Tag Archives: writing

2017 Undiscovered Voices Fellowship

It’s not your imagination: it has been a while since I last posted! I have a great excuse, however: Last August, I was honored to learn that I had won the 2017 Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, sponsored by the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

As the purpose of this year-long fellowship is for me to complete a “publishable” manuscript (what that actually means remains to be seen) by next summer, I have been spending less time on social media and submissions, and more time writing and taking advantage of the outstanding workshops available to me through the generosity of this fellowship.

So while you will be seeing less of me here, it’s for a very good reason, as I’m sure you’ll agree. You can still find me on my other, less time-intensive social media outlets, in case you start to miss me too much. I’ll update here, as I’m able, and perhaps even share a snippet or two of the work in progress. Wish me luck!

Click here to read my interview with the Writer’s Center about the fellowship. 🙂



Here in the Middle Now Available!

now-available-on-amazon-sidebarBook Launch Today: Three of the most exciting words a writer can hear, and boy, am I excited!

Here in the Middle–Stories of Love, Loss and Connection from the Ones Sandwiched in Between is being published today, and I am absolutely thrilled–and terrified, but more on that in a moment–to be included in this collection. When I first learned about this anthology from one of its two amazing editors, Julie Jo Severson, I knew right away that 1) this book would be something special, something desperately needed; and 2) I wanted to be a part of it.

I had a story to tell,  but, honestly, I wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit–maybe my experience wasn’t universal enough, maybe it was too different from what other families were experiencing. But as it turns out, that worry, that “maybe I’m the only one” sentiment, is precisely what’s at the heart of this lovely anthology.

So many of us today, as we enter (ick-ack-can’t say it-must say it) middle age, find that we’re not only still raising our own kids, but are also increasingly faced with the additional challenges of caring for our aging parents, even grandparents–and so many of us, while blessed with the bounty of extra time with our parents and the precious opportunities that time presents for us, also find ourselves struggling mightily at the constant pulling on our resources in every direction.

The worst part of this struggle is that we believe, quite mistakenly, that no one else could possibly understand what we’re going through; as Here in the Middle proves in such a moving, inspiring, and achingly tender fashion, that belief couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We are not alone.

So I took a chance and submitted my piece, “Stars I Will Find,” which I wrote as a way to processgrandma-wheelchair a tremendously difficult experience my family went through with my elderly dad last year. As I so often do when I’m struggling to make sense of something going on in my world, I wrote about it. Often, those types of writing are more my “therapy” than anything I would ever intend to see the light of a public day–they’re just too personal. Writing about what happened was the easy part, the cathartic part; making the decision to share it publicly was downright terrifying. I’m a fiction writer, after all; making up stories about fictional characters is what I do, so sharing something so real about people I love so much feels incredibly frightening to me. But because I feel so strongly about the positive impact sharing our stories could have on other people facing many of these same issues, I knew that I wanted to share mine as a part of this incredible book.

I suspect that many of my fellow contributors underwent similar experiences–writing to understand, to learn, and to heal, but now, sharing, to help others. I give my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to our amazing editors, Christine Organ and Julie Jo Severson, for their inspiration, dedication, their tireless work to bring this book to fruition, and their faith in my story, as well as to my fellow contributors for their courage, humor, and generosity in sharing their stories.

No matter what stage of life you are in at the moment, I hope that you will pick up a copy of Here in the Middle, if only as a loving, compassionate reminder that some experiences are, in fact, more universal than we let ourselves believe, and that there is strength, hope, inspiration, and joy to be found in sharing those experiences with others. I would humbly ask, if you find the book helpful, as I believe people will, please be sure to let others know about it by sharing a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. Thanks.

Happy Launch Day, everyone! #hereinthemiddlebook



So You Think You’re Ready For An Agent

brian-kLast week, I attended my second Chesapeake Writing Workshop in Arlington, VA. Our speaker was Brian A. Klems, Online Editor for Writer’s Digest. The workshop covered some of the basic nuts and bolts of publishing and offered the opportunity to not only pitch (for a fee) some of the agents on hand, but also to have the first page of your work read aloud and critiqued live by a panel of four agents–sort of like The Voice, but for writing.

