Wednesday, April 30, 2008

To Sum Up Briefly: The Big Scottish Lit. Paper

"Sooo, what'd ya come up with?"

Dang it, you mean that after writing it, you actually want me to write some more about it? So cruel. Ok, so I'll give you an idea through quoting myself and naming songs. Here goes.

"The Water's Wide": The Fight For Self Preservation
Some of the themes which are found both in the oldest songs and the newest revolve around issues of loss and identity. (and if you put them together, you get loss of identity)

Sailors Who Never Returned
Pretty literal here, this section covers songs about people who drowned.
"Sir Patrick Spens"
"Coast of High Barbary"
"Turkish Revelry"

This section also covers songs about men who are, as the song says, "far away from home."
"Widow in the Window" (I question whether or not "widow" is used literally, so it's here instead of with those listed above)
"Wave Over Wave"
"The River Driver"

Sailors Who Lost Themselves
This next bit is fun 'cause I quote myself in my paper - it made me feel like a true academic:
Sea shanties, due to their communal nature, begin in a place of flexible identity. Pronouns such as “I” become ambiguous and the names of people lose their significance: “Through shanties, the very definition of ‘I’ is changed. No longer is it a pronoun relating to an individual speaking about themselves, it is a now a pronoun about the collective speaking about a community. “I” becomes nearly synonymous with ‘tribe’” (Ali 8)

This is far from the complete explanation that I've developed. The fill-in part goes kinda like this - since shanties were created in true oral tradition, they're basically a type of tribal tradition where you switch out "bard" for one of the hands and "tribe" for crew. Since it's a communal and tribal type of poetry it means that everyone's helping to create, remember, and recite it, which makes even the songs sung in first person a collective expression, which means that the fundamental understanding of "I" becomes more like "We," thus the pronoun flexibility, which also creates basic identity flexibility.
"Billy Taylor"

Here I pull in some of the supernatural. Celtic folklore: the sea = the land of the faerie. Magic is transformative, thus it makes sense that those who go out to see are changed by it. In the last two songs they have the same basic plot - girl goes to sea disguised as a man, is discovered, then accepted, and becomes something different than what she started as.

Lost Names and the Ever-Shifting "I"
Goes with the bits before. Sailors go to sea and their identities are changed, they go from being named to unnamed.
"Barque in the Harbor" (while it's not the sailor who loses his name, a name is lost)
"Sail Those Same Oceans" (talked a lot about this once 'cause it's such a good example)
"Captain Kidd"

Then, I wrap up thusly:
The strangest part of this dynamic comes from the nature of communal poetry. In the oral tradition, songs were a way of preserving identity. By singing these songs about loss of identity, the singer is effectively calling upon the audience/tribe to help him hold onto what he still has left: the song itself. While the singer cannot get back that which the song describes him losing, the community can preserve the memory of the loss. Thus, song becomes memorial.

In short, all this playing around with identity was a self preservation tactic because the guy in the song was really you, and by singing and passing that song on, you were really passing yourself on and ensuring your immortality, even though your name was long-since forgotten.

Whew. That's the super-abridged version, but it gets the main points. I'll even throw in a list of CDs I pulled from.
Great Big Sea: The Hard and the Easy, Sea of No Cares, and Turn
Various Artists: Rogue's Gallery
Russell Crowe & TOFOG: Bastard Life or Clarity
Seven Nations: Old Ground
Then, there were some that I don't have on CD at all, and you can find them in a book/online easily.

And that, my friends, is what I wrote 20 pages about.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Yeah, but What Do I Say for Twenty Pages?

I've been putting off my Scottish Lit. paper and trying to figure out just what I'm going to talk about in it. I made some noties, got some ideas, and wrote four pages. Now I find myself in the land of frustration. I need sixteen more pages of insightful analysis.

I know exactly what songs I want to talk about, but I'm struggling with the talking about them part. One song is "Sail Those Same Oceans" by TOFOG. Right now I've got:

Another song which not only echoes, but exemplifies this identity loss is “Sail Those Same Oceans,” an original song by Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts:
Sailor's coming home again
From over the ocean
He's been away so long
He's forgotten his name.
Here the lyrics explicitly focus on the connection between life at sea and the loss of name.

