readingredhead: (In the Book)
So my sister is coming to visit (yay yay yay!) in almost exactly two weeks and it is going to be absolutely the most epic and awesome week of our collective young lives. There will be theatre. There will be walks in parks. There will probably be bad weather for at least four days but that's a small price to pay for living in London. There will be lots of walking, lots of use of public transportation, lots of hanging out with large groups of friendly people, and of course, there will be dancing.

However, this means that my goal is to have finished with ALL schoolwork for the remainder of March before she arrives, seeing as how I do not intend to do anything while she is here other than gallivant around London (and perhaps even further afield -- I love you, National Rail) being awesome.

Of course, this also means that the only things I actually want to do are:

1) Watch Doctor Who. How have I been obsessed with most things British and lived in London for upwards of five months without seeing this show? I have heard so much about it that even without having watched it I was capable of picking up on references and jokes made by British people about the show. This is how culturally pervasive it is. (Also, how did I not go out and watch it immediately after I discovered that the strange man who saves Dairine in the Crossings during High Wizardry is actually meant to be the Doctor? Srsly, self, keep up!)

2) Return to Epic Novel of my Past. After getting back from reading week trip I had this sudden urge to reacquaint myself with the epic fantasy trilogy that I started writing way back when I was in fifth grade and haven't actively worked on since ninth grade. I looked back at it and liked a lot of what I saw and had about a week-long burst of energy in which I realized that I need more of Azuria in my life.

3) Write my first legitimately crossover fanfic? Oh dear god yes. I place blame upon a discussion over at [livejournal.com profile] myriadwords about crossovers, and more specifically upon [livejournal.com profile] araine and [livejournal.com profile] odette_river for having linked me to fic that is, I kid you not, Artemis Fowl/Young Wizards. More specifically said fics involve shipping of two characters who are so obviously well matched that I am being drawn into severe violations of canon, something which I usually abhor in fic and ficcing. (Let's not even talk about the part where I rarely write fic anymore and never write anything over 1000 words or that takes more than one sitting to complete. Because apparently now I do?)

I think we'll just say that my next two weeks are going to be...quite interesting...and leave it at that.
readingredhead: (Default)
No strange looks, please, it's just a survey. A highly amusing and potentially scandalous survey (are you scandalized yet?). This survey is the original creation of [livejournal.com profile] gienahclarette and is being used at her express invitation.

I would love to write this about Noelle, the character whose story I'm in the middle of right now, but my knowledge of undergarments in late-18th century France isn't quite up to snuff, and modern underwear seems more fun anyway. Maybe sometime later I'll go back and figure out what Noelle's underwear would realistically look like, but for now I'm going to answer these survey questions from the point of view of Holly Carmichael, the 14-year-old co-protagonist of my Planned Fantasy Trilogy (TM).

Part 1: The Basics

What does your character’s underwear look like?
Probably pretty plain or ordinary. Holly is most definitely not the sort of girl who thinks that pretty underwear is necessary. No, she buys for comfort and for fit. I'm thinking traditional cotton panties and simple underwire bras (I think this is the first time I have ever consciously wondered about the bra size of one of my fictional characters...she's probably around a 34B in case you were curious). Function over form would be her motto.

Is there any lace/print/embroidery/decoration?
Most likely not. Again, she's slightly conservative when it comes to things like this. Plus, she's fourteen, an age at which no one but you, your mother, and the girls in the PE locker room should see your underwear. However, I have this strong image of her owning those "days of the week" panties as a small girl and being frustrated that her mother didn't have the correct days washed in time for her to wear them. She would certainly refuse to wear the wrong day, because what was the point of wearing them if they weren't going to be accurate? As for bras, she'd probably complain that lace itches and no one's going to see it, anyway, so what's the point of it being pretty?

What color(s)?
She has those mixed-color underwear, but all in respectable/conservative shades, like white/light gray/dark gray. Basically monochromatic panties. As for bras, probably mostly white, with a nicer black one for fancy black shirts and maybe--maybe--a skin-colored one (if she owns it, she never really wears it).

Does it serve any special function, ie: flannel long-johns for the winter?
Holly is possibly athletic enough that she owns a sports bra or two...in fact I imagine she plays/played soccer (because no other sports are that awesome). Also she might be a runner, but short-distance only. Also, though technically this is hosiery rather than lingerie, she probably has a few pairs of tights/leggings to wear under skirts, on the rare occasions when she is forced to wear skirts. Not really the girlish one, our Holly (though that doesn't mean she's not pretty--she's just not sure she wants anyone else to know that).

Part 2: Getting a Little Creeper

Where does your character get this underwear from?
The most venerable lingerie department at Mervyn's. Like I said, she really doesn't care too much.

Does your character have a favorite in their underwear drawer (if they have more than one set)? If so, then why?
I'm not sure Holly ever really thinks about her underwear. Hell, I'm not sure I ever think about my underwear. Favorites? We're just glad to be clothed.

Are there any situations where they would go commando?
Heh, that would be a no. Unless, of course, it was absolutely necessary. But I find it hard to imagine a situation in which sensible, plan-ahead Holly would not have underwear about her.

How many people, aside from your character, see your character’s underwear on a regular basis?
Her mother, when doing laundry; her younger sister, when barging into Holly's room unannounced; the girls in her row in the PE locker room.

Describe your character’s underwear shopping process (if any).
Her underwear comes in little plastic packages: she knows her size and her mom just buys her more when her old ones get worn out. She wishes that bra shopping would be that easy, and there's nothing she hates quite as much as finding new bras when her old ones are starting to show some wear and tear.

Part 3: MOAR

Does your character have any underwear prejudices?
-Against certain types of underwear in general?
-Against people who wear a certain type?
-Anything else, really. D=

Holly's motto is comfort over style, so she doesn't understand girls who wear completely nonfunctional underwear. Likewise, she does not get the point of "sexy" panties/bras and thinks that the girl next to her in the PE locker room who's always got on these skimpy lacy things is totally absurd--again, what is the point of such garments? (A note here--someday in the future, I am sure Holly will discover the point of such garments for herself. But at the moment--fourteen! High school freshman! Still innocent!)

How does your character organize their undergarments?
Probably organizes everything by color, in a drawer, with lightest colors on top and darkest on the bottom.

Who is their underwear soul-twin? In your own universe, or in another?
Ehrm...well..*cough*probablymeactually*cough*...

