NaNo Day 30: If You Can’t Find a Door, Find an Ax

Well, look at that. Saturday, November 30th, 2013. The last day of November.

The last day of NaNoWriMo and writing a blog post every day.

I spent yesterday Christmas shopping, working on a study abroad application, hanging out with family, and slogging my way through homework (I’m halfway done with my genetics term paper!). Today it’ll be more of the same, then I’m back to school for holiday shenanigans and finals.

It’s crazy how fast this semester went, especially this month. I swear it was just the first day of November and I was spazzing about how I was going to be able to get everything done this month (although, let’s be honest, I’m still spazzing a little, because FINALS).

Somewhere on the internet this week (I can’t remember where, unfortunately) someone posted a phrase along the lines of “If you can’t find a door, find an ax.” Pushing through the rough patches with both NaNo and school this month have definitely been an exercise in that principle. Sometimes the only way out is through, and the only way through is by finding your own way, rather than following the preassigned mold.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout November. Both remembering and making time to post every day got tricky sometimes, but reading your comments made it a lot easier. This was a fun adventure, and it’s going to feel really weird when I wake up tomorrow and realize I don’t have to worry about posting every day anymore. Kind of nice, kind of sad, and all around just very weird.

I love you. You rock. Thank you.

Let’s do it again sometime?

day 30

 

Final NaNo word count: 51,128.

Final blog post tally: 30.

Final level of happy-I-did-this: immeasurable.

 

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 29: Thank You

I have to work on my genetics term paper, then I’m doing a quick sprint to the mall for Back Friday Christmas gift shopping, followed by more family Thanksgiving stuff in the evening–so this is going to have to stay short and sweet. But I did want to talk a bit about what I’m thankful for this holiday season (even though, yes, it’s now the day AFTER Thanksgiving), because I am so, incredibly blessed.

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First and foremost: My friends and family. My family has been so supportive of my decisions and is always there when I need them, and I have absolutely no clue what I would do without them. Likewise, thank you to my wonderful friends, for supporting and putting up with me through thick and thin (especially my writing friends, who get all the rants and disappointments and self-indulgent celebrating). You guys inspire me so much, every day. Thank you.

Everyone who has supported me in the publishing industry. Literary people are the very best people, no doubt about it. The amount of selfless support individuals have given me over these past few years never ceases to amaze me.

My education. As much as I complain about distribution requirements and homework (the syllabus for that term paper is staring at me right now), the opportunity to attend such a great university is something I will always be grateful for.

My dog Sammy. Because how can you not be thankful to see this face?

Sammy Is a Pretty PrincessThis is not a current picture of her. I tried taking one right now, but she was too busy licking her butt.

Last but not least: You. Oh, come on, you knew the cliche, thank-the-blog-reader thing was coming. Even if this is the first post you’re reading on here, thank you so much for taking the time to check it out. This little ol’ blog’s going on two years old now and I have met so many incredible people because of it. Thank you for reading this blog and making my life, in general, more magical because of it.

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Now, off to tackle that genetics paper.

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 28: We Are the Champions

After a hard day, yesterday, of procrastinating via means of pumpkin pie, Catching Fire in IMAX, and planning vacation trips, GUESS WHO HIT FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS IN NANOWRIMO, RIGHT ON SCHEDULE.

THAT’S RIGHT.

THIS GIRL.

YOU MAY ALL NOW REVEL IN MY GLORY. (Just kidding. I’m just glad to be done.)

Fifty Thousand Words Baby

I hit 50k at around 12:05 AM. SO CLOSE to officially finishing on the 27th. I’m counting it.

I wrote just under 5k yesterday. I still need to complete the scene I’m in the middle of before I’m officially done-done for the month, because I’m banning myself from writing any more until after finals (and taking a week and a half off looks pretty much identical to me completely forgetting what I was doing)–but then I’m dooone! Despite all the struggle this year has been, I actually did it. That makes six years in a row of competing in NaNoWriMo, complete.

How’s your NaNo going? Do you think you’ll hit your word count goal by the end of the month? (If yes, GOOD FOR YOU. KICK IT INTO HIGH GEAR. YOU CAN DO IT. WHOOHOOOOO!) (If not, five points to you just for trying, because honestly, that’s half the struggle.)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!

day 28

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Three”)

I’m hooooome!

