Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Easter

In the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about my family.  One of the questions I have asked myself is this: "If I had to choose one childhood memory which represents my relationship with my family, what would it be?"  What immediately came to mind was an Easter celebration when I was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5.  I don't know what year it was, but I do remember that I was the only young child in my family at the time, and I was young enough that I sometimes had a hard time walking or running.  The memory is rather short, but I feel that the emotions behind it are particularly relevant to evaluating my family life.

The first thing that comes to mind when I recall this memory is the feeling of my lacy off-white Easter dress.  It had a small pink flower on the ribbon ringing the chest of my dress.  The sleeves were capped and I think I remember the feeling of a bow tied in the back, most likely an extension of the one across my front.  The ribbon is rather thin and sewed securely to the front of the dress.  My hair is in two pigtails, one at each side of my head, and I have bangs that are almost hanging into my eyes.  I want my mother to cut them.

In my left hand is a small Easter basket.  It is a woven, thick-threaded basket colored in pastels of blue, white, purple, and pink. I am standing in the front yard of my grandmother's old house, looking at the flower garden next to the porch steps.  I am hunting Easter eggs and all of my mother's cousins and my aunt are pointing out where I should look and shouting what is in each egg as I open them.  They are excited because they were the ones who filled each egg for me and some of them even went so far as to put some of their own coins into the plastic eggs.  I say my mother's cousins and my aunt because they were all no more than 6-10 years older than I, and my own cousins would not start being born until the year after I turned ten.

I said that this memory is relevant to evaluating my family life because it illustrates how I was treated as a young child.  My second cousins and my aunt took care of me.  Yes, of course, my mother raised me and is largely responsible for the person I have become, but it was my second cousins and aunt who I looked to for guidance in most areas of my life.  Being so close to my own age, but far enough ahead that they had learned something more of the world than I, I often used their failures to prevent my own and their triumphs to point me where I needed to go.  I didn't grow up with other children in my household so these women have always been more sister than cousin or aunt--and my aunt more of a sister than any of them.

I can't say who I would be if I hadn't had them in my life, and, frankly, I don't want to contemplate a life without them.  Although they can be exasperating and loud, flamboyant and opinionated, stubborn and outrageous, they are also smart and loving, experienced and caring, learned and hopeful.  They are my family, and I love them because I love them, not because they are my family.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beach

The waves wage war against the shore,
And crabs scuttle clumsily through the surf,
Seeking sustenance, shells, and solitude.

The sand stands strong against the boar-
Charge of the challenging tide’s turbulent
Hour, halting the harassing multi-hued

Water. The war waxes and wanes
But, the harsh beauty of the hastening
Assault arouses no ally’s anger.

Smooth stones drift swiftly through, away,
And toward the terracotta sand space
Of the beach. Barely clad, browned sun-bathers

Face the fury of the full globe
Unprotected by thick white sun-lotion,

Or the outspread shade of beach umbrellas.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Tale - Syllabics Poem

She stands by a window
Caught in a shaft of sunlight
Face turned away

Her gaze rests on the bow
Its arrows used in the fight
No more to fly

Footsteps sound on flagstones
Echoing up the spiral steps
Death comes swiftly

Shouts rebound from below
Soldiers yell with combined might
Victory in sight

Her long blonde hair braided
An instrument of defeat
No salvation

The door to her tower
Swings into her chamber room
“Fair Rapunzel,”

“Let down your hair.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Influences

Today, I was thinking about how school and life have influenced me—not only as a writer, but also a person in the world.

Influences

School – Books, Ideas, Influences, etc
Outside – Books, Movies, TV Shows, etc

A. School Ideas

a. Knowledge – Must build your knowledge from a diverse base (like a pyramid), rather than the English idea of narrowing your knowledge, from freshman year, to a specific field.

b. Discovery – I learn better through discussion rather than personal study, but I don't necessarily enjoy discussion.

c. Misconceptions – People assume that if you write well and read often, you enjoy school. My high school English teacher also assumed I already knew everything about English Grammar—until senior year when we performed grammar exercises to fill a gap in our class time.

d. Writing – Everyone says that you must write often to start writing well, but I never really understand that saying unless I am writing often. When I don’t write, I forget that I am not improving my writing; I assume my college education is doing that for me without any extra required effort on my part.


