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.

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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.

 

Spring Break 2015

So, as mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday, I spent my spring break in the Chicago area putting up flyers for Ch1Con 2015 and doing research for a novel.

It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing spring break ever, but it was awesome getting to meet so many librarians and bookshop owners, and Chicago’s always gorgeous.

We put up flyers for the conference in over fifty locations over the course of three days. Which was basically insane.

IMG_8031One of the days, I spotted Oscar Mayer’s Wiener Mobile in a mall parking lot and made my mom drive over so I could get pictures. It was completely surrounded by people taking selfies.

IMG_8048Thursday we took a break from flyering for a few hours to visit the John Hancock Observatory, which is currently under renovations to become 360 Chicago. The John Hancock Center’s my favorite building in Chicago and I know a weird amount of stuff about it, so it was cool to get to go in and see the updates they’re making to the observation deck.

IMG_8066

Here’s the shadow of the John Hancock Center over North Avenue Beach and Lake Michigan.

IMG_8086

Sears Tower on the horizon.

IMG_8092

The updated observatory includes mirrors coating the ceiling, which leads to fun optical illusions.

The biggest update to the observation deck is the new attraction “Tilt,” in which participants lean against the windows in the picture below and they slowly tilt outward until the participants are facing the street below, ninety-four stories up.

IMG_8096And of course I had to take an awkward observation deck selfie as documentation of my visit.

IMG_8113Friday we had the special treat of Ch1Con team member Emma going around with us to put up flyers. I don’t get to see the rest of the team in person very often and I absolutely freaking adore Emma, so getting to spend the afternoon with her wasn’t just a highlight of the trip, but the year.

Also: while my mom was awesome and drove us around to all of our various drop points, Emma and I wrote a joint post for the March Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain and posted it on the Chapter One Young Writers Conference Tumblr, which you can check out here. The prompt for the month asks about your thoughts on reading and writing in non-novel formats, so since we’re both huge theatre nerds we wrote about how theatre has affected our writing.

IMG_8144 And finally, after a few long, long days away, there’s nothing like coming home to the worst best selfie partner in the world.

IMG_8153Have you had your spring break? Did you do anything fun? Let me know in the comments!

(Especially if you went somewhere warm, because dude, please let me live vicariously through your not-freezing adventures.)

(On the upside: It hit forty degrees today, which means at least for now* we’re past coat weather! Yay!)

~Julia

*It’s totally going to snow again tomorrow, just because I said that.

Wordy Wednesday: Cliche, Cliche

I’m writing/scheduling this post ahead of time, because Wednesday I’ll be in Chicago on a spring break work trip (Ch1Con 2015 flyer campaign and researching for a novel).

So far this week I’ve been buried under preparations for going out to Chicago, plus doctor’s appointments, plus internship applications–so it’s nice to have midterms behind me and this week off from classes, even if I am using it to work. (Although also, let’s be honest, talking to librarians/bookshop owners/teachers about the conference and being a tourist downtown are probably the best job descriptions ever.)

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

The one other thing I’ve been doing a lot of since spring break began is ingesting stories*. I’ve been watching a ton of movies, catching up on TV shows, and, of course, reading.

And, of course, taking in all these stories in such rapid succession means that the similarities they (and a ton of other stories) share are extra obvious.

Welcome to the sweet torture of reading/watching a really good story only for a love triangle/Chosen One/green-eyed romantic interest to pop out. (One of the books I read this weekend actually had all three of those cliches. Amongst others.)

Cliches drive me insane. They’re lazy writing, they make the story boring because they take away from its originality, and they take me out of the story because I’m noticing these things caused by them.

Different cliches annoy me at different levels, though. Like: A love triangle can ruin the book for me. A green-eyed romantic interest, on the other hand? I honestly couldn’t care less, beyond the fact that I do notice it. (2% of the world’s population has green eyes vs. 185% of YA boyfriends.) (But also, green eyes are really freaking awesome for symbolism. And pretty. And there are lots of fun ways of describing them. So I’m good with them.) (Okay, you caught me. I’ve totally done the green-eyed romantic interest thing, too. Shhh.)

