Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Post: Author Deborah Bryan

Emerging from a Converse cocoon 

Concealed in my closet amongst actual shoes there rests a Converse shoebox full of something else. Something altogether unshoelike.

Twenty years ago, I tucked every story idea that danced through my head into that same shoebox. I was too full of story ideas, beginnings and characters to actually sit down and develop any of them, but I’d get around to it someday.

Someday, I knew, those little scraps of paper would metamorphosis into page after page of beautiful tales.

In my mid-teens, I met my first boyfriend and stopped opening the shoebox. Still, I moved the box with me when I headed to Los Angeles for law school.

I got rid of most other things when I later moved to Japan, but I kept that shoebox. I no longer believed my little caterpillar ideas would ever grow into butterflies, but I couldn’t bring myself to part with their cocoon, or the hope they’d once represented.

Walking home from the grocery store one evening in Japan, I thought about how I’d just written an autobiography in three weeks. It seemed like a stellar accomplishment, but not a stopping point. I wondered if I could write a novel in one week.

I dismissed the thought at first, but then I remembered the only idea I’d ever really tried to coax toward metamorphosis. During my freshman year of high school, I’d filled 114 notebook pages with the beginning of a story whose protagonist wasn’t too thrilled to have a vampire dad.

Fortunately, I'd never finished that story. As I completed my long walk home, I grew more and more excited to see how that story might grow if nurtured anew.

Six days and very little sleep later, I finished the first draft of my first novel, The Monster’s Daughter. It was rough. It was meandering. But it was a full book. That I’d written! A butterfly emerged from a Converse shoebox cocoon. In the following weeks, two more butterflies found their way out in the form of The Monster’s Daughter’s sequels.

I’d never once opened the box with my hands, but I’d certainly opened it with my heart.

When I moved back to Oregon, most my possessions remained in Japan, but the box came with me.

About a year ago, I was struggling to edit the book that follows The Monster’s Daughter. I awakened from a dream feeling the box had called to me, “There’s another, totally different story to tell before you return to that one.”

Without so much as touching the box, I wrote another novel whose origins were contained within it.

Since then, I’ve only held the box long enough wrest it from my toddler’s grip. I find nevertheless that I am heartened by its nearness.

If you asked me to tell you what “caterpillars” now sleep in that Converse box in my closet, I couldn’t describe a single one to you. But I do believe those caterpillars whisper to me when I’m wondering if I really have anything else left to write. In these moments, I find myself most grateful that my younger, more impatient self set aside those little scraps of paper in the hopes they’d someday be given their chance to grow wings and fly.

Thanks to her faith, they have.

About the Book:

From Goodreads: "Seventeen-year-old Ginny Connors figures she's gotta be imagining things when her father starts showing signs of being a bloodsucking fiend. Still, she hangs a cross on her bedroom door. Just in case.

When Ginny discovers people aren't the guests but the main course at her father's New Year party, she wishes she could save the day with garlic pancakes. Instead, she must face the limits of her daydreams, and attempt to stop the monster her father has become."

About the Author:  

Deborah Bryan is a writer hailing from the Pacific Northwest and, not coincidentally, now living in Long Beach, California. She is the author of several novels, the first of which she is thrilled to have edited in just six short years. She's currently working on more writing and editing projects than she can count, and loving every minute of it.

Twitter@deb_bryan | Facebookdeborah.bryan.writes | Goodreadsdeb_bryan


  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post here today! This is both a cozy and wonderful place to be.

  2. I love this post, Deb--the notion of storing away scraps of story. I don't have a box, but I have lots of ideas jotted in way too many notebooks and journals over the years. I hang on to them though--hoping they will grow into something new--something more-something storied and real.

    1. Whether in a box or a notebook, I think those jottings are a wonderful thing to keep! Since I wrote this a couple of days ago, I've actually been wondering if it's time to start poking through that box. I'm sure there'll be plenty to make me groan, but I wonder if there won't also be some that get the wheels rolling just the right direction . . .

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Kathy!

  3. Deb! I love the title "Caterpillars in a Converse Box" for another project! And you and your book are fabulous. So happy to call you my very bloggy friend! ;-)

    1. There've been a few that've risen from the box, and I'm starting to think there might be a few more!

      You know how you were saying I should try a kid's book sometime? Maybe this is the one!

      Thanks, rockin' RAS!

  4. Wonderful post, Deb - you know I love reading about your writing process! I never knew you had a box! I have one too, though it's more like a series of boxes/binders/floppy disks (one is in my car right now, in fact; my parents have been cleaning house)!

    1. I love discovering that you've got your own "box"! Have you considered revisiting any of the starts and seeing if you could turn them into something with an ending? I'd love, love, love to read more of your words in different forms!

  5. I have outlines, story ideas, paragraphs, openings and characters in so many different notebooks, loose papers and on the computer. I need to open those "boxes" and let the butterflies emerge! :)
    Thanks for sharing!!!!

    1. Perhaps we should set a couple of hours one day and revisit the hopes we had for stories yet to come? I'm rather enchanted by the idea! :D

  6. Deb,
    I have every story I've written since I was 6. Yep, I have stories scrawled in pencil 40 years ago as well as things I typed up for creative writing class in high school. I pulled a h.s. story out the other day and read it--now it's in my "rework this" folder because I think it's got a lot of potential.
    Thanks for sharing this! Glad to know I'm not the only one who moves caterpillars for decades.

    1. It's awesome that you've kept all those stories! My sister and I used to write and sell books to earn money for the County fair; one year, a neighbor brought one back for us so we could hold on to it for our later years, but we lost it. My earliest efforts are gone, but I've held on to all my stories and poems (sometimes regrettably, ahem) since seventh grade. Perhaps I, like you, ought revisit some of them now.

      Thank you so much for reading, and sharing your experiences here!

  7. I have a writing folder that has made the copy and paste from just about every computer I have ever owned. For Christmas my husband gave me a great journal for ideas. It's made me organize some thoughts including the ending of the novel I hope to complete this year. Your story just proves I need to buckle down and do it.

    1. I love the sound of those last two sentences! I'm rooting for you finishing that novel, and look forward to hearing more about it as you're ready to discuss it.

      It's a powerful thing to finish a marathon, but more powerful still to finish that first draft of a novel. :)

  8. This is Andrew, by the way. Dunno if I'll show up as me since this is my blogger account. Still need to make a new one :P

    I wish I had kept some of my notes and stories from back in the day. I think the farthest back I have are from my later middle school days, but I can't say for certain. They're basically illegible anyway - my handwriting has always been awful, and when I went on my asthma meds back then it got even worse b/c my hands shake something fierce haha.

    All of that was my fantasy stuff. My horror stuff is all (well, mostly) on the computer. Tons of stories, most half finished. Most of my notes are hand written *shudders* haha

    1. My oldest scribbles go back to middle school as well!

      I wrote much of the trilogy by hand, as it happens. It's part of why it's so hard for me to write by hand now. I'd be sitting on trains writing by hand for hours as Japanese folks around me exclaimed over my beautiful penmanship only to find my hands numb, a point they reach much, much sooner now. I get maybe the front of one notebook page before I'm done for a day now. It gets me some essential notes as they come, but not much more!

      I'm heartened to hear you have tons more horror stories written, by the way. I think you should start fleshing 'em out (ha!), even if it does mean you've got to work through deciphering your penmanship. A la Shrek, "That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make!" 0:)

  9. Somewhere I have a three ring binder that contains my own set of caterpillars. Your story makes me think that I should really go find that binder and see what is located inside.


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