Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day #8530 - Reading and Writing Resolutions

It all comes down to this day. Literally. Every year, full of highs and lows, smiles and tears, without fail comes back to December 31st. Some people love this day, or more specifically, this night. New Year's Eve with it's promise of something new and fresh in the middle of a long winter.

If I'm honest, I've never been huge into the NYE hype. My birthday is at the end August, usually coinciding with the first day of school, so that's always been my personal time for new beginnings and a clean slate.

But this year, I find that the buzz about resolutions and goals for 2012 hits me in a way that it normally doesn't. So, in no particular order, these are my reading and writing resolutions for the next 12 months:

  • Read at least 50 novels in the next year and make a more conscious effort to read outside my comfort zone (aka more 'boy books,' sci-fi, mystery, non-YA, etc.)
  • Make something happen with Summer Novel - keep reworking, start querying, anything - I'm ready to start sharing this thing with the world. Even if nothing ends up coming of it and I get rejections from every agent ever, that's okay. At least I'll be able to say I tried.
  • Keep writing! While the crazy pace of NaNoWriMo just about made me want to throw my computer against the wall and never write ever again, I know that a part of my soul would die if I actually gave it up. My goal is to continue writing in my journal every day, blogging here and at The Fuma Files, and working on my own stories.
  • Finish grad school! I am six beautiful credit hours away from being done with my M.S. in Library and Information Science and words cannot express how excited I am about that. Library school is one of the best things to ever happen to me because a) it's the reason I have a job right now, b) it's what re-introduced YA lit to me in a way that I love so much that I've started to write it myself and c) my classmates and professors have been awesome about challenging me to read and write critically.
  • Don't loose sight of the reason I fell in love with all of this in the first place.
It's been a long and interesting 365 days to be sure. A lot has happened, some of it planned and a lot of it not so much. I could rant and rave about the unpleasantries, but I really don't see a point in doing that. I finished my first full year of grad school. I grew my hair out the longest it's been in 10 years and donated it to charity. I got a "grown up" job working in a high school library, leading to other grown up things like learning about insurance. According to Goodreads, I read 43 books (but I know the number is higher than that). I started and completed two first drafts of novels. I came back to this blog and started another one, too. 

And, bonus!, someone else told me last night that I look like Anne Hathaway - I've officially lost track of how often I've heard that this year. I still don't see it, but I'll happily take the compliment.

It would be easy to focus on the fact that on the surface, my year isn't ending so great (I have a cold and a zit), but that couldn't be further from the truth. 2011 had it's ups and downs, but overall it was a good year to me.

May all of you celebrate safely and find much happiness and blessings in 2012. I have a hunch it's going to be a good one.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day #8521 - A Solstice Solution

Good morning, blogosphere! How've you been? Keeping warm? Holiday shopping done? Read any good books lately?

I am currently on Day 4 of my winter break and have actually been pretty productive in that time. Lots of cleaning has taken place, I got some fabulous new bookshelves from my parents, last night I went and saw the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 at the United Center.

And, FINALLY, I've gotten back to the summer novel! Rereading, tweaking, rediscovering, editing, cleaning up, etc. Take your pick.

Now I finished the first draft back in August, so why did it take me this long to get back to it? For one, life got in the way just a bit. A new job, a new semester of grad school, and all that jazz. And then there was the November novel that I needed to write (a primal need, not like 'so-and-so decrees you must write a book this month!' need).

And, if I'm honest, I was a bit nervous. I figured that if writing a book was going to be anything like the infinite number of papers I've had to write for school, the first draft was going to be absolute crap. I was feeling so good about being able to say that I've written a draft of a novel, so how awful would I feel if I went back and read it only to discover that it was terrible?

So with great trepidation, I opened that incredibly intimidating document on my computer that contains so much of myself, and I began to read. To my absolute delight and total surprise, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. In fact, I'm actually enjoying it. It turns out for me, taking a break from the story was a very good thing at least this time around. I'm enjoying seeing these characters again, reimagining them and evaluating the choices I made back when the temperatures were in the 70s instead of the 30s.

