The Journey: an experiment

In The Law of Immediate Forgiveness, the story I’m revising to prepare for submitting to agents and publishers later this summer, Amy June and her Grandpa take a road trip from central Washington to South Dakota. This is a trip I’ve never done myself, so I asked friends and family who have to contribute their memories and impressions. Today I tried some free-writing to create a scene incorporating their generous donations of words and phrases, and this is what found its way to “paper.” I’m not sure yet where it will go in the novel.


There is no such thing as an inanimate object in South Dakota. Marq Pilgrim had made this trip before, with his wife Sara and their son,  but this was the first time Amy June ever experienced such a place. Rocks, dirt, trees, houses, cars, storefronts – they all writhed and glowed with life. The Black Hills took her breath away and her sight seemed to change, become more blurry, as she tried to interpret on the visions in the clouds that scuttled across the prairie sky. She imagined the landscape as it would be parched in summer, and felt the change of air that said “this is the only place on Earth that is this way.” She remembered a story she’d read, maybe last summer, that described an old woman’s face as a Badlands landscape, and she recognized the faces held in the Badlands themselves.

It was by far the longest road trip Amy June had ever taken, not just in miles. When the landscape changed from mountainous to prairie, the images all seemed to melt into cold-air shimmers. In a state of suspended animation, Amy June felt herself growing up. Licky felt it too, and licked the girl’s cheek, gazing into her eyes as if to say: I know. Growing up is a journey just like this one, with its incredible landscapes, vast swaths of earth that touch the sky, and its broken houses with broken-down cars in a jumble in their yards, its monuments and minimarts, its successes and abysmal failures. Suns rise and set with astounding beauty, clouds form pictures with messages meant just for you. Licky snuggled her head under Amy June’s arm. I know, the dog’s heart spoke to the girl, this place is completely unforgiving and completely forgiving, both.

Amy June watched a horse and rider peek out from behind a cloud in the vast ever-changing sky, and experienced herself growing up, felt her insides transform as the weather did, changing from clear and cold to downpours of hail to blizzards and back, all in mere moments.

She sensed something else, too, as the road rolled on in front of them, and her Grandpa played more old songs on the car radio, and Licky snuggled her side, making little doggy moans of mixed pleasure and concern. Amy June realized the danger ahead. Whatever was in front of them, Amy June knew that just like growing up, it meant separation and loss. Curiously, she noticed no fear roiling her guts; instead, the queasiness in her stomach felt more like anticipation.


Interview on The Writer’s Life

Meanwhile, I was interviewed about An Alien’s Guide to World Domination on The Writer’s Life yesterday – read it all here!


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