Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Eleven

So my birthday was earlier this week, which means that this is my first post as a twenty year old. Also known as: no longer a teenager. Craziness.

Twenty’s not generally a super huge year for people, since it’s conveniently caught between eighteen and twenty one. But it is a big year for young writers, because a lot of us have this sort of insane goal of getting published while still teenagers.

I did manage to succeed in this venture in little ways, with short stories and poems appearing in (primarily small-time) lit mags. But the ultimate goal–publishing a novel–never happened for me. And honestly I’m okay with that.

While some people’s writing is good enough to snag an agent and book deal when they’re fourteen or sixteen or eighteen, mine wasn’t. But that’s okay, because it was writing all those novels that weren’t ready yet, and getting all those critiques and rejections, and working so hard to construct better sentences, create more realistic characters, and craft more complex and interesting plots that allowed both my writing–and me as a writer–to mature.

Looking back on it, I would be horrified if something like my first novel had somehow magically made it to print. (It was called Pennamed. Basically a Hannah Montana knockoff. I am prepared to pay copious sums of money to the people who have the file to keep them quiet.)

So: I might not have been able to publish a novel before I turned twenty. But I still did do so much with my writing before now. And I’m really proud of that and grateful for all the support I received as I pursued publication throughout my teen years. I’m glad I had the freedom that comes with being an Unpublished Little Nobody to explore, and make mistakes, and figure out my voice and the types of stories I want to tell.

I’m going to miss being a teenager. But I’m also really excited for what the next stage of life will bring.

So here’s to being an aspiring author without the “teen” part attached. Here’s to working hard and dreaming big and never giving up. Here’s to being twenty.

In other news, today was the Hopwood Graduate and Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. I was extremely grateful to receive the Arthur Miller Award for a short fiction collection. It was an honor to be in the company of so many talented young writers, and it was really nice having my family there to celebrate with me. (Thanks for coming, guys!)

Here’s me with my coolio certificate:

And here is my beautiful signed copy of Death of a Salesman:

Arthur Miller Signed Book

This post is already a thousand years long, but finally getting to what it’s supposed to be about: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 Camp NaNoWriMo 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 throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

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Chapter Eleven

By the time I finish collecting my missed assignments, it’s well pasted 1500 and the rest of the students are gone for the day. I walk alone to the subway station with my backpack heavy against my spine. The sun winks from between the tall buildings of downtown, and dampness collects beneath my armpits. It’s warm for the end of September.

I pull apart the top few buttons of my blouse so I can breathe more deeply, and trundle down the stairs to the subway station.

A heavier, middle-aged man falls into step beside me, smile plastered on his face like he has never frowned before in his life. Crow’s-feet crinkle around his dark eyes. “Hello there. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” He says the words with an unrecognizable accent.

I force a polite smile as I say, “Yes. The sun is lovely.”

“Have a nice day, Alexa.” He waves and moves further into the station.

It isn’t until I’ve passed through the Identiband scanners and boarded the uptown train that I realize he used my name, even though I have never seen him before in my life.

A cold alertness spreads through my limbs. I grip the safety pole I’m standing beside more firmly.

A woman reading a newspaper on her tablet glances at me then lets her gaze fall back to the screen. It is difficult to swallow.

It feels as if everyone on the train is staring at me. Was Ramsey’s attack on the news? Why would anyone care but me and the Clinic?

The train reaches the stop before mine, but my palms are sweating too much to keep my grip on the safety pole, so I exit here instead and hurry up the stairs from the station, eager to feel the sunlight on my cheeks.

The voices and automated announcements of the subway station fade behind me as I walk, and my heartbeat slows. I become aware of the weight of my backpack again.

I am a good twenty minute walk from home. I am only on the outskirts of Riverhorn. Sometimes the gangs who frequent the slums venture out this far, and although no one is in sight, I still quicken my pace as I walk past the condominiums and smaller homes that dominate this portion of the neighborhood.

I don’t know why I’m spazzing so much, but some of the earlier lightheadedness returns as I try to block out the thoughts of all that has happened today and all that might still be to come. I wish I’d gone to Joe’s with Eric and Amelia and the rest of them.

You’re being as crazy as Ramsey is, I tell myself as I turn a corner. My house is only three blocks away now. A couple passes on bicycles, on their way home from work.

I hold two fingers to the pulse at my neck and deepen my breathing. I slow my pace.

A footstep falls behind me.

I don’t look to see who’s there. I just take off running.

My backpack thumps against my tailbone in time with my frantic steps, and I race past house after house, street after street. The heavy stomps of a man out of shape chase after me. My breaths come in short gasps that leave me dizzier and dizzier.

It’s as I turn the final corner to my street—just as my house comes into sight, so close—that a body slams into mine. The man pins me to the sidewalk and shoves a needle into my arm. I thrash against him, try to call for help, but my tongue is heavy and clumsy.

My eyes refuse to focus, but I can just make out the squinty eyes and natural smile of the man who spoke to me at the station.

In a tone not nearly as chipper as the one he used before, he says, “It’s all right, Alexa. Go to sleep now.”

I don’t want to, but I have no choice, because my eyelids are already slipping closed and I cannot think anymore.

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88

Countdown ’til summer: 2 days!

 

~Julia

Busy, Busy, Busy: A Tale of Excuses

Hey there! I’m sorry I haven’t bee posting as much since this semester began, but things have been crazy. One of my classes is ending in the next couple weeks, because it’s a mini course, so hopefully that’ll free up a little more of my time, but what time it does free up will probably have to go towards school work, because I’ve been falling ridiculously behind (especially in my science classes) (because science).

