Friday, May 27, 2011



From the recent edition of Sparks, I have created my newest piece "Endeavour". The story that inspired it is below. I took a few artistic liabilities with the piece, and used the overall feel of the story for illustrating the story as opposed to creating a direct representation. Enjoy!

The story is a short story memoir by Marcela Kogan.

A Writing Tutor of My Own
By Marcela Kogan

A woman with long wavy hair and bright red lipstick traipses into the diner. She is wearing a fur hat and fur boots, dressed as if she were meeting a friend in frigid Alaska, rather than a client in balmy Washington D.C.

“You must be Marcela.” She squeezes my hand, a burst of sweet perfume settling between us. I’m perched at the edge of my seat, sliding off the slightly tipping cushion.

Meet my new writing tutor. A self-taught successful professional writer for over 30 years, I’ve developed some bad writing habits I wanted to fix. I’ve secretly coveted my son’s tutor for years. At 50-years-of age, I now want a tutor of my own.

No matter what I write the process is the same. I sit in front of the screen and my mind shuts down. So I check my email, grab a bite, walk the dog. Back at the computer, I write furiously "just to get it down,” then edit, rewrite, edit, reorganize, rewrite until a story miraculously emerges.

I try organizing my thoughts using outlines, webs, charts but nothing works.

I ask people for names of writing tutors. Everybody is baffled. Tutors, at my age? Did I mean a life coach? A consultant? My psychologist gives me someone’s name.

“Just ask her if she does adults,” she suggests.

Days later, I place the call. The tutor sounds flaky. She could only help me if I let her “get into my head.” She promises that I’ll never “think the same again.”

“Bring stories you’re working on.” The request sounds ominous.

We plan to meet at American City Diner in Chevy Chase on a Wednesday morning at 9:30. I wouldn’t have trouble finding her, she says. “I have a lot of hair.”

I’m skeptical.

“Let me tell you what I do,” the tutor says, her fingers rubbing her temples, as if nursing a migraine. She takes out pad and pencil and writes one word in big letters: F-E-A-R.

“I help people overcome their fear,” she pronounces, “because fear is the major obstacle to change.”

She sounds like a speaker at a conference, but instead of standing in an auditorium before a large audience, she is sitting next to a jukebox talking to me.

She lowers her voice. Her hands take mine. She looks into my eyes. “Show me what you’ve got.”

I give her what started out an essay about my experiences trying to get out of having to pay hefty fines for overdue books to the Montgomery County Public Library, which had referred my account to a collection agency. The essay is turning out to be a hodge podge of funny anecdotes about getting bad legal advice from baseball moms who, it turns out, are fighting library fees of their own.

I worry about her reaction, but every so often she lets out a loud, throaty laugh.

The tutor moves closer in, as if to confide in me. “Do you know how difficult it is to write a funny story like this one?”

I nod, painfully recalling many failed attempts at writing humor. Her words stroke my fragile ego: I’m afraid to believe she thinks I’m a good writer. But as she begins drafting an outline of the story, I immediately object.

She pauses, perplexed. “Tell me the story about the library.”

I stammer at first, flustered. But the sound of my voice as it steadies reassures me that I can go on, and I tell the story I want to write.

My tutor begins drafting my story in a storyboard. Together, we fill in the panels, stick figure style, laying out the scenes to depict the sequence of events.

I’m no longer afraid my story will get lost if my mind drifts, my excitement wanes or my luck runs out.

Since she only does short-term tutoring, she tells me she’ll only see me for four more session.

On my own, back in front of my computer, the lessons are hard to implement.

I end up going to my son’s tutor and begin a much longer, harder process of learning to visualize.

But when I panic, I grab a sketch pad, walk away from the computer, think of her throaty laugh and begin drawing. The story plays out in my mind and I write what I see.

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