Sneak Peek Into My Book

Apr 23, 2014


YOU GUYS, I finished the second draft of my book! I have one more draft to go, but I'm taking a week break from writing because I'm starting to feel a little burnt out. I had some dark moments where I'd pendulum between wanting to delete the whole thing while murmuring "fraud, I'm a fraud" all dramatic like under my breath, and then, an hour later, really liking the story I came up with. Stuff like that makes me understand why artists are described as tortured- like, good God. Haha, so this week is going to be all about relaxing and icing my head- yay!

But as promised, here's the beginning excerpt of my story. I didn't want to put too much on here because I'm not sure how interested you are over it, but here's a small snippet. What the book is about is these long roads to never. Meaning, sometimes you're stuck on a track that, no matter how hard you try to make it otherwise, will keep leading you further and further into nothing. And while that sounds bleak, we're strong  and resilient enough- or naive enough- to work around it. It's also about the impact one life can have on another along the way, and how, in the end, we all have places we ache to get to or, worse, go back to again. It's actually pretty funny, though I'm sure you wouldn't guess that, haha. SO, without further ado, the first bit of my first chapter.  I hope you like it :)

I looked up at the stars and knew that all the wishes were claimed for, much like a rack of softly flickering candles in a church, all lit and pulsing with intentions. They blinked down at me from their spot in the darkness, reaffirming their favor for someone else. It was a still night that pulsed with a sentiment that was both, at the same time, quiet and loud. A sentiment that came from the mild turmoil of a simple sentence that is comprised of less words than fingers on a hand, “What am I doing?”

The thought was there and it taunted, waiting. I looked around the space that was quiet with shadows and answered it best as I could: I didn’t know. Its silence was like a roar in my ears. The moon outside shone its thin light on the city that quietly slept, straining to spread its light over an array and collection, that together, formed a picture of “same-old-same-olds” and “nothing news”. But as I sat there on my bed, watching the moon’s silver fingers brush against the hard pavement outside, that one worrying thought shivering in my mind, I wished I could be apart of the “nothing news” that were sleeping. Instead, it was all new to me. And newness is troubling. 

There were only a few windows glowing dimly in the scene outside, their soft kitchen lights struggling not only against the darkness but the worry that caused them to be switched on. I wondered if the people behind the panes were mulling over the same thoughts as I was, or if they had a whole other mess they needed to sort out. Plagued, I thought. A night like this makes it easy to be plagued with thoughts. It’s a type of night that has a hand in weaving them. 

I worried my lip as I glanced at the clock on my night stand, registering that it would be hard to wake up in four hours when I didn’t have anything yet to wake up from. And it wouldn’t help if I was drained and prickly during my job interview tomorrow. And just as the word “interview” passed through my mind my eyebrows knit themselves together and I hugged my pillow to my chest, bringing my knees up to my chin. 

And that was the problem, wasn’t it? The reason I couldn’t persuade my eyes to close, no matter how heavy they already were. Tomorrow was my first shot at getting a real nine to fiver, at finally getting a paycheck that wasn’t comprised of scrounged together tips and erratic hours. It wasn’t going to involve words like “graveyard shift” and “last name?” and it was going to require me to shrug into sensible blazers and walk through marbled lobbies. It was supposed to be exciting.

So why did I feel like it was the beginning of the end? After I received the voicemail that briskly asked me to come in for an interview during the allotted time, I felt something sink inside of me. I applied for the job out of practicality, and if I cinched it I felt like the practicality would take over like a weed, choking out any dreams or foolishnesses that still lingered. Castles in the skies would be replaced with responsibility, hope with duty, fancy with level headedness, and sweetness with common sense and reasonableness. It was as if the receptionist’s forcefully chirpy ‘goodbye!’ was like the curtain closing, and at the age of twenty-four I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be forced into early retirement. 

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The realization came to me in the first grade; a little after I learned how to trip over syllables and a little before I realized I could stack them together like toy blocks into chapters and stories. The day I got the confidence to do so was during a mid-afternoon during a mid-week when you couldn’t park on the left side of the street- extraordinary moments had a habit of happening during the most unextroardinary times, didn’t they? We were in the middle of creative hour in Ms. Mollenkamp’s class, an old teacher that had wiry grey hair and a smile as warm as butterscotch and perfume that smelled like fresh dew on grass. She sat us all down at our desks and had us quietly pencil stories onto wide-rule sheets, instructing us to match the pictures in our heads with the words we were armed with. I pieced together stick-like letters, enjoying the scratch of lead on paper as I wrote, trying to catch the story in my head and steer it onto the paper on my desk. The dramatic piece that was unfolding was about an impish ghost that hid in my backpack and ate my donuts, and, to me, it sounded like my generation’s answer to Hemingway. I was finished before the rest of my classmates, and excited, I walked quickly to the teacher’s desk and handed her my handiwork. I remember feeling the zip of anticipation as I watched her eyes move across the page, her lips tugging upwards at the words that were garlanded together into a story. And when she told me she didn’t have enough stickers in her drawers to show me how perfect it was, I felt the arrow hit its target. From right that moment on, with me standing with my hands clasped behind my back, my Mary Janes rocking back and forth on the sunflower printed carpet, words became my life.