The “Writers Got Talent” portion of the day didn’t really hold any surprises for me, but a handful of some of the more seasoned attendees noticed that the mood in the room, as page after page was rejected by the agents (some after just a line or two, not even making it to the end of the page), grew increasingly hostile. Some of these aspiring writers in the audience were really angry at the agents, who were, I’m sorry to say, just doing their jobs, the same ones they do every single day, at a pace that can drop hundreds of submissions a day into their inboxes. agent

I’ll be honest, I felt bad for the agents on hand, because I’m sure they could hear the grumblings and see the glares (though they’re agents, so they are unbelievably tough), so I took a lot of notes on the comments the agents were making, because as writers, folks, these are the kinds of things we ignore at our peril. Think you’re ready to submit to an agent? Read through my notes first–you just might thank me someday. Not sure what some of these things mean? Well, that right there’s a red flag for you, but send me a message–I’m happy to clarify.


  • Not to an agent’s taste (means you didn’t research your agent thoroughly enough)
  • Cliches
  • Opening with a time or a date
  • Opening with a line of dialogue with no sense of character, context, or setting
  • Beginning in media res
  • Voice issues
  • Overwhelming words/”Purple Writing“/Overwriting
  • Predicability
  • Clunky, too many descriptors
  • Unoriginal
  • Too much passive voice/telling, not showing
  • Using Film/TV storytelling techniques, like prologues or infodumps, that don’t work in written fiction
  • Switching narrators w/out contest
  • Abuse of reader trust
  • Too much exposition, not enough scene
  • Directly addressing the reader
  • Flat or dated humor
  • Out-of-context breaking of the 4th wall
  • Lack of world-building in dystopian genre
  • Dialogue that’s for the benefit of the reader and not organic to the characters
  • Writing not polished enough
  • Delaying investment in character
  • Heavily covered topics, like funerals, covered in the same old way
  • Starting with backstory or dialogue or character’s inner thoughts rather than scene–does not mean lines of dialogue
  • Lack of familiarity with the intended genre of your work

I could go on, but that’s a pretty long list as it is. The bottom line is, you only get a minute or two to make that good strong impression on an agent, so your query letter and your submission better be outstanding. Good luck, and keep writing!

It bears repeating: Agents are NOT the enemy.

Just so we’re clear: Agents are NOT the enemy.

Thesis Emesis

thesis-cover-imageWell, it’s official: I’ve submitted the first draft of my thesis for review, and the process was just as much of a pain in the ass as I’d heard it would be.

From a body of program work comprising more than thirty pieces, I needed to select a maximum of sixty pages. In preparation, I spent weeks revisiting all of them, trying to identify which pieces felt strongest, and ultimately narrowed it down to five.

I’d been contemplating doing a collection of linked stories, but initially, I worried that the five pieces I thought were my strongest didn’t have a readily apparent link. The more time I spent with them, however, the clearer their connection became. Once I understood that, the rest of the process suddenly seemed like a piece of cake:


If my rough draft were a cake.

But you don’t sacrifice this much time, blood and sweat and tears and coffee addiction, working on something, only to stop at the finish line–even if you are ready to vomit.

Needless to say, after several days more of revising; six hours of formatting (Can we just all agree that the phrase “Should adhere to official university and program format and style” is code for “You are now entering the ninth circle of Hell”?); one wasted hour of tracking down ink for the new printer; one hour of printing; one hour of reprinting; one hour of obsessively line-checking each page; one hour of driving into D.C. to hand-deliver the draft; ten minutes of arguing with the parking garage attendant that yes, I LITERALLY* ONLY NEED TEN MINUTES BECAUSE I’M JUST DROPPING SOMETHING OFF SO PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LET ME PARK HERE AND I’LL GIVE YOU ALL THE CASH IN MY WALLET; five minutes of hyperventilating in front of the locked door to a clearly empty office; two minutes of grateful weeping on the shoulder of the office staffer who promised to get my thesis to my advisor; thirty seconds of sprinting back to the garage to make my ten-minute window; and one hour of driving home from D.C. (my sincerest apologies to all the motorists I passed on the way, who clearly did not appreciate the volume of my music), the job was done: I could finally relax…

Me, at every stoplight.

Me, at every stoplight.

…at least until the revision process with my faculty advisor begins.

*Acceptable usage in this case–and ONLY in this case.

