Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Which Member of the Ch1Con Team Are You?

(First, a note for my few regular blog readers: yeah, I haven't updated my blog in a month, I know. Combination of conference week nightmares and angst over TV shows and angst over books. Luckily none of you are too like super-dependent on this blog so... if you want a personal apology, I guess, ask me? I feel the need to apologize?)

Hello all!!! Can you believe that we're only LESS THAN THREE MONTHS AWAY from Chapter One Young Writers Conference? I can't!

What is Chapter One Young Writers Conference, you ask? Oh, only the highlight of my year. (If I sound like a 1950s salesman, it's because I actually turn into a 1950s salesman every time this conference is brought up). Ch1Con, as it's usually abbreviated, is the only conference BY young writers and FOR young writers, aka, it's an experience for young writers that isn't totally condescending to them because, you know, the people running it are also young. "Young" is loosely defined as age 11 to 23, and the conference is basically a one-day super-fun experience of learning serious stuff about writing tips, the publishing industry, and how to hang out and make real live friends with other people your age who legitimately love writing as much as you do. Seriously- I suck at socializing and I have made friends through this conference.

(Oh, and we have speakers who are actual Important Publishing People: New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, acclaimed YA author Francesca Zappia, and young authors Jennifer Yu and Jordan Villegas, whose books are coming out sometime in the future. You can read more about them on the Ch1Con website and in their other interviews. They are talented, cool people, I promise.)

The conference takes place in Chicago- this year on Saturday, August 6 in St. Charles, Illinois. Registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website (where you will also find links to all the other amazing posts in the blog tour) for the early bird admission price of $74.99 until June 1. It is really, honestly, so worth it, but even if you can't make it to the conference this year, Ch1Con holds events online year-round that are also super awesome, on our various social media accounts.

Anyway, so for my contribution to the Ch1Con blog tour, I decided to make a personality quiz! The members of the Ch1Con team are all so cool and often under-appreciated, so this quiz will tell you: Which Member of the Ch1Con Team Are You? To be clear, I'm not claiming to peer into the souls of my fellow team members, so I hope you guys aren't too mad if I misrepresent your personalities. This is just meant to be a fun quiz to show everyone what a bunch of writerly nerds run this conference. :)

QUIZ INSTRUCTIONS: I didn't want each question to have eight options, so each question has four options and the letters will be weirdly mixed up. Tally up how many of each letter you get, and then check the answer that corresponds to which letter you got most. (You might get a tie. I don't know. I'm not a professional quiz maker.) (I just checked it and I believe that the most that'll happen is you'll get a three-way tie. But I suck at math, so who knows)

1. If you could own a restaurant, which restaurant would you own?
A- A French bakery that sells a lot of dishes with cheese.
B- A comfort food store with a frozen yogurt section.
C- A pizzeria. That's it. Pizza
D- A restaurant that's half a bookstore, actually

2. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
E- Getting to have critique partners so you can insult their writing
F- All the networking parts- marketing, social media, understanding the industry
G- Worldbuilding! It's so much fun
H- Creating romances and ships in your book

3. What is the best compliment someone could give you?
A- All your hard work is appreciated.
B- Not only you're a good writer, but you're also a good friend
G- You are both talented and introspective
H- You're funny and kind at the same time

4. If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?
E- A spider or some other cool creature
F- A meaningful quote about books
C- Something Harry Potter related, most likely
D- Maybe something to do with your fandoms, or with libraries

5. Choose a nickname for Harry Potter.
A- The Boy Who Lived
B- The Chosen One
E- The Heir of Slytherin
F- The next Minister of Magic

6. Pick a young adult series that represents you.
C- Harry Potter, because it's so full of magic and sarcasm
D- Percy Jackson, because friendship, mythology, and humor!
G- Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because it's full of fantasy and love
H- His Dark Materials, because it has cute animals and great ships and friendships

7. Which mythical creature most represents you?
A- Loch Ness monster but it's actually friendly
F- Sphynx
C- Dragon
H- Satyr, who is also friendly. But mainly because it's part goat

8. Which regular animal most represents you?
E- Do microbacteria count as animals? No, but you're gonna choose microbacteria anyway
B- A grumpy, lovable cat
G- Monarch butterfly
D- A puppy

9. Pick a pasta dish to eat
A- Mac and cheese
G- Mushroom ravioli
D- Spaghetti with red sauce and lots of Parmesan
F- Vegetable noodles

10. What punctuation mark is your favorite?
E- Nothing fancy. Just use regular punctuation, honestly.
B- Quotation marks, because you like talking to other people
H- Exclamation points, to represent intense emotions in your characters

11. Which character from Shrek most represents you?
F- Mirror, because you're smart and you know all the trends
B- Fiona, because you're an independent, awesome feminist
C- Shrek... because you like being alone in your swamp
D- The giant gingerbread man because you are very sweet but also ready to fight

12. Which of the four seasons best represents you?
G- Autumn
H- Spring
A- Summer
E- Winter

13. If you had to go back in time to visit a historical period, which one of these would you choose?
A- Shakespeare's lifetime
B- The women's suffrage movement
C- The Italian Renaissance
D- The Roaring Twenties

14. What bothers you most about young adult literature?
E- When characters are such obvious, annoying cliches
F- The lack of diversity and representation
G- When adult authors ignore the needs of teen readers
D- Queerbaiting and other stuff authors do that is cruel to marginalized fans

15. Pick your favorite Greek god/goddess from the list below
E- Hades
F- Hermes
G- Artemis
H- Hestia or Demeter

16. Pick an adjective to describe yourself from the list below.
A- Determined
B- Empathetic
C- Creative
H- Friendly

17. Which of the following pastries most represents your personality?
E- Poison. Just kidding. Chocolate cake. That's poisoned.
B- Nutella mug cake.
G- A cinnamon roll.
D- Lemon poppyseed muffin

18. And finally, the most important question of all: which Panera Bread dish are you?
A- Panera baguette
C- Garden vegetable soup with pesto
G- Mediterranean Quinoa salad
H- Grilled cheese

Tally up your answers and see who you are!

MOSTLY A'S- Founder Julia Byers
You're the founder of Ch1Con, Julia Byers! Julia works so hard every day to keep this conference up and running and still maintains her sunny personality. Her personality is primarily made up of cheese, bread, and young adult literature. If you got this answer, you must be a fun, smart, determined young writer!

MOSTLY B'S- Master of Marketing Kira Brighton
You're Ch1Con's master of marketing, Kira Brighton! Kira is fantastic at all things to do with the written word. She loves cats, TV shows, and sappy romances. If you got mostly B's, you probably like to stay inside and eat snacks while fangirling and hissing at anyone who tries to disrupt your cocoon. Still, you are a wonderful and lovable friend to all.

