Words by Britt

"While I'm writing, I'm far away; and when I come back, I've gone." Pablo Nerudo

Coma

          I hear you. The words are blurred, sentences broken, but I’m still able to put the tattered sounds together.
          At lunch you read me my favorite novel. I know by the names of the characters: Barkley, Henry. I feel the warmth of your hand on mine when you get to the part where the two escape on a boat to Switzerland in the middle of the night. I can tell by the swift change in your voice, and tight clench of your hand, that the part where they almost get caught is near. Gently, you brush your fingers against my arm when they make it to safety, able to start their lives together. But you end it there. I hear the clap of the book fold. You never read all the way to the end.
          You grab my hands between yours and tell me that when I wake up, you and I will start our lives together. You say we’ll have our own adventures.
I respond, telling you we’ll be going home soon. Not to worry, everything will be like it once was. You never hear me. No matter how loud I scream – you never hear me. I feel your tears roll onto my face, down my cheeks, and into my mouth. I taste the salt from your body, and wonder if I’ll ever taste anything more of you ever again.
          At night you sing to me. You rest your head beside mine singing the lyrics of Bobby McGee softly into my ear, telling me ‘you’d trade all of your tomorrows for one single yesterday’. We sing the chorus together, like we always do. You kiss my forehead; brushing your fingers through my hair, putting me to sleep, like you’ve done every night since we’ve been together.
 

***

 
          The other night I dreamt you thought I was dead. You placed me in a dark wooden coffin and lowered me into the ground. I shouted, trying to get your attention.  Trying to tell you I wasn’t dead. “I’m ready to go home,” I said, begging you to get me out of there, banging my fists against the inside of the cold, dark casket. But you still couldn’t hear me and continued lowering me into the pit of the earth.
          I could hear people crying, mourning over me.  “I’m not dead,” I repeated, hollering until my voice cracked.
          I heard you speak about the time we drove out west. How you found my collecting a magnet from each town we visited irritating. But how now those magnets hold proof to my existence and our time together, and how you are sorry, so sorry for ever being irritated in the first place.
          I howled, my throat raw, telling you everything’s okay, that I’m nowhere near dead.
          And then all I heard were the thumps of dirt piling up on top of me, and still I kept screaming for you, until finally, I heard nothing.

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Meet Fannie

 

Fannie holds a BA in bagpiping from Carnegie University where she currently teaches bagpipes to a selective group of teenage rebels in the basement of her mother’s house in hopes to keep girl’s safe from a man named Drexel, who wanders the street in a fur coat and a gold staff in hand. (Although Drexel comes off as a hard-ass, looking to add names to his roster, he’s really just a professional procrastinator who hates high-pitched sounds, and wears glasses when no one’s looking). Outside of teaching, Fannie takes a night class on competitive dog grooming, eager to win the 30,000 cash prize this summer. She believes this year, she may actually have a chance now that Brutus, her brown and white Schnoodle, no longer chases his tail. Fannie’s other interests include eating chocolate between breakfast, lunch and dinner, messing around with Drexel (even though poser-whore-mongers are not her thing), and marching in protests against caging animals, shark extinction and everything Donald Trump. A broken leg survivor, Fannie lives vicariously through Brutus, who naps, rolls around on his belly, and barks at the food he wants brought to him.

Fannie maintains a blog at kissmyfannie.wordpress.com.

Instagram @Fanniefresh.

 

Survey (at local café): Analyst pays random woman $100 to answer questions for human research study.  

“What was your first thought this morning,” he asks.

“You mean when I woke up? Coffee. It’s always coffee.”

“No, no, no,” he shakes his head. “What’s your greatest strength and weakness?”

“What does that have to do with my first thought?”

“It doesn’t. Different question. Just answer it.”

“Every weakness has a strength and vice versa.”

“Your avoiding the question.”

“The answer’s rhetorical.”

He puffs out a breath. “Would you rather be ugly and live forever? Or attractive and die in ten years?”

“Are you serious? What the hell kind of–”

“Just answer.”

“Be ugly and live forever.”

“If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be?”

“Why one week?”

“I don’t know,” he flips through the pages. “It’s part of the study.”

“Choosing one specific age for one week has no impact on anyone who can already vote and drink. Stupid question. Pass.”

“You can’t pass.”

“I just did.”

“What quality in people do you find the most annoying?”

“Entitlement.”

“Give me an example.”

“Someone who drives a BMW or Benz thinks they have the right to take up two parking spaces.”

“Anything else?”

“Someone in a major rush behind the wheel cuts me off and I have to slam on my breaks just so I don’t crash into them, or someone else. As if they think their life’s more important than mine. It’s infuriating.”

“I know the feeling,” he says. “What about in your home?”

“What’s the question?”

“What annoys you inside your home?”

“I can never eye just the right amount of ketchup for my french-fries. I always seem to overestimate and then it goes to waste. I’m working on it.”

“Who annoys you?”

“Didn’t you already ask me that?”

“Not in the same form. Go. Off the top of your head, who comes up?”

“Jim Gaffigan.”

“Why him?”