A Blast From the Past

Have you ever had one of those kismet-y, Twilight Zone-ish moments, where something happens, and the tiny hairs on the back of your neck sort of stand up and give a delicious little wave of recognition that “whoa, this is freaky”? I just had a good one yesterday.

magsI was looking through 1969 issues of Life magazine that my mom had saved. I pulled them out because my son asked me a question about the moon landing, and my mom had saved these particular issues because, of course, they featured that historic event.

We were laughing at the ads and marveling at the ubiquitous presence of cigarettes in hand, the prices of things, etc., when I turned to a story titled “The Creatures of the Tides.” You can see below the image that caught my eye; it’s vivid, crystal-clear, and striking:


But what really made my central nervous system stand up and take notice was the caption: Go ahead, read it. (If it’s too small for you, you’ll just have to take my word for it.) Do you see it? It’s a tardigrade!

Judging by the blank look on your face, perhaps a bit of back story is in order here. I started working on my second novel, The Water Bearers, a couple of years ago and had sort of gotten myself stuck on a plot point. I took a break to see if inspiration would bump me on the head somewhere else, and sat down to watch an episode of Cosmos with my younger son. It happened to be an episode about tardigrades, which I had never heard of before that day, and I will forever be grateful to my science-loving son (and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, of course) for introducing me to them.

If you’ve never heard of tardigrades, either, they are some of the coolest, most fascinating creatures on the planet. These things can freeze completely, or dry into a dormant state resembling death and come back to life, reviving with only a single drop of water. They can survive acid, radiation, and space. Nicknamed the Water Bear, under a microscope, they actually do resemble little bears, and they move like a higher-order animal. They have been found everywhere from glacier holes to pavement stones, from the Himalayas to the bottom of the ocean. They are a true wonder of indestructibility.

There I sat with my son, my jaw hanging open in astonishment, hearing about these creatures for the first time in my life, and BAM! I knew exactly where I was going to go next with the book.

Fast forward back to yesterday afternoon with me now: There I am, sitting on the floor with a pile of magazines that my mother, who passed away in 1996, set aside for her kids way back in 1969, while she was still carrying me in her womb. I imagine her choosing the issues carefully, knowing that she was preserving something important for her children to look back on, decades ahead. I flip the page, see that striking image, read the caption and realize that IT’S A TARDIGRADE.

Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic here (duh, fiction writer), but to me, it felt almost like my mother was sending me a message from the past: “Pay attention to this creature, Jules; it’s going to be important to you someday.”

She was right. First read-through is done, let the editing begin.

Thanks, Mom.








It’s Time.

Who's Ready to Edit? 2

Last time, I posted an update about where I was with The Water Bearers, my second novel. At that time, I was taking a much-needed break from the now-completed first draft before starting the editing process. As I told one writer friend earlier this week, it’s so that I can return to it, when I’m ready to edit, with fresh eyes and a ruthless hand.

I think you can tell from the photo that now, after my two-month break, I’m ready to go (or to kill; not sure which, sometimes).

I had originally intended to start the process around when the King (Stephen) advised to do so, say, six weeks or so after completion. However, today is the last day of my writing class, and it also gives me roughly two weeks until the end of the year, so it feels like this is the perfect time to get this baby all wrapped up.

How exactly does my editing process work?

First, I’ll do a straight read-through from a hard copy, making no edits whatsoever. I’ll just to try to approach it as a reader would, something that’s harder for a writer than you might imagine. I’ll jot some notes in the margin, maybe highlight a couple of things, and, because I work bass-ackwards compared to some writers, I’ll create a working outline from what I’ve done to make sure that all of the elements are plotted out and make sense. Some writers do that last part first, but that’s not how I roll. The one thing that’s true of all writers is that your process has to work for you, not for anyone else.

manuscriptOnce I’ve finished the read-through (which I’m doing on a print copy), then I’ll sit down and play a little Search-and-Destroy–uh, I mean, Search and Refine– the more “mechanical” part of the process. I use the Search feature on my computer to ferret out repetitive words, annoying phrases, etc. It’s a dandy little technique I first heard about from my editor on  Widow Woman and developed further using the book Write In Style: Using Your Word Processor and Other Techniques to Improve Your Writing by Bobbie Christmas. (Haven’t read this book yet? Get it. It’s an unbelievably helpful way to eliminate wordiness, annoying tics, etc.)

Once I get past those phases, I’ll do one to two more substantive passes and really zero in on fleshing out characters, tightening up the plot, focusing on tension and engagement–all those things that I hope will keep readers turning the page.

