Literary Yard

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The Transformation of Fredericka Carlton

By: Bruce Levine

Freddie hadn’t made it through fourth grade unscathed. Actually she hadn’t made it through anything unscathed. To begin with, she hated her name – Fredericka, thus Freddie. Her parents had thought that Fredericka Carlton sounded like a movie star’s name, and that had actually been their dream for her.

It all began with the play when Freddie was in fourth grade. She’d somehow gotten the lead in Peter Pan – her teacher’s mistake number one. Freddie was awful – she couldn’t sing, dance or act. And when it came to the flying the only place she flew was off the stage, falling into the orchestra pit. Fortunately the orchestra pit was only three feet below the stage and she fell onto the timpani so the only thing broken was the drum head rather than Freddie’s.

In middle school, at her parents’ insistence, she tried again and, again, got the lead in a production of Grease. She got the part of Sandy because her teacher thought she looked a little like Olivia Newton-John – where her teacher got that idea nobody understood. Not only didn’t she look like Olivia Newton-John, she couldn’t sing, dance or act like Olivia Newton-John. Abysmal as her performance was, at least she got through it without falling into the timpani.

One more try in high school, only this time she was simply a maid in The Importance of Being Earnest so all she had to do was bring in a tray with tea and cakes in the garden scene.

You guessed it. Need I go into an explanation of the disaster? Fortunately you, as readers of the saga of Fredericka Carlton’s acting career, have a better imagination than her teachers, or maybe it was the other way around since her teachers imagined that she could act.

And thus ended Freddie’s acting career and her parents’ dream.

Fortunately for her chosen college she made no attempt to join the thespians.

In college she stuck to simpler and less dangerous things – English literature.

Here, at least, she discovered that she had an imagination, albeit not for acting, but wrote fanciful sequels to some of the classics of literature, setting familiar stories in various time periods and in wildly different settings.

More and more she was discovering who she was and what she wanted to be when she grew up, if she ever grew up because, in a way, casting Freddie as Peter Pan had not been as ridiculous as it first appeared – much like J. M. Barrie, who wrote the original play, Freddie never outgrew her childish delight in inventing stories and playing games.

It was in her senior year that Freddie’s real life began. She’d taken a creative writing course as an elective and her teacher, so impressed by Freddie’s inventiveness and skill at writing dialogue, asked her to write a play for the spring production.

So there she was, having come full circle, only now there was no chance of falling off the stage into the timpani, now she was going to write the words real actors would be saying.

For Freddie’s parents it was a dream come true – even though she wouldn’t be a movie star, she would be a star movie writer. To them anything to do with the movies was being a star.

The transformation of Fredericka Carlton was complete as she took her author’s bow to a standing ovation of her first play.


Bruce Levine has spent his life as a writer of fiction and poetry and as a music and theatre professional. A 2019 Pushcart Prize Poetry nominee, a 2021 Spillwords Press Awards winner, the Featured Writer in WestWard Quarterly Summer 2021 and his bio is featured in“Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020.” Bruce has over three hundred works published on over twenty-five on-line journals including Ariel Chart, Spillwords, Literary Yard, The Drabble; in over seventy print books including Poetry Quarterly, Haiku Journal, Tipton Poetry Journal; Halcyon Days and Founder’s Favourites (on-line and print) and his shows have been produced in New York and around the country. His work is dedicated to the loving memory of his late wife, Lydia Franklin. A native Manhattanite, Bruce now lives and writes in Maine.

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