15 November 2008

FIOS has arrived...

And that means that I should (please note the emphasis on "should") be able to renew my pledge to make this blog more than a passing fancy. I make no promises.

In case my prolonged absence had you scratching your noggins, let me ease your minds. I've been busy procuring an apartment (and all of the necessary accoutrement) with a long-time friend recently returned to the US of A after serving overseas. I hadn't seen her in years and suddenly we're living together. It's magnificent. And the place is really coming together, which always helps any transition.

But this new arrangement got me thinking about long-term (long-lasting)/long-distance relationships (of any kind) and why some succeed where others fail. I don't really know why this topic was the station my train of thought decided to break down at, but here I am. And I'm wondering: Is it really as simple as dedication (even one-sided dedication)?

If I were to compile two lists of my relationships (friends, romantic interests and even family), with one list containing the names of people who "made it" and the other a list of those who didn't, I believe the only thing the folks on the first list would have in common would be that one or both of us decided that we were going to make it work and stay in touch, and did. We may have had/have our up and down and periods of extended silence, but in the end an effort was/is made. The end.

I've run it over and over in my brain, and there was invariably a moment in each of my long-term and/or long-distance relationships when one of us made the effort to bug the other person into staying attached. Sadly, most of the time the driving force came from the other person...but that's a topic for a shrink's couch, not my blog.

My point is that my various familial and congenial relationships capable of withstanding the tests of time and space do not succeed because of some inherent trait somehow encoded into the relationship. The people who bothered to email, call or see me with some sort of regularity and sticktoitiveness are the ones with whom I've remained connected.

Am I the only one for whom this holds true? Does it matter?

In the end, I know that I have a network of people to whom I really matter and who really matter to me. What more could I ask for?

Then again, if effort is all it takes, why would any of my relationships fail?

06 November 2008

At this, an historic hour in America...

Anything I could say would pale in comparison... to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, is going to be the 44th President of these United States of America. But, he is more than just a man. He's a fulfillment of a Dream, a Dream that I shared and am incredibly moved and pleased to see come true.

Maybe change is possible after all.

22 October 2008

BKF: Once a bridesmaid...

I know that the post about my trip back to Texas for my friend's wedding is long overdue. However, I have been revitalized (in spite of recent dramatic events in the Quest for Housing 2008) with regard to giving my beloved blog some much-needed attention. Therefore, I would like to discuss my latest BKFs (Big Kid Firsts, for those of you new to Wuthering Life):
  1. Being a bridesmaid
  2. Catching that oh-so-prophetic bouquet
  3. Being a chauffeur for a day
With regard to the first item on the list, I found it almost exactly as I expected it. As the surrogate younger sister to the bride and best friend of the maid of honor, I made mad dashes to various stores for various forgotten items, convinced the bride that she deserved to take a break and get a manicure, and stood at the front of the church to witness her blessed union under the watchful eyes of Jesus and a bunch of people I'd never even seen before.

It felt like what I imagine (as it is all I can do) being in the homecoming court but not receiving the crown must feel like. On the one hand, it was a honor to be nominated, yadda yadda yadda. But the day wasn't about me. So why did I have to get up that damn early to make my hair do things it never ever does in real life? Well, it did give me an excuse to buy an incredibly hot pair of Guess pumps that I would never have allowed myself for everyday use and to wear a fancy gown, with tool and boning and a cute little bow. Oh yeah, and did I mention that it was an honor?

Moving on to item number two... ugh, must I? How about I keep this short and sweet. Oooh. Bullets!
  • There were a grand total of SIX single girls at the reception (including the nine-year-old flower girl).
  • We left the tossing bouquet (yes, there was a special bouquet made solely for this purpose and we forgot it) in the trunk of the car.
  • I was the only bridesmaid to bring her bouquet to the reception.
  • My bouquet got tossed.
  • It headed right for the very small group of single girls.
  • Everyone else leaned away.
  • Some stupid, treacherous, traditional (did I mention STUPID?) part of me saw the bouquet falling and felt that it must certainly be horrible bad luck to just let it fall.
  • I reached out and caught it.
For all of the reasons listed above, I feel very strongly that catching that bouquet means NOTHING. Strangely, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or nothing.