Sammyyyyyyy

I barely got through my classes yesterday because I was just so excited to get home. This was the longest and most disconnected I’ve ever been from my family before, because if I do get to study abroad this summer, it’s going to be for over a month on a different continent and I wanted to see if I could actually do that if I tried. I’m usually that student who goes home every other weekend and sees her dog more often than she sees half her college friends, but evidently I did manage it, so five points to me (and now I’m going to spend my entire Thanksgiving break hugging the living daylights out of Sammy).

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because it was so busy (class all day, plus packing, then the long drive home and having a family dinner, and we watched The Hunger Games to prep for them seeing Catching Fire today, and WE HAD SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ABOUT BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TALKED TO MY FAMILY IN AGES AND I MISSED THEM GAH). So I’m not sure what that means for NaNo and getting everything done on time, now. It’s only 4.5k more, but I really need to work on my homework (especially my two genetics projects, because I’m struggling to pass that class right now). But we’ll see what happens.

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is the third chapter of my NaNo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff.

Read Chapter One here. And/or Chapter Two here.

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Chapter Three

I fidget in the worn, straight-backed theater chair the teachers usher me into in the auditorium. We just finished getting ready fifteen minutes ago, but the shoes I borrowed from Amelia are one size too small, so already my heels are hot and chaffed and my toes ache from squishing into the end. My dress, on the other hand, is two sizes too big—I borrowed it from my brother Calvin’s girlfriend and the fabric, a paler version of the Identiband green, repeatedly dips off my shoulder no matter how many times I pull it back to where it should rest against my collarbone.

Amelia nods her approval as she slides into the seat beside me, like she can’t tell how nervous I am. “Love the heels.”

“I don’t think you’re allowed to say that.”

The shoes are navy blue, the color of a river at dawn, and just tall enough to make it look like my legs are an acceptable length without making me trip all over myself.

“Pshhh. Obviously I can say that, seeing as I had to love them enough to spend stamps on them in the first place.”

“You still sound self-absorbed.”

A crackle and chirp comes from the stage. The rows and rows of students already seated in the auditorium turn. Principal Scully stands center stage before the taller of the two microphone stands set up for the recruiting officers. Amelia leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. She raises an eyebrow—a dare for the principal to speak.

“Hello, New Capital High.” Principal Scully’s voice comes through garbled as the tech team works to adjust the old sound system. “This is a reminder that the Recruitment Assembly will begin promptly in five minutes and you must remain in your seats through the event, or suffer penalization by the Clinic. As always, you must not speak unless told to once the recruiting officers enter the premises. Thank you.”

“He should really try writing a new speech one of these years,” Amelia says.

I bump her shoulder. “No, half the students would have a heart attack. I’ve had this one memorized since year two.”

Amelia is just turning to me to retort when someone beats her to it: “What’s this about having a heart attack? Has someone fallen in love with me again?” Eric slips into the seat on the other side of Amelia and winks in my direction. His pale skin and messy auburn hair draws looks from the other students around us, but he doesn’t bat an eye.

Eric’s been getting those looks for longer than I can remember. He told me once that they bothered him—how everyone here thinks he’s odd since his hair is such an unusual color, a genetic anomaly—but since we became friends with Amelia, he just jokes about the stares.

With all the looks I’ve been getting today, I think I understand why. It’s easier.

I give him a wry smile. “The only reason someone would have a heart attack over you is if you tried making a move on them.”

His hand flies to his heart. “Oh. Miss Alexa Dylan. I’m hurt.”

“Like you don’t already know how I feel about you.” I bat my eyelashes, then pretend to gag myself with my pointer finger.

“You two are so cute.” Amelia throws her arms around us and squeezes. “You’re like an old married couple, minus the old and married and couple parts.”

I push her away. “Disgusting.”

“Oh, you talking about yourself now?” Eric raises his thick eyebrows. “You’d better be, after making me watch your vegetarian food for so long.” He says “vegetarian” like it is something unholy. “What’s happening anyway? Why have you two been so gossipy today?”

“It’s a bit of a long story,” Amelia says, feigning disinterest.