My Solstice Solution and advice is simple: take your time, but give yourself a limit. When I started November novel, I did so only by promising myself that I would go through summer novel at least once before the end of the calendar year. Like with any relationship, be careful about the idea of "we're on a break." Don't let the break somehow turn into a permanent one. Also, challenge yourself to look at your story through a different lens.  When this story first came to be, I looked at it as a writer. Now I'm looking at it as a reader - what am I enjoying? What makes me cringe (and is it supposed to make me do that)? Does that part feel too long/short/boring/awesome? I take note of these things as I'm going along and then I'll go back see what can be done to make them better.

So there are my two cents. In other news, today is the Winter Solstice! Okay, technically it was at 11:30 last night but according to my desk calendar it's today so without further adieu, the traditional "Monica standing an egg on its end because it's the solstice or equinox" picture!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day #8510 - Minor Victories

I am very proud to announce that today, December 11, 2011 at 6:27 p.m. CST, I FINALLY finished my first draft of my NaNoWriMo novel! I did hit 50,000 words before November 30, so technically I was a "winner," but strictly speaking I wasn't because the goal of that group is to complete a first draft in a novel in a month.

So it took me 41 days instead of 31. Minor details. Let's move on to the part where I get to do a happy dance!

*insert happy dance here*

Originally I gave myself until a week from today (the 18th) to finally finish my first draft. However, during the week I felt myself dragging and I was confused. It wasn't that I didn't know where I wanted my story to go - quite the contrary, I knew exactly where I wanted it to go, I just didn't know how exactly to get it there. So I decided to go back to what I was doing early on in NaNoWriMo and plan out an outline of what was going to happen with my story before I sat down to write it. I've been playing with that for a few days and today I found myself on a roll. I didn't expect to finish the draft today, but I think I mentally needed to. The subject matter and general tone of this story is not nearly as happy (happy's not really the right word, but my vocabulary is failing me right now) as the story I wrote earlier this year, but I think the combination of that heavier tone and the fact that I wrote it so quickly just meant I needed to wrap this draft up so I can step away from it for a while, go back to editing Summer Story (I think that will be my ultra-fun code name for that story), and moving ahead with that (whatever that might mean).

We all on the same page? Okay. Excellent.

So just to recap, I've now written two first drafts of novels in the past 7 MONTHS.

*insert second happy dance here*

Thanks to my friends and family for their amazing support during this crazy journey! Comments always welcome and thanks for everything, blogosphere!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day #8503 - December Doings

Why hello there, blog! So nice to see you again. I know I've been neglecting you lately, and I really do feel bad about it. Let me tell you why, though, and I think you'll see where I'm coming from.

The last week has been a bit crazy to say the least in terms of scheduling and being booked. First off, I've been a reading MACHINE, devouring three novels in a matter of days. One of them was The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker (check out my review of it over on my book-review blog) which seriously made me re-think the amount of time I spend on the internet and another was Five Flavors of Dumb, a work of fiction about a girl who is both deaf and the manager of a rock band at her high school - both books had such interesting concepts! If you haven't read them yet, you absolutely should.

Another thing that happened recently was on Thursday, I completed my grad school class for this semester! This now means I am one semester/two classes away from being DONE with my masters degree in May. *insert happy dance here*

But this is a writing blog, so I bet you're all dying to know what things have been like on the writing front for me. Honestly, I had to take a bit of a break. Not just because life has been reaching new levels of packed, but also after NaNoWriMo, I just needed to take a step back and take a breath.  I was starting to feel like Donna Moss in the West Wing:

See what I mean? My novel is the room with the boxes, and somewhere both written down and in the recesses of my brain is the piece of paper that I made out when this once "really great story idea" hit me and let me know where it was going. I can't find that piece of paper (I'm not even being metaphorical anymore - I really did lose the paper! eek!), but it's all okay because by taking a step back, it all came back to me. Now that November is over, I'm able to slow down my pace a bit (a necessary move for my sanity), but I've also set a personal deadline for December 18th to have this draft done by. Keep your fingers crossed for me, eh?

