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: (Reading)
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I don't know what books I'll read to them, but I know very well the books that I hope they will discover for themselves, and that we'll talk about later on down the road.

First and foremost, I hope they find Diane Duane and the Young Wizards books, because those books, more than any others, have changed the way I live my life -- and, I would say, changed it for the better. I hope that my children read novels that show them that parents and children don't need to be at odds, that kids can have mature and trusting relationships with adults in their lives, and most importantly, that magic is everywhere you look for it.

I used to think it would be inevitable that they would run into Harry Potter, but my sister (who just spent the summer teaching English to fourteen-year-olds) says that of the thirty-odd kids in her classes, only one of them had actually read the books, and only half of them had even seen the movies. Harry Potter will always play second string to Young Wizards in the Canon According to Candace, but these novels are also magical, and I don't know what my own childhood would have been like without it.

Whether I have girls or boys, I hope they'll find Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, and read them with open and respectful minds. Not because they are "classics" (the Canon According to Candace does not really take this label into account), but because they are good, and because they were important parts of my journey -- and they continue to be. 

Most of all, I hope that my kids will someday start suggesting things for me to read, instead of the other way around. That's when I'll know that I've done my job right.
readingredhead: (Reading)
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As usual, this is a question that demands multiple answers, because it's me we're talking about, and I rarely read one good book per year. But this past year, I've done a lot of re-reading (both in school and out), so my new books intake has severely dropped. Thankfully, that's what next year is for...?

I feel that in order to appropriately answer this question, I have to give three answers. Maybe four. So stick with me.

When I first saw this question, the answer that immediately sprang to mind was Possession by A. S. Byatt, in which two modern academics discover the lost letters of two (fictional) Victorian poets, and follow the literary clues therein on a detective hunt through Great Britain and parts of France. Oh, and did I mention that they may or may not have something like a love story of their own throughout? I purchased Possession from a small used-and-new independent bookstore down the street from the hotel my grandmother stayed at in London this spring (right by the British Museum, where one of the characters actually works). I began reading it on the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and finished it in a small hotel room overlooking a tiny street between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier; I read with the kind of energy that a book hadn't evoked from me in far too long. Possession felt a little bit like the story of my life-as-it-could-be told back to me as a fiction: a collection of various texts (the novel includes third-person omniscient narration, snippets of poetry and academic prose, the discovered love letters, and various other ephemera) meandering over a wider ground than entirely necessary (it's been compared to a Victorian novel), questioning and testing but ultimately affirming the relationship between literature and love.

The other important books of this year (for very different reasons!) are ones I've talked about elsewhere: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane.

The rest of the texts I'm going to mention are very, very literary. But they're also very important. I think that Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion all belong on this list because the time I've spent with them, starting this summer with my SURF research, has really launched me into the thesis of a lifetime. Although Northanger Abbey is the only one out of these that I actually read for the first time this year, I've become increasingly close with the others, to the point where I have a bordering-on-brilliant fifteen-page Pride and Prejudice paper ready to be sent out to various graduate schools as we speak. My experience as a reader of Austen has changed so much since I was a freshman in high school disdainful of Emma, and I couldn't be happier about it. More and more, I feel like I've chosen (or been chosen by) the topic and the time period that are just right for me.
readingredhead: (Rain)
My main character is Justine Petreya. She was born in Akron, Ohio, but has lived most of her life in California. In her childhood, she had a naked mole rat for a pet, but I suspect some kind of tragedy befell it (possibly in the form of one of her four siblings). She works as a receptionist or secretary (location undetermined) but somehow manages to live in a mansion and drive a Chevy Malibu. She has bright red curly hair, and her favorite place in the world is the conservatory within the mansion. (Idea: perhaps she works as a live-in secretary to a rather wealthy man and that's how she's a secretary but manages to live in a mansion? This could assist in the production of my love quadrangle -- triangles are so last year.)

Her mother, Lydia, is a famous food critic (she probably has a show on Food Network); her father, Joe, is a math textbook editor. I have a feeling they're divorced by the time my novel begins...and for rather obvious reasons. [Side note: it almost turned out that Joe was a movie critic, which would have made a fantastic story as well -- two parents who are both critics would be hell to live but great to write about. It also almost turned out that Joe's name was Batman, but that did not come to pass. Sorry Luke.]

