Friday, August 28, 2015

FOUR POSTS AT ONCE? You're Welcome (Plus: Summer Poetry)

Well, you may have noticed that I missed four posts. I'm very sorry about that. I am a lazy person, and also, school coming up is stressing me out, so I... watched Once Upon a Time instead. Just a word of advice, don't watch Once Upon a Time. It's a quick shortcut to ruin your life.

But anyway, I decided that to make up for this, and to end the summer with a bang, I would do FOUR BLOG POSTS AT ONCE! WHOO SO EXCITING! Now that I've just spent like three hours writing those blog posts, I'm kind of regretting this decision, but the show must go on or something. So let me link you to those other blog posts first thing:

BLOG POST NUMBER TWO: Fifteen Ways to Relive the Summers of Your Childhood
BLOG POST NUMBER THREE: How to Transition from "I'm Writing a Novel" to "I Wrote a Novel"
BLOG POST NUMBER FOUR: This one right here!

They're not a series or anything, so don't feel the need to read them in order or read all of them. It's literally just four amazing blog posts.
The fourth and final blog post is me sharing all the poetry I wrote this summer. It's pretty exciting. I didn't write a lot of poems but I thought I should share the ones I did, since I think they're all fairly good. (I also included a bonus poem which I found while cleaning my room today. I wrote it a year ago but I never published it anywhere so I thought I'd add it here). So without further ado:

Verdant May

In my mouth, the taste of mango
I had for breakfast.
White blossoms of spring
strewn on the margins of the parking lot.
Waft of honeysuckle on the air.

The rain,
liquid sky of grey clouds,
streams around me,
curtain into forgotten dreams.
I enter it,
waking haze.

Green wilderness
creeping at the edges of our

Worlds upon worlds
in the woods-
coming alive like a tiger's breath
to the noon of summer.

I crack open an edamame pod
and examine its sticky skins.
Life opens petals infinitely,
releasing the scents
wildly out with the rain.

Fear of the Unknown

I) I used to be afraid of the dark,
my mind drawing horrors
on the blank canvas of my sight.
But now I lose myself to the emptiness;
now I like the surrender,
how all the furious objects of the world
melt into shadows.

II) I used to be afraid of the wild;
what strange and foreign teeh
could have clawed me apart.
Now, though, I can hear its melodic patterns,
feel them twist around my ribs,
take me down into the ground
to become soil, turning over
and over again.

III) And I used to be afraid of dying,
of sunlight burning through the whole wick
within seconds, taking my breath away.
But sometimes now, I think it'd be best
to suck all the air from my lungs,
fill them all up with water.
I'd know nothing anymore.
I wouldn't even know enough
to say I'm sorry one last time.

IV) I used to think I feared the unknown.
But I know everything now.
I know where I am in the dark.
I know who I am in the woods.
I know exactly how I would decompose
if I died.
I was not afraid of the unknown,
but I am now.
I don't know where I'm going.
I'm too scared to do anything
but stand still.

Picking Sour Cherries

After the rain,
the sky is still heavy
The air here,
in the grey fringes of the city,
is like a capsule of the ocean.

Cement can't hide
the soft grasses of spring
I once walked on.
Broken fenceposts,
broken shards of time-pottery,
cut the skin of the sky
and make it bleed

Now I'm in the twisted arms of the tree,
dripping in green rain
and good dirt.
Cherries hanging like irregular gifts
all around and above me,
red globs of paint
shining in the brown and blue and green.

Handfuls come off at once,
soft and slippery and firm.
Raindrops that clung like solids
disappear into my palms.

I can't get away from the cherry tree.
Like the bower of roses over the door
that hypnotized me,
it drinks me into its limbs.
I pick sour cherries,
then suck away their beige meat
and scarlet skins.
Sour wine covering
the inside of my mouth.
Sticky pits and tiny ponds
litter the grey cement
where the grass
and my bare footprints once were.

What I Saw

I almost saw them through the trees-
the ghosts of things I'd lost.
But then they disappeared again
to that place that I forgot.

Picking Flat Peaches

You have summer here
in the palm of your hand,
flat peach your father handed to you
from the ladder where he is suspended against the sky.
It tastes
like the bluebird who glides
down into the forest.

Goldenrod flesh
dripping, yellow-bloody as the heart of July.
Surrounded by the wild mess of dancers-
between branches, the sky is thrumming with heat,
sweating pale blue;
a sigh rolls in from over the ocean.

"To get the fuzz off,"
your father says, "rub it on your shirt."
So grey dust litters the navy-blue cotton
of your t-shirt,
while you stare up
in the surrounding, swelling heat
of the sun,
in the tiny orchard
you planted long ago.

When you were still as young
as a deer in spring.
When summer stretched its yawn
far over your arms
and your hands
full of peaches.

Now you want
to run after its ball of string,
swim in the blue of the sky.
Unwind yourself
into the roots of the earth.
Eat the sun,
right out of your hand.

Bonus Poem: Untitled

If it sounds like something that would work as a movie,
then I don't want it.
I don't want it
if it could be set to good music
or written about in elegant prose.
If it could be quoted on pastel photographs in calligraphy fonts,
then I don't want it.
I don't want a fanfare, or fireworks. I don't want spilling color that fades,
because it never seems anything but fake.

