Sunday, January 30, 2011

Publication News: Pure Francis

Oh hi! The weather's been awfully nice since the storm passed. The wind is cool and the sun is blazing; the usual duality. I've had a busy day full of smiles and handshakes and a lot of hamming it up; the reason is that the day has come when my flash fiction piece, "Polar Bear," has been published.

Check it out here!

Inspired by my black hole knowledge of folklore, a pinch of winter weather, and a strong love for apple cider, "Polar Bear" comes to you via the fantastic online literary magazine called Pure Francis. I'm happy that my piece has found a home there, and I recommend you read a few other pieces that have been printed (I quite enjoyed "Physicians' Ball" by Doug Lane and "Sunflower" by Chris Brown).

So I had to go out and celebrate this momentous occasion by doing something silly and, if I do say so myself, ham-tastic:

I'll have you know that my family and I wandered around with this button for half the day with no one commenting about it - an easy way to simmer down the ego, if you think about it. But, really, Disney cast members are only obligated to smile and wish people a happy birthday when they wear the "Happy Birthday" buttons. Oh. Nice to know the "I'm Celebrating" pin isn't worth much, haha!

I'm grinning as I'm sitting here, typing this post out, and feeling giddy and energetic. No amount of lesson planning can slow me down (I hope). I'm excited and glowing about this publication and I hope you enjoy it when you see it.

So after reading my story, I have one question to ask you (accompanied by inspiring images found on We Heart It):

Which bear do you prefer: the white bear or the brown bear?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Eye of the Storm or "Her Morning Elegance"

I can't believe there's a tornado warning right now. As much as the Weather Channel keeps alarming us about it (and, of course the tell-tale warning beeps), I find it hard to believe. Surreal, almost. I'd sooner believe that a unicorn has been eating the flowers in the backyard. Well, I'm being stubborn. One thing Florida's not famous for is having tornadoes.

I've never experienced a tornado. It would actually be nice, if I ever got caught in one, to be transported to a different world like Dorothy (however, I really, really don't want to go to Oz). I'm tucking some graded papers back into my bag for tomorrow and wondering if they'll go flying into the atmosphere in a matter of hours. Probably not. But getting such a rare warning makes people nervous.

Only minutes ago, my mother talked about how she heard from a friend that you should put all your valuables in the dishwasher so that they don't get destroyed. Apparently, it's like hiding out in a time capsule. Or something.

Tornadoes have eyes. In the eye of the storm, there is nothing but peace. I'm trying to find that mental state as I listen to my parents flit around the house in a frenzy. So here it is for me, in a nice package: Oren Lavie. His voice is calming, the lyrics magical. His crooning puts a smile on my face and keeps my brain from nervously shaking. Please enjoy, and I'll see you all when the storm passes!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Escape Route

After two weeks of being back at school, I was chomping at the bit to go to Disney. I was doing well for a while, seeing my grad buddies again and plotting with them to sneak off during the day to a certain delicious French cafe. I greedily ate up the first two books of The Mysterious Benedict Society and found a new character to gush annoyingly about (Milligan, you're the man!).

Milligan, the man. You have no idea.

But even in spite of this, a familiar weariness set into my bones as I stayed awake for the fourth night in a row working on PowerPoints and lesson plans for my pupils. It's a tired ache that's stronger than any you'd feel on the fifth week of slaving over a research paper - trust me. It makes you long for some kind of escape; usually a quick trip into my head rectifies the situation, but when you're going to school to put your creative thoughts on paper, the imagination does not have the same magic it always used to. So real life has to come to the rescue.

Real life is Disney (Oh, haha. That's good).

Disney's Boardwalk was the exact place I had in mind ease my agitated spirits. A wild wind travels off the water that whips your hair until you run inside the stores, only to find yourself looking like a Wishnik troll. An abandoned night club that advertises dueling pianos looks rather lonely, but there's always a family kicking along by in a four-passenger Surrey bike. There's a tiny pearl shack, a lighthouse, and oh! Did I mention the shops? Only briefly. While you're furiously combing your hair back down, you might find some treasures not yet sent to the Disney Parks. This happened to me once in a glorious way. I found a t-shirt with Prince Phillip on it, and he had his arms crossed and looking proud. The shirt said, "Sorry ladies, I'm taken." How cool is that? I would have bought it immediately, except that I'm a girl (haha). The decorations in the shops are intricate and lovely. The last time I went, I noticed a painting or a carousel (and a literal carousel horse in one of the front windows) and a vintage illustration of hot air balloons. Wow.