Of her siblings (the rest of whom don't have names or personalities or even genders yet), Justine is closest to her sister Evelyn (goes by Evie), who is a Civil War reenactor. Justine's best friend who is not related to her is Patrick, an artsy type who makes money as a glassblower.

The man of Justine's dreams is named Jonathan. He is a junior high teacher. They meet beside a large boulder. I do not know where this boulder is. Neither does Justine. Questing ensues.

Speaking of aforementioned love quadrangle: I also have no idea who Justine 'ends up with' -- or indeed, if she ends up with anyone at all. I think that's a refreshing change from the past two years of novels (although I still love reading/writing Noelle and Roman). Of course there's the guy of her dreams, but what if that's all he turns out to be? What is she's really been in love all along with the friend who got her through high school, the boy who went to prom with her when no one else asked, the only one to whom she ever told her secret? Or what if a sensible man of business, an acquaintance from work (perhaps via her disgustingly wealthy employer) promises to give her the comfort of a normal life and she wants to cling to that?

November's going to start soon, and I'm going to get the chance to figure it out.

Naming

Oct. 18th, 2009 10:51 pm
readingredhead: (Rain)
So I'm safely and soundly back from Rome, but that's not what this update is about. In fact, this update is about NaNoWriMo, and how I'm realizing how close it is and I still have no idea what my story is really about, to the extent that my main character doesn't have a name. Now, this isn't exactly unusual for me at this stage -- especially since I'm pretty sure that with this novel I'm moving back in the direction of the first-person narrator -- but I still want to find something to call her. Sometimes finding the right name really helps me get a feel for a character. Really, there are so many things about her that I'm still narrowing down, but in most of these cases I'm just choosing between two options, either of which could work with the story, but which would lead the character in different directions.

My MC is in her mid- to late twenties (haven't actually decided upon an age yet), has graduated from a mid-range four-year college and achieved some kind of entry level job which is either A) not terribly interesting but could make her a decent amount of money in the next few years or B) something that she cares about but which has relegated her to a near-poverty she can only defend by attempting to ignore it.

She lives in either A) northern California or B) southern California, but no matter where she is, she grew up next to a beach. Her mother's family is from California, her father's family is from New York. Her parents separated and then divorced when she was between the ages of ten and eighteen. If she has any siblings she's got an older brother who was close friends with her as a young child, then turned into a deadbeat once he hit high school, and is just now starting to get his life back on track.

She has either A) never had any real long-term relationships, preferring to erect a barrier between herself and the rest of the world or B) had two or three moderately serious relationships, all of which broke off right before (or after) the point of moving in together.

The only person in the world she can really trust is either A) her childhood best friend, the girl who lived next door and who she would play fairytale games with or B) a guy she's been close with since junior high, around the same time as her parents' separation, who she respects because he's so down-to-earth and never causes any drama.

She could work as a...

A) junior high teacher
B) receptionist/secretary
C) member of a non-profit or humanitarian organization
D) swim instructor (or some other job at a local YMCA-like organization)
E) bartender (ruled out by Natalie)

Really she's just like any normal person except that she may or may not actually physically travel to the different places that she dreams about -- whether in this reality or not -- and she's pretty convinced that this is evidence that she's crazy but it's something she's learned to live with.

The one thing that I don't know about her (and it's kind of a big thing) is what she wants. Initially this was going to be a cheesy romance story about the woman who meets the man of her dreams, but really now I think that the guy she meets is just the catalyst for her quest to discover the truth about this "insanity" that has made her distrust herself for so long. She's written herself off as a nobody, or as someone necessarily confined to the fringes of society, because she's pretty sure that she's crazy -- and what's more, she enjoys some of the insanity -- wouldn't you like to have lucid dreams every night that you remember clear as crystal in the morning? (Except you wouldn't always, but we'll get to that later.) BUT ANYWAY. All my heroines seem to want the same generic thing -- to find themselves -- but it would be nice if I could figure out a specific thing she's trying to do. Maybe at the same time that she's pursuing this dream guy, she could be attracted to a guy in "real life" (not saying whether or not the dream people are a part of said "real life") and be trying to navigate the difficulties of her "mental illness" while trying to get to know him.