“The recruiting officers aren’t here yet. We’ve got time.” He leans back in his chair and runs a hand through his unruly hair. Eric is wearing khakis and a light blue button-down, but he doesn’t let the nice clothes keep him from resting his loafers on the armrest of the chair in front of him.

The year nine boys sitting on either side of it turn to us, scowls already slipping across their faces, but don’t make a move when they spot Amelia. She smiles at them and waves them away. There’s a reason everyone in Amelia’s family is in politics.

Eric meets my eye. “So?”

“It’s not actually a long story.” I shrug. “It’s just that the Ram apparently has been spreading a rumor that she wants to attack me during the assembly.”

“You mean your pretty face is going to be all messed up by the end of this?” He reaches over Amelia to gingerly pat my head, a melodramatic pout on his lips. I glower and it transforms into a grin. I swat him away.

Amelia slaps her hands over our mouths. “Shhh.” The house lights dim. “It’s starting.”

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67

day 27I apologize for the little bit of messiness. Since I’m not at school, I had to edit the numbers using Paint instead of an actual dry erase marker.

In other news, I currently have half a contact lens stuck in my left eye (it ripped in half last night and I was only able to find and pull out one part–I cannot, for the life of me, find the other half, although I can feel it stuck in there) (I know, I’m sorry people who have phobias of eye problems–*cough* Hannah), but yeah. I’m going to go try to figure out what to do about that now. Then work on NaNo until my guilt and panic win out over doing homework.

~Julia

NaNo Day 26: Interview with Joan

So, I ended up moving my schedule around for NaNo/getting final projects done, and I spent yesterday primarily writing. I wrote a little under 3,000 words. Since I hadn’t planned to write anything yesterday, I’m now ahead of schedule, at 45.5k (my goal for today was to reach 45k). This is pretty awesome, although I still have another 4.5k to go before I’m done for the month. Hopefully I can get that done between today and tomorrow so I’ll still have enough time later over break to get my homework done.

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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 comes from my writing friend Joan! Joan and I met through WriteOnCon’s Mid-Winter Pitch-Fest this past March, and although I’ve never had the chance to read one of her novels, I can tell you that she writes killer query letters and her concepts are amazing. She’s also a total sweetheart, as I learned when we got to hang out at the Writer’s Digest Conference East this spring. Make sure to check out her blog here.

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Q: Is this your first year doing NaNoWriMo, or are you a veteran? What do you think of the event?
A: This is my second year “doing” (can we be honest here and just say “failing at” would be a more accurate description?) Nanowrimo. Aside from all the wordcount stress, Nanowrimo is an awesome event that bonds writers from all over the writersphere. The enthusiasm is just great and really does make you want to sit down and put something on a page. I’d recommend Nano to anyone who knows that he/she has a novel in mind but is too scared to write it–this is your month!
Q: In one sentence, what is your novel about?
A: A Princess must commit treason against the laws of her own kingdom to bring justice to her father’s–the King’s–death.
Q: Plotter or pantser?
A: I usually claim to be a pantser, but I am a secret plotter 😉
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: One my strangest writing habits is that I never write in order. I’ll usually write the first chapter, then I’m all over the place…the end, the middle, random chapter, you name it. I like to write either on the couch or in my room. Probably isn’t healthy, but I need a constant supply of tictacs in order to think.
Q: Any writing advice?
A: Stealing a quote from Lauren Destefano here: “Don’t take any advice too seriously.” Writing is an organic process that is different for everyone. Remember to tailor everything to your own needs. Above all, just write!

 

 

Thanks so much for the interview, Julia! Happy Nanowrimo to all!

 

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Thanks for letting me interview you, Joan! And thanks to you for reading.
day 26

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 25: The Meaning of “cavyheart”

At the beginning of the month I said I’d eventually explain what my NaNoWriMo username, “cavyheart,” means. I use this username or variations of it for pretty much everything, and it’s kind of really random and weird, so I figured I should give some back story on it.

At this point in time, “cavyheart” is basically just an inside joke with some of my writing friends, harkening back to the days when I thought that was actually an acceptable username to choose on a website–aka, the ancient and far too embarrassing year of 2007: February of seventh grade. Twelve years old. The year I joined the Scholastic’s Write It forums for teen writers (basically Figment before Figment was Figment, only more close-friends-and-community-like).

