Wordy Wednesday: Balancing College and Writing

Things going on right now:

1.) Ch1Con activities will be starting back up again in the next couple weeks, so watch that blog (here) for info on live chats, writing sprints, etc. Also keep a lookout for conference-related announcements! Registration and the speaker list should be going live really, really soon.

2.) My first post is up on Teens Can Write, Too! I talk about why critique partners are awesome. Check it out here.

3.) The bot chose the winners for my third blogiversary giveaway and I’ve been in contact with all of them. Congrats if you won, and thanks anyway if you didn’t! I wish I could give a book to everyone who entered.

Classes started today and while I’m nervous about being able to handle everything I need/want to do this semester, it’s also really nice to start getting back into a rhythm. I work best when I’ve got a routine and deadlines, sooo. Yay school, I guess?

The biggest thing is about finding a balance between all the different things I’m doing. So, for this week’s Wordy Wednesday: some of the ways I do that.

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Keep Several Types of Schedules

I personally use a planner to keep up with my day-to-day activities, especially homework and events I’ve scheduled with friends. But I also usually have a weekly to do list on my computer, a day-to-day to do list on a white board on my wall, and if I’m in the middle of a writing project, I’ll have a separate schedule written out for handling that as well.

The more detailed my schedules are, the more easily I can stay on task and keep up with everything I need to do.

Dedicate Time to Writing–And Dedicate Time to Not Writing

This is one I have trouble with a lot, but basically what it boils down to is this: It’s not healthy to write for long stretches without breaks. (And I’m talking mentally, not what sitting around all day on your laptop does to your poor defenseless abs.) So even when it feels like you don’t have time to get everything done that you need to, it’s important to take time away from working to hang out with friends or catch up on your favorite TV show or whatever.

HOWEVER, it’s also important to take time to write. A lot of people don’t see writing as a real job, but we need to treat it that way if we want to get anywhere. Set aside time to write each week and don’t let people take that time from you.

Don’t Write During Class

It can be really tempting to write during class, especially in those really boring three-hundred-person lecture hall gen ed classes, but DO NOT GIVE IN. By writing during class, you miss what the professor’s saying, then end up having to take more time later to look up and learn that info on your own. So what little time you save by writing during class, you lose two fold later on.

Instead: Pay attention in class. Don’t procrastinate on your homework. Then reap the benefits of all the free time you suddenly have.

Be Flexible

You can plan and schedule and work ahead all you want. Things will still get in the way sometimes.

Be flexible. Write in the little moments. Stay in to work instead of going out with friends sometimes (but also still go out with friends sometimes). Take a break from doing homework by writing and take a break from writing by doing homework.

And more than anything: Do what feels right for you. Sometimes it’s going to be hard to fit writing in with school, but if you want it badly enough, you can do it.

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Thanks for reading!

Are you back in classes this week? How’s that going? (Please tell me it’s warmer where you are.)

~Julia

NaNo Day 13: I Hate Endings

The course guide for winter semester 2015 is up. Backpacking is open.

Normally I would have picked out my dream schedule for the semester, along with backup classes should those not work out, by, like, yesterday. But this time I picked out my classes, and a couple backups, then realized the semester I’m planning is my third to last.

I only have winter semester 2015 then two semesters senior year left. Then I’m done. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE I AM THAT CLOSE TO GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE?

So then, of course, I started looking into all the different types of classes I’d like to take before I graduate.

I’ve always wanted to do photography. I want to try film criticism and screenwriting and maybe another social science class. I want to take as many courses as possible on children’s and genre literature, and then there’s also songwriting and foreign languages (I’d love to learn ASL and French) (don’t look at me like that, Language War participants; I obviously just want to prove Spanish is better) and so many other literature and film and theatre and art and race/ethnicity and science and everything classes.

I know the learning doesn’t end when I graduate. I know life keeps going when I’m no longer allowed to live off classes.

But I am Hermione Granger. I want to learn as much as possible in life. I want to understand as much as possible. And I don’t know what I’m going to do after college, where I’m going to go. Get an MFA? Do some other sort of grad school? Get a job?

I DO NOT KNOW.

I hate endings. But I guess more than this part of my life ending, I’m scared because I don’t know what will begin next.

So, here I go planning my last three semesters. I will never be able to take all the classes I want, but when do you ever get to do everything you want? Now it’s a matter of figuring out what’s most important, instead. And learning to let go of some things so I can go after others. And facing the fact that as much as I hate endings, this one is going to happen.

So I might as well love everything that leads to it.

Goal for today: 1,000 + yesterday’s leftover 1,500.

Overall goal: 23,000.

