Category Archives: Randoms & My Life

2015’s Top Posts at Stories and Stuff

I didn’t blog a ton, but I did get a few good posts out about stories and writing! So here are my best posts (judged purely on the basis of their popularity with the internet!) from this year:

In Jane Austen, Nice Guys Finish First

“Authors can easily write their ‘nice guys’ as Mary Sues. I’ve read many novels where the romantic hero is very, very boring. He’s supposed to be the epitome of good, and he is, to the point of dullness. The solution to this, it is said, is to add faults.  But add too many faults, and you just end up reinforcing the trope, ‘All Girls Want Bad Boys.’

It takes a genius like Jane Austen to make the nice-guy heroes be exactly the kind of person real-life women would fall in love with.”

When a Hurricane of Clichés Equals a Great Movie

I try to figure out what makes Casablanca so amazing. (Yes, this year was the first time I watched it!)

Join Mark Zuckerberg’s Book Club, Rediscover Why Books Matter

I’m guessing this post was popular because of the name in the title 🙂

Writing Reality – Or Escaping It

“And now I believe there can be two types of creators/writers – those who don’t flinch from portraying problems and showing the ugliness of reality. And those writers who help escape from reality, and use fiction to remind us what it’s like to hope.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Randoms & My Life

Things I Learned About Love in 2015

By Katarina Caspersen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Things I learned about love in 2015:

I can fall in love.

I used to wonder if I could. Then this year happened. Multiple times, sometimes at the drop of a hat, which is not reassuring because:

Love is blind.

When you’re in love even serious red flags don’t look like flaws at all. When you come out on the other side of it, you’re suddenly terrified because – how on earth did you not notice?

Love needs community.

The above issue is at least helped by having other people who are not in love to see the person you are in love with clearly. Not always–sometimes everyone can be deceived (which is utterly terrifying), but it at least helps.

Community also is necessary for the aftermath of love. I am still in awe of how many people showed up in the aftermath–people I thought were mere acquaintances tried to show they really cared, people I’d never have asked to be there, people I thought were only friends out of convenience went out of their way to get through to me. And, of course, I found out once again how strong the love of true friendship, and the love of family, actually is.

I’m also amazed by how often I was provided what I needed by someone unexpected–I believe this is the hand of God. We always think we know what will help, but he knows better. He works through people we would’ve never picked ourselves.

Love hurts.

This is obvious, but it’s a different thing to actually experience. Also, a good chunk of it came from my own assumptions about other people, so I almost feel like I should experience this feeling.

It hurts to let go of hopes and dreams and visions of what could be–it hurts even when it’s so clear they only could ever exist in your imagination anyway. You’ve already anticipated the reality of these things happening. Endings hurt, but sometimes there’s no way to avoid the agony.

And self-deception hurts. I had this opinion of myself that I don’t assume about what friendliness to me means–and then I fell into this trap and it stings. Let’s hope it’s just my pride in my non-existent ability to read others that stings. ‘Cuz a good dose of reality can be self-improving.

And lastly, I really want to think positively about people. I don’t want to believe they’ve been manipulative, or dishonest. And it hurts to face this reality as well. Even wholesome-seeming people can act contrary to your impression of them.

Honesty and vulnerability turn out different than you think.

First off, if you’re honest about how you feel on facebook, and your feelings are anything other than happy, people think you’re about to jump off a cliff. Because no one ever admits to anything other than happiness on facebook, right? So if you do you must be incredibly desperate. Cue the frantic interventions!

Second, this blog this year had itself been an experiment in vulnerability (well, that and inactivity, but we’ll leave that aside for now*). I posted a couple of posts trying to use words to express feelings I’ve never felt before. But I also found I didn’t always want to use my writing in this way–I didn’t want to be vulnerable through art. Does this make me not a ‘true artist’?

This was difficult for me because writers are always told to be real about feelings. This didn’t mesh with my instinct to run away from those feelings. I spent a good amount of time wondering if I was wasting my time writing at all. I’ve always been a writer my whole life, and I know I always will be, But maybe I’ll never turn out to be a good one.

I now think when you’re a person who tries to create things–whether through writing or other arts–you can bring out the ‘real’ but you’re not obligated to every moment. It’s your experience, and sometimes it’s beneficial to you or to other people to explore it, and sometimes it isn’t. And that’s ok.

I’m sharing now because I do process things through writing, but also because after enough time it does feel important to be real about emotions. Facebook doesn’t always have to be a facade, and blogging doesn’t either. If no one ever talks about how they really feel, every time someone feels a little sad it will continue to be a shock.

 

So I’ve come to a conclusion about Pain and Art–but what is my conclusion on love? A few things:

You’re going to experience the full spectrum of emotion with love, not just fairytale happiness–mad and sad and frustrated and scared. Because love is a wild emotion, not a tame one.

Love is bound up in trust, and all too often the only being I know intellectually I can trust one hundred percent–God–I don’t always.

But in the end, the beauty of live between friends and family, and the feeling of love from God, means there must be something to this whole love business after all. Love as an emotion in and of itself has value, despite the turmoil.

 

*Note on my blog inactivity: Just because I haven’t been blogging hasn’t meant I haven’t written other things–one of the many things I did this year was to try get more honest feedback from professionals, which was nerve-wracking but incredibly positive in the end. I also developed my interviewing skills by writing up another person’s difficult life experience, which was an important way to grow for me. And I continued finishing pieces of fiction of mine, and submitting as appropriate.

For this blog, I do plan to start blogging somewhat regularly again in the new year. About books and writing and the struggle to create art that means something to people, just as usual. Hope to see you and your lovely comments here too!

 

3 Comments

Filed under Randoms & My Life

Worldview and Writing

I thought I left off my last post on a rather hopeful note. Turns out people start worrying the minute you acknowledge the world is not a bed of roses, even though we all agreed on that point millennia ago.

I think it’s just facing the fact that life is just a precarious teeter on the edge of misery, that’s so nerve-wracking for people to hear. Most of the time we are thankfully and blissfully comforted by being blinded to this. Most of the time, we don’t have to think about this. And if you straight out say life is a vale of tears, you could very well be dealing with depression.

Or you could be a somewhat mentally normal (at this moment in time) person attempting to come to grips with the nature of reality.

Because I do believe this world is broken. I believe it’s miserable and full of evil and sorrow. I’ve always believed that, since I was a kid, so it’s not like anyone should be surprised I’m repeating this again. But of course it’s different to believe that in theory, and to see evidence of that reality up close.

You start to realize you only believed this philosophy of reality with your head. Otherwise you went on as if happy endings really did exist. As if bad stuff only happened to ‘other people.’ As if all obstacles that you might classify as misery would only turn out to plot points in the novel of your life – crises that you’d overcome to reach your resolution.

But life doesn’t resolve. So what do you do when there’s no point, only futility? Especially when you already thought you’d always believed in the futility of life anyway?

Yeah, experience and head knowledge are two very different things, even when they both lead to the same conclusion.

(If I were to keep this blog writing-focused, I’d point out here that your philosophy of reality is going to affect the basis of your work, so it’s worth it to tease out exactly what that philosophy is. Do you believe good always triumphs over evil – or, at least, that’s it’s a writers job to maintain that it does in order to comfort people? Then that’s going to bleed through onto your words.)

(You may also ask what brought me to muse on the nature of reality anyway, but most of the story is not mine to share. I’ll just mention death, vicious genetic diseases, and relationship disintegration have dogged the steps of me and those I love.)

Anyway, what’s the way to deal with reality, the way to cope? I can cope with utter terribleness because it’s an expected result in this reality, not a shocking one. I find hope in the fact that this world may be broken, but it was whole once, and will be again someday. (Yes, I mean a God who’s rescued us from this depravity.). I go on by putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s all we’re ever doing, is just taking the next step, the next step, the next step. Sometimes it feels like we’re floating, and the sun shines down, and our hearts feel like they’ll explode with the inability to contain the wonder of being alive. Other times it’s all were can do to move one limb, or we feel like we can’t at all. That’s ok.