New Figment WI Group LogoPart of the Write It community involved lots of terrifying inside jokes, like threatening one another with banana poisoning if we didn’t update stories quickly enough and Larry the Man-Eating Hamster if a plot twist didn’t turn out the way a reader wanted it to. I’m not sure how the moderator of the forums put up with us, but thank God she did.

The most popular types of usernames on Write It, in 2007, combined an animal in the first half and then either “writer” or “heart” in the second half, with “writer” being the most popular. Being the analytical, pretentious little middle schooler I was, I decided to go with “heart” so that I’d be “in” but not TOO mainstream, and then it came time to choose an animal.

Other users had things like “pug,” or “cat,” or “horse.” Totally normal favorite animals to put. Me? I loved guinea pigs. I’d been obsessed with guinea pigs since the fourth grade, ever since I got over my gerbil obsession. So I wanted to do something with “guinea pig” for my username, except that that’s really long, and hey–I was a weird, pretentious little self-absorbed jerk, right? (I’d like to say “who wasn’t in middle school,” but I don’t want to implicate anyone else in the level of jerk I was, because I’m going to assume until proven otherwise that you’re a better person than me.)

If you know guinea pigs well, you know that their more formal name is “cavy.” I figured most people wouldn’t know what “cavy” meant, which meant that if I used it I would have the privilege of explaining it often to my far less sophisticated peers and thus looking uber intelligent and AWESOME (I am shuddering with revulsion as I write this).

So, I chose “cavyheart” as my username on the Scholastic’s Write It forums for teen writers. And the rest–as cliche as it sounds–is history.

The first Chapter One Young Writers Conference solely involved Write It users, so that it wouldn’t be as much pressure as we tried to figure out the whole “running a writing conference” thing. We all got t-shirts with our Write It usernames on them. This is me greeting conference attendees at the train.

Now I continue to use it because it means I get to laugh at how stupid I am and it makes it easier for my Write It friends to find me at different places on the internet. But seriously, it is REALLY weird. I’m not sure if I would go back and change it if I could, since it does do a good job of defining the little weirdo I was in middle school (not that I’m not a weirdo now, but I like to believe I’m a slightly more socially acceptable version of one), but it is a little embarrassing whenever I have to explain it to someone new. (Although hey, now I can just refer them to this blog post and avoid the whole blushing, mumbling, staring at my feet in agony bit, right?)

Have you ever had a really weird username somewhere that the majority of people didn’t understand? Any awkward, strange nicknames from when you were younger? (The people from Write It took to shortening “cavyheart” to just “Cavy,” so a fairly large group of people now know me essentially as “guinea pig.” It’s fantastic.)

Because I was up so late writing Saturday night, I was exhausted yesterday, so I only ended up writing a little under 1.5k, about half of my goal for the day. Which means that I’m behind again. But hopefully I can finish up the rest of the stuff I need to do today quickly enough that I’ll have a chance to catch up. Again.

day 25

Hope you’re having a great day!

 

~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.)

11Plants1 (1)

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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.

13Pillow (2)

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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 23: It’s the Final Countdown

ONE WEEK LEFT UNTIL THE END OF NANOWRIMO.

I just spent twenty minutes thinking my Twitter had been suspended/deleted somehow, sent a couple emails back and forth with customer support, only for it to come back on its own, perfectly fine. No idea what’s going on, but glad to know it’s back (although now they might just suspend me for being annoying, because I was FREAKING. OUT, because I don’t break rules).

Anyway: I’m currently seven thousand words behind on NaNoWriMo, plus the Tuesday after Thanksgiving I have my final group presentation in Spanish, my genetics term paper, and the final genetics worksheet (aka “major, will-take-me-at-least-twelve-hours-to-complete project”) all due. So I’m kind of halfway to breaking my adrenal glands from overuse.

My plans for this weekend involve writing all day today (plus watching Doctor Whooooooo), working on the Spanish presentation and genetics worksheet tomorrow, and finishing up both of those Monday. Then I have class all day Tuesday, but I get to go home right after that for Thanksgiving. And I have SIX DAYS OFF to somehow magically finish both NaNoWriMo AND write my genetics term paper, then. (Hurray! Maybe I’ll actually get to sleep for a day after December 3rd!)