Finally, I was a chauffeur for a day. I drove the bride and groom around all day. There really isn't much I can say about this BKF other than to pose a question. Have you ever tried climbing in and out of a driver's seat with yards and yards of satin and tool layering your body? It. Is. Not. Fun.

And that, in a nutshell, was my trip. But it was great to see the area again (in the "oh look, I almost forgot about that place/thing/person"). Maybe that's another BKF...

09 October 2008

Quickly before I go to Texas...

I know that it is election season and that you've probably been innudated with "VOTE" campaigns, but I have another vote I would like you to participate in.

A friend of my company--Liz McCartney, the co-director/founder of the St. Bernard Project--is a CNN Hero Semi-finalist for 2008. She won $25,000 and is now one of 10 who will be honored in Hollywood on Thanksgiving night at 9:00 p.m. (EST) at a red carpet event. Through a voting campaign, a grand winner will be announced at the November 22 event. This person will win $100,000. Needless to say, Liz has already donated her $25,000 award to the St. Bernard Project and will do the same if she wins the $100,000.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would go check out the CNN Heroes Web site and cast your vote (preferrably for Liz and the great work she is doing to help victims of Hurricane Katrina!)

04 October 2008

Character Profile: Kainin Demouban

The character profile series (started by this post) continues with a request from my Kage-chan, to take a look at Kainin, the villain of a fantasy novel, which I worked on several years ago, that is dead (as opposed to shelved like SOC). Sad, no?

About Kainin: Kainin was a genius inventor and scorned ex-cop of the Intergalactic Police Force in his mid-thirties. He was the universe's most wanted criminal, and he had used his evil genius to create a time machine that would take him back to medieval Earth, where he could rule as a God among men because of his superior technical knowledge. His perfect plan was complicated by the tenacious protagonist, but they both wound up in an unknown world had had to forge a very shaky alliance to survive.

a. What initially prompted me to write about him. I needed an antagonist to get my protagonist to this other world. When my protagonist walked into Kainin's laboratory, Kainin was just...there.
b. One of his best traits. He was a genius--one that was capable not only of understanding scientific and technical things, but also of reading and manipulating people. It was a very useful tool in his arsenal.
c. One of his worst traits. He was a self-serving, manipulative jerk. I'd say that was worst.
d. How easy/difficult I find it to write him. I found it difficult, only because I didn't want him to come across as cliched or archetypal. He was easy to understand, but difficult to get across uniquely.
e. The moment where I feel that I truly captured him. I wrote very little of this story. I don't know that I ever truly captured him.
f. My plans to write him in the near future. Unfortunately, Kainin will not be coming back to the world in this form. Kage-chan has adopted him and is using a mutated version of him in her manga. Kainin also served as an unconscious model for the main villain of ANJIDIA. So, I suppose that he will be with us in spirit always.

30 September 2008

Character Profile: Draven

To continue the character profile series that stemmed from this post, I will be discussing Draven, the fan favorite and rebel leader of ANJIDIA (the novel I am shopping out now), as per my lovely Bow-Tie's request.

NOTE: Because this work is currently unpublished, answers may be intentionally vague to avoid spoilers.

