Idle Thoughts

Rants, Raves, and Revelations . . . oh my!

Red March 23, 2011

Filed under: Writings — idlethoughtsblog @ 12:30 pm
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This is a short story I wrote for my English 285 class my sophomore year of college (considering that was only last spring, it shouldn’t feel like it was all that long ago, but it does).  I like it, though I still think it needs work.  This need for revision is normal for me, but I can’t decide what needs to be done.  My last post merited one reader who commented, so maybe this will, too.  As usual, constructive comments will be appreciated, flames will be deleted, and it’s mine all mine, so no pinching.

————————–

__________

The painting wasn’t particularly famous among most of the people in the town.  Sure, some of the more art-minded citizens were aware of it.  Teachers who had taken their classes to the art museum dozens of times over the years might recognize it, but for the most part, she was left in obscurity.  She waited still on her back wall of a back room for her faithful few admirers as the seasons passed slowly in the world beyond her frame.

jjjjjjjjj

She was stunning – beautiful in a simple sort of way – with her slight, knowing smile and wavy auburn hair that framed her face in light.  Her sparkling hazel eyes spoke uninterpreted volumes without a sound, drawing the viewer into the canvas with her if the patron wasn’t careful.  Behind her, a meadow spread so lifelike that the long green-brown stalks of grass seemed to bend with an unfelt wind and shimmer in the imagined sunlight.  Odd that an artist with such tremendous talent would neglect to leave some name or mark – anything to claim the masterpiece as his own.

———

He came to visit her on his lunch break every day.  Daniel Michaelson was fairly new in town, having found a job as a writer at the town newspaper soon after graduating from college.  The museum had never given him cause for more than a brief glance until he was called to write a story about its new manager, the son of a famous photographer in New York City.  The manager had fixed the place up and was as anxious for a new round of publicity as Daniel was anxious for a chance to see his name once again in print.  The manager showed Daniel a selection of paintings he was considering removing to the museum’s vault to make room for some newer photography when she almost audibly called out to the young reporter.  Daniel pointed to the framed canvas leaning against the wall and inquired whether the new manager was sure the picture didn’t merit a spot on a display wall.  The manager responded, jokingly, that he preferred blondes.

———–

As it turned out, Daniel had not been the first to ask about the painting’s fate.  “It seems to be something of a favorite with some of the regulars,” the manager said.  “I might keep it out if I can find a place for it.”

———

And so, the red-haired lady found herself still on display, even if it was still on the back wall of a back room.  Daniel had become enchanted with the image and after a few months, scraped some money together to sponsor a bench in her room.  This was where he could be found between the hours of one and two every day he had to work.  And then a good portion of his available Saturdays became dedicated to the lady in the meadow.

—————–

She seemed so wise, like an ancient guru draped in the body of a beautiful young woman.  It wasn’t long before, as crazy as it sounds, he started speaking to her.  Not out loud, of course.  At least not at first.  It began as whispers in his head and progressed to barely audible murmurs from his lips.  He vented his troubles and frustrations and released his hopes and dreams to his silent friend.  Disappointing months went by with Daniel mentally filling in her responses to the conversations he held with her.  It was almost a relief when he heard a voice besides his own answering him.

—————-

It had been a long week.  Deadlines were looming, with more irons being added daily to his already-overwhelmed fire.  For the first time since high school, he was seriously considering throwing away his career in journalism and finding something else to do.

—————

“What keeps you from quitting?”

———-

Daniel jerked upright from his slouched position on the bench.  He looked around, but there was no one in sight.  He looked back up at the red-haired lady.

———–

“Did you just –”

————

He couldn’t finish the sentence.  It was too preposterous, even to a man who had been imagining just such an event for nearly eight months.

———

“I’ve been here the whole time, Daniel.  Through tough interviews and great ones, the new dog, the old car with new problems.  The death of your mother, the birth of your godson.  You were the one who told me, remember?”

—————–

Daniel was mesmerized.  Even in his daydreams, he could have never imagined such a voice.  It sounded like chimes in the wind, felt like a breeze in summer, and smelled of a forest glade in springtime.  He stood and approached the painting, reaching out against museum rules to touch the canvas.  His arm recoiled in shock.  Her hair felt as real as the hair on his own head.  He touched the grasses of the meadow.  They felt as real as they had in the meadow near the cottage by the lake his parents had rented every summer when he was a boy.  He could almost smell the wildflowers.

——————

Showing no signs she had noticed the intrusion upon her canvas domain aside from a barely visible twinkle in her bright eyes, the lady repeated her question.

