Tag Archives: story

Two Little Girls – An Essay

TWO LITTLE GIRLS – Another Essay

By Donna Jean McDunn Author

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Mine was great. All three of our daughters and their families came, so it was a busy four-day weekend. Our oldest grandson celebrated his 13th birthday on November 7th. (That gives us three teenage grandkids with five more to go.) He lives to far away so we weren’t able to celebrate with him on that day and while they were visiting, he enjoyed another birthday party with us.

We also attended a party for my husband’s brother’s 70th birthday and a surprise birthday party our son-in-law planned for our youngest daughter. By the time the weekend ended, I needed another four days to recuperate.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted since November. I’ve been busy editing my novel Nightmares. As soon as all the editing is done, I will share an excerpt of the story here. I just finished working with the content editor who suggested I consider turning the book into a series based on the characters in the book, so I have begun a new story I have tentatively named Visions. I’m still waiting to hear from the line editor and get her opinion of the idea.

I’m also working on another story I began for a writing course a few months ago. The course has ended, but the writing goes on and I really want to finish it. It is tentatively named The Rose Stalker. It is geared to a much older reader than my Nightmares books and is a romance/mystery about a stalker who leaves roses.

Now I would like to share with you an essay I wrote in 2008. It’s not very long, just under 650 words. It’s about something that happened in my childhood that has always bothered me. It still does whenever I think about it and that year, I thought about it a lot, just as I have during this one. Some of the words I used for descriptions may not be politically correct today and I don’t wish to offend anyone, but in the 1950’s these terms were accurate. It’s called:

TWO LITTLE GIRLS

I grew up in a small town in Iowa during the 1950’s. During those early years of my life, I remember seeing only two people of African American decent at my school. It happened when I was in the third grade.

The teacher had just let us outside for recess. It was early spring and I had on my blue winter coat I’d gotten for Christmas. The day had turned out so sunny and warm; I felt I no longer needed it. So, like several other kids, I took my coat off and threw it on top of a pile of coats already lying on the ground.

My friends and I ran to the jungle gym to play. When I happened to look in the direction of my coat, I saw two African American girls. I naturally assumed they were sisters and the older one was holding my blue coat.

“Hey, this can’t be mine,” I heard the girl say to the younger one as she slipped it on. She held her arms out in front of her. “Look, it’s to small.”

Concerned I was about to lose my coat to a stranger, I jumped off the jungle gym and ran to her. “I think that’s my coat.”

Looking down at the pile still on the ground, I could see the arm of a blue coat just like mine. I pulled it out and slipped it on. The sleeves hung down past my fingertips. “Maybe this one is yours.”

We exchanged coats, giggling about the mix up, until her younger sister poked her in the ribs. “Come on. We’re going to get into trouble.”

“Thanks,” the older one said to me and the two girls ran toward the school.

I wanted to talk to them and find out if they were sisters, where they came from and why I hadn’t I seen them before. I didn’t even know their names. Why did they leave in such a hurry?

I watched as they ran to a door, the rest of us weren’t supposed to use, but before going inside, the older girl turned and smiled in my direction.

I wondered where they were going. Recess had just started.

I rejoined my friends on the jungle gym. “Who are those girls,” I asked my friend, Mary. “I’ve never seen them before.”

“I don’t know their names,” she said. “I heard they go to school upstairs.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Upstairs? Why?”

She stared at me like I must be really dumb. “Because they’re Negro.”

I was eight years old at the time, but even I could see sending those two girls upstairs was wrong.  I knew about prejudice and the riots happening in other parts of the country. I just never expected to see it in my town.

Several years ago, the upstairs in the school had been condemned and considered unsafe for anyone. I had heard rumors that there were bats up there, too. If it was unsafe for us, how could anyone make two little girls use it as a classroom? Did they even have a teacher?

I never saw either of the girls after that day, not in the hallways or during recess or even after school. I asked about them everyday for a long time, but no one seemed to know if they moved away or what happened to them.

I’d like to think situations like that don’t happen in this country today, but I know I’d only be deceiving myself. Even so I still have hope for us and I pray the girls are still alive and well and see how things have changed. It only took forty-nine years! The sad part is we have only just begun to make real progress.

As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, so please leave a comment.

My short story Trapped, included in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 will be released, according to the Amazon site, on December 7, 2012. The book went to press November 29th. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon now. The publisher, Buddhapuss Ink is located in New Jersey and there was a delay thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

My young adult paranormal/mystery will be released in May 2013, but can be viewed on MuseItUp Publishing’s website: Nightmares

Other places I can be found:

Facebook Author Page 
Facebook Profile Page 
LinkedIn

MusePub_Readers : MuseItUp Publishing Readers Group

I’m also on Twitter.

