Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

IMG_2130

I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

IMG_2134

Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

IMG_2139

My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

IMG_2138

I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

IMG_2156 (Edited)

I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

Wordy Wednesday: Coming Home

I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE!!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Repeat CHORUS]

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

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

[Repeat CHORUS]

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

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

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

P.S. May the fourth be with you!

Wordy Wednesday: Remember

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

Things that have happened in the past week:

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

[End on D]
Remember? Remember?

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

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

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

[Repeat CHORUS]

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

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

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

[Repeat CHORUS]

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

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

Remember? Remember.

**********

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

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Zero Drafting

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

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

Things that have happened in the past week:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zero draft example a

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The Garden Trope

It’s my last week of classes of college! Next week is finals and then the week after that is graduation and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Things that have happened in the past week:

  • Went to my last release party for a university lit mag I have a story in! I was lucky enough for my short fiction to be accepted to three university lit mags/anthologies this school year. If you’d like to read any of those, I’ll link to them as they become available online on the “My Writing” page.
  • Did interviews for a couple very cool things that I am SUPER EXCITED about! I’ll give details on those once the features themselves are released, but what I can tell you now is that one interview was about being a graduating senior at U of M and the other was about Ch1Con (and did I mention that I am SUPER EXCITED?).
  • Illustrated, put together, and ordered the picture book final project for my writing children’s literature class! Fingers crossed it gets here soon because I am dying to see it. (Also: that was my last project of the semester, so all I have left to do now are final exams ahhhhh!)
  • Took my first final of the semester! Only two more to go. (And then my first day of freedom will be my birthday, so good job on the symbolism there, Life.)
  • Had the showcase for my dance class! I was barely in it, since I had to sit out so much of the semester with my bum knee, but it was really fun and I loved getting to watch my class kick butt after working so hard all term.
  • Got nine hours of sleep last night! I don’t know about you, but this is the thing I am most proud of.

And, now that I have bored you with my life (per usual): this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. In honor of it being my final week before my final finals (say that one five times fast), I figured I’d share one last paper from an undergraduate class with you. This is from my history of children’s literature class, discussing the use of the Garden Trope (term defined in the essay, if you don’t already know it) in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

As always with these essays for classes, apologies for the obnoxiously long paragraphs and all that jazz.

**********

Children’s literature encompasses a great variety of stereotypes and running themes. From the rise of the child as the trickster figure in works such as Peter and Wendy and the stories of Brer Rabbit, to the use of magic in order to empower the child in novels such as Matilda and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s easy to pick out the threads that run from work to work in order to altogether come to define the literary category. However, perhaps the most intriguing of all of these tropes is that of the garden, or: the connection between the child and the natural world. Rousseau first developed the garden trope in the eighteen-century, with his work delving into the philosophy behind childhood and child development. He believed that children and nature were inherently connected, using terms such as “sapling” (Rousseau 5) and extended metaphors about trees in order to explain the child’s soul—and how best to protect it from the darkness of the increasingly urbanized world. In his book Emile, he writes that “education comes to us from nature” (Rousseau 6), and it is this concept of Rousseau’s that arguably has been most pervasive throughout the years. This relies upon placing the child in nature—and giving him or her freedom to explore this space (and thus his or herself)—in order for the child to properly develop and grow, thus protecting Rousseau’s “sapling” (or, the child’s soul). By drawing a connection between children and the natural world, the garden trope offers a safe space in which the child can explore his or her identity, away from the pressures of societal conventions and adults’ expectations. However, many storytellers interpret this in different ways. Thus, through works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, it becomes clear that different elements of the garden trope—from the journey into nature, to learning from nature, to the role of nature in the final lesson conveyed—all play roles in presenting differing representations of this trope, which altogether ultimately convey each work’s unique interpretation of the role of nature in the child’s development. (Rousseau)

