Update

Update

Hello, everyone. I realize it’s been awhile. I honestly have no good explanation as to why.

I’ve been working on the novel with Vivien, whose name is now Cora. I’m entirely rewriting the thing. Of course, I haven’t deleted anything of the old version. I’m keeping it. I worked hard on it, and I don’t want to just throw it away. There’s some decent stuff in there, too. Besides, I read somewhere – I think it was Gail Carson Levine, the author of one of my favorite books from my childhood, Ella Enchanted – that you should never throw away anything you write.

So, I haven’t abandoned the almost fifty pages I had written already. I’m just rewriting the story. There was some lazy storytelling in the original, anyway. A hint to some vital information was revealed in a dream, which is quite possibly the laziest way of revealing information there is. Dreams themselves are not necessarily evil in writing, but they are typically a show of laziness or lack of imagination in the writer.

I’m also rewriting the novel from a different point of view. It’s completely changed my style of writing the thing, I think for the better. I’m about twenty pages along, and not as far in the story, but I also think that is for the better. There are scenes in the original that I always knew to be unnecessary, and I’ve added others that I think are much more pertinent.

Hopefully the story, as yet untitled, will not be complete garbage. I’m inclined to think it won’t be, but that could be my ego talking. I know the writing of the rewrite is good, at least, if the story is not necessarily genius. I will finish it, though. I must finish it. I must see it through, if only to get the idea out of my head entirely.

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Chicago and Aloneness

A few weekends ago, thanks to the immense generosity of a friend, I flew to Chicago. I was there for two reasons: to visit my generous friend, and to visit the boyfriend, who was passing through the city with work. Of course, seeing the two of them was the best part of the trip. But there was another part that I found profoundly enjoyable.

One day, while Ben was at work, I took an Uber from the hotel to the nearby train station, bought myself a one-day pass, and figured out how to get downtown. To be fair, it was a pretty straight shot, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. After wasting some time and no money in Sephora, I walked to Michigan Avenue. I ducked out of the cold and the misty rain into the lobby of a building, and rode its elevator to the American Writers Museum.

The American Writers Museum takes up the second floor of the building where it is housed, and it is delightful. Though the merchandise is at the entrance, it is shunted off to the corners on either side of the sales/information desk. I found that refreshing, because it showed that making money is not the primary reason for the institution. So many museums have huge gift shops, and I cannot blame them for this, as most museums and galleries are not-for-profit institutions and run on donations. But the fact that that wasn’t pushed down the throat of the visitor at the American Writers Museum was refreshing.

The American Writers Museum is every bit as delightful as any writer or aspiring writer could desire. The museum exhibits are arranged around the perimeter of the floor of the building, with the visitor arriving at the entrance upon completion of the circuit. There is a room decorated in the art of classic American children’s books, including The Wizard of Oz, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and Charlotte’s Web. The museum then moves to a timeline of great American authors. There is a room with books and chairs with informative plaques on the walls, which leads into my favorite room of all: the room full of typewriters. That exhibit allows for the visitor to load some paper into any of the typewriters and type and write away, which I did, for about half an hour, probably to the chagrin of my fellow visitors.

The pleasantest part of my visit to downtown Chicago and the American Writers Museum was the fact of my aloneness. I answered to no one, and no one answered to me. There is a responsibility that companions have to one another, whether they want to or not. Though no one wants to admit they sway the way another moves through space and time, they do, intentionally or unintentionally. If I had been to the museum with Ben or my friend, I would have felt an obligation to them – to keep up, to examine what they examined, perhaps to rush – through no fault or design of their own. They would have felt the same obligation to me, though I would ardently desire them not to be affected by my presence at all. But it was lovely to soak in what I wanted to, to rush past what did not interest me (though this did not really happen in this instance), and to have a long and rich conversation with myself completely in my head, and choose whether or not to talk to someone else. I spent most of my visit in silence, and it was delicious not to make noise for such a long stretch.

If you’re wondering, I cannot recommend the American Writers Museum enough. I recommend it for everyone, but for writers especially. What I left with was two things: a keychain (hey, I loved my visit and wanted a memento, okay), and a renewed desire to write. Not necessarily to write my masterpiece, but to write and practice so that one day, the masterpiece might be written. I’d like to be in some museum someday, I think. And the way to get there is practice.

Unintelligible

Unintelligible

Since I got to UNCG, I’ve intended to submit some writing or photography to the Coraddi, the on-campus student-run literary and art magazine. I picked one up at the festival on Tate street this past weekend, and just sat down and raced my way through it. But now that I’ve consumed the whole thing, I’m rethinking the submission.

Almost all the art in the magazine was excellent, whether copies of student-made paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, or what-have-you. Much of the writing chosen to publish was in the form of poems. Note that I used that phrase, rather than the loaded word “poetry.” I don’t wish for anyone to mistake my meaning.