Other Places to view my short stories:

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

A Reason To Live

Saving Katie

Pack Leader

The Golden Stallion

Gus’ Big Adventure

 

 

Working With An Editor

This is a depiction of my mood when I opened my manuscript after my editor was finished with it the first time. Please notice the sun just beginning to come through the clouds after the storm. Yeah, I got over it too.

Working With An Editor

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

If you are a traditionally published author or a self published author who hired an editor to look over your manuscript, then you have worked with an editor. You know that feeling of seeing the email come in with your work attached after the editor has gone over it. Part of you is excited and can’t wait to open it and learn what she thinks of all your hard work, but then there’s the other part of you that’s scared to death. What if she hated it and has changed her mind or wants you to rewrite the entire book.

That’s how I felt anyway as I stared at the email with my manuscript, Nightmares in the subject line, for five minutes. I couldn’t bring myself to open it, so instead of facing it right then, I washed the dishes, sorted the laundry, fed the cats, cleaned the cat pans and finally worked up enough courage to see what she had to say.

The first thing I saw in the body of the e-mail, after the greeting of, Hi Donna, were these words: “Okay, I’ve gone through the first four chapters. Now is the moment where you take a breath and relax. When you open the attachment you will see many, many things. Don’t panic. Have no fear. :o)”

Let me tell you, the happy face at the end did nothing to squelch the growing panic in my stomach. I literally had to close my eyes, afraid to read any further. My first rational thought a few minutes later: Was my story really that bad? My second: Is she going to make me rewrite the entire first four chapters of my book as I had feared earlier? My third and final thought: What are my choices?

I could delete the whole thing and pretend I never received it and never see my book published or I could keep reading and find out exactly what she wanted.

I chose to continue reading and my fear began to subside as I read. She didn’t want to be my ghostwriter; all she wanted to do was spruce up my words a little. She wrote that she had made a few adjustments and offered suggestions, all of which I had the choice of accepting or rejecting or simply changing to something I thought might work better.

Then she went on to explain how to accept or reject the edited material and how to add my own comments, plus she recommended a course on sentence structure and longer sentences, put out by www.thegreatcourses.com and is called Building Great Sentences. This was exciting; I’m always open to learning more about writing, but then I realized this was her way of introducing her first big complaint and she thought most of my sentences were too short.

I’ll admit it irked me a little, because I had also read that a variety of sentence lengths are important and I’ve read where other big name authors have recommended short sentences because it kept a story moving along and young adult readers liked it that way.

So what do you do? I believe mostly it’s a matter of preference and because she’s the editor, I’m not going to argue. As long as it doesn’t damage the content or change the message of what I want the reader to get from the sentence, I’ll do my best to revise it to her liking.

My editor’s other complaint was about repetitive words, which is pretty much universal with everyone. Even I get annoyed when I read books that continually use the same words or phrases multiple times and especially in the same paragraph.

A few months ago, I read this great young adult novel series that I loved. I can’t wait for the next and final book to be published, but there was one thing that started to bug me. The author used the phrase: “He shuddered” or “She shuddered” all the time and in all four of her books and multiple times on the same page. It started to wear pretty thin, but not enough to keep me from finishing the series, yet some people may not be as forgiving as I am about repeats.

The problem is, when it’s your own work; it is SO much harder to catch. I realized when I read my own manuscript silently to myself or out loud, I still couldn’t see or hear all the repeated words, but believe me, an editor will and your manuscript will come back to you with a bunch of highlighted words all over the place.

The way I have solved that problem, okay solved might not be the correct usage, but I have managed to find so many more duplicates by going over each line in a paragraph and comparing it to all of the other sentences, deliberately looking for one word at a time to see how often I had used it.

The first time I wrote the paragraph above, I had repeated at least two or three times the following words; book, catch, repeat, repeated and duplicate. I corrected the problem by thinking of synonyms. Example: Book, replaced with manuscript, catch, replaced with find, repeated, replaced with duplicates so that in the end I used each word and the synonym only once.

So do yourself a favor and look for duplicate words in all of your work before you submit the manuscript to any publishers or agents. The publisher will still have their editor look over the manuscript and there will be changes, it’s inevitable because much of writing is subjective, but in the end you’ll be glad you did.

What do you think, do repetitive words bother you? And which do you prefer, short sentences, long ones or a verity of lengths? Do you believe much of writing is subjective?

Here’s a link for anyone interested in a contest for young adults. It closes October 31, 2012 so get your story in soon. It pays $500 for 1st prize. Check it out: http://www.thechildrenswriter.com/af627/

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

My facebook author page is: http://www.facebook.com/donnajeanmcdunn

My facebook profile page is http://www.facebook.com/mcdunndonnajean

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-mcdunn/42/819/423

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.