“Cause we get it Jim; you like food. Join the club. You don’t have to beat us over the head with it.”

“If you had all the money in the world how would you spend your time?”

“Enough money that I wouldn’t have to work?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d volunteer at a hospital or something else children related.”

“No designer purses, trips to the hair salon or lavish jewelry?”

I eye his gold watch. “No.”

“And what would you do with these children?”

“Roller-skate, doodle on walls, play hide and seek. Fun stuff.”

“Have you ever lost someone close to you?”

“Of course.”

“How did it make you feel?” He scratches his nose.

“Curious.”

“About what?”

“The meaning of their life.”

“Have you figured it out?”

“I’m working on it.”

“Do you believe in second chances?”

“Wow, you really bounce around?”

He taps his finger on the yellow pad.

“Two chances. Never three,” I say.

“No matter who it is?”

“My family can have as many chances as they want.”

He nods and reads the next line. “What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

“Live in the wilderness for two months.”

“Really in the woods? What was that like.”

“Liberating.”

“Would you do it again?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“What holds you back?”

“Student loans.”

“What do you think about when you’re alone?” he asks.

“I don’t know. I mostly pick up around the house, play music, read or watch a movie.”

“Yeah, but what do you think about?”

I sigh and rub my chin. “Different things.”

“What mostly?”

“The future.”

“What have you always wanted? Did you get it?”

“No yet.”

“What it is?”

“Next question,” I say.

“Okay,” he says and flips a page in his notebook. “Last one. But you have to answer it. No passes.”

I stare back at him and wait.

“If you can choose one thing to change about the world, what would it be?”

“That’s tough,” I say. “I can only choose one?”

“Yeah, what would it be?”
I take a moment to sort through my thoughts.

“Come on quick, off the top of your head.”

“Fine,” I say. “I’d change people’s limitations.”

“Limitations?”

“Yeah, I’d make it so everyone is capable of communicating and understanding one another’s point of view.”

“Interesting,” he says and jots down my answer.

“Is that it?” I ask.

“Yeah.” He reaches into his pocket and hands me the hundred-dollar bill.

The secret to happiness

 

Note from founder: Studies show happiness is one of the most well-known sensations people desire. Some even say it’s the purpose of life. Reports have found that possessing great heaps of money can actually buy things such as time and good hearty meals. It’s known to have helped people purchase memorable experiences, plow their way to the tops of pyramids, and if you can believe it – bargain their way into the hearts of others! Don’t fret if you don’t have money. Sit down with a notebook and pen and write out the following list. Number 1) Obsess. Visualize yourself having cash in your pockets and dough in your safe to the point where nothing and no one else matters. Number 2) Borrowing isn’t stealing. When at the office or an outing or event, let other people pay for your dinner and drinks. Don’t be so eager to throw down your own cash. Number 3) Beg. Stand outside super markets, laundry matts, bookstores, etc., with a sign in your hand that asks others to contribute towards the fundraiser of your choice. And when someone donates, be sure to look out for them the next time they come around.

Witch hunt

 

Beware of female with crab-like feet, razor-sharp teeth and a green complexion. She was last seen by the water’s edge chewing on the fingers of unidentifiable children. She rides up on a serpent in the night and is known to shapeshift into a red tail hawk. Stay clear of high towers with bells or clocks! Her victims include Tommy the local farmer’s son who was turned into a floating ball of light. Sally from the candy store, where she showed up leaking slime from her eyes, whistling and throwing glass jars across the floor, leaving wet footprints behind. And Martha’s one-month old son; the hag was seen dragging sleeping Henry in a wagon towards the woods, where shortly after, sheriff Griff and his troop trailed behind, finding a small hut in the forest held together with pig skin and chicken bones. Henry and the crone were nowhere to be found.

The town is encouraged to line their homes with bibles and hang crucifixes on their doors. Sleep with rabbit’s feet,  be careful with mirrors and stay clear of black cats. Do not walk under ladders. And by all means, if you find a penny be sure to pick it up!

© Brittany DiGiacomo 2017

 

 

 

Things your mama don’t tell you: Novel update.

It has been a busy year since completing The Pace of Nature manuscript last November, 2015. After a dozen and more submissions to agents, along with an editor pitch conference last December, I learned what it takes to publish a debut novel in the marketing world.

Lots of changes have been made to the story since writing the original manuscript. The first change, which I was in favor of, was to cut the novel into two books. In my eyes, my story was always a duology. So the first alteration in transforming my story for chance to fit in the publishing world was a cinch.

However, it wasn’t as easy as splitting the 742 page manuscript down the middle.

During the Algonkian Pitch Conference last December, I was set up with director and editor Michael Neff who helped re-direct me in the right direction as to where my novel fit on the shelf in terms of genre. At that time, because TPON manuscript was a 742 page story that charted the childhood of my character, Lilly from ages 7 – 16 – unless I tried to publish the story as a memoir/nonfiction – there was no genre/market for this type of manuscript.

I was faced with a problem. In the start of my fictional novel, Lilly is 7, which makes the novel, middle-grade. But then she grows to 16, which then makes the novel Young Adult.