Considering the book with all the cliches from this weekend, I realized that the reason some cliches are more annoying than others is because they affect the plot more. There’s a good chance it doesn’t matter in the long run that Mr. McSwoony Pants has green eyes, but love triangles are rarely things that get brushed aside in favor of a larger plot. Instead, they get woven into every fiber of the story, so that you end up with things like Katniss fretting over whether to choose Peeta or Gale in the middle of a FREAKING REVOLUTION. (Or, you know, the entirety of Twilight.)

So here I am. Rattling on about how terrible cliches are. Which, in itself, is kind of cliche at this point.

–But I don’t believe in a black and white nature to cliches.

I think even the worst of the worst cliches can be awesome if done right. I’ve seen so many good boy vs. bad boy or childhood BFF vs. new kid love triangles that it’s really hard for one to seem original now. But I still have hope for wonderful, new, unique love triangles. Because the thing that annoys me about love triangles isn’t love triangles themselves, but the way they’re handled, and this is true for all cliches.

Everything has been done before. EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or I have wallowed in self-pity over the fact that we just had a shiny new idea, or have been working on a project for several years, only to see something that looks exactly like it come on in a TV spot for a new movie.

Heck, a professor is saying every story ever written can be summarized in one of six plot types. Even Romeo & Juliet wasn’t an original story. (Hello, rip off of Pyramus and Thisbe.)

There’s no such thing as a completely original story.

So it isn’t about what you write, but how you write it.

That book I read this weekend with all the cliches annoyed me (a lot). But there were also a lot of good points to it and I’ll definitely keep reading the series.

So don’t worry about writing cliches. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write what you want to, do your best at it, and everything else will fall into place.

It’s nearly impossible to write a 100% not-cliche story. Embrace where you do fall into the cliches and make them your own.

You never know. Maybe you’ll be the one to come up with a new twist on the classic love triangle. (#TeamEdward? #TeamJacob? No. #TeamAuthor.)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

*I apologize for this. I’m starving right now so the only form my brain can function in is food-related verbs.

Story Time: Going Home

Warning ahead of time: This is going to be a long and sappy one.

Yesterday was my first day of spring break and after a funky chain of events involving yet another dermatologist appointment and my mom needing to get back to work, I ended up with her minivan and the task of getting myself home in one piece.

Although I learned to drive a billion years ago, I didn’t get around to getting my license until the very end of 2014, and since then I haven’t been home enough to really use it. Until yesterday, I’d only driven by myself once before and that was entirely on surface streets that I knew like the back of my hand, making the trip to a friend’s house New Year’s Day in a compact, easy-to-maneuver Jeep.

So there I was, in Mom’s massive, headstrong minivan, driving for the first time in a month and for the first time by myself in two. On only my second solo trip.

Mom had rattled off a series of directions for getting home as we pulled up at her office, but I didn’t trust myself to remember anything (I was a little more focused on, you know, not killing anyone), so I opened Google Maps on my phone and told it to guide me home.

The first bit went all right. I turned where I was supposed to, merged onto the highway without too much trouble, and was even feeling so good about my prospects of surviving that I turned on the radio.

Then I realized which way home Google Maps was taking me.

There’s this terrible stretch of highway I’ve taken a thousand times as a passenger, but had never driven before, where a bridge breaks up the monotony of patched pavement. On one side of the bridge is an entrance ramp, always clogged with road rage-y drivers trying to force you out of their way, and on the other side is an exit ramp that sometimes gets so backed up, the line blocks the entrance ramp.

Here’s a problem with Google Maps: It told me what I needed to do. I even recognized what I was speeding towards. But it didn’t click until I was like twenty feet from the exit ramp, the entrance ramp people crowding me out of the far right lane and trying to force me even further to the left, that it really clicked that Google Maps was instructing me to take the exit that has made my mild-mannered mother mutter expletives on more than one occasion.

