Wordy Wednesday: Coming Home

I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE!!

I’m going to do a longer post dedicated to that soon, hopefully, but for now here are a few pictures from the four ceremonies my family was kind (and patient) enough to sit through over the weekend.


Since graduation, I’ve spent a lot of time watching movies with my friends, taking part in a last few Wolverine traditions (mostly: painting The Rock), and semi-moving home. (I say “semi” because I’m bouncing around a lot of places this summer, so most of my stuff is still at my apartment. But I am home for a couple weeks now, whoooo.)

Also, in the past week I’ve had a couple cool interviews and a fun guest post go up in different places:

  • Interview on the Ch1Con Tumblr (as part of our 2016 blog tour), about talented women and good writing! Read it here.
  • Guest post on Allison the Writer (also as part of our 2016 blog tour), about Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing! Read it here. (ALSO I’m giving away a full manuscript critique on this one, so make sure to enter the giveaway!)
  • Interview on the University of Michigan Facebook page, about graduating and my time at Michigan! Read it here.

And now: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song.

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CHORDS: G, D, Em, C [on last, just G-D-G-D-Em-C]

INTRO
Don’t leave the light on for me,
I will find you in the dark
And you should probably lock the door,
I hold your key beside my heart
I promise I am coming home,
no matter how far away and long I roam
I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

VERSE1
Bags never seemed so heavy
until you’re carrying them across
the ocean wide

And I’ve never felt separation
the way everyone else does
but with this, I might

TRANSITION
And I don’t know where
I’ll be this time next year
or this time tomorrow

But I know someday
I’ll be right back here,
in this space I borrow

CHORUS
So don’t leave the light on for me,
I will find you in the dark
And you should probably lock the door,
I hold your key beside my heart
I promise I am coming home,
no matter how far away and long I roam
I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

VERSE2
I know it doesn’t make sense
but I need new places
the way I used to need you

And I was born running,
never been able to sit still,
but maybe here’s what I’m meant to do

TRANSITION2
And I don’t know what
I want to do next year
or even next week

But I know someday
running right back to you
is what I’ll seek

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE [Em, C, G, D]
And I take you with me
in the photographs on my phone
I’ve got these memories to guide me
when I’m thrown

Don’t you see you’ve prepared me
the best anyone could
I promise I’ll write each week,
and I promise I’ll be good

[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING
Dreaming of the letters I’ll send,
don’t know what else to say, but
I don’t know when,
but I’m coming home someday

I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

P.S. May the fourth be with you!

Wordy Wednesday: Remember

Sorry this post is going up after midnight again! I made the mistake of beginning work on world-building/plotting on Time Travel Heist Story over the weekend and it’s basically swallowed me whole at this point.

Things that have happened in the past week:

  • We had our one and only U.S. preview performance of the play we’re taking to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! If you’re interested in seeing it, the recording of the performance is one of the perks you can select on our Indiegogo. (Despite all of our grants and fundraising efforts this school year, we still haven’t raised quite enough money to afford the trip–we still need money for housing–so we turn to you, dear internet. You can donate to help make our dream of performing in Scotland a reality here.)
  • I got most of my grades for the semester in! I’m still waiting on one, but so far my lowest grade is an A-, so like I’ll take it.
  • Ch1Con blog tour is in full swing! If you’d like to read any of the posts (so far, we mostly have lots of brilliant interviews up), you can check out the schedule and get links to all the participating blogs here.
  • Did I mention that I am buried in The Novel? Because really, outside of the occasional rehearsal or break to eat, all I’ve been doing since Saturday evening is work on this thing. My brain is fried but I still have SO MUCH WORK TO DO before I get to begin actually for real writing this thing. (WHO INVENTED PLOTTING AND WHY DID THEY LET ME TRY IT?)

On the upside, the other thing I’ve been taking the occasional break for is graduation stuff. As in: senior pictures (round four) (during which I may or may not have gotten bitten by a squirrel), picking up graduation tickets, and decorating my cap.

