Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day #9314 - Going for Goals

The Sochi Winter Olympics will soon be coming to a close, and what a ride it has been. I seem to be in the minority of people that absolutely loves the Olympics - especially the winter games - but I always have. When I was little, I probably could have named everyone on the 1992 US figure skating team. I wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi so bad! I remember in 1996 when Keri Strug landed the vault that won the US's Magnificent Seven team gold in women's gymnastics. I watched Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan in awe in the '98 Nagano games. I became obsessed with curling in '02 Salt Lake, the Italian culture in '06 Turin, spent my 20th birthday watching Michael Phelps win gold in '08 Beijing, sat through a nail-biting USA-Canada hockey final in '10 Vancouver, and fell in love with London (again) in 2012.

For a non-athlete, my life has been influenced and touched by these grand Olympic moments. For these Sochi games, I was particularly struck right away how artistry meets insanity. Think about it. Skiing aerials, moguls, the half-pipe, skating, and plenty more of these events are all a blend of making something look beautiful, easy and pushing the absolute limits of the human body and gravity. I've lost track of the number of times over the past two weeks that I've asked "How can they do that? How is that even possible?"

The answer I've been hearing over and over is consistent: a lot of hard work, plus if there was ever a time to go big, it's the Olympics.

Being exposed to this kind of attitude so often for the last has been good for my writing. Since I only seem to post here once a month, I guess it's update time. The last WIP I mentioned has been set aside for the time being. It wasn't right. As I tried to push that idea, I found there wasn't enough there to make a full story of it right now. It's frustrating - I haven't finished a first draft in quite a while now - but sometimes it's just about timing. Rather than get upset about it, I combed through some of my old files and notes, wanting to write something just for me. I reread an idea I actually spent a few months on last year, still really liked it but now I could now recognize why it didn't work the first time I tried it.

So I've gutted it almost completely, but with some changes right from the start it's completely different. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun writing. I've been going slowly and taking my time but day dreaming a lot, having fun building this world, been putting together a secret Pinterest board, adding to this idea's notebook from last year, the whole works. But the biggest thing has been that I'm keeping this one to myself for now. I'm going big. My characters are doing and saying things I've never tried before. And I have no idea if it's good, but it's finally fun again.

Who knows how it will end up. Maybe I'll hit 10,000 words and freeze up again. But that's okay. Because the goal right now is to keep on writing, and if there was ever a time to do it, it's now.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day #9275 - Frozen

I know it's terribly to cliche to talk about the weather, but for once in a long while, it's actually quite worthy of the level of conversation it's been getting. A week ago, it was -20 F. Today it was 50 degrees warmer - a downright balmy 30 degrees.

Take a minute to let your brain wrap around that one and explode if absolutely necessary. It's weird. It just is.

Anyway, Chicagoland has been covered in snow for quite a while now and the windchills last week were borderline scary (at least for this part of the country). A good remedy for this? Seeing the movie Frozen and then listening to the soundtrack on repeat.

Seriously. Great life choice.

So frozen is an adequate word to describe my physical environment. It's also a pretty good choice for describing how I'm feeling about my current WIP. I've discovered a pattern that frightens me. Simply put, I have a tendency to hit 10,000 words on a project and then freeze. Even though I know where I plan on the story going, even though I adore my characters and know them inside-out, I still get stuck. 

I've been stuck on my current scene for the better part of a week because every time I sit down to the keyboard, the doubts come floating back in. About how despite all the queries I sent to agents for my first manuscript, I only got two or three requests for a partial or full and no offers of representation. What makes me think this story will be different? If no one wanted that story, who would want this one? Is it good enough? Or am I waisting my time? 

But then the earbuds go in to try and drown the doubts out. Because the truth is, 10,000 words isn't half bad. It's a something. And As for this story, I love it. It's the kind of story I would have loved to find on a bookshelf when I was 17. And sure, I'm still in the dreaded first draft and there's a very, very long way to go, but I need to keep reminding myself that there's a reason that of all the plot bunnies that were in my brain, I followed this one for a reason. I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt. And yes, it may very well be that I'm the only one who ever reads this story. But it's mine to tell. I have an obligation to myself. So I'm not technically an author, but I am a writer as long as I keep trying.

