Slacking, But for Good Reasons

I know, I know.  I am seriously slacking when it comes to blogging.  To be fair, I did warn you that somethings, such as sleep, would sometimes take priority.  However, it is not sleep that is pushing me behind as of late.  I’ve been busy building a social media platform for my university’s brand new creative writing club.  I have had help.  Most notably, Lori and Angie have had me on their heels.  I think they like it, personally, but don’t tell them I said that.  Also, since this is also a project for my multimedia writing class, I can thank my classmates Carl and Jake for some great ideas.  I’m especially grateful to Carl for doing the bulk of the paperwork which gives me time to construct the sites and add some content.

Fear not, though.  No matter what, I’ll make it back here for Recommend It Monday where I’ll be talking about A Clash of Kings, the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

Recommend It Monday–Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Happy Monday!  Ok, who am I kidding?  Those words never belong in the same sentence, let alone be their own sentence.  Still, it is Monday, so what can you do?  I should mention that this post contains some spoilers.  If you are concerned about spoilers, you should probably stop here.

Last week, I mentioned that I would begin Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  I did not begin it; I devoured it.  It’s hard for me to find large periods of time to just sit and pleasure read, but I found myself making the time for this book.  I was hooked from the first few pages.  So much so, that I am going well out of my way to make a trip to the library today for the next book in the series.  The story line is great, but you can have a great story and still end up with a crappy book.  These are some of the reasons why Martin ends up with a fantastic book.

  1. The Characters–I would have loved to see Martin’s work space while he was writing this first book.  There are a million characters in it.  I exaggerate, but not by much.  I had been warned before I ever started with this book that there were a lot of people to keep track of, but I really didn’t have too much trouble with it.  To me, that means that Martin took extra care to keep all his characters straight for the writing process.  He has a firm grasp on all these people, so he can write about them in a way that is clear and easy (for me, at any rate) to keep track of.  I was also thrilled with the complexity of his characters.  There were only a few people that I hated outright (Cersei, Jaime, Gregor) and very few people that I loved outright (Arya, Bran).  Everyone else had this wonderful shading to them.  Catelyn, for example, was a character that I mostly loved, but then she was a total hag to Jon and that made me mad.  Then there were people who were mostly douchebags, like the Hound, but then they showed something that didn’t make them 100% horrible.  One place in particular was with Sansa after Joffrey becomes king.  He’s kind to her in a rather cold, fatalistic sort of way.  It’s just enough to give you pause.  I have something to aspire to with my own character writing.
  2. The Chapters–I really appreciate the different chapter breakdowns that Martin gives the reader.  There are so many people to worry about that it would be very easy to forget things about them, and forget their own subplots.  Martin breaks down the chapters so a different character is the focus of it.  You could get the same plot point from three different perspectives, each one advancing the plot, like a literary relay race.  For example, once Eddard Stark is imprisoned, you might get his perspective, then Arya’s later on, and then Sansa’s later still.  This is especially wonderful because you not only jump from male to female perspective, but from adult to child.
  3. The Subplots–Sometimes, writers will add in subplots as a “beside the point” feature.  They have nothing, really, to do with the main plot, but they give more depth and richness to the characters.  The thing that makes me feel insignificant and small as a writer is that Martin’s subplots almost always seem to advance the main plot in some way.  As I was reading, I kept imagining this world of Westeros as a complicated house of dominoes.  One domino falls here, one way over there, and they start the chain from the bottom as the main plot starts it from the top and before you know it the entire thing is imploding with you in the middle of it.
  4. The Women–Martin gives us some rather strong female characters.  They’re not all strong.  I spent most of the book wanting to smother Sansa with a pillow (I’m sure Arya would have held her down).  I have no use for her, and I’m told I’ll have less use for her as the series progresses.  Oh, goody.  But that’s part of what makes the book great.  Then, we have Arya.  She’s learning blade skills, she thinks for herself (even if she’s not always making the best choices), and she has a strength her sister lacks.  She’s not perfect by any means, but I love her completely.  I’d probably ground her for life if she were my own daughter, but she’s not.  I love that one of the deadliest bad guys is a woman.  As much as I despise Cersei, she is a bad ass.  Sure, there are a lot of people you need to watch out for, but the one I would always keep my eyes on is her.  Catelyn lets us watch her struggle with her weaknesses in order to be strong.  The Lady of Winterfell battles with the mother of Robb.  She does what she needs to do for her son even though it takes its toll on her personally.  Unlike her sister, Lysa, who does what’s best for her and turns her son into an insufferable budding sociopath in the process.  Catelyn and Lysa contrast true strength and false strength.  Catelyn is in a battlefield, exposed to all the dangers and having her action or inaction potentially affecting the outcome of the battles they fight.  Lysa has the strength of the Eyrie and not much else.  She has bravado because she believes her stronghold is impregnable.  Without her walls and without an enemy on her doorstep, she has no risk to her bravery (She should be medicated, if you ask me.  Cersei is cunning-scary.  Lysa is psycho-scary.).  There is no static female characterization to this first book, and I really appreciate that.

