readingredhead: (Reading)
It's a truth universally acknowledged that the best Emma AU is and will always be Clueless, but for quite a bit I've been thinking that the closest modern equivalent to "three or four families in a country village" (one of Austen's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her own preferred subject) might in fact be the members of a university English department. This is particularly relevant to Emma, because let me tell you, professors and grad students in English departments are such huge gossips. Not always in a bad way, but information does tend to circulate... At any rate, I've been pondering this for a bit, and while I'm not sure when I would even have the time to write it (or what kind of audience it would have, outside an English department!) I'm going to spend a little bit of time thinking through the various characters and how to transpose them to this new modern setting.

Preliminary thoughts behind the cut )


More directly on the scholarly front, today I wrote up notes about one of the texts I'm going to work with in my upcoming seminar paper, Margaret Cavendish's Sociable Letters. You can check them out over at my academic journal [link].

readingredhead: (Professor)
After deciding, totally on a whim (and with far less forethought than I should have invested in it) to follow a friend's challenge to create something every day for the month of March, I started thinking a lot about what it means, for me, to MAKE something, and how that's changed over the past few years. 

I'm pretty sure I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But I'm pretty sure that was mostly out of a sense that words, and the things we did with them when they left our mouths or our hands and made their way out into the world beyond us, mattered. I wanted to do something with those words. I wanted to show other people how they could matter. And being a writer seemed like the only option available to me: after all, no one was going to pay me to sit on my couch all day and read books.

I'm a stubborn person, and a critical one. I tend to be very critical of myself for giving up on projects I said I'd follow through on, even when those projects are no longer as central to my conception of who I am as they were when I first devised them. And so as a result, late in college when I realized I wanted to apply to grad school and that I felt so much more fulfilled in my English classes than my creative writing classes, I beat myself up over it. I was majoring in English so I could teach high school English and still have time to write on the side, until writing became the thing I did full-time. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. (I realize this sounds like exaggeration, but seriously I have documentary evidence of my desire to be a teacher and writer from as far back as an "About Me" survey I filled out in the second grade). Going against the plan wasn't just going against myself, in some fundamental way -- it was "giving in" to doing the thing that was "easy" and that I could know I was good at, rather than the thing that promised fewer tangible rewards in the near future but was "more worth it."

And you know, I'm really glad I stared down my anxiety about that plan I'd made for myself all those years ago, and let myself be okay with the fact that I'd changed, because I love what I do as a graduate student. Not all of it, no -- but a substantial portion of it, all of the parts of it that have to do with belonging to a community of people who care about the production of knowledge, whether those "products" are tangible or not. All the parts of it that have to do with how much words matter. (And lo and behold, I do get paid to sit on my couch all day and read books!) It is, in some ways, an easier life than the one that I used to want -- but part of that is because I think it's always easier to live the life you want to be living than the one you think you should be living. 

It's become easier for me to accept the fact that what I do (and love) now isn't the thing I thought I would never stop wanting to do (i.e. creative writing) as I've come to admit to myself that the same impulses that prompted me to that old plan are satisfied by the new one. It's hard to justify this to people other than myself -- the things that I "make" as an English grad student, when they are concrete, are also directed at a very specialized audience. I'm writing seminar papers and conference talks and lectures that may never have audiences beyond the people present in the room at the moment that I deliver them (and before long I'll be writing articles and a dissertation and scholarly monographs that won't gain a readership any larger than that).

But here's the thing: I care more about the continued life and health of the constantly-fluctuating community of people who gather together to consider and rejoice in the ways words matter than I care about having anything like a central role in that community. It's hard to tell people that the thing that you "make" for a living is something as intangible as "knowledge" or "a community" or "a spirit of rational inquiry" (god I am more of a student of the Enlightenment than I think I am). But these things need to be made. By which I mean both that humanity needs them, and that they don't just spring up on their own. They must be sustained by the ongoing contributions of effort and energy that community members/human beings make, one by one, day by day.

And I've gotten into some pretty abstract philosophizing here in the process of making what is, to me (but often not to others), a simple point: my work as a grad student, and the work I'll do someday as a professor, is essentially creative. Not just because I care about researching and writing papers whose arguments are inventive and unique and, in some ways, beautiful (though I do care about these things, and quite a lot!) -- not just because I produce tangible (if arcane) things -- but because I am part of the collective support system for something bigger than me, something that everyone who supports it is constantly involved in (re)creating. 

