Between the election and some particularly terrible personal stuff that’s been going on, it’s been a rather craptastic couple of weeks. I haven’t had the time to get all of my writing and house chores/baby prep done, but when I have moments I find myself lying sideways on the bed, staring at the wall. But even as I sink into these moods that range between heart-twisting sadness and an echoing emptiness, there are some things that cheer me up and lift me out.Read More »
This idea came from author Gail Carriger’s blog, where she listed the fandoms that turned her into the nerdy/geeky/dorky person she is today. This encouraged me to think back and remember my own nerdy origins. This may not be everything, but these are the things that distinctly stick out for me.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. My brother and I were oft punished for our epic battles, but one thing guaranteed we’d sit in the same room at peace: children’s action shows. We owned crates of action figures and play sets, would race into the living room to make sure the TV turned on at the proper time, and yelled at the screen in tandem when unimportant garbage like severe weather warnings interrupted the important plot. These shows, along with a lot of others, got me hooked on plot-based character-driven stories with multi-episode continuity where I was heavily, emotionally invested in the outcome. (Power Rangers is also the first example of a show I quit because they axed a favorite character. No Kimberly, no Angela.)Read More »
Two weeks from today, I’ll be on an airplane, starting a vacation with my husband and his family to Disney World. We went there two years ago for our honeymoon, and before that took a trip with our friends in college.
I’m lucky in that most of the people I talk to get excited about the idea of going to Disney World, too, but there are a handful of people who have a look that slips over their face, even if only for a moment, even if they don’t voice the opinion I’m sure ringing in their heads: You’re an adult–why are you going there?
And I get it. Disney World is a manufactured place; there are cartoon characters slapped everywhere, including on the food; we don’t have kids, and there are some rides and experiences that are kind of useless without munchkins; it’s expensive, and there are so many other places we could possibly go. As far as I’m concerned, none of that matters.
First of all, Disney is not simply a kid’s place. Epcot’s World Showcase is the best example of that, with stores, shows, music, and food from different cultures. And this year we’re going for the Food and Wine Festival (“wine” being emphasized for I hope obvious reasons).
I also love the food. Again, there’s the Food and Wine Festival, at which I plan on eating conch salad, mussels, and some amazing dessert called a berliner, but there are fun, really delicious treats in the candy shops, really excellent and delicious restaurants in all of the parks (and some of the hotels), worldwide snacks in the Showcase stores, and just your basic–but really well done–fair food, like Mickey pretzels, turkey legs, and funnel cake.
There are the animals. Obviously Animal Kingdom is the place to find the best ones, with tigers and the like in really excellent enclosures, not horrible tiny depressing cages. One of my favorite rides in all the parks is the Safari, because you can get really close to things like giraffes or baby rhinos (!!!) and it brings up a lot of admiration for Disney’s crew, figuring out how to keep the predators separate without making it at all obvious. But there are also the birds wandering around every park, egrets and ibises in the waterways, ducks standing by the fence waiting for me to drop my snack. I love them all.
Disney World makes you feel special. I know the cast members are supposed to smile, but it still feels nice to have someone happily greet you whenever you enter a park or a shop or a hotel. They do special things, like the housekeeping staff that put the Mickey and Minnie dolls my friends and I had bought in a romantic pose in the window, or the guy who gave my husband and me free ice cream on our honeymoon. And a lot of them seem genuinely excited about their jobs when you talk to them, not just ask them for something.
But mainly, I like to go to Disney World because I see no problem with wanting to have the same kind of fun you expect a little kid to seek out. I want to go on rides, I want to eat a candy apple shaped like the Cheshire Cat, I want to wear a pair of ears and run around in a Frozen T-shirt. I want to have unabashed delight in “immature”, goofy things, and Disney World is good for that kind of trip.
Also we’re going to Universal Studios so, you know, Harry Potter.
Do you like Walt Disney World? What kind of vacation do you like to take where you are free to be a crazy fan?
I plan to post pictures of food, fireworks, and squirrels eating my churros, so follow my Twitter to catch my favorite shots.
Bonus! Another Youtuber I like, T. Michael Martin, has his own video about loving Disney World, and he touches on a lot of my own reasons for loving it that I couldn’t figure out how to articulate here. So if you need more proof (or you like to gush about Disney World) check that out.
