Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When Pig Heads Talk ... LotF Spoilers

I just finished rereading William Golding's Lord of the Flies and, as is often the case during a second read through, it affected me in a completely new way.  I was a Freshman in high school the first time I read it and now I'm pushing thirty; somehow that time lapse was necessary.  This time as I read I noticed craft elements that had been hidden from me before and I felt the harshness of the violence with greater impact.  It was strange because over the past decade and a half, my memory of the book had morphed into something that Golding had not written at all.  Firstly I had forgotten two things that I shouldn't have: the twins, Samneric, and the boy with the mulberry birthmark who becomes a holocaust to the boys' initial immersion into anarchy.  I had forgotten just how adorable Simon really was which is odd since had been (and remains) my favorite character from the start.  Before I even took up the book for a second read, I thought of Simon and ended up naming one of my narrators for The Death Man after this wonderful, compassionate character.

Something else that I had forgotten/warped, was Simon's death.  I had convinced myself that he had simply died, that his was a quiet and peaceful passing along the water's edge.  What crack was I smoking?  Because his death is the epitome of raw violence and savagery.  It was murder.  A sort of crime of passion wherein they bit, clawed, and beat him to death.  In the end only Ralph, Piggy, and Samneric even acknowledge that a human life was lost that night.  Their conversation the next morning was stomach turning for me.  And I cried.  I always cry when I think of Simon.

I was surprised that only three kids actually died.  The deaths of the boy with the mulberry birthmark, Simon, and Piggy seem to me to represent, respectively, the death of innocence, the death of kindness and compassion, and the death of all reason.  It is the natural progression of man into savagery.  First you lose your innocence and you become embittered and lose all compassion and then your reason leaves you and then what are you left with but chaotic paranoia and a desire to eliminate all threats.

The last thing that I'd forgotten was how they treated Piggy.  I suppose I can understand their frustration with him as he had a certain lack of drive in the manual labor department, but he was nothing if not a diplomat.  He tried so damn hard and he was so desperate for acceptance that he'd imagine it where it wasn't given and he stood by Ralph till the end.  And Ralph understood.  But only after Piggy's death.  He finally got it and called Piggy a wise, true friend.  Prior to that he was just as content as the rest of them to holler for the fatty to shut up and to ignore him and roll his eyes at him.  Poor Piggy.  And to make it worse, I keep having visions of Jack as a wolf, knocking on the door to the hut saying, "Little Pig, Little Pig, let me come in!"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Imminent Musts

There's much to do before February 7th.  I have several stories to finish up reading as listed below, as well as two critical reviews (or one larger one) of the reading for the Pedagogical Track.  I am still very concerned about going the Pedagogical Route but after today I think I may actually have a sort of direction in mind for my overall Critical Thesis.  This is, of course, being put on the back burner to simmer while I focus first and foremost on my creative work.  In this respect I have been decently productive.  I've done enough research to get the ball rolling and checked enough facts to feel like I've made the right decisions as far as the initial inciting incident.  Now I just need to keep plugging away while keeping in mind the following questions: what does character x want?  Do they get it?  If yes why? If no why not?
  • Slaughterhouse-Five/Cat's Cradle/Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut 
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Plague by Albert Camus
I also need to finish 1984 by Orwell but that isn't as pressing as some of these others.  For the next packet I will do two critical analyses on some of the novels that I am reading this time around.  During that period I think I would like to focus most of my reading to craft books such as the O'Connor and the Campbell books.  I have to work tomorrow and figure I will get some time to read as well as read over the student handbook some more and really start my Cover Letter as well as Artist's Statement.  In general, I rather miss Chestnut Hill and the people who made the residency such a wonderful experience.  One of these packets I think I will try to write up a short story or two so that I have something good to workshop rather than put in chapters from the novel.  Yet, novel chapters in workshop can lead to some really great brainstorming.  I will wait and see exactly who is running the workshops and if it seems that the set up is beneficial for novel working before I submit anything from The Death Man.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I've been up to...

In a word, what I've been up to is 'research.'  My first packet for my mentor is due on the 7th of February and I need to have several things ready to go on the 6th including 25 pages of creative work.   Focusing on the creative part at the moment I've found myself looking up some very interesting things, many of which I've never really looked into before.  Firstly I researched fundamentalism as it pertains to both Islam and Christianity, which led me to research Sharia Law as practiced in Saudi Arabia.  I have spent a good portion of my time reading new articles on abused/executed Indonesian maids as well as various accounts of wrongly imprisonment.  The names of things are of great interest to me such as the Mut(t)awa and Qadi.  I have also been expanding my vocabulary through this process and have now come to include ersatz and gendarme.  In addition to looking at Saudi Arabia's legal system and handling of women's rights, I have been researching torture and executions from a semi-pragmatical point of view.  I am looking at how these things work and what sort of preparation goes into an execution.  I learned that executioner's swords don't have tips to them and I learned that the hood in question was meant more for ceremony than for anonymity.  Other things that I've been looking over include the anatomy of the sword, the anatomy of the horse, different looks for executioner's hoods, the meaning behind certain names, Native American Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the drawbacks of steam cars, apostasy, and port wine stain birthmarks.  I will be adding drugs to that list very soon, as well as further look into torture and executions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day Ten in Boston - Coffee and Chicken

Ready to go home.