Is your character embarrassed by something as scandalous (SCANDALOUS) as undergarment discussion?
Depends on the line the discussion takes. If it's "oh won't my boyfriend like *this* new underwear?" discussion then she's probably embarrassed, because she wouldn't actually know what to say to such a comment. But if for some reason a person she knew asked her what kind of underwear she wore in a non-creeper sort of way she'd probably answer honestly and make some flippant remarks about how she believes in sensible, functional undergarments and lace is for idiots.


Part 4: The Fun Part

Here’s some underwear-centric ideas for blurbs or doodles that might be fun to try. You must do at least one. Do it now! You draw-types know you want to draw your characters in heroic poses in nothing but their skivvies.

1. Your character passes by the store window, and notices that the store is a purveyor of fine skivvies. For some reason or another, they decide to go ahead and give it a look. Inside, they spot some underwear that they would never have considered wearing before. Are they tempted to try it on?

Satan's Panties )

2. Due to unforeseen and bizarre machinations, two (or more) of your characters are stuck together in nothing but their unmentionables (and perhaps a towel) in a rather sticky (and perhaps dangerous) situation. What happens?

VERY bizarre machinations indeed. )

3. Somehow your character has gotten their laundry mixed up with someone else’s (perhaps even someone they know). What is their reaction? How do they go about returning said items?
readingredhead: (Rain)
Because I should have been writing, but I wasn't.

What's the last thing you wrote?
...It's probably bad that I don't remember. I'm pretty sure that it was from The Printer's Daughter, my as-of-yet unfinished 2007 NaNovel.

Was it any good?
The fact that I can't remember it probably means that it wasn't. I've been planning two random stories that popped into my head, but I haven't really been writing on them (because I'm saving them up so I have options for NaNoWriMo 2008).

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
When I was four, I wrote a story about the cat who lived next door. His name was Frasier. It was illustrated and took up an entire front side of a piece of lined paper (each letter took up three lines, and there was a space between lines--the whole thing was possibly five sentences long). I spelled the cat's name "Frasher" because that made sense at the time. I still have this piece of paper, tucked away somewhere.

But if this question is more like, "what's the first thing you ever wrote that belonged to the time period when you were serious about being a writer?" then I'd have to admit to having several horrible first drafts of the first book of what was (and still is) intended as a fantasy trilogy, set alternately on Earth and on an earthlike planet called Azuria. These date from the beginning of seventh grade. In fact, I still have the handwritten first copies of those, too (in pencil, from my seventh grade writing portfolio). It was the first time I tried to write something that required worldbuilding and complex characters and was intended (eventually) for publication.

Write poetry?
Most definitely. Not as much as I write prose, and probably not as well. My goal with writing poetry is different from my goal with writing prose. Poetry is always much more personal, less about telling a story and more about capturing a specific feeling or atmosphere. My poetry doesn't usually have conflict or characters; it's more about ideas.

Angsty poetry?
Oh yes. Actually, not until recently (because, until recently, I had very little to angst about). Wait, I take that back--somewhere there exists an angsty poem I wrote in eighth grade about the boy I had a crush on then, in which I lamented that he never noticed me as more than a friend.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Ooh, this is hard. Because it's a very different from asking who my favorite characters I've written are. I can't think of characters that are particularly "fun" to write, although I like Rhinn from my planned trilogy of fantasy novels a lot. Also, Mr. Robinson, a government agent in a sci-fi short story I wrote, is lots of fun because he's fantastically spy-like and knows everything. Also also, Ferdinand (aka Andy) from "The Free Way," because he starts out being so isolated and proper and ends up ruining an expensive Armani suit by frolicking through the garden in the pouring rain.

This is different from "fun," but a character I'm always really thrilled to write is Aleska from a short story called "Fire and Ice," because her view on everything is so unique and she's at such a crossroads in her life, and I love being inside her head as her world shatters and she pulls together the strength to rebuild it (does that sound a little sadistic?). When I wrote her story, everything just seemed so inevitable about it, like the ending was pulling me forward from the moment I started.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Charles Macaulay from "Predators and Editors" (even though I don't like the story much at all). My main character's little sister (I think her name's Megan) in the planned fantasy trilogy. Not sure I can think of others specifically.

Best plot you ever wrote?
It's hard for me to like the plots of my novels-in-progress, because they're not done yet. Also, for instance, I really like the plot for The Printer's Daughter, but seeing as how it's a mix between "Beauty and the Beast" and Jane Eyre, I don't feel quite like it's my plot.

I like a lot of my short story plots, but specifically "Fire and Ice" and "The Free Way."

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
ZOMG the mysterious master of the manor house is actually a werewolf!

How often do you get writer's block?
Not sure I believe in writer's block, just writer's laziness. But I get that all the time.

How do you fix it?
Write.

Do you type or write by hand?
Both. Usually, I plan by hand and write early drafts by hand (occasionally), but most of my final stuff and all of my editing is done on computer.

Do you save everything you write?
Yes, to the extent where my mother has given up asking me to get rid of old notes scribbled on the back of whatever was at hand and just asks me to organize them.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
Very big yes. I'm still planning to someday write the fantasy trilogy that I began to plan out in fifth grade. Granted, I guess I've never abandoned it, but it's been on sabbatical for a long time. I have worked on it occasionally, in bouts of seriousness, but never gotten more than 40,000 words into the first book of the trilogy, with really minimal planning for what happens next. I do have a whole lot of worldbuilding for this place, though, and that more than anything tells me that I'll be coming back. I know too much about how things work on Azuria to abandon it. Also, Holly and Jasen, my main characters, were the first characters I really invested with my whole heart. I can't leave their story untold.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Favorite completed thing? "Fire and Ice," no question. Favorite incomplete thing? I have no idea. Since I've been working most seriously with The Printer's Daughter recently, it's close to the top of the list, at least for specific portions which I absolutely adore.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Depends on who you mean by "everyone else." Most people who've read "Fire and Ice" like it, but my dad likes the stories I've written for workshops at Berkeley best, since they're realistic. I don't actually think that "Flour Girl" or "Dead White Women" are all that bad--I surprised myself in writing them and liking them, and I suppose that other people probably like them too.

Do you ever show people your work?
Yes. Frankly, I wish that I had more readers to help me work on things!

