Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I survived!!! Now I will conquer the world...

So, my friend woke me up this morning with one simple message: "Slow and steady wins the race." I had been snoozing (oops) and had no idea what he was talking about. And then I looked outside and saw my world blanketed in glorious white snow. And then I saw the little slope to my driveway and felt a tad apprehensive. He offered to pick me up for work, and for a second I seriously contemplated that. And then I said no. I knew I couldn't put off driving in snow and other crappy weather forever. It's always the first step that's the hardest. So I drove, and I learned winter. Picture: My backyard--winter wonderland!

Here is what I learned:
  • What it feels like to have the tires skid (it happened a couple times and I was going about 5mph).
  • That I have a fancy indicator light on the console that tells me when my tires have lost traction.
  • That my car will beep loudly if I really start to skid.
  • That it's important to sweep snow off the back part of my roof before opening the door (or suffer a huge pile of snow in my trunk).
  • That I need to leave a half hour early when it's snowing (maybe even an hour).
  • That I should never leave my good gloves in the car.
  • That I should put on said gloves before sweeping snow and chipping ice (no matter how cold I think they are because they've been in the car all night, because snow is cold).
  • To sweep snow away from my body.
  • To zip my coat all the way so that I don't sweep snow down my chest again.
  • That slow and steady really does win the race.
  • That I hate not being able to see the road clearly.
  • That it is important to really de-snow, de-ice the windshield wipers.
I felt like a powerful bad ass driving. It's always an awesome feeling when you realize that you can do something, no matter how scary it is. Note to self.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold Hearted Ice Storm

So, I've been without power for two days. Luckily I had a friend who had heat and let me bring my cat to her place. It is good to be back home though--I felt so displaced before. I didn't take any pictures because I was so nervous about driving in the aftermath (no sweat, just 20 minutes of ice scraping and slow driving)--these are some pictures that I found to give you an overall idea of what the place looked like Friday morning. It's really quite beautiful, if you look past the 300,000+ displaced and freezing people. If (and possibly when) I move up here permanently, I'm getting a home with a fire place, wood stove, or something that doesn't require electricity to keep me warm.

My landlord (I don't know what else to call them, because roommate definitely isn't it) said that this is the worst ice storm in history. Dover history? I'm not sure if she was talking about all of New England or just Dover. Who knows. It was insane. I remember waking up several times in the middle of the night hearing what sounded like gunshots and ice blocks sliding off the roof. The gunshots were actually tree branches snapping off under the weight of the ice. The next morning there was a 10 foot branch (about five inches thick maybe) laying across the top of my landlord's boat. Insane. My car was safe, but that would have really sucked.

Anyway--I have heat and am back in my own bed. Life rocks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tag, Your It

What were you doing five years ago?
1. Graduating with a B.S. in Journalism (complete B.S. too)
2. Hiding -- from lots of things (still hiding).
3. Wishing I wasn't in Texas.
4. Preparing to start a M.S. in Science and Technology Journalism, because what else was there to do?
5. Writing inconsistently.

What are five things on your list for today?
1. Go to work.
2. Go to a party.
3. Read.
4. Sleep.
5. Eat.

What are five snacks that I enjoy?
1. Hummus (it's a new thing!)
2. York Peppermint Patties (my cocaine--I actually need to stop)
3. Cheese and crackers
4. Popcorn
5. Pretzels

What are five things that you'd do if you were a billionaire?
1. Pay off my debt
2. Pay off debt for a few family members (only once and only a few)
3. Travel the world
4. Buy love (haha, just teasin)
5. Go back to school--maybe psychology this time

What are five jobs that you've ever had?
1. Candle Maker
2. Book Shelver
3. Assistant Editor (aka, graduate assistant)
4. Communications Specialist (aka, look at Perez and bother E all the time)
5. Writing Assistant
Who are five people that you want to tag?
1. Angie
2. Esther (in comments!)
3. Becca
4. Eileen and/or Margosita
5. Whoever else reads and feels like doing it!

Icy Tidbits

I'm a wimp. I totally bowed out of driving in ice for the first time today, which was probably a smart decision. I'll get my chance tomorrow when I have to head to work at 8am.

Today was my final day of grammar class and I totally skipped it. My friend graciously dropped off my final paper to my professor. There was no way I was going into campus today with this crappy weather. My only regret is that I missed a fun holiday party for work. Sadness. My dad says that I'll have to learn to drive on the ice on my own, since it was my choice to move up here. I find this ironic for unspecified reasons--maybe I'll explain one day. Maybe in a memoir.

I've been struck by this ominous feeling that I'm going to get into trouble on the roads; a morose feeling that I'm going to kick the ice bucket this winter. I know. I know. It doesn't help that my mom decided to tell me at Thanksgiving that New Hampshire has the smallest crime rate, but the deadliest black ice problem. And it didn't help when the people I stay with mentioned that their driveway is a bitch to get out of (there's a slight slope--I'm positive that I'm going to come careening down it one day and hit their parked boat). Ice is worse that snow, they say. Oh well, Dad's right--I wanted this, I'm gonna deal with it.

[Side note: Ever seen the movie Shallow Hal... nice idea, but a complete fairy tale.]

Anyway, I thought that I should try to blog a summary of semester number one. Here's what I learned:
  • I mentally shut down at the word "psychology" when used in regard to characters in my stories. Never ask me "What's the psychology of your character Tanya?" If you do, I'll likely curl up into a small ball and whimper until the bad word goes away. I remember the first time it was uttered by my workshop professor; I recoiled to the inner me, all trembly and weak feeling. I didn't realize that we'd be talking stories on such a deep level. He probably said psychology about 20 times that first class--along with explaining his desire that we find the "you in you". Double whammy. That first workshop class (and most of the others) left me completely confused. What in the hell was happening here? These workshops weren't going to be about story structure and sentence critiques? It took a few classes before my friend looked at me and said "you really don't like that word do you?" I didn't realize that "psychology" was making me freak out in class. Anyway, overall the workshop experience was tiring. I'm looking forward to next semester so that I can compare my workshop experiences with a new professor.

  • I worked WAY too much this semester to really apply myself in the classroom. I worked three jobs for about 30-35 hours a week and took three classes. I completely stretched myself thin. I'll do better next semester when I become a "list" girl and get my crap together. Time management, that's what it's about.

  • We UNH MFAers like to socialize. Since school started I don't think there's been a single weekend (with the exception of holiday weekends when I went to see my sister) that I wasn't doing something with someone from the program. Tomorrow night is our end of the semester "dance" party. People really do dance. I watch by the outdoor fire. There may be no fire if it's icy tomorrow night.
  • Grammar is not fun. Well, it would be fun without the tedious assignments and projects that grad students really don't have the time for in the end. I half-assed that class--I hope to make a B (maybe he'll be nice and give me an A after that horrendous class on Black English Vernacular).
  • I need more space.

I registered for classes for next semester: Workshop, Memoir Workshop and Fiction Form & Technique. I suppose after next semester I could possibly quit the program and only be out $17K. That proably won't happen. I actually may only have to be here for two years instead of three--they're making some changes to the program (chopping off one workshop requirement). I'm looking forward to next semester, but I know it's going to be packed with reading and writing. I might try packing up my TV and movies to keep myself from being destracted (haha, that's not happening). Next semester is going to be about focusing and reclaiming my passion for writing--passion that is slipping, likely because I'm so damn tired all the time.

I'm determined to not allow workshop to suck my soul out for another semester.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I come from the water...