Now, let me preface this by saying there is some fine work in the magazine I just finished perusing. There is a story depicting dementia that is touching without being cheesy, interesting without being exploitative, and accurate, as accurate as is possible. My favorite writer who was featured in the magazine, whom I cannot locate online but to whom I would like to give a shoutout, had two pieces in this fall 2016 edition. Because I do not have this person’s permission to use their name, I will just name the titles of the pieces: “Young American Dragons,” and “Young Women Grow like Weeds.” They were sparse in the amount of words, but each word was clearly carefully chosen. The imagery was gorgeous, the subjects appropriate for a college student writer beginning to think not more deeply about things, but to take ownership of these deeper themes and ingratiate them into the self.

However, these three instances were outliers, as I was not impressed with most of the written work in this edition. As I said before, the vast majority of the published written submissions were poems, but this does not mean they were poetry. Now, before you accuse me of being a purist, an old-fashioned English major snob, let me inform you that some of my favorite poetry in the world is free-verse, or at least does not rhyme. Much of the poetry in the first issue of the 119th volume of the Coraddi was free verse, but this was not the problem. The problem was that it was mostly composed of phrases, completely unrelated not only to each other, but also from descriptor to object. This is fine when done well, and/or for a purpose. But it seemed in the majority of these cases that these poems were attempts to seem artistic or brilliant or innovative, when they were, truly, none of the above. They were chaotic and unintelligible.

Of course, there were simple grammatical and spelling errors, easily found and easy to fix. I can’t imagine why any existed, as the magazine is published only twice a year. It would seem to me that would be plenty of time to correct grammatical and spelling errors, especially when it comes to the names of the authors or artists. Hopefully this is now much less of an issue, as the Coraddi is no longer published in print, but rather is entirely online.

What do you think? Should I submit to the on-campus literary and art magazine? Would it help me professionally? Leave a comment down below!

 

Shallow Is Important, Too

I feel there is a pervasive school of thought that believes that people should only nourish their deeper selves. While it is important to nourish the finer thoughts and feelings one has, it is also important to nourish the shallower parts of the person.

For example: you aren’t with your partner (if you have one) simply because they look a certain way – at least I hope you aren’t – and you aren’t with them simply because they have a lot of things in common with you. You’re hopefully with your partner because you not only find in them a good, compatible friend, but also a physically attractive human being. It’s important to have things in common and to get along with your significant other. It’s also important to be attracted to them physically. Does being with your significant other because you’re both attracted to them (shallower) and compatible with them (deeper) make you shallow or deep? It makes you both – you can be both! You are a multifaceted, multilayered human being. Both these things – physical attraction and compatibility – are important to maintain a happy relationship.

In another vein, it’s okay to enjoy things that aren’t necessarily “of substance.” The idea that only books or movies or what-have-you that are exigent is an old one. Victorians looked down on novel readers, because novels typically didn’t have a point other than to entertain. But that’s okay. It’s okay to like things that don’t teach you some kind of lesson! It’s okay to like things that are just fun – you’re allowed to have fun! Things that are just fun, or pretty, or entertaining, are good and valid too.

So, it’s okay read Dostoevsky, but it’s also okay to read a romance novel, or two or three. You are a multilayered, multifaceted human being. Don’t just attend to one part of your being and starve another. This goes both ways: don’t starve your deeper self to feed the more shallow part of the self, and don’t starve your more shallow self because you think it doesn’t need nourishment. It does.

Go read War and Peace, or US Weekly. Watch Citizen Kane or Pitch Perfect. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, or go swimming. Do what makes your soul happy, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

15 Facts about Me!

15 Facts about Me!
  1. I am a synesthete. (See earlier post on synesthesia.) My favorite color is cerulean blue. To me, the color represents joy and excitement, and the warmth and relaxation of the beach.
  2. Starting from a very young age, I was obsessed with the Titanic. I even met Bob Ballard and got his signed book (thanks mom!). To this day, I am still captivated by it, and Titanic the Musical is one of my favorites.
  3. My maternal great-grandparents came from Mariglianella, Italy, in the 1920s. My dad’s family has been in the U.S. for a long time, and they are mostly German-American. My dad’s surname is an Americanization of a German surname. Last Christmas my dad gave my sister and me a gift that proves we are Daughters of the American Revolution!
  4. I am a natural blonde. Until I was fifteen my hair turned almost white every summer. Also, my mother refused to do anything past trimming my hair for the first seven years of my life. I guess she couldn’t bear to cut the long, white-blonde curls.
  5. I am a lyric coloratura soprano. I studied vocal performance at Elon University for almost two years under Beth Carter’s instruction. I have sung in the Kennedy Center twice, and Carnegie Hall once, both times in choirs.
  6. I have broken my fifth metatarsal in each foot – on separate occasions, first in 2013 and the other in 2017.
  7. I love flowers. My favorite are pale pink peonies, though I also love roses, daisies, tulips, magnolia, cosmos, anemone, and hydrangea. (Thanks dad, for always bringing in your flowers from the yard.)
  8. My favorite book is the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, though I haven’t read every page since the first read-through, because I learned which chapters I can skip. Les Miserables is also my favorite musical.
  9. I love to cook and bake, especially with unconventional combinations. One of my favorites is blackberry, ginger, and dijon on chicken, or chili powder on butternut squash.
  10. I love big band swing. I used to love the WAMU radio show, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” and looked forward to it every week, before it was cancelled.
  11. I’m currently in love with the TV show The Bold Type, which airs on Freeform. I love that it depicts strong female characters who support each other and lift each other up and make each other better people.
  12. On October 3rd, I will have been in a relationship with the love of my life for three and a half years. He is handsome, charming, funny, hard-working, supportive, loving, adorable, and crazy intelligent. He makes me a better me.
  13. My best friend and I have been best friends our entire lives. I cannot say enough good things about her, ever. She is beautiful, smart, strong, utterly hilarious, and quirky.
  14. I want to learn to crochet. I know how to knit (badly), but I’m told crochet is easier. It certainly looks more interesting.
  15. When I was a kid, I collected foreign coins. Friends and family heard about this, and assisted me in my collecting whenever they came back from overseas. Some of the coins are from countries that no longer exist, and I have no idea how many countries all these coins are from.