Sadness is a natural reaction to badness. Grieving happens. Let it happen when it belongs.

And as for me right now? I’m walking. I’m not floating or dragging. Once foot keeps going in front of each other, and I feel moments of wonder and contentment tinged with the horror that other people in that moment AREN’T feeling this. But I don’t feel this is an abnormal reaction to what’s happened.

 

So life goes on, and we do too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Randoms & My Life

Writing the Tragedy – As Hard as Living It

The place my writing comes from inside me is dead right now. Probably not permanently, but dead for now.

I’ve always thought of writing – and reading – as a kind of escape from reality. I’ve blogged about this more than once. There’s a contrary theory of literature that says the good stuff comes from the bad experiences – the emotional turmoil – the realization that reality actually is incredibly ugly.

This theory may be right, but I don’t have enough distance from the ugliness to put it in words yet. Maybe I never will. And I know the joy in the escape from reality will come again – I still feel it pulse inside me – but I can’t create any escapes on my own at the moment.

Time will show how life experiences has changed me, and, in turn, how it has changed my writing. But for now – this is the reason my blog is neglected. This is the reason I haven’t posted for months.

I look forward to the day I rejoin the writing world.

Leave a comment

Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

Writing Reality – Or Escaping It

A quick thought for today:

Writers write what’s real. They try to connect with some reality in the readers’ experience, and inspire emotions that complement the work they write. They try to represent the world as it truly is. That is one theory of writing’s purpose, anyway.

The problem is, reality really bites.

I wanted to improve as a writer this year. I gritted my teeth and tried to dredge up something of reality – bad experiences as well as good (though I’d be the first to admit my own real problems may barely phase anyone else.) I wrote down some stuff that for me was ‘dark.’

Then a lot of awful stuff happened in the world (some of which is obviously in the news, and some of which is just learning things about people you never wanted to know.) Then my ability to capture the true darkness in words falls so far short.

Because it’s so hard for me to face the depths of darkness. And I don’t want to do it.

Some writers can – dive into the depths of evil and show it for what it is to the world. And this is important. But is it what I – who shrinks from true evil and know its true strength is far beyond my own- am meant to do?

Then I escaped into the movie Casablanca – a fictional world which pretends to represent reality but in actuality stereotypes and simplifies it – and was drawn in. The story took me away. It ended on hope.

And now I believe there can be two types of creators/writers – those who don’t flinch from portraying problems and showing the ugliness of reality. And those writers who help escape from reality, and use fiction to remind us what it’s like to hope.

In real life, Harry Potter may’ve never escaped his cupboard. He may’ve been abused his whole young life, or been so psychologically scarred he could never function in any world. Frodo might’ve never gotten out of Mordor. Elizabeth Bennet would’ve end up penniless and husbandless, dependent on the mercy of Mr. Collins in her old age.

But, instead, these stories provide hope and escape, and show me a way to touch on reality without giving into the full terribleness of it.

 

What do you think?

2 Comments

Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

Must-Reads at Stories and Stuff in 2014

14111736636_3eec67ba56_z

By Ken Whytock, licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

I started this blog in 2009–wow, that’s a lot of blogging! This year was definitely less active for me in the posting department, as I’ve had a lot going on (see Paris, and my Job and Apartment update). However, I refuse to neglect this blog! I love to debate the joy of stories with you all–as both a writer and a reader. Stories need to be not just heard, but chewed over and hashed out between us all before they solidly enter the age-long human conversation. Let’s soldier on with this! So this blog will not die any time soon, though I think the upcoming year will be a good time to branch out and try new things.

However, if you’ve enjoyed stopping by here this year, or even if this is one of your first visits, check out what was big at Stories and Stuff this year in the list below. Then check out the rest of my work by visiting my Stories tab up at the top.

