Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Life in the Books

If one does not read, then one does not live.  Ok, that's dramatic.  Though it's dramatic, it has a point.  Reading books allows you to venture to places you may never go.  I don't know about you, but I don't have a magical wardrobe that transports me to Narnia, nor do I have a satyr knocking on my door that is willing to guide me to Camp Half-Blood.  Not only does reading transport me to fantastical new worlds, but it allows readers to take on a new perspective, such as reading from the point of view of another person who identifies as a different gender identity.  In this sense, those brittle pages you turn in the library act as transferrable caps and shoes of diverse lives. 

Books are windows into the past.  They define cultures in the time in which it was written and after the authors are long rested in their graves.  The ideas presented in between the covers of a book are born through the author's own experiences with life, whether indirectly or directly.  Because of this, books will always remain as an important historic study and entertainment.

Now for the actual prompt: What role does reading play in your writing process?

Since I was an avid reader when I was a child, I have learned the basics of writing.  I noticed a pattern for proper dialogue formatting, structuring stories, and pacing.  My vocab expanded, and I grew to be a storage of random knowledge that came about from my tower of books.  What I write stems from all the words authors string together to create the wonderful stories that spun through my youth.  Obviously, my English teachers had an impact on my grammar and studies as well, but my skills were strengthened through repeated exposure to reading. 

My love of reading is what lead me to wanting to write my own stories down.  I wanted to recreate the magic that I saw through books.  I mean, how cool is it that people stare at dead trees and somehow pick out understanding from the wonky symbols on a page?  Boom!  Even better, some books force you head on into problems you otherwise ignore.  Stories are sneaky and can shake up what is considered normal.  They influence people in ways that excite me.  Most people don't expect to change their views when they pick up a book, but it's possible for it to happen. 

In conclusion, reading is an awesome power all it's own.  I recommend indulging in it. 
*Image courtesy of Google ;)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Deviating From the Prompt

Hello.  Good day.  Good night?  When do people read blogs?  I don't know.  Whatever time it is you are reading this, good whatever.  Today's prompt is literary parents.  I don't really have any, so I'm going to deviate a smidgeon.  Instead, I'm going to talk about something that helps my writing: conversations.

People are interesting.  The conversations I eavesdrop on are always entertaining and sometimes find their way into my stories.  Even better are the talks I hold with friends--the best writing material.  When people don't filter what they say, the randomest topics pop up and create sore sides from laughter.  I guess I'm well known for that too, at least according to my roommate.  She says I never fail to surprise her with the words that pop out of my mouth when we're doing homework or just sitting on our couch, both of us overwhelmed with the dragon of college and adulthood.  Some of our conversations go like this:

Me: I can't think of myself outside of myself. 
Roommate: (*bursts out laughing*) You know, that doesn't make sense to other people.
Me: In some instances, I do.
Roommate: You are so you.
Me: (*laughing*)  What does that even mean?
Roommate: You just are.  You're random and funny.  Like, you just sit there, with a straight face, and say the weirdest things.
Me: Like what?
Roommate: (*teasing*) "I can't think of myself outside of myself," for instance.
Me: (*pause*)  Today, someone said I was like an elf.
Roommate: (*throws up hands*) Exactly!
What can I say?  My brain is funny.  But seriously, what does it mean when your name becomes an adjective?  When people constantly say, "Oh that is so Tasha," what does that really imply?  Obviously, something interesting.  I feel like that falls under an existential question.  What does it mean to be yourself?  Does your name really fit you?  What is in a name?  Do you grow into it?  Bum bum buuuum!
Existential headaches aside, the back and forth between people is always my favorite part about interacting with people.  The best way to truly learn about a person is to ask questions and see how they respond.  What's your favorite kind of music?  Your answer immediately reveals something telling about your character, the person you talk to.  Because of my daily brush with people, whether at work, school, or adventures outside my dorm room's four walls, I am taught about others and how they view the world, what they say, and how they think.  I keep my ears open, and even if I'm not saying anything, I'm learning something about those around me.  From these unorthodox teachings, I learn how humans act and how to capture them on the page.  If anything, it's a great source of entertainment and an excuse for me to wander.  The best places to hear weird conversations are the cafeteria, because no one thinks that they can be heard, and restaurants. 
Dialogue is a fantastic way to help guide your story along and provide flavor to a story.  If the dialogue is floppy, then the whole piece falls flat too.  Listening to people also helps me figure out how to read emotion by voice and figure out how to phrase it in a written work.  When a person cries, their voice pinches, tightens, warbles, and typically climbs an octave.  When people are happy, their voices become breathy and quicker while flying in volume and pitch.  Normal conversation is a happy medium with calm timbre and average pacing, depending on the person.  The knowledge you come across out and about is amazing.  I wouldn't want to give it up for the world.
If you see me sitting alone in places with a blank look on my ace, don't be surprised if I'm catching up on someone's conversation nearby.  I promise, whatever I find that is secret, I won't use under your name or appearance, especially if I know you.  See you around!