MOSTLY C'S- Associate Online Administrator Ariel Kalati
You're the associate online administrator, aka ME! Ariel does the occasional thing or two for Ch1Con while mostly making sarcastic comments and eating pizza. If you got this answer, this probably means that you enjoy food, Harry Potter, and doing a whole lot of nothing. Congratulations!

MOSTLY D'S- Tumblr Expert Emma Ryan
You're the Tumblr expert of Ch1Con, Emma Ryan! Emma is a friendly, sunshiney, awesome person who loves shipping and fandoms! In addition to that, she runs Ch1Con's Tumblr and always contributes fantastic thoughts about the book world to our events. If you got this answer, you are probably outgoing, fun, and interesting, and love reading more than anything.

MOSTLY E'S- Chief Creative Consultant Molly Brennan
You're Ch1Con's chief creative consultant, Molly Brennan! Molly loves science, mainly so she can threaten to use her scientific knowledge to poison others. She's incredibly smart, has a dark sense of humor, and loves to criticize others' writing. If you got this answer, you are probably clever, funny, and a little bit evil.

MOSTLY F'S- Marketing Consultant Patrice Caldwell
You're the marketing consultant of Ch1Con, Patrice Caldwell! Patrice is a professional genius who knows everything about the publishing world. She gives excellent advice about marketing and is a generally awesome person. If you got this answer, you are probably smart, hardworking, and have lots of opinions about books that you share with the world all the time.

MOSTLY G'S- Creative Consultant Christina Li
You're one of Ch1Con's creative consultants, Christina Li! Christina is one of the most impressive team members since she has an agent while still being in high school, and is also an amazing writer. She has a sharp instinct for writing skills and is also incredibly sweet and friendly, with plenty of book fandom knowledge. If you got this answer, you are an interesting, quirky, and talented young writer who loves books.

MOSTLY H'S- Creative Consultant Brett Jonas
You're one of Ch1Con's creative consultants, Brett Jonas! Brett is a sweet, kind young writer who loves torturing her characters and taking care of baby goats. She has a big heart and a drive to write more than is humanly possible. If you got this answer, you are full of love and writing talent, and you probably love cute animals.

OK! Whew! That took forever, I assume, considering I made so many questions. I hope it turned out well and I hope you guys all like it! And that it wasn't too complicated, haha.
Remember again to PLEASE check out Ch1Con's website and social media accounts, especially if you're a young writer or you know a young writer. And register for Ch1Con 2016! It's going to be amazing!

Thank you for reading, and ideally I will see you next week,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Ten Most Annoying Things About Editing a Novel

I've been working on editing my novel for a couple of years now, and it hasn't gotten any more fun. I thought it might have gotten more fun at some point, but no, it's just irritating. So, in light of this experience, I decided to make a list of the ten most annoying things about editing a novel. Feel free to add your own in the comments, if you want.

1. It Will Never Be Done... I'll Die Before It's Done...

Editing takes SO LONG! There's rewriting, more rewriting, restructuring, more restructuring, waiting on critique partners, rifling through critiques, deciding which critiques to listen to, cutting stuff, fixing plot holes, line edits, MORE rewriting... I knew editing took a while, but it's such a long process. Of course, it's partially because I procrastinate so much. The procrastination takes up the bulk of my editing time. Additionally, I'm also sure that It Will Never Be Done, because there will always be something to fix. And some readers will be unhappy, no matter what. You could edit until the end of time and someone will still be talking about how your book is problematic. I think about publication and it does not seem like a thing that's actually going to happen. Not because the market is difficult or whatever, but because I will never be done editing.

2. "So you'll be the next J.K. Rowling?"

I think literally every time I've talked to anyone about how I'm a writer, they tell me I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling. Mind you, the vast majority of these people have not read one word of my writing- they're not praising my talent. They are just that deluded about how publishing works. They hear that I'm done with a book and are wondering when the cash will flow in. For some reason, they got the idea that the publishing process is Step One: First draft. Step two: Fame and fortune. And then they tell me I'm "just being modest" when I explain that that is not the case. Believe it or not, I didn't create a flawless first draft, as nice as that would have been.

3. I read it so many times that I don't know what it is anymore

I've read my manuscript so many times. So many times. To the point that I can't tell if it's good or bad, so how exactly am I supposed to edit it? I know, I know, that's what critique partners are for, but I'm the one who has to make final decisions at this point. Also, there have been many times when I just didn't tell the reader a vital bit of information because I'm used to it being common knowledge, since in my life, whether or not Topaz is an aunt or cousin is common knowledge, since I've read this book so many freaking times.

4. "I'll fix that later" Later has arrived.

When writing a first draft, it's important to let go of perfectionism. If you come to a difficult part, remember that you don't need to get it perfect right away. That's what editing is for. Then you get to the editing, and you have to do all the hard stuff.

5. The knot-in-your-hair parts

I have long, curly hair, and sometimes when I brush it there's this part in the back, always too far for my arms to reach without aching, that gets into this Big Giant Knot of Doom, and it's a hellish nightmare to brush it out. Some scenes in editing are like that. Info-dumps that must be made entertaining and easy to read, for example. Transition scenes that are boring but you need SOME sort of transition. Story-telling scenes that can't just be a speech. They are agonizing to fix.

6. Killing your actual darlings

People always say "kill your darlings" about editing, which means "cut that scene you got so attached to if it's for the good of the work as a whole." But for me at least, I put so much unnecessary junk in the first draft that "killing my darlings" the first few rounds of edits is just killing a lot of stuff that I didn't like that much anyway. Now I have to get rid of scenes I enjoyed and it's annoying, to say the least. Though I did have a taste of that on my first edit when I got rid of a Mean Girls reference. That was a sorrowful day.

7. Too tired for the greater good

Sometimes you know that a big radical plot change would improve the book immensely. Like, changing a character's gender, or making the villain have a totally different motivation, or starting the book two months earlier. But damn it, you are so tired, and you've worked on this version of the draft so many times that you don't want to have to essentially start over again. So you will make do with the inferior story because who cares at this point.

8. Comments on Chapter One

Note to my critique partners: First, let me start with a disclaimer. I love having my ego fed. Please go ahead and tell me how wonderful my book is at any time. Additionally, I love constructive criticism. Tell me that my writing is weak in one scene or other, or that you don't understand what's going on. But please. Do not complain about something when you are NOT DONE YET that is something that could clearly be resolved LATER. If you're on Chapter Two and you think that I really ought to include that minor character more, you really liked them, why don't I include them more... how exactly do you know I'm not going to? You have twenty-four chapters to go! If you're sad about how I'm treating the characters, I'm glad I'm having an emotional effect, but you haven't reached the end yet so don't act like I've already given them a sad ending! Just read the whole thing! Gah!