————-

“What keeps you from quitting?”

———–

Struggling to wrap his mind around the bizarre situation, Daniel seated himself once again on the hard wooden bench.  “Writing’s my only marketable skill.  I’ve been writing since the fifth grade – I haven’t cultivated any other talents.  I have to make a living somehow.”

—————

“Even at the expense of being happy?”

—————

Daniel had to think about that for a minute.  Happiness was something that had never really occurred to him before – not in his career.  Writing had simply been all he had known.

—————–

As if sensing his struggle to create an answer, the red-haired woman asked another question.

————-

“What makes you happy, Daniel?”

——

“Being here, talking to you.  Writing.  Not the stuff for work, but the other stuff.  The things I’ve told you about.”

=———

If he had not known better, he could have sworn he saw her nod. “I remember.  Your short story collection.  What make you set that aside?”

——-

“I couldn’t make money on it.  No one would pick it up and self-publishing would cost more than what it would make me.”

_________

“Is money so important?”

____________

Daniel paused.  Money hadn’t always been his motivation for his work.  When had it become such a driving force?

—————-

She continued. “You didn’t list money among the things that made you happy.”

————-

Daniel sighed.  His lunch hour was almost up. “In this world, we need money.  It gets us food, clothing, pays for rent.  It’s not really something we can just do without.”

-____________

“What a miserable life you people must live.”

————–

“Well, we can’t all live in canvases.  Someone must inhabit this world.  Someone must be there to paint the worlds you live in.”

————

“Yes, someone must.  Buy why must that someone be you?”

—————

His eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement. “Come again?”

—————-

“Certainly not all people are as unhappy in their lives as you.  Why can’t you leave that world and join ours?”

————–

Daniel shook his head.  “Because it’s not possible.  I was created in his world and you were created in yours.  We can’t just change universes because we don’t like the one we’ve been given.”

———

“Who’s to say what can or can’t be done?” the red-haired lady asked.  His vision blurred and before is eyes the arm of the painted woman began to move.  “Come, take my hand.  I’ll show you.”

—————-

He never would have thought it of himself, but Daniel found the proposition tempting.  Her voice, her eyes, her very presence could be felt, drawing him in.  He felt his hand rising and his peripheral vision clouded, leaving only the enchanting woman in focus.

————

BREEP!  BREEP!

———–

The alarm on his cell phone went off, snapping him back to the reality he shared with the rest of the human race.  His lunch break was over.

————-

His hand dropped to silence his blaring phone and he bent to gather his briefcase and empty big gulp cup.

—————

“Maybe next time.” He heard her whisper as he hurried from the room, anxious to be away from the odd influence he had just experienced, but at the same time sad to leave the beautiful woman in the painting.

————–

*   *   *

————-

All that day and into the night, Daniel tried to force the woman from his mind, to no avail.  While walking his dog after work he had almost been hit by a car, quelling his longing to be back in front of her for a few minutes before her face filled his mind’s eye once more.

—————

He did not sleep that night, not even after a double dose of over-the-counter sleeping pills.  After two hours of tossing and turning, Daniel gave up.  He reached for his laptop and for the first time in months, pulled up his word processor to create something other than news copy.

—————-

The sun rose the next morning to Daniel fast asleep on his couch, computer snoozing on his lap with the equivalent of over twenty new pages to finish his collection.

___________________

Thanks to his late night, Daniel decided to take the morning off, something he hadn’t done since college.  The image and proposition of the red-haired lady, still ever-present, had waned in intensity enough to allow him to edit the work he had done the night before, but returned with a vengeance.

——————

Having accomplished what he could before the lady’s presence claimed his concentration and before he had to leave for his half day of work, Daniel pulled his coat and half-jogged his way to his car through the flurries that had been falling since midnight.  On his drive to the office, he debated whether he should return to the museum.  The drug-high feeling had not entirely appealed to him, but he had never felt lighter, more carefree, in his life.  What if the lady was right? he thought.  What if I wasn’t meant to be here?  Can I pass up the opportunity to find out?

—————–

In the end, his curiosity won out and he found himself pulling up in front of the art museum and dropping a dollar in quarters into the meter.

—————-

Aside from an attendant at the front desk, the building was devoid of human life.  The old clock on the wall ticked in rhythm to his footsteps on the hardwood floors as he strode purposefully toward the back room.  Her room.

——————-

“I was hoping you’d come back.”

———

“What’s it like?  In there?  You said that maybe I belonged in there with you.  Why should I leave this world to join yours?”

