Writer Wednesdays: “Angel in the Pod”

I received my print copy of the Elizabeth River Press annual anthology last week (link here). I’m pleased that my story, “Angel in the Pod,” was included. I like to think of it as a kickoff of my writing comeback. After about four years of not sleeping through the nights, my kids are finally good sleepers, and it has done wonders for my ability to write.

I started with a super rough draft of a novel that I wrote during NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) last year. I’m writing Corgi Capers 4, and I’ve been working on short stories.

Most recently, I made it to the final rough of the NYCMidnight Short Story Challenge, writing stories I never would have thought to write without the push from the contest. Though I didn’t place in the top ten, making it to the top 40 out of more than 4,700 writers made me remember why I should get back to writing.

For this week’s post, I wanted to highlight the story that appears in the Elizabeth River Press annual. It’s called “Angel in the Pod,” and it’s one of those “big bang” stories. I had the idea while driving to work one day, and I truly did conceive it in an instant. I was watching the clock after dropping my kids at preschool and wondering how many minutes I had between pulling into the parking lot at work and having to go into the building. Was it enough to write something? I thought about all the little things I do all day that take up time, and what I could do with that time if I could save it. And… how would I accomplish this?

Of course the rational answer is to create a doppelganger, a double, someone I could assign the dirty work to. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a body-double to do my laundry, wash my dishes? And immediately I went into author mode. My mind raced with possibilities for such a story. If we could create a copy of ourselves, would it be “right” to assign it all the boring things so that we could enjoy the best ones? Would we be essentially creating slaves?

But I wanted to write a short story, and the direction that thought was headed was more appropriate for a novel. So I went in a different direction. In the story, a woman receives seeds in exchange for helping someone. Like a modern-day “Jack and the Beanstalk.” My character goes home and plants the seeds.

(Disclaimer: I have been reading about people receiving strange, unsolicited packets of seeds in the mail. My story is fictional. You should not plant seeds if you do not know what they are or where they came from!).

What grows in her garden is a doppelganger, though distinctly non-human in that its lifespan is more similar to a seasonal plant than a human being. Still, with the help that the “pod” affords, the protagonist is able to see her life a little more clearly—forcing her to make decisions her busy life allowed her to ignore.

The story was written and submitted before the pandemic hit, but it ended up being strangely prophetic for me, anyway. With people being forced to stay home and end or change their employment obligations, many have had a chance to re-prioritize, the same way my protagonist was forced to consider her priorities. Some parents have pulled students into homeschool situations. Some people are learning new hobbies or relying on new (or abandoned) skills for their livelihood. The global pandemic is frustrating for most, and we are going through difficult times. I only hope that, like the protagonist in the story, we find clarity at the end of the struggle.

But for now, writing is helping me through it.

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