Current word count: 23,527.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The City of Dreaming Spires

So, let’s see. What’s happened since last week?

Lots of classes. (Still in love with my classes this semester, although also still kind of terrified of them.) (So it goes.)

Lots of working on writing and Ch1Con stuff.

And, oh yeah, I PERFORMED AT HALFTIME ON SATURDAY (with approximately a thousand of my closest friends).

In honor of the two hundredth anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, the Michigan Marching Band invited the university’s choirs and our opponent’s marching band to perform at halftime with them. It was an INCREDIBLE experience. Also: after being at a couple of the marching band rehearsals, can I just say that DAAANG THE MARCHING BAND KIDS ARE FREAKING HARDCORE. While us choir students stood huddled together, freezing in our five layers of sweatshirts, the marching band practiced wearing as little as possible while sweating gallons despite this. We were at the Big House for four hours Friday night and they spent most of them literally SPRINTING ACROSS THE FIELD. IN FORMATION. POINTING THEIR TOES PERFECTLY IN UNISON. WHILE PLAYING THEIR INSTRUMENTS.

Within the choir formation, I stood towards the top of the S, and the very kind marching band reserve girl who was standing by me to help us stay within the boundaries of the letter wasn’t marching at the game because she got a stress fracture in her ankle FROM MARCHING TOO MUCH.

I’ve always thought marching band people were pretty cool, but I have SOOO much respect for them now. What the heck. They rock.

Anyway, that’s the end of my marching band hero worship for this post. If you’re interested, the halftime show is below!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem I wrote towards the end of my time at Oxford.

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I don’t want to leave
I am not ready to go
It’s not that I have so so so much more
to do
But that I don’t want to stop
doing the things
that I already am
with these lovely people
in this lovely place
in this lovely time

We have been eternal
in these fleeting moments
and I am not yet ready
for that glow to fade
to reality
Or ever
Please let me
stay
in this moment
in this place
with these people
Please

This is home
more than home is

Please

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Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Story Time: In Which All Julia Wants to Do Is Study

This morning I had a psychology exam. I love my psych class–learning about what makes us tick is a great tool for realistically portraying people in fiction and, I mean, it’s also just super interesting anyway (who doesn’t want to learn the differences between selective amnesia and dissociative fugue, right?).

However, despite already having taken psych in high school and learning a decent amount on my own, I’ve been doing bad in this class. Not failing bad, but–well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure the students who didn’t even show up for the first exam scored better than I did.

So, with the second exam set for Thursday morning, I decided I was going to turn things around this week. I was going to read the text books. I was going to review my notes. I was going to memorize flashcards like nobody’s business.

Monday, I had a full manuscript critique to finalize. And an astronomy assignment. And hair that hadn’t seen shampoo in more days than even some of the people from our case studies would voluntarily admit. So I put off studying.

Tuesday I had classes all day. And a literature quiz to study for. And OMG GLEE WAS ON. (And we all know watching *spoilers* New Directions lose at Nationals to Skylar Astin *end spoilers* is a far more effective use of time than studying, anyway.)

… Then it was Wednesday. The day before the exam. And I had yet to even glance at the five hundred pound text book, lying on my floor, for longer than it had taken me to kick it off the futon so I could sprawl while watching Glee.

But the exam was in less than twenty four hours, and I. Was going. To study. I really was, this time.

7:00 PM, Wednesday: Classes were done for the day. I’d cleaned my room to parents-are-visiting level and exhausted Buzzfeed quizzes. I fell into my bright pink desk chair, resolved to not fail this exam, and ran a Google search for psychology flashcards. It was too late to drag myself through the text books, but maybe I could still absorb something from someone else’s study tools.

Found a deck. Settled in to flip through all two hundred and eighty nine cards. This psych exam wasn’t going to know what hit it.

Things went fine, at first. I looked at a couple cards. Made myself Bagel Bites. I looked at a couple more. Filled a mug with water, then managed to dump 90% of it down my shirt (I used what was left to make peppermint tea). My mom called. I flipped through a few more cards. I reheated the tea. I checked Facebook. I checked Twitter. A couple more cards. I checked tumblr (I don’t even use tumblr).

Then, the banging began.

If you have ever lived in a college dorm, likely you know what kind of banging I’m referring to. This is not the kind of banging you want to hear while reviewing Masters and Johnson’s studies.

When it became clear the happy couple was probably going to be going at it until long after I was done studying for the third psych exam, I gave up on working in my room, grabbed my laptop and tea, and headed for the closest hall lounge. Only that one was occupied. As were the other two on my floor I passed. And they weren’t just occupied by other people struggling through schoolwork like me, but happy people, watching Netflix and Skyping with boyfriends and discussing weekend plans with friends (how dare they).

