Tuesday, December 29

Space Travels

Posted by Shelly Holder

A few weeks ago I interviewed for the writing consultant position at campus Writing Resource Center (which I got! Still excited.) One of the questions I've mulled over a few times since then:

What is your greatest writing strength?

At the time, I was unprepared to answer that particular question, and rather than let the silence stretch longer than the taffy it was already resembling, I spoke about how I had a "natural" voice. A debatable point, but moving on.

Now I wish that I had spoken of how my greatest strength in that I put writing first. Writing is essentially the number one priority in my life (I'm not counting God and family here) and it's foremost in my thoughts. It's the quest that I've chosend, the one that involves life and death and all things in between. It's a one way train ride, with no stops along the way.

So I should have spoken of my loyalty, of my dedication. I should have explained my focus, and my drive. I should have explained that this is a passion, a hobby, a career, and a life calling, all tied up into one black hole of a package. It sucks you in, and you don't know what kind of person you might come out on the other side.

But you can bet it's gonna be one hell of an experience.

Right Now:
Where I am located: hotel room in Tutova, Romania
What I want most: Cappicino. I've become addicted since I got here.

Monday, December 28

Travel Not Necessary

Posted by Shelly Holder

There are just some people out there that I want to slap for being stupid, narrow-minded, shallow idiots. Therefore, somewhere in the world, someone is just itching to slap me. So can one actively pursue mind-broadening experiences? And how?

We always talk of travel as a life changing opportunity. Sometimes we add in community serevice, or reading, or those big ones like marriage and kids and baptism and moving. But can you find something daily to so to make your mind broader by topics, not events?

I speak mainly of course of the needs of a writer, that class of people that need to draw on a cast collections of various and random inspirations. And I need an accepting mind to acquire all that I can/ Not to say that a writer can't make judgements, but all reconnaissnace should be objective, even if the final report is partial.

So how does one achieve this? And is there any possibility for an answer?

Sometimes I regret that I can't write a better book because I don't have the wisedom and experience of age. So I try to actively pursue those qualities ahead of my time. But I don't really know what steps I should take, or that I succeed.

So I guess I'll just keep plogging, and blogging, my way to a final sort of approximation.

Over and out.

Right now:
Where I am located: in an apartment in Burlad, Romania
What I am listening to: "Change" by Puya

Sunday, December 27

Some Travels Last Longer

Posted by Shelly Holder

It's the 200th post!!!!



Thank you to all the readers of Agonies, you totally make this blog what it is! Thanks for being a great community, and I hope to have your help in taking us to 300 and beyond.



It's such a great feeling to know that Agonies has made it this far. When I started this blog over a year ago, I had no plan in mind and no clue what kind of lasting impact I would create for myself. I can't imagine what the face of Agonies is going to look like in a year, and the idea that we might be around for five or ten years is simply... astounding. I can't picture what that scenario would look like, yet I know it's totally possible with readers like you. So thank you. I'm so deeply humbled.

With much love,
Shelly

Right Now:
Where I am located: an apartment in Burlad, Romania
What I'm listening to: P!nk "I Don't Believe You"

Saturday, December 26

Permant Travel for Writers

Posted by Shelly Holder

I was reading my FundsforWriters email the other day while waiting in the airport, and found an article on how house-sitting can be beneficial to writers. Since you can go anywhere with writing, you can easily turn a house-sitting gig into a mini personal writing retreat.

I've thought about retreats a lot lately, as I posted earlier, and the idea of house-siiting sounds just perfect. There would be the possibility of extended stays, and sometimes could be combined with pet sitting, so companionship wouldn't be a problem. Watering plants wouldn't be any hardship; in fact it would be a little like playing house Victorian style, with all the air of refined gentility and none of the nasty feminist issues or the reminders of the modern world like a real job.

The article writer said the they were house-siiting year round, didn't even have a place of their own, simply moved from house to house year round. Some aspests of this lifestyle I would find utterly terrifying and/or incredibly stressful, but it would be neat to try it out for a year or two. Perhaps after grad school, to take a unofficial sabatical and turn my dissertation into a publishable book (whether my thesis in question happens to be academic or creative in nature, the sentiment still applies.)

In any case, it''s an opportunity to keep in mind. I wouldn't be adverse to following through when the right time comes.

Right now:
Where I'm located: 30,000 feet up (posted later)
What I want most: Airplane pretzels, the kind with lots of salt.

Friday, December 25

Twas the Night After Travel

Posted by Shelly Holder

and all through the hotel, we were all passed out snoring, not excepting the mouse...


Did I say that I would have time to relax and reflect and write?


ahahahhahahahahahahaha.


I'm taking my breaks when I can, so happy holidays y'all! I'll see you later.


Right now:
Where I am located: My bed.
What I want most: SLEEP!

Thursday, December 24

Retreat Me Travelling

Posted by Shelly Holder

In my Life Writing class one day, a girl shared a powerful piece that impressed and moved us all. When questioned, she said that to get the emotion out on the page, she literally had to get away. She drove until she could drive no more, found the first (decent I presume) hotel, and checked in for the weekend. Just to write.

That example resonates so powerfully with me at times. Sometimes the idea of just driving and driving until the road chases me has the strongest appeal. I try to leave campus occasionally, try to get out of my dorm and my school life and my head full of academia, but going to the local Barnes and Nobles or Starbucks doesn't always have the same effect as a total escape. Today I'm almost regretting that I didn't have more time in Atlanta so that I could have written in the hotel room, but between exhaustion and travel stress I slept the whole time. And it was wonderful, filled with white fluffy down dreams.

My trip to Romania is one where I could arrange to weekend out to Bucharest or to a nieghboring country, but I am tempted to ignore that siren call. THis is a service trip, not a vacation, and while treating myself with nex cities wouldn't be a crime, the whole tenure of this trip is more reflective, more sedate. So spending the entiere weekend holed up in some corner fo the hotel writing would not be a bad thing either. Treating my trip to Romnain as a mini writing retreat would not be a bad thing.

Plus, it's just buggerly cold. Do I really want to be sight-seeing in 20 degree weather?

Right now:
Where I am located: Charles de Gaulle airport
What I want most: coffee and a croissant.

Wednesday, December 23

Travel Epiphanies

Posted by Shelly Holder

What I write and what I wnat to write are two very different things.

I came up with the idea for a book series a few days ago, and have been playing with it ever since. On the plane, I actually did something, and plotted out all four. I think that it would be worth pursueing... exxcept I know exactly what kind of book covers they would end up with-- all pink and yellow, with cutesy cursive font and some glitter starbursts by the title.

Nothing against the chick lit genre. I've read it, and enjoyed it. I don't even mind writing it, but I don't want to be known for it. In a competitive business like publishing, branding is everything. having one writer write several different genres under the same name is bad for business because it confuses the reader. When you pick up a Janet Evanovich, you know exactly what kind of book you are getting. Same with Tom Clancy, or Jane Austen, or Sylvia Plath. These names have been branded, recognizable for the type of book they offer. I've already picked out the associations I want for the name "Shelly Holder" and the books I plotted out aren't it.

I've said beofre that I would only publish under my own name, but now I wonder if that wasn't overly hasty. I want to write these books I mentioned. I would enjoy writing these books, and I would enjoy having readers, and I would enjoy haivng readers buy these books, and be excited about these books. And realistically, any sort of money that I could earn from writing would be great. To butcher Sherman Alexie's original line*: "I'm a literary author that writes mainstream to pay the rent."

So we'll see what happens. There's every possibilty that when I get a literary manuscript done, the publisher won't let me publish under "Shelly Holder" in the first place, so I guess I can only write, and figure all the rest out later.

So I should get back to plotting.

* Originally Sherman Alexie said "I'm a poet that writes fiction to pay the rent."

Right now:
Where I am located: Charles de Gaulle airport
What I'm listening to: Snow White playing in the duty free shop
What I want most: Food? Sleep? to get to Romania... finally??

Tuesday, December 22

Writing Travels

Posted by Shelly Holder

Quite a while back ago, and the very primordial soup stage of this blog, I wrote on how writing is the ultimate job because it is limitless in topic. Now I'm writing on how writing is limitless because it can travel anywhere.

I don't have to be tied to a physical location to be a writer. I don't have to be at a specific place to fulfill the expectations that come with being a "writer." I am still a writer if I am at home, I am still a writer if I am in a coffee shop, and I am still a writer if I am halfway across the world in a small Romanian town. And I can write at any of those, or more, places. I can still blog, I can still create, I can still edit, and I can still dream up a plot. I am not tied down; I am not limited.

As a writer, I am never limited. As a writer, the only boundaries that I have are the ones that I have created for myself. I am the only person responsible for my writing, and in that way I know that I am unlimited.

I can only be a writer. There is no other career so perfectly created to suit my temperament. As I said in my older post: Writing IS the ultimate job, because it is all others, and none at all.

