Creatrixsblood's Weblog


A personal history of writing

I’ve been crafting stories almost as long as I can remember. First they were just simple make-believe stories mostly about a strong, warrior princess (dressed more like sleeping beauty than Xena) often fighting dinosaurs or monsters. There were set characters my friends could be, but I had no problem playing alone and just filling in all the missing voices and fighting trees with dried pigweed stalks.

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I’m not Claire, I’m princess Vanessa. I’ve come to chew bubble gum and cut up invading bad guys… and I’m all out of bubble gum .

What got me to start putting stories on paper was a school project in second grade. We were asked to write and draw our own, 4-page version of “Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” While I don’t remember the contents of that project, I did have a very important realization: I could make my own books!! And I did.. many of them involved cats and utilized the various cat stickers I had on hand as well as my own drawings. Most of them were a great deal longer than 4 pages. That summer I wrote and illustrated a picture book in which a dragon saves a princess from having to rule a kingdom and enlists her help in essentially controlling the weather. Why that is less pressure for her, I’m not sure. But dragon!!

I don’t remember much about writing from third grade, but I do remember really falling in love with reading. We had a required 15 minute reading block, a fair selection of books in the room readily available, and an incentive program for time spent reading at home. It was also the first time I got so lost in a book that someone had to touch me to get my attention, because the teacher saying reading time is over and calling my name just didn’t cut it. The book was “Black Beauty”, and my desk-mate helpfully kicked my shin.

After my mom’s illness and subsequent coma, and just before fourth grade, I began writing without the pictures. The first story was brief- it was as much of a re-occurring dream as I could remember. Then I moved on to a second story, in which people and aliens were warring, and both had traveled time to get magical weaponry because why not. I wrote it by hand in it’s own notebook. One day when I couldn’t find it, I discovered it in the bathroom where my dad had apparently been reading it. He was impressed, but told me the alien name “Zortang” sounded too much like orange drink.

It was around this time I decided I definitely wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

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In fifth grade I remember being really excited about having an assignment to write a story, but was frustrated by the deadline (because I was trying to write a book, not a short story) and ended up tying everything together really quickly without much escalation to the climax. It was about an archaeologist settling a long-fought depute between ghosts in an ancient Egyptian pyramid. We were required to read it out loud to the whole class. I remember feeling my face get redder and redder as I told my story. Afterwards, most of the class of roughly 25 was staring at me with open mouths. I was the only one no one clapped for. To this day I like to say I’m not sure if the shock was because the story was so good or because of my color-changing performance, but I’m pretty sure it was because I became a cherry while I read.

Sixth grade was the first time I was introduced to the concept of writing poetry beyond haikus. The form of poetry that left the biggest impression on me was narrative because my teacher thought I had copied it or somehow cheated, and he ended up calling my Dad about my poem. In the end, my teacher “gave me the benefit of the doubt.”While I did use the basic structure of an existing narrative poem, the content was my own. His continued doubt of it being the work of kid was one of the highest praises I probably could have ever received. That same year grandma gave me her typewriter to type out my finished drafts. I was excited by the concept, but I was a terrible typist, so my typed copies weren’t much easier to read than my hand-writing.

In winter of Seventh grade, my grandparents, aunt, and uncle pooled money to get me an iMac and printer for Christmas with a Groiler Multimedia Encyclopedia on disk and an accompanying Encyclopedia of Science fiction disk that seriously expanded my reading list. Since I had no Internet connection, writing, researching. gaming, digital art, listening to music and customizing the system were about all I could do with it.

With this new bit of equipment, I set out to seriously write a novel. It was an ambitious project. I forced myself to write for at least an hour and half after school everyday, after that I was free to do whatever. My dad mandated the t.v. off when he went to bed, but I was allowed to stay up late as long as I got up in time for school. So, after 11pm or so I would have either books or my computer, and I would frequently chose to continue writing. If I got stuck, I would either move on to another part of the story or start a new one entirely. I never wrote outlines, so I would be entertaining myself as I went along. Around this time I also started sending in novel queries to publishers whose editors were likely confused by the strange font usage.

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By the time I was in 8th grade, I had finished writing a science fiction novel I strongly disliked. I scrapped it, but kept several characters from it and tried again in a different format. The resultant “fantasy book” actually made me proud even though I knew it had some issues. Encouraged, I plugged away on it and concepts for sequels to it the entire year. The best part was, I could work on it in class and not get in trouble because I’d look like I was intently taking notes!

My freshman year in high school, I asked the teachers I found the most approachable to critique my fiction writing. The first teachers were my freshman English teacher and my freshman social studies teacher. Each graciously read through a single spaced 100 page-long “fantasy book.” The former circled and underlined what he felt was working, and the latter gave me no notes, but told me she enjoyed it. When asked, her biggest criticism was that she found it hard to follow as I frequently shifted viewpoints.

