One Year Later…

April 29, 2009 was cold and rainy. I was home alone for the first time in recent memory, having faked a cough to get out of visiting my in-laws.  I sat on the couch with my laptop and lit a fire. I plugged in my iPod and I started to type a oneshot that had been floating around my head for the past few weeks.

“Please, Bella?” Edward looked at me, his green eyes bright with curiosity.

“No.”

“But I told you mine,” he whined. And just like that—with his juvenile intonation—the reality that my lover was only seventeen came crashing down on me.

“Silly, Edward. We both know you had nothing to tell.‚”I rolled away from him, and clutching the sheet against my bare breasts, I stepped out of the bed and into the sunlight. I stood in front of the window and closed my eyes, letting the afternoon sun warm my face.

Seventeen.

Thankfully, most of the time we were together, it was easy to forget exactly how young he was. I could never be intimate with him while dwelling on his age. During moments when such acknowledgment was unavoidable, I emotionally withdrew—a fact I’m fairly sure was not lost on him.

The sheet suddenly pulled away from my chest, and there was Edward naked in my bed, holding its other end.

“I do, now.” He smiled suggestively.

I joined him in bed, pushing the thoughts that weighed so heavily on me away from my consciousness.

“Oh, really?”

He nodded.

“Perhaps we should start over then.‚”I put my hands on his chest and climbed on top of him, straddling his pelvis. “So, Edward…‚”I looked down at him and brushed my thumbs across his nipples. “How many sexual partners have you had?”

He closed his eyes as I ground my hips against his; I was willing to play along, but I wasn’t about to make this easy for him.

“One.” His voice was not much louder than a whisper.

“One?”

“Yes. Exactly one. I’d watched her for months.”

“Why didn’t you approach her?‚”I pressed into him.

“She was forbidden.”

“My, my.” I trailed a fingertip down his chest to the patch of hair below his navel. “Why did you decide to pursue her?”

“She did. I ran into her at the Art Museum on a Friday night. There was a jazz quartet playing, and she was stunning. She stood alone and swayed to the music. When I noticed her glass of wine was empty, I brought her another and struck up a conversation with her. She didn’t talk down to me like other teachers did, and she didn’t treat me as if I were a freak like I was used to from my so-called peers. She was human, and treated me as if I were the same. Only my family had ever done that…”

“I was never your teacher, Edward.”

“No, you weren’t. Well, not that way.”

He reached up and pinched my nipple. I gasped, he hardened, and before I could even verbalize my need, he entered me. As he began to move, I remembered how in a few weeks this would all end. I would have to let him go.

I didn’t allow the thought to linger, instead doing what I did best in Edward’s presence. I let everything that was not directly related to the pleasure he brought my body drift away, focusing instead on the beautiful boy beneath me.

The words came easily, and I realized the gem I had in my female protagonist. She was a composite of every broken woman I’d ever known, the majority whom lived and slept and fucked and never realized there was anything wrong, that there was a disconnect, that though they existed, they weren’t alive. In a short story, I could keep her that way. Broken and closed off. She’d break up with him the night before he left for college, thinking she was doing him a favor, never knowing that she perpetuated the cycle by breaking him. He’d become as guarded as she was, and she would spend the rest of her life wondering how her life would be different had she given him a chance.

The original version of Art After 5 was cynical and raw, but very real. It also felt flawed to me. Character-based writing has little purpose if the characters involved never grow. I decided to scrap the short story and write a longer piece in which I explored a woman who is so terrified of being hurt, she was nothing more than observer in her own life—a woman who could justify anything in the name of self-preservation, a woman who in a moment of weakness commits one of the most selfish acts possible—and then I would redeem her.

The original ending of the full-length piece was much more uplifting than how I envisioned the end of the oneshot; she heals herself. She meets Edward at a diner and apologizes. They becomes friends, and they stay friends. At the end, he stays with Kate. I changed my outline halfway through writing when I realized I could realistically pull off a reconciliation.

It was an amazing process for me. Though I took two semesters of creative writing in college, it wasn’t anything I ever thought I could do—nor had I ever dreamed that I would be able to produce a novel in six months. More importantly, I’ve learned more about myself and the world around me in the past twelve months than I think I have since I was an undergrad.

My end of year tally:

367,000 words

2 novels

1 novella

4 short stories

and a profound sense of accomplishment

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

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20 Responses

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  1. on 29 Apr 2010 at 12:50 pmMary

    HUGE congrats! You should be so proud of all you’ve accomplished in 365 days. You’ve not only expressed yourself creatively, but given so many readers such joy in reading your creations. Job well done, thanks so much for writing.

