5.28.2012

Alone Time?

I hate being alone.

If I were to write an autobiography, it would begin with those words. Being alone is probably my greatest fear: greater than my fear of tight spaces (which is substantial) or of heights (which is even more substantial). I suppose it's scarier because it's a different kind of a fear. It's a fear of something which I can't run away from. Myself.

I am scared of my own thoughts. Scared to be alone in a room with myself, without anything to distract me. Ever since I was little I've been this way - I was not the child who could sit and be content playing by herself. I was the high-maintenance child who constantly begged her mother to play with her.

It's because I think too much, really, and that's something that's always bothered me about my writing. I always feel so heavy when I write, like everything that I write has some deep, solemn meaning (such as this post). I run away from my thoughts, because my thoughts are usually self-critical ones. I can't just sit and think about anything. If I'm going to think, I'm going to THINK. And THINKing is exhausting. Since that's all I do when I'm alone, I don't want to be alone, because I'm afraid of getting caught inside of a funk that I won't be able to crawl out of again.

At the same time as I'm thinking and feeling too deeply, all my characters feel shallow and monotonous, because they all reflect my own feelings, instead of their own individual ones. I don't know enough about them...all the focus is on me. And my solemn thoughts make every moment of my story solemn, and the same as the moment before it.

Perhaps I don't spend enough time alone. I THINK too much, but I don't EXPERIENCE enough. I don't know anything about human nature, because I haven't learned my own feelings about different experiences. I can't write about my character experiencing something on their own, if I don't know what it feels like to be alone. What do you do, when you're alone? What do you think about? What do you see? Is the world different when there's no one there to experience it with you?

But, then again, what proof is there that something happened, if you don't have anyone to verify the experience for you?

Oh, the world is so odd.




5.24.2012

The Musings of an Alice

     Sometimes, something so significant occurs in your life, that it seems as if everyone should know about it, regardless of whether you told them. "Didn't you know?" "Didn't someone tell you?" No. They didn't. Which is why these stories must be told, at some point, even if it is told weeks after the story began.

Although the story ends
I cannot just pretend
It never happened.

In short, I was called by my director to be Alice in her production of Alice in Wonderland, though I hadn't auditioned for the show.  Surprised, flattered, honored, all of the above. I almost cried.

When things like this occur
I find myself unsure
Of whether it really happened. 
 
That was the 21st of March. Rehearsals started the following Monday (26th). The first performance was May 5th. We had a month to block the entire show, learn our lines, get/make our costumes and props, design the lights, master the background music, and build/decorate the set. The illustration below shows the result.

This is my illustration of our interpretation of the show, including costumes.
It was a wild ride, that couple weeks. The last show was May 20th, and I graduated the 5th of May (after having exams and tech rehearsals at the same time, I graduated opening night) . . . and now it's all over. But, as I said, a story must be told, even after it's already ended.

Once upon a time, a little girl named Miranda enrolled in a college, got a job, and became another little girl, all in the span of a few short weeks. This was rather overwhelming for someone so young to handle all at once, and her many adventures quite tuckered her out. Exhausted, she sat by the light of her laptop one night, and paused to sort out her mind and try to remember all the things which had happened to her.

 On Wednesday, the 21st of March,  the phone rang, and it all began. Miranda heard it from upstairs in her room, but she was trapped in the web of school, so she ignored it. Yet for some reason her ears pricked up when she heard her sister answer the phone. The director, calling for her.

"I really wanted to offer you the part of Alice..."

How could she say no?

Rehearsals until 11pm, sometimes later. Aching legs and an aching head. Blood shed onstage. Yet she would never trade any of it. The cast was eleven people, and they became as close-knit as a family. High-level-stress situations naturally form bonds between people. It's one of the great joys of showbiz, that with the stress comes a new-found family.

Opening night was fantastic, as were all three other shows. Miranda soaked every minute in, trying to savor the experience, sink into her character, relish her time onstage in Wonderland. Standing on the stage, in the dark, after the final bow, she found herself wishing that she could go back to the beginning and do it all over again. She would miss Alice. She would miss Wonderland.

And now, her life must go on. College is lurking up around the corner. Oh dear.

Hopefully it makes more sense than Wonderland. 

5.04.2012

Cap and Gown

How strange this is,
Freedom so free -
No pens or books
Consuming me.
The future looks
So big, unsure,
And full of life:
Adventure!
A 'Pirate' knife
And wild cries
From stadiums
All fill my skies.
Opprobruims
All left behind -
There's nothing now
But what I find
In all there is
In "yet to come".
And all of this
Is, after all,
To come to pass
At Seton Hall!


GO PIRATES!

 

3.07.2012

Redeemed: vision forum contest results

March 5th, 2012 (four days after the original announcement date) the winning stories for the 2012 Short Story Contest were chosen.