The family and I spent most of the day exploring the hotels littered around the Boardwalk. One of my favorite things to do is wander around Disney hotels and just hang out there, sitting on the comfy couches or exploring the little shops and eateries inside. And if there's a theme to the hotel - ohmygosh. Then that's even better. I won't go into the specifics in this post, but the range of decorations spanned from vintage nautical to high-end Las Vegas style. We explored four of the hotels and waddled back on sore feet to the bakery for a bite and a good sit-down. I carried a giant (really) strawberry cupcake out to red high top table overlooking the water.

As we ate our respected desserts, I looked around me and enjoyed being still. The wind played with my bangs and threatened to make me swallow my own hair as the strands got caught in fluffy icing and red sprinkles. We were right by the ESPN Zone, complete with an ever-present line of men waiting to go inside; they clapped and cheered and stood on their toes as if celebrities were only just waiting for them inside the door. A woman sat at a table nearby (probably the wife of one of these men) with a stack of magazines and a novel. She glared at the seagull that continued to insist on occupying the table space. I grinned at the bird but forgot to offer him something.

The birds started to gather. Sparrows danced below our feet like tiny dancers on stage. Seagulls clung to the railing and surveyed the scene with proud eyes. One seagull had a feather stuck to his beak. He lowly approached our table and just stared up at me. Not begging, really, but trying to threaten me. But by then the cupcake was gone. Normally considerate of such things, I didn't drop any crumbs for the sparrows or seagulls. My parents were thankful about this, but they still teased me later on. "Yeah, why didn't you?" My mom said. "Didn't we teach you any manners?" I merely grumbled and tickled her sides. Revenge. Haha.

I breathed deeply, closed my eyes. I couldn't feel that ache anymore. It was as if someone stripped that heaviness off my bones so that I could float freely into the sky. I felt so happy. I wanted to sit at that table for another few hours. Maybe buy another cupcake but share all of it. I wanted to stay as far away from the computer and PowerPoint as I could.

But we all must return eventually. And I had to admit, as we got in the car to drive home, that I did feel refreshed enough to try again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Young Sally: " He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards."

Young Gillian: "What are you doing?"

Young Sally: "Summoning up a true love spell. called Amas Veritas. He can flip pancakes in the air. He'll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he'll have one green eye and one blue."

Young Gillian: "I thought you never wanted to fall in love."

Young Sally: "That's the point. The guy I dreamed of doesn't exist. And if he doesn't exist, I'll never die of a broken heart."

- Practical Magic

After returning to school, there are some things I can’t help but think about. It must be the dense atmosphere of young adults scurrying from building to building with textbooks and bicycles. I can see trails in the grass where students made their own paths to beat the evil threat of tardiness. Yes, even in college. And then sometimes you pass the couple happily strolling along with their hands entwined like they were dolls – their fingers sewn together as they slept in plastic cocoons inside the box. You can’t help but murmur, “Well, wow. How’s that going to feel when it’s my turn?”

You can both cast a dreamy grin and adjust your bag strap, looking up the sky and wiggling your fingers as if someone was touching them back. Or you could pout and wish that Ben & Jerry’s was in your immediate, general direction.

I actually wrote something concerning this (or maybe echoing it) in one of the online novels I’m writing. Here is a full chapter from my serial novel, Birdcage Girl, where my main character Ashlyn faces her own desires head on. The chapter is called “The Prince List.”

