As originally posted on Facebook over four days in 2014
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The story of Evan Easter, drafted across 156 daily Facebook posts between June 16 and November 18 of 2014, will be a full, collected book someday. It’s easy for me to say that now that you can get your own books produced online. But I will work toward a traditional published book as well.
Here are two things that I know about that book already:
Number Two (see me working backward?) is the title. For the longest time, I thought it would be Evan Easter. Or (Something Something) Evan Easter. But no. The title will be Rubrum. The reason will be clear to the faithful readers. All four of them who I know about.
Number One, the book will be dedicated to those four faithful readers: Janet Eldred, Michele Graham, Bethany Renaud, and Stephanie Spaulding. In this order, they are: Wife, Friend, Niece, Cousin.
They pulled me through. I’ve written long works before, but not live on the air, day after day. It’s a tightrope act. A serial narrative takes an emotional and physical toll. By the end, there were evenings when I would nap three or even four hours so that I could be fresh to write. That started to get old for Janet. “You’re asleep the only time that we could be together,” she pointed out. But she knew the importance of this project to me. (Love you, Dear.)
And we both hold a hope that Rubrum could help foster entertaining and meaningful discussions for many. I picture book clubs! In libraries such as my wife runs. (I’m talking to you, Hollidaysburg Area Public Library.)
But back to the writing … The commitment of posting daily mattered to me as a discipline, and it came to matter even more because I knew that at least a few were getting some enjoyment from the work. So that quartet of readers was vital.
Part way along, Janet asked me to read that day’s post to her, and that became an evening ritual. It honored me and gave me double pleasure. Janet was the only person to know from the beginning the basis of the story (more on that shortly) and where it was heading. Or I should say, where I was discovering it was heading. I learned that notion from Stephen King in his book on writing called (wait for it) On Writing. He likens the writing process to archeology: Not creating a story as much as unearthing it. You come upon it as if it were already waiting for you.
I have found that crucial. Every writer would like to end up with characters who seem real, who you could actually imagine in front of you in the flesh if you could only find the right corner to go around and encounter them. If the characters and incidents in ”Rubrum” seem even a little bit real, it is because they were within a situation like life as we know it: Even if there were a direction that a particular character wanted to go, no one knew exactly what might happen next. Including me. I just had to discover that next happening (or Evan rumination) by morning of the following day.
This was thrilling and often scary. It was a both a joy and a concern that these few readers were counting on me to share with them about Evan. Here is what I wrote in private at one of the points when I especially realized my hope to do justice to these readers:
The thing that I haven’t experienced until now—now that I’ve had a story come to life the way this one has for me and for a few others—is the fervency of the desire for it to continue to speak to all of us. I want to be a channel for something significant and enlightening. I pray that through me this book will reach a complete, pleasing form that first of all touches the ones who I know are following it: Janet, Bethany, Michele and Steph. Each person with a heart and ears and eyes for it—that is who I am writing it for. May I be used to bless those four. I am so grateful for each of them. If there are other readers in the future, I will be grateful for them, too.
To finish up about Janet, she let me talk to her at length (around my naps) about where I thought the story was headed. “I need to babble,” I would tell her. She would listen and offer thoughts that were critical, in the sense of being important to the outcome. She helped point the way to an ending that both of us found very satisfying. I could not have drafted this story without the help of my wife, and I often thought during the work how completing it would mean nothing if she were not there to share it.
Michele made no secret of her attachment to Evan. Here were a few eager posts from days when Evan was slow in coming:
Where is Evan this morning?
After 9 and no Evan yet. Just kidding. I’ll wait patiently.
These nudges helped me, and they mirrored the responsibility that I felt. Michele showed me both patience and eagerness.
Stephanie was both a reader and a consultant. She is a fellow writer, and she was generous and insightful in sharing her perspective on the latest developments. She is also a Latin teacher, and I turned to her after I found various translations for “Red” online and favored “Rubrum.” Could I use it? Here was her thoughtful opinion:
The adjective ruber, rubra, rubrum (first declension!) is fine to indicate red, so good color word choice. Because it’s an adjective, you have to think about agreement. So what’s the Latin word for car (even if it’s left out)? If you used the word for chariot, carrus,-i (m.), you’d have to change your adjective to ruber because it’s masculine. However, I found two suitable neuter words for car that would necessitate a neuter ending (which is what you’ve got in rubrum, er Rubrum). Those words are plaustrum, -i (n.), which means wagon, or autocinetum, -i (n.), which is a modernly made-up Latin word for car (but it is listed in the dictionary).
