Friday, December 20, 2013

A Story of an Introvert in Denial

A few weeks ago a person I follow on Tumblr was having a really hard time and I found myself relating to a lot of the things she was posting. I decided to message her my own experience with what she was struggling with. She said it really helped, so I decided to post it here for anyone else who might need to hear it.

For quite awhile I had been convinced I was doing college wrong. I wasn't making enough friends; I wasn't involved in enough organizations on campus; I spent most of my weekends at home instead of going out with all the people I was supposed to be meeting.

And the thing was I wanted to be doing all those things. I really did. I wanted to meet a ton of people and be super involved and everything else. So why wasn't I? Why wasn't I making a ton of new friends and hanging out with them all the time? Why wasn't I going out and getting involved in all the things on campus that interested me? This became a vicious cycle. I would become determined to get involved; I'd join a few clubs; I'd eventually stop going; I'd blame myself for not doing enough; Depression; Repeat.

I got extremely involved this past semester. This was the semester I was going to change everything. I was going to stick it out finally do things right. And for awhile I did.

The beginning of November, everything fell apart. I went to a Writing Center Conference in Tampa, FL, with about 10 of my colleagues. I was already a bit warn out because I had spent the previous weekend in Illinois at a Quidditch Tournament, and now I was in the car on my way to Florida. It was roughly a 22 hour car ride to the conference, followed by an amazing but stressful day of presentations on Saturday, followed by another morning of presentations- mine included- before packing back into the car for the 22 hour car ride home. Now for the person I thought I was, the person I thought I was supposed to be, this would not have been a huge issue. For the real me however, it turned into quite an ordeal. About half way home I couldn't handle being around people anymore. This had absolutely nothing to do with the people I was with; I love my fellow writing consultants, especially the people who I went to that conference with. I just could no longer handle being around people in general. It was too loud, too overwhelming, too much. I put my headphones in, turned my music up as loud as I could stand in an attempt to drown out the voices around me, and cried until I fell asleep.

The following weeks were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My anxiety spiked. The most innocent of comments had me thinking I had done something wrong. The tiniest confrontation- even when I was perfectly aware that we were joking around- made me feel like I was being verbally attacked. I almost cried in one of my classes simply because it meant people were talking around me. For the first time ever my anxiety started manifesting itself physically. I felt confined. My chest felt tight as if no matter how big a breath I took it would never been enough air.

I stopped going to everything outside of what was mandatory. I went to class; I went to work; I went home. This was the first big thing that forced me to realize that I couldn't go out and be around people all the time, even if I wanted to.

A few weeks later, while procrastinating on writing my papers, I decided to take the Briggs Personality Test again just for fun. The test had been circling the writing center, like it does every couple of months, so  I figured why not? This time, however, I focused on answering the questions the way I actually felt and actually did things, rather than what I wish I did or "would if I could". This time, for the first time ever, it rated me as an introvert. And not just slightly introverted, but 67% introverted. Now I know this test isn't wholly accurate or anything, but seeing the results and reading the INFJ description and seeing how well it fit me really helped me to accept myself as an introvert. It helped me to realize that there is nothing wrong me; it's just a part of who I am.

With this realization came the realization that there was also nothing wrong with not spending every Saturday night out with friends. If I want to stay in my sweatpants and have some quality time with my Netflix account, I will. My favorite books and television shows and fictional characters are important to me in ways a lot of people don't understand, but that doesn't make it bad. For so long I was convinced I was wasting my time by staying home on the weekends. I wasn't doing enough, or being productive enough, or seeing people enough. I was wrong, though. I'm not wasting my time if I choose to spend my Saturday night watching Sherlock; I'm doing what makes me happy.

The other important realization that came of all this is that there is a reason I don't have huge groups of friends: I am rather selective about the people I will spend my time with. I only have so much social energy to go around and I want to spend it on people I can really connect to. And that's okay. Because while I might not have a huge group of friends that  I hang out with all the time, the friends I do have, the people I choose to surround myself with, are absolutely amazing. And every moment I spend with them is time very well spent.

For so long I felt lost. I didn't know who I was and I didn't know how to figure it out. I felt broken, like there must be something wrong with me that made me not quite fit. I cannot even begin to explain how much better I feel after these realizations, about myself and my life. I can appreciate my down time so much more now that I'm not constantly feeling guilty about it. And I appreciate the time I do spend getting involved or hanging out with my friends so much more too because I'm not forcing it on myself anymore.

