The Paper Girl

The paper girl came into being on the day that Judy Lancaster, age five, drew her on a paper napkin at McDonald’s on a cold November evening.  She had no name.  She had no distinct features, other than two arms, two legs, a very large head, two long strands of hair, and a smile.

The paper girl appeared everywhere Judy went.  To restaurants, theme parks, play dates, or simply in the quiet of Judy’s bedroom.  Everywhere Judy went, the paper girl would be created and carted around with her creator.

There were times that the paper girl couldn’t see very well because Judy forgot an eye or she became too frisky with the crayon and her hair would cover her eyes.  But paper girl didn’t mind.  She liked seeing the world of Judy as simple or grand as Judy’s imagination would permit.  Judy would do a quick sketch, hold up paper girl, and tell her all about the magical land she was visiting.  Some days it would be a fantastic forest with giant trees, colorful flowers, and green green grass.  Other days, the villainess Weather would hunt her down as raindrops pelted into paper girl and washed her away.  She never liked Weather very much.

Mostly, paper girl loved how, as Judy would draw, she would speak to paper girl, as if they were the best of friends.  Judy always drew paper girl’s head first so she had opportunities to see Judy as she worked.  Some days, she would laugh and draw.  Other days, she would be focused.  Paper girl knew when Judy was focused because she would furrow her brows and stick her tongue out the side of her mouth.  It was in those moments that paper girl had all the time in the world to study her maker.

She loved her.  She loved that Judy took the time out of her day, several times a week, to create her.  She loved that Judy told her stories and occasionally drew special magical lands for her to spend time in.  But mostly she loved the way Judy talked to her, as if she were the most important thing in the world.

One day, Judy did the most amazing thing.  She gave paper girl a name.  Peggy.  Paper girl could not believe her great fortune!  Judy had drawn a picture of herself and paper girl in the same picture and as she finished coloring in the picture, she carefully printed her name above her own image and “Peggy” above paper girl’s.  She held the drawing up, smiling big, and said, “Peggy.  You are my best friend.”

Peggy (no longer paper girl) had such great love for Judy in that moment.  She had given her a name!  Her own name!  Normally, Judy would give her pictures to Mrs. Lancaster, who would smile and say, “That’s lovely, Judy.  Do you think she (for Peggy had no name yet) would like a spot on the fridge?”

Judy would giggle and say, “Yes, mama!”

So the old picture of Peggy would come down and the new one would go up.  As Judy matured, Peggy’s features became more defined.  She felt more coordinated, prettier, and more proportioned.  No longer did her legs feel thin and weak, or her hair quite so heavy atop her head.

Peggy enjoyed the fridge because she could watch the family at dinner time.  Mrs. Lancaster would prepare dinner.  Mr. Lancaster would come in, grab a taste of whatever was in the pot, and scoot away before Mrs. Lancaster could push him away.  Peggy knew she wasn’t mad, though.  Mrs. Lancaster always smiled and she shooed him off.  Peggy thought Mr. Lancaster did it on purpose because it made his wife smile.

Judy’s little brother, Joey, would sometimes come into the kitchen and do mean things to her like draw over her eyes in black pencil so she couldn’t see, or tear the paper and cut off her legs.  Peggy didn’t like Joey very much.  He always wanted to make Judy angry or sad.  Some days, he would even snatch Peggy from the fridge and crumple her up.  That made Peggy afraid until, the next time, Judy would draw her once again.

The times between drawings seemed like an eternity to Peggy.  She had no body.  No mouth.  No ears.  All she had was time.  Time to think.  Time to dream.  Time to wonder.  Time to worry.  Some days Peggy worried that Judy would draw another friend and Peggy would only exist as a memory.

Right around the time that Peggy would start to grow fearful, she’d feel the familiar caress of crayon and feel so much better.  Judy still loved her.  As the years went by, crayon was replaced by pencil crayon, pastels, or simply a Bic pen.  Peggy blossomed from a simple stick figure to a young girl and, eventually, a teen.  She and Judy grew up together.

Judy, now thirteen, would sketch Peggy and tell her all her secrets.   Most of them were not a surprise to Peggy.  She’d grown up with Judy.  But Peggy loved that Judy shared with her.  It meant a lot to her that she was Judy’s secret friend.  Sometimes, Judy would draw a heart and her initials along with the initials of a boy she liked.  Other times, when she was upset, her tears would fall onto Peggy and begin to wash her away.  In those times, Peggy did not fear extinction, she simply wanted to make Judy’s tears go away.

Peggy wished and dreamed that one day she would be able to speak.  Or blink.  Or move.  If only to show Judy how much she cared about her.  But try as she might, she was a spectator in her own existence.  If Judy placed her in her pocket, she could imagine what she was looking at, but mostly she only saw the inside of fabric.

As Judy grew up, Peggy’s world changed.  No longer were there elaborate details and grand landscapes in which Peggy would hold center stage.  Her existence became doodles once again.  Judy didn’t speak to Peggy as she did when she was a child.  She was seventeen now and much too grown up for such things.  Peggy missed her confidences with Judy, but she was grateful for the times she’d peek out from a textbook, or as an aside in a diary entry.

Once, Joey, now a teenager, got hold of a sketch of Peggy and humiliated Peggy more than she could bear.  He erased her clothes and exposed her private places.  He drew male genitalia near her image and wrote coarse words.  Peggy saw the look on his face.  There was no love.  No affection.  Just cruel and selfish pleasure in defiling an image Judy had so carefully created.

Peggy felt ashamed.  She wished she could move her arms to cover herself, but all she could do was bear the humiliation.  It worsened when Joey crammed the picture into his pocket and showed all of his friends at school the next day.  The boys laughed and pointed at Peggy’s private places, passing her around from hand to hand to hand.  She was helpless and distraught.

Luckily, one of the teacher’s discovered the picture and Peggy’s existence was extinguished with a lighter.  The flames burned hot and it was scary to disappear in such a distressing way, but Peggy welcome the momentary agony.  Once the sketch was burnt, she fell back into nothingness once again.

The next time Judy drew her, she was angry.  Not at Peggy.  But at Joey.  She’d long ago stopped putting Peggy on the refrigerator, but now she would lock her door, too.  She mumbled, maybe a little to Peggy but mostly to herself about privacy and respect.  Peggy wholeheartedly agreed.  Judy folded her up, placed Peggy in her scrapbook, and there Peggy waited.

This time, she waited a very very long time.  Judy didn’t sketch her on a napkin, or a receipt, or even the corner of her school notebook.  Time began to move slowly and Peggy felt herself become faint.  She could feel herself ebbing away.  Was this dying?  Was Judy forgetting her?  Peggy didn’t know, but it made her sad.

Soon, Peggy didn’t remember days.  Or weeks.  Or months.  She didn’t remember what Judy looked like, or her teen voice.  She only remembered, vaguely at best, moments.  Snapshots.  Judy’s voice as a child.  A knowing smile from Mr. Lancaster.  Joey, thankfully, became hazy, too.

Then one day, much to Peggy’s amazement, her eyes came to be once again and she looked up at Judy.  But this time, Judy wasn’t a teenager.  She was a woman of thirty.  She held up Peggy and then turned it around.  There, before her, was a child version of Judy.  The little girl laughed and tried to reach for the picture of Peggy to stuff it in her mouth, but Judy held it back.

“She is my favorite childhood friend, pumpkin, you can’t put her in your mouth.”

Peggy wanted to cry with joy.  Judy turned the paper back around and looked at Peggy for a long while.  Something in her gaze grew wistful, then she smiled.  Her voice was quiet, she was only speaking to Peggy now.  “Hello, Peggy.  It has been a while.”

Peggy wished she could nod.  Or speak.  She would tell Judy how much she missed her and loved her.  How proud of her she was that she created another wonderful being.  Peggy even had a moment to meet Judy’s husband, Andrew.  He was handsome.  He seemed kind.  He hugged Judy and told her she was an exceptional artist.  Then he asked her why she never sketched more often.