I can’t remember ever once going past that exit—I don’t even know where that highway leads past that exit—but as I tried to merge into the right lane, the car in that one pulled up beside me and tried to merge into mine. We were barreling towards the exit I needed and he clearly didn’t want. And somehow magically, magically, I managed to slow down without the pickup truck on my tail rear-ending me, giving the car to my right just enough time to pull ahead and into my lane while I swerved into his and straight down the exit ramp. A ballet of sorts.

Heart pounding, palms sweating, I made it down the exit ramp (which is actually an entrance ramp) and onto the connecting highway.

Slowly my heartbeat slowed. I recognized the backs of strip malls as I passed. And I stopped needing Google Maps because I was back in home territory, on streets I had driven before although never alone, and I made it home.

It was a beautiful day out, all clear blue sky and sparkling snow. Heat pulsed through the vents and I yanked off my hat and scarf. Unzipped my heavy down coat.

I pulled up outside my house and realized I didn’t want to go in.

So, after sending a quick text to my mom to let her know I was still alive, I pulled away from the curb and made my way to a nearby nature trail. I had to use a traffic circle and turn left into the parking lot—both things that terrified me just a couple months ago—but I made it fine. I sat in there in the warm minivan for a little while, letting “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers wash over me. Then I headed out on the trail.

The snow was about a thousand inches deeper than the last time I’d gone hiking there, a few days before Christmas with my family, and I wasn’t dressed for it, with only a light sweater on under my coat and heeled, knee-high faux leather boots. But I made it a decent way along the path, stopping to watch a churning river flow under shiny, clear ice and following deer tracks along a side path. After a while, I found what I was looking for: a pair of benches out in the sun, their snow melted so long ago they were dry.

I sat down on one, pulled the book I’d brought from my purse, and read.

hiking and reading 2-27-15

I don’t know if you’ve ever just sat out in the middle of nature without another creature in sight for an afternoon, but it’s one of my favorite ways to detox, especially on days like yesterday when it was cold but not too cold. (No bugs, no other people, but also no hypothermia.)

At one point an old man walked by and we exchanged hellos, but otherwise I didn’t see a single other person the entire time I sat there.

Growing restless after a while, I got up and hiked a couple more of the side paths, then came back to my bench and lay down with the sky so blue, blue, blue above me and the sun warm on my cheeks and birds calling to each other somewhere high in the branches, and read for a while longer.

At which point I realized I had no idea how much time had passed (it could have been two o’clock or five) and my phone was dead, so I pulled myself up and made the trek back to the minivan.

It wasn’t TOO late (only like three thirty), so I drove from there to Barnes and Noble to pick up a few more books, relishing in the fact that I’d managed to turn left out of the nature trail’s parking lot despite heavy traffic and I parked between two cars at B & N without straying outside my spot’s lines. (Also the fact that I drove past the pet store without stopping, despite my realization that I was an adult with a credit card, a car, and no one to stop me from going in there and adopting a hundred kittens.)

Perfect. The afternoon had been perfect.

Then I tried merging into the right lane to turn towards home and the car beside me wouldn’t let me over.

This was no complicated, lucky dance like had occurred on the highway. This was someone who clearly didn’t want to let me ahead of her, with another car right behind her.

This time, I missed my turn.

It wasn’t devastating or anything. It was only another mile to the next turn towards my house, so I’d barely lost any time or gas. But it was disappointing for an entire afternoon of doing well behind the wheel to end in this.

Except, wait—I saw a street sign coming up that I recognized and had forgotten about. My old street, the one my family lived on until I was around six, that also connected to where I needed to go. A shortcut.

I turned onto it.

