Wordy Wednesday: The Garden Trope

It’s my last week of classes of college! Next week is finals and then the week after that is graduation and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Things that have happened in the past week:

  • Went to my last release party for a university lit mag I have a story in! I was lucky enough for my short fiction to be accepted to three university lit mags/anthologies this school year. If you’d like to read any of those, I’ll link to them as they become available online on the “My Writing” page.
  • Did interviews for a couple very cool things that I am SUPER EXCITED about! I’ll give details on those once the features themselves are released, but what I can tell you now is that one interview was about being a graduating senior at U of M and the other was about Ch1Con (and did I mention that I am SUPER EXCITED?).
  • Illustrated, put together, and ordered the picture book final project for my writing children’s literature class! Fingers crossed it gets here soon because I am dying to see it. (Also: that was my last project of the semester, so all I have left to do now are final exams ahhhhh!)
  • Took my first final of the semester! Only two more to go. (And then my first day of freedom will be my birthday, so good job on the symbolism there, Life.)
  • Had the showcase for my dance class! I was barely in it, since I had to sit out so much of the semester with my bum knee, but it was really fun and I loved getting to watch my class kick butt after working so hard all term.
  • Got nine hours of sleep last night! I don’t know about you, but this is the thing I am most proud of.

And, now that I have bored you with my life (per usual): this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. In honor of it being my final week before my final finals (say that one five times fast), I figured I’d share one last paper from an undergraduate class with you. This is from my history of children’s literature class, discussing the use of the Garden Trope (term defined in the essay, if you don’t already know it) in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

As always with these essays for classes, apologies for the obnoxiously long paragraphs and all that jazz.

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Children’s literature encompasses a great variety of stereotypes and running themes. From the rise of the child as the trickster figure in works such as Peter and Wendy and the stories of Brer Rabbit, to the use of magic in order to empower the child in novels such as Matilda and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s easy to pick out the threads that run from work to work in order to altogether come to define the literary category. However, perhaps the most intriguing of all of these tropes is that of the garden, or: the connection between the child and the natural world. Rousseau first developed the garden trope in the eighteen-century, with his work delving into the philosophy behind childhood and child development. He believed that children and nature were inherently connected, using terms such as “sapling” (Rousseau 5) and extended metaphors about trees in order to explain the child’s soul—and how best to protect it from the darkness of the increasingly urbanized world. In his book Emile, he writes that “education comes to us from nature” (Rousseau 6), and it is this concept of Rousseau’s that arguably has been most pervasive throughout the years. This relies upon placing the child in nature—and giving him or her freedom to explore this space (and thus his or herself)—in order for the child to properly develop and grow, thus protecting Rousseau’s “sapling” (or, the child’s soul). By drawing a connection between children and the natural world, the garden trope offers a safe space in which the child can explore his or her identity, away from the pressures of societal conventions and adults’ expectations. However, many storytellers interpret this in different ways. Thus, through works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, it becomes clear that different elements of the garden trope—from the journey into nature, to learning from nature, to the role of nature in the final lesson conveyed—all play roles in presenting differing representations of this trope, which altogether ultimately convey each work’s unique interpretation of the role of nature in the child’s development. (Rousseau)

The deviations between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Princess and the Frog become clear almost immediately in the two works. In his classic novel of fantasy and nonsense, Carroll presents Alice as connected with nature from the beginning. In fact, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland opens with a line about how “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank” (Carroll 1). In other words, Carroll immediately associates Alice with nature by situating her on a river bank, which one can infer to combine both the more common elements of nature (such as grass and trees) as well as a slightly less common element (water); Alice is entirely surrounded by the natural. The fact that Alice is sitting still amongst all of this, much like she herself is rooted to the ground (similar to Rousseau’s sapling) solidifies this connection. This passage also quickly goes on to include references to the “hot day” (Carroll 1) and “making a daisy-chain” (Carroll 1), both of which strengthen the enmeshment of Alice and the natural world, especially in comparison with Alice’s early complaint about her sister’s book, which she thinks is pointless and boring. By rejecting the opportunity to read the book, Alice likewise rejects the infiltration of the domestic into the natural world, which prefaces the fact that she will soon embrace the natural, instead, further by following the White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole. In contrast, the animated Disney fairytale film The Princess and the Frog opens with the titular princess, Tiana, far away from nature. Tiana lives in a big city—New Orleans—and, due to this, she spends the first several scenes entirely immersed in the urban. In particular, she finds herself surrounded by her rich friend Charlotte’s opulence, which takes Tiana as far from the natural world as possible. When a young Tiana is presented with the natural—which occurs when her mother reads the two girls the classic fairytale “The Frog Prince”—she outright rejects it, disgusted, stating, “There is no way, in this whole wide world, I would ever, ever, ever—I mean never—kiss a frog” (The Princess and the Frog 2:25-2:32). This separation and abhorrence of nature continues when Tiana grows into a down-on-her-luck young woman who finds herself presented with the opportunity to kiss Prince Naveen, in frog form. It takes all of Tiana’s will power to complete the act, and she is horrified when she finds herself transformed into a frog as well, rather than Naveen into a human. In line with this, even as a frog, she continues to reject the natural, only reluctantly leaving the urban for the bayou and grousing about things like how frog skin is covered with mucus and “[t]here is no way [she’s] … kissing a frog and eating a bug in the same day” (The Princess and the Frog 43:49-43:54). This shows how Tiana sees herself as separate from nature, and thus she does not understand it (or herself). Altogether, the examples of both Alice and Tiana’s journeys into the natural world portray how this element of the garden trope affects the child character’s development overall, as it is Alice’s initial acceptance of nature—and Tiana’s rejection of it—that shape the lessons each character must learn throughout her story.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that said lessons are a second way storytellers can represent their differing interpretations of the garden trope. These two works teach their protagonists lessons in greatly differing manners, aligned with the relationship between the character and the natural. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for instance, because Alice is already part of nature, she is open to learning from the creatures she encounters, and thus is able to learn through broad conversations with them concerning a variety of topics. This means that although Alice truly is learning in part from Wonderland’s residents, she is doing so through compromise and interpretation—by not just listening, but interacting as well—so that it feels almost as if she is teaching herself. For example, in the chapter “Advice from a Caterpillar,” the advice the Caterpillar gives Alice in terms of her size is that she will “‘get used to [being three inches high] … in time’” (Carroll 61); however, Alice disagrees with this and so is able to learn something about herself (that she is not the kind of person who will just get used to something she dislikes) in the process. The Caterpillar presents her with an intended lesson, but Alice reinterprets it to learn something else instead. In essence, because Alice is part of nature, like the Caterpillar, she is able to take the lessons conveyed by the Wonderland creatures and decide whether or not they fit with the sense of self she is developing, so that ultimately she decides the lessons she learns. On the other hand, because Tiana of The Princess and the Frog rejects nature, she is not able to be in conversation with it. Instead, nature essentially must talk at her, with the hope that she will listen. The filmmakers convey this by having Tiana interact with a number of bayou creatures, all of whom have strong senses of self from which she must learn. However, at first Tiana dislikes these characters, because each of them believes in something seemingly impossible. For example, Ray the lightning bug is in love with a star, which he calls Evangeline. This at first appears to associate the natural with the impossible, but it becomes clear that these dreams only appear impossible because Tiana does not accept things she does not understand (i.e. nature). Tiana must accept these impossible things—and thus the lesson each character represents—in order to reinterpret her personal identity and be able to move the plot forward. Essentially, Tiana must listen to nature, and find it in herself to accept nature, in order to learn the lessons necessary in order to achieve her goal of becoming human and returning home again.