We live in a very extrovert-oriented society. One that tells us something is wrong with us if we don't act a certain way. But the thing is, not everyone is meant to live that way. Not everyone is meant to go out all the time, or have huge groups of friends that they spend all their time with. And that is okay. If you would rather spend Friday night curled up in bed with a book, then do it. Don't let anyone make you think there is anything wrong with that, or with you. I tried doing things the way the world told me I was supposed to and it doesn't work. You are so much better off accepting the way that you are and doing things that make the most sense to you. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with you either.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Slated by Teri Terry

Title: Slated
Author: Teri Terry
Pages: 346 (Hardcover)
Publishing Date: May 3, 2012
Reason for Reading: Personal Interest
Kyla has been Slated- her memory erased, her personality wiped blank.This is the government's way of dealing with teen terrorists: give them a fresh start as a new person. They teach Kyla how to walk and talk again, give her a new identity and a new family, and tell her to be grateful for this second chance.
It's also her last chance, and to ensure that she plays by their rules, Kyla is fitted with a Levo, a bracelet that monitors her mood and will stun- or even kill- her if her levels of anger or violence rise too high.
As she adjusts to her new life, Kyla can see she is different from other Slateds. She asks too many questions and is plagued by nightmares that feel like memories- even though she shouldn't have memories. Who is she, really? Has her Slating gone wrong? And if only criminals are Slated, why are innocent people disappearing? Torn between the need to understand more and her instinct for self-preservation, Kyla knows a dangerous game is being played with her life, and she's determined not to let anyone see her make the wrong move.

Let me start by saying I very nearly read this book in a single sitting, and that the only reason I didn't is that I had his 6am and was in some serious need of some sleep. I finished the book shortly after waking up.

I love-love-love dystopian novels. The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are some of my favorite books of all time. I just love the whole concept of imagining what our world might look like in a dystopian future. I also really love the kind of commentary these books are able to make on our society today, as we can often see exaggerated aspects of our world in these dystopian futures.

Needless to say I was immediately drawn in by this book's premise. The idea of a government erasing people and sending them back into the world as an entirely different person with a new family and a new life was both terrifying and fascinating, and I needed to know more. The book did not disappoint. Throughout the book we are introduced to strange concepts that, within the realm of the story, are completely normal. Kyla is expected to call her new parents Mum and Dad and accept them and her new sister as her family without ever having met them before they pick her up from the hospital. She cannot experience emotions freely, because too much anger or sadness will drop her Levo levels and put her at risk of blacking out or even dying. It is even stranger to find these concepts being normalized in your mind; the more you read, the more you adjust.

Character development- or rather character perception- was another thing I really loved about this book. There were characters that I didn't like at the beginning who I came to love the better I got to know them, and there were characters I liked and trusted at the beginning who had betrayed me by the end. Terry masterfully allows you to learn more about characters as the book goes on, enabling you to form- and change- your opinions on a character just as you would if you were meeting them in real life.

I will admit there is some cliche description throughout the book, particularly concerning Kyla's romantic interest. I was turned off a tad by the typical 'overly attractive, dazzling smile, golden brown eyes' description when he was first introduced. However, the more I learned about him as a person, and the more their relationship moved away from the typical YA romance, the less I minded his cliche introduction and appearance.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of the next book in the series and seeing where Kyla's investigations take her next.

Caitlin Moran and the Sherlock Fandom

As some of you probably already know, there was a bit of a stir-up in the Sherlock fandom yesterday. For those of you who don't, allow me to fill you in with the short version.

Caitlin Moran was chosen to lead the Q&A portion of the BFI Sherlock Series 3 Preview yesterday. For part of the session, she decided to bring printed copies of a portion of a JohnLock slash fic and had Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman read it out-loud. The two played along, most likely because they didn't want to appear to be divas for refusing, but they quickly became very noticeably uncomfortable, as you would expect. As if this wasn't bad enough, she used this fanfiction without permission of the author, who was humiliated and rightfully angry to see her work mocked and used to make the two actors she admires so uncomfortable. You can find the authors exceptionally classy response to the event here.

Initially, I had intended to write a response discussing how potentially detrimental Moran's thoughtless actions could be to the writing community. However, an insightful Tumblr soul has already summed up everything I could say in a post that you can find here.

Instead, I want to discuss everything that is wrong about mocking a show's fandom- the Sherlock fandom in particular, something Moran has done more than once. I direct you to a tweet from a few days ago:

I won't bother going into the fact that our supposed feminist is accepting "lol ur a virgin" as an insult. I will however say that I was offended to see the fans treated this way simply because they were excited and dedicated to something important to them.

Anyone who is an active member of any fandom, anyone who is passionate about a television show, movie franchise, or book series, knows that we get crap from all directions. We're told we're obsessive, weird, over-involved, over-analyzing. We're taught by society that it is wrong to love what we love the way we love it. That is why we created fandoms; that is why we find each other. 

