Hey, Remember This Story I Live-Wrote For You Back In 2010? It's Done.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Past members of the Clarion Write-A-Thon may remember a weirdie little tale I wrote while you watched called “The Sturdy Bookshelves Of Pawel Olizsewski.”  It was about a very strange and unwitting magician who made some very incredible bookcases, and one (bad) reporter’s discovery of a whole new field of magic.
Since I wrote it during the Clarion Echo (two drafts!), I felt it was only right to finish it during the Clarion Echo, and so yesterday on a plane flight I completed the final draft.  Which means, if you feel like donating $5 to the Clarion Echo to get access to the community, you’ll get to see something really special: an author, explaining why and what he changed upon every step of the drafts he did, right up until he finished it and sent it out for professional publication.
The story, if you’re curious, now starts like this:

When people asked me about Pawel Oliszewski’s bookcases – which they inevitably did, especially for the brief period I was paid to answer their questions – I told them my story in strict chronological order.  I explained how I moved next door to Pawel, a quiet Polish accountant, when my mother died.  I told them how, over the course of seventeen years, my neighbor gifted me with seven fine specimens in his legendary line of improbable bookshelves.
No, I wasn’t willing to sell them.  Yes, he offered me more bookcases – roughly four a year, actually.  Yes, I turned him down – the man would have filled my house with bookcases, if only I’d let him.  Yes, I still have them all – the specimens I currently possess are specimen #89 (Vickers hardness test: 970 MPa), specimen #113 (Vickers: 1325 MPa), specimen #234 (Vickers: 2250 MPa), and the much sought-after late-era specimens #269, #287, #292, and #304 (effectively untestable).
Yes, it is an irony that each of the bookcases are worth more than my house now.  Oh no, I’ve never heard that one before.
But above all, I tried to tell the origin of the bookcases honestly – the tedious hobby of an asocial immigrant who specialized in awkward pauses.  This was an error.  People wanted Pawel’s garage workshop to be a magical wonderland – wanted Pawel himself to be a sage armored in wise silence.
The official biography – which I did not write, despite being both a professional obituary writer and a good friend to the Oliszewski family – jostled the facts around, made it seem as though Agnes knew there was something special about Pawel’s craftsmanship all along.
But no.  His bookcases were boring, as was Pawel, as was I.  Ask yourself: if anyone had seen anything of interest in that quiet accountant, wouldn’t the world have heard of his bookcases years ago?  Wouldn’t they have discovered Myra Turnbull’s purses and Jeb Guhr’s model planes?
No, the truth was there all along; it was just tedious.  Easily overlooked.  Like me.
Still.  I’m going to tell you the way I’ve always told it.  Strict chronological order.  Just to channel a bit of the old man’s magic.
Are you interested now?

But it used to start like this:

Once a month, every month, for thirty years, Pawel Oliszewski built a bookcase.  It was not a particularly pretty bookcase — an undecorated, chest-high white ash box with three plain shelves slotted into grooves — but  though Pawel never seemed to take pleasure from making them, he never varied them either.  Each bookcase was a perfect clone of the last, to the point where his children took to putting their father’s bookshelves in different rooms of the house.  When stood next to each other, they looked like strange, unearthly dominoes.
No one would have mistaken Pawel for a craftsman.  By the time I met him, having moved out of my apartment and into my recently-deceased mother’s old house when I was forty-five, Pawel was a quiet, beer-bellied Polish immigrant with prematurely white hair and soft hands.  He made a decent living as a tax accountant, and never took vacations that I saw; his only time away was on weekends, in his workshop, making bookcases.
And he built precisely three hundred and sixty identical bookcases before dying.
Pawel’s rationale for building so many bookcases was a subject of much debate among his friends and family — who, it must be said, were not avid readers.  His wife Florence told me that when she met me, perhaps feeling a little guilty for her lack of literary enthusiasm once she discovered I was a staff reporter for the Norwalk Hour.  Still, she was a friendly woman with frosted hair who pressed my hand between her manicured fingers and told me, despite my protests, how exciting reporting must be.
“I give it a month,” she said, offering me a glass of vodka and tea.  “You’ll get your bookcase soon enough.”
No one quite knew why he built the same bookcase over and over again.  All Florence knew was that one day in the early 1980s, Pawel had lamented that his desk job was making him fat.
“So take up a hobby,” she’d offered.  “Do something with your hands.”
“I like that,” Pawel had said cheerfully, though he did not grin.  As I soon learned, Pawel met every happiness with a thin-lipped approval and a curt nod.  So he had signed up for the Spring Woodcrafting 101 course at Norwalk Community College, where he made his first bookshelf.

In any case, if you donate $5 to the Clarion Echo (and email me to tell me your LJ user name, and have a bit of patience while I add you, as I’m travelling), you’ll get full access to the Clarion Echo archives, where you can not only see every version of this story from start to finish, but watch me live-write a novel, and go back for a second draft of a story I have been commissioned to write.  I think it’s really quite fascinating, and would have killed back when I was an unpublished writer to have this view into how an author sees the weak points of his tale and corrects them.
And even if you’re not interested, please donate if you can.  I’m writing to raise money for the workshop that literally transformed my life, and they need some cash, and throwing it at them will help the next generation of writers.  So please!  Give the best people in sci-fi a hand.

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