Had a pretty decent workshop period this morning and afterward there was a quick, fun lunch, some library giggles, and then Marilyn and I retreated once more to the sanctuary that is Starbuck's.  I learned that getting the 'tall' rather than the 'venti' leads to more flavor and satisfaction.  Tis a good lesson and reminder: quality over quantity.  We talked about our novels with passion and when we returned to the school we were still buzzing with ideas and revelations.

The commencement ceremony happened tonight and we said tearful goodbyes to five wonderful students.  I only just met them about nine days ago and already I get a strong sense that I will be missing them greatly.  We had a little reception wherein there was sparking wine (of a sort) and some really fun deep-fried finger foods being carted around elegantly by waiters who were dressed to the nth and even wore white gloves.   Some of us lingered and lavished love upon the graduates while others mingled for what would be our last time together as an assembled group.  At some point there was mention of a group photo for the fiction students.  We all gathered around our workshop leader and smiled.  Snap.  Snap.  It had to be taken twice.  I called out happily, childishly, "That one's going in the yearbook."  It made Sandra laugh.  I felt it was a rather appropriate comment since she had mentioned once or twice that I obviously needed to get past high school.

After the graduation, the 'sexy six' (which is what Randall Kenan called our group) went to the Ninety-Nine, a fun little Massachusetts restaurant with some pretty satisfying food.  I had macadamia chicken and, I'm not going to lie, there were some serious taste bud orgasms happening throughout the meal.  It took a while to get to the restaurant and in that it was slightly stressful and, once we were all back at the dorms again, the charm of the residency began to wear off.  There was and is packing to be done before we say goodbye tomorrow and go our separate ways.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reading List and Packet Deadlines (UPDATED)

1st Packet Due: Thursday, February 7, 2013
2nd Packet Due: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
3rd Packet Due: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
4th Packet Due: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
5th Packet Due: Wednesday, May 29, 2013

And then the Solstice Summer Residency begins June 28-July 7, 2013

Day Nine in Boston - In Medias Res

Today was fantastically unlike the last two.  My piece was the last to be workshopped and during the course of nit-picking (and, hey, I'm glad that it was whole enough to even get to the point of nit-picking) my hilarious overuse of participle phrases and my love affair with adverbs, we all burst into laughter, some of us to the point of tears.  Sandra even acted out a few of my crazily constructed sentences by means of showing me how they actually read and to keep me mindful of them.  I giggled and informed her that 'yes,' the piece was actually meant to be viewed as an awkward dance, which is, honestly, what it sounds like based on my silly sentence starts.  It was wonderful to laugh and shoot the shit today.  Sandra even showed us some of her art (she's quite the little painter) and some of it was just gorgeous.  I would buy the tree painting in a heartbeat. Also we learned that grey is the British way to spell the color, while gray is the American way.  This is good to know since I have habitually shifted between the two spellings since I was old enough to write.  The rest of workshop was filled with talk of scene construction and various other elements that play a key role in developing a narrative and tomorrow we will continue this conversation.

The class today was an introduction to pedagogy.  While I have some experience in teaching, tutoring, and leading lessons, I have had no academic instruction on the teaching of writing composition and it was kind of an eye opening class for me.  I am nervous but terribly excited to really get a chance to live with the material and even discuss it with my mother (a teacher) and really let some of the methodologies and approaches bloom in my mind.

After the class I had a meeting with my mentor.  It was good to talk to him.  I was able to explain a little bit more about the vampire thing I'm working on, highlighting the fact that the 'vampirism' in the novel is nothing more than a vehicle to allow me to explore the effects of disabling victimization.  He was great about it, telling me that the most important thing is the 'like/love' what I'm writing otherwise there was no way in hell I was going to get anywhere on my accumulative creative thesis.  For that, however, I think I would still really like to explore a semi-Dystopian (if not full out bat shit insane) setting.  It seems to be gearing up to be a YA novel, but I'm not going to think about any of that while I write it.  In the end I want to get a crap load of good pages (perfectly fantastic pages) and win my mentor over with my prose.  I want him to really root for me as a student and as an author.  Today gave me some hope and we already have a semester plan (deadlines) set up for the next six months.  I am going to be one busy bunny.  I have at least eleven novels to read, about ten critical theses to write, five artist statements to produce, responses to generate, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 pages to write toward a novel.  Or at least, that is the general idea.  There will be a great deal of revision in all of that, as well as several bouts of tears.  And yet I say, bring it on!  This is just the sort of thing I need to kick my ass into gear and I am sickly delighted to comprehend the large workload. 

