Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm Back, Now Quit Harassing Me

At the end of my vacation, I come home exhausted after a day of traveling by taxi, ferry, taxi, plane, and minivan and find out that I have apparently been slacking by not updating my blog from Mexico. Well, you know what I have to say to that? Get over it :)

At least I was neglecting the blog because I was out of the country, which cannot be said for certain other slackers.

Also, I did make somewhat productive use of time on the plane by reading some essays to use for Comp. and by finishing the last bit of FJR. Otherwise, while on the island I made my best effort to avoid productivity of any kind, and managed pretty dang well with that goal.

I'm not sure what I have in mind reading & writing-wise for this month, but I'll keep you posted. I'm still adjusting back to winter in Colorado instead of winter in the tropics, and it seems far too cold to be doing anything much.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blood Diamond

It's not particularly often that I watch a movie where, upon finishing it, my first impulse is to watch it again. This one impressed me.

For one thing, Edward Zwick does a fantastic job of scale and balance. You get the whole picture without getting overwhelmed or desensitized by it and he has a great touch for inter-cutting perspectives and stories. Then you have fantastic lead characters and actors who pull them. Wow.

My favorite part of this is the intense believability and DiCaprio's character, Danny Archer. Of course, as we know, I'm all about a good redeption story, especially when it's complex. Nice. If you haven't seen this one yet, you should remedy that. Excellent storytelling.

As an added note - Zwick's other choice for Danny Archer was none other than Russell Crowe. This is particularly fun since 3:10 To Yuma is also an excellent redemption story.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let's Go Fly A Kite...

"Makes me curious about how other folks feel when they're 'recharging their batteries' or 'filling the well' or 'gassing up the tank.' If you were a physical object that needed to jumpstart (or whatever, you people know what I mean) what would you be? I'm totally a grape."

Here I was, trying to thin of something to write other than a post about how I've decided to totally blow off my goals for the month and roll 'em over to January, and I stop by Jenny's blog. *Whew* now I have a question to answer, which is always easier than coming up with something from scratch.

For me, I figure it's more like a kite. Instead of it being a question of running out of juice, it's a question of what kind of wind is blowing. Right now my creative wind is more of a calm and getting anything flying means having to run all-out when I'd rather watch the clouds for a bit.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


As I near the end of the month, and especially the end of the workable part of the month since this time next week I'll be in Mexico, I have to admit that I was overly ambitious in my goals. Like I've never done that before. I'm like the person at a buffet who says, "I'm going to try that, and that, and that, and I better get some of that, and that..." I've still got to work on my portion control.

Here's my question for you: Metaphorically speaking, what tends to be the relative size of your eyes in proportion to your stomach?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Must Be *This* Smart To Read This Blog

I just found a fun test for all bloggers out there in cyberspace. It's the blog readability test and it tells you how smart your blog readers need to be. So, if you're reading this blog, pat yourself on the back.

cash advance

Monday, December 17, 2007


Of all the useful abilities a writer can have, I'd put digging near the top of the list. Anyone can outline a plot, but it's when you flesh it out, dig into it, that you're really rolling.

Oracle has been a prime example. I started out with chapters which, in my mind, covered all the ground they needed to in two pages. After a few months of people telling me to slow down and expand, or face the consequences of an irritated critique group armed with sharp and aerodynamic pens, I buckled down and did what they told me to.

At first it was really tough to go into a scene and put so much thought into how I could add to, for instance, a bit of dialogue that was a few sentences long. And yet, after I started to dig, I came up with more and more. I added a bit of description about body language, or anything anyone was holding, or a bit of description about what was happening in the background... After a while, what I would previously have written in a paragraph became a whole page.

More recently, I've been having the same thing happen on my other blog. A while back I added a few quotes from the bar. Then I added a few more. Now the blog is bar-laden and I still have notes on my order pad that I haven't put up yet. As soon as I started digging I wound up with more material than I could have thought possible. My first bar posts were pretty short. My last one was 1,100 words.

The more time you spend fleshing out a topic, story, etc., the deeper you dig. Now, sometimes we get carried away and write a trilogy of novels about the character's teen years, even when the real story doesn't start until the character's thirty-two. So yes, it's totally possible to get carried away. Still, it seems the more common struggle is the opposite.

