Monday, March 6, 2017

Experimenting with Writing Style - Screenwriting??

So I’ve written poetry and fiction forever. You’ve seen some of my work in the past weeks. That kind of work is right in my wheelhouse.

Even creative non-fiction is comfortable for me and I’ve always enjoyed a good research project.

But in college I had the opportunity to take a film focused writing class. Mostly we were studying films and how to write about them, more like reviews with a deeper technical knowledge of the art.

But as a final project we were given the opportunity to write either a straight up film critique, or to incorporate some screenwriting into the project. When my teachers provided a creative option – that is always where I went, so I wrote my first screenplay.

It’s probably crap, it was a total experiment with a new style of writing where I didn’t really know much of the rules. But damn it was fun!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

T5W: Fictional Jobs You'd Want to Have

For this week's Top 5 Wednesday (more infor on the GoodReads page) the subject is what fictional jobs you would want to have.

I had a lot of trouble coming up with this list because most of my dream jobs are ... from Harry Potter.

Just give me magic and I'm a happy girl!

But anyway, I diversified a bit and here we go!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Writing Fiction: How to incorporate workshop feedback

Part 2 of my workshop examples has come! Last week I showed you how I revised a poem based on a few notes from my peers. Today I am going to do the same with an example of my fiction writing!

For this week’s post, I debated the merits of including the full text of my fiction piece.
Honestly, just the first draft is 14 pages. The third draft is 30 pages and the completed project was about 26 pages.

There is no room for a full copy of that work on here.

Ultimately, I’ve chosen to give the highlights of my story here and show what feedback I got and how I chose to respond to it.

Now, some context: for my final year in Undergrad, I wrote a Capstone/Thesis on authorship in fan fiction. For this project I worked closely with my mentor and few trusted peers to develop two short stories – one an original work of fiction, the other fan fiction for the TV show Angel the Series created by Joss Whedon.

The piece I’m discussing today is the fan fiction.

To start, I wanted two stories with the same premise. Based on my reading habits, I chose to explore how families deal with the knowledge that the world will end in about 24 hours. And there is nothing they can do to stop it.

My first draft of this story, titled Helpless End, was just 2 scenes – the prophecy of the end of the world, and the Angel Investigations team/family deciding to go for ice cream before the end comes.

That was it.

My mentor took this and asked for me to expand on the in between moments. How did they try to fight the inevitable? Where did they go in the time between? Were they all together? Did they separate? What was so important to each member of the family that they decided to spend their last hours pursuing it?

Basically, my first draft was a summary of the important events – discovering the end of the world, a few characters discussing it, sharing the news, and coming to terms with it.

Each subsequent draft added some details.

Angel and Cordelia spent a lot of time in the sewer, as vampires do, fighting demons. Business as usual.

Wesley, Gunn team up to take Fred, the girl they are both interested in, out to the beach and the pier and just have fun, instead of allowing their competitive history to get between them. They eat crap and waste money on rigged games. They have fun.

Once the basic structure of the story is there, I give it over to my peers for notes and inspiration about big revisions.

Some of the notes I received from them:

  • Why is Angel so accepting? He should have more angst if you want him to be in character to the show.
  • You left Angel and Cordelia at a strange spot, where are they heading after?
  • On page 29 you just gloss over a lot of time. You said, 
“The initial grief passed for Fred and Gunn as it had for the others. Acceptance comes quickly when helplessness is the only other option.“I want ice cream,” Fred admitted, hours later as the clock approached midnight.”
  • What happened in those hours? How did Fred and Gunn really react – don’t they have families as well? Did they not call their families?

One peer literally said, “I don’t believe it. They get warning of the end of the world and just… go with it? WTH?”

Each of these responses was perfectly valid and useful to me, even though I really hated to hear that last comment. She was basically saying she just plain didn’t like the premise and therefore didn’t like the story.

But I took it as a challenge.

How can I make this more believable?

Really, I think I took the peer comments to heart more than the mentor comments.

I was more invested in improving what my peers saw as flaws, which is why I’m glad I decided to have them read it. (It wasn’t a required workshop, more like a writing group of others also working on the Thesis.)

I took some time and reread the story based on their comments, making my own comments in the margins to see what they saw.

I found that I agreed with a lot of them. I did not want to add Angel-angst because it didn’t fit well with the purpose of the story.

But Angel the character is very angsty, so I added a bit more of that from him, sprinkled throughout the story rather than all at the front.

A bit of restructuring took care of the sudden loss of Angel and Cordelia.