The day is not yet over, hence the in medias res in the title.  Tonight there is a meeting for all those taking the pedagogical track and soon after we will be attending the final faculty reading of the Winter Residency 2013.  There are only two readers tonight, one of them being my mentor.  For now, I leave you with one of the many songs that have been stuck in my head today (no, it's not "Hey there, Cthulhu" those that has definitely been on the tip of my tongue since workshop this morning).  In keeping with the Dystopian theme that has become my life, please enjoy David Bowie's "Fantastic Voyage."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day Eight in Boston - Huff and Wearing Down

This morning's workshop was much better than yesterday.  For the most part.  There was no direct battering and I made sure to sit my happy ass as far away as I could, not because I am afraid to sit next to her, but so that she could see me the whole time and I wouldn't be tempted to make sad or perturbed faces should I be run over or electrocuted with her curt and, at times, rude approach.   A few of the other students say she has a 'nurturing toughness' while another finds great enjoyment at her 'bluntness' (especially, he added, when it comes to her cock-blocking everything I say).  I, however, find her approach to be a perfect example of what Director, Meg Kearney, says not to do.  Meg reminds us that when tempers and emotions get all riled up, you have the choice of taking the compassionate route or the 'intelligent' route and in these cases you should always choose compassion because intelligence will naturally follow.  Our workshop leader is definitely intelligent.  I am learning things from her.  Mostly I am learning how 'she' writes 'her' novels.  This is not bad information but I hazard to say that there is very little I will be taking away from her workshop sessions aside from the idea of disequilibrium (which I do love) and a strong desire to scream at the top of my lungs.  This is harsh.  But so is she.

Moving on.  I attended two absolutely fabulous classes today.  The first of those was a class on creating character led by Julia Glass, who I do believe may just be my literary soul mate.  Her humor was understated and adorable, her writing process was a near mirror image of mine, and it was perfected (if one can perfect the chaos of writing) in a way that I hope to someday achieve.  Everything she said today made perfect sense.  I bought her book and when she signed it, I told her that her class felt like good food that I hadn't had in a while.  Made me feel full.  

After the character class I hurried over to attend Kathy Aguero's class on 'Changing Lives through Literature.'  This program is amazing and I actually think I would like to get involved in it either before or after I graduate.  It's typically called the 'club med' of lit teaching because you get to talk about books all day and lead conversations and activities concerning those books but you don't have to grade any homework at the end of the day.  What follows is a snippet of information from the website.  Hopefully it will give you a clear idea of what the program is all about:

The Philosophy behind Changing Lives Through Literature
Changing Lives Through Literature is based on the idea that literature has the power to transform. Although it sounds simple - it's essentially a reading group that meets over a period of weeks and that is attended by an instructor, probation officer, judge, and students - CLTL has the ability to allow us to make connections with the characters or ideas in a text and to rethink our own behavior. The phrase "Changing Lives" may sound grandiose and, in a way, it is. This program can be the first step toward permanent change or an additional step on the path to a new way of being in the world. CLTL contends that through literature, we can more deeply understand ourselves and our human condition. But what is it about literature that allows this to occur? And why do many of us who are involved with CLTL feel that it is one of the most underused tools in the criminal justice system?
Today, I found out who my mentor is going to be.  It's not Sandra (and honestly I think she would be a fantastic person for mentoring regardless of my feelings surrounding her workshops).  It is Steven Huff, who is fabled to be a gentle man who fosters your creativity while guiding you through your mistakes in such a way as to make you unable to be sad or upset during the grueling revision process.  He had me sit with him today for a moment and asked what I was working on - what I liked to write.  I told him I like speculative fiction and that I want to work on a Dystopian novel.  Then I told him I also write short stories.  And then... I used the 'V' word.  Not vagina, no, much worse: Vampire.  And he stuck out his tongue in disgust and my face heated up and I shrugged it away like 'yeah, you're right, it's dumb, I'll stop.'  I'm meeting with him tomorrow to discuss reading lists and other important pre-semester planning.  I don't know that there's any way to salvage my 'street-cred' so I'm thinking of bringing a copy of the preface and first chapter or two of the vampire novel.  Maybe he can read it or gloss over it and see that it's not 'about' a vampire.  It's about a wealthy, well-to-do man during the Great Depression who just happens to be a vampire.  I have actually been considering changing it up a little and making him into some other supernatural creature that is further and further from 'Dracula' but that decision would have to come from a need to make the novel better not because of someone else's preferences.

