Saturday, September 24, 2011


I've never been an avid lover of birds. This particular fact strikes me as odd considering how immersed I've been in the winged world since starting Birdcage Girl over nine months ago.

When I was little, my parents brought us a pet parakeet. We named her Ariel (after my favorite Disney princess) and she had a lovely combination of yellow and green feathers. Unfortunately, she decided she didn't feel at home with us. Ariel cried whenever we turned on the television and, when we let her out of her cage for some exercise, she'd perch on top of the refrigerator and bite our fingers. When my mother got sick from Ariel's presence in the house, we had to return her to the pet shop.

From them on, I admired birds from afar. When I still lived in New York, I watched blue jays and cardinals flutter from tree to tree in the backyard, looking very much like flying paint. My favorite birds were, and still are, sparrows. I liked sneaking snacks and tossing them for the tiny army of sparrows to gobble up. I daydreamed about owning one and teaching it to do tricks.

There are many different kinds of birds in Florida, some of them as tall as your torso. Every lake is covered in white birds airing their wings; some saunter across roads, expecting cars to stop for them. I still see sparrows here, even though they don't appear as often as I like. It seems as if they are children of the fall season - a season that Florida doesn't acknowledge anywhere but on a calendar. Theme parks are full of birds - whether they are the exotic ones kept in towering aviaries or friendly ducks; if I could be born as something else, I'd probably want to live out my whole life as a Disney duck. Seriously. They have it made.

In my senior year of college, I went impromptu bird-watching with my friend and the guy she liked (the guy who would soon be her husband). For two days straight, we met him in the park and followed him around while he showed us the local birds. We sat on sidewalks and passed around his heavy binoculars. Found baby birds in their nests. I watched in awe as he and my friend examined the bird guide together, their heads together, laughing softly.

But even so, I couldn't call myself a lover of birds. Not any more than the average person.

There's something magnetic about the idea of birds, isn't there? That's why you'll find birds painted on walls, printed on shirts, the icon of many different design schemes. We all want to fly - watching birds do it continues to be inspirational.

For a long time, I kept my head down and just typed out the story of Birdcage Girl without giving much thought to the birds right outside my window. However, in recent weeks, I've paid more attention. And it's been interesting. My friend over at HelloEnaam surprised me with a birdcage; she gave it to me over the summer and I proudly walked to the parking lot with it swinging in my grip. It has a little door that actually opens and closes. Whenever I feel stuck, I like to look at it for inspiration. Remember your roots, right? My main character, Ashlyn, has come so far that sometimes it feels like her days in the birdcage have been but a dream. I'm sure she feels that way too. Being close to finishing puts me in a nostalgic mood, haha.

I've also been on the lookout for birdcages too - and I found a shirt with the print. It's been a pretty exciting hunt. However, there are always some bird-inspired items that make me laugh. One of them I saw today - it's called Snap-On Feathers. It's apparently the "latest fashion craze" to stick feathers in your hair - the commercial for it is... uh... pretty interesting. I'll have to look around and see if people are really doing this. Still, the idea makes me smile.

Image from We Heart It

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Award News: Figment, Tote Bags, and Princesses

Summer isn't quite so boring when there's competition in the air - it's a heady scent, but it brightens up the monotony of constant rainstorms and humidity. Hosted by the masterminds of, there were a great many memorable contests over the course of summer vacation. But I had tried to convince myself not to enter anymore. I figured that winning one was enough - my serial novel piece, Flour House - so I decided that I would sit the new contests out.

Yep. Didn't last.

The contest that did me in was called the Let Them Eat Figs contest. Basically, all entrants had to write a 1500 word story about princes and/or princesses. It could be set in any world and have original or preexisting royalty in it (literary or otherwise). I haven't completely grown up, in a way, so I'm still often charmed by stories of princes and princesses. I don't think that will ever change. I felt like this contest was calling me to the challenge - so I sucked in a deep breath and opened up a new Word document. And then the pieces of my story started to come together...

The Story:

The Princess & Her Shadow is the title of my entry, a little fairy tale about a princess who is determined to find out if her favorite story is really steeped in reality - or is it just a myth? She comes from an underground world where everyone is born with a talking shadow; her shadow, Prunella, is a bit of a troublemaker in crinoline. You can read the whole story here, but here's an excerpt:

Jane heard the story of the heartless prince countless times. Her nursemaids used to tell it to her while they rubbed tuberose lotion into her little pink toes and frail shoulders. She bathed in the lake, swimming in the licorice waters like a primordial fish, sending fallen stars and lost message-bottles bobbing on the surface in her wake.