Once everything else is done, I’ll do a final spelling and grammar check via my computer. (Is that really necessary, you might ask? Believe me, if you’re asking, it’s necessary. Does a computerized spell check catch everything? No. Don’t computer spell checks sometimes misinterpret the writer’s intent and suggest the wrong word? Of course–they’re computers, not people; you don’t just blindly accept every change they recommend. But every once in a while, the computer will catch something your eye has missed, even after all those passes, so yes, you’ve got the tool, use it. )

Then, and only then, I will finally consider it ready for beta readers (the next phase in the process). I will be looking for volunteers, so be ready. I promise, there are far fewer sharp objects involved in that phase.

A Book in the Oven

it isn't done yet

See disclaimer below

You may remember that on September 30, 2014, I finished the first draft of my second novel (working title: The Water Bearers). Ahh, such a production—a champagne toast, a video post. I even added a doomsday clock to my homepage to make sure that I met my self-imposed deadline.

And what have you heard about this much-vaunted book since then?

[crickets chirping]

That’s right, not a single damned thing. I’m truly sorry if you’re disappointed by the apparent lack of any further activity on my part, but this period of “inactivity” after completing a first draft is not only a normal part of the writing adventure, it’s also a healthy part of it.

cookie 2

Come on, you know you want one…

Do you bake? I don’t, except for The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. (I didn’t invent the title; I just wear the crown). But even I know that bread dough has to rest for a while before you bake it (Thank you to The King—Stephen, that is—for this metaphor). A manuscript is no different—it needs a period of rest, just as King Stephen says in his wonderful cookbook, On Writing:

You’ve done a lot of work and you need a period of time (how much or how little depends on the individual writer) to rest…How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks…With six weeks’ worth of recuperation time, you’ll…be able to see any glaring holes in the plot or character development.

Who am I to buck royal advice? I’ve been doing exactly what Stephen King recommended: getting involved in new projects and re-involved in my day-to-day life, completely and utterly ignoring the completed manuscript waiting patiently on my desktop. Not just because The King says so, but also because I worked hard on it; it deserves to have me return to it with a fresh and ready mind; and because the next phase, editing, will be ugly (for me, it usually involves sharp objects, cursing, and tears, though I do try to keep bloodshed to an absolute minimum).

So—King’s prescribed minimum of six weeks, if we count from September 30, would have me resuming work on The Water Bearers around November 11. Will that be the day? Perhaps—or perhaps I will extend my hiatus to seven, or even eight weeks. The important thing is not, at least at this stage, to assign a random date on the calendar, but rather to know, in your writerly heart, that it’s time. How do you that? Well, it’s your lucky day, because The King’s got an answer for that question, too:

If it [your manuscript] looks like an alien relic bought at a junk-shop or yard sale where you can hardly remember stopping, you’re ready…If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience…it will also be like reading the work of someone else…This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own. 

300px-Macintosh_128k_transparencyOkay, that whole alien relic bit may be a tricky visual for most of us to replicate, with today’s ubiquitous digital versions (unless you wrote it on one of these), but King’s message is pretty clear: You have to allow yourself enough time away that you not only fall in love with your manuscript all over again, but also feel enough distance between you that you can go on and destroy that which needs destroying–a crazy balancing act virtually impossible to achieve in the rosy afterglow of initial completion.

So—if it seems as though there’s been a whole lot of nuthin’ going on since I wrote “The End,” never fear: There’s been a whole lot of proofing going on, and it’s not quite done yet. But don’t worry—when the time is right and I finally break out the power tools and get back to work, you’ll be the first to know.

Disclaimer: That psychedelic cat above? Don’t you believe a word he says, he’s a Bad Kitty. Go right ahead and keep asking me–I like it.

Literary Citizenship: Different Strokes for Different Folks

DCOn a beautiful fall day last weekend, a group of writers, editors, publishers, poets, and agents gathered in Washington, D.C. for the third Poets & Writers Live event. I was fortunate enough to be one of them.

PWLiveThe panel discussions were substantive and witty, featuring industry veterans willingly and openly sharing resources, tips, challenges, and advice. Some of it, thanks to numerous other writers’ events I’ve attended, I’d already heard in some form before. But one of the things that really reached out and hooked me was a comment by Melissa Faliveno, associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, about the concept of literary citizenship.