It is the ultimate goal of each character that draws the most attention to the importance to the role of nature in the child’s development. After all, it is Alice and Tiana’s shared goal of getting home that drives them to explore the other worlds in which they find themselves. However, the role of the natural differs greatly here. Because Alice is part of nature, and has been learning in conversation with nature—and thus in large part from herself—her resolution relies not upon continued learning from the natural, but upon learning to control it and thus learning to empower herself as an important element of the natural. To be more specific, Alice spends the entirety of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland voraciously eating and, due to this and the magic associated with the nature of Wonderland, her size continually changes, out of her control. However, in the final chapters, Alice’s size changes not because of something she has eaten (a type of change which Carroll has presented throughout the text as “natural”), but rather because she has felt a strong emotion. She has deposed of what has been natural thus far in order to create a new natural order—one in which, rather than something else controlling her, she takes control of herself and, because she is part of it, the natural world at large. In doing this, Alice is no longer subjected to the rules of nature, but instead defines the rules herself. This is especially clear when, in finally taking control of her growth, she “ha[s] … grown to her full size” (Carroll 140)—the first time she has been her proper size since entering Wonderland—and she is able to state to those who are antagonizing her that they are “‘nothing but a pack of cards!’” (Carroll 140), at which point they transform into just that. It is Alice taking control in this manner that allows her to wake up from Wonderland and find herself back on the river bank with her sister—only now, she isn’t bored. In contrast, Tiana’s resolution relies not upon controlling nature, but simply embracing it. She must learn to overcome her urbanized prejudices against the natural world, and acknowledge herself as part of it, in order to return to human form. She does so by falling in love with Naveen, so that when he is given the opportunity to return the two of them to human form—by kissing, and then marrying, Charlotte—Tiana asks him not to, because she’d rather be a frog with him than a human without him. She says that her “dream [of opening a restaurant upon becoming human again, for which she has worked her entire life] wouldn’t be complete without [him] … in it” (Princess and the Frog 1:1:23:29-1:23:35). Because Tiana accepts being a part of nature—and thus remaining a frog for the rest of her life—she and Naveen stop trying to become human again, and instead choose to move on with their lives, happily, as frogs. Due to this acceptance, they then get married, at which point the curse is finally able to lift and they do become human again after all. These are two very different interpretations of the role of nature in the resolution of the child’s story, but ultimately do both reflect the trope of learning in and from nature, as it is each child’s reevaluation of her place in relation to nature that allows her to return home.

Truly, it is all three of these elements, combined, that reflect how storytellers can interpret the garden trope in different manners. Alice’s immediate immersion in nature leads to her ability to converse as an element of it, which subsequently also leads, naturally, to the need for her to take control of nature—to assert her agency as part of it—in order to return home. Tiana, on the other hand, first rejects nature, and so must learn to accept it and find her place within it in order to find her happy ending and thus become human again. However, both of these interpretations do ultimately reflect the Rousseauan model of development, as both Alice and Tiana rely heavily upon nature to shape their character arcs and the plots of their stories. Although they learn different lessons, both learn from nature, which exemplifies Rousseau’s idea that children are part of nature. Therefore, through works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, it becomes clear that different elements of the garden trope—from the journey into nature, to learning from nature, to the role of nature in the final lesson conveyed—all play roles in presenting differing representations of this trope. Ultimately, these elements work together to convey each story’s unique interpretation of the role of nature in the child’s development—and altogether show how children and the natural world truly are connected, making nature crucial to the child’s growth in order to become who he or she is meant to be. (Rousseau) (Carroll) (The Princess and the Frog)

*****

Bibliography

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: Knopf, 1988. Print.

