Slightly Ignorant at Oxford

Hey guys.

So this is what is going to happen for the time being. I’m going to keep this blog open for now and occasionally update it with fiction and such. I will also update it with any info I have about publishing. I still might close it, but right now is not the time to be making big decisions.

Why?

Well, that’s because I’m going through a big change right now. Not only is my summer vacation finished, but I am also now starting my junior year abroad at Oxford University in England. And, like many before me, I feel the need to record my exciting year abroad. For this purpose, I’m experimenting with a new blog.

http://slightlyignorantatoxford.wordpress.com/

Camp NaNoWriMo!

So, as promised, here’s my new project – another novel. Sort of.

Last summer, I finished a novel that I’d worked on with Brian Morton, who is an incredible author who teaches at my school. It is extremely first-draft-y. June is going to be my month to write a second draft.
True, it’s not a completely new novel that I’m writing utterly from scratch, and perhaps the men and women at Camp NaNoWriMo would object that I’m not quite following the rules, but honestly? I don’t think they would. Because the point is to write, to work on your writing and commit yourself to it for a month. And gosh darn it, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m currently reading the novel that I wrote. It’s a strange experience. I’ve tried to do it a few times before, but I never could. It made me cringe, or it bored me. But now, now that I am actually in the process of preparing to edit it, I’m able to do it. Or maybe I just needed to wait for nine months to be able to deal with it. Writing a book in a month is possible – but rewriting it takes a bit of cool down time.

There is so much I’m going to change. So much that simply makes no sense to me. I have the characters so firmly set in my mind, and have had them there for the past year and a half, that I can’t understand how I wrote some of what I did. One character, for instance, is painfully shy in my head, but in the novel as it stands, she is an RA at her college. This is absolutely ridiculous – she would never sign up to such a job. True, she’s become less painfully shy than she once was and she has friends, but her retraction from others is still her default state. Why on earth did I make her a bubbly RA in some scenes? Strange, indeed.

I’m excited about this coming month’s project, even though I will also be working, once again, at Hebrew Book Week (third year in a row!) and as a result will be stressed between June 6 and 18 (yes, it’s much longer than a week, I am aware).

Just to be clear – I am still going to complete the 50,000 words in a month part of Camp NaNoWriMo. And I’m so excited about this whole editing business, that I’m going to actually ask you all to sponsor me! The Office of Letters and Light are a wonderful nonprofit that organize NaNoWriMo and thus help more people to overcome their fear of writing, and, even better, they organize writing programs for children in some 2700 schools around the Unites States.
Here’s the link where you can donate, if you’d like. No pressure! You can donate as little or as much as you like, or not at all. If you do, though, and would like to be kept abreast of my writing, let me know! Here’s the link to my fundraising page:

http://slightlyignorant.stayclassy.org

A (Slightly Ignorant) Update

Hello all.

I’ve been remiss in updating you on some of the recent happenings, including the reason for my very on-and-off blogging during the past few months. As some of you know, I was deeply involved in my sophomore year at college since September of 2011 – this past semester has been especially hectic and crazy, which is why I’ve been blogging less frequently. Here are some highlights of my semester:

-I assistant stage-managed for a production of Macbeth.
-I played the part of Cynthia in Tom Stoppard’s play “The Real Inspector Hound.”
-I read a few incredible books, including: “Cousin Bette” by Balzac, “Sons and Lovers” by D. H. Lawrence, “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Brothers Karamzov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett and “The Once and Future King” by T. H. White. Not all of these were for class.
-I spent time with amazing people who I love very, very much and who I currently miss with an ache.
-I discovered that I enjoy writing in screenplay format. (There’s so much white space!)
…and, last but not least:
-I got into a study abroad program and will be spending next year at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

See? Busy.

I’m currently back in Israel with my mother and my childhood friends. Home base is strange after spending such a good year in New York and school, but I’m slowly getting used to it again.

