Fashion Friday: Of Summer and Sunshine (and Clothes)

I think it’s probably a pretty well-known fact at this point that I have a problem with clothes. As in: I like them too much. As in: I have too much clothing to fit in my closet (so instead it all just ends up on the floor, because I’m responsible like that).

So, as it is, I probably have enough clothing I could wear something different for the next month and still not run out of summer outfit options, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still obsessing over all the pretty new summer blouses and skirts and shorts I could buy (you know, if I actually had any money).

I give you: My Favorite Summer Pieces.

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Shorts with Detailing

Shorts

Kohl’s, $15.99

While I was ogling the American Eagle website a couple days ago, on the look out for new jeans (I’ve managed to rip holes in the knees of one of my favorite pairs, and that’s usually where I call it quits with ’em), I spotted a pair of shorts with a crocheted flower design on the front. They were really, REALLY cute, but also cost about $50.00 and were sold out in my size, so imagine how excited I was when I found the same thing at Kohl’s for only $15.99. I still can’t afford them, unfortunately, but it made me happy to know that other people with slightly more cash than I do don’t have to pay the ridiculous AE price to get such cute shorts.

I love shorts that have just a bit of a pattern or flare to them that makes them stand out without taking away from your blouse. I’d kill to wear a pair of these shorts with a v-neck and some sandals.

Speaking of which…

Bright Sandals

sandals

Forever 21, $8.80

One of my favorite, favorite, favorite parts of the summer is getting to wear sandals. I’m not a big fan of tennis shoes, so the moment I can break out the flip flops, I’m a decidedly happier human being. I especially love how there are so many more options with sandals to find really unique ones that match your personality, and this year this has been exemplified by the array of colors you can find sandals in. While a bit more difficult to pair with clothes since they have so much personality on their own, compared to your more traditional browns and blacks, I think the bright pinks and blues and greens are still really pretty, and I’m hoping to get my hands on a pair of them before the summer’s over.

Airy Tops

top

ModCloth, $29.99

I’ve been seeing a lot of great, light-weight blouses lately that look super comfy but still cute. I feel like you could do a lot wearing a blouse like this–go for an adventure, ride a roller coaster, read a book out in the sun–and it would work well for all those different occasions. Classy yet versatile and comfortable: that’s my kind of blouse.

Colorful Sunglasses

sunglasses

Claire’s, $5.00

During the last couple weeks of classes, when the sun finally started showing its face and everyone at U of M went crazy pretending it was July in April (there were people wearing shorts in 30 degree weather; I wish I was kidding), there were a lot of sunglasses popping up. And a lot of them were really funky and colorful. How much fun do these look? I’m always looking forward to sunny days now, just so I can wear a pair of sunglasses.

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So, to recap: Summer this year is looking really bright and colorful. And I am happy about that.

Do you have a favorite clothing piece or accessory that you’re especially excited to start wearing now that it’s warming up outside? What do you think about how much color there is this year? Let me know in the comments!

~Julia

New Summer Blog Theme!

I know it’s only April, but my summer vacation begins in a week, so I figured I’d get myself in the mood with a new, more summery look. Let me know what you think!

Also, a reminder to fill out the character form to help Mel and me with developing new characters for This Is a Book! You have until Thursday. Thanks!

happy almost-summer

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Driver’s Education”)

My mom and I are currently in the midst of preparations for the writing conference we’re hosting this weekend, so things are pretty nuts around here–no promises on when I’ll get your weekend post to you, because the conference begins Friday evening and won’t end until Sunday afternoon. And then, after that, we’ve got a six hour drive back home. (Whoohoo!) I’m super excited for the conference, though, because I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, and it’s finally happening!!!!! I’ve got so much adrenaline going on right now that I’m not even aware of being tired, even though I’ve been on a really crappy sleep schedule for the past couple of weeks. (Speaking of which: the play went awesome!)

The top choice for this week’s Wordy Wednesday was for me to post a short story, so here’s one called “Driver’s Education.” I wrote this back when I took driver’s ed after my sophomore year of high school, so it’s an older piece, but I still enjoy it.

