Writing Prompt Reader Response: Making a Life
Editor’s Letter, February 2015
Writing Prompt: For Your Journal
After Page One: Process
In last month’s column, Cassie Premo Steele asked readers to submit short stories that demonstrate the principles of narrative timing and scene making. Here’s the story Cassie chose, along with a Q & A between the two women.
It was nearly a year and a half ago that Dave told me he was probably dying. I sat on the porch swing on my terrace, phone pressed to my ear, the leaves on the one visible tree in the courtyard below me trembling in the breeze. As Dan’s brother—my not-quite-legal brother-in-law, my good friend—talked evenly and scientifically about his neurons separating from his muscles, I felt, strangely as though I knew what he would say milliseconds before he said it. This let me take in the news with a calm that matched the way he told it. I listened, asked questions, and didn’t cry.
I modeled at the museum for an art class. Nude. I did not tell my husband. I said, in half-truth, that I was sitting for a portrait class. I am not sure why I hid the truth.
You notice it first at work, rising from a chair. A sharp pain on the right side of your lower abdomen immediately makes you sit down. The third or fourth time it happens that morning, you call your doctor. They have an opening during your lunch hour.
Caterpillars aren’t meant to live in jars. The confinement is too extreme. Nor am I meant to live much longer in the confines of my spasms. I will die soon and, in the meantime, I am living my memories, selecting the most precious experiences and enhancing their beauty.
When I think of seasons, I think instantly of Tasha Tudor, who depicted them so beautifully—and who, in my sodden Northwest childhood, gave me an idea of what seasons could be like for people who didn’t live on the edge of a temperate rain forest.
Diana Whitney, a graduate of Dartmouth and Oxford Universities and a former Rhodes Scholar, is also a mother, yoga instructor, poet, and blogger for The Huffington Post as well as author of Spilt Milk, a parenting blog. Whitney has recently published her first book of poems entitled, “Wanting It.” This compilation, published in August 2014 by Harbor Mountain Press, bursts with imagery and honesty, reflecting one woman’s experience living authentically.
Honest, genuine, inclusive conversations about motherhood are rare. Even rarer are the conversations that include and honor women “whose relationships to motherhood are complicated.”
The short stories in Kate Milliken’s stunning debut collection, If I’d Known You Were Coming, are heartbreaking tales of absence, abandonment, and loss.