And, I have a new project. Which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

Spring Break, 2012

In one hour and twenty five minutes, I will have zipped up my suitcase, locked my windows, showered, made sure that I have my passport and boarding pass, packed up my snacks for the airplane, eaten a yogurt to fortify me for the drive, dithered about whether or not to have a cookie right then or bring it with me and made a decision. I will also have finished writing my seven hundred and fifty words for the day, and completed the nineteenth consecutive day of writing a fresh batch of such words.
In four hours, I will be boarding a plane of a design that I’m unfamiliar with because I’ve never flown this airline before. I might already be sitting in my seat, in row sixty-something, seat C, which is an aisle seat on the left side of the plane and had, when I checked in a few hours ago, two empty seats beside it, thus giving me a slight chance of having the entire row to myself (although I’m not holding my breath for such good luck).
In a little over ten hours, I should be – knock on wood – landing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and disembarking from a – hopefully – pleasant flight and into an airport I’ve only been in once before and which I don’t remember at all even though it was only several months ago. I might be landing in a different terminal altogether because the United States, while it is a different country, may not be lumped along with the rest of the international flights.
Although Spring Break, 2012, officially started yesterday, some twenty-six hours ago, it won’t be until I arrive in a place far enough away from my daily routine that it will sink in that I am actually on vacation. Only then, upon seeing my aunts and curling up in a bed not my own, will I be able to understand that I can relax, and will I feel the ever-clenched muscles in my shoulders, neck and back begin to soften.
During the next two weeks – or three hundred and thirty-six hours – I will need to make a final decision of whether or not to attend Oxford next year. Yes, buried almost four hundred words deep in this post is this announcement. I got accepted to attend Sarah Lawrence College’s abroad program in Oxford University in England. Yes, that Oxford, the one that we all imagine as a collection of old castles, old English men smoking pipes, High Tea and scones. Of course, only some of the stereotypes are still relevant, but what hasn’t changed as far as I know is the quality of education in this centuries-old university.
The program is too good to pass up, and is part of my reason for attending Sarah Lawrence in the first place. I will be there for three terms, and in each term I will have two classes. Each of these will be almost tailor-made to fit my academic desires and wishes, and will probably be a one-on-one meeting with a professor. I will meet with each professor once a week, receive a reading list from them, and spend the next week completing it and writing a five-to-ten page paper about said reading. Then I will come in again, discuss my paper and the reading with the professor, receive a new reading list, and do it all again. Each term is eight weeks, in between which are four-to-five week breaks. During the terms I will be living in my own room within a five-person suite. There is a gym and a grocery store across the street, and London is only an hour’s train ride away.
What all this means, basically, is that I would spend a full academic year in England, at Oxford University, and more specifically, in libraries, doing my reading. I would read and read and read some more, and I would write paper after paper and hone my skills of writing academically while also writing fast. I would, if I get my way, take mostly literature courses, and thus would get to read novels and novels. The study is largely independent, which is perfect for me because I’m very good at organizing my time and knowing how much I need to study. I would also be significantly closer to Israel, my mom and my friends there.
The downside is leaving SLC, where I’ve had one of the best years of my life. I’m already feeling my heart breaking at missing out on a year’s worth of happenings here.

Renewing My Passport

The government offices were located in an old building that radiated history rather than bureaucracy. The door was up a flight of worn stone steps, and a plaque beside it read “The Ministry of the Interior” in tired bronze letters. It wasn’t until people passed through the door that the present caught up with them.

Inside, beside a metal detector, a fashionably bald guard checked purses cursorily while scrutinizing every male who walked by, checking if they were rivals to his role as alpha in this place. Rows of metal seats were filled with couples with strollers; the solitary elderly staring straight ahead, watching replays of memories in their heads; teenagers nervously fondling their phones to mask their discomfort at being alone; and nondescript adults in whatever uniforms they wore to work every day, hoping to get business done during their lunch breaks.

Everybody who entered became less of a human being than they’d been outside. They were all reduced to ghosts of themselves, pale representations whose most important features were their date of birth, address and payment method. The clerks behind the counters slumped in their chairs, back problems manifesting around their torsos like poisonous vines, and repeated facts in dull, empty voices. They reached for forms mechanically, part of an assembly line that originated in a sub-clause, part b-one-point-two of some document written by some drone of something called the government.