And based on how others noted they would react to the news of an apocalypse, I upped the emotional gravity in everyone in the story to create something that read as more realistic.

I didn’t have to take the advice of everyone who gave me notes (and I didn’t, really) but I felt that, as part of my thesis, adjusting to the expectations of the readers and maintaining the established characterization from the TV show, was a very important aspect of the whole project.

The most important part of revising based on peer comments in fiction, in my experience, is deciding what you want to do with your story. I wanted to convey an idea to an audience, therefore I took a lot of audience feedback into account.

The other half of this project, the original piece I wrote, was a lot more about my own vision for a world and characters. I changed a lot less from that first draft after receiving peer feedback.

In that story, I had one person suggest I try writing from another character’s perspective.

While usually I would at least experiment with that idea, that wasn’t the purpose of the story and I didn’t bother. I knew what story I wanted to tell, and that wasn’t it.

Fiction workshops are generally a lot harder than poetry workshops. They take more time to read and respond to, incorporating feedback takes a lot of commitment.

And writing fiction takes time itself – sometimes you feel horrible when a peer makes a negative comment or overlooks something you found amazing when you wrote it.

But as most writers have heard before, sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

Cut out the pieces you really love about a work. Accept that others don’t read the story as you intended. Most of all, don’t compromise on your writing for the sake of another.

Yes, I think you should cut out the parts you love if they do not add to the overall story.

But don’t revise to please someone else. Accept the revision notes if you think they improve your writing. Not because you think another will like it if you change it.

There’s my notes from a fiction workshop. Have you ever been in one? Working in a writing group? 

How do you incorporate other’s notes into your fiction (or nonfiction, or poetry, or anything)?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bookish Musings: Detective Novels

Alright! Today is a bit different than I expected because I had a whole post planned on my laptop.... and then I went on a trip and left my laptop at home without posting it.


So today, I've decided to share some Bookish Musings and I'm curious about your input on -

Detective Novels

In the last few weeks I've read 2 dedicated P.I. novels, and before that I had read 0.

What I've found in these books (Where Angels Fear to Tread by Thomas Sniegoski & School Days by Robert B. Parker) is that ... detectives bore me.

This may not be a popular opinion, I don't know. But the serialization that seems to be part and parcel with a detective novel means it's hard to connect with a character or the world in a single book.

Also, the books I read weren't the first in either series. Maybe that was a failure on my part.

I had hoped to get at least a bit of backstory but it seemed to get swept under the rug instead.

This is really what bugged me - the individual case seemed to wither take up a whole scene or be entirely missing.

There was not a great deal of weaving stories.

Instead the books were segmented and rather one-dimensional.

Does anyone else see this in PI/Detective novels? Or is it just me?

I just couldn't really get into the story. They both seemed like a single episode of a series, and School Days felt more like filler than an integral story.

Thoughts? Opinions? Am I totally wrong? Let me know!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Homesickness: 4 Tips for Dealing

Moving away from home can be hard, especially for people like me who are super close with family.

I am a true to heart Momma’s girl, I’ve only grown closer with my brother as we’ve gotten older, and I recently reconnected with my sister and niece.

As the time for me to leave home and move to South Korea grew closer, I started feeling the emotional impact of moving and homesickness started setting in before I had even left home.

But there are a few things I’ve learned from the many break away points I’ve had with my home in pursuit of other life goals. Here’s how I have learned to cope with homesickness.

I first left home at 18 to move away to college. Then after 4 years of back and forth, mostly at school, I lived at home for 8 months before moving to Korea. After a year in SoKo, I moved home for a year and here I am moving away again.

When I left home for the first time, I was a total mess. I couldn’t sleep and I spent about the first month wondering why I had to leave and if it was possible to just go home again.

But I made it, I loved it, I eventually felt at home.

What really helps me to deal is:

  1. Keeping busy. Seriously, I will pack the first week to the first month full of events and activities. College was easy because there were a ton of orientation activities, I have to work a lot harder now. I have training during the week, and the awkwardness of living with my boss and her family, but I’m making a ton of plans to keep my weekends full so that there is just no time to think too hard.                                                                                                                            
  2. Making the bed your bed. It sounds silly, but I love to take a pillowcase or a stuffed animal or something that I keep in my bed to make falling asleep easier. I have a hard time sleeping in places that are not my own bed, but having something that smells and/or feels like home when I go to bed helps me to shift my mindset into accepting this new place as my new home.                                                                                                                                            
  3. Keeping habits. If you have a good, healthy habit that you started at home, try to keep up with it. I have yogurt or cereal for breakfast frequently, and I definitely kept that up even after moving to Korea because it’s a taste of home. Also, keeping up with exercise like running or joining a gym is important because it keeps up physical and mental health. Keeping your body busy with familiar habits can help you adjust to an otherwise foreign environment.                                                                                                                                                  
  4. Socialize. Do not allow yourself to be that person that goes back to their room everyday and never goes out and talks to people. Meeting new people can be hard, but by putting yourself out there you can create a support group that helps you when those waves of homesickness come on once the initial settlement period has passed.