The Princess and the Frog. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Walt Disney, 2009. Online.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Emile. London: J.M. Dent, 1993. Print.

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

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Ch1Con 2016 Blog Tour: Guest Post by Susan Dennard!!

Welcome to the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference blog tour!!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Ch1Con is a writer’s conference both for and by teens and young adults. Our 2016 event will take place Saturday, August 6th in St. Charles, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. 2016 registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level (approximately ages 11 to 23) and at an early bird discount price of $74.99.

Our speakers will include New York Times bestselling YA fantasy author Susan Dennard (Truthwitch, Tor Teen), acclaimed YA contemporary author Francesca Zappia (Made You Up, Greenwillow/HarperCollins), and up-and-coming YA authors Jennifer Yu (Four People, Five Days, Harlequin Teen and Seventeen Reads – coming spring 2017) and Jordan Villegas (represented by Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary)! The Ch1Con team will also be leading a query writing workshop, and we’ll have all kinds of fun giveaways and activities for attendees throughout the conference.

Today I’ve got a special treat for you: Susan Dennard has kindly written a guest post for the blog! (Also, stick around for a giveaway at the end of the post.)

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Susan is the New York Times bestselling author of both the YA steampunk series Something Strange & Deadly (HarperCollins) and the new YA fantasy series Witchlands (Tor)–the first installment of which, Truthwitch, premiered at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list!! (And got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, no less.)

Before settling down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan traveled the world as a marine biologist. When not writing these days, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo. Her writing is represented by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. 

Find Susan online: Website / Blog / Newsletter / Twitter / Pinterest

Susan’s Books: Something Strange and Deadly / A Dawn Most Wicked / A Darkness Strange and Lovely / Strange and Ever After / Truthwitch

Take it away, Susan!

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5 Things I’ve Learned Since Being Published:

1. Getting published isn’t the hard part. It’s the first hard part. Seriously: I was so not prepared for how much busier, emotionally-draining, and generally crazy-making my life would become post book-deal. I always thought, once I had a publisher, the rest would be…well, maybe not easy, but at least easier.

Yeah. No. Publishing and my career as an author only got way harder after that first sale.

2. But on the flip side of that: Getting published isn’t the awesome part. It’s the first awesome part. Like, I never really imagined past the first book. You know, past the legitimacy of having my name on a real, printed book. But there is SO MUCH amazing stuff that comes along with being an author. First and foremost, readers!! Meeting them, interacting with them, getting awesome letters and presents from them!

Truly, all the awesome far outweighs the hard in this gig.

3. Agents do so much more than sell the book. My agent and her incredible team at New Leaf Literary are indispensable. I cannot function as an author without them there to nudge my publisher on All The Things, to keep track of my incoming payments (or hunt them down when they don’t show up), to be my knights-in-shining-armor when I need protection, or to be a voice of reason when I’m being…well, unreasonable. Agents know this industry far better than most authors ever could, and that knowledge alone is priceless.

And of course, they do sell our books for us! They find homes for our little babies! Something we, the authors, simply cannot do—at least not in a traditional, big publisher world.

4. The industry is small. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone talks to everyone. So first off: be nice to everyone. Seriously. I realize how “duh” that might sound, and yet I see it happen all the time. Fame and success do go to people’s head, but don’t ever let it go to yours.

Second off: don’t engage in the gossip. Easier said than done, but you’ll be happier and safer for it. Who said what or who sold what or who missed which deadline is all pointless conversation—I mean, it doesn’t really affect you at all, does it? So stay out of it.

Actually, those rules can apply to ANY aspect of life, not just publishing. Be nice. Don’t gossip. End of story. 😉

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I swear, my agent gives me this advice every other week. Because it’s SO important to remember in this biz. Being an author is a lifelong career. The first book is literally the first step in what will hopefully continue on for many, many more books. Putting too much pressure on yourself to write MORE and sell MORE—or to have a Huge Commercial Hit Right Away—is, quite frankly, silly.

Some books will come out quickly, some will not. Some will be commercial successes, some will not. Some will earn royalties, some never will. Some will be critically praised, some will not. The point is that there will be highs…and there will be lows. Don’t worry too much if you’re riding a low—another rise will come along one day.

And don’t get too cocky when you’re riding a high, either, because a low could be just around the bend.

Instead, keep your eyes on your own page and keep on writing.

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Thank you so much for writing a guest post for the blog tour, Susan! I’m SO EXCITED to hear you speak at the conference this August.

I also have a *signed* copy of Susan’s bestselling book Truthwitch to give away today! Check it out at the link below!

Click here for the giveway!!

If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (again, approximately 11 to 23) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below. Early bird registration ends May 31st!

Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Twitter: @Ch1Con
Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference
Instagram: Ch1Con
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

The Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

~Julia

 

Wordy Wednesday: I Am

In the past week, I’ve written three papers, two event reviews, and the text for the picture book that is the final project for one of my children’s lit classes. I also co-ran U of M’s Second Annual Publishing Career Forum, put on a bake sale, saw Misty Copeland dance in the American Ballet Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty, aaand I kind of got the results from my honors thesis back.

Drum roll please: my honors thesis received HIGHEST HONORS AHHH(!!!!!)

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That’s the highest distinction the university awards for honors theses and I’m kind of dying of relief and happiness.

For anyone who doesn’t know what went into my thesis, it was a collection of ten short stories (one from high school, nine from throughout my undergraduate career) that I compiled and revised throughout this school year. They were all contemporary literary fiction, a mixture of YA and NA, and as my thesis adviser put it “very depressing” (because, hello, literary fiction).