I’ve been on my old street plenty of times since we moved. We still know people in the neighborhood and, as mentioned, it made a nice shortcut. But I’d never driven it before, not even with an ever watchful parent in the passenger seat, so it was strange to guide the minivan up the road, drawing closer and closer to the house where I’d learned to ride a bike and had countless playdates and first fallen in love with make believe and stories and symbolism.

The backyard’s full of fruit trees—cherry and a whole row of apple. There’s a maple tree that my brother and the neighbors and I climbed constantly and bled all over almost as constantly from scraped palms and knees. We had a sandbox shaped like a tugboat that my brother used to grow maple saplings from seeds and a play gym my dad built himself.

This was the house where my brother and I built forts in the living room with cardboard bricks and couch cushions to keep the monsters away while watching Scooby Doo. This was the house where I had “tea parties” with countless babysitters with my pink plastic tea set full of hot water from the bathroom sink, and made up complicated, endless stories about my collection of toy horses.

This was the house where I terrorized our cats by zipping them into suitcases and yanking them out from beneath furniture. This was the house where my brother once shattered the bathroom window by hitting it at just the right spot with a toothbrush while trying to kill a fly. This was the house where my parents left a TV on in my bedroom all night long for weeks on end in kindergarten because I was afraid of the dark and sleep and everything in between.

I have so many wonderful and terrible memories of that house, all so lodged in the past, buried under more recent things, more relevant ones, I hardly ever think about them anymore.

As I pulled near, I spotted movement up the driveway and I realized there were three little kids racing toward the garage with backpacks that were far too big for them bouncing, two boys and a teeny, tiny girl, dressed in head-to-toe pink.

It’s funny how life goes on. How one day you’re five years old, living in one house, and the next you’re twenty, just driving past it on your way to another. It’s funny how hard I cried when my parents made us move, how we panicked when we thought the movers had let my cat out and he was lost forever, but we found him and everything was okay and he made it all the way to my senior year of high school instead.

It’s funny how now I’m a junior in college, contemplating where to go, what to do after I graduate, and how those kids were still so many years away from existence the last time I was inside the house that is now theirs—and it’s funny how then, by chance; thanks to a jerk not letting me turn when I wanted to—there we were in the same place at the same time for a moment, a flash as I drove by and they hurried up the driveway, these kids who will never know who I am or what they have in common with me and probably didn’t even notice the minivan as it passed.

It’s funny how there I was, enjoying an afternoon of freedom on my first day of spring break—feeling it settle into my bones, this Being An Adult thing—and completely on accident, I drove past the house where my life took shape and didn’t see the place where I tore up my knees on the climbing tree or made up my very first stories in a cozy pink bedroom cluttered with toys, but three shiny new lives also just starting to take shape, another little girl in pink trying to keep up, life going on, on, on.

And it’s funny because symbolism. I’m in love with symbolism, and here was a whole bunch of it handed to me on a platter. A moment that would feel “too constructed,” not real, in fiction, but happened in real life.

I didn’t slow down or anything. Just kept driving. The kids disappeared behind trees and mailboxes.

But I pressed a little on the gas pedal and smiled.

~Julia

I Skied a Double Black Diamond!!!!!

Hahahahahahaha, happy April Fool’s Day!!!!

“Confidence: The feeling you have before you really understand the situation.”

Fun things I’ve done so far on my spring break ski trip (and I’m not joking: It’s spring break. And I’m going skiing):

1. Braid my hair a billion different ways. (Featured: French-braided pigtails.)

2. Eat lots of weird vegetarian food. (Featured: Weird Vegetarian Tofu Stir Fry.)

3. Make mini snowmen while collapsed on the ground. (Featured: Mini Mama and Mini Baby snowmen, to my left… hiding against the backdrop of all the rest of the snow…)

 

4. AND SO! MUCH! MOOOORE!!!!!

… All of which I’ll tell you about later, because right now it’s time to get back to the Ski Trip Shenanigans. 😀

Featured: Braided ponytail… that you cannot see.

