Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dare to fail

I don't keep up a great deal with pop culture. I know the basics, but all of these overexposed memes, songs, dance moves, etc. are not things I'm too aware of. Though I guess I use the term overexposed rather loosely; it's hard to get sick of something when you rarely see it. So I don't have the problem of getting tired of things that I once loved or that were once extremely popular.
But then there are the pop culture phenomenons you can't get away from. The ones that you will inevitably see 8 million times and become intimately familiar with unless you stop watching TV and getting on the internet altogether.

And then you'd have to move here. (source)

One of those phenomenons was the video for Call Me Maybe. The song is by a Canadian singer named Carly Rae Jepsen (I won't lie, I did have to google her name to make sure I spelled it right). It's basically about her going after a guy and giving him her number, rather than letting him pursue her like she usually does. It's cute and catchy, and with a little help from her fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, the song became one of the most popular of the year.
But what really made this song stand out is the video. After a good three minutes of watching this muscular shirtless dude mowing his lawn and envisioning their faces together on the cover of a romance novel, she lures him over by washing her car in a skimpy outfit and playing a song for him. After the song, he proceeds to hit on her male guitar player. Yep, this chick just spent an entire song throwing herself at this guy who will never, ever, ever be interested in her. Like, ever.

Five years from now, nobody will get that joke. (source)

But a lot of us do that, don't we? Even if you've never accidentally hit on a gay guy, we've all attempted to do something and failed, and we've probably all attempted to do things we were inevitably going to fail at, no matter what. Like trying to propose marriage to Justin Bieber via twitter or not listening to Call Me Maybe or trying to get through an entire episode of Jersey Shore without losing faith in humanity.
My dad and I laughed for a good five minutes after watching Carly Rae fail miserably at getting the guy, but you've got to give the girl props for trying. If you try something difficult or that you're afraid of failing at, you might fail. But if you don't try, you'll definitely fail. See, aren't the odds much better when you try?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What The Hobbit taught me about success

You can succeed in cramming 13 people into a photo.

Like other nerds all over the country, I went to see The Hobbit yesterday. I didn't really like the book, but I'm a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and, consequently, Peter Jackson. Plus I was excited that he was fleshing the story out to include more Middle Earth background and mythology. But I digress.

I had to read the book twice, once in 8th grade and once in 10th. The first time I read it, I remember thinking after the first chapter about how much I would detest Gandalf if I were Bilbo. If you were sitting around in your own home, minding your own business, you probably wouldn't like it much either if some dude you'd never met came barging into your house and invited 13 more people you didn't know to come in and eat all your food.

Though in defense of the dwarves, they did wash the dishes afterwards. (source)

Needless to say, Bilbo wasn't too happy either, and initially wanted nothing to do with Gandalf or the dwarves. But he eventually came around. 

If you're not familiar with the story, here's what you need to know: Bilbo, who was also in Lord of the Rings, is the central character in this story, which takes place 60 years earlier. Gandalf wants Bilbo to accompany 13 dwarves on a quest to reclaim their homeland, which was taken from them by the dragon Smaug years earlier. Smaug now lives in the Lonely Mountain and guards the treasure that was rightfully the dwarves'. Gandalf chooses Bilbo as the 14th member of the company because he is stealthy and light on his feet, and because he is a hobbit, and a dragon might not recognize a hobbit as easily as a dwarf.

As one point in the movie, Thorin (the dwarf prince leading the quest) expresses his doubt of Bilbo. Bilbo, like most hobbits, gets homesick easily, and desperately misses his warm bed, food, and his garden. But Bilbo insists that he's not going anywhere. Sure, he misses his home -- but he's not going back. Why? Because he has a home. The dwarves don't have a home to go back to, and he is going to help them get theirs back. touching! (source)

Other than the heartfelt humanitarian message, The Hobbit has an important message about living your life. Bilbo could have sat in the comfort of his own home and been rather happy, but instead chose to do something hobbits rarely do and ventured outside his comfort zone. And if he had never gone on this unexpected adventure, he never would have told such amazing stories to Frodo and other hobbit children. And if Frodo had never heard these stories, he might not have been as willing to go on a quest of his own. And Frodo's quest went far beyond helping strangers -- the fate of his entire world rested on his success.

People who are successful have made it happen on their own; very rarely do they just fall into it without any action. But getting yourself out there and taking action can help more than just you. It can benefit everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What does it take to get noticed?

