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Cindy

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    Excited to attend the fall ‘21 conference!

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  1. When The Fires Cease (women’s fiction) 1) Story Statement: To avoid losing the love of her life - for the second time - Corey Collins must come to terms with her twisted past and the tragic murder of her four-year-old brother and learn how to restore her trust in the world around her. 2) The Antagonist: Growing up, Judy Collins was the black sheep of her family, always falling short of her well-to-do parent’s lofty expectations. In Judy’s own words, “she’s always been a bit of a fuck up.” When Judy has a daughter of her own who is blessed with the traits that Judy had longed for; beauty, likability, intelligence, and good sense, Judy rejects her daughter and treats her with a snide and jealous disregard. Rather than celebrating her daughter’s admirable traits, Judy sees her daughter as a reminder of all she never was and never will be. Lost in a constant state of low self-worth, yet starving for acceptance, Judy spends her free time in bars getting drunk and latching onto any man who will show her attention. Judy’s sense of pain and rejection from her past, and her inability to find love in the present, have left her with a rough exterior and thick walls that act as a deterrent to all around her, including her own children. 3) Title: When the Fires Cease Lavender’s Gift The Lonesome Tree 4) Comps: Where the Crawdads Sing – Similar atmospheric composition that plants the reader into the mysterious solitude of an ‘off-the-grid’ environment, where one never knows what may lie around the corner. Additionally, my story’s protagonist is a young girl who grew up in a violent home and, as a result of the destruction, lives in total isolation and has trouble trusting those around her. The Great Alone — This story thrusts its readers into the unforgiving Alaskan backcountry where a family must quickly learn the ways of the land or essentially risk dying. With no electricity, running water, or other amenities, life in the Alaskan wilderness requires a thick skin and a lot of elbow grease. Similarly, my main character Corey, has chosen a life of isolation, living on a self sustained ranch in the backcountry of northern Arizona. Daily water hauls from her well, canning her seasonal bounty, meals by candlelight, and a hard earned life, are a shared theme here. Descriptive writing elements about the tedious details that go into living off the grid, run through both stories. 5) Hook line: After the brutal murder of her younger brother, a fear-stricken and wounded young woman must learn how to let go of the past in order to not lose her future and the love of her life. 6) Matters of Conflict: Primary Conflict: The horrific murder of Corey’s little brother, Mason, and the social-emotional impact it has on Corey. Secondary Conflict: Unbeknownst to her, Corey is living her life in the same manner as the person she despises most in the world; her mother. Inner Conflict: After the murder of her little brother, Corey loses all trust in people and operates from a place of fear and avoidance in order to prevent herself from ever having to experience the harrowing pain she endured as a child. If she is ever again to feel safe, and connect with others, she must confront her past. 1) Inner Conflict Scenario: When twenty-eight-year-old Corey is unexpectedly reunited with her former high school love Jack, she is flooded with emotions from the past, emotions that she has spent most of her life trying to forget. Jack was there on the night that Corey’s younger brother Mason was brutally murdered and will forever be a reminder to Corey of the horror from that evening. One morning, shortly after their chance reunion, Jack and Corey set out for a walk. Corey finds herself lulled back into the undeniable attraction she felt for Jack, yet when Jack tries to bring up the past, Corey pulls away, too frightened of the pain it will reignite. Corey ends up in a push-and-pull relationship with Jack, wanting him yet unable to confront the pain linked to him. 2) Secondary Conflict Scenario: Corey visits her mother Judy, who is serving life in prison as an accomplice to the murder of her son, Mason. Upon their first sit-down talk in ten years, Corey comes to realize she is living her life in the same manner as her mother; suppressing all emotions and avoiding the past. For the first time in her life, Judy encourages Corey not to repeat her own mistakes and instead, go make something of her life. With this new, unfamiliar encouragement and the bold determination to be nothing like the woman who raised her, Corey sees her life before her in a whole new light. 7) Setting: Sedona, Arizona, is a tranquil yet mysterious setting with awe-inspiring rock formations at every turn. These dramatic mountains, peppered with ponderosa pines and swaying cypress trees, distinguish this touristy desert town from that of anywhere else. In Sedona, the sun defines each day but can quickly become your worst enemy if you are not respectful of its power as it sears through the thin air at four thousand feet. Miles and miles of forgotten backcountry allow characters to seep into the desert terrain and hide from the world around them, as does Corey Collins on her primitive twenty-seven-acre ranch. Corey’s slice of heaven reflects that of a mousy homesteader, much different than touristy Sedona, just an hour south. With fields of wildflowers, starry nights, yet rattlesnakes, and bears, Corey’s setting is one of both simple pleasures and unpredictable wild danger. Her ranch has no electricity or running water and requires full days of grueling manual labor to meet the needs of her land and livestock. But above all else, Corey’s rugged, remote ranch is where one goes when they wish to hide from the world around them. Mesa, Arizona, is your typical Phoenix suburb, full of schools, parks, and strip malls, but within this town sits the apartment complex that Corey, her four-year-old brother Mason, and their mom Judy, reside. Their two-bedroom apartment reflects that of a careless, broke mother who has zero regard for any details that make a home. A stingy couch and an always-on TV are the epicenters of their apartment. The refrigerator is always in a state of near vacancy, and each night young Mason rests his head on an old mattress, atop the floor next to his sister in the bedroom they share. Their home is defined by rickety screen doors slamming shut, a cranky old neighbor who sits out front in a lawn chair reading the paper every day, and an atmosphere thick with the scent of cigarette smoke, booze, and anger. Adding additional complexity to this setting is that fact that Judy likes to bring home Jerry, a frightening, drug-dealer, after their nights out drinking. His presence adds a whole new dimension of fear and aggression into their world.