The deviations between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Princess and the Frog become clear almost immediately in the two works. In his classic novel of fantasy and nonsense, Carroll presents Alice as connected with nature from the beginning. In fact, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland opens with a line about how “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank” (Carroll 1). In other words, Carroll immediately associates Alice with nature by situating her on a river bank, which one can infer to combine both the more common elements of nature (such as grass and trees) as well as a slightly less common element (water); Alice is entirely surrounded by the natural. The fact that Alice is sitting still amongst all of this, much like she herself is rooted to the ground (similar to Rousseau’s sapling) solidifies this connection. This passage also quickly goes on to include references to the “hot day” (Carroll 1) and “making a daisy-chain” (Carroll 1), both of which strengthen the enmeshment of Alice and the natural world, especially in comparison with Alice’s early complaint about her sister’s book, which she thinks is pointless and boring. By rejecting the opportunity to read the book, Alice likewise rejects the infiltration of the domestic into the natural world, which prefaces the fact that she will soon embrace the natural, instead, further by following the White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole. In contrast, the animated Disney fairytale film The Princess and the Frog opens with the titular princess, Tiana, far away from nature. Tiana lives in a big city—New Orleans—and, due to this, she spends the first several scenes entirely immersed in the urban. In particular, she finds herself surrounded by her rich friend Charlotte’s opulence, which takes Tiana as far from the natural world as possible. When a young Tiana is presented with the natural—which occurs when her mother reads the two girls the classic fairytale “The Frog Prince”—she outright rejects it, disgusted, stating, “There is no way, in this whole wide world, I would ever, ever, ever—I mean never—kiss a frog” (The Princess and the Frog 2:25-2:32). This separation and abhorrence of nature continues when Tiana grows into a down-on-her-luck young woman who finds herself presented with the opportunity to kiss Prince Naveen, in frog form. It takes all of Tiana’s will power to complete the act, and she is horrified when she finds herself transformed into a frog as well, rather than Naveen into a human. In line with this, even as a frog, she continues to reject the natural, only reluctantly leaving the urban for the bayou and grousing about things like how frog skin is covered with mucus and “[t]here is no way [she’s] … kissing a frog and eating a bug in the same day” (The Princess and the Frog 43:49-43:54). This shows how Tiana sees herself as separate from nature, and thus she does not understand it (or herself). Altogether, the examples of both Alice and Tiana’s journeys into the natural world portray how this element of the garden trope affects the child character’s development overall, as it is Alice’s initial acceptance of nature—and Tiana’s rejection of it—that shape the lessons each character must learn throughout her story.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that said lessons are a second way storytellers can represent their differing interpretations of the garden trope. These two works teach their protagonists lessons in greatly differing manners, aligned with the relationship between the character and the natural. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for instance, because Alice is already part of nature, she is open to learning from the creatures she encounters, and thus is able to learn through broad conversations with them concerning a variety of topics. This means that although Alice truly is learning in part from Wonderland’s residents, she is doing so through compromise and interpretation—by not just listening, but interacting as well—so that it feels almost as if she is teaching herself. For example, in the chapter “Advice from a Caterpillar,” the advice the Caterpillar gives Alice in terms of her size is that she will “‘get used to [being three inches high] … in time’” (Carroll 61); however, Alice disagrees with this and so is able to learn something about herself (that she is not the kind of person who will just get used to something she dislikes) in the process. The Caterpillar presents her with an intended lesson, but Alice reinterprets it to learn something else instead. In essence, because Alice is part of nature, like the Caterpillar, she is able to take the lessons conveyed by the Wonderland creatures and decide whether or not they fit with the sense of self she is developing, so that ultimately she decides the lessons she learns. On the other hand, because Tiana of The Princess and the Frog rejects nature, she is not able to be in conversation with it. Instead, nature essentially must talk at her, with the hope that she will listen. The filmmakers convey this by having Tiana interact with a number of bayou creatures, all of whom have strong senses of self from which she must learn. However, at first Tiana dislikes these characters, because each of them believes in something seemingly impossible. For example, Ray the lightning bug is in love with a star, which he calls Evangeline. This at first appears to associate the natural with the impossible, but it becomes clear that these dreams only appear impossible because Tiana does not accept things she does not understand (i.e. nature). Tiana must accept these impossible things—and thus the lesson each character represents—in order to reinterpret her personal identity and be able to move the plot forward. Essentially, Tiana must listen to nature, and find it in herself to accept nature, in order to learn the lessons necessary in order to achieve her goal of becoming human and returning home again.

