In the past few weeks, I resurrected the first draft of a novel I began in 2006 and then left when I accepted a job with the state in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2007. It’s tentatively titled Safe Harbor. The protagonist, Emily Booth, and the antagonist, Julia Curry, are names from another novel I started thirteen years ago, but forgot about until I started working on Safe Harbor. I thought I’d taken most of the stuff from the older work, The Learning Curve, and melded into Safe Harbor.
But all last week, scenes kept popping into my mind about a house on the Suwannee River where an artist comes to live and soon enough is embroiled in the town politics when he starts teaching art at the local high school. I remember spending many lovely afternoons sitting on the banks of the Suwannee River writing scenes for the novel. Then as happens, life intervened and the novel was put aside . . .until this week. I wasn’t even certain if a manuscript existed from that first draft or if I had a word processing program that could read it. I wrote most of it in 2000 on an old Mac computer. Yesterday, I begin searching and on the external hard drive, attached to a newer but still old Mac that I keep around for its graphic capabilities, I found twenty chapters and 27,000 words in a file titled The Learning Curve. My new PC with Word 2010 opened the file with lots of silly little marks, but in between those funny squiggles lay the text.
Today I glanced through the pages, and there were the scenes I’d been thinking of this week. My writing is a little immature – particularly with the dialogue – but it’s a still a workable manuscript waiting for my return.
I consider it a wonderful gift. It’s ironic that now I write in Pittsburgh, the home of Stephen Foster who penned the song that made the Suwannee River a known quantity in the world. Stephen Foster never saw the river he made famous, but I’ve visited many times and crossed it even more times in my travels throughout north Florida. I’ve swam in its waters and paddled down its flow that leads to the Gulf of Mexico and I’ve sat on its high banks and breathed in the beauty of my beloved north Florida.
Here’s an excerpt, I particularly like, and which I discovered needed very little editing before I felt it ready to share. It’s also an excerpt without dialogue. How wonderful to see how much I’ve learned as a writer throughout the years.
I present to you the readers of my blog, the first ever reveal of The Learning Curve:
Most folks imagine the Atlantic Ocean when they think about Florida’s sandy beaches. However, except for a song by Stephen Foster, very few know that the Suwannee River, which flows from the Okefenokkee Swamp in Georgia down to the Gulf of Mexico in north Florida, boasts some of the sandiest beaches anywhere. From the high sloping hills down to the beaches caressing the wide expanse of river, the shores of the Suwannee contain some of the finest sand in the state.
Paul looked out at the sparkling river and the bare branches of the cypress trees hugging the shore. The house sat on a bend in the river, so in either direction he looked, the river disappeared around a bend. To the south lay the Gulf of Mexico and to the north lay much of the same as the river traversed through secluded rural Florida, an undiscovered jewel in this sunshine state. He sat on the porch and remembered all the times he tried to paint this scene from memory. He hadn’t been able to do it, not even from a photograph.
He moved to his truck as if propelled by some outside force. He pulled out his case of paints, canvas, and easel. Without stopping, he moved to the yard that sat on a high bluff above the river and began to set up his equipment. He thought of nothing but capturing the essence of what lay before him. He wanted to preserve the sparkles of the winter sun as it began its slow descent over the river. He wanted to capture the dullness of trees, which in a few short months would overpower everything around it, even the river. He felt the current of life flowing through his veins and the power of nature attacking his hands. This moment was why he had come, and he knew he couldn’t leave it for so long ever again. He painted until the sun began to dip behind the trees on the western bank of the Suwannee and gave its last gasps on the water.
P.C. Zick books set in Florida