Take THAT, scholars!
The reader who I particularly want to highlight is my beloved and firstborn niece, Bethany (childhood nickname “Buggs”). Buggs has faithfully liked my posts, before the Evan series and after. She rises early, like I do, and her Like was nearly always the first that I saw. I cannot express what that meant to me. Just to have a sign that I was heard and followed by the reader who I have known the longest.
Buggs let me know that she was engaged in this tale (and on one occasion helped me realize that I had posted invisibly):
I’m so into this story … As soon as I see you’ve posted I have to stop whatever I’m doing to read it.
August 2 (after being on vacation)
A week without wifi or service and I kept wondering how Evan Easter was doing. Finally got to catch up today!
Bethany A. Renaud
Did I miss today’s post? How is Evan doing?!
Oh my gosh, I posted it with the wrong setting! Just changed it. Thanks for checking, Buggs!
I have loved Bethany her whole life, even before she was born. But it’s touches like that from her that deepen my appreciation even more.
Here is what I told her partway through the series:
Believe it or not, Buggs, you have a tiny but significant connection to this story. You will see that in time (or I will help you see that when the time comes). I bet you will be more interested than ever now!
Bethany, if you wondered what I was talking about, here is the answer. It goes back to a post of mine, and your comments, from nearly three years ago:
December 2, 2011
Speaking of lyrics to the holiday song “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” what’s with the line “Marshmallows for toasting”? Who toasts marshmallows at Christmas? Is that done in lodges with fireplaces by people in snowflake sweaters? Or does that refer to little marshmallows on top of hot chocolate in mugs being raised in a toast? That line’s not just there to rhyme with “There’ll be parties for hosting,” is it? That would crush my Christmas spirit.
Bethany A. Renaud
The line that gets me in that song is “There’ll be scary ghost stories.” Who tells ghost stories at Christmas time??!?! Also, is “There’ll” a word??
Buggs, Your new seasonal nickname is “Christmas Carol.” (hint, hint)
Bethany A. Renaud
LOL I guessssss you could call that a ghost story.
Yes, dearest Bethany, ”A Christmas Carol” is a ghost story.
And as you might have guessed, it was the inspiration for the story of Eben Ezer … oops, Evan Easter.
I will say much more about that tomorrow.
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How did it occur to me to base this serial draft on ”A Christmas Carol”? I came to it by way of … SELF-CHECKOUT. Yes, the type of station that lets you be your own cashier. (Sorry, Kimberly Eldred Hanson—my baby sister and a long-time cashier.)
My quartet of readers knows that self-checkout stations are prominent in Rubrum. In a story meant to be serious? Yes. Because they touch on important topics. Here is what I mean:
I know that I am not alone in wrestling with those machines. Nor in how delighted I am when they actually work.
On the bad side: I often quickly grow angry at self-checkouts. And I mean embarrassingly livid. They seem designed to push my particular buttons. The attendant appears to be on hand merely to establish that I am a potential thief if left unsupervised. She (almost always a she) usually seems slow to arrive when I need help (“Please wait for assistance … Please wait for assistance”). And I must say, she often is rude when she does appear. She unfairly delights in inflicting pain: highlighting my incompetence at a balky machine that I use rarely and that she uses ALL THE TIME.
As you can see … this brings out the worst in me: At best, I stare stonily while the error light flashes. At worst, I raise my voice. I’ve abandoned loaded carts in frustration. (Not proud of it.)
On the good side: I sing the praises of most self-service gasoline pumps (I find them reliably reliable) and the rare self-checkouts that work well. I have found Sheetz convenience store ordering and payment kiosks and Sam’s Club checkout stations easy to operate and nearly flawless.
BUT—and this is key—I recognize that even GOOD experiences with self-checkouts are suspect. They make me pause. Even when I end up happy, I sort of end up sad. I wrestle with the machines in two ways—besides the operational, there is the philosophical.
Because they are so anti-social.