So here's to being frozen, and here's to the thaw.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day #9263 - New Year, Same-ish Me

Happy 2014! In some ways, it's hard to believe it's already here. In other ways, it couldn't have gotten here soon enough.

As usual, I've been terrible about posting regularly on this blog. But in my defense, I didn't really feel like I had anything worth saying. "Hey guys, it's me. And things are exactly as you'd expect." Why write it and post it if we all felt like you'd be waisting time reading it? But still, I'm lucky enough to be in a position where I can express my opinions and all that jazz, and this blog has been such a part of my life for so long, I'd hate for this to be the year that I let it down.

2013 wasn't a bad year, but it certainly challenged me in ways I could have done without. But you don't want to read about that and I don't want to write it, so let's look at the the positives! Back in March, my winning short story entry to Lisa Burstein's diary contest was printed, putting my words and by-line out in there in a book! I'm still very proud of that. It was also the year that I got to go to my first ever conference. I spent about four days at the end of June/beginning of July at McCormick Place in Chicago for the American Library Association Annual Conference where I went to some amazing panels, had fun with my awesome roommates, met fabulous people (including a few favorite authors!) and came home with ARCs to spare. Thirdly, my brother got married! I was a bridesmaid for my gorgeous sister in law and the day was fantastic from top to bottom. It also became the third wedding in a row where I caught the bouquet (not that my friends really put up any sort of effort haha).

So yeah. Lots of good happened! Writing wise, apart from my short story, things were a bit harder. I found fun in short stories in the blog I started with my critique parter, Stories by SaM, but my longer fiction was a bit more troublesome. I finally understand what authors mean when they say that sometimes they need to write themselves into a story for a while to find out if it will be a good fit. I had two different projects that I loved, but the timing or something was just off so I made the tough decision to put them to the side. However, I'm working on something right now and so far, I'm feeling good.

I also made the choice at the end of the year to give the manuscript I'd queried back in 2012 one last shot through Swoon Reads. This is an imprint of Macmillian and how it works is kind of cool: writers can post their novels to their site and readers can vote for the ones they like. Swoon Reads actually plans to properly publish novels that are submitted here! So if you make an account (it's free), you can read my manuscript, and if you like it please vote for it! (Click this link - you know you want to!)

It's only day 2 of the year, but I've already been busy and have a full calendar coming. Let's keep our fingers crossed for more good things for one and all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day #9253 - Goodbye, Raggedy Man

Even though we've all known it's been coming for months, I'm still having a hard time fully wrapping my head around the fact that the day after tomorrow, Matt Smith's time as the Doctor will actually be over. He was my first Doctor, after all. The very first episode of Doctor Who I ever watched was The Eleventh Hour and I was immediately taken. How had I never heard of this before? How could I have ever dismissed science fiction and insisted it just wasn't for me?

Matt Smith, in a way, changed my life. Because of him and his portrayal of the Doctor, a dream of mine was able to come true.

This time last year, I was still grieving the departure of Amy and Rory. Like I said, I was new to the show so it was my first time dealing with saying goodbye to characters like this. At the same time, I was continuing to pursue my writing ambitions. I've been an aspiring novelist for a few years now, always practicing my craft and praying for my break. It came in the form of a short story contest: Lisa Burstein wrote a novel told through diary entries. Her challenge was to write the diary entry of a fictional character, pick finalists, let fans vote, and the winning story would be printed in the back of her novel. So I went back to The Eleventh Hour and there was Amy and the Doctor. I wrote a story about how much I'd love to travel through time and space with this amazing Time Lord, big chin and all. I entered it, forgot about it, and no one was more shocked than me when I found out I won. In March, a dream came true. I saw my name in print, in a book, for the first time. Something I'd written was out there for all to see.

All thanks to the Doctor. In the last few seasons, Matt Smith has had epic speeches and amazing adventures and wacky headwear and two hearts of gold. Through his portrayal of everyone's favorite alien, I learned how to look at humanity though a new lens. There is always hope and the choices aren't always easy, but in this Universe, no one is ever truly alone.