It is the ultimate goal of each character that draws the most attention to the importance to the role of nature in the child’s development. After all, it is Alice and Tiana’s shared goal of getting home that drives them to explore the other worlds in which they find themselves. However, the role of the natural differs greatly here. Because Alice is part of nature, and has been learning in conversation with nature—and thus in large part from herself—her resolution relies not upon continued learning from the natural, but upon learning to control it and thus learning to empower herself as an important element of the natural. To be more specific, Alice spends the entirety of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland voraciously eating and, due to this and the magic associated with the nature of Wonderland, her size continually changes, out of her control. However, in the final chapters, Alice’s size changes not because of something she has eaten (a type of change which Carroll has presented throughout the text as “natural”), but rather because she has felt a strong emotion. She has deposed of what has been natural thus far in order to create a new natural order—one in which, rather than something else controlling her, she takes control of herself and, because she is part of it, the natural world at large. In doing this, Alice is no longer subjected to the rules of nature, but instead defines the rules herself. This is especially clear when, in finally taking control of her growth, she “ha[s] … grown to her full size” (Carroll 140)—the first time she has been her proper size since entering Wonderland—and she is able to state to those who are antagonizing her that they are “‘nothing but a pack of cards!’” (Carroll 140), at which point they transform into just that. It is Alice taking control in this manner that allows her to wake up from Wonderland and find herself back on the river bank with her sister—only now, she isn’t bored. In contrast, Tiana’s resolution relies not upon controlling nature, but simply embracing it. She must learn to overcome her urbanized prejudices against the natural world, and acknowledge herself as part of it, in order to return to human form. She does so by falling in love with Naveen, so that when he is given the opportunity to return the two of them to human form—by kissing, and then marrying, Charlotte—Tiana asks him not to, because she’d rather be a frog with him than a human without him. She says that her “dream [of opening a restaurant upon becoming human again, for which she has worked her entire life] wouldn’t be complete without [him] … in it” (Princess and the Frog 1:1:23:29-1:23:35). Because Tiana accepts being a part of nature—and thus remaining a frog for the rest of her life—she and Naveen stop trying to become human again, and instead choose to move on with their lives, happily, as frogs. Due to this acceptance, they then get married, at which point the curse is finally able to lift and they do become human again after all. These are two very different interpretations of the role of nature in the resolution of the child’s story, but ultimately do both reflect the trope of learning in and from nature, as it is each child’s reevaluation of her place in relation to nature that allows her to return home.

Truly, it is all three of these elements, combined, that reflect how storytellers can interpret the garden trope in different manners. Alice’s immediate immersion in nature leads to her ability to converse as an element of it, which subsequently also leads, naturally, to the need for her to take control of nature—to assert her agency as part of it—in order to return home. Tiana, on the other hand, first rejects nature, and so must learn to accept it and find her place within it in order to find her happy ending and thus become human again. However, both of these interpretations do ultimately reflect the Rousseauan model of development, as both Alice and Tiana rely heavily upon nature to shape their character arcs and the plots of their stories. Although they learn different lessons, both learn from nature, which exemplifies Rousseau’s idea that children are part of nature. Therefore, through works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, it becomes clear that different elements of the garden trope—from the journey into nature, to learning from nature, to the role of nature in the final lesson conveyed—all play roles in presenting differing representations of this trope. Ultimately, these elements work together to convey each story’s unique interpretation of the role of nature in the child’s development—and altogether show how children and the natural world truly are connected, making nature crucial to the child’s growth in order to become who he or she is meant to be. (Rousseau) (Carroll) (The Princess and the Frog)

*****

Bibliography

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: Knopf, 1988. Print.

The Princess and the Frog. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Walt Disney, 2009. Online.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Emile. London: J.M. Dent, 1993. Print.

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: I Am

In the past week, I’ve written three papers, two event reviews, and the text for the picture book that is the final project for one of my children’s lit classes. I also co-ran U of M’s Second Annual Publishing Career Forum, put on a bake sale, saw Misty Copeland dance in the American Ballet Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty, aaand I kind of got the results from my honors thesis back.

Drum roll please: my honors thesis received HIGHEST HONORS AHHH(!!!!!)

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That’s the highest distinction the university awards for honors theses and I’m kind of dying of relief and happiness.

For anyone who doesn’t know what went into my thesis, it was a collection of ten short stories (one from high school, nine from throughout my undergraduate career) that I compiled and revised throughout this school year. They were all contemporary literary fiction, a mixture of YA and NA, and as my thesis adviser put it “very depressing” (because, hello, literary fiction).