One of the Sheetz stores closest to me not only has ordering kiosks but self-checkouts. It was one of the first experimental installations for this constantly-forward-looking retail chain. So I can buy nearly anything at the store and never talk to anyone. Maybe not tobacco … I wouldn’t know, because I don’t use it. Maybe not a propane tank, because someone has to open the outdoor cage/locker … but I imagine that day will come. Self-service propane.
But for my daily purposes, I’m able to buy from a robot. It’s heaven for a misanthrope: Someone who hates everyone. When a smoothly-functioning self-checkout cheers me up with its non-judgmental efficiency, it also makes me feel my dark side. I must be three-quarters dark side, because I love me a good self-checkout. And I hate it.
You can see that I think about this a lot. It is (wait for it) self-checkout about self-checkout.
That’s what made Ebenezer Scrooge pop into my mind.The phrase came as a whole: Ebenezer Scrooge at the Self-Checkout. Because that’s what his story is, in a different sense. A Christmas Carol could be subtitled The Self-Checkout of Ebenezer Scrooge. The tale is his dramatic self-analysis, brought on after years of ignoring a nagging conscience. Or it is a series of interventions, each with a ghost for a host. Depending on how you look at it.
The concept seemed very rich to me. Imagine Ebenezer Scrooge in an anachronistic setting: The Victorian man in today’s world, at a literal self-checkout. Our robot cashier stations would bring out the worst in him no matter his experience.
A bad experience would kindle his bitterness and anger (as it does yours truly). He would find that many cashier stations have yet to work out the Bah Humbugs.
A good experience would ignite his greed: “This is an infallible Bob Cratchit who needs neither pay nor benefits! NOR HOLIDAYS!” And it would cement his isolation: “Eureka! No meddling clerks!”
A self-checkout would perfectly define his character and his situation: A self-imposed exile.
Ah, but he is an exile overdue for serious introspection. He is ready for self-checkout.
At first I thought this would just be another of my Christmas short stories (I’ve written many). I did some early comic sketches. But then I realized the possibility of doing a full parallel novel.
There is a strong tradition of parallel works, of course:
Romeo & Juliet
West Side Story
My Fair Lady
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
I wrote an outline that spoke to me. And when the time came, I started writing with it as a guiding light, but I didn’t bind myself to it. It gave me a basic lay of the land for the archeological dig that I mentioned earlier. I knew something of where the story was headed, but only the broad shapes.
In my outline, Evan was isolated and bitter, but he harbored an old love interest. He heard her voice (or what reminded him of her voice) on the radio.
I knew from the beginning that there would be a girl that Evan would try to rescue. And that the girl was the daughter of his lost love.
Many aspects of that outline disappeared. The eventual draft did not include a vagabond dog that Evan came to call “Ratchet” (a reference to both socket wrenches and Bob Cratchit). And I didn’t play up the fact that Evan skinflintily resists the frequent pledge drives that he would hear listening to National Public Radio.
My outline gave just enough framing to construct the story. And it made a fun secret to try to hide from my faithful readers (except for Janet, who knew what I was up to). I particularly liked vaguely referencing ”A Christmas Carol” in character names. Here is a list:
(The name from A Christmas Carol comes first in CAPS)
The main character
Evan Easter (A near-rhyme. I originally thought about having children at Evan’s school taunting him with this rhyme, but that would have given away too much.)
Bree (because a fan produces a bree[ze])
Bridget Frances Given (“Fan” is a diminutive of “Frances.” This is the given name of Bree)
His nephew’s father
Fred, a nickname for Dr. John Frederick (reverse-engineered from Scrooge’s nephew needing to have “Fred” in his name. “Fred” has an odd sound [think “Flintstone”] but it does conveniently rhyme with Fred’s unfortunate condition soon after we meet him: Dead)
Jake (Marley was not Scrooge’s father, of course, but his business partner. But then, in a way, Jake was also Evan’s business partner. And both Jacob and Jake are the first ghost to appear in their stories.)
His love interest
Anabelle Faye Day (I used the nickname “Ana” to hide the showy name “Belle.” Notably, I mistakenly gave Ana the middle name “Summer” in her obituary. But I might leave that in the book. She was a free spirit, so maybe she changed it in a hippie direction.)