B. School Books

a. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (elementary school)




i. This book was the very first adult level novel I ever read, and I read it to challenge myself in the fourth grade.  At that point in my life, I was becoming exceedingly annoyed with the simplicity of the books ranked as equivalent to the reading skill of a fourth grader.  Jane Eyre expanded my horizons as a reader and writer. My writing sometimes takes on a dark perspective, and that perspective can be directly linked to this novel and my subsequent readings of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems.








b. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (college)
i. This book introduced me to a number of new perspectives on writing, and it also pointed out some techniques which I did not realize I was already using. I felt reaffirmed as a writer. I would suggest this book to anyone who would like some ideas on the process of writing. It was introduced to me as a textbook in a composition course, and it is the first textbook I ever kept to read for pleasure.






C. Outside Books

a. David Eddings’ The Belgariad series (elementary/middle school)


i. These books could be said to be the reason I became a writer. I realized, instead of writing about my observations of this world, I could actually create my own world and use the myths to build epic adventures with magic, monsters, and larger-than-life heroes.







b. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series (middle school/high school/college)


i. Robert Jordan showed me how a seemingly simple story could reveal itself as a really complex narrative throughout the course of a series. I came to this realization because the scope of the novels covered my entire life (as it has taken over two decades to complete the series), and I therefore had to reread the entire series every time a new book came out. This has shown me that we do not always see the writing between the lines; we need to look closer at what we are experiencing to ensure that we don’t miss something extremely important to the story of our life. The very fact that I didn’t come to this conclusion until I started writing about this shows that writing is my route of discovery.


I wonder what it says about me to outsiders that I didn't get past ideas and books before stopping?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Lately, I have been thinking about how our childhoods affect the outcome of our lives.  I can happily tell you that this post is not a long philosophical debate on this subject, but rather "a walk down memory lane".


My first memory is of being potty-trained.  When I say this, I don't mean the memory of learning to go to the bathroom when I have the need, but actually learning how to sit on a toilet.  I don't know how far I had progressed in potty training, but I do know that I was at that time "a big girl" enough to finally use an adult toilet for the first time.  I was standing in the only bathroom in my grandmother's old house and both my mother and my grandmother were in the room with me.  I assume that I had told them I needed to use the toilet, and they decided it was time for me to upgrade from the child-sized plastic potty trainer to the adult sized ceramic bowl of the toilet.  I remember climbing on the toilet when they asked me, and the confusion I felt when they started to laugh at me.  My grandma said, "No, that's how boys do it."  Evidently, girls aren't suppose to face the tank when they sit down to pee.


Although some people may not see this as a particularly fond or nice memory to have as my earliest memory, I don't think I would trade it for any other because it is a memory very significant to growing up, and it is a memory filled with the laughter of two of the women I love most. One person to whom I told this story commented that it was rather mean of my mother and grandmother to laugh at me. They wanted to know if this laughter set me back in my potty training. Truthfully, I have to idea whether it did or not, but I don't think it did. I have always responded much better to laughter than to yells. If they had grown angry at my foible, then I could believe that this event was an unhealthy one in my childhood, but the utter lack of hostility persuades me that this memory is one that has influenced my life in a positive manner.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mother's Embrace