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In Response to "Sure Thing"

Plays are an interesting sort of literature.  Many are acted out from the direction of the playwright's detailed stage directions and carefully spun dialogue; others are left to the inspiration of the director.  One of the most famous playwrights is William Shakespeare.  Full of long soliloquys and social implications, Shakespeare's plays are long studied and appreciated. 

Sure Thing is not like a Shakespearean play.  A fairly short, one act play, it has few stage directions other than the continuous use of a bell to symbolize the alternate interactions between the two characters of Bill and Betty.  Bill interrupts Betty's reading, which is a dumb move to begin with, and proceeds to try to dredge up a conversation between the two of them.  For anyone who knows or is a book lover, you know this is a futile and painful reaction.  However, David Ives creates an interesting dialogue that keeps backtracking and changing into something else entirely.  At first, the conversation ends as well as one would think with Betty blatantly ignoring Bill until he leaves. After the play backtracks a second, a single difference changes the direction of the outcome from complete and utter failure to Bill and Betty sharing a movie interest together. 

Ives experimentation with the possible alternatives of the conversation interested me.  Through the constant rewriting of the dialogue, Betty and Bill had a completely different experience than they otherwise would have had, playing with the notion of time and chance.  Questions that usually plague people like "I should of said that... could have done that... would have changed that..."  all fit well within the brief act.  Plus, the characters were as relatable as their situation.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been unnecessarily bothered by someone when I was trying to enjoy a good book or two. 

I am not one to write plays, but if I were required to write one, I might be inclined to mimic his minimal pattern and play with time.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

Books have been my companions since I was in elementary school.  Many recesses were spent with my back pressed against the bricks of my school as I propped a book against my knee.  I fell in love with the crinkle of thin paper between my fingertips and the smell of pages brushing against my nose.  The worlds that authors spun for me became my playground, inspiring dreams and games to play with my friends. 

I was an avid reader in middle school and high school.  I remember in seventh grade how my Language Arts teacher, Mr. Hutchinson, assigned reading sheets to us students for documenting how many pages we read every day.  Each time we started a new book, we were required to start a new sheet.  Long story short, the biggest pile had my name proudly on it.  More than once, he handed me the pile of reading logs and told me to sort it because he knew I would claim the vast majority of it.  I was very proud of my pile and enjoyed talking to him about what I was currently reading.  

Mr. Hutchinson warned me that when I continued on to high school and college, I would not have as much time to read as I had then enjoyed.  I thought he was joking.

But he was right.

I still made time in high school to read for fun, but now that I am in college, it is more difficult to carve out a space of time and declare it reading time.  Yes, it is proven that devoting some time to reading for pleasure helps with the upkeep of mental health.  Sadly for me, I don't devote enough time to it.  So far, I'm still sane.  At least, from what I can judge, the duct tape holding my mind together is still holding true.  The real contest of that will be at the end of this college semester. 

Currently, I have Roseblood by A. G. Howard on my bedside with the intent to read it.  After two weeks, I am on page twenty-six.  In middle school, I would have finished long ago.  More than likely, this will be my book for spring break.  From what the point I reached in Roseblood, I am enjoying the fact that the main character, who is a young teenager, knits for fun, like me!  As soon as she whipped out knitting needles, I inwardly shrieked YES!  When I finally sit down and read this book, I'll be super pumped.  I've been stalking this book for awhile now, because A.G. Howard has a fantastic grasp of voice and does a phenomenal job of world building.  I loved her rendition of Alice in Wonderland  called Splintered.  If you haven't read it yet, go do so now.  The world she creates is dark, whimsical, and will kidnap you from the first chapter.  Roseblood is A. G. Howard's revamping of The Phantom of the Opera, which is my favorite play, so I'm excited to soon fall into the story.  I'm sure I won't be disappointed. 