His nephew’s wife
(NOT NAMED)(but we do know she is ALIVE)
Vivian (Which means “Alive.” We meet her as Vivi, which sounds like “vivid,” in keeping with her liveliness in her brief appearances)
The child he comes to care for
Eve Day (A little girl who, like Tiny Tim, is uncomfortably close to death and has a name with three letters. Her name also parallels Evan’s own; stems from her mother’s birth date [the day before Valentine’s Day]; and suggests being on the verge of something new … A new Day)
Another way that I tried to weave ”A Christmas Carol” into my drafts was to distill the elements of the story into a list of ten words. I abandoned this about halfway through the drafting, after Evan’s story had a life of its own, but the Four Faithful readers might recall seeing the words. And the list definitely helped me honor and mine the source. The notes below will help show how I thought about them. Just let the letter “E” stand for either Ebenezer Scrooge or Evan Easter.
What made E like he is?
When does E join/not join others?
What is light in E’s life? What is dark?
What does E miss?
Who matters to him who is a “miss”? (young girl)
What or who does E save? (or try to save)
What or who does E save (or try to serve)
Who or what serves him?
What sounds are important in E’s life?
How sound are his decisions?
What or who does E store in his mind?
In his heart?
What do we see when we trace back in E’s life?
What are the major turns in E’s life?
When (if ever) does his turn come?
Those close to me know that I enjoy riddles. In part, this effort was a long, long riddle related to A Christmas Carol. Like so many others, that book is a favorite of mine. Every Christmas as a child, I watched a cartoon version on television with my sisters and brother, and our father encouraged us to listen to (you guessed it) a radio version. Am I right, Tina Eldred Koonz, Michael Eldred, Kimberly Eldred Hanson? And Leona Lavallee Eldred?
I still have a few more notes to share about other aspects of Rubrum. Thank you for listening, whoever is listening …
Here are the headings for the final two days of this series:
The elements from real life
The cameo appearances
The prominence of the color Red
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BONUS Christmas Carol material!
I realized that I have more to say that touches on A Christmas Carol. Namely … the ghosts!
In the previous note, I mentioned the two interpretations of the “Christmas Carol” ghosts:
(A) They’re real
(B) They’re not
My reader, cousin and special friend Stephanie Spaulding termed this for me: Supernatural versus Psychological. I aim for the same two possible interpretations in Rubrum.
Oh, how I would like there to be discussions and near-fistfights in Library Book Clubs about that. < wistful sigh >
But I digress …
I want to share my thoughts about how Rubrum’s ghosts do or do not correspond to those in A Christmas Carol. BUT please note: This is not the “official” word. Your thoughts hold as much weight as mine. This is just how I think about it.
– SPOILER ALERT –
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For those who have not read the entire book, a group that consists of the population of earth minus four. Or five, counting me.
– SPOILER ALERT –
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GHOST OF THE PAST
It’s easy to make a case for this. When she meets with Evan, they appear to focus on their past together.
Fred (when he appears in the room above the garage)
He has as least a share of this title. I think?
GHOST OF THE PRESENT
She shows Evan what is currently happening with Eve.
Also, after the fact, I realized that she is also the Ghost of the Present in that she gives Evan … a present! Rubrum is her gift to him.
GHOST OF THE FUTURE
Huh? But Eve doesn’t die. How could she be a ghost?
Here is my thinking: There is no meeting with a Ghost of the Future that is as delineated as Evan’s meetings with Ana and Miss Philippe. One of the reasons I did that was to veer from A Christmas Carol enough to make the riddle of its inspiration a little harder. I still wanted to have that parallel with the third ghost, but I let it go.
UNTIL I stretched my thinking.
What I mean is, I did not consciously design what I’m about to explain. I discovered it after the fact, after the book was written and I was looking for that third ghost.
I am thinking of Evan’s frequent meditations (perhaps even trances?) described in what was originally installment number 123. He has visions of Eve. He hasn’t met her yet. He doesn’t consciously gain any knowledge from this form of her. Yet I think that one possible interpretation is that, in an unfortunate alternate future, Eve dies as a consequence of Lee’s horrific plan, and she is communicating to Evan to come and rescue her. The parallel to A Christmas Carol: is this: Ebenezer Scrooge also sees an alternate reality, one where Tiny Tim has died. So who is to say that the Ghost of Christmas Future is not Tiny Tim himself? Or that the Eve of Evan’s meditations is not the Ghost of the Future?
Insert obligatory Scrooge quote here! He is speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Future: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
(Hey, I wasn’t an English major for nuthin’. I’m allowed to speculate on my own book.)