On a lighter note, I was totally outed as a pegasister today.  During Julia's class, a graduating poet took the podium to read a snippet from one of her assignments and I noticed his very cute MLP button tacked right there on his breast.  I stared at it the entire time and later that day he casually told me that he liked my facebook profile picture, which is, of course, the studious bespectacled Pinkie Pie.  An immediate connection was made.  He introduced me to another of our kind and we talked and giggled about My Little Pony and the voice actresses and how it's somehow breached the gender gap in children/young adult animated entertainment.  It was fun and refreshing to be a total Brony for a few minutes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day Seven in Boston - Convoluted Time and Shutting Up

Day Six of the Residency.  I find myself pondering the  magical and relative nature of time.  As the Good Doctor said: "... from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff."  I've been here only seven days and six of those have been spent going to workshops, meeting and fostering relationships with fellow writers, attending lectures, zipping in and out of the cafeteria and various bathrooms, pouncing on naps, putting dibs on showers, waking early, waking late, but always waking in time.  Time.  Only six days and it feels like a month.  A good month.  That is why today, after workshop and lunch, I took a four hour nap.  It was glorious and further disrupted my concept of time and rhythm while stealing precious little moments which I could have put to better use, but didn't and will never get back, but that is just life and, do I regret my nap?  No.  I do not.

This morning's workshop was interesting.  Sandra is indeed a 'tough one' and she even told us that she knew we'd all been warned of this trait.  Owning up to it doesn't make her seem less scary.  For about three hours I sat there, frightened to say anything.  The first time I spoke, it was to tell her of my love for Robert E. Howard.  First of all, she doesn't like that I don't have a contemporary author to fan-girl over and second of all, she didn't like that I gushed over his brilliance without giving her a taste of 'what he writes like.'  I thought my explanation of his fight scenes coming from his own personal experience was some sort of indication, but apparently I was wrong.  Then, because I thought she wanted us to be succinct in our answers, I spoke quickly and briefly of 'observations' that I'd made in the first piece for workshop.  This resulted in her telling me that I couldn't just say 'word play' because it didn't mean anything in relation to the piece, and also that I had to slow down and give multiple examples of tense shifts.  I thought I'd be giving those examples later... when I was allowed to talk.   She talked about trying to give the workshop piece plot and said she had no idea how one might do that.  People made little suggestions.  I made a suggestion and was told that my suggestion worked as a perfect example of what never to do.  She said that I was imposing my own creativity onto the piece.  I thought I was brainstorming.  My bad.  The next time I spoke it was in relation to a character's motivation and she told me that I was reading way too much into things and that I shouldn't try to psychoanalyze.  So I kept quiet for a while.  And then she asked us to think of something that would put a character in a state of disequilibrium (and I love that she used this word!) and so I gave her my example after everyone else had gone and it was sort of expected of me to talk.  She pretty much rolled her eyes and said "Oh, dear God."  By the time workshop was over I had learned... a few things (mainly I learned that I like the idea of disequilibrium) about writing.  The real lesson, however, was 'you're comments are not necessary.'  I'm fine with this.  I am perfectly happy to sit back and listen and jot down notes.  And I wouldn't even mind having her for a mentor (as that is very possible at this point), but what troubles me is the disregard.  I felt fairly humiliated.  Which is why I went and took a four hour nap.  The world is clearer now and I know that I will be able to keep my mouth shut tomorrow.  I will avoid giving her the option to belittle me and in that I will be able to take in her lessons more readily.  She is hard, but I am very excited to learn from her.  The fact that she left a bitter imprint on me this first day leads me to believe that, in the end, she may well become one of my favorites since I'm drawn to hard asses and challengers.

Something else I learned today, from conversation concerning the piece I read for the student reading yesterday, was that I come off very strongly as a writer of YA fiction.   My characters (many of them, it seems) have all the makings for the ideal, youthful protagonists that we find in stories such as The Drowned Cities, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Harry Potter, and others.  This is not to say that my writing is anywhere near as fascinating, exciting, or sculpted as the aforementioned works, but that perhaps my characters would be happier in worlds meant for a 12-18 audience.  I don't know.  It's an option.  I can focus on YA next semester if I choose, but I think that depends a great deal on new pieces and my handling of them.

Tonight's readings were excellent.  Kathy Aguero, one of three wonderful authors to share their work, read an excerpt from a story talking about dealing with a parent growing old and succumbing to Alzheimer's.  It was absolutely beautiful and the juxtaposition between infants (and children) and the elderly has never been drawn so perfectly.  I turned to Marilyn after the reading and told her that everyone who works in health care should read this story because it paints a whole new perspective on what is really going on within the minds of those that we discount as lost.  Just gorgeous.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day Six in Boston - Magic Nipple Nerve

Last day of working with Venise Berry in workshops went very well and I actually managed to pump out a few good lines for that Dystopian piece I've been playing at starting.  After we did some exercises and said our sad goodbyes to our fearless workshop leader, the day progressed to lunch and then a fantastic Starbuck's date with fellow writer/grad student, Marilyn.  We discussed everything from dirty angel sex to YA novels to Harry Potter to Magic Realism.  There were other topics as well and by the time we left I'm sure the young woman sitting near us was probably frightened.  When we returned to campus we buzzed right on over to enjoy Randal Kenan's class on Magical Realism.  I learned a great deal and mainly I learned that this genre completely eludes me as a writer.  As a reader, however, I find it quite fascinating and eye-opening.