Who's your favorite constructive critic?
Depends on the day. Sometimes, it's my dad, because he's not afraid to be honest with me and he holds me to very high standards. But at the same time, sometimes his criticism boils down to "Why did you insert a werewolf into what would have otherwise been a perfectly good real-life story?" and on those days I have to stay away from him, because it hurts still to know that that's what he thinks. The only other person who regularly reads and critiques my work is Rebecca, and she is also very good at keeping me honest. She laughs me out of bad ideas and talks me through the good ones.

Did you ever write a novel?
I don't think I can answer "yes" to this, because while I have begun no fewer than four separate novels, I have yet to complete a single one. I don't think I get to answer "yes" until I have a complete first draft. But I suppose it's not lying to answer "almost."

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Yes, much to my father's shame and my delight.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
The first real original fiction romance that I've written in an prolonged form is The Printer's Daughter, though most of my stories end up having romantic pairings that will work themselves out in the future, even if not during the timeline of the story.

However, long before this I was writing romance fanfiction, because while I am not an insane shipper, I am a shipper nonetheless, and one of the major draws of fanfiction is the ability to construct an alternate or extended saga in which the romance works out the way it's obviously supposed to.

What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Horror. I don't think I'm good enough to write a really smart thriller, and horror seems like a cheaper version of that genre (thriller but without the smarts) and I don't want to write that.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Three is probably a safe number. The Printer's Daughter is the big one, but there's also two ideas kicking around in my head and jostling for the spot as my 2008 NaNovel. One's about a normal highschooler who finds out that her best friend's a wizard, and the other is an anti-Twilight manifesto presenting itself as a cross between Rent and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Do you want to write for a living?
Yes.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Erm...not really.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Probably? Nothing big enough that I remember.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes, for Script Frenzy.

What is your favorite word?
Eloquent, juxtaposition, coalesce

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Yes. I think all of my characters are facets of myself, or mirror images of me--but somehow or other, they start with a part of me, whether it's one that I am in tune with or one that I'm trying to run away from.

Which of your characters most resembles you?
Well, Holly and Jasen were written as splinters of my personality, very deliberately--Holly comes very close to self-insertion. But after her, Noelle is very close.

Where do you get ideas for your characters?
People I know. People I am, or could be, or desperately don't want to be, or wish I was. Anyone I feel some strong emotion for, be it pity or desire or camaraderie or pain.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Yes.

Do you prefer happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I'd rather read a happy ending, or at least a fulfilling one, as long as it fits with the tone of the work. If the happy ending still comes as a result of great sacrifice and pain, I'm okay with it. It's happy endings no one has to work for that piss me off. Same goes for tragic endings that just seem to happen for no particular reason or with no significance. I mostly write happy endings, or at least uplifting ones, but I really admire people who can write sad stories that I keep reading.

Have you ever written anything based on an artwork you've seen?
No, but I have written things based off of music I've listened to.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Nope. Even in the editing, I'm rather loose with grammar. I think it should be a reflection of the way a thing is being said or thought or intended, and we rarely think in proper grammar.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak?
No.

Does music help you write?
No, not really. It usually just distracts me. I only use wordless music when writing, and then only as a way of drowning out something even more distracting (such as people talking loudly).

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
I like how this question presupposes that people will find out that I write well. I don't think I've surprised anyone with my fiction yet, or if I have, they haven't told me about it. But I have had a string of teachers and professors rather gratifyingly surprised by the quality of my essays.

Quote something you've written.
I don't have access to very much on this computer, but here's a few lines from a freewrite that I am in love with. "He" is Jasen and "she" is Holly (from the long-planned fantasy trilogy):

After the end, they go on. He's still the best friend she's ever had, maybe the only one, and she wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. She knows it in her heart and in her soul. People around her talk about what they'd do for their friends, and she knows she'd do it all and more--she knows that she has done it. She's given her life for him, and though it hasn't been taken, that's only a matter of luck, a simple miracle.

Everyone says it's more than friendship. She brushes that aside as best she can. "What's more than friendship?" she asks the doubters. "What's purer, truer, longer?" Frienship is safe because everything else ends.

Her heart has two settings--"don't care" and "forever"--and it's obvious which one is his. But how she gives it to him is her choice, and so she decides anew every morning, every afternoon, and every night that they're forever friends, and nothing else. There is nothing else that they need.
readingredhead: (Stars)
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First off, take note: this is discounting characters I've written. Invariably, I can relate to them best (although Holly, Jasen, and Noelle top the list right now).

If we're going chronologically from when I encountered these characters, the first on the list is undoubtedly Hermione. I was (and am) so happy that she was a girl, and smart, and skillful and perfectly capable of running with the boys, and necessary to them. She makes being the only girl in a group of guys seem effortless. I relate to her obsessive scholasticism, but also to her vulnerability. I'm Hermione in her moments of triumph, but also in the moment when she's sitting in the girl's bathroom and crying because Ron insulted her.

Next -- specifically for one line of beautiful prose -- I'd say I'm like Mac from Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative series. That one line, which I'm sure you've heard me quote over and over (though never exactly) is the one about a heart with two settings: "don't care" and "forever." More and more, I think this describes me. And that's not a bad thing.

The character who's felt the most like me since Hermione is Aryl Sarc of Julie's Reap the Wild Wind, because Aryl's just on the edge of growing up, and she's scared and apprehensive and faced with things too big for her, and her entire picture of what her life was supposed to be is fractured in the space of a moment, but despite all of this she's brave and strong and spirited and doesn't give up, and though she doesn't know it yet -- neither do I, for that matter -- she's going to be rewarded for it.

And of course must come Elizabeth Bennet, who I really feel is my Austen double. Ask any girl which Austen woman she'd be and I'll bet you good money she answers Elizabeth, but I'll also bet you good money she's lying. Not to sound conceited or anything, but I'm not. All I'm waiting for is a stand-in Darcy to tell me about the beauty of my intelligent eyes and proclaim that he most ardently admires and loves me.

To round the list out, there's Jane Eyre, who really is quieter than me, but other than that is a person I can deeply sympathize with. We both have moments where we gasp for liberty; we both have moments when we do things we wish we didn't have to; and in the end, I know we both will grow and change as individuals, defining ourselves as separate from men (the book's not called Jane Rochester for a reason) and happy in our own right. What more is there to ask for?

(And this is only including literary characters I relate to. If we broaden our approach to encompass TV, movies, and musicals, I have to add Scully, Princess Leia, and Elphaba to the list.)
readingredhead: (Default)

A mere sixteen hours ago, I was a different person.  Then, the copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had never touched my hands.  But now it has passed through my grasp, an experience unique as only the first time can be, and in as best a way as feeble words can work, I strive to immortalize the experience.


