Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Art Museum Muse

I went to an art museum for one of my finals. There was an exhibit showcasing many famous art pieces related to gardens, mainly Monet, some Matisse. There were two Van Goghs that I fell in love with immediately. As part of the final, we had to write something in response to what we saw in the art hall. But I was stuck. I wrote a few crappy poems.

Then, the next morning I woke too early to function and wrote two prose poems. I don't write poetry. I don't consider myself a poet. But these poems wouldn't let me sleep. Because after I penned them, I went back to sleep perfectly fine. Here's what I wrote.

Weeping Willow

We swing among the branches of a tree that cascades green over the world. A fountain of leaves and vines. My feet graze the grass below the canopy of eaves as I grasp the vines and circle the thick trunk. Around and around, the branches twist over and over across my wrists and palms until I'm tangled in a crisscross net of green strings. But you... you soar above the world of green, gently wrapping yourself in a smooth cocoon of leaves and eaves. My feet hit the ground, jerk to a stop by the weight of my body. You unravel toward me, whispering, "Let's leave the weeping to the willow tree." And your eyes left me from gravity's graces until we're both caught in the tangle of the willows.

A World on Fire

The bridge hovers amidst a swirling storm of emerald and burnt orange. A glossy smear flickers the canvas into a wave of mystical fire and smoke. But there are shadows of reds--angry and passionate--and black--mysterious and dangerous. Vigilante color screaming into the dark streets of abandonment. Because it's not the brushstrokes that matter or how visible the bridge appears; it's not about the simmering shades or the time it took to get this far. It's about how it makes you feel. How the rage of fire forces you off the edge of a building to punch pavement and skulls until your hands are battered and dripping with the swirling storm of color. Until all you can see are the reds and blacks of a bridge on fire, of oil and canvas, of a world on fire, of chemicals and blindness.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beautiful Books: December 2015

Ah, it's that time of the month again where I finally stop putting off my answers to the Beautiful Books link-up hosted by Sky @ Further Up and Further In and Cait @ Paper Fury. You can learn more about Beautiful Books here.

This month, we're supposed to discuss our editing process (click here for this month's questions). I'll be answering the questions about my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel: The Secret Library Society. Here we go...

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

I'd go with a 6 or 7? Technically, it's not finished. I hit over 50K, but I've yet to type the final ending because of the end of the semester workload. (But hey, now I'm free!) It turned out well. Obviously, I'll need to go back to edit because sometimes I overwrite or add things that don't need to be explained. However, a lot of things happened that I didn't expect (like characters who popped in or the side trip to Narnia...)

2. Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

I guess... The Book Thief (sort of) meets Inkheart with a hint of Narnia and something else...

3. Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired?

Yes and no. It helps me get my thoughts down in first draft, but if I'm trying to make it sound good, well, deadlines don't help. I do like to write "as inspired" but that is difficult to get away with in a professional writing world.

4. How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process.

I... don't? Haha... *cries* I've never fully edited anything I've written before. This semester of school has been the first where I've really sat down and edited/revised. I mainly, if I do it at all, rewrite. Otherwise, I try to get someone else to read it and tell me how to make it better.

5. What aspect of your story needs the most work?

Probably either character development or the plot progression. Or both. I'm a pantser/gardener, so while I've got ideas of where the story will go, sometimes unexpected things happen and the story veers off the original track or doesn't add up.

6. What aspect of your story did you love the most?

I love my characters, but I hope to flesh them out more and make each one distinct and important. I also love the world I created within the Library. There's lots of hidden surprises and interesting takes on real life library tasks. It was a lot of fun to write and imagine.

7. Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they'll need changes in edits?

Arthur: He's the adorable protagonist. He definitely grows and changes during the course of the story. He learns to believe in himself and to trust his abilities. It's cute.

Sam: She kind of disapprared during part of the novel when Arthur was caught up in the Library happenings. I would like to develop her character more and find ways to bring her into the story.

Recto: He kind of surprised me. I had an idea of who he would be, what he would do. But there were parts of his personality I hadn't discovered yet. He, and his sister, Verso, will need more development and to clear up inconsistencies.

Jacob: I didn't expect him. Yes, I knew there would be a character there, but I didn't expect who he would be or what he would do or how important and critical he would be to Arthur's growth. I didn't expect his name either. I think he'll need more development and more foreshadowing before his arrival in the story.

8. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers
Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

I'm definitely looking forward to beta readers to help out. (I've got people who want to read it already.) I think once I've got a draft or two I'm comfortable with the only thing to help me is getting outside opinions. There's only so many times I can look at my own words before it blurs together. I think eventually, once it's been edited to the best it can, I would like to try to publish it. I feel this story has potential for me.

9. Share a favourite snippet!
Below him, he could see the center of the Library where the entrance was and the Archivist burrow was located. He could see the bookcases on the first level, row after row of them.
And they were all on fire.
The books were burning. The glare of the fire hit Arthur in shades of red and orange with the briefest glimmer of yellow. His face grew hot from the heat licking through the Library. Horror washed over Arthur. This couldn’t be happening. The Library could not be on fire!
10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

I plan to write an entire blog post about this soon, but my biggest goal is to edit/revise something I've written and find beta readers for it. :)

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo or Beautiful Books?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Saying Goodbye Means Forgetting

Today is the last week of my undergrad studies. On Friday, I graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. I'm not sure how I feel yet. It's a mixed bag of emotions. I finished one exam--which meant the final time I would be in class with one of the English professors. The other students discussed seeing her next semester, even if they won't have her in class. She said our final projects could be picked up any time next semester, but I won't be there. (It's a good thing my project was just a stack of papers.)

It was an odd feeling. I wanted to shout, "Except me!" I wanted someone to notice, someone to announce this was my last semester, that this was the last time I'd turn in a final, creative project as an undergrad. But nobody did. Nobody noticed. Will they notice when I'm gone next semester? Will they see an empty seat around the room and think, "I wish Jaime was here" or “Jaime would have an opinion to share on that.” Will it even matter that I graduated a semester early to save money (and my sanity)? Or will I become just another face to be remembered?

You see, I've slowly been cutting ties as this semester progressed. It sounds harsh, rude, even emotionless. But I've done it. I've stopped talking to people or didn't attempt to make more friends I would only say farewell too. Sure, I will keep in touch with some people; I won't lose everybody. But after I graduate, after they graduate in May, some of us will go our separate ways and become only memories, threads stretched thin and left to dangle. I won't mourn the loss of some friendships, as terrible as it sounds. Because I know it would be worse to feel neglected, forgotten, ignored in a few weeks when everybody complains about classwork on social media, and they pat each other on the back for their procrastination. I won't be a part of that. (I never actually was.)

I’ve still got two days of exams. I’ve got time to see people, to say goodbye. But I don’t want to say goodbye. In the words of Peter Pan, “saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” I guess I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the memories I’ve made, the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met. I don’t want to forget going to late night in the cafeteria and goofing around. I don’t want to forget working at the library and the fun (and shenanigans) that occurred. I don’t want to forget adventures to the store, to Ecuador, to other schools. I don’t want to forget midnight meetings to write poetry and look at the stars. I don’t want to forget the books I’ve read, the papers I’ve written, the stories I’ve dreamed. I don’t want to forget.

But I I feel as if it’s already slipping. I don’t remember the plot of the book I read my sophomore year in American Lit. I don’t remember how it felt to stand on the equator, on both hemispheres at the same time. I don’t remember the feeling of walking down that torturous hill in the cold, dead of winter. I don’t remember the words I’ve written, spoken, or thought. I don’t remember. I’ve already forgotten. And I haven’t even left yet; I haven’t even said goodbye.

How much will I forget in the next month? The next year? Will my time have been worth it? I don’t know. I hope to find out.

Today continued my goodbyes. There are three people I won’t see again until after I graduate (unless they see me tomorrow, which is doubtful). I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t want to bring it up when everybody was going ballistic over the exam we were about to take. (An exam I wasn’t worried about nor felt was very hard.) I didn’t want to say “This is it.” I didn’t want the pressure of the last words or the thought that I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Yes, the one will be getting married next summer--I’ll see her then. But will I see her in between? Will I see her after that? I don’t know. The uncertainty chews at me, nibbling away my thoughts one by one. I fear losing this safe haven, which doesn’t feel safe any more. I fear losing everything I’ve tried to gain the last four years. I fear change.

If someone tries to say goodbye to me tomorrow, I think I’m going to (if I can remember) say, “No. Goodbye means going away. Going away means forgetting.” Because as I articulated, it’s true. Going away does make people forget. We’re human; we don’t remember everything, and nothing lasts forever. Life is dependent on one thing: change (or death). We’re supposed to be adaptable, but I feel I’m not. I fear change.

