot. Carefully picking a spot, I pulled in the parking lot and turned off the motor. In my mind, the building was bright with florescent lighting. Employees in the old red and brown plaid uniforms with the funny little hats gave small ice cream cones to all the little ghouls that came in. Buckets and bags draped across arms, Halloween candy was temporarily forgotten as the cold, sticky dessert was quickly consumed. Painted faces sported ice cream mustaches and white drips down the chin. I could see us sitting in a booth with Norma, trying to contain the dripping cone as we told her all the fabulous things we saw and received.
After the flood of memories washed over me, I started the car, adjusting the heater as I drove away. Amazingly, I made it to a well maintained neighborhood that I had visited on occasion, but not really enough to be sure I knew how to get to. Parking across the street from the one story ranch home with the green trim, I remembered that our Halloween adventures always ended here.
The place was owned by Norma’s boyfriend, always known as Big Walt. He was a kind, gentle man with large glasses and an ugly station wagon. Norma and he would take us to dinner on occasion as well as trips to Massachusetts and his house for barbecues and other fun. His back yard was huge and sprawling, nothing like the yards of the houses in the neighborhood I lived in.
Every Halloween, like clockwork, after getting our candy and other goodies, Norma drove us to Big Walt’s house. After canvassing his neighborhood for those last few pieces of candy, we would settle in front of his console TV with a bowl of fruit and the bowl of candy he had been giving out. We would spend the rest of the evening sprawled on the living room floor with candy wrappers, fruit peels and soda cans stacked around us, watching reruns of badly acted horror movies until it was time to go home.
I could see through the big picture window into the house. Three young children, still in costume, gathered around a big screen TV, were playing video games while eating popcorn and drinking sodas. It was different but still the same.
Finally, I drove back to the old neighborhood and parked in front of my old house. It was a two-story house with peeling gray paint on the wood siding. The place looked abandoned; so did several other houses on this side of the street. The stairs to old number 32 were warped. The glass to the front door was missing and a piece of wood covered one of the three windows that belonged to what used to be my bedroom. I sat there for a few minutes, wondering if it would be safe to go in. Surely the man who owned the house was long gone, he was quite old when we lived there thirty years ago. Deciding to chance it, I carefully walked up the rickety steps and tried to look in through the grimy windows.
Memories of that night, thirty years ago, flooded my head as I stared into my old bedroom. The wonderful memories I had relived just a moment ago continued as I stared in at my old room. I remembered coming home that night, my stomach full of fruit, candy and cola. The sheet of my ghost costume was dirty from walking on it all night and the paint on my face was streaked and running. We ran into the house, chirping away about all the exciting sights we saw. And luck was with us, as Dawn’s grandmother and legal guardian agreed to allow her to spend the night, something that did not happen often.
My parents sat in the living room watching old Bewitched reruns. My mom sat in her small brown recliner, feet tucked beneath her and a light quilted throw over her knees. My dad, sprawled back in his large, dark brown recliner, snored like a buzz saw. After spending a few minutes talking to my mom and showing her some of our choicest goodies, we ran to my room, eager to shut the door, turn on the radio, and devour some of our newly gotten sweets. We poured our pillowcase sacks out onto the floor in two huge piles and began sorting our treats and swapping our not so favorites for our favorites. The music played softly so we wouldn’t get a parental warning, but we still danced and sang to our favorite pop songs.
We settled down to play card games when my mom knocked on the door and said she was going to bed and it was time for us to settle down and think of getting some sleep as well. Still hopped up on sugar and all the excitement, we changed into our pajamas, but decided to keep playing cards. It was a quiet activity, we told ourselves.
We kept the overhead light off and only had the small lamp on my bedside table on for light. It gave it a cozy feel in the room and with the music on even lower; it felt like we were the only two people in the world. Though well after midnight, we could still hear people laughing and talking as they walked up and down the street. We figured they were stragglers from parties, adults or older teens allowed to stay out way later than a couple of kids were. Or we figured they were older kids who were up to the regular Halloween pranks, toilet papering, trees, egging houses, and leaving bags of shaving cream on front door steps. Whatever they were doing, it didn’t concern us for we already had our night of fun.