———

“Your world is so hectic.  Here is simply peace – no wants, no needs.  Just being and, for the most part, being accepted as what you are.  Things you have wanted all your life, are they not?  And did you not say before that you were tired of the ‘rat race,’ as you called it?”

—————

“Could I come back?”

———

“Come back?”

————-

“If I began to miss this world and wanted to come back, could I?”

—————–

“It’s never been done, but that has no bearing as to whether or not it’s possible.”

—————–

Daniel rubbed his face with both hands.  He had spent all of the afternoon pondering what was keeping him from joining her.  His father had died when he was twelve.  His mother had died five months ago.  No siblings, no girlfriend.  He could easily be replaced at his job.  There really wasn’t anyone who would miss him.  His dog.

————

He called his neighbor, a crazy dog lady who had often stopped to admire his collie mix when she saw them together.  Surely she had room for one more four-legged friend.

————–

“Of course I can, Daniel,” his neighbor replied, a tad too gleefully.  “So sad you have to move.”

————

After ending his call, he turned back to the red-haired lady. “If I come with you, what will happen to my manuscript?  Will it just be forgotten?”

————

“Did you bring it with you?”

————-

“Of course.”

——–

“Then it will never be forgotten.”

—————-

Daniel stood silently, gazing upon the world around him, through the windows he could see at the front of the museum.   He wouldn’t miss it – not really.  And what kind of adventure would this be?  How many people had the chance to escape?

——–

“Have you made your decision, Daniel?”

——–

His eyes returned to the woman in the painting.  He felt his head nodding and his hand reaching out in front of him.  “I’m ready,” he whispered hoarsely.

———–

His heart beat wildly in his chest as his vision blurred.  He saw everything as though he was underwater, looking up at the surface.  Through the ripples he could see the porcelain arm of the red-haired lady reaching out to him.  He felt her touch is hand, sending electric shivers down his spine.  Warmth spread down his arm and through his body.  Then blinding white light filled his vision.

———-

*   *   *

————-

Two weeks later, the front page of The Checkerston Chronicle featured a story about a missing reporter.  His apartment was undisturbed, his dog given to a neighbor who hadn’t the slightest idea where he had gone.  The only clue, a thick stack of papers, containing a selection of short stories written by the missing Daniel Michaelson on a bench in front of where his favorite painting had once hung.  Now, a different image, similar enough for one to assume to have been painted by the same artist, was on display.

————–

The meadow, as lifelike and glorious as before, was the same, but where once only a red-haired lady had stood, a couple could now be seen.  A man with dark, wavy hair stood behind her, arms wrapped around the woman’s shoulders, face buried in her long, flowing hair.  Her slight smile had broadened into a frozen laugh.  A picture of happiness. A man and his love, finally brought together through the bizarrest of circumstances – but there were only two people in existence in this world or any other one who would ever know.

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*Looks Sheepish* February 24, 2011

Filed under: Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 2:56 pm
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So the whole write-every-day thing has more than flopped.  I mean, I’ve been writing, but it’s all been homework, the likes of which no one outside of that class would want to read.  Recently, I’ve written a four-page paper analyzing Do Not Go Gently Into That Goodnight by Dylan Thomas, putting more thought into the piece than I’m sure Thomas did.  I’ve begun gearing up to write a five to seven page paper on a segment of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir Persepolis. I’ve written bits and pieces of news and five 500-word-plus analyses for feature articles.  I’ve completed French homework and worked on multimedia projects and done news editing worksheets.  None of which stands in as an acceptable excuse for not writing every day.

____________

Was it not just last semester, when I was just as rushed, stressed, and harried, that I completed a novel in two months?  Just the rough draft, true, and one I realize needs an incredible amount of work (especially after a talk with my professor from that class, Cathy Day on Tuesday), but a novel nonetheless?  What’s happened to me?  I’m inclined to believe it has to do with the fact that I am no longer writing for a class and I am not receiving the same amount of encouragement I got from being in that class twice a week, but still.  Why isn’t my own need to write kicking in and making myself do it? Is it being squashed by all the academic writing I’ve been having to do?  And what can I do about that while remaining in school?
___________