It is hard for me to part with the boy who, along with his friends, has been my childhood, plain and simple.  But as I realize this feeling, I also remember something I once wrote, years ago, as an intended end to a story I had barely even begun to write:

 

And with this, the telling of the tale is done.  But do not be disheartened, for the tale itself goes on, and you never know when you may stumble onto a piece of it within your life.  Know that the story told within these pages is only a small part of the story of the characters that have lived it, and know that, while this appears to be an end, many ends are merely mistaken beginnings.

 

Then, by my own words, I must celebrate this day—not as the end of something great, but as the start of something even greater.

readingredhead: (Stars)

I’m rather annoyingly bored.

 

One would think that something like this would be nigh on impossible, considering that I’m currently sitting in London, listening to cars going by and what I think is thunder out of the open window.  Maybe bored isn’t quite the right word.  But I feel like this time around, I haven’t been nearly as productive as before.  The last time I spent a week in London, I used it to produce a short story, one of my favorite ones I’ve written.  I wanted to use this time on vacation in order to start writing again, but I just haven’t been able to stick to a single idea that I want to develop.  Because there really isn’t a single idea that I want to write on right now.  I keep jumping from plot to plot with little motivation to make any headway with any of them.

 

And for some of the time here I’ve been reading good books and doing good things (like seeing a Shakespeare play in front row seats for under $10), and when I’m doing those things I’m not that bored.  But come on—it’s Friday the 13th and nothing interesting has happened yet.

 

And I’m going to be awake all hours of the night because I took a nap earlier today because I had nothing better to do than sleep!

 

(And I realize I’m ridiculous because I’m complaining while I’m in London.  I hate myself even more for that.)

 

I think the problem is that I need deadlines, and real incentive to meet them, in order to really go places with my writing.  I also occasionally need prompts, though in some cases deadlines spur me to continue or finish things that I’ve already thought up for other purposes.  That’s why I like NaNoWriMo, and writing for Julie.  I’m given a specific amount of time in which to do things, and a schedule to keep to (in the case of NaNo), and that’s comforting for me.  Which is interesting, because I originally started doing NaNo to move outside of my comfort zone (because my other discomfort comes from writing anything that’s not polished the first time around).

 

Another problem is that I see editing as work.  I don’t see it as nearly as joyful as the writing process.  What I think I need to realize is that rewriting is just as important as writing.  I think I need to remove the word “editing” from my vocabulary and replace it with “rewriting”—because it emphasizes the fact that it’s the writing that’s important.

 

For instance, I’ve been trying to edit—ahem, I mean, rewriteKes Running, the most recent November Novel, for some time.  I keep getting bored, or skipping ahead to the good parts.  I really need to take the time to notice which parts I’m skipping—because those are the ones that ought to be deleted from the final draft!  More than that...I feel that Kes’s story really needs to be finalized before I go to college.  It’s really a product of my pre-college anxieties, and I think it would sound false if I finished it at a much later date.  Hell, it’s about a girl who runs away because she doesn’t get into the college she wants to go to!  I don’t think I can honestly write that as a college student and make it sincere.  I don’t know for how long I’ll be able to draw upon those reserves of dejection that the initial rejections made me feel.  I should tap them while I still can.

 

(And yes, I realize I’m manipulating my own emotions in order to write.  It’s really the way to make it sound the most real.  And it doesn’t hurt all that much any more...)

 

Another issue I have with writing that I really need to fix is my problem with plotting.  Simply said, I cannot plot out an entire story before I start writing it.  Once I start writing it, I get bored with it because I haven’t plotted it.  See the dilemma?  Really, I ought to just be harsher with myself about plotting things out, but it seems like every time I try that, something comes up that I just have to write, and the voice in the back of my head assures me that I’ll be able to fit it into my plot outline at a later date...  I honestly think I have about six unfinished plot outlines for Azuria (because before I ever had time to finish one outline, I re-thought the story and so that plot actually changed).

 

Then there’s the problem that, while I do write for fun (or, more accurately, while I do enjoy writing), I also want to be published, and it’s really hard to stop thinking about that when I’m writing.  So I get into arguments with myself about whether or not something is “publishable.”  Kes Running would certainly be publishable by DAW (my publisher of choice) by the time I finish with it.  But Azuria, which has been my pet project before I even knew the girl who named Kes, was started when I was much younger and therefore the characters are much younger.  In fact, it was intended as young adult fiction.  DAW doesn’t publish young adult fiction.  Now, it wouldn’t be hard for me to remake Azuria so that the characters were a bit older and things were a bit more, well, adult.  But part of me wonders if I should have to do this.  Part of me wonders how true I ought to stay to my initial vision of the story.

 

And then there are the random short stories I write that don’t seem to fit anywhere.  They’re not easy to classify.  The ones that I’ve written for Julie have managed to fit into their required categories, but the stuff I write for fun frequently defies categorization.  The closest term I’ve coined is speculative fiction, but even that doesn’t cover everything—one of my favorite stories is about a Parisian college student who pays tuition by working late nights in a bar!  And the political romance I want to write certainly doesn’t fit the mold most people place me in. 

 

(I hate that, by the way.  I hate how, when my dad first read the aforementioned story involving the Parisian college student, he was so surprised that I had written it and obviously enjoyed it much more than anything I’ve written since.  I hate how mom assumes that I only write and read sci-fi.  I hate how Corinne snubs me for not reading “literature.”  I think the load of it is bullshit.)

 

And (I notice I start a lot of my sentences with “and”) the one story I might possibly want to plot out thoroughly before I write is starting to seem not so publishable.  Really, on the surface it seems very stereotypical, in the way a bad romance novel is stereotypical.  It’s really easy for me to describe it, but the description I most frequently give makes me realize just how shitty it sounds.  And I know that when I write it, it’ll be ten times better, but I can’t help but thinking that somewhere along the line, an editor will read it and say, “What the crap?  It’s just Jane Eyre with werewolves!”

 

At which point the only thing I’d be able to do to correct the editor would be to mention that there’s only one werewolf, and there’s a bit of Pride and Prejudice, too, if you look for it.

 

See what I mean about it sounding shitty?

