writing

Writer Out of Genre

^ I pray my chapbook cover is half this killer.

This semester, much of my creative energy has been going towards a chapbook I’m working on (for those who don’t know, a chapbook is a small book of poems). One could reasonably be wondering when I became a poet, and the answer would be never. I have to turn in a chapbook for my Intro to Poetry class’s final, and I want to make it as good as I can. It’ll suck since I’m not a poet, but hopefully I’ll learn a lot. I’ve been compensating for my lack of poetic talent by learning from other things, namely reading and listening to a lot of music. Fingers crossed for a decent product.

Other stuff:

  • In less than a week I’ll be eating and shopping and chilling in Chicago. Leaving two days early and taking the zeroes in the classes I’ll miss because I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit around in class like a sucker. No idea how I’ll make it till then though.
  • Been doing a lot of internet shopping lately. Lots of artwork, a new backpack since I’m tired of using a tote bag, and some sweaters. Haven’t bought anything though since I have no money, so hopefully my parents help me out with that.
  • I got into the English Honors program 🙂
  • In other writing news, I wrote a ten minute play, Hosting With Holly, and sent it off for a few contests. It’s about this woman who has a YouTube channel where she gives tips on hosting parties, and how her first live broadcast goes horribly wrong. Hoping for a production and also need to stay on myself so I don’t get complacent and stop sending it out.
  • Spent my weekend watching vlogs, namely CatCreature’s vlogs (she goes to RISD and her life seems much more interesting than mine).
  • Finally watching Freaks and Geeks. So. Good. Also hyped about The Crown since I’m in love with period pieces (please talk to me about Downton Abbey).
  • Carmilla Movie!
  • I need a job 😦

Blooming

You know the feeling you get after a healthy dinner or an invigorating workout? I don’t, but I’ve heard these and other self-improving activities feel pretty great. Like you’re growing in real-time or something. That’s how I feel right now. Finally taking more writing classes and getting to know people in my major, have a talented writing partner who gives useful feedback, and went from knowing nothing about poetry to writing some pretty solid poems in just a few weeks (thanks to some excellent instruction). I’m even working on a chapbook (for class, but still!). And nothing is quite so beautiful as my house on a Saturday morning, when the living room is soaked in natural light and the smell of cinnamon french toast wafts through the house. This sort of luck almost makes life seem charming.

Other stuff:

  • Blonde by Frank Ocean has been on heavy rotation lately. So good. Other musical finds: nostalgia,ULTRA by Frank Ocean, Blue and Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell, and Liz Phair’s Girlysound Tapes (the demos she recorded before Exile in Guyville).
  • Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back and I can now die happily. When I saw them on the menu the other day I literally gasped in line.
  • For a while I refused to watch anime. In middle and high school I was deep into that life, so as part of my attempts to erase that part of my background, I’ve avoided anime like the plague or calculus. But today I finished Puella Magi Madoka Magica and it’s amazing. Thankfully I remembered the most important rule of anime watching: always subbed, never dubbed. Just praying I don’t go full weeb.
  • CARMILLA SEASON 3 ACT 1 IS OUT! Dominique and I binged it on Saturday and it was definitely worth the wait. That said, if they make me wait another million years I’ll slit my throat and drink my own blood.
  • Got coffee with one of the aforementioned cool new writer friends and it was really fun 🙂 They had the farmer’s market on campus so I bought 9 churros for $3 and we split them with our drinks and talked for a few hours. Hoping we’ll hang out again.
  • If you’ve never read Eve Babitz, you need to read Eve Babitz. I’m reading Slow Days, Fast Company and she’s funny, entertaining, charming, and an excellent writer. And, like much in her life, she makes it seem so easy.

Through The Mire

My experiment is failing. I didn’t get a job this summer so that I’d have more time to read and write and it’s been a mess. Issues:

  1. It’s hard to set a schedule and stick to it when you only have one task a day. When I procrastinate I note how I have the whole day to write, until I don’t.
  2. I keep getting distracted in the morning. Waking up late and playing video games with your brother doesn’t make for a good writing life. 
  3. I beat myself up for not spending more of the day writing even when I do write. 

I’m trying to straighten the whole thing out now. Hope it works out.  