          I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had been born a bird rather than a premature baby girl.  The first month of my life I survived through sheer force of will, and the implementation of modern technology.  My mother says she safeguarded the flame of my life with her physical presence and spiritual prayer.  Since I left the hospital eighteen years ago, she has safeguarded me with the walls of our home as well.
            I’m not allowed out of the house after dark, or outside the wrought-iron fence surrounding our property without my mother’s presence at my side.  My mother has been a stay-at-home mom since she printed my name in capital letters on my birth certificate:  ANGELICA BELLE WASHINGTON.  I want to be a Robin so I can fly free of her embrace, but then, I think, shouldn’t Angels have wings too?
            My father’s key to escape my mother’s cage is the same reason she is able to keep me locked in.  His position as a lawyer for West Virginia’s Senator James Weston provides him with the money to keep my mother in the debutante lifestyle she was raised to expect—enabling her to stay with me every moment of the day.  His career equips him with a more than adequate supply of excuses with which to evade my mother’s clutches, because of course a Senator requires the excellent advise of his lawyer quite regularly and this advice must be presented in person if it is to be understood clearly.
            I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, a new tutor each year to diversify my education, and ensure that my mother will always be the rock in my existence.  The only times I am allowed out into the world are for my mother’s society meetings.  Tea with the ladies and their daughters at Bridgeport Country Club.  Brunch with Mrs. Weston, and rarely her married daughter, Martha Rothschild.  Although eight years my senior, Martha is the closest friendship I can claim.  Occasionally, she will visit me in my unnatural habitat.  Sit across from me in the over decorated sitting room on the first floor of the cage I call home.  Perch on the soft chairs which try to remind me with their quicksand embrace that I am trapped here.  I envy her freedom even though she has little more than I.  The chains of marriage and motherhood hold her almost as tightly as parental obligation shackles me.
            Today, she faces me across the expanse of the sitting room’s massive oak coffee table.  We both focus the subjects of our conversation on pleasantries while my mother hovers in the seat beside my own.  The almost silent sound of my mother delicately nibbling on a cucumber sandwich is the most interesting sound in the room.  I see Martha struggling to find something more to say, and I know that she will leave soon.  Although I normally await this signal with dread and compliance, this day I feel an unbearable urge to act.  Once Martha has completed her recitation of baby Gregory’s newest accomplishment, grasping his own spoon, I make my move.

           "Mother?  Were you wanting to show Martha your newest embroidery?  The one father suggested you take up?"  My mother's expression changed from one of genteel calm to a rather rapt expression of interest.  Expecting me, her embroidery was by far her greatest passion.  After my mother excused herself to fetch the embroidery hoop, I moved around the oak monstrosity to perch on the chair next to Martha.
           

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tree-lined Hills

I have ever been afraid of the tree-lined hills around my town.  The starkness of their limbs seems to scream at me, for even in the height of spring they barely hold a hint of green.  No one else ever thought it strange and seemed quite taken aback anytime I happened to mention it.  I have always believed that those hills are the reason that we never acquire new town members.  Travelers pass through and look around at the barren trees on the glassy slopes of the surrounding hills and turn quickly back the way they came.  I can see it in their eyes, the acknowledgment that there is something wrong with that landscape.  No one else notices.  No one else believes. 
I blame the first disappearances on those hills, and the ones after on the fact that people went out into the tree filled, rolling landscape to look for the missing.  Their mistake for ignoring what I could see. 
There are currently twenty-three people missing.  That may not be a large amount to any other town, but Alcot can only lay claim to a couple hundred individuals.  It is quite a punch to us, and more people disappear as the days go by.  Some can be seen wondering off of their own accord, but others simply vanish without a word or witness.
The sheriff refuses to call for state or federal assistance, even though he has already lost both of his deputies to those hills—the first his own flesh-and-blood son.  It is passing strange that the sheriff never went to look for his son.  It is even more strange the power these hills have over a community which refuses to acknowledge the existence of any power, save that of God.
Their mistake, and no one but me to correct it.  And what am I to do about the matter?  I may be the only one in my town with the power to sense the wrongness of the hills—and their ghostly trees—but I hold no other power, not even that which is granted with adulthood.  I am seventeen years old, and my right of passage lies seven months away—if there are even any of my townsfolk remaining by then to see me through it.  I cannot wait that long to enter the woods. 

I toss my hair behind my shoulder with a quick shake of my head.  No, I cannot even wait until the coming day dawns—my dreams have told me this much.  If I do not enter the hills tonight, my mother will be the next to disappear.  I do not question this knowledge.  I have always had unexplainable knowledge, and it has never failed me in its truth.  I no longer question why I have it.  The answer is quite simple really—all knowledge is given so that it can be used.  I am given this knowledge because I am the only one who will act on it.  The only one with faith in ungodly things, which can be sensed simply by looking at those tree-lined hills.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rumor Mill

          Lia pondered the question for a moment before she answered, “He kinda reminds me of an owl.  He’s got this fluffy tuft of white hair framing his face, and his eyes always seem to be open just a little too wide.  And, if you watch closely, he moves his arms like a bird resettling its wings.  They even make weird fluttering movements when he talks.  He also poofs his mouth out—not the exact shape of a beak, but close enough considering.”

