Interview

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On personally defining success and nostalgia.

Published November 17, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was exciting as far as my blossoming writing career goes.  I had an author event on Thursday, November 14th at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.  The event was sponsored and essentially put together by the Literature Club, specifically because of Sara Pease, who is a former student of mine and a simply wonderful human being.  There were about twenty people in attendance, most of whom were attentive and asked the best questions I have had the privilege of answering.  I was able to sell seven books and talk to some truly interesting and supportive young adults.  It was a wonderful experience and it made returning to work on Friday SO HARD.

Last night, which was Saturday, November 16th, I was able to occupy a vendor table at Ladies’ Night Out at the Manchester Firehouse in Manchester, New Jersey.  I sold five books and was able to engage in highly entertaining conversations with fellow vendors.  I shared my table with D.O.V.E., which is an organization that helps to empower female victims of violence.  It was a serendipitous pairing, considering the content of Her Beautiful Monster.  It was a great evening, and I was truly humbled by my friends Heather, Ali, Kasey, Melanie, Marie and Jenna who showed up and have done so at every available opportunity.  Though I only sold a total of twelve books and minimally increased my audience, everyone has to start somewhere and these experiences helped to confirm for me that I need to be a writer.  It is a goal I need to work harder towards, because it helps to me to feel fulfilled, complete, and just plain happy.  In the following months, my goal is to be interviewed by a newspaper that serves a large population (like the Asbury Park Press) and send queries to agents, who would also help in marketing.  Speaking of marketing, my friend Kalie invited me to attend an event with her on Wednesday that provides ideas for marketing in viral markets and on social media sites (I believe).  She brought up the important point that networking is key.

Wish me luck, and enjoy this week’s writing prompt.  🙂

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6: “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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I am a sad, silly and lonely girl.  I imagine a woman would be wiser and stronger, and refrain from indulging in simple fantasies she plans on forcing to be recurrent.  The latest is this: graduation night will be a beautiful night near the latter part of June.  The moon will be full and bright and hanging high in the sky.  Its beauty will be lost on me, unfortunately, because I’ll be inside the high school, dutifully stationed at my classroom door.  I’ll be stuck handing out official, important-looking, white, large envelopes to the robed miscreants, academics, athletes, everyone in between.  The envelopes will contain various certificates and documents that become so much useless paper in lieu of graduation itself, and of all the accompanying promises and freedom and optimism intangibly included therein.  As such, students will not be rushing to obtain the envelopes and will have to be reminded and redirected several times by the faculty members in attendance.  Blue and gold robes will whip and ripple around sneakers and outrageous heels, slapping and clicking respectively through the hallways as sloppy hugs, final goodbyes, and well-wishes are doled out.  As it grows late, the number of students whirling about in flurries of excitement lessens considerably and the building borders on being empty and desolate and lonely.

 

I will sigh and fall back against the classroom door, keeping the door open while lazily allowing the door made of composite wood to support my weight rather than my understandably aching feet.  I pray I will have lost the weight and that my skin will be clear, or at the very least, clearer than it is now.  I’ll be observing the few remaining students and faculty members milling about, a mere observer whose mind is one million miles away, on to the next silly fantasy as the last thousand never ever came to fruition.  Someone will approach from behind, out of my view, to unintentionally capitalize upon the element of surprise.  He will gently clear his throat and simultaneously become unexpectedly and wildly unsure of himself.  To release the building nervous energy, he will shove his hands deep into the front pockets of his worn jeans, covered in orange-colored dust from fascinating roads less traveled in America, so that his calloused fingertips (worked to the bone, strumming guitars and banjos, gripping the wheel too tightly) bend against the fabric of the lining.  He’ll gently clear his throat, embellishing the strong and solid muscles of his masculine neck and jaw, and say, “Hey Andrea.”