Other stuff:

  • Hung out with Kasey and her family which was great since they’re my favorites. Also Kasey’s a really good cook now. She made tacos with beans, baked sweet potato, and sauce that were phenomenal. Watching her prepare the meal felt like watching a magician. And here I am barely able to make a sandwich.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a crazy good novella. Do yourself a favor and read it (and if you say you’ve already seen the movie I’ll smack you). The fact that Capote was able to craft a character like Holly Golightly makes me jealous. No Longer At Ease and Hooded or Being Black for Dummies were also quality. Currently reading Every Day  Is For The Thief by Teju Cole.
  • This unreleased St. Vincent track from her last concert is adding to my constant hunger for new St. Vincent songs.
  • Helped build a hoop in our backyard for my little brother. He pledged me 10% of his future income should he make it to the NBA so this could be the most lucrative work of my life.
  • Kevin Durant is such a loser for going to Golden State. Moving to a team because you’re not good enough to beat them is not superstar behavior in any way. Should’ve stayed at OKC.
  • Went to a 4th of July get-together with family friends in St. Joseph, MI that was pretty fun 🙂 The highlight: watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Describing the winner, Joey Chestnut, who ate 70 hot dog in 10 minutes, the announcer said, “He has God’s username and password and he does with it what he chooses! He is American exceptionalism! He is America!”

 

Full Reset

My novel draft was already suffering from my lack of planning (no subplots, far too short, etc.) but when I realized a few days ago that a major structural change wasn’t working, I decided to set what I’d written aside, take a few days to outline, and start a new draft. I’d attempted a two-setting novel in two parts, but all the tension and character dynamics in Part 1 were lost when the main character went to the new setting in Part 2, so I scrapped it, and once I did that it seemed best to address the other issues too. Most people caution against restarting a first draft since you might never finish if you keep going back. For a time I listened, pushing forward despite my doubts. Now that it’s clearly wrong, though, I’m trying something else. No sense in holding on to a failing strategy (in writing or life). The outlining has been going well so far, and hopefully it’ll lead to a stronger story. Worst comes to worst, I’ll still have what I’ve already written to fall back on.

Other stuff:

  • I’m the assistant dramaturg for The Yard x Steppenwolf’s reading of Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (an excellent play by the way). I wasn’t gonna do anything but read and write this summer, but I was offered the position and it seemed cool so I said yes. I then googled what a dramaturg was. My only production experience is being in the PR crew for a play as a high school freshman, so this is definitely a step out of my comfort zone. It’s been going well so far though 🙂
  • In more theater news, I saw Mary Page Marlowe and enjoyed it. Especially liked the structure: a non-chronological account of Mary Page Marlowe’s life with seven actresses playing her at different life stages.
  • The only thing more entertaining than watching a play is arriving early and people-watching before the play starts. A man a few rows behind me was reading about the performers in the play guide. He then asked his friend, “Why are there so many Mary Page Marlowes?”After his friend explained it, another of their friends said, “Oh, I thought they just had a lot of understudies.”
  • Why did no one tell me about Love & Friendship earlier? Saw it today and it was great. It’s a movie adaptation of Lady Susan by Jane Austen, an excellent epistolary novella she wrote when she was 19. As if that’s not great enough, it’s getting rave reviews. Can’t believe I’ve been blessed with this and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the same year.
  • Staying at home all day is boring but also the only thing I’m interested in doing.
  • I did end up getting a ticket to for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Going on Friday since those had the cheapest tickets. It’s not a race day (it’s just the practice day) but it should still be pretty cool. Hoping for a nice turnout. Also hoping to meet my rich, posh, gorgeous future wife. If you’re wondering what it’s like, here’s the promotional video.
  • A friend hooked me up with a gig serving at an anniversary brunch for her friend’s mom this weekend and I’m hoping it doesn’t bite. On the plus side she pays well so that’s exciting.
  • Gone With The Wind is the truth. Am about 550 pages in so far and loving it. Only 900 pages to go!

Portrait of a Young Artist

This morning I heard about Ratsliveonnoevilstar, an Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) EP released in 2003 and recorded while she was at Berklee College of Music. Being a huge St. Vincent fan, I played it immediately. It’s good. Really good. And it made me realize something: when it comes to my favorite artists, I imagine them arriving fully formed, but there are many projects before they make anything they can show publicly. Annie played guitar since she was little, got into a well-known music school, tried and failed to make it in New York, and toured with another group before her first album in 2007. Now she’s released four acclaimed albums and has a Grammy. It’s nice to know that people you look up to were once at the same place you are and got through it.

