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Fiction

Editor voice

From the LabLit short story series

Madeline McCurry-Schmidt 14 April 2013

www.lablit.com/article/770

What if our tomboy, Frankie, got abducted by aliens in Chapter 3? And the rest of the book was about how she avoided an arranged marriage to an alien prince?

I’m running through the jungle at word one. My protagonist is a skinny tomboy with auburn hair. She has a troubled relationship with her father, and she excels at tracking animals. I uncap my red pen.

After lunch, Marjorie has us meet to discuss our current projects. I’ve drawn a bad hand; I’m editing a bestselling author’s second novel.

“Was it worth it to steal her from Clover Press?” Marjorie asks. She knows what I’m dealing with.

“I hope so,” I say.

“Let me guess,” says Marjorie. “The heroine thinks to herself in italics?”

Yes. Constantly.

I make a pained smile.

**********

I’m thinking about the story on the train ride home.

What if our tomboy, Frankie, got abducted by aliens in Chapter 3? And the rest of the book was about how she avoided an arranged marriage to an alien prince?

What if she switched bodies with a great white shark, and the shark-Frankie went around biting everyone? Everybody likes sharks.

**********

I make stir-fry for dinner. The kids discover that they hate bok choy. My husband explains that kids who don’t eat bok choy don’t get to watch television after dinner.

We linger in the kitchen after the kids go upstairs.

“Tell me about the new book,” he says.

I lean on the fridge.

**********

What if Frankie had a time machine and she went back and watched the battle at Troy? She saw men fight gods and told Odysseus to take the short way home.

What if she worked in a laboratory and she got infected with pathogenic worms? And the worms controlled her behavior and made her jump off the roof?

What if there was a universe where people had random super powers? And there was one kid who could speak to penguins? Except the kid lived in Zaire and had no chance of ever seeing a penguin and discovering his power?

**********

I decide to read the author’s first book. It was a break-out hit. I had missed it first on accident and then on purpose. I wanted my eyes to be fresh for the follow-up book. I read into the night.

I end up liking the first book. A girl gets ready for college. She lives with her grandparents, which is predictable. But she discovers that cats can see ghosts, which is sweet and creepy but nicely under-played. The author moves slowly. I can see the light in the grandparents’ house and the faded wallpaper. There is an unresolved romance. I appreciate that.

When I finish the book, I look up at my own living room. It is nearly light outside and the dog wants to go pee. I open the back door and wait for him. The cold air hits my face and my nose starts running. A coyote doesn’t yelp in the distance. An owl doesn’t swoop to catch a rat in the grass.

Other articles by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt