Creative Writing Sampler: Joanna Szabo (’15) Shares Her “Subtotals”


Joanna Szabo (’15), above, describes herself thusly: “I’m an English major who’s fallen in love with music, writing, teaching, books, and people. Three random things in my room: my Time-Turner replica, an antique teacup, and a fold-out map of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Do they describe me? You decide.”

Inspired by Gregory Burnham’s short story “Subtotals,” she recently wrote “Subtotals of Joanna” for EL 245:

Number of marriage proposals: 4. Number of dates: 0. Number of stuffed koalas owned: 7. Number of broken pencils, mechanical: 17, plain #2: 53, Ticonderoga: 4. Number of times I’ve been to church: 1,612. Number of times I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 37. Number of times I’ve read the entire Bible: 0. Number of lies told, white: 759, black: 5. Number of siblings: 3ish. Number of bloody noses: 3. Number of mosquito bites: 308. Number of countries visited: 4. Number of canoes tipped over: 1. Number of houses: 1. Number of plane rides: 35. Number of jobs, paying: 1, volunteer: 3. Number of cups of coffee: 129. Number of Chinese restaurants: 9. Number of family reunions, awkward: 12, fun: 2. Number of grapes cut for fruit salad: 7,497. Number of olives spat back out: 83. Number of fights, verbal: 28, physical: 0. Number of black eyes: 2. Number of school pictures: 14. Number of childhood friends kept: 4. Number of beetle races: 16. Number of plates dropped: 1. Number of dreams, good: 146, bad: 691. Number of weddings attended: 3. Number of funerals: 12. Number of letters, sent: 30, received: 7. Number of essays written at night: 98. Number of missed school days: 16. Number of short phone calls: 213. Number of wrong numbers: 78. Number of best friends: 6. Number of promises, made: 951, kept: 944. Number of times I’ve cried, childhood: 12,438, adulthood: 3. Number of suicidal friends: 5. Number of rollercoasters: 6. Number of hours I’ve practiced viola: 3,089. Number of songs stuck in my head: 8,422. Number of beds slept in: 24. Number of cultural faux pas: 4. Number of flowers, planted: 114, killed: 8. Number of cigarettes inhaled: 376. Number of times visited the hospital, for myself: 0, for others: 32. Number of sunsets, seen: 46, missed: 7,164. Number of times I’ve been called beautiful: 31. Number of laughs, genuine: 153,432, forced: 152,970. Number of times my last name was mispronounced: 563. Number of scars: 5. Number of socks lost: 21. Number of blog posts, published: 26, deleted: 11. Number of journal entries, meaningful: 27, meaningless: 302.

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