Other stuff:

  • If you like it, you can get the EP here (it’s not available commercially anymore).
  • Annie Clark also has a great video on making art as part of the MAKERS series.
  • One thing I miss about dorm life and Club 205 is not having conversations like this.
  • Am now 19. Hoping this new age leads to some killer art 🙂

Gabe’s First Year Project

MY POSTER

First Year Project is a U of A Honors College first-year independent study program. One signs up at the start of second semester, finds a faculty mentor, and works on a project that one chooses for the semester. In mid-April, all of the projects are showcased and the winners in each categories get money. Now, about my project:

  1. It started in November, when I wrote a first draft for National Novel Writing Month. While it was less of a mess than what I wrote last year, it was still dreadful, and I had no idea what I’d do with it.
  2. Though I left my NaNoWriMo work from 2014 untouched, this year I decided that I wanted to revise my draft, and my first year project was born. I just needed a mentor. After browsing the Creative Writing faculty list, I decided to go with Julie Iromuanya (who’s an amazing writer and who has a book you should buy) since she’s a novelist and her work seemed interesting.
  3. Next was the work. Along with having me send ~22 pgs to her, she had me reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post over winter break and answer a few questions about myself. Once break ended, we talked about the book and I got a marked-up version of the pages I sent her.
  4. After that, this revision process was repeated throughout the semester. I’d send work, she’d read it and give feedback, I’d revise based on that feedback, I’d send more work. Through this process, I made more discoveries about my story and ended up with something much stronger than I started with.
  5. Once it was almost time for the showcase, we worked on line-by-line edits to make the story as nice as possible. Also, since every project needed a poster for the showcase, I worked on mine with help from the lovely, amazing, and extremely talented Phoebe. I was worried about the poster since it isn’t a medium that’s suited for books (it’s more of a science fair thing) and I’m not a designer, but I was actually proud of what I came up with. (Poster linked at the top of this post).
  6. The day of the showcase: I had my newly created poster, three copies of an excerpt from my first chapter, and myself. I stood for three hours answering questions from viewers about my project and letting them read the excerpt. This was actually a lot of fun; I got a lot of interest and positive feedback. Favorite moments include talking with a sweet eight grader who came with her parents and who wanted to be a writer, and talking with the event photographer, who’d majored in English and Creative Writing.
  7. After the showcase, they announced the results. I lost. Not so enjoyable. Thankfully I got food with Phoebe and Dominique afterwards, which made the day much better.

Overall, the process was really enjoyable. I’ve never put this much work into a single project before, and it’s definitely stronger than anything I’ve done as a result (and I’m not even close to finished).

Other stuff:

  • Good to be back!
  • Have to write letters/emails to various people but I’m such a bum that it hasn’t happened yet. Now that FYP is over, my main excuse is gone, so hopefully those are written in the next few days.
  • Just to reiterate, Julie Iromuanya is very cool and you should buy her book.
  • Emailed Alyssa Wong (a very talented fiction writer) a few days ago and didn’t really expect a response, but I just got one now which is pretty exciting 🙂
  • So over school right now. Less than a month left and I just wanna get out of here. Not looking forward to being at home for three months though :/
  • Am looking forward to a summer of reading 🙂 Have so many books on my shelf to get to, and am planning on asking some of my professors for reading lists. Actually, about 30 minutes after the showcase, I went to the bookstore and bought two Edith Wharton novels to console myself. #justenglishmajorthings
  • And maybe some summer romance? I’ve not been too fortunate here, which, though I’m proud of myself for trying, is a bummer. If you’re a beautiful Chicago woman and happen to be reading this, you should give Gabe a call.
  • Living with my roommate and a few other people in a house next year and it’s actually a very cool place. Looks great, is in a quality neighborhood, and the rent is pretty cheap. I’m excited!
  • Sex and the City is life. That show has basically carried me through this semester (I’m on S5 EP6). If you’re looking for something great to watch, you should also check out High Maintenance. It’s a web series and finishing the whole thing only takes an hour or two. Watched it all with Dominique and Corey and I don’t regret it. Also, that same weekend the dude in the room across from me did the same thing on the same day even though we’d never mentioned it to each other. I think there was something in the air.
  • Neftaly better post soon 😡