That's just about all I can think of right now to say about the song. My point is made, isn't it? It's pretty explicit, right? So, now what?

Ugh. The down side, which is simultaneously the up side, is that it's due tomorrow. I'd better figure it out real quick, oughtn't I?

Adventures in Research

I had a hard time deciding what this month would be all about. I have plans for goofing off and relaxing, but I've already done a challenge about that. After a bit of brain wracking, I've finally figured out a suitable theme. My inspiration actually comes from D.B. and her recent spa investigations.

This month, I challenge you to do some research. "Write what you know" is popular advice, and I'm sure you've read a few stories/novels already where there was some detail about something that the author flat out got wrong. Annoying, isn't it? Don't be that guy.

For May, I'm challenging everyone to do some hands-on research. Think of something you've always wanted to try, but never have. Think of something you've had in mind for a story. This is your month to get your hands dirty and figure out how plumbing/hiking/oil painting/ordering coffee really works. Pick something you're not already familiar with. Pick something that could be the hobby or profession of one of your characters, or just pick something that could be a good setting. Take pictures, take notes, take a friend along for the ride.

Just do something new and broaden your well of experience so you can draw from it in your writing later (or not so later) on.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just About Not April Any More

This was one of the fast months. I did a lot and made some progress on various projects. I'm liking the "Done" list. I think I'll keep it. That sucker got pretty long this month.

My main goal for this month was playing around with office supplies and getting my thesis organized and all in one place. Not a monumental task, but an important one. I got that done, and I'm glad of it. It's been more hit-and-miss keeping up with my out-of-the-house pages, but I'm not too disappointed by that. It's been a busy month and the last time I made it to the coffee shop with my notebook, I wasn't able to focus enough to get anything done any way. Otherwise though: productive.

Anthology CDs

Sometime this coming week, I'm expecting new music in the mail. New music compiled not by a company, but by a person. In the spirit of reciprocity, I decided I would make a CD or two of my own to send.

It took no time at all to decide which bands I'd be featuring (GBS and TOFOG, of course) but then I had to pause. In theory, a mixed CD is not just throwing stuff on at random, but actually organized with some thought as to how one song from one album fits in with another song on another album, which should come first, and so forth. Like I said, I had to pause. It's been a while since I've made any kind of mixed CD, thanks to my burner being on the fritz.

Then I remembered that organizing a mixed CD was the same thing as organizing the Hungry Eye. Duh. Identical process, just a different media. You've got the same considerations for both, the only difference is that font is less important with a CD.

Now I've got a couple made and am working on another for my Scottish Lit. professor. I've been writing about songs the whole semester, it seems fitting to offer a soundtrack to my papers. Then, of course, I ought to make a couple new mixes for listening to in my car, and I should make a big compiled CD of The Church for my car, and...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Almost There...

This morning was my last composition "class." We meet one more time during finals week for, in theory, the class final. In reality, it'll be for them to hand in their final portfolios and do a class evaluation. After so long of being in the mindset of "next week in class, we'll cover..." it's weird to think that there is no next week.

I'm already slotted for my two classes in the fall. I didn't realize this until I was walking on campus and ran into a freshman advisor I know.
Him: Hey, I'm putting a lot of students in your 8:00 class.
Me: I have an 8:00 class?
I checked online and sure enough, it was so. I have two back-to-back classes, the first at eight in the morning, the second at nine.

I am not thrilled. While certain people I know are more than happy to be awake at the ungodly hour of seven in the morning (or, in some cases, four thirty) I am not one of them. *Sigh* I'll get over it and adjust, I suppose. And then, as everyone has been pointing out, an early start means an early finish. That could be nice.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Last Hungry Eye Meeting This Semester, and We're Having a Par-Tee!

The final version of the magazine is off at the printers being printed. I've got my fingers twice crossed that they've fixed the misspelling of my name.

Today we had our last meeting for this issue, and it was mostly centered on the release party we're having next Thursday. We're claiming one of the student hangouts on campus as our own, offering some free food, and having people chosen for the magazine read. A couple of staff people will also be reading, including me. It'll be groovy.

