Dorms, Interviews, People, and Stuff

I haven’t posted in over a week – could it even be two weeks? – and I feel bad about that. No, correction, I specifically feel bad about not having written for so long, as well as about not having read all of your posts. I find this an encouraging sign that I will (hopefully) be able to keep up my blog posting over the next few months while I’m at school.

I’m currently in my dorm room, which I share with one other girl. She’s lovely, although I don’t know her very well yet, and I feel quite optimistic about us continuing to live in harmony – this is rare for me, as I’m often quite the pessimist. My aunt pointed out something interesting to me this week – I’d gotten some news, and I immediately began to talk about all the things that were going to go wrong and how things would fail – my aunt, as I was saying, pointed out that whenever something happens, the story-telling part of my brain starts formulating what’s going to happen almost at once. True, the predictions I make are usually dark, but I’m trying to be a bit brighter and better. For instance, I’m truly trying to be in the moment while I’m here at college and not think about the stress that will come later.

At my school, registering for classes is a complicated business involving lots of running around (in the rain) to sign up at different professors’ doors. The students interview the teachers about the classes they’re teaching and then base their decision on that. I’ll update you all what my classes are once I know them for sure, but suffice it to say for now that I really-really-really hope I get into the ones I want.

I’ve been meeting lots of old friends from last year, and they’ve all given me lovely and warm welcomes, which makes me feel both fantastic (because they remember me and thought fondly of me while I was gone) and ashamed (because I honestly felt that nobody really liked me when I left school a year ago).

I suppose the point of this whole scattered post is that I’m seriously glad to be back, despite a lot of things which could really easily ruin it for me.

His and Hers

She knew everything there was to know about him. She knew every scrap of information he’d ever posted on the Web, she knew every secret he’d ever written in one of his various anonymous blogs that she’d tracked down, and she knew every one of his many pastimes because he was so good as to post them incessantly on his Twitter account.

She knew that he’d spent a month in Japan eating nothing but rice because he was allergic to all types of fish. She knew that he was going to apply to Harvard Law School only because his father wanted him to, and that he ended up going because he wanted to as well. She knew that on his twenty-fourth birthday he ran out of clean underwear and had decided, to celebrate his nuptials, to walk around nude beneath his Dockers.

She knew when he started going out with the blonde, when he dumped her for the brunette and when he decided he needed time off from any hair-colors at all. She knew when he fell in love, when he proposed and when he was turned down. She knew when he was depressed and went to seek medical and professional help. She knew when he graduated with distinction and decided to get a teaching certificate instead of become a lawyer like he’d planned at first.

She knew him better than she knew herself. She became joyful when he was happy and blue when he was sad and excited when he was planning his next move in life. She celebrated his birthdays and the holidays he observed. She shared New Year’s Eve with him in Times Square where she knew he went every single year without fail.

She lived her life through him, through his experiences, through his loves and disappointments, his successes and his defeats, his whims and his dedications.

His life was hers, and he didn’t know it.

 

Story? Novel? Book?

So here’s a question for all my fellow writers out there: what do you call the projects you work on? I mean, if you’re writing something that’s novel length, do you call it a novel? Or a book? Do you label it?

My current project, the main one I’ve been working on for the past two months, is now way over 100,000 words, and is over 280 pages. know the point to which I want to get with my characters progress before I stop and begin the strenuous and, I assume, long process of editing, fact checking and making sure that everything makes sense and isn’t total crap. I accept the fact that it might well not be worth a damn once I’m finished and that maybe I’ll put it aside and begin something new. The idea doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. It’s okay to write things that stay in the closet and never leave, because they’re practice for those things that are good enough to show the world and be proud of.