And that brings me to my final note – homesickness can be hardest when you first arrive to a new place. But it doesn’t just go away after a month or so and you never feel it again. I lived at my university for the majority of 4 years, just a few short visits home in the summer.

All that time, I would still get waves of homesickness for my family. Even though, when I was with my family, I would get homesick for school and the friends I had there.

Being homesick is just a sign that you have something special waiting somewhere else. Since I turned 18 I’ve learned to really embrace the feeling. I know it’s because I have a place I can be really comfortable in.

Do you get homesick? How do you deal with it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

T5W: Books to Battle Reading Slump

Sometimes, reading is hard. You want to read, but the motivation is lacking and you end up not reading anything.

This is a reading slump. Slumps are hard to overcome because you want to read, but just aren't and it feels like a vicious cycle. 

But this week on Top 5 Wednesday, we are looking at books that can help overcome a reading slump!

In no particular order:

Number 1!

An old favorite:

One way to get out of a slump is to go for a book that you already know you love. 

Grabbing a book that gives you all the happy feels and nostalgia can reignite the passion for reading and create new interest in reading more!

For me, an old favorite that helps me un-slump myself is:

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Number 2!

A new suspenseful mystery:

Reading a suspense story is a great way to read more as well. 

If it's well done, just reading a few pages can introduce mysteries and secrets you want to know the end of. 

So you read more trying to find the answers! 

Much win.

My choice of suspense:
The Rhetoric of Death by Judith Rock

Number 3!

A sequel:

If you want to read, but can't find the passion, pick up that sequel you never got to! 

You already know the characters and the world, but new adventures can make you remember why you kept that book around. 

And remember the other interesting world to explore on your TBR.

My choice:
Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce
(not a sequel in itself, but the first book in a second quartet after Circle of Magic)

Number 4!

A super simple read:

Get back into the reading game easy by picking up a book that is quick, and doesn't require much brain power.

This can be a book for a younger audience, or something that you know isn't going to be hard to understand.

For me, I would read:
Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Number 5!

A book to movie adaptation, 
when you've seen the movie but never read the book:

If you're like me, a lot of reading slumps are aided by Netflix.

I watch a lot of movies and TV when otherwise I would be reading.

So take advantage! Find a movie based on a book you haven't read yet and enjoy!

Then pick up the book and compare. You can get a lot of the story from the film, but the book is so much richer.

For me, one of my favorite movies is Rise of the Guardians which is based on the series, Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce.

Check out the first book in the series:

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce

That's my suggestions for getting out of a reading slump. Now to take some of my own advice...

Thoughts? Comments?

Check out the T5W group on GoodReads as well!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Example of Poetry: How to incorporate workshop feedback

The past few weeks I’ve talked a lot about workshops and the value of peer review in revising a draft of writing. This week I want to show you how I take advice from peer reviewers and edit a poem I wrote for a class.

I wrote a draft of a poem for the imagery unit of the course, following the prompt to make a title using the form “The (Image) of (Abstration)”. Drawing from a place I loved as a kid, I called my poem “The Park of Imagination” and wrote about this play park I frequently went to when I was 6/7 years old or so.

For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to go over the first two stanzas:

For the Original Poem-
Flat swatches of brown and green  
Kicking up the dust and grime 
Of a time, once, when you held hands 
Spinning through the old haunt 
But time has not been kind to your old spot. 

The termites gnawed through the heartstrings, 
The sweat slid between you 
A barrier to repel the connection 
And spin you apart in different directions 
As you build momentum and grasp tighter.

I had not thought very deeply about the subject of this poem – but my peer reviewers did.

Unfortunately, I failed to copy direct comments form those reviews and I can’t share those here (went to look for them online and the segment of the course is closed because the course ended, oops).

But- some major notes that shifted my thinking about the poem:

  • Many fluff words and conjuctions that aren’t needed in this poem.
  • The use of “you” is strange. Maybe try using “us” instead.
  • The first line of stanza 2, about the termintes and heartstrings, was really powerful.