This is my favorite Muppet skit... memories. This makes me happy and warm. I love Muppets. Know this about me.

Harry Belafonte - Turn the World Around (ep314)




Enjoy!

And the following is just great too:



Another:

First Snow

I know... I know.

Silly Tanya the Cat Lady... but how cute is he?!

Triton's First Snow



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reading Out Loud

I hate reading out loud and I have to do it tomorrow in class. My classmates will have to suffer through another long story. I'm liking it though--just posted it here under "My Writings".

I need to start working on my other writing--I feel so neglectful.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh the horror of workshop...

Workshop strikes again. It's like an unsexy vampire, bleeding me of my life force (aka creativity), leaving just a sack of fat-laced bones. Oh the horror.

[Oh... happy belated Turkey Day. I hope yours was as full of family drama as mine.]

I think I've pinpointed what exactly I dislike about workshop: How I feel stupid immediately afterward. I feel like I give these off the wall, pointless reads for peoples stories, often times completely missing the mark. I hate that I feel so useless--they probably look at my comments and then toss them over their shoulder with grunt. It's exhausting being (or feeling) this stupid. Stupid Kanya (inside joke between me and a spoon)! I have one more week of workshop and then a long, much needed, winter break.

During break I hope to do a few things:
  • Think seriously about my novel and send letters to agents (or publishers). I cannot put this off any longer. My friend sent me this great quote this weekend: "Good novels are written by people who are not frightened." (George Orwell). I am frightened... but I won't be soon.
  • Write more short stories to prepare for the next round of workshop, and hopefully stop writing about creepy, dark things. As one guy in class wrote in his note to me: "You definitely have a bead on whacky mothers and taboo subject matter -- rape, incest, etc.". Geesh, how oddly creepy of me. I worry that I'll be typecast as the "girl who writes about molestation and rape" because a couple of my stories did have such undertones. I'm not as concerned with people perceiving me as an abused adult writing their life into their fiction as I am about the "dark and creepy" aspect of my writing. Why does it need to be dark to be "literary" (as my mind interprets it). Why, oh why, couldn't I write my circus love story instead? Shit, even that had dark themes about malformed fire breathers and self hatred. I'm starting to wonder if these reoccurring themes in my writing are a product of my subconscious screaming.
  • Work a lot because I'm super broke right now :(.
  • Work on driving in the snow (eep!)
I have to read "Jesus in a Confederate Flag" out loud on Wednesday. I'm working on it... I think it's OK, but we'll see. I'm trying to make it 10 pages, but honestly, that's not going to happen.

Thanks for listening to me blab.

Picture explanation: Sometimes you just gotta let go and read some steamy stuff.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brain Sucker

Why does workshop leave me with this dissatisfied, souls-just-been-sucked-out-and-stomped-on feeling? And I wasn't even workshopped today--that comes next week (story posted). I think part of my problem is that I read my story for next week again, after I'd already passed it out, and found LOTS of places that could have been cut or tightened up. I hate turning in sub-par things. And I'll hate hearing the same-ol' same-ol' next Monday. I feel like I'm one of the weaker writers in the program, which may or may not be true. I just feel like no one's giving me their true and honest to god responses, and then whisper behind my back.

Okay--paranoia passing. Passing..... passing. Past.

But still, I feel like my creative juices have been sucked clean out of my body. At this point--writing is not fun. And that makes me feel all sick inside.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" on Prop 8

A friend of mine here at school sent me a link to this video. It's pretty powerful and I agree 100% with the words--the message. Many of my friends and most of my family probably won't agree or feel the same way I do, and that's fine. All I ask is that they listen. We're human first--before anything, before religion, before race, before sex. It's time we start treating one another that way.

Special Comment

I got chills... and they're multiplyin'

If I still lived in Texas on November 4th, Austin would have been the place to be. That's the only city I'd live in if I were to go back. If you want to watch some more inspiring Obama watch-party videos click here. [Georgetown University and American University are pretty awesome.]

Austin, Texas

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Dark at 4:30... Do You Know Where Your Sanity Is?

Tidbits from Tanya Land... the scariest place on earth:
  • I go to Subway a lot.
  • The semester's winding down and it's really weird. I have five more assignments that I need to turn in and then I'm done. We're already pre-registering for the spring--I'm looking to take a memoir class. Keep your fingers crossed for me. It'll be difficult to write about myself, but I'm really looking forward to it.
  • I need to buy some boots. I probably shouldn't have bought a CD of Christmas music by Josh Groban (ooo la la, he's got a great voice) or the movie "E.T." Impulse buys in a moment of pure emotional weakness. So worth it.
  • I'm being hard on myself because I wanted to write only new stories to submit for workshop and I made a decision last night (fueled by my horoscope that said I should choose to partake in happy activities to remain in a blissful emotional state) that I would submit one of my application pieces instead. It's definitely a load off my creative mind, but I still feel like a slacker.
  • I suck at time management. I probably need to give up my Wednesday shift at Barnes and Nobel, BUT we are in a time of economic crisis and the money is somewhat decent (not really, but I like working there because I don't have to think about anything).
  • My friend and I are going to write a vampire novel together. He wants "to make millions" and considers writing popular fiction selling out (in a way). I don't consider it selling out--I consider it my calling. I think writing it will be a lot of fun and we have a kick ass idea that will definitely sell (I'm always overly optimistic), but part of me doesn't want to do it to keep him from "selling out". It's a dilemma. And yet... it was his idea. He'd had a few beers though. I'm still testing him, which probably isn't too fair. When we start writing chapters I'll believe. At this point, I'm stealing from Mulder: "I want to believe."
  • Reading Flannery O'Connor is definitely interesting. I had to have my professor sign my pre-registration form and she asked me what it was like reading O'Connor (who drops the N-bomb every paragraph). My response: In the context (she was writing to her time) I'm tolerant of it, but I don't like it at all. It's such an ugly word--spoken or unspoken. I told her that I have friends who would pitch a royal fit. And although I hate the word passionately--I find myself shrugging. I don't have time for ignorance, and I'm not going to waste my time on other people's ignorance. I don't know. She wanted my opinion as the "token". I'm an altered token though. Oh well, we should all hate that word.
  • Speaking of... is anyone else alarmed at the increased reporting of KKK activity (I'm an avid CNN.com reader). This scares me. I'm scared for the Obamas--and my sister too. Cause ya'll know those nut jobs will take posts outside the White House to protest and my sister works like a block away. She talks to secret service outside her building and they said they're concerned for Obamas daughters (kidnappings). Obama better put those kids in private school--safety first, damn the "politics".
  • I may be displaced come Christmas. I don't know what I want to do yet or where I should go. My housemates' son is coming home with his girlfriend. Where the hell are they going to sleep? And if I did go somewhere else for the holiday, do I want them crashed out in MY room? Hell to the no.
  • I really should be doing homework now.
  • It gets dark at 4:30pm here. What the hell. I feel like I should be passed out by 7pm. It's VERY strange... and I'm not sure if the perpetual darkness has messed up my emotions. I did buy ET.... hmmmm.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Story

Wow, Wednesday night rocks again! I think it's something about my Chekhov/O'Connor class that gets the juices flowing, because I always come home and write for several hours (about six) and come up with a draft. My working title for this story: "Jesus in a Confederate Flag" (It's a Flannery O'Connor inspired story.) I know, it's a pretty quirky title--I'll post the story in a few weeks, I'm sure.

One draft down, one more to go--unless I use this story for workshop. Yay for Writers Writing Wednesdays.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History In So Many Ways

I just watched history tonight.