It’s beyond weird to me that I’m graduating college. I know I’ll look back on this in a few years and think about how young I am right now–because that’s how it feels looking back on graduating from high school (heck, that’s how it feels looking back on last summer)–but at the moment this is the oldest I’ve ever been, and graduating college is one of those Major Life Milestones, and I feel somehow both prepared and entirely unprepared at the same time for this. And it’s just weird.

Knowing this was coming, though (no matter how much I might try to sidestep change), in February last year I wrote a song about graduating (from the perspective of who I was at eighteen, talking to who I am now at twenty-two). And this felt like the perfect time to share it.

So, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song.

**********

VERSE1 [Chords: D, A, C, G]
Wake up, today’s the day
You can’t stop the world from moving
Four years flew by in a blink

Remember, what it was like
To be five years old on your very first bike
Now you’re twenty-two and the world is big around you

TRANSITION1 [C, G, D, A]
And I know what it’s like
To feel like everything is ending
But I’m proof that you grow stronger
When everything is changing

CHORUS [C, G, D, A]
This is just another page turn
Don’t forget all the lessons you learned,
Like working hard and cutting loose
From traveling and talking and Dr. Seuss

This isn’t the end of the book
Just another chapter, I love the hook
From New York to Oxford to back home to here
You are so strong, have nothing to fear

[End on D]
Remember? Remember?

VERSE2 [D, A, C, G]
Get moving, tomorrow’s so soon
Enjoy what you have but don’t hold on too
Tight, because tomorrow’s looking all right

Remember, what it was like
To be sixteen years old, afraid that you might
Fall and now here you are flying

TRANSITION2 [C, G, D, A]
And I know what it’s like
To feel like you don’t want to leave
But I’m proof that things are okay
As long as you believe

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE [C, G, D, A]
And so much has happened since I was you
Sure you cut your hair and gained a few
But I see you—still—deep beneath your skin

And you lost some battles but you won some wars
Don’t worry, not everything’s an open door
You’re amazing and I’m so proud to be you

Please remember these years as fun and good
Because parts of them were and you always should
Remember—the good parts more

[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING [D, A, C, G]
Tomorrow is a bright shining day
Don’t let your past stand in your way
Remember? Remember?

You are more than your unaccomplished dreams
You are braver than it seems
Remember? Remember?

Remember? Remember.

**********

Thanks for reading! (The next time I talk to you, I’ll be a U of M alumnus. Thanks for sticking with me throughout the past four years! I’ll see you on the other side.)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Zero Drafting

Hey there! Sorry this post is going up after midnight. Today has been weird. Mostly because I HAD MY LAST FINAL EXAM OF UNDERGRAD WHICH MEANS I AM NOW DONE WITH COLLEGE AHHHHH.

It still hasn’t quite set in, the fact that it’s basically summer now (outside of graduation), and that I’m actually done with school in time for my birthday this year (the first–and, you know, last–time that’s ever happened), and also I AM DONE WITH COLLEGE WHAT IS LIFE.

Things that have happened in the past week:

  • I had my honors thesis reading! It was crazy, after going to those the past few years, to finally have one that was mine. (Also, it was such an honor to share the evening with the other creative writing honors thesis students. Everyone did amazing, because they are amazing, and I’m so happy for them.) (I’m also happy because afterward my family took me out for tacos.)
  • My picture book came in! It’s not, you know, a real book, of course. It’s just the final project for my writing children’s literature class. But look at the pretty!