  2. So well written! Very nice descriptive elements and some whimsical interpretations (i.e. “Time unspools so slowly it’s as if I’m lost inside a dream.”) found their place nicely alongside many humerous moments. Overall, I loved the balance of tone. Also loving the funny/playful, but meaningful relationship these two have going on. A nice solid root to build a story from, or at least incorporate into. And I love how you didn’t shy away from them getting sloshed together. It seemed very plausible to me that that’s how two 30-something women would handle a day like this; drinking wine and watching movies together. It felt relatable and added a realness to the story that I think readers will appreciate. The line tucked within there, “If she ever discovers what really happened the night Danny died, she’ll never forgive me. None of her family will.” was great…solid hook and foreshadowing which definitely made me want to know more. Overall, very intriguing and super well written.
  3. Wonderful writing! I actually really like the opening seagull scene. It caught me off guard (which I like) and it introduced me to Sarah’s personality. She has a seemingly sweet side: “Poor baby” and getting ready to take the time to bury the dearly departed, but when she realizes it smashed her window, she gets pissed: “goddamn friggin’ seagul!” and tosses it aside. I felt like that little scene said a lot about her. And to be honest, it made me like her right off the bat. I thought she was complex and funny…someone I might want to be friends with. There were moments within the decription of repairing the window that I got a bit lost in the details, same with a moment on board the boat. They were wonderfully descipt details, but for me, not knowing a lot about the complexities of antique windows - or boats- it wobbled on losing my interest because these weren’t subjects I am initially invested in. But again, this is just my interpretation. Anyone who who knows a thing or two about antique windows and boats might be hanging onto your every word and following along more closely. I also loved the light, humor you inserted throughout. It kept the story floating along nicely with a lighthearted tone while also having some heavier topics. It balanced well. Great work!
  4. I love the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law duo that you set up right out of the gate. It makes me feel like there will be some good drama around those two, so immediately I’m interested in reading more. The Nancy and Mac playful element is nice - I’m interested in seeing how/why that still exists between them, despite Nancy’s cheating. Seems like you have some firecracker characters that will allow for some nice storylines. Love the span of age, I think there’s a lot you can do with that. One thing-it took me a second to catch on that Janie is Mac and Nancy’s daughter. I missed the subtle wording that first eluded to that and had to re-read the paragraph to make sure I was following correctly. I wonder if adding a line from Nancy like, “What is my 18-year old (or however old she is) doing with an Italian man…blah, blah, blah…” in one of her rants, might help the reader determine that Janie is young, and oh…Nancy’s daughter, okay. Just an extra clue to solidify where she fits in within the family dynamics as the characters are first being introduced to us. Then again, I haven’t had nearly enough coffee this morning…so it might just be me! I would love to read more-I think you’ve got us hooked!