At the age of ten, Ashlyn decided she had five qualities she expected for any man who would become her husband. She sat on her knees inside the birdcage and flattened a piece of her mother’s sketch paper. Her little face screwed up in concentration as she slowly dragged out the list with a salmon-colored crayon:

1. I have to be able to hear him approaching.

2. He should have one crooked pinky.

3. He can make homemade marshmallows.

4. He can't sing better than me, but he can play the piano from memory.

5. He must like birds.

She saved it in her scrap drawer. Over the years it got buried under other lists and other doodles. But Ashlyn still remembers it. She figures that one day, when she unearths it, she’ll either:

1. Laugh at the absurdity of the list.

2. Wonder how her ten-year-old self knew.

Before Figment decided to limit the genre boxes (ah, another kind of list), I had Birdcage Girl ticked off as a romance. And it is. It just hasn't happened yet. Ashlyn has a lot of other things on her mind than finding a boyfriend, certainly, but it doesn't mean she’s not thinking about it. Those gauzy thoughts flutter in her head – way in the back, where they’re practically abandoned. But they are there. And I can say, with every assurance, that someone will step up soon to draw that fragile gauze out and into the light.

Like Ashlyn, I’m sure there has been a time in everyone’s life where we’ve made such a list (though right now I’ll speak specifically to the girls).

You’ve heard they’re bad for you. You watch these lists burn on television in fire pits or just with the flick of a lighter’s delicate tongue.

But there’s something more to them, or to any action involving dreaming up that wonderful person.

Whether you hope your significant other has webbed feet or can make a good ham sandwich, I think it’s important to have fun with these thoughts. Don’t carry the list around with you in your purse, taking it out whenever you see a cute guy in line at the coffee shop or while waiting for your car to be repaired. Rolling it up in a tube and using it as a spyglass is much more useful than meticulously checking off the boxes.

For anyone still wanting for that special someone to walk in the door… well, there are ways to make the interval easier:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A School Morning

Ahhh. There's nothing like waking up in the morning by the sounds of three alarm clocks. I slowly opened my eyes and fumbled for each one, feeling calmer with each button I found to turn them off. Alarm clocks scare me. They always do. And if their alarms don't frighten me, I end up sleeping through them. Alas, that is why I must keep giving myself heart attacks when I need to wake up at a certain time.

My trusty cell phone is always the first to off. It's pretty scary because it vibrates at the same time, so it makes really loud buzzing noises when it skitters across the side table. The last thing I do is force myself to sit up and touch my lamp three times - tap, tap, tap - to turn it on to it's brightest lights. It's a terribly old touch lamp, but I love it because I feel like a magician when I turn it on and off.

These actions have turned into almost a set of loose rituals because without them, I'd probably just flop back onto my pillow, pull the covers up to my chin, and indulge in a little more shut eye - which can't happen, since I have to go to school.


It's a pretty word, isn't it? There's something very soft about the c and the o sounds. But it carries such weight with its meaning. Who else had to get up early for school in these past few days? Okay. And then I ask: who has to get up before the sun rises?

It's funny to think that, because of the time changes, the sky is so dark in the mornings now. If I leave for school at just the right time, I drive mostly in darkness and watch the colors slowly light the sky with through the hazy lens of my windshield. The stars wave "Good Morning," and pack their glittering lights for another part of the Earth, for another planet that watches their beauty while we go to work or walk our dogs. The moon turns spidery silver and high-fives the sun. Another day and another night accomplished.

I leave early because I teach early, and I teach early because I like to be done with it. As hard as it is to wake up, I believe it is harder to troll around for a near impossible parking space and then worry about making it to the classroom in time. I'd rather rub my eyes and yawn while presenting a PowerPoint. The long days crawl by in my cubicle and my legs, unused to staying in the same attitude (they just don't remember last semester), turn to legs of pins and needles. I tap my feet so fast that even Sonic would be jealous. But when night comes again I'm in another classroom - this time as the student - whispering secrets about writing craft, and, for this semester, studying the most delicate and archaic forms of romantic comedy storytelling.

Yesterday I turned the key and opened the door to the large room full of orange cubicles (we affectionately call it the Pumpkin Patch) and stumbled past the old couch to turn on the lights. In the back, near the corner, I peeked into my own private scholarly haven for the first time since winter break began. The scraps of poems and story excepts pinned to the walls still hung next to posters of faraway landscapes and a rather large Tangled poster I had put up behind my old computer. That poster, as pretty as it is, caused me a lot of pain in my knees and hands from balancing on the table to get it successfully tacked up. Totally worth it. And, lastly, the blow-up doll of The Scream, the painting by Evard Munch, still gaped its mouth next to the computer. My home away from home. My den. I dropped my bags into the table space and plopped into the chair. I rocked back, stared at the ceiling. Another semester.