And yeah. This semester’s so close to being done now. I’m down to completing the picture book and taking my finals and then I’m FINISHED with COLLEGE what EVEN. (As I keep telling everyone who asks: I am very tired–so, as great as my classes have been this semester, I’m ready for summer–but I am also not at all ready to graduate. Like, I’m really excited for what’s to come after graduation–duh–but I’m also so, so sad, because I’ve loved this school and these past four years and gah.)

Anyway, on that note: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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I am lace dresses
and floral skirts
and faux leather boots,
scuffed on the toe

I am roses in Dasani water bottles
and handfuls of coral in a mason jar
and an infinite supply of peppermint tea,
in an infinite selection of mugs

I am movie posters
and photo collages
and pictures of cities,
I love and miss (I miss so much)

I am books upon books
and white Christmas lights strung across the ceiling
and a nest of teal blankets,
with the sheets kicked to the end of the bed

I am tired
and I am trying so hard
but also I am so full of
burning, breaking, blinding
happiness

I am so happy
to be this person, in this moment,
right here, right now–
to know
who I am

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Hill Auditorium

Hey there! Guess who’s back in her knee brace and getting her butt kicked by regular life?

That’s right: after only a few days of brace-free leg, I managed to re-injure myself (because obviously). On the upside, it’s not nearly as bad this time, so I’m still able to work and get around pretty well, and I’ll hopefully (FINALLY) be back into participating in my dance class by next week. Cross your fingers!

This week has been crazy busy, between Easter and multiple papers due and my LAST CHOIR CONCERT OF COLLEGE HOLD ME. Then this Friday is this event I’m co-chairing for the university that we’ve been planning all year and are flying in speakers from New York for and all kinds of stuff. And then I’m trying to arrange a fundraiser for Edinburgh for Saturday, and then Saturday night I’m going to the ballet (for class/work), and this is all on top of the normal weekend stuff I have to do, like homework and rehearsal and pretending I have a social life.

Altogether, this means I am incredibly exhausted and stressed out and constantly feeling like I’m not doing enough. However, a lot of really great things have also been happening lately (I got to see a couple of old friends for the first time in a few months! we won a major grant for Edinburgh! I’m almost done with the rough draft of Time Travel Heist Story!)–so I’m doing my best to take deep breaths and roll with the punches and remember that I’m doing all of these things voluntarily, because I like them, so getting stressed is counter-intuitive.

And yeah. I swear I really am enjoying my last semester of college! My classes are super interesting and I’m truly excited about the projects on which I’m working and I love Ann Arbor. (I’m just also really tired.)

And now that I’ve bored you with all of my life stuff: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem!

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It’s a
deep breath
and the first step
onto the shiny, slick floor
overlooking so many seats
and the balconies,
all dressed in
red,
and the lights so bright
you feel like you’re
melting
into
a puddle, except also
they make you feel
strong

It’s the rainbow-shaped
arches of white lights
and the feeling of
so much history pressing
upon your chest, against
your fingers,
into your feet,
while you squint against the
stage lights to search for familiar
faces beyond the glow

And it’s this,
all of this–
the hesitation, the twist
to your stomach, as
the conductor raises
her arms–
it’s the moment before the
music crashes
around you and through you and
straight into you
and everything is so
absolutely
silent,
like all the
sound has been sucked
from the room

It’s this–
the moments I live for:
the stage and
the lights and
the anticipation
and the drumming of
my heart, waiting for
the music
***********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Red Light

Hey there! Guess who’s out of her knee brace and back to regular life?

Other cool things that have happened in the past week:

  • Honors convocation! I was a James B. Angell scholar this year, after getting straight As for two consecutive terms. My family came out for the ceremony and everything. It was splendid.
  • Honors thesis is done! I turned in my senior creative writing honors thesis on Monday, which means I am now officially done with one of my classes for the semester! (You know, unless I earn honors on said thesis. Then I’ll have an end-of-semester reading in my future. Fingers crossed!)
  • Season two of Daredevil came out! Okay, so this has nothing to do with me, except that I am now binge-watching this in every free moment I get. Is it bad that my favorite part of this show is when Charlie Cox (Matt) slips up so you can hear his English accent?

Moving on: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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cars whoosh past in
a waterfall of stolen
breaths and whipping brown
hair–and the woman
beside me steps back,
steps away, flees to
the safety of the curb

but I love the feeling
of almost falling
over the edge,
so I step closer,
closer,
a game of chicken between the
roaring tires and my soft, worn ballet flats,
decorated with bows;
I’ve had them since I was
sixteen

and it’s this weird temptation,
this urge to shift
just a little closer,
just a little too far,
to change the entire course
of a life
in an instant

and I never would, obviously,
but I’m tempted,
I’m tempted,
until the light changes
and the recklessness,
the need for wildness,
passes as I hurry
safely
to the other side

you don’t realize
how fast the world moves
until you stand still
beside it
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Towards Summer

It’s been a pretty decent week! Still taking things slow with my bum knee, but fun things are afoot. (See what I did there? Knee? Foot?) (I’ll see myself out.)

A friend who I’ve known for something like seven or eight years (but had never met in person before) visited Friday, which was amazing. And this morning Hannah and I bought our caps and gowns, which is just SO WEIRD HOW ARE WE GRADUATING IN SIX WEEKS WEREN’T WE JUST FRESHMEN? (Also the weather’s turned warm and thunderstorm-y, which is much appreciated because I am 5000% done with this winter.)

