Chasing a Novel at the End of the World

“That’s the thing about being a writer … Every bad experience you have is good material.”


Nell Stevens was just like every other twenty-something at the tail end of her education. Or, at least like every other twenty-something with a degree from Warwick, another degree from Harvard, and an MFA from Boston University. It was time to finally put all of that work, time, and money to actual, productive use. For Nell, that meant writing a novel. But there were two things standing in her way: one, she didn’t know what she was going to write about, and two, she was far too distracted to commit to anything.

But then came the perfect opportunity. She won a fellowship that would send her anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, for three months. There, she could find her inspiration and finish the novel she always felt destined to write. Her peers had chosen France for its tranquility and sense of history, New York for its vibrancy and clash of cultures. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a barren, uninhabited scrap of land in the Falklands, hundreds of miles off the southern tip of Argentina.

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The Futures by Anna Pitoniak review

Just Because You Can Write a Novel, That Doesn’t Mean You Should

When I was 21 I started writing a novel.

Well, by “writing” I mean I bought a fancy moleskine and nice pens and wrote down little vignettes of no consequence while riding the bus back and forth to class. Clever quips, character sketches, you know, the annoying shit that makes a person feel creative without actually doing anything, ever.

It was about a young 20-something guy who dated an overbearing, controlling girl who didn’t “get” him. During the novel he found the girl of his dreams, learned to love himself, and, I’m not even kidding, the denouement involved him decorating his bedroom with posters of the bands he loved. Because he was apparently not allowed to do that before?

He was also an English major who looked and sounded exactly like me. It may or may not have been autobiographical. Worst of all, its working title was Strong Enough to Break, which I stole from a documentary about Hanson.

It went nowhere. As in, I never even wrote a first sentence. But had I been disciplined, I would have actually written that piece of shit. That thing would have existed, for no other reason than the fact that I was obliviously miserable in my relationship.

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