I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones from HBO to see how close it was to the book.  I have to say I was impressed for the most part.  All of the child characters are older in the show, and I can understand how difficult it would be to work with children as young as the ones in the book, but their advanced ages took something away from the story.  There’s something more urgent for me in a 7 year old Bran getting shoved out of a window than in a 10 year old.  There’s something more desperate about an 11 year old Sansa getting betrothed to the Crown Prince than there is a 13 year old.  Still, the first episode did an excellent job setting up the show according to the book.

For next week’s blog, I thought I would take a poll.  You can vote only once, and make sure you share!

Operation: Chapbook

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of the projects I’m working on  is a chapbook of poetry.  It’s coming along rather nicely.  I’m about 1/3ish of the way done and I still have no idea what to call it.  This is one of my favorites so far:

Void

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It bothers you, don’t it?

The void, the whiteness

of the page screaming

“Fill me with something”

because of course it should

be filled—pages and vaginas

left empty amount to no

good and we can’t possibly

have that because they might

get uppity like that cheap whore

under the lightpost on the corner

of Main and Sample who

decided all of a sudden she’s

too good for your crab infested

pubic hair and the callouses

on your hands that catch

on her hair as you grunt

your beer laced breath in

her face as she dreams

of being “Pretty Woman”

while knowing she’s only

that dead hooker on that

one episode of CSI.

Why do I leave my

pages empty?

Because fuck you—

that’s why.

I forget how I got fixated on the concept of voids, but I saw a blank page with a title in my head.  Then I saw people scanning the page, flipping it over, flipping it back, looking around a table, looking on the floor…trying to find the words.  In short, they started to freak out a little, these people in my head.  So I decided to start off the piece that way.  That was the only calculated writing.  The rest of it was almost a stream of consciousness thing where I let the words take me.  I also took the time to rebel against a society that tries to dictate my actions.  I don’t have to act the way society tells me to act, and I don’t have to justify it either.  To clarify, this doesn’t mean murdering people and stealing their crap.  It means I don’t have to conform to society’s notions of gender, gender expression, or sexuality.  It means I can take one partner, or several partners, or several partners at the same time if I choose.  Or I can take no partners at all.  It means society doesn’t get to define me.  Even if what I choose for myself aligns with society’s notions of who and what I should be, it doesn’t mean I have to go about it in the same way, and it doesn’t mean society gets to take the credit for it.

This poem from the collection is the shortest one:

My Doxology

Misery be to the Father,

The Daughter,

and the Broken Spirit.

As it was in the beginning is now,

and ever shall be,

Pain without end.

Amen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, a doxology is a hymn-like response that calls glory to the Christian God.  This piece very neatly ties together two things I have a very big problem with: organized religion and my father.  I took a doxology and modified it.  In fact, I may take a few more and sprinkle them throughout the collection.  I hadn’t thought of doing that until just now, but Cynthia Cruz gave several of her poems the same title in “The Glimmering Room” and I thought that was an intriguing idea while I was reading her.  This is something I plan on exploring for future pieces.