Caitlin Moran was given the privilege to be a part of the fandom experience, a part of the passion and excitement that revolves around this show we love. Instead, she defiled it by coming into a safe place, a place where we should be free to love the show openly and passionately without the judgement of people who don't understand, and mocking us.

Sherlock means a great deal to me, more than any of my other fandoms, more than any of my other favorite characters. Sherlock is a character I have a very real and very deep connection with. He is a constant reminder that despite every person out there who doesn't understand me, despite every Anderson like Caitlin Moran, there are also John Watsons. 

Caitlin, most of my John Watsons are people I met through my fandoms.

Caitlin, you may be a critic. You may think you are awfully important in the world of television. But let me explain something to you: No matter what you think about a show, no matter what you say or write about a show, the fandom will always be more important than you. A show will not get cancelled because you hated it; a show will not continue because you love it. A show's survival depends on us.

Sherlock is lucky to have one of the most enthusiastic, passionate, and loyal fandoms I have ever seen. Most shows would never last after a 2 year hiatus. Most shows would never dare going on a 2 year hiatus for fear of losing their viewership. But it has been 2 years since Reichenbach and the Sherlock fandom is bigger and stronger than ever. We didn't dwindle away while waiting for the show to return; we continued engaging with it. We made fanart and gif sets. We wrote fanfiction, just like the author you had the audacity to mock at BFI. We re-watched and re-examined those 6 episodes over and over again, coming up with new theories and learning more and more about the characters we loved. We continued to love it and we continued introducing it to other people who we knew would love it too.

 #SherlockLives because we kept him alive. Remember that the next time you consider mocking a fandom.

Friday, November 29, 2013

I am thankful for Netflix...and a few other things

A very happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrated yesterday! I hope you all had a lovely day of great food with your families.

I am thankful for quite a lot this year. I am extremely thankful for the amazing people in my life who keep me strong when the world becomes too much, and who keep me laughing when I've forgotten how to smile.

I posted on Twitter yesterday that:
Some people may have laughed about it; some may also have thought it inappropriate that on a day to be thankful I chose to spotlight my Netflix account. The fact of the matter, however, is that I truly mean it 100%. I am extremely thankful for my books and my Netflix account on a near daily basis, because they are my escape.When the world becomes too much and too loud, I am very very thankful to have the option to lock myself in my room with a cup of hot chocolate and my dear Sherlock Holmes. I am able to runaway for a little while before- or in some cases, after- my anxiety gets too high, and this makes it possible for me to calm down, to breathe, to refresh my social energies for another day. Fiction is not a luxury to me, its a mental-health requirement, and I am extremely thankful to have such easy access to this brand of anxiety medication.

I am also thankful for new found inspiration that has led me to finally start writing again. I'm afraid my goals for November have been a bit of a bust, however I still feel it was a good month because by the end of it I had a new idea I loved. Its been a long time since I felt this good about a story, and I cannot wait to see where my new friend takes me.

Lastly, I am thankful that, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am finding myself. I feel like I am learning who this person in my head is and how to be more confident as her. I've made a number of helpful discoveries and acceptances about myself recently, probably the most important being my finally accepting that I am an introvert and that's okay. I am still learning, and I still have a long way to go, but for the first time in a long time I am making real tangible progress on this journey, and for that I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Movies with Friends

I'm realizing lately that I can't watch certain movies around most other people because most other people don't love them the way I do for the reasons I do. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I honestly can't help it.

Mulan, for example. I love Mulan. I mean I really really love Mulan. I know every single word of that movie and I enjoy quoting it; its part of the experience for me. Obviously this is not something other people generally appreciate so I tend to watch this movie by myself. Its more than that though. I know Mulan. I see things in that movie most other people don't see. If you'd like an example of what I mean in long form check out my post explaining what most people miss when watching Mulan.

When I watch the movie with other people I want them to see and appreciate all the things about it that I do. I just want everyone to realize how beautiful that movie is and appreciate how amazing and flawless it is, and obviously most people don't. For most people its a childhood favorite and that's it. And that's fine. But I don't like watching it with those people because it takes away from the experience for me. I can't experience it the way I want to and I spend much of the time wondering if they caught how important that one line in the last scene was. Its just not enjoyable for me.

Do any of you have any experiences like this? Or am I just completely crazy?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Love Affair with Language

Guys, I love words. Like...I really really just love words.