I want mundanity. Dim light, long afternoons, dull pains.
Other people's things, coffee and talking and laughter, mundane.
All I want is to be a part of it.
All I want is to leave the sidewalk.


Thank you so much for reading! It was fun, though tiring, to write four blog posts at once. I hope you enjoyed the poems and check in next week for a Wednesday post.
And finally... BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

I know I don't have tons and tons of readers, but for those of you who do regularly read, or who even occasionally read, I want to make sure that the blog updates on a regular schedule so that you aren't disappointed. I realized over the past few months that posting twice a week is too much for me considering my busy schedule. So I'm cutting out Saturday posts. I may occasionally do a Saturday post if the mood strikes me, and I will still be updating my list of new experiences. But for right now, it's going to be one post a week, on Wednesday. I hope this will help me be able to post more consistently.

Thanks for reading,

How to Transition From "I'm Writing a Novel" to "I Wrote a Novel"

I've met a lot of beginning writers in my life, both in my real life and through the Internet, and one of the main struggles many of them had was not being able to finish novels. It could be many issues: working on one book for years but never reaching an end, always procrastinating, giving up on books before ever finishing them, having too many ideas and not enough motivation or time to do them all. But whatever it was, the same thing plagued them: they were always writing a novel (or ten), but they still hadn't finished one.

Before you've finished writing your first novel, actually finishing a novel seems like an insurmountable task. Like something only Real True Writers can do. But as someone who's finished several novels, let me tell you, anybody can do this. And many people, even you, can do it well (which is the important part, of course). The actual struggle comes in revision and editing... but I won't get into that, haha. Right now I want to give you some tips on how to actually get through that novel.

A last word before I get into my sage advice: I'm obviously not the super-expert on this topic. (But it just goes to show that it doesn't take a super expert to finish a novel.) Still, especially if you are young and impressionable, remember that I don't know everything. If you find that these tips don't work for you, you don't have to listen. Same goes for any writing advice from any author.

Stop doing things that are obviously procrastination
Now, it would really be hypocritical of me to say "don't procrastinate," as the Queen of Procrastination. But when I procrastinate, I know full well what I'm doing: I'm doing nonsense that is putting off the real work. Don't procrastinate and pretend that you're doing something writerly. If it's not straight-up writing, it's not work. The exceptions are: research, plot outlining, maaaaybe character development if it's necessary for the plot, and recharging when you have no energy (sleeping, eating, taking a walk to clear your head).
However, making character charts based on their astrological sign does not count as writing work. Cover art in Photoshop: not writing. Working on your Pinterest board: not writing. Telling your friends about your book: not writing. Don't get me wrong... all those activities are super fun. But they're not writing. So don't tell yourself that they are. 

Participate in National Novel Writing Month
NaNoWriMo: the savior of all writers. I finished my first novel during NaNoWriMo, and you can too. If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, let me tell you: it's a month, during November, in which writers across the world get together to write 50,000 words of a novel. In one month. Sounds impossible? It's not. It takes a lot of caffeine, crying, and time management, but you'll be able to do it. (If 50,000 sounds a bit steep, try the Young Writers Program first, where you can set your own word count).
Why is NaNoWriMo so amazing? Because it forces you to do the most important thing in writing a novel: write. "But it'll be terrible quality writing!" Let me tell you something: it doesn't matter how long you take to write a first draft. First drafts are ALWAYS terrible quality writing. This way, however, you get all that awful writing done in a month, instead of five years. Granted, 50,000 words does not always make a novel, but it's a good start. I cannot sell NaNoWriMo enough. It is a beautiful experience that will change your life as a writer and will probably save your novel from that dreaded place, the shelf of abandoned ideas. DO. NANOWRIMO.

Stick to one idea (but be willing to accept defeat if it sucks)
One main struggle for writers that can't finish a novel is this: they can't stick to one idea. They're in the middle of one when it gets hard and all of a sudden, a shiny new one flits by. And even if they try to do two at the same time, pretty sure, the new one wins. And then it happens again. Until they have a pile of promising beginnings and no middles or ends.
If this is your problem, it's time to get to some perseverance. Every book gets hard and grimy and sticky in the middle. Whatever the new idea is, it's going to do that too. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life writing only beginnings, you have to root yourself to one idea and wade in. (Mixed metaphors, I know). If that new idea is really so good, it can wait until you're done with this one. You can make a file or notebook to keep ideas in for later. Right now, you're working on this book, and this book only. There are some writers who are capable of working on more than one manuscript at a time. The difference is, those writers persevere with ALL of their manuscripts. You have to be able to get yourself through the middle, and if you find that new ideas are making it difficult to do that, then put the new ideas on hold for now.
But let me be clear: this doesn't mean that whatever book you're working on now is the only book you can ever work on until this book is published and in bookstores. Sometimes, you realize that an idea sucks. After months or years of work, the book just doesn't hold any promise anymore. Sometimes it's bad luck; sometimes it's because you grew as a writer and suddenly realized what a cliche the whole plot was. You are allowed to give up on ideas. But give it your best shot first.

