Monday, December 17, 2012

Adventures at the End of a Year

Can you believe it? Winter break has finally arrived!

I've been trying to take it easy. A possible second cold may be coming - my glands are swollen without explanation, so I'm trying to nap it off in the hopes of a fluke. I never get more than one cold a semester, especially when the first one happens so late to begin with (how can I catch another cold when I just got over the one from November? Well, let's hope it's a really good fluke.

Due to the looming vacation in a few days, I may not be able to blog again until the new year. So here's what's been going on lately. Boy, December is full of events!

Home Away From Home

Her father's clever way to add Piper to the fridge.
When the semester ends, I have a tradition of visiting my best friend in Lakeland. That small town is full of nostalgia; I had spent all four of my undergrad years at school there and every little inch of it (it seems) holds some kind of memory.

After college, my friend ended staying there, getting a job, then later marrying and having her first child.

The baby is new - and last Saturday, I met little Piper for the first time.

I'm not shy about my feelings towards kids: they scare me. I get really uncomfortable around them, I don't know how to act, and that makes for a lot of squirming and awkwardness... on my part. But there's something different about meeting youngins that belong to family and friends. I fell in love with Piper when I first saw her. Like her parents, she radiates calm (and at only a few months old too - wow!). She has big, luminous eyes like her mother and chubby cheeks like her father. She also likes to fart and laugh about it. Piper snatched my fingers up in a vise-grip and even sneakily took my bracelet with her during a quick diaper change.

My friend and I snacked on blue chips while enjoying the bright morning. We reminisced, as we always do, about our college lives - it's strange to think that, here we are, finally away from the dorms and sticky mosquito weather on campus. All the while, Piper happily stared at us with her intense gaze. I cracked a smile and she laughed.

The kitchen fridge was covered in words. I wandered into the room with it's little window overlooking the backyard, the "Bless This Cook" apron draped over the cleaning bottle, and the spices all lined up on a shelf like soldiers. There were poems all over the fridge, small chunks of phrases, but still just enough unused words for me to make my mark:

Weird and obscure? Check.

New Fantasyland 

So. Who hasn't heard the news about New Fantasyland? Over the pat few years, Disney has worked on expanding Fantasyland to include actual castles, more rides, and Princess-themed restaurants and entertainment.

When I went yesterday, only half of New Fantasyland was open, so I'm afraid I don't have too much to report. I went on The Little Mermaid ride - it was beautiful. The line itself is great too, though, because the interior is designed to look like Ariel's treasure cave. While waiting on line, you can help tiny animated crabs clean up the place after another storm blew through and messed up the treasure (at least, that's what animatronic  Scuttle claims when you're far enough in line to see him).

You board sea shells against a painted sunset backdrop (very, very pretty) and watch as the movie flies by in a flurry of animatronic moments. My shell got stuck at the scene where Eric and Ariel are about to almost-kiss in the boat - the workmanship on ride, down to those tiny details, are truly marvelous.

1000 Figment Fans

Guys, it's been two years since I joined Figment (and, uh, since came into being). It's been such a long journey.

I remember finishing my first semester in graduate school, utterly frazzled by teaching for the first time and still getting used to the hectic lifestyle of higher education. As I unearthed myself from a pile of grading, glowed - bright and squeaky-new - like an oasis. I knew that Figment would allow me to have fun with my writing and to experiment, outside of workshop, with the kinds of plots and structures that I wanted.

Birdcage Girl was born and very slowly, I began to make friends and read some fantastic work by other talented writers on the site.

But never did I think, way back then, that I would ever reach a thousand followers.

I remember celebrating one hundred followers - readers who liked my work enough to keep track of me - and the feeling that comes with gaining more readers never gets old. I'm honored and thankful to have so many lovely readers.

With that said, 1,004 fans, I'll do my best to continue spinning strange stories for you. Hold on tight.

The Next Installment of Lookout

Last week, the new issue of Tripod Cat came out.

If you've been keeping up, you've already listened to part one of my serial, Lookout. You've been introduced to the seaside town of Helium and quiet, eagle-eyed Lorelei who won the summer job of being strapped to a cloud as a lookout for the beach.

In this new installment, you'll be introduced to Sculley, a wind-peddler who has arrived in Helium with his uncle for a mysterious purpose. And he's a bit of a ladies' man (that's what he'd like you to think).

All issues of Tripod Cat are free; you can listen to them (and both installments of Lookout) via iTunes.

Winter Vacation Plans 

With all these exciting events still swirling around in my head, it's hard to keep track what's to come: family vacation. The thing is, we don't really go anywhere during winter break. Disney is always a must, but other than that, we usually sleep in late and recover from the semester's stresses, including preparing for the next semester to come. I know that sounds boring (besides the Disney part), but it's been the standard for a few years now. 

This year is different.

On Thursday morning, we're going to pack out suitcases in the car and head out for a two-week whirlwind adventure: we'll be in Miami to meet cousins and admire the Art Deco buildings, then off to St. Augustine to climb a lighthouse and search for ghosts on a tour. Lastly, we'll be back at good old Disney, exploring this year's holiday decorations at the hotels, drinking more LeFou's Brew, and exploring the Boardwalk's nightlife for the first time.

With that said, I still don't have a fancy phone. I'll be taking photographs, but my posts will have to wait until I get back. When I find Wi-Fi along the way, I'll do my best to check in!