 

The story behind this story actually starts around sophomore year, wherein a few great things happened in quick succession: I read Cyrano de Bergerac, Austin got me into musical theater, and the movie of “The Phantom of the Opera” came out.  The result of this was an epiphany of sorts that Cyrano, Phantom, and the other stories like them were all just twisted versions of the old tale of Beauty and the Beast (there was also an epiphany relating to the fact that all of these stories were of French origin, but we’ll get back to that later).  Project Gutenberg being the godsend that it is, it was only a short while before I had the e-text of the original Beauty and the Beast in front of me and had read that, too.  I began to rather idolize that particular plot—the idea that a person could see past the surface and grow to love another for something beyond appearances, the idea that a relationship of sorts between two people could develop the better qualities in both parties.  Add to this that Belle was always my favorite Disney Princess (because she was the only brunette and because she liked books almost as much as me) and it’s understandable that I became rather obsessed.  What was my response to such an obsession?  A rather logical one, actually.  I decided I would attempt my own rewriting of the classic tale.  But how, I wondered, would I keep it interesting?

 

The answer came to me in a single word while sitting in MUN during junior year.  And the word was werewolves.

 

Now, I’m not the type who’s particularly fond of this specific portion of supernatural lore.  Not that I have anything against werewolves—in fact, one of my favorite fictional characters happens to be one—but I don’t really have anything for them, either.  Which was why, initially, the idea was an odd one.  Surely, werewolves were something that other people wrote about.  But the idea was just such a good one.  It allowed my “beast” character to actually be a beast, but only for a small portion of each month, so that his human side could also be explored.  Hell, he could even hide his lycanthropy from my “beauty” for a while, if he wanted.  Let people think he just had attitude problems.  And the fact that he could hide his condition meant that I could make the story seem rather realistic from the start.  When I first thought up this idea, I cackled to myself at the look on my readers’ faces when they realized what I’d done.

 

Now, I’m starting to wonder if this is the best of ideas, and I’m wondering this for the stupidest of reasons, and that stupidest of reasons is: how do you write a back cover synopsis for a story that essentially hinges upon something that doesn’t get revealed until halfway through?  It’s no fun if the readers know that he’s a werewolf from the start, but if there’s nothing special about him, who’s going to read it to begin with?

 

Stupid reason, I know.  But nonetheless, I continue to stumble over it.  (You know what I want for Christmas?  A way to talk myself out of stupid reasons for not writing.  Also, the X-Files movie on DVD, but that’s for another day.)

 

And it bugs me, because I actually like the idea for the story.  I actually have a plot for it (almost) because I’m tentatively stitching together one that follows the typical hero’s journey.  Once I’ve laid that down as a skeleton, I plan on fleshing it out with more of the details that can add pacing to things...and the strangest part is, for possibly the first time, I’m actually looking forward to this part.  I usually hate planning.  But part of me thinks that, this time around, the planning could be fun.  At the very least, it could be interesting.  One of the things I like about this story is that it’s giving me a chance to pay homage to some of my favorite stories.  Beauty and the Beast, obviously, but also Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, from which I’ll be pulling ideas about the interactions between my two principal characters.  Stop for a second and picture someone who combines the moodiness and quick temper of Mr. Rochester with the pride and arrogance of Mr. Darcy.  Then, imagine him hiring as a servant someone with Jane’s quiet determination and Elizabeth’s curiosity.  Throw in the fact that everyone in the village is sure the man is cursed, so he’s had barely any human contact...and I think things start to get rather interesting.

 

Really, I just ought to write this.  I ought to stop worrying and write this.  Or at least, I ought to stop worrying and plan this.

 

But at least writing about it incessantly has helped me to think it out a bit more.  Usually when I complain about myself, I’m not smart enough to get it in writing.  Lucky for me, this time I managed to.  Hopefully it helps me out in the future.

 

Until then, I think I’m going to read, because although my fingers are warmed up by the typing, my lap is overheated by the laptop’s fan and I’m in a good book anyway, so there.

readingredhead: (Stranger)
So I got into Berkeley.  I went up to LA today for the interview for the Regent's/Chancellor's Scholarship and the lady who signed me in shook my hand and said, "I want to be the first person to congratulate you on your acceptance to this school."  Dad was there with me and he was freaking out, because Berkeley's his Alma Mater and I'm sure he'd like to see me go there. 

But (and I feel like an unappreciative freak for saying this) I wasn't freaking out.  In a way, I'd been expecting it.  "So I'm into Berkeley," I've been thinking.  "So what?"  True, I'd like to go there; true, out of the colleges that have accepted me at the moment, it's undoubtedly the one I'm going to (did I mention I also got into Santa Barbara?).  But I'm not excited.  I don't feel happy for myself.  I don't feel any different than I did before I knew for sure that I'd been accepted.  It's not a big deal.

And I think it's because of my expectations.  I've set them so high...when I set them I didn't think they were impossible.  When I fell in love with Stanford, I didn't realize it was the one thing I wanted that I wouldn't get.  But regardless of how well I set my expectations, they're set, and I'm realizing that nothing short of being accepted to Stanford will make me happy.  I know universities other than Stanford will make me happy -- Berkeley's a good example of that -- but the finding out, the "oh my god I got in" moment, will only happen if I get into Stanford.  

If
.  I hate that word.  It means there's something I don't know.  In a way it's possibilities -- but not just for good.  Bad stuff can happen to an "if," not just good stuff.  "If" might mean anything.  And a lot of "anything" sucks.  

I hate it that I can't feel proud of my own accomplishments.  In a way, though, it's why I'm here.  I'm always trying to do something better, no matter what it is.  When I accomplish one thing, I'm already looking ahead to the next.  That's how I am in writing, certainly -- I have moments where I allow myself to feel excited, but also sometimes I just get right on working with the next project, the next set of characters and turns of phrase.  It's what's gotten me this far: my ability to keep reaching outward and outward, to set my standards higher and higher.  Which is why it feels so shitty when I can't reach them, or I'm not sure if I've reached them, or I should have reached them but someone on the outside says I haven't, except for some stupid reason or another, what they have to say matters more than what I know.  I hate that.