Unfortunately, mine was not among them.  Fortunately, that means I can now post the whole story on my blog without fear of disqualification.

(you can read the winning entries here.)

So, without further ado, here is Redeemed: a short story.  A story which I can now claim as entirely mine, without any affiliation with Vision Forum. Which, I suppose, can be one comfort amidst the tears of not winning $1,000.

 
A sharp scream split the frozen mist.
I tore my eyes away from the malicious waves battering my ship, and whirled toward the deck. My heart skipped.
     “Murdoch!” I called, sprinting from the bridge. The men in the wheelhouse jumped as I flung the door open.
“Captain!” All three of them stood.
I strode toward my First Officer. “Murdoch, what’s going on?”
He stammered, “W-what do you mean?”
“On deck! Didn’t you hear the passengers yelling?”
His mustache twitched. Of course he had.
“So why aren’t you doing anything?”
“I left men in charge…” he blurted.
“I put YOU in charge! Do you see what’s happening out there?”
All three men turned and stared out the window. Murdoch looked up reluctantly.
The deck teemed like a disturbed anthill, erupting with a mob of Third Class Passengers, feverishly rushing to escape the sinking ship. Pale-faced men sprinted back and forth, or else bickered with each other, hollering curses. Women and children huddled like frightened sheep, herded toward the lifeboats by the deckhands.
And only one lifeboat remained.
“Do you see the problem now, Murdoch?”
He looked down.
A woman’s cry split the air again, shrieking from the lifeboat which had just been released. Then another, younger cry joined hers.
“Mama!”
Somehow, the cry of the little girl leaning over the ship-rail echoed louder than the men’s bickering. My heart skipped again. A tiny blonde head flashed against the black waves, a tiny pale hand grasped desperately for the other nineteen lifeboats now drifting away.
“Mother!”
I tore my eyes away and stepped toward Murdoch.
“Were all the lifeboats full?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, Captain. I was following your orders. Women and children first.”
I clenched my jaw. “And were the lifeboats full of women and children, Murdoch?”
He was silent.
I turned and left the wheelhouse.
Down the stairs at full-speed, I rushed into the teeming anthill, elbowing my way past the bickering men; as if by saving the little blonde girl I could make everything right.
Sarah’s face kept flashing before my eyes. Oh, how I missed her. Oh, how I had wronged her…
But if I could only save this girl…
     Her little body looked so lost against the backdrop of the treacherous sea. She cowered under her heavy coat, clutching a doll like a lifeline in one arm, stretching the other arm as far as she could over the ship-rail. But she was silent now.
She had given up calling. Her mother was already drifting away.
     I ignored the chaos around us, strode across the deck, and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped, almost dropping her doll in shock.
     I knelt down next to her. She just looked at me with solemn eyes.
“Is your mother out there?” I gestured to the water.
She evaluated me, then nodded.
“I can help you.”
Biting her lip, she nodded again.
I grinned and stood.
And then I realized that the chaos around us was the loading of the last lifeboat.
Passengers surged toward us like a stampede of terrified cattle. The deckhands passed out lifejackets frantically, shouting at the top of their lungs, “Women and children first! All men have to wait, women and children first!”
Only a handful of lifejackets remained.
I grasped the little girl’s hand. “Come here, quickly!”
Then I swung her up into my arms. Signaling to the man distributing lifejackets, I sprinted to where passengers were loading.
“Captain Smith?”
“Yes, Roberts. I need a lifejacket.”
The deckhand glanced at the girl huddled in my arms and nodded.
“Here. But there’s not much room left.”
I took it and stepped away, setting the girl down on the deck. Then I looked her in the eyes.
“You have to put this jacket on, all right?”
No response.
“If you put this jacket on, I can put you in that boat, and you can get safely to your mother. Do you understand me?”
Her lost little eyes widened, but she nodded all the same.
A man’s infuriated bellowing exploded behind me.
“What do you mean, you’ve given out the last one?”
I stood and spun around.
A sallow-face man, his expression like a mad bull, had pinned the deckhand Roberts against the ship-rail and tried to send him over the side. I lunged and grabbed his elbow, pulling him away, but he wrenched himself out of my grip.
“I told you!” Roberts bellowed back, “That was the last jacket, and it should go to a lady, not to a sniveling drunkard!”
The sallow man charged, but I grabbed him and held him.
“I deserve that jacket, can’t you see? That woman was old, decrepit, useless! I’m a brilliant, productive man! Why should I be the one to die?”
I threw him back, onto the deck. He sprang to his feet. Then he saw what I was holding, and his eyes lit up like fireworks.
“Ah! Saving a jacket for yourself, were you, Captain?”
I sneered. “Never. This is hers.”
He looked down at the girl who peeked out from behind my legs.
“What good is it to her?” With a snarl, he leapt forward and grabbed it. I growled and held on, but my stomach felt sick. In his enraged eyes, I saw a reflection of myself. All the things I had said, the night before I boarded the Titanic, when Sarah had begged me to stay home; things for which Sarah could never forgive me…
If only I could save this girl…
I yanked the jacket back, pushed the man away, and knelt down to put it on the girl. “Ignore him, little one. Let me get this on you.”
Behind me, the man growled. Then he lunged.
Knocking me backward, he tore the jacket from the girl’s back, sending her flying to the deck. Before I pushed myself to my feet, he threw it over his own shoulders, and leapt into the lifeboat.
“We’re all on board!” he hollered. “Lower the boat!”
“Wait!” Murdoch called, bursting out of the wheelhouse, a bright white lifejacket in one arm. “Captain!”
I spun around. “Murdoch?”
“Captain, this is yours!”
He handed me the lifejacket. I just stood. The little girl ran over to me and clutched my leg.
“W-why?” I stammered. “Shouldn’t this be the passengers’?”
Murdoch looked down. “The men all agreed. You should be safe. Get back to your wife and daughter. Besides…” he faltered, “It was partially my fault. The lifeboats not being full, I mean.”
I looked around at my men, and they smiled resolutely back at me.
I couldn’t bear their loyalty. Not after I had been so heartless to the one woman in my life who deserved all of my loyalty and love. My men were putting me first, but I hadn’t put her before myself.
I had denied my responsibility as a man: to protect.
I glanced down at the little girl. My chance to make things right. Then I knelt, and slipped my jacket over her head.
My smile was tainted by tears.
I would go down with my ship. Redeemed.
But Sarah would never know.

