Monthly Archives: March 2013

in which I announce my big news!

I don’t have many skills, but one of them is avoiding the thing I am supposed to be doing.

Which is right now I’m watching the 25th Anniversary Concert Edition of Les Miserables, which is conveniently on PBS, and which is the best1 of all the Les Mises2. Also, I’m blogging. Which, in reality, is just a massive avoidance of doing what I should be doing.

…Sorry, I was captivated there for a moment watching Ramin Karimloo burst onto the stage for One Day More and I totally lost my train of thought.

What was I going to talk about? Oh yes, I remember now. The big news of last week.

It should be noted that my life is fairly uneventful and mostly boring, so the scale of “big things” is really distorted. They add a new hot beverage at the Simmons Café and that’s big news. So keep that in mind that big news in my world probably isn’t really that earth shattering to anyone else.

But the big news of last week is that I got a job. A sort of fancy new job for the summer that is well paid, in my field, and, in a surprising twist, near my family. So starting in May, I am going to be working for The Friend magazine, a publication put out by the LDS church3 that is targeted towards 4 to 12 year olds. That means that for four months, May to August, I will be leaving my life here in Boston to return to the great city of Salt Lake, my homeland. Do not worry—I will return to Boston come September to finish out my MFA. But for now—summer job! In my field! At an awesome publication! I really couldn’t be happier about this.

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it’s so cute I just want to squeeze it!

Though my mother pointed out that who I worked for last summer (NPR) and who I will be working for this summer (the Mormon church) really could not be more different.

Examples, you ask? Well, don’t mind if I do4.

NPR: Known for its liberal swing.
LDS Church: Is not.

NPR: More specifically “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” is all about making fun of people.
LDS Church: All about lifting people up.

NPR: Profanity was casually tossed about.
LDS Church:  I would be casually tossed out if I used any.

NPR: I frequently wore shorts to work.
LDS Church: Requires me to dress like I’m going on a mission. So basically Edwardian standards5.

NPR: I dyed my hair pink and everyone said, “Looks awesome.”
LDS Church: Would be much less okay with that life decision.

So it’s going to be a big change. A big change that I’m really excited for. I’m also excited to get out of Boston. I’m getting a little antsy here. I think the fact that in the past four years, I haven’t lived in any one place longer than eight months has given me an unreasonable standard of what it means to live somewhere. When the scenery doesn’t change in four months, I get bored. Plus Boston and I still aren’t getting on as well as Chicago and I did, or England and I did, and I could use a break from Beantown.

So I am returning, Salt Lake. Prepare thyself.

  1. With the exception of the dead fish that is Joe Jonas. Nick Jonas? Which one is it? The Jonas brothers are all interchangeable in my opinion.
  2. What is the plural of Les Mis? Slash has anyone ever asked this question before?
  3. To which I belong, if you’re new here.
  4. I knew all my compare and contrast essays I wrote in high school would someday come in handy!
  5. Though if Downton Abbey has taught us anything, it is that Edwardian fashion can be HOT.
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in which things disappear

Sometimes people say perfectly ordinary things in perfectly ordinary settings that get stuck in your head like a song, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get them out.

This is the story of one of those things.

In my criticism class last term, we talked about many books, including The Snowman—this beautiful picture book that I remember from my childhood. For those of you who haven’t read it1, it’s a story about a boy who builds a snowman that comes to life, and they have all sorts of grand adventures during the night. But then the next morning, the boy wakes up ready to have more fun only to find that the snowman has melted. As snowmen are want to do.

So there we were, discussing The Snowman, when a girl sitting next to me spoke very vehemently about how much she had disliked this book as a child. Naturally, most of us were shocked, because it’s basically a perfect book, and so we asked her why. And what she said, which I will paraphrase here, still sometimes rings around in my head like a siren song.

“I hated the idea that beautiful things have to end.”

She actually teared up when she said it. I might have too. In the middle of criticism class, of all places2. But ever since then, this idea has been stuck in my head, and I keep thinking about it. Beautiful things have to end. It’s sort of haunting regardless, just the way she said it, but there’s been something bothering me lately that makes it more applicable to the immediate context of my life.

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In the not so distant past, someone who was really important to me totally screwed me over. Which sounds a little coarse, but really, there’s no more tasteful or honest way to say that, because that’s what happened. It wasn’t something I could have prevented or changed or done anything to avoid—someone I loved made a decision to throw me under the bus, and I just had to lay there and get squished.