And ever since then, I tried to make it into my livelihood. I had notebooks over-crowded with scribbled random thoughts, plot lines, and chapters that were crudely started and abruptly ended, all fighting for space on the lines and homes on the pages. I had started books that were never finished, plots that were played with and discarded, short stories that were submitted but never published, cover letters that were left unanswered, and a slew of memories that involved nothing but white, open word documents, unmarred by words and left terrifyingly- dauntingly- blank. I lived at home while most of my friends and classmates nabbed office jobs and saved up for apartments. I endured hearing about impressive promotions and stewed through house warming parties in condos that looked like pages torn out of magazines. I skipped the steady paychecks (or really, any paychecks all together) so I could instead trip after a love that, at the moment, was sorely and steadfastly unrequited. But like with most relationships where your feelings go unanswered and their affections lie elsewhere, you want them all the more. All the desperately more. My love for words went in vain, and I knew that they didn’t have the same sentiment towards me. I knew they’d never be entirely mine. But, oh, I was willing to suffer sweetly over them. I was willing to live inside the ache’s gentle unhappiness, its inviting misfortune. How could I stop reaching for it?

So instead of joining the ranks of my friends, I, in lieu, decided to sit in coffee shops letting the impatiently blinking vertical bar of my word document taunt me, matching its pulses to the jittery strum of my fingers against the table. 

And like most blinded heroines, I was ready to give everything up for this love, but eventually even Katie had to leave Hubbell, Rick walked away from Lisa, Franny knew when it was time to give up on Nick. Sooner or later we all reach our limit. Sooner or later we need to admit that awful defeat. And mine was that writing down words that no one was going to read will eventually land me on food stamps. 

That, of course, is why I now found myself sitting in the dark with my arms wrapped around my knees miserably, waiting for the night to switch shifts with the morning. I was gearing up to do the equivalent of Bogart getting on the plane.

It was no wonder I couldn’t sleep. I was heart broken.


Follow Messages on a Napkin on:



  1. Marlen this is AMAZING! I'm so glad you shared this and what a wonderful accomplishment that you're making so much progress on your book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I like how descriptive your writing is, I could picture the settings in my mind as I read them. It also sounds like such a relevant topic to me at the moment- wanting to do what you love in life, while simultaneously wondering how you'll make ends meet if you don't get a 'real job'. I can't wait to read more! Squee! :)

  2. I LOVE this! I want to read more!

    Haha, I picture you in a dark room wearing a beret with a cigarette burning in an ashtray. You're ripping pages out of a typewriter, crumpling them up, and throwing them at the trash can that is surrounded by other scrumpled papers. Also, you're cursing yourself in french. (That is what I got from your intro, ha.) :)

  3. Soooo enjoyed reading this!! Loved it! Beautifully written. Enjoy your week off!! Hope you feel rejuvenated!

  4. I love so much how you write! (I loved especially the first comparison between the stars and church candles) You're a genius :)


  5. Oh my God!! This is so awesome!! I'm writing a book as well, and so far had never met anyone who is writing one too :) nice to meet you girl! You are amazing!

  6. Your such an astounding writer. Great to know that you have completed
    the first draft. Loved your blog. Would you like to follow
    each other via GFC & Bloglovin?


  7. Dear Marlen,
    I LOVE IT! (<-- I had an obscenity in there for emphasis, but decided to refrain). You set the scene so well and I already feel attached (and can relate) to the character with these first paragraphs. Also, can I just say how much I love the word "garlanded" used as a verb?!
    Okay well, I will totally be first in line for your book girl, so proud!
    xo Hannah

  8. Congrats for your book and thank you for sharing thses lines! Can't wait for the rest!

  9. Amazing story and elegant writing! I enjoyed reading it and you made it very realistic when your character was "nervous" or anxious for the interview! I really enjoyed the first sentence! Great hook! And I love how you made the kitchen lights personification!
    It's great to know a fellow creative writer :)!
    I personally do speculative fiction.

  10. WOW Lady! It's amazing! I can't wait to read the finished product!
    Lisa | c/oMKE

  11. Very brave to share with us a piece of your work!

  12. Is this semi-autobiographical? I recognize a few themes from this blog!

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this! Your words are relatable, thoughtful, and full of lovely little images. I would love to read more.

    It sounds like you're finding a good balance between work and breaks for sanity! That's excellent! 

  14. This is good Marlen. Really good. You've made something really good here and I'm excited to see where your words will lead you.