 SHORT story. Hehe.
An interesting aside: I've been reading a lot of short stories over the past month - Hemingway, Hawthorne, Joyce, Maupassant, Crane, Melville, Poe - and I have come to realize how many works of astounding, influential literature are contained in the short story. The turn of phrase, the subtle descriptions, the hidden message under the action of the story. 

Short stories are brilliant authors trying to make a point. It's how artists argue.

I've also realized that I have a really difficult time sitting in my room alone for hours to write a novel - I'm a gregarious person, and there's nothing I can do about that. I can't even sit up there doing schoolwork for very long before I have to come downstairs and see people. So in recent months I've found my creativity languishing.

But I still love writing, and I still want to write. I just can't do it for large chunks of time without risking going into shock when I finally walk out of my room ("There are PEOPLE in my house!?!?!"). 

Maybe I should take up the short story. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of "points" I want to make. I'm an arguing artist, for sure (thought, not a brilliant one). Maybe I can learn how to be under Hemingway's tutelage.

1.26.2012

Further Into the Brainstorm . . .

. . . and never mind the whipping winds and whirling whirlpools, the sheets of rain, and the frosty gale that seems to tear the skin from your face!

The unfortunate thing about brainstorming is that I can share very little without giving a lot away. Thus, it is difficult to write a blog post about my specific brainstorm. As I mentioned before, I have been thinking a lot about Torrson . . . and yes, I have written the first words of my re-imagined novel. These, at least, I can share:
      Torrs√łn detested the cold. It reminded him how long he had been waiting. And taunted him with the prospect of waiting any longer.       
      Sitting with his back to the wind, he pulled his stiff nobleman's jacket tighter around him, but the frills did nothing to block out the biting frost. His nose was red as his frozen fingers, he was sure of it, and dripping with his inner mucus. He wiped it desperately on his sleeve. It would not do for the novice steward to have a runny nose. 
      Growling at the cold that persisted to stab him through the flimsy court fabric, he stood with a flourish and began pacing, as if by plodding back and forth he could run away from the frost.
My notebook in which I had begun, moths previously, to jot down notes about this re-imagination, has begun to fill up with pages of tight scripted notes. Specifying character's relationships, outlining their backgrounds, detailing their evil plots, listing their names . . .

And, of course, with all this comes the character sketches. Drawing my characters always re-inspires me, and it gives me a concrete face to gravitate to when I'm writing about them. (Does anyone else feel this way?) I have their personality inside my head, and I could write it out in words if I really tried. But somehow, in the raw early stages of their development, their personality more easily pours out of my drawing pencils than from my fingers on the keyboard.



With all the intricacy of the storyline in this particular character novel - political intrigue, plots and coups, intertwines relationships and devastating scandals (intrigued yet?) - I've decided to try a new method of brainstorming/organizing. The Bulletin Board.

This concept has both excited me and scared me ever since I first heard of it. I'm not sure if writing plot points on index cards, pinning them on a board, shuffling them around, lining them parallel to each other, adding things, and taking things away, will be an effective way for me to organize my thoughts. But I have yet to truly try.

