Future Projects 1: Tulip Season
Welcome to my Future Projects series! The first future project I’d like to introduce to you is a novel called Tulip Season.
A Synopsis: Gwen Bruno, a woman in her 50s, lives alone in a small town in Iowa where she works at a greenhouse. Her life is quiet and lonely, but she likes it that way. After a tragedy over a decade before, she doesn’t want anyone getting too close. One day, a teenager named Tom shows up at the greenhouse looking for a job. As Gwen reluctantly takes Tom under her wing and the seasons change, they find that they fill a great and unnamed longing in each other. If only Gwen could put to rest the carefully guarded secrets from her past.
The Story Behind the Story: Tulip Season was the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2015. As you can see from this very elaborate cover I designed, it is based on Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen. It was an idea I had while on a long road trip home in the back of my family’s car years before that…probably 2011 or so. Eventually, I also added the story of Tom Thumb to help fill some of the gaps in the plot.
I have always liked fairy tales and for a long time, I was exclusively writing retellings of different fairy tales. I was fighting off mind-numbing boredom in the back of the car and I had my notebook and pen out, brainstorming story ideas. As I sat there, looking out fields and highway turning gold in the sunset, I started to think about the tale of Thumbelina. (Long story short, an old woman wishes for a child, magically receives a tiny girl from a flower, and then that girl is kidnapped by a frog and has a long adventure before marrying a fairy prince.) It struck me that, as far as we know, Thumbelina never returns to the mother who had longed for her for so long.
Immediately, I decided I wanted to tell that woman’s story. I thought about different ways to do it, whether or not I would keep the element of Thumbelina being small, and what era I would set it in. The story changed a lot from my original ideas (some of which are pretty strange and embarrassing) but I actually wrote an entire first draft during NaNoWriMo 2015.
I was so excited about this book. I made covers, book trailers, found actors and actresses who looked the way I envisioned the characters, you name it. I even had my friend Heather of Heather-Draws-Things do a sketch of Gwen:
In spite of all that, I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t long before I abandoned Tulip Season. The intense pace and word count demand of NaNoWriMo forced me to add and change things just to get to 50k, and the story hadn’t turned out how I hoped it would. I decided there were major changes I wanted to make and I didn’t have the emotional energy to go back and completely deconstruct a 50,000-word novel.
Recently, I shared the general story with my sister Terese and friend Mary. They loved it and encouraged me to go back and finish it. I don’t know when, but I hope to give this book new life. It’s a beautiful story. I want to share it with you guys.
Once in the emergency room waiting area, it took her a while to find Tom, because the lobby was full of people with various injuries she tried not to get too good a look at, from fishing hooks caught in hands to a man with his foot in a bucket for unclear reasons. When she finally spotted him, he was sitting in a chair with his left foot propped up on another chair. He was talking to a teenager with long, greasy hair and his hand wrapped in part of his t-shirt.
Gwen hurried over, and came in on the tail end of their conversation.
“… yeah,” Tom was saying. “That’s another reason to wear the gloves. And that whole ‘stop, drop and roll’ thing is legit,”
“No kidding,” the kid grumbled, rubbing his hand gingerly. “Damn. It hurts,”
“Don’t worry, that’s a good sign. If it actually hurts, that means it’s not that bad,” Tom said. “Trust me, kid, if you didn’t feel anything now, you’d probably be losing your hand,”
“Tom?” Gwen interrupted gently.
Tom turned and looked up at her. He had dark rings under his eyes and his face appeared more stubbly than normal. He looked ten years older than he had when she last saw him. But when he saw her, he broke into a huge grin.
Gwen had a sudden, unbidden flashback to a little girl with playground sand in her hair and a scrape on her cheek, having just fallen off of a swing-set, staring up at her waiting to be swept up and kissed and to be made all better.
“Gwen!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
Gwen crouched down beside his chair. “I came to make sure you were okay,” she said softly.
Thanks for reading, God bless!