            Jules tossed her hair off of her shoulder and tucked her hands into her jean pockets.  Lia could not help but admire the cascade of silky black hair which fell to Jules’s waist.  The quick spark of jealousy sent her left hand up to finger her own locks.  Her hair felt smooth beneath her fingertips, but every time she looked in the mirror, Lia was confronted with the truth of her wild and frizzy mouse brown curls.

            Jules voice interrupted her thoughts.  “I’ll give you that one.  I always thought a squirrel fit him better—bushy tail coming to attention every time a student speaks.  I can definitely picture Professor Gillard as an owl though.”


            “Kind of rings with the whole questioning act of philosophy too, doesn’t it?  Who? Who? Who!”

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lost

          Linda put her hand on the lever and pulled it down.  The slot machine came to life before her, the pictures rolling quickly in the three frames.  She could dimly hear the Vegas noise behind her, but her eyes and ears were focused on the machine in front of her.  The first picture stopped rolling and rested on a “7”.  The second picture halted a moment later, “7” again.  Linda felt her throat contract rigidly and her left hand flew up to rest on the face of the machine.

            When the third roller stopped, she just sat staring at the double cherries.  7, 7, cherries.  Her fingers felt numb as she pulled her gamer’s card out of the machine.  Five thousand dollars.  Lost.  Linda wrapped the card’s lanyard chain around her hand and stood up.


            The casino noises crashed down on her as she walked toward the exit.  What was she going to tell her brother?  Harvey had loaned her the money to get her out of debt, not further into it.  She could no longer remember a time when she had not taken every dollar she earned to the casino.  It had been two months since she had a regular job with a consistent paycheck—most employers didn’t want an addictive gambler as an employee.  Every last one of them had considered her a security threat, like she had the money or the smarts to steal from them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gift

          The incident began in late October.  Camille was taking her usual early morning walk around the lake just west of her family’s farm.  The walk had been a habit of hers since she was old enough to be let out of the house alone.  She found comfort in the sameness of each trek.  She knew the feel of the dirt on the west side close by her father’s barn, the sharpness of each rock on the north side, and the swish of the knee high cattle grass as she crossed the pasture on the southern slope of the lake.  No matter what time of year it was, whether the crystalline quiet of winter or the waiting silence of spring, the only noises were the sounds of her footfalls, the whistles of the wind through the grass, and the songs of the grasshoppers. 

The cows had been gone since before she was allowed out on her own.  Everyone in town scratched their heads at a farm-wife who was afraid of cows, but Camille’s mother had barely survived a stampede in her teens—as soon as Camille was born, the cattle were sold.  She knew her father wasn’t much bothered by this.  The main source of the family’s income came from the fields anyway.  Camille’s father, Harold Grover, put love into his crops, and that feeling gave them flavor.  You could tell when a farmer didn’t care about their produce—a certain blandness always pervaded the vegetables of those who were simply out for a profit. 

The smell of the pumpkins seemed to wrap her in comforting arms—her father’s love protected her here; the farm knew she was his cultivation as much as it was.  As Camille started down the western rise of the three square mile lake, she was thinking rather strongly of her father’s love.  He had known from his early childhood that his Gift was a love of growing things, vegetables in particular.  His parents had purchased this farm as soon as the manifestation was confirmed by a Placer.  They hadn’t been exactly pleased with the route they knew their son’s life was going to take, but they had accepted it because it was such a rare thing for a child’s Gift to reveal itself before the child reached puberty.  Camille was turning seventeen in less than a month and her Gift had yet to reveal itself.  The whispers in town now spoke more often of this than her mother’s fear. 

Occasionally, children were born Giftless, but it was such a rare occurrence that they had only just now started wondering if she was Giftless.  Camille wondered what it would be like to live her entire life without a Gift.  Her mother’s Gift was weather prediction and her brother was already showing signs of being a veterinarian—he was only twelve.  Camille tossed her hair over her shoulder as she rounded the curve of the lake and started across the gravel laid down for the railroad on her left. 