Recommend It Monday–Falling Behind

17-hmeI’ve been reading Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice since my last post.  I should mention here that this is the first book I’ve read by Rice, although I am aware of several books by her.  I just haven’t read them.  It’s not that the book is bad.  It has some fabulously rich descriptions and all of the backstory is interesting.

Of course, Azriel is perfection on two legs, so that doesn’t hurt either.  It just doesn’t grab my attention.  I can read it for about 30 minutes at a time, and then I get bored and look for something else to do.  I’m not invested in Azriel.  It’s unfortunate that he was basically boiled to death in a vat of melted gold like some sort of man-soup, and while I can readily agree that that would suck, I don’t really care.  I realize that makes me sound horrible, but there you have it.  It really bothers me not to finish a book once I’ve started it, so I would really like to finish it.  I may give up on this one, though, so I can move on with my list.

On my latest trip to the library, I picked up Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  I’ve been told by several people I should be reading this book, so I’m pretty hopeful.  Fantasy is my go-to genre, though.  It’s my first choice to read when I have a choice, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it.  I really hope it’s one of those books that grabs me.

I would really like to be able to start reading some of my Rainstorm Press authors.  They have some amazing sounding books out.

Michiana Monologues

Tonight is the first showing of the Michiana Monologues.  It’s been going for a few years now, but this is my first year going.  I submitted a monologue, and I’m curious to see if it made it into the show.  It’s patterned after Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” and features the stories of local women.  All of the proceeds benefit support services for women who have been victims of sexual and domestic violence. If you’re in the area, and you’re interested in catching the show, it starts at 7 tonight and tomorrow night in the auditorium of North Side Hall on IU-South Bend’s campus.  There is a silent auction before the show starts and you’re sure to hear some amazing stories.  You might even hear mine.

Abstract Musings

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San Antonio River Walk

 If I could take a snapshot of the inside of my head, this is what I imagine it would look like.  Nothing is fixed.  Its movements, its colors…it’s all fluid.  Of course, I also have the attention span of a gnat sometimes, so that could have something to do with it, too.  This is a picture of the San Antonio River, and I think water perfectly illustrates what writers do.  We take the things around us, and we reflect them back to the world through our unique distortions.

Sometimes we cast shadows, or blur the edges to velveteen softness.  Other times we bring things into stark relief, honing the knives of their edges to scalpel sharpness.  We can reduce them to simple black and white, or we can explode them like a bag of Skittles, painting all of their nuances.  We can nurture and we can destroy.  You can dam us up, reroute our flows, or do your best to drain us, but our droplets are ideas and they are everywhere.  Even things made of stone eventually fall prey to our persistence.

My ultimate dream is to one day make it to the Banned Books list.  So far, I’ve only read 7 of them.  I’m not a literature major, after all, and I do have a lot of reading I do.  In fact, if you take the top 100 novels, I almost double that number.  (I’ve read 13 of them.)  How many have you read?  Which one are you most interested in reading?  Personally, I’m a bit OCD, so when I get the time to start this list, I’ll start at the top with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Champaign Dreams on a Ramen Budget

Now that I’m getting close to graduation, and while I’m waiting to hear about my grad school application, I’ve been thinking about how to become a part of a larger scale writing community.  Initially, I was looking for writers’ conferences, but I found this instead. Well, more like in addition to.

To say I want to attend this program is a gross understatement.  By that, I mean I’ve been discreetly looking into the going rate for kidneys.  To attend both summer sessions (because of course I want to attend both summer sessions), I would need to raise $3500 by two weeks after program acceptance.  So I could eat whilst I am there.  Provided I get accepted, of course.  These are funds I do not have.  However!  I am not despairing yet.  I’m attempting to look into grant and scholarship opportunities that would apply to this summer program.  Considering it’s Yale, it’s really not that bad.

And so the hunt begins.  I think I’m going to apply anyway.  If I don’t get accepted, then I have found valuable information for future endeavours.  If I do get accepted, even if I can’t attend, I can say I was accepted into a summer writing program at Yale.

Oh yeah, I have no idea what to submit yet.  😀