The student reading tonight went very well!  It was really neat hearing bits and pieces of poetry and prose from everyone.  I stayed within my two minute limit, got some good laughs, and several high-fives.  It was nerve-wracking leading up to it, but very rewarding in the end.  Afterward, I went to McDonald's with Marilyn (we just seriously needed off campus for a little while as we were feeling cabin fever pretty strongly) and we continued our discussions on life and other things.  We discussed the vital importance of research when writing about other cultures and places and talked about how old we had perceived the other to be via our writing and how very wrong we were in the end; she thought I was nearing or in my forties based on my style and I had thought her to be much younger than me based on her content which has such a youthful, fun feel to it.

This time when we returned to campus we went to the President's Dining Room for the advertised movie night.  Well, as it turned out pretty much everyone in the program went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner leaving only Marilyn, myself and Von, one of our fantastic poets, in attendance. Since the DVD for the planned movie "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" was cracked beyond repair, we scanned Netflix and finally found a different Magical Realism film "Like Water for Chocolate" and watched it on the projector screen while gathered close to the computer as we had to make due with the little laptop's speakers for sound.  It was actually pretty damn cool and I felt closer to Marilyn and Von after watching such surreal craziness (my favorite part has to be, without a doubt, the part where she eats matches one by one).

Back at the dorms, there was a barrage of intimate and odd story telling including a personal anecdote involving a certain sexual instrument getting stuck in a certain sexual hole, as well as the dangers of nipple piercing.  Apparently its possible to pull a nipple nerve right on out of your areola.  Yeah, retyping that just now made me cringe.  Onto less upsetting topics: tomorrow is our first day working with Sandra Scofield and from what I've heard she's a tough one.  I say bring it on, but I say it quietly... from a corner... in a different room.  I don't know that I want to have a new one ripped into me just yet, but if the last workshop is any indication, then it can only end well.  Right?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day Five in Boston - Cock and Kenan

I had my official workshop - for the actual text - today and it went very well.  We looked at my piece as well as several others.  At the end of the workshop they give you back their copy of your story and you can look over their notes and questions at your leisure.  Well, after lunch and a class on archetypes (fabulous, by the way), I did just that.  Some comments and 'smiling faces' made me blush and then I came across my 'Solstice Buddy's copy and she'd not only underlined and numbered every sexual innuendo and inference in the piece, she also circled the word 'cock' and wrote, 'I so wasn't ready for that!'  Apparently the cock came off a bit strong, but isn't that the nature of the beast?  It made me giggle.  I also enjoyed that she could already envision a vampiric feeding scene taking place during a blow job.  Yes, I'd say my work here is done, but it's only just started.

The grad student readings were wonderful and exciting and the faculty readings were the best yet.  All three faculty members had pieces that were humorous and touching.  Randall Kenan's reading of his new piece was particularly fantastic.  I definitely want this man as my mentor at some point. No, not want.  Need.  He's just pure win.  Many of the faculty here are pure win and I feel particularly spoiled to be able to talk with them on a daily basis during the residency.  You can read a bit more about him and see a great profile pic on Goodreads.

Tonight I'm working on a variety of things to prepare for the next section of workshops as well as for Randall's class on Magical Realism.  I have a Starbuck's date with Marilyn and Jennifer tomorrow and while I adore the campus, I'm super stoked to leave it for just a little while.  Also it looks as though I won't be spending my last night at the airport as I've been invited to stay with my Solstice Buddy for the night and then head out to Logan the next day.  I cannot thank her enough for this generosity.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day Four in Boston - Sex and Other Playground Activities

Today started off with a few synopsis critiques.  One of those was mine.  At first I did have the run and hide my head in the sand reaction and felt a little upset in the tummy, but as the day progressed, the bit of shame faded and I am actually quite eager to take a nice long look at Celestyn and Alfred and rework the story from different angles.  It would be much more interesting - for instance - if the relationship between them was of a father/son sort, or if the homosexual elements were being manifested as a twisted way to perpetuate Alfred's revenge.  I'm actually pretty damn pumped and I am reminded again of how incredibly vital and wonderful it is to participate in a workshop like this as it floods your story with new possibilities.  Does that sound too cliche?  Tough.Sure it's nice to hear from friends and family that they like your piece, but it't not helpful.  They like it as it is and are afraid to tell you, guide you, show you what it 'could' be.  I was nervous about putting such a genre chapter into the mix but now I'm very glad as it has made me question a good deal many things about my own plot based issues and shortcomings.  I know where I'm strong and I know where I 'want' to be strong and today helped to reinforce that.  There was one thing that struck me as interesting: the faculty member overseeing the workshop asked me about the homosexual element and wanted me to explain why I felt that these two men needed to be together.  It was a fair question considering the time period, setting, and history behind each of them.  However, as the day wore on, I wondered if she would have asked that if one had been a girl.  There doesn't have to be a reason if it's a man and a woman because 'sometimes people just fall in love.'  I wonder if that would have been an acceptable answer to justify a homosexual entanglement born of blood ties and sensual feedings.  Perhaps I'm over thinking this and I most likely am, but it was just something that kept buzzing around my head.  With the story the way it is now, the answer really is that they just happened to fall in love.  But there might be a much different answer in the future and so, in the end, I'm glad she asked that question.