On the night that said screwing over occurred, I drove to meet up with this person. We talked for a bit, I may or may not have cussed him out3, and we parted knowing that we would probably never see or speak to each other again. And as I drove home, I remember thinking how strange and sucky it was to have someone who on one side of that car ride had for a long time been one of the most important people in my life. And then on the way home—barely two hours later—he was gone, just like that, so quickly that I almost couldn’t comprehend it. There, not there. It was reverse Casablanca—the end of a beautiful friendship. And something that for a long time had been a rare and beautiful thing in my life was gone.

And thus is the treachery of beautiful things.

In the great words of the Great Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past.” You cannot return to Louisville and marry your teenage dream in your parent’s living room like the last five years never happened4. You cannot go back to visit the beautiful things of the past. Because the world moves on, and things get lost and left behind. And for a while, everybody walks around with empty pieces of themselves where their snowmen and their friendships used to be. Hopefully we find better things to fill the holes with.

 

  1. Even if you have read this book, you technically haven’t read it, because it has no words.
  2. It should be noted that this is not the only time that happened. A few weeks earlier I had teared up in that same criticism class over a discussion of the aforementioned Code Name Verity. Have you read it yet? You should read it. It will make you cry. And if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with you. No pressure.
  3. I did.
  4. This is not from personal experience. This is a very specific Fitzgerald reference. If you worked that out on your own, I will give you a prize.
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in which I take on the challenge burger

This week was spring break. Which meant I should have had a lot of time and adventures to blog about.

Instead, I mostly hibernated.

Until yesterday, when I ventured out with some friends to the Eagle Deli, which is apparently kind of famous. Mostly because of this:

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Yeah. Guess what we ordered.

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It came with these. You know, in case you were still hungry.

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In the words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge Accepted.”

The monstrosity of a burger reminded me of nothing so much as my adventures with NPR known as Sandwich Monday1 where the “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” staff ate ridiculous sandwiches every Monday and subjected themselves to indigestion and weight gain in order to bring awesome commentary to the internet. What a sacrifice. So I have chosen to format my blog today in very much the same way that NPR formats their Sandwich Monday posts.

So these are our thoughts while eating the Challenge Burger.

Greg: Make way for burger.

Mackenzi: That’s the name of my next picture book. The sequel to “Make Way for Ducklings.”

Clarissa: They made it surprisingly quickly. It makes me suspicious they were just microwaving it in the back.

Gabi: And with disappointingly little production. I was hoping for music and fireworks.

Clarissa: This is a great activity for a Friday during Lent.

Gabi: God will forgive us, because this burger only means that we will be joining him that much sooner.

Clarissa: In heaven, the streets are paved with burger.

Greg: There’s another burger on the menu called the Godzilla. I’m confused why that isn’t the name of this burger.

Mackenzi: This burger is the building that Godzilla knocks down.

Jessica: It’s the leaning tower of burger.

Mackenzi: You can actually see your reflection in the grease.

CJ: No open flames near this, or we’ll all go up.

Gabi: This burger needs to come with a free cab ride home.

Jessica: Complete with those barf bags like on airplanes.

Clarissa: It’s like the hunger games, except in this one, it’s the food that fights back.

Mackenzi: Everything about this is the opposite of the hunger games. It is the never hungry again games.

Brandon: This bottom bun is less bread and more just grease sponge.

Greg: And a defibrillator for dessert!

The only reason we beat the burger was because there were eight of us. Yeah, it took eight of us, three of which were guys, to wrestle this guy into submission. But it was actually a surprisingly delicious burger. You would think that quantity would trump quality, but it was surprisingly delicious. Also the fries were great. I was told the pickles were kind of bland, but really, we weren’t there for the pickles.

So the story of my spring break is that I slept, then woke up to eat a giant hamburger, then slipped back into a deep food coma.

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  1. Read about my adventures in Sandwich Monday here and here, or from the NPR blog here and here.
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in which I write bloody

We all have moments where everything changes.

Even though change is usually a gradual, invisible process, I’m sure that everybody, no matter who you are, has days in their lives that they can look backwards at and say, “That was the day that everything changed for me.”

I had one of those days my freshman year of college, when I went to a show put on by Andrea Gibson and Buddy Wakefield, two spoken word poets. Up until this point in my life, though I was fairly well read, the only poetry I was aware of was the crusty old stuff, like Shakespeare and Donne. Which is nice, but sort of dated. Then I heard Buddy and Andrea1, and in one night, my whole concept of how writers can use language to evoke emotion changed. Everything I knew about words and poetry and emotion and how I moved in the world was turned totally around. It was an outstanding and spiritual and earth-shattering night that left a life-long impression on me.