9. Critiques =/= This is your book now

Let me be perfectly clear, I will accept the harshest, most biting, vicious critiques of my book. I will, of course, go home and cry bitterly for about one month afterwards, but I'll accept it and bear you no ill will and take it into serious consideration. However. What annoys me are the Suggestions. If you have an idea, sure, I guess you can share it, but I'm probably not going to do it because I already have my own vision for the book and I'm going to stick to it. I'm talking about stuff like "why don't you make these two characters get together" or "at this part I think that there should be a battle!" or "you should put dragons in the book! right here at this part even though that would dramatically change the plot that you clearly have set in place already." I get the temptation to make headcanons, but they should remain in your HEAD, or at the very least, admit that these are your fantasies and not actual suggestions that I'm going to do.

10. Reading your old writing

Oh God. It's so terrible. And it's terrible on two fronts when it's someone like me who takes years and years to finish stuff, because on the one hand, you have how bad your writing was, but you also have reminders of who you were when you were a couple years younger. I wrote the first draft of my book in tenth grade, and I had some really awful ideas in my head in tenth grade. If you're reading my book and you think Mae (my protagonist) is insufferable, it's because I was insufferable in tenth grade. Only now I'm making that an amusing flaw of hers, not a great trait because she is oh-so-special. Ugh. It is painful to remember the past.

Anyway, I should probably go to bed because I have class early tomorrow and my roommate also probably wants to sleep. "But why didn't you just write the blog post earlier-" Shut up, voice of reason. I was doing very important work (not at all binge watching shows, no).

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Small Poems

Once again, posting this super late because I just procrastinate a lot.
This week I thought I would share some poetry and some thoughts on a particular type of poetry. So, a while ago I read this poetry collection commentated by Lemony Snicket and he said something along the lines of, "I've read a lot of poems that are too long, but none that are too short." In my poetry seminar last year, my poetry teacher often had us do an exercise where we would eliminate all but the most essential lines of the poem. And there's a publication at my school called "The Cliffhanger" exclusively for short, unfinished pieces of writing.
Basically, what I'm saying is that short poems can be a lot more powerful than long ones, both for the reader and for the writer.
Writing small poems can be pretty therapeutic sometimes. While it's sometimes good to write a long-winded poem and lose yourself in all the words, you can get to feeling like you're constructing a big long art piece rather than just getting some words out. Which can be good, but if you're trying to relax or get some thoughts out, sometimes it's best to just write little poems. If I get struck with tiny bits of imagery or emotion, I can scrawl a few sentences and not feel like I have to make a whole long poem out of it. Or if I have a bunch of unattached feelings, I can do several poems instead of feeling like I have to link them together somehow.
So, I decided to share some of my small poems that I've written recently, and possibly some I've written in the past if I can't find enough from the past few months.

When the hunger that is not hunger comes,
I want to pull at the black sky
until it uncoils as a rope.

Then the stars would be all alone
and the rest of space
would be swallowed and swirling
inside me.

To butcher your poem,
drain it
'til it's a bag of bon words.
Then skin it
and bury the skeleton
in papery ice.

Then wait
for spring.

Dry as chalk,
when I talk
the words go up the wrong pipes
the ears choke on them.

Syllables coil on the mouth
as a snake skin.
Better to keep quiet,
keep the fear in.

A strange kind of winter 
this is-
made of water
rather than ice.
I haven't yet
seen anything die.

As stirring
and shaking 
as a silent orchestra
desperate to play
even a verse

Is how the spring is,
shivering in the wings,
dancing in her head
beneath the earth.

Siphoned the last drops
of what you were
right out of the last holding cells.

And they left
one letter. 

(Here's some from before the last few months, some of which I've already published here)

soft incense, thunder
        brushing my hair

elephant curls itself
         into the starry darkness

Early whistle of rain
and I am exhausted
            ah god
            violet, exhausted 

I look on trees naively,
as though they are my friends,
who cannot speak as I do
with lungs and mouth.

And yet at least
for my imagined mind
they sing-

I'll never know whether
their music is real
or merely
an imagined thing.

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.

I can pick your voice
out of the stairwell,
like a thread unraveling from a tapestry.
To a well-practiced ear,
even to an ill-practiced ear,
it sounds like the main voice
of the chorus.
I ignore it.


I hope you enjoyed those poems! The first six I all wrote this semester- the last five I wrote either last semester, over the summer, or in high school.
If you have any small poems of your own, feel free to share in the comments! Or even write one of your own just for fun.
Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Sort of Blog Posts Should I Do?

Hey, so, yep, skipped the blog posts for the last two weeks and now that I have returned I'm putting up this post at like, the extremely last second. Sorry about that.

One of the reasons (besides just being lazy and terrible) that I skip posts is because I am just clueless about what to write. Not that I don't have ideas, but I'm never sure if the ideas are good enough. I know that not too many people read this blog regularly (hi, Mom!) but it would be nice to make sure you guys aren't suffering too badly reading this, and maybe draw in some other readers.

So, I was thinking of making a sort of little catalogue of the different types of posts I do, and it would be great if you guys want to offer some feedback? As in, which ones are your favorites or which ones you want to see less of? (I know the comments section on here isn't easy to operate, so you can tell me in person or comment on Facebook or reply on Twitter if you want). Even if not, I guess this will be a fun sort of housekeeping post.

I suspect that my best-liked posts are the funny listicles that keep it short, and the food ones. I do not have that much humor in me, though, guys. Sometimes I try to be funny and it's a disaster and you don't want to see that.

Anyway. Types of posts I have. Let's go.

Writing Advice Posts
These generally come in the form of lists with big long paragraphs of advice. I draw from my own experience and stuff I've heard online/in my classes, and just preach about writing. Sometimes I have a long rant but it's usually list-form about specific ideas.

Recent examples: How to Write Good Beginnings, Some Actually Useful Character Questions, How to Transition from "I'm Writing a Novel" to "I Wrote a Novel"

Funny Lists
These often take a Buzzfeed listicle format. I present a topic and write sarcastic, exaggerated examples that fit that topic and make some jokes. Occasionally, when possible, I add gifs. Additionally, sometimes these lists are about food.

Recent examples: 14 Minor Differences Between Things in the Life of a Writer, Ten Things That Happen on Young Writers' Forums, Ten Foods I Want to Eat Now

Collections of Fun Links
I present to you the gifts the Internet has given me recently. Often these have a theme of "funny things" or "stuff to calm you down or cheer you up."

Recent examples: Ten Happy Things I Saw Recently on the Internet, The Ultimate List of Ways to Waste Time on the Internet

Scrapbooks in Art
I take a natural phenomenon- wind, rain, etc- and find poems, artworks, music, videos, stories, and other works of art that remind me of it or that fit that topic. I usually include one of my own poems.