Monday, December 21

Travelogues and Travel Writing

Posted by Shelly Holder

It's one of those genres that I never really understood and never really got into. I haven't read much, and I certainly only tangetially write it, mostly because I happen to be somewhere else when I write a diary-esqe entry.

Yet, I'm starting to have affection for the topic. It's a growing interest for me, and I think that if an opportunity to be a travel writer comes my way, I would certainly try it. It'd be ideal, really, with a life goal of going to every single country in the world. It'd certainly be interesting if I ever manage to rent a yacht so I can circumnavigate the globe. And it certainly adds depth to whatever kind of writing I'm doing-- from academic to non-fiction to fiction and poetry-- from sheer life experience and a background in descriptive language.

Many of the authors that I study in class, including a lot of the Victorians like Trollope, wrote books on their travels. Ann Radcliffe published a travelogue on her trip through Holland and Germany, and Dickens wrote about Italy and America.

Clearly then, don't I have a duty to continue in this worthy tradition?

(snicker)

Anyways, it's a thought that I've been batting around between two furry paws like string. Amusing, but light-hearted at the moment. I have a lot on my plate, and I should go ahead and check a few points off my to-do list before I add on anything else.

Sunday, December 20

Travel (Bad) Habits

Posted by Shelly Holder

I used to be the type of person that could be incredibly productive on a plane. I could breeze through three or four books, especially on the longer international flights. Then books got difficult, so I could watch three or four movies and a couple of TV episodes.

Now? Now, I hardly pack anything for in-flight entertainment, because I know I will conk out like a bear going into hibernation before we even lift off. There is no productivity, there is no reading, there is no writing, there is only sleep.

Lots and lots of sleep.

I'm not sure why this always happens now- is it because I am usually coming out right after mid-terms or finals to go home for the holidays? Or because I am now traveling on my own, so I have to think (read: worry) about logistics like catching the shuttle and checking in and getting the right gate and all other travel sundries?

Anyways, on this trip I have brought several books and a blank journal. I delude myself that I am going to write on the plane- even drank two whole sups of coffee in hopes that it would stave off the cloud of oblivion that rests on my horizon. But the cloud is wide, and deep, and darker in color than I expected, and all the caffeine in the world might not be enough to break up the sleep seratonin raindrops.

And perhaps I will dream of my manuscript.

Right now:
Where I am located: probably somewhere mid-Atlantic (I scheduled this post-- aren't I clever?)
What I want most: sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep. lol

Saturday, December 19

Advice that Travels

Posted by Shelly Holder

and not just because my plane was delayed, although that is a theme for the next blog post or two.

But situations like these are always the ones that yield unexpected results. Two guys standing behind probably formed a life-long friendship because of the three hour conversation that they started up. Even I, introverted as I sometimes can be, am tempted to talk to people because the frustration is high but the inhibitions are low. Like wanting to tell Melvin at the hotel desk "Thank you for being so kind all the time. I saw you three weeks ago when I was delayed overnight during Thanksgiving, and you were just as friendly back then." Or telling people where to go and how the hotel shuttles work, because I literally did this not three weeks ago. And striking up a conversation with a really nice woman while waiting for said hotel shuttles.

It was at this point when I walked away to board the big green and white bus that I realized that I had missed out on a valuable marketing opportunity. There we were, with nothing to talk about but friendly enough to be genuinely interested in one another, and I didn't have a business card with me.

I've thought about it a lot lately, especially since going to the conference. I am one writer in a million writers, who all have blogs and websites, so how am I going to stick out? By meeting me, and being first struck by my personality, and then following up with my writing. Ergo, I need business cards.

Something very simple, black on white, my name and my website. And all I would have to say would be, "It's been great chatting with you. If you are ever interested, I would love for you to visit my website. Have a safe flight."

Business cards. Because it's all about the marketing.

Right now:
Where I'm located: hotel room, Atlanta
What I want most: sleep. and clean clothes.

Friday, December 18

Oh the Travel-sty!

Posted by Shelly Holder

The horror! The shame! The travel-sty!

I WAS right- delays here in Richmond, delays in Paris likely.... so who knows where in the world Shelly Holder will end up tonight. Perhaps in Iceland like that last international trip I took (no joke, long story, that's another blog post.)

It's ridiculous to the point of amusing now. I have come to accept that any travel involving me, my person, my baggage, or any derivative in between is going to have something funky going on. Or multiple somethings. Or any combination thereof.

The Maternal Figure doesn't like me using the "c" word, but wouldn't it be funny if I wrote a story about a girl who was cursed with bad travel juju? =)

Well, one good thing came of my delay- I had time to read my email, and found a new writing opportunity in a campus email. Since I'm in absentia at the moment, I sent over a resume, and links to the blog and the website. Hopefully that does the trick until I can get back and fill out whatever sort of application there might be.

So until later, whenever and wherever that might be.

Right now:
Where I am located: gate terminal
What I want most: a decisive decision either way- I'm delayed, I'm not delayed. Which one is it?

Travel Title Challenge

Posted by Shelly Holder

Well, I am heading off into the wide blue yonder- or rather, white, for there are snowstorms galore between me and my destination of Romania. I might get there, I might not; but at least there's a story or two in between, right?

So for the next three weeks I will be in and out of internet availability, so the blog is going to sadly decrease in frequency. But I hope to catch a couple hours at an internet cafe sometime, so I will try to post then. I have my computer, so I will likely write up several posts beforehand, and then post them all at once. I am sorry that this will fill up your inboxes, but it's better than no posts at all.

No, don't answer that, my ego is fragile enough, thank you.

So I thought as a way to stimulate the mind, I would change myself during the next three weeks to somehow or another incorporate the word "travel" into the title of the post. The body doesn't have to do with travel (although it might), just the title.

Whaddya think? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

Well, I'll see you around, I guess, and in the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Right Now:
My location: in the middle of a dorm room packing hurricane
What I want most: sleep. And to be there- I hate getting there.

Wednesday, December 16

Summer Scheming

Posted by Shelly Holder

I just finished finals yesterday, and I'm already deep into a vortex of scheming for the summer. No rest for the academic, I guess.

I have been pawing at the idea of heading up to New York to participate in Columbia University's Creative Writing Master classes. They offer some really wicked courses, like "Writing Mean and Funny" and "Love Poetry as a Trojan Horse" and other provocative workshops, so that I'm positively drooling over the computer as I read.

But then I picked up the January issue of The Writer this week, and in those brilliantly tempting pages I found a creative writing summer program with West Michigan University... in PRAGUE. Titled "Scribbling on the Ether: The Changing Nature of Writing and Publication."

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I. WANT. IT!

Best yet? I found WMU offers a fellowship to this summer program that's tuition free. Housing, living, and travel not included of course, but anything to take a couple zeros off. I may have just landed a perfect and shiny job, but it's only minimum wage.

So I'm going to spend my vacation thinking and planning and scheming out the perfect application essay for this fellowship. It's pretty tough, actually, you have to get endorsed by a published author in your field. I'm not really sure who to approach on this one, but I hope I can figure something out before February.

Anyways, cross your fingers. Let's see if I can rock the world of some summer admission peoples.

Right now:
What I'm listening: "Fireflies" by Owl City
What I want most: That fellowship. And straight sailing (or flying) right into Prague.

Tuesday, December 15

Victory War Dance

Posted by Shelly Holder

I got The Job!!!!!!!!!!!!!


You can see the final essay that I turned in over at my website, as well. It must be due to all your help that I got the job, so thank you everyone, for the support and the comments!


Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Simon and Garfunkel "Cloudy"
What I want most: Nothing. I got the job!

Saturday, December 12

It's the New YellowPages

Posted by Shelly Holder

What to know something ridiculous that I have pining to do for about two months?

I want to write my own Wikipedia page.

As in, create my own Wikipedia page as a profile for me, Shelly Holder, the author... before I can claim that I am any such thing.

It's a sort of a vote of confidence in myself, the same way creating my own website before I had published or writing my back cover author blurbs were boosts to the ego. That I was taking myself seriously, and that I would allow myself not only to dream but to looked forward to a future I fully planned on having. It was powerful stuff, although I didn't recognize either that way originally. It's only lately that I've appreciated both steps for what they have come to mean.

Some day soon, I'm just going to give into the narcissism and go and create the darn thing. Just because it REALLY amuses me.

But until then, it's fun to plan out what I'm going to say...

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Duffy "Stepping Stone"
What I want most: sleeeeeeeeeeeep!

Friday, December 4

The Development of a Writer

Posted by Shelly Holder

I am suffering from a slight case of the writing doldrums. It's not fatal, I've been assured, but it has the potential to knock me out of commission if I don't combat it with a good dose of Vitamin C... c for confidence.

I wrote the other day glancingly of my submission that was my first submission. I'm still in shock over that discovery, and have been racking my mind for the cause of my illusionary feelings of success. I figured out this check-list of literary magazines on campus:

Winged Nation: X
The Review: X
The Gallery: n/a
Beacon: n/a
Lips: n/a

So I have a 2/5 success rate of sending out materials, but still. It was my first submission outside of campus (other than vanity publications; see website bio for more details). Why? Tell me, why?