At some point you have to let the story carry you- even if you like outlines
I read a metaphor for writing once that really stuck with me. Writing a book is like riding a horse at night. Sometimes, it's easy: you know the path, heck, you made the path yourself. Sometimes, you're a little lost, but you can guide the horse in the right direction. And sometimes, the horse goes wild, and you're scared and you don't know what you're doing. When that happens, you have to let it guide you, no matter how lost you feel.
Writing, and art in general, is about a lot of things, but one of them is letting your subconscious creativity work for itself. There's only so much planning and plotting and outlining you can do. Eventually, you're going to have to let the story carry you. It can be a little scary, but it's also fun. And it also creates your best work sometimes. So let go of the reins. Let go of your outline. Just write.

Stop rereading and editing as you write
Rereading and editing what you've already written is so tempting. It's much easier than actually writing. You get to read your old writing, which is the best guilty pleasure, because you'll obviously skip to the scenes you wrote best. And the editing is so easy here, because you're just catching sentence mishaps and weird dialogue and typos, not full-on plot restructuring.
But you have to resist the temptation to do this. It wastes so much time that should be spent writing. Remember, you will reread and edit after you've finished the novel. Right now, there's no use for that, except that it will probably mess with the writing you're doing now. Stick with where you are in the story, and don't revisit old scenes. (Unless you need a quick reference, obviously.)

Let go of the need for perfection
It's going to take a million years to finish your first draft if you want it to be perfect. And then you'll come to the end and realize that it sucks anyway. I'm going to repeat again: ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE TERRIBLE. No exceptions. The first draft of Harry Potter sucked. I've read excerpts of it on J.K. Rowling's old website, so I know firsthand. All. First. Drafts. Are. Terrible. And that's what makes them so wonderful! They are terrible and the worst and a huge big mess and because of that, you get creative ideas and craziness and big ideas. Laboring over every comma and word slows that fast, furious process to a sluggish crawl and ruins the creative process. (Yeah, I've been seeing too many YouTube ads for the new Fast and Furious movie). Maureen Johnson has a great video on this called "Dare to Suck" and that's really, really true. You have to suck; it's absolutely necessary to writing a good novel.
So don't spend hours making each sentence perfect. Don't worry that your outline is chaotic. And don't, please don't, refrain from taking creative license somewhere because you're afraid it won't work. Let go of fear, and let go of your need for perfection. Just write, and let it be terrible. Write terrible stuff and cringe the second you're done writing it, and don't go back to delete! Just keep writing until you've churned out your beautiful, terrible mess of a first draft.

Inspiration is a luxury- writing depends on work
There's a quote by some artist that goes something like, "When the muse finds me, I want it to find me working." (I tried to Google it, but I can't find who said it or the exact phrasing). That is great advice for any writer. You absolutely cannot depend on inspiration, or the muse, or any ridiculous idea like that. That rush of inspiration that gets you fired up about working happens so rarely. Imagine if you only did your homework or work for your job when you were super-excited about algebra or sales reports or whatever. You'd fail, or get fired. Same thing with writing. You have to work even when you don't feel like it. That doesn't mean you have to work when you're sick, or depressed, or uber-busy, although I'd admire you if you kept working then too. But it does mean that you have to work on your writing even when it's not an ideal time, or when you're not really in the writing mood. Because the writing mood doesn't happen a lot. And to be honest, it usually happens when you're already writing.
That goes along with my next tip...

Figure out your writing schedule
With our busy lives full of school, work, social life, and whatever else you have going on, not to mention sleep, it can be hard to find time to write. But if writing matters to you, which I should hope it does if you've managed to get this far in this ridiculously long blog post, then you have to make time. "Make time," for some writers, means cramming writing in at terrible times, or not paying attention in class or work, or skipping other obligations to write. Those are all good ideas, but a little time management work can help you avoid that. Find out what your best writing time is. Do you write best in the morning, or at night? Are you good at writing every day, or do you work best with big writing sprints on the weekend? Does music help, or does it distract you? Are you better at writing after a long day of work, or do you have more energy before you've already tired yourself out? Is Tuesday the best day for writing for you? Whatever it is, figure it out, and then do it. Once you've got a schedule, you're a lot farther along on your way to getting a lot of writing done.

Let go of your Grand Visions about writing because they aren't happening
If you think writing a novel is going to be easy, you're never going to finish one. It's not easy. That sounds like I'm contradicting the beginning of the post where I said anyone can do it. That's true. Anyone can do it, but they're going to suffer and it's going to be hard. Even with the realization that you can be terrible and veer off from your plot and just scribble out words, you're still going to want to actually write something coherent that has a real plot structure and arc. And doing that is hard, especially when it's the first draft and you're making something out of nothing. As hard as editing is, at least you have something to work with. Editing is like sculpting and polishing rough gold, whereas first drafts are like alchemy.
So there's not going to be much beautiful staring into sunsets and sitting around coffee shops and fighting with your soul on stormy nights. Seriously, take this time to put all your romantic notions into a box and put that box in another box, and then mail it to yourself, and when it arrives, smash it with a hammer. Writing is a wonderful and amazing endeavor, to be sure. But not in any of the ways you've imagined. Instead, it's mundane, unromantic work, day after day, mostly taking place on your laptop or a scrappy composition notebook and probably in your bed or on the train. The real amazing romantic visions take place in your imagination, in the stuff you put into the story. That's where you should put all your excitement and wonder about the writing process: into the story.

You don't have to write a novel in the conventional way
Sometimes, the problem that's stopping you from finishing a novel is your writing process. You might have read a lot of writing advice online (not mine, though- my advice is all perfect) that suggests that there's only one way to write a novel. Well, that's not true at all. If you're having difficulty doing it the way you think it ought to be done, then don't do it that way.
For example, you don't have to start at the beginning. You can jump around and do whatever scenes are best. Or, if you just can't stomach those transition scenes, you can write just the bare skeleton of the plot and then fill it in later. Taryn Albright writes about her unorthodox writing process here (though I do not expect any mere mortal to write a book in a weekend). Basically, what I'm saying is, there's more than one way to finish a novel. You can play around, or look online for suggestions, until you find a method you're comfortable with.

Lower your expectations of yourself. Write a little a day
This is the big one for me. My biggest obstacle in writing novels is expecting the world of myself. Every time I sat down to write, I'd make the mistake of thinking, "I have four hours to write. Totally enough time to write, like, 5,000 words. I better finish the next two chapters. Make that three chapters. I'll be done by next week!" or something like that. And then, without fail, the thought of writing so much overwhelmed me, and I'd get so much anxiety about writing that I would simply shut down and go on Tumblr or something instead.
If you're capable of writing a lot very fast, good for you. To be honest, I can write a lot very fast too. But I can't do that every time I sit down to write. So if I expect myself to write too much every time I write, nothing's going to get written. Instead, I lower my expectations. 200 words a day, or 500 words, or 1,000 words- whatever works best for you. Or don't make it a word count. Finish one scene today. Get some work done today, however much it happens to be. Write until you get tired. Write through one round of your writing playlist, then stop. You might think "writing that little won't get anything done!" Ah, but writing a little every day will add up. And if you write 1 page a day for a year, you'll have 365 pages by the end. If you expect yourself to write 10 pages every day but 95% of the time the expectation makes you freak out and write nothing, I don't know the math, but you'll have a lot less done by the end of the year. So write a little every day.

And finally... the most important of all:
You don't have to finish a novel right now, or even ever.
Finishing a novel might seem like the ultimate accomplishment to you. But writing isn't about accomplishments; it's about writing. It's about getting the stories in your head out into the paper and letting them make their way into the souls of readers. Focus on that, more than on any word count or goal. You can take as long as you'd like to finish a novel- it doesn't have to be done before you turn 20, or before you graduate, or by any deadline you're setting for yourself. So don't feel like you have to live up to some expectation or deadline or to whatever other people your age are doing. Complete the goals that make you happy about your life. That might not even mean writing a novel. Working on a novel might turn out to be an experience that leads you to something else, or teaches you that novels just aren't for you. You might turn out to like poetry better, or short stories, or screenwriting. Maybe novellas are better. Maybe you're not a writer, but an actor, or a scientist, or a graphic designer. That doesn't mean your time writing a novel was wasted- it means it was an experience that helped you grow.
If you take anything away from this post, let it be this: don't fixate on what you're supposed to do, or what you thought you were supposed to do before. Do what you love instead.

OK, wow, this was really long and I am very tired. Thank you so much if you read the whole thing- let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Fifteen Ways to Relive The Summers of Your Childhood

Hey! So what will probably count as my new experience of this week happened this Wednesday. My mom came up with this genius idea earlier this summer and we finally got around to doing it. The idea was to recreate a "play date," just like you do when you're a kid. My best friend Rachel came over and we did all the fun stuff we did as kids in the summer.

So I thought, if any of you dear readers want to take advantage of the last few days of summer to do something similar, I'll make a list of stuff to do. Rachel and I did the first six things on this list, but I also included some stuff that we didn't have the time/energy/money to do, plus some stuff that I wish I had thought of earlier.

Here goes:

1. Eat childhood snacks
We bought animal crackers and Capri Sun juice packets, as well as eating fresh cut-up fruit. Other suggestions: carrots/celery with peanut butter, candy like Gushers, cookies, Kraft mac n cheese, pizza bagels, graham crackers, and whatever else you can think of.

2. Play with water in the backyard
Run in the sprinkler, spray each other with the hose, splash in a pool if you have one, water gun fights, etc. Be sure to wear bathing suits or clothes you don't mind getting wet.

3. Blow bubbles
Bonus points if you get something that can make cool shapes.

4. Color in coloring books
Coloring books are pretty cheap, or you can buy fancy "coloring books for adults" which are fairly popular now. Get out your crayons, markers, and colored pencils, and have fun!

5. Play dress-up
I still have all my dress-up stuff from when I was a kid, so that was easy for me. But if you don't, you can just find any costume jewelry, gaudy accessories, and swaths of fabric you have around and mess with them. The point is to look silly.

6. Take a nap
OK, only I did this. This is actually a more teenager-y activity than a childhood one.

7. Watch Disney movies or cartoons
Or pretty much any movie that you liked as a child. But it's best if there's plenty of songs to sing along to.