  5. Opening Scene: Introduces protagonist, setting (flip-flops between two setting: past and present), tone and foreshadows the primary conflict. 1 Mesa, AZ (ten years ago) Corey laid lifeless. Her eyes had yet to open and she was already resentful of the day before her. Her cheek clung to her pillowcase, still damp with tears from the night before. And then, like clockwork, came the weight, rich with pain, nuzzling into its usual spot within her sternum. She opened her eyes and slowly, a blurry room began to merge into focus. Corey’s eyes fixed upon the metal object atop her nightstand. Beams of light slipping through the window promoted it with a brilliant glare. Her switchblade. It taunted her, as it did every morning these days. Corey gazed at it longingly and, had she perhaps one more ounce of strength within her, just a flicker of energy, she might have reached for it and finally put an end to all this misery. It was hers for the taking. She just wondered when the morning would come when she would finally find the strength to do so. Corey let out a wretched cough, shuffling her vocal chords like a deck of cards. Her throat was raw. The single last noise it had produced were the screams a a nightmare, at least three days old by now. Mornings were the hardest for eighteen-year-old Corey Collins. Nevertheless, she wrestled herself out of bed, clamored into her ancient truck and begin driving. Aimlessly, mindlessly, Corey drove. Success—another morning she’d avoided killing herself. Three hours had passed, without trace, meaning, nor purpose, when Corey suddenly found herself bouncing along a desolate dirt road, snaking her way through the most curious of rock formations. “Where the hell am I?” Corey thought, glancing in all directions. She thrust her truck into park and stepped out, a billow of maroon dirt kicked up under her Converse One Stars. Not another living soul in sight. These rock formations, with their smooth facades and curling angles, seemed to be prompting her in. Corey had lived in the Southwest all her life, but never had she encountered terrain like this before. The land, the air, it all felt different here. For the first time in a long time, Corey could breathe. A ragged “For Sale by Owner” sign along the side of the road had caught her eye while driving in. Corey called the number listed and, when an old, brittle voice answered, she was caught off guard. Two months later, the land was hers. When Corey relocated to Sedona, Arizona, at the tender age of eighteen, she knew nothing about managing twenty-seven acres of wild, high-desert land, but that was exactly the point. She wasn’t looking for something easy. Corey was looking for something new that she could wrangle and pour herself into. Something to occupy her mind and distract her. This property at 22 Carriage Way had become a fresh start for Corey. It was the beginning of a new life, allowing her to start over and forget all that had been. 2 Sedona, AZ This was the sweet spot of her day. The Arizona sun surrendered its feverish grip, making way for some much needed relief. Corey squinted as she scanned her land from her disintegrating Adirondack chair, perched west to regard the sunset. Her land was quiet and tucked away on the remote outskirts of Sedona, miles away from any traces of the touristy parts. Ten laborious years of molding and pruning this property to her liking had left it a sight to behold. Rolling hills ablaze with wildflowers, a bustling chicken coop, a handcrafted greenhouse overflowing with bounty and, of course, the many trails weaving their way across her acres like a primitive cross stitch pattern. But perhaps most spectacular of all were the bordering red rocks, with their erosive past hidden deep within their iron sediment — this was the aspect of the land that Corey loved most. There was a kinship of sorts, an understanding that the past had not always been kind. Corey took a sip from her glass, the cool water quenching her throat like a tidal wave. She stretched her long, sun drenched legs out in front of her as the final beads of sweat evaporated from her brow. When the sun had disappeared behind the mountain tops, Corey headed inside to began her nightly routine. She threw a couple of logs into her cast iron wood burning stove, placed a large kettle filled with water on top, then meandered into her bedroom where she stood weary in front of the mirror, loosening her braid and rustling her fingers through her long, golden brown strands. Corey retrieved her kettle and carefully poured the lukewarm water into her antique claw bathtub then grabbed her book and a fresh bar of soap. She pushed open the old French style windows and let the late day breeze, along with the last notes of light, spill in. She stepped into the bath and, as the warm water engulfed her, Corey eased her tired body in. The day’s work was complete, her body could rest, and her mind could get lost in the latest book she was reading. These fantastic stories about others and the lives they lived, surely far different from her own, kept her entertained, but perhaps more importantly than that, these books occupied her so that in the still, quiet moments, her mind couldn’t wander into the past. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— 3 Mesa, AZ (ten years ago) Corey leaned back on the blanket as she watched her little brother standing next to her boyfriend on the riverbed in front of her. Mason’s young legs, squat and strong, launched his body into the air as he laughed watching the stone skip over the water’s surface. “Again!” he cried, clapping his hands. “Alright, look for another stone,” said Jack. “Here’s one!” Mason ran the stone over to be inspected by Jack. “Let’s see,” said Jack in a serious tone, as he turned the rock over in his hand. “Not too small, not too big, and look, flat as a pancake. Perfect.” Mason jumped again. “Five this time! Try to get five, because I will be five soon.” “Five skips for the almost-five year-old Mason!” Jack shouted as he sent the stone sailing. Corey smiled, her eyes fixated on Jack now. His back glistened as the sun shone off the thin layer of sweat that coated his skin. Ravines and ridges decorated his torso, leaving it no mystery that Jack was an athlete. “One, two, three, four….aww, only four.” said Mason. Jack lunged towards Mason and threw him up in the air, “Well then I guess that means you can’t turn five!” Mason howled with delight as he landed safely back into Jack’s arms. Later, as the three walked back to Jack’s car, Mason turned to his big sister, “I will still turn five, right Corey?” “Of course you will still turn five. Jack was just teasing,” Corey jostled his mop of blonde hair, blissfully unaware of the lie that had just sauntered from her lips. 4 Sedona, AZ The following afternoon was quite peaceful until his thunderous voice burst through the air. Corey was so startled, she nearly sawed her finger clean off. She had been working on her fence in the far west corner of her property, lost deep in the rhythmic hum of her sawing. There was no reason why a man’s voice should be nearing - not now, not ever. Corey lowered her saw, scanning in the direction of the voice. And there it was, a bobbing cowboy hat in the not too far distance, rising in and out of view between the sunflower stalks, and it was coming closer. Corey crouched low, concealing herself behind one of the many piñon trees inhabiting this section of her land. She positioned her lean frame behind the trunk and carefully peered around. “This way,” sounded the voice. Corey strained to make out a second, smaller figure, dutifully trailing alongside the taller man with the cowboy hat. “What if we can’t find her?” said the younger figure, clearly a boy. “Then we retrace our steps and track the other direction.” said the man. They were getting closer now. Corey’s heart quickened. She clutched her chest, in fear it might gallop straight out of her chest. “I don’t see any tracks.” said the boy. “You’re right son, I think we lost her.” There was a pause. “Well, hold on now, wait a second…what do we have here? Looks like someone’s been working.” They had to be no more than fifteen feet away by now. Corey clenched her eyes and listened as the sounds of their footsteps approached closer. And then – silence. Still and baited silence. Corey pressed back against the tree trying to will the trunk to open up and swallow her whole. Her body trembled as the footsteps sounded again, but only this time, with a hurried frenzy. “There she is!” roared the man. Corey’s head went light and her gut churned so deeply she was certain it had irreparably knotted itself, never to be the same again. She remained bound tight against her tree, eyes closed, breath held, waiting for whatever was to happen next. Boom – the gunshot echoed over Corey’s fields and off the nearby canyon walls. “I think I got her!” hollered that man, and off they ran. Corey listened intently as their footfalls grew farther away. Only then, when the sounds had all but disappeared, did she realize the tears that had been streaming down her face. She lifted her trembling fingers to her cheeks, brushing them away, and rose to her feet. Corey peered out from behind her tree just as the father and son had reached their fallen elk in the distance. Utterly drained, Corey remained perched against that piñon tree for the next two hours, until the duo had long since dragged their kill away, and the sun had called it a day. Only after the darkness emerged did Corey feel safe enough to move. For in the dark, Corey was invisible…the way she liked it.
  6. WOW - this is really great. I couldn’t stop! As I was reading I felt the pace at which you intertwined the present drama (Faithy standing before her parents with a knife) with the narrative (explaining the past situation at school and other elemements; family dynamics, Dad’s job, feelings of exhaustion, etc.) was right on. We were hanging on, along for the ride, waiting for what was going to happen, yet the other relative information teaching us about who these people were, was written clear and concise. It felt important and never lost me. One sentence I did find myself hung up on slightly was, “Like you and your brothers were who you were from birth, and all we could do was watch you become more of yourselves – for good or for bad.” Something about the wording made it fumble in my head slightly. Perhaps the repetition of the word “were” so close together? Just a thought. I would definitly read more! Well done!
