Our library system has a creative writing contest every year and my Hunny brought home the application for it this last Saturday. He dropped it in my lap and said, "Here. Do it." So I opened it up and looked for the deadline. This Thursday. Hokay. I can do that.
So that's what I've been busy with the last few days. I've totally neglected homework and housework, the kids, my husband, meals. Just been writing. It's a lot harder than it looks. Especially when faced with a short deadline and no ideas. I haven't done it very well, but I'm entering anyway, just to say I did it. Motivation for next year.
There are four categories: Adult short story, Children's short story, Essay, and Poetry. I don't do poetry. I think I proved that over at Wonderful World of Wieners, with Hallie's haiku contest (which I entered ten or fifteen times). I just don't GET poetry - all that imagery, the abstract concepts. I'm a concrete girl in a concrete world. Give me a story that means something. That I can understand.
I know that I've said it here before, but C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Narnia) is my all time favorite book. That's the kind of imagery I can sink my teeth into. It's a real story with real characters, with morals, and lots of crying on my part. I probably should have just written a different version of Eustace's tale of becoming and unbecoming a dragon, but I didn't think of that till just now (Doh!). I connect with Eustace in this book, the frustration he feels of not fitting in, thinking he knows everything in the beginning, that everyone else is wrong about everything. He's extremely concrete and can't see the world around him - the reality of it - because his brain tells him it can't be real. He's arrogant. Scared. He can't connect with the people who care for him because he can only see himself and his crisis.
Halfway through the journey the Dawn Treader limps into harbor at a strange island, battered by a recent storm, stores depleted. Eustace, who doesn't believe they're anywhere but our world, wanders inland to escape work and connecting with the others. He stumbles on a dragon, just dead, and doesn't even know what it is. Without spoiling it with details, I'll just tell you that he becomes a dragon. He also begins to see himself as the others see him - aloof, spoiled, bratty, selfish. He begins, for the first time, to feel lonely, disconnected, to long for the companionship of the others. He wants to belong. And he does everything he can to help out, to participate, but he can never really connect, and he despairs for the future because he knows that as a dragon he can't travel any further with the group and is facing a solitary life.
At this point in the book I start crying because I know what's coming next. He comes face to face with Aslan. He has no idea who He is and only finds out later in the telling to the others, which makes me cry. Don't know why. Aslan tells Eustace to follow Him and leads him to a large, bubbling well, which strikes Eustace as refreshing, and the lion tells him to undress. Eustace realizes that his skin is rather snakelike, so Aslan must mean for him to peel it off, like a snake would shed, so he does this and goes to the well to bathe.
On looking down as he's stepping in, Eustace sees that he still has the dragon's body, so he peels off another layer of skin. Then another. Then knows that it's no good. Then the lion says, "You will have to let me undress you." Eustace was terribly afraid of His claws, but let himself be undressed. I'll let him tell it:
"The very first tear He made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when He began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off, You know - if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh, but it is such fun to see it coming away.
"... He peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been."
After that, Aslan catches Eustace up in His paws - velvety soft now - and drops him in the water. It really is refreshing.
Why does this story touch me so? I feel that isolation at times, living in my world, but just outside of it, feeling odd, seeing only my crisis. More than that, every time life comes to a head and I'm face to face with my own ugliness - the ways I hurt or neglect others, petty things I say and do, my self-centered-ness - I feel like the dragon. Hard and scaly, thick skinned, unable to change. I peel off my own skin, trying to change my perspective, my words, my actions. And I look down and see my dragon-y self. I can't change myself, only the top layer. And that's not enough. I connect with Eustace.
I have to get back to life now - homework, housework, a yummy cake recipe I found at Dlyn's site (yay! a use for my pumpkin!) - and I really do want to finish my story.
Until I write again ...