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  2. on 29 Apr 2010 at 12:54 pmSassyK

    You have tons to be proud of. And your readers have a smorgasbord of fantastic reading material. Thanks for braving it!

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  3. on 29 Apr 2010 at 1:12 pmGabi

    I started to read AA5 last October. I instantly became kind of obsessed, I did nothing for a whole day but read it until I finished. :-) I recommended it to one of my best friends and she said that it was like it had been written specifically for me (because of the long way Bella/Beth had to go and how she succeeded). My mother agrees with her. :-) Since then, I re-read it countless times, also Counterpoint (and pretty much everything you wrote). Each time I read them, I find different parts that touch me the most but one thing is always there: it gives me comfort to see that if we work hard enough on ourselves and on our relationships, a lot can be achieved (It would be nice to say that nothing is impossible but sadly it’s not true.). For this, I can’t really express my gratitude for you. Thank you for sharing your talent with us and congratulations. (Sorry for being this long.)

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  4. on 29 Apr 2010 at 1:21 pmarfalcon

    It’s been a privilege to be one of your readers and to watch you grow as a writer. You have a lot of important things to say, and you’ve learned to find the words that hit our souls. Congratulations!!

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  5. on 29 Apr 2010 at 1:37 pmLinsey

    I can’t imagine loving this story as much as I do had it turned out any other way. This entire post has me feeling highly emotional. Forgive me, being a girl is weird. I can’t express how proud of you I am. This is huge. This is life altering. You can do this and I say that because I know you were doubting yourself at first. It makes my entire day when there is an alert in my inbox from you. The highs and lows you write, the depths you push me in to, the triumphs I feel when I see your characters grow and develop makes me feel as if I’m watching a dear friends’ children find their way in the world. Your talent inspires me and your kind words have spurred me on. Soak it in, dear one. You’ve earned it. Thank you for all you’ve shared and for the coming gifts you are sure to bring.

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  6. on 29 Apr 2010 at 2:39 pmMsAleksa

    Wow!
    It’s been a whole year!
    First of all… THANK YOU SO MUCH! (sorry for the caps but I don’t know how else to convey my gratitude and admiration into words).

    I remember it was last summer, I was away on holidays and I would read AA5 updates on my phone, I didn’t care what it would cost me, but I just couldn’t put away reading all your updates for 4 weeks of vacation.

    I could never imagine that there was a possibility of Edward staying with Kate… I don’t quite know how that makes me feel…
    When reading AA5 I was completely and wholeheartedly pro Bella, CP changed a lot for me and I started to appreciated Edward’s pain much more. But still, maybe it was easier to take details of his relationship with Kate because I knew that he would reconnect with Bella sooner or later.

    I started rambling… I’d better wrap this up.

    Your wonderful stories give me hope!

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  7. on 29 Apr 2010 at 3:31 pmlovestoread24

    Wow, what a year it has been for you- and your characters. It shows you how much can change in just a year. You are so brave for sharing your stories with us, and opening up yourself for comments and criticism. Thank you, thank you for taking us on your writing journey, and letting us into the world you have created. You have much to be proud of. I discovered your stories last summer, and my appreciation and respect for you has only gone up. You have accomplished so much in a short amount of time, and I look forward to the next 365 days of your writing.

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  8. on 29 Apr 2010 at 4:10 pmBrooke

    Congratulations. Your writing always leaves me feeling greedy for more and I’m thrilled you continue to share your gift with us. Thank you. :)

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  9. on 29 Apr 2010 at 5:09 pmorangecosmo26

    That is amazing!! I am sure this year has come with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and I am so glad that you chose to share those accomplishments with us! You really are a talented writer, especially with longer stories. I know personally how hard it is to develop the plot of a story and keep it coherent and realistic and you do that beautifully!! Congratulations on all that you’ve done :)

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  10. on 29 Apr 2010 at 7:40 pmFreelove Zilpha

    All this in a year? That’s a remarkable accomplishment–better than Bella’s learning curve, I’d say. I’ve enjoyed both AA5 and CP, as well as all the other attendant chapters you’ve presented; thank you for sharing.

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  11. on 29 Apr 2010 at 8:12 pmElizabeth440

    Congratulations on such a meaningful achievement and thanks many times over for sharing it so generously!