And yeah. This semester’s so close to being done now. I’m down to completing the picture book and taking my finals and then I’m FINISHED with COLLEGE what EVEN. (As I keep telling everyone who asks: I am very tired–so, as great as my classes have been this semester, I’m ready for summer–but I am also not at all ready to graduate. Like, I’m really excited for what’s to come after graduation–duh–but I’m also so, so sad, because I’ve loved this school and these past four years and gah.)

Anyway, on that note: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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I am lace dresses
and floral skirts
and faux leather boots,
scuffed on the toe

I am roses in Dasani water bottles
and handfuls of coral in a mason jar
and an infinite supply of peppermint tea,
in an infinite selection of mugs

I am movie posters
and photo collages
and pictures of cities,
I love and miss (I miss so much)

I am books upon books
and white Christmas lights strung across the ceiling
and a nest of teal blankets,
with the sheets kicked to the end of the bed

I am tired
and I am trying so hard
but also I am so full of
burning, breaking, blinding
happiness

I am so happy
to be this person, in this moment,
right here, right now–
to know
who I am

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Hill Auditorium

Hey there! Guess who’s back in her knee brace and getting her butt kicked by regular life?

That’s right: after only a few days of brace-free leg, I managed to re-injure myself (because obviously). On the upside, it’s not nearly as bad this time, so I’m still able to work and get around pretty well, and I’ll hopefully (FINALLY) be back into participating in my dance class by next week. Cross your fingers!

This week has been crazy busy, between Easter and multiple papers due and my LAST CHOIR CONCERT OF COLLEGE HOLD ME. Then this Friday is this event I’m co-chairing for the university that we’ve been planning all year and are flying in speakers from New York for and all kinds of stuff. And then I’m trying to arrange a fundraiser for Edinburgh for Saturday, and then Saturday night I’m going to the ballet (for class/work), and this is all on top of the normal weekend stuff I have to do, like homework and rehearsal and pretending I have a social life.

Altogether, this means I am incredibly exhausted and stressed out and constantly feeling like I’m not doing enough. However, a lot of really great things have also been happening lately (I got to see a couple of old friends for the first time in a few months! we won a major grant for Edinburgh! I’m almost done with the rough draft of Time Travel Heist Story!)–so I’m doing my best to take deep breaths and roll with the punches and remember that I’m doing all of these things voluntarily, because I like them, so getting stressed is counter-intuitive.

And yeah. I swear I really am enjoying my last semester of college! My classes are super interesting and I’m truly excited about the projects on which I’m working and I love Ann Arbor. (I’m just also really tired.)

And now that I’ve bored you with all of my life stuff: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem!

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It’s a
deep breath
and the first step
onto the shiny, slick floor
overlooking so many seats
and the balconies,
all dressed in
red,
and the lights so bright
you feel like you’re
melting
into
a puddle, except also
they make you feel
strong

It’s the rainbow-shaped
arches of white lights
and the feeling of
so much history pressing
upon your chest, against
your fingers,
into your feet,
while you squint against the
stage lights to search for familiar
faces beyond the glow

And it’s this,
all of this–
the hesitation, the twist
to your stomach, as
the conductor raises
her arms–
it’s the moment before the
music crashes
around you and through you and
straight into you
and everything is so
absolutely
silent,
like all the
sound has been sucked
from the room

It’s this–
the moments I live for:
the stage and
the lights and
the anticipation
and the drumming of
my heart, waiting for
the music
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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Right There

So, I’m doing a lot better this week. Still really tired and everything, but stuff has already begun to settle down a little (THANK GOODNESS).

A huge upside of this is that I actually got to do things that weren’t homework/work-related this weekend, like throwing a costume party with my roommates on Friday for Hannah’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) and dancing super awkwardly at the Michigan Quidditch team’s Yule Ball on Saturday. So that was very fun and much needed and it’s kind of nice to be tired from something other than staying up until two AM doing homework, this week.

I went to the party as Super Girl, because why would you ever give up the opportunity to wear a cape.

However, things are about to get crazy again, because I’m going out of town for a family thing soon and, as part of that, I’m of course missing over a day of classes. Sooo here’s to enjoying the calm between the storms. (Upside: the family thing is going to be super fun and is happening in a place much warmer than Michigan currently is?)