It was at that point that I ran into Hannah, ever valiantly hobbling her way around the hall on her crutches. (Some jerks didn’t bother deicing the sidewalk outside their house; as you can tell, it did not end well.) She suggested trying the lounges one floor up, because they were generally quieter. So I trooped upstairs, and–thank God–the first lounge I came across was completely empty.

My heart skipped a beat; the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding escaped my lips. I settled onto one of the dorm’s hard-as-a-rock couches with what little warmth was left in my tea seeping across my fingers, and flipped through the first online flashcard.

Good. Good. I could do this.

I flipped to the second card and a cheerful voice came from the lounge entrance: “Julia?”

And there stood a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked as he stepped into the lounge, obviously expecting to stay for a while. “This isn’t your floor.”

“Oh, you know. Studying.” I motioned to the laptop open across my legs. “My floor was loud, and I have a psych exam tomorrow morning.”

… At which point, bless his heart, the friend struck up a conversation.

Moral of this long and rambling story: Procrastination has a “pro” in it for a reason. Leave it to the professionals. Because you never know when literally the entire universe will conspire against your studying.

(On the upside, I managed to answer all but two of the questions on the exam, so I’m almost positive I did better on this one. But still. STILL.)

 

~Julia

The Big News Post

So, I’ve been hinting and promising at news for a few weeks now, and it’s kind of crazy because what started out as one announcement I needed to make has now stacked up to several. I keep waiting for someone to tell me that all this has been a mistake, because there’s no way it’s happening to me, but sure enough, every morning when I wake up it’s still true. (So unless I’m in some insane Inception universe, I’m going to assume this is real. Which is nuts.)

In no particular order…

Work on This is a Book Too has begun!

After lots of conflicts with too many classes and far too much homework last semester, Mel and I have finally begun work on This is a Book Too, the sequel to our multi-genre, crazy beauty of a blog novel from last school year (remember this?). Watch for the first chapter and other updates coming soon on the blog dedicated to the This is a Book series, here.

Girl Rising is featuring Hannah and me on their blog!

After Hannah and I made our Youtube video supporting Girl Rising for Project for Awesome last month, we got into contact with the organization, and they decided to absolutely MAKE OUR DAY by interviewing us on their blog. Make sure to check out and support Girl Rising here, and you can read the post about us here. (If you don’t already know, Girl Rising is an organization out to change the world by educating one girl at a time.)

The 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection is now available!

I’m pretty sure I already mentioned this a couple weeks ago when they released the anthology, but now I’ve got PICTURES of me posing with a BOOK that has MY SHORT STORY IN IT! (WHEEEEEE!)

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(Five points to anyone who notices the word I managed to mess up twice in “The Things I Leave Behind.” How that thing made it through all the rounds of critique and revision on the story, I will never know.)

This semester I’m completing a remote internship with a literary agent!

I am SO PSYCHED to announce that this semester I’ll be working as a remote intern (aka: from the comfort of my futon) for a literary agent superstar who is AWESOME. I can’t wait to learn from her.

And last but SERIOUSLY NOT AT ALL least: I won a Hopwood Underclassmen Fiction Award!!!

Few outside of the University of Michigan probably know what the Hopwood Awards are, but they’re a really huge deal here. You can read the Wikipedia page here or an article about them here. Basically: winning a Hopwood is like winning an Oscar (except, you know, for student writers at U of M). I’m still kind of numb about it all, because OHMYGOSH A HOPWOOD AWARD WHAT IN THE WORLD HOW DID I DO THAT. But I’m also elated, obviously, and so thankful, and whoa: I WON. A HOPWOOD.

And now, with that, I bid you good night (or morning or afternoon or whatever). Byeee!

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~Julia

NaNo Day 24: Room Tour

Sooo… I kind of stayed up until 5:00 AM last night.

It wasn’t on purpose. I kept thinking I’d just make it to the next goal point in NaNo and then I’d head to bed, but then I’d pass that goal without noticing, so I’d continue on to the next one, and… Well. Eventually I caught up with my personal NaNoWriMo goal.

I started the day at about 34,000 words. I finished at just over 41,000 just before 4:15 AM. That’s the most I’ve written in one day in ages and I am thoroughly exhausted now, which isn’t boding well for getting a ton of homework done today. But it’s a happy sort of tired, and I’m considering switching my plans around and just getting the stuff for my Spanish project done this afternoon, then spending the rest of today on writing again. Perhaps I can finish before Thanksgiving, after all. (That would be REALLY nice for being able to focus on my final projects and papers over break.)

