It’s only Wednesday here and it’s already been quite a week.
For those of you who are tracking with this story, I’ve been lobbying hard for the Samoyed. Thus far I’ve been entirely unsuccessful. Last night over pizza and red wine (lest I lead you to believe that life here is all pepsi and pig fat) I tried again.
“Jesus used the most unlikely raw material to accomplish his ends,” I said, taking a different tack after having talked for several minutes about the merits of dogs that stay playful well into old age. “I could mould her into a guard dog.”
“Let me point out to you, yet again,” Mike said, “that you are not Jesus.”
But it has not been all fun and games (or pleading and pouting) over here this week. All sorts of representatives of the powers that be are in town, discussing weighty matters. We are getting a close-up look at a “strong state” on a collision course with the operational culture of a large development organization. It’s not a pretty picture, but more on that later. Maybe.
I also have an update (quite a good one) on little orphan girl that I’ll try and write up soon.
While Mike’s been out trying to pour oil on troubled waters, I’ve been having Lao language lessons, and smiling my way through long official dinners, but mostly writing. And today, despite the third power cut this week (the electricity is still off as I write this), I reached a milestone. It’s only one of many on this long journey, but it’s an important one. Today I have a full second draft of the book I’ve been working on since we arrived here. I’m sure it’s not ready to go to press, but I think it’s stronger than the first draft. And that is great progress.
I ditched my prologue in this 2nd draft. I was listening to a recorded interview with Jane Friedman from Writer’s Digest recently on red flags in memoir. She had some interesting things to say about the opening scenes of memoirs.
“You shouldn’t put any speed bumps in the way of your readers in the first five pages,” she said. She recommended that writers think very carefully about whether they need a prologue, and that they only use one to add context that the reader absolutely must know.
“Don’t,” she said, “use it as a plot device.”
I quite liked the prologue in my first draft – I certainly had fun writing it. But the longer I thought about it, the more I thought Jane might have a point. The prologue I’d drafted wasn’t essential context, I was using it as a plot device, and it was probably confusing enough to count as a speed bump to a reader unfamiliar with my story (which, let’s face it, I hope most of them are otherwise this next book will sell, at best, a couple of hundred copies).
So I ditched it.
But while I don’t want to put speed bumps in the book, I have fewer hesitations about putting them up on the blog. So here is: the prologue that got axed. May it rest in peace…
I didn’t get really nervous until the day before.
Perhaps it should have hit me earlier.
When he sent me that first letter from Papua New Guinea saying that he wanted to get to know me better.
Or when he wrote six weeks later telling me that he’d like to come to Australia while I was there in January, if I thought that would be OK?
Or as I crafted my carefully light reply – “that could be lots of fun” – and then informed my parents that I’d invited someone I’d never met, or even spoken to, to join us for two weeks of precious family holiday time.
But I didn’t get really nervous until the day before, and then it hit me all at once.
Who crosses an international border for a fourteen-day-long blind date – were we both insane? What if it was really awkward? What if it was just a big fizzle, like the last time I’d tried this? What if it turned out in the end that I had to break his heart? What if he broke mine? Would I even recognize him from the couple of photos I’d seen? And what on earth was I going to wear to the airport?
By the time I reached the arrivals lounge at Brisbane airport on Monday afternoon my palms were sweating and a whole rabble of butterflies were performing merry somersaults in my stomach.
I was anxiously early.
Customs was torturously slow.
For more than an hour I scanned the face of every male between the ages of twenty and fifty and tried to remember to breathe. Three times I moved, hesitant, towards total strangers only to stop short, ducking their puzzled gaze, a wave of heat washing up and cresting behind my eyes.
There he was.