8. Make crafts
This includes: finger painting, free coloring, jewelry making, clay sculpting, Play Doh creations, Lego art, collages, and anything else creative that you can think of.

9. Put on your favorite music from your childhood and dance
Disney music, Spice Girls, the Wiggles... whatever makes you nostalgic! Be sure to dance really terribly to get the full effect.

10. Play pretend
This is a lot harder as an adult, because we don't really have the instinct to play pretend that kids do. We usually funnel that energy into other stuff. But if you can get yourself back into the playing-pretend mindset, it would probably be really cool.

11. Go to the playground
There used to be a swing set in my neighbors' backyard that they let us use, but it's since been torn down. But if you have a swing set, slide, monkey bars, jungle gym, etc, in your area, definitely make use of it!

12. Make and play with goo and clay
I found this blog through Tumblr that is all about "sensory play," which is this thing that new age parents are apparently into now. The idea is to mess around with stuff that engages your five senses, namely: fun gooey substances. The recipes they linked to were lavender cloud dough, homemade Floam, galaxy slime, and rainbow soap foam bubbles. But if those recipes are too difficult or have too many weird ingredients for you (like they did for me), you can look for other recipes, or buy Play-Doh or Floam or clay from the store. Then play with it!

13. Read picture books
If you have any old books around the house by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Robert Munsch, Margaret Wise Brown, etc, have a storytime!

14. Play with toys from your childhood
You might still have some Legos, Barbies, Hot Wheels, stuffed animals, or whatever you used to play with as a kid. Bring them out and relive the fun memories.

15. Run around in the backyard carefree
I feel like we all used to get a lot more exercise as kids, since we would just run around with no cares. Forget about the worries of your adult life and run until you get tired. Which, for me, would be within five seconds. But then lay in the grass and wonder about the clouds. That's what makes a childhood summer.

I hope you guys enjoyed those ideas, and even if you don't do them, I hope you get the most out of the last few days of summer.
Thanks for reading,

Summer Wrap-Up

Well, it's finally here: the end of summer. After probably the longest summer vacation of my life, I'm heading back to school for the fall. I'm super excited to go back to Sarah Lawrence, but I'm also sad about the summer ending. So much stuff happened and I feel like I need to recap it in some way... what an interesting transition into today's post!

I've decided to make Top Five lists to try and recap my summer experience. If you've been keeping up with the blog, you'll probably remember a lot of these, but even if not, I hope it'll be interesting. I'm going to have plenty of lists so I'll include stuff you might be able to relate to as the average reader.

Five Best Memories of the Summer

1. Chapter One Young Writers Conference 
Every summer that I've attended Chapter One Con, it's been the highlight of my summer. Seeing my online writing friends and so many inspirational, educational talks from successful published young writers obviously makes the #1 spot.
2. Completing Camp NaNoWriMo with the second draft of my novel.
Working on The Wishmaker is probably the best part of my life right now (besides my friends and family). I'm glad that I got so much work done on my revisions this summer, especially with the help of Camp NaNo.
3. My sister Shir returning from her cross-country trip.
My younger sister Shir went on a trip with her camp across the country for six weeks this summer. She had tons of fun and got to see so much cool stuff (and brought me back plenty of gifts, which was nice). But my whole family missed her so much when she was gone. Shir coming back was really great.
4. The pizza tour of New York.
Pizza. I mean... that's all you need to really know here. Also, cool historical fun facts and walking around New York with friends. But mostly... pizza!
5. The Harry Potter themed tour of the Met.
I love art history, and I love Harry Potter, so naturally this makes the top five list. The tour guide was amazing, the experience was really fun, and touring the Met is always good. I loved getting the art historical angle on my favorite book series.

Five Worst Moments of the Summer (not including tragedies and traumas... I wouldn't want to make light of a truly bad experience by including it in a fun post)

1. The sand-pocalypse
While I absolutely loved visiting one of my Internet friends at her beach house in Ocean City, I did not love being attacked by sand. Admittedly, I probably could have gone without wearing regular clothes to sit down in the ocean. But I guess I underestimated the ocean's capability to force sand into every pore of my body.
2. Disaster storycraft
Some of you know that I run the storycraft at the library. I usually love it, but one week I decided to make a cupcake craft involving dipping Styrofoam balls in paint. Not a good idea. It would have been bad enough if it had just been three-year-olds making a mess with paint, but add the conniptions of the parents over any mess being made... Pretty disastrous.
3. Having hope for ice cream... but no
This moment is actually a few moments. I think we can all relate to this experience: somebody says something like, "let's get ice cream!" or "maybe later we can even get ice cream" and then the day goes on and you realize, the ice cream did not happen. Worst disaster imaginable.
4. A certain OUAT plot twist
This show is so stupid, and I hate it. But I love it and I watched the whole thing in a little over a week. I don't want to spoil what the plot twist was, for those who haven't seen it yet, but let me just say, the plot twist was wickedly stupid.
5. The Panera Bread not arriving at Ch1Con
Ch1Con was pretty great, as aforementioned. But on the morning of the conference, we were supposed to get Panera bagels. They had ordered the bagels online, only to find out at the last minute that the Panera Bread place they ordered from had closed down!!! I had to eat cookies for breakfast instead. INSTEAD OF PANERA BREAD