Upside: Yesterday was actually mildly productive. Despite spending a lot of time hanging out with friends, I did get about 600 words written, which sounds really depressing but is also the most writing I’ve done since the beginning of the week. Plus we watched Aladdin, and I mean: classic Disney is worth it. (Oh, and I got my social science midterm back. 91.67%, what up!)

I’m going to go get started on today’s writing. Hope you’re having a lovely Saturday, and you’re doing better at NaNo than I am!

day 23

~Julia

NaNo Day 22: CATCHING FIRE Movie Reaction

I’m warning you ahead of time: THIS IS FULL OF SPOILERS. I’m not going to white it out because if you haven’t read Catching Fire yet and therefore don’t know what the plot’s like, that’s your fault more than mine. But also, if you don’t want to be spoiled about the changes from page to screen, don’t read on, because that’s going to be a focus of this reaction post.

(If you want a faster take on reactions, here’s a link to the video Hannah, our friend Emily, and I made last night right after the movie.)

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Where do I begin.

I. LOVED. THIS. MOVIE.

If something was weak in The Hunger Games, they made sure to make it strong in this one. At first I was sad when they ditched old director Gary Ross for Francis Lawrence, but oh my gosh, Lawrence went above and beyond with Catching Fire. He took the movie in a direction I don’t think Ross would have, and I’m so glad he did. The cinematography was beautiful and he used just enough shaky cam to harken back to The Hunger Games, and THE SPECIAL EFFECTS!

The fake fire actually looked like they tried a little on it this time. The fog was thoroughly and appropriately frightening (and a whole lot scarier than it was in the book–I actually didn’t want to continue watching that scene partway through because it was so freaky, which means that it was also really well done). The monkeys were incredible, and I loved how they portrayed the force fields. A lot more money must have been spent on special effects this time ’round.

The entire cast shines in Catching Fire. I wasn’t even all that annoyed with Liam Hemsworth, who I thought was terrible in the first one. (His accent has improved so much! Still not quite there, but not so awful that I noticed it every time he spoke.) Every once in a while one of the actors did something or said a line in a certain way that didn’t quite work for me, but I mean, that’s always going to happen, so no big deal.

Individually, Jennifer Lawrence is, well, Jennifer Lawrence. There were a couple times when I thought Katniss should have shown how she was confused more, while Jen just sort of stood there and frowned into the distance (all she had to do was furrow her brow a little! come on). Overall, though, she is Jennifer. Lawrence. Fantastic job. She brings so much depth to the character in just the fact that she is so subtle about the majority of her acting (and then sometimes she makes faces like the one in the elevator when Joanna strips naked, and you’re reminded that this is also the girl who regularly talks about bodily functions in interviews, here). I can’t wait to see how she handles Katniss’s emotional journey in the next two films, because girl. can. act.

Josh Hutcherson‘s Peeta was SO MUCH BETTER in this one than in The Hunger Games, primarily because we actually got to SEE him this time. We got Peeta’s sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, and you could really see how much he cares about Katniss. (Also: I don’t know how they did it, but he seemed taller in this one. Or at least not-quite-as-short-in-comparison-with-Katniss.)

Sam Claflin is FANTASTIC as Finnick. I was a little bit scared going in to see how he’d do, but he was great. His accent was wonderful and he very much embodies Finnick’s vibe. I’m worried about how attached we’re all going to get to him in Mockingjay Parts 1 + 2.

Love the rest of the new cast members as well. They did a good job of making you fall in love with these new tributes in a short period of time. Whereas with the last movie you weren’t really supposed to like any of the tributes outside of Katniss, Peeta, and Rue, this time the moviemakers work for you to fall in love with or at least respect all of the others, which makes the entire thing so much more disgusting and heartbreaking. When I went to see The Hunger Games at midnight, there were a few moments when one of the antagonist-type tributes died and everybody cheered and applauded, just like the Capitol citizens. There’s none of that this time. The only cheers and applause in my theater were for when people rebelled against the Capitol. They took the theme of “remember who the real enemy is” to heart while making this. Good for them.

Great performances by the supporting cast, as usual, especially Donald Sutherland (Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch) Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Stanley Tucci (Caesar), and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch). When Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) gets beaten to death–oh my gosh. I sobbed. That was such a well-paced scene, and exactly how I pictured it in the book, especially with Katniss then being thrust up into the arena right afterward.

