So. . .What Now?



Page 100!

I just finished writing a book.

A real book.

It has characters, and plot, and conflict, and it made me laugh and cry while I wrote it.

It took me over twenty years to do it, though.

Paper Wrappers was originally a short story called Milly’s Magic that I wrote in a college creative writing course at UNC-Chapel Hill under the direction of Ms. Doris Betts.  I was pursuing a minor in creative writing to go with my English major.  Ms. Betts didn’t particularly care for Milly’s story.  It wasn’t her style or subject matter and she thought I used my characters’ names too often.  Several of my fellow students, however, thought there was potential in the story, especially for children, though they did point out it was a “Dumbo’s feather” story.

It is. I don’t deny that.

The next year, I was in a children’s creative writing course, finishing my minor, under the tutelage of Ms. Ruth Moose.  She loved Milly and wanted me to try to make her into a book.  She suggested some new conflicts for Milly to overcome.  I wrote two chapters before I became a teacher.

Then Milly took a back seat.

I worked on it over the course of my teaching career.  In fact, every time I shared Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist with a class, I would publicly recommit to finishing the manuscript.

But, much like Stephen King says in his book On Writing, teaching sucks the creative juice right out of you.  So, often, Milly got pushed to summer.

Somewhere along the line, the title changed to Paper Wrappers.


I guess my name changed along the line, too.

Several years ago, I toyed with changing Milly’s name to Hope.  But I couldn’t.

Some characters did change names.  Some just changed the way they spell their names.

At any rate, now I have a manuscript.  Think EB White and Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little when you think about the age group of the intended audience.

Today, when I finished at approximately 2:10pm EST, I felt a little sad. But also excited. I have birthed a 28,913 word 100 page book.

I’m proud of Milly.  But I’m also scared for her.  What if no one likes her?

I’m not naive enough to think she doesn’t need some polish.  But, polish often has grit in it to smooth away those rough spots.

Truthfully, I just have no idea what to do now.


Paper Wrappers

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We’re getting closer to a paper wrapper and the reason I told you I really liked this shirt.

Read on, faithful followers.  Here’s the next five pages or so of the original manuscript. More

Paper Wrappers (last week’s installment)

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Karen Black took Milly to pick up her glasses on Wednesday.  They dropped Daryl off at the park on the way.

“We’ll be back in about an hour.  We’ll go get something to eat before your dad gets home,” Karen told him.

“Whatever,” Daryl called as almost slammed Milly’s hand in the door and just kept running.

“You’re lucky, Karen.  You don’t have any brothers.”

Karen laughed.  “We can take a break from Daryl for a while.  What do you want to do?”

“Can we go to the library?”

Karen and Milly picked up the glasses and headed to the library.  Dark clouds were beginning to fill the sky.  Milly watched as one set would blend into the next, covering up the blue afternoon.  She fidgeted with the glasses case in her hand.  She had been able to see better when the lady had adjusted them for fit.  But as soon as she and Karen had gotten in the car she’d taken them off.  Karen didn’t say anything though.  She just turned up the radio and sang along.

“Karen Black! How are you? I haven’t seen you since I don’t know when.” Mrs. Grey came out from behind her desk to hug Karen.

“It’s so nice you remember me, Mrs. Grey,” Karen smiled.

Mrs. Grey laughed. “You kept me hopping with making sure my basketball literature was up to date.  I read about you in the paper.  This will be an exciting year for you.” As she talked she patted Milly’s back.  Milly liked being noticed and listened.  It was soothing to feel Mrs. Grey’s warm hand.

“It’s my senior year.  I hope we can hang onto our championship title.”

“You just do your best, dear.”  She turned to Milly, brushing Milly’s dark hair behind her ear.  “And how are you?  Are you excited about tomorrow?”

Milly looked down at the glasses case in her hands.  She had been rolling it over as Mrs. Grey had talked with Karen.  “I don’t know,” she mumbled.