At first, I just decided to try the suggested changes and see how I felt. I removed the conjunctions and reread the poem.

It was tighter and made the emotions pop out more vividly.

Then I decided to change every “you” to “us” and read it again.

Holy wow!

Suddenly the poem was not about a place or a distant memory of when I was 6.

Suddenly the poem was very obviously (to me) about an old friend who I had lost touch with. These two memories didn’t even take place at the same time in my life.

The park was from age 6. The person I met when I was 12.

But the images of gnawed on heartstrings, the dynamic of pulling apart and falling into disrepair, was clearly about an old friendship.

Without the input of an impartial reader outside my own head, I may have never made that connection. I think the resulting poem was a lot more personal and important to me.

Was it better?

I think so, but I really think that can be up to you.

Here’s the first two stanzas again. Also, I changed the title to “Tornado Memories”:

Dust swirls above flat browns and greens
Kicked up memories in dust and grime
Of a time, once, when we held hands.
Spinning wildly in forest decay
Leaving snail tracks in our wake.
Time is not kind to wistful minds.

The termites gnawed through heartstrings.
The sweat slid between us 
Two like magnets repulsed by connection 
Spinning us apart in different directions
You, swept in the dancing arms of love. 
Me, windswept, clawing to grasp tighter.

I really like the second version!

Basically, I wanted to use this post to show how, even innocuous comments like suggesting a change of pronouns can impact how you, as the writer, see the poem.

Such a small suggestion, but a big change!

Now you don’t have to take all the advice you are given.

But I like to try out some simple changes like this just to see if I like it.

You can always change it back, after all.

Any comments and suggestions? 

Want to share a poem and get feedback? That sounds fun! Wanna try it? Leave a bit of poetry in the comments and see what feedback you get.

Next week I’m going to do something similar with a fiction piece I had workshopped, so stay tuned if you prefer fiction/prose. I’m getting to that!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Books I'm Taking to South Korea

I’m in Korea! 

This and the next few posts are written and scheduled in advanced because … I have no idea what the transition is going to be like. More on that in the future.

Since today is my book post day, I thought I’d share which physical books I’m taking with me to South Korea!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Moving Abroad Experiences

Today, when this blog goes live, I’m on a plane to South Korea to start my new job as a Kindergarten teacher (well, to start training anyway. Job starts March 2nd).

It seems like a perfect time to talk about my decision to move abroad.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

T5W: Favorite Non-Written Books

Everybody loves a good story. Sometimes that story does not come as a novel or a mostly text-based vehicle. 

That's why this week in Top 5 Wednesday (check it out on GoodReads), everyone is talking about their favorite Non-"Written" books. 

So things like comics and graphic novels, as well as audiobooks and more!

In no particular order:

Number 1!

Locke and Key by Joe Hill, on audiobook

I got this audiobook free from audible in October of 2015, when it was a special for Halloween and dear god I could not stop listening.

Because Locke and Key is originally a graphic novel, I was unsure how it would be translated into an audiobook.

Some genius made the choice to make this a full cast recording and create a unique soundtrack to convey the images without adding too much narration.

Brilliant portrayal of a graphic novel in audio - love love love love love!!!

Number 2!

Justice League/Power Rangers 2017
Written by Tom Taylor; Art by Stephen Byrne, a comic

I saw this last month while I was browsing DC for Rebirth comics and had to do a double take.

Justice League and Power Rangers? YASSSS!

I'm a bit ambivalent about the Justice League as a whole, but  love Batman and the Bat-fam.

I just freakin' love Power Rangers, especially the original team as seen here.

There are only 2 issues out as of now, but seriously already in love. 

New editions every month! I can't wait!

Number 3!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, on audiobook

I loved listening to this book. I think the reader is really great at conveying all the conflicting emotions in this story.

Honestly, I don't think I would have read this without being able to listen to it. It started rather slow, but is really interesting as an exploration of humanity.

I had this book for so long, but avoided it because I had been spoiled about something rather major in the book beforehand. 

My advice for this book is to go into it completely blind. It's well written and deserves attention if you like literary fiction. 

Just go for it. 

Reviews = Spoilers almost all the time for this book.

Number 4!

On Writing by Stephen King, on audiobook

I read this book years ago, in about 2012 while traveling in China, on audiobook, and it has stuck with me.

I always loved Stephen King's books and this book was like a window into his life and how he got to be where he is as a writer. 