However, in the middle of those momentous occasions, something else exciting happened–and I am THRILLED to finally share with you that I’m going to be producing and acting (in a cameo role) in an original, one-act comedic play at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this August in Scotland!!!

I got the news that the festival had approved our production while sitting in the exact spot at Espresso Royale where, a little under a year ago, I first put together my proposal for the project to present to the university student theatre troupe with which we’re now working. Since then, my life’s been a hot mess of grant proposals, and searching for a playwright and director and actors and all that, and trying to convince the university that this isn’t a crazy idea. But we’re doing this! We’re actually doing this!

The brilliant Skyler Tarnas wrote the script this school year and we’ve been in rehearsals for a couple weeks now–and I’m so grateful to all the people who have jumped on board with my (seemingly) impossible dream. WE’RE GOING TO SCOTLAND!

You can learn more about the show through our Facebook page here.

And now, what you’re actually here for: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem!

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the drip, drip, drip
of the first spring rain
soaking into the pages of
the crumbling, yellowed novel
with my back against the
crumbling, greying cement bench
and the sky alive above me with
dancing lightning and
swirling clouds
and the whipping flag,
all red and blue, the white turned
damp, yellow, by the storm
and it’s spring, it’s spring,
it’s spring
–the clock tower strikes noon
and the raindrops drip on,
marching out the seconds
towards summer

six weeks
six weeks
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

 

Wordy Wednesday: Tell Me Later

I’M BACK. How was your week? Did you even notice I was gone? (Don’t answer the second question.)

As mentioned, some friends and I went on a cruise for spring break last week. I’ve never done a real spring break trip before, but with it being senior year and all (and thus the End of Spring Break as We Know It), we splurged and found ourselves in the eastern Caribbean for a week (specifically: Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas).     We visited Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. During the week, we went snorkeling along a coral reef, played with stingrays, went horseback riding on the beach and in the water, and swam with dolphins–along with eating a (probably literal) ton of food and swimming SO MUCH and spending an absolutely beautiful amount of time just laying out on beaches/the deck of the cruise ship.

This was homework for a class and I honestly did not mind.

 Unfortunately, because I’m me, I came back feeling all rested and happy–and then promptly on Monday my right leg stopped working. Like, legitimately: my muscles just stopped working. And by Tuesday evening, my knee had swelled to about twice the size a knee naturally should be (which is not at all unsettling, let me tell you).

Luckily a trip to the doctor revealed that there’s nothing really wrong with my leg–it’s just still a little weird after my knee injuries last summer, so all the activity last week was too much for it, and it decided to kind of just shut down on me. My muscles clenched up, which then pulled on everything, which then made it all swell.SO I am now back in my trusty knee brace and not allowed to do anything for a couple weeks. Which honestly is such a blessing in disguise, because I am exhausted and at the point where I will take any excuse to slow down for a sec to catch my breath.

Still, though, I loved my last spring break and I’m sad it’s over, but now AHHH IT’S MARCH WHICH MEANS I HAVE FUN THINGS TO ANNOUNCE SOON.

In the meantime: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song.

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CHORDS: G, D, A, C

INTRO
Tell me later what you’re thinking
’Cause I can’t read your mind
Right now this ship is sinking
And we’re running out of time

VERSE1
It’s amazing how fast the things go
Amazing how strong the winds blow
Time flies by like we’re having fun
Except we’re staring down the barrel of a loaded gun

It’s amazing how quiet the night gets
When the stars start talking as the sun sets
And you and I aren’t cannibals
But we’re starting to act like animals

CHORUS
And I don’t know where we are right now
But we’re crashing into the ground
And I don’t know where we’re going
Except we are going down

So tell me later what you’re thinking
If this ship somehow runs aground
Tell me later what you’re thinking
If we’re both still around,
If I am still around

VERSE2
It’s stupid how long the night is
When you don’t know where help is
And I could cry and I could scream
But that is becoming a running theme

It’s stupid how quiet you are
Like you’re wishing hard on a shooting star
And you and I aren’t selfish
But we’re starting to act real hellish

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE
Where’s the sun, where’s the breeze
One glance from you makes me freeze
The water’s deep, the air is cold
This whole routine is getting old

We try to bail each other out
Except every word is filled doubt
The water’s up to your knee
And I am lost at sea

[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING
We’re sinking,
we’re sinking

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Oh, and P.S. I got into the Denver Publishing Institute! So I’ve now been accepted early admittance to all three of the publishing intensives to which I applied. So now I’m freaking out, you know, juuust a little bit.

Wordy Wednesday: Beast and the Beauty

Hellooo from the other side*! (Aka I am writing this on February 24 but scheduling it to go up on March 2.) (Because by the time this goes up I will be on a cruise ship.) (Because senior year spring break.)

As I promised last week (or about five minutes ago, for me), I’ve got a special Wordy Wednesday for you today! We recently had to write a five-page adaptation of a classic fairy tale for my writing children’s literature class. Mine got a little (very) rushed at the end, because five pages is, like, nothing. But my professor liked it a lot and I haven’t shared any fiction on here in a while. So, I give you: “Beast and the Beauty.”

(Warning that this story contains some mild language and stuff!)

**********
Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Rose. She was a high school senior—all golden hair, skin from the “after” segment of a Proactiv infomercial, and sparkling blue eyes. And, most importantly (at least for this tale), she was a fierce competitor in the Provincial County Annual Beauty Pageant (err, “Scholarship Competition”).

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” she could frequently be heard saying to any reflective surface within her sightline.