My first story I ever wrote was a class assignment in 2nd grade about a magical cat. It currently languishes. Certainly I would have to update it, but I could use it for a children's story at least. Why haven't I?

The next story I wrote was in the 7th grade. A substantial lapse of years, but ones well spent I suppose, since the sophistication of my writing (rather obviously) increased. Why can't I use that one?

The next was a few weeks later, another assignment for my honors science class (again, see website bio), It too has been lost to the ravages of time. A third story that year for English, then two more quickly followed, all of which were published in the English department magazine to my combined horror (now) and pride (then.) Those too could be resurrected in some way. In fact, one of them I consider my most descriptively evocative of all my prose. Why haven't I used it?

After that, my memory becomes fuzzy, and I highly doubt that anything much was written. I went through a novel phase, and have the many versions of several opening chapters to each of these manuscripts, but nothing was completed.

I made a foolish promise to myself, declaring that I would be published before my Xth birthday. The 16th came and went, without even an attempt, and the 17th hastily researched and submitted before the midnight "deadline." Thus began the rise of the vanity publications, which occupied the next 6-8 months before the disastrous conclusion (once more, refer to the website bio).

Then came college, and a singular poem published freshman year, and a rejection sophomore year. A short story contest. Several poems over teh summer, another abandoned novel attempt.

It surprises me sometimes, how much I consider myself a writer, and yet how little I actually have to show for the years spent thinking this way. I don't want to spend another semester throwing out half-heartened attempts. If I am a writer, then I need to be a writer. Otherwise I will end up 60 years old, wondering where the time went and having nothing to show for it all except the scattered pages of a few chapters. If I end up 60 years and still unpublished, but with 20 trunk novels and reams of rejected poetry, that's another thing. I would still be a writer, even if I was unpublished. The age is not the issue, but the attempt.

I am a writer.

Right now:
What I am listening to: nothing.
What I want most: breakfast. or a shower.

Thursday, December 3

The Cultural Atmosphere of an Author

Posted by Shelly Holder

How does one, I wonder, achieve the cultural status of an author? I don't mean just my name listed on the NYT bestsellers list, although that would be an amazing achievement of its own. But how does one gain the reputation of being literary?

I am fascinated by the idea of the french salons, run by elegant ladies and populated with eccentric characters and brilliant thinkers. But these have passed away by several centuries.

I am fascinated by the idea of Bohemia, and the establishment of city quarters like Montparnasse, or Soho, or Greenwich Village. These all exist, but some of the "the glow and the glamour" has washed away with time. I read a very mournful elegy several years ago on the death of the American bohemian lifestyle, and I positively cried in sympathy.

I am fascinated by the idea of literary establishments- the clubs, and famous writer's groups that some authors establish, like ... well, see, even I can't even remember which ones I mean, and Google has no clue what I'm talking about.

So how does one recreate this sort of atmosphere in modern America? How does one achieve that sort of reputation beyond the words on a page and into the realm of personality? When writing is not an occupation or an obsession or a career or a hobby, but a lifestyle?

Well, I certainly don't have any answers from my two years of pondering, and I suspect that it will take me more than twenty to achieve anything definitive.

But, then, one never knows.

Right now:
What I'm listening to: n/a. The roomie, Long-Suffering One, is asleep. Shhhhhhhhh....
What I want most: To start Flesh Circus, the newest Lilith Saintcrow that I just bought

Wednesday, December 2

Elegy to Old Friends

Posted by Shelly Holder



My pens are running out.

It's ridiculous really- most of these are very old (for pens, and ones belonging to a writer), and well past due for that running out point, but I feel that I am losing a few old and beloved friends. Especially during finals time, when the presence of a familiar object is comforting, I feel that trying to adjust to other pens is an effort, more than the excitement of new relationships that back-to-school shopping brings. At this point, there's no desire to branch out, no desire to experiment or have a fling, just for the heck of it. It's the continuity, the commitment that you look for to get you through these tough two weeks, and your most loyal friends are those favored pens.

But mine are dying out.

So goodbye, my beloved bright orange highlighter with the little flaggies. I will never forget our late nights with cultural anthropology.

And goodbye, loyal Z4+ roller-ball. I can truly say you made Life Writing bearable for me.

Farwell, sassy purple fountain pen. I did not know you long, but I can say that you had a lasting impression on my work.

And Mr. Yellow Brite highlighter-- you truly were my most efficient right hand man for all the various thing that I accomplish. I could not have checked them off my To-Do list without you.

You all will be very much missed!!!


(lolz)

Right now:
What I'm listening to: Pandora Radio- Christmas songs!
What I want most: Finals to be over, and replacement pens!

Tuesday, December 1

Wells...

Posted by Shelly Holder

Wells, I submitted a piece into a flash fiction contest today. Or rather, about 2.5 seconds ago. I think that it was my first piece that I have submitted to a contest that was not 1) a vanity press that I got suckered into (see website for more details) or 2) a campus contest. I'm proud but also slightly astounded that it's taken me this long to get to that point in my career.

Anyways, not focusing on the negatives. Focusing on the fact that I had written a tight little flash fiction piece about a month ago that I could submit today, on the last day of the contest, in the midst of finals. That teaches me that preparedness is a GOOD. THING. TO. HAVE.

I think the results come out in February or sometime similar in spring and far away. Cross your fingers that I win so I can re-coup the reading fee. (Gag me. I have to PAY to write? Isn't that counter-intuitive. But that's another blog post.)

Also, Columbia released it's summer 2010 list of creative writing classes. Oh nom nom nom.

Right now:
What I'm listening to: Nada at cette moment. (Yes, that was a combination French and Spanish phrase. Get over it.)
What I want most: More details on the Master Classes at Columbia. Whee!!!

Friday, November 27

Comments Box

Posted by Shelly Holder

Hello!

So the other day I opened up the blog to questions about me the author and my writing habits, etc. Not a lot of comments came in (sad face) but flightsofwhimsy (aka, MlleDiabolique) asked:

Do you base your characters off of people that you've met, television characters, other novel characters, somewhere else, or an amalgamation of these all? Do you find that you tend to be autobiographical in your fiction?

So my characters do tend to be an amalgamation of all sorts of inspiring quirks and personality traits from many many sources, but every once in a while there will be a specific person or literary character that I just have to play with. I mention this because right now there is a fellow student that I would love to base a character on, and I'm trying to pull off as much direct observation as I can without crossing into the land of creepy Stalker McStalkerpants. Television characters, not so much, but literary figures all the time (although usually it's along the lines of so-and-so does this, but what if they are actually X-Y-and-Z, what does that make them do now?)

I find that I am extremely autobiographical, in fiction, in poetry, in everything. I didn't realize how prevalent this was until this semester's creative writing course (Life Writing, which is based on all forms of autobipgraphical writing, from letters and journals to creative non-ficition and memoir and everything in between) and I found certain subjects creeping in where I had no intention of placing them.

There's also a quote that I really enjoy, and I cannot remember who said it, that "All writing, in some way, is emotionally autobiographical." I could not agree with this more. Distilled down, why would writers write, if not to express something that they feel important? That "something" will have a basis in some reality- and that is always autobiographical. The details don't matter. The actors and the setting and the period don't matter. All of those considerations can be changed without detracting from the essence, the truth of the occurance, and without detracting from the truth that it holds in writing.

Sometimes, I think we get too caught up in verifiable facts, and miss the point that the author is trying to make. It doens't matter if it IS true, but does it ACT true? Does it resonate within you, the reader, and does it pull at a little corner of your heart or whisper through your mind late at night? THAT is truth. Not something that can be listed on a Wikipedia bio page.

But that's another blog post.

Right Now:
What I want most: a nap, or leftovers? Decisions, decisions...
What I'm listening to: n/a

Thursday, November 26

Holidaze!

Posted by Shelly Holder

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I'm taking the day off to spend time with my family, so I think that you should also get off the computer and get into the living room or kitchen! No hiding away today- there's too much food to eat, at least.

There will still be a Wordsworth Station post today, if you NEED your writing fix, and my Tumblr post if you need something interesting. So enjoy!

And happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 24

It's Official

Posted by Shelly Holder

Well, I turned in that application today-- the one to the Writing Resource Center here at campus that I asked for help on the other day. Of course, I didn't turn in the essay that I asked for help on. It pretty much got trashed in its entirity. I think I salvaged about 3 sentences. But that's ok, since what I turned in was so much stronger.

It was interesting, to get back all the reviews that I did, from here and from Fanstory.com, and be able to see what people thought of my essay. The main criticism that I recieved was that I wrote the essay as a personal essay, instead of a formal application to a job. The fact that someone (or several someones) was able to pull that out of the chaos and be able to recognize that as a weakness was not only humbling but helpful. The new approach gained from that mindset enabled me to fly through the second draft, and craft a piece that I can feel proud of. I was really satisfied by the end result, and I think now I have a better chance of being accepted.