    You have created such a rich, complex universe with these characters. Watching them change and grow has been a great journey, and the best part is that will still be continuing with Some Little Girls and Carlisle and Esme’s story.

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  12. on 30 Apr 2010 at 12:35 amCarolyn

    We are privileged, as your readers, to tag along with you, Colleen on this journey. I love your characters and have never grown tired of reading your stories many times over. It’s been an illuminating ride for me as well as I gained insight into different parts of myself when I look back to my undergrad years till now when my eldest is going to college in the fall. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Now, I have to go to your museum and see those art pieces for myself….

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  13. on 30 Apr 2010 at 12:36 amCarolyn

    We are privileged, as your readers, to tag along with you, Colleen on this journey. I love your characters and have never grown tired of reading your stories many times over. It’s been an illuminating ride for me as well as I gained insight into different parts of myself when I look back to my undergrad years till now when my eldest is going to college in the fall. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Now, I have to go to your museum and see those art pieces for myself….

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  14. on 30 Apr 2010 at 12:58 amSHC92

    Huge, huge congratulations! Those are a lot of words, and seeing how much work and care you put into these words…huge accomplishment for you, generous gift for readers. I had just stumbled on fan fiction and yours was one of the early stories I stumbled across. I found fan fiction at a time when…let’s just say it helped keep me sane and got me through a rough period. AA5 will always hold a special spot in my heart because of it. I never doubted your Bella could turn things around. :)
    Hope you’re celebrating!

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  15. on 03 May 2010 at 2:25 amlaila

    I am truly in awe of your writing…each chapter I read was better than the last. AA5 was awesome and then you started Counterpoint, and with reading that I grew more and more fond of Kate. I really liked Kate and in some ways I think she and Edward should have ended up together, well but then ……. I just really respected Kate for Kate. Then I read “Goodnight Sweet Prince”…. I have no words to truly convey how much I enjoy your writng, then to follow suit with “MY life to Be” …lets just say If a fic has been graced as Sleepyvalentina as the author I’m reading it and I am sure to be more impressed than I was with your previous fic. Counterpoint not only helps to round out AA5, but brings so much more meaning to the whole story…and when it ends I am sure to be sad to see it end.

    Thank you for sharing your talent and your writng with me (and everyone else to). I don’t have the talent of being able to express my feelings and thoughts in writng but I hope that I have been able to convey at least somewhat how much your novels, novella and short stories mean to me.

    Congradulations to a great year and may good fortune and quiet surroundings (to aid in your writing) bless you always!!!!

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  16. on 03 May 2010 at 10:17 pmwar123

    Your writing is beautiful and thought provoking; I am privileged to have found your story through a remarkable recommendation by Vixen1836. I cherish your character Edward; he is a poignant young man with a vulnerability that is almost tangible. His love for Bella actually changed her life and his.

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  17. on 07 May 2010 at 10:37 pmlonestarkendall

    You are such a special talent, and what I love best about your stories is the truth and humanity you capture in all your characters. You take the time to build them up and gift your readers with little nuances throughout the story to reveal more and more about them. It’s so much fun getting to know them all and fall so in love with them.

    What an accomplishment for you to look back in this one year and see everything you have done. You had the courage to do it while others just think about. Happy one year anniversary, Colleen!

    PS: I want to know, what was playing on your iPod!

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  18. on 21 May 2010 at 8:13 pmHallie

    Wow, congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished in the past year! I must say though, that I’m very happy you gave AA5 the ending that you did, I would have been really heartbroken to read about Edward and Bella not ending up together.

    I can’t wait to read more of what you write in the future!

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  19. on 21 May 2010 at 9:05 pmTracy

    Thank god you decided to write Art after Five. That is one of the best stories I have read. As a mater of fact I love all your stuff.

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  20. on 21 May 2010 at 9:38 pmCowgirlgraphics

    As addictions go, being addicted to this incarnation of Edward (AA5 & Counterpoint) that came out of your talented brain is a welcome vice. I don’t know if my world will be the same when you tell me it’s the fictional end. What I do know is I enjoy your writing style, it provokes me to think about things much more than I ever have before – things about me, my past and specifically my past relationships. The situation that they are in related in no way to my life, but I lived a bit like Bella did pre-Edward at times. Not for lack of love from those around me, but by not loving myself. I think that’s the most wonderful thing about being the avid reader … self discovery while lost in a fictional world.

    Thank you for being the wordmaster in my RL world.

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