Work in Progress: Daisy & The Great Beyond

There’s a story that’s been with me for a few years — several years. “Daisy & The Great Beyond” is the title. I started playing with the characters around 2011, 2021. I’d have to check my original project box to be sure. I’d revisit the characters now and again, and last summer, in 2020, I started working on the story. As I wrote, I noticed that other stories that I’d been working on began weaving themselves into Daisy’s story.

One story was about my relationship with my great-great grandmother Alice’s journals. Each of her two known journals found their ways to me at pivotal moments in my life. 

Her 1880’s journal — from the end of her life — came to me as a young woman of 18. Her mature and world-weary insights gave me food for thought as I started making the choices that would set me on the trajectory of my life. One lesson I took from her at that time was how much she longed to spend her time writing and studying. She loved her family, of course, but the longing to know and to reflect was always there. She wrote beautifully, and even though she’d been dead nearly a century before her words found me, what she had to say guided me in a way that no other’s words had.

Then, as I approached the age of 40 and was mending my heart after a divorce and grieving not having children, the journal that Alice wrote in 1866 — when she was in her youth — came to me to help me put myself together again. Her youthful exuberance for life jumped off the pages of that journal and reminded me of who I had been when I first met her when I was 18. 

This young woman, who grew up miles away from the Civil War battles near Virginia, was afire with the desire to climb the “hill of science.” She longed to learn it all. Her journal told of the lessons in history, literature, language, and science that she longed to know. 

She wrote long passionate pages of resolutions for how she longed to be in the world. She lamented the foot-binding of Chinese women she’d read about in a book, even though her family of tobacco farmers who could afford to educate their daughter in Latin and poetry no doubt owned slaves. She wrote about God.

As I learned more about her life as a young woman, I felt my own enthusiasm for living return. I started creating again: writing and performing. Once again, Alice — my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother — had given me life. And I wanted to capture the sacredness of that gift. I wanted to share the beauty of her work and the brilliance of her mind and heart. 

Daisy’ story — it seemed to me — to be a place to put these lessons. 

Still, there was another story that I’d worked on for years that wove its way into Daisy’s story: an “unfinished” short story called “Queen’s Books” about a woman who hid messages at a used bookstore. The little notes she left would be discovered by unsuspecting patrons, and they’d find a little bit of poetry the woman had glimpsed in the world. I tucked that story into Daisy’s life.

And then there was Billy, Daisy’s sweetheart. (His original name was Jacques, but he changed his name when the other piece of the story clicked into place. Plus, I was listening to a lot of Bill Hicks when I started working on the story.) Their love story was a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice, the Ancient Greek myth of a singing king who lost his true love and went all the way to Hades to retrieve her, only to lose her at the last moment when he looked back at the exit of the Underworld.

In Daisy’s story, Orpheus and Eurydice would get a second chance. 

As I was working the story, I came across an online 7-day writer’s workshop (Covid, you know…). Through that I connected with KN Literary which connected me with writer, Carolyn Flynn. For several sessions, I’ve worked with Carolyn as my writing coach. At first, my hope was to have someone to give me deadlines. But Carolyn has been another gift in this process of creation. 

When we first started working together, I thought “Daisy & The Great Beyond” was a novel. But as we worked, I was hearing dialogue and the descriptions were more like stage directions. As much as I tried to wrestle Daisy’s story into a novel, Daisy and the small cast fought back and took the stage.

Then I saw a local theatre I’d done some work with was having a playwriting contest. Clearly, that was an opportunity to try something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid: write a play. So I shifted gears, and with Carolyn’s guidance and knowledge of Story, the first draft of Act I is done, and the draft of Act II is well on it’s way. It’s coming quicker now. It’s taking shape. The momentum is there. And so I write, little by little in the evenings and weekends. The deadline for submissions is in April.

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