Thursday, October 30, 2014

In case you forgot...

...I write fiction. It's a thing I do.

This semester has been so busy that I'd almost forgotten, to be perfectly honest, but a few recent incidents have reminded me.

For one thing, I was up again in workshop on Tuesday. For the first time, I submitted a portion of my novel. I had hesitated to do so before because I didn't know whether it would be appropriate; there is often such an emphasis on "literary fiction"--no genre pieces (sci-fi, fantasy, horror)--in MFA programs, or at least in the idea people usually have of MFA programs. I didn't know if anyone would want to workshop my novel, since it is written for children. I don't know why I thought this, exactly--I don't think any of my friends here are snobs. Sometimes the workshop atmosphere can mess with your head a bit, though. It take a great deal of courage to submit something you've worked hard on to a group of people that you respect, knowing that their criticisms will probably be spot-on, and that there will, possibly, be many criticisms. I just didn't want to take the risk of submitting my novel. But I talked about it with Maile beforehand, and she seemed to think it was a good idea.

Fortunately, people seemed to like it. More than I thought they would, actually. In fact, it may have been the least criticism-filled workshop I have ever attended in terms of my own work. What was interesting was that they were grasping at the threads weaved into the chapter, guessing what might happen later. That was very helpful; not only did it give me ideas of what actions certain characters might take in the future, but it also made me aware of what signposts weren't strong enough. It was a relief to hear that the tone was largely on point, as I was worried about that, and that one of my characters is apparently far more fleshed out and believable than I thought she was. I haven't read through my classmates' written comments yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I am so grateful to have such intelligent, thoughtful readers looking at my work.

Will my novel be my thesis? (Oh that dreaded, looming thesis! How you haunt my days and nights.) We shall see. I wrote a little more of it last night. It was funny--I started writing at about 10:30 p.m., thinking I'd just scribble down a short scene and be done with it. I wrote for what I thought was roughly a half hour. I looked at the clock. It was 1 a.m. Who needs sleep, anyway?

I was also reminded of my writerly status by yet another--very kind--rejection email. This one was from The Masters Review, for their Halloween scary story contest. The editor informed me that they had seriously considered it, and gave me some feedback, which is a rare and wonderful thing. One of these days it's going to be an acceptance letter, you guys. One of these days.

The other day Shaun (whose poem "Vinegar" was recently published in the Misty Mountain Review) sent me information about a scholarship offered to graduate students who wish to attend the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Conference in New York. I think I'm going to apply. If I win, it would cover tuition for the conference and for a special plot intensive session. It would definitely be helpful to get some industry feedback regarding my novel. There are some things I need to know that I don't currently know. For instance, is my novel middle grade or young adult? I honestly can't tell sometimes. They need an even smaller category in the middle of those two. I've looked up Harry Potter to see in which category people place that series, as I feel like the tone of my novel is similar, but I can't seem to find a solid answer. So I imagine discussing my work with industry professionals might be quite useful.

Alright. I suppose I'd better stop writing this blog and start writing fiction. I spent too much time this afternoon perfecting my Halloween costume--a new idea that I just had today. Luckily the thrift store gods were on my side, and I found everything I needed. Can't wait to debut it at tomorrow's Neon Lit...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Life is Beautiful

First: I am the worst at blogging. I apologize for the prolonged absence. The past two weeks have been extraordinarily stressful, and I don't really want to talk about them. Fortunately, they are over now, and the only lasting damage is a mild cold. What's more, I had a lovely weekend to make up for them, and I'm happy to talk about that.

In case you didn't know, I am magical. Through my magic powers*, I was able to attend the Life is Beautiful festival for free this weekend--as a VIP, no less. What is Life is Beautiful? It is the Lollapalooza of Las Vegas, featuring three days of top-notch musical acts, food from many of Vegas' world-class chefs, and oodles of public art, all sprawling through the vintage neon cityscape of downtown. My VIP status gave me access to oversized Jenga, free drinks, and much nicer bathrooms.

And now: mini-reviews!

Girl Talk: I like listening to Girl Talk, mostly because I believe he has good taste in the music that he samples. As is the trouble with seeing any DJ live, however, I had to wonder whether he just pressed play on his computer and then jumped around. High energy though. Plus, I finally broke my consistent missing-Girl-Talk's-set-at-festivals streak.

Jenny Lewis: I didn't know she was a Vegas local, but apparently it is so. Talented lady, solid set. Best part was the blues-y medley in the middle.

Neon Trees: I hate their music, but their frontman's stage banter is hilarious. If they haven't covered Queen or Billy Idol before, they need to, ASAP.

The Head and The Heart: Say what you will about hipster-folk, but I thought their set was wonderful. They were clearly having a great time; the crowd was clearly having a great time. "Rivers and Roads" was so pretty I almost wanted to cry.

Kanye West: I got to see a real live Kanye rant! It was only 15 minutes or so, though. I feel the same way about Kanye that I've always felt about Kanye--I think he's consistently creative, and cares about what he's doing, but I still don't like many of his songs. I was psyched about "Gold Digger," though. Brought me back to senior prom. Wish I could have heard more songs from Yeezus, but I missed the beginning of the set.

