May 25, 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Date Started: May 22, 2010
Date Finished: May 24, 2010

Summary:  Lizzie comes to Tawawa house with her master, Drayle. She meets three other slave women, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu. Tawawa house is where Slaveowners take their black slave mistresses. It is also in Ohio, where slavery is outlawed and Blacks can live in freedom. Mawu and the others are ready to escape their abusive lives as slaves, but Lizzie is in love with Drayle and the children she has with him. Lizzie must either escape to freedom with the other women or return her old way of living.

Likes: This novel is beautifully crafted and at the same time frustrating. The dynamic between Lizzie and Drayle is a complex one. On the one hand, Lizzie has been abused by her master and mistreated by him, yet she has to find feelings for him. She has two children by him, which also puts her in a compromised position, especially when it comes to fighting for her freedom. The characterization and growth in each of the characters is subtle and beautiful. Each woman has a resilient spirit and each one achieves freedom in their own way.It's frustrating to read because the tension is so high. I understand Lizzie's decision, but at first I was mad at her for making what I thought was the wrong choice. But once you think about the situation and perhaps, what you might do if you had the choice you see how hard the decision was for Lizzie to make and ultimately she leaves Tawawa house with a new found power that she never had before. 

Dislikes: There wasn't much I disliked about this novel. I was a little confused towards the end when Drayle takes his wife to the resort. I'm confused as to why she was there, but there were some important conversation that takes place between Lizzie and Drayle's wife that is important to Lizzie's growth. It was just odd, but it was necessary.

Overall: I loved this novel and it definitely lives up to the hype. The author is so nice and filled with good writing advice. I feel bad for not bringing paper to write notes. This book is a great read and I can't wait to read what other projects this author has waiting.

May 24, 2010

Update: Week 2 Goals: Week 3

Once again things didn't go as planned. I wanted to write, but I had a paper to work on. I had to put my best effort into this paper by restraining myself. For the first time in the history of my life, I was marked down for writing too much. I was thoroughly pissed because I put my best effort into that paper, but whatever, I just had to get it next time. At any rate, this is probably the first time in a series of weeks where I have nothing to do. Just as a reminder, my goals are:

Finding a Focus
Working with a self imposed deadline
Turning off the inner editor.

I've been having problems with these goals since life gets in the way. I got my priorities in order, but unfortunately, I'm having trouble coming up with a way to link the stories. Of course, in my over eagerness to actually write, I misread the actual goals that Merrilee wants us to accomplish. We are supposed to write 4 linked stories per block, not 12 connected stories. DOH! This definitely changes things. Here I was lamenting over how to write 12 interconnected stories when I really only had to write four.

So for finding a focus, I only have to find a way to connect the four stories together. I'm going to pick four themes and connect the stories through character. It'll be somewhat of a character sketch. I think I might revisit Josh's character from the story "Counting." I got a lot of positive feedback regarding his story(thanks xenn!), but many of the comments I received during workshop mentioned that it lacked a focus. This is the time I can put a theme and focus on that.

I'm going to change the way I do things. I miss the days where I wrote my stories by hand in notebooks. I picked up four notebooks, one for IAR, and three for the different blocks of workshop and I'm going old school to the days where I hand wrote everything. Doing this insures that I won't edit until I go to type it into my computer which won't be until after the workshop series (all of them) is finished in August.

As far as my other challenges go. IAR is being deconstructed into scenes as if it were the medium that it's intended to be. I will deconstruct the scene on the computer, since that's where my notes are and then write the scenes in my notebook, then go back and work on the beginning and put everything in order. My CRWT 172 workshop revision is going along nicely. I need to edit somethings, extend some scenes and cut out some scenes before I just let it sit and give it to my teacher.

So all in all, I'm excited for this week. I have no major things that I need to work on and this upcoming weekend is a four day weekend filled with parties and things. I'm excited. Then after that I've got a paper due June 3, then finals June 5 and June 7, then I'm done from June 8-June 21, when summer school starts. Summer school is going to be intense, but I just can't wait to be done with this quarter.