Loved getting to see some of the old tributes again. The moment when Katniss goes all PTSD and thinks she’s shot Marvel again is chilling, not to mention seeing the projections of the tributes–seeming so alive up there above their grieving families–during the Victory Tour. It broke my heart. And RUE’S FAMILY. Did anyone else notice how it’s just her mother and younger siblings, because her father rebelled during the last movie and therefore, more than likely, is dead at this point? Just thinking through that made it so much worse. That family has lost so much.

For everything they cut, it was interesting that they added a character for this film–President Snow’s granddaughter, played by Erika Bierman. She was barely in the movie but was very good at being a sort of foil to Snow’s hatred for Katniss; she loves the Girl on Fire for the exact reasons her grandfather hates her. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in Mockingjay. I’m hoping we get some juxtaposition between her and Prim.

Why was Buttercup so different? Like I get that you probably can’t get the same cat again, but at least try to make it LOOK like the same cat, you know? (HG Buttercup is black and white; this one is an orange tabby.) (Also, I was looking for pictures of the cats from both movies to prove that this is a real thing and I’m not just crazy for thinking they changed cats, and this popped up. I understand them wanting to make the cat look the way he’s supposed to in the books, but at the same time–you already messed it up, so why not embrace your mistake rather than trying to backtrack when it’s already too late? Weird.)

Catching Fire overall is very true to the book. Of course they left some things out (primarily: a lot of the stuff from the beginning chapters of the book, the way the mockingjay symbol has spread throughout the Capitol as a fashion symbol, Plutarch Heavensbee’s watch, and the bread in the arena). I think the movie functioned fine without all of it, though, and looking back on it I’m actually sort of glad they left out the mockingjay watch, because in the context of the film it would have been too obvious. In books, you can lay little clues like that and keep them muddled under layers of other storylines going on. In movies, because you can’t have Katniss’s here-and-now thoughts distracting you from the actual meaning behind something, every little thing seems much more deliberate and therefore easier to figure out.

Catching Fire really hits its stride once we reach the reaping. Ahead of that I thought a lot of the pacing was dodgy. Either a scene was too short or too long, half the time. But the pacing from the reaping, out, is perfect.

One of my very few disappointments with the movie was that they never watched any of the old Hunger Games, so we never got to see how Haymitch won the Games. I adore that scene in the book, and while the movie works fine without it, it still would have been nice.

One of my favorite lines is Effie explaining the new training center, because in the book that isn’t a thing–the training center and apartment and all that are the same ones throughout the entire trilogy. So I’m glad they chose to explain it instead of just doing it and leaving us to be confused. (And Effie’s line about “An entire room of mahogany” or whatever! What a great throwaway comment to use as an Easter Egg for fans.)

When Katniss hangs the dummy of Seneca Crane and she takes the time to paint on the beard–I practically had to stuff my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing, because nobody else in my theater did at that point, but wow. What a great detail.

The arena is gorgeous, and it’s because of that fact, in part, that it’s so horrible. Watching the trailers I kept thinking that it was such a beautiful location, it would be hard to be scared of it watching the movie. Nope. That place is basically scary as all get out and I was ready to get out the moment we arrived. I’m going to see this in IMAX next week and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, because it’s going to be terrifying.

I was a little bit annoyed at first that we didn’t get to see an of the reactions back in the districts during the Games the way we got to in The Hunger Games, but at the same time I think NOT being able to see what was going on there was important for how the overall arc of this story played out.

One thing I’m a little, tiny bit iffy on is the fact that we got to see Peeta fight other tributes. He probably fights a bit in the book and I just don’t remember it, but it would have been nice if they’d made more of the point that Peeta is the only decent victor and the only one who probably cares more for others than he does about his own survival, since that’s such an important part to bring back in Mockingjay.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical score. They tried to remain very true to the score from the first movie, only the feel of this movie is so different from The Hunger Games, so it didn’t work as effectively as a score should. Not terrible, but it did pull me out of the movie every once in a while.