Ever heard of Angry Birds? So have I, but I didn't know until yesterday what it actually was. Yeah, I'm a little behind, I know.

I've seen the merchandise -- the t-shirts and pez dispensers and whatnot that we sell at work. I assumed it was some sort of new cartoon or something, but I was informed tonight at a Christmas party that it's actually a game. The objective is to launch a bird via a slingshot onto pigs and knock the pigs over. Because apparently, pigs are bad.

Well, not all bad. (source)

This game was made by a software company that had several other games out at the time. None of them had made much money, but this one, for some reason, took off.

Funny how that works, isn't it? People spend hour after sweat-inducing hour perfecting their arts, crafting the Great American Novel or a beautiful painting, and it goes largely unnoticed. A software company creates a game that lets you throw birds at pigs, and they rake in the millions.

I recently ran across a review of Hush, Hush, a book I read a few months ago. The book is the first in a series of four (the last of which I haven't read yet), and is little more than a rehashing of Twilight using fallen angels instead of vampires. Our heroine, Nora, falls for Patch, a mysterious new boy in her biology class whose behavior is so stalkerish he actually makes Edward Cullen look sane. The book uses adverbs like they're going out of style, the action is simultaneously predictable and nonsensical, and the romance is so syrupy sweet, I could practically feel my blood sugar spiking as I read.

So I stopped reading after the first book, right? Nope. I snatched them up like wildfire and could not put them down. Meanwhile, my dad's copy of Crime and Punishment is still sitting on my bookshelf, untouched for several months, with a bookmark still stuck at the beginning of chapter 3.

It doesn't take a lot to interest people these days. YouTube videos of people doing stupid, crazy stunts, ranting about something they don't like, or even covering popular songs can all rack up hundreds of thousands of views. But the downside to this is that hundreds of thousands of people are now posting these videos, leaving the internet saturated with zillions of teens strumming guitars or bitching about the latest episode of The Walking Dead.

I mean, did you see those zombies at the end? They weren't even decaying! (source)

So what can people do to stand out from the crowd? If I knew the answer to that question, I would probably be writing full time by now. But I'll still take a stab at it.

First and foremost, you have to love what you do. You can't have a hidden agenda, or try too hard to get your name out there. You have to try, of course, and hard. But not too hard. And if you don't have a genuine passion for what you're writing/singing/bitching about, people will see right through it.

But the second thing you have to do is to work hard. Work hard, but don't try hard. Got it?

The third element -- and this is a pretty huge part of it -- is luck. Luck is something out of your control, so you can't really worry about it.

The fourth and perhaps most important thing for making a name for yourself is persistence. Remember those Angry Birds creators who kept creating games until one got popular? You have to keep on keeping on. Study your craft, learn from others (both what to do and what not to do) and keep on climbing. If you really want to do something, you'll keep going at it until you get there.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When does a joke go too far?

I've mentioned before that my dad and I like to watch sitcoms together. One I've recently started watching with him (and some on my own) is Wings, which follows employees of a small airport in Nantucket. Not necessarily the Nantucket of the famous R rated limerick, but Nantucket nonetheless.

Don't ask me about that limerick. Just don't. Please. (source)

In the episode I watched today, one of the major characters, a guy named Joe, gets a visit from Sandy Cooper, a woman who had a crush on him in high school. Joe is afraid of Sandy, because he claims while they were still in school, she locked him up and forced him to reenact a prom date with her. Years later, when they see each other again, Sandy claims that the whole thing was a joke. And everybody believes her -- including Joe. For awhile, anyway. Later in the episode, it becomes clear that Sandy wasn't joking when she once again kidnaps Joe, now engaged to someone else, and forces him to act out a wedding to her. But still, nobody believes Joe when he claims that she is nuts. She's just joking, they insist. And can't Joe take a joke?

Obviously this is a pretty extreme (and comedic) example. But in our modern world of text messaging and internet forums, it's pretty easy for a joke to get out of hand. Sarcasm is much more difficult to understand via text, when you don't have things like facial expressions and body language to help people along. I've seen numerous internet discussions get way out of hand because someone made a joke that someone else took out of context. The people who make the joke, of course, always blame the other person, saying that they were "just joking" and how on earth could anyone possibly miss that? Yet plenty of intelligent adults miss jokes all the time.