May 22, 2010

Wrong Place by MCM

MCM in all his craziness is trying to write 1,000 short stories this summer. It's simple, just shoot him a line by email and get a story. It's really just that simple. I sent in a story idea, the failed idea generation using TV tropes for Merrilee's workshop. Remember? A 25 year old blind pregnant former magical girl is a hostage in a bank. So at 2:00pm I sent him the line and at 4:00pm, I got a story. So go visit MCM's website and read his books or better yet, request a 1,000 word story to help him meet his goals! Go to his website and drop him a comment there as well!
  Here's the story:  Wrong Place by MCM

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

Date Started: May 22, 2010
Date Finished: May 22, 2010

Summary: Ben's girlfriend, Marly, has been dead for four months and now Valentine's day has rolled around to remind him of all the love that he no longer has. In those four months, Ben has gone from lovable and full of hope to a bitter young teen. He has closed off the world by pushing people away. That night he is visited by Marly's ghost and three other spirits that show him how to love again.

Likes: The thing that I like most about this story is that it's isn't trying to do something new and exciting with a Christmas Carol. It's instead taking the novel and doing something different, looking at the story in a way that we haven't seen before. It's isn't trying to hard to be different and in fact, the language and the dialogue reminds me of Dickens' style, but with Levithan's lyricism that I'm in love with.The story is a remix, as Levithan states, it samples from Dicken's novels and combines with some of Levithan's own writing that doesn't try to do anything except tell Ben's story. It was a light quick read and packs a lot emotion in 155 pages.

Dislikes: Since it is a remix of Dickens' original Christmas Carol, the story is a little predictable and while the characters themselves are a new take on the classic characters, the story and plot isn't that original. It's not supposed to be an original story, but it was little too much like Dickens and not enough of Levithan's storytelling.

Overall: This was a quick and light read and I enjoyed the concept and the idea. I believe that Levithan may be one of the few authors who has the skills to remix such a beloved and well known novel.

May 17, 2010

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Date Started: May 16, 2010
Date Finished: May 17, 2010

Summary:  Samar, aka Sammy or Wally, has gone through life never questioned who she was or what it meant to be Sikh. Her mother has hidden that aspect of her life away from her. When Sam's Uncle Sandeep shows up on her doorstep after September 11, 2001, Samar begins to wonder about her family and their hidden history. Sam now has to navigate her way through racist attacks on her uncle that remind her of all the comments and teasing she received as a child. Sam also wants to know more about her family and even more about herself in the process. 

Likes: Sam's character was interesting. I felt that I could relate to her, even though she was a part of a different culture. I also found it cool to learn about the Sikh culture as the character was finding it. I connected with Sam simply because I felt like I never fit in and it is just my mom and I. I enjoyed reading about her friends and learning about how characters, such as Molly, view people of color outside of her friends that she knows. Balvir reminded me of girls that I met in college who grew up in that sort of repressed environment  only to start wildin' out in college. I felt that most of the characters were fully rounded and likable.

Dislikes: The ending was wrapped up a little too neatly, but I guess that was the only way to end the story. I was so scared for Sandeep's safety that it made me nervous because I was scared something entirely terrible was going to happen. Luckily what happens isn't that bad, but its still kind of scary. Mike was a jackass, I don't care how many hours he had to work. So were his friends. Racist bastards. 

Overall: I recommend this book to anyone who's ever been made fun of for their skin color or aspects of this culture. I also connected with Samar in her search to find herself by joining forums and looking through ethnic blogs and websites because I did (am currently doing) the same thing.

While I was reading this and the story flashbacked to the times where Samar was made fun of, I remember this girl in one of my Mad Science classes that was Middle Eastern. Some kid was making fun of her making stereotypical Native American noises when she proudly,though shyly declares "I'm an Indian from India." but the boy wouldn't let up. There wasn't much I could have done about it because I was too out of range to intervene, but I did let her be my assistant for one of the experiments. It just made me think of how things have somewhat gotten better (I hope they aren't calling that girl doo-doo skin), but they still have a long way to go.

Week 1: Review and Week 2:Upcoming Goals

So this week kicked my butt as far as the creativity workshop is concerned. I did some writing for other things, but not for the workshop.

My goals were: 
  • Finding a focus
  • Working on a self imposed deadline
  • Turning off the inner editor.
I was not able to accomplish anything as far as the workshop was concerned as you can see from my progress chart in the doobly doo. I accomplished a few things on the personal side of things. I got some scene outlines for the later chapters in It's All Relative, and some writing done (without editing) for my CRWT 172 revision. Unfortunately, none of that has to do with the writing workshop. Also, I didn't really do the idea generation thing and I might have come up with something if I had. Life just got in the way and I really don't know what happened to the rest of my week.

