13 Days

On February 1, I will send off whatever I have of this new novel to my editor, David Levithan, at Scholastic. Please God, may I have an entire book, Book One of The Sixties Trilogy. (Working title: THE END OF THE ROPE. This will change.)

Remember my first line? "I am eleven years old and I am invisible."

Franny Chapman wants to survive nuclear attack, if it comes, and she's pretty certain it will, in October 1962, outside of Washington, D.C. She's writing a letter to JFK and Chairman Khrushchev. She's spying on her older sister, Jo Ellen. She's fighting with her best friend, Margie.

Halloween is just around the corner. So is a gravel pit, a brother who wants to be an astronaut, a fighter-pilot dad, a perfect-hostess mom, and crazy Uncle Otts, World War I vet, who is the self-proclaimed neighborhood air-raid warden. Can you say embarrassment?

Then there is the boy across the street. Don't get me started on the boy across the street, or on those 13 days in October when the world came as close as it has ever come to nuclear annihilation.

That's what I'm writing about, in the larger sense. But it's Franny's story.

I have 13 days to finish it. Same time frame as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I have so much left to do.

I am going to post here every day, and I will twitter multiple times per day (you can see these at twitter, or by going to this blog's online presence -- where some of you are now). I will also separately update my fan page (haha! FIFTY FANS! We're going to have to rent a stadium! Or a stake-bed truck) from under the blankets draped across the furniture. Oh, the perks of being in the all-inclusive club.

So there are several ways to keep up if you are 1) interested and 2) willing to cheer me on. I am seriously behind, but I am determined. You can opt out at any time, of course, you can ignore me the next 13 days, etc., but I could use your energy and good wishes, which is why I'm going to pepper you with posts. I may not be able to reply to comments, but I'll be living on every word.

I tend to write in white heats. I sink down, down, down, and the world goes away while I concentrate for many hours, days, weeks at a time. This next 12 days, I will be in that place, but I will also have three school visits to do, locally, and a non-functioning bathroom. All of this was scheduled when I was going to be done by November 1, of course.

I spent the weekend in my pajamas, in the pink chair, by the fire, laptop and coffee and concentration. I got dressed to go to dinner with Jim last night, as I had eaten nothing but half a chocolate bar all day. Today I ate some Triscuits and mozzarella. I polished it off with a diet Barq's and called it dinner.

This afternoon I researched until I had to take a nap. I read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I. I read all about Harry Truman (Harry Truman -- who knew! And I found a wonderful primary source -- his letters to Bess).

I collected recipes from Peg Bracken's I HATE TO COOK BOOK. I gathered the top 100 tunes from 1960 through 1962. I listened to Sam Cooke ("Don't know much about history..." bliss), and studied up on the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I took notes on the 1960 Olympics in Rome (Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay, Rafer Johnson) and on the 1962 integration of Ole Miss, when federal marshalls escorted James Meredith to register and Governor Ross Barnett refused him at the door. What a time.

I read the following comment on a blog about sixties appetizers, laughed out loud, immediately wanted to create this character, and settled instead for stealing her style and using it to tell you about my dinner:

My mother used to take a slice of salami and put a slice of provolone on top. Then she'd put a plop of prepared tuna salad in the middle, lay an anchovy across it, roll it up and put a toothpick in the whole thing. Then she'd throw back a Grasshopper or a Pink Flamingo, tug on her Doris Day wig, and call it a party.

Yeah! These are the people I'm writing about! I hope they make you laugh. So back to it, armed with today's research to answer the questions I bumped against today. I'm also going to take a bath, because tomorrow, as I said, the bathroom... goes. This is just the sort of distraction I need in the next 13 days.

I was supposed to be done a long time ago, you'll remember. My goal had been Nov. 1. Then I lost an editor in October, lost momentum, began fall travels, slid into the holidays, and... well, now I'm finishing, and the bathroom is beginning, and I will not be delayed again! So. Bath. Then bed. Then -- 12 days.


  1. Go Deborah Go Deborah - you can do it!

    Plus here in Atlanta it is much too cold to go outside - LOL! Stay in your pj's and finish - maybe after the 13 days it will be warm again around here!!

  2. Okay, I'll stay in my pjs until Thurs. when I work with students at Brookwood Elementary! Thanks for the validation. See you soon --


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