The other day, my mom sent me an e-mail full of pictures. Each picture represented something else, and you had to guess the word that it meant. For example, a picture of an alligator standing over a gurney was supposed to represent the word "gatorade." As in "gator" and "aid." Yet I never would have gotten that. Why? Because when I see a gurney, the word "aid" is not even in my brain. I'm thinking about the word "gurney."

There's an old saying that if you get 5 people in the room and ask them about a painting, you'll get 5 different opinions. Why? Because people are all different. We all associate different people, things, and events with different thoughts. And if one person gets a joke and another doesn't, it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with either of them. It means they're interpreting things differently due to different life experiences. So before you say something or react to something negatively, think about the people you're speaking to. Are they really stupid or ignorant, or are you just seeing things in a different way than they are?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Cheesecake Factory and unfulfilled dreams

For the past few weeks, I've been having this strange reoccurring dream. It always starts out with me driving, somewhere close to my house but not right by it. I end up on this little road in the middle of nowhere, and at the end of the road is a Cheesecake Factory. Every now and then, I'll end up on foot and wandering through a forest filled with abandoned tree houses. But most of the time, I end up inside The Cheesecake Factory, ordering cheesecake to go.

Okay, so it's really not that bizarre. It actually makes perfect sense in my mind; I've had a slight obsession with The Cheesecake Factory since visiting one for the first time two years ago (where I took the above photo). But when I relayed the dream to my dad a few nights ago, he gave me another interpretation.

My parents and I love watching The Big Bang Theory. I've blogged about it a couple of times in the past, and my NaNo novel even had a character named Penny. On the show, Penny is the beautiful blonde girl who lives across the hall from two of the major characters, Sheldon and Leonard. They work at CalTech and are, like, you know, really really really smart.

Penny (Big Bang Penny, not NaNo Penny) moved to Pasadena from Nebraska in hopes of becoming an actress. In the five years since arriving there, Penny has done a play above a bowling alley, a hemorrhoid cream commercial, and...well, that's about it. Her acting career hasn't quite gotten underway yet, so she supports herself by working as a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory.

Perhaps, my dad suggests, I'm subconsciously thinking of Penny...and how she is constantly chasing an unfulfilled dream. Does The Cheesecake Factory represent what my life is really like, as opposed to what I want it to be? Will I be like Penny, constantly chasing a dream only to find out I've been running in place all along?

Gosh, that was depressing. Now I'm going to have to go root through my pictures for another Adam Levine shot...

There we go. Much, much better.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Slow and steady wins the race

This guy knows what he's doing. (source)

Back in July, I decided that I would participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I had never had much interest in NaNo before, mostly because I didn't think I could or would write 50,000 words in just 30 days. But I had this great story idea and just enough time to plan it before November. So I figured I'd give it a shot. And it's been a great experience -- I've met some really cool people, learned a lot about myself, and hopefully improved my writing skills a bit.

I'd like to share one of the most important life lessons I learned during November: Pace yourself. Slow and steady really is the way to go.

Most people start out a big challenge/adventure with a mix of excitement and apprehension. I went into NaNo with that standard mix, but the excitement definitely outweighed the apprehension. One thing I was nervous about, though, was timing. When you work in retail, November is one of the busiest months, and it gets twice as busy during Thanksgiving weekend. Would I have the time or energy to actually finish what I started, even before the holidays really got underway? As it turns out, I had plenty of time -- and I spent a lot of it watching TV, sleeping, and goofing off.

And I didn't spend a single second if it watching The Walking Dead. Nope, not at all. (source)

So how did I manage to pull together 50,000 words and still find time to keep up with the cast of Teen Mom 2? It was pretty simple, actually. I set realistic goals for myself and put aside time to regenerate.

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about "sharpening the saw". A logger can spend hours trying to chop down a tree with a dull blade, but he won't get very far. If he takes time to sharpen his saw, however, he'll end up saving time in the long run, because chopping down that tree with a fresh blade won't take nearly as long as hacking away with the dull one.

We're always in such a rush to get things done. Whether it's ringing up a customer at work or finishing a final paper for a class, people have this idea that you have to go at everything with all your strength. Not so. Do a little work, then take a break. You might not want to do what I did and take five hour long breaks to ogle pictures of Josh Hutcherson watch YouTube videos...but hey, whatever works.

