Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 30: 33.7%

I'm satisfied with my effort for my first NaNoWriMo, and I wouldn't rule out trying again next year, maybe even with a partner or team, so that we could get together and write and cheer each other on, too. That would be great.

I do plan to continue to write a little bit every day until I finish the first draft of this story. I'll continue to post my word count, too.

“Give me a minute,” she said, returning to the cabin and dressing as silently as possible. As she slipped out the door to meet her brother, the sun was just rising, and the day promised to be hot...

...Claire narrowed her eyes. “Summer camp and pranks go together like baked beans and franks,” she said. “The trick is to never let it get personal.” She sighed. “Don’t worry, there’s a work order in for your door—it will probably be fixed before you get back from the survival campout.”

Word count: 16847

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 29: Sunny Sunday

The weather was way too nice to stay inside today.

“How about worms in their beds?” Dana suggested. “That would be gross.”

Hannah laughed. “Yeah it would.”...

...“5:30,” he answered. “I need to go back to the meadow to see if there’s a trail or something, so I can make sure that the thing I hit last night is okay. Come with me?”

Word count: 16466

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 28: Pie Saturday

The apple is long gone, but the pumpkin, sweet potato, and pecan are still around for anyone who cares to begin or end a meal (or three) with pie.

Hannah and Dana went to the campfire for a little while, but their hearts were not in it. They sat alone on the quieter side of the ring and talked, their voices low.

“I hate to see Greg so upset,” said Dana. “It was an accident, though.”

“He’s really protective of animals,” Hannah explained. “At home he won’t even kill a spider; he scoops it up in a cup and puts it outside. He’s always been that way.”

“That’s sweet,” said Dana. “The world would be a better place if more people were as nice as he is. Hey! That reminds me, what are we going to do about Regina and her henchmen?”

“I haven’t really had much time to think about it today,” said Hannah. She looked around and found all three of them watching her and Dana intently from across the flames. Was it her imagination or did they look a little less arrogant than before? She wondered if her threats that morning had actually intimidated them, or if there was some other reason for this unexpected change.

Word count: 16002

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 27: Black Friday

Not really. It's been a perfectly pleasant day with lots of family and food... except for the "ozones" Scrabble incident. That was a little dark and ugly. On the flip side, we learned that "bottlery" is a word (despite what my spell check is telling me right now). It means not a place where bottles are filled, but rather one where they are stored. Who knew?

“Isn’t everything better with ice cream?” Dana asked as she caught up with the group. “What’s happening?”...

...I just want to go back to my cabin,” he told her. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

Word count: 15824

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 26: Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for the 30% progress I have made. Now about those other 35,000 words...

Greg had fared much better, but he commiserated with Hannah on the way to wash up before dinner. “Who’s fault is this, Mom or Dad?” asked Hannah...

...“A la mode!” they said together. It was a silly routine that they did with their dad, but Hannah felt better knowing that when she was out in the woods, Greg would be there, too.

Word count: 15031

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 25: Soup Night

My family has a tradition of gathering for a meal of soup and salad the night before Thanksgiving. It's always a sweet and simple way to usher in a bountiful holiday season together, and tonight was no exception.

Hannah discovered that shooting a bow and arrow was a lot harder than it looked; there was nothing natural to her about trying to hold the arrow in place while drawing back the string, aiming, and then firing. She missed the target almost every time. Joe came over to her and suggested a different bow. She had chosen a long bow because it looked like the ones she had seen in movies like Robin Hood. Joe had given her a bow that was shaped like a bracket in a math problem; he called it a recurve and explained that it might be better for a beginner, but not even the new bow could help Hannah, and she spent a frustrating afternoon.

Word count: 14387

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 24: Yeah I Should

I saw my former student Red today at school. I gave him the big thumbs up on his plan to try NaNoWriMo next year. That kind of thing really warms an English teacher's heart on a raw morning in November.

He smiled and said, "You know, you should really write a lot this weekend."

"You must be Hannah and Greg," Joe waved them over. He smiled but did not make eye contact. “Archery is a lot of fun,” he told the group, “but obviously there are some pretty strict safety rules. Even with these beginner bows and arrows, someone can get seriously injured unless everyone is careful.” ...