  7. 1) Story Statement: To avoid losing the love of her life - for the second time - Corey Collins must come to terms with her twisted past and the tragic murder of her four-year-old brother and learn how to restore her trust in the world around her. 2) The Antagonist: Growing up, Judy Collins was the black sheep of her family, always falling short of her well-to-do parent’s lofty expectations. In Judy’s own words, “she’s always been a bit of a fuck up.” When Judy has a daughter of her own who is blessed with the traits that Judy had longed for; beauty, likability, intelligence, and good sense, Judy rejects her daughter and treats her with a snide and jealous disregard. Rather than celebrating her daughter’s admirable traits, Judy sees her daughter as a reminder of all she never was and never will be. Lost in a constant state of low self-worth yet starving for acceptance, Judy spends her free time in bars getting drunk and latching onto any man who will show her attention. Judy’s sense of pain and rejection from her past, and her inability to find love in the present, have left her with a rough exterior and thick walls that act as a deterrent to all around her, including her own children. 3) Title: When the Fires Cease Lavender’s Gift The Lonesome Tree 4) Comps: Where the Crawdads Sing – Similar atmospheric composition that plants the reader into the mysterious solitude of an ‘off-the-grid’ environment, where one never knows what may lie around the corner. Additionally, my story’s protagonist is a young girl who grew up in a violent home and, as a result of the destruction, lives in total isolation and has trouble trusting those around her. The Great Alone — This story thrusts its readers into the unforgiving Alaskan backcountry where a family must quickly learn the ways of the land or essentially risk dying. With no electricity, running water, or other amenities, life in the Alaskan wilderness requires a thick skin and a lot of elbow grease. Similarly, my main character Corey has chosen a life of isolation, living on a self-sustained ranch in the backcountry of northern Arizona. Daily water hauls from her well, canning her seasonal bounty, meals by candlelight, and a hard-earned life, are a shared theme here. Descriptive writing elements about the tedious details that go into living off the grid run through both stories. 5) Hook line: After the brutal murder of her younger brother, a fear-stricken and wounded young woman must learn how to let go of the past in order to not lose her future and the love of her life. 6) Matters of Conflict: Primary Conflict: The horrific murder of Corey’s little brother, Mason, and the social-emtional impact it has on Corey. Secondary Conflict: Unbeknownst to her, Corey is living her life in the same manner as the person she despises most in the world; her mother. Inner Conflict: After the murder of her little brother, Corey loses all trust in people and operates from a place of fear and avoidance in order to prevent herself from ever having to experience the harrowing pain she endured as a child. If she is ever again to feel safe, and connect with others, she must confront her past. 1) Inner Conflict Scenario: When twenty-eight-year-old Corey is unexpectedly reunited with her former high school love Jack, she is flooded with emotions from the past, emotions that she has spent most of her life trying to forget. Jack was there on the night that Corey’s younger brother Mason was brutally murdered and will forever be a reminder to Corey of the horror from that evening. One morning, shortly after their chance reunion, Jack and Corey set out for a walk. Corey finds herself lulled back into the undeniable attraction she felt for Jack, yet when Jack tries to bring up the past, Corey pulls away, too frightened of the pain it will reignite. Corey ends up in a push-and-pull relationship with Jack, wanting him yet unable to confront the pain linked to him. 2) Secondary Conflict Scenario: Corey visits her mother Judy, who is serving life in prison as an accomplice to the murder of her son, Mason. Upon their first sit-down talk in ten years, Corey comes to realize she is living her life in the same manner as her mother; suppressing all emotions and avoiding the past. For the first time in her life, Judy encourages Corey not to repeat her own mistakes and instead, go make something of her life. With this new, unfamiliar encouragement and the bold determination to be nothing like the woman who raised her, Corey sees her life before her in a whole new light. 7) Setting: Sedona, Arizona, is a tranquil yet mysterious setting with awe-inspiring rock formations at every turn. These dramatic mountains, peppered with ponderosa pines and swaying cypress trees, distinguish this touristy desert town from that of anywhere else. In Sedona, the sun defines each day but can quickly become your worst enemy if you are not respectful of its power as it sears through the thin air at four thousand feet. Miles and miles of forgotten backcountry allow characters to seep into the desert terrain and hide from the world around them, as does Corey Collins on her primitive twenty-seven-acre ranch. Corey’s slice of heaven reflects that of a mousy homesteader, much different than touristy Sedona, just an hour south. With fields of wildflowers, starry nights, yet rattlesnakes, and bears, Corey’s setting is one of both simple pleasures and unpredictable wild danger. Her ranch has no electricity or running water and requires full days of grueling manual labor to meet the needs of her land and livestock. But above all else, Corey’s rugged, remote ranch is where one goes when they wish to hide from the world around them. Mesa, Arizona, is your typical Phoenix suburb, full of schools, parks, and strip malls, but within this town sits the apartment complex that Corey, her four-year-old brother Mason, and their mom Judy, reside. Their two-bedroom apartment reflects that of a careless, broke mother who has zero regard for any details that make a home. A stingy couch and an always-on TV are the epicenters of their apartment. The refrigerator is always in a state of near vacancy, and each night young Mason rests his head on an old mattress, atop the floor next to his sister in the bedroom they share. Their home is defined by rickety screen doors slamming shut, a cranky old neighbor who sits out front in a lawn chair reading the paper every day, and an atmosphere thick with the scent of cigarette smoke, booze, and anger. Adding additional complexity to this setting is that fact that Judy likes to bring home Jerry, a frightening, drug-dealer, after their nights out drinking. His presence adds a whole new dimension of fear and aggression into their world.
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