Saturday, July 30, 2011

Things to Think About

1.) How to Become a Writer Or, Have You Earned This Cliche? by: Lorrie Moore.

2.) Amy Winehouse. Enough said. I haven't listened to Back To Black in years and I've spent most of today  playing all ten tracks on repeat, feeling like crying because I just realized how much I wanted the next album, the one that will never come.

3.) I'm gonna need you to fight me on this: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) by reporter Mac Mcclelland.

4.) "On Being Paki-American" by: Aleeza

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Where I Go #1: Everywhere

by: Gracie

I went for a bike ride the other day.

As I rode down the streets behind my dad and brother, tires whizzing along the pavement, I soaked in my surroundings (along with the raindrops that had just begun to fall from the sky). We rode on the winding path next to the creek in the area near my house. I marvelled at the large cattails that grew in large patches in the mud next to the creek. They were beautiful stalks, bending gently as one in the wind. We rode past a once completely flooded field, now dried up to a large puddle and dead, yellow grass. I breathed in deeply the distinctly swampy scent that the field gave off. It reminded me of the marsh at the lake I went to for a week each summer.

I took note of all these thoughts, feelings and senses as I pedaled, soaking wet, up the driveway to my house.

Out in the world. That is where I write.

I know that, technically, I’m not continuously scribbling endless paragraphs of stories everywhere I go. But I am gathering scenes, characters, bits and pieces of stories, everywhere I go. And that’s the important stuff, anyway, the stuff that is the clay I mold my writing out of.

I’ll be sitting in the car, waiting for my mom, and across the parking lot I’ll spot a man in an old, pale yellow truck. My imagination starts up and my brain is filled with questions: Is he waiting for someone? His wife, maybe? What’s his wife like? Why is the hood of his car up? Is it broken? Later, this scene will be incorporated into the actual words I type out on my computer.

For me, where I go to do the physical act of writing (or, typing, really) doesn’t matter as much. Usually I’m just on my bed or at my cluttered desk in the basement (or “dungeon” as I like to call it).

The magic really happens when I’m out in the world, living life. Taking people, events and places and then, from that, creating my own, unique story. With just a little bit of complete imagination thrown in too, of
course. ;)

Gracie is a 17-year-old writer, reader and blogger who likes using pennames on the internet. ;) She's dreamed of becoming an author ever since she can remember, and has been writing since then along with trying to get published in teen writers' mags and win writing contests. (She has been successful twice so far). She lives in Canada with her quirky family and two cats.

To read more from Gracie visit her blog at I Am Writer...Hear Me Roar

For more info on this guest submissions series, visit the "Where I Go" Submissions page.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Online School vs. Traditional Schooling Part I

"When I told my friends I was going to online school they were confused. They couldn't understand why I would want to subject myself to that type of isolation..."

This quote was said by the valedictorian of my high school during the speech she gave at our graduation. She was standing in front of the podium in the shapeless navy blue gown that we were all forced to wear. The graduating class of 2011 formed the backdrop behind her as she smiled at the 70-something parents and family members sitting in the auditorium seats below the stage.

There was a sense of kinship between the graduates that day, and not because we were wearing the same cap and gown. We'd never seen each other's faces or sat at a table together to eat lunch. We'd never gone to parties together or passed notes in the back of a classroom. We'd never done any of the things that "normal" teens were supposed to do with each other during those four years of high school that seem to last forever and not long enough. But despite that, we knew each. All of us were bound together in a way that only similar experiences bind people. We understood what sitting on that stage in our cap and gown meant and that was enough to make us into a secret society.

I started out high school in the traditional way: I went to public school with the kids I'd known since middle school. My Freshman year went by in a flurry of Taco-Bell scented ignorance, peer pressure, and a big shrug to all things related to homework or tests or good grades. I was caught up in the new sense of freedom that high school provided, and spent too much time (more than I like to admit) ditching school to do things I shouldn't have been doing.

I've come to think of my Freshman year as all four years of high school packed into one. Every single perk and downside of traditional high school that one can experience, I experienced then. If I didn't have Bee to keep a leash on me and rein me in when I got out of control I don't know what kind of situations I would have gotten myself into. She was the voice of reason.

The summer before Sophomore year, I started to dread going back to all of that. I didn't want to get sucked back into a world that seemed separate from reality. I wanted to slow down, to understand...something, some part of a bigger picture I was missing; or maybe just my place in it. I would never have thought online school was an option because I didn't even know it existed. The idea of going to a high school based solely on the Internet seemed too good to be true even as the idea of isolation from my friends was cripplingly lonely.

