Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flappers and Narwhals: A Thesis Adventure!

Formspring time!

How is your thesis book coming along?

Very well, thank you. It's a little slow at times, but I'm only a few weeks away from writing the conclusion.

If anyone's been checking my Figment page over the last few months, you've probably noticed that besides the occasional contests, my updates have slowed down considerably.  There's a good reason for that. 

My third and final year of graduate school is approaching and in order to earn my diploma, there is one last epic task that I must complete: writing a finished, polished manuscript. My thesis. 

No matter what genre you work in - whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry - this is the usual requirement for graduation (besides, you know, getting good grades and all that). Fiction writers have the option of either writing a novel manuscript or a short story collection manuscript for their thesis. 

After much deliberation, I decided to take on a novel. 

The last year is usually spent working closely with one's thesis director and committee; we gather together, talk about revisions, and then I go back to my office and scratch my head until I figure out the best plan to attack my editing. In order to this successfully, and get the best feedback I can, I must complete the first draft of my thesis before returning to school.

So that's what this summer is for. I have been writing every single day to reach that goal.

Because it's a school-related writing project, I'm not able to share it. However, I can tell you a little about it. 

My thesis is set in a fantasy world inspired by the 1920's. There is a girl who studies shipwrecks and lore. There is a boy who speaks to numbers. 

This novel is bursting with flappers, lighthouses, gramophones, an adventurer's club, deaths, narwhals, pocket watches, keys, wooden props, a castle, islands, witching waves, candy floss, ocean liners, violets, a carnival city, squash racket matches, captains, sailors, saltwater swimming pools, childhood crushes, fire, and foul storms. 

I've been listening to a lot of The Hush Sound and A Fine Frenzy, two bands I've adored for a while. I've also been filling my iPod with a ton of electro swing. 

My research books include, but are not limited to a 1927 reproduction of a Sears catalogue and an early history of ocean liners. 

And of course, there's always bits of inspiration to be found along the way: 

Richard Barthelmess, you're terribly cute. 

The anatomy of a 20's girl! 

And of course, a happy helping of Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton's misadventures.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wish List

Thinking about buying more books is probably not healthy for me, but I can't help it! There's a traffic-jam of unread books still on my bookcase (and, with them, a goal of managing to read them all before the school semester starts up again).

Still... I can't help but be excited about books that are scheduled for release in the very near future. 

So without further ado, here's a small sampling of what's on my (amazon) wish list:

The Vanishing Act: A Novel 

By Mette Jakobsen 

On a small snow-covered island—so tiny that it can’t be found on any map—lives twelve-year-old Minou, her philosopher Papa (a descendent of Descartes), Boxman the magician, and a clever dog called No-Name. A year earlier Minou’s mother left the house wearing her best shoes and carrying a large black umbrella. She never returned.

One morning Minou finds a dead boy washed up on the beach. Her father decides to lay him in the room that once belonged to her mother. Can her mother’s disappearance be explained by the boy? Will Boxman be able to help find her? Minou, unwilling to accept her mother’s death, attempts to find the truth through Descartes’ philosophy. Over the course of her investigation Minou will discover the truth about loss and love, a truth that The Vanishing Act conveys in a voice that is uniquely enchanting.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

By Catherynne M. Valente

September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem. . . .

Splendors and Glooms

By Laura Amy Schlitz

The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants. 

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. 

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late. 

Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark.

The Elementals

By Francesca Lia Block

The Elementals is on one level an intriguing coming-of-age novel about a young woman, Ariel Silverman, facing the challenges of her first years away at college in Berkeley, California, while her mother battles cancer at home in Los Angeles. But the book takes on deeper, stranger meanings when we realize that Ariel is haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, who vanished without a trace a few years before, closing Ariel's heart and changing her forever.  Ariel wonders if she will ever be fully alive, until she meets three mysterious, beautiful and seductive young people living in a strange old house in the Berkeley hills.  Through them Ariel will unravel the mystery of her best friend's disappearance and face a chilling choice.

The Sweetest Spell

By Suzanne Selfors

Emmeline Thistle has always had a mysterious bond with cows, beginning on the night of her birth, when the local bovines saved the infant cast aside to die in the forest. But Emmeline was unaware that this bond has also given her a magical ability to transform milk into chocolate, a very valuable gift in a kingdom where chocolate is more rare and more precious than gold or jewels. Then one day Owen Oak, a dairyman’s son, teaches Emmeline to churn milk into butter—and instead she creates a delicious chocolate confection that immediately makes her a target for every greedy, power-hungry person in the kingdom of Anglund. Only Owen loves Emmeline for who she truly is, not her magical skill. But is his love enough to save her from the danger all around her?

What books are you interested in reading? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Big Apple and the Long Island

I hadn't planned a "vacation" when summer break finally arrived. To me, just getting a chance to cool down from the rigors of school and have huge blocks of time to write (and, uh, other things) is enough of a blessed relief. However, I just got back from a trip that could be called a vacation. I left behind the sizzling heat of Florida for a few days and flew to New York.

I'm not a Florida native - which is probably why I complain so much about living here. I was born in New York and lived there up until the end of elementary school. Most of my relatives are still in New York as well as a ton of childhood memories. My volatile teen years happened in Florida, haha.

More specifically, I grew up on Long Island, only a stone's throw away from the city. My memories are blurry at times, but I remember crawling under the table at family gatherings, staring at bare feet with a belly full of Italian cooking. There was my elementary school, with nuns and stiff uniforms, and the lawns that felt as soft as comforters. Sprinklers, ice cream trucks, dirty snow. And piles of leaves. Millions of leaves to jump in.