...“The most important thing is to never, never, never shoot at a person or any other living thing. Don’t even aim within 50 yards of them. In the event that someone or something breaches the safety zone, you will hear three short blasts of the whistle. At that time, shooting must stop immediately. We WILL practice this—it is as much or more important than hitting the target.”

Word count 14270

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 23: Research

When I sat down to write tonight, I realized I don't know anything about archery. Now I know a little bit. I'm sure I'll wow you, Dear Reader, with that knowledge tomorrow.

The lunch service went very successfully, and Hannah was almost sorry to untie her apron and head for the archery range. She liked the rhythm and concrete results of the kitchen—seeing, smelling, and tasting the product of your hard work right away, and feeling pride when others appreciated it, too. She thought she might never again take a simple burger and fries for granted.

She ran into Greg on her way to archery. They both smiled to find out that he was in the same session, and that made her wonder, too. Just a couple of days ago, she would have paid money to get rid of him for a week or ten days, but now it seemed like he was all she had, and the surprising thing of it was that he was enough. She threw her arm around him affectionately as they hiked.

Counselor Joe was just getting ready to begin when they entered the clearing. Eight targets were set up against bales of hay.

Word Count: 14051

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 22: That's Just Eerie

One of the cool things about participating in NaNoWriMo is the pep talks that you receive via e-mail every now and then. The one I got yesterday was from Kristin Cashore, author of the kids' novels Graceling and Fire.

She writes:

Here's what it starts to be like for me somewhere in the midsection of a novel:

(1) I've written the beginning, but I'm pretty sure it's a pile of crap.

(2) The end, when I even dare to contemplate it, feels as far away as Uranus.

(3) The prose I'm writing right now, here in the middle, sounds like a stiff little busybody who's sat down too hard on a nettle.

(4) I've discovered that my plot, even if it's an engaging plot, has sections that are not engaging to write, and I'm bogged down in those doldrums sections, when all I want is to move on to the exciting parts that are just ahead but I can't, not until I've written the parts that will get me there. Boring!

(5) The house is strewn with post-it notes on which are written about a gazillion important reminders of things I must somehow remember to find a way to weave into the novel at some point, although, where, I can't imagine. Some of the post-it notes are written hastily in a code I have since forgotten. ("He is temperamentally sweet, but dangerous, like Jake." That would be very helpful, if I had the slightest idea to whom "he" refers, or if I knew anyone named Jake.)

(6) Worst of all, whenever I take a step back and try to examine objectively this unstructured mess that is half created and half still living in my head and heart and hope (and on a gazillion post-it notes)... I get this horrible, sinking feeling that my novel isn't actually about anything.

Wow. How validating to read my very feelings written by someone else. (Oh, and she also said that writing 50,000 words requires skills that can be learned, how else? By writing. And that she's never written 50,000 words in less than 8 months.)

Grab a clean apron from the hooks behind you and come on in.”

Hannah enjoyed the morning. She liked to cook, and learning some shortcuts for chopping had been fun. She had never seen a giant number 10 can, much less one filled with more ketchup than her family would eat in a year, and the industrial opener they used to crank the lid off was pretty amazing, too. Jean had calmly overseen all the work, working at her cutting board on the stainless steel table, and directing the six kids in the kitchen...

...Hannah wasn’t sure how to respond. She sensed that something of value was being lost, but she couldn’t say what it was. Miss Jean looked up at the clock on the wall. “Time to get back in the kitchen,” she announced.

Word count: 13884

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 21: A Good Saturday or Better Than Nothing

As promised, I got a great night's sleep last night. I spent my morning reading a very compelling book called, School Wounds by Kirsten Olson (more about this another time), then I walked down to get my hair cut this afternoon, and went to see the movie Precious this evening, all worthwhile activities. Here's what I wrote in between:

The first rule of kitchen duty is don’t get hurt,” she told them in a pronounced drawl. “The kitchen can be a dangerous place, full of things that are hot and sharp. It is also a place where you prepare and serve the food that others will eat, so the second rule is to be careful and clean.”

It all made sense to Hannah. These were very close to her parents’ rules when she helped in the kitchen at home.