About Draven: As the leader of the rebellion, Draven is charming and take-charge. He also has a tendency to keep things very close to the vest. Age isn't a fixed concept in Anjidia, but Draven has matured to what would be the equivalent of a man in his late twenties in our world.

a. What initially prompted me to write about him. I knew that Draven was going to exist from the moment that I first thought about ANJIDIA beyond the first scene that came to me. But he changed quite a bit throughout the writing process. In fact, Draven began his journey through my mind as a prince! (For those of you who haven't read the story, there are no princes in my book.)
b. One of his best traits. Draven takes everything on himself--the rebellion, responsibility for his family, et cetera. He will go to any lengths to take care of those obligations.
c. One of his worst traits. Draven takes everything on himself. What can I say? It's a great liability as well. A lot of pressure is associated with carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and Draven knows that better than most.
d. How easy/difficult I find it to write him. Draven isn't difficult to write, per se. However, he did change quite a bit. I think it's most accurate to say that he is surprising to write. He is one of the characters whose scenes changed (if only a bit) during the editing process, as his character had changed so much throughout.
e. The moment where I feel that I truly captured him. I think that I truly captured the "essence of Draven" when I rewrote a scene between Aryli (the book's narrator and protagonist) and Draven that happens toward the end of the book. I had originally envisioned the scene unfolding like that, but in the first draft, it wasn't right. Happily, that wasn't the case for the revised versions.
f. My plans to write him in the near future. It is very conceptual and theoretical at this point, but I am vaguely planning to write a sequel to ANJIDIA that features Draven as its narrator. We'll see how that pans out, but I would love the opportunity to bring him back.

28 September 2008

Another reason I write

Did you know that in 1931 China banned ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, because the story portrays animals and humans on the same level? It's true. Hm. I guess that it's too bad that I not only read it, but also wrote my 50-page thesis on it.

In celebration of ALA's Banned Book Week, I thought that I would share my brush with the dangerous world of banned books. In addition, I found this list of books that have been banned at some point in the United States. Aren't you glad that we have that pesky First Amendment to keep things like this from...oh wait. Just as an experiment, I've marked those I've had the pleasure of enjoying.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (6th grade)
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume (3rd grade)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (college)
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (9th grade)
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner (college)
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (7th grade)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (9th grade)
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (9th grade)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (10th grade)
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (4th grade)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (6th grade)
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (um....my grandmother read it to be before I could read)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (6th grade)
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz (6th grade)
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (5th grade)
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot (10th grade)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (college)
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (college)
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (college)
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl (5th grade)
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (9th grade)
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (college)
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

I've read 22 of these titles, seen all of the Stephen King books in their movie form, and have several of the others on my To Be Read list. Apparently, I am a fan of the forbidden fruit. Who would have guessed?

25 September 2008

Character Profile: Kate Stephan

My first response (to this post in which I called for requests for character insight) was by the lovely Kat Kuhl. She wanted to hear more about Kate Stephan, one of the main characters of my currently shelved SPIRITS OF CHANGE.

About Kate: Ms. Stephan is an unmarried, 56-year-old fierce businesswoman. She is the CEO/majority shareholder of Stephan Enterprises, and she is pretty much the most powerful woman in the world--think a female Lex Luthor. She acts as the financier and gatherer of the heroines in SOC.

a. What initially prompted me to write about her. I knew that I needed someone to act as a the magnet to draw all of the leads (there are five) into the story. I also needed someone to get in on the ground floor and become a believer who could actually do something about her beliefs. Thus, Kate was blinked into existence.
b. One of her best traits. Kate may be a hard-nosed, savvy businesswoman, but she's not closed-minded or ultra-conservative. Her open-mindedness is by far her best trait.
c. One of her worst traits. Kate suffers from that familiar ailment that most commonly afflicts the rich and powerful; she will do anything to get what she wants, because she believes that the rules don't apply to her. As a result, she can be somewhat amoral and manipulative.
d. How easy/difficult I find it to write her. Despite my obvious lack of both money and power, I found Kate really easy to write. She has enough of the stereotypical traits of a financial juggernaut that I could use familiar tropes, but she's also soft and caring (in certain ways) enough that I liked her. In fact, I'd say she was my favorite character in the entire SOC cast.
e. The moment where I feel that I truly captured her. I feel that Kate was alive to me from the moment that I started writing, and in the opening scene of the book (told from her point of view) she has this AMAZING conversation in which she essentially tells the President of the US to take a hike, because she's Kate Stephan. She wasn't being malicious, just...Kate. From that moment, there she was.
f. My plans to write her in the near future. Sadly, SOC has been scrapped for the foreseeable future. I had this great cast and realized that they just weren't going anywhere. But I haven't given up on Kate, and I'm certain that I haven't heard the last of her.