Recent examples: Wind: a Little Scrapbook in Art, Autumn: a Little Scrapbook in Art 

Book Reviews
Pretty straightforward. A list of all the books I've read recently with miniature reviews and recommendations underneath.

Recent examples: Book Reviews 2015, Part Four 

Embarrassing Journal Excerpts
One of my personal favorites, I find old journals or notebooks I wrote in during middle or high school and look for the most embarrassingly bad excerpts. Then I share them here so you can all laugh at me together.

Recent examples: My Hilariously Embarrassing Old Journal Excerpts, Amusing Excerpts from My Old Notebooks

Personality Quizzes
I've only done one of these, but I'm planning to do more. Basically just a fun personality quiz.

Recent examples: Which Type of Pizza Are You?

Poetic Reflection Posts
Long-form personal essays about my life or about nature, and other thoughts. Sometimes with poetry interspersed. Very personal and philosophical.

Recent examples: On Change with Poetry, The Essence of Summer, Spring and Other Happy Things

Miscellaneous Life Ideas
Where I take an idea unrelated to writing and talk a bit about it, maybe offering some fun ideas for your own experiences or just talk. Sometimes funny, sometimes semi-serious.

Recent examples: Ultimate Bucket List for Fall, How to Eat Healthy- by Someone Who Has No Knowledge of that Concept

General Talks About My Life and Personality
I talk about myself, but in ways that I hope are maybe relatable to others. This is often (I hope) funny, or touches upon my writing experiences.

Recent examples: If My Life Was a Novel, Rain in My Poetry

Specific Talks About My Recent Life
Usually happens when I don't know what to write about. I just ramble on about my recent life. I suspect these are not the best posts, haha. Although, sometimes it is about a good experience like Ch1Con that I'd hope you'd want to hear about.

Recent examples: Me Complaining, Interspersed with Cute Animals , Ch1Con Recap

Creative Writing Showcases
I often publish poetry I've recently written or show off my recently written short stories. Sometimes with backstories or explanations.

Recent examples: Fall Semester Poetry, Short Story Showcase: "Gone"

Well, I hope that covers everything, because I think I am staying up a bit too late to post this. Sorry again! Please if you can let me know somewhere which of these you'd like to see more of and which less.
Thank you,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Write Good Beginnings

Hey everyone! I couldn't think of what to write this week but luckily, this morning in creative writing, we discussed how to write good beginnings to books. Which was a surprise, because often in creative writing we just veer off into random topics. It was kind of fun at first, but I sort of wish we would just stay on topic now. Anyway, whatever.

I think a lot about how to write good beginnings, because honestly, a lot of good books have kind of sucky beginnings. There are a lot of reasons for continuing to read a book after the first few pages, and often it's something like, you have to read it for class, or your friend swears it's absolutely amazing and you want to see when it gets good, stuff like that. And sometimes books with bad beginnings that you have to keep reading anyway do come through with a great story. But if you're just at the bookstore or library picking up a book to see if it's good, you're not likely to keep going with something that's "eh" at the beginning (unless the back cover promises something amazing, I guess, but even then, if it's a bookstore, you might not spend money on it). And when it comes time to choose between reading your new book and wasting time on the Internet, you're going to choose the thing that captures you inextricably. Basically, I'm saying that you're fighting against the Internet for attention. It's a tough job.

How does one fight the Internet for attention, you ask? Well, you have to write something that makes a reader both enjoy what's happening right now and be excited for what comes next. There's several parts to this:

-Voice: Your voice has to be charming, delightful, exciting, witty, easy to read, and a good indicator of the voice for the rest of the book. This has to make the reader think, "I want to hear more from this person." If you've established a good voice for the rest of the book, definitely be sure to amp up the best parts of it here. I've noticed that readers (me in particular) get captivated by voices that point out eccentric or obvious things in funny ways, or make unique observations that no one would have thought of. Or you can just say something that sounds like it would be great on a Pinterest board or something. Again, competing with the Internet.

-Concept: What is unique about your story's concept? If you're writing a story about aliens, what sets this alien story apart from all the others? Do the aliens really like fashion design? Highlight the unique and interesting thing about your story right off the bat. For example, the story we were analyzing in class was about a detective. What made this detective unique was that she was the only female detective in Botswana. So the story highlighted this concept right off the bat.

-Something Happens: I don't necessarily mean action, but something "fun" has to be going on. Something that would compete against a Buzzfeed list. So, frankly, it could be a list- of the types of fairies in your fairy kingdom and the fun tasks they do each day, or the objects on the detective's desk. Obviously, don't stick too long with one topic like that, but move around, catch the reader's attention with stuff that's going on. An interesting conversation. A fun anecdote. A humorous talk about the world the book's set in. You can't just convey information, or have some boring Establishing Nonsense happening (like a regular day at lunch at the protagonist's school or something). It has to be either conveying information in a fun way that is constantly moving forward, like a Buzzfeed article or some Tumblr post or something would, or a narrative bit of action that is unique and exciting.

-Clarity: Starting off a story by confusing your reader is an almost guaranteed way to get them to stop reading. Do not just plunge them into an unfamiliar world without any sort of guidance. Even if you are just plunging them into the unfamiliar world, make sure that they have the potential to figure it out without having to stop reading and work it out like a puzzle. Make sure that if there's a new idea introduced, there's a subtle explanation behind it (not an obvious, dictionary-definition one, but a little snippet of conversation or thought that gives away what's going on). And don't have too much rushing around and context-less dialogue and action when you've just started the book. If there is a huge chaotic mess, you need a huge amount of context and explanation to make it work. Make the beginning as clear as you can.

-Plot Establishment: There's some quote by some author that says something like "start the book as close to the end as you can." Basically, don't take too long to get to what we want to hear: the story. (and for THOSE OF YOU who are going to call me a hypocrite for saying this, I KNOW that I am bad at this myself). Even if you're doing some fun irrelevant nonsense at the beginning, it should actually be relevant in some way, if only just to establish character and background. Everything you put down should be leading us constantly to the end of the story. Otherwise, it's bogging us down.

There's definitely more parts to constructing a good beginning, and I probably didn't word these so well with all my Buzzfeed analogies, haha. I know Buzzfeed isn't the height of literary professionalism, but it is great with one thing: never spending too much time on one idea. There's a concrete idea, a cute bit of words, a gif, and we're on our way to item two. If you want readers to keep turning pages, you should strive, as odd as it sounds, to be like a Buzzfeed list in this way.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any other ideas on how to write beginnings, because that would be helpful for all of us.
See you next week,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ten Happy Things I Saw Recently on the Internet

Hey, I'm kind of tired, and I think it would be good to just spread some happiness from stuff I've seen on the Internet. So I'm just going to post links, pictures, videos, anything I can find that has some happiness in it.