This is not a new term. It’s been around for several years, and like most “movements,” it’s had its share of supporters and detractors as the definition has continued to evolve. Not familiar with the term yet? Well, the Renegade Writers’ Collective out of Vermont features a helpful and pithy description of literary citizens on its website. Some of it I agree with (I would never burn books, love nothing more than to sink my teeth into a hefty semicolon debate, and I do, in fact, wear sunglasses, almost on a daily basis). But some of their definition calls to mind the sort of obnoxious and affected writerly types one occasionally encounters: You know, the ones you sort of want to yell at or smack upside the head with your Moleskine: “Stop it! Drinking bourbon and staring pensively at the sidewalk for an hour does not make you a writer!” If writing wedding toasts in iambic pentameter and eating sushi are the requirements for literary citizenship then I guess I’m one big, happy expatriate.

Seriously, though, some folks in the literary world have been getting really worked up about the term of late. Check out writer Becky Tuch’s take on the concept. For her, literary citizenship seems to be less about your identity as an individual writer, Ă  la Vermont, and more about your obligations as a member of the collective society of writers–and she doesn’t seem to view those as necessarily a good thing, either:

I really detest the phrase “Literary Citizenship”…By evoking such positive qualities as citizenship and community-mindedness, the message behind Literary Citizenship seems to be that writers should embrace this new dawn. We should accept it, perhaps even celebrate it. In doing more work (editing manuscripts, reviewing books, interviewing writers, blogging about writing, sharing news about books, etc.) for less pay, we will become good citizens.

Okay, I get it—but to me, Ms. Tuch’s conceptualization of literary citizenship, as stated here, seems to be driven more by the fact that we writers are being told we have to do more and more for less and less in order to achieve even a modicum of success, than about the fact that in the process, we’re forming a community of good citizens. More for less certainly is an undeniable fact of the writerly life as we know it today—and it’s a fact that sucks. But why be such a strong detractor of something that is essentially a good thing?

She explains why she detests the phrase:

It’s just that in all this talk about what makes a good Literary Citizen, it seems we have missed a key step: critical reflection. Isn’t it important to ask why things are the way they are? The notion that the system ought to be challenged, that there is even a system within which all this is operating, is notably absent from discussions about being a good Literary Citizen.

I can’t argue with that, either. Critical reflection and repair of broken or faulty systems are awesome, and as she continues supporting her argument with suggestions about the need for writers’ unions and strikes, one can see that her view of literary citizenship is a very serious one, indeed.

But for me, these interpretations, while perfectly valid and demanding of reflection, simply weren’t capturing the yearning in my heart at the very words “literary citizen.” So—let’s return to Room LJ-119 at the Library of Congress this past weekend. Here is what Ms. F had to say about it, as paraphrased from my notes:

“Literary citizenship [can be defined as] an author’s ability and willingness to promote not only himself and his own work but also to support and promote other writers.”


Simple, succinct, and sweet.

Now that I get. I not only get it, I’ve seen it in action: at the Bloomington Writers Festival in Minnesota year after year; in my writing group there, that still supports me and lets me participate, even though I now live hundreds of miles away; and again, this weekend, at Poets & Writers Live and, especially, during the lunch break with some of my fellow attendees.

We were all at different stages in our literary journeys: Some of us had finished, but not yet published manuscripts; some of us were just starting to write our stories; some of us had books about to be published. But everyone, every single one of us, had something, some advice or tip or insight or question or fear, to bring to the table, and as a group, we collectively addressed them.

We weren’t a union, trying to change a difficult system; we weren’t throwing back bourbons or dissecting metaphors (maybe next time). We were a respectful, open, like-minded and passionate group of people who understood, instinctively and organically, that what we really need, in a profession that entails spending so much time alone and that, at its core, can be fundamentally competitive, is each other.

Maybe my take on it is not institutional enough for some folks; maybe it’s too grassroots.

But to me, this is what literary citizenship is all about: finding ways to take your experience, your network, your connections, and using your knowledge to support others. Are you an aspiring writer? Reach out to others (reach out to me!) who can answer your questions, steer you to helpful resources, lift your spirits when your work is rejected and celebrate with you when your work goes live.

Perhaps you’re at the other end of the spectrum, a grizzled veteran, and feel like you don’t have the time or interest or see sufficient ROI potential to reach out to those just starting out. Remember that you, too, were once an unpublished, struggling author, and how important it was for you to have someone reach out a hand to help you. Giving back feels good.

