Friday, June 3, 2011

24 hours, 23 writers, one novel.

This past Memorial Day weekend, myself and 22 other writers took on the project of writing a complete novel in 24 hours. Local social media bon vivant, artist and writer, John Herman, assembled a team of writers from around the country to descend on one Google Document and collaborate with one another in crafting a story. Simultaneously, the project was being projected in an art installation at the NewMediator Art Show at Nighthawk Books in Highland Park, New Jersey. People could spectate and watch the novel progress at the speed of writing, like watching a photo develop.

At midnight, Friday night/Saturday morning, Herman unveiled an outline that he and a several other participants concocted through an online survey. The genre was "slip-stream," a mix of science-fiction and fantasy, and each writer was assigned a chapter to write. Each chapter had a different character, each with their own quirk, and an event that they had to be involved with to keep in continuity with the rest of the story. Other than that, the writers had a poetic license to fill in the gaps.

By the end of the day, I was antsy and clammy feeling all over (this is how I get under deadline), and I felt stricken with the essence of my entire NaNoWriMo experience. All in one day. It was fun and frustrating, but in retrospect I would do it again. As Herman mentioned in the book's forward, it is creativity fossilized in amber.

The book was available the next day via PDF, Nook and Kindle for FREE. Go here for details and download.

Here is an excerpt from my chapter in "Overfly":

"What are we going to do? Aren't there supposed to be cops here or something?"
"I don't know. Maybe they don't know that we've gone down." She glanced around at the other passengers milling about. "We've been here for well over an hour now. Maybe we should try heading into town, see where we are."
"Maybe we should just stay put." the photographer snapped. "That's what you're supposed to do right? Stay put."
Europa dismissed his rudeness and walked over to him.
"Where are my manners?" She extended her hand towards him. "I'm Europa MacQuirt, Roper for short."
"Gary," the photographer replied. "Gary Savage." He shook her hand. "Ow! You got some grip on you, lady."
"More history is made by-"
"Battles, bills and proclamations. Yeah, yeah, I know." The photographer extended his hand once more. Roper helped him stand up. She turned over his name a few times in her brain. She could have swore she had heard of him. Maybe a story on the radio.
"I've driven all over the south and ain't ever seen this place before."
"Well, the South is a big place, grandma. How could you've seen every part of it?"
"Huh?" Gary raised his eyebrows.
"MungoMaps. I work for them. I'm a driver."
"What? You mean you're one of those people who drives around with a GPS all day."
"Yes, sir. Improvin' the accuracy of maps every day."
"Yeah, well, it's to bad that we don't have that GPS right now."
Roper's eyebrows raised in surprise as if something had just bit her.
"I do!"
"What?" Gary asked, only half paying attention now.
"I have my GPS! My 'good buddy.'"
Roper turned her attention back towards the plane. Someone had cracked the luggage compartment already and a few people were already clawing around the pile of luggage like raccoons through a trash heap.
Roper jogged over to the pile and began her own digging. She couldn't believe how heavy some people packed; some of the suitcases felt like solid blocks. She was used to packing light, a true traveler. As she began setting aside suitcases and bags, she could hear something floating up through the pile. Music or a video. Something. It sounded like someone had left their iPod on with the speaker blasting. She caught site of her red and white, striped suitcase. Curse her luck, the bag was, of course, at the bottom of the pile. She lifted off one last heavy, black roller bag and tugged out her suitcase. The sound was now louder and she realized it was coming from her bag.
"That's weird," she said to herself as she pulled the bag over to side of the plane and sat in the wet grass.
The sound emanating from the bag had a rhythm to it now, just one noise over and over again. She unzipped it, flipped open the lid and began shuffling around her clothing, toiletries and the one DVD that she had brought for the inevitable rainy day, "Smokey and The Bandit." The noise was louder now as she felt the plastic case of the GPS underneath her clothes. She plucked it from the bag, now knowing exactly what the sound was despite its muffled nature through the case. A sound that she had heard thousands of times.
She cracked the case and was greeted with, "RECALCULATING... RECALCULATING..."
"How did you get turned on there, good buddy?" She turned the device over in her hands a few times as if she might find what had triggered it. On the screen was just the beige background of a place without any roads and the word "RECALCULATING" across the middle of the screen.
She poked around the touch screen trying to access any of the menus, but they would not open. She pressed and held the power button on the side hoping to reset it, but the device refused her demand.
"Is that a GPS?" A sweet voice asked.
Roper looked up from the stubborn electronic box to see a pretty, auburn haired girl.
"Hello little one." Roper extend her arm straight out and the little girl shook it. Roper spared her the usual hand-crushing. "Yes, it is."
"Does it know where we are?"
Roper gave the little girl a half-smile. "Nope. It's lost. Lost for good, maybe."
"How does a GPS get lost? Isn't it supposed to help you find places?"
"Yes, mam, but it seems like my good buddy here is really confused. Maybe it got struck by that lightening that we saw."
"Why do you call it good buddy?"
"You're a curious little thing. Well, that's his name. Good buddy. We've been all over the south, he and I and he rarely steers me wrong."
"Oh. My Mom's is a girl. I call her Linda."
"That's a pretty name. Speaking of which, what's yours, little miss?"
"Mine's Roper, nice to meet you, Maggie."
The little girl blushed and kneeled beside Roper's bag. "Is this your hat, Mrs. Roper?" The little girl picked up a tan Stetson hat out of the red and white striped suitcase.
"It is." The little girl put it on and the visor flopped over her eyes. "You know what it's from?"
Roper grabbed the DVD. "You see this?" She tapped the on Burt Reynolds' face on the cover. "This is my favorite movie."
"Hey, that's your hat!" Maggie exclaimed.
"Sure is, young lady. It's an exact replica."
Maggie took the hat off and handled with a new sense of care, as if it were fragile.
"It's a fun hat."
Roper smiled and nodded.
Maggie placed the hat back in the suitcase. "Can I see, Good Buddy? Please?"
"Sure, a lot of good he is doing me." Roper handed the GPS to the little girl and started digging through her stuff. She needed a bathroom break and hoped there was something in her bag to wipe with.
"Hi, Good Buddy."
It took a few seconds before Roper realized the GPS had spoke. She turned back to the little girl and ran what she had heard through her head again. Had it really spoke?

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