For a time, Judy did sketch more often.  Once again, Peggy had center stage in the kitchen and she would be able to watch Judy and her family.  First it was just pumpkin, who later turned out to be Mary.  Then along came Ruth.  Finally, a few years later, they were joined by Christopher.  Each day, from her place on the refrigerator, Peggy would lovingly watch the (now) Simpson family live their lives.  Some days, the girls would come by and greet her.  Other days, they would draw their own friends and Peggy would smile at them.  They would smile back.  It was wonderful to be loved.

Years passed, eventually Peggy was replaced by the children’s artwork and Peggy was placed in a drawer.  For a time, she’d catch a glimpse of a family member, but as the drawer became more full, papers or pens or grocery receipts would end up obstructing Peggy’s vision.  Soon, all she could do was wait and wonder.  Eventually, Peggy was packed away in a box with other artwork and keepsakes.

And time slowed once again.  The near-end.  Peggy heard the whispers of the other sketches in the drawer with her.  They were afraid.  They worried the girls had forgotten about them.  They were fearful of forgetting themselves.  Peggy understood.  She tried to reassure them, but the ending was a part of the beginning.  It happened and there was nothing they could do about it.

After a time, even the other pictures did not speak.  There were no words.  Only memories that grew gray each passing day.  Hope faded.  Time slowed.  And eternity set in again, dark and lonely.  Peggy grew weaker.  Her memories dimmed.  She waited for the end.

One day, she was pulled from the box by a lady of about 40 years.  The lady gasped in surprise when she looked at Peggy.

“Oh my gosh!” she cried.  “David, come here!  Look at this.”

Exhausted and tired, her eyes dim from crinkles, Peggy looked up at the man’s handsome face as he gazed down at her questioningly.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“My mom drew this years ago.  I had totally forgotten about it.”  The lady’s eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled.  “I think this would make her happy.  I’m going to take it to her.”

“Great idea, Ru.  She’ll like that.”  The man squeezed Ruth’s shoulder and kissed her on top of the head.

Peggy was cleaned up and placed inside a very expensive frame.  It felt strange to have glass press her in, but she was so crinkly, it was hard to keep upright anyway.  Soon after, she heard the wrapping paper and tape.  She was a present.

Peggy hoped Judy would be glad to see her.  She wondered how she was.  Had she changed much?  Would she remember Peggy?  Peggy was so excited, she tripped over her thoughts as they came rushing back.

Finally, the wrapping came off and Peggy at long last had a chance to see Judy again.  Judy was in a hospital bed and her hair was white and her face crinkled like Peggy’s.  She had a long plastic tube that came out of her arm that attached to a bag on a silver pole.  She looked tired and weak, like Peggy.  But when she saw Peggy her eyes widened and she smiled.

“Oh, Peggy,” Judy whispered, her voice barely above a caress.  “Please, Ruth, bring her here.  Let me see.”

Ruth placed Peggy on the table in front of Judy.  Judy stared at Peggy for a long time.  Then she smiled tiredly and said, “I’ve missed you.”  Ruth and Judy spent some time together, but Ruth had to leave to take care of her own children.

Peggy and Judy spent all of their time together.  Judy caught Peggy up on her life and, once again, told Peggy all of her secrets, fears, and dreams.  Some days, Judy was too tired or too sick to spend time with Peggy.  Peggy didn’t mind.  She would watch over Judy and that was enough.

One day, Judy did not wake up.  They placed a sheet over her head and took her away.  Peggy was afraid that one of the people at the hospital would throw her away, but Ruth rescued her.

Ruth cried, but she took Peggy with her to the pretty park with cement crosses.  She brought Peggy into a special room with a wooden bed and a lid and people wore dark colors.  They cried sad tears over Judy.  Peggy recognized some faces, though they had aged quite a bit.

When the ceremony was over and people had finished saying nice things about Judy, Ruth placed Peggy with Judy inside the wooden bed with the lid and gently placed Judy’s hand over Peggy’s frame.  The lid closed, but Peggy wasn’t afraid.  She was with Judy now.  Forever.  Peggy was tired.  This time, she was ready.  She knew it was okay to go away.  Judy hadn’t forgotten her at all.  She had just gone to sleep.

Peggy took a final moment to remember that special day in McDonald’s so many years ago, and then she ceased to be.

