Tag Archives: writing

Disneyland line story

Back in October, several of my friends and I were at Disneyland on a weekend. If you haven’t been to Disneyland on an October weekend in the last few years, you need to know that these are busy times for Disneyland. They have the park decked out for fall and Halloween, and they have special Tick-or-Treat with the Disney characters for little kids. This makes it one of the times of the year that everyone seems to show up at the park. All these people make for very long lines for the big rides.

Knowing all of this, my friends and I still decided to brave Disneyland. Having a group makes the insane crowds more bearable. Sanity in numbers.

We went for 2 reasons: the special Halloween fireworks and Space Mountain. And we had a blast.

The line for Space Mountain was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours, which would have been miserable alone. But since we were together, we came up with ways to pass the time that entertained us. I would like to think that we also succeeded in entertaining the people around us in line, but, realistically, we probably only managed to annoy those who could hear us.

Since we had quite a bit of time on our hands, we opted to write the story round-robin, one word at a time. There were no other rules than each person had to provide the next word. The story ended up nearly coherent and completely ridiculous. But it was fun to make, and an interesting demonstration of the way that authors/editors/readers blend together. I’ve pasted the story below as written for you to read now that you have the context. And I made sure to get permission from all the authors. Enjoy!

Once in time there was a frog prince reigning he jumped carelessly into oncomming yaks whereunto he laughed uncontrollably annoyingly and became a terrible terrorist. Therefore, he exploded all up and everywhere splattered himself. The next morninging, marigold awoke astonished at all the carnage within her soup when suddenly jersten frog alarmingly fell into space cows flailing controllably. Then udders were climbing nowhere important untill bloody cows quiantly uttered “moooo.” The flawless marigold imploded colorfully! Remarkably this was never uncommon within jerstins dreams? But, convincingly nobody knew that marigold was nonexistent. Shehulk bore us septuplets while singing. Names: Chester Albert Fairfield, Willingtonsworth Saint, Flubber, Cauliflower jones, Xanadu Zee Willber, Colon, Supercalifragilisticsexpealladocious (the) Halifax Shitzbergger. Moreover, several safely committed flowers to the insanitorium.

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653, or NaNoWriMo Day 1

It’s a sad word count to start, but that’s the number of words for my first day of my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

There are numerous excuses for why my word count is pathetic, but excuses are for suckers.

What I’m loving about this project, besides the forced deadline (which I will put off like all other deadlines :)), is what I’m discovering about how I write non-school work. I know my process for short stories – write whatever comes into my head until something else attracts my attention and then come back to the story long enough to smooth the end into something I can live with.

The novel so far is running the same way. Since there is less to distract me currently, I am writing longer stories. But I have yet to hit my general word count for other stories, so I’ll see what happens when I work more tomorrow.

I know there are many other writers who are part of NaNoWriMo who have plans. I follow authors who actually have people buy their books in stores and they use this time to write first drafts of novels they will sell.

I am not in this category. Right now my story is dialogue. I’ve never written this way before. I have no idea who my narrator is. I don’t even know if this novel will be 1st person or one of the 3rds. 2nd doesn’t seem to fit. I don’t even know where the story is going.

It’s all rather fun.

I’m enjoying the discovery part. I have no pressure for this novel to work. I expect it to completely suck. So my plan is to enjoy this time and learn more about how I write and see if I can cobble together enough to refine it into a decent story. Oh, and listen to all those albums I’ve been hearing about recently and pick some up. Listened to The Dresden Dolls “A is for Accident” tonight; solid beat with words that only occasionally stood out. Music I’d like to learn the lyrics to sometime but too difficult to sing without more effort. Perfect writing music.

So here’s the beginning of my novel writing month. Because everyone should have that novel they wrote that one time in a drawer somewhere.

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NaNoWriMo

No, it’s not a Simpsons reference. Its the National Novel Writing Month. It’s a support community for writing a complete (50,000 words) novel in the month of November.

I signed up because I think giving this a go will be entertaining and a good challenge now that the MA is done. I’m sharing because I’m sure that I have at least one friend who needs a push to just sit down and write. This is fast drafting at it’s best.