Now a book that has actually inspired me is a toss up of my favorite books from middle school.  In sixth grade, I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke in a day.  To be fair, I was homesick when I read it and needed to distract my fever stricken brain somehow.  I did so by reading Inkheart.  On the off chance you have not read the book or seen the movie starring Brendan Fraser, the book is about a man who repairs books and his young daughter, Meggie.  Both are the definition of a bookworm.  However, they run into troubles when Meggie finds out her father can literally read characters out of their story books.  These characters chase the two down as they try to grapple with the consequences of liberating stories' voices from their books' bindings.  It's a longer book, but I've worn my copy down.  Whenever I need a pick me up, I'll return to this story.

Another book that stands out in my mind for inspiration is called Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.  I read this over the summer into sixth grade and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This novel follows the story of Kendra and Seth as they spend a summer with their estranged grandparents.  Originally, they resign themselves to a boring summer, but that changes when they discover that their grandparents are really the caretakers of fairy tale creatures.  The story follows them through this new fantastical world that is hidden on the grounds of their family's estate.  Again, my copy is well worn and beginning to be held together with scotch-tape.  I loved this book series so much that I read a chapter or so from the books to my little sister almost every night.  She goes back and borrows them from my bookshelf too now that she's older and doesn't want me reading to her as much.

Many other books and series captured my attention.  For instance, I devoured the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Mortal Instruments, Harry Potter, Splintered, Beautiful Creatures, Spiderwick Chronicles, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Iron Fey, and many more.  The two books I focused on are my more worn copies that I have returned to time and time again for nostalgia and comfort.  I'm sure I'm going to fall in love with many more books over my lifetime.  The trick will be making time for reading again.  As the famous saying goes, "So many books, so little time."  And yes, I have a t-shirt with that saying too.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Poem

Today I opened
my heart to you,
bare and beating free.
It quivered and wilted
under your gaze,
waiting for the lash.
Before it only knew
dull pain,
silent betrayal,
and the melancholy rush.
I opened a wound
once scabbed over
now raw and swollen
with memories.
Today it was
set free
by the ease of

*Image courtesy of Google

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Significant Moment

The weekend was full of promise and adventure with the sunshine.  Now this wounded Monday is cloudy and already dragging me down with the load of things I should be doing but don't want to do.  But I will plow through it because that is just part of my personality and what not.

Today's prompt is a significant moment in my writing history.  This should be something interesting and telling about me.  Yet, I am having the worst time trying to figure out what that would be.  A lot of things have influenced me, but they are playing hide and seek in my memory to spite me and this prompt.  Darn those memory goblins.

I guess we will just have to take a look at my smaller days.  When I think back to when I was younger, I remember bending papers in half and stapling them together to form a book.  I drew pictures inside and wrote little blurbs of dialogue and descriptions of young animals, especially baby turtles, and the ever interesting fairies.  Back in those days, I was obsessed with fairies and thought they were roaming in the bushes behind my house.  What young girl didn't think this? 

What I remember prominently about these little books was that no one read them or paid much attention to them, which crushed a little piece inside of me.  Sometimes, people read them, told me it was great, and then left it on a table to later be thrown away with the rest of the junk mail.  I continued to make these little stories and telling relatives and friends about them to entertain and make them all laugh, but they all eventually lost interest.  That was hard to deal with, but I kept on writing my little stories because they at least entertained me.

In middle school, my love of stories was finally recognized in my first ever official English class with Ms. Merritt.  I remember in sixth grade how we did a unit on poetry and fairy tales.  We wrote poems in class and were required to read them out loud to everyone, whether you wanted to or not.  At the end of the unit, we all went up on a stage and read a poem we wrote to jazz music and everyone snapped for each nervous kid, no matter the content of the poem or its quality.  We documented all of the poems we wrote in hardcover books that we put together and shared them with the class.  To this day, I still hold that little poetry collection dear to my heart.  Another assignment we completed was writing a continuation of a fairy tale.  I chose Snow White's story and wrote about how rough of a time she had with her mother-in-law.  It was fun, and I enjoyed every minute of Ms. Merritt's class.  Before the end of my sixth grade year, she provided me with information about a writing camp for the summer and really made me feel like I had potential to be a writer.  I will always be grateful to her for this gift.