My father, brother, and I boarded a plane a few days ago to head first to Long Island. We met my relatives there and stayed with them for a few days, reminiscing about things that I didn't recall, haha. There was a lot of delicious food and lovely showers; for the first time since I moved, I finally had soft, frizz-free hair (No joke. It's the water pressure that's magic).

On Friday evening, my aunt passed me the local paper and asked if there was anything we'd like to do locally over the weekend. I searched through the event page, not expecting to see anything stand out. But as it happened, something special was going to happen.

Saturday was the centennial celebration of
Nunley's famous carousel

Look at that horse! That's a nice horse.

The carousel itself had stood in Golden City Park before finding a home at Nunley's, an amusement park that operated from 1939-1995 (so says, ye old wikipedia. I'm terrible with dates). Even though the park had a roller coaster, boats, and other interesting rides, its main attraction was the carousel. After the park closed, the carousel was moved to Museum Row where, thankfully, it still runs.

The carousel is made up of forty-one horses, two chariots, and one stationary lion. My brother used to always opt for the chariots; to him, it seemed rebellious not to ride on a horse. My parents used to take me to Nunley's often. I rode that carousel many times before moving away. My mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and even my grandparents rode this carousel when they were little. That's a lot of history right there. We had to go see it again

On top of that, the celebration included turn-of-the-century amusements like knocking down milk bottles, making clothespin dolls, and playing croquet. The whole event (and the park) was set up to mimic a Coney Island feel. There was even a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator to take photos with (and I just couldn't do it. I burst out laughing when I saw Teddy carrying a bottle of Diet Coke. That totally ruined it for me, haha). The staff for the event wore ribboned straw hats and t-shirts that said "Got Carousel?" on the front.

I've been writing a lot of stories lately that are inspired by 1900's ( in and around that time period as well) so I drifted through the festivities with a bounce in my step and a fluttery heart. It was almost like doing research, haha.

Riding the carousel was a wonderful experience - as well as waiting in line for it. No matter how long the line was, everyone had a smile on their faces. Nostalgic stories about the carousel were swapped by the adults and children got to ride it for the first time - the first of many times, hopefully.

One of the many informative boards

One of the chariot my brother loves so much, haha. 

Details, marking some of the places around the Long Island of the past

On the carousel at last! And there's the lion too!

From Long Island, we took a cab over to New York City. It's hard to forget a city like this one and I found, as I walked briskly through the streets, that nothing much has changed. Times Square is still as clogged and neon-bright as ever. Garbage continues to be tossed on the streets. Restaurants are filled to the brim.

I loved the movie Ghost... but a musical? I don't know...


Knock-off Hello Kitty. That really startled me, haha.

Dinner at Bubba Gump. If you serve me fish with mango salsa, jasmine rice, and other flavorful sauces, I will be your friend for life, haha.

The last thing we did before returning to Florida was go on a Circle Line Cruise. I like boats, especially big ones you can wander on, but this one was overwhelming with the amount of antsy tourists on it. For two hours, I sat out on the deck in the surprisingly hot sun, drinking from my warm water bottle and trying to see the sights despite the flood of people striking embarrassing poses for their facebook pages (or something like that). And on that day, manners seemed to have been lost. But I did manage to take a few decent photos. And, ironically, I got major sunburn. My skin still itches as I'm writing this blog post. I'm used to being pale. It hurts to have burnt skin, haha.

I hate to admit it, but it's nice to be back in Florida. At least, until I step outside my door (ah, how the sun burns my sunburns!).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dime Stories: Animal Net

Summer is a magical time; with that said, I'm going to try something new on this blog! I'm going to write posts entitled "dime stories." They'll be very small stories, under 300 words, inspired by an image.

The author of The Night Circus, Erin Morgentern, writes what she calls her flax-golden tales on her blog. I've read a few of them and I love the idea. But it wasn't until fellow figgie Hannah decided to give it go that I wanted to try it myself. 

I'm not sure how frequently I'll do this, but I think writing one at least once a month is a good goal for now. We'll see how it goes. 

Found here on We Heart It

Animal Net

  When the world turned plastic, Tina left her home and wandered barefoot through the farmland. She whistled to keep her feet from turning cold and hard, to keep the blood running through her veins like clockwork. 
       The neighbors were frozen in place. Glazed eyes stared, wide-eyed, reflecting the last moments of their lives before their hearts turned rubbery and perfect.  
       “Good morning,” Tina shouted to every plastic person she met. Just in case. But she only heard her own voice echo through the fields.
       Although she had left home before sunrise, she had been too late to save the animals. Tina examined a chicken coop: all eggs pearly and inedible, chicken clucking silently, feathers and feces pristine. The world is clean when it’s wrapped in plastic. 
       Tears dripped down Tina’s nose. She hiccupped and rubbed her face on a dishtowel while the wife of the farmhouse bent over a fresh pie, poised to blow on it. A little black dog curled up in the corner of the kitchen drew her attention. Without thinking too hard, she picked the dog up and cradled its hard, plastic body in her arms. She went back to the coop and stole a rooster, left it perched on her shoulder as she whistled her way to becoming a plastic animal thief. 
       The rain smelled like vanilla beans, the droplets impure as they fell upon Tina and her plastic menagerie of animals. Her skin stretched and she whistled harder. She massaged her cheeks to keep them warm and soft. But the animals didn’t last the rainstorm. They shriveled up like raisins so Tina threaded them into her hair.