Filed under: autobiography, books, Confidence, creative non-fiction, essays, Journaling, poetry, short stories, Uncategorized, 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.
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.
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.
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”)
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.
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…
Filed under: beauty, emotions, essays, love, Weight Issues, writing | Tags: beauty, journaling, style, weight
Last night while getting groceries, the checker paid me a random compliment. She was a cute, short, thin young lady with what appeared to be natural light-red hair: the sort of girl who effortlessly looks good in unforgiving uniforms of form fitting white button-ups tucked into khaki pants, the sort of girl whose waist I stare at enviously.
“I love your look,” she told me, scanning my diet soda. “It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I think it every time I see you come in.”
“Thank you,” I said awkwardly, “I like compliments.” I was wearing form-fitting ripped jeans, (which have these wrinkles where my belly ends that I absolutely hate) a black camisole under a pink accented zipper hoody, lots of random bits of cat hair, and no make-up. I let my barely-brushed naturally curly hair frizz out under my skull and cross-bones bandanna.
She smiled, and related an instance in which she noted that her sister had gained some weight, and she said something about it, meaning it as a compliment. “It’s just that I’m so small,” she concluded, briefly glancing at my cleavage.
We continued talking while she finished scanning my items, and we smiled warmly at each other before I left.
Filed under: autobiography, Binge Eating, cognitive theraphy, Emotional Eating, essays, self-help, Weight Gain, Weight Issues, Weight Loss, writing | Tags: childhood, Fat, high school
My most-used clothes are the ones I can hide in. Such as the large, soft black faux velvet shirt I am wearing in the photo below, and have owned since the summer I turned 13. Although it is a little worse for wear, (it has oil paint stains, missing buttons, and a cigarette burn in the sleeve) it is still a staple in my wardrobe.
For me, the body-image thing started when I was 7 years old. Before then, I saw myself as pretty and had no second thoughts on the matter. I can remember my dad saying that I was getting fat around then. I am not sure if he was the first to do so, but it is my first memory of being referred to as the dreaded F word.
Of course, I knew from television and movies that fat people were a thing to be mocked, and at best could provide the quirky comic relief. (The internet was not available to me outside of school for the majority of my formative years.) It was obviously a BIG DEAL. I responded by favoring over-sized clothes.
My mother did little to reinforce good eating habits ( and truthfully, I didn’t help, fussing over anything green); we frequented fast food restaurants, my favorite of which was Long-John-Silver’s. To this day when I go there I always order extra crumbs. Before that, I favored a little mom and pop place (which closed, sadly) called the “Y Not Cafe.” There were phones at every booth to order. I always got a sloppy joe with curly fries and a chocolate milkshake. The milkshakes were so good. They brought you the whole metal mixer along with your nice glass with whipped cream and a cherry, so it was like having TWO milkshakes. I digress. In any case, we ate out multiple times a week, had since I could remember, and it contributed to my waist-line.
Third-graders can smell weakness. My baggy clothes andself-conscious posture made me a target for bullying. I remember a boy on the playground calling me “Godzilla” and falling in time to my footsteps. Even through this, when I see pictures of myself from that time, I was only a little chubby.
After my mom fell ill, I turned to many of the comfort foods I remembered enjoying with her. I did’n’t really do it consciously. All I knew was that I wanted foods like chocolate, icecream, french fries, fried chicken, and lots of it! I recall my fourth grade teacher stopped me from going up for seconds telling me that I was too fat. (She really meant well, but it was in front of the entire school, essentially, and added to the teasing.) Other kids in the class would say that the one boy who was cubby in our class of 22 and I must like each other because we were both fat. But honestly, what I remember hurting the worst was that after I had dealt with name calling and embarrassing public interventions, I had to deal with comments at home.
Although I was praised for good grades and a generally more mature demeanor than many of my peers, ( I was constantly reading, drawing, or writing) school nurses mailed my dad notes twice a year to remind us that I was obese. My dad would say things like “We’re poor, and you’re fat. It makes no sense,” and My Grandpa would occasionally pat my belly when he saw me eating. For her part, my Grandma Sue recognised stress eating when she saw it and tried not to give me a complex, shooing my Grandfather’s concerned, but condescending hand.
By the time I was 10, I was regularly comparing my body to the bodies of my peers and worse, women in television, movies, and ads. The resultant depression led me to bouts of stress-induced binge eating. I would frequently eat when no one would see me- finding the privacy for it wasn’t hard as I found it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. Given the opportunity, I would eat so much that my stomach hurt, and then I would eat more. By the time I turned 11, I loathed my body. I mostly hid from cameras. I don’t have a lot of photos of myself from this time. Bullying at school continued to escalate.
If memory serves, my Uncle Clifford took the above photo while I walked across these rocks, pretending they were much higher, and miles away from the world of 35mm cameras. I would often avoid mirrors. My Aunt Corrine saw me struggling with my body image. She helped as much as she could, taking me to the mall so I could chose my clothing from the same stores as my friends (whenever possible) and introducing me to new stores. It wasn’t all bad either. I allowed myself to cut loose and quit caring with the right friends.
In the summer I turned 13, a month before my birthday, my Grandma Sue died. I got bigger than ever. If there was no junk food in the house, I cooked it. ( I had been cooking for myself for a while before-hand and used to bake with my Mom.) My mom’s twin sisters, my aunts Amy and Ann, took me on couple trips after the passing of my Grandmother, in part funded by my Grandpa. The summer I turned 14, we spent a week in L.A. and visited several family members living in California. I had a great time there despite getting an awful sunburn and having to wear a swimming suit on the beach (loaded with tar!). I entered high school.