Since then, I have been a fairly dedicated groupie of both Buddy and Andrea. Through the two of them, I discovered a lot of other remarkable poets, like Anis Mojgani, Taylor Mali2, and Jeanann Verlee, as well as the tiny indie press that publishes all of them, Write Bloody. So last night, when Write Bloody did a show featuring almost twenty of their poets in Boston, I lined up in the cold for tickets, squished myself into the back corner of a Back Bay church, and stood up for three hours to hear them perform3.

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All the poets who performed. Not a great picture. Blame my cell phone.

And the show was pretty darn outstanding, as I knew it would be. But the thing that impressed me the most about the evening was the experience of watching people’s dreams come true in real-time. This is one of the largest events Write Bloody has ever done, and when the founder introduced the show, the first thing he said was, “It has taken us so many shows at so many sh*tty coffee shops to get here.” But here they were. Everyone that performed was so genuinely passionate, so genuinely chuffed to be there, and just so darn giving of what they had. Writing is an amazing and intimate thing, where you share things about yourself with strangers that you wouldn’t tell your closest friends. It’s a process of giving yourself away. And everyone who performed was so giving, and what they had to give was so infectiously good. It made me want to run home and write, write, write, and go passionately and boldly in the direction of my own dreams in the hopes that someday, I would graduate from the sh*tty coffee shops of rejection and ascend into something this extraordinary.

It really excites me to see passionate people going out into the world, working hard, and then getting somewhere because of that dedication. It gives me a wild sort of hope that the same thing will happen to me if I keep pressing forward.

Thank you, Write Bloody, for an extraordinary show. You have a life-long fan in me.

  1. I’m fairly certain they’d both be horrified if I called them “Mr. Wakefield and Ms. Gibson,” so I’m sticking with Buddy and Andrea. Also – here are links to two of their poems, if you’re interested: Andrea / Buddy 
  2. If you are/want to be/will be a teacher, you need to hear this poem. Though warning for all you conservative readers—there is mild profanity. And lots of passion. Don’t watch if you can’t handle those things.
  3. It should be noted, I stood up for three hours after dancing for two hours previous to that. My legs are punishing me for that today.
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in which I make the case for Young Adult

Today, I got to have lunch with one of my most favorite authors of all time, Nova Ren Suma. Nova is the author of three beautiful books, Dani Noir, the forthcoming 17 & Gone1, and Imaginary Girls, which is one of two novels that made me say, “Yes. I want to be a young adult writer2.”

I spend a lot of time with writers who are trying to make it, which can start to feel sort of like a race where we are all tripping over each other to get to that hardcover debut first. So it was refreshing to talk to Nova, someone who is already there, and has already done it. She was a light at the end of the tunnel, that I can look at and see that yes, this can work out! It can be done3!

Nova and I talked about many wonderful things, but the thing that made the biggest impact was talking about the stigma attached to YA. I spend so much time around people who understand the appeal of YA that I sometimes forget that there is a judgment attached to it. When I tell people, “I’m studying creative writing.” They say something like, “That’s really cool! What do you write?” Then I say, “Children’s lit.” And they look sort of disappointed. And they say one of three things:

1. Like Twilight? (Or Hunger Games, which is slightly more flattering, but usually Twilight).
2. Well, maybe someday you can write real books.
3. I’ve heard there’s a lot of money in that.

To which, I would like to respond as follows:

1. No, not like Twilight. Or Hunger Games, for that matter. Just because these books have sort of become the face of YA, doesn’t mean they are the only ones. Vampire books and dystopians are such a small part of the industry4. And some of those books are magnificent5. Just because Twilight isn’t per say the greatest piece of literature, does not mean that all young adult books are like that, in the same way that 50 Shades of Grey, though it is the best-selling book of all time, is not the great American novel. Twilight, though popular, is not the pinnacle or the standard or the norm of YA.

2. News flash—young adult books are real books. In fact, sometimes they are more real than so-called adult novels6. In saying that YA books are less than adult books, you are saying that a teenager’s experience in the world is somehow less valid than an adult’s, and so the books about them are less important.

3. Oh, right, because that’s why I’m doing this. Thank you for reminding me.

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YA books are some of the most poignant and real books on the shelves. They mirror the teenage experience, where everything is so new and raw and close to the surface and you are so busy creating yourself that you don’t have time to hide behind fancy prose, issues, or inflated sense of self. YA is story, and it is emotion, and in so many cases, it is raw and sharp and brilliant, and it hits you right where you live. YA is comprised of coming of age stories, and anyone can read those and relate to them, because we never stop coming of age.