What I learned:
  • I need to make time for writing whether that be in the morning or at night. I have to treat writing like a job or a class because I eventually want to make this into a job.
  • I need to get my priorities in order. School always comes first, then work, then internship, then leisure activities. I'm always getting things out of order and I need to work hard to put them back together. I always end up forgetting homework and wasting time on the internet. I will turn off the internet (and tv too if necessary) for long periods of time to get all my homework, projects for internships and work done, then do some writing. 
What's coming up for week two:
  • Same goals, but I need to just write and see what comes up as an idea. I should edit later and just have a general idea of where I want the story to go. 
  • Outlining should be one of my goals. It's not really something I do in depth. I have a general outline, but I need something with concrete scenes that the story has to lead up to. Right now, I don't have that and I think it's really something I need.

So other other Creativity Workshop members and other writers out there:
What are you goals this week? How do you plan to get them done? 

    May 14, 2010

    Miracle's Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

    Summary: Lafayette is the youngest of the Bailey boys. He's twelve years old and his mother has passed away. He is being raised by his oldest brother Ty'ree, who gave up going to MIT to take care of his two younger brothers. Lafayette is not getting along with his middle brother, Charlie, who was just released from a juvenile detention center. Lafayette is learning to move on from his mother's death, but he still feels guilty when his brother blames him for what happened that fateful morning.

    Likes: I liked the characterization and the voice of the Lafayette. He had such an innocent way of viewing the world, but it was so profound in its simplicity. I liked the plot of the novel. Three boys growing up in New York City just trying to survive and make it through the next day. I liked that each boy had a distinct personality and they didn't bleed into each other. The dialogue was also another subtle way that Woodson showed character. My favorite character was Charlie. He was so troubled and it was interesting to see that filtered through Lafayette's innocent outlook on the world.

    Dislikes:  I think the most compelling character in this novel is Charlie, I wish we would have gotten more from his perspective than Lafayette. Lafayette seems to be like an innocent bystander in the whole situation. He's 12 and he's learning to move on from his mother's death, but overall his story isn't that compelling to me. Charlie was too young to remember his father's death and he wasn't even there when his mother passed away and on top of that he spent a few years in juvenile detention for robbing a store. I think this novel would have been easier to read if it was in his point of view instead of Lafayette's.

    Overall: It took me a long time to get through this book which is odd because this book was only 131 pages. Like I mentioned, Charlie is the most compelling character and I wanted to know more about him and more about life outside of Lafayette's home life. I wanted to see how his mother's death affected him in other areas of his life. I enjoyed the voice in the story. As always Woodson has a lyrical prose, and great characterization.

    May 13, 2010

    Midweek Review 1

    I had a good but bittersweet Mother's day. On the one hand, I spent time with my mother and our family friends, but then when we got home we heard that another family friend had passed away. I didn't know him that well, but it's always sad when people lose someone they love. I wrote something on grief, giving a little insight to a character in a story. I couldn't make it into a series for the sake of the workshop, but it felt good to get the feelings out there and deal with them.

    I finished my paper, trying to do it in advance, but ended up narrowly making it to the deadline before my computer crapped out. I always end up waiting until the last minute, which works out because I thrive on the stress. I have to compartmentalize the things that I do. I had to finish my paper before I worked on anything else. Now that I'm pretty much free, I need to finish up my homework and then work on the workshop.  I'm currently typing this up on my new netbook. I'm still keeping my old laptop for art projects since my tablet and photoshop and paintbrushes are all there. Anyway...

    So my goals for this week were:
    • Finding a focus
    • Working on a self imposed deadline
    • Turning off the inner editor.
    So far, I'm trying to figure out what to write about. I'm thinking of working Infinite Alice for this workshop and into 12 episode/chapters for posting on the web at the end of the workshop. I'm excited, but I think as far as other goals that are coming up, it's a bit hard to write a series of stories that interconnect that change genre every chapter. One thing that I've never done is Steampunk, but this story is crying out to be an urban fantasy. If there is another round of workshops later in the year, I can work my way up to Sci-Fi, but I need to take baby steps. If I don't compartmentalize my work, I won't be able to get it done. When I have a goal and a general deadline hanging over my head, I can put it into high gear just in the nick of time. Finding focus, I need to post a focus, then write everything related to that theme.