I confess, I was initially considering not going to the party. In part due to having something else possibly planned for the day, but also in part to feeling bashful. My name's on the book as one of the two editors-in-chief, but the idea of claiming the title publicly... weird. But, hey, I'll get over it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Back to That Question

In the past couple of days, my mind's gone back to that question of how well we can know people through words alone.

Allowing for a few basic considerations, i.e. that you're not intentionally misrepresenting yourself, how much do your written words emphasize or de-emphasize aspects of your personality?

I'm speaking here in terms of comfort level, among other things. How much of what you do/might say in a note goes above and beyond what you'd be able to say to someone face-to-face?

If we go back to the online dating scenario, we take into consideration the idea that one of the hardest parts of meeting someone is just that, the meeting them part. Eye contact across a room is all well and good, but without someone having the courage to walk over and say hello, it becomes a mostly moot point.

So now I'm wonder, just how much courage does the written word give us?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


And Then It Was Over (Almost)

Everything is strangely in-synch this month. The semester is drawing to a close, and my students are getting ready to tackle their final portfolios; the Hungry Eye is nearly ready to pring; and I've got two SCWP anthologies being printed almost right on top of each other.

Today I check the SCWP e-mail account and find a message from the printer: "This is Fidlar Doubleday and we would like you to know that your books fortitle 'WRITE ON' shipped yesterday via UPS. The scheduled delivery of thebooks is April 18, 2008. If you would like to track your packages the number is..."

I'm excited all over again to see a book I've made (or at least compiled, edited, formatted, and made a cover for). In theory we'll have them by Friday. Yesterday someone asked me what I want to do after I graduate. I told her about my work on the anthologies and how I thought that type of work is fun. Now the trick is figuring out how to make a job out of it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dude!!! (Exciting News from Joss-land)

Today I stopped by Whedonesque and discovered something super-cool: Joss' latest project.

The jist: When the writer's strike came around, Joss decided to play around with interweb. A three-part webseries called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was the result. While it's not yet available for public consumption, it's already in progress.

Extra nifty: The cast and crew includes none other than Capt. Tight Pants himself.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Magical Paintings

On Friday night, Shawn stopped by the bar to hang out with her friend Bonnie. I chatted with the two of them for a while, and we got to talking about Shawn's thesis, which led to my thesis, which led to talking about magical realism. You see, Bonnie is a magical realist painter. Bonnie has a website.

We talked about magical realism for a bit, in terms of magical realism being the place where the realistic and the surrealistic meet and blur together. She talked about exploring the things that are suggested on the edge of realism. I asked about her process and she said that she starts by taking photos, then paints from them, modifying things a bit as she goes.

You start from a place of reality, then add suggestion of unreality. It's as good a definition as I've heard.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Going to the Presses

This week has been incredibly busy with all of my projects coming to a head at once - a new 8 pg. paper for Scottish Lit, grading comp. papers, and getting the most recent issue of the Hungry Eye ready to go to the printer.

The goal was to get the magazine to the printer by Wednesday, and thanks to everyone on staff pitching in, we made the goal. Also, during the flurry of activity, one gal especially stepped up so now I'm going to be joined as Head Editor by Juliana who did the bulk of the heavy lifting on physically assembling the issue.

The groovy part is that now that's done we can relax a bit and not have our regular meeting this week. Hoorah for a whole day of no commitments! We'll have the galleys next week, in theory, and then it's back to the printer and, all-in-all, we should have the issue printed and in our hands by the end of April/beginning of May.

Meahwhile, for SCWP, I'm in various stages of coordinating the publication of two anthologies. One of which should be ready to ship by the 14th. So, in the end, I'll have three anthologies I've helped make all coming out within a month of each other. Crazy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Problem With Writing a Paper About GBS

After tossing around a few options around for the focus of my latest Scottish Lit. paper, I decided that my best approach would be to jump in whole-heartedly and make it a Great Big Sea paper. They're from Newfoundland, which has a strong cultural history of Scottish influence, so that's not the problem.

No, the problem is that I figured it'd be a good idea to watch a music video or two of the songs I'm talking about, which led to a music video or two of their other songs, too. Suddenly, I've spent half an hour watching music videos and I'm still on the first page of an eight page paper. *Sigh*

Okay, one more music video. Then I'll write the paper...