I need to stop thinking out loud about this and go to sleep, but overall I'd say this has been quite productive. Now I feel slightly less directionless regarding November! (We'll leave for later the nagging worry that this story is too serious for NaNoWriMo, or really just for me as a writer.)
readingredhead: (Talk)
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Happiness -- the kind that overwhelms the whole body and spreads to others, because if it's not contagious, it doesn't count;

Empathy -- fellow-feeling, to understand the pain and joy of another and through that understanding to destroy true "other"-ness;

Ingenuity -- a searching mind that transforms the lives of others by seeing an old world through new eyes;

Passion -- the spark that lights the fire and ignites a burning;

Determination -- without which desires would quickly burn away;

Faith -- the candle lit by a blind man against the darkness;

Love.
readingredhead: (Default)
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The point of reading and writing, for me, is finding myself in people and places that I wouldn't expect. Both the characters I read and the characters I write generally gain a great deal of their likability from the extent to which I can identify with them. There's really a long list in this question, but I'll try to narrow it down to the top five or so.

First, Hermione Granger, for always being the girl on a team full of guys and making that work to her advantage, for being smart and feeling like that was important, and for having a heart. It was always her intelligence and practicality that I identified with, but also the fact that she's sensitive and kind, always giving the boys lessons in how to be better people. And I like to think I could be like that.

Next, Elizabeth Bennet, for her spunk and spark and maybe for her too-quick judgments and for the fact that Mr. Darcy's just as attracted to her brains as he is to her looks (thank you, Professor Goldsmith, for an analysis of "intelligent eyes"). If I were any of Austen's heroines, it'd be her. She's the only one with enough energy to match me.

Finally, and most powerfully, the first time I read Reap the Wild Wind, Aryl Sarc stood out to me as a character that was so unlike me and yet so devastatingly similar. At the time I read that novel, Aryl and I were both on the edge of something huge and difficult to understand. We were both about to be thrown out of the worlds that we knew and into something more, and we weren't sure if we were ready for it, but we didn't have a choice and that didn't matter anyway, because we held our ground and made a life out of what we had, and it turned out to be beautiful. I also definitely identify with Aryl's craving curiosity for the unknown, even if sometimes it's scary.

Also: how is this question different from this question? (I like how I realized this after typing out these answers...might as well post this anyway! And then back to work!)
readingredhead: (Default)
I feel like I am simultaneously under- and over-prepared for basically every one of my finals. I am in a classroom in Wheeler and for no apparent reason decided to hook up my laptop to the AV system. Well. Mostly so I could use the speakers to listen to Pride and Prejudice music. I turned in my kickass Milton paper that makes my life complete, I have my hardest final tomorrow followed by my family coming up for my birthday on Sunday and then two much less difficult finals on Tuesday. I have been reading literary criticism of Milton for fun (and it is fun). I really want to go to Cheese Board on Saturday (oh shit that's tomorrow) because I will miss it dreadfully when I am gone and the pizza looks great.

Really, I want to run outside and cartwheel through the grass in the sun and not worry about anything -- and quote Milton at people for shits and giggles, and maybe some Romantic poets too, since they're all stuck in my head at the moment. And beyond that, I just want to sit for a full day and do nothing but read Turn Coat (the new Jim Butcher book, which my mother bought me for my b-day) and Good Omens (because I have yet to read it, and this is unacceptable) and this Irish play that one of my friends gave me and that I need to get back to him by Tuesday.

Summer will be easily as crazy as school, but in different ways -- and although I'll miss Berkeley like no other, it won't be terrible to be home. At least, for the first two weeks.

Right now I might just need to do something crazy.
readingredhead: (Talk)
All things considered, life is going well.

I only have three more classes before finals. Only one of those is an actual lecture. One is my last decal workshop, and the last one involves going down to my printing professor's studio to bind books and hang out and generally party with my fellow printing classmates. So not a bad deal, all things considered. I literally have four things due before the end of the semester (finals not included): three critiques for my decal due Monday, and my final Milton paper due Thursday.

Ah, the Milton paper. Where to begin? It captivated me when I should have been writing my paper for the Romantics. I began working on it and thinking through its terms at least a month ago. It helps that I almost obsessively attend Professor Picciotto's office hours, because I love talking with her about literature. So anyway, I knew what I was writing about for this paper long before I knew what I was writing about for my Romantics paper (which was of course due this Monday, and which was not nearly as pleasant as the Milton paper is being).

