We go back to the outdoor school for dinner, then they drive us all to the beach for the evening. I hang out on a towel on the sand and watch a fiery, cloud-filled sunset with Jen and Christina, two writers who live in a dorm by the Lit House. The Lit House is a special building on campus for all the English majors to have meetings, workshops and readings. Most of our Sophie Kerr weekend events took place there.
“Are either of you taking the freshman creative writing class?” I ask.
“I am,“ says Christina. She has long straight dark blond hair, and wears a beanie. She’s small, one of those small people like my mother who carries a big voice.
“Cool,” I say, flexing my toes and watching a cloud fill with red like a pen burst inside it. “Me too.”
“I’m not,” says Jen. Her hair is long too, dirty blond and wavy. She’s taller than her friend, with a slightly rounded face and a more down-to-earth voice. “I love to write, but it’s more of a side thing. I’d be scared to read my stories to a class. I think it’s pretty competitive here.”
“Really?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, it has to be,” says Christina. “Sophie Kerr. Everyone’s competing, starting now.”
“That’s exactly what I’d want to avoid,” Jen says.
“I never though of it that way,” I say. Every year, one graduating senior is given the real Sophie Kerr prize, something whopping like forty or fifty thousand dollars to live on after college while writing. None of the recipients have made it big, they told us last spring while us high schoolers competed for the freshman scholarships. They called it the Sophie Kerr curse. “With all these writers and only one prize, I guess you have a point.”
“I want to know who has the freshman scholarships coming in,” says Christina. “Those three people are my biggest competition.”
I don’t say a word.
“I’d rather write stories on the side,” says Jen, “than deal with that.”
I lean back on my towel and watch the clouds slowly darken to purple. One of my other earliest memories is sitting on my dad’s lap when I was little, while he and Mom went over the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. I liked ‘W’ best so Dad made up puzzles for our Wheel of Fortune game with my favorite letter: window, flower, winter, snow. By late elementary school, I was reading Nancy Drew and the Baby-Sitters Club and trying to make my own “books” about secret passages and clubs of baby-sitters. They never ran more than fifteen or twenty handwritten pages, and they were mostly imitation, but once I amassed five or so, I held a contest, made my parents come upstairs and read them, then vote on which was best. I even entered a few scholastic writing contests but never got anywhere with that. I’ve always done well in school and I’ve always loved outer space and science, but unless there’s some rock music history major, or a program to help you be a lead singer in a band, I’d be lost without creative writing. I do school on the side.
“What do you think you’ll major in?” I ask Jen.
“I don’t know, maybe psychology.”
This is an excerpt from Moonchild. Since I’m going to be working diligently on rewriting and revising that project (read about that mess of a task here), I’ll probably be posting excerpts from Moonchild for awhile.
This excerpt takes place on the freshman outdoor adventure trip I took before classes started. I’m realizing that for whatever reason, whenever I write non-fiction about my own life, whatever the ostensible topic is, I end up writing about my identity as a writer. It infuses everything, and definitely plays a role in the story arc of Moonchild.