If I can't reach you in time, make sure you have a Merry Christmas and a relaxing, exhilarating break!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Death and Workshopping

"That's okay. It's the end of the semester, after all."

I think I said the above phrase at least twenty times last week. It's one of those things you say to soothe the people around you - kind of like saying "I'm sorry" when someone dies.

The act of speaking these words means that you've already let your shoulders sag.

This is the end of the semester and we're moving steadily to its final breath.

Tug on your seat beat. Hold onto the safety bar.

A windy afternoon

On Thursday, my professor decided that we'd spend the entirety of our three-hour class workshopping in small groups. We all brought our tentative final projects in, printing enough copies for everyone in our respective groups. 

The class I'm taking is called Illness Narrative. As you might guess from the title, we learn about all things that fall under the loose term of "illness." I've read poetry, essays, and fiction on topics ranging from the common cold to cancer, ranging from tear-jerking sadness to snorting laughter. The nice part about the class is that all of us, regardless of genre, are able to experiment with different forms and topics - something that is, for the most part, rare to do at the graduate level since you always want to put forth your best. 

I've written some weird stuff for this class. A small piece about eyelashes that, amazingly, had been published in the same semester, and two essays where I wrote about my harrowing experience at Disney with sugar-free dessert and my lifelong, though recently ending, battle with my giant pores, haha. And lastly, the short story I workshopped on Thursday. 

It's a humorous story inspired by the unit we did on the five senses. I gave my main character a heightened sense of taste, a cape-wearing nemesis, and three hairless cats. But I didn't know how to end the story. 

"I don't care where we go," said one of my group mates, "just so long as we're outside. I'm done." 

That's the end-of-the-semester-weariness talking, but we all agreed that some fresh air would be a nice change from the arctic classroom we all usually sat in. The groups all split up and we found a table in the new park, right behind the campus library. 

The park is pretty nice (though, to be honest, the space would have made a better extra row of parking - we need more parking on campus. Gads). There's a fountain that sprayed us with mist whenever the wind picked up. A girl passed out on the only swing set and fell asleep to the music pounding through her ear buds and the gentle motion of the swing. The wind found every little hole in my knit sweater. 

For the first twenty minutes, I used my hands as paperweights as we talked about our other classes, funny teaching stories, and complaining about the usual writing stuff (like lack of sleep and abundance of rejections).

Our stories were riddled with fatigue. 

"Your characters need to talk more here. Add some good puns to stick with your theme."

"Okay," I said. A pause. "Wait. Can you give me an example?"

Maybe it was the wind, or the fresh air, that made my mind so slow. I gave my group mates a drowsy smile and scratched down a few notes.

The Grand Tour 

While taking this class, I'm constantly reminded of the Death and Dying class I took back in college. At the time, I thought it was a great class to take as one of my final electives. If I wanted to be a writer, I'd only benefit from facing death head on - or, at least, in the form of a few multiple choice tests throughout a semester. 

So I took Death and Dying.  

The class was full of all different majors, people with tragic lives and people, like me, who are relatively cheerful. There were tears in during certain lessons. Every Tuesday, our professor started class with by reading us Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. During our "Death and the Media" unit, I (unsuccessfully) tried to convince the class that The Hush Sound's "Medicine Man" music video had to do with death.... and I say unsuccessful, because, for some reason, the deep and complicated story line of the video somehow went over their heads. I don't know. You tell me.

Next came the field trips. 

There was the funeral home: the tissue boxes were beautifully designed (that's how you know they were probably expensive), eagles were a common decoration for the caskets and urns, and the building was furnished, yes, with dark-wood, vintage furniture.

On the day we visited the local cemetery, a downpour of thick, blinding Florida ran ruined the trip - but we drove over there anyway, finding our professor standing in the rain under an umbrella. He told us to drive through the cemetery instead - and the only way to do that was to take the funeral procession route. Yep. Awkward.

Lastly, we got lost looking for the giant church seen from the highway that was hosting a guest speaker, talking about the stages of grief. We arrived late and had to be escorted by stern, suited men to our seats. It was strange and I felt happy that I'd never been in a place like that before then (or ever since). Whew.

It was a strange semester, haha. And yet another semester is just about to end, another one that held the theme of another bittersweet topic.

I went home after workshop, watched some Food Network shows, and dreamed about banana cream pies and bacon.  

Publication News:

There's a tiny bit of death in this piece. It's more than wonderful to start the new month off with a publication. Luna Station Quarterly released their annual drabble issue today and my drabble, "Octopus Girls," can be found inside!

For those of you who don't know, a drabble is an extremely small work of fiction, usually ranging in the 100-150 word area. I guess you could say it's like reading little pieces of candy. Whether it's bitter, sour, spicy, or comfortably sweet, the story stays on your tongue for only a moment before evaporating.

You might like this story if you:

  • Only have a few seconds to read something
  • Have unruly hair
  • Daydream about a love affair with a handsome sailor 

By the way, for the Figgies out there: Linna Lee also had her drabble "Hold Fast" published here. It's a brilliant little piece!

As winter gets darker and colder (yay!), what are you feeling nostalgic about? If you're still in school, how are you preparing to finish out the semester? And if you have crazy hair like me and those octopus girls, whatever do you do to tame it? :)