Friday, November 23, 2012

When a story hits close to home

I'd say that a good 90 % of the books I read, movies I watch, and TV shows I see regularly fall into the fantasy realm. Even if they're not explicitly categorized as fantasy, they usually have some sort of element that takes the story out of our modern, real world. Heck, even back in high school when I was watching The OC and Laguna Beach...well, those shows aren't exactly realistic, are they?

I mean, come you really think Snooki got that orange just by hanging out at the beach? (source)

Fantasy is really popular, and for good reason. When people go to a movie or read a book, they want an escape. They want to experience something that takes them out of their world, makes them forget about their own problems, even if it's just for a few hours. But what about stories that remind us of our biggest problems and fears?

This past Wednesday, I went with my dad to see Red Dawn. I wanted to see the movie because I have a mad fangirl crush on Josh Hutcherson it looked like an interesting and culturally relevant action movie. Dad and I watched the original a few weeks ago, and both that and this updated version reminded me, surprisingly, of most zombie movies.

The story is actually pretty similar to the modern zombie formula: Both involve an unsuspecting town being invaded by foreign enemies bent on destroying them all. A select few characters survive the initial onslaught and must escape to the wilderness, forced to find their own food and shelter in order to survive. But in one story, the villains are seemingly mythical monsters acting out of instinct. In the other, they are people from a real country that poses a real threat, even to those of us in the real world.

When we watch fantasy or horror movies, the villains are simultaneously distant and familiar. We know that Freddy Krueger is not a real person, but that there are plenty of people out there who really are child molesters. We know there is no real Michael Meyers, but there really are people who want to break into our homes and kill us. And we know that zombies aren't real, but that they represent things about our nature that we don't like.

Perhaps this zombie needs to take some tanning advice from Snooki. Or not. (source)

Perhaps a much more blatantly real movie is just what people need every now and then. After all, you can't live in a fantasy world forever. But every now and then, it's okay to escape into a world of zombies or made up serial killers. Because our real, everyday life problems are sometimes a little too real for us to handle.

Monday, October 29, 2012

3 things Frasier and the Jonas Brothers have in common

For starters, they're both awesome. 

I've always thought of myself as a pretty well-rounded person. My dad might disagree and point out that 95 % of the movies I watch involve teenagers getting sliced in half, beheaded, or blown up. But aside from movies (and even my taste in those has expanded rapidly over the past few months), I actually have a bizarrely broad range of interests. Then again, maybe it's not so bizarre -- I bet there are plenty of people out there who love classic 90's sitcoms and boy bands. And while these two things seem worlds apart...well, they're really not.

1. They both involve brothers. Well, duh. Frasier and Niles are brothers, just like Joe, Nick, and Kevin are brothers. Both groups of brothers spend a bit more time together than the average brothers (though I've never had brothers, so this is just a guess). And both are great examples of brotherly and familial love.

2. They both deal with the terrible feeling of wanting someone you can't have. For months and years, even up to this day, hundreds of thousands of teenage girls (among others) have squealed and giggled and lusted over the Jonases. For some, it goes beyond the average celebrity crush. A few weeks ago, I blogged about how important it is for artists to make an emotional connection with their audience, and they've done this perfectly -- people feel as if they actually know them. And on the road from youth to adulthood, when a girl realizes that her fantasy crush is just going to have to stay a fantasy, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
But unrequited love is something even adults go through. Year after year on Frasier, Niles lusts after Daphne, his father's physical therapist turned housekeeper. Upon their first meeting, he is trapped in an unhealthy marriage, and by the time he separates from his wife and feels ready to date again, Daphne is already engaged. Niles does many crazy things in the name of lust, but ultimately chooses to move on and let Daphne be happy. And they end up getting together anyway! So having an unrequited or even fantasy crush come crashing down isn't necessarily the end of the world.

3. They've worked together. Well, two of them anyway. Jane Leeves, who played Daphne on Frasier, is now on Hot in Cleveland. Joe Jonas has guest starred on the show twice; the first time, his character hit on hers. Fortunately (unfortunately?), David Hyde Pierce wasn't there to step in.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why unsatisfying endings are the best

(Just a little note: If you haven't seen The Descent and don't want spoilers, stop here.)

If you don't know a lot about me, you should know that I am an avid horror movie watcher. Few things make me happier than watching a group of teenagers or twentysomethings get hacked up with a machete, de-limbed by a chainsaw, or just generally creeped out by some malevolent spirit.