But, you might say, “Isn’t YA lit written for a younger audience? I think it’s below my reading level.” First of all, reading level is a scam created by school districts to make kids feel bad about themselves. And second of all, contrary to popular belief, YA writers don’t write down to their audience. They don’t dumb down their stories or their prose, because teenagers don’t need that. YA is not a reading level, it’s a genre, and you can read about teenagers even if you’re not one.

If you are a new comer to YA, or if you carry some of the stigmas described above, might I humbly suggest a few not scary YA titles to start with, and some comp adult titles so they are less intimidating. No vampires, or werewolves, or fight to the death arenas. These are the kind of books that will not just change your perspective on YA: they will change your life.

If you liked….
…The DaVinci Code you might like Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
…The Time Traveler’s Wife you might like Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
…The Night Circus you might like A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
…Game of Thrones you might like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
…My Sister’s Keeper you might like The Fault in our Stars by John Green
…Water for Elephants you might like Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
…Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you might like Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein  
…The Kite Runner you might like Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
…Gone Girl you might like I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
…Something Borrowed you might like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  1. Which I have already read. Because I’m awesome. And other reasons.  
  2. Seriously guys. Imaginary Girls. Read it, and love it, and slobber over the prose like I did.
  3. Asdflkj. I hope.
  4. Has anybody written a dystopian about vampires? That feels like a missed opportunity.
  5. May I introduce you to Feed by MT Anderson?
  6. I hate calling them adult books because then it sounds like porn.
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in which a holiday is observed

Today is March 2. For completely arbitrary reasons, March 2 is my favorite day of the year.

Alright, not totally arbitrary. The story of my love affair with March 2 goes back to elementary school. This is going to be a big clue as to my real age, but I was in sixth grade when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. My friends and I were all obsessed with it. I was obsessed with it, even though I had oppressive parents who would not let me see it. But I basically knew what happened. I had read the books. And all my friends filled me in on what they looked like.

For Christmas that year, my parents gave me a day-to-day calendar with a different still photo from The Fellowship of the Ring each day, as sort of an olive  branch for barring me from seeing the actual film. I was the envy of the schoolyard playground with that1.

The favorite things among my friends and I became seeing what picture was on your birthday. That was somehow telling of your character and your future, like a Tolkien tarot card. My birthday was, of course, a gross picture of an Orc being birthed out of the mud of Mordor. I guess the manufacturers didn’t feel comfortable putting some cute picture of Hobbiton on September 11. But one of my best friends at the time had her birthday on March 2. So we flipped to that day in the calendar, and it was a picture of Pippin looking delightful and happy. Really, the only happy picture from a pretty heavy movie. And so March 2 became known as Happy Pippin Day. And every day of the year, when March 2 rolls around, I immediately think of my Lord of the Rings calendar and Happy Pippin.

So Happy Happy Pippin Day!

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this was not *the* image, but it’s close.

This week was a really weird week for me. And not weird in a good way. So when I woke up this morning and realized it was Happy Pippin Day, I wasn’t sure how my favorite day of the year was going to turn out.

But today was unexpectedly awesome. A great way to end a really mediocre week. I actually woke up and did some writing in the morning, which has been hard for me for the past few days. I’ve been stuck in a rut where I couldn’t string two words together to save my life. Post-awesome writing2, my friend The Shark3 and I went to the book launch of my favorite Simmons professor. We then went to Harvard Square, where the Curious George Store, aka my favorite store in Boston, had a sale with lots of hardback books for $3. Loaded up on that. Then I accompanied The Shark to get her brand-new tattoo! It was very exciting, and she now has a lovely sunflower illustration from a Kevin Henkes picture book on her wrist. Then we headed over to the Old State House to see the Boston Massacre! Yes, you did hear that right. We watched the Boston Massacre. Okay, I admit, it may have been a reenactment. But it was undeniably awesome. We got to yell abuse at the red coats and watch people shoot each other. I really enjoy any event where I am encouraged to shout things like “Tar and Feather him4!” at the soldier who very strongly resembled Benedict Cumberbatch. And then we ended with dinner at Quincy Market.

And with that, Happy Pippin Day came to an awesome conclusion.

  1. Ah if only that were true.
  2. Accompanied by awesome French onion soup, which is my new favorite kind of soup.
  3. Known as such for many reasons that cannot be discussed here, but primarily so because she works at the front desk at Simmons College, and since we are the Simmons Sharks, she is the face of Simmons College. i.e. she is the shark.
  4. Also, apparently shouting “Lobsters!” at the British was a thing.
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