 

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The girl, Alisha Kein, walked into the first day of class five minutes late. She had her face buried in a book and her short white-blond hair held up in a messy ponytail.

Mr. Brook glanced up from the paper where he had been about to mark her absent, blinked in surprise, and made a check beside the girl’s name that said she was tardy instead. The rest of the students were already seated alphabetically in rows, looking nervous yet excited.

“Your timing is impeccable, Miss Kein,” he said. “You may take a seat behind Rory Kanton.” The redheaded boy he gestured to looked up with an impish grin when he heard his name, but on seeing Alisha the grin disappeared and he returned to conversing with the boy beside him. They wore matching blue jerseys with the school’s insignia on them.

She must not get along well with the sports kids, Mr. Brook thought to himself. As he watched Alisha settle into her seat and set her book in her lap, he realized she was wearing a long pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, even though it was 97 degrees outside and the middle of June. She dragged a clean notebook and mechanical pencil from her bag and set them on the desk, ready to begin taking notes.

“Very well,” he said when she seemed to be ready to begin. “As you all know, my name is Mr. Brook and I will be your segment one driver’s education instructor.”

He began listing off the different facets of driving the class would cover, what would go into passing the test at the end of the three week course, and the many laws and rules they would need to follow if they were to make it past driving with a permit to driving with a license when they reached sixteen years of age. He noticed Alisha blush at the mention of how old they all were, and he asked, “Are any of you already sixteen? I don’t mean to embarrass you, I just need to know since it will alter the time between receiving your permit and applying for your license. I’m sorry to say it, but I will have to go harder on you than the rest of the class.” He winked at them, trying to break the ice. “So. Any sixteen year olds, or perhaps older?”

Alisha hesitantly raised her hand.

“And your age, Miss Kein?”

“Seventeen,” she replied softly. He half expected the class to snicker, as had happened previous times when he came to teach at this high school (it was a particularly cruel one when it came to the divisions between certain cliques and posses), but the room was deathly silent and everyone but Mr. Brook looked away at the mention of Alisha’s age. It was odd for someone to wait so long to take the first segment of driver’s education. He wondered if she had a learning disability and that was the reason for the rest of his students’ unease around her.

However, in the following days as they began reading the required texts and having discussions in class, she proved to be smart… Perhaps even brilliant, he found himself thinking. She was most definitely the most intelligent of the class, but that did not seem to be the reason for her isolation, either.

 

As the days wore on, he noticed more differences between the girl and the others. She was paler, quieter, and spoke rarely outside of answering questions, which she did remarkably well. She always wore jeans and a sweatshirt, no matter how warm it was outside. Every day, she came in reading a book, quietly took her seat (never was she late again), and then quickly placed the book in her lap, where it stayed until the end of class when she would pull it out and begin reading again as she left.

When students began signing up for driving times, Alisha held back and avoided it until she had no choice. “Don’t worry, Alisha,” Mr. Brook stopped her as she exited the room at the end of the first week. “A lot of kids are nervous about their first time driving… we won’t leave the parking lot. You will be perfectly safe.”

She gave him a petrified stare and he placed his hand on her shoulder in a fatherly manner. She flinched away from the touch.

“There is nothing to be afraid of, Alisha. Think of all the boys and girls who have driven already in this class. You are the last one. Everyone else is fine, and you will be also.”

She nodded stiffly and refused to meet his gaze as she hurried away.

 

When it actually was Alisha’s turn behind the wheel, she froze the moment she put the key in the ignition. “Keep going,” Mr. Brook told her, not looking up from the sheet of paper he was making notes on.

“Uh huh,” she said while staring at the key like it was a live monster.

Mr. Brook found her to be shaky and unconfident at the start of her one hour driving slot, but a natural at the close. So when she signed up for her second hour, which was to take place on the streets of Birchridge, he had no qualms about her abilities as a safe and responsible driver.

“The key is not going to bite you,” he had to remind her again as she held it up in front of her, looking fearful.

“I know, it’s just…” Alisha trailed off.