 

Startled from my reverie, my closest and most constant companion, I’ll turn quickly but it’ll feel like slow motion, like trying to move fast in a dream, once my eyes take in his image and my brain comprehends who is standing there.  I am certain I will feel fifteen.  Breathless and deliciously confused, I’ll smile and lamely offer, “Hey.”  In a moment or so, I’ll (hopefully) come back to myself and break out with a radiant (well, as radiant as a smile can be when it’s caged by braces) smile and ask how he’s been.  I’ll already have some idea courtesy of creeping on Facebook and the gossip of mutual acquaintances.  I’ll know he’s been living a bohemian life I’ve always dreamed of, that he’s braver and more wonderful than my adolescent self had ever even dreamed of, even though he had been my schoolgirl obsession for years.  He won’t go into all of that, though.  He’ll keep it politely simple and appropriately simple and only say that he’s been good and doing well.  He’ll ask me how I’ve been and I’ll answer in an extremely similar fashion, lifting my upturned palms as a sort of half-hearted shrug and to indicate how absolutely bizarre it can be to work in the same high school we graduated from.  He’ll smile and let his gaze fall to the floor beneath us, seemingly perfectly content to stew in the impending awkward silence.

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I, on the other hand, have never been so suave or comfortable in my own skin, nor will I ever be.  I’ll need to smash it, to break it, so I’ll do what I never wanted to and bring up the past in all its embarrassing nostalgia.  How could I not, given the present company, our history, and current setting?  I believe he’ll only laugh and shrug it off.  His cheeks will color slightly, resulting from excessive, juvenile flattery and perhaps guilt stemming from the playground torture and adolescent cruelty he inflicted upon me.  Indeed, his grin will ultimately fade and his eyes will rise to meet mine.  His face, so uniquely handsome and so simultaneously beautiful in its stoic sorrow from many troubles and burdens I only ever guessed at among whispering girlfriends, will be set.  He’ll ask, “Do you remember what I wrote in your yearbook?”

 

Shock and nausea will be my immediate response.  My mouth will go dry and I’ll choke and sputter when I ask, “Do you?”

 

He’ll smile, but it will be so muted that I will doubt its authenticity.  “Of course I do!  I didn’t write it lightly.”  There will be a gut-wrenching pause to allow the tears to gather and prick at my eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he’ll say.  “And I didn’t ignore the e-mail you sent me, either.  I’ve just been busy and then I thought –“

 

“Stop,” I’ll command and demand.  “You don’t have to, you really don’t have to.  It’s whatever; I mean, it is what it is, and I don’t know why I sent that message.  Did it completely creep you out?  I’m sorry.”

 

Kindly, he will smile and say, “No, it didn’t creep me out, not at all.”  Another awkward silence will descend and though I will positively squirm, screaming inner, secret prayers for it to end or for me to just die, he will be graceful and effortless in his charm when he says, “You look good.”

 

My face will flush and I will find a spot on the floor incredibly interesting suddenly, and concentrate my gaze there.  It will be in an attempt at being coy and feminine and flirty, but I will be too chicken shit to meet his gaze, so I will be unable to determine its effectiveness.  The lack of eye contact will by no means be a lack of attention.  He will undoubtedly captivate me and rob me of my breath, the way he always did and, most likely, always will.  Grinning, I’ll thank him for the compliment and eagerly return it in a fashion more embarrassing than charming or even sincere.  He’ll nod his head in a charming, gentleman’s way.  “Thank you,” he will say with a slight Southern drawl he never had before that I will suspect him of faking for the moment.  After all, I won’t feel so guilty or so lame if him and I are nothing more than a couple of liars.

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The inability to know what to say next will become unbearable for the both of us.  He’ll hurriedly mumble that it was good seeing me, that it was good to catch up, and he’ll hope to see me around, and then he’ll be gone.  Nothing ever really changes, not even within my precious illusions and foolish fantasies.  But, I’ll shut my eyes tight and envision him somewhere down the line, embellishing the encounter more so than I’ve done in creating it.  He’ll tell of an imagined conversation which lasts and lasts until we’re actually asked to leave by the custodial staff.  He’ll say I suggested moving the conversation to a local, popular restaurant where we stay until we are again asked to leave.  We’ll say our goodbyes beneath unforgiving fluorescent lights in an empty parking lot.  I smile when I think of how he’ll lie and tell his attentive listener that he reached out to touch my face and I yielded completely to the touch, a victim of parting and sweet sorrow and all that ancient, literary jazz.  He’ll say, “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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On cautiously communicating.

