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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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.



Why being heckled for being fat hurts more than being heckled for being thin

As a skinny girl I hate the bones are for dogs comment. I am naturally skinny to the point I have to work very hard to keep my weight up and steady!!! I love being skinnybut it’s hard… it’s mean and hurtful when we are called skin and bones, referenced to attracting only low class guys, or called anorexic. It’s not ok to insult a plus sized woman so it shouldn’t be ok to insult a skinny woman. I have nothing against plus sized ladies. All that matters is you’re happy and healthy. And for the record, my fiancé is not a dog or anywhere close to it!!!!” -Facebook User commenting on a plus sized model’s photo.

Dear (Thin) Facebook User,

First, let me say that I agree. People should refrain from voicing hurtful opinions about the weight of others regardless of which end of the spectrum that person occupies, period. Generally, that person is aware of what their body looks like, and doesn’t need your input on the matter. Such commentary accomplishes nothing except for boosting the ego of the perpetrator by putting down the target, often in the guise of snide concern. Making fun of a fat person and a making fun of a thin person are equally condemnable. Neither is O.K..

real-womenHowever, the way this sort of commentary hurts a thin person is often very different from the way it hurts an overweight individual. Barring very low self-esteem, eating disorders, or other mental disorders that distort body image, most thin people are generally comfortable with their bodies even if they are not entirely satisfied. The above user said herself that she loves being thin. While this is becoming true for a growing number of overweight/fat/plus-sized/choose-your-adjective individuals, a vast majority of them (should I say us?) are constantly uncomfortable in their own skin.

Overweight people, especially women, tend to face a lot of imagery in magazines, television, and movies telling them their size is not only not beautiful, but not acceptable or at best, something to mocked. While there are a growing number of non-traditional models, big girls tend to have to seek out imagery that positively represents bodies similar to their own. On the contrary, thin women regularly see imagery that reinforces and reassures them that their bodies are attractive even if they hear remarks to the opposite effect. Being inundated with this sort of exclusionary imagery tends to make overweight women, and the men who are attracted to them, unnecessarily aggressive toward the idea of thin being sexy.  Often men attracted to fat women are seen as fetishists and the fat women themselves are seen as a fetish,  further increasing their defensive nature.

It is true that thin women still face the same pressure that all women feel: to have the perfect boobs, an exaggerated waist, and round perky buttocks. Disparaging remarks about our bodies hurt no matter what size we are; few people don’t inwardly long to change their appearance. The main difference here is that the remarks of peers regarding weight are much less likely to encourage or perpetuate harmful behaviors in the average thin person.

Thin women, because they tend to feel more confident about their bodies, are more likely to recognize the commentary as ignorant and hateful, label the person dispensing it an asshole, and move on. But it is fairly common for overweight women to already have an inner monologue that tells us we are unattractive because we are fat, and though we may hide it at the time, the commentary validates our negative self-image.  In women who are overweight despite vigilant diet and exercise, this can lead to starvation dieting or even encourage them to give up. In people who compulsively overeat, or eat for emotional reasons the implication is obvious.

In summation: Yes, thin Facebook user, the person who tells you to eat a cheeseburger or asks if you are anorexic is an asshole in the same way as the person who tells me I need Jenny Craig and asks me how I escaped SeaWorld. Yes, we both as women have to deal with insensitive assholes telling us that we don’t fit their ideal of beauty… But, unless you have a sense of worthlessness strongly linked to your weight…unless you have a loud inner-monologue that tells you that you are less than worthy because of how you look…please…don’t pretend you know how I feel.

 



On Haunted Houses, Volunteer Work, and Diving In
February 20, 2014, 4:08 pm
Filed under: art, Confidence, emotions, Haunted Houses, Volunteering | Tags: , , , ,

Since last summer, I’ve been involved in a local non-profit haunted house called “Gateway of Chaos.” Yes, since summer.  Also, I and other members of the haunt leadership team have already begun planning the details for this year’s haunt.

ImageMy adventure with Gateway of Chaos actually began in 2012, when Damien (then 11) told Chrisand I about a cool sounding haunted house that his friend Hannah really liked.   At the time, his favorite video game was Left 4 Dead, and he wanted to watch all the George Romero movies.  His favorite attraction at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch was the haunted house full of animatronics. He and his cousins were attempting to make a you-tube zombie movie. We figured he would enjoy going to the Gateway of Chaos.  

Well.

He was excited all through the hour long wait.  He enjoyed an extended conversation with a cue actor dressed as a zombie policeman. He was fine in the first room- completely dark and containing a heavy-breathing crazy person, who laughs as you try to figure out how to get out.  He laughed at a kid who squirted water on him.  Then came the screaming people popping out…and he cried the rest of the way through, then loudly stated a refusal to come back…ever.

I was impressed with what I saw, despite traversing it as quickly as quickly as possible. I liked the page on Facebook.

Then, sometime in early summer, Gateway’s Facebook page became loaded with messages encouraging patrons to volunteer.  Since it was clear working there was the only way I was going to go through it again, I signed up.

Wow.

I feel like becoming a staff member there has not only been a blast, but also a much needed social employment of my creative skills.  I’ve met a host of other, wonderful creative people…many of whom drive 30 minutes or more to volunteer.  Volunteers reconstruct the haunt each year.  By the time I began helping with construction in summer, the walls were already up.  Each volunteer gets to decide how much or how little they will do.  I decided to jump in…to clown shoes.

ImageI also made some pretty wall decorations…

ImageI also did my own clown makeup…

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This year, I’m taking a more active role.  I’ll be designing sets, but I expect a lot of collaborative efforts from my passionate teammates.