“Our lunch today will be hamburgers, grilled cheese, and French fries. Of course we’ll need some griddlers, and fryers, and servers, but some of you will need to chop vegetables for the salad bar and prep the chicken and biscuits for dinner.”

Word Count: 13480

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 20: 102 is Plenty

I had some free time tonight, and a friend asked if I was going to spend it writing. "Nope," I told her, "I'm going to go to bed early so I can write a lot tomorrow."

Hannah enjoyed a leisurely breakfast that had only been improved by the sight of Leslie and Cheryl screeching and jumping at every pop of the bacon grease on the huge griddle where they working when she made her way through the food line. That duo was dejectedly eating a late breakfast in the back corner of the dining hall, when, at nine am sharp, Hannah and the rest of the kitchen crew presented themselves to Miss Jean, the camp cook.

Jean was a solid woman of about her mother’s age, and Hannah liked her immediately, despite her gruff, matter of fact manner.

Word count: 13358

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 19: Fingers Crossed

Today was a busy day-- teaching, parent meetings, a basketball game, and my writing group. It was my night to cook, too. Our meeting was as fun and congenial as ever, there was some good writing all around, and it was close to eleven by the time we got to my piece, which was the latest installment of the novel. I had about 800 words that I'd slammed out between basketball and hurrying home to start dinner. I could have written more if I'd had more time, too. That hasn't happened too often, but I'm hoping that there's a little momentum building on day 19.

She held her breath and lay as still as she could. Her mind raced and she fought the urge to jump screaming from the bed. The shadowy figure pushed out from between the bags under her bed and waddled across the cabin. In the moonlight it looked like a giant rat, bristly with a hairless tail, and it was moving toward the bunk where Dana slept. Hannah could see her over there lying on her stomach, one arm hanging over the side of her bed, oblivious to the menacing creature that was scraping toward her...

...“What are we going to do then?” Kelly asked.

Word count: 13256

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 18: Oops

For a brief shining moment last night, I was done with my novel. I accidentally typed an extra '1' on my NaNoWriMo page, and didn't notice it until my counters declared me a 100% finished NaNoWriMo Winner! It felt pretty good until I fixed it. I didn't realize until then how much I really would like to be a "winner".

Claire left, and the four girls prepared for bed. “You could have told her we were in the bathroom, or something” Leslie said with exasperation.

“But you weren’t,” said Lori. “That would have been against the rules to lie.”...

...She lifted her head ever so slightly from the pillow and looked toward her feet. She froze when she saw a dark shape trundle heavily across her blanket toward the wall. Before she could do anything, it slithered into the narrow crack and disappeared under her bed.

Word Count: 12620

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 17: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

They always say that once you get started writing fiction, your characters will take over. It seems almost mystical when it happens, but it is welcome. Today, my characters actually told me that I need to spend more time with them-- 300 words is just lame. Sorry guys. I'm doing my best.

The fire was just a pile of smoldering embers when Hannah and Dana left to turn in for the night. It had been a fun evening. They listened to Hunter and Graham make fools of themselves singing Born to Run with Hank, and they had participated in a marshmallow roasting contest— Hannah won in the perfectly-golden-brown category, and Rhett won in the too-charred-to-eat-but-I’ll-go-for-it-anyway category...

...“Seven!” sputtered Cheryl. “I thought duty started at 9!”

“Not for you,” Claire told them. “You’ll be the breakfast crew.”

Word Count: 12085

Monday, November 16, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 16: Get Off Your Butt

One of the blogs I like to read is Mad Woman in the Forest by the author Laurie Halse Anderson. Today she posted her tips for young writers who are attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. According to her, writers block is caused by three main things:

1. You are trying to be perfect.
2. You are under pressure to produce the finished product too fast.
3. You have been sitting down too much.

She provides three solid suggestions for coping with such blockage. It's worth a read.

The rest of the afternoon passed without incident, and Hannah was able to take a long, hot shower before dinner. It gave her some time to think, and the water washed away some of her anxiety and anger. She realized that she kind of liked camp so far. She and Greg had met some pretty cool kids, and the activities had been fun so far. She was also beginning to appreciate that she was too busy to dwell on her parents and everything that was riding on whether they would be able to work things out. There’s nothing I can do about it, she thought...