Anyways, thanks for all the help, and cross your fingers that I get the job!

Right now:
What I want most: a nap or a snack, I can't decide which...
What I'm listening to: ticking clock, tapping keys, chairs creaking and small slurps of chai-- all the sounds of hard work and studying

Monday, November 23

The Vortex

Posted by Shelly Holder

I debated between calling it the Vortex and the Black Hole, but since I've been saying the Vortex around my roomie The Long-Suffering One, the name kinda stuck.

Oh, what am I talking about?

I'm talking about FanStory.com, my newest obsession and writerly procrastination tool.

It's a web service (yes, unfortunately you have to pay for it; will discuss this later in the post) that provides a site to post your written works (of any kind) and get reviews on what you've posted by other members.

It's a fairly easy interface to use, although the certificate system is a little confusing. I still don't really understand that myself, so I won't confuse you with my half-assertions.

The basic premise is that you earn "money" by reviewing other members' work, for such-and-such value (based on rankings among other posted works of a similar genre) and then use that money to promote your own work (by buying advertisements, and buying a higher ranking for greater visibility.)

I've used Fanstory.com for about 3 weeks now, and I do like it. I feel that it was false advertisement for the member fee- they say it's 2.90 a month, but you have to pay in a lump sum fee of $67 for two years. So I don't like that of course- I took the option of a month membership for 6.95. Which is a little exorbitant, so I'm not sure that I'll renew next month, but we'll see.

The biggest benefit is the forced review of other members. Being able to to recognize the issues in other's work allows to you to be a better self-editor as well. Of course, emotional distance is always the kicker, but getting some of the experience on fanstory.com does help.

So in conclusion, I would say at least go and check out the website. There's a one week free trial (that I didn't take advantage of, unfortunately) that you can use to poke around a while.

And if you need a reason to avoid work without feeling guilty, well then....

=)

Right now:
What I want most: food!!!
What I'm listening to: n/a

Friday, November 20

The Way It Goes

Posted by Shelly Holder

I found this delightful summary on Ilona Andrews' blog, and thought I'd re-post it for the general enjoyment. Also, because I need to spend my time doing other things, like homework. (*sigh*)

Anyways.

This is how the book idea works (only for me, take out a couple of zeros, or substitute "words" for "seconds")

The Progress of a Book:
10,000 words – New idea! Shiny, shiny, shiny!

15,000 words – So what exactly happens next?

20,000 words – Maybe this idea isn’t as good as I thought.

25,000 words – This idea sucks.

30,000 words – Oh God. I hate it, I’m stuck, I shouldn’t have written this in the first place. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

35,000 words – Maybe this wasn’t so bad.

40,000 words – I could work with that.

45,000 words – It’s lagging. I know it’s lagging. I need to definitely fix the first chapter.

50,000 words – Ugh

55,000 words – Can I just quit now?

60,000 words – God, I hate this stupid story. It’s pure crap. It’s the worst thing that I’ve ever written. Why won’t it just die and rot in the gutter in hell?

65,000 words – Have to finish, just write and don’t think about how much it sucks…

70,000 words – Just get it to finale, just get it to finale, I can do this.

75,000 words – Actually, you know it’s not too awful bad…

80,000 words – It won’t fit. There is no way I can pack this conclusion into 15 K.

85,000 words– So help me God.

90,000 words – Die, book, die!

95,000 words – I am done, I’m done, oh saints, I am done.

2 weeks later: New idea! Shiny, shiny, shiny….


Argh, that's so how I feel right now! I have a great idea floating in my head, and I'll think about it for 10 days or some, and I discard it because I've convinced myself it's all crap, without ever writing a word. I really regret that, and I'm trying to stop this awful habit of mine. Trying to write done everything, to just get it down.

So that during summer when I have lots of time to revisit shiny things, I can.

Thursday, November 19

The Brain is On Hiatus

Posted by Shelly Holder

So I'm opening it up for questions today. Feel free to leave a question in the comments section about anything writer-ly. Feel free to leave anything on your mind here for me; questions, comments, compliments, even complaints. Please only serious and/or constructive comments because this will be posted to my blog with replies as in the order received.

Please, don’t be afraid to say SOMETHING. I won’t know of your existence otherwise. I would like to know as many of the people that are following me to find other like-minds.

Thanks!

Wednesday, November 18

It's Not Worth It

Posted by Shelly Holder

I want to write.

I really, really want to write.

I have scraps of papers and ideas floating around everywhere, on my phone, post-its, scratch paper, corners I tore off, journals, and different journals, envelopes, napkins, not to mention my computer and THREE blogs. Yes three. (Four, if you count LJ, which I don't.) How did I think that was ok? Argh. Too much. I need to go full-time freelance. I should just up and quit and not look back, because school isn't conducive to writing anyways.

Screw college. I wanna be a professional writer.

Tuesday, November 17

I Need Your Help

Posted by Shelly Holder

So I have an application deadline coming up soon for a writing position here on campus. And I would like people to look over my application essay. The requirements are 300-500 words, on this topic:
Explain why you would like to be a writing and oral communication consultant. Indicate any related experience you’ve had and/or qualifications for the position, including relevant class work. Also include any other information you think we should know as we consider your application.

And so, PLEASE tell me what you think. I have been applying to this job for my third time in a row now, and I really really want to actually get it.

*****
I love words. Really, really love words.

I love playing with words, rearranging word order or debating between minute word differences. Words are everything to me- more than a drug, more than a god, more than anything. And for many years, I've been on one side of the pen, but I believe that to become a better writer I need to understand how to effectively edit as well.
I believe that I do have a natural sort of talent at identifying problem areas, but I would like to be officially trained, and more desirable still, I would like to learn solutions. Instinct is fine, but I would like to have the confidence and experience of formal education behind me.
I would also like to work with academic and expository writing. With my background in fiction and poetry, it's easy to forget that critical papers require just as much creativity. I do realize this, and would like to get involved in this other side of the creative process. Writing is not, as I sometimes think, limited to the profession of publishing, but is a product of the entire world around us-- from the casual to the intensely formal. It is impossible, and harmful, to ignore something that is as vital as academic or analytical writing.
I would love to be a part of that creative process for a student here on campus. The ability to collaborate artistically is one of the most beneficial and enjoyable pursuits available, and I have determined to spend my life in that sort of environment. Sometimes, however, the campus atmosphere is detrimental to that sort of mindset-- encouraging individual excellence to a point of self-sufficiency that is exclusionist in scope. I believe that collaborative projects can be broader in vision and more successful in implementation than projects undertaken by a single individual. Truly extraordinary papers are created by the same sort of cohesive effort.
I have seen the benefits of collaborative work in the creative writing peer review group critINK that I founded and directed this past semester. The atmosphere of the meetings are wonderful, and all works have truly improved, not only for the writer, but also for the reviewer. Sometimes the only way to learn is to put aside your own work and help someone else. I know that personally I have benefited more from my role as the director of this group that I ever expected, or could ever expect as a member, because in my quest to help others, I have incidentally helped myself. I am more knowledgeable because of others, and I am more well-versed because of others.
In short, I have applied before to this position, and I have been rejected before. But I do not consider this a failure. Each time I am forced into a new position that helps me grow as a writer. And each application is another step towards a goal that I have determined is my destiny.

Monday, November 16

Follow the Blood-Red Brick Road

Posted by Shelly Holder

So I was reading Bibliobitch, the book blog from Bitch Magazine and found this delightfully amusing video from a recent article.



Ahahahaha, oh my.

I really wish that a lot of the urban fantasy genre could take themselves a little more lightly, whether reader or writer. The recent controversy over Twilight has sent everyone to one extreme or the other, and in the process I think that we have lost a lot of humor that the genre originally intends. As Kelsey Wallace says, "I also love that, while she is a fantasy writer herself, Stiefvater doesn't seem to be taking the genre too seriously (you know, since it's supposed to be fun)."

Well, that's all for today. I have this really exciting writing assignment coming up today in class for Life Writing, and I want to sit and contemplate the fun coming. Like, Vampires, Werewolves, and Kraken (oh my) fun.

=)

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Psychobabble by Frou Frou
What I want most: coffeeeeeeeeeeeeee x_x

Friday, November 13

First Interview!

Posted by Shelly Holder

One of things that the Fatherly Voice of Guidance best drilled into my head was "You have to learn to speak to people."

I hate speaking to people. I really do. I'd rather watch from shadows and behind doorways then get up and speak to people. When you speak to people, you have to be thinking of too many things at once to be able to concentrate on the picture of personality that you're drawing- you have to listen to what they are saying, you have to think of what you are going to say next, you have to respond to what they are saying superficially but read what they AREN'T saying, you have to appear pleasant and agreeable but in charge, while trying not to lose yourself in the public persona you are forced to adopt. All of this, at once, and most of it subconsciously.