A while back (and by that I mean “in September”) I promised to do a tour of my dorm room. Getting the room put together has been a process over the past couple months, as I waited for different items like shelves and clothing hangers to come in, but it’s all done and good to go now, so I figured it was time to take you around. (Also, I am obligated to thank Kira for reminding me to do this, since she just put her bedroom tour up this week. ;) )

Here we go.

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First, here we have the view of my room from the door. My dorm room is a single this year, which means that I have it all to myself (although I still have to use a community bathroom down the hall). The downside is that it’s also smaller than some of the closets you see on HGTV, which means that I’ve had to be creative with storage.

1View of Room (2)

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Here’s my nifty welcome mat. 2Welcome Mat (2)

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A view of the entrance from the other side. The walls around my door and closet are coated in Command Hooks. Here I store my purse, a couple sweaters and jackets, and my winter coat. On the hook on the back of my door, I have my rain jackets and a couple winter scarves. In the corner is my Swiffer.

3Entrance from Room (2)

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On the wall opposite all my outer gear, I have some posters and pictures to greet me when I get home every day. Top right is a print of Chicago, then some pictures of my friends and family, the name tags from my door freshman year, a Michigan sign my parents gave me for Christmas last year, a Ravenclaw house pendant, and a Shakespeare poster.

4Wall Beside Door (2)

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This is my closet. I store my linens, cleaning supplies, etc on top, then my clothes are hanging on the rod and stored in the dresser and plastic drawers at the bottom. I organize the hanging portion of my closet primarily by style, with skirts (organized by cut, then color within that), then blazers/cardigans (organized by sleeve length, then color), tank tops, sweaters (organized by warmth), long sleeved blouses and t-shirts (three-quarter-length sleeves to full-length, also organized by style), then short sleeved blouses and t-shirts (scoop neck Ts, v-necks, fitted T-shirts, baggy T-shirts), then dresses (organized first by sleeve length, then by how formal they are). After that is a hanger with all my belts on it, organized by how often I use each of them. Basically: My clothes are scary organized.

I’ve got more Command Hooks all around here, holding up my towel, Turbie Twist (not pictured), sweatshirts, bathrobes, and scarves. I use one of the hooks to hang up the outfit I’m planning to wear the next day, for those nights when I’m feeling like being on top of things.

Because I brought my own desk chair in order to be more comfortable while working, the chair the university provided is hanging out over here (with my storage cube atop it, because space is at such a premium). Underneath the chair, I store my most-used shoes, so my tan combat boots, knock-off Uggs (I swear I only wear them around the dorm), some flip flops, and my fuzzy moccasins. Atop the white plastic drawers in the closet, I also have my rain boots and my dark brown combat boots, which you might recognize from my Katniss costume.

5Closet (2)

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Beside the closet is my entertainment center. Basically: Bookcase and TV, beside refrigerator and microwave (atop my microwave are my water bottles, the spray bottle I use for my plants, and my portable humidifier). I have another photo collage of friends and family here, along with my Hunger Games posters (in the order they are because I desperately wanted to keep The Hunger Games above all my food like last year). You can check out my bookshelf tour here.

In the drawers in my bookcase, I store my DVDs, the mugs not on my shelves (I have a LOT of mugs), hair stuff, medical supplies (because we all know I need a massive first aid kit), and other random junk.

6TV and HG Posters (2)

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Here’s ze futon. This is where I spend the majority of my time (and where I’m sitting right now), because I mean: laziness. It’s propped up on bed risers so that I can store more drawers under it, where I keep the rest of my shoes and some of my food. Off to the left you can see part of my loft/writer cave, along with my backpack and, just above the pillows, the very top of my guitar case, which I store between the futon and my desk. (Behind the desk is my exercise hula hoop that has not seen the light of day since I moved in.) I have a 3D print of Times Square hanging off the side of my bed, above the guitar. (Off to the very right, you can see my recycling bin and main trash can. I’m really good at being responsible and taking those out often, obviously.)

7Futon (2)

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The wall behind my futon as more posters and such. Here we’ve got a free Star Trek Into Darkness poster my family picked up for me when they went to an advanced screening of it last May, a Camp NaNoWriMo poster, more Shakespeare, a concert poster from Darren Criss’s tour this summer, Divergent faction stickers, a Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone poster, some butterfly wall decals above my full-length mirror, and a Divergent poster Hannah made for me (I wasn’t a big fan of the official movie posters, so she made a cooler one).

You can also see one of my intense plug strips at the bottom of this picture. I have a lot of electronics. They take up a lot of plugs.