Since the theme of this month is revision, keep a shovel in mind this month while you're going back to what you've written. Chances are, you could probably dig at least a little deeper.

Alternately, just for giggles, take something out of the piece you're revising - a minor character, one of the props, or even that scar on your protagonist's arm. Get a fresh sheet of paper. Start writing. Say as much as you can about it, everything you can tell about its description, history, significance, etc. Then, once you've done that, write another page about it. See what happens.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This past week or so I sent Jenny two e-mails, gently remining her that I was still waiting on the rest of FJR. The first one gets no response (apparently, the nudging from me resulted in a lack of love on her part) and then, suddenly, I get an e-mail that has the final 24 pages.

In the past couple of days, I've been thinking of how I have a couple of weeks ahead of me which I get to fill with reading fun things instead of school things. Kid in a candy shop, right? I haven't made it to the library yet, but I was already trying to decide where I'd start. Well, now Jenny's solved that dilemma for me 'cause now I know I'm going to start with FJR. I've just gotta grab my blue pen and then I'm off.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Endings: Literacy Portfolio, Part 3

Along with the dancing with the dwende philosophy of writing, my other favorite is the philosophy of writing as "the greater conversation." That idea and "multi-genre is cool" are the cornerstones of what became my position paper. Add in the cyclical nature of things, where everything we ever write is, in one way or another, a result of something we've read, and voila! four and a half pages later, you have my argument.

I briefly considered putting up my whole paper here to satisfy y'all's curiousity, but it's longish and I saved it wrong. Gotta love those blonde moments.

I can hardly believe the semester's over now. What am I going to do with all this sudden free time? All I'll have to do is read my comp. 101 book, create a syllabus, and develop my first assignment sequence by the end of next week (so it's done and off to Katherine before I go on vacation). Piece of cake, right?

Otherwise, my agenda for the next few days includes stopping by the library to load up on just-for-fun books, cooking lots, having some folks over in honor of the impending holiday, and watching plenty of TV. Oh boy, I love break.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beginnings: Literacy Portfolio, Part 2

I'm finally just about done. The hard part wasn't writing it, per say. The hard part was beginning it, knowing where to start. I tried to start in the most logical place, my position paper wherein I articulate my argument for the whole portfolio. As soon as I got that part figured out, I could just plug the rest in where it went, right?

As so often happens with this whole writing thing, it turned out that the beginning wasn't really the beginning after all. Instead the beginning was more in the middle part with my book study. To get more specific, it really began with Stardust. I should've known that Neil would save me.

Don't you just love how sometimes the best place to start things is nowhere near the beginning of it all? Sometimes you have to walk backwards before you know where you're headed.

So, what's come out of two semesters of theory? Here's a paragraph that's come out of this portfolio (though I'm now no longer sure it'll even be in the portfolio - another funny part about this writing thing) and says it in a way that makes sense in my head:

"In the end, it’s not always easy to articulate the ways reading and writing connect to each other in the same way it’s not so easy to describe the way fingers connect to the palm. Is the connection where the bones meet? The tendons between the bones? Or, is it the skin that covers both?"

So, ultimately what I know about the reading-writing connection is that it's like fingers. Three words to sum it all up. Not bad for a few semesters' work.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Literacy Portfolio

As soon as I finish putting together my literacy portfolio for Katherine's class, the semester is over. Then it's on to writing my syllabus and the first portion of my class calendar for Comp. 101.

I'm struggling.

It all comes down to one question: What do I know about how writing works?

I've taken two semesters of writing theory now. All I have to do is answer one question. I started writing one part of the portfolio, my position paper wherein I say what's what. I've got three pages of a 3-5 page paper and I haven't even begun to answer it. This does not bode well.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

WGA Strike

I realized I haven't commented on the strike at all. Whups.

If you're not familiar with the jist - the screen writers want more money. To make matters worse, they want things like royalties off of "new media" such as on-demand online viewings of shows/movies. Those greedy bastards!

Bottom line: the studios are making money by taking advantage of new technology, then denying a (decent) cut to those who made it possible for the studios to make that money in the first place.

