Editing my primary work in progress, The Kiminee Dream: A Love Song for Illinois Disguised as a Novel, is a challenge. Sometimes I see clearly what needs to be fixed and how to do it; other times it takes a fair amount of trial and error to get the prose to sing. This year, I’m sharing this journey by posting scenes from the manuscript as I shape a new draft. I hope you enjoy following along.
Before I paste in the prologue’s first scene, I’ll tell you a few things about the book.
Influenced by magical realism, the oral tradition, and the work of Brian Doyle, The Kiminee Dream introduces a cast of quirky, sometimes contentious characters in a fictional river town where forces beyond everyday reality both help and hinder, and secrets surface, testing the entire community’s mettle.
The central character, a girl named Carly Mae Foley, is born with exceptional artistic and intellectual gifts that draw attention and resources to her hometown; but even she cannot prevent events, natural as well as man-made, from causing heartbreak. The core of the story lies in how she and her beloved community learn to rise in the face of adversity, set aside differences and embrace big dreams anew.
Ready to dip into the prologue’s first scene? It takes place in 1936, a generation before the main story begins. The prologue’s other two scenes will follow in subsequent posts:
In the town of Kiminee, the end was never the end, sorrow left supple scars and wishes cracked reality. This was true even when a teenager forced too soon into womanhood darted through the moonlit winter night, exhaling moist clouds into biting air. Clad in sleeveless, cotton nightgown and slippers worn thin, the young fan of frilly dresses, black roses and Bing Crosby’s mellow baritone didn’t wince at the cold. She ran on, eyes glazed with fever, dewy skin blemished.
At the riverbank, she vaulted over snow-covered boulders onto solid ice. With arms outstretched and face tilted skyward, she glided. Voice wavering, she rasped a lullaby her mother used to sing in a city where coal dust muted the horizon. Her heart thrummed. Tears flowed. Blood slid down her thighs.
She kicked up her feet. Gone were the slippers, replaced by skates of purest-white leather with gleaming blades; gone was the nightie, replaced by a costume with sequined rainbows and silver fringe. She leaped, spun, landed. Ice cracked. She rose and fell again. The brittle surface groaned. She leaped higher, higher—each time a creak, a crack. Into the air she twirled once more. When she touched down, a fissure welcomed her. She plummeted, lips closed, eyes smiling.
When she embraced her maker that frozen Illinois night in 1936, all residents of the community nestled along the river’s curves were asleep. Except for one. And for decades to come, they knew nothing of her brief life and demise.
Except for one.