A Phunky Thing Happened on the Way to the Phreak Show


I’m a plotter. Tried and true.

Phreak Show has been chewing holes in that rigid process.

My outline is, I’d say, 78% done. That means I’m at least a few weeks out from drafting. But the NW Ohio SCBWI conference tempted me into starting early. The big bully!

I secured one of the 15 spots for a First Page Read during one of the sessions. Cool. Writing and public speaking together in one place? Perfect. I love them both. As I was going over my pre-conference materials and organizing all the things, I realized there was a hiccup. The editor leading that session was the same one who was already giving me a critique for Freeborn. So, I would basically be wasting the First Page opportunity since she would have already read and hacked at it by then.

Phreak Show still had plenty of prep work in the queue before I’d be ready to write. You know, according to the plan. But the opening scene had already formed in my head. It had been drafted and rewritten in mental-land a few times over. I worked on it while driving, sanding, showering, and in those few moments each morning while still snuggling under the covers. So, I broke my normal process and drafted the opener–just enough to get a written first page.

Then I shared it at the conference.

Wow. I was floored by the positive feedback–genuine, passionate, and encouraging. People hunted me down in the hallway to talk about it. These weren’t the obligatory “That was really good” conversations. My fellow writers gushed about the way the story started & where it was leading. They asked questions and expressed that they absolutely wanted to know more. Right then. At that moment. Two different times I sat down in a new session and was introduced by a stranger, to another stranger, as “The guy who’s writing that story I told you about.”

I picked up a half-dozen CPs just from that 2-day-old first page. One older lady in particular caught me off guard. She made me feel like a celebrity or a rockstar. She approached me all timid, meek and mild. I could barely hear her because she kept her head slightly bowed—like she was nervous to be in my presence. Seriously. I was like—Whoooah. I’m just an unpublished dude who read a page of an unwritten book at a conference. Really. That’s it. But, in those moments, she made me feel like so much more than that. Important. Like an author.

She explained that she is a PB & MG author, and doesn’t usually read a lot of YA, but if I needed someone to read Phreak Show—she would be honored. [Of course we swapped contact info! How in the world could I have said no to that?]

After the conference, it was time to get back to the outline. I tacked a few new ideas into the file and continued reading a book on the history of Victorian side shows I’m using for research. But the writing–the continuation of the story on paper–kept clawing at me. “Really?! But the outline still isn’t done!” I protested. I fought it. I avoided it. Then, being the sucker I am, I accidentally opened the Word document…

It looks like I’ll be drafting the first chapter (and maybe even the second…) before the outline is completed. I already know what takes place in these initial chapters, so I’m running with it. For the record, I am doing this under duress. The story is making me. My own anal-retentive, organizational nature is being overrun with something stronger–something phreaky.

In the immortal words of the Borg, oddly juxtaposed with those of the Vicomte de Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons: “Resistance is futile. It’s beyond my control.”

Thus, I #amwriting.

The bluebird on his bicep stretched itself out line by line, wrapping an intricate sleeve of blue-black feathers around his arm. The ink crawled up his neck, like roots burrowing beneath his skin. Tendrils of tattoos wriggled over his cheeks, his chin, his forehead until every empty patch was covered in line and shading, image and symbol. Metal sprang out along the edges of his ears, like looping teeth of a zipper. Bars and rings blossomed on his face–wherever they found a hunk of flesh loose enough to bite into. His dark irises quivered with crystal-blue. The color rippled out like a tiny wave, washing out all the deep brown.

Still, he kept staring. Like nothing was wrong. Like it was my turn to speak. But the blipping wasn’t done. It always started with the physical things—changes in their appearance, a transformation on the outside. But the stabbing in my gut always came next. Tiny fists pounding my heart in rapid fire. Emotion so strong, so strong—

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4 thoughts on “A Phunky Thing Happened on the Way to the Phreak Show

  1. Sounds like you had a blast of success at that conference. Congrats! Let’s hope Phreak Show will break you out into the market. We need more writers with talent like your’s in the mainstream.

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