After my freshman English teacher exposed me to Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man,” (and my Dad allowed me to watch the movie “Heavy Metal”) I was inspired to write a book of short stories as well as voraciously read anything else attached to Bradbury’s name. “’Write a short story every week [for a year]. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row,” Bradbury advised in a 2001 symposium. While I didn’t write one every week, I did write more than twenty short stories (as well as working on a sequel to the aforementioned “book”)

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My sophomore English teacher went out of her way to individually challenge each of us. She had a set of vocabulary words, she’d have us tick off if we knew. Then, one at a time, she’d have us come to a little room away from the rest of the class and ask what they meant. If it was confirmed that you knew that word, she’d pull out the dictionary and give you replacement words. While I can’t say I was really a fan of her Reader’s Digest assignments, they were better and more practical than book assignments, and she did have us write 2 short stories incorporating specific excerpts from Reader’s Digest stories which prevented me from taking the lazy way out and turning in a short story I’d already written.

I brought some of my favorite short stories to my sophomore speech teacher. At first, she would write one, cleverly-worded compliment of the story before giving it back to me. (Incidentally, in her her class I wore foundation like armor so no one would be distracted by my face becoming a tomato. Worked like a charm.) After I’d given her a couple of them, I feel like she tested me to see how well I’d receive criticism on a story that was essentially Romeo and Juliet in space. I remember she left more notes than usual, some good and this time, some critical. I remember she specifically picked at the word “hammock” to describe the bed in a sleeping quarter. I felt like there were more obvious points to pick at in the story, for instance: all the characters other than the two main characters were pretty 2-D When I talked to her, she said she was just trying to get me to think of more alien terms to remind the audience that none of the characters were human. I asked why she wasn’t more critical.

“I wanted you to keep writing,” she told me.

“ I have to” I replied. She gave me a sort of squinting look I didn’t really understand at the time, but I would recall it my senior year when I received my first real critique.

By my junior year, I’d written 3 (in retrospect needlessly complex)fantasy novels the last of which poked its foot into science fiction. Some of my past teachers were nice enough to read the whole trilogy.I did school paper that year, and was allowed to leave study hall to come to the journalism/yearbook Mac lab. The official story was that I was working on stories for the paper, and sometimes that was true, but other times I was reading blogs, posting on forums, and sharing my writing. I’m sure my supervising teacher was fully aware as I always used the same machine and wasn’t smart enough to delete the history.

My senior English teacher asked us to write a children’s book. I really liked being pulled back to picture books. I wrote a simple story which contained a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and involved a really dumb teenager because I concluded I couldn’t draw children. She also had us write a good number of essays, some of which I let leak into my fiction at home.

The newly digitally colored cover of the children's book.  Maybe some day, I'll color them all.. maybe..

A digitally colored cover of the children’s book in question. Maybe some day, I’ll color them all.. maybe..

That same year, I decided to enter a fantasy fiction writing contest at Wayne State college. I started with the concept of an urban fairy tale, but with notes of the classic format. Unlike everything else I’d ever submitted to magazines, contests, or publishers, I decided to have a couple teachers look at it before I sent it off. I gave one copy to my sophomore speech teacher/drama coach, and one to my senior English teacher.

My speech teacher basically put a gold star on the story. She felt my writing had come a long way… also she probably enjoyed that it had an almost happy ending for a change. My senior English teacher critiqued the first sentence in particular and the repetitive adjective usage. I asked her what she felt might be better, and then decided “Deep,deep, deep in the forest” really just set the atmosphere I wanted, and I submitted it without making that correction.

To my surprise, I won the high school division of the contest. My senior English teacher responded very sedately, but the speech teacher snuck the news into the school announcements. My foundation kept my peers from knowing I was beet red when they turned to look at me. After reality sunk in and I got $30 for my efforts crafting the story, I thought about the critique I received; and I understood not all criticism would necessarily be helpful. This really helped me prepare for what was awaiting me at my first writer’s workshop.

To be continued…

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Uncertainty
August 5, 2016, 5:22 pm
Filed under: doubt, emotions, Gardening, love, poetry, Uncategorized, writing

A sestina, written early in the relationship with the king of vacillant winds and discarded dreams.

It was my birthday when we met,

and I was first enveloped in your smoke.

We wandered, my skin burning, in the garden.

your friend trailed behind, embodying my doubts.

Compared to the maelstrom of my thoughts,

I barely said a word.

 

Perhaps I have way with words,

but only in subversive meetings

with myself where my thoughts

are suffocated in smoke

and doubt…

What do you care to grow in your garden?

 

Are you even a proper gardener?

Carefully choose your words

and silences. My doubts

are hungry and eager to meet

the man behind the smoke

usurping my productive thoughts.

 

Should I share the thoughts

I’ve etched into my garden

sand? Will they dissipate like the smoke

from your cigarettes and the words

from your mouth when our lips meet?

