Saturday, June 30, 2012

Natural Disasters

My heart goes out to those suffering from the fires in CO and other natural disasters around the country.

It brings all of those flood memories from last year back to the surface. I don't have too much to say about it. I know I can donate, and I will, but I just wish I could help more. Whenever these things happen, I wish we could all help.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


It's easy to be motivated as a student. I have assignments to complete and deadlines to meet.

However, my next semester doesn't start up for a couple of more weeks, and it's times like this where I worry a little about what happens after I graduate in January. It's easy to just sit back and think, oh, I'll write tomorrow or I'll get a bunch done over the weekend. The hard part is getting after it on a daily basis when there isn't a deadline tapping on your shoulder.

So I've been setting little deadlines for myself -- giving myself little assignments. It might be to write a thousand words today, or it might be to revise two chapters that I worked on last week. Just something to make me feel a bit of pressure. Pressure's a good thing, at least for me, and it makes me focus and work harder.

Just Finished: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Currently Reading: The Apothecary by Maile Maloy
Up next: DeadEnd in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Childhood Dreams

I teared up on Monday night. Just like I did last year, and they year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that. Do I need to keep going?

I couldn't help it. When the Stanley Cup gets raised above an NHL player's head, all of the memories and dreams from my childhood come flooding back to me. It's as if, just for the tinniest instant, the dream is alive again. For just a moment, I'm ten or eleven, watching the celebration unfold and planning what my day with the cup will be like when I win it in 10-20 years.

I'm okay with tearing up. Especially when it's because I got lost in childhood memories. It's good for my writing. My current main character dreams of winning the cup just like I did. He lives and breaths hockey. It's practically all he thinks about. I've been trying to delve deeper into his head, but it's hard sometimes. Sometimes you need a moment like Monday night to transport you to a different time and place. A place where a kid's dreams mean everything to him, and he loves a game unconditionally. I try to sit in those moments and take them in. harvest the emotions. The longer I stay there, the easier it is when my fingers hit the keyboard.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Creating Character

My dad has always loved The Lord of the Rings. All of Tolkien's writing, really, but especially dealings with Middle-earth. Of course, when I was old enough, he got me hooked as well. One of our favorite things is to read the appendices to The Return of the King. Those, along with the Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales and other of his works, create a background for, and a history of, the worlds and characters that we enjoy so much.

This month, I started to create a history for the main character of my current work-in-progress at my advisor's urging. Now, I didn't create a Tolkien-like history. He came up with a history of an entire world, after all. What I did was create a series of vignettes that tell the history of my character and his family. Good times, bad times, and a bunch of things in between. This way, when I go through the story to revise or create new scenes to move the novel forward, I have a much better idea of how my character will act or feel because I now have a wealth of his past experiences to draw from.

We use our experiences to inform our decisions. Why shouldn't we do the same for our characters. It has been such a great experience that I honestly don't think I'll be able to write a story in the future without doing a character history exercise first. It's just better this way.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


It's that time of year again. Workshop submissions for my next VCFA residency were due last week. Now I have to wait a few weeks until I get my next group assignment and reading packet. I love the reading packets. I love seeing what all of my ultra-talented schoolmates have been writing. It's amazing how each piece in the reading packet is so different from the rest. We all have so many good ideas and are  skilled in our own unique ways.

I remember writing in this space before I entered the program. I had never really participated in a workshop before, and I wondered what it would be like. That was before I ever thought about the term "reading like a writer." I was reading that first workshop packet as a fan, assessing whether I liked something, or not. I was not yet ready to assess whether a given piece of writing worked or not and for what reasons. Slowly, I've joined this crazy "reading like a writer"land where I'm able to participate in a back and forth with other writers in a meaningful and constructive way. It's hard to grasp the fact that it's only been a year and a half. In some ways I feel like I've always felt this way because of the intensive study, so it's weird to reflect on how far I've come.

Just Finished: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Currently Reading: The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
Up Next: Messenger by Lois Lowry