(As a side note, I feel like a lot of what we think about when we think about "making things" has to do with distinctly individual authorship -- this is certainly the case with books -- and this is increasingly a problem for me, because I really do want to emphasize the communal role of the work I do, the impossibility of doing this work or of this work having meaning outside of a community. And that means giving up some of my own authority as sole agent of creation. That also, however, lets me change my definition of what "counts" as creative in a way that has been incredibly rewarding for me personally.)


In other news: I also baked things today! I am basically working my way happily through the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and finally got around to making chocolate chip brioche pretzel rolls (yes, you heard me). Warning: if you attempt these yourself, watch your KitchenAid while it's mixing -- I think the dough is actually way too heavy to be properly mixed for 10 mins straight (as it's supposed to be at one point). My KitchenAid started massively overheating and some other people's actually broke. So do the 10 mins in shorter intervals, and be prepared to knead a bit with your hands. Still: totally deliciously worth it! [picture]
readingredhead: (Nora Reading)
Today, I did a fair amount of planning work on the first paper for one of my seminars. I wrote up a lot of notes about it on my academic Dreamwidth account, if anyone really wants to read about thoughts on late-17th/early-18th-century women's writing and the creation of virtual or actual female homosociality, but I don't blame you if you don't.

Now I realize it maybe seems like cheating that I'm working on a seminar paper and counting that as "creating something." But I really do believe that academic writing and what we call "creative writing" can and should have more in common than the typical assumption of unreadable scholarly prose allows. I think that good scholarship is about creating something: looking at what you have before you and turning it into something new, something that wasn't there before you started tinkering. I also think that the papers themselves can (and should!) be written in a language that is exciting and engaging and clear -- just like any good work of fiction. 

Sometimes I worry that I spend so much time working on seminar papers and so little time working on more "creative" prose, but this is not actually a useful way of distinguishing between the two genres. If I stop thinking of seminar papers as a creative outlet, I'll never write beautiful ones. And I care about the beauty of my academic work, just as much as my "creative" (i.e. fiction-writing) work, so I'm going to keep thinking about seminar papers as thins that I create, one step at a time.
readingredhead: (Library)
I mentioned in my last post that I've been reading Dorothy Sayers for the first time (and kicking myself throughout, because HOW have I never read Sayers before?). I started with Strong Poison about two weeks ago at the recommendation of [personal profile] ladyvivien and was smitten with Harriet Vane almost as instantly as Lord Peter was, but as much as I enjoyed that novel and Have His Carcase, my feelings for those two novels combined don't even come close to my feelings for Gaudy Night, which I just finished yesterday and which I can't stop thinking about. The following discussion will probably only be interesting to those who have already read the novel, and will contain spoilers up to it, so don't read it if you haven't read the novels! (Also, I still haven't gotten hold of Busman's Honeymoon, so if the two people who have actually read Sayers start commenting, don't spoil anything past Gaudy Night for me!)

Placet. )
readingredhead: (Muse)
Finally did the full read-through of 2011's NaNo-novel, Chasing Ghosts, and ugh. I am actually a little too in love with it. I have this overwhelming feeling that there are tons of things wrong with it (the plot structure totally rips off large chunks of Possession, I have not read enough eighteenth-century private correspondence to know what personal letters really looked like, it does not have anything like an ending and I still don't know how it will end) but I can't help being so excited with every bit of it. It is perhaps a story that only its mother could love, but for once I feel like I'm actually following through on a lot of the smarter versions of the "write what you know" dictate: namely, "write the story only you can write" and "write the story you always wanted to read but no one else has written for you." This novel has everything that I want in a novel...or it will, at least, when I am finished working with it. It will take a lot of work -- a lot of hard work -- but it's work that feels worthwhile. Not since my first re-read of The Printer's Tale have I felt this way about a NaNo-novel. I mean, I've really liked the ones I've written in the past four years, but none of them have been as necessary as this one.