    Working on a self imposed deadline- this is a little bit hard considering that there are slightly more important things to do in life at the moment like school, internship, and work. There was a situation with work and to make a long story short, I once again have some more time on my hands. I'm still in the brainstorming process as far as this story is concerned. I'll be a week behind everyone if I don't hurry up. I still have so much stuff for life calling me. I'll try to write a little before I go to sleep and a little when I wake up, if I can wake up in time.

    Turning Off the Editor-This isn't exactly as hard I thought it would be. I actually haven't done any writing, so there's nothing to edit. LOL.

    How are your goals going for this week?

    May 7, 2010


    I actually have a number of projects going on this month and I need to get them done by this month as well.

    Week 1: Creativity Workshop
    For this workshop block, I'm going to focus on these three goals. The hardest to work on and something that is going to be an ongoing goal for me are:
    • Finding a Focus
    • Working with a self imposed deadline
    • Turning off the inner editor. 
    So for finding a focus, I'm going to chose a theme and for brainstorming, I'm going to list a number of events and situations that are related to that theme. So for example, if I decide to write something about forgiveness, then I will choose some situations like a boy and a girl breaking up and forgiving each other, or a son forgiving his mother for something or vice versa, something like that. Choosing things randomly might make me have to work that much harder since I don't have total control over everything and I have to force myself to work on something I might not like.

    Working with a self imposed deadline- I will be starting the planning tonight and figuring out all the logistics, which go along with finding the focus. I will start writing May 9 and write for an hour a day before or after class, provided I have all my homework for the night completed. I will finish writing on May 14. I must have at more than half of my Psych 12 paper due by Midnight May 9 or I cannot write and I will be behind on my goal and must continue in the series without the chapter. I will write 500+ words a day until I reach 2500 or until the story feels complete. 

    Turning off the inner editor. After the story is completed is completed, I will put the story on my external hard drive (or once I get my netbook, I will leave them on my old laptop) and will not be permitted to look at it until the end of the 12 week workshop.

    So the timeline
    May 7- Character Sheet
    May 8- Write Psych 12 paper (I need someone to bug me on writing the paper)  I wrote up most of it, but I don't have my results of the study.
    May 9- Finish Abstract and Introduction. Look for research notes.
               Start writing workshop piece.
    May 10- Finish Paper
                Continue writing story
    May 14- Stop writing story.
    May 15- Debrief

    It's All Relative Challenge: 
    No editing. The same goes with this. I need six mostly completed chapters by the end of the week to send into my gatekeeper/coach/beta reader. So far I have 2 written. By the end of the month I should have 30ish chapters somewhat completed. If I can get that far, that'll be the farthest I've ever made it in IAR. I have to catch up somehow.

    Personal Challenge:
    I wrote a story in workshop that I want to expand into a novel/novella. I think it's really interesting. It's like The Secret Year/Jumping Off Swings/My Life as a Rhombus mash-up with everything that I think was missing in those stories. A story about teen pregnancy, cheating on people, abortion, and a guy who isn't a jackass. Let's see how it goes. I don't to wait because I want to turn some of this in for my final project in my workshop class. I will probably just write the first three chapters which will be expanded parts of my creative writing workshop story.

    Progress charts will be in the doobly-doo--->

    May 6, 2010

    Interests, Goals, and Stuff (Updated)

    As a part of Merrilee's Creativity Workshop Introduction, I am writing about the goals and interests I have in writing that I hope to pursue or overcome during the course of this workshop. I'm so excited. I hope I can have a finished product and be able to do something with it when I'm finished. Anyway, on to the goals. 

    • Exciting Beginnings
    • Finding a focus
    • Completing projects
    • Fighting the urge to over edit
    • Turning off the inner editor
    • Strong and well rounded Female Protagonists
    • Writing outside my comfort zone.

      1) Exciting Beginnings(in general)- I always have trouble with beginnings, especially with It's All Relative. Fortunately, I won't be focusing on IAR for the Merrilee's creativity workshop, but I still have no idea where to start my stories and often times it's the beginning that I get frustrated with because it's not heading in the direction that I want it to go so that I can write the middle and ending.

      2) Finding a focus- many of my stories have too many things going on at once and it doesn't seem that there is a true theme of the story.