Oh the shame!

I can't believe that it has been almost a month since I last updated. At least I made it in under the wire, no? You're right. My apologies.

Sure, I was out of town for a few days over Labor Day weekend. Sure, I was working at a temp job, interviewing for permanent jobs and finally securing one. Sure, I was busy querying more agents and sinking into a subtle depression with each passing rejection. And sure, I was editing my first novel (again) and have been outlining my second.

Clearly I have no excuses. Oh look, there they are. Amazing.

My point is that I regret my absence and am going to try to be better behaved. I make no promises, however. I start my new job on Monday, and I hope to start writing on my next novel this weekend. It will be impressive indeed if I am able to balance all three. Then again, I like challenges.

In the meantime, I thought that I would post this meme for you all to comment on. I will dedicate a blog entry to whatever character you pick. However, you may only choose one. So make it your favorite.

Name a character that you know I write or have written, and I'll tell you:

a. What initially prompted me to write about the character.
b. One of the character's best traits.
c. One of the character's worst traits.
d. How easy/difficult I find it to write the character.
e. The moment where I feel that I truly captured the character.
f. My plans to write the character in the near future.

If you aren't familiar with my characters, enjoy learning a bit about them. And because I'm always on the look-out for good entry topics, you can ask a question of your choosing about my writing process.

26 August 2008

A lesson in time

This morning, 7am found me sweating it out in the gym. Yes, my lovely roommate and I reached deep down within ourselves, found the strength to turn off Season One of Gossip Girl at a decent hour, and resolved to get up at 6:30 for a morning quickie (cardio session, you pervs). We didn't make it until seven, but we considered it a successful morning nonetheless. And then, we looked around.

It seems that the nice retirees who reside in our building are not all of the sit in a rocker all day persuasion. In fact (and I am loathe to admit this), a few of them seem to be considerably more active than their younger neighbors. Every day, I see this bent-over, hobbling old man taking walks around the grounds with his nurse. Those brave souls at the gym with us so early were working out at a pace and dedication that made my routine look positively lazy. And, there was even an older couple sparing with the building's personal trainer.

I've given this phenomenon considerable thought today, and I've concluded that I will not be ashamed but that I will work harder. I am not-yet 22 and am certainly capable of putting forth an effort comparable to that of those some forty, fifty, and sixty years my senior. If I want to be in the kind of shape at their ages that allows me to put twenty-somethings to shame, then the time to work hard and develop the correct habits is now.

And I do want to be able to put those twenty-somethings to shame!

Who says the young don't appreciate the wisdom of their elders?

24 August 2008

What's in a name?

Friday's discussion of names led to a few interesting follow up questions from my enigmatic blog stalker, and I thought that a good way to spend my Sunday afternoon would be to address them. He/she asked:
When naming a baby, do you pick out the name before the baby is born or do you wait to see the personality of the baby? Do people 'grow' into their names?
As I am not a mother, nor have I ever experienced the joy and discomfort of incubating a living being in my uterus, I can only respond to the first question in the hypothetical and based on conjecture. If past experience is any indicator, I can safely assume that I will be the type of expectant mother who names her baby beforehand. I say this, because I have what some might not-so-kindly refer to as an obsession with naming things. Personally, I prefer to think of it as a penchant for naming things.