I think I have a summer writing project now...
readingredhead: (Adventure)
I know it's early to be making this list but if it doesn't get made now it may never actually happen!
  1. Find a letterpress studio where I can take a few classes, get back in the hang of working with type, and then use their presses/studio space outside of class time, all for a reasonable fee.
  2. Find some community/forum/real-life workshop where I can learn how to better use my snazzy new digital camera.
  3. Follow through on E's plan for a literary theory reading group/ranting group, tentatively titled "What the Fuck Does That Mean?"
  4. Make a list of the literary/critical texts I ought to have read and put together a plan/schedule for reading at least some of them before next fall. (Primary objectives: all of Jane Austen, the criticism in my "To Read" library on EndNote, recent journal issues in my field, eighteenth-century novels, Aurora Leigh.)
  5. Re-read Paradise Lost and a good chunk of the syllabus from my upper div romanticism class, alongside my lecture notes from Joanna's and Celeste's classes on said topics (create a schedule, perhaps post thoughts about it on a weekly basis?)
  6. Actually continue writing/revising The Printer's Tale. I'd say that a new draft might be a nice goal, but in all honesty I'll probably settle for 
  7. *cough* Actually write all of that Dr. Barlow-centric fanfic that's been stewing in my brain. And maybe also that strange Dairine/Roshaun hybrid fic/mix.
  8. Work on improving my French. Make a point of reading in French on a regular basis (whether it's news articles, eighteenth-century literary criticism, or just for homework).
  9. Train for the Tough Mudder in October! Work out on a daily basis and keep a record of it (probably in one of the many notebooks I have lying around).
  10. Read books for fun!
More to come as I remember them.
readingredhead: (Write)
 That's it. That's the whole entry. Must save all words for seminar papers. Goodbye, internet; goodbye, sleep; hello, coffee!

(But like seriously who said this was okay I distinctly remember there being more days than this between now and when the first paper is due, I PROTEST.)
readingredhead: (Muse)
I had two opportunities to talk about writing today with writers, which is really weird and unusual and lovely and should happen more often. Both of these too-brief conversations were held before the beginning of a class, and inevitably there were other (non-writer) people listening. In my Clarissa seminar the guy who sits across from me noticed my NaNoWriMo travel mug, asked about my history with NaNo, and was sincerely impressed that I'd managed it for seven years (this last year was his first). Of course my seminar leader/advisor/all around awesome person Jenny is a novelist in addition to being a professor and she started talking about writing too and it was awesome.

I was thinking about NaNo so when I somehow got onto the subject of writing fiction with a girl in the MA before my next class, I ended up mentioning a couple of my novels-in-progress. I gave her the flippant/irreverent/shorthand description of The Printer's Tale and she sounded interested, but one of the other girls in my cohort, who was sitting in front of us, turned around and made a disparaging comment that implied I was following up on the popularity of Twilight, of all things, simply because my less-than-one-sentence synopsis mentioned werewolves.

And the thing is, yes, my flippant, irreverent, shorthand description of the novels I write will always leave something out. And if you're not already into the few things that show up in the shorthand, that kind of description isn't going to interest you. But if you are? Then I can convince you in less than a sentence...or at least get a laugh out of you. In fact hopefully that's exactly what these will do!

Lunar Reflections (2005): teenage angst on the moon

Kes Running (2006): unpremeditated gap year in space

The Printer's Daughter (2007): Beauty and the Beast meets Jane Eyre with werewolves

Gil and Leah (2008): feminist fantasy cross-dressing farce

The Inconvenient Dreamer (2009): woman travels to alternate universes in her dreams

Beneath Strange Stars (2010): gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice in space

Chasing Ghosts (2011): Possession meets Neverwhere with cross-dressing

The moral of the story: I need to find more fantasy/sci-fi writers (or at least writers who are sympathetic to these genres even if not writers of them) with whom to talk about my novels.
readingredhead: (Write)
There is something about me that is physically opposed to the notion of revision.

My brain is wholly aware that being given the opportunity to re-work or even entirely re-write a paper is absolutely incredible. It means learning from and correcting the mistakes of an earlier draft, and ultimately producing a stronger, sleeker, better paper in the process. It means that there is always room for growth, and for reflection -- both in terms of my own skill set as an analyst of literature, and in terms of my developing abilities as a writer of academic prose. It means that I will not be judged on my first, amateur-ish attempt, but rather on the sum of what I can accomplish when guided by the thoughtful critique of others far more advanced in my field.