“For the last time,” Mindy Sue (who wore very reflective glasses) could likewise frequently be heard saying, “I am not a mirror, I am a human being, and—” But Rose was also known for having a very short attention span for anything that was not herself, and she’d generally moved on by that point.

Mindy Sue would just push her glasses further up her nose, sigh, and pronounce, “She’s such a royal pain in my ass.”

“Yes, well, that’s generally what happens when you’ve won Princess of Provincial County the last three years in a row,” her twin brother, Henry, would say from where he had his nose buried in a Sudoku book. You see, Henry was a math nerd and he didn’t like his skillz to get dull during the twenty-three hours or so between each AP Calculus BC class, so he liked to practice other math-related activities in his free time.

Both Mindy Sue and Henry weren’t exactly what one might call “traditionally attractive.” They weren’t even really “nerd chic.” In fact, on the day on which our story begins, Mindy Sue was wearing an oversized orange t-shirt (which truly is not an attractive color on anyone), flared jeans that didn’t quite reach her ankles, and beat up white tennis shoes that, if polled, nine out of ten grandmothers would likely agree they would be embarrassed to be seen wearing. Henry, on the other hand, wore a faded t-shirt featuring that one X-Men character no one cares about, jeans that, while they fit him fairly well, were not even properly faded or distressed (nor were from a name brand), and scuffed black off-brand high-tops that showed off his truly beastly-sized feet. (Okay, so maybe Henry didn’t look that bad. But he certainly didn’t deserve to breathe the same air as someone as beautiful as Rose.)

Just then, the bell rang, and the twins parted ways with another annoyed sigh from Mindy Sue (she sighed quite a lot) and a distracted, halfhearted wave from Henry, whose nose was still buried in the Sudoku book.

At the end of the school day, after play practice (for Mindy Sue) and mathletes (for, well, you can guess who), the twins trundled home. Their family was solidly middle class, with a nice split level in a nice subdivision, all of which was wholly nice and ordinary and often made Henry dream of something more. (“I want to be where the people are,” he could often be heard murmuring to the MIT pendant tacked above his desk.) However, on this particular evening, at dinner the twins’ father fidgeted in his seat and couldn’t bear to touch his second slice of meat-lovers’ pizza, which was so wholly unordinary (and not nice) that Henry even looked up from his copy of Mathematician Monthly to ask, voice quavering with a rush of concern, “Dad, why aren’t you touching your second slice of meat-lovers’ pizza?”

“It’s nothing,” said Mindy Sue and Henry’s father.

Mindy Sue rolled her eyes dramatically. “Well clearly it’s not nothing. Goodness, Dad!”

“Don’t harass him,” said Henry, the ever understanding and supportive child.

“Please,” said Mindy Sue, “I’m older. I understand these things.”

“For the last time,” Henry groaned, “you were born five minutes before me! That does not make you wiser in any statistically probable—”

“I LOST MY JOB,” their father burst out, more to get the twins to stop squabbling than to actually share his upsetting news.

The teenagers stared at him. The pizza—normally their favorite meal—threatened to make a return trip out of their mouths. “What?” Mindy Sue said, an outraged glint in her eye.

“I got caught stealing from the breakroom and I lost my job,” their father repeated—and, quite comfortable sharing news now that the first part was over, he added, “Also, I need what money we have left to finish paying off the mortgage on the house, or everything we own will be repossessed, so you guys are on your own for figuring out college now. Sorry. Henry, would you mind passing me another slice of meat-lovers’ pizza?”

Mindy Sue stared at him, gaping like a fish. Henry, on the other hand, was ever the dutiful son so he passed their father another slice of meat-lovers’ pizza and immediately began thinking about how to make enrolling at MIT next year still a statistically probable possibility.

“What do you mean,” Mindy Sue finally spluttered out, after their father had ingested another two and a half slices of meat-lovers’ pizza, “that we are on our own for figuring out college now?”

“I’m sorry,” their father said, “but what’s happened has happened. I can’t afford to send you two to college anymore. If you want to go, you’re going to have to find a way to pay for yourself.” And he ate another slice of pizza.

“I’m doomed,” Mindy Sue wailed. “DOOMED, I TELL YOU.” She flew from the room.

“Eh.” Henry shrugged. “I’ll figure something out.”

“I always knew there was a reason you were my favorite,” said their father. “You know, besides the obvious ‘younger sibling’ thing.”

The next day, Henry dutifully hung flyers around the school, offering to tutor students in math. He waited beside his phone all evening for calls begging him to teach the lowly miscreants of Provincial County High how to solve for x, but his phone rang no more than usual (which is to say it did not ring at all). After a second night of this, he was ready to give up in despair—but then, on the third night, a truly shocking thing happened: his phone rang.

It took him a solid three rings to figure out how to answer the call, it happened so infrequently.

“Hello,” the person on the other end of the line said, “it’s me.”

“Me who?” he asked. “Is ‘me’ like a nickname for Mea from English class?”

“No, you dolt,” said the voice. “It’s ‘me,’ as in Rose, the three time champion of the Provincial County Beauty Pageant—I mean ‘Scholarship Competition.’”

“Oh no,” Henry said. “No, no, no. I’m not tutoring you.”

“Rumor has it that if you don’t, you won’t get to go to college,” Rose said.

“How do you know that?” Henry said. “Wait, right—your family owns the company that fired my dad for stealing from the breakroom. Ugh.” Henry fondled his MIT pendant. He was so close to getting out of Provincial County. “Fine. Whatever. Sure. I’ll tutor you.”

They met the next afternoon in Henry’s favorite spot: the calculus classroom.

In place of greeting, he asked, “So what do you get out of this anyway?”