My iPod has a name (John Boy), my teddy bear has a name (Teddy - creative I know), even my laptop has a name (My Love - don't ask). My point is that I name everything, and I can't imagine that I would go 40 weeks with a living being growing inside me and be able to refer to it only as "the baby." Besides, I've heard that fetuses demonstrate quirks and respond to outside stimuli, which can arguably be considered personality, and anything with a noticeable personality needs a name as far as I'm concerned.

That being said, I do think that people grow into their names (or nicknames as the case may be). I think that there are certain stereotypes and personality traits accompany names, and more than acting a certain way because your name "makes you," I think that people are treated a certain way based on their names, and that can affect how a person develops. For instance, a Mary Lou is treated much differently than a Victoria. And, that's not even getting into the pop cultural association with certain names, like Scarlett, Marsha, et cetera.

If authors have to be particular about choosing character names, then I think parents should be equally responsible for choosing people names.

22 August 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name, Particularly Stephanie

Samantha Elise Elliott, that is my name. It's a beautiful name, in my humble (okay, maybe not-so-humble) opinion. It has been my name for well over 22 years now, and the only nickname I ever really go by is Sam, much to my chagrin (but that's a post for another day).

My point is that at no point have I ever gone by any other name (though I'm sure I'd smell as sweet), especially not, say, Stephanie. Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with the name Stephanie; it too is a beautiful name. But, it's taken by my sister, and as such, when I am called Stephanie, it brings back memories of being a very frustrated little girl who couldn't understand why her family couldn't seem to remember that she was Samantha.

Finally, I think I have the answer. It has presented itself to me before, and I noticed it then, but I never really put two and two together. Four, the answer is four.

You see, I always assumed that the mix up was caused by the fact that my sister and I are close in age, looked similar when we were younger, and both had an uncanny talent for driving people nuts. Then, when I was nine, I went to Disneyland with my father et al. On the plane to California, the six of us were forced to be seated separately. I was seated next to a very nice, older woman named Rose (yes, I still remember her), who was on her way to visit her recently-born grandson for the first time. Anyway, during our flight, we chatted quite a bit, and when she was exiting the plane in San Diego, she said, "It was nice meeting you, Stephanie. Have a good trip." I was amazed; it was the first time that I had ever noticed (though I'm sure it had happened before) anyone calling me by my sister's name, and she didn't know I had a sister called Stephanie!

As the years wore on, the same scenario would replay itself, and I always remembered Rose and that flight, but I never thought much about it beyond alternating between amused and perplexed. And then, in the past week, I have been called Stephanie three times by three different people - none of whom know that my sister exists, let alone her name.

Two of the three of those people had seen my name in print several times in the form of correspondence and my resume, and still, they got it wrong. As I was thinking back on Rose, again, and remembering other instances when it has happened, I realized that there was most assuredly a correlation between the reason that strangers remember Samantha as Stephanie and the reason that my family did - probably the same reason that my mother chose those two names as the names of her daughters.

Thus, I have come to the conclusion that I should just get used to it, because (for no apparent reason) Samantha and Stephanie go together like peas and carrots, and biscuits and gravy, and...why are all of my analogies about food? I think it's time for dinner.

Until later!

21 August 2008

"Mommy, wow! I'm a big kid now!"

Remember the days when every little thing was a milestone? You know, when speaking and walking and using the potty were all causes of major celebration? Or even later, when brushing your teeth on your own, dressing yourself, going to the movies without a chaperon, driving - all these things were monumental occasions?

I miss those days, and I don't understand why, as we get older, we stop celebrating life. Gone are the days when every first is something special, as are the seconds, thirds, and so on. Why is it that as we "settle down" and "grow up" we're expected to do certain things, pass certain landmarks, but 95% of them go unnoticed, or at least aren't celebrated?

I apologize for the randomness of this post, and the origin of this train of thought is so convoluded that I won't bother to explain. But, that's what I was thinking about in my far too quiet, temporary office today, and I thought I'd share.