8Posters (2)

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Next up: Writer Cave! To the right is my desk, and to the left is the dresser the university provided me with that I basically converted into food storage. On the side of my dresser is the white board I write my weekly schedule on, and beside it (not pictured) is my laundry hamper, which is currently overflowing due to the proximity to Thanksgiving and free loads back at home. You can just make out another NaNoWriMo poster off to the left beside my window, behind the plant.

(Also: Check out that totally comfortable pink rolly computer chair. Much better than the blue plastic mess they gave me, right?)

9Writer Cave (2)

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This is my desk. It’s a little bit cluttered, but that’s how I like things. My furniture this year didn’t come with a shelf built into the desk, so my family got creative and build one for me instead (my family rocks, if you didn’t know). On it I’ve got a tissue box, hand sanitizer, a wood turtle I got in Costa Rica a few summers back, and some more pictures. Below the shelf is another white board (plus pin board)–this one with encouraging messages on it. In front of it is my Nook, a cup of dry erase markers, my stapler (currently useless because I ran out of staples last week–whoop-de-dooo), a lamp, my desk organizer (pencils, pens, Sharpies, highlighters, paper clips, binder clips, etc), a stack of Post It notes, and my necklace tree. To the left are all of my school books, folders, papers, etc. You can see my NaNoWriMo daily goal chart taped to the right, and some miscellaneous papers with blog post and story ideas, etc, to the left. I have Post It notes and a couple other things stuck up all over the top of my desk. Most of them are quotes to use in novels, reminders about different plot points in the stories I’m working on, etc. Some of them are quotes from people I admire.

10Desk (2)

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Here are three of my plants. I have four in my room right now. The two on the right are spider plants (the little one is the big one’s baby–born and raised in the dorms). and the little pine tree in the mug on my window sill is a giant sequoia my mom and brother gave me that hasn’t gotten quite giant yet. (But little Suzie is getting there.)

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Here’s my dresser. Off to the furthest right you can see a little of my inspirational phrase poster-thing. It’s all “live your life with abandon” and “this is your life… make it beautiful” and I’m like, “High-five, inspirational phrase poster-thing–I think I will.”

On the top shelf of my dresser, I have a lint roller, my makeup and face care stuff, then my books, along with a Navy Pier mug, a MLibrary rubber ducky, a Michigan megaphone-thing, and a gift bow (my best friend and I have a traditional of giving each other bows for our birthdays, so this is one of those).

Below the shelf is my little makeup mirror and some hair clips and other supplies, some drawers with some more jewelry (note if you’re considering robbing me: the most expensive thing I possess is a fake diamond necklace from Claire’s I got for ten bucks for my senior prom). Beside the drawers are some more pictures and my mini globe. Along the plastic backing behind this portion of the dresser, I’ve taped up some more pictures and a couple other little things–a ticket from a production of my favorite Shakespeare play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and a thank you postcard from the Office of Letters and Light from donating. In front of all this is my money tree, which isn’t doing too hot right now unfortunately.

As I said before, I use my dresser primarily for food storage. I’ve also got some more hair, makeup, and first aid type stuff in it (I’m REALLY accident prone).

12Dresser (2)

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Climb up the ladder to the top of my loft, and this is what you see. This is the head-side of my bed, so I’ve got my pillow (covered by the duvet), a backrest pillow, some mooore pictures of my family and friends, and a lamp. To the left, out of sight, is the little shelf where I store the books I’m reading, my glasses, etc. The curtain to the left is my blackout curtain, for the mornings after those nights when I’m stupid enough to stay up writing until 5:00 AM.

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The ceiling and walls around my bed are coated in glow-in-the-dark stars. It’s beautiful at night.

14Ceiling (2)

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Here’s the foot of my bed: More pictures, an Allegiant poster (all this Divergent stuff, by the way, I picked up at the Veronica Roth book signing in October), a fleece blanket, a pillow a family friend made for me (I couldn’t find the duvet I wanted in twin extra long, so we bought it queen-sized and she converted it for me, then used the extra fabric to make this adorable pillow), a couple super fat and fluffy stuffed animals (the big green one is Frogger, the little one is Frogger Friend), some more plugs, and my fan. Hiding behind the pillow is Whiffer, a little stuffed dog I’ve had since the third grade.

Behind this portion of my loft is a fairly large empty space (we’ve nicknamed it the “Dead Body Space” because it’s the perfect size to hide someone) (note that I did not come up with this–blame it on my friends). I use it for more storage. Back there right now are a couple containers with spare supplies and another fleece blanket (that one I use for snuggling on my couch, so that I don’t have to heave down the one on my bed whenever I want to warm up).

