Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Process

Alas, I have spent all my spare time playing catch-up on my book review blog, and therefore have had no time to update this blog. Truth be told, I have eventual plans to fold them into one blog, since the current state of my life really doesn't allow for both. Stay tuned.

The Thanksgiving break was nice; I was able to add more descriptions to my skeletal second novel draft. I always laugh when I hear authors say that they just write and write and write and then have to scale back while editing. My process is the exact opposite (when it comes to novels, at least). I speed through the first draft, just trying to get a plot on paper. But then I'm left with barely more than a structure, a little over 100 pages, and I have to add in all the descriptions and proper character development later.

I very much enjoy writing descriptions, but they're time-consuming. When I'm working on my rough draft, I can write several pages in one session, since it's just the basics. But it can take me a half hour to write one good description.

As for character development, I absolutely hate it. Why do my characters need motivations again? Why do they need personal histories? Obviously, I'm aware that the novel won't be any good without character development, but it's my least favorite part. Part of the problem is that in my brain, I substitute voice for character development. If a character has a particularly strong voice--which mine often do, because I like writing in voice--I don't care about their background. I think that's why I like writing flash so much; character development still needs to be there, but much less so.

Anyway, once I write in those descriptions, I'll probably send the draft to a few close friends, because I'm too stupid to understand what I've left out about the characters on my own. Also, it will be good to put it away for a while and work on something else, so I can pick it up later with fresh eyes. Then I might not be too stupid to fix it. I could learn something in between. You never know.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Columbus

Today I left my beautiful, well-furnished Louisville apartment for Columbus, Ohio. So far I like Columbus a lot less—but the weather is garbage, and I'm not feeling too hot, so my impression may not be Columbus' fault! Also I've been here for a whopping two hours, so I shouldn't make a snap judgment.

I must say, I do like the little coffee shop where I'm writing this post—but then, I am a sucker for cute coffee shops in general. This one is called The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, and it's a nonprofit that supports various causes. I'm waiting here because my Airbnb won't be ready until 5:30—they're doing construction on the street. On the bright side, Okie did pass her doggy daycare assessment, so I'll have somewhere to drop her off during Catherine and Arnaud's wedding tomorrow! I have no idea what I would have done had she failed. But she is a very, very good dog.

And she's stuck alone in the car right now, poor thing.

I think my gloom may have something to do with the fact that I LOVE LOUISVILLE. Seriously, I want to move there. It's absolutely charming.

Mostly I did what I did in Nashville—eat food and walk my dog. But Louisville seemed much more...genuine? I'm not sure that's the right word. It seemed more lived-in, scrappy and optimistic. I was staying in a little neighborhood near the university and Germantown, in an apartment above somebody's garage. I must admit, it was a relief staying somewhere larger than a tiny house. There was a stove! I made so much tea!

The other nice thing about this place was that I could leave Okie there, so I was able to go more places than I could in Nashville.

PLACES I WALKED:
  • The Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian path over an old railroad bridge that takes you into Indiana and back again. Unfortunately they didn't allow pets on the bridge, but I did take Okie for a looooong walk in the Waterfront Park nearby.
  • Cave Hill Cemetery, where I stumbled upon Muhammad Ali's grave.
  • Old Louisville, where they have loads of beautiful, historic houses, complete with old fashioned gas lamps outside. Not to mention one really creepy lamplighter statue. 
  • Cherokee Park, which was lush with autumn trees and where this hawk just hung out a few feet away from me.
PLACES I ATE:
  • Kentucky Taco Company, which I went over in my last post.
  • The Brown Hotel, where I had my first Mint Julep (surprising!) and my first Hot Brown (less surprising!).
  • The Dairy Del, which has been open since 1951 and where they'll give your dog its own ice cream sundae for free.
  • Garage Bar, which is, as the name suggests, a bar/pizza joint inside what used to be an auto garage.
  • Nord's Bakery, which was dangerously close to my apartment and has amazing donuts.
  • Please & Thank You, where fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies are their claim to fame.
  • Sunergos Coffee, which has a ginger mocha on its fall menu.
Another highlight was touring the Rabbit Hole bourbon distillery—and not just because I got samples. They've only been operating since 2012, and their facility was built to let visitors get a good look at the distilling process. You can stick your fingers right into the vats of mash and try it. (Don't worry—they heat it up a lot later on.) I went on an early tour, so it was just me and two pilots who weren't drinking because they had to, you know, fly a plane. Although one of them was totally bananas, and he kept bragging about how much booze he'd brought on his private plane before, and how many guns he'd brought on his private plane before, and the tour guide and I were just nodding along in bewilderment and mild fear. So that was interesting. 