Okay, enough about A Christmas Carol. I promised a look at another aspect of Rubrum …
THE ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE
Below in parentheses is the number of the installment where the element originally appeared.
#000 on Sheetz receipt. I’ve achieved this! Sheetz does not give you the item free when you get this order number, but they should!
Garrison Keillor episode with spaghetti sauce on windshield of RV. This refers to actual “News from Lake Wobegon” that I once heard.
Square dancing in elementary school. This is a fond memory from my own small country school in Waterville, Vermont.
Jake makes Evan drive when he is too young. This was partly inspired by a high school friend’s claim that he and his father were both too drunk to drive one night, and his father made him drive before he had a license. “Nothing sobers you up faster,” my friend told me, “than driving when you don’t know how.” I know that story is all kinds of wrong … which is why it stuck with me.
Olive saves Eve from drowning. Perhaps I would not have drowned, but I have a clear memory of floundering and panicking in water over my head as a boy but being grabbed by my big sister. Thanks, Tina Eldred Koonz! You might have prevented my career as a Ghost of the Past.
Walt’s story. I heard this verbatim from a custodian on lunch break during my one night of high school detention. He was Walt Spaulding, grandfather of Stephanie Spaulding. She told me that episode made her cry. You’re welcome, Cousin. (See below for more cameo appearances.)
Coming upon a thicket of deer at night. This happened to me one glorious time in Vermont exactly as described. A rapturous moment.
An accident with a deer. When I wrote this, a freak incident had just happened to my wife. A deer crossed three lanes of traffic and ran right into her moving car. It bounced off and kept going. Thankfully, there were no deaths.
Ana’s birth on Valentine’s Eve. The same as our granddaughter Brook! I originally thought that I might try to give Brook the nickname “Eve,” but it never stuck.
The playground. Here I am describing Kelly Park, a nice place that is a short walk from our home.
Foul-mouth fries. This was you as an infant, Ethan Eldred. Oh, yes.
The park that overlooks the town. Evan later calls this park “The Cliffs.” I was picturing Chimney Rocks Park, which overlooks our town of Hollidaysburg.
First kiss. Janet Eldred and I were both younger than 35, the age of Evan and Ana here, but my writing here was inspired by our first kiss.
The purple blanket. A favorite of Janet’s. She keeps it in our living room. It came from the store at the Woolen Mill in Johnson, Vermont. We bought it after Janet drew from tags in a bowl in the store to determine her discount. 25% off!
Evan steps out of his car after being pulled over. I did that once, in ignorance, as a young and stupid driver in Vermont. The police officer shouted me back into my car. Do not do this. You might get shot.
Kicked in the diaphragm. It happened to me in a martial arts class. I thought my breathing days were over.
That Idiot Ross
I won’t give his real name, but he lives in our town.
(46) and beyond
I have to find her and apologize for killing her. This teacher was inspired by one of my favorites in high school, Kristin Pettit. She had panache and used words like “panache.” I arrived at her name like so:
made me think of
the fearless soul who walked a tightrope between New York’s Twin Towers
Walt. This is Walt Spaulding, as mentioned above. As pleasant and hard-working as any man who ever lived.
Steffy. This pretty waitreSS (Note the initials inserted) is none other than Stephanie Spaulding. She has a third S in her initials, as reflected in her dialogue: “So sweet, sir!” Steph’s reaction to discovering herself in that installment: “The waitress might be your best character yet!”
Mr. Claussen. This is a composite cameo. The scientific name “Acer Rubrum” has a tricky origin. I received assistance in understanding it from sibling Latin teachers: Stephanie Spaulding again, and her brother Richard Spaulding Jr. “Claussen” is a reference to Rich’s childhood nickname (a fun name that I won’t give here unless he would want me to). Conveniently, this name also includes “SS” for Steph. I appreciate their help. Any liberties taken with linguistic scholarship are my doing.
Nene. To complete the Spaulding set in “Rubrum,” this fleeting character, complete with nickname tag, is meant to suggest my cousin Charlene Spaulding. Evan wonders how to pronounce “Nene.” The answer is “KNEE-knee.”
This Series of Series
Expect these headings:
The prominence of the color Red
Thank you for reading!
