I’m being published! And you can preorder!

harmonious heartsI don’t think I’ve properly mentioned this in its own post, but I am going to be published for the first time! A short story of mine, “Entrances and Exits,” was a winner for the 2017 Young Author Challenge by Harmony Ink Press, and will be published with the other winners in an anthology of stories about LGBTQ characters aged 14-21 written by 14-21 year olds. (They do this every year, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for some of you out there!)

I’m a bit nervous because between this and a workshop I did last fall (I originally wrote this in a class), it’s gone through a lot of edits and is a little blurry in my mind. But I did learn from class that I shouldn’t make changes that compromise the integrity of what I want to say. It’s also a little experimental, written with an “objective”/observer POV and entirely taking place in a foyer. But it comes from a place very dear to my heart–not just because the main character is also bisexual, but also because of the observations on heteronormativity and college admissions. (That said, the experiences and relationships definitely differ from my own!)

And now the anthology is officially available to preorder! It will be released on October 24. I’m excited to read everyone else’s stories! (I haven’t properly checked out the author’s portal yet but I do believe I have or will have access to an ebook early, but I don’t think I’ll review it because that feels a little biased!)

The official blurb for my story is as follows:

The foyer of the Huxtable family home has seen its share of struggles. It bears witness as siblings Pippa and Mike try to strike a balance between their dreams and the expectations of well-meaning parents. As Pippa grows up, she realizes the influence of everyday heteronormativity on her life, while Mike cannot seem to escape his driven sister’s shadow.

I’m very excited to properly start my publishing career, and this has been a great opportunity to gain experiences working with editors.

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Anything But Books Tag

I like talking about much more than books, so I’m glad Sarah from Book Hooked Nook tagged me in the Anything But Books Tag! Check her out!

Q1: Name a cartoon(s) that you love?

I’ve never been too much of an avid cartoon watcher, but the Winnie-the-Pooh TV series and movies/videos were always my favorite and I still love it!

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Q2: What is your favorite song right now?

I’ve been on a musical kick for like a year now, and right now I’m wowed by “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (specifically the Neil Patrick Harris version)…I still haven’t listened or watched any of the rest of it, but this song is just a BEAUTIFUL rock song mash-up of mythologies with great lyrics. And then I’m also obsessed with “What Would I Do?” from Falsettos (2016 revival recording specifically) because ALL THE EMOTIONS and THOSE NOTES.

Sadly there aren’t any official performance videos of these, though Falsettos will be on PBS later this year!

Q3: What could you do for hours that isn’t reading?

Listen to music, watch (scripted) TV, falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes…

Q4: What is something that you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

I don’t know if this is surprising, but I can speak a good amount of French! I took it all 4 years in high school, full-immersion, and even though it’s been a year and a half I think I still remember a fair amount. I can at least read and understand it and communicate decently, probably. I hope to take a trip to France when I’m student teaching in England in a little less than 3 years!

Q5: What is your favorite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

Haha, I feel like this covers basically all of my interests. Here’s some: Postmodernism, espeically literature and TV. TV history and how the business and storytelling collide. All the ways different versions/performances of musicals or other theater pieces differ from each other based on (probably) scant footage and performances on the Internet. The history and art of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Q6: What is something unusual that you know how to do?

I’ve bowled most of my life and even though I’ve had my struggles with it, I’d say I know how to bowl strategically! Which ball to use, where to stand, how to adjust, etc.

Q7: Name something you’ve made in the last year?

I wrote a short story for a class that got workshopped and revised, and I sent it off to Harmony Ink Press’s Young Author Challenge, and I made it into their anthology! It’s going to be my first official (and paid!) published work and it’ll be out in October. I’m sure I’ll be talking about it again later.

Q8: What is your most recent personal project?

In addition to a couple writing projects, I’m planning to start making videos/YouTube soon. I want to do both educational videos and tips/recommendations (such as for studying and organization) that might require more of a visual. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I don’t think the traditional booktube is for me…though I’m sure books will always be there

Q9: Tell us something that you think of often

Right now: FALSETTOS (see #2 above. Also, this post). Like, not only are there a lot of motifs you notice as you listen to it more and more that are commentary on gender roles and revealing of complex characterization, but it’s also so catchy? Well, and emotional. But still often fun and worthy of dancing around the house to.

falsettos dance

Q10: Tell us something that’s your favorite, but make it oddly specific

I really love dogs, but specifically, I love MY dog!!