I really hate speaking to people.

But the other day I did it.

I've slowly been forced over the past few months since summer to step into a more public role through my work and through the clubs that I run, so it's getting more familiar if not more agreeable nor more comfortable. I've tried to adapt a policy that my creative writing professor Dr. A advocates, which is speaking to all authors at a book signing. The college Barnes and Nobles does a good job of bringing in local authors on a regular basis, and I've spoken to a few. Even bought a few books from them. But it's all been on a personal level.

The other day, I saw another author set up at the book signing table, and I thought that it would be fun to interview her. Just a random thought, something that I thought would be a good lark... but normally, I hate interviewing people. I'm not interested in journalism, and the idea of taking on journalism via an interview usually makes me cringe. Me, speak to someone? Ewwwwwwwwww.

And yet, I thought about it. I wiggled around in my seat. I stood up, sat back down. I looked like a spastic chicken to all other patrons of the Barnes and Nobles cafe. And I really really wanted to interview this lady.

And imagine my delight when I realized "Oh, I can interview her for my blog." Then my greater delight when I realized that interviewing her for critINK, as the director of critINK, was even greater in the sense of legitimacy.

I think I was taken over by an alien sent undercover by an intergalactic newspaper to investigate the cultural phenomena of earthlings that scribble on bounds stacks of paper that have funny black symbols all over the pages. Surely. Because I got up, walked over to her table, and asked "May I interview you?" without any more hesitation.

Yes, I was temporarily brain-washed by human-loving journalistic aliens for the newest yellow newspaper in the Milky Way.

Because I really hate talking to people.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Pandora.com (It's my newest obession!) set to Frou Frou station, and playing Kate Havnevik
What I want most: food! om nom nom, lunchtime

******
Interview with Maria Hudgins

Thanks to Ms. Hudgins, who took the time to talk to me, and who answered all my stumbling questions! Check out her book, Death of a Lovable Geek, first in the Dotsy Lamb mystery series, at Barnes and Nobles.

SH: So I guess I should start off with what did you major in during school? Was it English?
MH: No, actually, I was a biology major. I then taught science until I retired.
SH: When did you start writing?
MH: I didn't really start until after I retired, and that's been the majority of when I wrote.
SH: What do you like to write?
MH: I like mystery, both to read and write.
SH: Is the novel your main form of writing, or have you done short stories as well?
MH: A few short stories. I've had one published in Alfred Hitchcock magazine.
SH: Tell me a little about your book.
MH: Well, it's a mystery of course. The main character is a history teacher from Virginia that travels to different countries in each of the books (the second book, Death of an Obnoxious Tourist, is out in stores, and the third in the series will be released later this year).
SH: What sort of advice would you give to students of critINK?
MH: Practice. Don't give up. Contact other writers, online or in person, and get to know them. First know what you want to write, and then find others with the same interests.
SH: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MH: It's more important to tell a good story than to be formally trained. I never was. And like Elmore Leonard said, cut it out if readers tend to skip it.

Thanks again to Maria Hudgins, and good luck!

Thursday, November 12

Put the "Fun" in Functional Procrastination

Posted by Shelly Holder

Oh, writing contests.

They abound, they really do, and sometimes in ways that I wouldn't expect. Fashion blogs. Photography descriptions. Organizers.

My latest foray into writing contests is for a $40 gift card to Knock Knock, the irreverent world of professional "organization." I get all the necessities for college there, and I really hope I win.

So for your enjoyment (because I have other things that I need to waste my time on), my entry:




In the world of college, everything is put off by at least one day, if not by one week. Two, if possible, but reading always falls by the way side. Then, one day, finals start looming, and the poor college student is forced to rush frantically to the syllabus. Papers fly, pencils break, and general chaos ensue. With the Timing Task clips, I can organize the random stacks into cohesive units.

And then be able to procrastinate, perhaps, just one more day.



Right now:
What I'm listening to: Imogen Heap, "The Moment I Said It"
What I want most: A turn of the hourglass or two...

Wednesday, November 11

Mes Enfants

Posted by Shelly Holder

Good evening, mes enfants.

I feel quite aged today, as if appellation "my children" really did suit my mood and my personality. Perhaps the Witch of the Waste's spell infected me too, and not just Sophie. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, I watched Howl's Moving Castle last night as I was mending my Beledi skirt.)

Well, today is the ROD deadline again, and here is my submission. It was over the word count, but this really was the most distilled that I thought I could make it without sacrificing character and background, so I posted it anyways. We'll see if it qualifies.

*****
In response to this image:



It wasn't that she failed, exactly. Not quite. It was just... well really, it was just an aberration...
Oh, bloody bells, she had failed. A simple transfiguration spell, and she failed. Ended up a bullet shaped ornament, as useful as modern art and about as pretty. Not anywhere near the crystal ball she was aiming for.
"Jan! Jan, what happened? You ok?"
She didn't bother replying to her brother. It was his idiotic idea that got them here in the first place anyways.
"I knew this was stupid! Just like all your idiotic schemes! I swear, Jan..."
All for such a simple trick. Just a few gigs, a few well-paying customers--
"Hey! Answer me!"
--just turn into a crystal ball, utter a few mumbo-jumbo nonsense phrases to any fool fool enough to go to a fortune teller, and...
"Jan! I'll tell the Lord Wizard!"
Dammit, they could have been rich.
"January, I'm leaving-- NOW!"
"Aw, shuddup. I'm working on it," she finally answered. "Leave me alone."
"No! I told you we should have gone to him on this one! You never listen to me," Tommy said.
"Such a momma's boy, always running and crying to the Lord Wizard, and yet we always do just fine on our own."
"Yeah? Can you get back on your own?"
She hesitated.
"That's it-- I'm going to go get him," Tommy said.
"No!"
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Yes, petite, why not?" another voice added.
Jan stared in horror at the Lord Wizard advanced into the room, amusement and resignation flickering across his thin face.
"Oh, mes enfants, what mischief have you been up to now?"

*****

Right now:
What I'm listening to: Sleepless by Kate Havnevik
What I want most: ...?

Wednesday, November 4

The Goal

Posted by Shelly Holder

I have decided that sometime in the future, I will take a year off and read a book a day. One year, 365 books, one epic adventure.

I vote yes.


Right now:
What I'm listening to: sone Bollywood song
What i want most: a year off school anyone? heh

Tuesday, November 3

In the Result of Zombies

Posted by Shelly Holder

So several weeks ago I entered a contest here on campus that asked for reworkings of classics in literature to include zombies, in the style of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Well, I didn't win, but I was included in the online magazine, so that's something I guess. I'm not quite excited about it all, since I'm not sure the basis of being included in the emag, whether it was everyone who entered, or just specific entries, but I'll post it up anyways. *

* I really shouldn't be so disparaging. I really did like my entry, and I think I attained my goal of seamlessly inserting the zombie references in the same voice as Dickens originally had.

Please enjoy!


Book One: Recalled to Life
Chapter One: A New Period

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, it was a modern era, it was a primeval era, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way, or would, if we were not already living in a sort of Hell- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its nosiest and most ravenous authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the supernatural degree of comparison only.

There were a king with a half-rotten jaw and a queen with a plain grey face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a half-rotten jaw and a queen with a fair grey face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than Cv1 positive serum to the lords of the State that things in general were settled for eternity.

It was the year of Our Lord three thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Supernatural revelations appeared in England at that favored period, as at this. Mrs. Southcott had recently attained her five-and-twentieth blessed deathday, of whom a prophetic private in the TrueLife Guards had heralded the supernatural occurrence by announcing that arrangements were made for the literal swallowing up of all of London and Westminster. Even the Cock-lane heralds had been crying out warnings of this new sort of doomsday only a round dozen of years, after abandoning a tradition of preaching the coming of the Christian apocalypse, as the street-corner crazies this very year past (supernaturally deficient in originality) finally abandoned theirs. More dire messages in the mortal order of events had lately come to the English Crown and People, from an isolated bunker of British subjects besieged in America: which, strange to relate, have proved more disturbing to the human race than any other horrific communications yet related.

France, less favoured on the whole as to matters supernatural than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness into Hell, making false vaccinations and actually infecting themselves. Under the guidance of her Conservative politicians, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a mid-transformation Cv1 youth to have his hands cut off, his poisoned heart torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not submitted to a group of dirty doctors who had captured him for clinical trials of a new antidote, which knowingly contained poison of some fifty or sixty milligrams. It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were already growing trees, when that double sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into stakes, to make a certain stacked configuration, circular in form, cruel in purpose, terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there were sheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespeckled with rustic mire, sniffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work dead silently, and no one heard them as they about with shuffled tread: the rather, forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that they were alive, was to be re-animated and traitorous.