It is really interesting and encouraging. The fact that it's read by the author is also one of my favorite things about audiobooks.

Number 5!

Dragon Knights by Mineko Ohkami, a manga

This is a less common manga in that I don't see many people talking about it, but I read the first 3 books in about middle school, and I love them!

This series is a ridiculous farce of an adventure with 3 magical knights who only sort of get along and make a lot of hysterical life choices. 

I read these books for a good laugh anytime I feel down because it's just good fun!

There is my list of favorite non-written books! Agree? Disagree? 
Any thoughts and comments at all, let me know!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Online Writing Classes?

Taking creative writing classes in college really lit a fire in me for exploring creative writing theory and practice (beyond just whatever I word-vomit on paper and screen).

But I’m not in college anymore!

But I still want to take classes!

But I can’t commit to something in person!

Also, I’m broke and in serious school debt.

I turned to my last resort (jk, it’s always the first thing I do) searching the internet!

I have looked into various different ways of taking free writing “classes” online to keep up a writing practice and I’ve found that, for me, structure is key.

I can’t do self-driven classes that you start whenever, finish whenever, without some kind of set dates and deadlines.

I would start strong, and then fall off the wagon in about a week.

Then I found the CalArts Poetry Writing Workshop on Coursera.   Love!

This course is 6 weeks long, and each week has a set of videos and a quiz about various components of poetry: meter, rhyme, rhythm, etc.

Beyond that, there are 2 prompts each week to try to implement the ideas in the lessons.

Twice in the course, you can submit a poem from one of the prompts to have two of your peers comment and review.

(You also have to review two of your peer’s poems, of course.)

While this is an online course, and no one is really on you to complete the work so you have to have some self-discipline, the deadlines provide the structure needed to keep up with the work.

Other courses do not have this structure.

I have found that I need to stay away from “self-directed” learning courses that provide a syllabus and materials and you can do the work whenever.

If there is no feedback, I can’t do it.

Some courses on Coursera are a bit like this.

There is a start date, and discussion threads to talk to classmates, but with so many people in a course (I had one with about 700 people it seemed), it’s difficult to really build a relationship with anyone.

There is no guaranteed teacher interaction, and I can not do it.

Overall, online classes, especially free online “classes” are hit and miss. Really read the expectations and see if the work is something you can do by yourself. 

Every person has individual needs, so judge for yourself.

Also, just try what I did – give the class a shot. If it’s free, you don’t have anything to lose.

(Just don’t try to stick to a class you dislike. Feel free to stop and do something actually helpful to you.)

If you know any great online classes, let me know!

I would encourage you to check out CalArts on Coursera if you want to explore poetry!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Audiobooks! AKA Bookish Fitness

I live a rather sedentary life.

I read, I write, I do a lot of stuff on the computer.

Most of that involves me sitting butt-in-chair and getting stuff done.

But this year, I combined my love of reading with my desire to be more active, all thanks to the wonder that is AUDIOBOOKS!

I am not a naturally active person, like some people are. I can be perfectly comfortable doing nothing and lazing around in bed all day. But I know my endurance and my ability to go out and explore my city and surroundings has sharply declines after moving home.

I'm facing returning to the classroom as a teacher. I'm going to have a class full of tiny people after me for attention all day at work in just a few weeks.

I need to keep up.

So I took up running to increase my general fitness and endurance.

But running is BORING!

I don't care how pretty the areas in which I'm running can be - after about 2 days of it, I'm bored.

So I decided that every run, which I would go on for about 30-45 minutes, 
I would listen to an audiobook.

Now, I may look crazy, jogging down the street and giggling madly at what a character has just said, or wrinkling my eyebrows and wondering how she's going to get herself out of this mess, but I'm NOT bored.

(And I'm not boring so if someone passes me on the street, 
maybe they can be as entertained as I am.)

So far, I've been listening to The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson on audiobook on nearly every run I've gone on this year (otherwise I'm listening to The Hamilton Mixtape.)

I've listened to just over 13 hours of this book so far, more than I've listened to any audiobook in all of 2016.

And because I only listen to this book while I run, I want to go for runs to find out what happens next.

I set it up to be more excited to run, which is amazing because I'm still not the boggiest fan of running.

I suggest you try it out.

  1. Choose an audiobook that you will only listen to while exercising (walking, jogging, aerobics, whatever).
  2. Make a schedule of when you will exercise, and follow through!
  3. Once you get into it, it is so easy to just keep going because you like the book. Fitness is a bonus!
  4. When you finish one book, pick the next and repeat! It gets you moving, and reading. Two birds, one stone and all that!

