July 9, 2016: The Day I Nearly Died of Mortification (Part 1)

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Dear Diary,

I have a confession to make: I still haven't been able to start the first draft of my new novel.

Every time I open the blank Word document and try to get to work, I remember that big-name editor tearing into my last book. I hear her saying the premise is too "low concept," the writing doesn't compel readers to turn the pages, and every character who is not absolutely essential to the plot must be swiftly and mercilessly executed.

("Character development"? What's that? Donchaknow every chapter must end with a cliffhanger and every scene must drive the plot plot plot plot plot?)

I try to shake off those memories and recapture the joy I felt when writing in my early twenties--before Lizzie Bennet, aspiring writer, turned into E. Bennet, published author.

But when I put my hands on the keyboard, I remember what that editor said when I refused to make fundamental changes to the story and the book deal fell through: "If you're too proud to write for the market, there's no point in writing at all."

Speaking of pride, mine suffered a near-fatal blow today, thanks to the nutty schemes of Mrs. Lucy Bennet.

First, some background info: since it's too unhealthy to sit alone in my loft all day, I've resolved to improve my physical and psychological well-being by getting out of the house every morning for some fresh air and exercise.

This sudden resolution to work out has nothing to do with avoiding that blank Word document. I've read that exercise stimulates the creative juices, so I'm really not using my health as an excuse to run away from my writer's block. I'm actually tackling it head on!

The decision also has nothing to do with that nasty remark about my figure I overheard at the Lucas's barbecue last Saturday. I forgot about Will Darcy the very next day. In fact, I can't even remember his name.

Anyway, on Tuesday I bought a monthly pass for the Juniper Swim & Fitness Center. Every morning since, I have dutifully ridden my bike over there to swim laps. I'm up to ten laps already!

This morning, I was toweling off in the locker room when I received a call from Jane's phone. When I answered, the person on the other end was not Jane.

It was a man, and he was weeping desperately. "Elizabeth?! Is this Elizabeth? My God, answer me!"

"Yes, this is Elizabeth," I said quickly. "Who is this? What's wrong?"

"Jane...My angel...My angel is dyiiing!"

To save you the suspense, Diary, I will tell you now that Jane was not, in fact, dying. But I nearly died from mortification when I learned the whole story later.

After the Lucas's barbecue, Mom was convinced that the smitten Mr. Hollywood was going to whisk Jane away to Los Angeles and turn her into a big star. She harped on Jane to text him, to friend him on Facebook, to drop hints about how much she's always longed to visit California. Jane managed to hold Mom off for a few days by claiming she didn't want to chase Charles off by acting too desperate. Besides, Charles had already promised to call her when he came back to Oregon for the weekend.

But Mom, ever proactive, decided to hurry things along. This morning, after confirming with Susan Long that Dan had seen Charles arriving late last night, Mom handed Jane a hot pink sports bra and ordered her to go for a jog in front of Charles Bingley's house.

Jane tried to refuse, but Mom worked herself up into one of her "panic attacks." She screamed and sobbed until Jane broke down.

And so Jane jogged around the neighborhood, but she did not see Mr. Hollywood. Though the temperature had climbed up to the nineties, Mom forced Jane to go back out again. Jane ran around the block in the blazing July sun for twenty minutes...forty minutes...an hour.

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