1. If you have some time, here's one of my favorite webcomics, Always Human. It's a romance story about two girls in a sci-fi world where everyone uses "mods" to change their appearance and mental capacity.

2. This adorable kitty!

she is enlightened, transcending her corporeal kitty cat form and will soon transform into a being of pure fuzzy lil baby kitten light

3. This Superwoman video came out and it's funny and Superwoman always cheers me up!

4. This hilarious Vine:

5. I already shared this poem on Facebook and Twitter, but March just started and I love this poem "Dear March" by Emily Dickinson:

Dear March - Come in - 
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat - 
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are - 
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well - 
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds - 
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -         
But March, forgive me - 
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue - 
There was no Purple suitable - 
You took it all with you -         
Who knocks? That April -
Lock the Door -
I will not be pursued -
He stayed away a Year to call 
When I am occupied -         
But trifles look so trivial 
As soon as you have come
That blame is just as dear as Praise 
And Praise as mere as Blame -
6. This adorable tweet:
 7. I've been listening nonstop to Bat for Lashes all week, so here's one of her happier songs:

 8. Here's a list of amazing Afro-Latina spoken word poets I came across who are all super talented, if you like poetry or spoken word.

9. This is just a really cool gif of a ice ball cocktail. I don't drink at all (if you want the recipe, it's here) but I think it's just satisfying to watch it break.


This Ice Ball Cocktail Is the Coolest Thing
Really nice recipes. Every hour.
Show me what you cooked!

10. And finally, another cute thing- if you didn't see Google's Leap Day doodle, here it is now because it's adorable:

Can we appreciate how cute Google is today?! 

Thank you for reading! Hope this cheered you up if you had a bad day or made you more cheerful if you had a good or neutral day.
See you next week,

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wind: A Little Scrapbook in Art

Hey! Sorry this blog post is going up so late; I was... well, I was just wasting time to be perfectly honest. After this blog post I still have three cantos of Purgatorio to read.

So, I initially wanted to do a scrapbook in art (if you don't know what those are, see these four posts) about the month of February, but I realized there's not really a lot of art that's specifically about February. Instead, when I heard the wind rushing so forcefully outside that despite my window not being open, the door to my room flew open from it, I decided to make this season's little scrapbook in art about wind.

Hope you enjoy!

The Wind took up the Northern Things (by Emily Dickinson)
The Wind took up the Northern Things
And piled them in the south -
Then gave the East unto the West
And opening his mouth

The four Divisions of the Earth
Did make as to devour
While everything to corners slunk
Behind the awful power -

The Wind - unto his Chambers went
And nature ventured out -
Her subjects scattered into place
Her systems ranged about

Again the smoke from Dwellings rose
The Day abroad was heard -
How intimate, a Tempest past
The Transport of the Bird -

 (Brian Crain)

Excerpt from The Eolian Harp (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
And that simplest Lute,
Placed length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caressed,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.

    And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-closed eyelids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquility:
Full many a thought uncalled and undetained,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!

    And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all? 
(Susan Gardner)
Desolate February (by me)
Wind washes & whooshes over
February wastelands.
When I wake,
yesterday's snow is gone.
Is it March yet?
Is it still February?
Has the world
wandered away from the year
to a place without seasons?
Who is alive in the wind?
The dead come alive
in a February wind.
Who can survive
in the waste?
Grey rain,
of frozen earth,
mud makes.
Who sleeps there
down in the mud?
When our sunrise is missing its sun.
(Bridget Beth Collins)

(Winnie the Pooh)

Excerpt from The Graveyard by the Sea (Paul Valery)
No, no! Arise! The future years unfold.
Shatter, O body, meditation's mould!
And, O my breast, drink in the wind's reviving!
A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let's run at the waves and be hurled back to living!
Yes, mighty sea with such wild frenzies gifted
(The panther skin and the rent chlamys), sifted
All over with sun-images that glisten,
Creature supreme, drunk on your own blue flesh,
Who in a tumult like the deepest hush
Bite at your sequin-glittering tail -- yes, listen!
The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.

(Morris Graves)

Thank you for reading through this. As always, if you have any of your own favorite artworks about wind, please share in the comments.
See you next week,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Some Actually Useful Character Questions

Character development is a major issue for a lot of writers. Character drives most stories, and is the main reason why a lot of readers care about stories at all. Even if your plot is original, your story won't work if your characters aren't fascinating, complex, and realistic. So, a lot of writers try to use character questionnaires- basically these surveys to fill out for your characters, which are available all over the Internet. They can be fun, but they're also not usually very useful. And sometimes they're not fun because you're like "what would my character order at Starbucks? I don't know, I don't even know the Starbucks menu! Starbucks doesn't even exist in my universe!"

So I thought for today I would compile some useful character questions for fleshing out your characters and getting to know them a little better. I couldn't come up with a whole lot of them, but that's because the answers aren't really short one-word things so much as full paragraphs of analysis and backstory.

How do they talk, and why?
This is useful for developing dialogue styles. Each character should have a unique enough speaking style that you can tell what they're saying even without a dialogue tag. To establish this kind of unique dialogue, step away from the story and figure out how each character talks. Do they use big words, lots of slang, a particular dialect? Short sentences or long monologues? Awkward insecure "um"s peppering their speech, or properly enunciated grammar? You should also find the root in the character's personality for their dialogue style. If you understand the character's personality, you'll get a better feel for how they speak.

What were the most important events of their life before the story started?
Stories famously consist of "protagonist's life was like this, then everything changed when plot." There isn't a plot if something doesn't change, and that change affects the characters. To mark how important the change is, you should understand how they were before any of this started. The events of their life before the story are what makes your character on page 1 and will continue to be relevant until the end of the story.

What's their fatal flaw? What are their other real flaws? Where did they originate?
Fatal flaws are part of classical story structures, but they're useful because they're what cause a character to screw up the direction of the plot. And characters need to screw up their missions, otherwise it's boring. They also need to have plenty of other flaws, otherwise they're boring. And they need to be real flaws, the kind of thing that would make you really be irritated with someone if they had those flaws in real life. If your character doesn't have any flaws, don't worry- you can find their flaws naturally from their other traits. Are they smart? Maybe they're pretentious or arrogant. Are they shy? Maybe they're shy to a fault and socially awkward. Are they confident? Maybe they're stubborn and refuse to listen to others.
Also, it helps to understand where these flaws come from, because it will help the character's journey to overcome them be more poignant and real.

What's their favorite book/TV show/musical artist/etc?
Often we associate books, TV shows, and stuff like that with personality traits. If you have to try and pin down favorite works of art for your character, you'll have to figure out what kind of things they like and why they like them.