So what do you think? Can listening to a book, make a reader a runner?
I sure hope so! It's going good so far.

Friday, February 10, 2017

3 Lessons Learned from Moving Home as an Adult

After I finished college at 22, I had no job lined up because my plan had fallen through, so I moved home while I was job hunting.

A few months before I turned 23, I moved to South Korea to teach English while working on an MA in English online.

I fell in love with teaching, but the stress of work, school, and living in a foreign country was taking a toll.

To devote more time to my school work and sincerely developing my thesis to complete my program, I moved home again at 24.

The plan was to finish my MA in about 3 months, and get a job before 2016 ended.

Despite numerous applications and interviews, nothing was coming through. So I decided to apply to return to Korea.

I knew that doing so was signing on to remain at home for a full year again, but I didn’t see another option.

Luckily, I got the job and I leave again exactly one week from today, but I’ve spent the last year living back at home as an adult after a year of living entirely independently in a studio apartment in South Korea.

I learned a lot about life and me while fending for myself in Korea, and moving back home was jarring to say the least.

Here’s a look at what I learned about dealing with that jarring transition of being home with family again.
Moving home after being an independent adult - 3 things to keep in mind

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

T5W: Tired Book Trends

How many times have you picked up a book and something about it - on the cover, in the genre, something deep inside that you only find after you've been reading for a while - something makes you go, "Ugh, again?"

That's the topic for this weeks Top 5 Wednesday!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Learning to Use Writing Prompts

I was not the biggest fan of writing to prompts in high school. I would always look for stuff online to jump start my writing and I always felt … off, like wearing an ill-fitting dress.

When I realized that answering writing prompts was a large part of my first ever creative writing class in high school, I was nervous. I did not like prompts.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

January Reading Wrap-Up (Part 2)

In the first half of January, I read 6 books (see those reviews here).
In the second half of January, I read...

1 more book.

Friday, February 3, 2017

30-Day Challenges 2017

This year I've decided that I want to do a 30-day challenge (ish) every month, just for fun. This is not so much a resolution as it is an experiment to challenge and change some of the habits I have that can really bug me.

These challenges are not so much 30-day challenges as monthly challenges. If the day has 31 days like January, it's a 31 day challenge, and February is a 28 day challenge, and so on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Non-Book Favorites

Top 5 Wednesday is usually about your top 5 books in a category - but not this week!
This week we are listing non-book favorites of the moment and I'm really excited about it!


5. Rogue NASA twitter account
I am constantly reading all the terrible things going on since Trump took office and this account (and all the others like it) just brings me joy in this resistance. There has been fundraising, general protest information, and science facts! 
Personally, I am horrible at science, but I am grateful to all the people who contribute to making the world better and more knowledgeable!

4. My Fitbit
I got myself and my family Fitbits for Christmas and I really love mine. It's glitchy as hell, but it's a fun challenge to get me up and moving every day. Also, getting badges for things like how many steps you get in a day or how many miles you've walked since getting the fitbit!
It's fun!

3. My Planner!
I've watched a bunch of planning videos on YouTube, and last year I got a Happy Planner, which I loved. It was fun to decorate and useful for tracking what I do on a given day. This year I have a Recollections Planner from Michaels, and I use it almost everyday.
It makes me feel productive!

2.Lipstick Queen - Frog Prince
Another purchase from last year, but one I love so so much - Frog Prince lipstick from Lipstick Queen. I bought this with some credits I got from reviewing items from Birchbox last year and I have never loved a lip color as much as I love this one. 

If you've never heard of the Frog Prince lipstick, it's a bit of a gimmicky product where the lipstick itself looks green, but when you put it on it turns pick and the exact shade is based on your PH levels. 
I love the color on me, but I also love how smooth and hydrating the lipstick is itself. I often just leave this in my purse and frequently use it when I forget to pocket my chapstick before I leave the house. Total 5 out of 5. Absolutely love!

Finally, my number one is the Netflix original animation - Voltron: Lengendary Defender.
Aliens! Space Robots! Character Development!

This show has been on my radar since it came out in June (I think) because one of the voice actors is Bex Taylor-Klaus, who I love from shows like Arrow and MTV's Scream. But despite my interest, I only watched it a few weeks ago when season 2 came out and man ... I love this show!

The characters are complex, the writing is funny, and the action scenes are cool. I never watched the original '80s cartoon and probably never will, but Legendary Defender has my heart and soul. I am totally addicted, and the fanart is brilliant! I could probably gush about this forever without actually saying anything except "Oh my god!" "So cute!" "Gahhhhh!"