Anyway, the point is that my story is in advance stages, more than halfway through – maybe even three-quarters of the way. I know that if I choose to keep it, there will be a sequel or a part two or something of the sort, because I’ve simply discovered so many things that my characters need to go through that I didn’t realize before. But I still call the whole thing, all 285 pages that I have so far,  a “story” because it is. It’s a story, there’s no doubt about that, but I feel that calling it a novel or a book is… well, somehow it’s as if I don’t deserve those titles for it yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually gotten to the point where I actually do consider myself a writer, because, well, I write! I write two hours a day, and I enjoy it. I love the feeling the words coming out of my mind and suddenly finding themselves on paper or screen, the little sounds that they keys make as my fingers fly across them on my tiny little laptop, my sturdy companion. I love the way the pen feels in my hand when I write in my journal. I love the feeling of knowing that I write every day, and I even love the frustration and anger and hate that I sometimes feel when I try to write and don’t manage to. It’s all part and parcel of being a writer (not yet an author, of course, but a writer) and I love it.

But how about you? Do you put labels on your work? Are you scared to do so like me, or are you bold and courageous and agree to say that your project is a novel or book-in-progress?

Faced with an Empty Page

Opening a new, white and pristine page can be one of two things. It’s either exciting, pulse-raising and inviting, or terrifying, threatening and off-putting.

It doesn’t matter what sort of page this is – it can be a new page in a much used notebook, the first page of an unopened one, or the electronic, virtual one that comes up in a writing program.

No matter what emotion arises when faced with a blank page, the demand that it throws is undeniable. A blank page craves to be filled, to be written upon with ink or to be full of coded letters.

There’s nothing worse than opening a new page and feeling the terror bubbling in your throat, the pressure building up behind your eyes, in the crevices of your very mind. The emptiness seems to call to the very soul, demanding in loud and certain tones what it needs. Sometimes, fear can lead the way into the second, better emotion. Once a page starts to fill up, the demand lessens, the pressure recedes, and bit by bit, the terror evaporates.

There’s nothing better than opening a new page and feeling the excitement bubbling in your stomach, the itch in your fingers as they long to start writing and the images that jump around your mind, urging you onward, ever onward, so that you can’t resist putting down your pen to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and beginning to write. When the page fills up, bit by bit, a sense of pride in your own words filling up such a space is added to the other emotions, and it too spurs you onward.

Sometimes, when a page is full, it demands another page to be opened. It’s not finished yet, the emptiness of the next page tells you, you must continue.

Sometimes, when the page is full, it’s enough. The urge, the need and the drive all quiet in you, and you can look at the full page and know that you’ve completed something, even if it’s not finished, you’ve put something down on the page, and there it will stay.

Being faced with an empty page is an adventure, whether dream or nightmare.

Another Excerpt

Here is another scene in the story I’m working on. It is the beginning of the first chapter, and follows a prologue, which I may or may not post here eventually. For those who may not have realized it yet, I wanted to explain the nature of this story. It’s a fantasy story, based in a kingdom where class and nobility matter.

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At fourteen, when everything changed for me, I was a beautiful girl. I had been a beautiful child as well. I knew this. I was the noble daughter of Duke Pietro der-Milt and his Lady Dermira. How ever could I not be beautiful? I was taught that the noble houses held the most beautiful people in the land, the most gifted thinkers, the greatest of artists and the kindest of spirits. So my governess told me during my childhood, using my parents as the best examples.
“Look at your pretty mother, little Miya! see what a beauty she is?” Pirima would say. She’d point at my mother, sitting in our great drawing room or in my father’s study or in the corner of my nursery. She was a beauty indeed. My mother always knew how to look beautiful and delicate. She could embroider, read, write letters, instruct servants, talk with my father, survey the accounts – all while looking as pretty as a picture, without a hair out of place or wrinkle in her dress. Pirima often whispered to me that she wished she could look like my mother, and her lips would twist in a sad little frown. I didn’t understand the nature of jealousy or envy when I was young; I merely thought it natural that everyone would want to look like Mama, who was, I was sure, the most beautiful woman in the world.
There were plenty of mirrors in our home, so I learned early on that I was a beautiful child. My skin was smooth and healthy, a few shades darker than my mother’s milky-white complexion. My hair, which was black as coal, thick and wavy, hung down my back when I was a little girl, kept away from my face by a neat little bow which Pirima would tie into it every morning. My eyes were grey, and Pirima always said they reminded her of the stormy sea because when I was angry or sad they turned dark blue. My black eyebrows were delicate and thin, and my nose was small and rather flat, accentuating the fullness of my red lips. My body was that of a healthy little girl – rounded with the healthy fat that children possess, my limbs strong with activity.
One day, when I was about six or seven, I stood looking into the tall, gilded mirror that stood in one of the corridors. As I stood there, admiring myself, I watched my mother come up behind me. She laid one white hand on my shoulder and smiled at me in the mirror. My eyes widened.
“I look like you, Mama!” I cried with delight.
“You do, my dove. You look like your papa as well. You have his hair and his nose,” she touched my hair and my nose as she said this, then knelt down behind me in a rare motherly gesture and hugged me tight, arms encircling my stomach. She usually didn’t touch me much. My joy at seeing we were alike, though, seemed to make her emotional. I had no cynicism at that age, and I didn’t see her emotion for what it was – a kind of vanity. I was happy to be in her arms, happy that she smiled at me, happy that I looked like her and like Papa.
“Now, Miyara, let’s go visit your papa in his study, hmm?” she took me by the hand and we spent a quiet afternoon in the study with Papa, who was in a good mood as well. I remember that day as one of the happiest of my childhood. It wasn’t often that my parents made any effort to spend time with me. We usually met only during meals. The rest of the time I spent with Pirima, who was my only other company for a long time.