Today, she couldn’t take comfort from the sold impact of her bare feet on this rough terrain.  Each sharp edge felt like the questioning stares of the townsfolk.  Camille swerved to her left and walked in a line with the railroad rather than the lake.  She felt exhilaration at stepping apart from certainty.  She had never felt the contours of the railroad against the pads of her feet before.  The metal felt cool but strangely alive.  Settling into an easy rhythm, Camille decided to walk the railroad the three miles it would take to reach Bell’s Sound.  Each step she took was silent, and this silence was the reason she decided not to return to the house for her shoes.  Today was Saturday, so she knew her family would wake only long enough to eat and check on the fields before going back to bed.  After all, a farm run by a man with a Gift practically ran itself.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Burned Bridge

          “She won’t speak to me,” I said. 

            Damon shrugged his shoulders, his cotton t-shirt sleeves brushing against my own.  He kept his body facing the TV screen and tilted his head to glance at me.  The sounds coming from the screen almost drowned out his murmured response, “So call her.”

            “I have called her.  She won’t answer.”  I snuggled a little deeper into the plush red suede couch and focused my eyes  on the screen so I wasn’t staring at him awkwardly.

            “So call her from someone else’s phone.”  His fingers continued to tap out the control commands for his character.

            “I’ve tried.  She hangs up as soon as she hears my voice.”

            “Bummer.”  Damon heaved out a sigh.  I was not sure if this was in response to my situation or the fact that his character had failed this level of the game for the fifth time tonight.  He tossed the controller onto the floor before heading into the kitchen.


            I turned to watch his slim figure walk to the fridge and rested my chin on the back of the couch.  The fabric felt soft and cool against my skin and I closed my eyes for a moment, pretending that I could set down my troubles as easily as my head.  I had been so sure that she would take my side, but I should have known that my grandmother would love her son more than she loved me.

Reading Aloud

What is reassuring about reading aloud?  What does reading aloud accomplish for us that reading silently to ourselves does not?

For myself, when I read aloud, I always notice things I missed when I read silently.  It could be an error in the sentence construction which causes me to stumble over a word, or an emphasis placed in a certain area of the sentence.  Sometimes I can sense a depth of emotion present in the way I say the words as I am reading them.

I have found that reading my own work aloud allows me to revise and edit my work to a greater extent and thereby increase the chance that readers will correctly interpret what I am endeavoring to convey.  Is it wise to say that I am my own best critic?  No, but it certainly feels that way when I read my work out loud.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Little Worn Path

          It was just a little worn path to the south of her house, but it fascinated her.  Her mother always warned her away from it, saying a little worn path into the woods was more likely full of bears than not.  Chera really didn’t care.  One day, she would follow that little brown worn path into the inviting green woods but that day would not be today.  Today was her 10th year since birth.  Today, she would be accepted into The School, where she would begin her training.          
          In a few years, maybe they would decide what profession she should train.  Or maybe she would stay longer.  There were those who remained at the School until they reached womanhood on their 17th year.  She approved of those women more than the others, even though her mother was one of the girls sent away early.  The girls who graduated earlier never seemed quite satisfied with their lives, and Chera wanted to exult in hers.          
          She could hear her mother calling her now.  It was finally time to go.  She wasn’t going far, but a journey could never end if it was never begun.  Quickly, she stood up from the gnarly old stump upon which she had been sitting and straightened her pretty pink gown.  It was made of wool—she was used to less expensive fabrics, but no one went to school in old, scratchy clothes.  The dark rich pink of the gown contrasted especially well with her pretty green eyes and soft, dark brown hair.  Or, at least, that is what the seamstresses had told her as they adjusted the cloth around her during her fitting a few short days ago.  Her mother had simply smiled and clasped her father’s hand tightly as they stood side by side watching the fitting progress.       
          Chera's parents didn't own a mirror.  She had never asked why, since having a mirror seemed like a selfish thing, but she couldn't help wishing that she knew what the other girls would see when she entered the School's grounds.



            

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oklahoma Dialect

Oklahoma Dialect

          I can remember my first book clearly, a large blue tome of Bible stories which my mother read to me every night of my childhood.  Her husky voice spoke the words softly and her weight sloped the side of my bed towards her seat on its left edge.  The most precious part of this memory is the security I felt as I lay there tucked into my comforter, with the person I loved most in the entire world, sitting next to me.  My eyes would slowly start drifting closed, and I would sigh as I made a slight effort to stay awake—not to hear the end of the stories I knew so well but to hear the voice of the woman I love more than any other.  My love of the written word has remained secure because of her.  While my world changed rapidly—different schools, different friends, sometimes different states—my love of literature remained constant and my mother’s voice continued to bring me comfort in a world which was often stressful.