I thought about how I'll probably get antsy and need to walk up and down the stairs a few times to check my mailbox - not because there is anything in there, but because I don't know how else I'll get exercise. I imagined all the trips I'll be taking to the library, right next door to my building, and how I'll show off the treasures but never get to them under the piles of red inked papers. The last and most important thing I thought of was how I'll be continuing to write.
I can't yet see where and when new stories will come to me this semester, but I'm excited and waiting for them. To the stories I've already been writing: I'll finish you all. Some faster than others. And to others more, who might still be collecting dust until the time comes to unearth them, I will one day yet add those bows and sparkles to you.

I wish you all, who are still in school, no matter what form, a very happy and productive semester. Let's do this!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Men of Honor

It's officially 2011, and I feel as if the fresh air of the new year is filling all the spaces in my body with renewed energy as it tumbles into my lungs (except for that nasty headache from staying up way too late. Well, that, too, will pass). In order to celebrate, I thought I'd post a small list that probably won't end up changing, even with the new year.

The list consists of the top most influential men that have inspired me or, at the very least, helped shape my crooked brain into the shape it is now. Why men? Oh, I don't know. I thought it would be fun. I'll make a women one too, down the road.

These guys are in no particular order!

1. Mervyn Peake
It all started with my bad habit of wandering library stacks. I still lose track of time when I see all the books lined up so prettily, teasing me with their spines as if batting their eyelashes. In this discovery, it was actually a DVD that caught my eye, leading me to find illustrator and author Mr. Peake. The DVD was called Gormenghast, a BBC adaptation of the first two novels in this Titus Groan series. I fell in love with the strange world of an endless, ruinous castle with a full cast of odd characters living within it. It's more complicated than that, I assure you. He died before he could finish the series. 2011, though, is an exciting time for him because I've heard tell of a re-release of the series with all new illustrations (why couldn't I wait?) and the fourth novel, supposedly written by his wife after his death, in order to provide some kind of closure to the wondrous story he created. I can't wait. I'm on pins and needles.

2. George MacDonald
Okay, so I know that some of you are already familiar with him. It's been a few years since I stumbled upon him, but in the past few months I've finally obtained a bunch of his books to read. That explains all of his not-so-subtle appearances lately, haha. You know, some people say that Emerson's writing is so good that you can randomly open up a page, place a finger anywhere, and find that the sentence you've chosen can stand completely on its own. Well, I feel that way about MacDonald's writing - and he's writing stories! Graceful stories, full of sharp imagery, gentle humor, and wit. You can find a lot of his work online, and I strongly suggest you seek him out. He's rather unsung, but known by many who just seem to be into reading these sorts of things.

3. John R. Dilworth
I tend to consider the days in which Cartoon Network showed about six of the same cartoons everyday (like the PowerPuff Girls and Johnny Bravo) to be the "golden age." I highly doubt I'm the first to call it that, haha, or call anything that. However, it's safe to say that the cartoons of this time inspired me greatly. My favorite, though, will always be Courage the Cowardly Dog. Specially trained by Blue's Clues by always searching for Snail, I equally relished finding all the cameos Dilworth made in his own series. He was "Dilly," a little yellow man who would only appear in family photos or giant billboards in each episode. Just a picture. But my brother and I would always point at the screen and shout, "There's Dilly!" We'd get mad at each other too if one of us saw him for that split second and the other didn't. I've only just begun to explore Dilworth's other creations, but I'm glad to see that they are just as zany as Courage. Check out his short called, "Rinky Dink." You'll get a nice feel for his style, I think.