Currently, I’m in ENG 307, the class that was supposed to be a prerequisite to the novel-writing class.  We aren’t writing “Big Things” in 307, like last semester.  We’re writing little things — short stories, my take on which has baffled me since I started writing them.  Why is it that every time I sit down to write a short story, I head toward the surreal?  Right now, I should be marking up short stories by my fellow classmates for workshop tomorrow or working on my own piece — a story about a woman whose late grandmother’s garden is guarded by butterflies, which are really ghosts of dead ancestors (I promise it’s better than I’m making it sound).  Where on earth did this come from?  And is it going to sound like all I do is read/write/and watch sci-fi like some of the other writers I’ve read in that class?  Is it possible to write something resembling sci-fi and still be taken seriously by the world at large?  Is this really just a piece of crap that I should just give up on?  I mean, I don’t want to be read by just sci-fiers.  Is this just me wanting to be some great writer someday and not seeing reality for what it is?  I’m loathe to post more stuff on websites like FictionPress.net because I’m paranoid and not very good at writing summaries, apparently, as I never got any hits in the past with places like that.  Also, there’s no guarantee that the people commenting have any idea what they’re talking about.  Do I have any idea what I’m talking about?  I know this blog has approximately zero readers, but I’ll pose the question anyway.  Aside from paid-for workshops, how can fledgling writers get real help with their work?

 

Thank you, Mr. Jacques February 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — idlethoughtsblog @ 11:33 pm
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How is it that the death of someone you’ve only met once can make your heart jump and bring you to tears?

————————

Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series and many other books, related and otherwise, has passed away at 71 and left us for the “sunny hillsides and still meadows” this past weekend after a heart attack.  He left behind a wife, two sons, and millions of fans across the world to mourn his loss. There’s an excellent article in the Telegraph talking about his life and his accomplishments, but this is my memory of the man who started everything for me.

Photo by David Jacques (found via Google)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this was the man who taught me how to write. My passion for writing and storytelling was kindled by my grandfather and Mr. Jacques. My grandfather could pull stories from the clear blue and Mr. Jacques appeared to write them in very much the same way, though I would later learn that a writer’s job is much more difficult than that. To this day, I have a shelf dedicated to Brian Jacques.  His work really isn’t the type to put away.  I began rewriting his novels, adding a character to each one (not that they weren’t already perfect), teaching myself from his work, how to work with scene, dialogue, and character development. Later, I moved on to what is considered fan fiction before leaping off that terrifying yet exhilarating cliff of writing my own story — not from someone else’s characters, but from my own mind. I may have become a writer one day without Mr. Jacques’s influence, but it certainly would not have happened when it did and I certainly wouldn’t be what I am today.

_____________________

I remember the first time I ever met the man back in 2002. Somehow, I had managed to find myself in the possession of a flier advertising a reading by Brian Jacques at Notre Dame, which I lived less than five minutes from, assuming first that it wasn’t a home football game weekend, which would have stretched the trip out to a good hour thanks to the traffic that took over Roseland, a suburb (maybe) of South Bend. Fortunately, this took place on an October Sunday afternoon, so no worries about football. My mother had never read the books and was probably much more interested in napping the afternoon away than taking her near-spastic-with-excitement daughter to Notre Dame, but she did. I should probably call and thank her again for that.

————————-

My mom didn’t want me sitting apart from her with the other young fans up front, so we sat in the back of the lecture hall. This would probably be a good time to mention I had neglected (knowing my 12-year-old self, probably on purpose) to wear my glasses, so the stage was a blur. Fortunately, I discovered that, if I looked through my camera’s lens, I could see everything clearly, if not in a miniature version. I fidgeted with the sleeve of my purple sweater, craning my neck for any sign of his appearance on stage.

———————–

“What time is it?” I asked my mom, who was reading a book she had brought along.

———————-

“Two minutes after the last time you asked,” she tells me, not even looking up from the pages.

——————-

I sighed, frustrated. She didn’t get it. Mr. Jacques was pretty much the most important non-family member person in my world. I had been deep in the Redwall series for a few years at that point as was as in love with a man old enough to be my grandfather as a kid could appropriately be. And on top of it, he encouraged kids to read. And not some puny 150-page kids books, either. He had gotten fifth-grade me and millions of others to read books consisting of 300 pages or more. As far as I’m concerned, the man’s a hero.

—————————-

A man in a blue dress shirt stepped onto the platform and the auditorium went silent. It was time. “It is my great pleasure to introduce . . . Brian Jacques!”

——————–

A roar of applause erupted from the audience and he stepped out from behind the stage. He didn’t look as tall as I had expected him to be, but other than that, he looked just like his picture on the backs of his books.

———————

The man was a rock star.

