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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jacked In - Litany

Jacked In

His clothes lie in a pile on the floor; he ignores the smell.
His clock is set seven minutes ahead but he never arrives early.
His bed is unmade, cotton sheets and suede comforter piled at the foot.
His nightstand is just a place to gather dust and loose change.
His phone jack is empty, but the outlet next to it sprouts thick, black cables.
His life is consumed by delivery pizza and World of Warcraft.
His work is a means to an end and another forty hours a week at a computer.
His tie is a clip-on provided by the sister who still tries to talk to him.
His fridge contains ketchup, parmesan packets, and beer.
His friends don’t exist unless they are logged on.
His chair’s hard touch is the only physical embrace he encounters.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Final Rest - Villanelle

Final Rest

The stream which flows through Winter's forest
A liquid cold to quench the thirst
Travelers stop here to rest

On their journey, a hiker's quest
Adventurers believe they have been versed
On the stream which flows through Winter's forest

They come in hordes to stomp the dust
And fly into danger headfirst
Travelers stop here to rest

Each man believes himself the ablest
But none of them have traversed
The stream which flows through Winter's forest

Explorers wander through the thickets
Crediting themselves to be the first
Travelers to stop here for rest

Every one meets the end, even the fiercest
When men find themselves immersed
In the stream which flows through Winter's forest
Travelers end here, at rest 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wired Windows

Wired Windows

          Scarlette pretended.  She pretended that her arms were crossed across her chest because she wanted them to be.  She pretended that the buckles of the white jacket didn’t pinch her skin through the fabric and that the quilted walls around her were squares of snow rather than a cage.  They didn’t understand.  They thought she needed to be protected from herself, that the world needed to be protected from her.

            She wiggled her shoulders within the tight confines of their jacket and struggled to get off of her cot without the support of her arms.  The strength of her legs sent her off the bed and onto the soft fabric of the bubbled floor.  She used her head to force her body to balance on her heels and walked on her knees to the other side of the room.  Scarlette faced the corner.

            Cecely didn’t understand why her father made her stare into a corner or why she had to be in time-out.  She hadn’t done anything wrong.  If Megan had shared her Barbie doll, then Cecely wouldn’t have needed to half it so they could both have something to play with.  The Barbie didn’t need a head anyway.  Next time Megan wouldn’t share, Cecely would punish Megan instead of the doll.

            “Cecely, you can come out of time out now.”

“Scarlette…  Scarlette, come out of the room now.”

Scarlette blew a raspberry and turned away from the corner to crawl toward the door.  She knew she scared them when she stood up so she had stopped walking upright.  She could be a dog and get a treat.  The exasperation she could see in their eyes now was much more fun than the fear that was present when she first got here.  How long had she been here?  Where was here?

Kalia was lost.  This wasn’t the first time she had come to Overlook Mall, but the rush of people around her was disturbing her sense of direction.  She couldn’t remember where she was suppose to meet her parents and the frustrated tears in her eyes blurred her vision so much that she couldn’t see the names of the stores around her.  She rubbed her face against her shoulder to brush away the wet film and started looking for the billboard that would have a map of the mall on it.

“Are you okay?”  The man came up from behind her and gripped her shoulder.  Kalia twisted around to force his hand away from her, pushing it back against his body as hard as she could until she felt his wrist snap and heard him scream.

Someone else grabbed her from behind and another person tightened up the buckles she had loosened on the jacket when she crawled out of the room and down the hall, a snake slithering on legs.  They faced her toward the screaming man and continued to hold her tight even though she had stopped struggling.  The pain apparent on the man’s face fascinated her and calmed the confusion she had felt.  The contrast between his pristine blue scrubs and the violent red color of his face was comforting.

“Damn it, John.  I told you not to touch her; she’s done this before,” said a male voice behind her.