364 of 365
A redraft of my novel ”Rubrum”
4 of 4
Here it is, my final post in this looong series. My final Author’s Note. I promised to talk about two more areas:
The prominence of the color Red
First of all, the prominence of Red IS one of the surprises. Probably the biggest surprise.
Rubrum, the car, turns out to be a central element in the story and might even be called a character. A silent character. A witness. An agent. At the beginning, I had no idea that a red car would appear in this story at all.
I’m still pondering whether there is a parallel in my inspirational source, A Christmas Carol. If there is an object central to Scrooge’s story, it is money itself. “The master-passion, Gain”—Dickens calls it. This is what Scrooge’s betrothed, Belle, sees him choosing over her.
I see Evan doing the opposite—he thrusts Rubrum away from himself. He walks away from it. Yet this puts him in the same place as Scrooge—alone—because Rubrum is the substance of his relationship with Ana. He had tried to acquire the red car to please her. When tragedy ensues, he seems to believe he should not have pursued that relationship. Nor any relationship, ever.
In refusing to work on Rubrum and later refusing to accept Rubrum as a gift from Miss Philippe, Evan refuses connection with others. But connection pursues him in many ways. Through those who love him: Bree, Ricky, Miss Philippe, Vivi. And his being reaches out for connection to them. To Eve. Even to his father and to Lee. His yearning seems to bring all of them to him. And Rubrum finally comes to him.
No coincidence, I think, that the car is the color of love. Love finally arrives to stay.
The secondary appearance of Red in the story is in the tree planted by Evan’s mother. A red maple. I also had no idea that I would write a tree into the draft. The maple first appears after Bree re-enters the rooms above the garage, where she and Evan had lived when they lost their mother. We learn at the same time as Evan that the maple was planted by her mother, and that he was there as a toddler. So Evan’s mother seems to be reaching out to him as well. She found a way to stay with him.
It seemed too good to be true when I learned that the scientific name of a Red Maple is Acer Rubrum. That would seem to be the kind of thing an author plans. Even builds a story around.
Right! Sure! I meant it all along!
Except no. It was purely a happy accident. A stroke of fortune that will always delight me.
Like Evan, I was surprised over and over to find love reaching toward me through this story. My whole life has been miracles, and this was another.
If you are interested in all the ways that Red figures into the draft, here you go. The word “Red” appears 68 times in the text. It colors the following: (NOTE: This list numbers fewer than 68 because Red is used multiple times in connection with some of these)
Radio power light
The canopy of a Sheetz store (red is the trademark color of Sheetz)
Laser lines on self-checkout stations
Red face from crying (Evan)
Red face from anger (Jake)
Ana’s bathing suit under her clothes
Flashlight that Ana gives Evan to signal her
Red face from embarrassment (Evan’s) brought on by Ricky’s prank
Setting sun when Evan and Bree are in the park
Setting sun when Evan and Ana are in the other park
Reference to the cords of Evan’s bond with Ricky
Setting sun when Evan is with Bree, Ricky and Vivi at the picnic
Evan’s glowering eyes after one terrible case of Jake’s abuse
The lights of the cruiser that pulls Evan over
The tag on the key to Rubrum
Brake lights on the truck that bears down on Evan
Miss Philippe’s references to blood, guilt, love
The paint Evan gets for the garage
The key copy that Ana buys
I have one more surprise related to Red, but I will save that for a bit.
First, the other major surprise in the book: Miss Philippe. I mentioned that I patterned her after a favorite teacher of mine, Ms. Kristin Pettit.
I could not overstate how much Miss Pettit influenced me. In my high school, she taught English and directed musicals and plays. I first met her when I gained a bit part in “Oklahoma!” as a sophomore. My trailblazing big sister, Tina Eldred Koonz, had been in a previous musical that Ms. Petit directed, “Li’l Abner,” and Tina was in “Oklahoma!” as well. She looked good in calico.
For me, Ms. Pettit, embodied being an individual. She had a unique persona, a unique look, a unique way of speaking. I had the sense that she had designed herself. Not artificially so—exactly the opposite. I found her to have settled on choices that suited her and pleased her. She seemed very naturally larger than life and utterly herself. She lived life in all its colors.
You could picture her as bohemian. Loose clothes with earth tones. An outfit for selling jewelry in an outdoor booth—and I mean that with all admiration. A bracelet of braids or beads. Short hair that looked good without (I think) much time put into it. For me, she was freedom walking.