"No time for idle talk! Back to work, you scalawags! Don't you know there's a storm a-brewin'? There she blows!"

1.16.2012

Contest Cancelation And A Brainstorm

 I'm sorry to inform you that, due to a general lack of interest, the January Poetry Imitation Contest has been canceled.

Since no one has commented about my contest voicing their intention of entering, and since my schedule was a little crazier than I had anticipated (sudden, unpredictable inspiration) I decided to save this contest for a better time.

However, I still intend to do a post on Imitation (since imitation has been such a major proponent of my writing and the formation of my style of prose); and I would still like to do a contest in the future. But, for now, these things will have to wait.
In the meantime . . .

I have recently discovered how much telling other people about my novel both excites and inspires me. Along with a whole slew of ideas for the second draft of my manuscript, several long conversations about my ideas have propelled me forward into a whirlwind of frantic brainstorming and note-taking and drafting.

HURRAY.

The original draft of 'Enslaved' will always remain as it is. It's my baby - I can't bear to rip it apart until it's unrecognizable. However, I've been mulling over the idea of writing a character novel for quite some time, and my character Torrson has been nagging me about telling his story. He knows he's the one genuine character that burst out of my imagination. Of all the characters I have ever written, he's the one who wrote himself. He escaped from my brain and rampaged across the pages of my manuscript. Now he wants to take over completely.
 
I love his back-story. It's interesting enough to be it's own book.


Hmm.

 A character novel/political thriller in third person that slowly transforms into an adventure novel and ends in a crazy transition to a different character's first-person showdown?

Hmm . . .  
 

1.03.2012

Submitted!

What a joy to log onto my email and see these words:
Thank you for submitting an entry to the 2012 Catalog Essay Contest!
We are grateful for your participation.
Your essay will be reviewed shortly, and a winner will be announced on March 1, 2012.
Now, all I have to do is wait.

I know that I promised to post the full story once the deadline for the contest had passed. However, it was recently brought to my attention that doing so may disqualify me from the contest. Vision Forum was unclear about who holds the rights to my story (they have the right to publish it, etc); so, in order that I may not be disqualified before my story is even read, I will only be posting snippets of the story.

However, if I place First or Honorable Mention (*fervently crosses fingers*) , then Vision Forum will post my story on their website. If I am among the winners, I will be sure to link to their site so you can read the whole story.

For now, here are some more snippets:

A sharp scream split the frozen mist.
I tore my eyes away from the malicious waves battering my ship, and whirled toward the deck. My heart skipped.
“Murdoch!” I called, sprinting from the bridge. The men in the wheelhouse jumped as I flung the door open.
“Captain!” All three of them stood.
I strode toward my First Officer. “Murdoch, what’s going on?”
He stammered, hesitating. “W-what do you mean?”
“On deck! Didn’t you hear the passengers yelling?”
His mustache twitched. Of course he had.
“So why aren’t you doing anything?”
“I left men in charge…” he blurted.
“I put YOU in charge! Do you see what’s happening out there?”
All three men turned and stared out the window. Murdoch looked up reluctantly.
The deck teemed like a disturbed anthill, erupting with a mob of Third Class Passengers, feverishly rushing to escape the sinking ship. Pale-faced men sprinted back and forth, or else bickered with each other, hollering curses. Women and children huddled like frightened sheep, herded toward the lifeboats by the deckhands.
And only one lifeboat remained.
“Do you see the problem now, Murdoch?”
He looked down.
And now to spoil the ending:
I looked around at my men, and they smiled resolutely back at me.
I couldn’t bear their loyalty. Not after I had been so heartless to the one woman in my life who deserved all of my loyalty and love. My men were putting me first, but I hadn’t put her before myself.
I had denied my responsibility as a man: to protect.
I glanced down at the little girl. My chance to make things right. Then I knelt, and slipped my jacket over her head.
My smile was tainted by tears.
I would go down with my ship. Redeemed.
But Sarah would never know.
(However, considering the historical fact that Captain Edward Smith did, in fact, sink with his ship, the end is already spoiled. The surprises are all in the middle, and I didn't spoil any of those.)

Now, one announcement before I go. There will, in fact, be a contest this month:

The theme? IMITATION
 
The Assignment? To write a poem of at least 100 lines in imitation of a specific poem selected from one of the masters (E. Poe, H. Longfellow, R. Frost).

There will be a forthcoming post on Imitation, along with an example 'imitation poem'. After that  the formal Contest Announcement will be posted (along with the deadline and description of the prize), and then
AWAY TO YOUR PENS!

And, UNTIL then . . . well . . . away to your pens, I suppose!