I attended and presented at NCPTW (the national writing center conference) in Tampa, Fl this past weekend, and for our brief stay (and I mean 12 hours of conference for 40+ hours of van riding) I was surrounded by fellow consultants and writers and just all of these people who spend their time helping others learn to better communicate through writing; it was during this time that I realized just how badly I wish everyone shared my passion for words and how badly I wish I could encourage everyone to love writing the way I do.

Language is such a powerful force and so invaluable a tool, and yet every day I work with students who express a sheer hatred towards writing. They see it as an obstacle blocking their path towards an A in a class they wish they weren't taking; they see it as a product, a means to and end; rarely do they recognize it as a valuable form of communication. Worse, I understand why they see it this way; a quick glance through any high school curriculum offers the sad answer to that question. Students, in general, are not taught to write for writing's sake; they are not taught to love words, though some will develop this on their own. They are taught to write on the ideals of "because I said so." They are taught to write not to share their thoughts and ideas, but to have them judged. Is it really any wonder so many of them learn to cringe at first mention of writing?

If only I could show them, I think. Words. Oh gosh, words. Do you realize how many amazing, moving, beautiful, tragic, heart-breaking, life-changing stories have been written using words? I'll tell you how many: all of them. I live for stories. I take them in like oxygen and occasionally suffocate myself attempting to hold them in for too long because I just cannot bear to release them. Stories are- often quite literally- what keep me going. And I am far from extraordinary in this respect. Millions and millions of people around the world have a favorite book, television show, character; one that inspires them, makes them question the world, that they connect to personally for any number of infinite reasons. If there is anything that connects us as humans, it is our need for and love of stories.

I want to inspire the students I work with- and just about anyone else who will listen- to tell their stories; I want them to want to write because they know they have ideas worth sharing with the world. I want them to see writing not as a product for judgement, but a tool of self-expression. Everyone has a story worth telling, and everyone deserves to experience a love affair with language.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goals For November!

I'm stealing this idea from the lovely Krista McLaughlin over at :)

Things have been pretty incredibly crazy in the life of me lately for some pretty exciting reasons that I'll fill all you lovely people in on later. For right now, however, I'm super excited to be officially announcing my permanent (for realsies this time) return to the Diaries. I have been (and will continue to) work on setting up a post queue on this blog so that even when I get busy I can continue to be active here on the Diaries. Since I'm returning just at the beginning of the new month, I figured what better first post than my goals for the next month?

Write 30,000 of my WIP Memoirs of a Young Lady (working title).
I will be participating in NaNoWriMo and I would love to manage the 50,000 word goal, however I know that with final papers quickly approaching 30,000 is more realistic.

Read Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Post updates to the Diaries at least once a week (hopefully more)

Hopefully November will be a productive and successful month for me! Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo? And if so what are you planning to work on? I'd love to know!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mulan the Woman-Warrior


It seems to me that a lot of people are missing the point of the brilliant beautiful masterpiece of a story that is Mulan. So I decided to offer my own analysis of the film because I'm an English major and we get off on stuff like that. So here, my friends, I offer you my explanation of Mulan and why it is one of the most feminist-forward movies of all time ever.

Enter the first song, Honor to Us All. This song explains what role Chinese women are expected to play in society.
"A girl can bring her family great honor in one way: by striking a good match, and this could be the day."
"Men want girls with good taste. Calm, obedient, who work fast paced. With good breeding and a tiny waist, you'll bring honor to us all."
"We all must serve our emperor who guards us from the Huns. A man by bearing arms; a girl by bearing sons."
The song explains that the role of a woman is to find a good husband and do what is necessary to make him happy. The girls in this song are described as "perfect porcelain doll[s]," which furthers the idea that a women are delicate and are meant to be seen but not heard. The expectations listed in this song are all superficial; items such as strength and intelligence are not important, or even desired.

Meanwhile, while the women around her are singing about the role she is meant to play, Mulan is subtly acting outside of them throughout the song. For example, while the women sing about how a woman's biggest responsibility to the country is giving birth to sons, Mulan stops to consider a chess match between two men and makes what is clearly a brilliant move judging by the men's reactions, showing how intelligent she is.

Mulan is not very good and the "perfect bride" role she is supposed to be playing. Her matchmaker meeting is a complete disaster. She becomes deeply troubled about not being allowed to be herself, as she is restricted from doing so by the social expectations placed upon her as a woman.


Fast forward to Mulan disguising herself and running off to join the army in her father's place. (Definitely not one of the listed roles women are meant to play, just to be clear.)


So considering Mulan was not very good at the "girl" stuff, you'd think she'd probably be pretty good at the "boy" stuff, right? Not so much. Turns out, Mulan does not make a very good man.


Remember this. This is important.