Mrs. Grey put a light hand on her shoulder.

Milly gulped.  She didn’t really want to talk in front of Karen.  She wanted Karen to think she was grown up.  “I don’t know who my teacher is,” she finally answered.  “I’m going to go pick out some books.” She headed to the back of the library where the picture window was.  She could see that the clouds were getting darker.

“Hurry, Milly.  Daryl’s game will probably get rained on so we’ll need to go get him,” Karen called after her.

Milly ducked into the last row of children’s books.  She had no idea what she wanted read, she just didn’t want anyone to see her cry.  She opened her glasses case and pulled them out.  She put them on and walked to the window.  Her reflection was dim, but she could see the ovals perched on her nose.  Tears rolled down her cheek as rain drops started to splatter against the window.  Milly wasn’t excited about school tomorrow.  She was scared.  there were so many things that were different about her.  She wanted to fit in.  She had never been the new girl before.  And now she had glasses.  What if she was the only one in the whole class with glasses?  And how many ten year olds didn’t have mothers because she died in a car accident?

“Milly,” Mrs. Grey softly said.  “I told Karen to go get Daryl.”

Milly watched the rain.  It was steady now, making a rhythmic drumming sound on the windowpane.  Lightening brightened the sky followed by the low rumble of thunder.

“She’ll be back for you in a bit.  I picked a book out for you.  I think you’ll like it.  It’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.”

“Thank you.” She still didn’t turn around.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Milly saw Mrs. Grey reach her hand out towards her back in the reflection and then stop, letting it drop quietly.

Milly silently shook her head.  They listened to the rain drum and roll on the roof and down the glass. The storm was letting up already.

“You miss her a lot right now.”

Milly nodded, biting her lip.  The ache behind her eyes from holding back sobs was too much.  Her shoulders started to shake as she turned and buried her face in Mrs. Grey’s stomach.  She cried, and Mrs. Grey said nothing.

“Why’d she have to die?  Why’d MY mom have to die?  It’s not fair,” Milly sobbed.  Mrs. Grey still said nothing.  “I’m so scared that no one will like me or I won’t be smart enough or pretty enough or anything.  And she’d know what to say.”

Mrs. Grey stepped back. She retrieved a Kleenex from her pocket and wiped Milly’s face.

“Sweetheart, I don’t know what your mother would say to you right now because I never knew her.  But I know her daughter.  And she’s a smart, funny, and pretty girl.”

“What if no one else thinks so?  I’ve been here a month and Daryl has made friends and I haven’t.”

“You’re friends with me and Karen.”

Milly shook her head.  Mrs. Grey just didn’t understand.  She meant friends in her grade.  Mrs. Grey and Karen were nice but she’d never have a slumber party with them.

“I’m sorry I can’t fix this for you, Honey.” Mrs. Grey handed Milly the book she’d picked.  They heard the cowbell clang as someone came in.  “That’ll be your brother and Karen.  Come on.”

Milly nodded.  She turned to loo back at her reflection in the window.  She wrinkled her nose at her glasses.  Just as she was turning to follow Mrs. Grey she saw the rainbow.  The rain was a slow drizzle and the sun was breaking brightly through the clouds.  The rainbow cast all of its colors in a beautiful arc over the clouds before disappearing in the mist rolling up from the hot ground.

“Hey, Squirt,” Daryl said. “Nice extra eyes.  Maybe now you’ll quit running into things.” He started to laugh but Karen elbowed him the back.

Milly bit her lip again and waited fro Mrs. Grey to stamp her book with the due date.  She tried to tell herself that it didn’t matter what Daryl said. She pushed the glasses up on her nose, not really because they had slipped, but because she wasn’t used to how they felt.

Mrs. Grey handed her the book.  “You’ll get used to them,” she smiled. “Soon you won’t even remember they’re there.”

Somehow, Milly doubted that.