Bye!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Nisus and Scylla”)

After going to see The Hunger Games a second time, I must amend my previous statement: While I still maintain that it left out a lot of the subplot stuff from the novel, the movie in itself was really good, and I’m glad I got to see it again because now I’m sort of in love with it. 🙂

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for mythology class last semester called “Nisus and Scylla” — it’s a retelling of the classic Greek myth. 🙂

 

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Six months. It had been six months since the Cretans first arrived in the port of Megara, and six months since Scylla first laid eyes on King Minos as he leapt off the side of his ship, straight into the frothing blue ocean waves. Six months since he and his men surged towards her kingdom’s walls, and her people screamed and hid in their homes, and the Megaran soldiers sealed shut the gates.

Six months since the war began. Six months since Scylla had last been free.

Scylla hadn’t loved King Minos at first. No, definitely not. At first, he appeared to her a foreigner; frightening and exotic. But over time, frightening gave way for intriguing, and exotic became something unique to behold rather than to evade. Being shut up in the small kingdom with the Megarans for those six months had made them seem drab in comparison and only fostered her growing feelings for the invading king.

But what to do about these feelings? Scylla wondered. The Cretans had made no progress in the breeching of Megara’s walls and Scylla’s father King Nisus didn’t seem the least bit worried about them.

Sighing, Scylla leaned back against the tall stone pillar from the base of which she watched King Minos. It reached up from the walkway atop the outermost siege wall as if whatever ancient Megaran who had built it wished to reach the heavens with his creation. What freedom must there to be had up there in the sky?

Freedom. It had been six months since Scylla last was free.

She tilted her head and held her slender fingers against the sun, squinting in the direction of the invaders’ camp beyond the walls. Once again, King Minos and his men could be seen making and breaking and making and breaking their plans to bring down the siege walls. He seemed so intelligent, shouting out orders to the soldiers and drawing diagrams in the damp sand along the shore, but none of it would help him.

As the daughter of the great King Nisus, Scylla was privy to the knowledge that the Cretans failed to conquer the kingdom simply because of a magic purple lock of hair that grew from her father’s scalp. If it were to be lopped off, whoever possessed it would take Megara without folly, but for as long as King Nisus still had it on his head, he would never lose his throne.

It will be difficult, Scylla reasoned, to gain King Minos’s affection while locked up here in Father’s kingdom. She already was as close as she could get while the gates were closed, huddled atop the massive walls where the archers often stood during battles. She shivered despite the sun.

Because Minos cannot reach me in here, I must find a way to reach him beyond the walls… but how can I gain his trust? The king of Crete is not likely to receive the princess of Megara well if I should invade his camp, she thought to herself. And once again, I’ve led myself back to Father’s hair. She bit her lip.

For weeks Scylla had considered the various ways she could gain the trust of King Minos, and always she came back to King Nisus’s magic purple hair. King Minos would be delighted to have the chopped hair, because it would mean a near-spontaneous victory over the Megarans. But she couldn’t take the hair from her own father, could she? The man who had raised her?

But Scylla was drunk with love, and no matter which way she looked at her problem, the only obvious answer seemed to be to take her father’s hair.

Okay, she decided, getting to her feet and brushing the sand dust from her elaborate gown. She glanced once more down upon the Cretans and felt her fingers weave themselves into knots as she thought of what she was about to do. Okay, I’m going to finally do it. Tonight, I will steal into Father’s bedchamber and cut his hair.

 

Midnight came all too soon for Princess Scylla, but she had made up her mind, and so – when the fires burned low and the kingdom was quiet – she took a knife from the kitchens and scurried up the stairwells to her father’s room, careful not to alert the servants to her presence.

Scylla was a ghost as she practically flew up and down the halls, around corners and through passageways. Her heart thudded with fear, so loudly she was afraid it would alert her father to her presence before she could even reach him, but the sound was only in her ears, and despite her fear, Scylla felt freer in those moments than she had since the gates first clanged shut six months before. There was a certain wildness in the feel of the cool, damp air rushing against her cheeks and the clamminess of her palms.