Five Most Quintessential Summer Experiences I Had This Summer

1. Going to the beach and boardwalk at Ocean City
I got to go visit one of my best Internet friends in Ocean City, along with our other friend Julia. Going to the beach is probably the most summery thing ever. I almost never do go to the beach, because of... sand, but it was fun to go this summer. I also got to go to the boardwalk for the first time since I was a tiny child, and got funnel cake, which is pretty boardwalk-y of an experience.
2. Picking peaches in my backyard
My dad planted peach trees in our backyard years ago. For the past few summers, we've gotten to reap the benefits. Or, well, we haven't. The squirrels and chipmunks did. But this summer we managed to snag a few. Summer is pretty summed up with the taste of ripe peaches picked right off the tree in the warm sunlight.
3. Reliving summers of my childhood with Rachel
My best friend, Rachel, and I decided to recreate "play dates" of our childhood, which was my mom's brilliant idea. We sprayed each other with the hose in the backyard, played with bubbles, colored in coloring books, and ate animal crackers. It was very fun and captured the childlike spirit of summer.
4. Working at the library
What's more college-summer quintessential than a summer job? Technically, this was just me temporarily returning to the job I had all throughout high school, but it was fun. I ran the storycraft for kids and (occasionally) shelved books. The lack of air conditioning for most of the summer really gave a summer-y feeling.
5. The street fair in Chicago
The day before Ch1Con, Rachel and I arrived in Chicago and on our way to visit the Art Institute, we passed a street fair. There were plenty of lovely stalls, selling scarves, jewelry, perfumes, clothes, and my personal favorite, alpaca wool. (It's so soft!) We ended up both buying some beautiful jewelry there.

Five Best Museums I Went To (Besides the Met, which is obvious)

1. The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst
I cannot stress to you how awesome this museum was. It's literally just Emily Dickinson's house, as well as her brother's house next door. They're still working on restorations, since it only became a museum a few years ago. But it's absolutely AMAZING. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you're not into poetry.
2. The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan
I went to this museum recently, so it was during the Alice in Wonderland exhibit, which is really cool. They also had an interesting art installation, an exhibit on portraiture, and an exhibit on English printing. But they have different exhibits all the time. The part I especially liked was J.P. Morgan's original library and study. It's any book lover's dream. Really stunning.
3. The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia
This was one of the most diverse and largest collections of art I've ever seen. The rooms were basically packed with paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from all time periods and cultures. There were a lot of works from artists that I really like, such as Matisse, Manet, and Chirico. But there were also plenty of artists I'd never heard of, which was great. My favorite part was the unique way Barnes arranged his collection. I would recommend that anyone go check it out.
4. The Montclair Art Museum in Montclair
It's a small museum, but the collections are fantastic. They had wonderful exhibits full of fascinating art. I particularly enjoyed the room of Native American art, because of the amount of information and backstories provided on each piece. I also loved their collection of landscapes by local artist George Iness. It's a great museum to visit if you're in the area.
5. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst
The best part of this museum was probably their art studio. It's considered to be for kids, but all ages are allowed to explore their creativity there with the unique craft supplies and fun ideas. Besides the crafts, I thought the exhibits were interesting and I liked visiting the picture book library.

Five Best Small Moments of the Summer

1. Dancing during an open-air concert in Lexington
During a visit to Lexington, Massachusetts to see where the Revolutionary War started, my family came across a wind-instrument concert in a local park. It wasn't a big deal, because it's a very small town, so it was casual and fun. I had fun dancing in my bare feet on the lawn with my parents.
2. Funnel cake on the boardwalk with my friends
During the visit to Ocean City, my friends and I got a funnel cake on the boardwalk. It was pretty late, so it was so dark that you couldn't tell the difference between the night sky and the black ocean waters. But on the boardwalk, everything was lit up and everyone walked by in sundresses and with little kids running and groups of teenagers laughing. Meanwhile, we ate a delicious fried funnel cake on a bench and talked about books or whatever.
3. Basking in the fresh water of the Lexington reservoir
Also during the trip to Lexington, we came across the reservoir, which was a nice, secluded place to swim. I didn't swim so much as I just basked in the water. I also found snail shells, which was super cool.
4. Seeing centuries-old gravestones in the local cemetery
The Battle Green of Lexington wasn't the only Revolutionary War landmark I saw this summer. In my very hometown, Revolutionary War veterans are buried near the church. Rachel and I went to go see their graves after getting pizza one day. It was so surreal and lovely to see the places where they, and many others from that time period, were laid to rest.
5. Watching the sun rise over the Empire State Building
Going to the airport ridiculously early in the morning doesn't have too many bright sides, but it is beautiful to watch the sun rise out of the big glass windows while waiting for your flight to board. Especially when you get a dramatic view of the New York skyline silhouetted over the red rising sun.

And finally...