The Roots: I imagine The Roots must be the safest festival-booking bet ever. You know they're going to draw a crowd, you know they're going to put on a good show. Danceable, for sure. Extremely talented, all. They covered Guns N' Roses, which was unexpected.

Lionel Richie: I only stayed for a few minutes, because I don't really care. I suppose they probably booked him to get middle-aged tourists on vacation to come to the festival for a day. From what I hear it was great. People were enthusiastic about the prospect of a conga line.

Kimbra: Didn't stay long here, either. I hadn't really heard her stuff before, and I'm thinking it would sound better recorded than it did live. I'll have to try it sometime.

Alt-J: For some reason I was under the impression that I didn't like Alt-J. My impression was entirely incorrect. I loved their whole set, and now I'm probably going to listen to them nonstop for weeks. They sound like the soundtrack for a gritty Robin Hood reboot.

Matt & Kim: I was too short to really see anything, but they sure sounded like they were having fun.

The Flaming Lips: It was a tough call to go see Flaming Lips over Outkast, but I knew they'd put on a colorful, glittery, confetti-filled show, and I was not disappointed. The crowd was weirdly small, so I was right up front. Plus, they played "The W.A.N.D.," which is one of my favorites.

Tune-Yards: I don't really like her/their new album, but man was I excited to hear "Gangsta" live.

Broken Bells: I was very sad to miss Trampled by Turtles, but I'd never seen Broken Bells before. A great set, complete with giant bouncy balls. I still like The Shins better, though.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones: I was pretty excited to see these guys, as I'm a sucker for a good soul band. The music was awesome, but the lead singer left me wondering where the line is between acknowledgement of someone like James Brown as an influence and full-on blackface parody, minus the actual makeup. The mostly-white crowd didn't help; I wish I could have made a giant sign that said "check your privilege." Anyway, they were fun, but they were no J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound. Obviously.

And that was that! A fantastic weekend. Unfortunately real life resumed today, so now I have to go grade papers. So many. I suppose I can't complain.

*By "magic powers" I of course mean "awesome friends." Thank you, awesome friend. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


I haven't blogged in forever. Sorry about that.

I would say I've been busy, but I'm sure you already know that. Busyness is my natural state of being.

What have I done? So many things! Joe and I went to see Lorde again. We wanted a Lorde do-over, since her show at the Cosmopolitan last spring was amazing, but the crowd was terrible. This time it was at the Hard Rock, and it was much better. We were fairly close to the front (good gracious pre-teen music fans need to calm down), and the staging was far more elaborate this time, which I enjoyed. I wish I were as cool as Lorde. I will never be as cool as Lorde.

I have been making some rock climbing progress! A bit. I've climbed a few 5.9- routes, and I've fallen off a few 5.9s, which is better than nothing. I need to make my core muscles stronger if I'm going to progress. I know this, and yet it is extremely difficult for me to make myself exercise when I'm aware that I'm doing exercise. Does anyone know how to trick oneself into a strong core workout? Zumba/dance isn't cutting it.

I organized another trip to the Pioneer Saloon (everyone's favorite 100-year-old-middle-of-the-desert-cowboy/biker-bar) for karaoke. It was a grand success. Many of the first year MFAs joined us, which was delightful. Still trying to get to know them better. I sang some of my standards, but I pulled out "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as well, which I forgot I could sing. Hadn't done that one since Chicago.

The other day Lulu, Joe, Shaun, Shaun's friend Katie, and I all went to the Las Vegas Renaissance Faire. Yes, Las Vegas does have a Renaissance Faire--but it's only for one weekend a year. I don't understand why The Excalibur is not a year-round Renaissance Faire casino, but what can you do? Lulu used to do Madrigals in high school, so she had two period dresses that we wore. I've always wanted to do that. We saw a joust. We paid a dollar to have Shaun flogged. A good time was had by all.

We've had some terribly exciting D&D games lately. Too much has happened to summarize here, but there's been a great balance of battles and role-playing. Often it's too much of one or the other. Austin and Shaun's characters had a big fight. We battled a level-9 Charnel Cinderhouse and won, which was impressive considering that our party consists of one level-7 character, two level-6 characters, and two level-5 characters. We should have died. Actually, Austin's character did die, but we convinced a priest of Bahamut to bring him back to life, so it all worked out. Sort of.

I've been doing lots of school work and teaching and part-time work, too, if you can believe it. Students just turned in their second writing project, so that means I'm stuck grading this weekend. Ugh. But the Vegas Valley Book Festival is also this weekend, which should be fun. Aimee Bender is coming.

One thing I most certainly haven't been doing enough of? Writing. Going to attempt to remedy that this week. I must, not only because it's what I want to be doing, but also because I have to submit to workshop again at the end of October and right now I can't think of a single piece that's submission-worthy. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the reason I moved here in the first place.

Just so you know, I am feeling a little better than I was the last time I wrote. My friends have had my back--Vegas friends and Chicago friends alike--and that has made all the difference. Not that all my problems are solved, but I feel somewhat more hopeful. I truly do not know how I would survive without all of you.

Alright, enough with the sappy stuff. I have to read a 300-page novel by Wednesday! I have read...16 pages. This isn't looking good. Wish me luck.