Friday, March 18, 2011

Backing out the Stitches--Rewrites and a Catch Me Entry Redo

~~If you've ever sewn, you know what I mean by backing out stitches. It's a rare garment that doesn't need a seam straightened of some other minor boo-boo corrected. I don't really remember not being able to sew. When my granddaddy died at 80, he still had a handkerchief I'd hemmed when I was three. For years I made nearly all my clothes even jeans when I was in high school and the only garment I remember that didn't need stitches backed out was my wedding dress. Though tendinitis and arthritis have stopped my sewing, the lessons I learned with needles and thread are still with me. The only mistake is one you don't correct.

~~Writing is much the same. When we start this wonderful endeavor of creating our own worlds, we have the tendency to cling to our first efforts as if we've mined pure gold instead of ore that needs refining. I'm just now seeing my willingness to rewrite and refine extending to everything I write like my opening scene of FRIENDLY FIRE. I've clung to the first line of "Laura Grace, smile!" for three years, but it's gone now. Thanks to input from the wonderful critique I get from N. R. Williams, my buddies at the Forum, my local crit group, and all of you who participated in the Catch Me If You Can blogfest, scene one is new and improved. At least, for now. ; )

~~So here's the 263rd version. ; )

Another cloud of soiled diaper stench drifted over us, but happiness still crinkled my friend Jen’s eyes as she looked around the large fellowship hall and turned to me. “Isn’t it great, Laura Grace? I didn’t expect so many foster kids, but we have enough goodies for an army.”

She was right. The foster care respite party was a big success so far. Who knew so many would come on Mother’s Day weekend? I shoved what was left of my teacakes to the front of the tray so the kids could reach them easily.

Mother’s Day was my personalized brand of torment, but I had I set myself up for it by volunteering to help with the party to give foster parents a bit of a breather. The memory of Tom’s face hovered just out of reach amid the noise and chaos of so many little children. He would have given me permission to miss this job. I shook the sorrow back in its compartment. Time enough next week to mark the first anniversary of his death.

Rosemary joined us at the serving tables. Her voice rose just loud enough to be heard over the racket of nearly fifty kids as they ran and shrieked around us. “Laura Grace, are you going to be okay?” My backup had arrived.

I winced as two kids shoved each other into me. “I taught high school for a reason, Jen. I haven’t a clue how to entertain a herd of toddlers and elementary kids.”

“I know you think that, but you love kids or you wouldn’t have taught for so long,” Jen said. “I’m certain you have ideas about how we can help their foster parents. Giving them a two hour break once a month is a start.”

Noise ricocheted off the block walls. “Yes, they need help, but the rest of you have much more experience with this age group.” My shoulders hunched with the onslaught.

From the stage at the end of the room, a girl stared stoically at the mayhem. Her face was closed, contained. “Who’s the older kid?”

Jen swiveled to look. “Samantha Smith. She’s a challenge. I hoped she would find someone to talk to.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Soft curls framed the big blue eyes. Her fragile beauty reminded me of a former student who had endured years of abuse.

“That’s the challenge. Her foster mom has six kids. Samantha isn’t difficult if she’s allowed to withdraw. Though…” Jen’s lips tightened. “She’s twelve. Acts older.”

“Most of them do at that age. Why is she special?”

Her eyes scanned the room, not looking at the girl or us.

Rosemary said, “Spit it out, Jen.”

She leaned close and lowered her voice. “Her mother was beaten to death by a live-in boyfriend. Samantha saw it all.”

“That’s horrible and not information you should share!” I looked at the girl again.

“I know.” Jen’s voice trembled. “I just worry about her.”

Creases appeared between Rosemary’s brows. “I hope she’s in therapy.”

“Medicaid provides a little, but Samantha needs more. You know the system, Laura Grace.” Jen’s eyes sought mine.

“Yes. After thirty years, the kids’ problems were killing me. Abuse is all too common.” Blinking back tears, I looked at the girl. “Tom and I tried so long and now he’s dead and I don’t even have him anymore.” The old familiar ache seized my heart. “I can’t stand this. I’ve got to go.”

As I reached the door, I heard Rosemary’s voice. “Jen, you knew being here would upset Laura Grace. Why did you badger her into coming?”