 

I tag…

Linda

Cassie

Ash

And anyone else who wants to do it!

Why I Prefer Analysis to Criticism

I’ve been struggling getting back into blogging, I’ll be honest. There are a few posts that feel like a big deal to me because they’re more personal, so I’m avoiding those. Meanwhile, I’ve certainly read a lot of books, but I don’t feel compelled to review them. As I talked about before, I have been reading more, and I can’t keep up if I’m going to review everything. Also, I don’t think that’s what I want to do, because I haven’t read anything that I have strong opinions on that are purely from a critical standpoint. Ideally, I’d come up with some discussions, like how Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda treats coming out, or The Underground Railroad blends historical events throughout America. But those take a lot of time that not only takes away from some other projects but also feels a bit like homework all over again–much as I enjoy that kind of writing–while I’m on summer break. I mean, they’re practically essays.

So that brings me to something I’ve been realizing in my reading and writing habits: I quite prefer analysis to criticism.

Well, I do like criticism that’s centered around representation and the societal implications of stories/characters. I think it’s important and I often learn something. But in terms of character development, story structure, plot, style, whatever else–I often find I don’t have much to say unless I really liked something or really didn’t like something else. The craft elements sometimes feel like a checklist of aspects to evaluate, and I think that’s overall not what I’m the most interested in and get out of reading. Instead, I’ll draw more on connections to my own life and world or what I learned or thought about and how the text accomplishes that. Or the more traditional essay-like topics I mentioned above, but again, those take WORK.

Often when reading for class, I tend not to form many opinions. Some works stand out above others, but overall I think I’m more interested in seeing how certain ideas were accomplished. For instance, I love postmodernism, which can sometimes be fun to read and sometimes tiring, but as I look at it closer and see how the author is challenging the status quo and storytelling and society, it means so much more to me.

Maybe some of that just comes with taking (and loving) a lot of English classes and planning to be an English teacher. But I’m also very interested in personal relationships to media. How myself and others connect to certain characters and storylines, what it means to them, how it has helped us define ourselves. All of that is often fascinating, and often what stories are ultimately for. Without a personal connection, I can look at something and say “well, that was a very well-done story,” but it doesn’t mean much to me. (This is probably why I end up loving things that are a little too ambitious and messy but have fantastic characters and ideas.)

So for me, Personal Analysis > Literary Analysis > Traditional Criticism, I suppose. What about you?

Approaching Art vs. Approaching Academics

As I wrote about previously, I’ve had the fortune of taking part in a little writing workshop, which is ended this week. I’ve come away with a lot of thoughts and feelings, but I want to focus on one for now: the different mindsets with which I approached writing (art) versus how I approached school (academics).

I haven’t been able to take a solely creative writing class yet (though I will be my upcoming, first semester of college) because it was not offered at my high school. As such, this was really my first experience, even if it was a condensed workshop and not for credit. But that was really all for the better.

School and I have a complicated history. I love learning and for the most part, I loved school. I would insist on doing workbooks over the summer in early elementary school, just for fun. But there was also another reason I liked it: I was good at it. Teachers liked me. Everyone said I was smart. It was something to hold on to. But as the years went on, because of this narrative I imagined around myself that I figured others saw, I was afraid of taking risks and making mistakes. I got more and more anxious and upset, my standards for myself rose even higher (I think I only had one or two semester grades that were below 95%…), and I forgot how to enjoy myself. I wanted to know I was doing everything “correctly,” even if that meant typo-checking and adding finishing touches for hours, and ultimately I was much more concerned with the grade than the learning experience. (This is tied to a longstanding battle with perfectionism, as well as OCD which got worse as I neared the end of high school.)

At this point, I’m looking forward to college academics with my same high standards, hoping the greater amount of free time and general atmosphere will allow me to loosen up, especially as I’ll be starting fresh and my friends will be rarely taking the same classes as me. It was with that mindset I went into this writing workshop. I knew some of the others there, and I was nervous about reading aloud and comparing myself to others like I always do. But, surprisingly, I didn’t. Everyone had their own very different projects and interests, and I was actually pleased . The atmosphere wasn’t one of work, but one of artistic inspiration. And I loved it.

I always thought of myself as more of an academic, or at least more of a learner or even communicator, than an artist. But I might be reconsidering that.

Writing Workshop: Week 1

This past week, I started a three-nights a week, two-week workshop. It’s a small, local thing paid for by a grant and partially taught from a teacher from my high school. I’m so glad I had this opportunity–especially after my first experience.