“You’ll be fine. You’re one of the best drivers in the entire class,” Mr. Brook tried to reassure her, but this just seemed to make her terror greater as she began to shake and she closed her eyes. When she opened them, however, she looked much surer of herself. With a determined look on her petite face, she stuck the key in the ignition and turned it.

They encountered no more problems until she turned onto Main Street and froze up again. Like a statue, her knuckles turned white on the wheel and her foot forgot where the gas pedal was. A car honk as it neared them and, thinking, Whoa! What’s this all about?! to himself, Mr. Brook grabbed the steering wheel and took them off, onto the shoulder of the road to let it pass.

“Are you alright?” he asked Alisha. One glance over at her told him that she was not. She was shaking again and a soft tear leaked from one eye.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

“You needn’t worry so much, Miss Kein,” he told her, straightening his glasses. “Just relax and this will be as easy as… well, do you play any instruments?”

“The piano,” she said quietly, looking slightly more reassured already, as if even just the mention of something she was familiar with could make the nerves go away.

“Do you remember when you started playing the piano? It was pretty difficult and scary, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess,” she said. For the first time ever, she met his eye of her own accord, and what he saw there was sadness. It reminded him of eating carrot cake for the first time after his mother died when he was in his twenties. It was sorrowful, but also warm and familiar, almost like she was touching him in some little way as he tasted her favorite dessert again. It was a bittersweet sadness.  “My sister taught me,” she said. Her voice had gone even softer than before. “Back before she got into –” she stopped.

He tried to smooth over the awkward pause that followed by saying, “Driving is just like learning to play an instrument. It will be hard and frightening at first, but then you’ll get used to it and it will be easy… just as easy as playing the piano.”

“My parents had a similar talk with me on the first day of class,” she admitted quietly. “That’s why I was late.” Her chocolate brown eyes closed for an instant, but her expression, eventually, became peaceful. “I’m ready to try again,” she said.

“Very well. Wait for a break in traffic and then pull back onto Main Street,” instructed Mr. Brook. “Now go!”

Alisha gently pulled the driver’s education car onto the road and took them through downtown. Outside of Mr. Brook’s occasional corrections or directions, they remained silent, watching the city flash by.

 

The second week of class brought even more heat, and on Thursday the air conditioning for the school broke down. Mr. Brook found himself happy he had decided to wear a thin t-shirt that day, as opposed to his usual polo. The class took turns leaving to get a sip of water from the drinking fountain and when it was Alisha’s turn to go, Mr. Brook was not sure what he was most surprised about – the fact that she was still clothed from head to toe in jeans and a sweatshirt, or the fact that he was not surprised that she was.

“Miss Kein,” he stopped her in the doorway. “It is over 100 degrees in here. I’m overheating just seeing you dressed that way.” He looked worriedly at the beads of sweat covering her beat red skin. “If you don’t take off at least one of those layers, I think I will need to call your parents about the matter.”

Alisha sulked while she pulled her hoody over her head, but he could tell she was instantly cooler the moment the bulky sweatshirt was off. She had on a light brown tank top underneath that fit her body well. She really is a pretty girl, he thought to himself. I wonder why none of the boys like her?

But then he caught sight of the thick scars running up and down her arms in a horizontal pattern, stretching all the way from her wrists to her shoulders, and then across her breastbone and downward so that they disappeared below the line of her blouse, and his thoughts abruptly cut off. He wondered if she had similar scars on her legs, also, and what painful experience could have made them.

 

The third week of class, he announced that they would spend the last few days before the exam discussing alcohol and its effects on drivers. Out the corner of his eye, Mr. Brook noticed Alisha stiffen and glance down at her lap, where her book sat. She was not the only one to look awkward at that moment, though. The entire class had quieted so much that if a pin were dropped in a different part of the building, they all surely would have heard it.

 

When the course finally was finished, Mr. Brook was not surprised to find that Alisha earned a perfect score on her test. She was the first student in several years to accomplish such a feat, and he decided, while watching the students trickle out of the room, that he should go outside and meet her parents so that he could brag about the success with them.