           I still hear her voice every time I read a word off of a page.  Her laughter echoes in my head when I am struck by a funny line, and I persevere with my education because of her diligence.  When my classes become almost painful with their heavy load, I remember the weight she bore raising me alone for most of my childhood.  My mother only ever read to me from a children’s Bible because she had no love of literature herself, but she instilled a love of reading in her daughter even so.  I have only to think of what she did for me to know what I must accomplish for myself.

          I can remember when the literature I read changed from the frivolities of youth to the romances of those decades my senior.  The words of Julie Garwood’s “The Lion’s Lady” separated me from the world of my childhood before I even reached my teenage years.  Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” showed me the dark side of romance at the beginning of my fourth grade year.  Before much more time had passed, David Eddings’s “The Belgariad” series launched me into the world of fantasy, which in turn showed me the way to Piers Anthony’s worlds—where our unexplained sayings are real and understood.

          These paragons of worlds unknown led me to discover Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series, which remains the heart of my library.  Stephanie MeyerRichelle Mead, and P.C. Cast recently captivated me with their paranormal romances—worlds of unimagined color and life, set in the very world which we inhabit.  The words of my favorite authors have enthralled me.  They have inspired me.  It is my love of literature which prompted my desire to write.  My dearest wish is to one day join the ranks of their names in the heart of a child just like me.

          I remember the first book I ever wrote.  In my fourth grade classroom in Lubbock, Texas my teacher handed me a simple, white folder.  I do not remember her name, or even her face, but I see that little white folder in her slender hand.  Inside that folder was a small white booklet, its pages as blank as its cover.

          She knelt beside me in that fourth grade classroom and asked me to fill the pages of the booklet with a story.  I asked her what I should write about, and she told me to write whatever I wanted.  That was a day of liberty.  That was a day of discovery.  That was a day when a talking fox saved a forest and won the heart of his lady love…in a small white booklet.

          I decided to become a writer when I was ten years old.  This decision came the summer after my fourth grade year while I was sitting in a chair in my grandmother’s computer room facing the monitor screen.  Mavis Beacon was leading me through the lessons which taught me to type with ease.  The Oklahoma sun was shining through the blue curtains hanging in front of the window to my right, and I could hear my grandmother moving around in her kitchen.  I could smell coffee brewing—I cannot remember a time when her old house did not smell of coffee—and the sound of the wind whipping the spiny seed pods from the sycamore in the front yard set the meter as my fingers raced across the keyboard.

          My mind wondered as I listened.  Although my eyes read the words scrolling across the screen and my fingers diligently tapped them out, my thoughts were on the dryads from David Eddings’s world.  With my mind’s eye I saw them running through their forest home, laughing softly and whispering to the Trees—the Trees which were their shelter and their home, their life and their love.  I imagined a world where one of those beautiful forest creatures was stolen away from her home, taken captive by a lord of Hell—a world where a child was born of this union, born and left with her father in Hell when her mother was saved from captivity and carried to Heaven.

          I cannot remember when I changed from the Mavis Beacon program to Microsoft Word, but I can remember staring at the words I had typed on the computer screen.  I yelled for my grandmother to come and read what I had written.  I had written.  For once, I was captivated and enthralled, not by the words of others, but by the words which I had created from a thought, an idea, the unseen reaches of my mind.

          It was on that day I realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I wanted to create worlds from my imagination, paint scenes of romance and tragedy, comedy and adventure, light and dark.  I wanted to write—to write something that would carry my readers to the world of my imagination and show them its wonders and its dangers.  I wanted to walk the path of my characters’ lives and see where they led.

          As I have grown as a writer, I have learned about myself as well.  Some writers sit down to their story and plot it out event by event and then go into their world and fill in the blanks.  Some writers start at the end and work their way to the beginning.  Some writers focus on the climax they have imagined and build their characters around the event.  I immerse myself in the world with my characters and allow them to show me their adventure.

          I know who my characters are before their story begins; I have constructed their world for them out of my imagination; and I have given them a goal for which to strive.  However, I have not created the ending; I have not constructed the final climax; and I have not set out a plot.  I firmly believe that the characters of my world can fashion their own destinies if I allow them to do so.