In England, there was scarcely any amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring infections done by transformed men, and highway feedings, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publically cautioned not to go out of town without applying for armed security; the unnatural being in the dark was a disguised City tradesman in the light, and, being recognized and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he had infected in his alter-ego of "a creature," gallantly shot the tradesman through the head and rode away; the mail was waylaid by seven zombies, and the guard shot three dead (or rather, unconscious for a time, for in his anxiety he forgot that no gun will permanently hinder those creatures unless aimed directly at the head), and then got torn apart by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition": after which the mail was robbed in peace, a freedom from violence but not necessarily from infection; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one zombie, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue, proving the Lord Mayor to be a vile zombie himself; prisoners in London Cv1 think tanks fought bloody battles with the scientists, and the TrueLife Guards fired in among them, with rounds of tranquilizers and combustibles; the undead snipped off diamond and garlic crosses from the necks of noble lords, foolish enough to think that protection from one race of supernaturals applies to all the rest; the Creature Intelligence Agency went into St. Giles's, to search for a contraband human meat ring and the pro-reanimation mob fired on the CIA, and the CIA fired on the mob; and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in contrast requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous offenders; now hanging a man on Saturday who had been bitten only on Tuesday; now, burning the trigger hands of vigilantes gone too far by the dozen, and now burning pro-creature pamphlets; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious feeder, and tomorrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of a sixpence "cure."

All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year three thousand seven hundred and seventy-five. Environed by them, while the Woodman and the Farmer worked unheeded, those two of the half-rotten jaws, and those other two of the plain and fair faces, trod with spirit enough, and carried their undead rights with a high hand. Thus did the year three thousand seven hundred and seventy-five conduct their Unworldliness, and myriads of unnatural creatures- the creatures of this chronicle among the rest- along the roads that lay before them.

*****

If you are interested, you can compare to the original chapter here.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: coffeeshop music
What I want most: Coffeeeeeeeeee (Braaaaaainsssssssss)

Sunday, November 1

NANOWRIMO!

Posted by Shelly Holder

Nanowrimo starts today!

What are you doing still reading this? You should be writing over at Nanowrimo!

I'll see you there!

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "Feel Good" by Gorillaz
What I want most: to finish Nanowrimo!

Friday, October 30

Random....

Posted by Shelly Holder

Something Random so I can say I posted today.




From InkyGirl

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Red Friday
What I want most: teh?

Friday, October 16

Pre-Conference

Posted by Shelly Holder

I like hotels the same way I like big cities.

It always comforts me to be in the pulse of a city, because even at night, when you look outside the window, you see at least one hundred other windows lit up from within. In a city, there is always a light on.
Hotels operate on the same principle, although here I deviate from the light cliché. In a hotel, there is always some noise surrounding you. Usuaaly a shower, sometimes the elevator, or occasionally the vending machine, interspersed with a toilet flushing or someone climbing the stairs. A hotel always has activity of some sort, even if it is a quiet sleepy sort. Someone arriving late, someone leaving early, the two actions merging into one pre-dawn rhythm. Someone just turning in for the night, or someone heading out for the day. Always full of activity.
MlleDiabolique and I are the hotel, the night before my writing conference. She is staying behind to do homework, as I venture off into the world of workshops and panel discussions. My brain is whirling with insecurities, but the familiar patterns of a hotel are lulling me to sleep. I have a big weekend coming up, so goodnight all.

Right now:
What I'm listening to: Hotel Sounds
What I want most: ... who knows?

Thursday, October 15

Not-So Comic Disaster

Posted by Shelly Holder

I've been trying to be really good this week about writing, but it just ain't happening. I missed the ROD deadline last night because I was catching up on the blog and because I've got four deadlines on Saturday.

That's right. Four deadlines.

Even being decently prepared in advance doesn't stop me from wanting to break something (preferably not my computor, but sometimes it comes close.)

I had the ROD entry written. It was all done at least two days in advance. But when the midnight deadline rolled around, I was off doing homework.

It irritates all rationalization right out of me. I've been ranting about it all day to my roomie the Long Suffering One.

Anyways, enjoy my poor neglected entry. Apparently I like giving away free snippets of work.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: n/a
What I want most: ugh...

******

When I regained consciousness, my first thought was Oh shit, I hope I got permission this time.

Rever would NOT be happy with me when I got back to headquarters. This was my third messy kill of the month, and the clean-up crews were starting to raise their fees. Again. Add on top of that the whole possibly unauthorized thing...

He's gonna kill me.

I surveyed the damaged room, and winced at the bullet-ridden door. I changed my mind. Rever might yell about replacement costs, but Krachen would kill me for ineptitude. The holes were nowhere near any sort of pattern.

And the green sludge. Oh, dear Lady, the green sludge. It was everywhere- which meant that I went for the head last night, instead of the heart like I should have done. Grippers exploded with a head shot into sticky green Gripper goo; a heart shot made them simply vaporize. Unfortunately, a heart shot also meant finding a 5 inch target somewhere within massive Gripper rolls, and all while avoiding the toxic, tar-like secretions...

Not that many people actually cared about abandoned coat factories, or what might happen within, but even they would report 35+ bullet holes and green slime to the police. Or other... protective agencies.

Yeah, Krachen was gonna kill me. He's kinda paranoid about being noticed by civilians, but he's nuclear about getting noticed by the rival schoolyard bully. I guess he was right about me not being suited for field agent. Shit, I hope he doesn't demote me. I hate paperwork.

Tuesday, October 13

Diabolical and Twisted and I Love It

Posted by Shelly Holder

Anyone watch Castle yesterday? If not, you're missing out- hardcore.

*Spoiler Alert*

First of all, let me say that I love Castle. Second, let me say I love Castle. Third, I love Castle. If I could write a TV series, I would hope that it would be Castle-esqe. Not Bones, not Criminal Minds, nor CSI, not even House (alright, maybe House) but Castle. I love that the writers play with the nature of story-telling, plot, and narrative within every episode. Every episode, Castle suggests the "story" behind the murder... usually it's wrong, but he suggests a story that "fits" the crime.

I love that interplay, but it's too complicated in my head to explain it all. So back to my main point.

This weekend I bought Heat Wave. Sound familiar? It should- it's the book Rick Castle "wrote" about Detective Beckett/Nikki Heat in the TV series. ABC has published the (fictional) book that the (fictional) character (fictionally) wrote. But it's a real book, that was truly written, that was truly published and released in September, that I trully read over the weekend, that was even ranked #4 (!!!!) for Barnes and Nobles. Is anyone else spinning from that layering?

I love it. I think the advertising guy who came up with this scheme is truly diabolical. What better way to draw attention to the show? Readers pick it up, and go to find the show. Followers of the series buy the book, because they just have to see if the writing is that good (it wasn't, but I'll come back to that later). And all around, there is creation of a fictional world that translates into reality through the purchase of this book, like some of the Harry Potter or LOTR memorablia. It's material goods from a fictional world made into reality, which makes those goods not fictional, but suddenly real... And the fact that the author bio is about fictional character Rick Castle? The author photo is of actor Nathan Fillion? and the author reviews by real authors refer to the previous Derek Storm series (which are truly fictional, as in ABC hasn't published them) and the famous author Rick Castle and his publishing career as all absolutely established historical realities? Oh, yeah. Twisted.

Anyways, the writing wasn't that great. It was obviously a rush job, and the ghostwriter either was 1) a TV series writer, who couldn't quite make the jump to the novel form, or 2) some other writer who hadn't mastered some of the basics. There were many redeemable one-liners, which is why I suspect that a series writer switched to the novel format (they were classic and characteristic for the show), but many technical aspects that were just... mangled. We get an in-depth flash-back on Nikki Heat's mother's murder within the first ten pages, and POV jumps around sporadically, even within the same sentence. Third person POV is still usually limited to the perspective of one single character, or no characters at all. Check your vocabulary, my children, that why dictionaries were created (Thank you, Samuel Johnson, even if you never claimed credit.) And the plot followed along the plot of the show- clownish but intelligent crime journalist tags along with long suffering attractive detective- which would have been fine, except I expected Castle's book to be a little more removed from the show. (Lookit me. I imagined what the ficitonal book of fictional author Rick Castle would be, and when said fictional book was then published, it wasn't what I imagined it to be. Oy vei.)

What surprised me was the inclusion of romance and a sex scene. Yes, sex is now "mainstream," but the show is not heavily romantic, in the same sense that Bones is not heavily romantic. There's flirting, and a few mushy scenes, but the show's popularity is based on the eternal question "When are they going to get together?" If that question is answered, there is no longer a show. When the rumor about Bones and Booth finally getting together went around last season, I was disappointed, because there was no more appeal in watching the show. There would be messy break-ups, and reunions, and dating other people, and jealously, and it would descend into nothing more than a soap opera. Same with Castle. If they ever do actually act on the romantic feelings so carefully controlled, I won't watch it anymore.