So that's really it from me for now, though I have to make a final plea. With both this and my other blog, I only have two followers each. If you read this regularly, please subscribe to me as a follower and if you like what you see, tell your friends and family! *steps down off soapbox*

Hope everyone's December is off to a good start!  Comments welcome and keep warm!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day #8496 - Finished (Sort of)!

It has taken me quite a while. To get here, I have sacrificed my evenings to slaving over my keyboard and my lunch hours at work to outlining in my steno pad trying to figure out where the heck I am going. But this crazy journey that started on November 1st and seemed like a completely impossible goal has now been accomplished: I have written 50,000 words on a brand new story idea in the last 27 days.

Woot! *insert happy dance here*

I never thought I'd actually be able to take on the beast that is National Novel Writing Month. I mean, it's a ridiculous notion. Who the heck can write an entire novel in a month? It's crazy! It's insane!

It's also not me.

Let me explain. Yes, I did hit the 50,000 word goal that NaNoWriMo sets out for participants, so in that light, I am indeed a winner. But is my story actually done right now? Have I yet typed "the end" and brought the plot to a conclusion? Not so much. So in that regard, I am still a bit of a loser. But still, I'm excited because between work during the day, grad school at night, my two blogs, reading, and the many other things that make up my life, I still think it's pretty cool that I managed to write this much in this amount of time.

So here's to my second story being significantly closer to being done than it was 27 days ago. My hope is to have this first draft completed within the next two weeks, then I will probably take a break from this story and go back to Manuscript #1 (which I really want to come up with a cool code name for) that I wrote this summer and get to editing/rewriting. But I do feel like the pressure is off a bit. While I will still probably write every day, it will be because I want to and I can take my time with it, not because I feel like I have to.

So there you have it, folks. To my fellow WriMos, good luck here in the home stretch. To my fellow writers out there, I wish you luck and success in your own endeavors. What a long and winding road writing a book can take us on as we spend so much time inside our own heads, but what a feeling when you do it, right?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Day #8494 - New Look!

For the first time since I started this blog back in 2008, I've made the jump to go ahead and try a new look. I'll probably be playing with it in the coming weeks and months, but I decided that change is good and a fresh look is just what the doctor ordered.

Plus playing around with settings and colors and Photoshop are all excellent procrastination tools for avoiding my NaNoWriMo story. Not that I don't want to write, I almost always do, it's just that I know this next scene coming up is going to be challenging (emotionally speaking - it's the first scene I thought of for this whole book, so I've been thinking about it for MONTHS and I've unintentionally put a ton of pressure on myself to get it perfect now that it's time to add it to the story - eek!). So there's that, too.

I loved you, old layout, but I think we both know this is for the best. Life needs color, and so does this blog.

Goodbye, 2008!

So let me know what you all think!

Okay, really need to get back to writing now....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day #8492 - Christmas Came Early

I know that Thanksgiving is supposed to come first and that's not until tomorrow, but I am almost positive that Christmas was actually on Monday night because I got to meet ten fabulous YA authors at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

For a librarian's/more professional perspective on why these events and independent bookstores are a great thing, I suggest you check out my book review blog here. Right now I'm about to express nothing short of love and gratitude for these writers.

You have been warned.

But seriously, who knew that Mondays could ever be so great?! First of all, the whole event was moderated by author/editor extraordinaire David Levithan (Every You, Every Me; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Boy Meets Boy) which was fantastic. He asked great questions that someone like me who's not really in the business (yet? haha) wouldn't have thought of.

First off I got to joke around and talk about "old-school, MySpace self-portrait skills" with A.S. King, author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants, two books I'm insanely excited to read. There was Stephanie Perkins who I got to talk to and she signed my copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door. She's incredibly nice, has a sense of style I wish I were bold enough to pull off, plus she's a Nerdfighter - she's easily one of my favorite writers.

Me with Stephanie Perkins

Then there was Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher who each signed my copy of their brand new book The Future of Us (which I'll be reviewing over at The Fuma Files shortly once my grad school semester ends). I was so excited to tell them that the students at the school I work at voted for them as some of their favorite authors and it felt really good.

