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*looks up at title with annoyance*  I wish I could get an accent mark on a letter in the title field of this thing. That’s going to bother me all freaking day.


Yes, it’s time for yet another How The Hell I got Myself Into This post, because it’s just that time of year and that point in the novel –dead-deep middle, that is to say, but with the end sort of in sight– when I sit here contemplating such things at 6 am instead of working on my WIP like a good girl.

I am 13, a supercool eighth-grader who has given up the oversprayed hair, black eyeshadow and teeny skirts of our last mortifying How The Hell installment: now I wear straight leg jeans, flannels, and I have the remnants of a failed perm giving my hair a sort of poodle-out-in-the-rain look, which is SO much better. Cooler. I am sitting in the library of my junior high at 7 pm opposite a crowd of polite teachers, proud parents, bored fellow students, and some random collection of old ladies I suspect intended to use this place to for a completely different purpose but got an unpleasant surprise when they arrived tonight. To my right is yet another student from my year: let’s call him Sam. Sam is standing at a podium. Sam has been there a while. He is reading from a short story he wrote for his class. It’s about him and an alien, and they are, and have been for some time now, kicking the shit out of one another. There are graphic descriptions of blood spraying, blades swinging, punches thrown, kicks launched, eyeballs popping, and the stinky, evil smell of alien sweat.

This has been going on for a while now, and I am beginning to worry that there is no ending in the immediate future.

My own hopefully-not-that-long short story is crumpled in my hands, three pages of wide-ruled notebook paper in blue Bic ink, all my lowercase letter Is capped with a perfect bubble. I am certain my story is better than Sam’s. I am certain of this because it is much shorter, and also because nobody ends up tripping over their own intestines. Sam finishes, finally, with a climactic slaughter of The Alien, who was never lucky enough to have a name or a motive, and then Sam sits to a smattering of what I personally consider to be polite applause (with the exception of his dad, who bellows “ALL RIGHT SAMMY!” like Sam just scored the winning two points in a basketball game). I stand. My mother is digging into her purse for something. The old ladies are muttering rebelliously. The teachers look pleased to have reached the end of the gore, if nothing else.

Here I am reading in front of a crowd again.

Five  minutes in, my voice quiet enough that people are scowling and leaning forward and my mother mouths “speak up”,  my poodle hair frizzing out of sheer nerves, I hear myself describing the windswept-sun-painted-gloriously-beautiful fields of whatever, and I realize something. My story is just as endless. My story is just as adverb-packed. My story is about me and some random guy taking a romantic sunset walk and sharing a kiss, which is really only worth about one paragraph, I suddenly understand, but I have somehow turned it into three pages of total shameless personality-less sap. Which is ironic, since at this tender age I still think boys are sort of gross, an impression Sam has more or less cemented for me over the last 30 minutes. And yet here I am gushing about the flaming sunset and the chiseled jaw and clear blue eyes of my anonymous partner who enjoys taking long romantic walks for no good reason, and whom I (of course) love as no one has ever loved before. It’s like the polar opposite of The Alien.

Who the hell thought this was worth reading out loud to a bunch of people? And my god, when did I turn into such a girl?

This is just as bad as Sam’s bloody, anonymously menacing alien guts.  I briefly consider announcing “And then we were set upon by the Mafia and he died horribly, The End” and scuttling back to my seat before I can get to the agonizingly schmaltzy kissing scene that is just ahead, but I can see no way to do that that won’t get me grounded. I finish, to an equally polite smattering of applause, and cringe my way out of the library wishing I’d never picked up a pen.

Lessons learned: 1) everyone is vulnerable to the cliche trap, and 2) when your teacher tells you your story is “the best of the class”, that could just mean nobody else actually did the homework.