This is not history just because the man is the first black president of the United States of America; although, that ranks up at the top. [Sadly many won't be able to see the importance of this fact alone.] This is history because of Obama's ability to inspire, motivate, and lead hundreds of thousands (millions) of people. And he will lead with grace and power.

I just hope half of this country can look at things with an open mind and really see the potential in his (and our) youth. We--as young people--rocked this vote. We made this happen. The next four (eight) years are going to be an interesting ride. Yes, he will have bumps along the way--this will undoubtedly happen. However, this is a man who held his composure through countless character attacks, false accusations, and death threats. This is a man who will have his life (and the lives of his daughters and wife) threatened by racists every day of his presidency. This is a man who might die for us--for our country, as several great change makers of our history (American history) have died. This is a man who will pull us out of this trashy place we have somehow created. I'm happy to put my faith and trust in a younger senator from Chicago.

Never underestimate youth.

Congratulations to President Barack Obama!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Can't I Write?

I met with my workshop prof after class today and confessed that I wasn't writing much. That I'd gone away from just sitting down and writing about things to planning it out before hand; thinking themes and symbols and plot points. I am not having fun. He said he wants me to stop editing first and just write--just sit down and type out 50 pages of whatever and then trim it down. That would be nice--if possible. I'm sure it is possible--I'm just stuck on themes and other "literary" ideas, and find other things to do. Like watch CNN in preparation for tomorrow night (so exciting!! Go Obama!) or try to find illegal downloads of HBO's True Blood online (very doable, but crappy quality), or read trashy books that make me dumb. This weekend I calmed my jittering need-for-normal-reading cravings, unearthed my fun book from amidst the smarties on my nightstand, and read the entire thing in about 6 hours.

Want to know something sad?

This program has made me smarter. The book did nothing to root me in--whatever I was seraching for in even reading it.

I know, I know... learning from a MFA program isn't a bad thing. I was just bothered by it because I was reading the book (by one of my favorite authors) and finding myself commenting on the writing as being "below par". God, what a snob I've become! Now, it's completely plausible that said author just had crappy luck with this novel (which happened to be a retelling of a previous story from another person's POV), but I wonder if I am not in some way polluted by this program. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing... I don't want to become a snob. One of those people who look down on the average reader and the average book as if they're trash (some people here are like that and it makes me cringe each and every time they say something about the avearge reader or make remarks about best selling authors). Why is wanting to write books for the general public considered selling out? Why do you feel most of the books out there now are poorly written? What makes them poorly written? God, it's exhausting. I just want to write like I did back when I was working (or not working). But... I'm positive that almost every person I've met up here so far would look down at the last 1.5-2 years of my writing. Maybe I'm making too many assumptions--I don't know, it's just this general feeling I get (not from everyone, but a vast majority for sure).

I still wrestle with whether or not I'm in the right place. Whether or not I should be shelling out so much money on such a program. It's still a gamble. It's paying off in that I am learning (possibly at a subconscious level) and I do enjoy my classes and all the people I've met. But... is it right for me? My prof told me I'm writing at a Jedi Level 6. Please do not ask me what it means because I have no idea. (Perhaps Jedi Level 6 is what Yoda's reading to the right?!?!) Maybe it's better than that.... It seems like a nice level to be at and he was complimentary of parts of my work. But I just sat there staring at him while wondering just how many Jedi levels there are in writing fiction. Am I at six of 1,000,000? Six of 10? I should have asked him to specify. I also got the sense that he was telling me to be more proud of my work? That I should have a bigger ego about it? I got that sense. He picked up that I can be (am) too hard on myself. Shit--my poker face is slipping. Or he's just a fellow Empath and watches me a bit too keenly.

**Must... hide... true identity...** <--said in a struggling manly superhero voice.

So anyway, I can't write tonight.

I think it might have something to do with the atmosphere of this place, this bedroom and my unbelievable way of letting shit pile up all around me. I'm staring at a load of clean clothes right here occupying the empty side of my bed with a loathing hate (for many varying reasons, I suspect). Why can't they just put themselves away? I guess it doesn't matter, I'll just drop them onto the clean pile in the basket by the bed (where they'll remain until the weekend when it's time to wash again). Gosh, I'm rambling tonight. It sorta feels nice--therapeutic in a way. Sorta like how York Peppermint Patties have become my drug of choice the last few weeks. And you know what else? I can't find my copy of Sydney White--yes, I know it's a cheesy movie, but it's cute and I've been craving it since I moved up here. I know that the moment I buy a new copy the old one will jump out and yell "har har, got you to spend more money that you didn't have!" That happened with a vampire novel that was hiding one of my many purses--I found several months after buying a new copy (right as I was about to move up here actually).

What does all this mean? Besides my need to ramble about--I'm not sure. Avoidance mainly--to keep me from writing my circus love story that will likely be dark and moody. I am dark and moody--literally and emotionally.

Snow is coming soon. I guess I can look forward to buying more winter gear and some needed boots. I can also look forward to February 2009's AWP Conference in Chicago--a few of us are road tripping out there. Other MFAers, check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Second Workshop Over

So, my story was workshopped today. Overall, it went really well (much better than the first time around), so yay! There are definitely places where I could work things out more (naturally) and I'm still telling. :( But maybe there was less telling in this one? I'll schedule a time to meet up with my prof to see, but he wasn't the only one to say that some things could be cut. I'm learning though and I guess that's the important thing.

I'm trying to think of what else to post about--there's a bit Halloween/sleepover/birthday party on Friday. I'm totally looking forward to it. I bought an afro wig for the occasion--very psyched about it. I could probably tease up my own hair to make a ginormous afro, but I don't want to deal with the after effects. I have a big grammar assignment due on Thursday, but I just feel like watching some TV or reading a novel. I should start writing my next story, but I have yet to be inspired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whew!!! Thank God That's Over!

So, I just read my Chekhov inspired short story, "Baby Dolls" (posted with the other stories to the right). I was nervous about reading it out loud and could totally hear a tremble in my voice. But I managed and it went over pretty well. I still haven't decided if I'm going to use this story for my third workshop--I want to write another one. We'll see.
About Chekhov (thanks Wikipedia!)

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (January 29 [O.S. January 17] 1860 – July 15 [O.S. July 2] 1904) (Russian: Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов, Russian pronunciation: [ɐnˈton ˈpavləvʲɪtɕ ˈtɕɛxəf]) was a Russian short-story writer and playwright, considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in world literature.[1] His career as a dramatist produced four classics: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard; and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics.[2][3] Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife," he once said, "and literature is my mistress."[4]

Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896; but the play was revived to acclaim by Konstantin Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Uncle Vanya and premiered Chekhov’s last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a special challenge to the acting ensemble[5] as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text."[6]

Chekhov had at first written stories only for the money, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story.[7] His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousnessJames Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure.[8] He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.[9] technique, later adopted by

Now, thankfully, our class is moving on to study Flannery O'Connor. I'm looking forward to this change of pace and what type of story I may be inspired to write after spending a few weeks reading her. I've been told that she has some wild stories--crazy Southern woman. This should be interesting...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Workshop Story

Today I turned in my second workshop story: "Kiko's Baby" (posted to the right). Who knows how it'll go--I took the suggestions made toward my last story and applied them here as best I could. I like the story (although I worry a bit about the end and if it's strong enough), but that doesn't mean anyone else will. I'm trying not to worry about that right now--I'm just trying to write a little more than I have been lately.