Five Best Blog Posts of the Summer (from my blog)

1. The Essence of Summer
2. The Ultimate List of Ways to Waste Time on the Internet
3. Summer: A Little Scrapbook in Art
4. Ten Things that Happen on Young Writers' Forums
5. The Beautiful Places I Want to Go (...for novel research)

Thank you so much for reading! I really hope I get more consistent with posting once I have a more rigid schedule. I'll be sure to update you once I get to school,

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ch1Con Recap

Hello! Hope you didn't mind the mini-hiatus/chaos of my last post. Over this weekend I was at Chapter One Young Writers Conference, so I was a little too busy to write. :) Since Ch1Con this year was full of new experiences, I think this will, once again, be a new-experience post on a Wednesday.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably recognize Ch1Con as the thing I am constantly mentioning, but if you don't know what it is, check out the Ch1Con website. This past weekend had several new experiences: first airplane flight and traveling without a grown-up (I realize I am technically an adult, but I am not a grown-up), first Ch1Con with actual strangers attending, first time meeting some famous young writers, and some less exciting stuff like I went to an aquarium and saw a new play. So I'm going to just tell the abridged story of my entire weekend. I say "abridged" because I am going to try not to tell every last detail... although you will hear about every single food I ate. Sorry.

All right. So Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 AM to get to the airport. I was flying to Chicago with my best friend Rachel, who was also attending the conference. We got through security and such without anyone yelling at us, which was nice. Then we saw the sunrise out of the windows and flew to Chicago. I tried to sleep, but it didn't really happen.

In Chicago, we managed to get through the transportation system and find our way into the main city, where we planned to go to the Art Institute. I promptly led us in the wrong direction, but on the bright side, we did find a nice street fair where I bought a really nice owl necklace. After the street fair and too much walking, we finally made it to the Art Institute. We saw some of the big highlights (American Gothic, Nighthawks, Sunday on La Grand Jatte) and a bunch of other paintings. I'd post pictures of them but I think Blogger doesn't want me to, based on how it's now making my screen shake...? I seriously expect this thing to need an exorcism next.

Anyway, after seeing a lot of cool art, we headed down to a nearby Italian restaurant. I was super hungry so I ate too much, naturally. We got Pecorino Romano with raisin-nut bread, eggplant involtini, pizza margherita, this pasta thing that Rachel had, an orange cannoli that Rachel had, and a warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. It was glorious. Then we returned to the subway to take the train to the bus station, where we took the bus to our hotel. We got to the hotel at the exact same time as founder Julia Byers and her mom! But we didn't talk much because Rachel and I immediately went to take a nap.

After a rather unsatisfactory nap, we went to join Julia and several other young writers from the con in the courtyard, some whom I knew from Twitter and some that I met for the first time. We had pizza and cookies there, then went up to Julia's room, where we were joined by associate online administrator Kira Brighton and keynote speaker Kat Zhang. (These titles make them sound intimidating, but they're really nice in person. Not "really nice but I hate them for their success" kind of nice, but fun to spend time with). (OK, I'm still really jealous of them both). Anyway, we all worked together to prep stuff for the conference the next day, and also had a live chat with some of the team members who couldn't make it, including Aisha Al-Amin and John Hansen (who's not really a team member but we all know him. "we all" meaning "everyone in the publishing world").

After the live chat, most of us went back to our rooms to get some sleep, because the next day we had to get up bright and early for the conference! I got all excited and wore my oversized Ch1Con t-shirt from the first Ch1Con three years ago, as well as awkward jeans-shorts, to complete my dorky camp counselor look. We went to eat breakfast only to hear of two disasters- one of our speakers' flights was cancelled, so she was still in California; and MORE IMPORTANTLY THE PANERA BREAD BAGELS HAD NOT ARRIVED. We mourned over the bagels while Julia worked to fix the other thing and then we headed down to set up the conference room.

Setting up the room was pretty easy, but then all the attendees started pouring in! There were so many people, of so many different ages and backgrounds and levels of experience, and I didn't know a lot of them, which was exciting. Kira and I worked to check them in and take their lunch orders; then we went to take our seats among the rest of the attendees at the tables. Julia gave the welcome address and introduced our first speaker: Ava Jae, author of Beyond the Red, which is coming out in 2016. She gave a presentation on wanting to be a teen writer, which was so immensely inspiring and encouraging. I loved it.

After Ava's presentation, we had our first trivia break, which I ran, giving away free books to people who answered Harry Potter trivia. The people at the con really need to brush up on their HP knowledge. (Just kidding... but... you gotta memorize the books, like me). Then I introduced our next speaker, Karen Bao, who wrote Dove Arising. She led an excellent workshop on world-building which led to a lot of great, inspired discussion between all the attendees about their WIPs.

Taryn Albright, the speaker who was stuck in California, and a successful freelance editor, gave her session over Google Hangouts after Emma Ryan's classic MG themed trivia break. Taryn's session was about the use of color coding throughout the writing process. It was pretty interesting. I'll probably stick to my chaotic nightmare process, but for people who like to not torture themselves, the color-coding had a lot of useful points.

We had lunch after that, and then headed back in for Kaye M's session. Kaye is a famous blogger and speaks at a lot of conventions, and she gave a presentation on diversity in writing. It was really interesting and informative and the only one at which I took super-detailed notes, because I forgot my notebook upstairs before the others. But also because it was a very useful presentation.