      3) Completing projects- I always have great ideas and I always start them, but then I give up for some reason and never revisit the story. I guess the big problem for me is knowing which story is fresh, new, and worth working on. I have a lot of stories in the pipeline and I just want to figure out which ones to work on and complete.

      4) Working with and meeting a self imposed deadline- It's one thing to have a paper due for class. I can dawdle all I want and at the last minute spit out the greatest piece of coherent B.S. in the world. However, when it's something I want to do, something that is important to me.... I just dawdle... and dawdle... and dawdle...and never get anything done.

      4) Turning off the inner editor- I am never satisfied with my writing most of the time or I don't like where the story is going. My teacher said that I need to lower my writing standards and I'm having a really hard time doing this. Write first, edit later...way later.

      5) Fighting the urge to over edit- this is a big deal because I have a tendency to edit so much that I squeeze the voice out of the piece. Many of my teachers and friends stated that they enjoyed my writing voice and I enjoy it as well. I have horrible command of English grammar. I also tend to skip words, spell things wrong, or get letters mixed up. Granted, I don't have dyslexia(at least not with words most of the time) or anything, but I generally type faster than my brain can process and I really have trouble seeing spots where I mess up. I tend to go back and edit the grammar and syntax, then edit out some other things, until there is nothing but the bare bones of words left and none of the voice. This always causes the writing to seem stale and dry to me.

      5) Strong and well rounded Female Protagonists- I found that after subjecting myself to dollar store romance novels and things like Twilight, it's hard to write a strong female character to me that doesn't come off as just arrogant, bitchy, or whiny. When I think of strong female lead, I think of someone who is not afraid to be herself and is non one dimensional. If she's a bitch, then she shouldn't have to apologize, but there has to be a reason behind it and she has to have a caring side and vice versa.

      6) Writing outside of my comfort zone- I think I have a fairly diverse writing style, but there are some things that I'm scared to touch.  I'm afraid that I'll get some things wrong or offend someone, but I'll never know how much I got right or wrong if I never actually write it. I went out on a limb for workshop and wrote about a kid that has high functioning autism and mild OCD. And you know what? Nobody chased me with a pitch fork when I didn't some things right and in fact, all they did was help me get some of the things right.
      • Write about someone with a "disability". 
      • Write a sex scene.
      • Write about a different culture that I'm not familiar with.
      • Write about my culture. 
      7) Writing outside my genre- my genre is usually mainstream YA adult with a crossover adult kind of feel. I only have one fantasy story and that is IAR. I want to write more diverse stories with different genres, even the genres that I dislike like romance. I added this one because my short stories tend to be more mainstream and that's my comfort zone. I need to break out of this little mainstream box and try something different.
      • Paranormal romance.
      • Urban Fantasy.
      • Fairy Tale retelling
      • Steampunk
      • Science Fiction (that's going to be hard)


        What things do you struggle with in writing? What kinds of things do you want to challenge yourself with? Leave your thoughts in the comments

        May 5, 2010

        Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

        Summary: Marcelo is afflicted with an autism-like condition. He has been going to a special school named Paterson where he works with horses and helps other children with mental "disorders". His father, Arturo, gives him the option to work at the law firm during the summer and if he succeeds, he stays at Paterson, if he fails, he goes to a public school. Marcelo meets Jasmine, the other mailroom worker, and with her help he discovers what it means to truly be in the real world and to feel compassion for others.

        Likes: I loved this book. I actually hugged it when I was done. All of the characters were pretty much well-rounded and I loved Marcelo's character. The narrative was soft and gentle with a very contemplative nature, I loved being in Marcelo's head without going crazy. I enjoyed reading about Marcelo's journey into the real world and the difficulties he had to overcome in a world where people assume other's are dumb or stupid. It was interesting to read Marcelo's view on the world as he was sometimes one of the smartest people in the entire law firm. Marcelo's interest is religion which I think is really interesting, especially when he talks to his rabbi about good and evil. I believe that was one of my favorite parts of the book and also when Marcelo stands up to his father and does what's right and realizes that he can do even more than he originally thought he would do.

        Dislikes: There wasn't much that I disliked about the novel. Although Wendell and his camp are assholes, it's unfortunate that people like him exist in the real world and take advantage of people who don't understand the way the world works.

        Overall: I loved this book even more given my experiences with kids that have autism. It seems like people are so quick to write people off who have mental conditions and I've found that most of the kids I work with are a lot smarter than others give them credit for.


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