15Foot of Bed (2)

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… And here’s one last shot: the view of my room from my bed. It’s small but cozy and I spend probably 80% of my time in here, doing homework, writing, watching Netflix, etc.

16View from Bed (2)

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There you have it! A tour of my room that goes into far more detail than you’d ever actually want to know.

Do you live in a dorm room? What’s it like? (Please tell me it’s at least larger than mine.)

day 24

Homework time.

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 19: Interview with Rebecca Cao

I’m seriously falling off the NaNo bandwagon right now. A ton of stuff came up yesterday, which led to me not being able to settle down to write until 11:00 PM again, so I only got about 1.3k done.

Upside: Since it’s Tuesday, I don’t have any writing scheduled, and for the first time this semester I have a cancelled class this afternoon. So that gives me a little extra time (although I really ought to be spending that on school-related things). While I’m not likely to get the just-under-3k done today that I’d need to in order to catch up with my goal, maybe I can still pump out a couple thousand?

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In order to give you a broader perspective on NaNoWriMo than you’d get from solely my experience, throughout the month of November I’m sharing interviews with various, totally awesome NaNo writers.

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Today’s interview is with one of my writing friends from the University of Michigan, Rebecca Cao. Rebecca and I sort of stumbled across one another via the blog of a local bookstore last spring, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s represented by the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and on her way to getting a book deal. All around, she is a very driven, fantastic person who I look up to greatly. Be sure to check out her blog!

Q: Is this your first year doing NaNoWriMo, or are you a veteran? What do you think of the event?

A: I believe 2011 was the first year I tried NaNo. That time, I made it a few days in to my memoir and then I gave up. So if I finish this time, it’d be my first year actually completing NaNo! I think it’s a great event to create camaraderie, but it can be hard for a first-time novelist to finish. This year, I have two novels under my belt and I’m going into NaNo with 50,000 words already written and I’m planning to add another 50,000, so it’s a lot easier than starting with a blank slate.

Q: In one sentence, what is your novel about?

A: When an 18-year-old girl discovers she’s pregnant, she chooses to raise her baby instead of attending college.

Q: Plotter or pantser?

A: Definitely pantser. I was always that student in English class who absolutely hated doing brainstorms, character sketches, and whatever other cruelty the teacher came up with. I will have a very, very vague idea of where my book is going, but mostly I just sit down and write and better things come out of that than I could have ever planned.

Q: Do you have any particular process for writing? Do you have a certain location you like to write at, or a type of tea you need in order to brainstorm, or anything like that?

A: It’s a lot easier for me to write first thing in the morning, before I’ve talked to anyone and my mind’s been clouded with other things. Obviously, that doesn’t always happen. My first two and half novels were all written while I was a full-time college student, so I wrote a significant portion of them in class. Oops. As for brainstorming, I do it unwittingly in the minutes before I fall asleep.

Q: Any writing advice?

A: There’s tons of amazing advice out there already. While I don’t agree with everything here (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one), some of it is just gold. Otherwise, you can check out my Creative Process series (http://rebeccacao.com/category/creative-process/) for my take on writing. The one thing I will say is: if you are serious about getting published, you have to treat writing as a job.

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Thank you, Rebecca, for completing this interview, and thanks to you for reading!

day 19

Off to try to get enough school stuff done that I can actually write before my next class.

~Julia

College Writer Tag

Hey look–it’s the College Writer Tag!

College Writer Tag

Rules:

1. Before anything else, thank the totally cool person who nominated you for this tag, because they obviously think you’re awesome.

2. Answer the five questions.

3. Nominate four other college writers. (You know. If you want to. Completely not actually a requirement.)

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Questions:

1. What year are you? Currently a sophomore.

2. What’s your major(s)/minor(s)? Creative writing major. Considering double majoring in English.

3. What type(s) of writing do you do? I’ll write pretty much anything, but my favorite’s YA novels. I do a lot of action-y stuff.

4. What are your plans for after college, both career-wise and writing-wise? Not sure yet, but I’m looking to either get my MFA or try to head straight into a job in publishing while continuing to run the Chapter One Young Writers Conference. And, you know, actually WRITING as much as possible.

5. What is one thing you’ve learned about writing while in college? You can’t always just wait for the inspiration to strike; when you’re working to a deadline, it doesn’t matter if your muse has decided to take a day off–you’ve just gotta write.

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I nominate:

Kira Budge

Mel of The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager

Rebecca Cao

Patrice of Whimsically Yours

 

Hope you’re having an actually-semi-decent Monday! I’ve kind of just been sitting in my room spazzing all day over Allegiant coming out tonight. (Upside: spazzing has led to an increase in productivity. I’ve gotten more homework done this afternoon than I’ve finished in the past two weeks combined. Plus actually bothered to take out my trash. And just wrote this blog post.) (Basically, waiting for Allegiant has turned me into Superman.)