I had to struggle to make the Romantics paper long enough while still maintaining coherence. The Milton paper is the exact opposite. When I finally sat down and compiled all my notes and analyses, just writing, I ended up with a 16-page handwritten first draft. This translated to about 13 double-spaced pages in MLA format. The essay was supposed to be 6-8 pages long. But when I talked to Picciotto in office hours today -- for what I cannot believe was the last time until after I get back from the UK! -- and she told me that she doesn't want me to butcher this, she'd rather read a 15-page paper that covers all my points than an 8-page paper that cramps my observations. Am I crazy for being excited that I'm allowed to write a longer paper? I don't care. Seriously, hearing from her that I just have to keep it to 15 pages made my life a whole lot easier.

Since early on in the process of working over this topic with her, she's been suggesting that this is thesis material. Now, in the process of actually writing out everything that was in my head, I suspect she may be right. I keep finding more and more things I can say, more and more ways to expand into different passages in Paradise Lost, or into Milton's other works, or into new avenues of criticism. I have a suspicion that this Milton thesis might actually get written -- the inducement of working closely with Picciotto on an intellectual process is pretty strong.

The problem with this is the small voice in my head that wonders why in the world I'd write a thesis on Milton if he's not who I want to study in grad school. But then that same small voice admits that Milton's fun to work with, and although I'd get sick of no strong female characters and the inability to read novelistically after a while, in concentrated bursts there are things MUCH worse than Milton. And Milton and the Romantics are so integrally connected that maybe it isn't entire nonsense to write about Milton's poetry even if I decide that what I really want to focus on is romanticism and the novel.

(The craziest voice in my head thinks that I should write TWO theses -- this Milton one as an independent study with Picciotto during my first semester, along with one on the Romantics during the traditional English honors year-long course. You can understand why I have called this voice in my head the craziest one. I am endeavoring to ignore it for the sake of my personal health and sanity but it does not desire to be resisted.)

But anyways, in the aspects of my life which are not Milton, everything else is going well. I saw Star Trek last night with Natasha and her people and it was AWESOME. Seriously. How did I not understand the awesomeness that is Star Trek before this? But as a result of this I did not go to sleep last night until something around the order of 2am, and woke up (like usual) at about 8am...six hours of sleep is probably NOT the best plan. I'm just at that point of tiredness now where I don't want to do even the meager homework that I ought to do; I just want to lounge around for a little while more before sleeping. I figure I deserve it. I wrote more of my paper today, had my last day as an Office of Letters and Light intern until after I get back from the UK (*tears up*) and finished editing my notes on Romanticism. All in all, pretty good stuff.

Guys, I'm happy. I know what I want to do with my life, and the people that matter all believe that I'm going to get there. My cheek muscles hurt with smiling. Life is just so worth it.
readingredhead: (Default)
I am waiting and ready for it to really be spring, instead of just lulling me into skirts and tank tops and sandals with the sunny day and blossoming cherry-trees outside my window before reminding me with a gust of cold air that I can't say goodbye to sweaters quite yet. I want the feeling of liveliness that comes with the spring--the sunburns I'll undoubtedly fend off, the late nights where it doesn't get dark and the early mornings where the sun on the dew in the grass makes it sparkle. The clear skies and the ocean back home, the sticky heat of Italian cobblestoned streets and the mischievousness of a London summer shower, the feel of rocks stuck between my feet and my sandals--this is what I miss, what I want. To stop wearing jeans and start wearing board shorts, to pack away all the sweaters and umbrellas for next year, to study outside in the sunshine.

(I don't know why I am so excited by the beginning of each new season in its turn, but I'm glad to feel this way, and so I won't complain, except to say that it should go ahead and get warm already!)
readingredhead: (Talk)
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I'm funny about compliments. Somehow, I usually don't take to them very well. Or rather, I very rarely believe in the substance of the compliments -- or if I do, they're not telling me anything new. When my parents/sister compliment me on how I look, either a) they'd have to say it even if it weren't true, b) they say it in a shocked tone that is not so much a compliment as an expression of surprise that I bothered with dressing up, or c) I already know that I look good, and all I can respond with is, "I try."

And really, I don't care so much about how I look. The compliments that really get me are the ones expressing real pleasure in the talents I've cultivated and desired above others, namely my intelligence, analytical mind (especially in its ability to take apart a piece of literature), and creative writing ability.

