The World’s Least Magical Girl

Mae

Anyone knows that along with acne, menstrual cycles, and teenage angst, your magical power emerges no later than your 16th birthday. That is, if you are anyone but Mae.

Mae will never have a magical power, which means an uncertain and dangerous future, given her potential inability to defend herself from the criminal use of magic by others.

While her friends and peers become seers, invisibles, flyers, and other magically transformed teens, Mae learns the secret her parents have been keeping from her since her birth: she is the only known unmagicked girl her world has ever seen.

So how does a private recruiter learn about her secret? And why does he want her for an exclusive school no one has ever heard of?

Confused feelings about a boy, whose extraordinary power enables him to “borrow” the magical abilities of others, make Mae even more stubborn, more determined to go it alone, an increasingly difficult plan considering she is an unmagicked girl in magical harm’s way.

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That’s the idea behind my latest YA novel, The World’s Least Magical Girl (working title), which explores how being different can be the source of one’s greatest strength. I’m working on it while my unsold novel, Naming the Stars, looks for a home.

Like each novel I’ve written, this latest novel is a new challenge. I want each book to be better than the last, and stretch me while I write it. I think The World’s Least Magical Girl is doing that!

What They Never Taught in High School

Strange how nearly four decades have gone by, yet last night I recognized friends I hadn’t seen since high school and chatted with them as if it was only yesterday when we last spoke. As if nothing had changed.

We, a group of high school thespians from the 70′s, had a gathering to visit with our high school theater director, JB, and his wife, the high school art teacher, who were passing through town.

It looked for all the world like JB had stepped right off the stage of that last performance in the late 70′s, just the day before. His shirt, some commented, seemed straight out of the 70′s. (Or the bottom of our friend and favorite actor’s steamer trunk, lovingly preserved in the pages of his scrapbook.) His face had a few more wrinkles, for sure, but his eyes were still sparkling, his wit sharp.

35 or 40 years come and gone as if just one day passed.

Yet, far more has happened. Life has happened. We’ve married, split, remarried, (or never married), had children, some of us grandchildren. Some of us childless, by choice or not.

For others, it took those four decades to be legally allowed to marry the person they loved. Everyone knows how brutal high school can be to people who are “different” and theater kids are more different than most.

We’ve each had a share of happiness & heartbreak over the past, almost four, decades since high school. It seems to take about four decades to heal from that tumult of high school — to stop having the nightmares about forgetting locker combinations, the boys or girls we loved who didn’t love us back, or loved us for awhile and moved on to others, the dances we didn’t get invited to… all of that teenage stuff that – to be honest - doesn’t really end when we enter our 20′s.

Or our 30′s.

Last night was a graduation of sorts. We compared the wounds life gave us and the accolades we’d worked hard to achieve. We passed another test, and got rewarded for good results. It was a simple lesson that takes, ridiculously, three to four decades to learn: the greatest joy comes from the community of friends, the shared bottles of wine, the shared experience of art. As simple as that. You’d think you’d learn that in school, but you don’t.

October Readings and Signings

2014 Events

October 14, 7 PM 

ROSEVILLE, MNUnknown-1

Barnes & Noble Bookstore
Har Mar
2100 North Snelling Ave
Roseville, MN 55113

Join me and other Twin Cities Sisters in Crime authors for a Festival of Crime book signing. Books available for purchase! My story, “Iced,” is in the anthology. Books are going fast, so be sure to grab one soon!

October 21, 7:30 PM – 9 PM

IMG_0153ST PAUL, MN

University Club
420 Summit Avenue
St Paul, MN 55102-2699

 

I will be reading along with other mystery novelists at the October “Readings by Writers” event.  Sponsored by Public Art Saint Paul/Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk and hosted by Saint Paul’s first poet laureate, Carol Connolly. All three Arvo Thorson mysteries - Burnt OutBroken Down, and Washed Up  will be available for purchase.

October 24, 7 PM

All-Mailboxes-Found-344-matches-for-search-2014-08-13-20-57-29-2014-08-13-20-57-32

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA

Amore Coffee
Smith Avenue at Annapolis
St Paul, MN 55118

Hear me read my story in the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. The book includes fabulous art, poems, and stories, including my “Gift Wrapped.” Books available for purchase!

 

 

 

UCDSAN (Unrealized Characters Demanding Story Adventure Now)!

Idled story characters at the beach in Finland

Idled story characters at the beach in Finland

Some time ago, a boss was comparing me with my coworker as the three of us met in the boss’s office. Specifically, this boss was reacting to a complaint my coworker made about a work problem that the boss had not taken care of.

At the time, I thought that maybe my coworker had the right idea. That it was better to be the squeaky wheel. That even my boss, who was quite the squeaky wheel herself, would find me lacking in the gumption department. In fact, this particular boss had an energy for squeakiness that I found admirable, though wearing. She was a tiny spitfire of a woman with glinting eyes who had an admirable grasp of office politics and hidden powers of influence.

She could also be quite scary when things weren’t going her way.

“You need to be more like Susan,” the boss said to my coworker. “She does her research, presents me with the issue, then waits, patiently.” She smiled at me and my coworker slumped back in her chair, scolded. I know she meant this as a compliment. She was saying that in due time the issue would be dispatched, but trying to get things done faster, on one’s particular schedule, punctuated with much nagging, simply doesn’t help one’s case. She even may have suggested that she herself would be better off with a bit more of my patience.

I don’t know.

