What we’re looking for more than anything is a piece that “pops” emotionally. It’s hard to explain what that means except by example. Therefore, below you will see two drafts on the same piece.
To see samples of two excellent submissions, follow this link.
The first draft is what Brian Millett originally sent to me. Brian is a excellent writer and describes well what he went through to make a difficult family decision. As much as I liked it, it seemed to be lacking the emotional connection that the pieces from Daniel and Cindy had sent. I asked him to focus more on the feelings and less on the narrative. The second piece, which fits better the vision of the magazine, is the re-write, which will appear in the “We Are” issue of Two Words; although it might be edited.
Please notice while you’re reading these how the shift from a narrative to the internal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs added much more impact to Brian’s story.
My Family (first draft)
By Brian Millett
Why would anybody in their right mind drop out of society to live in an RV in the middle of nowhere? The answer should be that there isn’t any reason, and while the issue of my of my sanity may be a subjective one, the answer is actually quite simple.
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning. During the summer of 2007 my father developed an undiagnosed nerve condition that affected the feeling in his feet and legs. By winter he was fully disabled. He lost his job and in effect could no longer afford his mortgage payments and was evicted from his house. Upon hearing this news, I left behind my life in New York and moved into an RV in Oregon with my dad in order to help him rebuild his life. The plan seemed simple enough, sell the RV, use the profit to find a new house and pay for moving expenses.
With limited resources, we found ourselves 30 miles from the nearest town in the middle of the snowy mountains at a less than charming RV park called Green Acres. The weather was fiercely cold, especially at night where we would be lucky to see it reach 3 degrees. The hissing sound of the propane tank running out of propane became a sound I both feared and became accustomed to. The majority of our days were spent sitting in parking lots “borrowing” wireless Internet access from motels in effort to sell the motor home online. The rest of our time was utilized trying to sell things from my dad’s storage in order to get enough money for gas, propane, food, and weekly rent for the RV space. Finally about a month after my arrival and a few days before we probably would have burned the RV to the ground in an act of pure insanity, I received an email from a couple in Idaho who wanted to buy the RV.
With step one complete, my dad and I armed ourselves with an atlas and a stack of newspapers and proceeded to hit every street in every town in the state of Oregon at least twice in attempt to find a renter that would be gracious enough to look past my dad’s previous eviction. It was a race against time as the longer we were out on the road looking for a place, the less money we had to get one. Two weeks, three thousand miles and 150 Rodeo Cheeseburgers later, we heard the two greatest words in the English language to ever form a sentence: “you’re in”.
I’d like to tell you that the actual move itself was an easy one and that I didn’t accidentally run over the front of my dad’s jeep with the U-Haul truck, but quite frankly that just wouldn’t be the truth. Either way, when the smoke finally cleared, my dad was set up with a new life and I was left with the task of restarting mine.
Since then I have gotten my life back on track and have been asked on more than one occasion why I would leave my life in New York in order to jump into the trenches of hell with my Dad, despite the fact that I had no real obligation to do so. I sometimes think that the best way to answer this would be to tell people a little about my Dad and the sacrifices he made for our family growing up. You see the construction business has one simple rule; you go where the work is. So while my dad’s profession may have forced him to miss a 15th birthday here and a Senior Prom there, we never went without food on our table or a roof over our heads. Nobody ever asked my Dad to make those sacrifices, the same way I was never asked or forced to do what I did. To me, being a part of a family is the same as belonging to any group, relationship or organization; it means that I am a part of something bigger than myself.
So why? We are a family, that’s why.
My Family (final draft)
We are a family. Those are four words that can mean so many different things to so many different people. Some people think of family as the traditional mom/dad/brother/sister/dog/two cat’s combo, but what about the children that are raised by their grandparents? Or the old lady who covers her walls with pictures of her Pomeranian? Does that count as family? What exactly makes a family a family? I suppose if I’m going to seek answers, I need to take a closer look at all of the people that I consider to be my family.
First there is the family I grew up with, my Mother, Father, and Sister. When I think of my sister and father, the first word that comes to my mind is strength. As a kid, there wasn’t a stronger person on the planet than my Dad, but only now as an adult do I see how truly strong my dad was. You see, my Dad was in construction, and the construction business has one simple rule; you go where the work is. So while my dad’s profession may have forced him to miss a 15th birthday here and a Senior Prom there, we never went without food on our table or a roof over our heads. Then there is my sister, who has grown from this awkward little girl running around the house in puffy dresses, to this beautiful strong young woman who doesn’t need her big brother to take care of her anymore; a fact that fills me with as much pride as it does sadness. It’s safe to say that we all got our strength from my mother. She was always a strong and independent woman, and my family reflected that. I can’t begin to describe the courage that it took for my mother to beat her first bout of cancer, or the strength that the rest us displayed after she lost her second one. Our strength has gotten us through the tough times and because of that we are an incredible close family.
Then there are my aunt and uncle, whom I currently live with. We share a fun and loving household. We keep each other company. We share our lives with each other. We cook for each other. We take care of one another when sick. We help each other out whenever needed, because we are a family that can depend on each other.
Then there are Jason, Brian and his brother Brad, the guys I grew up with. We came of age together. We experienced our first crushes and first heartbreaks together. A friendship that was built on a foundation of tree forts and water balloon wars has developed into a brotherhood that is still a very integral part of my life. I have dinner almost every Christmas Eve with Brian and Brad’s family. Just last year I took a trip up to see Jason’s first child. I introduced Brian to the woman that would eventually become his wife. The four of us have an amazing history that I know we will continue to build on because we are a loyal family.
Finally, there are Ira, Adam, Cody, Joe and Daniel who were my best friends in high school. Hand in hand we all crossed the line into adulthood together. Over the years we’ve supported each other through career milestones, devastating loses and all of the other things that comes with the territory of being a grown up. These days geography separates most of us, but we remain in constant contact. Some I talk to once a day, while others are more on a weekly or as time permits basis, but we all remain a strong source of comfort in each other’s lives because we are a supportive family.
We are a family. Those are four words that mean so many different things to so many different people. I’ve come to realize that there is no standard definition for family. Family is whatever you want it to be, because when it comes right down to it, it’s not strength, dependability, loyalty or even support that makes up a family; it’s love. Love is what makes a family a family.
About Brian Millett
Brian is a writer, raconteur, youth development professional, filmmaker, avid traveler and pizza enthusiast. Brian has spent the majority of his professional career working with at-risk youth for various government and non-profit organizations. He is currently working for The City of Eureka and is writing his first novel. You can check out more on Brian as well as his upcoming Internet radio show, Raconteur Revival at www.creativerebel.net