This guy falls a little out of the twentysomething realm, but he'll do. (source)

Horror movies are supposed to be scary, disturbing, or, at the very least, adrenaline inducing. And when you put characters through the wringer like horror writers usually do, chances are they're going to come out scarred for life. Even if they do actually live.

The Descent is a British horror movie with two endings: The original, British ending and the alternate, "American" ending that was put on the US DVD and used when the movie airs on TV here in the States. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of the DVD that included the original ending, and that was the version of the movie I watched.

Both endings involve a lone survivor, a woman named Sarah. A year before the titular descent, Sarah's husband and daughter were killed in a car accident. Sarah reunites with her adrenaline junkie friends and, well, descends -- into a cave full of man-eating monsters.

In the final moments, the only survivors are Sarah and her friend Juno. We learn that -- surprise! -- Juno was sleeping with Sarah's husband before he died. So what does Sarah do? She stabs Juno and stays in the cave. The exit is just a few hundred feet ahead of her, but the final shot shows her sitting on a rock, envisioning her dead daughter there with her. She shows no signs of wanting to leave.

Guess what happens in the American version? Sarah escapes, although it is implied that her life will never be the same.

It's common for horror movies -- especially slasher movies with large casts that are picked off one by one -- to have a lone survivor finally defeat the bad guy. But these movies usually don't follow our hero after their quest is finished. And if you spent two hours being stalked by a psycho killer and watching all of your friends die around you, you'd probably spend the next few decades racking up some impressive therapy bills.

So, when Freddy tried to hack you up with a did that make you feel? (source)

People loves happy endings. Movies (and books) are supposed to be an escape, and we want to see other people succeed even if we can't. But some of the most powerful stories involve endings that aren't so satisfying. Both The Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games trilogies (again, spoilers!) follow a hero that succeeds in their quest and survives their journey, but forfeits life as they know it. I bitched and moaned for months after finishing Mockingjay about how much the ending sucked, but I'm actually sort of glad it did. If I wasn't emotionally invested in the story, I wouldn't have cared what happened.

Whether you're writing about hobbits destroying a powerful ring, teenagers fighting against a totalitarian government, women escaping man eating monsters, or anything else, a story has to transform the character, for better or for worse. And if you're unsatisfied with how a character's story ends...well, you had to care about them in the first place to get that way, right? It might upset you. You might do what I considered doing and chuck your copy of Mockingjay out the window. But that story will stay with you much longer than a happy one. Because it's real.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Privacy in the public eye

Wednesday night, I finished reading one of the most depressing books ever written. If you have a weak stomach or can't tolerate endings that make you want to take a Prozac...don't read The Ruins by Scott Smith.

But what I love about unsatisfying endings is that they stick with you. And after I finished reading, I wanted to know more. Who was the person who wrote this book? What was he like when he wasn't writing about man-eating plants? And where on earth did he come up with the idea for this story?

And I found...absolutely nothing. No official website. No articles or even commentaries on the book. And almost no information on the author. I now only know two more things about him than I did before: He has a live-in girlfriend (which is of absolutely no use to me), and he wrote the screenplay for The Ruins (which is really interesting, but just one little tidbit.)

If he had an official website, this is what it would look like. (source)

Maybe I'm just too used to the world of young adult fiction. YA authors are strongly encouraged to connect with their audience via social networking because that's how their audience connects with each other. But even some of them don't give away many details about their private lives. Heck, I've been reading Veronica Roth's blog for months, and I had to read the back cover of Insurgent to find out she was married. She rarely mentions her husband on the site or anywhere else. Other YA authors mention their families constantly on twitter.

So why the difference? Why do some authors (and other public figures) reveal so many details about their lives outside of the public eye, and why do some reveal so little? And which one is better? Or is one better than the other?

I've always been a really private person. If you don't know me very well, trying to get details of my personal life can be like pulling teeth. After all, if I told everyone everything about me from the second we met, why would they want to take the time to get to know me? They'd already know everything about me -- so what would we talk about? Then again, I've always wished I could be more open. It's hard to form relationships when you're so reluctant to let people in.

So should there be a balance? Writing is a very personal task, and anyone writer who shares their work with an audience is going to have to expose themselves. But what and how much should they give away? Should there even be a limit? Should they blatantly share personal things, or let the writing speak for itself?