Other news:

  • I need to manage my time better so that I can write for class and for fun (cause trust me, writing for class at this point hasn't be as fun as I would like it to be).
  • It's getting cold (dropping down into the 40s)--I love it.
  • I've been feeling a bit stressed out and sad for some reason--grrrrrr.
  • I have an unhealthy addiction to brown sugar Pop Tarts and York Peppermint Patties--it's time for me to give them up cold turkey. They're becoming comfort foods. Delicious... delicious comfort foods.

My workshop prof wants me to write non-fiction stories and just change the names to make them fiction. I don't know how I feel about this... please weigh in.

Part of me doesn't like it because it's just too damn personal and I don't feel like spouting out all of my business to a group of people who are still strangers to me in many ways (even though we hang out every single weekend, which is amazing) on a public blog. And I don't like mixing the genres--fiction and nonfiction. I think part of it the privacy thing, but I think another part of it is my journalism background. You can't put fiction into non-fiction, so why is the reverse okay? Some people say that all fiction is non-fiction. I would disagree and agree with parts of that. I do put parts of myself in my characters, but I have never written a story that completely reflects my life and called it fiction. There's just something wrong about that. He wants us to write in a voice similar to Jamaica Kincaid's in her short story "Girl". He wants us to write in a voice (or voices) of our parent(s)--what they told/taught us. I can do this, but everything that I would want to write is somewhat negative, and that bothers me. I haven't decided if I'm going to write my revealing expose yet. I need to think about it more; wait for someone else to post.

I read my Chekhov story out loud on Wednesday. I'll post it here sometime this week. I don't want to read out loud.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Time Is The Right Time

"The Lorax" - Dr. Suess (1971)
"Mister!", he said with a sawdusty sneeze, "I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues, And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs"

He was very upset as he shouted and puffed --"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
Catch! calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
It's a Truffula Seed.
It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula.
Treat it with care.
Give it clean water.
And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest.
Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.
Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big empty factory...
the Lorax... and I.

*No promises that wikiquote got this one right. The fall here is absolutely beautiful--I really can't get over it and I wish I had more time to be in it. I'm slowly discovering that I like nature--woods, trees, leaves, grass, the smell of winter, cold air. One of my classmates wrote a story about blighted trees, which can be caused by beetles and other parasites. I will be devastated if it starts here--or anywhere else (it's rampant in Colorado now). Very sad.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tidbits from Tanyaland

Howdy blogland!

Just felt like conducting some random blogging since I am not working, for the moment. Please be forewarned that this is going to contain LOADS of random thoughts.
  • It is definitely fall here (whoop, whoop <-- an Aggie thing); the temperature has been in the mid-sixties during the day and into the low fifties at night. It's glorious. Do people still say "glorious"? It really is Fierce (as Christian would say). I need more sweaters and stuff, but I've decided to put myself on a shopping freeze starting tonight after I see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (which will cost me $9.5o... damn East coast... high movie tickets are the one drawback of this place). Well....... I think I'm going to buy a slow cooker too, so after I get that (and a slow cooker cook book) I'm done. Economy is in a recession--so is Tanya.

  • Working at B&N is still fun for me. Too bad I work with a bunch of guys who like talking fantasy football and Dungeons and Dragons all day. Not lying! One guy (who wears the exact same outfit every day, but is a generally nice and helpful dude if you can get past the wafts of B.O. and stale cigarette smoke) has been sick the past few days so I haven't heard endless convos about how XXX running back sucks and how XXX quarterback can't throw for shit or how XXX magical power will not slay thy dragon (whatever the hell those DD people say--it's all Dragon speak to me). It's been quiet in The Nobel. My shifts are spent shelving books (getting pretty good at it most days), working the register, putting away new merchandise, and helping customers find books. All enjoyable, mind numbing tasks.

  • I've realized that I don't like to think... aka, I'm lazy as hell. Stupid brain needs to kick out of daydream land. I need to find the "serious" lobe and massage it so I can start thinking smartly and contribute to smart discussions on Chekhov (soon to be O'Connor). Me no like think.

  • I bought a Julia Quinn book this week. It's calling to me, but I'm afraid that if I read it I will only become dumber. Like it will suck out the small amount of smart activity buzzing around in there. It's buried under the "smart" books on my nightstand--but it beats louder. *sigh*

  • Lately I've been wanting my own place. I miss entertaining, which is impossible in my room. So, I'm still deciding if I'm going to move out next summer or not. I can't beat this price.

  • I've managed to write a few days this week (up from my normal Wednesday night jottings). I'm working on a story about dead gorilla babies. I want it to be good, but I just read a classmate's story and now I don't want to write anymore. The program is not getting easier for me (in this mental war that I have going on)--I constantly wonder if I'm in the right place or not. Like my Quinn book--Estela, Moo, Daisy, Penny and so many others are drumming away. They're upset with me. I am upset with me too.

  • I just bought a ticket for D.C. for Turkey Day (glad I got that in before my spending freeze!). I'm excited about this as my little sister just became a real-life grown up and purchased her own house. I will help her spend money to decorate it, cause Lord knows she needs my help. I will see my mom and dad and other little sister too, so that'll be nice. I hope I'm able to make it to the Library of Congress. I want to smell old books. I should go hang in the Dover library later. Nah... I'll probably watch Iron Man again.

  • [Warning gross info to follow]: I'm sick again. Swallowing snot is not fun.

  • I just realized that I will need to lift my spending freeze in order to buy snow boots. Maybe I should get some online today--I've heard that L.L. Bean makes a mean pair.
  • There is this sweet lady at B&N who I only work with when I'm at the register (she's about 400 lbs and can't walk around because of bad knees). She's the sweetest thing; gives me lotion for my ashy hands. And everytime she has to get up, she grunts and moans: "Ohhhh rigor mortis!"
  • My cat has been extra needy lately and yet I push him away. That's not fair of me. I'd be devastated if I were him. Sometimes we just need a cuddle, right?
  • I made an 83 on my first grammar assignment. My feelings: Alright! I'm just glad it was a B, but the rest will be As. Grammar is generally a fun class for me--lots of discussion. I feel like I'm learning things that I should have learned in high school. Perhaps it'll be the same way with literature?

Okay, that's enough for now... we're all caught up.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall Weather

I feel like I need to post something here. So here's a picture of the leaves changing colors outside the building where I work and have classes.

Everything else is going the same--still and probably will stay this way for a while. At least the leaves are pretty.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Place

So... we have this UNH MFA blog for school that I post to on occasion. Our professor asked us to talk about a favorite place (or maybe just any place) of ours. I like what I wrote there so I'm posting it here so I'll have it in the future. I think it's inspired me to write the prologue of a novel for my next workshop class.

"A Ruined Place"

I have just realized, somewhat sadly, that I don’t have a special place of my own. No special childhood camp grounds or vacation spots, no monumental places from adolescence, and nothing that tugs at my heart from the start of adulthood. And I have had no place that feels like home—although New Hampshire is sort of growing on me at this point—so I can’t write about that. All of the places I’ve lived have been have been decided by someone else (with the exception of Dover)—I was born in Nebraska (had no say in the matter) and then was uprooted from familiarity and shoved into the foyer of hell (aka Texas) as a teenager (definitely had no say in the matter).

So, I fully intended not to post on this subject, but then I started daydreaming about all the places that I will get to once I’m rich and famous (next year sometime, I’m sure): China, England, Japan, Russia, Italy, and Africa to name a few. And I’m sure I could write about any of those places in great detail, but I’d rather talk about a place that often pops up when I daydream.