After Kaye's presentation, we had the livestreamed panel, which there's a link to on the Ch1Con website. The four speakers (plus Taryn, through Google Hangouts) answered questions from the attendees and from Twitter. It was really cool and it was good to let the people who couldn't attend still be part of the experience.

When the panel ended, Kat Zhang, author of the Hybrid Chronicles and our keynote speaker, gave us a presentation telling us the story of her journey with writing her debut What's Left of Me. It was really insightful to hear an individual story of publication, as well as to see all the strange book covers they went through.

After Kat's keynote address, we finished up the conference with photos and book signings, and then we took apart the conference room. A couple of the attendees then joined Julia and her mom to go see our friend and Ch1Con's official Tumblr expert, Emma Ryan's, play. She was performing in a back-to-back performance of HMS Pinafore and Trial by Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan. We had to rush pretty fast through dinner (pizza) to get there in time, but we made it. The plays were super weird, but very funny, and Emma did an AMAZING job. We got to see her afterwards, and then we headed back to the hotel.

The next day, we met up in Julia's room for breakfast of the finally-arrived Panera bagels, only for me to find out they were holding a surprise birthday party for me and Emma, whose birthdays are both this week! They got cake and streamers and presents, which were all amazing, but the best part was, I finally got to eat the Panera bagels. And hang out with all my lovely friends who I almost never see, of course.

We all handed out various gifts that we got just for Ch1Con purposes, then we said goodbye to a few of the attendees before heading out into Chicago. We had planned to eat a very specific plate of nachos for lunch, but we didn't have time- long story. Instead, we went to the Shedd Aquarium to see dolphins, which Kira wanted to see. The aquarium was super overpriced and had long lines and stuff, but in the end, WE SAW A BABY DOLPHIN HANGING OUT WITH ITS MOMMY OH MY GOSH. And baby penguins, and otters, and a sea turtle, and other fish. And also we had nachos in the food court. They were not The nachos, but they did manage to make me regret ever eating them a few hours later. (Too much information? Eh.)

After the aquarium, we all had to say goodbye :(((( Then Julia's mom dropped Rachel and me off at the airport, where we managed to get through security again with minimal yelling, and then we waited a bit and got on the plane and got back to New Jersey! And that's the end of the story of my amazing, wondrous weekend. Oh- and I got a giant marshmallow on a stick covered in Oreos at one point. Now you know everything.

So, I hope I didn't go into too much detail. It was an amazing, amazing Ch1Con, and I hope next year is even better. If you're a young writer, I super-highly-really recommend attending this conference. The sessions give you way better information on everything you need to know than any writing advice book or well-meaning English teacher who does not know about publishing. And the feeling of community and dose of inspiration you get from spending time with serious writers your age is really just not comparable to anything else. If you can't attend, though, I do recommend that you check out all our online accounts, which are available through the website linked above, including the official website, Twitter, Facebook page, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube account. I'd link them all here but I'm afraid of angering the Blogger gods.

Thank you for reading! See you on Saturday,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Harry Potter Fan Art

This is like my tenth time trying to make this post work and I might strangle Google. What? Nothing. Some announcements: This was meant to be my Saturday post, it's my Wednesday post instead, no post this Saturday because I'll be at Ch1Con, normal blogging will resume next Wednesday, if Google deigns to allow it.
OK U KNOW WHAT GOOGLE? YOU KNOW WHAT? I give up. I just wanted to show my lovely readers some nice Harry Potter fan art, but no. No. You won't allow it. FINE. I DON'T NEED YOU ANYWAY.

here's the post? what why is this a link

Hey! So I didn't do my Saturday post yesterday because I was on vacation with my family, but I'm doing it today because I'm back home. My new experience this week was going to the Met for a Harry Potter tour. IT WAS SO COOL AND AMAZING AAAHHH. Basically it's seeing different works of art and artifacts that are connected to Harry Potter, for example sculptures of the Greek myths that inspired many of the names/stories, ancient Egyptian magic wands, etc. We also got house points on the tour (Slytherin won, obviously. Well, we tied with Hufflepuff because of this Hufflepuff kid who was smart). 
Anyway. So I thought I'd do a post about Harry Potter and art and what better way to combine the two than to showcase some of my favorite Harry Potter fan art? I see a lot of HP fan art on Tumblr and I thought I would share it here. Please note: I'm adding links to the original posts and to the artists' pages so that you can reblog any works you like on your own blog if you have one, or so that you can browse their other work/share their pages with friends if you really like it. I'm not trying to take credit for anyone else's work. I'm also going to put the artist's caption of what the piece is if I can. (also... I added some titles... they aren't the real titles. Most of these don't have actual titles)

I can't put the pictures I don't think, so here are links to the original fan art. Don't worry, none of them are inappropriate or NSFW or whatever. Just cute pictures of Harry Potter, a world where there is no Blogger, or Google, or anything.


sorry this post is so disastrously formatted and I didn't say what the links are. The words keep moving around because Google hates me.
I know this looks like a shady bunch of links to drug dealers because they just say "Link" in different fonts but it's really just a bunch of cute Tumblrs.

Anyway. Hope this blog works next week, when I return. See you then!