Just food for thought.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why some people hate reading

Being the avid Cracked reader that I am, I read an article earlier today entitled "4 Ways High School Makes You Hate Reading." Kind of a depressing title to a writer, but it was really interesting. The writer of the article is an avid reader describing the high school English system with which I am, unfortunately, all too familiar.

When I was little, I loved reading. I started with picture books before I could read myself, which I was doing by the age of four. I started on the American Girl books at age five, and by elementary school I was staying up late into the night reading Goosebumps under the covers.

By junior high, my enthusiasm for reading had begun to wane. We had an Accelerated Reader program at our school that offered prizes for reading designated books and passing quizzes (I'm sure plenty of present or former students are familiar with this program). And it was all well and good until 6th grade, when our English teacher started counting the AR tests as quiz grades. Suddenly, the pressure to remember little details to regurgitate in class trumped the pleasure of reading. Over the summer, my mother (who I love very much, despite this) required me to read 50 pages a day of one of the books we already had in our house. Most of our books were nothing that I was interested in, and I plowed through classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Wizard of Oz as if they were a chore.

Unfortunately, I didn't have William Moseley to use as a reference when picturing Peter. (source)

High school only made it worse. I was always in the most advanced English class I could get into for my grade, and that meant required reading both over the summer and during the school year. Most of my classmates, even the ones who still read for pleasure, didn't even read the assigned books, only skimming the information from class they needed in order to pass the tests. By AP English senior year, we were (supposed to be) reading a book a month. It seemed daunting at the time...then I got to college. Being a Creative Writing major means you're going to have at least a few classes where you're reading a book a week. Some of the books are actually enjoyable and not difficult to finish in the short time frame. Some, not so much.

In English classes, especially for those of us who choose to major in some sort of reading or writing field, some required reading is essential. And fortunately, for those of us who do like to read, some of the books aren't so bad. But is it always necessary to assign only books that are seen as acceptable to teach? Some classrooms have recently started teaching books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and I think that's awesome. Both of those series have become household names because they have both literary and commercial appeal. I'm sure there's some reason why more teachers won't assign books like these -- maybe if they teach in a public school, they're going by a required curriculum or might even get in trouble with the school board. Or maybe -- just maybe -- they still have this stupid idea in their head that these books aren't substantial just because they're popular.

How on earth could The Hunger Games have literary merit? People actually like it! (source)

Reading is supposed to be fun. Back before there were televisions or radios -- hard to imagine, I know, but bear with me -- people actually read for fun. Books like Frankenstein and Uncle Tom's Cabin, books that are revered today for their literary value, were seen in their day as cheap and tacky. People probably read them under the covers at night and hid them in sock drawers, just like they do with 50 Shades of Grey now. I know people to this day who will always think that Harry Potter is trite simply because it's popular. And I just don't get it.

For every terrible story out there, for every celebrity author who hires a ghostwriter to slap their name on a joke of a novel, there's another book that made it to the bestseller list because people actually enjoyed it. And if people enjoy a book, then a potential writer should sit up and take interest. Like it or not, we're in the business of giving people what they want. And if we don't deliver, we're going to get more and more people who hate reading. And why on earth would a writer want to get people to hate reading?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why adults should be like children, part 2

The other day, for the first time in I don't even know how long, I read an entire book in one sitting. Book in question was 172 Hours on the Moon, a really cool YA sci-fi/horror story. I could probably write another whole book about how amazing it was...but that'll have to wait for later.

Anyway, it takes place in 2018, I believe, and NASA is holding an international lottery to send 3 teenagers to the moon (kinda out there, I know, but the explanation is that they haven't had a moon mission in 40 years and want a new generation of people to get excited about space travel). One of the teenagers who wins is Mia, Norwegian girl who has her own punk rock band and dreams of being a famous musician someday. In one passage, she mentions a popular band called the Talking Heads. She is listening to them, but not necessarily because she likes them. No, she has decided to like them. She has decided how to feel, forced herself to form a certain opinion...because she thinks she has to feel that way in order to be taken seriously.

In the career I want, I can't worry too much about being taken seriously. There are some people who will always look down on those of us who want to write for teenagers, or on anyone else who favors "commercial" products too much. For all the millions of people who like Twilight, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashians, there are millions more who love to hate them.