The only things they left out I was really disappointed about were Cinna’s line about channeling his emotions into his work so that he doesn’t hurt anyone but himself and the fact that they never mentioned the baby again after the initial announcement in the Capitol. There were several instances when Peeta or Joanna or Finnick easily could have just let an off-hand comment slide about Katniss being pregnant, like in the book, but none of them ever did it. If you aren’t going to keep up the charade, what’s the point in starting it to begin with? Both of these things–Cinna’s line and the pregnancy–would have been so easy to include, I don’t know why they didn’t.

Lol at the pictures they chose for the locket. Aren’t those promotional shots from The Hunger Games, made to look old-timey? Effie gets the locket for Peeta, which means that it’s made in the Capitol. The Capitol has uber technology. Let’s think this one through, shall we?

I cried so much throughout this movie. Just every little thing set me off. I don’t know if it’s because I’m really stressed out about stuff right now, so I’m kind of high-strung anyway, or because the movie really is that good. But I cried SO. MUCH. There were more than a few points when just everyone in the theater was sobbing. Bring tissues if you don’t want to snot all over your neighbor.

There’s so much more kissing in this movie than last time! I was really annoyed in The Hunger Games when they were like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to up the romantic elements!” AND THEN THERE WAS LIKE ONE GOOD KISS PERIOD. Rest assured, this one makes up for that deficit. (It’s hilarious when Katniss kisses Peeta right after Finnick gets his heart restarted because you can see a little bit of slobber action going on. This is great just because the cast talks so much about a take for that scene when there was spit hanging out everywhere and it’s like, “Yup. I can see how that happened.”)

Remind me to write a wildly popular novel set in Hawaii someday, so they’ll make a movie about it and I can hang out on set all day. What lucky ducks, getting to shoot there.

The costumes are magnificent. Some of them aren’t true to the books, but I love the interpretations. The wedding dress is gorgeous despite the fact that it doesn’t resemble the one from the books at all. It’s also interesting how they did the tribute uniforms different this time around–last time, the colors were different depending on district. This time they were all identical. Underlying message from Plutarch Heavensbee?

A couple random little things that they changed that don’t really matter, but are worth mentioning: The countdown only goes for ten seconds instead of sixty. Peeta can swim (and, apparently, fight in water). When Mags walks into the fog, Finnick freaks out about it rather than just going along with it more, like he does in the book (I partway like this, partway don’t–it’s nice to see how much he cares for Mags, but at the same time it made me question how much this interpretation of Finnick knows about what’s going on).

Loved the change in how the Peacekeepers take over District Twelve. When they bag the old Head Peacekeeper as he’s welcoming Thread to 12, it was so well-done. Great moment. (I feel like such a terrible person applauding their ability to portray evil in this film, but seriously, WELL DONE.)

When Katniss shoots the arrow into the force field at the end and then Snow goes storming out to find Plutarch and he isn’t in the control room, I threw my fist in the air like, “YES! You two have been talking about moves and counter-moves this entire time, and YOU JUST REALIZED YOU’VE BEEN PLAYED, SUCKAAA.” We never got to appreciate the full effect of Plutarch’s betrayal to the Capitol in the book, so that has to be one of my favorite moments in the movie.

The end with the hovercraft and Gale telling Katniss what happened to 12 is really powerful. It doesn’t pack quite as big of a punch as the ending in the book does, but it’s still fantastic. (And YAY FOR ACTUALLY FOLLOWING THE PROPER ENDING THIS TIME!)

While I’m here, on the topic of splitting Mockingjay into two films: A lot of people are upset about this, and I’ll admit, I am a bit too. I was a lot more, though, when they first announced it. This is because I recently saw an interview in which they talked about this decision–and remember how the Mockingjay book has kind of bad pacing, and the ending is rushed and confusing, and you see very little of what’s actually going on since you’re stuck in Katniss’s head? Yeah. Apparently they’re planning on trying to fix all of that for the movies. Which makes me hope doing two Mockingjay films isn’t entirely just a matter of getting more money out of fans and following the trend Harry Potter started, but also about just giving us a better, fuller experience.

Gahhh, I feel like I’m forgetting half the stuff I want to say, which is sad seeing as this post is getting insanely long. But this movie is SOOO GOOD! Let me leave off by saying: Go see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It is leaps and bounds better than The Hunger Games and was well-worth the year and a half wait since that one. The script is great, the cast is outstanding, the cinematography won’t make you throw up from dizziness, and it’s just. Wow. So good. It is sad and terrible and wrenching and funny and scary and beautiful and all the things I wanted out of this film.