Speaking of sharing, here are a few "Big Kid Firsts" that I have yet to properly appreciate:
  • First Independent Move - There was no school requiring me to be somewhere and no Mommy relocating me; it was just me making a decision and striking out.
  • First Time Using a Bathroom Key at a Workplace - Keys at convenience stores I get, at work...not so much. I feel like I'm being forced to use a hall pass.
  • First Time Reading Through the Entire Express During a Single Train Ride - I wasn't even reading particularly fast, either!
So, those are some of my most recent BKFs. Be sure to keep a lookout for more. Also, I'd love to hear a few of yours. After all, I'm not the only one who should be celebrating!

20 August 2008

Time is Money

I love America. The country is breathtakingly beautiful, and I appreciate the lifestyle and the security that being born and raised here has provided me. However, my time in Rome allowed me to gain a different perspective, and though I didn't come back home thinking that American culture needed a complete overhaul, there was one significant difference between the two cultures that really affected me, made me take pause, if you will.


I don't mean to say that the construct itself was different. Although, if you listen to Einstein... but that's another topic altogether. No, I'm referring to the way that the Romans treat time, and the way I felt about time while I was there.

I lived about a 15-20 minute walk away from my school and quite a distance from the Forum, the Colosseum, and all the other touristy landmarks that make Rome such a popular destination. My friends were spread out around the city, as well. Regularly, I would find myself walking for hours or waiting for buses that had no schedule. But, the important part of this story is that I would do it willingly and that I didn't care that things took so long, that there were practically no such things as schedules. I didn't care in the least.

In fact, I would laugh at tourists who complained and think not so kind thoughts about my fellow study abroad students who seemed to never get over their American obsession with time. For me, letting go of that particular hang up was the best part about my time in la Città Eterna. Well, maybe not the best, but it certainly ranked highly.

You see, I felt more productive, was more productive, while in Rome than ever before. Being a Type A, overachieving, people pleaser, I have been molded by my American upbringing to operate with the attitude that the more pressure I'm under, the more proverbial balls I am juggling, the better I'll perform. But, while that may be true, paradoxically, the same holds true of the opposite circumstance; I lead a happier, fuller, more productive life when there is no pressure, no time constraints, and just the right number of proverbial balls.

I bring this up, because, as you know, I have been job hunting for the past two weeks. Recently, an entire day was ruined for me due to the fact that I'd had to invest a large chuck of time in jumping through hoops to get a position with a temp agency. It was successful, and in about an hour, I will be leaving for my first temp position secured for me by them.

However, my day was ruined because of the fact that I felt my time had been devalued. I groused and pouted and was in a particularly rotten mood for the simple fact that I had been kept waiting. Time is money, I told myself, and since you're not worth anything right now, no one values your time. Boy, did that rub me the wrong way. And, all my friends agreed.

Looking back on it now, I realize that had that experience taken place in Rome I wouldn't have thought twice about it, especially considering the fact that I didn't have anything else to do that day. Did I forget to mention that? Well, I didn't. My day was completely free, and still, I was insulted. Time is money.

That's my problem with American society - that phrase, that ideology. If that much value is placed on time, if it is used as a means of demonstrating respect, then people necessarily become more apt to throw tantrums when their time is devalued, when things don't go the way they planned. And that makes for a nation full of tempestuous toddlers running around in grown up bodies. I should know; I'm one of them.

15 August 2008


Yesterday while in Books-A-Million, I had the profound displeasure of being seated next to a young man who didn't realize that I could hear his phone conversation over my iPod. Like me, he is apparently homeless and living off of the generosity of his friends. Like me, he apparently attended American University. Unlike me, he apparently is a despicable human being. I will let the evidence speak for itself.

Direct quote that I felt compelled to write down as soon as the words left his mouth: "I met this chick, and I'm thinking of falling in love with her to move into her place. The thing is, she has this great place all to herself..."

No, I am not kidding. I did not make that up. As much as I like to think that I'm creative, I don't think that I could make that up.