Monday, April 7, 2008

New Pens

In keeping with the office supplies theme, when I went to the store yesterday I allowed myself to indulge in a new set of pens. They're called Magna Tank and they meet all of my preferred criteria for a good set of pens: gel or liquid ink, multiple colors (blue, red, black, green, and purple), and a fine tip (the rare, but prized .5mm).

Now, I'll confess right here and now that I'm slightly pre-occupied with pens. In high school I started building my collection based on my need for a variety of colors to use in my graph paper sketches (which were kind of like paper quilts) and then my hexes (the fun designs you can make with a geometry compass while in math class). In this case, the writing was a secondary motivation for the mass of pens. Then, one fateful day, I got a box from Camii for my birthday which held inside it a massive pen set - something like 200 gel pens in this huge circular container.

Since then, my taste in pens has simplified. I'm no longer on a mission to have every possible shade of metallic purple. However, a certain amount of pen obsession has remained. A pen with a good tip that writes smoothly and has ink which doesn't smear is something I'm quite keen on. Metallics aren't my preference, but every now and again, the occasion calls for it, and it's good to know I have them - just in case.

Due to my large stash of pens, I've periodically had problems finding a way to store them all. Most recently, that problem was solved when my parents had an extra plastic toolbox (I think something came in it). They gave it to me, intending that I use it for the hammers and screwdrivers I have, but I immediately saw that it would be better served as a pen depository for all those that couldn't fit in the various mugs on my desk.

Now, this brings us to you. When it comes down to the physical tools of writing, what's your preference? When you're searching for the perfect writing implement, what's your criteria? Pen or pencil? What type of ink? Pen tip? Color(s)? Does it bother you if you have to change pens (a.k.a. ink color) part way through a story or chapter?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Check This Out

While I was browsing for arguments as part of preparing for my Comp. class tomorrow - their next assignment is going to be an argument critique, and where better to go than MSN? - I found something nifty: The Napkin Project. Esquire magazine mailed cocktail napkins to various writers, who wrote on them and sent them back. Check out the archives and take note of some of these titles. When you've only got a cocktail napkin's worth of story, title is everything.

3rd Annual April WM

Somehow, the weather has worked out beautifully for all of the writing marathons I've done and yesterday was no exception. It was a good one - I was in a good group (even if I was the only gal and the only one with a name that didn't begin with "J"), we hung out in some cool places, and I got some writing done.

We wrapped up with some free goodies - Wireworks has rockin' carrot cake cupcakes - and now I'm that much further on the first draft of a new thesis story.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Three-Syllable Name

Sometimes names in a story are more significant than at other times. Sometimes you put a lot of effort into finding a name that's just right.

Right now I'm working on a story and I have it in my head that I need a three-syllable name for a male character. I'm also trying to find a name that's not always shortened, i.e. Nicholas almost always becomes Nick, but Jeremy often stays Jeremy.

Thus far I have:

Can you help me think of others?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I/We, He/She: Seafaring Songs and Identity

Last night I got back my most recent paper for Scottish Lit. I'm super proud of the paper's title, which is why it's also the title of this post. It's got a ring to it.

Papers for this class are proving fun. I'm delving into songs and discovering neat things about them. This last paper was all about the way identity is used in sea songs and some groovy things emerged once I started making connections. It was fun.

However, that's not why I mention the paper. The reason I mention it is because of the note my professor jotted at the top of the first page. The last part of the note: "I hope you'll continue this investigation and possibly come up with something publishable." I had to do a double-take. Publish a school paper? What?

Well, duh. Academic journals are filled with essays and papers just like what I've been producing and somebody's got to write those. The subject of academic publishing has come up a couple times in graduate school, but it's always been distant to me. Essays are things I write in order to pass a class. While some are more fun than others, I'm not so invested in them as my fiction. Once they get a grade, they've fulfilled their purpose.

Now I've got a grain of genuine consideration for academic publishing. My paper would need more work, more research, etc. but the idea might have a shot. Hrm... Could one of my essays actually earn me a publishing credit?