———————

He was about sixty at the time, with a tonsured head and white hair. His wrist was in a brace due to tendinitis from typing on an old typewriter, his preferred method of getting words on the page. He talked about his life, how he had gone to school with Paul McCartney and how his teacher had accused him of cheating when he wrote his first story about a bird who cleaned the crocodile’s teeth.

————————

He told us about the numerous jobs that led him to being able to write such varied and believable characters and locations, where he got his ideas for characters and plot lines, his hobbies that play into the world he had created. He told us how he writes all the songs he put into his stories, how he has written recipes for the food he had invented.

———————–

He spoke about how the Redwall series began — as a gift of story to the students at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, where he volunteered while he was driving a truck as a milk delivery man.

——————-

Then he opened it up for questions. There were many questions about specific characters and whether or not he would write another book (to which he responded, “As long as you will read them, I will write them,” an announcement that brought a round of applause from the crowd), and if he would use their names for characters. Possibly the most important question (one I’m sure, looking back, he got all the time) was not asked until later in the talk – What is the greatest advice you can give for young writers?

———————–

“Paint with words,” he said. “Everyone must follow their own path. Write what is true for you and paint pictures with words is my best advice. I found that I didn’t just start to be an ‘author’ one day. I worked for many years as a writer in lots of different fields.” (This probably isn’t exactly what he said, but this is a quote taken from the Q and A section of the Redwall website and is, therefore, still his words in answer to that question.)

———————–

The line of people waiting to have him sign their books was enormous. I was fortunate enough to get in line with a number low enough to merit the signing of more than just one book. Some of the people behind me were only be able to meet him, which, to be honest, I would have been more than happy with and I couldn’t believe I’m getting more than that. But my world was about to be rocked once again.

———————

My mom took my camera from me as we get to the front of the line, figuring the best she could do is get a picture while he signed my books. His wife, Liz, was with him and must have noticed my mom with the camera ready, because I saw her tap his shoulder mid-signature and whisper in his ear. She gestured to me to kneel beside him and he told me to put my arm on his shoulder like we were old friends going for a pint at the pub. I could tell by the look on my mother’s face that she wasn’t pleased about the pub statement, but I honestly didn’t care. I’d do the damage control later necessary to make my mom all right with him, despite the fact that she thought he had just encouraged her thirteen-year-old daughter to drink. My mom took about four or five pictures and I shot up to cloud nine. I had been given the gift that day of meeting my idol, if I can say that reverently, a joint gift from my mom and from Mr. Jacques.

I guess he did his best to live up to his promise to continue writing as long as we would still read. I think he might have known that that promise could never have been kept. People who love books will pass on their favorites to their children and to their friends. It’s how writers achieve immortality. He could never have lived long enough to see the last of his readers, because, hopefully, someone will still be reading them to the end of time — maybe not in printed book form, but in whatever comes after the Kindle.

———————-

Others’ condolences and memories of this man are their own, so there’s not much left for me to say except . . . thank you. You’ve touched many lives and changed many more who will never have the opportunity to meet you or tell you so themselves. You’ve inspired a new crop of writers and enchanted your fans, from Dibbuns to elders, with your stories of courage found in both the smallest and greatest of us. You will be missed.

____________

____________

Note:  His twenty-second Redwall book, The Rogue Crew, will be in stores in May.  Who else is buying?

 

Costume January 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — idlethoughtsblog @ 3:24 pm
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My first-ever business suit arrived in the mail yesterday.  I waited until this morning to try it on and couldn’t believe how much it felt like playing dress up.  How did I get here?  Wasn’t it just last week that I was playing with my grandma’s jewelry when she was off vacuuming and trying to walk in my mom’s shoes when she was napping?  Looking in the mirror at myself in that gray pinstripe suit coat (I couldn’t see the pants in the mirror), I realized that there was no going back — I am a grown-up.

.
This shouldn’t have come as this much of a surprise to me.  I’ve been paying bills, rent, credit card, food, etc. since I moved to my apartment this summer.  I’ve been regarded as something of an adult for a long time by my mom and other adults I know, especially after I learned to drive and proved that, after not being pulled over or in a wreck once in the five years (wow, has it really been that long?) since I first put key to the ignition, I was more mature than many of my peers.  But seeing myself in that bathroom mirror stunned me.

