Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 105,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction
32-year-old Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still pining for the one who got away and can’t forgive herself for the fallout from her mother’s stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, Anna realizes she must take control of her life and stop living in the past.
But when she wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to her semester abroad in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s spent more than a decade imagining.
Yet if the rest of Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke. And Anna’s baby sister will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers. When Anna’s efforts to change the future from across the Pacific fail, it soon becomes clear that she must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and abandon her family.
Adding to Anna’s distress, her on-and-off college boyfriend (and future fiancé) flies to Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she fell in love with, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling.
As he shows a side Anna’s never seen, and complications emerge in her relationship with Charlie, Anna’s even more confused by what the past, present, and future hold. All the while she wonders when her time in the past will run out, or whether the clock’s been rewound for good.
I would have given anything to be in a different moment. Any moment but that one.
I searched the audience surrounding us for red satin, careful not to let my gaze rise above neck level. To see his face. Finally I caught a flash of crimson and looked up. My eyes met my sister Claire’s and I immediately regretted it. Hers held a question; mine, a plea.
I had to look away or I’d cry. Or scream.
I tried to steady my breathing as Nick lowered down on one knee. A cool spring breeze blew petal confetti toward us, so gently that bits of white and pink remained suspended in midair before fluttering to the ground. Even the river, humming low and deep like a bass line just beyond the hotel courtyard, slowed to a crawl.
And yet I couldn’t hit pause, take a second to reflect on how I’d let it get so far.
“Anna Jane, you are my past and my future. You’re all of my best memories and the center of every great moment to come. And so to you I present—” here he paused to allow sufficient time to appreciate his pun—“this ring. It’s time we made it official!”
The choreography was perfect.
I tried to speak, to tell him it felt like I was disappearing. That putting a ring on my finger would sever the last threads tying me to the earth. But the words went sliding down some shadowy passage, piling on top of all the other things I never said.
V.Entry Nickname: Orphan Red
Word count: 90K
Genre: Women's Fiction
After years spent trying to make her marriage and acting career work in New York, Claire Dowler returns home with no husband, no career prospects and a mountain of debt. When her former high school drama teacher falls ill, she asks Claire to start the school year as a long-term substitute, both teaching drama classes and mounting a successful production of the musical “Annie.”
But unbeknownst to Claire, she’s cast freshman Kimmy Ralstin - an actual orphan - in the lead role, and Kimmy’s adoptive parents are furious. Claire’s also naively adopted a pit bull in the hopes of turning him into a stage star by playing the role of Annie’s dog Sandy, and she must convince the school administration and her parents that Danger Fosse is a sweet, trainable dog. She’s also trying to break into the clique of the popular teachers, but a new school counselor seems to have an old ax to grind and wants to derail any of Claire’s friend or romantic prospects.
Claire must save her production and her job, and figure out how to make peace with leaving behind her New York childhood dreams. She’s just hoping the sun will come out “Tomorrow.”
The only difference between being a high school theater geek and a long-term substitute teacher is, instead of sitting with drama queens at lunchtime, I’m about to sit with faculty queens who love drama.
The teacher’s lounge is where you find your allies, or so I’ve been told. Teachers are always at war with someone: An administrator, a parent, a student, their own child who pretends to not know them in the hallway. Whether you’re the aggressor or the victim, Russia or Poland, it’s important to remember there are other soldiers on your side.
“Remember,” I thought as I stared at the lounge door. “Pretend you’re Stalin, but, you know, friendly and cute.”
As I tried to gather my courage to walk in, I was tackled by Spanish teacher Taylor Whistler.
“Oh my gosh, so happy to see you!” Taylor squealed as she hugged me. “Simona and I were just talking about you. It’s going to be the best.year.ever.”
If the teacher’s lounge were an ocean, I’d imagine choir director Simona Martin would be a beautiful seal teaching little seal pups to use their flippers and sing in unison, while Taylor is a sea lion entertaining other marine life. I am a penguin in this scenario: occasionally amusing, good when wearing black and white, and trying not to get my throat ripped open by Simona.
“Awesome,” I murmured. I thought, “Yay! Maybe I am moving from penguin to porpoise!”
“I’m a porpoise with a purpose,” I said. Out loud.