And then there was shopping! Do you love colorful trinkets made by local artists? Louisville has you covered. I visited Butchertown Market and Revelry Boutique Gallery and I ONLY bought three pairs of earrings you guys. That's some serious self-control. I also stopped by a wonderful used bookstore called Nanny Goat Books, which is housed inside an old paper factory. 

Anyway, I completely fell in love with the city, and I'm 100% serious about wanting to move there. I checked, and I could rent an entire house for the same amount of money I'm paying for my one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. And yes, I might have to deal with a horrible Republican politician or two or twenty, but think about it—I'd also get the chance to vote against Mitch McConnell. And what a pleasure that would be! Who's with me?

Oh, also, writing—I did the thing. Lots of typing. My hands hurt. But it's my own damn fault—I was the one who decided to write an entire novel draft by hand without typing up a single word.

Anyway, Catherine and Arnaud are getting married tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to that very much. Maybe I'll wear one of my new pairs of earrings. And then it's back to Chicago on Sunday, which is absurd, because I feel like I've only been gone a few days. Wouldn't it be cool if we only worked for six months a year, and then for the other six months we just did whatever we wanted? I bet we'd all be a lot happier and healthier. If only...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Louisville

Yesterday I left my Nashville tiny house for a much larger furnished apartment above somebody's garage in Louisville. The drive was short and the weather was sunny.

My Airbnb is close to the University of Louisville campus, so I walked Okie around there so she could stretch her legs, then stopped at Kentucky Taco Company for dinner—which, as it turns out, has only been open for two weeks, though it was a food truck for years before that. Might I recommend the Fried Chicken Mac & Beer Cheese taco? The Vegan BBQ taco was also good, for the record.

Today I get to really start exploring the city—but before that, let me tell you about Nashville!

I mainly did two things in Nashville:
  • Walk my dog 
  • Eat
The walking was absolutely gorgeous. We went to Radnor Lake State Park and to the Shelby Bottom Greenway. And the trails behind my Airbnb weren't too shabby, either.

The eating was absolutely delicious. The first night I joined my dad at Tennessee Brew Works, since he was driving through Nashville on his way to Florida. Another great spot was Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint. (Pro-tip to tourists: the Martin's location I saw downtown was totally mobbed, but the one I visited in Belmont was just fine.) And Loveless Cafe was a whole damn experience. It took me an hour to drive there, and I waited 1.5 hours to eat, but it was totally worth it. (There were lots of gift shops to explore on their property anyway.) This was the half portion.

What else? I walked Okie by The Ryman lest I fail in my tourism duties. She was a hit with the old ladies. Turns out Okie's scared of loud drumming—she wouldn't walk past the honky tonks on Broadway. I also stopped by Parnassus Books because bookstore tourism is my favorite kind of tourism. And I didn't even buy a book! Be proud of me. I did buy a coffee mug, though.

As for the writing, it went pretty well. It was a bit harder than I expected, since my tiny house was 35-40 minutes away from the city, so if I wanted to do anything at all I had a decent commute to contend with. That left me with less time for the writing retreat portion of this trip, but hopefully it will be better in Louisville, since I'm a lot closer to everything.

Even so, I did manage to complete an extra-extra-rough draft of my second novel! So rough that it's filled with notes like MAKE THIS BETTER and NAME THIS THING LATER, and it's all written by hand right now, so my next project is to type it up and make it prettier. But the point is: it exists.

Alright. I'm off to walk Okie across a large bridge (I'll take pictures for you, Molly), and maybe visit the grave of Colonel Sanders himself. Wish me luck. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Nashville

Sorry for the gigantic absence. I've been working double time to finish everything before my glorious ROAD TRIP/WRITING RETREAT!