.
I don’t have a career-starting job yet, and probably won’t until I get my degree.  I bought the suit in preparation for the Associated Press Managing Editors and Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Journalism Job and Career Fair being held on January 29 at IUPUI.  To be honest, I’m more than a little terrified.  There will be a lot of students there with more media experience who are all vying for the positions I need desperately to meet my academic goals for the year (namely, graduate on December 17).  Ball State requires journalism majors to have an internship for graduation and I am really hoping to complete this requirement before my last class-taking semester at college.  I say class-taking because if I don’t get the internship this summer, I’ll have to get it in the spring of 2012 and graduate at the end of four years like everyone else.  That’s the trouble with personal goals — they have a tendency to remind you of your mediocrity.  I figured if I wasn’t going to be a doctor or an accountant with a master’s degree like my two older cousins, the least I could do was save my dad from having to stay at a job that’s more or less killing him on my behalf by graduating a semester early.  You see, my dad has been working at Notre Dame since I was about five and because of his many years there, the university pays my tuition to Ball State, but only as long as he’s still working there.  He is in constant pain, and while I know that no longer working at Notre Dame won’t keep him off his feet due to his stubborn unwillingness to relax, I don’t want him there on my behalf any longer than he needs to be.

.
Another thing is needing to know if I’ll be interning this summer and where, because I need to know if I need to renew my lease.  My lease runs out on April 30th (leaving me not knowing where I’ll be living during finals week the first week of May) and I need to give 60 day’s notice of leaving, so I need to know soon about an internship for my college career and for my housing situation.  *sigh*

.

What really hit me about an hour or so ago was the fact that, even though I’ve been on the journalism track for the past four years, I never really imagined myself in a suit.  I guess in my imagination, I always saw the world though my eyes, that is seeing my imaginative world through my eyes, where I didn’t see what I looked like, just the things maybe-me was looking at.  I never thought to think of what the person I saw was seeing.  Maybe because, in my mind, I never saw myself as an office worker.  Even though I know it’s not necessarily true, I can’t shake the feeling that only office workers in rooms full of cubicles wear suits.  I also know that journalists don’t always wear suits to work and really, the suit is probably more for professionalism in the interview.  But the gnawing doubt still persists — am I really cut out for this?  Is this really what I want?  Sure, I want to be a journalist.  I want to tell people what they need to know.  I want to let them in on what’s going on between people who view them as too unimportant to tell them themselves in words they can understand.  I want that.  But do I want the office full of gray cubicles and suits?  Is that where I’d fit best or would I be like one of those pathetic characters in movies that slowly die inside at their job, not realizing until half-way through the movie and twenty years into their job that the only way they can live with themselves is quit the job and go be a writer or a painter or a singer or a beekeeper or a chef or whatever?  I’m so tired of making mistakes and I don’t want to make another one.

.

I know admitting this may cost me an internship or a job in the future, but living a lie would be worse, right?  When I’m back in South Bend, I watch my dad in a job he doesn’t even pretend to like anymore, wondering what would have been different if he had opened that restaurant after graduating from Johnson and Whales rather than taking the path that led him to working as a run-down supervisor at Notre Dame’s food service, overseeing his staff making bagels for students who couldn’t care less about the people behind their breakfast or scrambling to get a banquet together after some Grand Poobah in the university orders dinner for 100 on short notice, requiring him to call in people who have already left for the day and stay sometimes a few hours late himself.

.

In the end, I guess I want to be a writer, whether I’m writing for a newspaper or for a magazine or for my own novel or short story anthology.  It doesn’t matter if I’m in jeans on my couch typing away or if I’m in a suit in a newsroom or at a press conference or interviewing someone on location.  And there are many things I can do with a journalism degree that won’t tether me to a cubicle farm.

.

Maybe the suit is just a costume.

 

Sigh of Relief December 1, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo — idlethoughtsblog @ 10:34 am
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When I started out on this, we’ll call it a journey, I was afraid of not finishing.  After the curriculum change with the journalism department, I was taking a lot of multimedia classes with multimedia projects that would be eating up a lot of my time and brain energy.  How on earth was I going to make it to 50,000 words in a month?  Or two months?  I spent September planning my characters and outlining, welcoming the brief and far-between moments of epiphany that gave me insight to how different things in the story would take place.  Then October first came along and it was time to get started.  I patted myself on the back for writing more than 800 words a day, thinking I was doing well.  I was really high on myself on those nights when I would get more than 1,000 words written.  The congratulations more or less stopped, however, when I realized the story was not going to be able to finish in only 50,000 words and if I wanted to finish the story by the end of November, 1,000 words a day would need to be my norm.  When asked what my word goal would be when Cathy was making up the poster, I said my number goal was 70,000, thinking that would be plenty.  The story could be finished in that 20,000-word window and I wouldn’t feel bad for not hitting the higher number if the requirement was still only 50,000.  Wrong.  The story was finally finished last night around 10 p.m. and included, according to the NaNoWriMo site, 79,320 words, with, after I fill in the blanks I left for myself when I couldn’t come up with a name or needed to look something up, more to come.  There will be a lot of editing, too, as the big action of the story didn’t really happen until the eighth chapter or so.  A lot of bits and pieces I loved will have to be cut and will be copy-pasted to another document and stored away for future use on some other project.  But nothing will be lost, which makes writers feel a lot better after cutting up their brainchild.