Okay coming to the part of the movie that I think is the cause of much of the confusion surrounding the story: Make a Man Out of You.
"Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons?" 
"(Be a man) You must be swift as the coursing river; (be a man) with all the force of a great typhoon; (be a man) with all the strength of a raging fire; mysterious as the dark side of the moon."
Here is the song where we learn what is expected of men. To be swift, strong, and mysterious. Shang mocks his soldiers by suggesting they are daughters rather than sons, making it clear that this is a man-only territory.


A lot of the misguided posts I see stem from this song, with gifs and photosets of Mulan during it labeled "he made a man out of me."

After Mulan fails to keep up in training, Shang tries to send her home saying, "how could I make a man out of you?" This line is important because he is right. He could not, cannot, and will never be able to make a man out of Mulan. She is not a man and never will be because she is not meant to be. What she does turn out to be, however, is a damn good soldier.

When Mulan finally succeeds in reaching the arrow, showing Shang and everyone else that she is capable, she does not do it with any strength that Shang taught her, but with the smarts she already had by using the weights to her advantage.


The role that women are supposed to play is brought up again during A Girl Worth Fighting For. 
"I want'em paler than the moon, with eyes that shine like stars. My girl will marvel at my strength, adore my battle scars. I couldn't care less what she'll wear or what she looks like; it all depends on what she cooks like." 
Mulan: "How about a girl whose got a brain, who always speaks her mind(?) *resounding from the men*: "nahhh"
The men describe the type of girl they would prefer during this song. None of them offering a particular personality trait, and when Mulan suggests an intelligent woman who shares her thoughts and opinions the men all agree they do not want one of thoseOne again we see women described as merely objects to please men, silently and without thoughts or lives of their own.


Remember how smart Mulan has continuously proven herself to be? Turns out that really comes in handy when the entire Hun army is charging down towards you.

She sees the snow covered mountain and instantly recognizes her opportunity. She fires the rocket onto the mountain, starting an avalanche that swallows up the entire Hun army.



She then saves Shang's life, risking her own in the process, and does this all while injured.

Of course all good things must come to an end. Mulan is revealed while being treated for her injury.


And just like that everything she did is meaningless. The fact that she single handedly saved them from the huns and saved Shang's life turns her from hero to traitor, because a woman is not supposed to do things like that. Had Shang followed the laws she would have been killed then and there, after having saved everyone, because she dared to do it as a woman.

Fast forward to the Imperial City. The huns have captured the emperor and Shang and his men are helpless and unable to reach him. Once again Mulan's genius saves the day.

This part is probably the most important part of the entire movie. Because when she saves the day for real, she does it as a woman. She is 100% being herself. More so, the men end up cross-dressing as women in order for her plan to work. Be a Man plays in the background during this scene, as if to say the real way to be a man is for those men to give gender constrictions the big middle finger.



When Mulan saves the day she does it dressed in her normal clothes, as a girl. That, to me, really drives the point of this movie home. In the end, she did not hide herself or who she was. And it is the first time she does this throughout the entire movie. At the beginning she was pretending to be someone she wasn't in order to please her parents and play the role that society said was her's as a woman to fill. After joining the army she pretends to be a man in order to do what she knew was right. But here, at the end, she is just Mulan. She is more confident than we see her in the entire rest of the movie because she is no longer being forced to hide. She is both a woman and a wicked brilliant soldier who saves all of China.
Mulan never becomes a man; she discovers herself. She is Mulan the female warrior. She proves that women an do anything a man can do.

At the end of the movie Chi-fu still insists that Mulan "is a woman [and] will never be worth anything." He represents those people in society who, despite all evidence to the contrary, refuse to believe that women are equal to men. He is made a fool of by the emperor who suggests Mulan take his job. This should be sending a message; the people who believe women are not equal to men are foolish and ignorant.

I have also heard complaints about the fact that she ends up marrying Shang in the second movie because they feel it undermines her story. I respectfully disagree. I think it is great because it shows that women can marry and still have their own life and be their own person. Where most movies about female characters are entirely focused on her finding true love and getting married, Mulan's is about her finding herself, no longer hiding who she is in order to please society, and proving that she as a woman is equal to any man. The romance is a side-story, even in the second one where it is more prevalent. Mulan's story tells us that women can fall in love and get married without giving up their own stories.

What it comes down to is that Mulan struggled to fine her place because society said who she was was wrong. Society said she had to live a certain life because she was a woman and that was that. Mulan's is a story about fighting gender roles and societal constraints. She is a woman, always was, always will be. She never wanted to be a man; she wanted to be a woman who was free to be herself and to live the life she wanted.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This is not Hogwarts and I am not J.K. Rowling

When talking about my hopes of being an author I often joke that I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling. Most people take that to mean I'm hoping to write a series that gets as widely popular as Harry Potter did, which of course would be amazing, but that's not really what I mean when I say I want to be the next J.K.