Anyway, the Top Five Posts:

1.) J.K. Rowling is Not Dead – But Why Does She Want You to Know What Harry’s Up To?

This post was a response to J.K. Rowling’s update on her Harry Potter world–in other words, the explosive revelation that Ron and Hermione’s marriage might have been a ‘mistake.’ Obviously this was going to be a top post! In it, I dissect the dilemma of how much control an author should have over characters once they finish a work. Do they still get the last word on what’s going on in the characters’ lives? Or can we declared ‘death of the author’ and continue the characters’ lives in whatever vein we, the fans, please?

2.) Rant on Ruining the English Language

Here I take a go at people who get snobbish about the English language, at the expense of allowing English to change. One of the wonderful things about English is its flexibility and ability to change as people use it.

3.) Observations on Being Single, Revisited

Ah, of course everyone longs for my insights into single-ness.

4.) Independent Bookstores Have NOT Disappeared – They’re Doing Fine, Actually

My happy update explaining why ebooks has not killed the printed book – or bookstores–and that hopefully the two will comfortably coexist.

5.) Why ‘Write What You Love’ Means all Fiction is Fanfiction

Secondly, I love to see several of my older posts are still popular! Number one among them is ‘Tolkien’s ‘Take That!’ to Shakespeare.’ I guess The Hobbit has kept Tolkien pretty relevant in 2014, and I am always happy when Tolkien is popular.

My top piece of fiction hosted here is ‘Thoughts of Mr. Knightley,’ a Jane Austen-inspired vignette I posted a few years ago. I do plan to sharpen my writing skills by trying out a few more of these in the upcoming year, so stay tuned for that!

When it comes to my ebooks, Prince Charming is by and away the favourite – but I also repackaged Why Polly? into a nicer ebook format, which has been successful. (Some of you may remember this one being serialized right here on this blog!) Thanks to all of you who supported these ventures by buying, reviewing and sharing these stories. More ebooks to come in 2015, as always!

And tell me in the comments below how your holidays have been! Any big goals for 2015 for all of you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Randoms & My Life

Update! And Quotes!

Whoa, haven’t blogged for a while! What’s been going on? Well, for one thing – I moved. A huge undertaking, as it turns also. Secondly – I got a new job. I now work in, wait for it… a library! How appropriate!

(Where did I work before? Well, actually I sold computers for Microsoft. Turns out having a history degree is surprisingly flexible, and not just for honing your writing skills 🙂 )

Anyway, while I was moving I came across this, which I decided to share with you all.

WP_20141205_16_53_26_ProIt’s my old high school binder! I (or some of my friends) lovingly inscribed quotes from books and other things all over the front of it, and it’s a great trip down memory lane to see what I thought was important enough to decorate my binder with back then. I don’t remember where they are all from though, so if you do know, let me know! Here they are, in no particular order:

– Don’t Panic (the source for this one is rather obvious)

– “Alas, earwax!” (also, rather obvious)

– “Me, sir? Pool, sir? But I don’t know how to swim!” (the excellent ending lines to Go Jump in the Pool! – otherwise known as the first Bruno & Boots book I ever read (and loved))

– “If you were waiting for the opportune moment – that was it.” (Pirates was a bit of an obsession in my school)

– Deep Magic from Before the Dawn of Time (I wanted a Chronicles of Narnia reference on there. Now I feel like I should’ve put the one about ‘not a tame lion.’)

– “All that is gold does not glitter.” (I personally had a bit of an obsession with Lord of the Rings.)

– “…in a circle and suppose, but the answer sits in the middle and knows.” (Someone else inscribed this quote and it sounds kind of cool, but I have no idea where it’s from, and the first words of it are rubbed away…)

– “Bad smell plus good smell does not equal no smell.” (From The Twinkie Squad, another enjoyable story by Gordon Korman)

– “If I got mine and you got yours, then we got ours. So what are we waiting for?” (Another friend’s contribution. It sounds like a song lyric to me?)