Why do they want to do the thing they have to do for the plot?
Why does Frodo want to take the ring to Mordor? Why does Holden Caulfield want to mope around New York City for a few days? If your character has no driving reason to do their plot thing, they're just some vessel for the events of the plot. They have to have something deep within themselves that makes them decide to do the stuff they do. What is it?

What are they afraid of? What triggers a serious emotional reaction in them?
Characters should have to come up against something they fear, or something that makes them react emotionally in a serious way. You should know what this is and why, so that you can handle these scenes better.

What characteristic do they most pride themselves on?
Keep in mind, this rarely matches up with their actual best characteristic. You should figure out how the character sees themselves so that you see how they present themselves to the world, and then how they will inevitably have to deal with presenting their true selves to the world and to themselves.

Who is their family? How do they get along with them?
"Family" doesn't necessarily mean blood family- it means the people that they trust and rely on. It can be possible that they don't have that, but at least figure out what constituted the place where they came from and the people associated with that.

What people, events, media, etc influenced their way of thinking the most?
Your character has a certain view of the world and of life. You should know what that is and where it came from.

How do they feel about the other characters? Why?
This is more of a character relationship thing, but it also helps to understand how your character views the world and will help you write their interactions with the others.

What's their Hogwarts house?
This is a notoriously difficult question that has split families apart in trying to decide the right answer. Because of this, you will have to peer into your character's personality a lot in order to try and determine which house is right for them. The definition of each of the houses is pretty complex, and people are not singularly brave, smart, nice, or ambitious- so trying to determine which complex set of characteristics best matches them forces you to think a lot about the character.

OK, well, I hope these helped. If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments. As usual, sorry that this is going up late Thursday night instead of Wednesday afternoon. It's because I am not a very reliable person.
Thanks again,

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ten Edits to Run Through Your Manuscript to Make It, At Least, Not Suck

Hey! Sorry again for skipping my post last week. And that this one's late. I guess you're used to this by now, though. On to the blog post:

You know those cleanses healthy people sometimes do? Like, drink pureed carrots for a week to get rid of toxins or whatever? Well, at a certain point in editing, manuscripts need to go through cleanses. And how would I know this, you ask. Well, I know this not just because I've arbitrarily appointed myself as some sort of authority on writing even though I'm not published and don't have any sort of credentials... but because I have to read unpublished manuscripts submitted to agents now.

And just... first things first, if you're submitting to an agent, you should not be submitting your first draft. Or your second, third, or fourth. You should have done some serious, serious editing before you even thought about submitting. That manuscript should have gone through several rounds of critique partners, English teachers you somehow roped into editing your grammar, beta readers, etc. You should be able to at the very least read your own manuscript without finding it riddled with errors.

But I guess if you don't have experience with editing novels, this can be difficult. I wouldn't recommend starting with this blog post for sources on editing. Before you can even think about the edits I'm suggesting below, you should probably rewrite the whole novel from scratch and do a complete overhaul, and then probably a few other edits before you get to this point.

The edits below, however, are based on mistakes that are just... just way too common. Like, annoyingly common. And they're so terrible that it makes me really want to hate a manuscript, even if the plot's good. So if initial edits and critique partners don't catch these mistakes, make sure you catch them before submitting to agents. If you do this, your manuscript will stand out from the crowd at least the tiniest bit in the sense that it won't want to make the interns reading it punch something.

Please. Please learn how to use punctuation. Or, if you're allergic to proper punctuation, give your manuscript to someone who knows how to use punctuation and give them free reign with rearranging all your commas. This is surprisingly important. Punctuation seriously governs the way people read a text, and if you're placing commas everywhere, or creating nightmarish run-on sentences, or anything like that, it makes what could be a good text unreadable.

I touched on this in my post Five Mistakes Beginning Writers Make, but it apparently isn't just beginning writers. I'm putting this in capital letters so that even if you skim the post you won't miss it: YOU NEED MORE PARAGRAPH BREAKS. If your story is told in giant chunks, it is impossible to read. You absolutely need paragraph breaks every time a new person starts speaking. Besides that, where to break the paragraphs is up to you, but it needs to be as often as possible. Why? Because it makes it easier to read, and I swear to God if you think that your story should be a challenge to read, you can just go submit to the Pretentious Early Twentieth Century Modernists Press because no one else wants to read your annoying book.
Paragraph breaks, as often as you can possibly fit them in, are an absolute necessity. Please go back through your book and break up your nightmare paragraphs.

No matter how much description that you, the author, think is necessary, you probably need less. Readers are smarter than you think, and one of the great things about reading is building a setting in your imagination. And it doesn't matter how intricately you describe the protagonist's house- if a reader wants to picture their own house, they will, and the three pages you spent describing furniture is just going to be useless gunk that makes them want to stop reading.
Of course, I would hope that at this point in the editing process, you've already got rid of the giant page-long awful descriptions that come with first drafts. But there's still little bits of excessive description lurking all over your manuscript, like dust and dirt clinging to a surface you thought you already cleaned. Go through and cut everything except what is necessary, and maybe a few bits that help set the mood in scenes where mood is vital, and if you must, allow yourself to keep one or two turns of phrase that you're really attached to. Everything else, gut it. Your beta readers (and potentially your future agent/editor) will tell you if they feel like something's missing.

This is specifically for adult authors writing young adult manuscripts. Even in good YA manuscripts, you'll still catch the occasional bit of slang that no one says anymore, but in the bad ones, the teenagers just seem unrecognizable. Please note, because I've seen this more than once: just because technology and the Internet seem like FUTURE SCI-FI MAGIC to you, doesn't mean that teenagers who were born into a world with iPhones are going to think like that. Thirteen-year-olds don't go on the Internet and marvel at how absolutely strange it is that we can connect to the World Wide Web at the press of a button. There are a lot of things that teenagers have different mentalities about now, as well- no one gets made fun of for playing video games or reading comic books anymore, since those things are mainstream culture now. Basically, either immerse yourself in youth culture somehow so that you don't sound super antiquated, or give your manuscript to a couple of teenagers and ask them if any parts sound unrealistic.

The beginning of your book is the place where you hook your reader, and the place where an agent or editor is going to decide whether they care enough to put effort into this. This should be the place in your book that you polish the most and try to make the most interesting, the place where it is absolutely vital that your reader just can't stop reading. For some reason, though, a lot of authors start their book off with some boring nonsense that no one wants to read.
Mind you, I'm not telling you to start in the middle of an action-y fight. In fact, it's usually better if you don't, unless it's a thriller or something I guess, because fights aren't that interesting unless you care about the characters and plot. And at the beginning of the book, your reader doesn't care yet about the characters and plot. You have to make them care.
So go through your first few scenes and get rid of descriptions, pointless action, boring exposition, and stuff that doesn't make any sense without context. Instead, put something there that would be fun and interesting to read for anyone, even if they know nothing about your book.