I think, though, once again, that it's too much a part of me to get rid of.  I've always been about impossible dreams.  I see myself most clearly in the third-grader who came home from school one day to tell mommy and daddy that she'd be a published writer when she grew up; in the fifth-grader who began the creation of an entire fantasy world from scratch; in the seventh-grader who picked up those fifth-grade characters and worlds and thought she could resurrect them and turn them into something worthwhile; in the ninth-grader who re-resurrected the same story and decided she would have it written and published before she graduated high school.  I see myself most clearly in these shadow dreams, goals I once had.  In writing, I've been able to compromise with myself -- I've been able to talk myself out of some of my more ridiculous goals, which has made the intermediary milestones seem more important.  But I don't think I've been able to do that with college, because I'm not excited about Berkeley, and I don't think I will be unless (until?) it's the last choice I have left.
readingredhead: (Earth)
Don't have too much to do...that's a first.  Really, I have plenty of things to do, but they're not all going to get done.

I think my favorite thing I did today was work on a project in Art.  We're supposed to draw a superhero or action figure or something, so I asked if I could draw a character from one of the books I'm writing.  So I drew Holly, from Azuria, my great unfinished&unplanned novel.  Her story's being changed around as I draw her, because of how capable (or rather incapable) I am of drawing things well, but it's a good exercise in character creation.

I've got a lot of chemistry stuff, which I should be doing right now.  I'm not...this is possibly a bad thing?  I need to finish up the homework and then read the chapter as a review for the test.  I think I'm going to do that now...yeah.  And print my history paper, and that's really all I have to do for tomorrow.  Wow.  That's a feeling I could get used to.  Maybe I'll actually get the chance to (gasp) write?  Or read?  

On an unrelated note, I like Derek Walcott.  I did not used to like him, but now I think I do (handsiness aside).

"Kneel to your load, then balance your staggering feet
and walk up that coal ladder as they do in time,
one bare foot after the next in ancestral rhyme.

Because Rhyme remains the parentheses of palms
shielding a candle's tongue
, it is the langauge's
desire to enclose the loved world in its arms;

or heft a coal-basket; only by its stages
like those groaning women will you achieve that height
whose wooden planks in couplets lift your pages

higher than those hills of infernal anthracite.
There, like ants or angels, they see their native town,
unknown, raw, insignificant.  They walk, you write;

keep to that narrow causeway without looking down,
climbing in their footsteps, that slow, ancestral beat
of those used to climing roads; your own work owes them

because the couplet of those multiplying feet
made your first rhymes.  Look, they climb, and no one knows them;
they take their copper pittances, and your duty

from the time you watched them from your grandmother's house
as a child wounded by their power and beauty
is the chance you now have, to give those feet a voice."

-- from Omeros, Chapter XII
readingredhead: (Talk)
It's interesting to think how a single moment can change your life. We might not recognize that moment when it comes -- it might be an involuntary action that decides the shift for us.

But it might also be voluntary. We might stand there and see the gap before us, and know that the only option we have left is to jump. To fly into the face of that change, whatever it may be.

This is one of those. The push of a button, and my application to Stanford is submitted. The push of a button, and there's nothing more I can do about it. The push of a button, and it's out of my hands and into the hands of Fate and admissions directors.

All of this with the push of a button.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“I don’t know how you could be interested in history,” Holly said. “The future has always been more intriguing to me than the past.”

“But without a past, we wouldn’t be where we are in the present, and without the present, we can have no future.” Holly still wasn’t convinced, so Jasen continued. “Think of it as a story—except the main character isn’t just one person, it’s many. In fact, it’s a group of people, or even humanity as a whole, depending on the level you study it at. Yeah, it’s a bit plot driven, but every now and then a character comes to the forefront who is so thrilling that you just have to follow their story through to the end, see where they’re going. And then you dip into that same society years after that character’s death, to see if they really mattered, had some sort of lasting impact.”

Holly suppressed a laugh at the hopeful look on Jasen’s face, the way his eyes were glazed over slightly in thought. “Do you intend on being one of those characters? The ones who stand out and dare to make a difference?”

Jasen shrugged. “I guess it would be nice. But it would be hard, too. You can’t change the world without changing yourself, and you never know beforehand if you’re going to like that change or not. You just have to jump into the wind and see where it takes you. Sometimes it helps you soar. Sometimes it blows so strongly you can’t make it off of the ground. But either way, it’s the decision to make that leap that really matters. After that, anything can happen, and you’d better be ready for it.”

Holly did laugh when Jasen finished, but it was a chuckle of concession rather than amusement. “You really have put a lot of thought into this.”

“It’s life. Who hasn’t?”

“You’d be surprised.”

~from the portion of Azuria which I've written so far

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Too late for second-guessing,
Too late to go back to sleep.
It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes...
...and leap!"

~"Defying Gravity"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I stand on a precipice
I struggle to keep my balance..."

~"Goodbye Until Tomorrow"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"There were oceans to cross
There were mountains to conquer
And I stood on the shore
And I stood on the cliff
And the second before I jumped,
I knew where I needed to be!"

~"I'd Give it All For You"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Is this where I need to be?

I guess I'll push the button and find out.
readingredhead: (Default)
So I've been busy today writing up my application for the program I want to take this summer at Stanford. And I feel like posting a few of my responses to a few of the questions that were asked...so here goes.

2. For each of the subject areas that you circled above, please write a few sentences explaining what you like about the subject area. For example, if you listed the Mathematical Investigation: Number Theory course among your preferences, you can start with “What I like most about math is…” If you would rather comment on the particular course, rather than the subject area, you are encouraged to do so. You are welcome to write about a specific experience you had in a course in that subject area, or something that you learned that made you interested to find out more. Be sure to write separately about the different subject areas.

What I love about writing is the sense of power and discovery that I feel every time I sit down at my keyboard or pull out a pen and some paper. To me the blank page becomes a frontier just as interesting as outer space or the ocean’s depths, full of possibilities that not even I know exist. It is this feeling of all things being possible that motivates me to write, for I know that my writing can go anywhere that I want it to, without any restrictions or limitations. In creative writing, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer; there is only the ongoing dialogue between the writer and the page. Sometimes the conversation becomes rough, but those times I endure with the knowledge that there will be other time where words will flow from my fingers onto the page to create scenes and characters and images that will last in my mind forever. I love the way that a story will sometimes seem to write itself--where I start out with one idea, but throughout the writing process the initial concept is transformed into something more, something I had never expected. In a sense, writing feels like the investigation of the unknown. Whether the unknown be physical, like an alien landscape, or emotional, like the inside of a human heart, the process of discovering what’s across the next hill or around the next corner is exhilarating and thoroughly rewarding.

3. Describe yourself as a student. Do you like to study? What do you like, or dislike, about school? Feel free to use examples from your personal experience to help with your description.

