Over the last few years, I wrote my first novel. It’s about a 24 year-old girl named Holly Fricklesnap who lives with her wacky family on a Christmas tree farm. We meet Holly just as she’s been promoted to head fortune writer at the Good Luck fortune cookie factory, the same week she’s realized her best guy friend AJ will never love her back, and her family will drive her crazy if she lives with them any longer. Should she stay, should she go, or is it all just a Delusion of Glamour?
It was hot the night Moonflower won $14,987 playing blackjack at the Shooting Gun—the Night Everything Changed. I was with AJ in his basement apartment, painting my nails while he tripped on acid. I remember we had the rectangular windows propped open to cool down the stuffy basement. On summer nights the city is dry and smells of sagebrush. This sharp tang floated into the basement, mixing with my Fire Red polish, creating an earth/chemical smell that AJ declared was the scent that perfectly described the 21st century, if only we could find a way to bottle it.
If I knew, sprawled on AJ’s musty orange couch, that across town Moonflower had just become thousands of dollars richer, I might have been there when she arrived home, excitement coloring her cheeks. Excitement that belied the usual stoicism of her gray eyes—that damned pietà expression of hers. I might have been there to persuade her that the money mattered to other people, mattered to me. That I could use it for all sorts of things. But this is a fantasy, an ideal fiction. Because after twenty-four years with Moonflower, I know nothing can sway the conviction of my mother.
So instead, I spent the evening on that orange couch, smoking a joint while waiting for coats of polish to dry. AJ sat facing me, in a striped beach chair with holes in it. Sometimes he’d get up and pace the basement. He’d look through his records, or at a stack of old photos in a corner. There was one photo of us as ten year-olds, we’re down by the river and he’s holding out a frog and I’m shrieking and giggling at the same time. He shows me the photo and says, “This was a moment of truth, Holly. Before the falsehoods of our adult life.” Then he begins laughing, and he can’t stop. He laughs and laughs, because the LSD has silenced the part of his brain that tells him public displays of joy are embarrassing. And I start laughing too, because I’m pretty stoned, and because seeing other people happy makes me happy.
I wanted to post the first page in honor of NaNoWriMo, that crazy November challenge to write a novel in 30 days. Delusions of Glamour was born during NaNo, and I absolutely recommend the experience to all writers. If for nothing more, than to know you can in fact write 1,667 words a day, equaling 50,000 words in a month, equaling one whole novel. It makes you move past your excuses. Your bullshit. My mess of words and ideas after the 30 days (and a few months cleaning it up), got me a manager and an agent. And then the real work began.
I also wanted to post the first page because I’m currently not working on Delusions, even though it’s finished, even though it was good enough to get representation, because I’ve changed so much as a writer and a person that I worry it’s a pile of crap, how do authors stand by their work over the course of years?, and this summer had a vision I should burn it, but I also worked so hard and so long and still really love Holly and her unconventional life that I just can’t give up on it, and last year I left a copy in Bali on a shrine with flower petals in hopes it would infuse it with spirits or something, and in my heart of hearts I want to be a traditionally published novelist, but hey self-publishing is pretty damn cool and I’m all about art-to-audience with little or no interference, but mostly I just wanted to share the first page here. And endorse NaNo. Because I do believe humans can do anything. Even write a novel in 30 days.
I did something different for Halloween last night. First, I went to a pagan celebration for Samhain, the Celtic ceremony we call Halloween. We made prosperity bundles with what we wanted to manifest in the year ahead, smudged ourselves with sage and bay leaf. The moon came up full and eerie as I walked out of the crystal store where the celebration was held. I had a party I could go to, a sexy costume I could don (my “Freudian slip” outfit, tried and true many years running)….but instead I followed a whim (because what are whims other than guidance from the secret place of our true desires?), and went to the IHOP on Sunset, where dozens of weird/wonderful writers were gathered to launch into November 1 National Novel Writing Month. Yep, I’m doing Nanowrimo again, to do rewrites on my novel, to get out of my creative funk and back in the productive saddle.
So while ghouls and superheroes ate pancakes around me, I typed madly into my laptop, remembering the insanity of the 50,000 words in a month challenge. The Nanos don’t talk to each other, just write side-by-side. I considered that not writing would be more terrifying than any Halloween ghost. And I considered this quote from Anais Nin:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”