And yet somehow my body doesn't get this. Every time I'm handed back a paper with comments and suggestions, I experience an intense moment of physical anxiety-bordering-on-revulsion. My stomach turns, my palms sweat, my heart beats a little too fast and irregular. To call it "discomforting" or "disconcerting" is to merely scratch at the surface. The problem is that, despite all of the things that are awesome about being able to revise a paper, before getting to the realization of that privilege, I first have to admit that the paper I turned in was imperfect enough to require correction.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that the papers I turn in are far from polished (though I do strive to make them as good as I possibly can). But I also inevitably care, often very deeply, about the opinions of the people who are providing comments and critique on these papers. Generally my self-esteem and self-confidence levels are very high, and I don't really care what others think of me -- but I have a minor idol-worship issue where it comes to certain professors, and thus, they are exceptions. As much as I know that their commentary is entirely directed toward encouraging me to improve myself -- which says, if not always in so many words, that they care (perhaps also rather deeply) about me -- my gut response is to be frustrated with myself for potentially disappointing their expectations, and to worry that they may form less-than-flattering judgments of me based on the work they've seen me do.

Not to mention, half the time I also am at least a little sick and tired of the paper in question (especially shortly after its completion), and I want the time to be able to flush it from my system and distance myself from it before returning. Unfortunately, that's not always possible -- and I also know that if I spend too much time away, I won't come back. 

It's stupid. It's something I'm working on. But it's something that seizes me EVERY SINGLE TIME I am working on a paper that involves revision and response to professor commentary. At this moment, I am doing everything I can (including writing this post!) to put off reading my professor's comments on the seminar paper I'm planning to transform into my MA thesis. I plan on working closely with her over the next few months to make this paper better and I know that this is the first step along the way. But I just don't want to do it, no matter how much I know I must, because my bodily reaction of minor terror gets in the way of the higher reasoning structures of my brain.

I'm sort of hoping that this will get better with time, because if in twenty years I still feel this way when senior colleagues in my department make comments on my newest book chapters, etc., I have probably chosen a rather unhealthy profession...

ETA: Of course the comments were 90% positive, nothing to be afraid of, genuinely supportive and enthusiastic and helpful, etc. They usually are. But the pre-revision anxiety does not acknowledge this fact, not one bit.
readingredhead: (Muse)
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I live in a city that is vibrant and alive, that keeps on growing and changing but never grows old, with more to it than I could possibly discover in a lifetime (though that won't keep me from trying), littered with great cafes and independent bookstores, somewhere that's cold in the winter and hot in the summer and beautiful always.

I share a home with a person -- nay, people -- I love, who love and support me in all my endeavors, not unquestioningly (because sometimes I come up with schemes that need to be questioned, even if only so that I can refine them to the point where they will actually work) but untiringly, because they know that I will do the exact same for them.

I teach mostly-interesting subjects to mostly-interested people at a university that invests in its professors as teachers (not just as researchers) and in its students as people (not just as brains), where my colleagues range on the spectrum from "not my type of person but likeable enough" to "brain crush for life."

I write fiction -- maybe not a lot, and maybe not very well, but it's a part of my life I make time for, and I am rewarded for the time I put in, even if only in the form of having a release from academic writing.

I am part of something big, something that matters, and even on the bad days (because the bad days don't just go away after the last page of the story's been written), I can remember this and know that for today, this belonging is reward enough.
readingredhead: (Sketch)
Today so far: I woke up, had breakfast (coffee and croissant) at the famous and delicious cafe a block and a half from my apartment while reading a book written for teenagers, bought new ink cartridges for the Italian fountain pen I bought ages ago but somehow forgot about until I was home over break, proceeded to clean out said pen so that it can be used for planning the epic story of love and adventure and werewolves that is my forever novel, and planned out my outfit for later tonight when I will be going to happy hour at a nerd bar in Brooklyn that has a TARDIS for its bathroom (it's actually bigger on the inside). 

Yeah, life's pretty awesome sometimes. And I haven't even had lunch yet.

NaNo help?

Nov. 29th, 2011 12:56 am
readingredhead: (Write)
All things willing, I will be done with this by this time tomorrow! But in order to power through these last 5,000 words, I need to figure out how one of my characters discovers that another character has been crossdressing as a man throughout their entire acquaintance when she is, in fact, a woman. (I know, I just write the coolest stuff!)