I haven’t done workshops or even a real creative writing course before (we didn’t have any at my high school), so it was amazing for me to realize what could come out of me if given a prompt (something I don’t do very often). I knew plot and character basics, but it was still good to refresh them and hear different interpretations.

We are each writing short pieces for an anthology (which means I will be published!) which are around 750-1000. Flash fiction, essentially. Mine is a weird little piece that I started but never actually got to the characters and conflict a while ago, because I didn’t know where to go with it. And now, with that little push from the workshop, I have! And I’m pleased with how it has turned out, though it isn’t necessarily finished yet. The interesting thing was how the teacher had a different interpretation than I did. Though she still really liked it, I want to make sure my ideas get accross properly–even if there’s a magical/fantastical element. (Magical realism? Maybe.)

I’m also loving seeing what everyone else is putting together. We’re all so different, but all have great ideas!

I am 10x more looking forward to my short fiction reading and writing class in college, now!

The Habit I Need to Kick to Write

I’m rounding third base on a novel right now, which I have spoken about before. It still feels very much piecemeal, as my ideas of it have changed over time, and I’ll need to edit a lot to make it coherent. Several times I stepped away and worked on different projects. This sometimes happened because of the technical difficulty of structure or writing particular scenes, but it would also happen because this book is rather personal to me, and I would sometimes want to step away for some perspective or not want to revisit the topics. And yet, I continued to return because it was so personal and important to me.

Because of this, a habit/quirk of mine has also been making this book difficult to write. See, since at least kindergarten or preschool, I tend to pretend that someone else can see my life through my eyes. It’s often because I’m excited about something and want to show a friend, or I want to introduce a favorite show or movie to another, or something reminds me of my parents or a teacher (or their class) or another acquaintance. So I’ll imagine they’re there with me, often looking through my perspective.

When I’m on the computer, I’ll always have my current writing project up, as well as the Internet and whatever else I could possibly work on (a blog post, email, etc). This certainly isn’t the best strategy for time management, but it’s a habit. Naturally, before I start writing, or when I’m stuck, I’ll end up on the Internet, and something will remind me of someone else, and then they’ll be there on the computer with me. And when they’re with me, I’ll have difficulty shutting them out and going back to writing–especially if I’m writing an emotional, personal scene. It’s kind of like someone is watching you write over your shoulder, which is never pleasant. Some fun dialogue scenes I can write, but it’s those serious emotional moments that are based on aspects of my personal life–situations that these people who are “with” me may have been involved with–which are difficult to focus on and just write.

I haven’t kicked this habit quite yet, but the upcoming weeks for me are a little busy, so I think I’ll be able to schedule specific times to work on specific things, which should increase productivity and concentration and allow me to immerse myself in my story.

When the words just flow…

After struggling on and off this summer, I’ve finally hit a groove and I’m really enjoying and am excited about writing. I also finally hit about 50,000 words on my project**, which makes it an offical “novel,” even though I’m currently adding and rearranging more than writing linerally, which also means that some written scenes will probably be reworked or deleted.

Nevertheless, last night I went to bed thinking about how I was potentially so close to being done with the rough draft, and how I could send it to my friends for a first read (after I just read through it again and insert ir change some things I want to make it consistent, as some of my ideas changed halfway through, and some minor characters don’t have names). It was such an exciting feeling, especially as I’ve poured so much of myself into this story.

My struggle with this book–which I’ve been working on for a year and a half–was that I wasn’t advanced enough for it. It’s middle grade, but that meant I needed to keep it accessible and plot-driven enough to keep my audience reading while also telling a character-driven story. I originally began with some magical realism, but then I began rethinking that. Then I wondered if I needed to reshape what I had written all along a more higher-stakes plot. Whenever I got stuck, I would often put it away and move to another project with more momentum. Sometimes, I stepped away from it because the subject matter was often so personal. But I always returned.

This summer I planned on taking what I had and making a chart from which I could then add or rearrange, still thinking I would have a more dramatic plot. Instead, I found I rather liked what I had, more than I’d thought. I came up with more ideas that I liked much better, and I’ve now been working on adding them, and then using that additional background, I’ll move forward. There were only a couple of chapters left, after all.