And now I'm here, in Nashville.

I drove down yesterday—eight-hour drive, one bathroom break at the Indiana-Kentucky border. I feel bad for Indiana. It appears to have no interesting geography whatsoever, just bland grasses and a few clumps of trees as far as the eye can see, and then you cross into Kentucky. About one mile in, you encounter these gorgeous, rolling hills. Indiana got the short end of the stick when whoever was making borders was making borders.

My favorite billboards on the way down:

HELL IS REAL. WELCOME TO AMERICA.

and

GOAT MILK STUFF (with an exit where you can, presumably, buy the aforementioned goat milk stuff)

I have my dog with me, so my options for sightseeing are a bit limited—unless Okie can stay in the Airbnb by herself without tearing things apart. She's fine at my apartment, obviously, and at my parents' place, but I've never tried it elsewhere.

Speaking of my Airbnb—it's the cutest little Tiny House in the world! I honestly think I could live in a Tiny House, except for the problem of books. I would need a separate Tiny House for all my books. A Tiny Library, if you will.

Today I'm going to bring Okie downtown and walk around the Vanderbilt campus, maybe Music Row. Then I'm going to pick up some groceries and write write write.

Hold me to it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fall 2018 Playlist: Annotated

Fall's a good time for most things, and music is no exception. I just wish the season would last longer! Especially in Chicago, the crisp air and changing leaves are all too fleeting. Speaking of which, I need to buy a new winter coat.

Let's celebrate Fall while we can, shall we? This playlist should help.

1) "Cutting Shapes," Girl Ray: Girl Ray's another winner from one of my Discover Weekly playlists—thanks, Spotify! If you wish Nico and Belle & Sebastian were the same band, good news—Girl Ray fits the bill. I could have put about a million songs from their Earl Grey album on this playlist.
2) "If You Really Love Nothing," Interpol: When I noticed Interpol was playing Riot Fest this year, I was excited to see them solely for the nostalgia factor. But if I were in a band, I would hate it if nobody listened to my new stuff—so I gave their 2018 album Marauder a spin. And it's surprisingly good! Especially the first half. This song is the album opener, in fact.
3) "Big God," Florence + The Machine: The album High as Hope came out in June, and ever since I have been waiting eagerly for Fall so I could put this song on the playlist. It's Florence at their best—powerful, majestic, a little scary.
4) "seedless," serpentwithfeet: I was *psyched* that serpentwithfeet released a new album this summer—it was a good summer for new albums in general, actually. Anyway, I've never heard another artist like serpentwithfeet. It's...male Björk opera hip-hop? It's wonderful.
5) "Borders," St. Beauty: This duo opened for Janelle Monáe when I saw her at the Chicago Theatre a few months ago, and I was immediately impressed with them. You should listen to their whole album, but this song is a good start.
6) "Hangout at the Gallows," Father John Misty: When I heard this song, my first reaction was somebody's been listening to George Harrison's solo stuff lately. Definitely has a vintage sound, the melody is killer. That chorus—gets me every time. When he performed it at Riot Fest I literally stopped breathing for a few seconds.