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I continued making my way around the room and talked briefly with Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, and David. I asked if I could get a picture of the two of them for my students (it makes me sound slightly less like a nerdy fan-girl) and they did, which was awesome. Then David asked if I would mind taking a picture on his phone so he could send it to Heather. And I gladly did. That's right, folks. I got to hold THE David Levithan's iPhone haha. Then I got a picture with Heather and she asked if I'd gotten any swag yet. I admitted that I didn't, so she gave me a Vlad Tod tote bag AND t-shirt. You can bet your bottom dollar I checked out the first book from her series the next morning as soon as I got to work. I'm excited to give vampires another chance.

David Levithan & Heather Brewer

Rocking my new Vlad Tod shirt with Eighth Grade Bites

Then there was talking about cicadas and colored hair extensions with Jackie Kessler (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Riders Quartet) and C.J. Hill (Slayers). I shared with them the secret of my incredibly bright blue hair, and in return they let me get a picture and gave me signed posters.

Jackie Kessler & C.J. Hill

Also there were Coe Booth (Bronxwood) and Jeff Hirsch (The Eleventh Plague), neither of whom I got to talk to but they both seemed incredibly nice and I'm anxious to read their books as well.

So long story short, I'm super pumped now to keep going with my draft. I know I've been a bit whiny lately that it's dragging on, this month is so long, blah blah blah, but at the end of the day, writing and telling stories makes me so incredibly happy that it's all worth it. I was so bummed when I got home that I couldn't just burn the midnight oil and write in to the wee hours of the morning, but my students and work deserve my full attention during the day so that would hardly have been fair to them. All in all, though, it was an amazing night, I'm so glad I went, and I hope I can continue going to events like this which encourage people's love of reading in the years to come.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day #8489 - Park and Bark

Back when I was in my high school marching band, every year we would learn a halftime routine that we would then perform at all the home football games. A common element in these routines would be something known as the 'park and bark' - everyone would stop moving, typically we'd all take a step so our feet were shoulder-width apart at the same time, and we'd just wail on our instruments, letting the sound fill the stadium on cool autumn nights. It wasn't always the most musical of moments because sometimes we'd get a bit caught up in the moment or carried away, but it was all about just laying it out there.

In a way, NaNoWriMo is sort of like a park and bark. For one month, you sit down with your story and let it run wild in whatever direction necessary to just get it out of your head. But the park and bark is hardly ever put at the end of the song, you still have a lot more choreography to do afterwards, so you better make sure to conserve some energy for what comes next.

Long story short, I feel like this is where I'm at with National Novel Writing Month. I've been writing an average of 2,000 words a day for the last 19 days. This story, which I have been cultivating in my head for the last few months, is finally being given a voice and while that makes me happy, I don't feel like it's the voice that the story really needs. Like my story is walking around doing a fake New York accent while walking around Brooklyn because it wants to fit in even though it's from Chicago.

I am, simply put, running out of steam. I'm trying to charge through everything so fast that I'm going back and finding contradictions all over the place and it makes me sad that the story I was so excited to write isn't really getting the care that I think it deserves even if it is "just a first draft." I think that part of taking seriously if you really want to make a go of it is to take all parts seriously. I'm not saying first drafts will be perfect or that if you're having an off day it's not alright to throw something completely random into the mix just to see what happens - it totally is and different things work for different people - but for me, a solid first draft gives me a strong foundation to then work up from.

Right now things in my draft are coming out sloppy, not to mention the pacing of the story is suddenly all over the place (I just realized that the last four scenes I wrote are all supposed to take place on the same day while every other part clips along a bit quicker). However, I'm keeping my chin up. I'm confident that I'll "win" and meet the 50,000 word goal set by the the organizers, but my draft probably will not be completed by November 30. The thing is, I'm more than okay with that. Every story will be told in its own time, and it just so happens that this one of mine needs more than 30 days.

So hang in there, fellow writers and WriMos! The end is nearly in sight, we can finish this thing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day #8483 - Goals and Games

Today I had my first all-district institute day for work. It might not sound all that exciting, but it actually made for a very interesting day. Lots of very important library things were discussed and it made me really excited about my profession. It's easy to get bogged down in weeks going by and feeling like people see librarians as nothing but shelvers or baby sitters, but today rejuvenated my enthusiasm about the fact that while much of what I do is behind the scenes, but it still matters a great deal.

But this is (supposed to be) a blog about writing. So more on that, eh?

Yesterday I hit a bit of a milestone with NaNoWriMo, which is exciting: I hit 30,000 words, which is halfway to my goal. I'm exhausted, it's hardly my best writing, but the story is still moving forward and I suppose that's a good thing. While I'm happy to have given this endeavor a shot, I'm quickly figuring out that this particular way of writing may not be the best fit for me. I work a full day, come home and do my own school work, and then on top of that I HAVE to write 2,000 words a day. I don't want writing my story to feel like a chore, and I fear that it's heading in that direction. And more than all of that, I really like my story! If I didn't, I wouldn't be writing it!

Maybe it's just the tired talking, but let's just say that I don't think I'll be signing up to do this again next November. I have a huge amount of respect for the people that do, though - it takes quite a lot of gumption, spunk, and perseverance. It's a fun idea, just not quite my cup of tea.

In other news, I'm totally pumped that the first full trailer for The Hunger Games came out today! The trilogy continues to blow my mind as well as fly off the shelves of my local libraries. Katniss is such a brilliant character and I love that she doesn't remind me of anyone else. As with any film adaptation, I'm nervous about how faithful they are able to stay to the novels, but I have high hopes. Anyway, if you haven't seen the trailer, check it out:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day #8478 - The Reality of WriMo

I'm just going to tell it to you straight, Internet. We're only nine days into NaNoWriMo and I still don't know what to make of it.

On the one hand, it's going pretty well. I'm finding that the rough outlines I've been making are really helpful in keeping me moving forwards, but not so constricting that I'm afraid of deviating from it if that's where the characters or scene should take me. I'm liking most of my characters (and enjoying disliking the ones I don't want people to like). And more than all of that, I like being disciplined in my writing and doing it every day. Taking it seriously makes me happy. Plus today I crossed over the 20,000 word mark, which feels pretty darn good.

*Insert happy dance here*

But then, there's that pesky other hand.

Because over on the other hand, word count wise that means I'm only a third of the way to my goal. I know it's a marathon and not a sprint (but at the same time, who are we kidding - of course it's a sprint!), but I'm already feeling quite drained and as I've already said, it's only day nine and there are 22 days to go.

I can see what Maggie Stiefvater meant now in her anti-NaNoWriMo blog posts about how the whole concept of the project works very much against people who have families or jobs or other commitments other than writing all of the time...wait a minute...that sounds like pretty much everyone. So this is one of those moments when I'm not complaining but I really am but just a little bit! It's hard for me to get into a writing groove when I get home from a full day at work because I'd love to kick back a little, visit with my family and unwind. If weekends have taught me anything, it's that my best (and usually most productive) writing happens in the middle of the day, but seeing as that is when I am work during the week, that's not really an option. Plus this past week I have been woefully neglectful of my graduate studies.

(But on the plus side, I registered for next semester and will be graduating in May! *insert second happy dance here*)

Perhaps this month I have bitten off a bit more than I can metaphorically chew, but I'm hoping that since I don't have work on Friday due to Veterans Day, the extra time will allow me the chance to get the many writing and book-oriented aspects of my life (which is most of my life) back on track.

So NaNoWriMo, so far I think we're okay, but I'm not so sure I am about making this thing we have a permanent deal. The writing part can stay. The writing a first draft in 30 days thing while also trying to manage the rest of my life and sleep and be a functioning human being? Yeah, I'm not so sure about that one actually happening.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day #8476 - Blog Reboot

To say that it's been a while since I've written here is an understatement, as would the remark that for the exception of the summer of 2008 when I started this blog before studying abroad, my entries have been sporadic at best and completely random at worst.

But things can change. Blogs can be updated and repurposed and before you know it, they're like new again. And that is my hope for this blog.

