In my new Street Stories suspense novel, Bend Me, Shape Me, reporter Jo Sullivan leads a writer’s workshop for youth living at the Night Moves shelter. The idea for the scene came from my own volunteer experiences at The Night Ministry’s Open Door Shelter (ODS) in Chicago. Once a week, I would get together on a Sunday afternoon with several residents and do writing exercises.
One of those projects took place over several weeks in a row. Brainstorming together, we came up with a cast of characters and a plot for a fantasy story. I came across the remains of that project today as I was cleaning up some computer files and it made me nostalgic for those kids and the creativity they shared with me.
To honor them, I want to share some of what we came up with, in bits and pieces. Here’s the first installment:
BRIAN is a heroin addict who hustles at Waveland and Broadway to make money to support his habit. He is 22 and has been doing this for one year. He actually came to Chicago when he was 17, a runaway from Louisville, KY who came here because he had a shitty home life and because he wanted the adventure. But things didn’t quite work out the way he wanted them to and little by little he got into heavy drugs to make him care less about being miserable and confused. He’s too old for any of the youth programs and so he sleeps on the street.
BREW is a 21 year old college student studying chemistry. Magus is her teacher. She is out of this world, frank, and honest. She wears her heart on her sleeve so the world will know exactly what she means. She wants more out of life than what she has. Her father told her never to trust “hot dogs” but she is drawn to them because she has a lot in common with them. She wears a diamond on her wrist for the one who got away–a guy named Pinkie. Her eyes are black and her hair is hazel, wild like fire.
BRIAN and BREW are connected by past lives, a constant history of trying to connect. The time frame allowed to make this connection is brief. This story is their last chance to make that connection–the opportunity will be lost forever if it doesn’t happen now. They both have visions of past encounters.