In high school, the bullying was different. Most people didn’t bully me to my face, they just avoided me. Some people would actually move if I sat near them at lunch. Pairing off for whatever reason was generally difficult, especially in Gym class. My most vocal bully was a girl a grade ahead of me, but in the same math class…to this day I don’t know why she decided to hate me. I spent most of my time alone.
The following year my twin aunts and I went to Spain for a week, tagging along with a school in Omaha that Ann worked for just before I turned 15, but I don’t have many photos of myself there because I was so self-conscious.
The self-conscious theme continued through my sophomore year only I defended myself. I cursed more often at people who called me fat, including my own father. – “Oh Shit! Thanks for telling me, I thought it was an allergic reaction!”- I didn’t go out for any sports, or activities. I did attend the occasional friend’s party, but avoided any situation where I thought I was likely to be picked on. The bullying happened less frequently, but I still had problems finding a place to sit at lunch. By then my internal monologue was worse than any bullying I received. I would write disparaging words on myself, and at my worst, I would cut words and designs into my skin on places I never showed people. ( Some of these, unfortunately, I still have today. )
I had gained a substantial amount of weight and crammed myself into jeans that were too small and hid everything else in giant t-shirts. Then, toward the end of that year, when I weighed 250lbs, I came down with the flu. Unable to eat or drink anything of substance for a week, I lost 10 lbs. The prospect of weight loss suddenly didn’t seem so impossible.
I started keep a food journal, despite getting strange looks at school over it. In one of the nicer incidents, a girl in Spanish class was incredulous that I wrote down a small handful of m&ms I won in a round of educational bingo. One of my friends copied pages of beginner-intermediate body-weight resistance exercises from her mom’s workout book. They made me sore at first, but I did them. By the time the school year was over, I had dropped another 20lbs.
I was determined to not be fat by the time I turned 16, and I would succeed.
To be continued (In A History of Fatness: Losing Weight the Wrong Way)
Filed under: autobiography, books, creative non-fiction, essays, writing | Tags: blogs, books, fiction, journaling, writing
Blank pages used to be somewhere I would go to feel free, and leave feeling I had created something worthwhile. While the latter still holds true, I do not find the same solace on the page.
Since my third year in college, 2006, it has taken me a concerted effort to not pain-stalkingly analyze any and every piece of fiction I am reading or in the process of writing. As a result, I get a lot more out of what I read, and what I do write is pretty solid; but I miss the days of devouring books in hours, simply enjoying the ride, as well as being able to sit down and free-write a piece of fiction without caring if it sounded like complete nonsense.
At a very young age, I decided that I wanted to write for a living. While I am doing that in some sense, it is definitely not what I had in mind. I thought I’d have books in stores by now. While I do have plans for a novel series, they are no where near ready for prying eyes. I used to think I wanted to be like R.L. Stine or Stephen King…Mainly the having the quality of churning out prolific amounts of good quality writing. Then I got to college.
I realized Stephen King didn’t think he was a particularly good writer…and honestly, compared to the depth existing in the works of numerous authors across all genres, he really isn’t. Before studying fiction writing in a formal setting, all I really wanted to do was entertain myself and others while making money in the process. Afterwards, I decided that rather than light amusement,what I really wanted to write was entertaining fiction loaded with meaningful messages, prompting the reader to reflect.
Suddenly, writing became much harder. And not as much fun. I didn’t want my writing to stay like it was. I wanted it to be more…better…
It is never good enough; the want for perfection is crippling, both for my writing and my soul.
Filed under: beliefs, Divination, emotions, essays, tarot, Theraphy, writing
When dealing with tarot, and the world of divination in general, there are two basic schools of thought. One of these believes the process is magic, direct contact with a spiritual entity, or communication with God. The other, held by skeptics and most scientific minds, asserts that such practices are merely superstition. Many who adhere to the second way of thinking believe that logic and common sense necessarily cannot enter into the process of divination. As a reader myself, I state that both of these beliefs are largely wrong, but contain granules of truth. Divination, as well as magical practice, is a spiritual practice much in the same way that meditation is a spiritual practice. It is not simply superstition, and both logic and common sense are necessary for accurate readings.
So then, what exactly is divination? According to Merriam Webster, it is “1: the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, usually by interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers” and “2: unusual insight: intuitive perception.” Neither of these definitions is particularly accurate; although, with charlatans and those seeking fame or attention, it is easy to see why there is such dissonance regarding public understanding. A more accurate definition of divination is: to seek insight regarding a specific situation via a standardized ritual or process. It is important to note that this is what many people seek when seeing a therapist.
Good therapists giving their clients advice basically act as an interpreter, facilitating the client’s communication with his/herself as well as attempting to get the client to do some self-reflection. In Tarot, an ethical reader is doing the same thing! It is nearly impossible to give and accurate reading for strangers or even acquaintances unless they volunteer information. When information is volunteered, the person receiving the reading is engaging in self reflection, while the reader merely guides them using the cards in much the same way as Rorschach tests work. As in the case of therapy, there is room for error, usually due to lack of pertinent information or the personal beliefs and emotions of the reader.
However, this does not mean that all readers who say the process is magic are frauds. First, many readers have a less than conventional definition of magic; for instance, a spell cast without follow up action is not going to yield results. Second, not all capable readers have a clear understanding of how it works, but still know that it works. Third, an ethical reader will tell a person what the reader believes that person needs to hear. A majority of people who seek readings want to believe that the process is magic, may be hard-pressed to understand it if it was not, and may even reject the whole process if they were aware of how it works. A skeptic might ask, “Well, if this is true, then why the mumbo-jumbo with candles and such?” The answer: to create an air of respect, both for the person receiving the reading, and to remind the reader that what they are doing is serious business.
The truth about tarot is simply this: Tarot is a tool to gain understanding regarding the best course of action.
Please post any questions or comments below.