This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. I love going out on that day. An excuse to go to a comic shop, free reading materials, and the wonderful obligation to buy books to counter all the free stuff I’m taking off the shelf. Ah, bliss.
There’s one other thing I’ve really started to enjoy seeing each year: the families. Not just a mom or dad being dragged to various comic shops by their too-young-to-drive kid, but whole units, parents and kids, making their way through the shop together. Dad’s got his Superman hat on, Mom’s sporting a Green Lantern tee. Even baby’s decked out in a Batman onesie. And it’s not (just) awkward parents forcing their hobby on their children, these are families that each enjoy comics to their own degree, in their own way, so Free Comic Book Day becomes an outing that the whole family can enjoy, that they can bond over.
My husband and I are awkward nerds. Chances are, we will one day have an awkward nerd baby. So, it makes me happy for my future that families can get together and have fun with their shared passion, as happy and as normal as anything else you’d expect families to do.
On the middle finger of my right hand, there’s a nice big callous at the first knuckle. This is where I hold my pen, where the plastic casing presses into my skin and bone as I frantically scribble out an idea before it vanishes like smoke.
This callous has sat there, simultaneously bumped and dented, for a long time, at least since middle school when I really began to write. I’ve always been oddly proud of it: aside from the piled notebooks, it’s an outward sign of what I do.
I thought I was the only one aware of this self-inflicted mark. Then one day, back in middle school, on the bus, a girl I didn’t talk to much (she was likely in the popular, extroverted group) pointed it out to me. “That means that you write a lot. That’s cool.”
This may have been the first time someone outside of my normal, insular life identified me as a writer. It was strange, shocking; I’d thought it was all in my head. But it wasn’t just a part of my inside world. To the world outside of me, I was a writer, someone with stories, who couldn’t stop putting them down. And she was right — that was pretty cool.
I open my freshly checked out library book and prop it flat on the table. A few pages in, a chocolate stain appears, like a light thumbprint smeared across the words. Disgusting, I should think, annoying that someone should be so careless.
But I’m too absorbed in the words. Absently I eat my brownie, flicking crumbs off the stain and away from the crease of binding and paper, giving the book a light cleansing shake before returning to the story, and my snack. I think I’ll like this book.
There’s a snow storm happening, and I’m pleased as punch. I love the insulating feeling of the snow all around, the guilt-free knowledge that I actually can’t go anywhere today (even though I probably wasn’t) and the free pass I feel I have to wrap my afghan around me like a poncho and read on the couch.
But unfortunately, as snowstorms do, this messes me up a little. Not in a terrible way — I’ve got a roof, food, as well as blankets and flashlights a plenty. No, my only issue is that I can’t go to my 9:00 am Wednesday Bikram Yoga class.
This is a non-issue, I’m totally aware. These classes are every day, several times. I can just go Thursday before work, easy-peasy. And I will. But it’s not my habit. For months, maybe a full year, I’ve been going to yoga Wednesday morning once a week, unless extra work or an absence from town prevented me. And I haven’t even skipped for more than an extra half a week in a long time since my body’s sort of become addicted to sweating buckets. I used to do either Wednesday or Thursday depending on my mood, but not since I started working Thursday afternoons. So basically, I’m used to doing yoga on this specific day, and changing it up almost makes me more uncomfortable than skipping an entire week.
I’m gonna bring this back to writing now, since that’s sort of what this blog is about. I mentioned in my last post that something that makes me feel unproductive is that I can generally only get real writing done in the morning. Over the past few years, writing in the morning has become a deeply ingrained habit. So, when something comes up that interrupts morning writing time, I kind of flail around and feel uncomfortable, like I had an important task but I missed my window. But maybe I didn’t miss my window, maybe it just moved to a different time, but because it wasn’t the time I told myself is right, I let it slide by again.
Habits are good for writing, and for yoga. It gets me used to doing something specific for a certain period of time, so even when I’m having a bad writing day (or a bad yoga day) I still sit down on the chair (mat) and write (sweat) it out, and come out feeling great. I just have to remind myself that sometimes, there are snow storms that won’t work around my habits, so if I don’t want to lose my momentum I have to step out of my comfort zone and get my stuff done in the time that’s granted me, even if it’s not ideal.