ANYWAY. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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I am
so close that
it is a word
on my tongue,
in my throat,
clenched between
biting nails and
sweating palms,
right there
right there
right there,
contaminating
every breath
and heartbeat
and blink
until the entire
world looks like
it is a bated breath, waiting,
anticipatory,
searching for
the exact right
second, millisecond
to
spring from
its cocoon

Maybe if I
run hard enough
I will learn how to
fly
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Comparing Literature to Film

It has been such a long week.

I keep reminding myself that I just have to survive this first month or so of the semester, then everything should hopefully be a little easier for a while. But, honestly, things are really tough right now (like “I am on the verge of bursting into tears multiple times a day out of stress” kind of tough), which is something I haven’t had to deal with in a long, long time. (Basically: not since freshman year Spanish class.)

But also, all the stressful things I’m dealing with right now are going to lead to really fun things later on–I just have to get to that point. So I’m dealing with them. And I’m taking deep breaths. And I’m doing my best to remember to enjoy the little successes in the midst of everything else.

And, on the upside, in the past week and a half since the semester started, I’ve learned to super appreciate sleep?

Anyway: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. (I knew I could count on you to vote for that!) This is a paper I wrote for my literature-to-film adaptations class last semester, so it’s a little long and not entirely focused on literature, but I think the differences between books and movies are really intriguing, and ultimately tell you about literature as a medium. (Which, you know, ultimately helps you with writing.)

Spoiler warning for anyone who somehow does not know what happens in The Great Gatsby. (And sorry that the formatting on this is a little rough! I don’t have time to make sure it translates properly from Word to WordPress, unfortunately.)

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Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of dashed hopes and the American dream, The Great Gatsby, is an accurate one, in many senses. The film brings all the important players to the screen, from Nick to Gatsby to Daisy; it draws attention to the symbolic importance of the green light at the end of the dock; and it shows the extravagance of Gatsby’s wild parties. However, it also changes the way the story is told. In particular, the film strives to make narrator Nick Carraway a more active player in the plot, which makes sense, since movies allow less opportunity for internal monologue and the role of voice than novels. The filmmakers seek to do this, in large part, by erasing F. Scott Fitzgerald so that they may rather insert Nick in his place. Setting Nick in this authorial role—not simply narrator, but someone who has the ability to pick and choose what he says, how he says it, and, to an extent, how the viewer perceives it—additionally, naturally changes the way Nick tells the story. And this changes The Great Gatsby on a principle level. Nick no longer is whispering the story of his friend Gatsby into a void, but shouting it—via words on a page—to a specific audience. He does not write the story voluntarily, but at the urging of his psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist is not interested in Gatsby; he is there to figure out how to help Nick. Thus this change, in essence, makes the story no longer about Gatsby, but Nick himself—and, because of this, the story no longer comes across as generally objective, but extremely subjective. Nick’s emotion, his pain over all that transpired in New York, tints—and arguably taints—everything. While of course this is also true for the novel, it happens to a much lesser extent there, due to Nick’s lack of awareness to the fact that someone is paying attention to what he says. The novel version of Nick has this magical ability of disappearing into the story, melting into the shadows in order to throw focus onto the characters who are more crucial to the plot. On the other hand, the film version of Nick finds a way to insert himself into every situation so that he is always present, everything is at least vaguely about him, and it is clear that he ultimately is aware that he controls what happens in the story. Thus, by utilizing Nick as not only narrator, but author as well, Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby changes not only how Nick phrases things, but ultimately what these things mean—as exemplified by a seemingly minor change in the opening monologue—, and this therefore transforms who Nick is as a character.

This decision to allow Nick to edit the story he tells becomes apparent almost immediately in the film, as his famous opening monologue begins as voiceover. However, the monologue is condensed—and thus changed—from the version found in the novel. Tweaks and deletions abound in the opening monologue, but one of the most intriguing changes is one that actually does not make it through to the final cut of the film. Rather, screenwriters Luhrmann and Craig Pearce made the change in the screenplay, then rescinded it—returning to Fitzgerald’s phrasing—in the actual film. This change is small, seemingly inconsequential: the removal of the words “and more vulnerable” in Nick’s opening line, otherwise written and spoken as, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice…” (Fitzgerald 1). In the screenplay, the line appears simply as, “In my younger years my father gave me some advice” (Luhrmann and Pearce 1). However, these three words greatly alter the viewer or reader’s perception of the story that follows. The fact that Nick admits to having not only been vulnerable when he was younger—but “more vulnerable,” as in he is still vulnerable, only less so, now—serves multiple purposes. Besides the obvious fact that this tells the audience to think of the past Nick as weaker—and the present Nick as someone who has learned from that weakness, although he is aware that he is not perfectly strong even now—, this phrasing also evokes a sort of sympathy.