She was the first to talk to me (her classes as a whole, but at the same time it felt like she was speaking only to me) about finding myself in writing. About discovering what I really had to say. About the first few paragraphs being posturing, preamble to the truth. Get rid of those paragraphs! Get to the truth.
She talked about letting yourself actually be seen. About removing masks and layers. It applied in writing and in the roles we acted in her plays. As cliché as it sounds, she helped me find myself. More accurately, she helped me begin to understand THAT I could find myself.
All these years later, I am still at it. In ways that she taught me.I’m doing it at this moment, as I type THESE WORDS. And these. And these. I find … that I keep finding myself. Anew. Because I change. My beliefs change. The world keeps spinning, transporting us to new spots.
Miss Philippe, my counterpart to Ms. Pettit, helps Evan find himself. Locate himself. Discover his destiny. There are the words of her letter, which he reads every Sunday like Scripture: “Evan Easter, do you know what you are doing?” When I wrote this draft, I knew what I was doing in part. I had an outline. The word sketches were exactly that: Sketches that would help teach me the final work that I wanted to do.
In another way, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where the story would go. But—this is the paradox—I knew to do that. To follow the leadings and have faith that I would end in a good place. That is what Evan does: Follow the leadings. And he ends in a good place.
So the surprise? Evan’s story is mine. I hope it’s yours as well. Follow the leadings.
I mentioned above that there was one final surprise related to Red. Here it is:
Now that the draft is complete, I look forward to working with the text toward an actual printed book. E-Reader versions, too, but I will never lose my love for bound versions. And for both paper and screen, I will want a cover. A striking cover. It will have the word “Rubrum” of course. And a red convertible. It has to.
I want it to look good. I’ll do an initial design myself, but when the time comes, I’ll want work from a professional, And when I started thinking about that, my mind immediately went to a friend who I met through work. He lives near Philadelphia. And my heart skipped. Because I hadn’t thought of him in a while. And how much I enjoy him … and his last name.
The person I ask to design the cover of Rubrum will be my good friend Christopher Redkar. I think he was born to do it. (smile) You will hear more about that soon.
I’m choking up as I type the final words in this series. Tears now.
Thank you once more to my readers:
… for one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Completed at 5:59 am
Bonus author’s note after completing a year of redrafting
I purposely strung this revision out for the entire year of 2018, because I wanted to give each section of ”Rubrum” a close examination, to get the manuscript into the best shape I could before taking the next step of getting it published. That will be a primary pursuit throughout 2019, aimed at the book’s making a big splash in 2020.
I had one additional reader follow me all the way this time—yet another cousin, Alison Lynch. This interest was as encouraging to me as it was during the original drafting. Alison, thank you. Michele Graham did a complete repeat by granting me a Like on each post once again. Michele, thank you.
I am sure that such a slow telling made it difficult to follow the story. I realized some months into the process that I was doing the same kind of thing as a daily serial comic strip such as ”The Phantom” or ”Mary Worth.” Who can keep hold of the plot at that pace? This is coming from a person, by the way, who often has trouble following a plot in a two-hour movie. At the credits, I often head straight to Wikipedia for a synopsis. Having said that, I’d like to offer a synopsis of Rubrum. You’ll find it here.
To be clear, I don’t regret the slow telling—either time. As expressed earlier in my notes, the original 160-day drafting was a sublime experience. So was this year-long revision, which I must say, was first of all for my sake—or more precisely, for the sake of my creative process. It was deeply satisfying to improve text that I already loved but recognized had significant flaws. The text is still flawed, and I still love it. I love the characters, and I loved spending time with them again. I know it is over the top to say this, but I like that they have me to hover over them and care about them as they pass through their hardships. We tell stories for connection to ourselves and to each other, and caring about fictional friends makes the heart bigger for real friends. Don’t tell me that accompanying Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t make you a better person. Evan Easter also does that for me. He did it for me again this year.
Here is one final realization that dawned on me over halfway through my series of 2018 postings—say on August 22 or so. I saw that ”Red” showed through again. In every post, in fact. Not only in the Latin of the title, ”Rubrum,” but in the words before that.
Because this was a REDraft.
Thank you for being there. Blessings for 2019
Added still later:
Ultimately, I published the book in 2020, on September 22, when Janet and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary