Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Snow Queen, part 2

Thanks so much for your feedback on the beginning of my short story, everyone! You don't mind if I post a little bit more of it, do you? If you like, I'll post the ending next Tuesday. Because you guys are awesome.

This is from the end of the middle, when Grace goes out looking for Kade. In the original story, the little girl has all sorts of helpers on her quest to find her friend, but I cut it down to just one - I hope it makes sense! Constructive criticism is more than welcome!


The sky that poked through in lines broken by the taller buildings was a dull grey, the kind of sky that threatened snow. Grace wanted to find him before those soft flakes began to fall; she didn’t think she could drag him away from the destructive cold if it put on the guise of beauty for him.

Grace turned a corner and the wind nearly lifted her off her feet; it rattled off of garbage cans and whistled around street signs. Was that what the singing sounded like to Kade? Did that clatter of chaotic noise make sense in his head? She turned onto the street and walked into the wind, feeling as though a hand were pressing into her face, trying to stop her from following her friend.

She fought the wind for several blocks, her small frame almost bent double against the rush of air that raced down the avenue. Other people around her were having almost as much difficulty; she saw scarves whipped down the street and coats billowing out behind their owners, or else plastered to their legs, tripping them up in the force of the icy wind. Manhattan became a wind tunnel in the wintertime; those gusts were the perfect place for Kade’s voices to lurk. But after she had walked down what felt like the entire island, she ducked into a side street, shivering violently, desperate to catch her breath and warm her hands out of the merciless wind.

A few feet away from her, a cardboard box had overturned on the sidewalk. She would not have paid any attention to it, but it jerked suddenly, catching her eye and causing her to jump away from it. She watched it scuttle along the ground for a moment before cautiously stepping forward and popping it off the ground with her foot. When she kicked the box away, it left a confused and startled pigeon behind. The bird flapped about, walking in circles as though it half expected to find itself still trapped.

“It’s okay,” she said, “you’re okay. I let you go. I rescued you, just like I’m going to rescue Kade.”

Grace thought that perhaps the wind might be getting to her as well now, if she was talking to a pigeon, but even though she had spent her whole life in the city and seen pigeons every day, she had never seen one stop and listen to a person before. But her pigeon had definitely stopped flapping and turned its head towards her.

“I wish you were a carrier pigeon so I could send a message to him. Maybe he’d let me know where he was, at least.”

She sighed, sitting down on the curb a few feet from the pigeon, blowing into her frozen hands. The pigeon cooed softly a few times, then walked in front of her as if it was trying to get her attention. Then it launched itself into the air and flew down the alley, doubling back once and circling around her head. It wanted her to follow.

“If Kade thinks the wind calls to him, I can follow a pigeon, right?” Grace muttered to herself as she got to her feet and ran down the sidewalk after the little grey bird.

The pigeon seemed to have even more trouble with the wind than she did, but she was grateful; the gusts kept the bird from flitting out of her sight. Bits of ice or rain or snow swatted at her cheeks now, and either she had been out in the cold too long or the sound that the wind-rattled trash cans made sounded like go back, Grace, go back. He’s ours now. But Kade was hers, and she would get him back, even if she went crazy doing it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fight Your Way Through It

I think this is something we all need to see:

Keep on truckin', guys. We can all get there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Snow Queen

Yes, it's Teaser Tuesday! No, this is not from the secret wip. What I have been working on is a short story for my Fiction II class. We had to choose a fairy tale and adapt it. I chose Hans Christian Anderson's story The Snow Queen, and I would love to get some feedback from you guys. You know that I never write contemporary, and I've never tried something like this, so while I like the concept, I'm a little unsure of myself here. I don't workshop for quite a while, so any feedback you feel like giving me is most welcome.

Here are the first two pages or so. I hope you enjoy them!

The Snow Queen

The first day Kade wasn’t in school, Grace didn’t worry. He had been skipping school a lot lately, more and more as the weather got colder, the fierce wind ripping through Manhattan’s streets and sneaking under upturned collars and snug-fitting hats like bony fingers. It was an ice-cold caress that Grace tried to ignore, but this winter, sometimes it seemed that Kade was drawn to it.

She had confronted him about it, once, when he had missed two days in a row at the beginning of November. She had gone to his apartment, one door over from her own, intending to give him a teacher-style lecture about missing school and falling behind on homework and tests, about how that would affect his future in all sorts of bad ways now that he was in high school. But she wound up giving him a different lecture, when she discovered that he was alone in the apartment, sitting on the window ledge in his t-shirt and shorts, leaning into the cold gusts of wind that blew down their street. It might have been funny, if he hadn’t been tipping forward, millimeter by millimeter leaning farther over the dizzying edge, second by second creeping towards a seven-story fall.

What the hell are you doing?!” Grace had shrieked, without thinking.

Kade had turned, surprised to see her, and he wobbled; Grace flung herself forward and hauled his thin frame back through the window, letting him topple onto the floor of his bedroom.

“I like it,” he’d said, grumbling as he rubbed at his head where it had banged on the floor. “I like the cold. It’s like the wind is calling me when I sit out there, asking me to come with her-”

“What are you smoking?” she had asked, automatically turning to his desk, pulling open a drawer to search for something offending, some monstrous white powder that was tearing her childhood friend away from her.

“You’re not my mother, Grace,” he snapped, shoving her away from the desk. “And you don’t care what happens to me any more than she does. You just don’t want your friend to be crazy, to be found broken in a pile on the street because you don’t want any stain on your perfect future-”

“Well, excuse me for saving your life!” she shouted, storming off, making sure to slam the door behind her.

So the first day didn’t worry her. Not when the January wind was coated in snow, when she knew those fingers would lovingly tear at his skin, when the wind would be calling him in a voice that glittered like sun through ice.

But then one day became two, which melted on into three, then four, then a whole week. By Thursday, she was worried, and not just because the seniors were more inclined to knock the stack of books out of her hands when Kade was not around. He had disappeared before, but never for as long as a week.

Friday afternoon, she crept down the hall to his apartment and knocked softly on his green-painted door, a packet of missed assignments tucked under her arm. No one answered the door, and after waiting for five minutes, she turned the knob and let herself in.

Kade’s parents were not home – they were almost never home – but Kade was nowhere to be found either. Grace left the makeup work on the kitchen table and poked her head into Kade’s room. It was a mess, with clothes and books thrown every which way; she found one of his favorite paperbacks sitting in a corner, the cover bent, as though he had tried to find some comfort in it but had hurled it aside. His window was wide open, icicles beginning to drip down towards the sill, and Grace shut it, shivering, not daring to look at the pavement below. Surely if he had fallen, she would have known. She lived next door, as she had all her life – surely someone would tell her.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Exciting News!!

So do you guys remember when I said I had submitted some very important paperwork and I was really really nervous about it?

Well, it's official - I got my acceptance yesterday. Next semester, I will be studying abroad in LONDON! *squeal*

I was not only accepted into the Ithaca London Center program, but into the internship program, which means that they will find a placement (hopefully in book publishing) for me. Yippee!!

Guys, I can hardly put into words how excited I am about this. I've been planning this for what feel like my whole life, and now I am really actually going. It's really happening. In January I will be getting on a plane and going to England!

Waiting for this acceptance letter was hell. Not just because they were doing rolling admissions and my class is the largest in Ithaca's history, not just because I was afraid they might run out of space for me, but because I was so, so scared that all of my scrambling around with paperwork and putting all my excitement into my application wouldn't be enough.

I was terrified that this would just be one more thing that I worked really hard for, that I did everything I could for, just to have someone turn around and tell me, yet again, that I wasn't good enough.

Rejection hurts. It's something we all know very, very well in the writing world. It hurts like hell, but we have to get used to it anyway. We have to build up a thick skin and wave off the persistent stinging of those 'no' emails. For me, it isn't necessarily the rejection that packs a punch, but the accumulation of rejections. I've collected quite the impressive resume of rejections, and while I wouldn't dream of giving up on writing or pursuing a publishing career because of it, there are days when the weight of all those 'no's is just too much.

Let me tell you, it is amazing to add a 'yes' to that pile. It is wonderful to see the words "I am pleased to tell you..." in your inbox. It is beyond wonderful when something you have dreamed of for years turns into something that is actually going to happen. I can start planning now, not just dreaming.

And that one 'yes'? It is worth swimming through the pile of 'no's.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When to Give Yourself a Break

You might have noticed that after my last post, which was about sitting down in your chair and just banging out the words, I unexpectedly vanished for a week. Sorry about that. I'll try not to do it again.

Today's post, however, is on the opposite topic from last week's - there are times when we just need to let it go and relax and not panic about wordcounts, and I think it's important to recognize them.

Obviously, if you have a deadline hanging over your head - whether that deadline was issued by a teacher or by someone in the publishing industry - you had best get that stuff written, polished, and handed in. But I think we are incredibly hard on ourselves. Of course, we have to be, in some respects, but a lot of times I think writers are very unwilling to let themselves take breaks.

Writing is very often a matter of finding the time when there are only a set amount of hours in the day and twelve hundred things to accomplish. Whether you're squeezing your writing time in around homework, your day job, taking care of your kids, or some combination thereof, it's really hard. And it is important to squeeze in that time, because if we are serious about this, then there are some sacrifices we have to make in order to put writing in our top priority section.

But at the same time, we shouldn't kill ourselves over it. Between the homework and the extracurriculars, I do need to sleep sometime, and if I don't get enough sleep, my writing is terrible anyway. I do not write for myself every day - last semester, I wound up having one day approximately every three weeks when I had finished all my homework for the next day and allowed myself to write for a few hours. I don't really work well in snippets of snatched time, so being able to chunk out a few days like that worked. I got some writing done and I had a break from homework - I didn't feel guilty about neglecting something important because I felt like writing.

And even when I have ample time - over the summer, for instance - I don't write every day. I write far more often, of course, for hours and hours at a stretch, two or three days at a time. But there is only so long I can spend staring at my computer screen, pounding out the words in my tiny little closet of a bedroom, before I start feeling more like a machine than a person, and I need to do something else for a little while. I go on week-long reading sprints. I surf the internet ad nauseum. I go for walks, drag my friends to my house, get roped into watching Project Runway marathons with my mom and sister. And then I shut myself in my room again and start pounding out the words.

Obviously, this doesn't work for everyone, but I think we should all remember that it is acceptable to allow ourselves some breathing room. I don't think we should feel guilty because we don't eek out those words every day by getting up at dawn to cram in writing time before everything else starts to happen, or by staying up far too late after everything else is finished.

Everyone has a different method for working their love of writing around their lives. All I'm saying is that finding the time to write is important, but we shouldn't stress ourselves out about it too much. We have enough stress to deal with as it is.

How do you fit your writing life around your real life? Do you write every day?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just Do It

This happens to all of us: sometimes, we just don't have an idea. Sometimes the words just aren't coming and there's no trick in the world that will allow us to get around that and squeak them onto our Word documents. Sometimes we just need to take a break and let ourselves relax before diving back in or starting a new project.

But then, sometimes we can't afford that break. Sometimes, we need those words RIGHT NOW.

As a writing student, someone who has to continually turn in my work for a grade (and believe me, I am incredibly hard on myself when it comes to grades), there have been quite a few occasions where I am staring at the computer screen at midnight the day before a story is due. And it's not because I've put it off till the last minute - it's because I just don't have an idea. I just don't know what to write.

And you know what? The only thing to do is just do it. Just write. Something. Anything. The results are going to vary - I've handed in one mediocre story because of this, but I've also handed in one pretty awesome story. It happens. And when you're being workshopped that week, you have to hand in something, because the results would be disastrous otherwise.

I had to do this again just last night. I wasn't excited about a prompt, but the story is due tomorrow and I'll be in class until 8pm tonight. So I just wrote it. I'm not sure it's quite what I was supposed to do, and I will probably send it to my writer friend and fellow Ithacan Sarah and complain about how awful it is and spend a long time tonight staring at it trying to tweak it. But you know what? I wrote it. There are some good points to it. And I'll have something to hand in in class tomorrow.

The thing about writing, especially writing for a grade, is that it can always be better. There is always something you could have changed or done differently to make the story shine just a little bit brighter. And it can always be fixed. With most of the projects that carry a lot of weight, grade-wise, I am required to revise them.

But you can't revise something if you didn't write anything in the first place.

So if there's a time when you have a deadline looming large and nothing to write, just sit down, grab the first idea that comes along, and write.

*I apologize if this makes no sense whatsoever. First thing this morning, I handed in some very important paperwork and I am now so nervous/excited/terrified that I feel a bit ill. Is it going to be like this until October? Gah.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writer Stereotypes

Writers are very stereotyped creatures. We are expected to be brooding, angsty, drunk and/or on drugs all the time, and incredibly anti-social, and those are just the most common assumptions, I think. But while stereotypes are certainly no way to write effective characters or consider people in real life, they do exist because there is a certain amount of truth to them. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Take me, for example:

1. I'm incredibly shy around new people. I'm rather awkward in quite a few social situations, especially those involving people I don't know or people I've met a few times but am not, as Jane Austen might say, 'intimate' with yet. So if you ever meet me in person, go easy on me!!

2. I hate math. I absolutely and completely hate math. Anything beyond incredibly simple addition means I whip out my calculator, and when I saw this post on tumblr I was dying of laughter because it is so true. I was actually talking about this with two of my fellow writing majors in class yesterday - we're required to have three credits of math, and even though it's only one class in four years, we all dread it.

3. I am not a morning person, and I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep some nights. I'm not the type to bite someone's head off before I've had my cup of tea, but I do need that cup of tea. I'm also most productive in the evening or late at night, and in my ideal world, I could be up writing till 3 am and sleep till noon every day. Unfortunately, the real world does not agree with me on that score.

Those are some writer stereotypes that fit me rather well. Are there any writer stereotype categories that you fall into?