“Ya’ll ready? We need to get going if I’m going to get a pizza delivered”

“Yeah, let’s go Four Eyes.”

Karen waited for Milly. “Don’t let him get to you.  He’s a boy.  They’re all like that. Even the ones my age.”

Milly shuddered.  If older boys were like Daryl, things certainly didn’t seem too promising.

At home Karen and Daryl cleaned up dishes left from breakfast and lunch while MIlly folded clothes out of the dryer.  She liked this chore the best. Dad and Daryl were horrible at folding clothes.  Mostly, she liked it though because she and Mom had done it together.  Mom had even taught her how to fold fitted sheets where theyd didn’t look different from the flat sheets.  They used to race to see who could fold a pair of jeans the fastest.  And laughed every time another of Daryl’s socks was eaten by the dryer monster.

“He’s struck again, the mysterious dryer resident,” Mom said

“It was time for his feeding,” suggested Milly

“Oh, come on, Milly! You can do better.  Imagination, please.”

“Hmm, well. . . a sacrifice, small. But our laundry will now be light and fluffy.  The dryer god has deemed it so.  Until, of course, he is offended again by Daryl’s holey socks and we will pay the price.”

Mom laughed, tossed the lone sock in Milly’s face, “Much better!”

Milly held the sock she’d just pulled from the dryer.  She lifted it to her nose and inhaled the fresh, clean warmth.  It was almost like Mom was there.

“What you doing, Button?” Dad’s voice broke in.

“The dryer god has taken another sacrifice,” she answered, still holding the sock.


Milly just looked at him.

“Well, Karen is leaving.  Come say goodbye.  The pizza is here too.” Dad left.

Milly followed slowly.

Got my glasses. Daryl made fun of me all afternoon.  If my own brother can’t be nice how come a stranger might?  Dad didn’t even notice.  Maybe I’ll be sick tomorrow and not have to go to school.  the dryer god struck again.  Nobody understands.

Paper Wrappers and Merry Christmas

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1268580_10201989747978213_1302152653_oBefore we find out what’s going on with Milly, let me take a moment to wish everyone a very blessed Christmas.  May you each know the joy and peace of the Christ Child.

And now. . .back to Milly.  When we last left her she had just gotten her library card (a very important possession) More

Paper Wrappers

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Let’s get back to Milly. . .if you need a reminder, you can start here.  Then go here.  In essence, we’re now to Chapter 2.

Milly, Daryl, and Dad worked hard to get every thing put in place in their new house.  The living room transformed from an empty shell to a cozy room with rugs and a sectional couch.  Dad’s rust colored recliner got an optimal position in front of the TV.  Above the mantelpiece hung a large photograph of MIlly, Daryl, Dad, and Mom.  Milly stared at the picture, burning the image into her memory.  Mom was wearing a royal blue dress, her hand rested on Milly’s shoulder and her smile verged on a laugh.  The picture was only six months old. More

Paper Wrappers continued


Last month, we met Milly, a rising fifth grader who is moving to a new town after a devastating loss.  If you missed the first installment you can find it here.

Let’s continue. . . More

Paper Wrappers–Meet Milly


Fourth Wednesdays will be “Seasoned Fiction.” This means that you will get a little bit of my writing.  Mostly, what you’re going to get is me editing my children’s chapter book Paper Wrappers.  Short synopsis, it’s a story about a little girl named Milly who is lacking in self-confidence for various reasons and the journey she goes on to find it.  I may break it up some over the months and throw in some of my short stories (already written or yet to be created–who knows).

History on the book: it started as a short story called Milly’s Magic in my first creative writing class with Bland Simpson at UNC over 15 years ago.  From there I was encouraged by Ruth Moose (in a subsequent creative writing class) to turn it into a book, with some modifications.  I completed it a couple of years ago, but it’s never been edited.  Hence–fourth Wednesday “Seasoned Fiction.” Shall we get started? More