“The Provincial County Beau—Scholarship Competition says I can’t compete this year if I don’t get my grades up,” Rose confessed.

“Well, how bad are they?” Henry asked.

“All Fs,” said Rose. “But that’s F for phenomenal, right?”

“Please tell me you’ve hired an English tutor as well,” was his response.

“The point is,” the young beauty wailed, “if I don’t get my grade up in algebra, I’ll never get to regain my title and be a princess again!”

“You do realize winning the beauty pageant does not make you a real—”

“Shut up, Harry.”

Henry shrugged and began tutoring her.

He taught Rose all about imaginary numbers and integers and other things that begin with the letter I. He also slowly taught her about the important things in life, like how glasses and mirrors are two different things, the names of all the X-Men, and how to do Sudoku. By the end of their tutoring, Rose had a C in algebra and a much better grasp on #lyfe. She also had quite a crush on Henry (whose name she had finally bothered to learn around their second month focused solely on how to draw x, y graphs), which was good because he’d also learned to look past appearances and had fallen for her as well. After all, the beauty was much more bearable now that she knew who Professor X was. One might say she was even transformed.

Henry got into MIT with a hefty scholarship (which is good, because it turns out tutoring one person doesn’t pay all that well), Rose won the Provincial County Scholarship Competition for the fourth year in a row (thus reinstating her as Princess), and, with Rose enrolled in beautician school just down the street from Henry’s dorm, they lived happily ever after. (Oh, and Mindy Sue got a scholarship to Julliard. It turned out all of her dramatic sighing paid off, too.)

**********

Thanks for reading! (Here’s hoping I make it back to Michigan without a sunburn and/or Zika Virus?)

~Julia

*You’re welcome for the multiple cliche Adele references in this post.

 

Wordy Wednesday: Characteristics of a Trickster

It’s been a really long week. A good week (but definitely a long one).

Midterms are in full swing and spring break begins tomorrow night, which means that I’ve also had the fun of trying to prepare to go off-line for a week. (Internet? Where we’re going there is literally no internet connection ever period end of story.) (Also known as: cruise ship.) And now all of my professors have decided to assign extra work over break too, which means I need to read three novels, a couple hundred pages of a text book, write two papers, prepare a fifteen minute presentation, and work on both a dance combo and my choir music–in addition to completing grant applications, getting caught up on doctor appointments, doing Ch1Con work, trying to get caught up on internship/critique partner work, and, like, sleeping at some point. (Although, really, what is sleep?) (Seriously, it’s been so long since I felt rested that I have no idea.)

Still, I’m excited for break and, as mentioned, this past week (despite midterms and everything) has been really good. Last Wednesday I had a writing workshop with an alumnus that was super beneficial for my honors thesis, and in the evening my mom and I went to Susan Dennard, Veronica Rossi, and EK Johnston’s book signing in Lansing. I spent the weekend up north skiing with my family. Monday night we had the first rehearsal for the play I’m working on (again: I promise more info on that soon!). Yesterday I sent out my honors thesis for critique. And today I found out I was accepted priority admittance to New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute. (Ahhh!! Not at all sure if I’m actually going, but it’s so nice to have the option.)

Aaand yeah. That’s about where I’m at right now. Very tired and more than a little stressed, but also pretty happy with how things are going. (Sorry for those monster paragraphs.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

*****

In my history of children’s literature class, we’re discussing the trickster figure right now. We studied the trickster in my fantasy lit class last year as well (I talked about it here), but studying it again is really reminding me of how much I adore this character trope.

Tricksters are not just incredibly entertaining and empowering, but also really effective in children’s literature (because tricksters, in a lot of ways, reflect childlike characteristics). In fact, the majority of popular children’s protagonists (especially MG and YA) are tricksters.

But what makes a character a trickster? Check out some of the most common characteristics below.

Underdog

Arguably the most important element of the trickster is the fact that he or she is an underdog. Whether this means the character is literally small in stature, or rather of a lesser station in life (underprivileged or younger than everyone else involved or something else along those lines), the trickster will always come from a place that puts him or her at a disadvantage to succeed, in direct comparison with the opposing force.

A really good example of this is Katniss Everdeen. She’s physically smaller than most of her opponents in The Hunger Games and comes from the poor end of one of the “lesser” districts, which means that she’s both underfed and under-trained. Basically, looking at the Hunger Games from a traditional perspective, Katniss has very little chance of winning compared to her opponents.

This is really good in terms of storytelling, because it means that when the protagonist does succeed, it’s all the sweeter. While we probably see it coming as readers (because, duh, the “good” side is going to win), it’s still just out there enough to keep us on the edges of our seats.

Intelligent

This is how the trickster succeeds: not with brute strength, but with cunning. Slyness. The trickster is smart. S/he knows his/her limitations, how to read situations, how to plan elaborate schemes and think on his/her feet and manipulate the situation towards his or her advantage.

Another great example of the trickster figure is Harry Potter. While he might not be quite as book smart as Hermione, he’s street smart (you know, Wizarding Street Smart). He doesn’t defeat his opponents by overpowering them physically, but by figuring out more about the situation than they do and using that to his advantage.

(For instance: In Deathly Hallows, he figures out who the Elder Wand belongs to and is able to defeat Voldemort by using that information to his advantage. Voldemort, on the other hand–who technically is more powerful–does not figure that out. Because he values the power he has over thinking through delicate and complicated plans. And he ends up accidentally killing himself due to this.)

Hardworking

The trickster figure is dedicated towards succeeding in his or her goals–and, as part of that, is incredibly hardworking. Really, it’s the combination of cunning and work ethic that allows the trickster to succeed. Because no matter how smart you are, you won’t get anywhere if you’re not willing to put in the work to see things through.