After the workshop I attended a Graduate Lecture on raw material and active imagination.  The woman leading the lecture asked us how many of us still play and I was glad that I could raise my hand high and proud.  This bled into the idea of spontaneity and the use of our subconscious energy.  In a nutshell for a writer: this is when your characters take over!  It was a great lecture that touched on Jungian psychology as well as lucid dreaming and meditation techniques.  I learned that I am a professional day dreamer and I learned that it's natural to have the sense that the character is doing their own thing.  What that means is that you are tapping into your subconscious and allowing it to form in its own way via your character/narrator.  I like letting 'him' or 'her' take control honestly; it makes for richer characters and much more honest interpretations of the world and humanity.

I napped in the student center today and woke up to a commercial for SNHU which boasts a Creative Writing program that takes place completely online.  I cannot fully describe just how utterly horrifying it would be to have followed through with my application to Southern New Hampshire University and to not be here right now, to be stuck in my room without any notion of who my classmates and professors really are.  Anyone considering distance learning should look into low-residency as it allows for a sense of home and family and invigorates rather than frustrates the learning process.  No matter how scared and nervous I was at the thought of undertaking my MFA at Pine Manor College, I honestly can't imagine being anywhere else right now.  Sappy, I know, but I think I've already fallen in love with the program and can't wait to see familiar faces again in June.

During dinner we talked about food and sex.  It all began when a fellow writer imparted to me that eating an oyster is like taking a bite of the ocean, and it's better than sex.  This piqued my interest and it went all downhill from there.  Pretty soon we were talking about the mating habits of slugs and how binge drinking doesn't mix well with seafood.  Also we compared sex to the act of cooking wherein I decided I am premature ejaculator.  I go in, I set up the ingredients, I preheat the oven, I look around and throw up my hands and say "I"M DONE!!!"  And when I'm not prematurely ejaculating, I'm a straight-up sex slave.  Hannah has me in there cutting up onions, bell peppers, and whatever else needs mutilated and then she has me set water on to boil, start the rice, stir the batter, check the cookies, stick a toothpick in the quiche... you know, all the grunt work.  The kitchen is a very sexual and dangerous place and I don't think I'll ever be able to separate sex and cooking in my mind from here on out.  That and the fact that mussels are utterly pornographic.  Yep.

Tonight's faculty readers were wonder as per usual.  A man named Terrance Hayes did a set of poems that really sang to me.  His sensuous voice was easy on the ears and his handsome face and tall frame were very easy on the eyes.  I think I will be adding one of his poetry collections to my list of purchases.  I want to add one of Meg's as well.  The poetry is just so wonderful!  I'd forgotten how utterly gorgeous and precious this art form is to me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Student Reading

This is a snippet from an introductory ramble that I wrote as a way to get me geared up and finally working on one of my two Dystopian novels.  This particular novel takes place in a future very similar to ours (and perhaps just around the corner).  The idea itself has been percolating in my brain since I was in middle school or thereabouts.  I was not yet ready to write it back then, but perhaps I have enough life experience now, and literary experience, to take a rough stab at it.  In any event, here is the short snippet that I will be reading aloud to my classmates on Tuesday.
So let me start with this: I live in a city, a large metropolis type, you know the kind, with smoke stacks thickening the air until it feels like perpetual gravy, and coating the roads, the buildings, your glasses, with thick unctuous filth.  You get it all over your fingers when you have to touch something.  I want to wash my hands right now just thinking about it.  But washing doesn’t help.  Railing is the worst, though.  You can’t help but cling to that shit going up and down the stairs, and you feel like you’re making some sort of sexual exchange with the metal, like you’re somehow switching out your skin for little bits and pieces of all the other people who’ve touched it that day. 
Even now I think of my hands as belonging to others and not myself.  This pen that I’m using came from the front desk of the reception area and I can’t even start to think of how many railing tainted fingers must have touched it during its life and here it is now in my hand, having been pilfered sometime after dinner and then squirreled away to my room.  That’s what the whole city is like, though, festered little pieces of the boys and girls of industry, holding hands, holding beverages, holding the door open for you.  Factory residue and acid mist on every page and every strand of hair.  It’s on every bite of every burger, soaked into every doughnut, pooling like oil on every piece of pizza.  Sure as shit, we’re eating this city.  We’re intimate with it.  Hell, when people kiss they taste the smoke stacks before they taste their lover and aside from bathing and love making, I can’t imagine that anyone would want to be naked in this place. 
But still, there is a sun and sometimes it breaks through the smog long enough to color the scenery and warm the cement.  I would like to say that during those brief moments of eldritch light we can see once again an expansive reality greater than ourselves, but really the sunlight serves only as a temporary inconvenience to a population that has, for better or worse, survived without the need for sunscreen or parasols for the past several decades and are wholly unprepared for direct doses of what my psychiatrist would call excessive exposure.   I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to the sky.  It’s pretty enough, I suppose, when the veil cracks and splinters of faint corpuscular rays fan out like a peacock’s tail from behind a stubborn cloud, but, at the same time, it frustrates me.  Everything beautiful frustrates me.