I’ve always been a daydreamer. I think it started sometime after I learned to read (see my comment in Kristina’s post about children’s books), but I can’t be certain. I might have been born daydreaming—maybe it started as I was kicking my little brown legs, staring up at bright florescent lights of the hospital nursery while I waited for someone—anyone—to claim me as their own. Now, I find myself daydreaming whenever I am bored or overwhelmed and need to escape. It only takes an instant to switch over to this dream state—either a lull in a conversation, a topic that’s completely over my head, or one of my father’s lectures, anything can set off my subconscious into imaging crazy scenarios.

Sometimes I’m so lost that I don’t even realize when I’m daydreaming. My little sister, Jennifer, is one of the few people who knows when I’ve been overtaken by thoughts. She sort of looks at me funny and asks me why I’m smiling (fun, exciting, or scandalous daydreams make me smile). I hardly ever explain my daydreams because they’re so fragmented and jumpy or just too damn personal. Jen doesn’t pester me for details either, which I like. And while these daydreams are somewhat automatic and aren’t really sparked by any one thing, there are others that are guided by an image.

Whenever I see pictures (or watch movies) with castle ruins, I am instantly lost in my head. I imagine what it would be like if I stumbled across the ruins of a castle, fortress or old home buried deep in the woods or positioned high upon a cliff. I feel my pace slowing to a crawl and see my sneakers stopping before a stone path that leads up to the shell of a crumbled fortress where plant life has conquered the stones. I feel this heavy push of adrenaline charging through my chest and a cold shivering wash of goose bumps as they rush over my skin. I see devastation of what must have been a powerful structure and somehow I feel safe, as if this is the one and only place that I can let my own walls down.

I see myself moving slowly up the path, stepping deep into the ruins where the walls shoot upward and stop suddenly as if cut off by the sky. Here, in the center of the ruins, I find a rock hugged by moss and other crawling, creeping plant life, and I sit on it. I press my cold hands between my knees and stare at what has become of this place. I imagine how it must have looked hundreds of years ago when these crumbling walls were in their prime. Soon, if I stare hard enough and if my sister isn’t there to ask me what I’m thinking, the walls rebuild, transforming back to their smooth, young surfaces, and I see the people—not their faces or what they’re wearing, just people.

One day after a particularly vivid daydream like this—one that began when I was driving along Highway 510, the back road to our house down in Texas, and saw this little abandoned shed with a sagging roof and aluminum siding rusted through to make gaping holes—Jen asked me what I was thinking and I told her. I reconfirmed my deep desire to go to England or Scotland or Ireland (wherever castles may be) to see them for myself, to find ruins to investigate. She immediately jumped into the dream with me and we talked about what it would be like to be of the nobility—to be princesses, in a sense, walking around in castles. We spent fifteen minutes of our commute discussing what life would be like “way back then.”

Soon, as with all of our discussions, we fell into a silence. I started daydreaming about other places and maybe she thought about rational and smart things—probably something regarding international affairs. And as I drove blindly along the old highway road, somehow managing to avoid massive potholes, dead armadillos, and skunks, Jen turned to me with a sudden thought.

“You know,” she began with a smirk, “if we were to really go back to that time we’d pprrrroooobably be slaves.”

I smiled and glanced away from the road to see her grinning face and laughing eyes. We’d talked about this before, but then we transplanted ourselves into the pages of Pride and Prejudice, twirling and whirling in pretty dresses in some over-stuffed ballroom. That particular time we talked about how fun and romantic it would be—you know, the whole Mr. Darcy thing. Then Ms. Killjoy had to remind me that we’d likely be slaves serving food and dumping pee bowls.

We laughed good and hard at that.

“Yeah,” I nodded, “you’re probably right.”

“Yeah,” She said as she turned her eyes to peer through the bug-laden windshield, “that would suck.”

Soon we were driving in silence again, lost in our respective thoughts. Jen probably thought about terrorism (she was an international studies student at the time) while my mind was still consumed with castle ruins and thoughts of just what type of slave I could be and whether or not I'd be owned by a knight. And, as new thoughts and scenarios filled my mind, I started smiling.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chekhov Story Done

So... in three weeks I have to read my Chekhov-inspired story out loud to class (eek!). I just finished a rough draft tonight--so I have three weeks to perfect it and make it very Chekhovian. I'm excited! It's a little long--was supposed to be 7-10 pages, but is currently 15. Will try to edit it down.

Wednesday night must be my writing night. Maybe I'm inspired by the Chekhov class, which normally kicks my butt.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Madness of Workshopping

So... it's been two days since my story was workshopped and I feel like I can talk about it with a rational brain. I turned in what amounts to a rough draft of a story. Now, I was feeling pretty confident about this rough draft--like super confident. I wasn't thinking "hell ya, I'm the shit right now!" but more of: "Okay, this is acceptable. The emotions are there. The story is there. I'm comfortable having other people read this."
Basic plot of "Broken Reflecting Glass": Emily is a woman tortured with the feeling that she is somehow unacceptable and unworthy (of just about anything). The story is about Emily facing a difficult conversation with her mother, about wanting to stand up for herself, wanting to change her situation. The question is: Can she?
I'm not sure if that's an adequate summary of my story or not, but it will work for now.

So, I was required to turn my story in two weeks ago on a Monday. I was planning something completely different for the story, but couldn't write it. So, I wrote this instead (in about six hours maybe), edited it (3-4 times), and had some good friends read it as well. I got back good reviews from the people who read it--people who read my stuff in general--and since I felt confident in it, it was easy to turn it in to let my peers since their fingers into it. I wasn't nervous about the actual workshop until about five minutes before my prof said we would be starting with my story first.

Then... devastation. Or internalized devastation, I suppose. The majority (so about six of eight, but probably all eight thought the same) had similar comments. Basically, I broke the cardinal rule of fiction: show, don't tell. The ironic thing is that as I was re-reading my story a day before workshop, I said to myself: "Hmmm... you may be telling to much here Tanya." And low and behold the comments sounded something like this: "Not enough action", "too much telling", "not enough description", and "maybe cut out the first whole page".

So, I took all of those in and it was fine. I even spoke a little about my story--also fine. Then it was my classmate's turn and I took a peak at the written comments. One pretty much slapped me in the face: "Your story is suffering from underdevelopment" and another comment that talked about it being "rough". All fair comments, still, they hurt. And topped with the fact that I'd broken a simple rule of fiction--all I felt was embarrassment. I went through moments of "why am I here?" (a common thought process these past few weeks, actually), and just sorta sat there and internalized everything.

I felt pretty crappy all night and then better in the morning. So... it was okay. Not brutal, like some programs. Everyone was considerate and helpful--encouraging, which is nice. To read what one guy who introduced my story said, click here (he got the title of the story wrong).

Next workshop: Who knows... I need to start working on the story now though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Workshop

Had my first story workshopped today--I'm still processing how it went overall.

Currently, I feel embarrassed, actually. Like I made elementary mistakes ALL OVER the place. Definitely room for improvement, for sure, but it's still embarrassing. Blah. Will probably post more when the emotion wears off and my rational brain can speak.

I still don't like John Gardner, see previous post.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I am a Chimpanzee

So... I'm trying to get caught up on my reading for all of my classes (must use better time management skills in the future) and even now, as I am supposed to be reading, I have stopped to post on my blog. I get distracted easily I suppose.

Side note: found a room in the library that actually has AC--it's a miracle! The temperatures are dropping finally and some trees are changing colors--will post nice pictures soon.