Change means stretching myself to fit the change. Yes, it means growth, but it also means something is different, I’m different.

As I sit here with only one exam (a highly unprepared for exam) between me and graduation, I try to think of everything undergrad has done for me. I don’t feel different. I don’t feel more knowledge or wise. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything going for me. Sure, I can write a pretty bangin’ research paper (if that’s possible). I can tell you the real story of Frankenstein or minute details from Middle-earth. I can even tell you the detailed history of Christmas in the world.

But what has college done for me? I honestly don’t know. I would hope my money is well-worth spent. My time used to the best of my ability. But I don’t know. People said college is where I would find myself. But I don’t know who I am. I’m still the person who questions everything and spends hours dwelling on my thoughts, words, or actions.  I’m still the person who gets caught up talking about TV shows and movies instead of figuring how who I’m going to vote for president. I’m still the little girl who gets lost reading books and dreaming up stories. I just don’t know if the world is ready to meet this girl, or if this girl is ready to meet the world.

I didn’t find myself. I learned some things, but who needs to know the history of Christmas or the plot to every Jane Austen novel or Shakespeare play? How is knowing the ins and outs of storytelling or poetry writing going to put food in my mouth and wi-fi on my computer? What will the classes I took three years ago do to influence me now when I can hardly remember what the topics of discussion and lecture were?

Maybe it’s disheartening to think about spending so much money without gaining anything in return. But I’m not here to be nice or impressive; I’m not here to brag. I’m here to be honest. I’m here to express myself. And right now, on the brink of exhaustion and overwhelming stress and slight anxiety for what comes after tomorrow, I’m feeling very dissatisfied.

My academic adviser had one last conference with me for my final class with him. For a while, I’ve felt at odds with him and other students based on my perception of how this semester went in the class. I felt unheard. I felt ignored. I felt whenever I spoke people didn’t listen or care. But he wrote something at the bottom of the paper I turned in for midterm. And he said it to me out loud, but it wasn’t until hours later when I looked back through his final comments and my peer review feedback that I read those words again. And I almost cried.

“Dear Jaime: You have everything you need to make it.”

Today, I didn’t say goodbye. I said, “See you later.” Because there will be a later. Because people do care. Because people, in the middle of an exam, asked to say goodbye. Because people celebrated my accomplishment and congratulated me.

I finished my final exam. I felt confident in what I did. I felt confident in the whole last week of the semester after I fought so hard to get through these past four months. But I did it. I finished. I’ve completed undergrad and now I have a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. (I don’t physically have  the diploma yet, but I will soon.)

People ask me “What’s next?” My answer: “I’m just taking it one day at a time.” I have a few things coming my way, so we’ll see. One day at a time is how it always goes for me. I started a checklist of things to accomplish once I completed college. I’ve been able to cross off two so far. I’m sure more will be completed and more will be added to the list of things I should do.

-pay off loans
-watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (!!!!!)
-Read lots and lots of books (including: finishing Six of Crows and starting Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer)
-find a job?
-be happy

Later, I’ll be posting about my hopes, goals, and dreams about 2016. I’m going to also highlight books, moments, and accomplishments of 2015 at some point.

But for now, I’m going to sit back and let myself this moment to breathe. Because tomorrow is another day where anything could happen. Because today still feels like a dream world where I can’t tell if everything is happening. (Come on, I finished college and saw Star Wars Episode VII, this has to be a dream, right?) I felt surreal driving through campus one last time as a student, driving home from school and coming to the conclusion I won’t return in January (though my kind-hearted professor told me to have a good break), and sitting in the exam thinking: “This could be the last exam I take.” It’ll probably be the last literature exam I take.

It probably won’t hit me until mid-January when people discuss homework woes that I’m not there, that I’m not returning. That I’m finished.

It’s weird how when things change, the world still keeps going. I’m finished, but more students will study next semester and the semester after that and so forth for the foreseeable future. Star Wars is back and some people won’t see it, some people won’t care, and some people will never have the chance. I could say goodbye, I could say see you later. Both of those things or neither could happen. Because I won’t forget--not quite. I’ve written this moment down so it’ll be here as long as the Internet exists. Some people I won’t see again. Some people I will. And some moments will be remembered like they were a dream.

Because saying goodbye means going away.
And going away means forgetting.

But… the place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming... that’s where I’ll love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.