Basic story: Francis Connors is a couple of years older than Dorothea "Dorian" Bell. They've known each other since "Dorian" came to London at the age of sixteen and got a job working for a printer/bookseller in Paternoster Square (did I mention this was happening in the 1770s and 80s?). Francis has lived all his life in London and basically works across the street from "Dorian" as a bookseller. The two of them are pretty chummy and all is well until, a couple of years into their friendship, Dorothea realizes that forswearing men entirely is harder than it sounds...and she may just be in love with her best friend, who may also happen not to know that she is really a girl! Although she wants to be "more than just friends" with Francis, Dorothea is absolutely in love with her job as a printer and bookseller and a writer, and she would never do anything to let slip the secret of her crossdressing, which is the only thing that got her the job and the respect in the first place.

But of course this means that, eventually, perhaps even years after Dorothea realizes that she likes Francis, he is going to find out that she's a girl at a very inopportune moment! I just haven't figured out what that moment is quite yet. I'm leaning toward something Francis entering "Dorian's" rooms unannounced and getting an eyefull of Dorothea en deshabille, but this just seems crass. And Dorothea is very good at keeping her secret, so I don't think Francis would even suspect that his best mate isn't a dude, and even if he did, he'd have to do a lot of backtracking to discover that "Dorian Bell" is a fiction.

So, suggestions! Come at me!
readingredhead: (Write)
Sometimes it's a comfort to engage in a work that is challenging, but not beyond the bounds of the possible. I spent a good portion of the past two days doing a research project for an in-class report to be delivered on Wednesday, and I know that I spent more time on it than I needed to (and I haven't actually started writing it yet) but the process of discovering and organizing the information has been pleasantly easy. I've figured out what I needed to get done, and then I've done it, and there's something incredibly satisfying about that sort of work, something that feels worth getting up for. 

That's also sort of what NaNoWriMo feels like to me now, in my seventh straight year as a participant. It's interesting because the majority of the other wrimos I've met so far are doing this for the very first time, and I can hardly remember my first novel. I know that it was more autobiographical than you would expect, considering that it was set on a lunar colony in the future, and that's about it. I don't remember how I felt about the quality of my writing. I barely remember what it was like to see that I had won. My NaNo memories don't get very clear until Year 3, when I wrote the novel that remains the love of my life to this day, and when for the first time I was in close proximity with other people doing the same crazy thing. This year, the writing is going surprisingly well, and although I don't know if anyone other than me would want to read this novel as it is currently being written, I'm finding myself enjoying the writing process far more than I normally do. Hopefully this isn't just the week one high talking.

Speaking of novels, I still have one to write, and I'm gonna get on that so that I can then focus on my schoolwork so I can start writing this report before I go watch Downton Abbey and eat homemade scones with a friend later tonight. (I told you there would be scones.) 
readingredhead: (Write)
It's that time of year again...novel-writing time! This year's novel -- presently titled Chasing Ghosts, though we all know these things are subject to change -- is managing to combine lots of things I find totally fascinating (18th century London, woman writers, the French Revolution, cross-dressing, modern academia, etc.) and I am actually very excited about it, but because of the novel's structure I sort of need to flesh out at least some of what's going to happen.

The novel alternates between a present and a past timeline, as a modern PhD candidate and an armchair historian-cum-medium (as in “talks to ghosts” medium—yes, it’s that kind of story) work together to discover new information about a (totally made-up) late-eighteenth-century writer and radical intellectual figure, Dorian Bell. He lived in London from ~1780-1790, starting as a publisher’s apprentice but eventually writing essays, poems, and a novel or two, while circulating at the edges of the group that contained Mary Wollstonecraft, William Blake, Thomas Paine, etc. And as it turns out, “he” was also not actually a man, but a woman by the name of Dorothea who ran away from home in north Yorkshire and ended up spending the next ten years of her life cross-dressing in London. But this fact remains unknown to 21st century scholars…until Ellie’s dissertation advisor tells her she has no choice but to consult a medium (Ben) before submitting her finished dissertation and completing her PhD requirements. Together, Ellie and Ben slowly unearth clues to Dorian/Dorothea’s past, culminating with the discovery that she was in fact a woman.