Also: even if I didn’t nominate you but you’re in college and you like to write, feel free to participate in this tag as well!

Have a great evening! :)

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End”)

I’m moving back to school this weekend. Gosh, how weird is that? I can’t believe summer’s over. I’ve been out of classes for four months now, because I opted not to enroll anywhere for the summer semesters, and instead I’ve spent the time writing and editing and traveling and hanging out with friends and reading and watching movies and, overall, just doing exactly what I like to do. For four months straight.

It’s going to be hard going back to homework and a schedule and having to speak a language other than English a bunch of the time (last semester of Spanish EVERRRR!!!) (I hope) (I really, REALLY hope).

So, now all that’s left to do during my last few days at home is pack and study Spanish and attempt to get as much of my writing-related work done as possible. Because when classes begin next week, I’m no longer going to have nearly as much time to work as I’m used to (and probably none at all for binging on Netflix, which is going to be the most depressing thing to ever happen to anyone ever).

But anyway–it’s been a good, long summer, and exactly what I needed to get a lot of work done and to have the chance to detox. I hope your summer was great and that the school year–if you’re a student/teacher/parent/someone else involved in school-type things–goes as smoothly as possible. :)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story called “The End.” It originally appeared in one of the University of Michigan’s literary magazines, in spring 2013.

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            Dylan used to tell me sunshine on funerals was a good thing, like how rain on weddings was good. When I asked him how he knew, he said it was obviously true, because more babies were born during storms than when the sun was present and white and hot, and weddings and babies promised the same thing: a new beginning. So sunshine on a funeral was a good thing, too, since it was the opposite: the end.

            I don’t believe him, though. With the way the sun’s shining down through the pine needles way up above, reflecting off everyone’s shiny black shoes and pooling too bright against the newer gravestones that still haven’t been worn rough by bad weather, I can’t help but think that sunshine is an awful bad thing at a funeral, because it makes everyone slow and sleepy and content, sitting there in their rows of rickety white folding chairs, while inside I am screaming, and reeling, and dying myself, staring at his casket beside the hole.

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Dylan used to tell me there was one four leaf clover in every field, if you just looked hard enough. When I told him it was BS, he scrunched his thick eyebrows low until they brushed against his eyelashes to tell me no, it had to be true, because it took a certain amount of luck for a piece of land to become a field for kids like us to play on, and therefore there must be a four leaf clover hidden somewhere there.

I don’t believe him, though. We were lying out in a field, the group of us from the Regent High Photography Club that went out for burgers after our meeting instead of going home, when the bee stung him, and his throat swelled shut so fast he couldn’t even finish chewing his mouthful. If that field had been lucky, the bee wouldn’t have landed on Dylan’s cheek. It would have found my hand instead, which was just a matter of inches away in the grass. It would have stung me and it would have hurt, but not like this, since I am not the one who was allergic to bees.

Dylan probably would have said the field was lucky once upon a time, and someone just stole its four leaf clover, if he knew I was thinking that now, while clutching the program for his funeral in my unblemished fingers. But Dylan can’t say anything anymore.

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Dylan used to tell me the lines on the palm of your hand determined how long you were going to live, and while he traced a finger over my sticky skin with the heat blowing in on us through my open bedroom window, I’d ask him how he was sure, and he’d reply in that slightly gravelly, never serious voice, “Because yours say you’re going to live ’til you’re a hundred, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

I didn’t believe him though, and now he’ll never know, will he? He’ll never know if I’ll live to a hundred, and I’ll never know what the lines on his hand said because I never dared look—I was never brave enough to see when he’d die. Thinking back on it, I still don’t know if I’d rather have known or not. Maybe the bee was there because he had to die; maybe it was his time, and his hand said that, and it was not just some random occurrence, some twist of chance or fate, like Janice tells me over and over again when she calls me on the phone, crying, every night.

He never said he loved her. That’s what she talks about mainly, when she cries. He never said he loved her, and now she’ll never know.

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Dylan used to tell me that God lived up in the clouds, on the biggest one in the sky. When I asked him how he knew, he said he didn’t. But when he looked up there on sunny afternoons, when everything was too bright and too intense and too concentrated—so alive you had to squint to see it and it made you tired just to breathe it in… when he looked up at the sky, then, there was something in his face that made it seem like he did know, after all.