As a student, there’s nothing I crave more than the “eureka” moment--the expression of “Aha! Now I understand it!” The moment in which simplicity can be distilled from complexity is the moment where I thrive. I may genially dislike most mathematics, but the derivation of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus was a moment like this for me. The feeling, not only of “this makes sense,” but also of pure amazement and wonder at how a human being, just like me, could discover something so important was inspirational. It’s like the one sentence in a book that utterly clarifies everything and brings to light the hidden meaning of all the preceding text--like the one line of writing that you somehow manage to get just right, so that in retrospect it seems like perfection. The edge of true learning--that’s where, for me, the excitement begins.

6. Tell us anything else about yourself that you feel is relevant, or describe some of your non-academic interests.

I have always enjoyed writing, so when I had the chance in eighth grade to participate in a distance education writing program through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, I was thrilled. The course, on Crafting the Essay, was the first real class I took that focused specifically on writing, and through it I learned through experience a great many of the writing techniques that I still make use of today. It’s almost funny to look back now on the days immediately before the course began, which I irrationally spent worrying about the class itself--what it would be like, whether or not I was a good enough writer to be involved in it, and especially whether or not I would like my tutor. Those worries were completely unfounded, and I came away from the program a much better and more confident writer; indeed, some of my favorite essays that I have ever written were completed during that course and revised thanks to the feedback of my tutor for the program. It widened my writing experience, and caused me to think about essays as more than just the five-paragraph evils that were too structured to have fun with. Since taking the course, I have leaned more and more toward personal essays as a form of expression, something I never would have considered an essay capable of beforehand.

But even before that essay course--really in about fifth grade--I had decided that, not only would I be a writer, but I would write a novel and have it published before I left high school. Since then my goals have become more realistic, but I continue to work with the storyline that I created nearly seven years ago, and slowly but surely, Azuria--my story--stretches its way toward the length of a novel. It’s gone through numerous revisions since those first ideas in fifth grade, I’ll admit--I’ve created new plotlines, changed names and (in one notable case) genders of characters. This summer, with my document nearing 50,000 words, I realized that the beginning was all wrong. Though it was difficult to do, I decided that it was necessary to essentially trash the first 30,000 words and rewrite the beginning from scratch to ensure better character definition and clarity of plot. It was, I’ll admit, a difficult decision to make; I have much less time to write now than I did as a fifth grader, or as a seventh grader or a freshman (the ages that I was during past “major” revisions). But I eventually came to the conclusion that the changes were necessary, whether or not I had the time to make them. It doesn’t surprise me to see the differences between the manuscript of years past and the manuscript of today. In fact, from fifth grade until now, only two things have remained noticeably unchanged: the title, which is also the name of the planet on which the story is partially set, and my conviction that I will someday complete it.

Despite my lack of time for writing, mostly caused by my focus on academics, I was lured this November into doing something that seemed at the outset to be insanely fun. In retrospect, deciding to write a 50,000 word novel within the span of a 30-day month was probably more insane than fun, but participating in National Novel Writing Month--known colloquially as NaNoWriMo--was an experience that I won’t soon forget. The “contest”--which I write in quotes because there are no losers, only winners and those who will be winners eventually--is more of a challenge to all people who’ve ever thought they had it in them to write a novel. Essentially, supported by a group of fellow writers from all over the world organized online, I set out at the beginning of November to write 50,000 original words by the month’s end. Everyone who can prove at the end of the month by word-count validation that they’ve reached the goal is a winner. The idea is really simple: a chance to write for quantity instead of quality; a chance to have fun with writing things that aren’t perfect yet aren’t expected to be. It was an idea that initially repulsed me--I’m the sort who’s never finished with rewriting things so that they’ll be just perfect--but the more that I was disturbed by the idea of not having time to rewrite, the more I knew that this was something that could be beneficial to my growth as a writer. So I did it. At 50,343 words, Lunar Reflections is the longest single piece of writing that I have authored--and though I passed the word count deadline in time to be counted among the NaNoWriMo winners, I have realized that the story is far from being done. It now has taken its place in line after Azuria as the next novel that I know I will work to finish.
readingredhead: (Default)
Well, for all of you wondering, I really did make it to Florida alive! Silly me, thinking that I would actually have time to update this journal while on vacation. I should know that I'll never really make myself sit down and just write about my day.

Especially when I don't have a computer of my own to access the internet on, and especially when all the people who I know here only have dial-up internet. I'm just too impatient to really use it well.

But right now I'm at my Grandma's house because me, Mom, my aunt, my sister, and my cousin are helping her out with stuff around the house. So I'm typing on her computer, because she appears to have a slightly faster connection than my cousins do.

I really haven't done much yet while I've been here...but I might as well recout my vacation so far.

Saturday I woke up at the obscenely early hour of 4:30 in order to eat and get dressed and get to the airport by 5:30 so that we could get through security in time to make our plane at 7:30. Yech. The plane rides really weren't that bad. We had one two and a half hour flight from Orange County Airport to Dallas Fort Worth, and then a half-hour layover when we ate lunch, and then another two and a half hour flight from Dallas to Port St. Lucie.

We got picked up at the airport by my aunt, grandmother, and cousin. Then we went to the Roadhouse Grill for dinner, this restaurant that we've been going to for as long as we've been going to Florida. Then we drove back to my cousins' house, changed into pajamas, and slept.

Sunday I was awoken to my aunt telling my mom that Corinne had a high fever. So Rhinn was sick and we pretty much stayed in all day. I helped mom unpack, and probably watched at least four movies. I did a little homework (urgh) and read a little. I'm reading a Civil War historical fiction novel called The Guns of the South -- Mr. Vargish recommended it to me! Yeah, I know, I'm a geek...but it's a good book.

Monday...I honestly don't remember what we did on Monday. Pretty much we lounged around the house some more. I knit a little. Oh, and we watched movies. We always watch movies! But it's been fun to hang with Rhinn & Carissa again, because the last time I got to spend time with both of them together was when I was in Europe over the summer.

