Well, here it is.
This story, Children of Ash, is the culmination of my time in Northwestern’s Creative Writing Fiction Sequence. It’s 23 pages long, 1.15 spaced (40 pages, double-spaced, if you’re interested). There are 12,921 words, excluding the title and the byline. In December 2013, when I first thought it up, it started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Romania. In June 2014, when I turned it in, it was about a ballerina and the Roma and the legend of the firebird, all set in Russia. Go figure.
I have cried over it, pulled all-nighters for it, spent 16 straight hours on a couch typing frantically for it. I have lost my mind, bugged my friends, read it out loud to myself and to my roommates and friends, written, and rewritten it. I changed the whole idea halfway through writing it. It has frustrated me out of my mind, given me a-ha moments, and plunged me into deep writerly despair–I will never be Flannery O’Connor or F. Scott Fitzgerald or George Saunders or J.R.R. Tolkien or any of the other amazing writers in my class, as I’ve come to discover, and I should probably stop trying to be them (shout-out to Julia, Sarah, Jack, Bisola, Laurel, Joey, Parker, Caroline, Anna, Paul, Charlotte, Breanna, Michael, and Jameson–you guys are seriously so incredibly talented and it was a privilege to write/hang out/laugh with you guys. Thanks for all your amazing revisions and edits. And I wouldn’t be anywhere without my incredible professors, Juan Martinez and Sheila Donohue. You guys made me a better writer. Thank you).
I have listened to Soviet music for it. I have done hours of research into Russkaya roma culture (newsflash: not much is out there), Russian history, idiom, folklore, superstition, culture (to all my Russian friends who are reading this–I am sorry. Seriously. There is still so much research I could do. It’s literally an endless process. I hope I did you guys a teeny, tiny bit of justice.) I have changed the entire format, from third person narration, to a combination of points of view, to entirely first-person epistolary. Halfway through writing.
It taught me a lot about perseverance even when literally everything is going wrong. It taught me that neither I nor my writing will never be perfect and I have to be okay with that. It taught me a little bit of what it means to be created in God’s image as a creator–as an author. It taught me that oatmeal is by far the best food to eat at 3 a.m. when you need energy to stay awake and not drool onto your laptop. And–cheesy as it sounds–it taught me that the best stories are the ones that refuse to die.
So, here it is–my baby. Read it and weep.
(Please tell me if you weep.)
(But only if it’s the good kind of weeping.)