When I gave The Hunger Games 4 out of 5 stars, I was being nice. This one, without a doubt, deserves its 4.5. I cannot wait to see it (and bawl my eyes out throughout it) again.

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Read my Hunger Games Movie Reaction here.

Find more information on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire here.

Buy tickets to go see the movie here. (Because, you know, you should. YOU REALLY REALLY SHOULD.)

Oh, and here’s a link to Jen and Josh being adorable. In case you weren’t already in love with them.

day 22

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 21: Excuses, Excuses

This day last year, I won NaNoWriMo 2012. I was way ahead of schedule, the writing was easy, and it honestly didn’t affect my life that much.

I’ve done fifty thousand words in the month of November twice before. The first time it was a challenge because, well, it was the first time. The second time was a challenge because it was freshman year of college and people had warned me not to compete in NaNoWriMo because November’s such a nasty month for college students (and never tell me I can’t do something, because then I need to do it).

Maybe I read and slept a little less, and sure I wrote in class a lot more (I still don’t know how I managed to four-point fall semester 2012), but all in all, NaNoWriMo was easy.

Enter this year: Third year in a row doing fifty thousand words. Same number of credit hours as last year, and a whole lot less pressure to perform well in my classes. I only have class three. days. a week. Yet NaNoWriMo is insanely difficult this year.

Maybe it’s because this year is a “been there, done that” situation. I’ve proven that I can do NaNo in college already, so I’m not as motivated. That happened junior year of high school too–I just barely made it to my goal of 25k by the end of the month.

Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is so late this year, so I haven’t had my chance to write my brains out over the break from school yet, and I probably won’t even get to do that once the break does come around next week, because I have to do a project and write my genetics term paper during it (my prof assigned both a major project and our freaking term paper to be due the day we get back from break–not cool, genetics prof, not cool).

Maybe it’s because my homework level has exploded. I’m barreling my way through internship and study abroad applications; figuring out whether or not to double major or do a minor or find a part-time job on top of writing and critiquing and conference planning. I’m writing and editing short story after short story in order to be ready for my college’s winter writing competitions and lit mag submissions that are all due in a couple weeks.

Or maybe it’s because of everything I’ve been through in the past year. While I guess you can say this is true every year, I’m a much different person, now, as a sophomore, than I was as a freshman. And that’s primarily because of writing. I basically sprinted through writing from NaNoWriMo senior year of high school through September of this year. During that time I wrote two novels, lots of short stories and songs and poems, won contests, got published in anthologies and lit mags, and from February of this year through September, I spent countless hours revising Cadence.

That novel basically became the meaning of my life this summer–during July and August, I worked on it ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week, sometimes more. Then in September I was done and I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I have been so in the mode of Cadence for so long that it’s strange to suddenly be completely out of that universe and the heads of those characters, and thrust into new ones. And as much as I love The End Where I Begin, it’s taking some getting used to.

So: NaNoWriMo is hard this year. A lot harder than usual. But you know what else? My very first year doing NaNoWriMo, I competed in the Young Writers Program, which meant that I could choose my own word count to shoot for during the month. I chose 25,000 words, and I didn’t begin writing that novel at all until the evening of November 21st. And I still finished on time despite that obstacle.

I have won NaNoWriMo every year since freshman year of high school. This is my sixth year competing.

Sure, things are a little harder than usual this year. And maybe (probably) I won’t finish on the schedule I set up for myself. But I’m not giving up–I’m going to keep pushing through.

And I will have 50,000 words written by the end of November.

day 21Thanks for the smiley of encouragement, Hannah.

~Julia

PS. LESS THAN TWELVE HOURS UNTIL CATCHING FIRE!!!!! AHHHHHHHH! MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!!!

PPS. Happy day-after-your-birthday to one of my best friends in the world, Tatiana! She is brilliant and the snarkiest of snark monkeys. She hasn’t posted in a while, but you should check out her blog here anyway.

PPPS. BUT SERIOUSLY OHMYGOSH CATCHING FIREEEEE! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S FINALLY HEREEEE! WAHHHHHH!!!!!!!