I'll just stop now...

What are some of you're favorite things lately?
Anything similar to mine?

Monday, January 30, 2017

4 Creative Writing Tools

While I was in class, I learned a lot of tools to help me write beyond the classroom. The things I learned can apply to my own regular writing rituals and life. 

These tools are especially useful when I’m not feeling motivated or when I want to edit my own writing. 

Creative Writing Classrooms Series part 2

1 – Peer Review.

This can be harder to get outside the classroom but finding other people to read and comment on your work is invaluable! Search on sites like Facebook and MeetUp to find writing groups in your area (or online ones if people aren’t really your thing). 

Having an outside opinion about something you wrote can give insight into how your writing in perceived and what you may need to change to really get your reader to see your story as you do. You can also ask friends to read for you, but be sure you ask for honesty, not flattery. 

Flattery builds confidence, but honest critique can build your skills.

1A – Guiding Questions.

As a peer reviewer, I found that there are a few questions that can help you get into the honest critique and give valuable feedback. 
“What is happening here?” Simple, but useful for the writer to see some concrete interpretations of actions and events. Think who are the characters, what are they doing, what is their goal, and so on. 
“What are two really strong moments, and one weak moment?” I like to balance feedback in workshops, start with a strength, then a weakness, then end with another strength. Try not to think in terms of how you would write it differently, but how the author uses moments to convey meaning. 
Focus on specific moments in the story or poem. Don’t try to “fix” the whole thing. That’s not going to be of much help in the long run and likely to just discourage the writer.

2 – A Journal.

The practice of keeping a writing journal really changed how I observed the world around me. Just a notebook and pen, but when you keep it with you and write down everything you think of, you find some seeds for later use. 

I like to make it a game. I challenge myself to copy down an overheard conversation or to describe a scene I see out the window. Make up stories about what the people around you are thinking, go people watching and see who happens by! Maybe that person can inspire you. 

I once stood in a crowded subway car writing down a backstory for a punk couple standing beside me because the way the spoke and interacted with each other was different from any couple I’d ever seen before. 

Or recently I saw someone smack the guy next to him on the shoulder because said guy was zoned out watching a train go by. I wrote a scene about the guys planning a heist and the distracted one was the reluctant tag-along who just wanted to escape on that train. 

Let your imagination run free!

3 – Warm-up writing.

Some days, you just don’t want to write. Or you don’t know what to write. Fix that by starting a day/session/whatever with just a few minutes of writing. It can be to a prompt (more on that later), to a song, to a picture, anything. Especially if you are feeling blocked or stuck in a project, just start writing some randomness and see what comes up. 

Set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes and go for it. 
The only rule is: you can’t stop writing until the timer goes off. 

Even if what you have after that time is nonsense, you’ve now been writing for several minutes and the chances are you can do some more about something that really matters. Some days that warm-up writing is all I do in a day, but it keeps me writing something every day.

4 – Prompts.

Writing from a prompt is not something I do naturally, and I really had to learn to use them well, but now I find that writing prompts can be a great resource when I feel blocked. 

There are all kinds of prompts you can use for different projects. And every person is going to find different qualities in a prompt useful. 

But really there is a lot more I want to say on the subject, so that will be the topic for next week! Stay tuned for my thoughts on Prompts (and some sample prompts that I like to use)!

There are my 4 Tools I took from writing classes, do you have more? Thoughts on what I said here? Let me know!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Star Wars Book Tag

Today I’ve put together a book tag for you! 
Unfortunately there is no video component of this but I loved this tag from Booktube and wanted to answer the questions myself!

This is the Star Wars Book Tag, in honor of Carrie Fisher, by The Restricted Section on Youtube.
Check out the video here: Star Wars Book Tag 

Let’s get started!

The Questions: 

1. Princess Leia: Choose a book with a fearless and badass female heroine or protagonist.

For me, I immediately thought of Anita Blake from the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurel K. Hamilton. Especially in the first books in this series, Anita is totally badass and in charge, not taking shit from anyone even though she gets a lot from all the men in her life. (In later books, her priorities change but she is still a pretty badass fighter!) 

2. Storm Trooper: Choose a book that's a dime a dozen.

My thoughts immediately turned to a recent book I read, Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. This one is just a fluffy contemporary full of all the YA tropes like insta-love and the magical power of a boyfriend to make life better for the “heroine.” It was nothing unique but it was a fun story that made me smile a lot.