When I think of Harry Potter I think of the whole world; the moving staircases and winding halls of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, the four houses, the horcruxes, Godric's Hollow, everything. I am repeatedly amazed by how detailed and vast the world of Harry Potter is.

I also think of the characters I fell in love with, and a few that I didn't. I think of how much I admired Hermione. I think of how much more there was to Luna than many people could see or understand. I think of how tragic the life of Severus Snape was and how strong, bold, and sassy Minerva Mcgonagall was. I think of how infuriating Malfoy was, but I remember that he was put into such a difficult position because of his father's allegiances and that it wasn't all his fault. I think of how much I loved the Weasley twins and how devastated I was when Fred was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry might have been the focus of the story, but I still got to know so many other wonderful characters throughout those seven books.

Harry Potter is more than just a story. Throughout the seven books detailing his adventures we discover a whole new world that is every bit as vivid and real as the one we live in. We meet and fall in love with so many characters and we learn so much about them; Harry is far from the only important character in the series and to be honest he isn't even my favorite one. There is no end to the places and people we are allowed to explore throughout those novels, and that is what I love. That is what I want to create. I do not want to simply write a popular book or series; I want to create a world so complete and detailed that it must be real; I want to introduce my readers to characters that will become their best friends, who will make them laugh, and cry, and scream in frustration.

I want to write books that move and touch people as deeply as Harry Potter has touched me and countless others. That is my dream. And to be honest, I sometimes get very frustrated because I feel like its simply not possible. I feel like J.K. Rowling got everything so perfectly right that no story could ever do what Harry Potter does ever again. But I have to keep believing that more stories with that same potential are out there, just waiting to be written.

What do you strive for in your writing? Do you have any authors you really look up to?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Title: The Book Thief 
Author: Markus Zusak
Pages: 576 (Paperback)
Reason for Reading: Personal Interest
Synopsis: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. so begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-[laying foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.
I'm just going to come right out with it. No words could possibly explain how much I love this book. After I finished it, I did not want to start a new one because no book felt worthy to follow it, and I did not want to lose the feeling it had left me with.

Our lovely narrator, Death, is different, clever, and does just enough to lighten the narration of so traumatic a time in history without taking away from the pain and sadness. His narration is unlike anything I have ever read, and the style is one that gives you the need to keep reading even in the times when not a whole lot is going on plot wise.

The relationship between Liesel and the other characters in the book, which is of course one of the main focuses of the story, are so raw and real. Some people you will hate, others you will love, but none of them are 2-dimensional. I felt as if I could walk down Himmel Street and recognize each and every one of them. Her friendship with Rudy never feels forced. Her complex relationship with her foster parents is both difficult and endearing to watch. And, my personal favorite, the relationship she forms with the Jew her family hides in their basement is so beautiful it brought me to tears over and over again. 

The Book Thief is a beautiful story of family, love, and friendship. It is a tale that reminds us just how powerful words truly are, and just how much books enrich the lives of those who read them. You will laugh at times and cry your eyes out at others, but I assure you, you will not be disappointed.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Sketching Novels - What I Hate About Writing

I've come to a realization about my relationship with writing.

I hate sketching. I hate the trying to just type as many words as you can to get a gross, messy sketch of a story written.

Writing is an art. And like every art nothing is beautiful the first time. There are steps to creating a work of art. If you're an artist, for example, you might start a drawing of a person with something like this:

You can tell its going to be a person, but its just a sketch. You might be able to guess if its a man or a woman by the shoulders or hips, but there is nothing really to it. No expression, facial features, nothing. Its only a sketch.

For me, I think starting a novel is a lot like this. Writing the first draft is messy and ugly. You can tell the basics, like what type of story it will be, who the main characters are, what genre it is. But my style doesn't come through when writing a first draft. I am aware while writing it that a lot of the scenes will be cut when I start revisions, just like many of those early sketch lines are erased once the details start getting added.

I don't enjoy the sketching stage. I enjoy the details. I enjoy searching for just the right word to express what it is I want to say. I enjoy delving into my characters and fleshing them out into real people that I love and hate and cry over.

The problem of course being that when I try to do all the little details and perfect words on the first try I never get anything done. That is simply not the way its meant to work, I suppose. At least not for me.

I'm fighting it the best I can, but I'm definitely already losing steam on my NaNo novel, even though I absolutely love the story I'm working on.