If there is a hell, I imagine it would look something like this. I walked into the office armored with a book and a magazine, and prayed that it would be enough to keep me from becoming another zombie in this space of paper-shuffling monotony. An hour and a half later, I emerged, blinking, into the blistering heat of the August sun, prodding carefully at my soul to see if it was still intact.

Thoughts on Journals

Another one of my disclaimers: it’s 1:40AM right now, and I’m pretty out of it. Not sure if much of what is below makes sense. Forgive me for not editing it, but I’m exhausted.

I’ve been thinking about journaling lately. I’ve been keeping a journal pretty steadily for a while now – I don’t write often, but I keep the same notebook instead of jumping from one to the other, and whenever I write I feel very relieved. I love it. I wonder if I should start doing it regularly, as part of my routine – doing it first thing in the morning or right before I go to bed or else find some better time during the day. It’ll be hard to keep it up during school-time, though, so I need to consider this.

I’ve also been thinking about how so many bloggers manage to write about their personal, everyday lives in an interesting way. I’ve always had a problem with this, partly because I put such low significance to anything that happens to me. Let me clarify – I find whatever happens to me important, but that’s natural and expected; the problem is that I seem to think that nobody else could possibly find anything that happens to me engaging and worth hearing about. Only through therapy have I succeeded in forcing myself to share more of my everyday life with my friends. I used to expect them to yawn – inwardly, if not outwardly – and find me incredibly dull. I’m slowly learning to accept the fact that my friends love me for who I am and want to know what’s going on with me. They shouldn’t need to ply me with endless questions just to get me to tell them about the internships I’m applying to or how my current work-in-progress is going.

But then there’s the issue of the internet. Sure, my friends are interested in me. But why should random readers who stumble on my blog care about what I’m going through? I realize that I read many blogs where people share their personal, daily lives in a way that I find entertaining and I keep coming back to read more. How do they do it, though?

I’ve been thinking of experimenting with adding a new page on my blog, another one that I’ll post to every day, that will be more of a journal. Then this, the main page, would hold my fiction and thoughts on writing.

How about you guys? What are your thoughts on journaling? If you’re a regular, would you be interested in seeing me add a more journal-like page to my blog?

Sleepy

Today was very long. A few of my friends visited me at work, which was nice, and I got to read for a lot of the rest of my shift, which was nice as well. Tomorrow morning I wake up and do it all over again until the afternoon. I’m too sleepy to think of anything creative, and so I will leave you for tonight, except to say that there is something profoundly comforting about the knowledge that a bed is waiting to welcome me, my heavy eyelids and languid limbs.

A Bus Ride to Say “I’m Alive”

I got on a bus at the corner of 33d and 7th. It was a big bus; red and black, with a white lightning bolt emblazoned on it. The message was clear: this bus was express, fast, and going places.

The driver, Miss King, was a black woman with frizzy hair and a wide smile. She was big, and as she walked down the aisle to use the bathroom before we started out, she asked people to excuse her. I guess she felt that squeezing her bulk through required an apology. It didn’t, really. She looked happy and comfortable the way she was. She shouldn’t have been apologizing to anybody. A man in his twenties wearing a red-and-black baseball cap (did he wear it to match the bus?) eyed her lasciviously when she passed by. They bantered for a bit, flirting casually.

The bus ride was long. Four hours and fifteen minutes. Not as long as a lot of the flights I’ve been on, but long enough. I slept for about forty minutes, but that’s it. Sleep and I aren’t the best of friends these days. I don’t know what happened between us. Maybe sleep was offended by me somehow? Personally, I feel hurt that sleep comes to visit so reluctantly and leaves so quickly after he arrives. Maybe we’re just playing a pride game now, neither one of us willing to apologize and make it up with the other because we each think that we’re not the ones to blame for this estrangement.

I thought that we saw Baltimore twice, but it was actually only once. The first time wasn’t really Baltimore. When we actually saw it, I was surprised because it looked exactly like I imagined it. There was a port that seemed to cover half the city with boxes and shipping-yard type stuff. The rest of the city was smoggy but beautiful.