Assigning a manuscript to one clear-cut genre is a must in order for editors to place a book on the bookstore shelves. Nowadays, there are thousands of aspiring novelists, which allows the editors to have their pick. They have no problem dismissing someone like me whose novel did not fit within the bounds of one genre.

In my eyes, The Pace of Nature is a story relatable to a vast audience of all ages and genders. Themes touch on alienation, courage, ambition, betrayal, discovery – matters in which everyone has experienced from one time or another.

When talking with Michael, it became clear what I needed to do to transform my manuscript into one appropriate genre. I must change the setting, along with Lilly’s age. No more 7-year-old Lilly set in her home town with her family. The novel will open with 16-year-old Lilly at Forge Academy, and will incorporate a handful of flashbacks to show how she got there. Finally, because the story and themes within are revealed through a 16-year -old girl’s perspective, TPON when published, will be classified as YA.

I went home that evening and re-wrote my pitch based on those changes. The following days, I pitched the novel to four editors. Three out of those four editors are interested in Forge, which meant I had a lot of work to do before presenting the complete manuscript to the three intrigued editors at their publishing houses.

Since last December, I have cut the manuscript in half, focusing on the first book: Forge, Book I of The Pace of Nature Series. I spent the next several months re-writing the beginning  of Forge, having to write a whole new ending to complete the novel, all while figuring out how to keep the integrity of the story I want to tell.

It was a long, pacing, hair pulling, lack of sleep process, but I am thrilled to say, I have finished the Forge manuscript. I am in love with it, and amazed that it has surpassed my wildest hopes in preserving the heart of the story that has always been my intent to tell.

I am weeks away from re-submitting.

And although, I feel I am a step closer to publishing my debut novel, I am not there yet. It can take years to publish a novel. It is highly frustrating and at times discouraging waiting for the response of an agent or editor to ultimately reject you and tell you the novel was just not for them. I pray that this time my manuscript will be picked up by an agent and editor who feels as passionate about my project as I do.

I am thankful for my family, my friends, my boss, and my clients – who may not have always understood my ambitions, but have stood in my corner with patience, faith, loyalty and support.

Forge would not be great without my editor, Garrett Detemple. Since the beginning of building the world in which Lilly lives, Garrett has been my second set of eyes, cutting the parts that clutter the story, helping me stay focused in keeping my vision alive, and all at the expense of his own writing time. A skilled editor is hard to find, but it is necessary. I quote Mark Twain because he says it best, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

I started the first draft of TPON back in 2010, where directly after, I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree. After that I got my MFA in writing. Since graduating in 2014, I have dedicated all free time to completing the manuscript. It’s now approaching 2017 and I am still going. I have put other goals on hold and at times neglect the things that should be held in higher priority. But there is a force driving me forward and everything inside of me pushes me towards the finish line. I have gained a lot. I am not giving up.

*

Find pitch below: 

Forge

Lilly Difeo’s childhood is interrupted by a horrible moment of chance. From that moment on, there are real consequences for Lilly and her family, whose ability to hold themselves together is tested to the breaking point. Caught between an excruciating past and an unbearable present, Lilly is overwhelmed with hatred for all she has lost, finding herself on a downhill voyage towards violence and petty theft, balancing on an ever-thinning wire, with no safety net in sight.

Leaving her parents with no choice, sixteen-year-old Lilly is forced into a car and dropped off at Forge Academy, a boot-camp boarding school in the back woods of Connecticut, where she’s been saddled and forced to face her personal demons. Taken aback by Forge’s philosophy, which demands students rat out friends in the Arena of Shame in front of the entire school body, Lilly refuses to partake. As a result, Forge punishes her: Twenty-four hours of picking weeds, scrubbing toilets, and waking up for the 5:30 am workout each morning. Dean Davis makes it his personal agenda to break Lilly and turn her into one of his loyal minions, but Lilly will not budge.

Determined to get back home, Lilly breaks into an office to make a phone call to her family and soon realizes life has gone on without her. Her absence is not missed. Over the following weeks, Lilly focuses on transforming into the person her family needs her to be. With the help from her roommate, Shauna, and Meisha, a piano player who shows her that everyone is capable of finding a unique potential, Lilly begins the precipitous climb towards figuring herself out.

But after a school bust, far larger than all the others, in which a handful of seniors are held accountable for, Lilly is forced to choose between her friends, her sense of right and wrong, and a clear path home. And just when all hope seems lost, an unexpected run-in with the Dean and another student may hold the key to her salvation.

***

© Brittany DiGiacomo 2016

“Birdie”

http://breadcrumbsmag.com/blog/133

Click here to read my short story “Birdie” published today by “Breadcrumb Magazine.”

Birdie is a character taken right out of my WIP Novel, “Forge” Book I of “The Pace of Nature” Series.

While working hard to get the novel published, I have written supplementary short stories that chart the intermediary adventures of my favorite characters as stand-alone stories.

Birdie is a corky blue eyed, kinky-brown haired Minnesotan, who strolls Haryn Hall, stealing all types of odd possessions from her dorm mates. It is up to Lilly to investigate the situation. Read to find out what Lilly learns!

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