One of the books that we're reading for my workshop class, John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction", managed to put me off within the first few paragraphs. The books subtitle (if that's what it's called) is: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. The part that really through me off was toward the end of the very first page of the book's preface:

"As matter of fact, most of the books one finds in drugstores, supermarkets, and even small-town public libraries are not well written at all;" -- this part didn't bother me... drum roll please... -- "A smart chimp with a good creative-writing teacher and a real love of sitting around banging a typewriter could have written books vastly more interesting and elegant."
He goes on to say who his audience is: "What is said here, whatever use it may be to others, is said for the elite; that is, for serious literary artists."

Well, at this point, I was so throw off by the chimp comment (I really want to have a t-shirt made up in this regard) that I didn't even want to continue reading. I still don't. I just don't get how a person can so easily dismiss the passion of others. Sure, some people publish stories just for the paycheck and maybe they aren't well written--but to essentially call them chimps, banging away at their keyboards? I don't know, that's really insulting to me. I think it's because I feel like I'm split down the middle--half of me is a serious, literary writer (or at least wants to be) and the other half of me is "capable of writing junk fiction", which requires "an authentic junk mind". So essentially, I am half chimp with a dirty, junky mind. Well crap, no wonder I can't get a man. I know he doesn't say "these people are chimps!" but it seems implied to me. I am certain that most writers who have published books (whether they be good or bad) worked very hard on them, and to be just brushed off and placed below chimps banging on keyboards?! It just doesn't sit well with me.

The rest of the book (I've made it through the first two chapters and have one more to go before tomorrow) take on this tone of snobbery and arrogance that I find so nauseating. I'll read it, because between his higher-than-thou ramblings there are a few gems of wisdom, but I'm certain that I won't enjoy it fully.

Definitely not a book for those with aspirations of mass market paperbacks on dime store shelves--like the fun part of me. So the image on this post is exactly what I feel Gardner should do at this point. Still... lots of chapters left to read, we'll see if I change my mind.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writer's Hat

So, I'm posting to avoid Chekhov. Surprised? Not me.

I'm slowly starting to feel comfortable about my classes, save Chekhov, but that will come with time and detailed reading. Workshop today went well and I felt like I could voice my opinions, somewhat clearly. I sorta botched the story introduction for my classmate (I feel bad about that), but other than that bobble, it went well. I turned in my story "Broken Reflecting Glass" and it will be workshopped next Monday. A guy, who knows a little of my plight with Chekhov and how stumped I was in regard to writing a story, asked, as I was handing it out, if I was having heart palpitations. I wasn't. Not even a nervous, tickling stomach as I passed copies around the table. Sure, I'm interested in how the guys will interpret my character and if anyone will wonder if I drew from my own life at all, but I wasn't nervous. I'm pretty confident in that little piece of work, which is saying a lot.

I'm very happy that I threw away my "workshop hat" as we talked about in class today. My prof asked if any of us had ever seen a change in our writing/voice when sitting down to write "literary" pieces. He looked directly at me (I wonder if he reads this blog) and mentioned that I was posting good things on our MFA blog (which was a nice compliment), and asked if I knew what he was talking about.

Why yes sir, I do!

I mentioned that I had put on that "Literary Hat" when sitting down to write the piece that I had intended for workshop and found that I couldn't write anything. I had to take off the hat--throw it like a piece of trash to the ground--and just write. And when I did this, my story came out quickly, perfectly, and I was content.

I don't ever want to wear that damn hat again.

So, if you ever catch be blogging and I mention avoiding writing, writer's block, or any other nonsense, slap me and tell me to take the god damned hat off and burn it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Freedom of Mind

I wrote a short story today.

Let me repeat that: I wrote a short story today!

It's currently 12 pages--which is SUPER short for me actually. And the best news: I'm actually really excited about it. Last night I went to a Poker-turned-Dance-Party get together, which was a lot of fun. I didn't dance (no surprise really), but I did get to talking with some of the girls in my program. I told them all about my fears, insecurities, etc., and we just sat around talking about things. It really helped to just hear them giving ideas and sharing their own fears (it always feels good to hear that other people are struggling a little too). But it was actually conversation with this guy, a current (almost finished) fiction student for me to see the light. I asked him in he missed workshoping and being in classes since he's currently working on his thesis and he said no. He talked about the pressure of writing for someone (peers, workshopers) versus writing for himself or for his intended audience. He found himself writing stories with people in his workshops in mind--thinking about what they'd appreciate or enjoy. I realized that I don't want to do that. I realized that I've been stumped with my writing because of this very fact--because I don't want to change my current writing style to appease my classmates. I just want to write what I am close to. So, I ditched my planned story and have spent the past five hours working on something new--a solid draft that will be pretty good by the time I finish it tomorrow.

I am happy. Story is posted here (leave a review so I know what you think!).

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Toy

I bought myself an 80GB iPod yesterday. It's my new favorite toy. I also started the story that I'll be turning in on Monday for workshop on Sept. 22. I'm probably crazy to be writing something so fresh for workshop, but then I have nothing else. I volunteered to go next as a way to push myself to write. After I download the rest of these CDs, I'm off to the library to crank out a few more pages.

Feeling a little better about classes too... but Wednesday was a crap-filled day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Starting to Understand...

... why I shy away from difficult things.

It's been a long day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A World Removed

So for the past seven days, I've been dreading and agonizing over one thing: my first workshop. I didn't realize how big a burden these feelings of worry and anxiety were, or how they had settled comfortably between my shoulder blades, until both floated away when I finally sat down in workshop class today. I don't know why, but the moment I was in the classroom I felt comfortable. The fear was magically gone. I felt lighter.

I have come to realize that I am in my head too much, which is not a new epiphany. This (workshop or MFA program, probably both) isn't as big a deal as I've been making it out to be. I think I've made myself sick (ie: my cold) over worrying about whether or not I'm in the right place (MFA program) or if I "deserve" to be here. I've been feeling so alone in my anxiety because no one else is talking about it. And who would? It would require a level of vulnerability and trust--and it takes me a bit to trust people, so I don't come right out and say "Hey, I'm feeling a bit unworthy." Of course anyone who reads this blog will know about my insecurities, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Part of me liked the idea of writing somewhat anonymously--it let me be more real. I'm worried that some of that will change now.

So, for the past few days, since classes started, I've felt myself shrinking--the weight on my back growing heavier and heavier. It sometimes felt like there were a million little Tanyas running around inside me screaming. Parts of this solitary confinement began to chip away as I talked with some of my peers and saw that they too may be feeling certain apprehensions about this whole process (or did when they started). I don't know why I've been operating under the assumption that people enter these programs knowing everything there is to know about writing, but I have and it's made things worse for me. Plus... everyone seems to be wearing their confident shoes. Confident in their writing and reading. My shoes are full of holes and have worn soles. Everyone seems so put together and knows so much more about literary fiction while I'm constantly jotting down authors and stories that I "should" have read a long time ago; feeling inept at communicating why something is good or bad. People either know what they're talking about, are good at B.S.ing, or are just as nervous as I am to stand so vulnerably before them. They just hide it better than me.

I don't know... I guess I need to process this more. All I know is that I feel a bit more secure after workshop today. I guess it's just me giving in to the idea that I am a beginning writer, although I've been writing stories since I was nine. I am a beginner--so I suppose it's okay that I don't know everything yet. I'm here to learn everything I can about writing. I just wish it wasn't so overwhelming at times.

