Sick Ada, part II

About a month ago I shared this idea for a story about a little girl who loves cicadas and who’s having a hard time dealing with her parents’ separation. The girl’s name is Ada and she becomes seriously ill . . . hence the title, “Sick Ada,” cicada . . .

The story’s been gestating for a while as there were so many things to flesh out: How old is Ada? Why are her parents separated? Who left, Mom or Dad? Why? What’s the deal with her cicada fascination? How does she get sick? Most of all: Where should the story begin?

I considered writing this scene first: Near the end of the story, Ada goes into the hospital, sick enough that her recovery hangs in the balance. It is winter, when cicadas don’t sing, but she hears the heater rattling in her hospital room and believes it to be cicadas. She decides she doesn’t mind dying as long she can hear them . . .

But I am not starting there, and Ada will not die because my friend Kathleen interceded, pleading for the little girl’s life.

Amid much encouragement and a few thinly-veiled threats (thanks, Friends!), here’s the first draft opening scene.


The darkness began to change.

Strips of light glimmered between the blinds until a thin finger of sunshine pushed through, reaching across Ada’s rumpled bed to caress her cheek.

At its warm touch, she opened her eyes.



Ada sat straight up in bed.

It’s my birthday! I am nine.

She felt strangely old.

Sitting there in the grayness, Ada knew two certainties. Today the cicadas would start singing. They always started singing on her birthday; Daddy said it was their song of celebration for her coming into the world. He would sing to her, too, only this time it would be over the phone. He promised to call today. Next week when school was finally out, Mama would drive Ada to the airport, put her on a plane, and Daddy would be there to meet her when the plane landed. It would be her first flight.

Ada wondered if cicadas sang on the other side of the country.

The other certainty was that she wouldn’t get her biggest birthday wish of all, that Daddy would come home to stay.


So, Friends, that’s how Ada’s story begins for now, rough as it is.

For the record: The cicada is an ancient symbol of change or transformation and the name “Ada” just so happens to mean “noble.”

Photo: Girl with cicada bug. Jose HernandezCC BY-SA

11 thoughts on “Sick Ada, part II

  1. I love it! LOVE. IT. This short beautiful opening has already revealed to us so much about Ada. (To know I saved this noble character is a heart-warming way to begin this day!) The line “Strips of light glimmered between the blinds until a thin finger of sunshine pushed through, reaching across Ada’s rumpled bed to caress her cheek.” struck me as particularly gorgeous. I am so glad you are writing this book and can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Just a few paragraphs, and I already feel like I know Ada. Wise beyond her years, introspective, and a product of creative parenting–even with the divorce, one senses deep love in her father’s story about cicadas on her birthday. Yes, we will need more of Ada!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The glimpse into your process is much appreciated. It’s always a valuable reminder that their is no one process for writing, for a writer. We each go in and of “the process”, find new pieces of our own process along the way.
    I want more! I want more of Ada’s story. The simple, short sentences is a perfect beginning that made me feel excited for Ada. Then, as I learned about her certainties, I began to feel not just excitement but uncertainty…uncertainty for Ada’s certainties…
    Beautifully crafted, thoughtfully written. Can’t wait for more, Fran!


  4. I love that you are writing a story and sharing the process. Writing can be lonely work. It’s brave to put it out there. Ada’s story is one many children can relate to with separated parents. Your imagery placed us right in the room with Ada. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a brilliantly creative idea and this snippet of the story is so engaging – please write it, finish it, publish it – make this idea live.

    But, why change the ending? If her death in the story is symbolic of something, then write it as it came to you. Feedback on creative writing is so difficult to navigate and I wonder if the story should be written first before you decide what happens 🙂

    Looking forward to reading about Ada.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For the record, I didn’t change the ending; I envisioned a scene (in fact, the ending materialized first in my mind based on something that actually happened to me, but that is another story!). I knew Ada would be ill, as I was working with the play on words, cicada/Sick Ada. In my previous post about the idea I’d stated that I wasn’t sure if her illness would be terminal. Ada will not die in this story, however. It doesn’t fit – not here, not this time. And you’re right, creative feedback is a double-edged sword. Makes me remember that as students are writing, the stories are theirs; teachers must guard against too much leading … and, thanks so very much for your words of encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your description pulled me in immediately and already I want to know more about Ada. I hope you let her speak to you as you write. That should help you determine her fate. But keep going! You have a great beginning. And thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mmm… I’m already rooting for Ada. There are powerful images and connections here – the cicadas, their song, the parents’ separation. I love Ada’s knowledge: now I want to know how she came to these certainties. Thank you for sharing this draft. May we see more as it comes.

    Liked by 1 person

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