November 20, 2009

The Worst NaNoWriMo Pep Talk Ever

November is the time when teachers like to pile midterms on students. I had two midterms and a paper due all on the same day. I maintained my grade in one class, did considerable worse on another class, and have yet to determine what my grade on the term paper was. In my defense, a lot of things were on my mind this month. I will admit that I didn't make proper use of my time in one class and that I underestimated the test. Needless to say, I didn't get any NaNoWriMo work done. None of the characters were cooperating and the story was at a stand still. I wanted to write because writing is my escape. I was so ready to throw in the towel and I'll explain why I didn't later.

For the past two years, it seems that people I know tend to die around this time. Last year, a man I was visiting in the hospice died and I didn't know for a month. No one ever told me. In fact, he died two days after my twentieth birthday and I was going to go visit him the day he died (I didn't know he was dead at this point), but I was extremely sick and couldn't make it. I had this feeling that the next time I would go back to that house, he wouldn't be there. I prepared myself for it, but I didn't want to be right.

This year, I had two cousins die unexpectedly. The cousin on my dad's side died in September, but we didn't find out for a couple weeks. We actually found out through the internet. Me, being the attention whore that I was (and will probably no longer be after this experience), decided to Google my name and my cousin's obituary was one of the first things that popped up. On top of that, I was on the phone with my mom at the time and I had to tell her that my cousin had died.

Then a couple weeks ago, the cousin on my mother's side passed away. My aunt's daughter. She wasn't feeling well and refused to go see a doctor (which unfortunately is how my other cousin died as well, by not following the doctors orders). She talked to my aunt in the morning and by the afternoon, she had passed away. They said that she had a stroke.

The funeral was November 19, 2009. It was a lovely service. People had a lot of nice things to say about her. It wasn't like those funerals where people fumbled for something nice to say, everything was genuine. I tried not to cry, but I did. I will be honest and say that I didn't really know either of my cousins very well. I'm the youngest of my first cousins at a measly 21 years old and both of them were well into their 40's. Their deaths just brought up feelings of losing people in life and reminded all of us that life is too short and that you never really know when it's your time to go.

One thing I love my family is our resiliency. We aren't exactly the close knit kind of family that celebrates every holiday together, but when you need support, we will be there. During the funeral, we cried and said our good-byes. An hour later, we were laughing and remembering, and celebrating life. Death is only a part of life.

So where does NaNoWriMo come into this? Some might be saying that it might be a little selfish to think about that when so much bad stuff has been happening. Writing has almost always been a therapeutic thing for me, so when that wouldn't work it got overwhelming. I didn't have an outlet. I read my stories online(I'm still behind on some of those), but I was too busy to pick up a pleasure book to read.

I deleted all the Sims 2 games from my computer (I had all the expansion sets that I borrowed from a friend) in favor of the Sims 3, then played it out to the point that it's not interesting anymore (not to mention that I couldn't make the people as hot as I could in the Sims 3. Something about that uncanny valley thing made them a bit too real and weird looking.) I wanted to start a new project with some of the ideas I had, but nothing was coming. In fact the only thing I had to look forward to this week was Glee (which was a descent episode imo, but last weeks was the best so far).

Why didn't I throw in the towel? Because life is too short. Who knows when I'll get an opportunity to push the story forward in such a fast paced manner. I got at least 2 1/2 descent usable episodes out of IAR in a matter of weeks and if I push myself I could at least attempt to reach 50,000. That's the whole heart of the matter, right? The journey to the 50,000 words, not exactly the words themselves. I had a 3 hour jam session that served as a therapeutic outlet as soon as I got back from the funeral. I needed it. But while critiquing and helping a friend on his music, I went into brainstorming mode and the ideas started to flow. I'm letting them sit for a little bit (I need to do some assignments and things) and will be trying to get 10,000-15,000 words before Thanksgiving.