Leave a comment to let me know if you decide to join in the insanity.

Why I contiue to Twitter

Before Oprah started twittering, I signed up for an account. When I originally posted here about that, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about the service or why I had signed up. I just thought I’d try anything that would encourage me to write, because I frequently don’t do that enough. I thought the character limit would be a good creative challenge (it has), and I thought it would be a fun way to find out what other people think and know (it has been this as well).

So now that it has become more main stream, and I actually have to answer the question “Why do you twitter?” for real, I thought I’d write about why I continue to use this.

I love hearing what other people have to say.

This pretty much sums up why I keep logging into twitter and checking what the people I follow have written. I love to hear what people say and how they communicate their thoughts.

I do this in conversations that I actually have to use my ears to hear too. I am notorious amongst my friends for writing down perfect snipits of conversations that surround me. I’ve done this in restaurants, at coffee shops, in line at Disneyland, listening to my old neighbors through the thin walls. Twitter is the same thing for me.

Twitter provides a record of the conversations I always assumed were happening online and in the rest of the world where I wasn’t. Yes, some of what shows up is inane, but even the inanity represents real people and how they talk. What better service for a storyteller to keep track of how real people talk than a written record?

And as long as I can still access the funny/silly/pointless/upset/inane representations of how people communicate with one another, I will keep logging into Twitter.

authorship

This will probably be a recurring title as I work on finishing my MA. I love authors. My favorite authors also tend to be literary critics.eliot
LikeT.S. Eliot. I love him. Yeah he was kind of a jerk (or really, whatever), but not only was he a great poet, he was an excellent theorist. Decades before Barthes, Eliot advocated for authors to be disregarded while reading a work.

I don’t do this.

It’s not because I don’t like Eliot (see above), it’s just that I can’t! I love to learn things, anything, and when it comes to authors I really enjoy learning about them and their time. It opens up so much for me when I read their work.

But I don’t get bound by them either. I think only red-herrings are more annoying to me than an author trying to control how I understand the work they’ve created. I don’t completely discount them, but authors aren’t God (sorry authors). As much as some of you would like to think you’re omniscient, especially concerning your works, you aren’t. I think it would be impossible. Even in this post, a relatively non-creative work, I will see ideas, insights, flashes of stories, brief reflections of brilliance, and so much more that I am not intending in this moment as I write.

Why don’t I know everything if I’m the author? Well, partly because I’m not smart enough to keep track of all of my thoughts and influences consciously, but also partly because language is dynamic. These words might not mean the same thing to me tomorrow that they do now. Don’t believe me? What did September 11 mean in 2000? What did it mean in 2002? What does it mean today? What will it mean in 3001? Language, even seemingly static language stuck on a page, changes.
So while I don’t disregard the author completely, neither do I worship the author. I simply add all of that information that informs the text to my reading of the text this time around and then let it blend together in the sieve of my mind. And as I add more information and readings and life, I run it all through the sieve again.
Maybe I feel most comfortable discussing literature from this platform because I like to read and edit and analyze and enjoy literature. I think the editing is particularly helpful for this.

See, when I edit I have to keep track of the story. This may sound simple, but it’s really not. I have to keep in mind the scope of the story as a whole, something complete and finished even as it is in progress. But I also have to keep track of the tiny details. And to use my time effectively I have to keep all this in my head on top of my own reactions as a reader and thinking as a more generalized reader, while I read the story once.

As if this wasn’t hard enough, I also have to keep in mind the voice and tone of the work when I offer suggestions and try to prevent my own voice from dominating. I can never take myself out of a work, but I can do my best to minimize my presence so that it can fade into the background and emphasize the brilliance of the author.

But does that make me a co-author?

This was the question I found myself asking today while I was reading through another draft of my friend’s story. The question probably would have wander back and forth like a ten year-old trying to attract parental attention before wandering away, except that this version was ensconced in an email that mentioned each draft of the story had been completely re-worked based on my comments.