...A screen door slammed, Mary's dress waved. Greg came out to join them. “I have hiking and canoeing tomorrow, but kitchen duty wasn’t too bad,” he reported.

Word Count: 11787

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNo WriMo Day 15: Where the Run Meets the River

It was a treat having Josh here this weekend; he was a captive audience for my novel. We spent some time talking about it at dinner on Friday, and he came up with an ingenious plot development. It fits neatly into what I already had in mind, and I plan to use it. The seeds of it have been planted in this weekend's installments.

This morning we took advantage of the first sunny day since Tuesday and went for a hike along the Potomac. We walked the ridge until the trail dropped down to the confluence of Difficult Run and the river; after that we went upstream back to the parking lot. It was unseasonably warm, 72 in November, and the water was high because of all the rain.

Dana, Greg, and Rhett were already eating when Hannah got to lunch. “Where’s Graham?” Greg asked as Hannah put her tray down on the table...

...“Later Brace Face,” said Leslie.

Word Count: 11035

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 14: An Absolute Disaster

I took a little time off from writing to go to the movies today with Heidi and all the boys. We saw the first big holiday blockbuster of the year, 2012. I'm afraid I can't recommend it. I might have been able to write it, though, and I do not mean that as a compliment.

Hannah had never been in a canoe in her life, but she found that she had a natural talent for it. After the basic safety presentation and paddling instruction, Doc had them try to navigate through a series of anchored floats that were set up just beyond the large platform in the lake. Her partner was Graham, and the two of them paddled through the course easily. Doc was impressed. “You two are a ringer team,” he called from his own canoe, as they floated and watched the other pairs struggle through...

...Hunter handed her a paddle. “Shall we?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” Hannah grinned.

Word Count: 10412

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 13: All the Little Lessons

I was at a big bookstore today, and they had a whole end cap dedicated to novel writing. Coincidence? I think not. I was tempted to buy a couple of books and read them, but I understood that it would be procrastination not inspiration. I consider that a break through.

Janet, the clipboard, did the head count for their cabin that night. “Do you have your flashlights handy?” she asked them. “Because, while I wouldn’t recommend leaving the cabin at night for any reason other than an extreme emergency, I really wouldn’t recommend leaving it without a flashlight. That being said, if we find you outside, you better have a pretty good explanation, otherwise it’s a disciplinary issue. ‘night ladies.”...

...The bell on the lake view porch rang, interrupting their conversation. “Ten minutes to session one!” Hank called happily. “Be on time!”

Word count: 9611

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 12: Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Between field trips that were scheduled last year, a teacher work day, standardized testing, and holidays, there are no more than 9 or 10 teaching days for us in the month of November. It is a ridiculous situation, but powerless to change it, I worked on mapping out some of the plot and figuring out the answers to a few but how questions of my novel while my students were bubbling in answers with their number two pencils today.

The western sky burned orange and red and a crescent moon was pressed high into the purple above it by the time Hannah and Dana got up to the fire ring. Dozens of people were silhouetted black shadows against the flames. As they approached, they could hear someone strumming an acoustic guitar and a small chorus of voices singing along to an Eagles tune. On the far side, closest to the main building Anne and Brian were handing out hot cocoa, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. Doc and Janet were busy balancing a couple of old-fashioned-looking metal contraptions with long wooden handles over some red hot embers. As they passed, Hannah heard sharp hissing and cracks, and then caught the unmistakable aroma of popcorn. Small groups of kids sat on and around the benches laughing and chatting. In spite of herself, Hannah relaxed. This is pretty cool, she thought...

...Doc stood on a bench and clapped his hands. “Okay folks, time to head toward your cabins. Wash up, do what you need to do, check in is in 15 minutes.”

Word count: 8840

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 11: Something to Aspire To

It sure was nice to have a day off. The weather was cold and rainy, and I spent a good part of the day in a chair next to the fire. There was some writing involved. There was also some itunes shopping, email reading, facebook browsing, and telephone talking involved. In the early evening, I heard an interview with the author Zadie Smith on NPR's All Things Considered. She characterized the beginning of any novel as tough going, but she also said that there comes a point near the middle where you are totally absorbed and then it practically writes itself. She reported that she spends 80 percent of her efforts on the first 50 or 60 pages of a book.