One of my best friends from high school signed my yearbook “To the calmest person I know.” I learned what this meant years later, long after we’d lost touch and then met for lunch near our workplaces. By then, she was a scary thin chain smoker, a not much recovered drug addict. She was quivering as if her body was a dragonfly wing, barely settled, as if even the most innocuous comment would send her flitting away. A calm personality might have saved her from some of her troubles, and when she looked at me, perhaps she saw in me what she lacked.

I don’t know. Here’s how impatience lives in this writer, who appears to be all patient and calm on the exterior.

 There are all of the little stories huddled inside of me, bored children demanding their next adventure. “What are we doing next?” they whine, these unborn characters from tales I have yet to tell.

“Hush,” I say. “Be patient.”

“Why?” They chorus.

“Any number of reasons. Isn’t it obvious?” (The dog is impatiently barking for attention, the sink is full of dirty dishes, and I’m getting over a recurrent bug, and, by the way, I have a day job? etc.).

And so they settle down, my little unborn story children and other story people who have been paused, mid-story, sometimes for several years.

Their patience with me will be rewarded at some point down the line, I say, just like my boss said, years back. But that was more for her own benefit, right? And my friend who wished she was someone other than who she was? They were both reflecting on what they saw as their own failings, dreaming in my character a strength they wished they possessed.

I don’t know.

I may be far too patient for my own good, writing-wise. Too accommodating to the demands of the real world.

I’m secretly hoping that a squeaky wheel amongst those hibernating story characters might stand up for all of us and make a fuss that it isn’t right for them to be lying about, un-imagined. Un-realized.

Maybe they will organize and spill themselves out of there and onto the page, an unstoppable force that no amount of real life or so-called patience can deny.

One, Two, Three – On The Way

 

Click the elephant. I dare you.

Now that life has settled down a bit from the whirlwind that was college selection, graduation, open house, and extremely overwhelming work days (nights, weekends, dreams, etc.), I wanted to tell you about a few, exciting, upcoming bookish things.

Not zero, not one, not even two, but YES, THREE  stories are being published this September:

(1) “Everlasting Light,” Talking Stick 23 (Jackpine Writers Bloc, 2014) – September 2014
(2) “Gift Wrapped,” 2015 Saint Paul Almanac – September 2014
(3) “Iced,” Festival of Crime Anthology, Nodin Press – September 2014

Unknown-1Here’s the cool cover for #3.  This well-crafted anthology has great advance praise.  The collection will be launched at our famous local bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, on Thursday, September 11 at 7 P.M. It will be available where fine mysteries are sold, but I hope local folks can make it over to OUAC where I’ll be signing along with the other story authors. Foreword by the ever fabulous, Erin Hart.

#2 events are yet to be scheduled, but I will totally be there for the launch party late summer, and plan on reading at one or more of their events.

#1 will be launched in Northern Minnesota. Not sure yet whether I will make that party, but the Jackpine Writers are known for throwing a great event and crafting a wonderful collection of writing by Minnesota writers.

While you are all eagerly anticipating these stories, go ahead and click on the elephant above, and read my story that appeared in a previous Saint Paul Almanac. Another appearance in the works for the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll get my events page updated soon!

 

What If Everyone Acted As If You Didn’t Exist?

tonerfacewebThat’s the premise of my novel-in-progress, Naming the Stars.

In Naming the Stars, 16-year-old Mary-Louise comes home from swimming lessons one day to find she is absent from family photographs, her bedroom has turned into a linen closet, and all of her possessions have disappeared. More troubling, her family goes on as if she never existed. The only person in town who can actually see her is a boy she calls Fish, a YMCA swimming instructor, but Fish is hiding from a troubled past and the person he sees is entirely different from who she thought she was.

What if everyone acted as if you didn’t exist?

With dreamlike realism and with a dash of cosmology, this coming-of-age story explores the important and often fragile connection between the roles we play in others’ lives—as siblings, children, friends, and partners—and the unique identity we must find in ourselves.

Coming someday soon (I HOPE!) to book places everywhere.

The Great Disconnect

IMG_1359This morning, I head off for one week of solitude at an inn with no television, no cell service, and no in-room telephone. This rare luxury coincides with the last week of my year as a McKnight Artist Fellow, and I’ll use it to revise the novel I wrote late last summer in San Francisco.

I’m grateful for the support of the McKnight Foundation in making this happen, but also to my husband who is going to be soloing at home (though he is also probably going to enjoy the rare luxury of time to devote to one of his hobbies – drumming), the coworkers who will pick up some duties at my full-time job, and to the company that provides me with vacation time, all of which allows me to basically do what the picture at right symbolizes.

My storyteller’s brain sees those bare tree branches stretching skyward and thinks they’re dreaming of buds, blossoms and leaves-the as yet unrealized possibility of spring.

In the north, where this winter is the longest we’ve had in ages, a day like yesterday (70′s, sunny, mild) isn’t taken for granted. It’s best to spend every moment you can outdoors, drinking up the sunshine and the fresh air. As it was Easter Sunday and this involved conversation and a meal with the extended family, it meant that time was spend indoors cooking and gathered round the table, and at a certain age, one is expected to behave like a mature adult and linger at the table, chatting, while the younger ones escape outdoors to play frisbee or flop on the grass.

So I felt a little awkward and guilty when I slipped away, and flopped down on the grass outside, a reasonable distance from the family teens,  who wouldn’t have liked their over 50 auntie/mom-type to bust in on their conversation.  I wouldn’t have minded if some of the older folks joined me out there, but they felt more comfortable inside.

I felt a little out of place, out there on the lawn by myself, but maybe it was that writer’s brain of mine at work-that took the risk of feeling guilty and out of place for the reward of  a few quiet moments to imagine what the bare tree branches might be dreaming about.