3. FN2187 (Fin): Choose a book that breaks the mold and stands out from other books in its genre.

Honestly, this was the first book I found from Instagram instead of more traditional means: Poet Anderson … of Nightmares by Tom DeLonge. I loved the concept of a book being co-written with a YA author (Suzanne Young, of The Program series) as well as tied into a musical soundtrack that just adds to the whole sensation of reading. I can’t say I loved this book, but I did love the concept and I liked the book a great deal, especially the first half (I was rather unsatisfied by the ending). I would love to hear more people’s opinions about this book, because I haven’t seen much about it.

4. General Organa: Choose a book with a mature, take charge female character who is not afraid to be a leader. 

Another book from my recently finished pile, I’m going with Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce, book 1 of The Circle Opens quartet. This is about Sandry growing up after the Circle of Magic quartet (though she is still just 14). She left her magic family for her blood family and finds herself taking on responsibilities in her uncle’s kingdom that she hadn’t anticipated. Then she gets involved in a local murder, finds another magic user she is charged with teaching, and generally handles all of the many hurdles she faces with a maturity that far exceeds her age. She comes into her own as a leader in this book and it was fun to read so many years after I first read a Tamora Pierce book and realize that all those lessons are still very relevant and useful to an adult reader-me. Just as they were useful and relevant to a child reader-me!

5. Han Solo and Chewbacca: Choose a book with a dynamic duo who demonstrate a fierce loyalty to each other.

My favorite dynamic duo is Jeremy and Emmet from Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan. Jeremy has an anxiety disorder and Emmet is autistic and together they create a relationship that allows them to thrive in society. A goal for both of them is to get away from their families and develop their own independence and together they develop the skills they need to do that and to go to college and share an apartment, despite all the struggles they face internally and externally (and of course falling in love). I hesitate about this book because, as far as I know and have researched, Heidi Cullinan is not an OwnVoices writer and, though she does a great deal of research before presenting her finished product, I want to find more books about neurodiverse characters written by neurodiverse authors before I form a stronger conclusion about this book. Opinions of others?

6. Darth Vader: Choose a dark book that really got into your head.

This question was very easy for me to answer: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. This book started kind of slow, but dear god the ending left my head majorly f*cked up. Seriously though I think this book kept me up for weeks thinking about all the happenings at the end. I have no words for this level of head-f*ckery. Read it, guys. Seriously.

7. C3P0 and R2D2: A book in which your favorite characters were side or minor characters. Or, a book with awesome side or minor characters. 

Okay, there is an adorable couple in The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris, Nico and Alice, that are in about 20 pages total of this 400 page book, but every time one of them shows up at the chocolate shop I squealed a bit. I love them to death and I hope they are happy and healthy together forever (because seriously they don’t start out happy or healthy). Also, I kind of hated everyone else in the book at some point, but these two were solid loves throughout!

8. Rey: A book with a reluctant hero or leader.

Literally, the main character of Gilded by Christina Farley spends over half the book trying to deny her “destiny” and then sort of thinking along the lines of “okay, first I defeat this evil, then I go back to my normal life. No one has to know anything and this will all be over.” Majorly reluctant, but also really relatable considering she’s in high school and just wants to focus on her grades and boys, not mystical mumbo-jumbo and saving the world.

9. Emperor Palpatine: Let the hate flow through you! Pick a book you fucking hated.

Easy choice: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. I read this book in high school because the title sounded cool, the plot sounded interesting, and it was on the approved reading list. A friend of mine said she had loved it so I gave it a try. Thing to know: Naturalism, the style of this novel, is a style where everything is social segregation and humans are basically destined to the life they are born in so trying to raise above the class of your birth is doomed to fail. The main character of this books wants to be rich. He fails because he was born poor and therefore he is morally compromised and deficient. He is a horrible person, does horrible things, and I don’t know where he ends up because I couldn’t finish this book I hated it so much. I tried to read another Dreiser book recently and felt much the same about it. Basically, I hate Naturalism. No.

10. Yoda: Choose a book with a wise but eccentric character.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but in The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin the native people, Athsheans, have an interesting society where they live in small groups in the forest which covers almost all land on the planet. They are pacifists but fight back when charged by one of their own, who they call a god among them (and godhood is obtained by being an actor for change, which is gone when that change has occurred). But an older woman in the village visited by one of the Earthling characters is wise and knowledgeable, but she is also just so strange to an Earth perspective that I think she qualifies as eccentric. 

So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! Thoughts? Comments? Insults? Leave it below.