None of the characters in The Great Gatsby are generally likeable, but this opening line makes a strong stride towards endearing Nick to the audience, and he is the sole character to truly get this sort of treatment. Everyone else comes across as impenetrable. In this way, it is Nick’s self-awareness, as much as his awareness of others, which makes him such a good narrator. The Great Gatsby is a naturally reflective story, as even in the novel, Nick spends his time looking back on the past and making judgments about it; while he claims, in another portion of the opening, to be “inclined to reserve all judgments” (Fitzgerald 1), he spends the entire novel making judgments about those he knew, what happened, and the various roles he played in it all. Even his last moment with Gatsby is a judgment on Nick’s part, as he states:

“They’re a rotten crowd … You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” / I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. (Fitzgerald 154)

Here Nick judges the Buchanans and their friends, as well as Gatsby and ultimately himself. He is glad he paid Gatsby a compliment, less because of what it says about Gatsby—as Nick hastens to add, he “disapproved of him from beginning to end” (Fitzgerald 154)—but because of what this comment means about Nick. It makes him feel like a good person, the fact that he unknowingly complimented a man just hours before his death, even if at the time he did not entirely believe in his own words. Luhrmann and Pearce transplant this section word-for-word to the screenplay, with the exception of the phrase “because I disapproved of him from beginning to end” Fitzgerald 154)—a change which, in opposition to the exclusion of “and more vulnerable,” works to draw the focus more to Nick’s judgment of himself rather than his judgment of Gatsby, and thus to Nick’s judgment of himself in general. It is decisions such as this that draw attention to the fact that it is this ability of Nick to judge himself that ultimately makes him who he is as a character and narrator in the novel and film.

Accordingly, the exclusion of “and more vulnerable” then begs the question of why the filmmakers thought to remove it in the first place. Based on the general paraphrasing of the opening monologue, the easiest answer is that they initially cut it to save time, which is a more limited resource in films than novels. However, three words do not take long to state; in fact, actor Tobey Maguire’s recitation of “and more vulnerable” takes less than a second—more specifically, seventy-three hundredths of a second. Likewise, the majority of the paraphrasing distributed throughout the monologue works more to reduce Fitzgerald’s wordiness rather than to change the meaning of the writing. For example, Nick remembering the advice his father gave him transforms from: “‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’” (Fitzgerald 1) to the less wordy: “‘Remember, not all the people in this world have had the same advantages as you” (Luhrmann and Pearce 1). It’s about streamlining, not steamrollering. Thus, the deletion of “and more vulnerable” must have been very purposeful, and the next most obvious conclusion is that the writers must have believed that their version of Nick—the one who is aware of his audience and his control over the story he weaves—would not admit to this vulnerability. A Nick Carraway who does not want the audience to know that he was, and continues to be, vulnerable is one who closes himself off from the viewer. He judges others, but not himself. Whether due to a lack of trust or simply a lack of sincerity, this lends itself to a Nick who, if the rest of the adaptation were to follow suit, would be as unsympathetic and ultimately unlikeable as the rest of the cast. Although Nick indeed does function as an audience surrogate in the novel version of The Great Gatsby, this role expands when he becomes the author of the story. Since he is in control, it is important for the viewer to feel safe in his hands, as if he will be honest and forthright about all that transpired. The viewer must believe the story in order to connect with it and learn from it, and that’s only possible when the viewer believes the person telling it. The viewer needs Nick to not only be vulnerable, but to readily admit to this vulnerability, in order to buy into everything else. This means that the phrase “and more vulnerable,” in essence, is a promise, upfront, to the viewer of what is to come.