I’m sorry the blog isn’t seeing as much love as it usually does, but as of now, Wordy Wednesdays should continue as scheduled, and hopefully soon life will magically calm down enough for me to start posting other things again too. Because I really miss talking to you.

Thanks for sticking with me. Love you!

 

~Julia

 

Aún

I am currently writing my last Spanish paper ever. Spanish classes have been the bane of my existence on and off for so long now that I feel like it’s impossible that I’m only two and a half pages of a term paper away from never having to take a Spanish class again.

I started Spanish lessons in elementary school. It was just a club that met after school one day a week, in which we learned colors and numbers and the names for la familia, but it was my introduction to the idea that English isn’t the only way to communicate; that something more than us existed. I avoided foreign language classes in middle school, and only took the requisite two years of Spanish in high school.

I then had two years off–two years during which, much like now, I thought I was done. Even when I spent two weeks in Costa Rica for a mission trip the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I let other people do the Spanish speaking for me. Not because Spanish isn’t a wonderful language, but because speaking it to someone who was fluent, when I barely knew my way through present tense verb conjugations, was terrifying. So I avoided it, because I am the type of person who easily falls into the trap of avoiding things that scare me.

Then I had to look into colleges, and discovered that the only way for me to get a creative writing major was by becoming nearly fluent in a foreign language (because yeah, that makes sense). So fall semester of freshman year, Spanish classes began again.

I’ve been griping about vocab lists and reading assignments and ensayos and tests for a year and a half now. That’s almost as long as I’ve had this blog. Once I turn in this final Spanish essay (and mi profesora decides I didn’t fail, of course), I’ll have completed twenty credit hours of Spanish over the course of three semesters.

I’m so close to being done.

In two and a half pages (and one, hour and a half-long class during which I will probably have to speak only once) I will be done. And if everything else goes as planned, I’ll also finish the entirety of my distribution requirements by the end of next summer, at which point my classes will turn into things I actually want to take: literature and creative writing and film.

And that is terrifying.

I hadn’t realized it would scare me, until now, finally getting to do what I want to do. But it does bring with it a certain amount of “growing up”; I have to leave my dreams of these things behind for their probably much-less-magical reality.

It’s one thing to take the classes everyone needs to in college. It’s another to walk into a classroom knowing that it is your choice to be there and that you had better enjoy it and do well in it, because it’s for your major and future. Right now, I love writing and reading and analyzing things. But what happens when I have to start doing it for a grade? What happens when it stops being the hobby I like to do after class, and becomes what I’m doing in class?

I don’t know. I don’t know, and I’ve already run into the problem of my stress reliever becoming what’s stressing me this semester, due to my creative writing class. Because by going into creative writing–by making this my career, and by making a career something that I need in order to survive rather than something I’m striving for simply because I want to–to an extent, I am taking it away from myself. Something that I have always done because I want to do it is becoming something that I’m doing because I have to, no choice in the matter.

But that’s okay, because that’s also a lie. I do have a choice. And I am choosing this.

I am scared, but I am doing it anyway.

Everyone should be lucky enough to do what they love for a living. And maybe right now I’m scared, and I am naturally the sort of person who’s more likely to flee than fight. But if something really matters, if something is irrevocably and irreplaceably important to you, you owe it to yourself to face it head on, rather than running away.

Others forced me to face Spanish; to learn it. I got angry and moody and resisted it. But if I returned to Costa Rica today, I would no longer feel the need to hide behind other, better speakers to order my food for me or talk to the kids at the Vacation Bible School we worked at. Others made me face my fears, and because of it I finally learned Spanish (not well, albeit–but well enough).

Now, because I really care about writing, it’s time that I faced my fears myself.

I am scared of spending all day, every day (for longer than a couple months over the summer) in my chosen field for the first time in my life because it is uncharted territory. But I’m also excited beyond belief to finally leave Spanish behind (along with the rest of my nasty, unasked-for distribution requirements), and I am excited to put myself in those terrifying situations to see whether I sink or float. I’m excited to take literature and writing classes, and finally learn something in school that I actually care about and would like to learn.

I don’t want to do anything else. I love the publishing industry and the people within it. Sure, taking that next step–moving from full-time student who loves to write to full-time creative writing student–is hard. But it’s also the only thing that makes sense. And I want to do it.

I am a writer. I love to write. School might make it harder to appreciate next year, when I have two hundred pages of reading, a ten page analytical essay, and a short story due all on the same day, when all I want to do is work on a novel. But it’s either that or take more Spanish and genetics classes, right? And I am almost as excited to be done with those as I am to take lit courses next fall.

While drafting this final Spanish term paper this weekend, I stumbled across the word aún in my dictionary. It’s common, so of course I’ve used it before, but I never realized it means both “yet” and “still.” Which is interesting, because while those words have similar uses in the English language, they have entirely different meanings.

Yet, as in it hasn’t happened yet. And still, as in I am still waiting.

Yet: It still will happen. Still: It isn’t over yet.

One word is of what is to come; the other is what has not ended, but will. And it is a beautiful realization, the fact that those who speak Spanish view these as being entirely interchangeable, because it makes aún a word not only about the bad things you’d like to leave behind, but the good things you hope will come in the future. It gives you maybe a little bit of despair, but then it smashes that to pieces with hope. 

Still: I am not done with the stressors of college still. Yet: At least I am yet to get to the really fun parts.

Yet: I have so much further to go. Still: I am happy with where I’m at right now.

Two and a half pages to go.

 

~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