He followed his class down the hall and sighed when he saw Alisha walking by herself, her head tucked between the covers of her book as she read. It was then that he realized that all of the books she had been carrying with her the past few weeks had actually been just one book, the same book today as the one on the first day… He had never taken the time to look at the cover, but now, thinking back on it, it had been the same color and size the entire time. As he watched, Alisha lifted the book to turn the page so that the title flashed in his direction. Grief and How to Get Over It it read. This stopped him dead in his tracks. He had been expecting one of the Nicholas Sparks volumes, or perhaps a fantasy novel.

He stopped at the door as she went out to the parking lot where an SUV awaited her. Her parents sat chatting in the front. When Alisha opened the door, they both turned around in their seats and began talking with her, more than likely asking her how the exam had gone.

As their vehicle pulled away from the curb, Mr. Brook looked at their lone bumper sticker. Above the Influence.

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Thanks for reading!!

Vote for next week’s Wordy Wednesday:

 

 

~Julia

The Myth that is My “Summer”

When I was little, summer used to be this really big, exciting thing. I’d long for it for months; I’d dream about what I’d do with all that time off from school once I had it — play make believe games, and go for adventures in the woods behind my house, and go on family vacations, and go to camp, and just… go everywhere, do everything. When I was little, I wanted to do everything with my summers, because summer meant freedom, back then.

When you’re little, the adults make all of the plans. They decide where you’re going and when and what you’ll do when you get there, but there were always forgotten moments during the long, hot summers that the adults were too busy to dictate what you were doing, and you got to make the plans, for once.

It was magical, and it was free, and it was what made sitting in a classroom for the entire school year worth suffering through.

Now, summer is for working.

Sure, I don’t have a paying job at the moment, but I don’t have time for one — I spend my mornings and afternoons focusing on my writing, my evenings at play rehearsals, and my weekends doing more of the same. I’m hosting a writing conference in a couple of weeks for a group of teenagers, and I’m busy preparing for that. Whenever I’m not busy writing or acting or conference prepping for five seconds, I’m either sleeping or doing the dishes (while eating something super unhealthy, like my current craving: nachos *mmmm*).

Meanwhile, I’m behind on things. Yesterday I realized I forgot to do something for the conference that was supposed to be done a couple of weeks ago, I’m just now beginning to get my stuff together for college, and my room is still not clean, despite being two months into summer–all of which is much to my parents’ chagrin.

What happened to summer? What happened to freedom, relaxing, making plans and then just going and doing them? My schedule is completely booked up for the next two weeks, and it sucks, because my friends want to go to an amusement park for a day, and I can’t go with them. I can’t do anything with my nights this week, because I have theatre every day (although, on the upside, the company’s all going to see The Dark Knight Rises together at midnight on Thursday, so I at least still get to do that).

I am trapped, and I am hectic, and I’m still not doing everything that I’m supposed to be doing. I’m falling behind, I’m falling through on commitments, and isn’t that what school is for, not summer? Isn’t summer supposed to be for recharging your batteries, not for draining them even further?

I had one little taste of summer yesterday, when I was out shopping with my mom for supplies for the conference. We were coming back from a t-shirt store, driving home, when she asked me if I’d like to go to Jo-Ann Fabrics, since we were out and about anyway. I almost said no, because there was stuff I needed to get done at home, but then there was that thought–it’s summer–and I said, “Sure, let’s go.”

Isn’t that sad? That the wildest, craziest thing I’ve done in weeks is go to Jo-Ann Fabrics?

And the worst part of it all is that I’m the one who caged myself in. I’m the one who signed up for all these things I’m busy doing.

Whereas the adults used to dictate my life, scheduling me into a hole all summer, now I’m the one doing it! (Hurray for me, right?)

There are so many things that I care about, and so many things that I’m scared of falling behind on: I desperately want to be an author. Desperately. And I’m addicted to acting, and I love helping other people, and there are just so many things that I want to put my all into, but there’s just not enough time or energy for all of it, so I’m falling behind.