Oh... and I volunteered to have a story ready to workshop in two weeks. It's due next Monday. I guess this will motivate me to start (and hopefully keep) writing. I have no stories to fall back on so I'll have to write something new--or use my application story, I suppose. I'm going to try to write something new though.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tales from the Book Aisles ... and ... my biggest problem: Avoidance

So... work is great. I really enjoy working at Barnes and Noble, so it is likely that I'll stick with this job for a while. Today was fast paced, which is a huge change from the past few days. Tropical Storm Hanna is blowing our way, so that means rain, which drives people to shop here I suppose. It was busy.

I had a customer who was irate because I couldn't find his magazine in the computer system. He demanded to see a manager. He says in a grumpy and irritated voice: "Seems stupid to me that you have the magazine in your store but it's not in the computer. Get a manager. Find out what's wrong." Ummm... for real? I wanted to tell him to chill out, but I just called the manager as he asked. Then I figured out the computer system and managed to ring up his purchase. I told the guy to have a nice day. He just grunted. Then later, when things were hectic and people needed help left and right, this woman asked me to help her find a book about psychic attacks and how to protect yourself against them. She was a new medium and said that "psychic forces are constantly trying to attack new mediums." We had nothing in the store relating to this, but I did thumb through A Complete Idiot's Guide to Psychic Awareness for her. She was desperate for something about protection and seemed put out that we didn't have anything. Honestly though... isn't that something you buy online anyway? She was kind enough to point out that I was holding a book on meditation and not mediation (you know, communicating with the spirit world and all that jazz) at one point. I'll never judge a person because of what they read, but that was definitely an interesting one. Part of me wonders what the cashier next to me thought when a mature gentleman plopped down a copy of Playboy at her register. Kinky.

Changing topics... I have a problem.

I've been avoiding.

I wonder if there's an AA meeting for avoiders of life, of writing, of issues. Blah. I haven't written anything creatively in about two weeks. Why is it that when I feel overwhelmed with something, the first thing to suffer is the one thing I love the most. I'm avoiding writing this story that's been swimming around in my head. Why? I don't know. Fear has a lot to do with it.

I need a good kick in the ass.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

D.C. History vs. Jim Henson Muppets... which one would you prefer?

So, I suppose while visiting D.C., our nation's capitol, full of history, political agendas, bill passing and vetoing, look-which-republican-is-gay scandals, 27-year nuclear war protests, and high-tech espionage (I'm sure someone in the White House heard when I pointed to Hoover's picture on the wall and said: "Isn't this the one who wore dresses?" I think it was Hoover... I'm fuzzy now.), one should probably gaze up into Abe's stone eyes and think of little else than how much they might owe the man for freeing slaves (well, not all of us--but those with a drop of African blood, yes) or solemnly pass stone statues erected in tribute to those who fought in Korea in the 50s with gratitude. Any patriotic American would do such things and should walk away from the district feeling like a proud American, and I did. I'm proud to be an American (please sing the rest of the song here). I am also a proud American who walked around the sweltering D.C. heat humming: Manamana do do dododo. Confused (all ye non-Muppet followers), click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC9FtLQJoGM. [Picture: The Rose Garden (named not for the roses, but for a first lady) the windows you see look into the Oval Office.)]

Yes... I went to D.C. with two goals: 1) see my sisterand 2) see the Smithsonian Institute exhibit honoring Jim Henson's Muppets. (I'll let you decide which order those goals should actually be in.) We tackled one goal right away and went to see the Muppet exhibit and it was truly remarkable. I've been to plenty of museums before and not once have I ever stopped at each little display and read every single word like I did here. There's something about the creativity behind the Muppets, about seeing Jim Henson's scratch paper, handwriting, and sketches, that was truly awe inspiring. I left that place wanting to go back through again and again and again. I left that place wanting to create magic. I can't gush enough about it. Everything else (well, with the exception of seeing the "real" West Wing and the closed, locked door of the Situation Room, and the Press Corps room) pales in comparison. I couldn't take pictures of the Muppets. I know, sadness. I did try to be a rebel and snapped one picture (see right). My sister said the security guard followed us all around the exhibit after that--I was too engrossed in everything Henson so I didn't notice. Oh well.

The rest of D.C. was great. We saw the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the West Wing, Chinatown, and lots of other little things around town. We rode the Metro everywhere, which was a lot of fun. And then I picked up some disease (cold, I hope) and was out of commission all of Monday, which we had planned to visit the University of Maryland to get a picture of a statue of Jim Henson and Kermit--alas. Oh well, there's always November.

I will leave you with this quote:

"As children, we all live in a world of imagination, of fantasy, and for some of us that world of make-believe continues into adulthood." ~Jim Henson (1936-1990)

I really want this print--so if you can find it let me know.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In the Classroom Again

So... I had my first class tonight, English Grammar, which is basically going to prepare me for teaching grammar and becoming a master at it, I'm sure. There are about 30 people in the class, which is a good amount I suppose. I got there a minute or so late (he was going through the class roster, maybe he jumped the gun). I had to walk about six blocks (maybe more) to get there and what greeted me as I walked through the classroom door? A wave of 80-degree, stifling heat. A note to all New Hampshire people: A/C (or fans) are required in the summer! I'm making it a point to sit near open windows. This place is gonna kill me until I get used to the weather.

Anyway, back to grammar... I wasn't really sure how I was going to like the professor. I couldn't understand the first 15 minutes of his lecture because of outside and neighboring noises and the fact that he sorta droned on and on in a monotone voice. Things picked up as we did more class-participation exercises, but still, I wasn't sure. He seems to be fun, as long as he doesn't pick on me. At this point my grammar abilities are remedial (ie: functional) at best. I know what's right (most of the time) but now why it's right.

Random thoughts from the first day of class:
  • Parking isn't that bad... as long as I can bypass downtown traffic and leave work/home about 30 minutes before class. We'll see how the weather changes things.

  • The classroom was too hot. (Repetitive, I know.)

  • Four college text books = $120.

  • I hate not being able to pick out my own textbooks. I went downtown to pick them up after class, and the guy behind the counter just handed me a stack of books. Two of my used copies were "heavily" used with writing and highlighting all over them. Other peoples' notes and doodles completely distract me. I like pristine book pages. I don't want to be influenced by others. Highly annoyed, but will manage.

  • All college campuses (read: undergrads) look the same no matter where you are in the country. I swear I thought I was in Texas for the amount of tanned, bleach blond girls I saw running around (yes actually running).

  • I decided to read grammar over watching Greek on ABC family--I deserve MAJOR kudos people. That show is too cute and I really want to watch it.

That's about all for now. Will post about my D.C. trip tomorrow probably.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Orientations

So, it's been a busy week. And I like it! It's so nice to be doing something most days. Something that doesn't revolve around shopping, although... I have managed to spend money at least once a day. I can't help myself. It's an addiction, I openly admit it. Or perhaps that is just the American way. So... on Tuesday I had orientation to the English Department--typical get-acquainted-with-your-new-school stuff, but it was great in that I got to meet the eleven people that I'll be studying with. Although, I did only meet a handful of them that first day. Anyway, we met our professors and sorta did a round robin and introduced ourselves to one another. So far people are pretty "chill" as they say up here. However, I'm still in the observation phase, which I've realized I do with most people. I watch them. Not stalker like or anything, but I'm pretty observant of how they are with other people and how they act in general. I try to read between the lines and what not. You learn a lot about a person by just watching them. I wonder what people pick up off me. Or maybe I'm just mysterious and have everyone's minds boggled. I try to be friendly to everyone.

