Comparing Old and New Writing, Part 1

For the longest time I’ve read the suggestion of sharing old and new versions of my writing and have balked. Considering I kept every version of original chapters of my books—especially the first one—I have plenty of material to do that. Each time I revised, I renamed with a dating protocol. I’ve wondered if I’d ever do anything with them. But, to share my earliest writing attempts?

Well, here I am, finally pulling up the first versions of the first page of my first novel. I even found the short story that won a pagan newsletter contest. I’ve included the cover image (above), and the table of contents with a blurb about me, pagan pen-name RuSong (left). (See first page from the newsletter below.) Here’s part of the first page text:

Braided Dimensions

Samhain Story 2008

         It was a dark street, not completely empty but nearly. The funky little beach town—half hippy, half middle road working class, and now a growing number of misplaced yuppies—was still a little lively from the night’s festivities. Mainstream Halloween trick-or-treating mostly. And then there was my kind of party. That’s what I was making my way home from when a strange thing happened.

Before I moved to this town, I’d been wanting to find a group of friends who dressed up for occasions like this. Now I was starting to have some. No longer muddling through graduate studies, and done, for the most part, with raising kids, this year was the first since my twenties when I was starting to gather with friends again just to fool around.

         I hadn’t been too sure what they really thought of my outfit, though. After all, I didn’t know these people that well. They were all pagan—after all, we had first met at a Druid Meet-up—so they might not much care for my friar outfit. When I first walked in to the party with my bald pate and creepy fringe of yellowing white hair, same dirty colored beard and mustache below puffy cheeks and round wire-rimmed spectacles, and finally a brown robe wrapped around a huge paunch, well, I just didn’t look like me. No one knew who the heck I was, in fact, since in real life I’m a 5’7”, middle aged woman with a fairly regular stature, no glasses, and shoulder length brown hair. I don’t even do anything very alternative to show that I’m pagan and alternative on the inside. I just wear standard, indistinct clothing—no tattoos, no special jewelry or anything identifying me with the counter-culture I identify with. To finish off my outfit, I wore old floppy, worn out loafers I’d picked up at the used clothes store – the kind you picture an old professor hanging onto well past their use, misshapen and flapping so that I had to shuffle to keep them on.

         I had a good time at the party though, once I drank my share of beer and mead—maybe not a good mixture because what I saw as I was walking home just plain didn’t make sense.

Okay, I’m walking along, swinging the bottle of wine I’d brought that no one drank in one hand and some weird goodies that had been passed around at the party—I wasn’t too sure what they all were, actually—in a bag in the other hand, kind of half smiling to myself, reviewing some of the better moments and wondering about others, when I saw, just ahead of me, leaning—lounging really—against a huge old oak tree, a kind of green man or woodman. Something you just don’t see every day, even up here where dreadlocks on white men and back-to-earth were very much in vogue. He wore woven clothes that fit his body—long legs and narrow waist and hips, in a sort of tunic, tied with a soft belt. They looked well worn but hardy, in browns and greens. He must have gotten a good deal at a BBC set sale on this one. A cloak hung loosely back, hood thrown off so that his dark hair, long, with streaks of silver, blew slightly in a breeze that seemed to be rising just around him. His boots were like nothing I’d ever seen, cool, slouchy yet not too. All this I took in with a brief appraisal. “Wow,” I thought, “I missed the real party here, if they were all dressed like this!” Moon light etched the edges of his lightly bearded face and I could see that he was shaking his head ever so slightly, deep unreadable eyes pinned on me. I came to an abrupt halt.

         There was silence between us and I wished I’d refused to top off that last mug of beer. The silence grew. Then he pushed himself away from the tree with utter ease, a fluid movement. He was well over six feet. He looked down at me.

         “Why do you dress yourself so, sister?” he asked, frowning.

…. to be continued …

It’s eyeopening to see this story thirteen years later. I was going to put the first chapter here as well, from a year later when I decided to grow the story into a full book, but decided this is enough for now. If there’s any interest, I’ll continue to post the rest of the story in segments. People who’ve read the full book might find it interesting!

One eye-opener is that I’ve held the history wrongly in my mind for years. I thought I entered this contest in 2007 which would mean during the ghastly fall when I was still battling to have my dissertation considered for defense. That would have surprised me because I lived that dissertation night and day. I did let myself escape into pagan discussions online which actually helped me stay healthy and balanced, but I did not indulge in creative work like fiction writing (though a dream I call “Renaissance Woods” shows that my soul longed to.

People in writing groups as I began to build the story into a book, convinced me to start with some back story for the main character. Reading my original story now, I see that the main character had more of my true life of that time, coming out of the Ph.D. program. I’d love to see people who’ve read Braided Dimensions weigh in on the differences between the story above, and the book. One thing I notice is a lot of repetition of words and phrases that I wouldn’t fall into now. Ach.

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