Three Readings in 24 Hours

The last day of class also happened to be the launch party of my last edition of Ramifications—and by “my last edition” I mean the last copy of Ram I worked on as a staff member or editor. We opened the evening with a slam poetry competition that went surprisingly well (considering I didn’t even know if anyone was going to come for it). I don’t know much about slam poetry, I admit, but I really liked the poems that were performed. Afterwards we had an open mic for music and regular readings. I read one of my poems and one of my short stories, Thanksgiving in Philadelphia.

Dr. Watkins has always played old Appalachian/bluegrass ballads almost every launch party since I came to Berry. When he was singing this time was the closest I came to crying—not because it was a sad song (it wasn’t), but because for four years that’s been one of my favorite parts of the semester. So I teared up, but I didn’t cry.

Overall we had a great turnout and a lot of fun. After everyone left, my staff and volunteers presented me with a little chest filled with quill pens, inkwells and a journal. I nearly teared up again, but I held it together admirably.

The next day, “Reading Day,” I had two other readings. The first was a poetry reading celebrating the end of Poetry Month. People spread out blankets and set up folding chairs outside the library, and they had angel food cake and lemonade. Students and some faculty read their own poetry and a few favorite poems by famous authors. I read a couple of poems, including one called The Flare, which is about Rheumatoid Arthritis. After the reading, a woman I didn’t know approached me and said, “My daughter has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and your poem told me more about what that’s like than anything she’s shared, anything her doctors have told me, or anything I’ve read. Thank you.”

Right in the feels, guys. Right in the feels. It meant so much to me to hear that.

Later that night was my senior reading. The other creative writing majors and I went out for a pre-game to help people relax. (I relaxed over a big glass of tea—others chose different drinks.) It was interesting chatting with people who’d been my classmates for years but who I hadn’t really hung out with before.

After prep talking each other, we went to the reading. It was in the fancy Ford living room, which has a lot of Italian art and stuff. There wasn’t a huge turnout, but that was fine with me. Everyone did great. I read an excerpt from my 20 page short story, Bloodroot Blooming, and a little bit from Naan in the Afghan Village. We hung around afterwards eating the snacks and talking to professors and generally just goofing off. It was a lot of fun, and having so many readings this semester has helped me overcome some of my fear of reading in front of people. Perks of being a senior?

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The Role of Mythology in Fiction

So some people asked me to share my symposium presentation about building myth in creative writing. Your wish is my command! Here’s my abstract:

The world is not constructed simply of fact, but also of myth. The interplay between mythology, geography, culture and history is a relationship which fiction provides a perfect platform for exploring. This presentation will focus specifically on Welsh and Celtic mythology, a relatively unknown genre of myth, before exploring the ways studying the influences of myth can help create worlds in fiction. Welsh mythology is closely tied to its geographic roots, with many tales informing the listener specifically where the events are said to have taken place. This connection between land, history and legend will be examined in the stories Culhwch and Olwen from the Mabinogion and The Prophecy of Merlin from the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, both of which have powerful connections with Welsh culture even today. Finally, an excerpt from my own work in progress, Blessings, will be read to demonstrate how I have utilized my research to create a world with its own myths, history, and place. Drafts and notes will be read to show how I created my world based on what I have learned about myths and fairytales in Wales.

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Busting into Boston: Days 1-3

My roommate, Kyley, had never been on an airplane in her life. I was determined that before the end of our undergrad time together, she would go somewhere with me, if only so she’d be comfortable flying when she had to visit me in the future! We originally were planning to go to my house in VA, but when I found out the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference was in Boston this year… we made a slight change of plans.

Kyley dubbed the trip “Busting into Boston,” and on Tuesday we set out on our adventures

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7/7 Challenge and Update on Grad Schools

Back in December and January, I went a little crazy and applied to five graduate schools for programs in creative writing, fully expecting not to get into any of them. But only a day after submitting my last application, I heard back from University of Portsmouth with an offer. This was followed by an offer from Nottingham Trent University and Chatham University.

I am still pretty blown away. I’m not affecting false modesty when I say I honestly don’t believe my writing is anything special. I’m proud of my ideas and characters, but I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty normal, unremarkable writer. I think this comes from growing up in my teen years with some writers who had extremely unique, distinct voices, while my writing has almost always been pretty sparse, straightforward and simple. So when my prof and I talked about the probability I wouldn’t get in anywhere, I fully expected that to happen.

Well, this week I had a phone interview with a school which has long been a dream of mine: Bath Spa University. I’ve loved Bath, England, ever since I entered the city on my 18th birthday with my mentor, Nicole Pool. When I found out they had a Writing for Young People MA program, I almost had a heart attack. But I’ve known it’d be a long shot.

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When Life is Full of Rejections and Not Enough Tea

I spent about four months on an essay about prejudice, Afghanistan, healing, history, and peace. When I say I put my heart into it, I don’t just mean I wrote over seven drafts. I mean I descended into the pit. I read accounts that left me sobbing. I searched my memory and poked into sections of my life that are still raw, that I still don’t totally understand. And I wrote, and cried, and drank tea, and curled up in my chadar, and revised, revised, revised.

I submitted this piece to a contest and crossed my fingers. Today I found out I didn’t even get an honorable mention.

For a second, I was surprised. Then came the other side: “Why should you be surprised, loser? You’ve never gotten published in anything but college magazines.” Which is true, but sort of a lousy thing to think.

Being an unpublished writer sucks because it’s a balance act between pride and despair. On one side, I freely admit I do think my essay was better than the honorable mention about childbirth in America. I’ve got pride in my work. I still think it’s good.

On the other side, I think it’s no surprise at all that my work has been rejected. I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never have my own voice. I’m just the sidekick Hufflepuff who’ll sit on the sidelines and wave a flag while other people save the world. Huzzah.

The reason I’m writing this at 12:15 AM isn’t to blow a horn and announce my mental state, or boo-woo over not getting a prize that was a long shot anyway. It’s to remind myself, and other writers like me, of why the balance act is a lie.

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Of Blessings, Writing, and Birthdays

About one year ago next week, I began to write Blessings. I figured it might be nice to celebrate its birthday with a little trip down memory lane and some commentary on writing itself.

I feel a particular attachment to Blessings as opposed to my other manuscripts because it is entirely mine. The Fountain’s Edge, Webbed, and Popinjay are all either retellings or inspired-by sort of stories, and I love them dearly, too. But Blessings has been my first story that lives and breathes in my head, fully mine.

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Writing Tips: Getting Away from the Computer

Over the years, the computer has become the place where I either work or I procrastinate. It’s increasingly harder to sit at the computer and write if I’m not already inspired or don’t already have blueprints of what I need to be doing. So this semester, I started looking for creative ways to get the inspiration flowing without having to sit in front of a screen.

You might be thinking, “That’s what journals and pencils are for, foolish child!” I agree. I used to love writing in journals. But with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, I find it increasingly difficult to hold a pen to paper for any length of time. So I’ve come up with other methods that (if not totally pain-free) are at least more entertaining than sitting with a journal.

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