Speaking of Hacked, I think I'm changing a few things...okay a lot of things. For example, its a good thing I hate most of the scenes I've written since with my new plans the novel will have to be in third person and right now its in first. And it will be getting quite a bit more complex so far as my characters go, but I love interweaving character plots. I have a bit of a soft spot for them. I'm really excited to keep working on it, and I'll of course be keeping all the words I already wrote because even though I won't be keeping hardly any of them the concepts will be helpful when I start revisions. I really really like my plans for this story, even though I'm still working out most of them.

Are there any steps in your writing process that you really enjoy or despise? How do you get through the ones you don't enjoy?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Camp Nano: Week One

We are now a week into Camp NaNoWriMo and I am like 4000 words behind target. But that's okay because I have a plan. I'm shooting to write 2000 words every day. I only need to write 1700 a day to finish on time so the extra words will give me some padding in case another unexpectedly busy day appears.

I thought I'd share a little of what it is I'm working on for NaNo. It is a completely new story idea and I have to say I'm really super excited about it. Unfortunately my current synopsis doesn't give you a ton of understanding of the general plot, but it does give a pretty good idea of the world I'm working in. For now, I'll leave you with that and let you imagine where I might take it :)


For most, <WORLD> is a perfect utopia. There is no crime. There is no poverty. It is a simple, peaceful life without want or worry.
When a person turns 17 they are Tested. Their test results determine their entire future: who they will marry, their job, how many kids they will have, where the will live, everything. Once it is all decided, each person has a chip implanted into the base of their neck. This chip contains all the knowledge and skills they will need for the life they have been designated.
But sometimes the chip doesn’t take. Sometimes a person will desire a life different than what they have been assigned. These people are called Hackers. They are a threat to <WORLD>’s perfect society. And when they are discovered, they are removed.
<WORLD> is a perfect utopia. It is a simple peaceful life without want or worry. Unless, of course, you are Hacked.

I should probably mention that the city is not actually called <WORLD>...I just needed a place holder until I come up with the name.

So, are any of you busy with Camp NaNoWriMo as well? What're you all working on? I'm dying to know!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pics or it Didn't Happen...

Oh but it did! I promised you all some pictures from my trip to Turkey and I shall deliver! It really was an amazing experience and all the places we went were so cool and so beautiful. Its a great country to visit really I highly recommend anyone to visit Turkey at least once.

This is the biggest mosque in Ankara (Turkey's capital city). There's a full-blow supermarket underneath it was crazy.

The beautiful view from the ancient city of Hattusas.

I'm clearly a Hittite warrior.

100% natural calcium rock formation at Pamukkale.

The amphitheater at Hierapolis. This entire structure was buried until archaeologists discovered it and dug it up.

The beautiful ancient city of Ephesus <3

The library of Ephesus; the second greatest library of the ancient world.

The ancient city of Troy!!

The Trojan Horse from the movie, Troy :P

Inside of a caravan where silk road merchants would stay for the night. Tell me I'm not the only one who thought of Moria.

On top of what I believe was a church in the center of the caravan.

Christian place of isolation carve into the rock in Cappadocia.

Famous faerie chimneys of Cappadocia.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul!

Inside the Blue Mosque :)

The Aya Sofia - originally a Christian church and then converted into a mosque. It is now a museum.

Inside the Aya Sofia. This was one of my favorite sites of the trip. Since it was a mosque converted from a church, it is decorated with a mix of Christian and Muslim tradition and the two come together so beautifully. I can only imagine how different our world might look if the people of the two faiths could do the same.

I took over 1000 pictures on this trip so I've only shared a few high lights. It really was amazing and I had never been out of the country before so it was so exciting for me to get out and do something like that.

I'm working on returning to a normal blog schedule I just haven't decided what exactly that schedule will be so stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Breath Fiction

This is a post I made on Tumblr a few months ago and I decided it was fitting to be shared here as well:

Do you ever find something - a character in a book, a television show, anything - and find that it resonates you on such a level that it becomes a part of you and how you identify yourself?

I am an avid reader and a Netflix addict, and what these two things have in common is that they provide me not only ways of escaping reality, but new and better ways of interacting with reality.

They are my safe-havens because they allow me to interact with characters and concepts without fearing I’m being judged - something I personally struggle with.

They are a constant; something I can always turn to without fail or risk of being abandoned.

They are reflections of struggles and reminders of triumph. I may not have gone to Hell and back again like Dean Winchester, but he is a reminder that I can conquer my own demons.