The problem is, since Ellie and Ben will be finding out about Dorian/Dorothea’s life out of order, I need to know the entire progression of her story before I start writing if I’m going to appropriately pace the clues! I have a basic outline of what happens to her, but I haven’t made a lot of decisions yet as to background motivation or reasoning.

Now here's where you come in: some questions for my dear readers )

It's a long post so I won't make it any longer, except to mention that this is cross-posted on the NaNo forums in case you wanted to reply there instead, and to say thanks in advance for ANYTHING you have to suggest!
readingredhead: (Write)
Maybe I'm an idiot for thinking that my first semester in one of the world's most competitive English PhD programs is not the time to be trying to write 50,000 words...but then I guess I'm an idiot because I have done this for SIX YEARS STRAIGHT now, and I'm not going to let this be the year that gets in the way.

I am also really, REALLY excited about the story I want to write. Even though I know basically nothing about how it's going to play out...! In my head, it is sort of like A. S. Byatt's Possession but with 18th-century writers, meets Neverwhere but with ghosts, meets Leviathan but substitute "being a part of London's radical literary culture" for "flying."

The story is set primarily in London, but oscillates between present-day and the mid- to late-18th century (that's 1770s-90s to those of you who don't think in centuries). In the modern day storyline, the main character is a female scholar working on her PhD dissertation about a second-tier 18th-century writer who's more notable for the breadth of his literary endeavors than for his impact or success in any of them. He was a poet, an essayist, a novelist, a reviewer, and a small-scale publisher -- and while his own work isn't respected particularly highly, he was certainly part of radical London literary-political circles in the 1780s and 90s (he knew William Blake, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, etc.).

The twist is that in this scholar's modern London, technologies have been developed that allow researchers to actually see (albeit briefly and indistinctly) into the past. These technologies only work in places like London, that have a "deep history" of human habitation, though no one's quite sure why this is. Theorists suspect that history -- the pressure of so many humans in one space -- somehow deforms spacetime in a way that makes it more susceptible to further deformation, so that impressions are tied to a specific place and stratified by the time when they were deposited. But this is not important to our scholarly main character. In fact, it's something of a nuisance -- because the English department is beginning to catch on to the potential "real world relevance" that this kind of "ghost research" could lend the academy, and our main character is forced to go looking for any information she might be able to find out about the literary figure she's chosen to study, when really she's not a fan of new historicism and would like to be left to her close-readings, thank you very much.

Thus, she runs into a secondary main character -- a man around her age (mid-twenties) who's lived in London all his life, which (for reasons that theorists still aren't clear about) makes him particularly susceptible to the impressions left by the past in the present. More importantly, our lady scholar can actually afford his rates on her miserable grant money (because people who can use the technology to sense out these "ghosts" have quickly turned the whole thing into a business). He's something of an armchair historian, and she resents his sense that he "gets" history just as much as she resents the fact that she's having to pay him for his services. But she stops hating him entirely as the two of them work together to unravel the history of this 18th-century figure, who as it turns out, has more secrets than either of them had bargained for...last but not least being that "he" was actually a woman, living as a man so that she could live by her pen without bringing disgrace upon her family, who she ran away from when she was sixteen. (This last bit will be very slowly teased out over the course of the novel; the reader won't discover that "he" is a "she" until at least two thirds of the way through.)

Now, it would sound like I totally know what I'm talking about, but really I made most of that up in the last ten minutes. And while I have the big-picture outlines of the story, there are lots of smaller details that I need to figure out...not the least of which being names for all of these people...and you know maybe a title or something. (I just had a thought that it would be cool if the title of MC's dissertation were also the title of this book, but what she would call the dissertation, I have no idea.) So, comments and suggestions more than welcome! I kind of want it to have some variation on/synonym for "ghost" in the title but at present this is all I know.
readingredhead: (Adventure)

I'm sitting in an airport Starbucks, looking like a hipster with my coffee and my iPad and my plaid flannel shirt, and pondering the fact that in a couple of hours I'll be getting on a plane and I'll wake up in New York City.