My First Novel – “Stranded” (12 Years Old)

So, this particular story was a project for my grade 7 class.  I have left the story in its original form, leaving in all grammar, spelling, and my own 12-year old word-smithing.  I will have you know that I drew and coloured every single one of these pictures.  Enjoy!

Stranded

Stranded - Me

Lynn Valley Elementary School
Copyright January 1981 by Melissa C. Brouwers

Stranded - Map

We were flying around Mt. St. Frederick when suddenly we lost a propellor from the left wing of our plane.  We were going in circles and circles.  Suddenly we crashed…  Right then and there the teacher was killed and Beverly broke her leg.  When we finally came to, we decided that we had to have a leader.  We decided that it would be Jimmy since he was our student council rep.  I jumped out of the plane and found we had landed on a volcano.  With the help of Danielle and Suzie we took Beverly out of the plane.

Stranded - Crash

The first thing we did was get all the important things out of the plane.  We walked down the Volcano and stood at the bottom waiting for the other kids to bring down Beverly and the equipment.  Then we waited, we knew that if we didn’t co-operate that we would surely die!  We split up into groups.  Some people went to find food, some shelter, and some people water.  After we split up and found the things that we needed we went back to the bottom of the volcano.  Later on we went back to finding things for our stay.

I looked behind me as I went to collect some food and I saw Jimmy and Ian lying down under a tree.  I asked them what they were doing there and they said that they did not want to work!  So I said, “If you don’t want to work then you can’t eat our food, sleep in our caves, and drink our water!  In fact if you don’t help we will just leave you here to starve!!!”  Just then they said “We’re helping, we’re helping.”  That was the last time we had trouble with them.  “Thank god!”

When everybody started complaining about the groups they were in.  We decided that we would pick a partner.  Well everybody liked that idea so we went along with it.  The system worked like this, nine people would go for water, eight for food and nine for accessories.  After we got organized we started to plan our rescue.  A couple of people suggested that we light a fire and we thought that it was a good idea so we used it.  We started the fire with the package of matches we found in the plane.  We put four logs in a square angle, put a little gasoline (from our plane) on the logs.  Then we lit fire to them….  Was it ever bright!  Later on we decided that Suzie would stay by the fire so that it didn’t go out.  The majority won and poor Suzie was either collecting wood or watching the fire.  She did that all night.  The next day she started complaining.  She wanted to take turns with someone.  We voted again, this time Marisa was picked.  She was the day shift because she wasn’t so brave, and Suzie was brave.  They liked that idea so that was their job.

That night we were all thinking about the day of the plane crash, our parents, things like that.  Soon, after ten minutes of thinking, Kevin, Jimmy, Kathy, Jayson, Craig, Yvonne and Beverly fell asleep.  Everybody else was either stories or falling asleep very quickly.  I couldn’t so I just lay there on the ground staring up into the sky.  The reason why I could do this was that I was right by the cave door.  So I just kept staring.  Soon everybody fell asleep.  About ten to twenty minutes went by, I was just about to fall asleep when I heard a noise it was a helicopter!!  I woke up everybody and we ran down just to find Suzie snoring!!  By the time we woke her up the helicopter had already left.  Everybody was so depressed! except Suzie, she was still snoring.  We went back up to the cave and went to bed…

Stranded - Fishing

The next morning I woke up early (which is very unusual for me because I normally wake up at 12:00 in the afternoon).  Then I walked down to where Suzie was to go get something to eat.  (what I wouldn’t do for some shreddies right now)  Just then I heard three boys argueing.  It was it was Nicko, Tim and Jim, what a racquet!  Jimmy was very edgy.  He didn’t like giving out orders.  He thought that we thought that he was too snobby and pushy.  So we ran into our normal pattern again.  We took a vote.  We started by making ballots just as soon as everybody was awake.  (which wasn’t hard everybody was already awake)  Then we told them our plan and started to get ready.  When we had finally finished, the candidates, Marisa and Mehboob made up their speeches.  That day, Khadija, Danielle, Amber and I made supper.