Come can you not love that face? (source)

But are these trendy fandoms really contributing to the imminent collapse of humanity, like some people think? I don't think so. There's a reason these things/people/stories are popular. Girls love Justin Bieber because he's talented, had humble beginnings, and comes across as relatively down to earth. Teens and women love Twilight because it's the ultimate wish fulfillment. And people enjoy watching the Kardashians because their reality show runs a lot like a sitcom, and is voyeurism at its finest. Even other, more socially acceptable books, like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, have their fair share of critics shrugging them off as teen fluff. And maybe that's the problem -- our culture looks down on teenagers. We think that they're unintelligent sheep just because they're young and inexperienced. And that's just not the case.

Frank Sinatra. Elvis. The Beatles. Michael Jackson. Madonna. All major, now-revered artists who started out with primarily teen audiences. If you listen to songs from The Beatles' first album, the lyrics are strikingly similar to those of teen pop songs today. Newer bands like the Jonas Brothers (one of my personal favorites!) and One Direction are constantly being compared to them, and that pisses off a lot of people. But the bands have a lot more in common than clouds of screaming teenage girls following their every move. In a Rolling Stone article about the Jonas Brothers back in 2008, the writer compared the adrenaline rush of a concert to shooting heroin. How many people who make fun of these bands and the effect they have on people turn right around and do drugs? Same feeling, different method.

I enjoy being an adult, and it certainly has its advantages over being a teenager. But teenagers, it seems, are much more in touch with their emotions. As adults, we are taught to hide and suppress our emotions. We can't say certain things for fear of offending someone else, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But you can't always suppress your emotions. Reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, or any other form of entertainment should be a very visceral experience. If the story is a good one, then the depth and layers will come out. And just because a book is geared toward teenagers doesn't mean there is no depth. Having emotions on the surface of a story doesn't mean the author or reader has no self control. It just means they've found the right place to put it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The bullies and the bullied

While researching for a planned novel the other day, I had to do a quick google search on school shootings. I was looking for more recent ones, but one of the country's earliest was the one that caught my eye.
It happened in 1978 in Michigan. A Nazi sympathizer, taunted by his classmates for his beliefs, brought a gun to his school and shot two of his tormentors, wounding one and killing the other.

These days, school shootings are more common than ever. Every time a shooting makes the news, we hear about how the shooter was bullied and tormented until they couldn't take anymore and lashed out at their tormentors. But when I read about this particular shooting, the first thing I thought was, "Who on earth would pick on a Nazi supporter? Isn't that sort of like poking a sleeping bear?"

Except cute little bears like this one. You can poke them all you like. (source)

But these are different times. 1978 was only about 30 years after Hitler's regime ended. I'm no historian, but I'd be willing to bet that we know a lot more about Nazis now than we did back then.
For the past several nights, my dad has been watching documentaries about "Hitler's Secret Life" or "Secrets From Hitler's Death Camps." Information about Naziism and World War II concentration camps that supposedly wasn't widespread before. Perhaps these kids were simply doing what bullies do -- taunting a lonely kid for having different beliefs. They couldn't have realized the atrocities Nazi sympathizers were capable of.

Interestingly, this school shooting scenario is the reverse of what we see/hear today. We usually hear about poor, innocent kids who were picked on for being loners, for their taste in music or movies, for being scrawny, self-conscious, or socially awkward. Who was worse in this situation: The kids who bullied someone, or the kid who sympathized with a political party known for carrying out atrocious, inhumane acts? Or were they really in the dark

Sunday, August 19, 2012

This is some scary stuff, yo

When I was a little kid, I was scared to death of ALF. You know, the crazy looking alien creature from the 1980's sitcom of the same name? Yeah, scared the mess out of me. There's a video of me when I was about two; we were at my aunt and uncle's house, and I specifically avoided the area under their staircase because of an ALF doll. Even if it wasn't on video, I have an older cousin who will never let me live that down.

Sounds pretty crazy once you get older, but little kids often have some pretty crazy fears. I was also afraid of zombies, Darth Vader, and cats.

Yep, this little guy was right up there with dead people who wanted to eat my brains. (source)

Everyone is afraid of something. Fear can be a great asset; if you're afraid of the creepy guy following you into a dark alley, that fear will let you know to be alert and maybe, you know, get the hell out of that alley. Sometimes it can cause problems; lots of people are fearful of anyone or anything unfamiliar to them, hence the universal and timeless problem of prejudice. And sometimes, fear is a problem because we just don't know what to be afraid of. We all know to be afraid of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, who we know how to identify and (to a certain degree) defeat. But for every Freddy Krueger in the world, there is a Ted Bundy -- the danger we often don't realize is dangerous until it's too late.