At first I was taken aback by the comment simply because I don’t think of myself as offering insight that powerful. I honestly felt a little bad, as though somehow I had destroyed another’s creation through mis-guided attempts at help. But then I realized

this is what editors often do for authors.

And in a way it was kind of freeing.

Because I know that I have not forced or coerced these changes in the story (for the most part), I can rest assured that this story still belongs to the author and that I haven’t destroyed anything.

But that doesn’t make my relationship with the text any less complicated.
There is only one part of one line that I created in the story so far, and I offered it amongst several options for a phrase that didn’t seem to fit. Other than that, the story has changed and shifted because I provided my questions/thoughts/reactions/associations/opinions/ for the author to consider. Any changes steming from that are completely authorized.

And yet, they still reflect me. Certainly they reflect more my immiatation of the author, but they still reflect me. And the story exists in the form I read through today in part because I read it, and also because I shared my thoughts.

And when I read this story I see the author almost distilled and reflected in it, which I expect without acknowledgement. But I also see today, with all our hopes/fears/pains/loves/concerns/joys/lives also distilled and reflected in this story. There are phrases that if I weren’t living today I would never read as allusions. I see the political environment, our economic environment, our world precariously balanced as it is in this story. And the hope for a better tomorrow also shines in this story. But they are so slight as to be overlooked should this story be read in 30 years.

And I will, more likely than, not never be known in association with this story, so my reflections will go unnoticed and understood differently. Which leads me to another question – would I still be an author in that time when my fingerprints are smudged?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. They are ones I think about often, not only because I enjoy editing, but because I am an English academic with an emphasis in textual criticism and authorship theory. The questions don’t get any easier when applied to dead authors. But the complexity is fun. I will probably be thinking of answers to these questions, especially as I move into fields where my livelihood depends on having a definite answer to what role I’ve played in producing a work, for the rest of my life.

And I’m quite content with that.

Grading

The amount of things that I could say about grading would overrun Orange County’s coastline. It always stresses me out. Recently it has made me want to cry because I have had so much to do.

And then I read one of the essays and I nearly did cry.

Sometimes when I read what the students have to say, I get really excited because they are very smart and see the world in a way that makes me hopeful for the world. There have been a few times that the students have been so on target and so insightful that I’ve almost blogged about it (and next time that happens I will post about it). But this time, it wasn’t the insightfulness that made me emotional.

To be completely fair, I had a stack of grading to get through, and I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. With two sets of essays, four sets of responses (mini-essays), and all the family obligations that come with Thanksgiving, along with my own work, I had more than enough to keep me busy for the break. So by the time I got to this essay, I was a little on edge. But I’m fairly certain that I would have reacted badly no matter the situation.

See, this essay was about how people who are homosexual shouldn’t be allowed to marry because it goes against what the Bible says.

Sure, I had to deal with an essay that goes against what I believe, but that wasn’t my issue. I can handle lots of dissenting opinions, and I whole-heartedly embrace differing view-points. I had already gone through lots of essays that presented ideas that disagree with my own. So it wasn’t the view-point. They were actually very clear about their view-point which I respected. What made me ill reading it, and what made me want to cry when I’d finished it, was the presentation of a┬ábigoted perspective in a tone of absolute righteous wrath. The phrases they used, the words they chose to describe their perspective absolutely astounded me. Sentences that made it seem as though God hated anyone who was different (from normal I can only assume since they didn’t explain, though I’m not sure what normal is); phrases that said homosexuals were monsters and implied they deserved their mis-treatment; and overall the idea that people who truly believed in God would never question what was written in the Bible. It makes my heart hurt to think about the fact that I would read these words anywhere, but it makes me ill that I read these ideas in a student paper.

And it was through processing this that I realized that what I really face every time I grade – I face setting aside my personal understanding of the world so that I can focus on what the students are saying and the way they are communicating it. And while that is difficult, what makes it overwhelming is that I can see where their biases show through like beacons on a dark night. And to top it all off, I can see that they don’t even notice their biases or how those impact their writing. But they are freshmen and most of them are true freshmen, right out of high school, so my comfort is that with more experience with life, they will perhaps see their biases.

But that may just be my own bias.