Six months. Freedom. A life after this with King Minos, as he will surely be pleased with my offering.

These were the thoughts that kept her from stopping and turning back. These were the thoughts that made the uneasiness dissipate.

Finally, the princess reached her father’s chamber, and she pushed the door against its hinges, as gently and slowly as she could. As she slipped through the doorway, the softly burning candles in the bedroom caught her in their light, throwing her sleek black shadow across the grand bed of King Nisus, and Scylla stopped, horrorstruck. Her blood pounded in her ears. Her knees knocked together beneath her splendid dress.

But the old king did not stir.

With her last ounce of courage, Scylla pulled the knife from where she’d hidden it amongst her skirts and held it, shaking, to the glittering lock of purple hair that splayed out across her father’s pillow. One sharp snip and the hair fell free.

She stepped hurriedly back, half expecting guards to rush in and bind her hands, to put her to death for her treachery, but no alarms sounded and no one took notice as she slipped back out of the room and away from her home.

Still dark. It was still dark as she raced up the steps to the walkway along the top of the walls and ran for her favorite stone pillar. She quickly tied a length of ribbon she had brought from her chambermaid’s sewing things and lassoed it around the pillar. With frightened fingers, she tied the noosed end into knots, and without testing it to see if it should hold, she took the other in her hands and slid her feet over the barrier, so that they dangled over the edge of the wall, over the beach. With her back to her kingdom, to her home, she pushed off.

The night was silent as she fell from the siege wall, ribbon tangled in her hands and the whistling wind tangled in her hair. The ribbon ran out a length before the ground, and when she let go the beach raced up to meet her.

Scylla lay there for a moment, coughing the sand from her throat. Well that was an unpleasant landing. But when she stood, she found she was not injured, and the confiscated purple hair was still safe where she’d hidden it.

Remembering her mission, she took one last glance back at her kingdom walls, and then darted away towards the camp of the Cretans.

She disappeared into the night.

 

“What did you do?”

Scylla could not understand why King Minos’s handsome face was flushed with rage.

“I brought you the key to winning the war against my father, my love!” she exclaimed, giving him her most radiant smile. While that smile could win over the heart of any man back within the safe walls of Megara, it had a vastly lateral effect on the foreign king. With an anger so fierce and indifferent Scylla could not understand it, he lashed out at her. Her cheek stung from the blow.

“Do not call me your love, you filthy vermin,” he spat. Her smile faded. “This is treachery, and I will not win a war by treachery! I’ll win it by skill and determination. How else should it be known that I am the better king?”

“But my love –” she began, but then bit back her words. “King Minos, you could not win without my help. The purple hair is magic. While my father possessed it, no one could take his kingdom. Surely you must be grateful.”

“Grateful for a spineless fool who cheats and then thinks she deserves a reward?” he growled. His dark eyes flashed and Scylla involuntarily took a step away. She knocked into the cloth side of the tent and a whimper escaped from her lips as Minos approached her again.

She had never felt so trapped.

“Get out of my sight, you arrogant princess of Megara.” He said it with contempt. “I will win this war my own way.”

“Well it’s too late,” Scylla was in tears, “because I’ve already given the magic hair to you. No matter how difficult you try to win the war by your own cunning, it will now be impossible. It’ll appear as sheer dumb luck.”

“Fine then.” King Minos turned to where his advisor stood cowering in the corner. The poor old man looked nearly as afraid as Scylla felt. “We take the kingdom at dawn and then leave to go back to Crete at sunset.”

Crete, Scylla thought to herself wistfully. The exoticness of it all still haunted her. How lovely it would be to travel to that faraway place. “Please, sire!” she found herself bursting out. “Please, take me with you! I love you!”

The glint in Minos’s eye was murderous. He looked down upon her like she was a poorly behaved dog that he wished to beat. “There is no room for love in war.”