What started out as a place to share my thoughts and experiences while traveling around Italy eventually became a spot where I wanted to share my many grand ideas with the world. It would get discovered by a plethora of readers who would find what I had to say interesting and it would be EPIC.

Or, you know, not.

So that didn't happen, but that doesn't mean it never will. But until it does, this blog is going to be getting a facelift and a new direction. Rather than simply being a home to my rants and ramblings, this is going to be a place where I more specifically document my writing life.

To some people, this may be a bit of a surprise because since when is Monica a writer? I know, it was a bit of a shock for me too. But since July of last year, I've been consistent about writing in my journal (a habit I would occasionally turn to in college). But I've actually written entries in my notebooks every day since mid-March, and after a few months of that, a thought formed: I feel better when I'm doing this.

So this past summer, I wanted to take it a step further. Writing down my thoughts and feelings and the things that were happening to me was all good, but I kept wanting to play with those things. What if this had happened instead, or it took place here, or I'd said the clever remark that I didn't actually think of until two days later? I'd been kicking around ideas for stories for years, but I never had the courage to seriously try to write. I figured there was no time like the present, so four months and 60,000 words later, I had the first draft of a young adult novel completed.

Let me tell you, it felt great. I still need to massively reread and revise and all that fun stuff before the next step that comes with being a writer, but to say I got a draft down of a BOOK is a dream I never thought I'd be able to actually accomplish.

And now it's the seventh day of my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who are just as new to the party as I am), I'm just over 15,000 words in, and so far, so good. Every day I come home from work and I'm anxious to get back to my characters. Even as much as I plan and ponder, my characters are the ones in charge (for now - it's a first draft) and they're surprising me left and right.

Guess I might actually be more of a writer than I thought after all.

So who knows where this road may lead me. My expectations are low. I don't expect anything to come of this. All I know for sure is that I like writing. Whether or not I'm any good at it is a whole other ball of wax.

So that is what this blog is going to be about until further notice: me writing about writing. I'll be going through past posts and cleaning up what I'm actually comfortable with the rest of the world reading and what is probably best filed away. I'll be adding labels and tags and even picking a new page design because I've had the same one for over three years.

Sometimes change is scary. But it can also be liberating, and you never know what wonderful adventures it will lead to.

Comments always welcome, and let the blog reboot begin!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day #8440 - Falling and Pick Me Ups

Talk about goofy weather, at least here in Chicagoland. Riddle me this, readers. Lately I find it a little bit strange that when people start putting out all the back to school decorations in August to get people in the mood for September, they put up a bunch of pictures and what have you of yellow, orange, and red leaves. But here it is on October 2nd and I can honestly say that I don't feel like the leaves really started to change until this past week. However, Mother Nature seems to be doing things on her own time table. While September had a few cold spells there (especially on the days I was chaperoning football games at the high school), this whole week it's supposed to be in the 70s and sunny.

Seriously? I think Mother Nature needs a calendar check.

Really though, I'm not complaining. Yesterday I couldn't believe how absolutely gorgeous it was out. I sat on the porch with my Nook and while the air was crisper and full of that great autumn smell, the sun was still warm on my face and I was comfortable in my jeans and sweatshirt. It feels a little bit wrong to like this season as much as I do, what with everything dying and nature preparing itself for the harsh cold winter coming ahead. But it goes out with such a brightly colored bang that I can't help but be wowed.

Naturally since we're 29 days away from Halloween, the topic of Christmas presents came up at dinner with my family tonight. What does this person want? What is that person planning on getting for so-and-so? It's a conversation I feel like I've heard a lot of lately, though not about Christmas. At this point in my life, many of my friends are getting engaged or married, so the inevitable question of what to give for wedding presents comes up. While the many relationships that surround me understandably make me a little sad (and if I'm really honest, a bit jealous), I did manage to find a little bit of silver lining in the middle of it all: I don't have to worry about the presents part.

Though I don't go to the movies all that much because going alone is just weird...