Anyway, the second orientation was for my job with the Writing Center, which I'll do about eight hours a week, unless I cut Wednesday nights, which I might end up doing. We talked about going out after class, to a bar or something for a drink, and I won't be able to do that if I need to run to work from 6-8 or however long it was. So, I'm still going to think about it. We'll see. This orientation was good and new for me, since I've never worked at a writing center. I'm looking forward to working with students one-on-one--I enjoy doing that.

After orientation we headed "downtown" which is like two-three blocks away from the building where I'll have most of my classes (and consists of a small block-long strip of restaurants and pubs) and had a drink and just got to know each other better. We stayed for a while actually, but it was really nice. I'm not much of a drinker (never have been) and told one of the girls that I'd probably end up an alckie by the end of the program. I know, I know... I don't have to drink when I go out, but... :). I'll be driving most of the time anyway so I don't think it'll be much of a problem.

I had an interview yesterday for the online writing program and I really hope that I get a few hours with them. It sounds like good fun (and a lot of work, so we'll see). I also received a call to see if I was interested in working a few hours at the library (turned them down) and an email about a full-time editing position at this placed called Measured Progress. I don't know what I'm going to do about that yet though. I don't think I want a full-time (ie: real) job. I like having lots of little things all over the place. It would be nice not to work at all, but then I'd probably go crazy. So... yeah, not sure what to do about that. All I know is that I'm ready for school to start. I'm ready... ready, ready, ready.

Nostalgic moment: I popped in one of my old Yanni CDs a second ago. Wow... memories.

I need to go to bed now. I get up in 4 hours to fly to D.C. to see my sister! :) Exciting. So... no posts for a few days, but loads of updates after I go to D.C. and see the best exhibit ever at the Smithsonian Institution! I know... I know... childhood will never escape me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Second Day at Work

Don't worry, I don't plan to fill this blog with updates on my new job. School starts in nine days, so I'm sure that I'll post random things about that and will focus more on writing too.

Anyway, my second day at B&N went well. I sorta like working from 7am to 2:30pm and then having the rest of the afternoon to sit around and do nothing. There weren't too many exciting things that happened yesterday. I'm catching on really quick and I think people can see that. One of the head cashiers (maybe, I'm not sure), a guy who I didn't work with on Friday, said he was surprised that they put me up front to work with only one day of training. "That's not usual," he said. I didn't really know what to say to that, so I mentioned that maybe it was because I sold three memberships, which I guess is a pretty amazing thing too? I don't know, he and another head cashier said that they don't see that kind of turn around often. It's usually one card an hour (or per 20 people); I sold three card in only 19 transactions. I renewed a few cards yesterday, but I don't know if that counts as "selling" a card. Probably not.

Other tidbits from yesterday:
  • I shelved books in the morning, which isn't much different from my shelving experience at the Evans Library. Still not a highly interesting job, but it's easy and I get to check out books while I'm at it.
  • I also worked customer service toward the end of my shift and managed to successfully help a few people (in front of the manager too, so score two points for me). I think I've shown that I'm a fast learner. I just need to learn the layout of the store a little better.
  • Most of the co-workers I've met are nice and friendly. There are a few that I'm uncertain about. They walk around all day with frowns glued onto their faces and are expected to interact with customers? One guy sorta warmed up after a minute or so of talking to him, but another woman, a cashier, was either having a really bad day or was just irritated that I--the super seller that I am--was poaching her territory at register (especially since I'm new). It's not like we sell these cards on commission, we don't, so I don't know what her deal was. Whatever... I'm not guaranteed to get along with the whole world, but it would be nice. I am a keeper of peace--unless you F with one of my siblings.
  • Question: Trying to help people while you're in training is a good thing right? Shows me being proactive and all that jazz? I hope so. I don't want to step on toes or seem over confident.

Oh... heard my second reference to "Dirty Dover" at work yesterday. So, I guess it does have a bit of a reputation with locals. The guy told me which street he was referring to, but I can't remember, and said that I was in a good part of town. I am almost positive that he wanted to call the bad part of town the ghetto, but stopped. Maybe he was just trying to be P.C., which is perfectly fine. Anyway, I still like my job and sorta wish I had more hours there. Not that I could live off of it comfortably or anything. It's fun though. I'm meeting a lot of new and interesting people, which is the point of this cross-country venture of mine. That and learnin' to do what I do better than I currently do it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My First Day as a Bookseller

I don't have any complaints so far with Barnes and Noble. It seems like a generally fun place to work. I got there at 7am (eek, that wasn't much fun getting up at 6am, but I'll make it work) and started the normal new hire paperwork and training. Most of my actual training today was on the cash register, which was a lot of fun. I sold three memberships, which I was worried about at first because I suck when it comes to selling anything. I used to dread selling candy door-to-door or those stupid catalog things that you get in school. I've never been good asking people for money. It went well today though, so yay. Most days might not. I sold three in one hour and we're supposed to sell one per hour we work, which amounts to seven in a day for me. I don't really see that happening, but we'll see.

Maybe the people today just liked my friendly nature and couldn't say no. Perhaps I am magical.

Thoughts, tidbits, and observations of the day:

  • It's nice sitting around at the morning staff meeting talking about what we're reading and how we're liking it. For the first time I didn't feel like I'd be looked down on for something I'm reading. I probably looked smart saying Chekhov, but that is what I'm reading at the moment.
  • People are very laid back at this store, which will make for a good work environment. For the exception of one lady who completely freaked out when she saw that I hadn't written down a driver's license on the check I took from a customer. I mean FREAKED out. There was a whole line of people and she went on and on and on about how I was supposed to write down the address and ID number (doing so in an outside voice too). She even had the other new girl, who was working with me, chase down the lady in the parking lot to have her come back. Is it really that serious? Really? [Educate me retail goddesses and gods!] Well, it's a mistake I won't repeat, that's for sure. But she did act as if it were the end of the world. Not so much.
  • I probably won't have a specific place to work (ie: children's) like I thought, but I'll be all over the floor. Nice.
  • No irate customers today.
  • A man fell out of his motorized wheel chair in front of the store. The same lady who made a scene about my lack of getting an ID for the check said that the guy pretty much got what he was asking for. Apparently the man nearly ran her over earlier and then gave her a "look" that said "get out of my way!" I don't think anyone deserves to fall out of their wheelchair in front of a busy store, in a high traffic area, and be forced to lay there (probably being stared at) until people capable of returning him to said chair could arrive, no matter how bitchy they may be, but whatever. Personalities abound.

I hope to become very book savvy working at this job. I want to be a pro at it, which is sort of sad in a way. Sad because I spent the past year unmotivated in my old job and the last seven hours full of desire and eagerness to learn. I had an excitement to return to work after my break--something that never happened before. Hell, I was ready to get out of the office after arriving at 8am before. And this is a job that pays not even HALF of what I was making before. It just reaffirms the saying "money isn't everything." Now, I could be singing a VERY different tune once I'm out of school owing Sallie Mae like $90K [possibly] in loans. Yes, then I might be sobbing a desperate lament for money. Hopefully I'll be published and raking in some kind of sustainable income from that.

I probably need to abandon this insane, perhaps unrealistic idea that I can blow money now because I'll be famous later. It's not the ONLY reason I shop, but honestly, I do sometimes operate under this (possible) misconception. I need my Texas financial advisor to come live with me up here in The Shire. I think she wouldn't mind much. I also need my ice-cream, Bravo Wednesday buddy to come too. That would make this place "da bomb".

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