Ranting, sorry. Anyways, point is, I got my answer tonight. The latest episode revolves around Heat Wave- yes, the one published. It revolves around the actual plot line of the book, and I think I benefited from having read the book before I watched last night's episode, although it's not necessary in any way. The show was great- Beckett teasing Castle about not reading the book, and secondary characters mentioning the sex scene and Castle teasing Beckett about that... it was really great.

So in summary! The book was ok, but I'm glad I bought it, for the sheer whimsical value and for the connection to the latest episode. I also think it was a FANTASTIC marketing/advertising scheme, and including the book in the plot was diabolical. So I forgive the ghostwriter for the results- it was more important to get the book out before the season progressed too far.

I just wish someone had copy-edited better.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "Nothing" by Red Friday (free download of cd here!)
What I want most: more Fall break! (school starts tomorrow, boo)

Monday, October 12

Obsession

Posted by Shelly Holder

I'm obsessed with names.

Sometimes, people will write or use "obsessed" in a way that means fixated on, but not necessarily in a detrimental manner.

I am obsessed with names.

So when it comes to creating character names... I'm a tad beyond obsessive. (My poor CritPartner! She has to put up with my lengthy rants on the subject)

So when Jocelynn Drake was a Dame for the Day over at Deadline Dames, my head was nodding so emphatically that a headache was a serious risk factor.

I don't know where the whole thing came from. Maybe a slightly complicated relationship with my own name? (I hated it growing up, and had thought I would only publish under a nom-de-plume, and creating several pseudonyms for each genre; now I like my name and I'll only publish under Shelly Holder, no matter genre or style)

But I have a superstitious belief that names really do have power, and that the naming of a child is actually really important. I have a superstitious belief that you have to live up to your name, and that at some point in your life, you'll either conquer or be conquered by the power of your name. Yes, it sounds wacky; yes, I read too many fantansy books as a young child; however, yes, I will probably continue with this belief and this obsession for the rest of my life. And it's ok. I think in the end it makes me a stronger writer.

When I create a character, I usually come to the drafting table with a name and nothing more. The name is the starting point, and it is a fixed point that all aspects of personality radiate out from. Physical description, attitude, dress, patterns of speech- all of these stem from the character's name.

And when I choose a name, the right name, I hear that internal click that is universal agreement with my decision.

So yeah, I'm obsessed with names.

But I'm proud of it.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "Dead and Gone" by T.I. and Justin Timberlake
What I want most: food!

Oh, midterms. How I love to loathe you.

Thankfully, I didn't have a heavy midterm schedule, and my one test is over now. No thanks to Madame Mocking Muse popping up at the most inopportune moments.

Moments when I'm finally really focused on studying, and reading deeply for all possible nuances, and she appears, taps me on the shoulder, and whispers "That'd be a great story."

Me: The sentence says "One insight provided by studies of verbal repertoires is that speakers with fewer codes at their command are both socially and verbally limited in their interactions with others." How exactly is that interesting? At all?
Madame Muse: Make it a metaphor. Explore the power of language. Combine it with a rags to riches theme. See how being literary can make you a successful member of society... or not.
Me: Oh.
(pause)
Me: Huh. That is interesting.
Madame Muse: Yessssss.
(pause; one hand inches out for a blank piece of page)
Me: No! Go away! I have to study!
(furious scribbling, pages turning and flashcards flashing, highlighters squeaking in protest and pens groaning under the abuse.)
Madame Muse: (tap, tap) That'd make a good story...
Me: ARGH!!!

Sometimes, I really love being an English and anthropology double major. Other times, they complement each other scarily well.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "We are Golden" by Mika
What I want most: SLEEP!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 8

Word=Concept=Philosophy=Life!

Posted by Shelly Holder

As this week is, unfortunately, mid-terms week for my school, I have been diligently studying, and not minding the blog as I should have (although, my priorities seem to lie with the blog... in thought AND deed.) In my readings (and re-readings, and triple readings) I came across a delightfully delicious word: charivari.

In context the sentence said "Some fights, among the most successful kind, are crowned by a final charivari, a sort of unrestrained fantasia where the rules, the laws of the genre, the referee's censuring and the limits of the ring are abolished, swept away by a triumphant disorder which overflows into the hall and carries off pell-mell wrestlers, seconds, referee and spectators." (cultural theorist Roland Barthes)

Doesn't the exploding fantasia and spice of charivari just envelop you with phrases like "unrestrained freedom" and "triumphant disorder"? The dictionary definition is not nearly so evocative, because it rests upon an old French tradition instead of a mood.

cha-ri-va-ri [ˌʃɑːrɪˈvɑːrɪ], shivaree esp US, chivaree n

1. a discordant mock serenade to newlyweds, made with pans, kettles, etc.
2. a confused noise; din

I also looked it up in my dictionary of etymology, but no luck there. It wasn't even included.

But the Barthes interpretation of the word is so delicious! Indeed, my first thought after I read the quote was "Can I change my blog title to this?" Someone else has probably done it before me, but I still like the concept. A lot.

I would like to think that my writing aspires to the nature of charivari, to the unrestrained fantasia of disregarded rules, a beautiful sort of literary irreverence. I know that at this point, I'm too traditionally bound. I'm still mastering the conventions, so that one day I can break them all.

However, I have decided that if I ever open up a coffee shop, I'm calling it charivari.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Some group of students talking -loudly- right outside my room.
What I want most: food! om nom nom

Wednesday, October 7

Truant

Posted by Shelly Holder

I'm playing hookie tonight.

Or rather, in between reading/studying for my midterm this Friday, I am plotting for Nanowrimo over AIM with my Evil Twin MlleDiabolique. It's great. I'm so excited. And yes, we're plotting a whole month in advance. Because we're just that cool.

So like I said, MlleDiabolique and I are teaming up to conquer Nanawrimo, because honestly two college students DON'T HAVE TIME TO SLEEP, much less write an entire novel. But between the two of us, we'll kick butt.

I would reveal all the awesome, twisted, unusual, diabolical plotting that we mapped out, except... it's ours (we're hoarding it.) No tidbits for you! (mwahaha)

So keep an eye out for MlleDiabolique and yours truly next month! You can be sure we'll be plotting the whole time until then. =)

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: no music, because I'm studying (although the AIM blips are pretty constant)
What I want most: NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, October 6

Writing vs. School Throwdown

Posted by Shelly Holder

I've been ruminating on the nature of school, and my purpose in being a student. I'm spending four years of my life (or 8, or 10, or more, depending on if I want to go on to a graduate or doctorate program) in college, not to mention the 13 years of primary education. And when I get out of college, then what?
I suppose I'm hitting that famous point where all English majors realize that life after grad school is full of the same uncertainty - career wise at least- as if I had never gone to school at all. But even more fundamental than that, I realize that my academic career is probably not worth anything to anyone outside academics. But I care, or least I should, if I wasn't certain that I could be spending my time much more wisely by working on a book or other publication. Will some prospective employer interrogate me about that pop quiz I failed? No. Will anyone care about the term paper I got a B on? No. But will they care that I've published two books and been included in multiple anthologies? Infinitely yes. So why am I not spending more time on writing?
I don't know. I really have no answer to that question- I was throwing it out into the far-spread cosmos of cyberspace.
I want to do well in school. I do. But time is a limited commodity, and some things just have to be selectively neglected. I don't like selectively neglecting my homework, but I dislike my "aspiring author" status more.
This week has unfortunately emphasized this concern. Several professors have spoken about authors -famous ones- that never made it past a few years of primary education (think Shakespeare, most famously.) Did it matter that he didn't have a formal education? No. Do you think he was any less intelligent? No. Do you think he had a diminished level of genius? No. Do you think it negatively affected his work in anyway? No. The pretentious snobs that criticized his "ignorance" sat back and analyzed his work, while he was actually out there writing the plays. We remember Shakespeare; we don't have the names of the other men.
Who do YOU want to be?
Yeah, that's what I thought.
I wanna be Shakespeare. I don't wanna be an arm-chair literary critic. I have joked about being a professor, but I don't think in the end that I would honestly want to become one, because I know myself. I would sink into reading and writing about reading... but I would never write. It would be a different sort of creativity, not lessened, just different. Which I love equally ... in a different way.
So why I am learning to write academically?

I think there might have to be a serious change in my class schedule next semester.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: The recitations of the ESL class I tutor for.
What I want most: Fall break. Ohmygoodness, fall break. I can't wait.

Monday, October 5

The Incurable Hope of A Full Time fanGIRL

Posted by Shelly Holder

I'm currently working on a presentation on Sherman Alexie due today (and this blog absolutely and assuredly does count as working, or research, or some such similar activity) and I admit... I rival the pitch and tone of all self-proclaimed fangirls out there. My poor, poor roommate-- shall we dub her the Long Suffering One? She certainly had her trials the other day, when I was whispering and hissing unintelligible sibilant phrases for Study of Language homework.

Anyways, I think you should definitely check out his website, and this interview, and an audio interview from Barnes and Nobles (scroll down for a small-ish box on the right, just above the reader reviews where Alexie gets criticized for using curse words in a teenage novel, which is absolutely not representative of the normative teen experience, oh no.)