A prime example of this is actually Loki, from the Marvel cinematic universe. While he’s far from the protagonist of the films in which he appears (and ends up failing because of that), it’s impossible to deny how much planning, work, and conviction goes into his plans.

(Just a Little Bit) Cocky

This is probably the trait that makes tricksters so attractive to readers. Tricksters might be underdogs–they might not even be confident internally–but they appear so confidence outwardly that you’d never know. Tricksters might be smart, but more than that they’re witty, constantly throwing out sarcastic one-liners. Tricksters might be hardworking, but they do it without breaking a sweat; they make things look easy.

Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a wonderful example of this. He has so much going against him, and definitely seems like an underdog when he’s being Peter, but as soon as he puts on the Spider-Man mask, it’s like he comes to life.

This is why superheroes and spies and characters like Katniss and Harry Potter are so integral to our cultural consciousness today. Because they’re underdogs, but they succeed anyhow. Because everything is against them, but they face each new situation with a smirk and a snarky retort. Because they know how it feels to be at a disadvantage–to feel like the world is crumbling around them–and they show us the results of never giving up and never giving in.

And in the end, they slay their dragons (err, Dark Lords). And there’s nothing better to read than that.

*****

Since I’m going to be out of town next week, I’ve got a special Wordy Wednesday planned for next Wednesday. Vote for the week after, though!

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

 

 

Wordy Wednesday: Writing When Busy

I’m writing this post Tuesday night because tomorrow I have two classes, a writing workshop, a midterm exam, and I’m going to a certain Ch1Con keynote speaker‘s book signing an hour away. Sooo yeah. Time and I will be mutually exclusive on Wednesday.

ANYWAY, though, quick update on the past week: I got to see both Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Deadpool over the weekend, and they were both great. (I also reviewed Deadpool here.) For Galentine’s Day on Saturday, my roommates and I had friends over for waffles and a good time was had by all. Oh, and yesterday (Monday) I got the really amazing news that I GOT ACCEPTED EARLY ADMISSION TO THE COLUMBIA PUBLISHING COURSE UK.

Basically: I am going to be spending the month of September learning all about the British book publishing industry at Exeter College, Oxford University through Columbia University’s Journalism School. And I got the news while in the middle of punching out at the end of my shift at the bookshop and I literally burst into tears in the middle of the dictionary section, so there’s a good chance there are now some customers who are very concerned about my love for words. (Which is actually not all that off-base, but like, yeah.)

This is the first year Columbia’s putting on a version of their publishing course in the UK, and it’s such a dream come true because, well, I’m pretty sure the entire world knows at this point how obsessed I am with Oxford. But AHHH I’M GOING BACK.

Onto what you’re actually here for: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

In case the above description of my life didn’t give it away, I don’t have a lot of free time these days. My planner looks more like a pen threw up in it than a legitimate schedule and I can’t remember the last time I felt truly relaxed. (It was probably sometime this summer. Or in elementary school? One of the two.) However, I’m still doing my best to carve out a little time to write here and there, and it’s slowly (hopefully) adding up to finished projects. So: this is how I’m getting there.

Get People to Make You Write

One of the really nice things about being a creative writing major is that, no matter what else is going on, I have to set aside time to work on my writing each week for my classes. 

For example, this semester I’m completing a short story collection for my honors thesis and writing a picture book for one of my children’s literature classes. 

Sometimes I don’t feel like working on these projects. Sometimes I would rather take a nap. (Okay, so that’s basically all of the times, actually.) But because these are assignments for class, I don’t really have a choice but to put in the time on them–and it’s a relief to know that when I am enjoying working on them (which also is basically all of the times), I don’t have to feel guilty, because they’re actually quantifiably productive projects.

Steal Time

My schedule’s a little crazy this semester with the back-to-back activities, but I am lucky enough to still get a few free minutes between most of my classes.

My (and I’m assuming most people’s) natural inclination is to spend that time on my phone. However, that can also be useful writing time, when I’m excited about what I’m working on. Even just a few minutes here and there can add up to a lot, over a long course of time.

Write as a Reward

I’ve hit the point where there’s no such thing as being Caught Up on everything I need to do. That’s college for ya. And that can make it hard to justify writing to myself, because I always feel like I should really be doing something more productive instead (see above).

However, if writing is important to you, then it is a productive activity. But priorities and balance are also important things. So I’ve taken to setting goals for each individual day, with the knowledge that I can’t do everything on my overall to do list in a single day. And when I finish my daily goals, instead of freaking out about getting started on the next day’s goals, I spend what time I have left that night on writing.

A lot of the time, this one honestly doesn’t work out for me. A lot of the time I’m still up past midnight working on homework and work-work. But on the days when I manage to get everything done earlier, writing is the best reward.

Set Goals

This is an obvious one, but setting goals can be such a great motivator. For the play I finished a few weeks ago, I’d first begun working on it way back in November, 2014, but had been having a lot of trouble finding the energy and time to make it to the end. So, the writing was going veeery slowly.

Then a few months back, I decided I was going to finish it in time to enter it in a writing competition with a due date in February. And even though actually getting anything out of the competition is a massive long shot, having that very concrete deadline to work towards worked wonders on my motivation. After over a year of dragging my feet, I managed to finish the play in time.

Having something you’re working towards can make the need to write feel so much more concrete and like something you should be doing (not just want to). And that can make such a big difference.

*****

So yeah, those are my tips for how to write while busy.

What’s your advice for making time to write when you’re busy? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

~Julia