Ah well, you win some, you lose some. Life's never perfect, but luckily this weekend I was able to recharge my batteries and I'm feeling much better about the upcoming week. I get next Monday off for Columbus Day, Tuesday I'll be getting a haircut (and I'm feeling pretty confident about my decision to try having bangs again), there's a wedding in three weeks and hopefully some Halloween plans will present themselves. It's all about perspective and finding pick-me-ups along the way. =)

ALSO! I've started another blog/side project. It's extremely new (as in, a few hours old) and you can find it at . Unlike this blog which has become a place for my random thoughts and ramblings over the years, The Fuma Files is going to be leaning towards my professional side aka all about books. I'll be posting my thoughts on books I've read or am currently reading, my opinions on news in the library world, and any other literary thoughts or experiences I have. If you're interested, please check it out (though I warn you, there's nothing really there yet) and if you know people who like books, please tell them about it!

Hope everyone out there has a great week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day #8419 - A Decade Later

I'm hardly original in posting this today. On the anniversary of such a huge event in our nation's history, it does seem like the popular thing to do. But I'm not doing it because it's popular. I'm writing and reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001 because I genuinely feel that it's something I need to do, that it's the absolute least I can do.

For the past week, that day has been a hot topic of conversation at school among the teachers and staff. Where were you? What were you doing? How did you find out? Did you know anyone? Did you lose anyone? It was a day that I think anyone born in 1993 or earlier will always remember.

For me, it was my third or fourth week as an 8th grader at Margaret Mead Jr. High School. I even remember what I was wearing - blue jeans and a shirt from my aunt that she'd just given me for my 13th birthday a few weeks before and it was infinitely more stylish than my usual garb. The weather was gorgeous, and as 8th graders, we felt like we owned the school. Nothing could bring us down.

But of course, that wasn't true. I was at my locker between 2nd and 3rd period when I heard the news. A classmate of mind who was known for having a demented sense of humor and who's biggest goal in life was to be like on of The Soprano's was at his locker a few feet away from and announced that some plane had flown into the World Trade Center. He was laughing while he said it, being pretty theatrical and over the top, so no one really took him seriously.

Once my arms were full of my algebra binder and lunch box, I started to make my way towards the band room where my next hour class was. Instead, I was ushered into my math classroom next door along with many of my other classmates. A TV was set up and turned on and I was horrified to learn that the kid hadn't been joking.

For the next few hours, we sat and watched in a stunned silence. I remember it being very important to our teachers that we not tell the 7th graders what was going on since they were already getting used to a new school - surely this wouldn't make things easier. Eventually, it was decided that the 8th graders needed to get back to their schedules as well, or something close. I spent the rest of the day in my Language Arts teacher's classroom. Ms. Haas, in a day that felt like nothing in the world made sense anymore, asked each of us to do an incredibly sensible thing: write. She didn't tell us to because she thought we'd forget - I think she told us to to ensure that the future would remember.

Here's what I wrote, exactly as I wrote it (except I did correct my many spelling errors):

I am disturbed by today's events in Washington D.C. and New York. This is the first time the continental U.S. has been attacked. I don't see what terrorists think they're proving by flying planes in/through the World Trade Center Twin Towers. I'm scared out of my mind. Was it the people in the Middle East that we bombed a while ago? Was it Saddam Hussein? What possessed them to attack America? I have so many questions and no answers. If the terrorist's goal was to kill people, he did. There were people at the W.T.C. that were jumping out of windows close to the top of the buildings. CNN said that 50,000 people were in the WTC. 24,000 had to be evacuated from the Pentagon because a plane crashed into it. A Representative said that he believes we're at WAR. He said this is 21st century warfare. Up until today, no one from my generation has had to experience war. Who would hate America so much? I think this is the first time since the Oklahoma City Bombing that the school has put its flag at half mast. They are taking action all over the country. I think all government buildings have been shut down. They have even shut Chicago down! CHICAGO!!! The Daley Center downtown I think has been evacuated and closed. The government doesn't want any more people hurt. They even closed Woodfield as a precaution. They basically have closed every place where large groups of people could be. I don't feel safe anymore.