“His older brothers were jealous,” she’d say, flipping onto her back. Her chest heaved and a pink star tickled her ear. The night sky hung above her, a cluster of tree roots and black soil. “They snuck into the prince’s room and cut out his heart with a sewing scissor. And then they hid the prince in a tiny room under a foxglove tree so the king and queen would never know.”

Jane paddled back to shore and gratefully took the silky-warm towel from her nursemaids. They combed her sable hair with delicate combs and plucked the lake-droplets off her eyelids. “How silly of those brothers,” Jane would say. “They didn’t get rid of the prince – they merely bottled him up and put him in a pantry.”

“Why do you say that?” the nursemaids asked, with smiles.

Everyone knows that you need a heart to die. So the poor, dear prince is still alive. Just asleep under that tree.”

The Prize

I think I forgot to mention that this contest had been inspired by Shannon Hale whose new book, Book of a Thousand Days, was featured on the site. I love Hale's writing and how she makes fairy tales her own, creating new twists and turns but still following the path we love so much in each particular story. I first read Goose Girl - having loved the original tale - and wasn't disappointed. So since then, I've been plopping her books onto my pile every time I've found her in the library - but with this contest, I finally own two of her book now!

So, on a perfectly average day, the mysterious box arrived:

The coolest part about the box is that it's a Random House one. Which, when it comes down to it, simply means that the cardboard box is decorated with little houses. I'm easy to please, I think, because I had to keep turning the box over for last least five minutes before actually opening it. Call it house-hunting, if you will.

Once I jabbed at the seals with my handy scissor, I discovered a plethora of prizes. I started to read a little of Book of a Thousand Days (alas, between grading and writing) and I think I'm going to enjoy it. It's written in a diary format, and I like the main character - Dashti - already. There's also the Princess Academy which is, by far, my favorite of all Hale's books. So excited to finally have a copy.

I know this is side-tracking a bit, but I love the fact that I got paperback copies. Paperbacks are the best, haha. I used to hate them as a kid because the covers usually got torn off or irrevocably bent and that wasn't fun. But now the covers are made of nice material. They allow me more space on my bursting bookshelf and are awfully cuddly. Yes, I cuddle books. Sometimes. They don't jab me like hardcovers. And the best part is that, because paperbacks are lightweight, I never have to say no to bringing a book along with me when I venture out of my hermit cave (or school office).

Super digression! Haha! Anywho, I grinned so hard my cheeks hurt when I saw the tote bag. I mean, it' pretty epic. I can't wait to start using it and see what happens.

If those gifts were awesome enough, I found another surprise from the Figment team. They drew this wonderful picture, inspired by a scene in The Princess & Her Shadow. There's the foxglove tree with its mysterious hole - only revealed when Jane can prove that she's worthy of entering. I love this drawing so much; I've hung it up over my little desk where, when I'm not tempted by a couch, I sit and work on my writing. It's a wonderful reminder to keep going - even if you're scared to see what's at the bottom of a dark hole, even if you fear your favorite story's unraveling.

So, as I promised, I went out to run some errands and took my Figment tote with me. Surrounded by crackly old hardbacks in the local library, I couldn't help but feel at home with the tote on my shoulder. It made the pile of books I gathered much easier to get back to the car, in any event, haha.

Thanks for the lovely gifts, Figment!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tidbits: September Edition

Picture / Photo Find

Something I Did

Perhaps this month should be about something I didn't do, haha. As you've already gathered, I've been back in school for a few weeks now (we start early in Florida). My to-be-graded folder is fattening every day and I think that most of my new files open on my laptop consist of splendid power points and worksheets. The rain is unrelenting, so much so that I haven't had the opportunity to trek on over across campus to pick up some sushi and pomegranate iced tea. One of my office mates is determined to refashion her cubicle with a new theme - something very pink and French - but even she's been busy enough to have her cubicle unfinished and thirsting for a new face.

I did, in fact, go to Disney this past weekend. Epcot again. I love that park - it's so relaxing, and yet there's always and adventure waiting around the corner. As I waited in line for Soarin', I listened to an unhappy family complain about dinner reservations and the long plane ride back home. A little boy and his mother sat near me in the first row and eventually got off the ride before it started. The boy was apparently scared to go up in the air... it went like this:

Boy: How are we going to fly?
Mother: By magic!
Boy: O_O

Note to self: if your child is scared of a harmless ride, do not ever feed the fire by throwing magic into the mix. They'll miss out on, in this case, a glorious sky-tour of California.