When supper was finished we began the campaign.  Marisa won by three ballots, mainly because we trusted her more than Mehboob.  She promised that the more work you did the more privileges, and also that the boys and girls are equal they had to do the same amount of work.  Mehboob made promises such as the boys don’t have to work past 3:00 p.m.  The girls had to get food, water, clean the caves things like that.

Everything went okay with our new leader.  One hot afternoon Robert said to Marisa, “How do you expect us to kill the wild animals?  With our bare hands?!”  “You are very right.  Sooner or later I knew that you were going to ask me this so I have devised a plan.  We’ll make blades out of volcanic glass and then we will use very strong sticks.”  She divided us up into groups and off we went.  About an hour later we came back with all of the equipment.  Marisa then said “What we are going to do is make weapons with the things I asked all of you to collect.”  She split us up into our groups and we went to work.  For three hours we worked.  We were all finally finished.  I thought I did a pretty good job myself.  When we settled down she looked at every spear, knife, and axe.  Then she stood up and said that they were great!!

As time passed I decided that I needed a quiet place to think.  I missed my mom, my sister (believe it or not) and all my friends.  I went walking in the woods and soon found a tall, curved tree which looked very comfortable.  I climbed up the tree and lay down on the curved branch on the tree.  I just laid there thinking and resting.

After a couple of hours of thinking and resting I got up and went back to the campground.  I found Suzie, Amber, and Dana and we went for a walk.  In a way you could call it exploring.  They all agreed so we left.  Dana saw a baby cub, Amber saw an eagle.  We kept walking.  I opened a big bush and  I saw a ceremonial ground.  I ran back to the others and then we went back.  It had at least six stumps, three coconut trees around it and a sacrificing stone.  At first I got the shivers but I soon calmed down.

Suddenly something came out of the bush, We ran so fast that a puma couldn’t even catch us.  We were out of there in three seconds flat.  Later on we found out that it was only the little bear cub that Dana saw earlier.  When we got back to camp we saw Marisa making decorations.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “We’re having a party.” “What kind of party?”  “An arrival party.”  Once we heard that we got right to work.  At six o’clock we had the party.

An hour went by and then Marisa silenced everyone.  She heard something.  It was a plane!  Not an ordinary plane, a rescue plane!!  Everyone did what they had to.  Even Suzie!  Then it landed.  We are going back to civilization.  “Civilization, here I come!”

Stranded - Rescue

Return to Writing

Yep, I started again.

I had a great opportunity to be mentored by a fantastic author and I took her up on it.   So I started a new novel, completely unlike what I thought I would write next.

I figured I had the Chick Lit thing down, but this is definitely a bit darker.  It poured out of me pretty quickly.  About just over a month for a full 80,000 word manuscript.  Sleep?  What’s that?  Anyway, I’m excited about it and quite nervous.

I’ve done my first pass of editing, but now I have it out to a few people for Beta Readers.  That’s when the real critique comes in.

We’ll see where we go from there.

I already have four fun ideas for my next book.  I will go lighter this time.  I enjoy popcorn and bubblegum writing.  Now I just have to pick one!

Melissa

Grammar Police

I grew up reading and writing along with all my elementary school friends and, though I make mistakes, for the most part, I can string along a pretty good sentence.  I know roughly what the rules are and what looks good in a sentence.  What surprises me, though, is when I see really basic grammatical errors from very very smart people.

So even though I’m pot and I’m calling that kettle over there black, I’m going to list for you some of the mistakes that drive me nuts.  Some of them I’ve heard and some I’ve seen.  And some I just made up because I see the mistake happen a lot.

Anyway, enjoy.

“I like scrambled eggs better then fried eggs.”

“I told her you where busy.”

“The funny thing is, it’s to late for apologies now.”

Irregardless of his position, the policy remains in place.”

“You new he’d be there, so why were you late?”

“I told her when she brung the wine the wine last night that she looked pretty.”

“I like the way your shirt compliments your slacks.”

“I don’t want to do no more math.”

“I jumped acrossed / acrosst the puddle.”  (pronounced)

~Melissa

P.S.  Got any that drive you nuts, too?  Let me know!  Leave a comment.

Be Zazzled!

I sure have been.

I have been playing around with Zazzle and doing something I’ve been telling myself I should be doing for years.  (How’s THAT for a confusing sentence?)