          The world in which we live, our reality, has separated me from my imagined world on many occasions.  There are times when I have remained outside of it for over a year, but I keep going back.  There is not a day that goes by without me feeling the pull of the pages I have already written.  Yet fear remains. What if no one is ever as captivated by my world as I have been?  What if I allow myself to sink into this world long enough to finish my characters’ journeys and find that no one but my friends and family will ever read it—that no publishing house will bind its pages of print?

          I can remember a time when I did not fear.  I can remember the sound of my mother’s voice reading to me as a child.  I can remember the comfort of the sounds and smells of my childhood.  I can remember the secure feeling of the keys of my keyboard beneath my fingers.  I will remember, and I will write.


    

Monday, February 24, 2014

Creative Writer vs Creative Writing Major

When I first became a creative writing major, I assumed I would be able to write whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  The act of being a creative writing major has since abused me of this notion.  A person who is a creative writer can write whatever comes to their mind and asks to be set free, but a person who is a CWM (creative writing major) must write to the dictates of their major, and the restraints imposed upon a CWM are very specific and constrictive, although they can vary by professor.

Rules for a CWM:
  • Genre writing is strictly prohibited.  Writers can only create literary fiction.
  • Do not use exclamation marks.
  • Show, don't tell.  Readers don't want to be told what is happening; they want to be shown.
  • Write from the point of view of only one character.
  • There is no happily ever after.
  • Avoid sentimentality.
  • Dialogue tags should be limited to "said".  Use of "questioned", "remarked", "queried", "exclaimed", "sighed", etc will result in ridicule.  These descriptions should be apparent within the dialogue itself.
  • Refrain from using words ending in "ly", such as "longingly", "exasperatingly", "absentmindedly", etc.
  • Contractions can only be used in dialogue, thought, or first person point of view.
  • Vary your word choice. Repetitively using the same word can distract your reader.
  • Do not use cliches.  Examples include: "raised an eyebrow", "shrugged his shoulder", "winked slyly", etc.
  • Avoid unnecessary modifiers, italics (unless indicating character thought), bold, and different fonts.
  • Eliminate narrator interjections; the story should be told from the point of view of the character, not the writer.
There are many more rules than I can remember right now and I agree with most of them, but there are a few that really stick in my gullet.
  1. Genre Writing
               My first objection to this rule is that all writing is of one genre or another.  Even literary writing is considered the "literary genre".  Second, I love reading fantasy, science fiction, and romance, and most of the people I know would rather read a book from one of those genres than the literary genre.  In point of this fact (and my goal to be a relatively famous author), I find it unnecessarily restrictive that my major refuses to allow me to develop in the field of fantasy fiction writing.

     2.   Point of View

               There are a number of best selling authors who include the pov of more than one character in a single work.  A point to include in this criticism is the fact that CWM limits the writer to the form of short stories.  This limitation could account for the directive to stick to the pov of your main character.

     3.  No Happily Ever After

               My discontent with this rule is fairly obvious.  We live in a world that seldom has happy endings.  As a person who enjoys seeing others as happy as possible, I wish to write my characters as happy of an ending as their situations can warrant.  As long as the happy ending is not impossible to achieve based on the obstacles my characters must overcome, why should I not be allowed to give them happiness in the end?

I hope that my criticism does not deter anyone from seeking this degree, but I do believe it should be made apparent from the start that a Creative Writing Major is not for someone who wishes to be a book-store writer.  A Creative Writing Major is for someone who is looking for a place in the world of academia.  As my career goals include both the production of book-store novels and teaching at a collegiate level, I decided acquiring a degree in creative writing was the right decision for me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