 

Scylla was crying. She knew she should keep quiet, if she should be able to sneak aboard King Minos’s ship, but she could not help herself, and the tears came and came.

She loved him. She loved him so. For six months, she had been trapped and she had loved him, and for what? The handsome king scorned her. Hated her.

But Scylla would rather his hate than his indifference, which she was sure to receive if she remained in Megara.

With light footsteps, she journeyed across the sand and, wiping her tears with her trembling hand, grasped onto the side of the ship. She meant to pull herself onboard and to sneak into some nook or cranny where she could hide until they were too far out to sea to send her back to her father’s now burning kingdom, but it wasn’t to be.

“I see you there.” King Minos spoke in a deadly calm cadence as he stared down at the princess, clinging to the side of his vessel. “Get off before I have a soldier slice you off with his sword. I promise it will be the one we used to kill your father.”

That hit her then. Father? Scylla thought. Father is dead? I didn’t think that would happen… I didn’t think they would do that… Surely they could have allowed him to live on as a beggar, at least!

But in her heart, she knew they never would have. Leaving the old king alive would have shown weakness on their part.

The Cretans never would have taken the kingdom if it weren’t for her treachery… Oh! She truly was unworthy of Minos’s affections! She had been so blinded by love that she had caused the death of her own father!

The weeping commenced again, and unable to stand it any longer, King Minos shook his head and left her there to cling to the side of the ship. “If she’s still there when we reach Crete,” he shouted to his men, “feed her to the palace hounds!”

She continued to snivel. “Father, oh father!” she whimpered.

Scylla was so lost in her misery that she was unaware of the great eagle swooping down towards her until his talons clenched around her shoulders and ripped her from the side of the ship, and then they were flying up, up, and up. Down below, the soldiers shouted and pointed, but now Scylla and the eagle were too high up to be properly seen.

She was numb, then. Locked away. Unsure what to do or how she’d gotten to where she was. All she was aware of was the way the setting sun flashed in her eyes, temporarily blinding her, and then, as the eagle’s wings flapped and they swooped away from the sun, the way she could just make out a stilted purple feather that grew twisted among the shining brown and grey plumage.

A purple feather that was shorter than its neighbors, stunted like a lock of hair fresh chopped.

The realization came into her mind all at once. The gods most have made him this eagle when they saw him dying by the Cretans’ hands! They had saved him!

“Oh father!” she shrieked with joy… but the eagle that once was a king was not there to rescue her. With a sound like laughter emanating from his beak, he opened his talons and released his daughter to the air.

She was so far up in the sky, she could see to the edge of the sea.

I am going to die, Scylla thought as she fell. I deserve to die, because I sinned. I sinned greatly.

“But princess Scylla,” the wind seemed to be saying, smiling, whispering to her as she fell like a rock, “you sinned only because of love, and one may be forgiven for mistakes made in the heat of affection.”

Involuntarily, Scylla felt her arms lift up, then, battle against the air rushing all around her. She would not die. She flapped her arms like wings, attempting to gain air resistance and slow her fall. The water grew closer and closer. And then something miraculous happened. The more Scylla flapped, the more her arms worked, until she was genuinely gliding along the blue waves on feathered wings. Looking down at her reflection in the last rays of sunset, she saw that she had become a bird also.

Panic first seized her heart, but then the wind caught under her wings and lifted her up, up, up, and she found herself soaring. It was breathtaking, up there in the sky. Such freedom.

One glance back at the eagle that was King Nisus told Scylla that he would never abandon his quest for revenge; he would always chase her, no matter if she was a human or a bird. But in that moment, she did not care.

For six months, Scylla had been trapped. For six months, she had not been free.

But at least now she would always be free, for forever more.

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What sorts of things would you all like to see in future Wordy Wednedsays? More short stories? Poetry, novel excerpts, songs? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’m going to be on vacation this weekend (spring break whoohoo!!), so I might not be able to post until next week. My apologies if that happens!

Love you guys!!

 

~Julia