"Your writing gets out of the way of the story." --my first creative writing professor at Berkeley, upon reading the first literary story I ever wrote

"You write very nicely!" --my first English professor at Berkeley, on reading the first page of a nearly-final essay draft of mine, said in an amused and happy tone with a smile on his face

"I can barely believe I'm giving this advice to an undergraduate, much less a first semester freshman -- but if I would look into upper division classes. Don't take any more survey courses for a while; they won't excite you. They won't force you to think the way upper div classes will. Find something you're passionate about and sign up. If the professor has a problem with it, have him talk to me -- I'll deal with it." --my History 5 GSI, when I asked her what history classes I should take in the future (back when I was still going to double-major)

"What are you doing? Get out of here and let me help someone who actually needs it!" --my Milton professor, when she started to get sidetracked in a conversation during office hours while over 10 people waited in the hallway outside her classroom

Also by my Milton professor, I have been told that I would have made William Blake a good wife (because I was very well-read and was learning the art of letterpress printing). Not perhaps the best compliment I've ever received, but I felt that it deserved inclusion for its weirdness.

But for me, the greatest compliments are not verbal -- or rather, the greatest verbal compliments are only shadows of a greater, non-verbal respect. Being respected by someone who I respect in turn is probably the largest compliment I'll ever receive, especially if I feel like the person in question is much more worthy of my respect than I am of his/hers. The shared enjoyment of conversation as intellectual equals with someone I'd consider far superior to me in intellect -- generally English professors -- is something I take as an implicit compliment.

And finally, a compliment that I look back on during bad days when I have a hard time remembering what I'm all about:

"Candace is intensely intellectual; she seems to take deep interest in everything. In the classroom Candace's focus is instantaneous and sustained. She is articulate, curious, penetrating, and sincerely devoted to learning and understanding. Candace puts much work into her preparation for mathematics, which she has told me that she had considered her "hardest" subject. Candace has a playful sense of humor that nicely ameliorates her academic intensity, and she interacts well with her peers. Candace may be the brightest all-around student that I have known in twenty years of teaching." --Mr. Mark Moore, on a letter of recommendation that he wrote me for a scholarship I applied for
readingredhead: (Light)
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There are too many answers to this -- most discussed at length here and elsewhere. For me, the problem isn't finding a dream job, it's finding only one. And from there, also, there's some difficulty in figuring out how to get from wanting the dream job to having it. But a few job scenarios, in order of dreaminess.

Writer. I'll always write. I might as well get paid for it. I honestly don't remember a time when I didn't want to write.

Teacher. I like talking to people about things I like. Students are a captive audience. Granted, I'm still wavering between high school teacher and college professor, but right now I'm leaning toward the latter. I blame it on my Milton professor.

Office of Letters and Light Intern. There are a lot of big decisions that the big people in charge get to make in the Office. I don't think I'd want to have Chris's job, or Jen's, though I could maybe deal with Lindsey's or Tavia's. But I'll always love the stuff I get to do as an intern. It might seem small, but it's great to feel that people like me keep this great program running.

Bookstore owner. There are far too many small independent bookstores that I want to own, in far too many places in the world. I might not have the management skills or financial know-how to start a business, but I have a feeling I could get customers to keep coming back.

Astronaut. Mostly for old time's sake. And so that I could go to the moon, even if only once.

Wizard. Enough said.
readingredhead: (Stranger)
Someone to come up and hug me from behind, to whisper "I love you" into my ear before kissing the skin where the shoulder and neck meet--

Simple kisses that make me giddy--

Someone waiting for me when I get out of the shower with a warm towel and a warmer embrace--

Passion--

Tenderness--

Support for all my hopes and dreams--

A challenge, a fight, a struggle, but one that I win every day and that enriches every breath I take--

A little bit of a fairytale, in the Disney sense of the word--

Someone to read aloud to me until I fall asleep--

Someone who'll understand the way that well-written romance makes me feel--

Someone to talk out the hardest of my problems with--

Someone to share the largest of my successes with--

Someone to simply fall asleep with at the end of the day--

Someone to spoon up next to and feel utterly safe with--

Something that no one can break, or bend, or take away--

A partner, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, not to be parted by death or by anything lesser or greater--

A part of my soul, my other half--

Someone to dance in the rain with--

Comfort--

Excitement--

Adventure--

You hear me? I'm waiting.
readingredhead: (Default)
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Um. Okay. That's a strange question for you.

Sincerely though? I'm glad I wasn't really alive during the Cold War, but I don't think that the world's threat level has lessened since then. Maybe I'm glad the Cold War is over, but the mentality of the Cold War -- of Us vs. Them -- hasn't changed. We've just redefined the categories.