Noted with interest.

Hannah was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. They had a choice of fried chicken or lasagna with green beans and jello. The first night, the counselors served and cleaned up, but the twins took great delight in reminding Greg that he would be the one wearing the apron tomorrow. Their kidding was good-natured, and Hannah was glad that Greg had found friends so quickly. There was still an hour or so until it would be dark enough for the campfire, and Rhett and Graham offered to show the Wilders and Dana around the camp a little bit...

...“No way,” Dana answered. “Those girls are the worst kind of bullies. I’m not going to just stand there and watch them push you around. They don’t scare me, anyway.”

“Thanks,” said Hannah.

Word count: 8475

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 10

Tomorrow's a holiday, no school. I'm hoping to make some progress then.

The line moved ahead and soon they were standing next to the bulletin board. "I can't look," said Dana. "What if it's survival first?"

"What if it's kitchen duty first?" asked Graham.

Greg stepped resolutely forward to examine the list. He ran his finger over the groups scanning them until he found what he was looking for. "Monday morning: Hannah, Graham- canoeing; Dana- archery; Rhett and me- hiking," he announced. "Monday afternoon: Dana and Hannah- swimming, Rhett and Graham- archery, me- kitchen. That's okay, though. I'd rather get it over with."

"What! No survival?" moaned Rhett. "I've been waiting a whole year to do that again."

"Well, another few days won't kill you," said Dana. "You'll survive." They all laughed at the joke as the line moved forward and into the mess hall.

Word count: 7732

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 9

Day nine and feeling fine:

...Dana turned to Hannah. “Are you going to dinner now?”

“Yeah,” Hannah answered. “I want to wait for my brother, though”

“Can I eat with you guys?” Dana asked. “I, personally, do not want to eat with my brother, but I’m sure yours is nice enough...”

* * * * *

...You have to, like, really survive, all by yourself overnight in the woods," explained Rhett.

"Whaaat?" said Hannah. "How about the buddy rule?"

"Well, okay, you're not all alone, but it's only kids, no counselors," Rhett answered."First they train us, then they take us out and leave us for one whole night. It... is... AWESOME!"

"Scary awesome," his brother added, "but still awesome."

Greg, Dana, and Hannah exchanged alarmed looks. This was not what they had in mind.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 8

Day 8 of this crazy novel writing challenge and I am still lagging way behind the target. Should I be happy for what I have produced or sad that I have not produced more?

Claire cleared her throat. “Well, I’m sooo glad we got that worked out.”...

...He looked at the other counselors. “Did I forget anything?” Hank smiled; Janet scowled; Claire sneezed; Brian yawned; Anne looked at her feet, and Joe shrugged. “All right,” Doc said. “Let’s eat!”

Word Count: 7164

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 7

Day 7 of the 2009 NaNoWriMo challenge finds me at a little more than half-way to my target of 5000 words every three days. I was talking to a friend about it on Friday, and I said that this would be the make or break weekend for me. Either I'd catch up or quit. Hmm...

“… girls on the left, guys on the right,” Doc was saying. “Grab your gear from the pile and find your cabin group.”

Greg looked a little panicky. “Are you okay?” Hannah whispered...

...“You’ll block our view of the boys.”

Dana shrugged. “Whatever. I wasn’t going to take it anyway.”

Word count: 6180

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 6

A tall man with a scraggly beard and a red baseball cap stepped onto the bus before anyone could get off. "Welcome to Camp High Ridge," he shouted. "I know you've had a long trip, but I need you to settle down and listen for your directions before you leave the bus."

Next to Hannah, Greg was getting a little antsy. He was the kind of kid who was a real stickler for the rules. Their dad used to tease him about how well he could stay in the lines when he colored. "You know, Greg, the lines are not always your friends," Dad would say. Thinking back on it now, Hannah sucked on her teeth, making a tsk sound. Maybe Dad should have made better friends with the lines, she thought. Around them, there were impatient sighs and muttering, but the group quieted. "My name is Doc," he told them. "Those of you who have been here before know that I'm the head counselor."