Spring Break sounds like the name of a movie with drunk teenagers and naked blondes. Or maybe it’s a safety video about how to take care of trampolines. What spring break really is right now is a piece of family in Virginia, a road-trip, and a lot of homework.

I’m writing. I’m writing almost every day. When I don’t, I feel odd. A red Moleskine has become a new journal. It’s too conspicuous to be one, of course – it fairly screams “Open me!” – but I’m using it anyway. It’s important that I keep using pens. I never want to get to a point where I don’t love pen and paper anymore.

 

Confused

I’m rereading my finished novel, the first in what would ideally be a series. Yes, it’s a fantasy novel, in case you were wondering.

Reading it over now is bizarre. I can remember quite clearly what I was thinking as I wrote most parts, and it’s sort of fudging with the whole process. I’m reading it through for the first time without making any notes at all – I’m just trying to get a general feel for it and see if I like it. On my next read I’m going to start taking notes on big points that bother me, as well as fixing typos and things like that. Then, so the plan goes, I’ll start rewriting, adding and subtracting, changing brutally if I need to.

Meanwhile, I’m also trying to build a world for the novel I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. I’m beginning to get a real feel for the fictional world and city that I’m building (yes, yes, another fantasy novel – I’ll try something else next, believe me) but I’m having trouble writing it down. Hence today’s rambling post, written right on my desktop computer for your viewing pleasure (or snores, or boredom, or simply your not reading it – those are okay too.)

I managed to keep up my writing schedule well for so long, but now that I’m done with the first draft, I’m having trouble writing again. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block, circumstances being annoying lately, or simply my mind needing some time to rest, but whatever it is – it’s frustrating and confusing me. On the one hand, I’m so pleased that I managed to finish a proper first draft of something. On the other hand, I’m not all that pleased with the result, and although I know that’s part of the process, I’m having trouble accepting it. Then, on the third hand, (because my hand-structure is clearly a being with more than two hands – I’m writing fantasy after all, right?) I’m simply annoyed with myself for not being able to write anything new. On the fourth hand, my annoyance is shifted and turns into fear that I’ll never be able to write anything again. The fifth hand has given up on trying to restrain the other four, and it and the sixth hands are just hanging out together.

Can you tell I’m going a little batty? Well, it’s because I am.

I Don’t Do “Everything”

I’ve just finished watching an episode of House entitled “Private Lives.” In it, there’s a character who blogs. There are some very nice points raised in the episode about the community that can be found on the Internet as well as the friendship and connection between individuals through it. Of course, this being House, there are also some bad points raised – the character writes about everything she goes through in her daily life, meaning she has no secrets and nor does her husband, who she writes about regularly.

So this is the issue I’m raising. This “everything” issue. I’ve written many blogs before: in Tapuz [an Israeli site], in Live Journal, in Open Diary [and Teen Open Diary when it was still around], in Blogspot and finally here. As opposed to all the others, I opened this blog in order to serve a purpose – practicing writing and getting feedback on it. I found friends here, and so now I occasionally dip into my personal life and write openly in from my own, real first-person point of view – just like I’m doing now.

All the other blogs I started were meant to be journals. The one I stuck with the longest – Teen Open Diary – closed down and since then, and the loss of a dear friend who I met through there, I’ve never managed to stick to a journaling blog.  It’s been almost exactly five years since then. Maybe it had to do with my friend who was killed in a car crash, maybe not. I honestly don’t know.

So I don’t do the “everything” kind of writing. And now my question is – does anyone? Many of you write about your personal lives, but you don’t tell your readers everything – you tell anecdotes, you celebrate your families, you laugh about your days, you share experiences and memories, you give opinions. But you don’t expose everything. For one, everyone needs secrets. For another, how could you remember every single thing you’ve gone through every day? And finally, and most importantly, if you’re constantly writing about your life, then when do you have time to live it?

I love journal-writing. If not online, then by hand. I have a hard time sticking with it, but when I need to write about my days, my feelings and my thoughts, there’s always a pen and a notebook there, ready for me. Now, I have a pretty tough time – a HUGELY tough time, actually – with trying to appreciate every moment and really be present in my life. But if I just tried to write about everything I experienced, I don’t know if I’d be able to experience it.

Your opinions?