One thing I liked was letting my characters surprise me.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true.  While most of the characters ended up where I wanted them, they took their own path on how to get there.  My villain changed, I think for the better, and was suitably evil while still being sympathetic, something I learned from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Looking back, I plan to do more present tense descriptions like I found in The Silence of the Lambs and maybe split some of the longer chapters into two, which I think might move the action along quicker and easier.  I had already done that with one chapter that was beginning to grow to ten or twelve pages, single-spaced, and I didn’t want any chapter to come even that close to the prologue (which sits now at eighteen pages, single-spaced).


I’m not going to say there was no stress involved in writing this monster, but I was pleasantly surprised at how little of it there was.  If anything, forcing myself to take time out of my day to sit and write was a stress relief.  I’ve been trying to get myself to do that for years, and it took a class assignment to get me to do it successfully.  If I’ve learned nothing else from this class, that would have been enough.

So do I plan on NaNoWri2Mo-ing again?  Definitely.  Will I continue the 750 words a day plan?  You betcha.  Aside from the revising, I have two started novels that need to be written and you’ll probably hear more about those soon.  But for now, I have a 600-word web story and sound slide presentation for News 221 to work on, at least two short non-fiction pieces and the revision of a longer essay to do for ENG 406, at least 20 pages (double-spaced) of revision for the aforementioned for ENG 407, editing an audio story and planning another for NEWS 132 to work on, so I need to get back to the work I’m actually getting credit for doing . . .

 

October 30, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 5:18 pm
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So, I’m sitting in Vecino’s Coffee Gallery in downtown Muncie, my second coffee shop of the day, working on my novel and now my blog and drinking a vanilla latte.

I was at the MT Cup in the Ball State Village earlier to do my 750 words (I wrote more than 1,700 words!  Yay!  I feel so accomplished after writing an abysmal 761 words yesterday.) and now I’m sitting in this great little coffee shop I’ve known about for about 18 months and I’m just now visiting it for the first time (Great place, by the way).  Of course, this would also be its last day in business until about September of 2011 (very sad day), but that’s life, I suppose.  After doing a bit of research the past few days, I’ve finally made the decision as to where I want to start my Atlantis story out in.  My main character lives in Wilmington, Delaware.  It’s the largest city in the state and the hub of most of the culture.  I’ve also set some of the other locations.  I don’t have names of restaurants yet, as I don’t want to have to pay established venues money to use their names in my novel (I need an Italian place and a seafood place, so if anyone out there has any ideas, I’d appreciate it).

This may not seem like a big deal, but for me this is huge.  I now have a feel of where Julien lives and what it’s like to live there.  It really helps to get to know people — knowing where they live.  Of course, she’ll be leaving Wilmington for the Mediterranean very soon with a certain someone who shall not be mentioned until later, but I’m very grateful to have discovered this new information about her.

I’m also about to introduce the secondary hero of my story — Alexis.  He doesn’t have a last name yet (will amend that before the end of my writing Chapter 5), but he’s also the son of someone noteworthy and is trying to live up to his people’s expectations.  I think I’m going to like this guy.  Not as much as Reuban (maybe I’ll do a character sketch of him later — favorite character!), but I think I like him.

NaNoWriMo starts up officially the day after tomorrow and I’ve already written more than 30,000 words, which gives me a great deal of confidence.  There’s no way that the story will be finished in 50,000 words or even 60,000, but I have no doubt I’ll complete the requirements of the assignment by the end of November.  I can feel the stress falling off of my shoulders.  I’ll still be a little anti-social, but I hope my friends won’t mind.

So that’s pretty much all for now.  The next few days will be taken up with finishing Chapter 4 and 5 so I can really get into the meaty (adventurous might be a better word) part of the story that starts in 5.

So excited!!