Or maybe, like me, you’re somewhere in between the two, not quite just starting out, but no blockbuster author (YET, of course), either. I didn’t think I’d have much to contribute that my fellow writers didn’t already know—but I was amazed at how many questions I was able to answer at lunch on Saturday. Doing so not only felt really good (that must be the former teacher in me), but it was also, to be frank, a tremendous confidence booster, as it forced me to reflect on just how far I have come since I began.

We all know more than we think we do.

Ultimately, we all have to define the word citizenship for ourselves: This is mine.

Do you agree?

Then write. Get the words out there, then go forth and support someone else, because we need each other, and it is by helping each other that we all become strong.


For more information on being a good literary citizen, check out





Ta Da! The End!

[Video Transcript]

You know, writing is a very solitary and grungy business, and most of the time, even on your best, most wonderful writing days, you’re usually alone.

But today is a really special day for this writer.

As many of you know, I have been working on my first draft of my second novel, The Water Bearers, for several years now and earlier this month, I set up a deadline for myself, that I would finish that first draft by the date of my birthday (which is actually, as it happens, coming up the day after tomorrow).

Well, I’m happy to say that I have actually reached that milestone and today, I wanted to share it with you.

So bear with me. You get to share this with me today. Bear with me, I’m not a camera person. Here we go. Are you ready? One, two, three–Ta da! I did it!

Of course, as any writer knows, the first draft is just that: It’s a first draft. There’s much more work to be done in terms of editing and polishing it and making it worthy of publication. So I’m not foolish enough to think that my work over here is done.

But I think that today, I’m just going to savor the moment and celebrate the completion of this part of the process–all 405 pages of it. It’ll probably be a lot shorter than that when it’s finished, but today, I’m just going to enjoy. So–Cheers!


Counting Down!

countdown clockAs I mentioned in my last post, I’m getting close to finishing the first draft of my second novel, The Water Bearers. [Cue applause. No, seriously, click here to make the applause start.] I’ve been working on it intermittently for years, so seeing it finally come to a close (at least the shitty first-draft stage of it) is pretty exciting.

But I also know that, as it is for many writers, procrastinating–even this close to the finish line–remains a hazard. Therefore, I’ve set up a countdown clock to try to keep myself accountable. I invite you to check back in, follow my progress, and help me count down to (for writers, anyway) those two most magical words in the English language: The End. And hey, as long as you’re here, I wouldn’t kick a few kind words of support to the curb, either. Just sayin’…

In the meantime, as a thank-you for all your support and patience, here’s the excerpt I promised; I hope it leaves you wanting to read more. But if it doesn’t, just remember what Ernest Hemingway said:

1st draft shit


And now for your excerpt:


The Water Bearers


The noise shook the car and jolted Bibi awake.  As her eyes flew open, she could see the window had been smashed. The pocket of air around her face held for a moment more. Bibi had time to take one last gulp of air then the pocket collapsed. Thousands of gallons of water roared through the broken window all at once, throwing Bibi back against the car door and pinning her there.

Still holding her breath, Bibi tried to free herself from the pressure of the water’s onslaught, tried to turn her head to see where her father and Sabrina were—but couldn’t. The realization that they might already have died terrified her.

—Moby? Moby? Are you there? Are you there?

Over and over in her mind, Bibi called out to Moby; there was no reply. Her chest constricted rapidly as her need for air grew more desperate. Her head started to pound under the relentless pressure of the water that now completely filled the car.

I don’t want to die like this, she thought. I didn’t even get to go back to school yet.

The car gave a terrific jerk, then a second. Bibi squeezed her eyes shut, concentrating solely on keeping the last bit of air in her lungs. Her entire body was pulsing now, a frenzied rhythm hammering through her veins: Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, BREATHE—

She did, at last. Her mouth wrenched itself open against her will and every molecule of air that had ever existed vanished. Painfully cold water filled her mouth, her throat, and her lungs, burning as she gulped and swallowed convulsively. Bibi thrashed wildly, helpless to stop herself from breathing, drawing the icy water deeper and deeper into her chest. Her flailing grew weaker. A sudden wave of brilliant clarity stilled her limbs, and Bibi understood that she was about to die.

Daddy! Da—she called silently to her father.

Then Bibi’s world went black once again.