And it’s summer. IT IS SUMMER. And I know it’s supposed to be part of growing up, no longer having the freedom to explore and have adventures and all that, but this is not acceptable. I’m eighteen years old, and I work more hours a week than my parents do, and I’m not even getting paid anything for it.

I love to write and I love to act, so I really don’t want to complain about those things. But I need a break. I need a week of this-is-Julia’s-relaxing-time. But I feel like I can’t do that, because I have so many commitments and there are so many things that need to get done.

What happened to summer, and why in the world is it even busier than the school year was?

In other news, the winning option from the Wordy Wednesday poll was to post a new chapter of Cadence, so be looking out for that this Wednesday!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Cadence, Excerpt #3”)

I AM GOING CRAZY RIGHT NOW. I’m currently working at a local drama camp in the mornings, prepping for my grad party this weekend in the afternoons, and attending theatre rehearsals in the evenings. Along with trying not to lose Camp NaNoWriMo too horribly.

I ache all over, I keep snapping at everybody, and I’m basically dressed like a giant five year old today because I couldn’t be bothered to find anything cute to wear.

And I look like this:

I really, really just want to get some sleep, but I can’t, because there’s so much stuff to do, and just… Gah. I can’t take it. I can’t wait until this week is over and everything slows down and I can go back to being like this:

(I know — even when I’m trying, I don’t have my usual perk and verve.)

But anyway, here’s today’s Wordy Wednesday! (To be honest, I’m not even sure today is Wednesday, but I’m assuming it is since this is going to be my third day of torture and it started on Monday… which comes two days before Wednesday. Yeah.)

(Link to Chapter One & Chapter Two.)

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[Sorry this is no longer available–I’m editing Cadence now with the hopes of maybe, possibly publishing it someday. Thanks for the interest, though!]

 

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~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Camp NaNoWriMo Excerpt”)

Today’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from my Camp NaNoWriMo project, Cadence!! 🙂 And if you read the post from last weekend, you’ll notice that the only thing this excerpt has in common with my original plot summary is the title. Because after writing 8,000 words this past weekend and hating the novel the entire way, I finally just gave up on it on Monday and spent the entire day writing a NEW novel (as my cabinmate Hero put it: “Classic Julia”), and I ended up writing 11,000 words in one day. And then basically dying, because I didn’t eat anything while writing those 11,000 words, and it wasn’t until around 6:00 PM that I finally left the laptop in search of food. (In the meantime, my narrator Olivia spent the majority of the opening talking about food — evidence of hunger, on my part?)

But anyway, here’s your excerpt!! 😀 It’s kind of rough, but hey — it is Camp NaNoWriMo. 😉

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[Sorry this is no longer available–I’m editing Cadence now with the hopes of maybe, possibly publishing it someday. Thanks for the interest, though!]

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So, I want to know: What do you all want to see this blog doing over the next few weeks? What kinds of writings do you want in your Wordy Wednesdays? More Camp NaNo excerpts? Songs, poems, short stories? And what kinds of weekend posts are you interested in: Do you want more updates on my life, or maybe some book or movie reviews? Anything else you want to see me doing?

Please let me know in the comments! Thanks!

~Julia

PS. My condolences to the family of Ray Bradbury. He was a visionary writer, and a huge inspiration. The world will miss his words.

Grad Party Season

You know, I always think, “Yay! It’s summer! It’s time sleep in and relax!!! YUSSS!”

— And then I go on Facebook and realize that it’s the Saturday after graduation, actually, which means that I have four grad parties to attend and a birthday party. And the first one starts in less than an hour. And I haven’t showered yet. Or bought anyone gifts. And all I really want to do at the moment is stay at home and read Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).

But anyway, the grad parties are calling, so I’ll have to see if I can get a real post in later, but chances are that I’m not going to be home for the rest of the day. (Oh, and a head’s up — I’m going to Chicago for part of next weekend, for my cousin’s grad party, and then running around to other grad parties for the rest of it, so I’m going to be swamped again. And then theatre starts up again after that. And yeah… So much for rest and relaxation, right?)