I'm not sure if that is the most off-putting conversation on which I have ever accidentally-on-purpose eavesdropped, but at the moment, it is all that comes to mind. To make matters worse, as of late I have had a tendency to think less than fair and balanced thoughts when it comes to the male gender, and guys like this tool are not likely to make that tendency lessen.

His behavior is wrong on so many levels that it's like the Tower of Babel of Jackassery. I can only pray the poor girl sees through his charade. Here's hoping you do, anonymous girl.

14 August 2008

Fresh Starts (A Blog Entry Written by Hand in Books-A-Million)

On my way out of my interview today, I was caught in an afternoon thunderstorm (oh, how I missed them). Having possibly just started down the path to a new job and watching the city be washed clean by the rain, I started to wonder about the idea of "starting fresh."

People try to do it all the time. They "reinvent themselves" in the hopes that they can start anew; they get new jobs, new housing, new friends or lovers all in an effort to capitalize on that ever-elusive tabula rasa. Now, I don't intend to delve into the debate about the existence of such a concept. Thinking like that is best left to philosophers and can lead to nothing good in my life, as far as I'm concerned.

Instead, I am deciding how best to make use of my personal clean slate. I've been given the incredible gift of a quadruple fresh start - a new city (albeit one I've lived in before), a new place to live (with the inevitable new roommate[s]), a new job (in addition to my burgeoning writing career), and new companions (in the form of said roommate[s] and new coworkers). Therefore, I'm thinking that now is the time to devise a strategy for best making use of this period in my life. I love the freedom and hope that comes with the future being wide open in front of me, and I can't wait to see what happens next or where life leads me.

13 August 2008

Rejection is...

...not the four-letter word that people make it out to be. I promise.

Granted, I am one of those glass half full, silver lining, true love does exist, everything happens for a reason types. Still, I don't feel that disqualifies me from making such a bold statement.

You see, unfortunately for me, I have dealt with my fair share of rejection (in all its various disguises) during the course of my almost twenty-three years of life, and as of late, I have had that rejection amplified due to the fact that I am putting myself out on two limbs at once. Not only am I scouring a job market that I don't believe anyone would refer to as encouraging, but I also am attempting to procure an agent for my first book.

On the one hand, I am being told (without the use of words or a response of any kind, in fact) that I am not right for this or that job. On the other, I am being told that my book (my baby, the fruit of a grueling month of hard work and reclusiveness - not to mention the never-ending editorial process) is not right for this or that agent.

The way I see it, I could view the rejections as some sort of value judgment - you're not good enough, your work isn't good enough, your skills aren't good enough, et cetera. BUT, I choose to take the rejections at face value. What the prospective employers and agents actually are telling me is that they don't want me/my novel. Before you start wondering how that is different from despairing interpretation I just denounced, let me explain.

They don't want me. Sit with that for a second.

I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want someone who doesn't want me, for whatever reason. I wouldn't want to stay in a romantic relationship with a man who didn't want me. I wouldn't want to be friends with someone who didn't want my friendship. And, I'm not going to beat myself up because a Company X or Ms. Agent doesn't want me as an employee or a client.

Of course, the why does matter, but it's secondary. I approach the why almost clinically with an emphasis on "what can I do better" not "what did I do wrong." As my friends in the PR industry would tell you, it's all about the spin. I find that there is no better person to spin for than yourself.

Another trick I use to deal with rejection is to focus on the moments (however rare) that have gone right (been exceptional) rather than on all the bad ones. For instance, I remind myself that with my most recent jobs, the interviews have been more of a formality than anything because my employers were that impressed with my resume (and I felt very appreciated by those employers the majority of my time with them). In terms of getting my book published, I keep in mind the fact that I have only queried a grand total of FOUR agents out of a pool of approximately 400-450. And, my first query letter ever resulted in a request for a partial.