The writers totally get my support. While it's depressing to think of all the nifty shows that are now/soon-to-be on-hold due to the strike: Heroes, Dexter, Echo... I can wait. Besides, most of the TV I watch anyway is shows that are no longer on the air which come to me via my mailbox. I've got almost two more seasons of Angel to go, plus more Six Feet Under and X-Files to tide me over. I can be patient.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ali-Demon Incorporated

At one point last night during the Rogues' meeting, the conversation turned to picking on me (as it is wont to do). The idea came up that there should be Ali-demon branded gear, including bracelets (WWAD?), T-shirts(front: "Why?", back: "Because Ali-demon made me"), mousepads, coffee mugs, and key chains.

I'm now in the planning stages for overtaking the world with branded accessories.

Step one: Develop logo.
Step Two: Get a celebrity to wear Ali-demon gear.
Step Three: Sit back and count money.

The moral of the story: nagging your friends to write more can sometimes lead to fame and fortune.

Expanded View

When we went through our first round of H. Eye selections, we ended up with approximately forty-five pages for the magazine. Well, in order for it to be book length we need about thirty to forty more pages. Ergo, round two of selections.

Yesterday we had another meeting to start expanding the magazine. There were only three of us, so it went pretty quick since we could all huddle around the pile without tripping over each other. I think it was our quickest meeting yet, in fact. It was interesting to go through the stack of pieces we initially said "No" to, looking for a few to say "Yes" to. The criteria changes a bit during the second go 'round.

All I'll say about that is to emphasize that being able to see the selection process up close and personal is an eye-opener. Also, no author should ever witness their own work going through the process - nothing good can come of hearing the editor(s) making off-hand comments about whether or not they like your work and why.

On a side note: What's with all the poetry that uses the word "soul"? Yeesh. The H. Eye staff has now filed a formal complaint against the use of "soul" and against submitting fiction or poetry which is untitled. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Just for Giggles: Intro to the Annotated Bib.

After spending a few boring hours compiling this annotated bibliography, I had to write an introduction to it. Oh boy, oh boy. Still, being able to actually write something other than "In this article..." was great fun.

So, in the spirit of sharing a painful experience, I'm going to share my intro. It's rough and I'll probably make some changes, but here's my rough:


I began the semester unsure of how best to work up to my thesis. As I will be writing a creative thesis, the element of research will not be as prominent for me as for my peers who will be writing a critical thesis. I decided the best topic for my research would be to focus on the style of story I would be writing: magical realism. The more I thought about my topic, the further back I wanted to look at it. At this point I realized how much magical realism stories have in common with folklore and fairy tales, and that was when I narrowed my research.

In many ways, magical realism is simply a contemporary version of the fairy tale. Fairy tales tap into our subconscious and run through our cultural identity. They speak in the language of symbols and magic, teaching us about extraordinary possibilities and happy endings. As a result, fairy tales are an excellent medium for a wide variety of critical schools: feminism, sexuality, and cultural studies are especially applicable.

The contemporary fiction genre of retold fairy tales has developed in conjunction with these critical schools. These retold tales offer their own interpretation of the original story, as well as a commentary on the ideas and values represented in the original. Feminist retellings are especially popular and change passive female characters, like Sleeping Beauty, into active heroines. Another facet of retellings is modernized versions of the classic stories. Updated tales are popular in all forms of stories, and allusions, such as titling a film “Cinderella Man,” surround us.

My initial goal of researching fairy tales was to gain a better understanding of where the genre of magical realism comes from. However, as my research progressed and I looked at example after example of the ways fairy tales have endured for centuries and remain a central aspect of our cultural consciousness I realized something. These stories describe and influence much more than a genre of fiction. They describe and influence the foundation of our culture. Not only are fairy tales where magical realism comes from, fairy tales are where we come from.

Scraping the Barrel

Here I am on Sunday night, about to go crazy from the boredom that only incredibly tedious, boring homework (20 source annotated bibliography for the terrible class, 8 sources still to go) can induce and I'm thinking that I may have been overly ambitious with my goals for the month/week. I'm nearly out of week and I haven't even picked up Strong Heart, much less begun revising it.

In the meantime, finals week and the due dates for monstrous final projects rampage ever nearer. I can't help but wonder how much more I've got left in me. It feels like I'm a hair away from running dry. Bad timing, to say the least.

Have you ever completely run out of steam? Have you come close, but perservered? What got you through it?