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Novel Excerpt!

Hey everyone!

To celebrate the fact that today is the 15th of November and therefore the halfway point of this wonderful National Novel Writing Month, I have decided to share with you the passage I wrote this morning. At the moment, I'm hovering at about 24,440 words (from the total goal of 50,000 this month), with eight chapters and a prologue.

Not that it matters to you, really, but this piece was written into Chapter 3. I realized last night that chronologically, I needed my main character Marianne to make the Paralympic Team before my secondary character Casey went through the second Olympic Trials event.

This is fictional and not an autobiographical story, but I am using a lot of my own experiences. I have created these characters, not copied them from real people. Also, I have changed a few dates, as well as the location of the Games, as you might notice near the end of the excerpt. In real life, I was officially named to the Team while staying with the rest of the disabled archers at the Olympic Training Center for a quick training camp, and the coaches were there with us to deliver the official news, which we all knew was coming anyway. In this scene, Marianne has been living as a Resident at the OTC for months, and knows she will make the Team because of prior events at the World Championships. Even so, it's still an incredible feeling.

I chose this excerpt because I wrote it today, and because posting it would give away nothing about the book / characters / plot that wouldn't already be assumed by the reader. I am also fairly proud of it as a writer. It's not a stellar scene, but it's good. It's solid. And it also happens to capture the way I felt when I found out last March. I remember that it was the Spring Equinox, and chilly. I can remember standing outside Athlete Check-in after the meeting, and calling my great Uncle Norm. He was fast asleep in Massachusetts, but I left a message on his voicemail, breathless and excited. He still has it saved, and told me recently that he listens to it often. So here, I'd like to share with you Marianne's fictional (though no less realistic) experience.

An excerpt from my novel, Passing the Torch

(All material copyright 2008, Lindsey Carmichael)

I was unsurprised to see that we were the last ones to finish practice that day. The sun was wheeling higher and higher in the sky, and the field rabbits had made themselves scarce from the hawk circling overhead. A phone rang distantly, muted from within the Coaches’ Office. Jesse, breezing past on his bike, waved at us as he pushed up the slight hill of the Olympic Pathway. I didn’t look forward to my own push up the brick road, but then again it was a great aerobic workout. None of the able-bodieds had to break a sweat just to get back to the dorms. It might be an annoyance, but I was probably stronger for it.

When we started carting our gear inside the archery shed for lunchbreak, the reporter offered me help again. This time, I didn’t turn him down. “Here,” I said, handing him my bow. He froze as if I was handing him a newborn infant. Smiling at his awkwardness, I put his hand at the grip, patted his wrist reassuringly, and turned away. I think he had probably been offering me help to push my wheelchair through the grass, but I hated being pushed. So degrading.

“Marianne!” Deb stuck her head out of the office with a yell. She saw us a few feet away, and lowered her voice, though not her level of excitement. “Mari, there’s a phone for you!”

She tugged on my sleeve from the doorway, beckoning me in, and I obeyed lest she grab onto my chair and haul me in herself. She held the phone out to me as if it held the secrets of the Universe. I took it gingerly, pressing it to my ear, and spoke. “Hi, this is Marianne.”

“Morning! This is Levi Matteson.”

“Coach Matteson! Hi.” My brain raced. It was March, right? Late March. “Are you calling about—”

“I am indeed. Didn’t seem like email was the way to go on this one. Momentous news ought to be delivered in kind.”

I’ll bet not, I thought. Levi Matteson was another of the old guard coaches, and being in his early sixties, he tended to scorn email, cell phones, and other forms of modern communication. I was almost surprised he wasn’t trying to get this momentous news to me in a telegram.

Even as these sarcastic thoughts ran through my mind, my heart rate went from a slow easy drumbeat to a sudden staccato. Momentous news. “Just a moment, Levi,” I said, closing my eyes and holding the phone against my jacket. I took a few steadying breaths and when I opened my eyes again, I saw Casey, Coach Deb, and the reporter all staring at me from the doorway into the main area of the shed. Jeff was still holding my bow as if it were made of glass and might shatter any moment in his inexperienced hands.

I gave them a shining grin and laughed once, a high giggle of excitement. Bless her soul, Coach Deb actually jumped up and down a bit, clapping her hands. Her lined face was creased in a grin at least as wide as the one I knew I was wearing. Casey and Jeff wore almost identical expressions of confusion, though I suspected Casey was beginning to catch on. I brought the receiver back up.

Breathlessly, I tried for a professional tactic again. “Sorry about that. You were saying, sir?”

“Just thought you’d want to know that the International Paralympic Committee has posted a few names to their little website.”

“Oh, have they?”

“My dear, the results are in. You are now officially on the 2008 US Paralympic Team.”

I couldn’t help it, I gave a tiny scream of joy and bounced up to hug the nearest person, which happened to be an ecstatic Coach Deb. “I’m on the Team! I’m on the Team! It’s official, oh my God can somebody please bring up the IPC website on that thing?”

I’m sure Casey had been about to butt Deb out of the way in order to give me her own hug, but Coach Deb sprang nimbly around me and all but attacked her desktop computer. On the way, she’d also grabbed the phone from me and was chattering excitedly, giving long pauses for the winding eloquent replies of Coach Matteson on the other end of the line. If the disabled archery coach was stuck in the days of the Civil War, Deb at least was lightyears ahead. I’d never seen an older person so determined to stay up to date with technology. Even talking on the phone with the other coach, she had the IPC ranking list up in mere minutes.

Meanwhile, my best friend had swept me up in a bear hug of her own, actually lifting me partway out of my chair. I squeezed her back as if I could pop her ribs, and nearly did. “Damn girl, when’d you get so strong?” She said with a laugh, hugging me tighter and then releasing me. “Must be all that overtraining you’ve been doing.”

Jeff stuck out his hand and congratulated me with a sleek, professional grin. I shook his hand gladly. “So,” he said, taking out his leatherbound journal again, and clicking a pen on Deb’s desk. “How does it feel to be named to the Paralympic Team?”

Casey may have had just over two weeks until the second Olympic Trials, but I knew my own countdown had truly begun. I could feel it, clicking away in the back of my mind. It was March 20th, 2008. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had 173 days left before my first morning of competition in Kyoto.

How did I feel? I considered several adjectives, grinning slowly as I thought of each word and discarded it for lack of scope or emotion.

Finally, I knew what I wanted him to print.

“I feel like an athlete.”

24,440 currently / 25,000 today's goal / 50,000 ultimate goal / 15 days left!


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Nov. 15th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
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