Why you shouldn't throw in the towel?
  • Your idea deserves to see itself in reality. Even if it's a "bad" idea, you'll have a tangible idea of your efforts in seeing your piece be completed. 
  • Life is too short to give up (of course if you have other priorities that are more important, take care of those too/instead) 
  • Just read the pep talks of well-known authors. They know what they are talking about. 
If you have to throw in the towel, there are plenty of opportunities to try it again.
  • Script Frenzy
  • Various groups on LJ that I'm a bit too lazy to find. (They are out there though)
  • There's always next year. 
Good luck on your novels!

P.S. Still at 7,741 words, but still trying to push more out.

November 11, 2009

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Date Started: Unknown, Sometime in October

Date Finished: November 11, 2009
Summary: Jane is a short Catholic school misfit with her only friend, Allison, an awkward girl with a big forehead. When a horrible accident befalls Allison, the girl makes a deal with darkness in order to gain popularity. Now Jane risks her life and soul in order to bring Allison back.

Likes: As always, Johnson's writing skill lies in her characters. The characters she writes are always quirky, entertaining, and flawed. The writing is clever, the dialgoue is snappy, and the storyline is interesting. I found myself frustrated with Allison, but in awe of Jane. Who would go so far to risk their soul for a friend? It's admirable and unbelievable the length Jane would go to save her friend. Or the length they'd go to save each other. Another thing that Johnson excels at is setting. I can imagine the places that the author describes even though I've never been there. She paints a very vivid setting in her stories and that's one of my favorite aspects about all Johnson's books.

Dislikes: Maybe I'm just a little biased, but I tend to freak out when I see the word "Satan" and "Satanist". Didn't ruin the story, but it would be cool to see the author create something new instead of falling back on Satanism or at least go into the details. I think if she is going to use something so extreme, she needs to go all the way and give us the nitty gritty of it. None of the historical things seemed to add up and it left me confused. (It also could be due to reading this story at 3 in the morning hyped on coffee and wanting to get to the action of the story, this is probably the main reason).

Overall: Not exactly my favorite Maureen Johnson book (I think my favorite so far will be The Bermudez Triangle), but I like it well enough. It was cute and clever, but the pieces don't really add up for reasons I explained above.

John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins

Date Started: Unknown, Sometime in October
Date Finished: November 8, 2009

Summary: Charlotte is a widow who decides to go to India to start a new life. She gets a job teaching eight girls. She meets the sailor, John Dollar. After going to an island for the King of the England's birthday, they all get caught up in an earthquake and subsequently a tsunami. The girls must fend for themselves in the wild.

Likes: The premise reminds me of Lord of the Flies. Children being forced to grow up and on their own, left to fend for themselves. The story makes use of some interesting concepts when it comes to dialogue and description. The characters, for the most part, are believable and flawed. The author captures insanity at it's most gritty details. 

Dislikes:There was just too much detail at some part. I can handle the sex, I can even handle gore. There are just some parts of the story I felt weren't necessary to make the point. Sometimes the extended metaphors were too heavy handed and too obvious, almost to the point of preachy. The ending is at the beginning of the novel and while at first it seem interesting to start at that place, the ending is so random. The characters are running and the reader doesn't know where. The beginning of the book should have been at the end. In fact the book could probably have started in medias res and had a better impact by weaving in the past to the current narrative.

Overall: I don't think I would have ever picked up this book had we not had to read it for class. It was bizarre and not in the good way. The premise was interesting but the writing was just a bit too dull to tell the story fully. It was a bit disappointing because the shocking revelation, while gross, isn't as crazy as a reader would think it would be. It does make a reader wonder if the two older girls had resources and things they needed to survive, why did they resort to doing what they did. Would I recommend this book? I'm not sure. Critically speaking, it's probably a really good book symbolizing colonialism and ethnic tension as well as the animal aspect of human nature. As a pleasure reading book, not so much. It's not enjoyable in that regard. Your mileage may vary, but it's an okay book. I've certainly have read worse.

November 2, 2009

Life Specials

What I learned on the Job
Hospital Intern: One Two Three
Mad Scientist: One Two Three
Developmental Teacher: One Two Three


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