  15. I really enjoyed reading this excerpt from your book - a colorful collection of words, it was so easy to paint an image in my mind. I loved it! Best of luck to you!! :)

  16. Wow! First let me start by saying eeeek! It's been ages since I landed on your bog darling, apologies! But I am so glad I came today and found this post! My God you've been a busy little bee! How exciting. I loved reading this piece and totally understood. In fact I felt like I was reading a journal entry of my own, reminiscing on my mid twenties when I discovered my love for words and pursued them fully. I still do now even though they've lead me to a life of food stamps and selling my beloved treasures on eBay to continue pursing such a love. I felt every word, every shiver and sadness in that dialogue. I felt that confusing and tormenting pain of feeling a noose tighten around your neck and conformity staring blankly at you like it's the only way out of a mess. Sigh. I can't wait to read more Marlin


  17. Okay, I read this and I'm impressed :) I had to write a two page essay for my grad school application recently and I seriously deleted like ten drafts before I settled on one I liked and that took me three months. I'm amazed that you've managed to write an entire book! I also really admire you for not giving up on your dream. I'm sure you will be successful!

  18. Marlen, please don't ever quit being a writer. The way you structure sentences and garland together words is beautiful, quirky, and charming. It's touching too, and when I reached the end, I felt a pang resonate within me. I'm not even sure what I could label that, but it was a mixture of empathy, like an echoed pain of the heartbroken woman in the story.
    Haha, so, keep it up. I can assure you that when you get this thing published, I'll be one of the first to buy it :)

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  19. OMG! You are one talented little lady! I too am writing a book but it's not quite on this level. Ha ha! I'm writing a "pattern book" for my crochet business. But it's crazy hard... I need to look into getting a literary agent etc.... I'm so facinated by your venture! How exciting!!!

  20. i love that you shared an excerpt from your book! i didn't even know you were writing a book! i love your writing style, it completely sucked me in, and i want more!
    xo jac

  21. Woah. I can totally relate to your character, but with my artwork (which varies in medium, all the more to distract me). I've experienced that horrible pre-interview gut feeling of desperately wanting to run away from the paycheck and the grueling 9-5, and the crushing of dreams and ideas. Eeeep. I'd totally read the rest of your book, just to see if she ever figures it out.

  22. I can relate to this so much.

    And I really, really love it. I can't wait for it to be finished so I can buy it!

  23. Wow, that's a darn good start! You just described my life :D I had a teacher once, that liked my story so much, she read it to all of the class, it made me want to write even more! :D
    I'm so happy you are pursuing your dreams with such courage, not many people have the guts to do that, you're a fighter! :)

  24. You write beautifully! You are such a brave, deep soul. You have to write. You have to become a writer (you already ARE a writer!). I know how not easy it is to dream in this almost universally practically oriented world. But we have to be who we are and believe in ourselves. If you still were in Seattle, I would love to have you over for coffee and a long nice chat. I applaud and admire you. You are a very talented writer!

  25. This is AMAZING! I can't wait to read the rest of it! I haven't written in so long! The only thing that reminds me that I've published a novel are the itty bitty little royalty checks I receive each few months!
    : signe : the daily savant :
    : blogspot
    : bloglovin

  26. Wow! I want to read more! That is beautiful. Congratulations - you really are a great writer. I felt very wrapped up in the characters thoughts, and even felt empathy. Lovely!
    Sarah xo

  27. You're a beautiful writer, Marlen! Can't wait to read more. Have a wonderful weekend! xo


  28. wow Marlen! your writing is so beautiful. i love the candles in a church metaphor. so simple and yet something i hadn't thought of. so about how long is it? I love how personal it sounds like it will be already (I'm so nosy) & the peek into the office job & the different lifestyles. words never truly being ours is an interesting though too, i think. i like to think the phrase, putting them together in a unique way, makes it ours, but not each individual word, but also i like the idea of no idea being truly unique since everything around us our whole life inspires and feeds our imagination. have you watched the TED talk about geniuses? i def rec : )

  29. Oh, Marlen, congratulations! This is so wonderful and I'm so happy for you. I knew your writing would be terrific, as per usual. To be specific, I love how descriptive you are and the gauging of emotion. Beautiful, dear :)

  30. So good! Can't wait to read more! Is it weird that I feel lots of feels like the feels you wrote about? Too much I want to do and getting old and having to be a real grown up. Ugh. But anyway, your book is looking awesome so far! Yay!

  31. Congratulations! What an achievement, you are so talented. I wish I could write at all, never mind do such an incredible thing like you! I love it, and enjoyed reading that little part so please keep us up to date and post more if you can :)

    Well done!! You should be incredibly proud of yourself xxx

  32. You are such an inspiration. As a person who is currently desperately trying to achieve a seemingly unattainable goal, it is so inspirational to know a woman like you who, just a few weeks ago, just had a blank word document, but now you have a book that you have written. It's amazing.

  33. marlen, YES. i love this. congratulations! i cannot wait to read more. or rather i can't wait to own your book in hardcover ;)

    at this volume

  34. Marlen, I'm so glad you finally shared! this is awesome!! your writing style is really, beautiful, and so fullll of these delicious images. it really piques my interest into what the rest of the book will be like, and I can't wait to (hopefully) read the finished product! I know you're working hard and we are all rooting for you!!

    ♥ perfectly Priya

  35. SO AMAZING! You have such an excellent style. I cannot wait to read the rest!!



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