Day Three in Boston - Dystopia and Vampires

This morning I awoke at an ungodly hour and tramped my way over to the student center for a danish and coffee, then I went searching for a place to call home for a few moments so that I could work on making notes on my classmates' workshop pieces.  On my way to the allegedly haunted Moncreif Building I saw three plump, grey squirrels playing tag (or perhaps it was keep away) in the tall, tall pine trees.  I stopped and enjoyed them for a while and then went on my way.  This place is wonderful for things like that - we're so secluded and private and filled with nature.

Workshops went well today and my synopsis is up tomorrow.  I am nervous but after I revise it some tonight I think I'll be ready.  The rest of the day went quickly.  It was filled with Craft Analysis class and 'The Future Now: Dystopia.'  I do not have a 'shut up button' and sometimes I wish I did; between Marilyn and I, we monopolized all the conversation in that class.  I think I could talk to her for hours and we'd never run out of things to say.  I'm enjoying her company immensely, as well as the company of the rest of my fiction group.  There are also some Poetry and Young Adult writers that I have come to seek out in the dining hall and stalk about the campus always eager for an audience with their awesomeness.  Such a feeling of family here.  I only really feel alone at night because I have no roommate, nor a Hannah.  Not even any kitties to keep me company.  But I'm surviving.

I purchased three books today and am eager to snag a few more before I leave.  These are the novels that the teachers and staff here have published and they all look so amazing that I'm really torn as to which I can justifiably leave with.  I may grab some more via Amazon at a later date but if I purchase them here I get the luxury of having the author him/herself sign the copy for me and there's something wildly exciting about that.  I love signed copies of things.

In other news, I am exhausted!  I hope to get some good sleep in tonight.  I'll be putting up my notes from the Dystopian class on the Detangled Writers Blog either tonight or in the morning.  For now, just wish me luck as I'm about to have my poor little vampire quite crucified on the workshop table tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Day Two in Boston - Bridgette and Two Minutes

After much running around and getting mildly lost here and there, turned around between similar looking buildings, and a date with campus security to obtain an ID card bearing a terrifying effigy of yours truly, I am finally home (in my dorm) and calling it a night.  I have some things to read, some stories to look through and mark up sufficiently, as well as some ideas to jot here and there for my Dystopian endeavors.  A few things I noticed/learned today: the computers in the library are slower than shit, I like the walk between the dorms and the student building no matter the temperature, I'm not used to eating three meals a day and have spent a majority of my time in the bathroom as a result, 'shitolerance' really is the key to any working relationship, and I'm not the only one who enjoys a good Riesling.    Things that others have noticed about me: I lie constantly but always own up to it, I am passionate about the books I've read, I cried over 'A Separate Peace,' and I may or may not have an alternate personality named Bridget.  The last is in direct relation to the fact that I was supposed to have a roommate but, due to sudden illness in the other party, I find myself quite alone in my spacious dorm.  To alleviate the loneliness, Bridget was born.  She's quiet and sweet but a complete prankster and what started out as an imaginary friend has slowly been turning into a 'possessive force' and we've taken to 'blaming Bridget' when something goes awry or when I try to bite my shoulders.  It's fantastic.

The people that I've met are all wonderful.  The best thing about them is that they are willing to talk about themselves, about craft, and about their nerves or reservations.  I feel silly sometimes because while they are reinventing fairy tales, working on memoirs, compiling poetry, and popping out awesome short stories that make you want to slit your wrists, I am working on a vampire story.  Still, there is no snobbishness here.  There is no 'oh, you're a genre writer' in the atmosphere and for that I am very grateful.  Tomorrow is our first round of work shopping and it will be the 'spoiler' day as we are going to go around and talk about the story boards of each of our pieces.  For those of us working on novels that means giving away the climax, the falling action, the whole kit-n-kaboodle.  This isn't a problem really, but I still feel silly telling them the end of a vampire novel versus telling them the end of a tragic vignette or the like.  Oh well.