Obviously, that was a lot of fear talking, not to mention that I was only 13 years old and extremely naive about world affairs and what exactly was going on. We've all learned a lot since then, and I finally learned that not everyone in the world is particularly wild about America. I don't like to remember these aspects of 9/11, but I know it's important that I do.

What I choose to focus on is the hundreds and thousands of people around the country who banded together as a result of this. That we took care of each other. That so many people sacrificed themselves that day and have sacrificed themselves since to help and to try to restore that feeling of safety that was ripped from our fingers.

I hope that in the future, people continue to remember all these many aspects of 9/11, but especially its heroes and its victims. It breaks my heart that we don't do the same for Pearl Harbor Day, that every December 7th those men and women are forgotten. They don't deserve that, none of them do. So on this 10th anniversary, we must look back and look forward. It is our job to follow in the footsteps of the people who came before us and showed the absolute best of America in its darkest hour. Lives were lost and our world was changed, and we must remember that so many people became the best versions of themselves to help total strangers. I may not agree with everything in this country, but that is the America I am proud to be a part of.

May God bless us all, and may we never forget.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day #8378 - Just Because

Hello there, Internet!

I can't believe that the last time I wrote anything here was just in January. I'd honestly thought it had been longer ago than that. Interesting...or, not, really.

In days past I probably would have addressed this posting to my "readership" but seeing as I don't have one, I felt it best to do away with that practice for the time being, wouldn't you agree, whoever you are?

Exciting stuff going on here, clearly.

So what have I been up to since my last post all those months ago? Well, I grew out my hair, then chopped it off and donated it to charity. I have finished my first full year of graduate school. I went to North Carolina. I've been to two book signings to see young adult authors whose books I like. I've read a lot of books and watched a lot of tv/movies. I continue to dabble in writing myself. I got a job working at my alma mater which starts in three weeks.

I've also done laundry. There's always laundry to be done.

There's not really much else to say besides that. I'm not sure how I feel about trying to re-enter the blogosphere as a regular contributor (I mean, I can't really see the point of trying to participate in the "blogging community" if no one reads this. Doesn't that just make me a community of one?), but you never know. It'll probably be something more along the lines of random thoughts every once in a blue moon. Yeah, let's go with that. We'll follow Napoleon's battle plan on this one: I'll show up, and I'll see what happens.

May all of you out there enjoy your August 1st, or whatever day it happens to be when you read this. I hope that is a pleasant day for you, too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day #8174 - West Wing Wisdom

When I find myself in times of trouble, Aaron Sorkin speaks to me through all of his characters on The West Wing

Corny? Yes. True? Actually I think it is in a lot of situations. I know that I've written here many times before about my love of this tv show that was on the air from 1999-2006, but I've recently been rethinking about how given such a diverse group of characters in a high pressure setting actually give quite a bit of commentary about being an ordinary person.

President Bartlett is the one always trying to do the right thing, and sometimes his intense intellect and wisdom make that hard. Put him with Leo McGarry and the two of them often say a lot about how they don't understand popular culture, despite how smart they are or how hard they try. Sam Seaborne is the idealist who more often than not seems to be putting his foot in his mouth despite his good intentions. If Toby Ziegler were a teenager today, I'm almost convinced he'd be a bit emo with the way he refuses to smile too much, acts like he doesn't care about people, and he sincerely wants government and people in power to quit screwing around all the time.

I could go on and on about how each of the many characters on this show have their moments or quirks that make them seem like anybody else, but the two that I think embody this more than anybody is Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna Moss. Donna is the closest to "normal" as any of these people get - it is through her that the writers would be able to clarify various aspects of our government that people outside of it may not know about or understand. She often asks Josh the questions and he'll somehow provide an answer. And as smart as Josh is with his Ivy League education and impressive resume, Donna is often the wiser one when it comes to really understanding people and, despite her own awful dating history, is the one telling Josh how he should navigate his social life. He even admits at one point, "it's like I skipped a year cuz I never learned what you do when you think you like somebody; what you do next." As a fellow braniac who has spent most of her life doing homework and studying, I can empathize with him. Donna's attitude says it all - there are different ways of being smart, and eventually, hopefully, we'll all figure out what it is we're supposed to do next.