Most manuscripts could benefit from being shorter, so this is a good idea if you're trying to shorten word count. Additionally, too many extra words everywhere can just clog up your manuscript and make it annoying. Comb through your book and see what words each sentence can do without. One common edit is to get rid of every instance of "that." Kira Brighton has a good post about words to get rid of here. If you're worried that those words were necessary, again, don't worry- your beta readers and editors will let you know if they feel something's missing.

This is one that my creative writing teacher suggested to me while helping me edit my manuscript. Dialogue is the heart of novels- it's where character is revealed and where plot, for the most part, really happens. So your dialogue has to be stellar.
First: if you're writing a spec fic (fantasy, sci fi, etc) book, it's common to fall into the trap of "fancy dialogue." Antagonists giving mustache-twirlingly Victorian speeches, mentors talking like Gandalf and Shakespeare had a word-baby, ancient magical beings practically speaking in iambic pentameter. There is zero need for this. It's difficult to read and it's cliche and annoying. No one, not even fancy magic people, talks like they're in a book; they talk normally. Get rid of all unnecessarily fancy dialogue.
Second: differentiate dialogue between characters. Everyone can't speak the same way, because in reality, everyone has different characteristics to their speech. Since dialogue is so vital to revealing character, you should be sure that your dialogue actually reveals the character of whoever's speaking. You should be able to take a line entirely out of context and be able to tell who said it. Try going through and reading every line of dialogue to ensure that it really feels like this character said it.

If you're writing a book about something you haven't personally experienced, you should have done  a lot of research on the subject before writing the book. If you didn't do that research before writing, you should do it now. If you suck at research, don't worry; you're not writing an academic paper, you just need to understand the topic. You can watch YouTube videos and read fun books and blog posts (as long as they're by people who know what they're talking about). This includes if you're writing a book with characters of a different identity group.
If you know anyone who's an expert in the topic, or who belongs to an identity you're writing about, see if they're willing to read through your book to check for inaccuracies. Because you never know if one day someone who knows about the topic will read your book and cringe at how badly you messed up. Plus, you should be respectful of the people you're writing about.

One of the most annoying things about some manuscripts is the terrible pacing, especially at the beginning. If you drag too slow, I stop caring; if you whiz by everything too fast and throw scenes at me, I get confused. And if you do a combination of the two, I'm just going to throw your manuscript out.
Editing for pacing is difficult, but it's necessary. Your book needs to move along like a well-edited movie- moving fast at scenes where things are high-intensity, and slowing it down when we need to understand details, with a good, constantly moving pace in the scenes in between. You need periods of cooling off after heated moments, and something exciting after a slow scene. Etc. This is something that beta readers help with a lot- you've read your book too many times at this point to understand that something is too weirdly paced. A fresh pair of eyes can tell you when they're getting bored or confused.

This is the easy, but boring, edit. If a manuscript is riddled with basic mechanical errors, it doesn't make me personally want to stop reading, but it is annoying and shows unprofessionalism. And there are some agents who are hella strict about that. So go through and look for every typo, missed word, grammatically incorrect sentence, etc, with a hawk's eye. Or, alternately, get one of your grammatically talented friends to do it.

I realize now that half my advice is "get someone else to read it." So that'll be my final piece of advice: use critique partners. It is vital that someone else looks at your book before you start submitting it, preferably a lot of people. You, the writer, are way too close to your work to be able to edit it thoroughly. And a variety of readers will give you a variety of opinions, which you need, because your ideal audience isn't going to be a hive mind.

Anyway... I hope those ideas were useful. There are way more edits out there you should be putting your book through, suggested by way more experienced authors in their blog posts, but these are good for your basic making-your-book-not-totally-suck needs.

Good luck editing! Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Eat Healthy- By Someone Who Has No Knowledge of that Topic

Guess what. I have to eat healthy now. And I hate it.
But, it's fine because the rest of my life is going pretty well and it provides for a decent topic for a blog post, since I guess it's amusing to have a guide to eating healthy by someone who, you know, has no actual expertise on eating healthy. Is that amusing? I hope so, because I don't have any other ideas for a blog post.

So, why is eating healthy the worst? As far as I can tell, it's due to a whole lot of reasons that pile up on top of you and make it bad. Number one: I love food, food is beautiful, food is not other people, God I really love food. Number two: I love salt. And fat and sugar and carbs and starch. They are the heart and essence of food and I love them. Number three: Food is freaking everywhere, did you know this? I followed like a hundred food blogs on Tumblr and they are always posting pictures of cupcakes and pasta and I feel bad unfollowing them because, you know, they're doing such a nice job, I don't want to discourage them. Also, every place is filled with food, in the real world, all the stores and check out counters and stupid other people eating bags of chips in every location. ALSO MOST IMPORTANTLY you APPARENTLY need food to live, so, you can't really avoid it.

Number four: when you've been eating terribly for a good chunk of years and it's made you fat and gross and whatever, as it has to me, the entire world seems to be plotting to make you feel terrible in your brain area about yourself, and any attempt to change your diet in any direction gets rained down upon with bad feelings because of this. Which is not really helpful if bad feelings already rain down upon you for other reasons.

Anyway. So... those are the reasons that eating healthy is like, an impossible mountain to climb, because every time you get to the foot of it, somebody comes up to you on one side and offers you a plate of fries, and somebody comes up to you on the other side and says, "15 Reasons Why You Suck and Any Endeavor to Change That Will Fail!" Both of those people are Buzzfeed articles, half the time. Sorry this blog post isn't making any sense by the way; I just finished watching this TV show about characters who talk really fast and annoyingly and they're rubbing off on me.

OK. So, I've avoided "going on a diet" (I hate that phrase. Ugh. It makes me feel weird) until now because of (vague gestures to the above paragraphs) all of that nonsense. But then I heard that apparently I have high cholesterol or something, I honestly don't know the specific words because as soon as I started hearing the report my brain started formulating a plan to make myself seem like a Good Fat Person Who Will Redeem Herself From This Fate of Bad Health. Which is, by the way, the worst plan, because it usually leads to a nervous breakdown within a couple of days, the solution to which is, guess what? Warm brownies and ice cream. Just a circular path back to overeating.

The solution to that vicious circle is not where you'd think to look for it, which is, with a doctor or nutritionist, or a health food blog, or that annoying person in the comments section of that Reddit post that how did you even get there, it's just a bunch of guys talking about how much they hate fat people, but pretending they're concerned for your health. Ugh. How did they get here? Anyway. The solution is not with them. Because they want you to be like Chris Traeger on Parks and Rec, or if you don't know who that is, they want you to replace your addiction to sugary foods with an addiction to proving yourself as a good thin healthy person. It doesn't work and it's pointless.