Those small things can seem like nothing if I'm feeling particularly self-indulgent and down-trodden, but most of the time I see them for what they are - impressive accomplishments. I'm sure that if you use your energy to sort through your life with a filter of positivity (even you pessimists) you'll find that you have a few gems of your own that you can polish and wear proudly as you face rejection and look gorgeous while doing it.

12 August 2008

Larger than life, or maybe an accurate representation...

Say "Hello" to Babe the Big Blue Ox, everyone! Yes, he is the guardian of the gates that lead to the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California. And thus begins the long-awaited, much-anticipated California vacation recap. It has arrived, indeed.

Unfortunately, I have been writing all day long (first on a cover letter draft for a friend and then on a query letter), and I'm not sure how insightful and moving this post will be. Nonetheless, I wanted to share with you the grandeur that is the Redwood National and State Parks of Northern California. I believe that the scale truly is something that you have to see to understand, and I know from personal experience that pictures may be worth 1000 words, but they are not worth one real-life encounter.

That having been said, I borrowed a few pictures from my mother and am posting them for your viewing pleasure.

Here I am with a tree called the Brotherhood Tree, and just to give you some sense of scale, I am 5'9".

Isn't that outrageous? Again, and I can't stress this enough, you really have to be there to "get it." Now, this tree is one of the larger trees in that part of the forest, but they are all huge by any normal standard. It's not one big tree; it's an enormous forest full of them.

When I was standing among them, I couldn't help but imagine what the world must have been like hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of years ago when those trees were saplings. Were there even bigger trees shading them? Can you imagine it? I know I can, and it's an amazing sight.

In summary, size does matter. The bigger, the more awe-inspired I'll be.

11 August 2008

Thank God I'm a City Girl?

Recently, I was asked if it was weird to be back in the city. Now, let me set the scene for you. I was standing on my balcony just after sunset and was staring out to the west of my Rockville apartment. For those of you not familiar with the area, that basically means that nothing but trees stretched before me as far as I could see. Of course, there are a couple of office buildings and a couple of apartment buildings, but mostly, it's trees, trees, and more trees.

My automatic response to the question was, "It's actually not much different from Washington [state], only instead of a few mountains there are a few buildings." I realized today that although that statement was true for what I was seeing, it didn't answer the question that had been put to me. The fact of the matter is that in the week since I've come to DC, I've actually only spent about three minutes in DC proper (when I took the Metro to a friend's apartment, which is located at the edge of the DC/Maryland border in Chevy Chase).

That same friend (the one I went to visit) and I talked about how I was going to readjust to city life not too long ago. At the time, I proudly proclaimed that I was a city girl at heart and that the suburbs were not for me. In fact, when I actually lived in the city (Downtown even), I loved it. I adored the convenience of being able to walk almost anywhere I wanted. The constant exposure to hordes of strangers suited me just fine. And, I had a habit of going up to my roof to have telephone conversations so that I could watch the lights of the city sparkle under the canopy of orange that blocks the night sky from every city dweller's view.

However, after having spent a year in what can only be referred to as pseudo-suburban hell, I am starting to wonder if I have been ruined. That is not to say that I don't think that I could hack it if I were to find a place in the city. On the contrary, I know that I would be ecstatic. But, I'm not hating my current suburban location. It's peaceful and clean and upscale in a way that the city never really can be. And, I like it. That's the rub.

I suppose that the point is moot considering that my tenure here is going to be very short-lived, but still, it makes me wonder: does the fact that I am becoming increasingly comfortable with the settled, easy, and uniform (the suburban) lifestyle signify that I have lost something? And, if so, should I care and try and get that something back? Up to what point will I be too young - too ready-for-adventure and too eager to live out loud - to be settling in the 'burbs?

It's said that youth is wasted on the young, but I don't intend to follow that particular trend. Still, what exactly constitutes wasting? And, am I doing it now?

I'll let you know when the jury reaches a verdict, but please, lend me your two cents in the meantime.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about the California recap! Don't worry. It is on its way. Remember: Patience is a virtue.