Synesthesia

Synesthesia

Synesthesia. A word a surprising amount of people have heard, but many do not understand.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the word synesthesia comes from the Greek syn- and aesthesis, meaning “union” and “sensation,” respectively. Its figurative translation means “to perceive together.”

Synesthesia is, by definition, a sense impression made on one part of the body or on one sense that is produced by stimulus to a separate sense or body part. To simplify, synesthesia can be thought of as a “crossing over” of senses.

Synesthesia is not a disease, nor is it a hallucination. It is a genetic biological phenomenon, unlearned, more common in females than males. It is believed that one in every 2,000 people are synesthetes, the term used for those individuals with synesthesia. Famously, Vladimir Nabokov is reputed to have been a synesthete.

There is a widely-accepted theory that synesthesia is caused by a genetically driven overabundance of neurons in the brain. Synesthetes tend to be musical, artistic, and/or good at spelling and history. The musicianship and artistic abilities come from the lives of synesthetes being, for the most part, saturated with color. The enhanced spelling and history ability come from these colors, too. If the colors of the letters or numbers are amiss, the synesthete can more easily locate mistakes and fix them.

I myself have synesthesia. Mine manifests in the form of letters and numbers having colors, genders, and personalities, especially numbers under ten. I also “see” music. Music usually looks to me like colors, sometimes shapes, and occasionally scenes, like paintings.

The way synesthesia works for me is that I see that letters in a book are black. I know the ink is black; I see the ink is black. But in my mind’s eye, the place where one visualizes things, (for example, memories) the letters each have their own colors. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, because the words become tiny paintings comprising a larger, more beautiful whole.

My favorite words because of my synesthesia and the colors of its provides are “beautiful,” “meadow,” “dinosaur,” and “bride.” My favorite pieces of music are Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” which is deep blue and speckled with silver, with moments of the palest yellow. I also love “By a Sleepy Lagoon” by Eric Coates, which is peach and sky blue and green. The letter “A” is red, “I” is a pale ice blue with a tiny tint of lavender, and the letter “T” is forest green. They are that way because they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known a time when those letters didn’t have those colors.

Synesthesia varies from person to person. The colors of my alphabet, while they largely conform to those of most English-speaking synesthetes, vary slightly from that alphabet. My sister and my father have synesthesia as well, and their alphabets differ from mine, with some similarities. We get into joking fights about what color certain letters are.

I wouldn’t trade my synesthesia for anything. It literally makes my life more colorful. It makes music and reading more interesting and delightful. I’ve never lived without it, and I wouldn’t like to. If you’d like to know what color your name is, comment below, and I’ll let you know!

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Siri. (March 2001). Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.aspx

Harrison, J.E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (Eds.) (1996). Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

 

General Update

*Slinks up to the microphone* Hello . . .

I have completed the first summer session of classes and am well into the second. I’ve been working as a nanny since April, as well. In between I’ve been reading, reading, reading.

I’ve been reading Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher (I love you forever, Space Mom) and Ellen Herrick’s The Forbidden Garden. I’ve also been continuing with Stephen King’s On Writing, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and rereading Rilla of Ingleside – I’m always somewhere in the Anne series at any given moment.
I’m going to pick up The Sun Also Rises, as well. I bought myself a handsome copy of it at my favorite used bookstore, Ed McKay’s. I hated The Sun Also Rises in high school, because I had read The Old Man and the Sea too young (seventh grade) and hated it, so I decided to hate Hemingway on principle. Honestly, this view of mine didn’t change until I read A Moveable Feast for the first time. How can one, upon reading about Paris in the 1920s, not fall in love with anyone writing about it when they’ve lived it? And so, I fell in love with Hemingway.