The Light Within The Darkness
An author struggles to find some inspiration for her next story.
1000 Day MFA: Week Twelve.
The Light Within The Darkness
“I’ve decided to take a chance on you, Mrs. Devlin”.
Josie was over the moon. On the inside, she was doing a happy dance. On the outside, she was trying to do her best to play it cool and stay professional.
“I cannot begin to thank you, Mr. Snow. I promise that you will not regret it. I will do anything to make this work.”
Give it a rest, Josie. You sound like an over eager school girl.
Thankfully Thaddeus Snow was not deterred by her rambling, or the blush creeping onto Josie’s cheeks.
“I am very pleased to hear it. Let’s just start with your first story and see where we can go from there”.
Just a story. Josie could handle that.
“Absolutely. I will have it on your desk by the end of the week”.
Delighted to be given this chance, Josie shook Mr. Snow’s hand and promised that she would not let him down.
Nothing. Nothing? How was it that Josie Devlin, the girl who played with words instead of Barbie dolls, was drawing a blank? Desperate for inspiration, she flipped through her ideas journal but everything seemed so dull and childish. The Review was a professional magazine with a large subscription of readers. She needed to write something special.
Josie heard Annabel’s laughter through the walls and smiled. Emerging from her writing nook she leaned over the balcony to see what was going on. She should have known. Her eight year old daughter’s reward for a good week at school was her pick of a Netflix movie on a Saturday night. Josie raised her eyebrows. She had expected Annabel to fall in love with High School Musical. What she did not expect was for Jackson to be so enthralled. His eyes were glued to the television set. Suddenly, he too was roaring with laughter.
“How is it that whenever I want to watch a romantic movie you always run for the hills?”, Josie teased.
Jackson stiffened with embarrassment, then turned around wearing a sheepish smile.
“It’s Annabel’s night to pick, remember”. Suddenly deciding to own his love for the movie, he started to defend it.
“I’m allowed to change my mind, aren’t I? Romantic comedies are popular for a reason, you know? If they are all this good then I might just stick around the next time that you want to put one on”.
Uh huh. Josie decided to file that piece of information away for the next time it was her turn to choose a movie. Returning to her desk, she started to brainstorm.
What if there is something in that? People do enjoy a good romance, don’t they?
Tugging upon that thread of inspiration, Josie began to type.
“It’s sweet”, Thaddeus Snow remarked.
Sweet? Why didn’t that appraisal fill Josie with confidence?
“Thank you, Mr. Snow”
“Don’t thank me”, Thaddeus continued. “ We have done sweet before. Sweet is ordinary. I expected so much more from you, Mrs. Devlin, especially after reading your first submission. I am afraid that this will not do at all”.
Josie’s heart sank. She had tried so hard and yet she had blown it. After two years, and so many rejected submissions, her first real chance to become a published author was about to fizzle out.
“I am so sorry, Mr. Snow. Is there… is there anything that I can do to make it work?”
She received her response promptly when he crumpled the paper up in his hands.
Getting to her feet, Josie prepared to leave.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
Josie turned to him in confusion. Where did he think she was going? The respected publisher, Thaddeus Snow had just destroyed her story. Couldn’t he quietly let her slink away and lick her wounds in peace?
“I did not say that you could go. I also did not say that you could give in, unless you are deciding to throw in the towel yourself. I’ll give you another week. Show me what else you can do, Mrs. Devlin. Tap into your potential and give me something extraordinary. Do you think that you can do that?”
Shaking, Josie nodded. She would not fail him. Not this time.
Nothing. Again! Writing had also come so easily to her. Josie could not understand why her muse was failing her on the most important week of her life. She had looked at sunsets and gardens, watched people come and go on the street, thumbed through her library and through countless song titles in the desperate hope to spark an idea. Still, she was drawing a blank.
Once again, her panic was interrupted on Saturday night by roaring laughter. Josie left her writing nook and laughed as she took a peek over the balcony. Jackson, her man-child, was wearing a skull and crossbones shirt and bandanna. His face, stained with a sharpie pen was severely scarred. Annabel, also dressed as a vagabond, was dueling him with a cardboard sword, waving it around with careless abandon. Pirates of the Caribbean was blaring on the television behind them.
Pirates are pretty extraordinary. Perhaps I can impress Mr. Snow by writing an adventure filled with pirates?
Josie returned to her writing nook and began to type.
