Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wrong Shall Fail, The Right Prevail

This is my last post until after the Christmas break, so see you all next year. I hope your holiday (whatever you may celebrate) is filled with warmth, joy, and light.

I went to see "The Hobbit" opening day, which was the same day I heard about the shooting in Newtown, CT. I felt bad, at first, for going out and having fun the same day such evil happened, but it turned out to be a very positive thing. There's a line in the movie where Gandalf is explaining why he chose Bilbo. He says, and this is paraphrase, that he believes the darkness is held back not by great shows of power but by small acts, small, everyday acts by small everyday people. I needed to hear this after hearing the terrible news that morning.

Over the past year, and specifically now, I've understood Longfellow's words in the Christmas song: "And in despair, I bowed my head. 'There is no peace on Earth,' I said. 'For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, good will to men." I have felt sympathetic with the fantasy characters I write and read, dealing with great evil. I feel that, lately, at least, the Dark is rising. It seems that every day I see more evil in the news and less good. It can be depressing and even terrifying.

It's so easy to write about characters fighting against insurmountable odds. That's fantasy, after all. Good and evil play out in human/creature forms, and good always wins. We envy the hero's strength and courage, we wish we could be more like that, but too often we dismiss it as a figment of a writer's imagination. They're just stories, we think. This isn't at all like real life.

But we forget, I think, that we are, each of us, the heroes of our own lives. We are the protagonists, we are the knights, the princesses, the unlikely children who grow to do great deeds. Sometimes I wonder how life might be different if we thought of ourselves that way, instead of, "Oh, I'm nobody special. My life is ordinary and I'll never shine." Perhaps we'd have more heroes, more people pushing back the Darkness, pinning it back with brightly shining stars. It doesn't have to be much; we don't all have to go out on knight-errant quests to save lives and fight monsters, clad in armor and carrying a sword. A small, everyday act may be exactly the heroism that is needed. A hug, a smile, a sincere compliment given at the right time, any moment where another's needs are placed above your own. That can be truly life-saving to the person who receives it, and the giver strikes one more blow against the Dark.

I believe we all have different talents given to us for the betterment of others. My friend is extremely kind and giving, and she uses her talents by teaching children and also by helping those around her feel better about themselves. I have other friends who give their time and talents to serve others. In my case, I have a talent for writing fantasy for young readers.

G.K. Chesterton said, "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." Oscar Wilde said, "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." I hope my stories, read for fun, tell youths that dragons can be beaten, and that they are the heroes with the power to fight back. I hope my readers grow up believing in hope and light and honor, and also that they are free to act to better the world, even in small ways. I don't want them to say, "The world is dark and evil, and there's nothing I can do about it, so I may as well join it." I want them to say, "There is much in the world that is dark and evil, but it doesn't have to be that way. There is also much good, and I will add to it."

As this Christmastime comes and goes, and after comes the time for new beginnings and promises to do better, I hope it will be a season of light, not darkness. I hope it will be, for you as well as for me, a time for giving of ourselves, for fighting the Dark, and for growing into the heroes we've always wanted to be. I wish you all the best this holiday season. See you next year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My First School Visit!

Some notes to take care of now: this is going to be my second-to-last post until the new year. I'll post next week, but after that I'm on vacation. Also, I'm currently listening to the soundtrack for "The Hobbit" and I am getting very excited for this Friday. I have my ticket, I've finished my schoolwork, and I am ready for some geeky fun.

Yesterday I had my very first school visit as a writer. Basically, I went to an elementary school where my friend teaches sixth grade and talked to all the sixth graders (not just her's) about the writing process. And then, they asked me a bunch of questions and I answered as many of them as I could.

The drive to the school was snowy (of course. I couldn't have an easy first school visit, could I?), and I am not used to driving in the snow. So I was pretty much flustered by the time I got there. The students recognized me (I don't know how) and guided me to my friend. Then, I talked to all the students for 20-30 minutes.I mostly talked about revision and my personal process of writing. Their questions were a lot about what my favorite books and movies are. If you read this blog regularly, you have a sense of what those are. Some questions were really well-thought out, like what my favorite part of writing is and who my favorite fictional hero is. Others were silly, like how long I've known my friend, their teacher, and whether I like my school or our rival school better. I didn't answer that one.

I think it went well. I've heard positive things from my friend and her co-workers. One of the kids asked me to describe my book that's getting published, tell them what it's about in detail, so I did. I wished I had a book out already that they could ask me about or, more practically, I could display examples from when illustrating my points about the writing process. I tried to speak like the authors I've heard speak, allowing my personal voice and style to come through the presentation. As a writer, I have to sell myself as much as my stuff; if they like me, they may read my works.

But okay. I just had my fist school visit! This is what real writers do. (Enter squeee here). I guess that means I'm a real writer, or at least in the early stages of becoming one. I have another friend who wants me to speak at her school, as well, so there may be another school visit in the works. Until then, I'll keep writing and reading and revising, and sooner or later I'll have some cover art to show you. Finger crossed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Rush is Almost Over...Then What?

I'm sorry this is so late. It's the final countdown now, so I'm spending all my time working on my novel. I have to turn in a revised first draft tomorrow. The insanity is building. But, I can now say that I have had at least one person read my whole draft and give me feedback (the death and reversal at the end works. It works! Mwahahaha!) I am optimistic for how this novel will end up, when I'm finally done with it.

I'm currently living on free food on campus and the high I get from making a mediocre passage awesome. But, after I turn this draft in, I want to take a break from this story. I need to clear it from my mind so I can return to it later with a better idea of where it is and what it needs. So, over the next few weeks, I can take a break and do something else. What about one of these....

- Revise my term paper (this is going to happen. This has to happen, or all is lost)
- Revise any of the short stories I wrote this semester
- Work on the novel I put on the back burner to work on Alder Torrance

Okay, that's still a lot of writing. Writing is my life right now, and I love it, but when I get back to school after Christmas I'm going to start writing again. Maybe it would be good for me to put the Word documents aside and live my life, refreshing my writing lobe and gathering life experiences to build on. So, here's a list of things I could be doing other than writing:

- Sleeping
- Eating
- Thinking about real things
- Walking in a winter wonderland
- Sleeping
- Forgetting the large vocabulary I need to write with
- Getting asked by other people what large vocabulary words mean
- Making fudge
- Explaining to people why the fudge didn't make it to the pan
- Actually traveling in real time and space
- Watching Doctor Who
- Flinching at shadows and stone angels
- Getting psychiatric help because I talk to people who aren't there (and flinch at shadows and stone    angels)
- Fully enjoying my insanity
- Hanging lights and loving every minute (see preceding item)
- Listening to lots of music
- Drag Racing
- Simply walking into Mordor
- Mocking the song "Christmas Shoes" for bad writing
- Eating a whole roll of Toll House Cookie Dough as fast as I can
- Quoting The Avengers
- Quoting Psych
- Volunteering for the Hunger Games
- Winning the Hunger Games
- Tracking down the owl that lost my letter to Hogwarts


- Spending time with friends and family, rather than fictional people

Well, that's quite the list. I'm sure I'll get to some of these over the break, but I'm sure writing will call me back before I can get to all of them. That's the writer's curse.