Entry Nickname: Mississippi Crazypants
Title: This Side of Crazy
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Women's Fiction
Cissy Pickering swears that shooting her daddy in the back was the smartest thing she’s ever done. After surviving more than eight years of his abuse, she had to prevent him from having a secret with her two baby sisters. What she didn’t count on was being sent to the Greater Mississippi State Hospital instead of prison.
When a caring, yet unorthodox, hospital psychiatrist tries to unlock the family secrets that led to Cissy’s crime, the 16-year-old retreats to a world of make-believe and compulsive counting. Meanwhile, three generations of women struggle to understand and forgive Cissy while coming to terms with the loss of their son, husband and father. Only her maternal grandmother offers unconditional love and support.
When the psychiatrist digs too deep, Grandmother takes drastic action to ensure Cissy’s emotional and physical survival – even if it means breaking the law. Their tender relationship and an unearthed secret from Grandmother’s past force Cissy to make her most courageous decision yet.
First 250 words:
My sisters and I had already consumed an impressive stack of books since school let out, reading long into the sticky June nights, even under threat of punishment. We’d needled Mama until she finally agreed to take the three of us to the Biloxi library, although grudgingly. Her chief argument against getting more books – and a flimsy one at that – was that we read too fast and the books we had should have lasted all summer. I ignored her complaining because that’s one of my special talents.
In my room, I slipped into a plaid cotton sundress and my pink plastic sandals that squeaked when I walked and rubbed blisters on my little toes. The sound irritated Mama just enough to make those blisters worthwhile. Some might call this childish behavior for a 16-year-old but I took fun wherever I could find it.
Jessie, already dressed and downstairs in the kitchen, whined that we’d run out of her favorite cereal. Mama told her in the sternest voice that plain old Corn Flakes would have to do. When our housekeeper Bess offered to make pancakes, Mama shushed her, too. She was forever telling Bess that she spoiled us and that spoiled children grew up into spoiled adults.
The excitement of selecting new reading material sent my stomach into flip-flops, akin to the type experienced on Christmas morning. I rushed out of my room and down the hall toward the bathroom to brush my teeth. What I saw stopped me short, the plastic of my shoes sticking fast to the wood floor.
Entry Nickname: Meryl-&-I
Title: Blame it on Meryl Streep
Word count: 95K
Genre: Women's fiction
At age 28 TV producer Laura Sanders has never been in a relationship, never had sex, and never been loved. Certain that something has to be terribly wrong with her, she’s resigned to a dull, lonely life in the company of a few friends and her disinterested cat.
But when she watches the movie Mamma Mia, Laura is unexpectedly mesmerized: Meryl Streep seems to dance off the screen, showing Laura all the joy and passion that’s lacking in her life. Clearly Meryl Streep would be the perfect coach to guide her to a happier place.
Instead of spending her evenings watching Grey’s Anatomy and memorizing some of the show’s relationship conversations to copy whenever she feels the need to cover up her own inexperience, Laura now hangs out with her new BFF: imaginary Meryl Streep.
Meryl pushes Laura to try online-dating, advising her to rule out profiles with nicknames such as MrCool4Sale, OrgasmGiver or GotSomeWantSome. She teaches Laura her icy The Devil Wears Prada demeanor to copy when dealing with bigheaded, bullying co-workers. And she encourages Laura to spend more time with her new colleagues: women more likely to discuss vibrators than Danish directors. All of a sudden Laura is something she’s never been: cool. And while her sex-life used to consist in hugging her pillow good-night, Laura now has three potential love interests: two very real men … and one very imaginary Meryl Streep.
But soon Laura feels invincible and starts to ignore Meryl’s advice. Her best friend thinks Laura should finally grow up? – Laura counters with radio silence. A great date reveals he’s no Meryl Streep fan? – Laura dumps him. Her boss ignores Laura’s ideas? – She goes behind his back. Ultimately Meryl is all that Laura has left. Will she be able to take what she learns from her fantasy life and rediscover the very real possibility of love and happiness that await her? Or will Laura lose touch forever?
First 250 words:
I’m Laura Sanders.
I’m a TV producer in Los Angeles.
I’ve travelled the world.
I have a cat named Sartre.
I own 108 pair of shoes.
I’m a virgin.
The worst part about my pathetic, lonely life is the constant pretending. Pretending to be normal. Everybody knows the drama of love, the passion, the pain, and not knowing makes you a complete freak. Until some years ago I used to be honest and tell friends that I never had a boyfriend, never had sex. Someday I’ll tell a stranger that I killed a person. Simply to see if that confession arouses a similar mortified look.
The look is always followed by the insensitive comment: Why don’t you just pick up a guy at a bar? A woman can get laid even if she’s coyote ugly and you look cute. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want to get laid. I want to be loved.
Next is usually the sexist, but popular, good advice:
Good Advice Number One: Be dumb. Men don’t like smart women.
Good Advice Number Two: Be hard to get. Men still think like hunters.
Good Advice Number Three: Be a listener. Men need attention.
Finally there’s the worst part: the awkward silence. After all, everything everybody talks about are relationships and to fit in you need stories to contribute. So I make up stories. Stories that cover up the fact that I’m an invisible woman, unable to catch a guy’s eye, let alone his heart.