Where did that nickname come from? Hannah wondered. He didn't look old enough to be a doctor, plus, what kind of doctor would work at a summer camp? Remind me not to get sick in the next two weeks, she thought.

Word count: 4764

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 5

The bus jolted and rocked up the narrow drive. All around them kids shrieked and screamed as if they were on a roller coaster ride. Every few feet, a tree scraped against the side of the bus, poking its branches through any open windows, and boys would grab them and hold on until they had a handful of stripped leaves which they tossed in the air as they reached for the next intruding bough. Hannah couldn’t believe the chaos. Their formerly strict bus driver had turned into Mr. Softee, only without the bell and ice cream.

Soon enough, though, the road curved to the right and down, and several cabins and a small lake emerged brown and blue from the green. The bus pulled to a stop on a circular driveway with a flagpole at the center. All the children stood up, gathering their things quickly and pressing toward the aisle. The bus driver did not move. “I don’t know where ya’ll think you’re going,” he said. The folding door remained closed. The cloud of dust that they had kicked up on their way into the drive billowed in the air outside, and Hannah could see nothing out the window.

As they stood there, eight figures appeared out of the gloom. Had they been standing there al along, Hannah wondered, or did they just get here? The door to the bus opened then, and the line of kids moved forward.

Word Count: 4558

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 4

“I’m from Great Falls,” she told him. “Me and my friends.” She flipped her carefully curling-ironed brown hair toward the back of the bus...

...As they spoke, Hannah felt the bus slowing. To their right was a carved wooden sign with an arrow pointing up a rutted gravel lane, Camp High Ridge. The bus down shifted and the engine seemed to grind as they turned onto the narrow road heading up. Here we go, she thought.

Word count: 4318
(I'm hoping to make up some words over the weekend!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 3

The door to the shed was open when Hannah got there, and she rolled the wheel barrow to its customary place behind the lawn mower. As she turned to leave, she heard low voices coming from the open studio window right outside the door...

... “What are you looking at?” the girl asked when she caught Hannah’s eye.

“Not much,” Hannah shrugged and turned her shoulder.

Hunter snorted, but the girl ignored it. “I’m Amy,” she introduced herself.

Total word count: 3839

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 2

The next couple of days passed in a blur of packing and shopping. The camp had sent a list of required and recommended items, and because the whole thing was so spur-of the-moment, they needed most of them. Sleeping bags, packs, canteens, compasses, hats, rain gear, hiking boots, bug spray and first aid kits were piled high in the corner of the dining room. They both needed physicals and tetanus shots, too. Under different circumstances, it might have been fun, but Hannah found herself moving through the days lethargically, as if she was already carrying the red backpack that topped her collection of gear...

...The next morning, her parents acted like nothing unusual had happened the night before, and the furnace was working fine, water gurgled quietly through the radiators.

Total word count: 3011

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 1

It's crazy, but I just wanted to give the novel writing challenge a try. My plan for the month is to post my first and last paragraph for the day along with my word count. May you all be my witnesses.

Hannah Wilder stared out the window of the bus. Barbed wire and blackberry brambles lined field after field of corn or tobacco as they rolled up and down the hilly two-lane road. She recognized the crops from car trips with her parents. Her mother always drove, and her father always quizzed them from the passenger seat. “What’s the name of this river?” he’d ask every time they headed north to visit her grandparents...

...Hannah and Greg looked at each other, and stood quickly, scraping their chairs back. They followed their mother to the kitchen but continued out the back door. Hannah was a few feet ahead, but they both knew where they were going. Three summers ago, their parents had built a tree house in the big mulberry in the corner of the backyard. Her tears were falling furiously when Hannah hit the ladder, and she could hear Greg choking on sobs behind her. Once safely inside, she sat down hard, wrapped her arms around her legs and cried. Greg leaned against her, and it was the sound of his misery that finally broke through her own. She put an arm around him and wiped her face. He continued to weep for a few more minutes, but she squeezed his shoulder and whispered that it would be all right.

Word count: 1591