Nine years ago I didn’t have children, and I vaguely remember what it was like to have free time. Fourteen years ago I didn’t teach high school, and I can sort of remember not having to wake up at the crack of dawn or having the freedom to schedule a dentist appointment in the middle of the day. Now pretty much every moment is spoken for. Yet here’s the irony: somehow I’ve managed to write four full-length novels and two novellas in the last ten years. I’m not really sure how, and I never did that before, when I actually had the time.
I think as we get older and more burdened by responsibilities, we have to also become more focused. I just don’t waste my time on unimportant things anymore – or at least, not as much. I also have summers off. I get most of my writing done then.
One of the classes I teach is in creative writing, and I always have my students write a “list poem” – where they list out the events of a typical day, in poem format. Here is my example:
5:00 AM alarm clock rings
Snooze, repeat, snooze, repeat
Exercise, wash, get dressed, grab my cell phone
Kiss everyone goodbye.
“Don’t lose recess time. Have a good day at work. Be a good girl and use the potty.”
Drive to work, drinking coffee and eating breakfast bar. Bleh.
Walk in, walk up, walk down to office, walk back.
“Why am I getting an D in your class? Can I get all my missing work?”
Pass out papers. Read. Talk. Teach. Repeat.
Eat lunch - prepackaged low fat breakfast sandwich, orange, golden grahams bar. DIET COKE!
Prep hour. Grade. Grade. Prepare. Grade. Repeat.
Bell rings. Start class.
“Tavonte, sit down! Kaneesha, put your phone away. Aaron, turn around and focus.”
“Can you send so-and-so down to the office?”
Knock on door.
“Do you have a second? I need to know what can only be told to me in the space of two hours.”
Pass out papers. Read. Talk. Teach. Repeat.
Bell rings. Stretch out. Relax for five minutes.
“We’re going to need you to do this new thing that should only take you five minutes a day, every day, but it will really take an hour, minimum, but if you cared you would do it without complaint.”
Pick up kids.
“Mommy, I lost recess time again.”
“Eli, for the last time, get your coat on.”
Struggle to get them in the car.
Struggle to get them out of the car.
Turn on PBS kids.
Homework for third grade. They’re already writing essays?
Play Polly Pockets. I’m always the boy.
Bedtime. Brush teeth. Pajamas. Read stories.
Oh, I have a husband? Where did you come from?
“How was your day?”
“Good. I love you, and did I mention I’m going to need you to find all your past bank-statements so I can file our taxes. I need them right now…please.”
Eat cake while watching brain-candy TV.
Wash-up. Brush teeth. Flossing is important.
Collapse into bed.
Set alarm for 5:00 AM.
Release date: September 12th 2013
Publisher: PMI Books
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Robin wanted to win The Holdout, a cutthroat reality TV show, so she gave it her all, challenge after challenge. Then she fell for Grant, with his irresistible eyes and heartbreaking life story.
But Grant was only using Robin as they competed for a million dollars. Once home, Robin wants to hide from the humiliation as episodes of The Holdout are aired, and she worries her family was right all along; she’s not a survivor.
Yet she could surprise everyone, and have the last laugh.
Besides, Robin now has jury duty. And as she forges ahead, confronting her demons about bravery, justice, and romance, Robin will come to decide which is more important: the courage to stand alone, or the strength to love again.
My only mistake was falling in love. Other than that I played a nearly perfect game. But it doesn’t matter. Do you remember Janet Jackson’s halftime performance during the Super Bowl back in 2004? It was stunning but nobody will ever recall the actual dance because at the end of it, she showed her nipple on national television. Well, Janet and I have something in common. I didn’t think things through, I exposed myself to the nation, and now that is what I’ll be remembered for.
Except it hasn’t happened yet.
I filmed the current season of The Holdout months ago, but it’s still airing. There are three episodes yet to be broadcast, and my most humiliating moments are still to come. Right now I only occasionally get spotted on the street, but I was edited out of a lot of the earlier footage. I’m not naïve enough to believe that will be the case later on. What happened was devastating but it will undoubtedly make delicious TV.
So I’m wondering if anyone will recognize me today, and if so, will that increase or decrease my chances of being dismissed? I park my car and walk from the lot to the federal court building, clutching my jury summons in my hand. If I’m chosen, it will be the second jury I’ve been on in a year.