The picture book I wrote and illustrated for my children’s literature class arrived! #SeniorYear #GoBlue #BlurbBooks

A photo posted by Julia Byers (@julia_the_writer_girl) on Apr 14, 2016 at 1:49pm PDT

 

  • I did income taxes! (*cough* My parents stepped me through my income taxes.) Fun fact: being a full-time student with two paying jobs and also owning a small business = no fun at tax time.
  • I finished writing Time Travel Heist Story! Okay, so this draft is awful (which I will talk about more below, actually), but also it’s done and it’s my sixth completed novel and THANK GOD BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THIS THING FOREVER.
  • I had my last day of work at the bookshop! I’m so sad to be leaving, because I really enjoyed doing the social media and working the register and just spending so much time in a used bookshop in general this past year, but (at least for now) it’s time to go.
  • I FINISHED COLLEGE! I know I already mentioned this one, but like, OHMYGOSH I AM ACTUALLY DONE WHAT IS THIS MADNESS OHMYGOSH. (Also, in my last three classes we played with a giant parachute out in a field, got free donuts from the professor, and had a pizza party during which we had story time like we were in elementary school. So like.Way to go out with a bang, college. Go blue.)
  • Aaand I turned twenty-two? I mean, it is technically after one AM at this point, so I am now very much twenty-two years old. Time to be a living cliche and break out the T-Swift.

And now, to expand upon the aforementioned “this draft is awful” in reference to Time Travel Heist Story: this week’s Wordy Wednesday (er, Wordy Thursday) is a writing process post.

So, I’ve been working on Time Travel Heist Story (also known as The Story that Refuses to Be Named) since last July. However, I didn’t start working on the draft I just actually finished until NaNoWriMo. This is because trying to figure out what is even going on in this story has been torture.

I’m a pantser. I basically never know what I’m doing during the first draft of a story. I make up the plot as I go and generally don’t know what the ending will be until I’m halfway through the climax. And this has worked out fine for me in the past.

However, after struggling and struggling to get literally anything to work in Time Travel Heist Story for most of the summer and fall, I realized that my usual pantsing ways just weren’t going to cut it with this novel. I had no idea who my characters were and I knew too little of the plot to be able to properly construct it. (It turns out that, unlike in most stories, when dealing with time travel the writer actually has to have some idea about what’s going on.)

Still, I can’t really do the whole “planner” thing–my mind doesn’t work that way–so just sitting down and outlining the novel wasn’t going to work. And this story needs that sort of preparation.

So, when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I decided to take a different approach: instead of trying to make my rough draft anything at all attempting to be decent, or even (gasp) taking up planning, I’ve spent it thinking on paper (or, you know, a Word doc)–exploring ideas and working out plot kinks and character arcs and world-building details, without ever actually doing much real writing.

This has led to a really rough draft. Like I’m not joking, it includes things like this:

zero draft example a

However, after months of struggling, this draft is actually done. And now I can look over all of the things I developed in it and use those to figure out what’s truly happening, in a kind of after-the-fact outline (which is something my mind does work well with)–and, using that, when I get started on the next draft (which will be a complete rewrite, because yeah) I’ll actually, hopefully be able to finally make Time Travel Heist Story work.

With all of this in mind, I’ve taken to calling this super rough draft the Zero Draft. It’s something more than an outline (because it is ~60,000 words of novel) but something less than a legitimate first draft (because a good tenth of it has to be me making dumb meta jokes that have nothing to do with my narrator and everything to do with the fact that I wrote a lot of it during literature classes). So, what I finished writing Sunday doesn’t quite deserve to be called the first draft. But it’s leading me in that direction.

And yeah. I’m really proud of my weird, discombobulated little Zero Draft. And I’m really excited to get to work on the after-the-fact outlining and then the real first draft.

As you can see, this new method’s been working pretty well for me so far, so I figured it might be good to share it. Depending on how the next couple months of outlining and writing go, I’ll update you on whether or not I truly recommend Zero Drafting as a noveling method. But if you’re likewise struggling with your novel, it could be something to consider. (Who knows. Maybe you have 60,000 words of half-baked ideas rolling around in your mind too.)

Have you ever tried to change up the way you write? How so? Did it work out for you?


(I’ve got a special Wordy Wednesday planned for you already for next week, so this poll’s for the week after!)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

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.

**********

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

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(!!!!!)

9184_1162846790413642_3537754255088772357_n

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.

**********

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!

**********

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.

**********

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!

**********

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.

**********

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.