Published July 12, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was completely enjoyable. Jimmy and I slept late, then Mimi brought us to the park. It was fascinating to watch children interact – there was little to no hesitation in making introductions and starting games. They behaved as if no one was watching and if someone was, then who cared? It was freeing.

My heart broke a little when I saw a little boy wander off behind the swings, pull of his shorts, remove his diaper, and just relieve himself.  He couldn’t have been older than two years old, and his father couldn’t see him from his perch on a bench on the completely other side of the park. He was chatting up a single mother beside him and screaming obscenities into a smart phone. The neglect was obvious and yet unavoidable – who were any of us to give a lecture? We didn’t know the man or the child or what they may have been through. But still – isn’t it common sense, isn’t it decent to love your child enough so that they aren’t whispered about, so that they are clean and children want to befriend them, not ridicule them and think them gross?

I have a second interview at a high school in Oakland, New Jersey. It’s about two hours away, and I’m teaching a twenty-minute mock lesson that introduces The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am tremendously excited because not only is The Great Gatsby my favorite novel of all time, but I think my introductory lesson is innovative. I’m having the “students” free associate with images that represent the novel, the author and the time period. Each student will compose a list of five to seven words, and then the class will come together to share the words and create a class-generated word web. Hopefully my interviewers will find it impressive as well.

I’ve been incredibly stressed about my work situation as of late. I need a full-time teaching job, but do not really have the resources to relocate. I’m happy about the second interview in Oakland, but I worry that it isn’t practical. Besides, the high school I was employed by last year and which is close to my current residence should be conducting interviews soon. I just wish I could know for sure. It’d make decision making so much easier.

PROMPT: “I just had the weirdest dream about you.”

PIECE:

John stood back, in a far corner of the bookstore.  He had strategically positioned himself between the aisle filled with paperback novels about robust men and busty women, and the aisle filled with books about travel and cooking.  He believed such a position showcased his interests nicely, and he didn’t have to say a word.  It was subtle – more subconscious than anything else – and he thought it was working.  A couple of attractive men had walked by once or twice, stealing glances from between shelves, offering smiles that appeared harmless enough, but John knew better.  He was feeling confident, pretending to leaf through a popular novel about a brooding and noble vampire doing his utmost to woo a young woman whom was seemingly plain to the untrained eye but in reality, she was everything.  As juvenile and feminine as the material was, John enjoyed it.  It made for great material when he wanted to live vicariously in a melodramatic, whirlwind romance – all he was ever searching for.

Suddenly, a tall, cool glass of water swept gracefully into John’s peripheral and he was thirsty.  Dark hair that was longer than what was fashionable because this man was too cool to care; dark eyes that always seemed constricted so that he was either constantly thinking or constantly about to burst into uncontrollable laughter; lips that were fuller than those commonly found on a man and that seemed completely kissable, like they were made for no other reason than to be kissed; and a thin build that implied he was too independent and too much of a free-thinker to go to the gym, but that he cared about his bodily appearance all the same.  He was perfect; exactly what John had walked in looking for.

But was this stranger looking?  He looked the part of an intelligent, young man in genuine search for a book to consume his spare time – or his lonely nights.  What if John approached him, only to be greeted by a cold shoulder?  John could be persistent and at least give it a try – he had to.  He was reminded of the ancient mantra of “if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”  He committed himself to talking to the beautiful man before he left, but that was the easy part.  The hard part was figuring out how to try.

John supposed he could casually stroll over and inform the man that he would find nothing of interest upon the shelf he was currently perusing.  He could pretend to be some literary buff and lead the man to the classics aisle, with names like Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald emblazoned upon the spines.  If the man was a literary buff, he’d have a common interest (which John would have to quickly develop and authenticate).  If he was not, he’d most likely be impressed.  John considered the approach, but felt uneasy.

Wasn’t the general rule of thumb to be yourself?  If that was so, then John needed to deliver a witty line – he prized himself on his cleverness and his ability to turn a phrase.  But John did not prize himself on his ability to work under pressure – he needed time to prepare.  Smoothing the hair daring to be unkempt at the sides of his head, John deliberated as to whether or not he should go with a time-honored pickup line.

“Are your legs tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind.”

“I just had the weirdest dream about you.”

Furious with himself, John slammed his book and exited the store.  The young man looked after him.

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