When I think back on it, I’ve been writing for a long time. In my earliest memory of piecing a story together, I was maybe five. I put together a little picture book — probably autobiographical, I recall the main character having brown hair — in my grandmother’s house. Someone allowed me to man the stapler, and when assembling the book I managed to punch one right into my fingertip. I don’t remember the particular pain, just that there was a bunch of it, and that either my grandmother or aunt had to hold my hand over the bathroom sink while they pried out the curled up staple. I don’t know what happened to the book.
In third grade I was part of a two person team with my friend who came up with a picture book series about a robot. I’d come up with the words, while she drew and colored in what I remember to be neat and brightly colored illustrations.
There was also the story book program on my family’s old Mac, which let me put in words under illustrations I built from what was basically fancy clip art. I recall writing about girls who went on adventures and made friends with animals — always a fantasy of mine.
Even nighttime was story time. Instead of going straight to sleep in the time immediately following lights out, I would imagine (and sometimes act out) a continuous tale of a raccoon who lived in the woods with all her forest friends, or a girl who who ran way into the jungle to survive in her own with no one but a tiger and a monkey for help (I told you, me and animals). Sometimes these would get elaborate, and span months. I don’t think I ever wrote these ones down.
Eventually I moved on to novels, written in spiral notebooks and sometimes typed on the computer (first the Mac, then a Compaq) to be saved on floppy disks. These I shared with Chelsea, my high school best friend and my first critique partner, who filled her own flippy disks with stories about dragons and adventures.
It’s harder to think of a break in the continuous compulsion to make up a story than it is to remember some piece of writing I did a decade or two ago. Even when I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer, some part of my brain did, and it hasn’t stopped this whole time.
I’ve said before that I love rainy weather. It dampens down my brain in a pleasant way that makes it easier to think, and focus, and just create. But I also just feel comfortable when it’s raining, the right amount of sleep to cushion everything while I’m awake.
On Friday after I took the dog for a walk through the warm, misty, soft air, we came back inside. I sat at the computer with my breakfast and the dog jumped on my lap, ridiculously warm and floppy with just the right amount of heaviness, like those beanbags you warm in the microwave and lay on your aching shoulders. I had written some already, enough for an early morning, so I caught up on vlogbrothers videos and ate my toast, dropping crumbs on the dog’s back while she dozed on.
Eventually, I had to go to work. I put off getting up as long as I was able. Rain outside the window, dog on my thighs, Hank Green singing J.K. Rowling songs on my screen, all backed by my desk lamp’s soft orange glow — I could have stayed there all day.
Today, today… what happened today? Oh man, I can hardly remember.
Rachel and I got ourselves thoroughly confused, thinking that the second part of the Feeding Your Muse seminar was at the library again – it wasn’t, something, we didn’t figure out until we arrived, late and panting… to an empty room. We had to drive back to the main campus, and missed half of the seminar. Yikes.
Susan Goodman changed up the seminar, to make up for the snow day, instead going over the material for the other seminar she was supposed to host, Telling Your Story – But How? We looked at ways that people can approach a subject to tell it with a different tone.
I went to one of the graduate seminars I had signed up for at 11:30, The Hero’s Journey in 3-D. The study of the hero’s journey, not just in fantasy literature but in everything, is something that I’ve gone over before, but I never get tired of. It’s a great way to look at your story and characters to see how your own idea follows these archetypes. It’s also good to be aware of the archetypes for when your story starts to become too predictable and boring.
Afternoon was finishing the large group workshops for Elley and Rachel that were missed on Wednesday. After I finalized my plans with Chris Crutcher for what I’ll turn in over the semester; nothing to complicated, just writing and rewriting so I can plow through Speaksong and get it as done as I possibly can before the semester ends.
Graduate readings got clogged in the sludge my brain is turning into, but what I was able to be aware of was really wonderful. Despite sheer exhaustion I hung out at the reception for some time with Rachel, not because I felt like I had to be there but because i just couldn’t stop talking to people. Abby and Jan have been really helpful, and it breaks my heart that they’re fourth semester students, meaning that by next semester they’ll be graduating. They’ve both already offered, or even asked, that I send them more of Speaksong, and I gladly will.
I’m ready to go home now. My writing hand itches and my brain is so full I’m afraid it might spill out. Everything is packed to be thrown in the car in the morning; that way I won’t have to worry, and can just wait for the right time to leave.