Inside, I give my bag to the security guards and walk through the metal detectors. They give me my bag back on the other side, and I take the elevator to the fourth floor, which is where my summons said to go. When the elevator doors open I immediately see a desk and behind it stands a perky brunette wearing an adorable suit jacket with bell sleeves and a Peter Pan collar. She totally pulls it off.
I pull on the edges of my oversized sweater and smooth out my skirt. My outfit seemed reasonable when I left this morning but I’ve never worked downtown and I’ve never owned a pair of heels. What do I know?
“Hi,” she says, with a floating voice. “Can I help you?”
I hold up my summons. “I’m here to report for jury duty.”
She takes the summons and looks it over. “Robin Bricker. Great. Please sign in.” She gestures toward a clipboard with a sign-in sheet. Mine will be the fourth signature.
“Here’s your card.” She gives me a new piece of paper, and it has a stamp with today’s date on it. “Hold on to this. If you’re selected for a jury, you’ll present it every morning to be stamped and that will be documentation for your boss.”
“Oh,” I stammer. “I'm sort of between jobs right now, so there's no need.” I tilt my head to the side, trying to stretch away the tension. Who cares if I don't have a regular, nine to five gig? I'm not obligated to explain how I support myself.
She nods and oozes sincerity, and even though she’s wearing heels I tower over her. She’s the sort of girl I wanted to be when I was in high school. “Well, then you’ll get paid for your time here!” Her perfect brown bob curls just so, right under her ears. Maybe if I blow-dried my hair every morning I could get my hair to do that too. “You’re a little early, but go ahead and have a seat in the lounge. There’s coffee, juice, and muffins, and in about half an hour, we’ll get started!”
I thank her and walk into the lounge, a large room with oversized windows and strategically placed tables and chairs. Although I’ve had breakfast, I grab a chocolate muffin because I’m still hungry, and besides, it’s my policy never to turn down anything chocolate. I lost a lot of weight while filming The Holdout, but even if I gain it all back I’ll still be thin. For the first eighteen years of my life I hated that I was always the tallest, scrawniest girl in my class. No cute curves for me. But once I went to college I appreciated that I could eat cafeteria food and still fit into my size six jeans, while my friends all struggled with the freshman fifteen.
I sit down in one of the many cushy chairs, take out my book, and settle in to read while enjoying my muffin. Who said jury duty has to be awful? But then the television that’s mounted to the ceiling switches from the morning show to commercial, and an ad for The Holdout comes on. My castmates are walking along the beach, some wearing teeny tiny bikinis, others shirtless in swimming trunks. Joe Pine’s voice can be heard over it all, loud and clear.
“This week, on The Holdout. The stakes are high, loyalties are tested, and hearts are broken.” Then it switches to a close up of Grant. He’s sitting and smirking; even the way he blinks seems self-satisfied while the waves lap the shore behind him.
“The Holdout is a game,” he says, “and I’m not here just to play. I’m here to win. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Then – oh my God – it switches to a shot of Grant and me, locked in an embrace. But even worse, it switches again, and now Grant and Klemi are making out. Finally it switches back to Grant, sitting alone on the beach, laughing to the camera and clapping his hands. Joe Pine’s voice comes on again. “Will lover boy Grant endure? Will he persist? Will he be The Holdout?”
The commercial ends and I shrink down in my seat. I look around the room and see that others are all busy on their phones or reading the paper or nodding off as if they’re practicing sitting in the jury box. Nobody seems to recognize me, which is my goal. I’ve cut my hair since the show and I dyed it a darker blonde. I’d have gone more extreme, but contractually I’m only allowed to make minor changes to my appearance. So I’m wearing thick rimmed glasses with fake lenses, and I dress in ways that will hopefully help me blend into the wallpaper.
All my life I’ve wanted to be famous. Now that my day has arrived, I’m clinging to my old, faceless existence like J.D Salinger gone into exile after writing Catcher in the
Except instead of publishing a groundbreaking classic novel, I got duped by
a pretty boy and his girlfriend and cheated out of a million dollars. What’s
worse though, is soon the world will see it all play out on national
Laurel Osterkamp’s award winning novels have been hailed as funny, intelligent, snarky and poignant. She is the author of four novels and two novellas, including the November Surprise series, which, like The Holdout, features the Bricker family. Laurel was recently on a federal jury, and she loves watching Survivor.