I was first introduced to Sherman Alexie through the assigned reading list of my Literature Topics course: Native American Literature. Alexie was my favorite author, and I have caught up and kept up with his work since finishing the course. We read Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his first published collection of short stories. My favorite story was "The Approxiate Size of My Favorite Tumor," which told the story of a man who dealt with terminal cancer through humor. It's especially my favorite story now.

What amazes me is that Alexie recieved two fellowships and published two collections of poetry, both back to back, a mere 2 years after he graduated from college. I can't really imagine accomplishing something like that. He was 23 when his first book was published, and I am scarily close to that age now. The realization of the hard work that Alexie had to put in, while still in college, boggles my mind. And then I tell my Inner Critic to shut up, because there IS precident.

AND HE'S COMING TO WASHINGTON D.C. AT THE END OF THIS MONTH ON HIS BOOK TOUR! I am sooo going. Don't even care. I will walk. I am going.

The point of writting about Alexie (see, I get carried away when speaking about him) is that he mentioned a website (salon.com) that I got really excited about, thinking that the concept was based on the French literary salons of the 18th and 19th century. Unfortunately, I was sadly let down by the realization that it was another news provider (not that anything was wrong with the site; indeed I found several interesting articles to read after mid-terms, but the -imagined- expectations were more enticing.)

My secret burning ambition is to set up and/or participate in the modern salon, and be considered a "man of letters." I was so exicted to see my concept actually implemented... except then it wasn't. But the good news that it's still left for me! I would love to design my little publishing empire around that concept of a salon, and probably only need the freedom of time to allow me to do so. Although it might be said (probably by the Voice of Reason) that I am crazy for taking on any more than my currently alloted 3 slash 4 blogs (depending on how you count it.) Although I should warn you, for, as the ever estimable Rick Castle says, "There are two types of people who think of ways to kill someone: socio-paths, and writers" and someday I will undertake the argument of any megliable differences.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: "Dance, Dance" by Beach Boys
What I want most: the stratching in my throat to go away

Friday, October 2

No Time

Posted by Shelly Holder

I have NO TIME; therefore I offer a quick, random tidbit.

My favorite word EVER: apoplexy

My least favorite word EVER: ablutions

Yeah, don't ever use ablutions in your writing. I guarantee, it doesn't set the historical time period, it only sets your reader's nerves on edge.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Nothing! Takes too much time!
What I want: more time! more time!!!!

Thursday, October 1

The Other Writer's Meat

Posted by Shelly Holder

So everyone has heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) But have you heard about the other one?

NaBloPoMo is National Blog Posting Month, where the challenge is to post every day from a month! It operates in a similar way to Nanowrimo, where the website is the basis of support. And guess what? Today starts both October and NaBloPoMo!

I've been poking around the site, and apparently there are also themes to each of the months, (October is Haunted, of course) but I don't really understand the concept in relation to blog posting quite yet. However, I'm going to try to participate this year, and I'm really excited! I also thought this would be a cool (and gentle) training exercise to get me in shape for next month's Nanowrimo, plus I get a shiny widget!


Visit NaBloPoMo

See? Shiny, shiny!

Anyways, I'm going to cheat a little- just a little- and continue my previous policing of posting only on the weekdays. I need my weekends to remain sacrosanct- I have too much homework for my piece of mind to voluntarily add on more responsibilites. So, sorry, no weekend posts!

(I would like to imagine groans from the readership at this point, but alas, I know the truth.)

So watch for all the upcoming blog posts, and I hope to see you over at NaBloPoMo!

Right Now:
What am I listening to: "Je suis jalouse" by Emily Loizeau
What I want most: more time!

Monday, September 28

Geeking Out

Posted by Shelly Holder

As of my Friday's post, I was rather frustrated with the general trend in my education. I've been musing over the weekend on a particular quote of Mark Twain's that I read many years ago:

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

The version in my head was a lot more derogatory and more suited to my discontented mood (read: frustrated desire to go see The Nutcracker Ballet and Carmen,) but the emotion was the same and I still find his remark apt. And I still find it hard to find the patience to sit down to my homework tonight when I know there are other opportunities that I'm missing. Visibly missing, as I watch the pages in my calender turn, and the expectant pink highlighted hours go by without me stirring from my desk chair.

I'm still working on that part, but today I got to geek out a little, with a breath of new interests and new quests for information.

I went into my cultural anthropology professor with a one sentence question, and expected a one sentence answer. Instead I came out with four books, one physically clutched in my greedy little paws. I decided that I would take a break, and sat outside for around a hour, reading the introduction and authors' bios, finding five other titles, two professors, and one Institute to research.

If I have time (that's always the kicker) but I'm choosing this time to focus on my academic interests and their correlation to writing (portrayal of the indescribable, the role of memory, trauma and healing in writing, writing as an escape, etc... both the academic and creative aspects of these issues) and the happiest that this sort of exploration brings me.

And the sheer ability to geek out.

Friday, September 25

Library Love

Posted by Shelly Holder

I love libraries. There is something special about each and every library, whether it's the smallest basic collection or the mega modern public libraries or the gorgeous rare collections with stained glass and leather chairs. It must be something in the air that evaporates from the very pages of the books. The library can be functional to the point of minimalistic, and I am still enchanted, still transported into a rosy-hued world.

It's something in the air.

When I visited the Boston Public library, I got lost, and spent an uncomfortable half-hour in the Reading Room. It was gorgeous, it had character, and it had oodles of history... but it had few books, and I felt constrained by the atmosphere. I escaped... and I found the real library.

I literally stepped over the threshold and a kind of euphoria washed over me. All the tension from the Reading Room were completely erased. And I might have freaked out a bystander or two with my uncontrollable smiling.

When I walked into the regional library here near campus, a brief stop to pick up a volunteer application. I didn't step beyond the check-out desk, didn't get near any books, but same effect.

I love libraries.

I think it might be a cool idea to travel around the world and review all the great libraries. Go city to city, spend a few days at each... same way that I want to take a yacht and visit every coast country.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: CSI
What I want most: more time!

As most of you know, I've been rather blase lately about school. I'm busy, to be sure, but I'm probably not particularly challenged this week, and that leads to all sorts of trouble. Thinking trouble. (Yes, take that sentence both ways.) Discontent, restlessness, and general whiny-ness kinds of trouble. Not that I ever want to be staid, placid, settled, or content as a lifelong trend in any case (a number of those sort of adjectives will do), but I do want to be happy. However, happy derives from engaged and engaged derives from interested and interested derives from challenged and challenged derives from learning. Which, to bring it all back to the beginning, I have felt to be somewhat lacking.

Hence, the general discontent with assignments and the wish to have uninterrupted time to explore. Explore everything. Explore life. Explore writing. Explore writing in the form of reading. Explore authors and noted persons, explore events and cultural opportunities, explore outside of my bubble of self-imposed exile that contains myself, my textbooks, and my desk, and rarely extends to other objects,even including my bed.

Sometimes I think I want to quit, and spend my days free of responsibility so that I can learn on my own. Sometimes I want to quit, and go to concerts on the weekends, and art shows in the afternoon, spend mornings at the famer's market and enjoy going to see The Nutcracker Ballet without worrying how close to finals it is, or thinking that I can't go to a performance of Carmen because I have a paper due that Monday. Sometimes I want to quit and run away to France, where surely I'll learn French better, or to Argentina to learn about the country's history from the people who live there, or to Russia where the folktales are still told and not written down and analysised by some arm-chair specialist. But I know I would make a terrible auto-didact, and discard that idea. Then I think that I should marry rich, so I never have to work, but I discard that idea too, because it's more than a little outdated. Then I think I need to find a job which allows me to live and work on my own schedule- a freelance life, if you will... and then I remember that I want to be a writer, and that's ultimately where I'm headed to anyways.

I've mentioned it before many times, but it's hard to keep going when there's not constant feedback. And for school, with it's long-term payoffs... well, it's unfortunately the nature of the beast.

Doesn't mean that I have to enjoy the teeth as they bite down on me.

Monday, September 21

Conference!

Posted by Shelly Holder

Conference! Conference! Conference! I wanna go to a conference!

Ah! I discovered a writing conference just a bare 3 hours from my campus, and I'm so excited. I wanna go to a conference!

The keynote speaker for the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference is Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran! And listen to this: Pulitzer-prize winner Henry Allen will moderate a panel discussion on Literary Border Crossings. The afternoon panel will include authors H.G. Carrillo (Loosing my Espanish) and Olga Grushin (The Dream Life of Sukhanov).

SO excited!

And there are two workshop sessions available! One in the morning, one in the afternoon. I'm thinking that I'll do Short Story Style and Writing the Novel.

Ah, so excited!

Well, off to do some research/ sign up/ convince the parentals that I should go!

Right now:
What I am listening to: n/a- too excited!
What I want most: to go to the writing conference!