Last year, I welcomed Clara as the new companion with open arms. And over the years I've caught up on all the 'new Who' I'd missed, so I've seen how regeneration works before. I'm sure Peter Capaldi will do a great job and I really am excited to see what comes next for the show. But Matt Smith is my Doctor, and saying goodbye to my Raggedy Man will make this, in some ways, a TARDIS Blue Christmas.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day #9217 - The More Things Change

It has been a very long time since I've been this bad at posting here, but better late than never, right?

And so, a recap. The past few months have been incredibly busy. The school year started back up and right away I was up to my eyeballs in all of the library things, plus my new official role as assistant director of the school's drama club who put together a comedy just in time for Halloween.

Of course I didn't actually get to see either of the performances of the show for an audience, but with good reason! After a very long engagement, Brother got married that weekend, so I now have a sister in law and brought my bouquet catching record for the year up to 3 out of 5 weddings.

And really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. So far, being 25 has been all about changes. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. My family is growing, but that just means they matter to me that much more. My job has brought more new people into my life as well, and for that I'm grateful.

But the thing that has the most to do with me, the change that is most predictable considering my life is this: I'm writing again. And I mean that in the long story sense. Yes, my critique partner Sarah and I have been writing short stories for our blog Stories by SaM so it's not like I've been completely dormant, but my success with long stories hasn't been so great. I grew very thick skin when I queried my first novel and part of me is still really disappointed that I wasn't able to find an agent for it. I wasn't expecting to need so much time to bounce back, but I was terrified of facing the page again. If that idea sucked, then how would I know if my others are any good?

Eventually, I got over that fear. Or more like I got used to it. This summer, I jumped back in with a science fiction story unlike anything I'd ever done before. And after 100 pages, I had to stop. I still believe in the story, but I'm not the writer I need to be to give that story what it needs yet.

So it was back to the drawing board. Again. Not a fun place to be, but the great thing about finally finding a critique partner who understands how my brain works meant I wasn't alone. Her feedback on my short stories has been helpful, and it was actually the thing that got me into a new project. Code name: Red Novel. I've made it a hashtag and everything. Not going to lie, it's going slowly. It's a little bit painful. But it's different, I'm excited, and I'm taking my time. Simply put, I'm trying because sometimes, I think Yoda got it wrong. Sometimes, all there is is try.

And that, dear readers, is where I'm at.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day #9112 - Esther Day

In the English language, we're taught at a fairly young age that four letter words have the tendency to be very powerful, but none is more powerful than love.

It's a word that gets thrown around pretty liberally sometimes. I love this song or that movie or your haircut. It's a word that we know has big implications when you're romantically involved with someone. To tell a significant other "I love you" is usually a big step in the relationship, or maybe not a big step because maybe you're saying something that you both already know is there. (I'm just assuming here - I've never fallen in love so I can only guess.)

But the term 'significant other' is so misleading in a few ways. I'm not dating anyone, but that doesn't make the people who are in my life at the moment insignificant. And I love them, certainly not in a romantic way because that would be weird, but I love these people who make up my family and friends.

It all brings us to Esther Day. August 3rd was the birthday of Esther Earl, a Nerdfighter who unfortunately passed away when she was far too young at the age of 16 due to cancer. However, before she died, Vlogbrothers John and Hank Green told her the community would make her birthday a Nerdfighter holiday and the day would celebrate whatever she wanted it to. Wise beyond her years (or at least much wiser than I was at that age), she decided the day should be one to celebrate all the kinds of love that Valentine's Day looks over. The non-romantic love. The family and friends and platonic loves that shape our lives just as much, yet how often do we really stop and tell those people?

I'm guilty of not saying "I love you" very often. I feel it, I try to show it, but considering how much words make up my life, saying "I love you" is hard. But yesterday, for Esther and just because I should, I was at a baseball game with my parents, brother, and future sister-in-law. It was a beautiful summer night, we were having a good time, and I was weirdly nervous, but I said it. I told them all that I loved them.

And it was SUPER AWKWARD. Nice, yes, but also kind of FREAKING WEIRD. My parents were very touched, but it was especially weird to say to my brother (we both made a face, honestly) and then we went back to our evening just as it was before, only now I could feel good about the fact that my family knows for a fact that I love them. I used my words.

It shouldn't be hard and it shouldn't take an unofficial holiday to make it happen, but it was and it did, and I'm grateful for it. So thank you, Esther, wherever you are, for making such a fantastic choice. My family and I appreciate it.