A Quote from a Book I Love

I raided the public library down the street for the first time in months; the books in my arms piled all the way up to my chin. What I sight I must have been - most people come to the library to use the computers, haha. I picked up, among other delights, two books by Shannon Hale. I love her writing and how she creates some great stories centered around myths and fairy tales. The Goose Girl fairy tale itself has been one of my favorites and it was so exciting to hear that someone - Hale - had ventured into retelling it. I had already read The Goose Girl, but I wanted to reread it since it had been a long time. And it was still very, very good:

"Ani pulled loose her headscarf and let it fall to the floor. 'I will not hide anymore,' she said to her reflection. Two feet, one in the mirror and one in the world, kicked the scarf aside. Her hair, braided up, had loosened, and its weight pulled it out of its plait and off her head. She picked up one of Selia's - one of her - brushes, silver plated, the face of a horse a rigid knob on its handle, and broke her snarls loose. The sun was dipping low in the west and sent a lustrous orange glow from the horizon to her hair. She moved, and it flashed gold in the light. She held up the dress against her now, the ray of the setting sun brightening her eyes, painting her face a yellow rose, regal like her mother (308)."

Song I Can't Stop Repeating

"Bells" by Laura Jansen.

I've been in the mood lately for songs that have an added atmosphere to them, along with soft melodies and and lovely lyrics. Strange, it seems to be a trend with me, haha. In this particular song, I feel very breathy when I listen to it. I imagine a room full of bells - silver, gold, brass - hanging from cords while sunlight rides in like a wave. Maybe it's a symbol for a heart full of soft joy:

I can feel the sky cracking in my heart
It's falling to the pavement
Don't know where to start
So, let's go to the tower
one more time
and Climb high, love, climb high

Oh bells
Nothing here but bells ringing in my heart
in my heart...
in my heart...
in my heart
la la la la

A Writer Thing

I've been dancing the fine line between short story writing and novel writing this summer, and it seems to be bleeding into fall. A proper thing for a budding writer to do is send out short stories to literary magazines in the hopes that they will get accepted and published. I remember the pure joy (and some disbelief) when I received my first acceptance from Pure Francis. It was fantastic. I can't put it to words. But most of the time rejections will fly their way to your inbox on swift wings - it's just the way of things.

Lately though, I've been immersed in creating longer stories. I've been jotting down ideas for novel-length stories way too often, haha. So, as a important side project, I'm going to dig into my folder of old or unfinished short stories and try to shine them up. I like looking around that folder and finding some strange stories - and remembering how I planned to end them. It's probably a good project to embark on. I should really get excited about it *heroic face*

Video I Watched Too Many Times

So, I've been on a huge silent movie kick. Huge. It all started when my mother bought a classic horror movie collection; all of the movies were in black and white and some were even silent. My favorite movies turned out to the be silent ones (Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Like a hungry vampire... or somnambulist, I searched the interwebs for other silent films that would be excellent finds - and I started, of course, with looking for fairy tales.

I found a 1914 silent film called Cinderella, and for a while, the whole movie was on youtube. Sadly, when I did have time to watch it, it was taken down. So there's only a few clips left. I can't even it buy it online. So frustrating. I did discover that the actress is called Mary Pickford - and she's totally amazing! I just finished watching Poor Little Rich Girl starring Mary and it was fantastic. By watching her in other films, I think I feel less deprived from my Cinderella story, haha.

Does anyone have any silent film recommendations for me? I'd like to watch some romantic ones, actually. Still haven't stumbled upon one of those yet.

Shout Out!

It's a bit too repetitive to say that I'm been drowning in work and, thusly, have not been able to keep up with blogging and responding to my readers as quickly as I'd like. So I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge one of my awesome readers, elfarmy17, who suggested I check out a song someone made, the lyrics taken from a poem that appears in a book called Welcome to Bordertown (which sounds awesome, indeed! I recognize Bordertown by Charles De Lint's contribution to it - he's so cool. It's been added to my book list, haha).

The poem-turned-song is called "Stairs in Her Hair" - have a listen! It's very folksy, taking you back to a time with dangerous goblin markets and other such tricky fey.

Thank you very much for the recommendation, elfarmy17!