Annoyingly, you can't NOT listen to them, either, because they're in your head now. Every time your stomach growls they're yelling "NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS SKINNY FEELS," which is by far the stupidest thing I've heard about dieting. (That's a lie; I'm sure I've heard stupider things.) If you crumble feta cheese on your salad one of them links you to a Buzzfeed article, yes, they link you to an article in your HEAD, that's titled, "50 Reasons Why Adding Cheese to Salad Basically Means You're Eating A Block of Velveeta Cheese Now." And then you feel like you're standing on a shore in front of an ocean of Weight Watchers pamphlets and chia seeds and you're going to drown in it, so you go back to the boardwalk behind the shore, and as everyone knows boardwalks are full of greasy foods. Back to square freaking one again.

So you have to get rid of them. You can't start climbing the mountain until you get rid of at least one of the annoying guys on the bottom. Your body's constant yelling of "whatever, I'm getting cheese fries" is much easier to work with than the other annoying guy. So get rid of that other annoying guy. Stop demonizing food, even high fructose corn syrup. It's just food, it's just chemicals, it isn't The Highest Sin and it isn't proof that you're a bad person and it isn't the Mr. Hyde you give into and it doesn't make you that character on the sitcom that gets a cheap laugh track for a second. It's just a bunch of molecules that can mess around with the molecules in your body in different ways. And stop demonizing yourself. You won't be worthless no matter how much you weigh and how unhealthy the food you eat is.

Once you stop thinking of eating healthy as the Herculean task that you absolutely must do to make all the annoying people stop hating you, it's easier to listen to the genuine health advice of qualified nutritionists and stuff. Because that advice doesn't have to be followed as an exact rule; you can mold it to fit your life best, you can take your time adjusting to it and change your diet in baby steps. You can, if you want, say, "All right, I'm not changing my diet, but I will learn about what my diet consists of so that I understand what I'm doing exactly to my body." And you can do all that knowing that you're doing it for yourself. Because the whole toxic crappy shenanigans going on around dieting as a fat person is that you don't feel like you're doing it to be healthy, you feel like you're doing it just so you deserve to exist in the world. Thank you, entire mainstream media, for that particular idiosyncrasy in all our heads.

Anyway, I guess this was supposed to be a funny post, but I didn't really have an outline for it so I just followed where my stream of consciousness led and apparently, my stream of consciousness led to a very sappy and social-justice-y place. As I said, I am really not qualified to give diet advice, hence why there was no real, you know, diet advice in this post. I mean, you can't say I didn't warn you. It's right there in the title that I have no knowledge of this topic.

Here's hoping that I manage to come up with an idea for next week's post,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Hilariously Embarrassing Old Journal Excerpts, PART THREE

Hello! So, I skipped the last two weeks. Why? Let's call it an unplanned hiatus instead of "I saw it was Wednesday at 11 pm and it was winter break so I went back to watching whatever animated show I was watching that week rather than write a blog post".

But I'm back now, since I'm back at school and therefore have some semblance of a schedule that puts me in the mindset of putting effort into things. And I was rummaging through my room last week and found what I'm calling gifts from God, aka two old notebooks from seventh and eighth grade (one of which has extra bits from ninth grade that are extra hilarious). They really brightened up my day and I hope that the carefully chosen excerpts I post here will brighten your day too, in how hilariously middle-school-y they are.

Let's start with a list of problems in my life that I made in seventh grade. They're incredibly vague. I could explain the backstories to some of them but I think they're funnier in their Vague Angst:

"Don't I deserve to get a reward for all my labor? No, unfortunately here is my reward:

1. An 87 in math on my interim report
2. Some fairly lame comments on my novel
3. the ultimate test in jealousy control
4. several lectures
5. pretty bad social class consideration 
6. uncaring, secret-telling friends
7. stupid parents who have this notion that I'm 6 years old
8. stupid library with some idiot who keeps taking out The Sea of Monsters
9. sister with never-ending annoyingness
11. the horriblest wardrobe/musical selection EVER
12. technical difficulties for the rest of my LIFE"

Wow. As you can see, I was dealing with some pretty heavy problems there.
Luckily, anyone who pissed me off was on the receiving end of threats as serious as these:

"She acts like she's oh so cool but she's stupid and inconsiderate and mean and I would dump a bucket of pudding on her big head if I didn't know how much she liked pudding."

Yeah. A bucket of pudding. Watch out, world.

OK, in the middle of this notebook is... probably the best story I've ever written. It's called "[Name of Popular Girl I Inexplicably Hated], the Amazing Bouncing Ferret." The girl in question was really nice and never did anything bad to me, but I was under the impression that I was ~special~ for hating popular people. Anyway, I wrote a story about how she had a dream about being turned into a ferret (for obvious reasons) and then woke up and thought about how I was a danger to her social standing:

"That weirdo, Ariel Kalati. She scowled at the thought of her. She was the only girl in the grade- or so it seemed- who didn't worship her, or even desperately want to be her friend. Ariel just seemed to glare at her whenever they saw each other. Ariel had once tried to befriend her- back when she was a nerd- but now she'd given up. And too bad, too. Now she'd drifted up to that emo-wannabe place, and could have been useful."

I had some weird ideas about how middle school social classes work... I guess I thought that popular girls were like scheming politicians trying to get voters to like them? Anyway, this story is my best work, besides maybe Stolen Hearts.

Oh man... another installment of "Ariel thinks she's good at French":

"J'ai algebre maintenant. Il me faut calculatrice. Tu as une calculator?"

Honestly... I managed to get the French word for calculator right the first time, how did I manage to get it wrong ONE SENTENCE LATER?

Also, to really give you the full experience of reading this notebook, I think you should know that in ninth grade, I got really mad that I didn't get the top grade in English Lit on one quiz, and went through this notebook and scrawled "I SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN 100" every couple of pages. You know, in case you thought that my adorable personality quirks ended in middle school.

Well, I'd include some of the horrendous poems and songs I found, but they really require a more thorough understanding of the ridiculous context, which would require me detailing all the nonsense ideas I set up in my head, etc, so you won't get to read those wonderful works of art. They involved lines like "depressed footsteps" and "you only like Justin Bieber fans," so, that's what you were missing out on there.

So that's all I was able to find in these notebooks that makes sense and is funny instead of just depressing. All I can say is, to people who are my mom: When I make fun of my middle-school self, this doesn't mean I have low self-esteem. Oh, I have low self-esteem, but not because I was an obnoxious special snowflake in eighth grade. Me being an obnoxious special snowflake in eighth grade is just a source of endless amusement to me now.

Anyway, hope you guys at least somewhat enjoyed this post. I promise (not that my promises are really worth anything haha) to post again next week!