The summer went by fast, except for the parts that went by slow. I did a lot with my time -- almost as much as I hoped, perhaps more than I expected. I wrote and rewrote more of my novel-in-progress, The Printer's Daughter. I discovered exactly how exhausting it is to work something like full time on a novel project, especially in the revision stage, and a lot of the work I did was reworking and making note of the things I need to add or change, but in the end I know this is all valuable information, and I am dedicated to the process...I just know that it may take a while, and I accept that. It surprises me that my not-entirely-conscious realization that pursuing a career as a professor is more important to me than pursuing a career as a writer has actually made me more keen on (eventually) getting this novel written.

In addition to working on original fiction, I somehow got a weird fanfiction boost and wrote more fic over the past summer than I think I have in the past few years. I also made a semi-conscious decision not to be ashamed about fandom. I'm not even one of the crazier elements of it, and it seems silly to be ashamed of something that makes me happy. I've never been deeply enough involved in fandom for it to frustrate or anger me; I've never been caught up in fandom wank. It probably helps that my main fandom generally believes that being angry with people speeds up the heat death of the universe! (Young Wizards fandom, I love you, never change.)

I didn't read all the books on my list -- I didn't even read a significant portion of them -- but I did read a lot, and a lot of what I read was good. I especially loved stuff by Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, suggesting that a) Twilight notwithstanding, YA is far from dead and b) I should probably read it more least, the bits of it that Rebecca recommends!

Surprisingly (for me at least), I really got into yoga. My younger sister had taken a few classes and encouraged me to go with her, and I while it certainly isn't a replacement for other more intense forms of exercise, I really appreciate the way it focuses on linking your mind and your movements, so that you're more thoughtful about your workout. Even doing relatively intense yoga leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed when I'm done, and i think some of the things I learned on the mat have an important place in the rest of my life. Yoga is about letting go of whatever isn't serving you, about honoring your body and its limitations. It's about coming from where you are, instead of where you wish you were or where you think you ought to be. When I get to New York, finding a place to do yoga is high on my list of things to do -- right after I get my New York Public Library card!

I set out with the intention of feeling an academic detox this summer, and it worked. I've done a lot of being lazy and I'm ready for what's next.

I oscillate between being overcome with the amount of work I know I have to do in the next weeks -- move into apartment, buy supplies, sign lease, etc. -- and being delighted by the idea of finally taking that next step in my career/life plan. For a girl who still believes that the world is so big and she is so small, I'm surprisingly ready to have a place to call "home" for the next six years. I don't know if anywhere other than New York would make me feel this way. I only hope that I'm right about the city that so many people dream about...especially since, until about March, it wasn't a place that I specifically dreamed about. But I feel, right now, like these hopes will be met and exceeded. I feel like I'm going somewhere new, but also somewhere that will one day be home.

So, while I'd rather be traveling by TARDIS, I suppose I'll make do with a plane, as long as it gets me there.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

readingredhead: (Grin)
The first five people to comment in this post get to request that I write a drabble/ficlet of any pairing/character of their choosing. In return, they have to post this in their journal, regardless of their ability level.

Because, hey, I probably won't have much time to be fannish once I move in a week, and I might as well have some fun in the meantime!

For the curious, fandoms I will write include: Beauty and the Beast, Curseworkers (Black), Doctor Who (2005), Dresden Files (Butcher), Harry Potter (Rowling), Jane Eyre (Bronte), Northanger Abbey (Austen), Persuasion (Austen), Pride and Prejudice (Austen), Torchwood, Young Wizards (Duane).

Bolded fandoms are ones I'm most comfortable/fluent in, italicized are ones I've written before, but I will write anything on the list! Also, crossovers and AUs are most certainly on the table!

Or, if you're feeling inventive, give me a short prompt of any kind and I will write original fiction (!) about it. I'm comfortable writing anything contemporary, urban fantasy, paranormal/supernatural fiction, historical fiction/fantasy, and science fiction as long as my science doesn't have to be incredibly scientific.

So guys, even if you do not think of yourselves as writers, please go forth and prompt and I will prompt you in return and everything will be lovely and nothing will hurt.

ETA: Still two more slots left for people to prompt me if interested! You don't even really have to repost to your journal, if you don't want to, though of course it would be an added bonus.
readingredhead: (Muse)
The first time I remember focusing very specifically on descriptions of emotions and emotional states was for a short story called "Dead White Women" that I wrote for Vikram's fiction class freshman year (dear god that feels like SO long ago! when did I get old?!). I got a lot of feedback on the first draft that I was "telling" what characters (specifically the main character) felt rather than showing it. I made a point to pay more attention to what my emotions physically felt like after that -- the way my skull seems to tighten when I'm stressed, the queasiness of anxious fear, the limb-tingling of a sudden surprise revealed.