 

Lists of Learning October 28, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 12:30 am
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OK, the most recent process blog for my novel class was two lists of ten.  They could be pretty much anything regarding writing or NaNoWriMo and, after filling my brain for the past, oh, ten years with writing advice and books on craft, I’ve compiled my list of things to think about while writing.  These don’t just apply to novels, but to whatever you want to write, poetry included.  The second list is a list of what I keep in my writing space and a brief explanation of why.  A lot of successful writers have mentioned what they keep on their desks for whatever reasons, and maybe one day, when I’m not such a disorganized mess, I’ll have a better list, but for now, this is what I’ve got and I’m going to make it work for this project.  Another thing I guess we were supposed to do, judging by other process blog entries, was outline our plot points.  If it weren’t 12:30 in the morning and I didn’t have an 8 a.m. class later, I’d go through that right now, but I guess we have to have things to look forward to . . .

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Ten Things to Keep in Mind While Writing a Novel:
1.  Let your characters surprise you.  Admit you don’t know everything, hang out with them for a while, and let them tell their story, you control freak, you.
2.  Verbs are a matter of opinion.  Don’t be afraid to think outside that box.
3.  Stephen King once said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  They may pave the road but passive verbs support the weak infrastructure.  Kick ’em out.
4.  Silence the internal editor . . . with duct tape if necessary.  You don’t have time for such shenanigans.
5.  There is no such thing as writer’s block.  Keep writing until you know what you’re talking about.

6.  NO UNSEEN HANDS!!  Everything must be explainable.  Even fiction must make sense.

7.  Claim a space and time and inform people that for that time in that place you will be unavailable.  Hide your cell phone if you have to.

8.  “You have to be willing to write badly.”  — Monica Wood (TOUGH ONE!!)

9.  “Leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” — Elmore Leonard

10.  Be grateful you love words. (I forget where this came from, but I can’t take credit.)

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Ten Things I Keep in My Writer’s Space (at all times)

1.  Notebook.
This is for those little epiphanies that crop up while I’m deep in thought about what I’m currently writing about.  If I interrupt myself to run with that other thought, I’ll lose the epiphanies I was having about the thing I was writing about first.  This way, I ensure I won’t forget this new idea while not getting enough out of my writing flow to lose my original thought.

2.  Printer
Sometimes you need a hard copy to look at and mark up to understand it a little better.  And it’s always nice to see something you’ve written published, even if it’s only by you.

3.  The Writer’s Muse books by Monica Wood
Writing can be discouraging and it’s great to get a dose of inspiration or encouragement.  These books are really great for this.  They’re full of writing prompts, photos, advice, and the feeling that you’re definitely not the only one going through what  you are with your book.

4.  My Little Stuffed Schnauzer
He’s a stuffed animal who used to sit in the back windshield of my car and is suitably faded to look something like my dog looked like, just better groomed and certainly better-smelling (the real version smelled like a porch).  There’s no real writing reason for him being there, but it’s his place and he’s always there.  Don’t judge me.

5.  3x5s and Post-Its
Hi, my name’s Kate and I’m a Post-It addict.  Deal with it.

6.  Water bottle
If I have an excuse to get up for anything, I will.  I will tell myself I’m thirsty so I can get out of the chair unless the water’s right next to me.  I keep tissues and Tylenol at the desk for the same reasons.  I know, I’m weak.

7.  Nothing with a clock or anything that *dings* unexpectedly (unless I am timing myself or have to leave to do something soon and need the reminder)
I think this is self-explanatory.  If you really need more clarification, come find me.

8.  A Writer’s Guide to Places by Prues and Heffron
When I’m writing about places I don’t know (as usual), sometimes I need some extra information about that city to help shove me into something else that might help me along with my writing.  As long as you’re writing about a location in the US and, I believe, certain places in Canada, this book can help.

9.  My iPod (or a playlist on my computer)
If I’m writing long-hand (usually in order to avoid Facebook), I use my iPod to give me my writing soundtrack, but if I’m on my laptop (most often), I’ve got iTunes pulled up and I’m listening to something to keep me in that mindspace required for me to write.  The music has to be mostly the same or my writing style will change according to the music.  As far as I’m concerned, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer are musical gods among men.  Amazing stuff for writing — no words for the most part and music that, depending on which tracks you use, holds a great deal of emotion that you can tailor to fit the needs of what you need to write that day.

10.  Colored pencils and paper
If I’m having trouble describing a person, I might try to think of a celebrity who looks like my character that I can find pictures of or that I can tailor to my own needs.  Other times, my character is a person only I have seen and doesn’t remind me of anyone else, so my best bet is to draw that person.  Recently, I’ve begun considering having someone else draw these characters, as my drawing abilities are abysmal.  But it’s an idea.