That is probably my significant moment.  The moment Ms. Merritt walked into my math class and singled me out for something that I would come to feel special by.  At that point when she came to Mr. Hasselquist's math class, we were just sitting at our desks, doing the assigned homework for the night.  It was the beginning of algebraic formulas and headaches to come.  She weaved through the clustered desks to reach mine in the last row closest to the window.  When she reached me, she knelt by my desk and handed me an envelope.  Inside it was information about a writing camp for sixth to ninth graders that was put on at one of the middle schools during the end of July to the beginning of August.  She told me she thought this would be good for me and she believed that, with a little more knowledge, I could be a writer. 

After all of that, I am here at St. Norbert College, studying English with a creative writing emphasis.  I hope she's not disappointed.  I think everyone who ever wants to do anything they love, whether it's writing, painting, or finance, they just need that one person who makes them feel like they can actually do it.  That belief and encouragement is powerful.

Many of my English teachers throughout middle school and high school helped further my confidence in writing after that pivotal moment.  I appreciate all of the teachings and guidance they provided.  To all of them, I give thanks.  I wouldn't have made it this far without you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lamott vs My Writing

I've been assigned to reflect on Anne Lamott's words while, in actuality, reflecting on my own process, sense, and discovery of writing.  How do I write?

While reading Anne Lamott's book, bird by bird, she starts off by mentioning the never ending writing pot of childhood.  With this, I am brought back to where I actually began to write.  From the time I was an elementary schooler, I've enjoyed books and writing little snippets of words down.  I've gone through an abundant number of journals of ideas and short stories that don't make any sense now but were brilliant to me at the time.  When I'd show them to people who wanted to know about it, they'd nod and smile, telling me that's wonderful.  Then they'd ask how math was going.

Writing is not believed to be the most practical occupation out there.  Maybe they're right, but it genuinely fills me with satisfaction in a way that math and science never did.  That might make me crazy and ideal minded, but doesn't it matter that I am happy?

Whatever the answer, I will continue to write. 

But I digress.  This is not a rant about the illusion that may have been cast over me or the judgements on being an English major.  This is supposed to be about reflection.

If I were to look through the numerous word documents stored on my hard drive or the bajillion journals sitting in a drawer somewhere over the rainbow, I'd find changes in how I write today.  When I began writing, I tried to start at the beginning of a story, or what I thought would be the beginning, because this was proper according to my teachers.  Now I start wherever an idea wants me to.  Sometimes this results in me starting at the beginning, more often in the middle, and frequently at the end.  I write all these bits in pieces on separate word documents or pages in my leather journal.  Eventually, they will be smashed together and smoothed out.  At least, this is the hope.

Lamott says to plow out that first shitty draft in whatever manner possible.  I recall now a Stephen King quote where he says, "The scariest moment is always just before you start."  Somewhere in my closet there is a t-shirt with this saying.  Also, I don't remember who it is, but someone also said to just shut up, sit down, and write, which is another t-shirt in my closet.  All of these are pretty accurate.  In many cases, though, I have no choice BUT to write.  Otherwise, I have this constant nagging at the back of my mind of something waiting impatiently to be told, gnawing away at my focus until I admit defeat and try to record it.  I think this is probably why I have so many different things started on my computer.  Now I just have to finish something.

I like Lamott's  advice on carrying around index cards.  In lieu of those, I tote around post it notes.  When those seem to run away, I usually have a pen on hand to write on myself.  The trick then is to write it down somewhere else before the ink fades.  Eventually, those post it notes turn into bulleted lists in my journal or laptop.  The origens of those words that scribble their way down range from what Lamott recommends as paying attention to life and how it communicates to you.  Other times, it's just thoughts, random images that pop into my head, or nightmares/dreams that never seem to stop plaguing me.  Maybe this is a good thing, but I really miss full nights of sleep.

This is becoming a lengthy response, so I should probably wrap this up.  I agree with a vast majority of what Lamott mentions about writing.  Needing to pay attention to ones surroundings, delving into memories for material, feeling protective over one's pieces, and the curse of perfectionism all make sense.  There's been a many word documents thrown into the abyss because I couldn't gag my inner perfectionist.  Other works I no longer had interest in, or I grew away from the narrator in the story. I use a lot of emotions from childhood memories to form a story or make characters among a setting I am familiar with from my small days.  This seems like something natural to a writer.