7) "Mariners Apartment Complex," Lana Del Rey: Lana Del Rey could write the same song over and over again and I'd listen to it every time. I get her vibe, or her vibe gets me—when I was doing that internship in L.A. I especially understood. It's West Coast music. I was pleased to see she dropped new autumn-appropriate music right before I started making this playlist.
8) "Don't Judge Me," Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer is one of the greatest albums of all time and there will be one song from it on each of my playlists this year—I already have it planned out. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't expose as many people to Ms. Monáe as possible. She's literally perfect. This song is chill and also pretty. You'll like it.
9) "Right Down the Line," Lucius: I wasn't as into the latest Lucius album as I hoped I'd be—but I was really into this cover of a 1978 Gerry Rafferty song.
10) "Almost Every Door," Mountain Goats: Am I going to put a Mountain Goats song on every seasonal playlist I ever make? Probably. They snuck up on me. I'd always listened to them casually and then one day they were one of my favorite bands. This song is off their very recently released Hex of Infinite Binding EP.
11) "Let it Down (original version)," George Harrison: Father John Misty's new George Harrison-esque song got me listening to George Harrison again. What can I say? He's the thinking person's Beatle.
12) "65th and Ingleside," Chance the Rapper: New Chance! Always a good thing. This song is sort of the oddball among the four singles he recently released, but I like it. I like oddballs. It was also needed for the tricky folk-to-hip-hop/soul transition the playlist was making here.
13) "I Never Loved a Man [The Way I Loved You]," Aretha Franklin: We lost one of the greats. Had to honor her. What a voice.
14) "Self," Noname: If you're not listening to Noname's new album Room 25, you're doing life wrong. It's so so so so good. I was reluctant to add this specific song at first, just because it's so short—but it's one of my favorites, and it definitely works with fall weather.
15) "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear," Blondie: I finally got to see Blondie at Riot Fest and Debbie Harry was perfect and I love her and it was freaking awesome and ohmigod.
16) "How Simple," Hop Along: Frances Quinlan is the lead singer of this Philadelphia-based band, and while their songs are good in general, her unusual voice is really what makes them great. I've put them on my playlists before. I would recommend listening to their entire catalog.
17) "Lonesome Love," Mitski: Another fantastic album that dropped this summer! Am I the only one who thinks Mitski often out-St.-Vincents St. Vincent? I could have added lots of songs from Be the Cowboy to the playlist—it's very autumn appropriate.
18) "Changes IV," Cat Stevens: I recently joined an online competitive trivia league, and Cat Stevens was an answer to one of the questions, and that got me listening to Cat Stevens again. I forgot how much I like Cat Stevens. 70s folk perfection.
19) "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," Bob Dylan: There are only 19 songs on this year's fall playlist, but I figured I could get away with it since this song is nearly 12 minutes long. I added it because I was having a discussion with my sister recently about Bob Dylan. I was explaining that this is the only Bob Dylan song that makes me feel feelings—a lot of his songs are okay, but this one gets to me. It's the chorus. Just beautiful. And the song is repetitive, but not in a bad way. It becomes soothing, reliable. Anyway, Molly was flabbergasted by my opinion. To each their own, I suppose.