“Journal”

According to Google, a definition of the word journal is: diary: a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations.

Such an inadequate definition. The word journal is magical. It conjures up the image of beautiful, classic script embossed in gold upon a leather bound ledger, filled with heavy pages. Another image that comes to mind is the word stamped simply, in bold typeface, on pastel colored notebooks of comfortable size, inviting casual penmanship between their covers. Journal can even raise the picture of a cartoon character brightly painted across the cover of a small notebook, just begging to be filled in with colorful crayons and bright stickers.

Journals are wonderful. They are pages for privacy, of gathering the thoughts that dash across our minds throughout the day. They are a haven, a safe harbor in which to pour out our frustrations, sadness and difficulties. They are a comfort, inviting us to share happiness and pride or rejoice in our blessings and accomplishments. Journals can be friends, sole confidants, secret lairs and hidden treasures.

Journal is a beautiful word.

Ink

A curly-haired guy in his early thirties sat back on his swiveling stool and snapped the black latex gloves on his hands. He picked up his tools, dipped them into the tiny ink-cups, the size of a fingernail or so, and pressed down with his foot the switch that connected his tools to the electric current. He adjusted the current, making the needles buzz louder, dipped them into the ink again, and began his work.

The two girls sitting in the room with him were vastly different. One was experienced already, having undergone the process earlier that week. The other- well, the other was me: nervous, afraid, excited, ecstatic. I’d been waiting for this for years, known it was coming for years, and had waited patiently for years to prove to myself that I wouldn’t change my mind. Even through the height of my nerves, it felt right. I felt right. The buzzing in my ears, the slight shivers in my body, my legs positioned awkwardly and my arms propped on the armrest I was facing- it was all exactly as I’d imagined it.

“Take a deep breath,” the tattooist said. “I’ll touch for a second and then stop.”

He touched the needles onto my skin. It seared and felt like fire and then, just as abruptly as the pain had come, it was gone. I breathed. My body shook. Then he said “Ok, now let’s continue.”

At first I couldn’t control the shakes. Having a tattoo done on your spine makes your nerves, your physical nerves, tingle and jump. My arms felt like they were buzzing with currents, and my shoulders shook uncontrollably for a few minutes. But I mastered myself, my body, and the pain. It became bearable – even enjoyable in a perverted way, because it was pain that was marking my body with a beautiful design, one I’d chosen years ago.

But it did hurt. It felt like someone using an excruciatingly sharp marker on my skin – I could feel the tattooist coloring in the lines, the needles going back and forth on my skin. Again and again he wiped away ink and blood with a paper towel. Again and again I breathed in a sigh of relief when he loaded the needles with ink again and let my skin breath and relax for a few moments before beginning again.

When it was done, I had my design. I had my tattoo. I had my ink.