I will also be attending two classes tomorrow.  The first one is a class on critical analysis, of which I will be doing many.  I'm actually quite excited for this and have been longing for a chance to do a critical paper detailing certain shared elements between 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'American Psycho.'  And taking 'Kite Runner' and 'Drowned Cities' and drawing upon how one makes you hate the Taliban, the other makes you hate the world and how they do it through nearly identical means.  Most likely these ideas will seem stupid after tomorrow but maybe not.  The other class I'm taking is the one on Dystopian literature.  I'm sure I'll have much to say on the subject.  As I look back over my books read list, I find that I actually have a good deal of Dystopian novels under my belt which is one of the reasons I feel so inclined now, more than ever, to try my hand at one.  That is what I want them to workshop in June.  That is what I want to finish for my creative thesis.  Either that, or I shall finish up my vampire story.  One is nearly done, one is a raw idea that's been slowly taking shape ever since this past August.  I suppose it's just a matter now of which one needs told more.  Eventually both will live and *crosses fingers* be published, but the sudden invigoration of the residency has left me panting and eager to write something brand new.  Again, we shall see.  Later this week I will be doing a student reading and it will either be a portion from a short Nano piece or a couple of poems - the ones on this very blog.  I am undecided.  The other option of course is to read from Fork (the companion piece to Scalpel which we are going to be workshopping after the vampire story).  It can only be two minutes of reading to make sure that everyone who wants to has a chance to go.  I'm nervous but determined.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day One in Boston - Crime Scene and 1984

Today I embark on a fantastic voyage.  I arrived not too long ago at the Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts (where I will remain for the next four or so hours) and I have much to report of the journey; observations and such.  Firstly and foremost, I have to say that yesterday, the preparation for the departing flight was the most relaxed of any I've ever known.  I took my time, gathered my things, did some laundry, ran around the house naked for the most part and when we I did finally arrive at the Spokane Airport, it was so early that I was able to sneak onto an earlier flight for Seattle which gave me a longer layover at that airport but in the end it got me started sooner and I thought it was pretty neat that I ended up in the exact same seat on the earlier flight that I would have had on my later flight.  That seat was E14 by the way.  Lucky seat I suppose.  Also, a general observation: if you want TSA to talk to you, wear a yellow scarf with the words "CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS" written all over it.  I and the caution tape scarf received many, many comments and eye quirks during the travels but the best exchange occurred right there in Spokane.  A TSA agent eyed me a moment and approached.

"What kind of crime scene we talking about exactly?"  He asked with a raised eyebrow.

I said the first thing that I could think of that wouldn't get me a cavity search.  "A gentle one."  We chuckled and I explained that I'm meeting someone in Boston and wanted to give her a clear indication of who I was and what better way than to say 'here I am' than to wear a big old yellow crime tape scarf?  The subsequent flight was spent thinking of what might constitute a 'gentle' crime scene and my mind flooded with bizarre images of date rape gone wrong or the good old crime of passion wherein a lover strangles his/her conquest as pretty as you please and settles them down in the snow to die quietly and gently.

Moving right along, my second flight was filled with about 100 pages of Orwell's "1984" the first thing I really honed in on was how intricate and necessary the role of sex and violence is in all Dystopian novels whether they say the dirty words or not.  Interestingly enough, this novel takes the stance that it is through limiting of sexual contact and the eventual breeding the instinct out of people that will keep a nation quiet and controlled.  Similar in concept to that of "Equilibrium" where a man is accused of 'having relations with a woman' and all he did was hold her hand.  In other Dystopian novels however sex is encouraged to the point that it will lack all meaning such as it is in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."  I suppose a case could be made that whether sex is limited or in abundance, the point of it is to keep bonds casual and social and decrease attachment between individuals.  Fascinating.

On this flight, I learned something else as well.  Take a chance and say something to the person next to you and it will make the flight better.  Not always (because sometimes you have the great misfortune of sitting next to a real sour son of a bitch who would rather be violated with a chainsaw than show a stranger an ounce of kindness) but most of the time, a polite little comment really pays off.  This young pretty black girl was in the middle seat and I was against the window feeling huge and obtrusive when she took out a little bottle of lotion and did up her hands.  It smelled awesome! And since that was a genuine and honest reaction, I went ahead and told her that I really liked the smell of her lotion.  She not only perked up and smiled at me, she pulled the bottle back out and let me use some as well.  It was from Victoria Secret and smelled like cake batter and coconuts.

Back to the subject of "1984," there was a line that made me pause and literally shake my head.  Not in the 'oh, what a shame' kind of way, but in that classic, cartoon double-take fashion.  "We are the dead."  Says Winston at one point as he lays next to his Julia after a bout of highly forbidden love-making.  She refutes this and tells him not to talk about death and what not, but I was stuck there on that line for a good few moments.  For those who know me, you'll know that I am die-hard David Bowie fan.  I own all of his studio albums and one of my absolute favorite has always been 'Diamond Dogs.'  Now, I've always known that this album was based directly off of Orwell's work - with song titles like '1984' and 'Big Brother' how could I not?  But never having actually read the book left me hearing the album with the ears of an outsider.  I adored it, but could only grasp the surface.  Now, however, I am replaying the album merrily in my mind, extracting images and themes that directly link to the text of the novel and I find it all the more compelling and exciting.