As a Matter of Thought

As a Matter of Thought

Alexandra studied the buildings around her from the roof of her nine story apartment building and contemplated the effect of a fall from her rooftop to the sidewalk directly below her or the alley way on the building’s west end.  If she turned her head to the left, she knew she would be able to smell the refuse heaped in and around the dumpsters below.  The building directly across the alley was a two-story with shoddy brick construction, a broken iron fire escape, and a Royal Dragon Chinese buffet.  She did not like the idea of her broken body being found amongst the stale leftovers, but neither did she wish to perhaps crush a random person beneath her by dropping onto the sidewalk.  There were only a few people passing by this late in the evening, but her luck was such that she could not shake the image of an accidental murder accompanying the suicide.  Streetlights started popping on and their intrusion forced Alexandra out of her mind.  No longer lost within, she could now feel the damp heat of the summer night embracing her exposed skin.  Inconsistently, the feeling made her shiver; she loved being warm and death was cold.  But what is cold to one who can no longer feel?
            Alexandra picked up her journal and pen to scribble out the results of her exercise.  As with any philosophical debate, this one had provided more questions than answers.  She relished the stream of thought which seemed to have no end.  The simple pleasure of thinking halted the journey of her pen across the page.  Unconscious of her actions, Alexandra set down her work and stood once more against the roof’s brick walled edge.  The structure reached her navel but she knew it was no real obstruction to discovery, only a security measure for those with no real intent to fall.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pearl

Pearl

The garden was exceptionally beautiful this year, but now most of the leaves have browned or fallen.  The roses are the only plants still thriving.  Their leaves and stems are green as the summer grass, yet not near as cheering.
                  Today is October 31st; the day of the Harvest Festival, and the day of my birth.  Today, I am sixteen.  From now onward, I shall be considered an adult, one who is old enough to marry.  I no longer doubt that I will marry, for now I know that I will not.
                  My mistress, Lady Loreanna, whom I love as a mother and who has said she loves me as a daughter, has guaranteed my freedom.  In two months, I will no longer be a slave.  Even though I have never been treated as a slave, freedom means as much to me as it would to any other.  I have assured my Lady that I will continue my work here with her.  I suppose I will do all of the same chores and have all the same duties, but my status will be higher, my spirit more free.
                  If not for my lady’s decline in health, I might have made a match over the course of the next year; however, I do not blame her.  I can remember being the ugly duckling as a child, and, as the years have passed, I have not turned into a swan of any beauty.  But, enough of this, journals are for hopes and dreams, not sorrows.  So here, I bid goodbye, with a promise to write again.
                  Pearl closed her diary and settled back into the comfortable library chair.  The secluded window seat beckoned, but she knew that she did not have time to succumb to its luxuries.  Glancing at the timepiece on the fireplace mantle, Pearl quickly unwound her legs and headed for the door.  She ran through the long, shadowed hallways to her room, and hid the diary under her oak dresser, before quickly running a brush through her soft black hair. 
Pearl’s mind wandered as she straightened her tangles.  What was Lady Loreanna going to announce?  The lady had never before wished to make an announcement that she could not send by word of mouth.  Pearl had been in the household for more than five years, and she knew the Lady well enough to understand that making public announcements was very unsettling to her.
Placing the brush back on top of the dresser, Pearl hurried down the hallways to the ballroom.  The clock in the library started ringing the approaching hour, but Pearl had firmly planted herself on a bench by the twelfth gong.  Her friends, Dorthia and Cristeal, were seated on either side of her.  Dorthia took time to send her a reproachful look before turning back to face the platform.
Pearl’s eyes searched beyond the platform for the study door and settled on the knob, willing it to turn.  Exactly ten seconds past noon, Lady Loreanna opened her study door.  Walking to her stand, the lady surveyed her staff.  She took in all of the curious looks and took a deep breath while she rested her hands on the curved top of the podium.  Plans would be set today, and all the wishes in the world might not be able to keep them from going awry.
Pearl watched her Lady and could not decide if she was using the stand for support or to keep herself planted firmly on the ground.  It surprised her to find that she could not tell what her Lady was feeling.  Looking closely at Lady Loreanna’s hands, Pearl saw that they were not just holding the wood, but rather, they were gripping the carvings tight enough to turn her knuckles white.
“I do hope that everyone has gathered for this announcement, for it is one that will affect the entire household,” said Lady Loreanna.  “It is also something that you need to know if we are going to be prepared in time.  Yesterday, I received a letter which literally stole my breath.  My son, who has been studying at the University of Colnbidge for the past ten years, will be coming home for his 21st birthday, which falls on November 5th.”
Shocked silence lasted for a few moments before the entire room erupted in barely controlled whispers.  Lady Loreanna watched this with an amused glance for a few moments before motioning for silence.  She called out the name of the housekeeper, Clarina, and began the tedious process of instructing the servants on their preparatory tasks.
When only Pearl, Dorthia, and Cristeal remained, she motioned them to follow her into the study.