Of course, it does appear the filmmakers realized this while recording the voiceover with Maguire, because amongst other changes to the opening monologue between the screenplay and film, “and more vulnerable” also reappears. While Nick’s character still transforms between the page and screen due to his increased role, as author, his vulnerability—and thus his ability to judge and therefore become relatable to the audience—remains intact. This decision works in the filmmakers’ favor, as Nick’s willingness to judge also plays into one of the story’s deepest-running themes. What Luhrmann captures best in his adaptation is that The Great Gatsby is a story of want: Desperate, contagious, inescapable, insurmountable, uncontrollable want. As the screenplay and film versions of Nick tell Gatsby, “[Y]ou can’t repeat the past” (Luhrmann and Pearce 140). The Nick of the present, the one telling the story in the psychiatrist’s office, has not forgotten this lesson. Thus, he decides how to tell the past in order to shape the future into the one that he wants. He has witnessed the effect of the green light at the end of the dock. He knows where Gatsby’s passionate, un-satisfiable type of want inevitably leads. Thus, where the novel ends on a note of hopelessness, the filmmakers are aware of their opportunity to end the story differently, and so choose to give a hint at something more—a slightly more positive ending that might better appeal to the movie-going audience, which is generally broader than the contemporary audience which reads classics such as The Great Gatsby. It is at this point, with the story of Gatsby completed and all the focus narrowed in, tight and center, on Nick, that Luhrmann’s film veers from its accuracy to the novel to truly charting its own territory, even if only for a few seconds. Nick does not tell this part. The voiceover narration has finished and the source material has run out. Here the film moves from the subjective first person point-of-view to a third person one actually far more objective than the perspective shared in the novel. Finally, the filmmakers grant the viewer the opportunity to see Nick from a distance, rather than from inside his head. They show here, explicitly, how Nick is choosing how he remembers the past. While not all of the changes Luhrmann makes improve The Great Gatsby, or even arguably work, this one does. The camera follows Nick as he finishes typing a manuscript titled Gatsby. He has finally become a writer, as he always wanted to be. He binds the manuscript, ready to leave the past behind. With a pen, almost as an afterthought, he decides to add the words “The Great” to the title. He chooses to remember Gatsby in this way. And with the binding of the manuscript, like the closing of a book, Nick leaves the past behind in order to move on with his life. He is aware of his vulnerability, but willing to embrace it, learn from it, and live with it. Nick judges himself, but also grows from these judgments. Although time might bear him back “ceaselessly into the past” (Luhrmann and Pearce 224), he has made the decision to meet it head-on. By utilizing Nick as not only narrator, but author as well, Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby changes not only how Nick phrases things, but ultimately what these things mean, which therefore transforms who Nick is as a character. In this case, he is vulnerable, judgmental—and, in consequence, actually a more hopeful Nick Carraway.

*****

Bibliography:
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner Trade Paperback Edition ed. 1925. Print.
Luhrmann, Baz and Pearce, Craig. The Great Gatsby. 2013. Screenplay.
The Great Gatsby. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Warner Home Video, 2013. Film.

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Angell Hall

Hey there! It felt so weird not writing a blog post yesterday.

Not much has been going on the past couple days (just lots of classes and homework and work), but one of my classes did watch Clueless last night, which is always a good time, and yesterday I REGISTERED FOR CLASSES. FOR THE LAST TIME IN MY UNDERGRADUATE CAREER.

Upside: I got into all the classes I wanted, including a children’s literature one with a professor who always ends up with a massive wait list! (#SeniorPerks)

Downside: I maybe registered to take seventeen credit hours my final semester of college. Including three literature classes and my honors thesis. And of all those classes, I only actually technically need one to graduate.

However, the three literature classes I’m registered for are two children’s lit courses and a spy fiction one, so like, they’re going to be incredibly fun and they should make the workload worth it. (There was also a dystopian fiction class I really wanted to take, but alas, there was just no way.)

Hopefully with all these lit classes, I’ll at least have lots to share with you next semester?

In the meantime: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

*****

The stillness of Angell Hall at
six PM, two weeks before the end,
silent save for the buzzing lights,
the hum of hot air in the walls,
a window at my back and
only the stray student hurrying by,
bundled in parkas and maize and blue hats and caffeine,
home so close, it’s a flavor in the air–
these are the moments I stop
and let my eyes drift closed
and take a breath
and think about
how much this one random spot,
these grey wooden benches pushed up
against the strips of plugs and towering glass walls,
has defined the past four years–
blog posts and novel chapters and papers and emails and short stories and poems
have found their way into the world here–
and sometimes a tour guide goes by
with maybe-someday-future students
and once upon a time I was there, walking by
not realizing, not realizing,
because you never realize,
and now I am the senior who is
sentimental about benches.
It’s silly the things time
makes us scared we will miss.

*****

Thanks for reading!

~Julia