The Cold War went on as long as it did because propaganda machines in both Russia and America drove it. Let's not make that mistake again.
readingredhead: (Rain)
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I have written a sonnet about the difference between spring and autumn, and it is posted somewhere on here, and I love it. Part of me wants to post it as an answer to this but I'm in the process of revising it for my poetry class on Wednesday so I'll probably keep it to myself for now.

I love autumn -- it's my favorite season. It's the transition between summer and winter -- the difference between the extremes, the warmth of summer sun and the cold of winter wind, and the moment when the leaves begin to fall in the same caramel-honey-auburn color as the slanting light that pierces my perception of life at around 5:27pm once daylight savings time hits.

I feel autumn in hot chocolate and warm blankets, in snuggling closer to the people I love on cold nights, in the condensation that forms on the inside of the single-paned windows of my dorm room, in the biting cold of early mornings, in the nestling of myself into puffy jackets and hiding from the elements in the safeguarding arms of warm wood libraries and cozy cafes. I feel it in the visceral sense that the world is preparing itself to be remade.

Also, it must be said -- now, and for the past three years, autumn is inextricably linked to National Novel Writing Month, which I am now going to shamelessly plug. DO IT! DO IT NOW! October 1st the site should open for sign-ups again. Is anyone crazy and stupid and wonderful enough to write with me this year? I still don't know what story I'm going to write. I have a few plotlines in my head. Because I am procrastinating doing my homework, I will discuss them now!

#1: At the moment I'm really considering writing this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that I thought up for my sister at the end of last year. I wrote the first part of it to her on a series of postcards. Technically I'd have to start from scratch since you're not supposed to bring written work with you into November, but it might be worth it. In my modern P&P, the Bennets live in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska. On a farm. Jane goes away to college in New York -- at NYU to be precise, studying communications -- and Elizabeth wants nothing more than to follow her sister in getting the hell out of Nebraska. But a (probably fictional) bill passed by the US House of Reps decreases the subsidies provided to corn farmers right after Jane goes to college, and Elizabeth knows her father won't have the kind of money he needs to support her at an out-of-state school, plus she still has three younger sisters who need to go to college, so she does the selfless thing and decides to go to University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Her plan is to save money so that she can go to grad school for journalism on the east coast. Of course she visits Jane in New York over the summer where she meets Darcy, and where Jane has met Bingley, and things progress from there...

#2: This is not nearly as detailed, but it's my attempt to answer a question that I've been thinking about for a while -- how do you write a fantasy story in which your main character has no magical powers at all? Meet Leia McAllister, 17-year-old Nordstrom employee (got to put that job training to use somehow!) who finds out, quite by accident, that her friend Jill is a wizard. And once she finds out, she's on the run from Earth's Wizarding Council, most of whom want her memory completely wiped. But, a mindwipe has to take place within a certain amount of time after the memory is made, otherwise there is a danger that the mindwipe will interfere with other more important memories and potentially impair intelligence. Of course some wizards on the Council wouldn't care, but there is a radical reformist movement battling it out with a traditional conservative movement and neither side can get the upper hand. And poor Leia gets stuck in the middle of this. (Also there are aliens who are wizards!)

#3: This is the anti-Twilight story. Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy is vampire. Girl is drug addict, has AIDS. Girl wants sex; no one wants Girl because Girl has AIDS. Boy is vampire and can't get blood diseases anymore. No one wants Boy because Boy wants to drink their blood. Girl doesn't care if Boy drinks her blood because she's going to die anyway, but would he sleep with her first? What starts out as a skewed relationship of convenience turns into something potentially meaningful just in time for Girl to die. The End. (Great antidote to Stephenie Meyer, yeah? I think of it as RENT meets Buffy.)

#4: There is one more, but I have forgotten it.

...so now I'm going to go and actually do homework. Radical idea, I know, but what can I say? I'm pretty awesome. :)
readingredhead: (Red Pen)
This is not much of an entry, just a lot of little fragmented things.

I was thinking about this randomly today in the shower: (not quite twenty) questions I want to be asked within the next twenty years.

This paper was written by an undergrad?
Do you want to go out sometime?
Would you like to work for us?
Can we publish this?
Would you mind if I kissed you?
When did you decide to become a writer?
Can I have your autograph?
Would you like to go on tour?
Is this forever?
Can I get my picture taken with you?
Do you realize how beautiful you are?
How did you get to where you are today?
Has he proposed yet?
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Will you marry me?
Is that your daughter?

