From the Round File: Together is Enough

I’m not going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

It was a difficult decision but I just finished a book and I’m on the cusp of finishing another non-creative project, plus there’s day job stuff and the holidays. I want to write in November–I want to write a lot in November–but NaNoWriMo would be unhelpful pressure.

In the two years I’ve done it, I’ve never won. I wrote about 30,000 words the first year I participated and just shy of 35,000 words last year, but I owe NaNoWriMo a great deal, including my entire career as a creative writer. I’d started the odd fictional thing before, but I’d never finished anything longer than a short story.

To inspire those who may be NaNoWriMo-ing, or considering it, here’s the opening of the book I started exactly two years ago today. There is so much here that’s bad. It’s fueled by insta-lust and relies on two strangers quoting Wallace Stevens to each other–which is one nerdy fantasy. And those are only the beginning of reasons this novel will never see the world outside of my hard drive.

Reading this reminds me how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. So get writing!


Keira shifted her bag to her other shoulder, paused for a minute and then backtracked. Somehow, she had missed her turn. Again. She knew a rush of students accompanied by anxious parents, bulging suitcases, and toaster ovens would soon litter these now quiet brick sidewalks. For now, her footsteps echoed across the unoccupied quad, the brisk clip-clip-clip filling the emptiness.

The library finally appeared. Her leopard-print ballet flats snapped on every step up to the imposing dark brick Gothic revival building. Pushing her way into the air-conditioning, Keira blinked to recover from the sunlight before proceeding up to the second floor. She wove through the stacks to a small fluorescent-lit room filled with large, old Xerox machines. Clearly Mitchell’s deep pockets did not extend to state-of-the-art copy facilities.

There was only one other person there. He faced away from her, but Keira allowed a slow glance to apprise his cropped auburn hair and then dip lower. Defined muscles announced themselves under an ancient t-shirt for a band called The Frames. Faded, holey jeans clung to slim hips. Decaying running shoes completed the ensemble. Given the lack of graduate programs at Mitchell and the absence of students for a few more days, she had no idea who he might be.

Whatever. She took a machine on the other side of the room and fished around in her bag for the first book she needed. As the machine whirred to life, Keira flipped to the page marked by a red plastic tab. She crossed the first item off her printed to-do list: Scan chapter on citation formats.

A shadow spilled onto her document.

“Holy Hell. You’re so organized. I’m arseways about these things.”

She couldn’t help but smile as she glanced up. Dazzling green eyes, bright and herbaceous in the middle with darker emerald rings around the pupils, were locked on her face. His smile was warm and roguish and he had dimples. At least she thought he might have. She couldn’t seem to break away from his gaze to check. From the lilting brogue, however, she was certain of one thing: he was Irish.

After a longer pause than was appropriate to stare blinking into a stranger’s face, she managed to look away. “Um, yes. I have a talent for order. A blessed rage for order, really, pale Ramon,” she sputtered, paraphrasing a line from Wallace Stevens.

He tilted his head to the side and responded, “…words of the sea, words of the fragrant portals…”

Keira smiled. He recognized her favorite poem. Was he for real? She continued, “…dimly-starred, and of ourselves and of our origins…”

He interrupted, seemingly possessive of the famous final lines, “…in ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.” He shrugged and then grinned. “I mean, I think that’s how it goes.”

He was Irish. With mesmerizing eyes. And knowledgeable about modern poetry too. Who the hell was this guy?

Before she could get the question out, he leaned in and asked in a loud stage whisper, “Is this the nerdiest conversation you’ve ever had?”

Play it cool, Smith. “It definitely makes the top twenty but, then again, I’ve led a pretty nerdy life.”

“I don’t believe it, darlin’,” the Irishman said. “You’re too pretty to be nerdy.”

Keira gasped in feigned outrage. “Pretty and nerdy are incompatible?”

“Pretty and geek definitely don’t go together.”

“Pretty and…guru?” she offered.

“Yeah, for sure. Pretty and smart, when you’re concerned, definitely a pair.”

His eyes crinkled when he smiled and he did have dimples. The right one was deep and perfect; the left shallow and adorable. Keira shook her head, trying to clear away some of the residual dazzle.

“What’s your final ruling on pretty and nerdy?” she asked.

The Irishman paused and then smiled. “It’s a draw.”

There was no returning from that really, so Keira went with the obvious question: “Who are you?”

“Brennan Daly,” he said with a warm, confident smile. As if his name was an answer to her more existential question.

“Keira Smith.”

He gripped her hand and gave it a strong shake. Maybe it was the sudden pounding of her heart or the smallness of the room, but at the touch, she felt an electrifying jolt.

“Listen, Keira Smith, there’s nothing more that I’d like to do than to stand here chatting with you but,” he glanced at the clock, “I have an appointment.”

“I hope to see you around, Brennan Daly.”

He leaned forward and touched a fingertip to her nose, “As do I.”

Brennan gathered his books under one arm, shoved a hand into his pocket, and strolled out. Once his footsteps faded away and Keira was confident she was safely alone, she set her head down on the copy machine and sighed. Maybe romance would be harder to avoid than she had anticipated.

Why didn’t you ask for his number?

2 thoughts on “From the Round File: Together is Enough

  1. You’re too hard on yourself–this was pretty good. (When I was younger I had a fantasy about being wooed by a poetry-reciting Irishman.) And the bit about the Xerox machines–Lord, that brought back memories.

    I think it’s great you’re not doing NaNo. You’re still going to write, you’ve obviously completed several novels–you’ve proven you’re pretty serious about this whole writing thing. :)
    (And I’m also selfishly glad, because I’d have been tempted to try to keep up with you and November is way, way too busy for me to try that and stay sane.)

    1. Brennan is lovely hero, actually. I may steal him from this book for something else in the future. But trust me when I say that the rest of this book is wretched. (Okay, so there’s one other scene that I really, really like and maybe I’ll post it here at some point. But the rest is wretched.)

      I really like the idea of NaNo and it was such an important part of my writing journey that I feel like a jerk for not participating. (Also, I’d like to win one of these years just because.) But I’m glad I have your imprimatur to forego it for the moment. ; )

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