– Correlation does not imply Causation. (Wow. Good thing I inscribed that on my memory).

– “I must be the only person in the world ever to be punished for breaking my neck!” (At first I couldn’t remember this quote either, but the only book it makes sense to come from is The Lives of Christopher Chant. Or possibility Charmed Life. Both are wonderful.)

What works were you a fan of in high school?

1 Comment

Filed under Quotables, Randoms & My Life

Tell Me About Your Favourite Bookstore

Last Friday The Guardian published a wonderful list of bookstores worldwide – including one from Canada, woohoo! Any book-lover knows there is no shortage of lovable bookstores out there, so which is your favourite? I’d have to say, from The Guardian‘s list, I want to visit the bookstore-in-a-van that sells Portuguese books translated into English. Leakey’s, in Scotland, looks worth visiting too.

Shakespeare & Company, in Paris, is not included in this list – I have a feeling it might’ve been too cliche to include such a famous landmark. But in case you’ve forgotten, here’s my picture of the place from when I visited it last April!

WIN_20140424_205457

What’s my favourite library? I blogged about it once before. Share yours below!

3 Comments

Filed under GENERAL Bookish Thoughts, Randoms & My Life

Useful Words English Doesn’t Have

Anyone who’s ever started learning another language has come across words that just don’t translate into English. My favorites are ‘saudades,’ from Portuguese (meaning a feeling of longing, melancholy or nostalgia), and ‘gezellig,’ from Dutch (meaning a nice atmosphere, but also belonging and time spent with loved ones). Today, Slate published an excerpt from Lost in Translation that lists many more.

My favorite is ‘tretar,’ which apparently means a third refill of coffee in Swedish. This sounds like a very useful word! Go check out the original article to find some more useful words we don’t have in English. The accompanying artistic diagrams are very sweet too.

What’s your favorite word that doesn’t translate? Are there any words from English that don’t translate well to other languages?

2 Comments

Filed under Language Learning, Randoms & My Life

I Handwrite My Fiction, But I’m Not Stuck in the Dark Ages – I’ll Prove It

writingRemember back in November I said I managed to spew out 50,000 words in a month in order to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Well, I may not have mentioned those were handwritten words, so really my total of 50,000 was a guesstimate. I have recently been occupied in typing these words up. And the result… well, do you think I over- or under-estimated?

Over. Definitely over. I’ve hit 46,000 words and I still have a third of the manuscript to go. Which leads to the question – why on earth would I use such an inefficient method of writing? I mean, handwriting? Hasn’t that gone out with the dark ages? They don’t even teach that to some school kids anymore!

Well, let’s bring in the authority of the New York Times on this issue, through their article “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” I’ve written before about how I feel less creative typing, and how handwriting helps me to actually connect to my subject. Turns out there’s actually some scientific indications that this is not just a weird anomaly that occurs only in me.

According to the study quoted in the article, children who wrote text by hand not only produced more words (hello to me overachieving on my NaNoWriMo word count!), but also expressed more ideas (hello to the fact I feel more creative handwriting!). The article ends by quoting psychologist Paul Bloom as saying, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important. Maybe it helps you think better.”

As I said in my previous post, “My theory is that typing and handwriting use different parts of the brain, and in me only one of them is linked to creativity.” Wouldn’t it be neat if I wasn’t completely off-base? But then – what does this mean for technology? Are our computers soul-sucking beasts that are slowly draining away all of our society’s creativity?

I think not – to some extent the dulling effects of technology can be overcome. I can write far better by typing than I used to, though my fiction still comes out sounding wooden. More practiced authors, especially those raised on computers, will strengthen the brain’s creativity-into-typed-words pathway even more than I have. But hey, maybe someday someone will do a survey of all this century’s ‘greatest’ literature and find none of them have been typed – who knows? Get a scientist to research that.

So if you ever find yourself faced with a blinking screen and a bad case of writer’s block, why not try writing something the old-fashioned way? You might surprise yourself.

1 Comment

Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life