When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a creative writing course where I wrote two horribly written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.
To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts.
About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time, and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start.
Turns out, I was right.
Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them, I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel titled A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out. The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near train tracks. They spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hide becomes the scene of a tragic death.
As for the other story, The Attic, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes and took me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but it was contracted. The new name of that book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally putting that story to rest.
I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after graduating college. I had finished it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible.
So, in the bin those pages went. A couple of years back I fished the pages out of the bin. Just like the short stories, I found a storyline I could work with. I hope to be finished with the story my summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I will look at and see if there’s a storyline in them to work.
Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They take up too much space in my head. I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on new projects.
If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones to salvage and which one to let go? I now realize it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go. Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.
Here is a glimpse into my coming-of-age novel A Penny on the Tracks. I hope you enjoy it.
“When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else.”
Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.
As they’re about to graduate high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality.
After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.
Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. She has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon. Life permitting.
When she is not writing, Alicia enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.