They are reminders to love and forgive myself. I see how deeply Dean despises himself, how desperately The Doctor tries to run from everything he cannot forgive himself for; I constantly wish so badly to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and make them see all the amazing things they have done, all the people they have saved, all the reasons the universe is a better place because of them. When nights of self-loathing begin to close in they remind me that just because I can’t always see the things that make me amazing doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

They are reminders of just how valuable friends who truly understand and appreciate you are, regardless of how few they may be in number; consider where John and Sherlock would be if they had never found each other, or how badly the Doctor needs his companions and how carefully he selects them.

I have been laughed at and told that internalizing fiction to such an extent is unhealthy; I respectfully disagree. I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am if it were not for the beautiful things I identify myself with, and I am rather proud of who I am. As an aspiring writer, I hope I can one day create something that others identify with on such a deep level as I do my select few obsessions, and that it may help them the way mine do me.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'm Sorry...I'm So Sorry

I have been such a TERRIBLE little blogger. I said I was coming back and then nothing. Again, so terribly dreadfully sorry. I know its going to take a lot of work to get this blog back to where it was and I'm hoping you will forgive me and we can be friends again. Pretty please?

"What the hell happened to you!?" you might ask.

Welp, last semester was honestly terrible. I was so much busier than I was expecting. I ended up with 17 credits, 3 SWS classes (which means papers and lots of them) and I was trying to pass my last required semester of Japanese (which I did though I admit I'm not sure exactly how) and then I had work and was really crazy and stressful and I'm glad to be rid of it.

"But the semester ended in April, Katie. Its June. What's your excuse now, huh?!"

Okay so this excuse is a good one. I spent the Spring semester studying abroad in Ankara, Turkey. I had hoped to update this throughout the trip but
A. My macbook crapped out on me the day we got there and that was that.
B. I was so busy with class work that I legit went to class did homework and slept for most of the trip.
C. On the weekends when we didn't have class we were traveling around Turkey to all its lovely historical sites.

However, in order to make up for this awful absence of mine, I hope you will accept some absolutely beautiful photos I brought home with me.

....Okay so Facebook just hardcore crashed and I really want to get this posted so I will be making a separate post with some pictures from my trip to share with you all!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Inspiration. What?

I really just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still alive. This semester is absolutely crazy and I just haven't had the free time to sit down and write out a post. I never realize how much I miss The Diaries until I come back and visit a few of my favorite blogs. Now suddenly the A-Z Challenge is upon us and I don't even think I'll be able to participate. Granted I haven't had much to share lately. I was unable to take any writing class this year and I haven't had the time to spend on individual projects.

On a happier note, I'm slowly writing again. Ya know, between classes and homework and not sleeping. I busted out my old journal and started brainstorming a new story for Aysunadi, and I must say I'm really liking where its going. The storyline is completely different from Disinherited, but a few of the concepts and histories are remaining the same. Granted it will be a few months before I get any real time to write, but the point is the drive and inspiration is there; this is progress.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Picking a Genre

Okay so clearly one post a week is still going to be a challenge for me. I apologize if I remain a bit inconsistent for awhile. I promise to do my best!

Have any of you struggled to decide which genre you want to write in? If you hope to go the traditional publishing route - as I do - it is unlikely you will find a publisher keen on the idea of you publishing across multiple genres because it makes it more difficult to establish a stable fan base.

I love reading across multiple genres - some of my favorite books are fantasy where others are realistic fiction - so I find it difficult to pick a single genre to write in. Once you break through the wall into publishing in a specific genre you become locked into it; it becomes what everyone expects of you. You could write under a pen name in a new genre I suppose, and many others do, but something about it doesn't appeal to me.

I have a few different story ideas right now that I really love, but they are all in different genres so I am struggling to pick one to dedicate my time to. How can I pick a single genre when I love so many?

Have any of you faced this dilema?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, New Goals, New WIP

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had lovely holidays :)

One of my goals (see, I'm calling them goals this year to mix things up in hopes that I will actually stick to them..we'll see..) for the new year is to post here once a week again like I was when I first started this blog (which by the way was exactly a year and 4 days ago!!). Hopefully I can stick to this and get the Diaries back to at least partly their former glory!

I do have a new WIP for this new year! I don't have much to talk about as of yet because I'm still working out a lot of the details but I'm really excited about it. Its really different from any other ideas I've had before so hopefully this one sticks. My goal is to have at least a finished draft by the end of the year (hopefully sooner). I think I may post character backgrounds to the Diaries as the characters develop further and divulge more of their exciting lives to me; more to come!

Not much of a post for the first of the year, but I don't have much to report on my new WIP just yet so I suppose that's it for now. Be looking forward to some details about it though! I can't wait to share some snippits with you :)