Friday, December 25, 2009

Mike's Writing Workshop post

This is a post I wrote for Mike's Writing Workshop on December 22nd. I thought it might be worthwhile to post it on my blog as well.

Merry Christmas to all,
Lisa Kovanda

It's now 11:35 pm, and I just finished a 13 hour shift at the big box retail store where I am a manager. In any event, it's fair to say that the next two days will be equally "pleasant." We are heading into a major winter storm here in Lincoln, Nebraska, so I can look forward to 3/4 of my staff calling in due to road conditions, but without a doubt, nearly all of the shoppers will show up.

As much as I lament the retail woes of holidays, this Christmas is different. Two days before her second birthday on December 7th, my granddaughter Abigail started getting huge bruises all over her body. Her mother is my 19 year-old daughter. She and her husband--also a 19 year-old--knew something was wrong, and carted her off to the doctor, even though they were terrified that not only would no one believe something was wrong, but that someone might think these awful bruises had been inflicted by them, and yank their daughter away from them.

Fortunately for them, and for Abigail, she saw the doctor that delivered her. He immediately called for lab tests, that showed Abigail's platelets dangerously low. She could have had a brain bleed sitting still they were so low. The "big word" for what she has is Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura. In English; she had a virus, her body made antibodies to kill the virus. Her anitbodies have also decided that platelets are viruses, and are killing them too. You can't just transfuse platelets, her body would simply destroy them.

By the time I met them at the hospital, she was in bad shape. Bleeding from her nose, mouth, and in her urine. Nearly every inch of her little body was covered in big, ugly bruises. I swear, it looked like she'd been beat with a ball bat. The nurses needed to start IV's to transfuse blood products to help stop the response, and as a former RN, I can tell you that sticking fragile two year-olds is not easy. There was lab to be drawn, and this poor baby couldn't clot to stop the bleeding from any of the needle pokes.

After all of the poking was done, and neon bandages were wrapped around her little arms, Abigail looked at the nurses and lab techs, smiled through her tear-swollen eyes and said, "Thank you."

Yes, I cried.

So did the big, burly lab tech.

She responded quickly to the immune globulin infusion, and we had high hopes she'd be one of the lucky kids who have this uncommon problem, but get over it with a single course of treatment. However, her platelet count has steadily dwindled. Today, she hovers right on the bubble of needing additional transfusions. Her condition could become a lifelong problem--if she survives to long-life. It's all a game of "if's."

To say that this adds stress to an already stressful holiday season is an understatement. It does force me to put things into perspective. My languishing manuscript will be there waiting for me to finish the polishing edits. I am fairly certain the big box retail store will keep on saving people money so they can live better no matter what I do. I didn't send out a single Christmas card, and everybody is getting gift cards this year. The holiday dinner might come from Stauffers, I don't care--it might just as easily come from the hospital cafeteria.

When my daughter, still a child herself, needs her mother's comfort, I'll be there. I'll be there when Abigail wants Nana to tell her a story. I'll be there when my son-in-law needs a friend, or when any of my other four children, assorted in-laws, or grandchildren need me. That's the spirit of Christmas in a nutshell.

My wish for all of you is a holiday filled with the important things in life. And economy be damned, that has nothing to do with the presents under the tree. I thank you for giving me a forum to share what wisdom Abigail's illness has taught me. I'm not ready to say "thank you" to the big things in life that poke me and make me hurt, but with some grace, I pray someday I'll be as noble as Abigail.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

Well, after finishing the story about the Christmas program, I sent it to a couple of my writing partners, and most trusted friends. The general opinion is that it's good, but another of the Table Rock stories is better as a stand alone. The problem is, that story happens to be 2,700 words, or about a third longer than the contest guidelines. Is it possible to cut a third out of a story and maintain the essence of the story? It is 2 am, and I just pared it down to 1962 words. Once again, for someone who likes to write long descriptive passages, paring a story down to the bare bones is damn hard work. Now, I'll get those trusted friends and writing partners to weigh in on the side by side stories before a final editing pass on the final selection. Either way, I now have another story to add to the novel, and one will go in for the Aldrich contest. I'll let you know which one it will be soon!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ready to Edit

I'm working on a contest submission for a short story. I'm a novelist, so short is not something I do well, and this one is short. I mean really short, as in 2,000 words or less. It can take me that many words to just get rolling, so this will be a real challenge to keep within the guidelines, and still keep the essence of what I want to convey.

My story is the favorite of the bedtime stories my grandmother told me when I was growing up. It's a story of how a Christmas tree with real lit candles got knocked over in the schoolhouse where she was teaching.

I just finished the first draft, and I'm sitting at 2,065 words. Now for most writers, this might not be much of a problem, as their edits involve cutting words out. Unfortunately, when I edit, I tend to sometimes double my word count as I add in details. Emotions, sensory details, what does it feel like, look like, sound like, smell like... So, I guess that means I have my work cut out for me, as this is going to not be one of my "typical edits."

For now, it's blizzarding outside, and it's late. I'm going to pat myself on the back for finishing the story, and go get some sleep with a sense of accomplishment before I tear into the editing. Distance is always good as well.

The contest deadline is in February, so I'll keep you posted as I pare this story into submission shape.