4. Don Bluth
Where do I begin? Perhaps I'll start by saying that Mr. Bluth had been an unconscious influence on me from when I was a tiny pup. I say unconscious because, when you're a kid and you're drooling over Rock-a-Doodle, you don't instinctively reach for the back of the VHS case to scan the credits. The movies I loved most, in the end, were not Disney films. It was his that stuck with me over the years. I can make a giant list of the films, but as I've noticed, people like to spend time mulling over each one because - let's face it - every one of his movies struck some kind of chord in each of us. I'll just say that if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Thumbelina. I'll be completely head over heels for it even when I'm ninety and half my brain is gone. Bluth's amazing sense of character and animated beauty and charm grace every movie. Each scene acts as a soft shard that sticks to the back of your skull, glimmering every once in a while so you can see the sparkling reflection again. I can't thank him enough for a lifetime of inspiration, haha.

5. C. S. Lewis
I don't remember much of my parents reading to me when I was little. I'm sure they did it. Perhaps I was too busy daydreaming to store up those memories. The only time I do recall sitting against the bed, digging my toes into the carpet as my mother read, was when she read my brother and I the Chronicles of Narnia. Because of this, I get the major case of the warm fuzzies whenever anything Narnia comes my way. My actual favorites in the series are all the books that aren't popular (my curse? I don't know). The Magician's Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair took me to amazing places. Oh, yes, and I loved the Dawn Treader movie. I will continue to rally for all the books to make it on screen. There is not one that doesn't deserve it (and they better hurry up - those actors are growing so fast!). Aslan is pretty cool. I think he's a favorite character. He makes me smile. He feels very familiar, like an old friend.

6. Percy Shelley
Ah, the great optimistic poet. I really hated him in high school. Although I love English with all my heart - and can't imagine having studied anything else - I mentally blocked a lot of the literature classes I took in high school. Bad memories. I think now it was merely the atmosphere and the teachers that ruined it and caused my mind to shut out such creatures as the Transcendentalists, haha.
I went into my college Romanticism class saying, "I hate Shelley. I'm going to hate him again." Now, I believe I must have been spoiled by a really bad group analysis of "Ode to the West Wind." However, as soon as we started learning about him, I became intensely curious. I ate up his biography like it was candy floss. My college professor once told me that Shelley used to write cute little notes and put them in balloons. He would tie them up and send them off into the world for people to find and read. To this day, no one has ever found one of these notes. I kind of want to go on an adventure to see if these precious notes could be plucked from the knots of an old tree or found floating amongst all those lost messages in bottles on the wide open sea. It may be a fruitless wish, but it feels incredibly romantic.

7. Conrad Veidt
Ah! The only actor on this list - and an old one! Truth be told, Veidt is still a new influence for me. My mom and I got a old horror movie collection about a year back, and we sat for a few days straight and watched all the black and white films. It was so much fun and not so scary. We found a lot of movies we liked. As for me, I was entranced by an old German silent film called The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Man, is it wonderful. Veidt plays a somnambulist (or sleepwalker) named Cesare who is being used by the eccentric Dr. Caligari to commit murder and other violent acts. This film goes much deeper, but Cesare quickly became my favorite character. My eyeballs were glued to his thin, ghostly white form whenever he slinked into a scene. After being exposed to such a character, I made an interesting promise to myself: I would try, as much as I could, to make odd, quirky men appealing leading males or love interests. Yes, it really did spring from this movie. It was like the trigger, haha. Then again, I'm not that into those Alpha males you find in the supermarket romance novels. I like a little more depth and a lot less aggressiveness. I find Veidt fascinating and I'm looking forward to discovering more of his films in the future.

8. Tetsuya Nomura
How could I think of closing out this list without a longtime Japanese influence? Hands down, Nomura has been inspiring me for a long time. His artwork makes my jaw drop, and his skill with characterization and story is wonderful. I spent many lunch periods in high school debating with my friends about how many people it would take to defeat Sephiroth in a chess match or singing terribly the lyrics to "Simple and Clean" from Kingdom Hearts. So, yeah, bring on the nerd - if I haven't done so already. I'm a big Final Fantasy geek. College had taken a lot of the energy and hype out of me - Zidane was replaced with Walt Whitman and Tonberries were not so dangerous anymore when placed side by side with a paper deadline. Nowadays, I feel that I have more time but am not handling it well enough to fit these games back in. But they deserve the attention. I keep rooting for Nomura and hope for better and better things from him. He's grown in the company and I know he still has much to offer.