The Dreaded Writing Sample

Since I have been applying to writing programs, I have had to prepare a writing sample. I decided to pull a little excerpt from a longer piece I wrote a few years ago. Sending this out to other people (when so far maybe 3 people besides myself have seen it) was fairly nerve wracking. I was already accepted to one program and I am in the process of applying to a few others so I will have a good set of options. In celebration of my first time really putting my writing out there for others to see (and judge) I decided to be bold and share my writing sample here as well.

This is the introduction to a magical realism type romance set in Texas. Although just this tiny portion could indicate that it is a true paranormal, that is not the case.  Enjoy and keep in mind that the version I am posting here is not proofread. 🙂

         For as long as anyone could remember, the tiny town of Willington had always had a witch. Everyone young or old that had ever lived there, and even the people living two towns over, knew that without a doubt. No one knew when the tradition started; maybe the first witch came with Gavin Willington himself on the railroad all those years ago when the town was founded. If you were to stop by the Curl up and Dye hair salon and ask any of the old biddies sitting under the hair dryers they’d all tell you the same thing: every town needs a witch. It’s essential to the health of a town just like every town in the south needs a church or a barbeque restaurant. That’s not to say that the occasional person hadn’t had their quibbles over the local witch at one time or another, and probably would again, but at some point they had come to view having their own witch like winning a blue ribbon at the fair; something to make you just a little better than your friends and neighbors. In the friendliest way possible that is. Even the staunchest holy-roller that denounced the witch as evil five ways from Sunday could be seen sneaking across town some Friday night when their husband started coming home late from work one too many nights and they wanted that little something to steer his attention back to his wife. Try as they might to deny it, having a town witch was a commodity.

Now the interesting thing about the Willington witches was that not a single one had any connection to any other as far as anyone could figure. An outsider might expect that the witches all came from the same line of women, passing their magic from mother to daughter, generation to generation, but not in Willington. It always seemed that once one witch grew too old, just when the town might start to fear that they could become witch-less (just like everyone else), a new witch would come to take her place. No one could ever predict when or how she would appear, but in the history of Willington, one always had. The last witch to grace Willington was Ms. Colleen Badgley. Colleen had died only a year before, a tiny silver haired woman that anyone would be proud to call grandma. If there had ever been a Mr. Badgley he had passed away too long ago for anyone to remember him. Some say he died during the Second World War, before Colleen moved to Willington. She had lived in a tiny house just at the outskirts of the township, where people stop saying they live in town and started saying they live in the country. For years, if you had a fussy baby who wouldn’t sleep, if your garden always shriveled up no matter how much you watered, or you wanted to catch the attention of the cute young man who worked at the grocery store, you went to Colleen. Now, no one who knocked on Colleen’s squeaky old screen door looking for luck, love, or a winning pie recipe for the church potluck ever told what exactly she gave them, but rather just that “it worked.” Every niece in Willington, crying her eyes out over her first broken heart, heard from her aunt; go see ole’ Colleen Badgley, the second house to the left on Fuller street. Everyone knows that first love is like sitting in the sun, and she’ll have something to take the sting out of that burn. Generations of Willingtonians could vouch for Colleen’s cures.

It was when old Colleen left this earth at the ripe age of 93, that the citizens of this little township took notice of one of their newest residents; the young woman who had just started renting the yellow house on the corner of Ellis lane, just one street over from Main. If not for the timing in moving to Willington, she might have had a chance of just going on as a normal person just like anybody else, but she came in March and everybody knows March is the most volatile month. The citizens took it as a sign that, during the time when winter tries to hold fast to the Earth as spring blows in and battles it for the weather, Colleen Badgley took ill and Leah Clowder moved in. She seemed to blow in like a Texas thunderstorm, sudden and strong. It was, the beauty parlor biddies would say, as if you blinked and Leah had already settled in to the little yellow house and signed a lease for a shop right on Main street. She might still have been left alone, if she hadn’t painted the door to her house a vibrant teal and dotted the front flowerbed with little gnomes and sun catchers between her plants. That was when the neighborhood children started to linger around her picket fence, hoping to glimpse some proof that she might be the new witch. Can you even imagine growing up in a town without a witch? Certainly not.