Writing greeting cards!

I love quippy cards with a bit of humour, I love writing chick lit, I’m a Jesus Freak, and I love stationery so what better way to showcase my crazy impulses for all of the above but creating my own cards?

So there you have it.  Me in a nutshell on Zazzle.

Here’s my gallery:

http://www.zazzle.com/miskela

~Melissa

Real Life – available online!

Real Life
Real Life

Finally!

I checked Amazon late last night and there it was, my book.  It’s pretty surreal that something I wrote has gone from closet gathering dust to Amazon.com, but I’m excited.  Really excited!

I’m oddly nervous, too.  Are people going to find it funny?  Or amusing?  Or just plain stupid?  Are they even going to know it’s there?  This marketing stuff is a lot of work.  I had no idea!

You can find my book on Amazon here.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1439204225

Now I have to send emails to every friend I know and get them to buy a copy.  😀

Waiting is Hard…

So I’m waiting for my book to appear on Amazon.com.   They said one to two weeks, but it feels like forever.  I should be patient, but it’s not one of my strong suits. 

You’d think after 5 years of letting the manuscript sit in my closet that I wouldn’t care.  Well, now that it’s print-ready,  I CARE!

It’s available on PrintSurge.com but Amazon.com is a much more recognized website so I don’t want to do anything until it’s on there.  I should be updating my website (I have the new layout for it and everything), but I ended up making post after post on my blog until after midnight last night.

Not my fault.  It was FUN.

I’ve done two searches three times today:  “melissa bianco” (a wine book keeps coming up) and “real life” (the movie Dan in Real Life keeps popping up, along with some music CDs).  So nothing yet, but I’ll let you know.

Real Life – Brushing Off the Dust

So many years ago, I wrote this little book.  It was an easy write, I thought it was kind of funny and amusing and gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet in terms of starting and finishing a novel.

 Many people ask:

So, how do you write a book?  I wish I knew how to do that.  I have all these ideas in my head.

Yeah, that’s a tough one.  I thought the same thing.  I was really good at starting a book, fresh of ideas and excitement, right until chapter three.  I have many up-to-chapter-three books.  They’re sitting on my laptop.  They’ll never make it to print.  Maybe my website, but not to print.

Wanna know the trick?  The big secret?  Lean in close because it’s a biggie.

You just keep writing until it’s done.

Man, I hate how simple that is.  I was hoping there was a pill or worksheet or something.  Nope.  You just write, even badly sometimes, until it’s done.  Of course, in my case, I got to around page 100 and that was my demarkation line.

You can’t write to page 100 and just STOP.  That’s ludicrous!  You have to keep going if you hit 100!  And then, well, 150, of course you need to keep writing.  Next thing you know…you’re done.

So that’s what I did.  I wrote and giggled and groaned and wrote some more until I had finished Real Life, a story about a writer who thought we was doing a make-over piece at a spa and ended up in the Australian rainforest with an all-male crew and her gorgeous co-worker, Grant.

I tried not to write a book about him.  I wanted it to be about her, because she was this interesting and broken character with wit and humour as her shield and someone who needed to realize that she was so much more than she thought she was.

So I wrote that book, didn’t bother editing it much, and immediately papered the neighborhood (and Agents and Publishers) with my query letter.  I sent off over a hundred and got less than 10 responses for a synopsis.  After that, more like 5 requests for the manuscript.

And all the agents passed.  I was crushed and heartbroken.  And so the book sat in my closet gathering dust for the next few years.  I picked it up a while later, re-edited it, and promptly forgot about it.  Life was busy, you know.

Finally, a few months ago, I spotted an opportunity to self-publish and took it.  Several edits and revisions later (I think I’ve read my own book over twenty times, editing it each time), it was finally ready to publish.  And now?  It’s almost on Amazon.com.  I’m waiting for it to appear on the database.

So while that is in the cooker, I’m working to get the word out.  I just had a lovely conversation on the phone from a marketing guy who gave me plenty of food for thought.  Now, I actually have to get out there and DO something about the book.

Silly me, I thought it was done when I typed “The End.”  I was so wrong. 

Wish me luck.