It appears that the overarching themes of this year's fall playlist are: Riot Fest, the 1970s, album-openers. Seems about right.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Riot! Riot! Riot!

As the title suggests, I attended Riot Fest this weekend in beautiful, sprawling Douglas Park. Although I didn't "riot" so much as relax on the lawn listening to music while other people rioted.

I ate two hot pretzels in a span of three days. Two! It was glorious.

Bands I saw:
  • Typesetter - Wow I'm so cool I know a band who played at Riot Fest so cool. Turns out that if you walk confidently, you can just stroll backstage and nobody's going to stop you. There's free bottled water back there! Show was rad, as always--their new album comes out in October. Get on it. 
  • K. Flay - I had never listened to K. Flay before, but I'd heard good things. I did like her music--though whoever was doing her sound was awful. It was like listening to a blown-out speaker in an old car. Her cover of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," however, was charming.
  • The Bombpops - When they said they'd signed with Fat Wreck Chords I was like, oh, of course they did. Talented, pleasant enough to listen to, but derivative. Harsh? Perhaps. They seem like good people. I just wasn't bowled over.
  • Taking Back Sunday - It turns out Taking Back Sunday has released roughly one million albums since I was in high school, none of which I cared to hear. But it was all worth it when they finally got to "You're So Last Summer." THE TRUTH IS YOU COULD SLIT MY THROAT AND WITH MY ONE LAST GASPING BREATH I'D APOLOGIZE FOR BLEEDING ON YOUR SHIRT. High school, man. High school. 
  • Gary Numan - Caught only the end of his set--it takes an hour and a half to get to Douglas Park from my apartment via transit, so I was doing my best. I enjoyed watching him, and I enjoyed watching the crowd even more. I was born in 1988, so I mostly missed that decade, and so did my parents since they were getting married and raising me. Everything I've learned about the 80s I've had to piece together myself, and artists like Gary Numan are just another piece of the puzzle. I like trying to imagine a time when loads of people were like YES! THIS GOTH SCI-FI NEW WAVE DUDE! Not that he's bad! I just have a hard time imagining someone like him getting popular these days. Anyway, "Cars" is stuck in my head now. 
  • Cat Power - I am only the most casual of Cat Power listeners. No matter--I just chilled in the grass and drank a beer and let her soft voice lull me. An wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon. 
  • Elvis Costello & The Imposters - I'm also only a casual Elvis Costello listener--greatest hits and no more. It was a fun show, but I think he couldn't hear the monitors? He often seemed a few beats behind.
  • Interpol - High school again! Unlike Taking Back Sunday, Interpol was well aware that we only wanted to hear their first two albums, and they delivered. (But for the record, I did give their new album a listen and it's actually pretty good, especially the first half.) In my opinion, their songs sound especially nice outside--they're very atmospheric, and the sound just washes over you in waves. Whoever did their lighting design was inspired--it was gorgeous. 
  • Johnny Marr - Caught the end of his set. Never a bad day when you get to bop around to some depressing Smiths songs. "How Soon is Now" is an excellent closing number.
  • Blondie - ohmigodBlondieohmigod. I'm obsessed with Blondie--this was easily the thing I was most looking forward to all weekend. And that 73-year-old goddess Debbie Harry was perfect. I wish I were 1/10 as cool as her. She's the ultimate fuck you to people who think aging women are disposable. It was essentially a greatest hits show--"One Way or Another," "Call Me," "Rapture," "Heart of Glass," everything. But they also played a few songs off their latest album Pollinator--which is actually a great album! I have listened to it many times! So anyway Blondie is the best don't @ me.
  • Alkaline Trio - Because of course I saw Alkaline Trio, along with every other human who was a Chicagoland area teen in the early 2000s. Huge crowd. Lots of singalongs. Always fun. 
  • Father John Misty - I love Father John Misty's music, and after a lackluster third album I was super pleased with his fourth. His lyrics are so cynical, and I think if I had to hang out with him for a day I'd probably chuck something heavy at his head, but his voice is so beautiful I don't even care. I've seen him live several times--memorably on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas--but he really outdid himself this time. When he performed his new song "Hangout at the Gallows," I was literally breathless. I lost. My breath. No breathing. Also need to congratulate whoever did his lighting design because it was phenomenal. 
I unfortunately didn't get to stay for any of the big headliners because while I would have liked to see Beck and Run the Jewels, and while Weezer is cheesy-but-fun, I have a dog to care for and also I'm an old lady. I've been living off ibuprofen all weekend. Hot pretzels and ibuprofen. 

I would like to propose a lineup of all-female headliners next year, if I may. Distillers just dropped new music for the first time in 15 years, so they'd be perfect. Couldn't we reunite Bikini Kill, too? And let's be real--Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae are punk AF. Someone should let me plan music festivals. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vote! (from your couch)

The midterm elections are less than two months away, and I just wanted to take a quick moment to plug one of my favorite things:

Absentee voting!

Initially I voted absentee because I was literally absent. I first voted for president when I was studying abroad in Rome. Since then I've also voted from Las Vegas and The Netherlands, even though I was still registered in Illinois.

But now I prefer to vote absentee. It has two distinct advantages to regular voting:
  • I don't have to get off my lazy butt.
  • I can research the candidates while I fill out the ballot.
Admit it--at one point or another, you've walked into a voting booth and been faced with an extensive list of local officials you've never heard of before. Maybe even positions you've never heard of before! What is a comptroller anyway?! (Comptrollers do money stuff, FYI.) 

When it comes to voting, the internet is your friend. I normally just sit down on my couch, ballot at my side, computer on my lap, and I Google the candidates one by one so I can decide who I prefer. Too many candidates to handle at once? I can spread it out over a period of several days--most states only require that your ballot be postmarked by election day. 

Absentee voting makes me feel like I'm actually making informed choices. And it's so easy! The ballot comes to my door, I fill it out, I pop it in the mailbox. The end. 

The one downside? I don't get a sticker. But because I'm at my apartment, I can reward myself however I want. An "I voted today" sticker doesn't compare to "I voted today" ice cream, now does it? 

Absentee ballots are already available in many states! Vote.gov can help you find your local voting resources. Join me in lethargically performing your civic duty.