Can you cripple my doubt

 

or am I right in doubting

your capacity to calm my thoughts?

When you and my id have finally met,

will you still want our infested garden?

Will you cull it with your words

or gas it in a pesticide smoke?

 

I can tolerate the smoke.

I can breath in poisons and exhale the doubts

and come up with clever wording

for my thoughts,

but I let noxious weeds flourish in the garden.

They grow so tall our eyes cannot meet.

 

Words unspoken each meeting

planted this doubt in the garden…

and  smoke does not slow the infestation of thoughts.



Condensation
August 1, 2016, 4:45 pm
Filed under: emotions, love, poetry, writing | Tags: , , ,

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Oh king of vacillant winds and discarded dreams,

why did you come into mine?

I wanted to lose you in the vastness of my oceans,

but you are air…

my tidal words will never wash you out.

 

I drew your oxygen inside me

and your warmth excited me to vapor.

I saturated your willing currents

until their heat dissipated and I condensed into clouds

before my gravity forced me from you.

 

Now the sky is empty and I am scattered.

I can see the stars as fragments of myself

are swallowed into the blackness of the ground.

 

Constricted in darkness and dirt, I gather

while the earth absorbs my salt and poisons.

I carve streams as I sink into my rocky bed and

I rest, guarded from the influence of the surface.



All roots must move
November 3, 2014, 2:40 pm
Filed under: poetry | Tags: , , , , , , ,

You once told me that I should uproot myself

to keep growing. To stay is stagnation.

But I’d rather be a tree

than a stressed house plant,

constantly searching for a larger pot.
 

While you mock me for my immobility,

my roots demolish the hard ground around me.

There is always something new

if you probe far enough, deep enough.

I will have lived in less exotic soils,

but we will see who grows taller.

 

You can gaze out the window,

longing for your next transplant.

I will stay. I will spread.

Young plants will sprout in soil I have loosened.

Generations of wildlife will use my twigs

to build homes within the shelter of my branches.

 

I may stay, but I am not still.



Delusions of Heart
October 6, 2014, 1:34 pm
Filed under: poetry | Tags: ,

So you fancy yourself a martyr.

I hope your ideals swallow you whole.

You will gasp for air and beg for release until

at long last, you plummet

into an acidic pool where

your skin dissolves with any hope of escape.

When you are finally expelled,

your ideals will have made no use of you,

but I think you will feel at ease,

finally in your true form.



A History of Fatness: Existential Crises, Weight Gain and Denial
May 27, 2014, 7:41 pm
Filed under: autobiography, writing | Tags: , , , , ,

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been relating my life-long struggle with my weight and eating habits. In “The Younger Years” I shared my life as a fat child and teen. In “Losing Weight the Wrong Way,” I shared an unhealthy weight loss of 120lbs. within the span of 4 months. In “The Wieght Crept Back and Brought Friends,” I shared the beginnings of bulimic, addictive, and other self-destructive behaviors. In this installment, I’ll share the emotional unraveling in my early twenties that led the scale to read over 200 once again.

First, let me explain the delay between posts: It is always easier to write and reflect on the distant past than more recent events. It is also difficult to decide exactly what bits to share without getting too far off topic. Let’s just say that my early 20s may have tied or even surpassed my childhood for most tumultuous period in my life. For the sake of brevity, I’ve left quite a lot out.

It is worth noting that when I was 19, more information about what caused my mother’s condition came to my attention at the wedding of a family member. When I learned, I reacted poorly…an explosion caused by years of bottled mistrust as more and more details about my mother’s condition came to light. Although I didn’t think about it when acting out, I believe this may well have been a contributing factor to my erratic behavior.

Anyhow, when I left off, I had just moved into an apartment graciously paid for by my aunt and godmother. My grandpa gifted me my great grandma’s 1988 Pontiac Catalina. All I had to do was get to school and stay out of trouble.

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Here’s a photo of me and the mess I regularly created in said apartment. At the time I weighed between 180 and 190lbs.

I managed until about 6 months after I turned 21. I was still in poor shape emotionally. I mentally beat myself multiple times a day. I was still binging, desperately seeking input: looking for something external that would make everything O.K. again. In addition to old habits (like eating a quart of ice-cream over two sittings), I also drank most nights, often to excess, and took anything else I might be offered. Through this, I kept reasonable grades, but nothing near my previous standard. I maintained a weight of about 180-190 despite my increased intake of junk-food via purging and frequent long walks. Despite being surrounded by friends, I was too busy being ashamed of myself to talk about any of my feelings and worked hard to deny I even had them.

When my best friend at the time told me he was moving away at the semester’s end, I decided to wallow in my self-pity with six 24 oz beers at a small gathering of friends and acquaintances. Long story short, I drank so much that I blacked out. My friends attempted to hide my keys from me, but since the Catalina had been stolen while I was in jail, it could be started with a screwdriver. The resultant drive led to a DUI that ultimately landed me a year andhalf of probation.