As everyone knows, there are several ways to detect whether someone is a witch or not. Firstly, they’re always a woman. Willington might consider itself a progressive town ever since they’d voted to allow beer and wine sales, but even they wouldn’t abide by a male witch. They should have, without question, a cat. Every witch needs her familiar. Their gardens are always lush, no matter if there’s a drought or frost. Loose dirt and leaves never collect on their front porch. They love bright colors and things that twinkle and sparkle, and they’ll invite you in for tea at any time of night or day. For Leah, it started with her bright door and sun catchers and soon everyone seemed to be stopping by to peek over her back fence at her garden. It seemed that every neighbor popped by with a welcome basket of some sort, and she never failed to invite them in for some iced tea. And so, it began.

No one is quite sure if the witches find Willington or if the town makes the witch. Surely, no one has stopped to ask them. Or how they come to learn that they’ve been appointed the town witch, but so it has happened since the founding of Willington.

***

            It was a night just on the brink of fall, and everyone knows that’s the time when anything is possible because the world is sliding from one season to the next. If nature hasn’t made up its mind then there’s always time for change to occur. The kind of night where the air starts to take on it’s very first chill and it’s possible to believe that summer would finally release its hold on the world. The moon that night hung low and heavy in the sky, lighting up the world with its golden glow. Children would stare at it, fascinated, ignoring their mother’s attempts to call them in for the night. Who could go in and sleep when the earth and the moon seemed ready to collide? It was the kind of nights where lovers would sneak out of their beds to meet somewhere and steal kisses. How could you not fall in love when nature was perched at the edge of possibility? Tonight, widows would fall asleep and dream of their lost husbands as the young, handsome boys they once were. Why be lonely, when the moonlight itself was thick enough to keep you company?

Soon the leaves would start to turn and fall from the trees. Pumpkin patches would pop up on the side of the road, the shiny-skinned gourds waiting to be transformed into Jack-o-Lanterns. In Willington, the city council would start dragging bales of golden hay to the center of town to set up the display for the annual Fall Faire. Old Town would be spotted with scarecrows, pumpkins, and hay along the sidewalks and in the shop windows. Pies would be baked and cider mulled and it would seem that no one in town could resist that charm of autumn. People would even start to pull their sweaters and jackets from the back of the closet, anticipating the first morning chilly enough to wear them.

It was on a night such as this, in late September, that Eric Grayson stepped off the bottom step from his apartment over the Malt Shop on Ellis Street and failed to notice the wide-open face of the moon watching him. Had he looked up, he would have seen her move coyly behind a layer of clouds, like a woman behind a veil. He failed, also, to notice the new chill in the air as the wind rustled the leaves of the trees. His mind was preoccupied and heavy with troubles. Troubles that, he hoped, tonight might begin to solve. His Chuck Taylor’s crunched across the gravel behind his building as he made his way to the car, his sister following close behind him, her dark hair falling in her face. They were silent as they climbed into the sedan and drove away, stopping a short distance away, on the first residential street outside of Old Town.  Eric looked up toward the tiny house, a frown creasing his dark brow. The house was small, the siding painted a creamy yellow with white trim and a white porch. It wouldn’t have stood out from the neighboring houses, all of which had all been built in the twenties and thirties, if not for the bright teal door. It stood out like a vibrant jewel, even in the dim light. He scoffed as he turned the key to shut off the car’s ignition. He couldn’t believe he was actually doing this. Beside him his baby sister, Cara, let out a little whimper. Her brown eyes, that had once been so rich and alive, looked frightened and unsure. They always looked that way these days, wasn’t that exactly why they were on this fool’s errand? Eric slid his hand over to grab one of hers from where it was tucked, bunched up in her lap. She stopped wringing her hands to accept the modicum of comfort just for a moment.

“We don’t have to do this, Care Bear.” He said, his voice shattering the air around them like glass.

“I want to. I really do,” She replied “LeAnn Phipps went and saw the witch when she was havin’ that custody battle with her ex. She helped her. She told her what to do.” She sounded so resolute about this decision that Eric would’ve been the worst kind of fool to tell her no, to say that all this magic business was just gossip from gullible house fraus. He could only hope that playing along with this farce would do more help than harm and then maybe, just maybe, his sister could be the happy, carefree woman she used to be.

The siblings slipped from the car and slowly approached the house. A soft glow shown through the window in the front door and a window at the right side of the house. The witch was awake. They each hesitated for a moment, making brief eye contact as though daring the other to chicken out, before Eric knocked. A few moments passed in anxious silence before the door finally opened.

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2 thoughts on “The Dreaded Writing Sample

    • When I started the piece, I was obsessed with magical realism. I read Practical Magic years ago and liked it and then read everything by Sarah Addison Allen who really inspired me. I’m not a big reader of pure paranormal fiction, except some YA stuff.

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