Monthly Archives: October 2013
Happy Halloween! Today is a day when spirits roam the earth in the form of little witches, ghosts and goblins running along sidewalks shouting trick or treat at every door.
NaNoWriMo 2013 starts in just five days and I am ready. Last year, I went into this endeavor without fully understanding the importance of having a game plan. I naively thought I could pump out the 1667 words a day with no problem. I mean, I am a writer, right? I had no clue how tough it would be.
Between a full time job and family obligations, it was difficult to carve out time solely for writing. Well, for writing that much at a time. I try to carve out a bit of time every day for writing, whether it is working on my latest writing project, writing in my journal, or penning a poem. Sometimes it is only a few minutes and sometimes it is an hour or two. But I must confess I am not consistent.
And that brings me to the problem I had during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I did not realize how difficult it would be to write so many words a day on story idea I just pulled out of my hat with no thought to topic or characters. In fact, I bombed miserably last year, only making it to 15,000 words. Here it is almost a year later and I am still working on that story. I also discovered that I have a hard time turning off my inner editor. It seems that I sabotage my best efforts by wanting to go back and edit what I have written, causing myself to lose focus of the story and its completion. I bog myself down in second guessing what I already wrote and trying to change it instead of powering through to the end and then going back and editing it.
I love the idea of last year’s story and I think if I can just get it done it would work out. There are some lovely bits in it, but the whole thing just ran away from me. I introduced characters that I am still unsure about and I think my plot twisted in a way that I may not be able to recover from. But I will continue to try. At this moment, I have 25,000 words invested in this story and my goal is to get it to an ending, any ending. And see if I can’t wrangle a good story out of it in revisions.
But in the meantime, I’ve found an idea I love for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve developed the three top characters so I know who they are and why they act as they do. And I will spend the next five days developing the secondary characters as well. I have developed an outline for how I would like the story to progress and worked out my setting so that I can move comfortably in this story. I know that as I write, things may and will change, but I feel like I am in a good frame of mind for this year’s challenge.
Having attempted this challenge last year, I now know what it takes to get the minimum word count done each day and still progress my story to a finishing point.
I feel confident that I will get to the 50,000 word goal this year. That is the real challenge to me this year, to reach the goal. But more importantly, to have a story I will be proud of.
I have days, even weeks, where I doubt myself. When the words just won’t come no matter how focused I am, I feel that the last thing I am supposed to be is a writer. I doubt my ability, my commitment, and my desire to write.
When I doubt my writing ability, it leads to doubting other things in life. My self-esteem comes under attack at these moments. I begin to feel that all the steps I’ve ever taken to pursue writing have been a grave mistake. And I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken a different fork in the road somewhere that would have led me to another career, another passion. To something where I am not filled with so much doubt.
I start to wonder what if. I’m really good at that game. What if I majored in something else in college besides English, where would I be today? What if my fifth grade English teacher never encouraged me to enter that region wide grade school writing competition? What if the sky turned green one day? What if?
There are days when the doubts plague me worse than others. I look at what I wrote for the day and see only the flaws. Never dwelling on the gems that do shine through even in the rough draft. I can lose myself in the doubts, believing the doubts are absolute fact and not the creations of my own mind where fear lives.
I have a good friend, a kind, caring, loving friend (who is also brutally honest, which is the best way to be) that tells me all the time that people suffer doubts all the time. Everyone, she says, has doubts. You just have to acknowledge your doubt and press on anyway. I find it strange to think she has doubts as she always seems so self-assured.
But I have learned she is right. Even the most self-assured people suffer from doubts now and then. The only difference between them and me is they continue on anyway, barely giving pause to their doubts before picking up their shield of self-confidence and carrying on with the fight while I struggle with my doubt, as if it is quicksand. There is a way out, I just panic and don’t see it quick enough.
And yet, I can’t see myself as anything but a writer. Even if the only place I have been published is in the local newspaper during my 12 year stint as a reporter, I still feel like a writer. Every day I face the screen of my computer, my incomplete novel staring me in the face. 2,000 words complete, 10,000 words complete, 15,000 words complete, 21,000 words complete. Each day I add to my word count, I grow stronger in my desire to be a writer.