The Printer's Tale starts off with a lot of emotionally-trying moments for Noelle, and they really just keep coming. (Which, to be fair, is sort of what fiction IS. We don't want to read about people who are perfectly happy with their lives, and conflict demands some kind of internal uneasiness.) But I'm starting to feel like my descriptions of her emotions are incredibly repetitive. I have this tendency to describe every emotion as originating in the stomach or the gut -- a cursory search of the first three chapters reveals such phrases as "she felt her stomach plummet" and "a crawling uneasiness in the pit of her stomach" -- and especially taken out of context, these phrases seem so utterly ridiculous.

I feel like when describing emotions there are so many stock phrases to fall back on, which are not-quite-right to describe the emotion I'm going for but are closer than anything I could think up on my own, and so I sort of just go with them. But I'm wondering a couple of things now.

1) When you read descriptions of emotion that use these kind of shorthand phrases -- plummeting stomachs, nausea, stomach muscles tightening, etc. -- are they actually "showing" you something, or have they slipped back into the realm of "telling" shorthand?

2) How do you genuinely express the physical components of emotion in writing, and how do you keep those phrases from becoming stale? I might have one or two original-ish phrases but I feel like the early parts of this story involve a lot of the same character feeling different degrees of the same emotion, so it's a little difficult to keep it fresh...

So, readers and writers amongst you: I am open to all thoughts you may have on this topic!
readingredhead: (Write)
The more appropriate title for this entry would be "blah blah blah I DON'T WANT TO WRITE blah blah blah."

I'm realizing (again? still?) how difficult it is to write, and to re-write. I'm working my way slowly through The Printer's Tale (formerly The Printer's Daughter, NaNo 2007), and although I have a complete knowledge of what "happens" in the story -- the A to Z of the plot -- this does not make writing easy! I have a finished first draft of this novel to guide me, and I still feel like I'm floundering.

Sometimes, I appreciate the distance between what I intend to write and what I actually produce -- sometimes, the best interchanges between characters are those I did not plan. But other times I'm just frustrated because I feel like the outline is missing something, but I'm not sure what. Or I feel like I'm doing a write-by-numbers sort of thing, so even though I know that I NEED a particular scene in a particular place, I don't want to have to write it.

Part of the problem likely also lies in the fact that re-writing contains a lot less of the "fun stuff" -- the let's-just-write-this-down-and-see-how-it-goes bit that draws me to writing in the first place -- and a lot more attention to micro-level issues. How does scene A relate to scene B? What things do I need to set up for the reader in Chapter 1 vs. what can I leave for Chapter 2? What is this "pacing" thing of which you speak? What do you mean this fabulous conversation is not actually necessary to either plot OR exposition?

Of course, there is only one solution -- keep writing! -- but sometimes this is not comforting, and so I take a small break and complain.
readingredhead: (Write)
Getting into the writing mood sometimes requires strange things from me. Partly it requires stormy, chilly, or otherwise overcast days (I am rubbish at writing when it is sunny, or warm); generally it also requires a particular beverage (usually a mug of tea, although iced coffee can be substituted if it is one of those strange days which is warm and/or sunny and on which I have still found myself capable of writing). If it weren't for my pocketbook (and the fact that I have yet to find a cafe in America that can brew me a decent cup of tea), I would write solely in cafes; as it is, I resort to them and their iced coffees more frequently in the summer months. Winter writing can, if necessary, be done at home (though of course it can also be done in the company of crazed Wrimos at the local cafe, preferably with Viking helmets and too much caffeine).

And then there are days like today, where writing somehow demands that I get dressed up for it. I'm not even leaving the house, but I've got mostly new clothes on, I've done up my hair (more or less), I know which shoes go with the outfit should I decide to wear them. Partly this is because I cannot think in pajamas. Partly it is because creating some kind of routine spectacle around the writing process somehow makes me more likely to knuckle down and write. This is probably very silly, and I should try to wean myself off of it -- and yet, for what it is, it works remarkably well.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some lace-up brown leather boots and start writing.


readingredhead: (Default)

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