Tuesday (aka yesterday) we met Nana (my grandma) at the movies and saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I really liked it -- I thought that it was a great representation of the book, and I hope they continue on and make the rest of the series into movies as well as they did this one. Corinne and Carissa had different opinions of it at times...as I type this they're busy figuring out how we can do a spoof of it (when we get together we have this tradition of creating spoof home videos, so they're planning the one for this visit). I believe it involves "The Chronicles of Nerdia" or something similar. *shudder*

Today I haven't really done much yet. Well...I haven't really done anything particularly noteworthy this entire time. I'm trying to start on my homework today. I attempted to start reading The Scarlet Letter earlier but the introductions and biographical notes and all that junk that preceded the actual novel was so long that I didn't finish it yet. So I'm not actually started in on the real story yet... But I did review the first chapter of the IB Standard Level Math textbook. Granted, it was simple algebra: "If 2(x+4)=6(2-x) then what does x equal?" But at least I feel like I've accomplished something.

On another note...I realized how long it's been since I've worked on Azuria, my novel-in-progress. During the summer I decided that I needed to rewrite the first 30,000 words or so because I started on a major plot overhaul. The problem was, I didn't finish the overhaul during the summer, which doomed it to remain unfinished. So last night I went back, read a bunch of the old stuff I'd written regarding Azuria so that I'd remember what I was going to change, and then wrote a total of maybe three paragraphs before getting bored. But it's something that I had to do, just so that I don't completely lose interest. I am still really excited for my story. Now as ever, I intend for it to be written and completed to the best of my abilities. It might not be finished today, or tomorrow, or in any forseeable future...but it will be finished someday, and everything will happen in its allotted time. So I'm not worried about it not being done, which is really a good thing because a lot of my worries generally focus around the quality or quantity of my writing.

Phew, that was something I really needed to get out. Writing is such a big thing for me. I always say that it's not my fault that the story of my lifetime came to me before I was ready to write it -- it just means that it's up to me to go and get ready to write it, the sooner the better. But I've come to realize that creativity can't be rushed. For now, I'm still a child, whose income does not depend on the amount of pages she produces daily. Unil I have to write on such a frenetic basis, I don't think that I will. After all -- academia calls.

I think that's really about it for now...I've thoroughly exhaused my life story, or at least as much of it as I feel I need to tell at the moment. And we're leaving my grandma's house soon, so I have to go for that reason as well. To all my friends, I hope that you're having a great time doing whatever it is you're doing. I'll post more later, when I come by something else post-worthy.
readingredhead: (Default)
Okay, so I have a random set of questions for anyone reading, and I'd be amazingly happy if anyone would answer in a comment. To give a bit of background, I decided this summer to rewrite a large portion of my ongoing novel. (As in, the first 30,000 words of it.) I know that this rewrite will also probably force me to eventually rewrite the 20,000 words that (for now) remain intact from the original draft.

But I'm looking on the bright side, and using this as a chance to evaluate two strategies I used when writing the previous draft. I'm not completely sure what I think about the use of these techniques as a writer...but I'm looking for the response of readers. So here goes.

Thoughts

Okay, in a lot of books I've read, the readers can see the main character's direct thoughts, which are quoted in italics. For instance:

Oh, man, are we in trouble now, Holly thought as she looked at the monstrous fire-breathing dragon that towered over her.

However, I've also seen it done without the italics. You don't get the direct thoughts, but you can still garner their substance, like this:

As Holly looked at the gigantic dragon towering over her, her first thought was that she and Jasen were in big trouble.

My question to anyone willing to answer is this: when you're reading a book, which style do you prefer? Do you like it better when characters' direct thoughts are heard, or when instead thoughts are "summarized" (best word I can think of)? Anyone's opinion on this would be appreciated.

Point of View

For me this has become a stickier problem, possibly due to the structure of my novel. (I knew I should've listened to dad when he told me it was impossible to write a story with two distinct protagonists...) Nonetheless, that's what I have: a story with two (arguably) distinct protagonists. During the beginning of the novel they're not really separated, so the readers get the same story no matter which of them narrates.

However, later on in the story events start to happen rapid-fire and I'm practically required to change viewpoints more quickly, since the main characters are separated and each has to report on his or her own experiences in order for the plot to advance.

This being the case, my question is: should I switch viewpoints more frequently throughout the whole novel, so that it doesn't come as a "surprise" when I have to make quick switches toward the end? Or should I leave it as it is, without worrying what percentage of the novel is narrated by which character? Again, I'm asking for opinion, I know.

To anyone who takes the time to answer, many thanks are in order! I'm just trying to get the opinions of as many people possible, and sort of hoping that they agree with the conclusions I've nearly reached myself. But if you say different stuff than I've been thinking, then I'll have to think about reconsidering. Either way I find this very useful. Thanks all!

I live!

Jul. 15th, 2005 04:12 pm
readingredhead: (Default)
Just a short entry to let all my friends know that yes, I'm still alive.

Venice and Florence were both amazing, though in retrospect I think I liked Venice better this time. It's a bigger city and has more cool shops and restaurants. We did all the tourist things, like feeding pidgeons in San Marco's square, but we also walked a lot. One day we kinda walked in circles, but that was okay -- we weren't short on time.

I shared a hotel room with my cousin Flavia. It wasn't very big but our window opened up over a canal and you could hear people going by in gondolas. We took a ride on a gondola one day as well.

Venice is also really well known for Carnivale, its version of Mardi Gras. So even though Carnivale is in February, there are stores that sell costumes and elaborate masks all year round. Corinne, Carissa, Flavia, and I each bought a mask. Now we really have to have a masquerade party this Halloween, because I want an excuse to wear mine! Deanna, you would have died -- there was this one amazing costume shop that was full of old opera costumes and I wanted to buy the whole store. Amazing velvet capes, gorgeous dresses...a costumer's heaven, but hell also since everything was expensive and impossible for us to bring back home. It was wonderfully terrible.

Um...I think that's about it for Venice. Florence was cool, too; we saw a lot of art, and I mean a lot: in four days we went to three museums. It was awesome seeing all the Renaissance art because I remembered everything from AP Euro. Most amazing of the art I saw would have to be Michelangelo's David. It was truly gigantic, and enormous, and every other word you could think of.

Florence is also known for its leather, and so we bought a lot of leather things. I have two new leather-bound journals...one of which looks like the twin to Azuria, I kid you not. When I get home I'm going to make it into a sort of Azuria scrapbook. (And some people are probably reading this and going, "What the heck is Azuria?")

But I've been taking lots of time on this, and I originally came over to Flavia's house to go in the pool. The rest of my tale will have to remain untold, or at least shortened, seeing as it's 4:15 PM here and I want to get to bed early tonight so I can wake up early and drive into Rome to get a copy of the sixth Harry Potter book in English...

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