And as my desire grows, so does my conviction that I am meant to be a writer. And with that strength, I am able to battle the doubt.
When I was in the third grade, I hated English class. I couldn’t understand the grammar and usage lessons. I was horrible at punctuation. And reading was just a jumble of letters on the page that didn’t make any sense. I tried to hide it, but amazingly enough, the teacher saw me struggle and called my mom.
After some testing, they diagnosed me with dyslexia and poor reading comprehension. I had to attend resource classes to help me deal with my learning problems. And my mother, who worked full time as well as took care of us kids, the house, and my dad full time, made time in her busy day to work on my reading comprehension problem.
I loved books as long as someone read them to me. But I hated reading because I could never understand what was going on. But with the help of Mrs. Stieg, I learned how to deal with the dyslexia and with the help of my mom and Laura Ingalls Wilder, I managed to conquer my reading comprehension problem. I learned to love reading and became a voracious reader.
In fifth grade, I learned the love of writing. We had a district wide creative writing contest and I entered it. I only received a participant ribbon, but it was satiny white and the first award I ever won. And I continued with my writing.
Through middle school, high school, and college, I wrote for newspapers and literary magazines. I thought myself a poet at first and entered many poetry contests as well as submitted my poems to various poetry magazines and literary journals. I never won any contests and have a folder file full of rejection slips. Still I write.
Soon I also wrote short stories. I submitted some of these as well, receiving rejections too, but I also submitted one to a contest and received third place. There was no money for third, just a certificate, but it was enough. Just being validated as a writer was all I needed.
Then I got my first job in writing, as a reporter for a small newspaper. At first it was exciting. Meeting new people, hearing their stories, and writing about them for the paper. I also kept up with my creative writing at home. It seemed like I was writing nonstop.
But as the years passed and work became more stress and less fun, my creative writing began to suffer. I hardly picked up a pen, let alone turned on the word processing software on my computer.
As a reward for my article writing, my editor gave me my own column where I could write what I wanted within reason. My love of writing surged back and I enjoyed thinking up ideas and writing my opinions about them. I was also able to do some creative writing for a serial story in the Newspapers In Education section of the paper.
But then I began getting criticism for my opinion columns. Not constructive criticism mind you, but out and out hate on topics I wrote on, topics that stayed away from politics and religion and focused on my life, such as dogs, writing, family, community service, and so on. I did have my fans, people who enjoyed my column and told me so often. But it was the people who complained that wore me down. They complained about my writing style, they complained about the space my column took up, they complained about my topics. And when my column wasn’t in the paper, they would complain about that as well. It just got to be too much and in the end, I gave up the column and writing became a chore again.
With the loss of my job due to budget cuts and downsizing, I decided to go back to writing. I decided to reclaim my creative soul. I began keeping a notebook journal of writing. My thoughts on it, some poetry, and story idea.
I began to do some soul searching. Let me tell you, soul searching is exhausting, time consuming work. But there is no shortcut, no quick fix, no fast forward button to get the job done.
It takes a lot of sifting, sorting, keeping and discarding to get to the important layers, to get to the heart of the problem and to the solutions, whatever they may be.
And what I discovered is my love of writing.
I took this photo in Western New York while on vacation recently. The quaint little church immediately inspired me. And with the 2013 National Novel Writing Month challenge fast approaching, I instantly decided to dive into this year’s challenge head on with the idea I gained from this photo and church
When I was a kid, about 5 or 6 years old, I had a younger cousin who couldn’t pronounce my name correctly. He would get my name and our Aunt Gloria’s name mixed up and out came Glodie.
As a nickname, it could be worse, but when I was little, it ticked me off when my brothers called me Glodie. As I grew older, I embraced it and made it my own. Now that I’m in my 40s, only close family still call me Glodie and then only to tease me.
Using Glodie as my blog name seemed not only creative, but also a way to delve deep into my personal space. It is symbolic to me to dig down deep inside me and come back out with creative writing and soul searching blog entries.
So come on in and view my world. Hopefully you will find it interesting.