To tide you over, here’s a cute picture of my dog being annoyed at me (I’d just woken her up from a nap):

 

Talk to you maybe tomorrow? (And yes. That is indeed a Hunger Games t-shirt.)

 

~Julia

Camp NaNoWriMo, Flat Characters, and SUMMER VACATION(!!!)

Today’s blog post is going to cover several different topics (as you can see by the title). So, without further ado…

Camp NaNoWriMo

(Please note that this picture is from a year and a half ago, at the Writer’s Digest Conference 2011, and I’d just been on a plane for like four hours.)

For anyone who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, get out.

No. I’m serious. GET. OUT.

For anyone who does know what it is: You guys should totally participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this summer. It’s just like regular NaNoWriMo, except that it’s happening in June and August (I think you’re supposed to spend July catching up on having a life?) (I’ll probably spend it sleeping, instead)… and yeah. Plus, it has a cool camp theme. You get to have a virtual cabin where you “bunk” with five or six other WriMos, through which you get a message board to talk with each other and stuff, and it’s really super cool. I did it last summer — without actually writing a novel; I was just in it for the cabin — and it was one of the coolest writing-related experiences of my life.

So yeah. You should go check that out.

Next topic:

Flat Characters

(This is what I look like when I encounter flat characters.)

I feel like I should start this off by saying that I. HATE. FLAT. CHARACTERS. Aaaand, I’m reading a book right now that stars an entire cast of them. Out of like fifteen people, I’ve met maybe … two? … who weren’t completely flat? And I’m pretty much at the end of the book, at this point? And did I mention that neither of those “maybe two” not flat characters are even main characters, but rather vague-barely-there-secondary-supporting-characters?

Now, I’m not going to say what book it is, because I don’t want to be mean about it, but here are some hints:

  • It’s a YA dystopian novel that’s a NY Times bestseller that’s neither The Hunger Games nor Divergent.
  • It’s similar to The Giver.  (Like, it’s THAT kind of dystopian society, not The Hunger Games kind.)
  • It stars a poorly crafted love triangle. (I say “poorly crafted” because the main character doesn’t show any real emotion toward either of the guys, although she attempts to — but it’s all telling instead of showing, so it doesn’t come across properly — and neither of the guys are even very attractive. Like, one is the stereotypical I-am-perfect-so-you-should-love-me dude, and the other one is the I-am-dark-and-mysterious-SO-YOU-SHOULD-LOVE-ME-INSTEAD dude. And of course Main Character Girl chooses Dark and Mysterious Boy — hello, it’s like Twilight ALL OVER AGAIN, and that wasn’t a good love story the first time around!

But anyway, I’ll stop ranting now and let you guess away, my friends. (Meanwhile, I’m going to go re-read The Hunger Games for the zillionth time to get this bad taste out of my mouth.)

(Oh and EDIT TO THIS POST: I finished the bad Flat Character Book, and it actually ended pretty well. Predictable, but well. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, and the characters look like they might actually have real personalities in the second book, so: Ignore this ranting, for the most part. They’re still flat for 99% of the novel, but the ending semi makes up for it.)

Last topic:

Summer Vacation

(IT’S SUMMERRRR!!!!!!!!!!)

Due to my summer vacation beginning so early this year, due to me being a senior — I usually get out halfway through June — I, of course, am spending my first weekend of summer vacay with really crappy allergies. Like, my throat is basically clogged shut with gunk right now. It’s nasty. I’m beginning to look like this again:

(Wasn’t this so lovely? We should just relive it again, and again, and AGAIN!)

I still can’t quite believe that high school’s over (it was really weird yesterday — one of my underclassman friends texted me about how she had just finished  reading Divergent during school, because I was letting her borrow it, and I was like, “Wait, why were you in school today? Oh. Right. IT’S ONLY THE SENIORS WHO ARE OUT ALREADY. DUHHH.” — IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING!!!)

Oh, and bonus topic before we wrap this blog post up:

Yesterday was my big brother’s 21st birthday! EVERYBODY SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIM!!! 😀

(Thanks!!!)

~Julia