I believed him, though. I believed him that God lived on the biggest cloud in the sky, because although sometimes I didn’t believe in Heaven, I did believe in the strong curve from Dylan’s chin to his ear, and the way the little blond hairs along his jaw would catch in the sunlight, like they were shining too. I believed in the swoop of his thick, straw-colored hair along his forehead, and his rounded cheeks, and the way his eyes were never quite blue or green or grey, but a mixture of all of them, like that non-color the sink turns when you rinse out a paintbrush.

And now my stomach is burning, cold and hot and not quite painful, but not quite okay either. And my eyes are burning too, but they’re burning more like that sort of pain you get from sprinkling salt over rug burn, and the inside of my left cheek throbs from biting it to keep back the screams. My hair is twisted away in a too tight bun because the counselor told my mom not to leave it down or I might try ripping it out again. My dress is navy blue and too short for a funeral, with an off-white cardigan thrown over its spaghetti straps even though it must be ninety degrees out, because I never thought Dylan would die, so I never thought I’d need something conservative and black and impersonal to wear to his funeral.

Janice sits beside me and sobs with the heels of her hands pressed against her eyes, strawberry blond hair done in curls, down around her shoulders, but I am silent and still and staring, while inside I tear myself apart.

*****

The day Dylan died he told me, “I need to get home, Alexis. I’ve got a chemistry test tomorrow,” and when I said it wouldn’t take all that long to get burgers, we were just going to the McDonald’s down the street with the field out behind it, he said, “But I need to study real, real bad.”

I didn’t believe him, though. I said, “It’ll take twenty minutes. A half hour tops.”

And because the thing Dylan hated most in the world was disappointing me, more than he hated disappointing his chemistry teacher, or the people looking over his college applications, or Janice, who he was supposed to be studying with later, he said, “Fine.”

And with the sun beating down on us, the group from the Regent High Photography Club walked down the street to McDonald’s, while Dylan walked away from life. His fingers were warm, brushing against mine on the way there, as he pointed to the sun and told me how it meant the end.

His fingers were warm, and mine are still warm, but now his are not.

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53

 

 

~Julia

Inner Peace Award / Sunshine Award

Ze blogge was recently nominated for the Inner Peace and Sunshine Awards by the marvelous, talented, sweet-beyond-belief Autore of awriterssong. She posts all sorts of awesome poetry and Camp NaNo excerpts and such on her blog, so make sure to go read some of her stuff! Thanks for the nominations, Autore!
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Seven Things About Me:

1. I am 5’2″ and proud of it.

2. My hair is naturally this weird blondish-brownish color (it’s like dishwater blond sans-the-blond), but I recently dyed it auburn, and I’m hoping to try out some other colors in the future.

3. I’m going to be beginning my sophomore year of college at the University of Michigan this fall.

4. I am terrified, TERRIFIED of dolls. (There was this movie when I was in elementary school, in which this kid got involved with some Bad Magical Creatures and this doll came to life and was slowly taking over the body of his annoying teacher or something AND OH MY GOSH IT TERRIFIED ME TO NO END, and I’ve been scared of dolls ever since. Like you could not pay me enough to be alone in a room with one.)

5. I wanted to be a veterinarian, just doing writing on the side, up until the eighth grade. At which point I had to job shadow a vet for class, and I decided writing full-time instead looked like fun. (That job shadow is also why I became a vegetarian. I’ll let you ruminate on that one.)

6. I love the smell of coffee, but making me drink it could be a torture method.

7. I once played Eddie in a production of The Yellow Boat. Eddie is a little boy. This involved me cutting all my hair off.

I currently look like this:

Snapshot_20130714_17

At the time I looked like this:

AKA: Short hair (at least that short) does not work on me.

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Okay, time to nominate some awesome people. (You’re technically supposed to do fourteen, but I’m only doing seven because ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.)

1. Hero of Heroic Endeavors

2. Mel of The Ultimately Useless Stories of the Average Teenager

3. Patrice of Whimsically Yours

4. Shelby of Smoore’s Adventures

5. Joan of The Spastic Writer

6. Tatiana of Words Into Darkness

7. Kira of Kira Budge: Author

 

If You Were Nominated:

1. Display the logo on a post.

2. Thank the person who nominated you and link to his/her site.

3. State seven (7) things about you.

4. Nominate fourteen (14) bloggers and inform them via comment in their blog. (Shhh. Nobody needs to know I only did seven.)

Also, just putting this out there–even if I didn’t nominate you, feel free to accept this as a nomination for these awards. Because I was having a really hard time figuring out who to nominate, and anyone who takes the time to read my blog is wonderful OBVIOUSLY. So there. YOU’RE ALL NOMINATED!

Thanks again to Autore!

 

~Julia