It was Bee who found it out about it just a few days before school was due to start back up.

My family likes to joke that Bee can sell ice to an Eskimo. She probably could, too. She convinced my mom that we needed to give online school a try on the day we were shopping for school supplies to go back to school. This was a pivotal moment. My mother could have easily said no, and I still don't completely understand why she didn't, I just know that it was the best decision she could have made. It was the best decision I could have made by signing up.

Sitting on that stage, that's what all of us knew, me and Bee and our classmates. We knew that going to online school was the best decision we could have made. We weren't isolating ourselves, we were making the decision, for whatever reason(s), to give ourselves space; space to grow, and think, and learn. We were finding our place in a bigger picture.

Music I'm listening to: "Misguided Ghosts" by Paramore

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tomorrows: Endless, yes. Scary, maybe.

High school ended for me on June 14th, and since then I have been sitting in my living room watching all the Hulu my little heart (and eyes) can take. I've fallen in an obsessive love affair with Glee, I've taken a trip back in time to Grey's Anatomy's season one, I've been pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Lost.

This is what I do. In the midst of all this, there is a shower, maybe even a hair brush if I'm feeling lucky, and a little writing on the side. I am okay with this routine...or, I was.

A few nights ago, I was meditating, searching for some burst of latent inspiration when I found something else. Often times when you look that deeply into yourself, you never find what it is that you're hoping you will. I know this, but I was still surprised. Instead of finding the solution to a tricky scene in my story, I found fear. A crippling, paralyzing fear. The kind that looms over you, and you just stand still, knowing it will hit any minute now but hoping like hell that it wont.

So what was I afraid of?

I sat in my dark, little office for an hour, legs crossed half lotus, thumb and index finger touching in wisdom, eyes closed. I separated myself from the nonsense chatter in my mind, and waited...and waited...

...and waited...

Eventually, the tension fell out of my neck and hips, even as my legs fell asleep. But that pain was secondary to the fear in my chest. It's instinctive to want to push that much fear away from yourself. Who in their right mind would want to sit down in the center of it?

Obviously I wasn't in my right mind, because I was pointing my finger at it and saying "Yeah, you, c'mere!" 

It did come come, right when I was ready to give up. And again, it just wasn't what I expected. I'm always afraid that I won't succeed, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life; that I won't live the best life I possibly can. I'm also afraid of spiders, and heights, and drowning.

But I didn't find any of those fears. I found a fear of change, of how fast everything in my life was changing, faster than I could comprehend, faster than I'd thought possible a month ago.

 Before graduation, I was insane with anticipation. I was going out into the real world, it was finally my time. Post graduation, the possibilities stretched endlessly before me. And I was, am, afraid; of tomorrow, of the day after, of making my next move, of not making it, of making it too early or too late. The fears of my future are endless, and it was these fears that had me hiding away.

Uncertainty was suffocating me.

When I opened my eyes and uncrossed my legs, I felt like I was waking up from a really long sleep, weeks of deep sleep. I was still scared, but today when I looked at myself in the mirror, I told myself that it was okay. Yes, everyone, I did talk to myself. I said, "It's okay. You're afraid and it's OKAY." I also told myself to stop looking at the uncertainty of the future as something apocalyptic and daunting. Those same endless possibilities that frighten you should excite you. You can make a mistake tomorrow and fix it the day after. You can cry like your world in ending today and tomorrow you can smile until your cheeks snap in two. There is no telling what tomorrow brings, and it's so exhausting to spend today stressing about it. In fact, it doesn't even make sense.

So, instead of slapping your hands over your eyes (like I did) and hiding away, you should embrace tomorrow with wide eyes and open arms. Give it a big hug and a sloppy kiss.

There's someone out there right now who is just as scared as I am, or was, and I'm not telling you that you need to meditate for an hour in order to recognize this fear and deal with it. I'm telling you to take it a step further: get off the couch, brush your hair, and smile, carry on with your day instead of hiding from it, know that it's okay, that you'll be okay. That's all it takes to make the most of today. And if you get up tomorrow and do the same thing, you'll be making the most of that day too. That's the future: endless, yes. Scary, maybe. But one day at a time, it isn't so impossible to comprehend.

PS: Sorry for staying away so long.