This year andhalf deserves its own post, but suffice to say that I ultimately ended up  seeing therapists, leaving school, living in an oxford house, and working a soul-crushing job as an outbound telemarketer. I could seriously go on for hours about the crappy practices of both management and employees at this place.

The combination of sobriety, a terrible paying yet high-stress job, and the household drama resulted in a lot of binge-eating on my part. I remember regarding my legs as I laid in bed one night before sleep. Despite my weight, up until that point I’d always had clearly defined quadriceps which kept my legs looking nice even if they were thick and had some cellulite. I had been avoiding scales, but that night I noticed that my cellulite had begun to grow over my quadriceps. In that moment, I decided to give up on attempting to control my eating habits.

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Although it’s well-disguised in a black hoody and a crouched position, I weighed in just shy of 210lbs at the time of the photo.

Giving up had one good consequence. I quit purging after binges. However, it also had the consequence that I could no longer fit into most of my wardrobe. I felt like a rhinoceros. I put only minimal effort into my appearance most days. Halloween is the only day I can recall dressing up that year, and on that day I was heckled on the walk home from work by a random dude in in a car full of what I assume were drunken twentysomethings. After I refused to get in the car, one guy yelled out “That’s ok, you’re fat anyways!”

Although to most outside perspectives, I was getting my life together, my self-esteem was lower than ever. I rarely wrote or produced art. The most fun I had (and the most creative thing I really did during that time) was allowing the kids in the house to play with my paints and ill-fitting clothing as well as organizing scavenger hunts and other games for them.

There was one little girl there who reminded me quite a lot of myself. She was 9 at the time, and a bit overweight like I had been at her age. Her father had died when she was too young to remember, but she had a general grasp of the situation that led to his death. Although she was generally a sweet girl, she used her sympathetic situation to get things she wanted..generally junk food. At first, I would give it to her, but one day I told her that it would have made life easier for me, and it would be better for my health if I had tried to establish better eating habits when I was younger. Happily, she decided to quit asking for junk food. Unhappily, I continued to buy it for myself.

After my probation ended when I was 22, I re-entered school and continued to work as a telemarketer. I signed my soul away for student loans, and moved to a place that I now refer to as “the Fight Club house” as per a description by a friend. It was true slum, but the price point was very difficult to argue with, and I didn’t have to sign a contract.

I unexpectedly quit working one day, as I called in with a migraine and was told I needed to come in even after explaining that were I to come in, I would arrive covered in puke and likely puke on their computer. Because my roommate and his friends had a tendency to steal my food and I was living on an extra tight budget, I ended up buying only things I knew I could either store in my room or safely put in the fridge because he didn’t like it. Mostly I ended up with hotdogs, pasta, and junk-food. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a car and the local grocery store carried produce which was well past its prime and often moldy.

While I lived there, I became something of a hermit, embarrassed to have friends over. My boyfriend was my only frequent visitor. The tight budget did not prevent me from binge-eating, but did lead to binges followed by days in which I’d eat almost nothing. This behavior was quite unkind to my waistline. I have no real idea of my weight at the time, but I wore a size 18. I gave away most of clothing in smaller sizes- largely to alleviate some of my frustration when getting dressed, but also because I didn’t see myself ever fitting back into them.

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One might say that I wasn’t very happy there.

Because of the prolific amount of cat-calling in the neighbourhood, I began to intentionally dress in unflattering clothing.  I stopped wearing make-up completely.  My opinion of my own appearance fell accordingly. I had difficulties finding another job and so my self-worth also fell accordingly.  Eventually, I was dumped by my fed-up boyfriend and felt even worse. I stopped going to class. I stopped going out.  I hid in my room and told myself I was worthless and did nothing. This cycle of self-loathing continued to worsen until I met friend who tolerated my being Miss Doom and Gloom. 

More in the next installment

 



She could be
May 8, 2014, 4:34 pm
Filed under: beliefs, Confidence, creative non-fiction, writing

Few things lead me to sad contemplation like hearing another woman say that women should not be trusted with roles of leadership. In that moment, I suddenly see us both as little girls clutching our Barbie dolls; she wants us to play house.

In her house, she tidies, primps, hangs out with friends and raises kids while Ken is off at work. She greets him with a warm meal and hug at the end of the day. They sleep, and begin again. Most of her friends play just like that.

I don’t want to play with her.

I’d rather be a sorceress who escapes from a castle prison. In the wilds, I build a home. I tame beasts with kindness and gain their loyalty. Together, we plot to storm the castle and free the city caught in the crown’s oppressive clutches.

There is nothing wrong with her game. I just get bored playing it.

She could be a sorceress too.