On Sunday morning, one day before her submission was due, Josie read through her story and sighed. She was not happy with it and she could not put her finger upon why. Unable to suppress her panic, Josie returned to the drawing board. Capturing as many ideas as she could, the fledgling author became a writing machine. By the time she went to bed, Josie had three more stories to throw into the ring: a mystery, a family drama and some science fiction. Surely one of these would be good enough to make it into The Review. Josie should have been buzzing with anticipation but instead there was an uneasy feeling in her stomach. She could not help but be nervous about what tomorrow was going to bring.
Thaddeus Snow read through the pirate story with a sour look upon his face. He was only a few lines into the mystery before he began to skim through the rest of her writing. At last, he let out a disappointed sigh. “You’re really stuck in a rut, aren’t you Josie?”
Admitting defeat, Josie paled and nodded. She had not been able to shake the uneasiness in her stomach. Deep down she knew that she was not delivering her best work and it was killing her. When Thaddeus got to his feet, Josie was afraid that he was so overcome with disappointment that he was going to walk out on her. Instead, Thaddeus walked over to a filing cabinet and thumbed through its contents. Pulling out a manila folder, he gave it to Josie.
“Give this a read and see if it inspires you”.
Josie took it with trembling fingers. She knew what this was. Opening the file with her name on the label, she pulled out the essay.
Edward Devlin: The People’s Hero.
Josie could not stop herself from reading. She finished it with tears streaming down her face. These were her words, her life.
“My husband was my whole world, Mr. Snow”, she sobbed at last. “If you are waiting for another story from the heart then I am afraid that you are out of luck. Mine is broken in two. I have nothing left to give”.
Thaddeus shook his head.
“You are a writer, Josie. Nothing can take that away from you, not even me. I doubt very much that your writing days are done. You just need to summon up your courage and find your true voice, your light within the darkness”. The publisher then offered the unthinkable.
“There are three days left until the submissions must close for the current issue. I still want you to be a part of it. Go home and have a good think before you start writing. For goodness sake, stop trying so hard to impress me. The last thing that I want see is what you think other people want to read. Tell me a story that matters to you.
Josie nodded, though she had her doubts that she could deliver.
During the drive home, Josie could not stop obsessing over what to write about. Coming up with nothing, yet again, she was on the brink of tears. Pulling up in her driveway, she would have fallen apart completely if she had not caught sight of Jackson’s beaten up hatchback arrive a second later. Getting out of the car, she tried to play it cool, but once again, Josie failed. Jackson saw through her completely.
Bending down, her sweet son gave Josie a kiss upon the cheek.
“I’m guessing that the story didn’t go down so well. I’m so sorry, Mum”.
Josie did tear up a little. Blinking them away, she quickly explained that she had been given another chance. It was only after she said that her deadline was in three days that she realized that it was impossible to finish on time.
“Jackson, I’m so sorry. It is enough that you were able to pick Annabel up from school today. Please forget that I said anything and go. Don’t be late for work on my account”.
Jackson shrugged, as if moving around his whole world for her wasn’t a bit deal.
“Mum, just take a second and breathe. I know for a fact that Deano has nothing on this afternoon and he owes me a favour. I’ll switch my shift around with him and then Bella and I can get a start on dinner”.
Josie shook her head. Even with the extra help, she doubted that she would have enough time. Not when she had a full time job during the week, not when Jackson was balancing University as well as work in the evenings.
“And while you are busy being brilliant, I’ll give Mrs. Forrest a call”, Jackson continued to problem solve. “She has always said that Annabel is welcome to ride to school with Lily in the mornings. We can see if we can arrange an afternoon pick up as well so that neither us have to worry”.
“I promise to stay out of your hair, Mummy”, Annabel promised, sidling up to join the conversation. Josie raised an eyebrow as her daughter smiled cheekily. It was clear that she was concocting a plan.
“Or you could finally let me go to a sleepover on a school night. Lily said that I was always welcome. So did Deena, and Jasmine”.
Josie smiled. If her children kept coming up with solutions she would be left with no choice but to write. She thanks Annabel for the suggestion and then smiled gratefully at Jackson. What had she ever done to deserve her light within the darkness? Somehow, even after losing his policeman father in the line of duty, her miniature Eddy had remained strong. He was constantly going above and beyond to look after his family, never asking for anything in return. While most eighteen year olds were off exploring the world, he had chosen to stay close, finding a job on top of every else in order to pay his own way in the world. By volunteering to entertain and care for his sister so often on the weekends, he was the reason why Josie had been able to progress so far in her writing. Thank to him, Annabel was such a happy girl. For giving his sister so much love and joy, Josie would always be so thankful.
My light within the darkness. Why wasn’t I able to see it before?
With complete confidence in her subject matter, Josie carried her son’s love and generous spirit into her writing nook. Josie sat at her desk, smiled, and began to type.
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