***

I'm taking a swing dancing class that I really enjoy. It's so great just to get out and do something that's NOT school-related, or scholarly in any way. And since it's swing, all the people are really nice. I've only had one class so far but it looks like it's a great group of people.

***

Lauren, remember that long post about love a while ago? I was watching X-Files tonight and this quote happened, and it made me think back to that.

"Well, it seems to me that the best relationships-- the ones that last-- are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is... suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with." --Scully

I really like it, and how it meshes with the idea of love as something subtle that develops over time and that you don't notice happening until it's happened.

***

I went to a Michael Chabon reading today. He's a writer who lives in the area and is arguably shaping up to be THE best writer of the twenty-first century (according to my dad, among others). I had never read anything of his before, but I think I've fallen half in love with his thoughts on genre fiction vs. literary fiction. Basically, there are three things that need to happen for the two genres to reconcile themselves.

1. Literary authors have to start taking genre fiction seriously.
2. Literary readers have to start taking genre fiction seriously.
3. Genre writers have to start taking genre fiction seriously.

It was really interesting because my dad really likes his early work, which I wasn't able to get into at all. However, one of his most recent novels (The Yiddish Policeman's Union) won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award--both intended specifically for science fiction. Now, my dad would never call Chabon's book sf, because he would be of the opinion that that's degrading to Chabon. However, Chabon was talking about how he doesn't like the person he was in his early works in the same way that he likes the person he is now--now that he's allowed himself to innovate and cross genres just a little, which is something he hopes to do more of in the future.

It was great to have a chance to call up my dad and tell him that one of his literary heroes thinks he's silly for disdaining genre fiction. But it was also great to see someone who will probably draw even larger crowds in years to come.

***

Maybe there was something else, but I forgot.
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: (Stranger)
Ohmigod so I just finished the best book written in the English language (see previous post for more unnecessary squeeing). And seriously, Julie has outdone herself here. The end of the book had me crying because I was so happy. Now, I cry a lot for books, especially good ones. In fact, my current favorite book of all time, The Wizard's Dilemma, has earned that distinction at least in part because of its consistent ability to bring me to tears. But those are oh-my-god-the-main-character's-mother-is-dying-and-there's-nothing-she-can-do-about-it tears. Very different from nothing-could-possibly-be-so-joyful, true-love-requited, heart-so-full-to-bursting tears. The former are cathartic, it's true, but I am just now learning that the latter are absolutely delicious. It's like the feel of being so in love with someone that you can't help but shed tears of amazement and glory and wonder that the world has chosen to present you with something so perfect as this.

My friends aren't the only ones who remind me that true love exists. I get those reminders from fiction, especially Julie's fiction, on a regular basis. But there's nothing quite like the first read through a marvelous story. It is its own kind of first love--the intensity, the drama, the potential for deep heartache, the unfathomable reward awaiting those who triumph.

I am so brimming with words and with smiles, with unself-conscious giggles that escape me at the strangest moments, with an overflowing gratitude for the existence of love in this universe. I need to do, to be, to create. I need to sing a new song and dance like I actually know how (or like I don't know how and don't care). I need to spin around under the stars and absorb the wonder of the universe.

And, most of all, I need to write. Because if writing can do all of this, can there be any calling higher?
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: (Talk)
I told myself that I wouldn't get caught up in the hype about Twilight. I told myself that I might still be a teenage girl, but even I had better sense than that. I told myself a lot of things, really. And the most confusing part is that now, having read the three books in the Twilight Saga that have been published so far, I'm not sure whether I've listened to myself or not.

I can't say the books wowed me. On the originality scale, they were better than Eragon, though so is 98% of all written material. The writing was decent, even actually good in some parts, but nothing like the imagery of Diane Duane or the powerful voice of Jim Butcher came through. I'd say that in all likelihood, she and I have about the same writing proficiency (which alternately depresses me and provides me with some hope -- because if her writing is that normal and she can get such a big hype going, then surely I have a chance, but I wish I could do better).

The books didn't wow me. But they did something to me. And so here I am writing about it to figure it out, in a few points on which I have had far too many thoughts.

If you have actually read the books, or if you just want to be spoiled and potentially entertained by my musings, click here. )

And now for a completely unrelated but really interesting-looking survey.

Three Things )

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