I’ve still got a lot to figure out, but the idea of working from a draft than from ideas that aren’t on paper is so relieving. I’ve started many projects, but I’ve honestly only finished one book before, and that one was very different (fantasy, 90,000 words) and I was 12. (I did reach 50k on the sequel, but I never go further with other projects because I kept editing that first one, until I realized it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore.) It’s yet another component to this new stage in my life, and like college and being more independent and meeting new friends and finding new opportunities, I’m happy.

**It’s a middle grade realistic novel. It’s broadly about middle schoolers figuring out who they are and who they want to be, perfectionism, mental health, friendship, and how stories and characters as well as the Internet shape our view of the world.

Currently Reading and Updates: 6/20/16

Currently Reading

Aaaand another week has flown by. Definitely “flown by” from my perspective, because I had my two day college orientation (finally signed up for classes!!) and also had some preparing to do for our upcoming vacation  (which included bowling 9 no-tap games). Oh, and I also finally got Photoshop and Illustrator and have been playing around with that.

Is this an excuse? A little, maybe, but this week was exciting for me. I have made some progress in A Clockwork Orange, which requires a lot of concentration because there’s so much made-up slang that it’s kind of like reading a book in a second language that you aren’t fluent enough in to know every word.

I also realized something important about my writing: At this stage at least…I need to plan more in-depth. Right now I’m writing specific scenes, and while I know what generally will happen, it isn’t very specific. This has caused me to get stuck a lot because I’m not sure how to transition or where the dialogue should league. So, I think I need to plan a little bit more before I set myself any word count goals. I’m not usually a “planner” because my ideas flow more as I write, but in this case I’ve already got the idea and I just need something more specific (that may change anyway) to keep me focused.

This week is another busy one as I depart for a trip for Washington, D.C.–but I at least will have time to read in the car. I’ll probably finish A Clockwork Orange and move on to something else…though I’m not sure what yet. And then after D.C., when I’m at my grandma’s house, I’m going to really try to set aside time each day to write only. (And plan. That includes the planning.)

What are you guys reading right now? What works best for moving forward with your writing?

Currently Reading and Updates 6/13/16

Currently Reading

So last week, I had some goals:

  1. Write 2,000 words this week (since I rarely track my wordcount except for specific events, I actually slack quite a bit. This seems like a good goal to start out with.)
  2. Finish/read at least 2 Orwell essays
  3. Read See You at Harry’s

I was…somewhat successful. I didn’t get to the Orwell essays, but I did read See You at Harry’s as well as George by Alex Gino, so I think I read more pages overall.

As for writing…I really only wrote about 500 words, because I only concentrated on it for brief times on two days. This week ended up being a little crazier than I thought it would be; I ran several errands and when I was computer, I was preoccupied with college things, as I found out my dorm/LLC assignment and created a group chat where we all excitedly met each other and talked about classes, so of course I had to go look over all the possible schedules again. The point? I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I need to devote time to it.

So, this week: definitely more writing. I have college orientation that takes up most of 2 days, but I still really want to try to hit 2,000 words if I can…

As for reading, I’m still in a bit of a strange pattern. I really want to make headway on the Orwell essays, and I think I’m going to start/continue listening to the audiobook of The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, which I had abandoned because I was reading a little too much at once. Plus, I have more opportunities to listen to audiobooks now. I’m also considering starting A Clockwork Orange soon.

I hope you all have a great week!

Currently Reading and Updates: 6/6/16

Currently Reading

Another week, more books! This update is going to be briefer because I can’t say I’ve been reading or writing a whole lot, because I’ve been working on getting things together for college. So I challenge myself to do MORE this week!

I finished Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley recently, and I’ll be reviewing it this week, though my thoughts are still quite conflicted. I also picked up See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles on a whim at the library, and I think I’m going to get to that soon. I’m still reading Orwell’s essays on and off, but I’m going to save the Wilde plays for some other time, because I really don’t want to marathon them.

I came up with new ideas I’m excited about for my novel, so my revision work became more drafting. But it’s been slow-going, so this week, so TIME TO MAKE GOALS:

  1. Write 2,000 words this week (since I rarely track my wordcount except for specific events, I actually slack quite a bit. This seems like a good goal to start out with.)
  2. Finish/read at least 2 Orwell essays
  3. Read See You at Harry’s

Despite my tendency to plan out my life, I’m actually really bad at accomplishing anything that isn’t schoolwork. And since I don’t even have schoolwork as an excuse to push back my writing and reading work (and it is work, I want it to be my career!), it’s time to get into the habit of scheduling writing around my life. Time to get to work!

jenna smile at computer