A few months ago, I was watching one of those "What Would You Do?" shows. You know, the ones where hidden cameras capture actors faking inappropriate and potentially dangerous situations and see how people react. This episode involved bike theft, but as done by three different people. The first two not-thieves were men -- one black, one white. People reacted harshly, and several called the police. The third was a pretty blonde girl, and few people reacted negatively at all. Many of the men ogled her and even encouraged her -- all while their furious wives called the police. The implication being, of course, that if you're an attractive white female, people assume you can do no wrong. And this assuming and stereotyping can be dangerous.

Sadly, we live in an age where nobody can be trusted. But your instincts are your most powerful tool. If you think something isn't right, take the appropriate measures to right it. And if you think something is okay...well, you should still be cautious. After all, the scariest monsters are the ones we don't even know we should be afraid of.

Wow, that was rather depressing. Here's another picture of Adam Levine.

Maybe in my next depressing post, I'll add in some shots of Robert Schwartzman and Joe Jonas. Admit it -- you'd rather look at them than the kitten.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Can we talk about 50 Shades of Grey for a second?

For the past year or so, everyone who is anyone has been hearing about 50 Shades of Grey. Its mere publication is the ultimate success story with a twist -- based on a Twilight fan fiction and altered slightly for mass publication, the trilogy has gotten massive mainstream success, even leading to more fan fiction publishing deals. I haven't said much about the series, either online or off, because...well, up to this point, it just didn't interest me that much. I have no interest in reading erotica, and I heard the books themselves were pretty bad anyway. But whatever, no big deal. Bad is subjective, and there will always be books getting published that some (or even a lot) of people think are bad. There are also movies and TV shows and certain blonde country singers who I don't think are very good at what they do either. But clearly someone disagrees with me, because a lot of them do pretty well.

But do they do better than Harry Potter? No.

The big news in publishing today is that the 50 Shades of Grey books have outsold Harry Potter on the British Amazon website. Yes, that's the same Harry Potter series that has seven books, not three. The same Harry Potter series that has won the hearts of millions of fans of all ages around the world. The same Harry Potter that has spawned movies, action figures, and even an entire theme park. And it has been outsold by...50 Shades of Grey.

Just a few clarifications here: 1.) I actually liked Twilight. It was by no means perfect, but I refuse to jump on the "I hate Twilight" bandwagon and tune it out just because I feel that I should. 2.) I also have no problem with writers turning works of fan fiction into original stories for publication. I've done it myself in the past -- though the characters and story did eventually take on lives of their own, leaving no trace of any sort of fan fiction to anyone who hadn't read the original story. And 3.) While I have no intentions of reading 50 Shades myself, I'm not an elitist who looks down on anyone who has read it -- or anyone who enjoyed it. Obviously a lot of people do, or it wouldn't be as popular as it is. 

But what's the verdict here? Do writers have a right to be upset that a book they deem "bad" has been embraced by the mainstream? Or should they accept that the public wants something they aren't willing to give? Is the publishing industry -- and the music industry and movie industry and the TV industry -- really going downhill, or should we embrace anything that is popular because it clearly did something right if people liked it? Will the criticism that these fan-fictions-turned-original-works are getting eventually discourage authors, or will they continue to get six figure deals for their tales of Edward and Bella's BDSM romps?

And hey, at least the cover is kind of cool.

And so the questions continue.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Conflict is fun!

Even when it's not being presented Matrix-style. (source)

A few weeks ago, I posted about the number of writers that admit an addiction to (or at least a love for) reality TV. Most reality shows (well, at least the ones I like to watch) are trashy, shallow...and not real at all. Yet for every person who complains about the amount of coverage the Kardashians get, there's another one who glues themselves to the TV screen every week to see what shenanigans, real or imagined, predictable or unpredictable, the famous clan will get into next. Sometimes those people are the same.

I have to admit, baby Mason is pretty cute. (source)

But two of the most controversial reality shows of the past decade (and two of my favorites) are 16 and Pregnant and its spin-off, Teen Mom. The former highlights the trials and tribulations of various pregnant teenagers, and the latter highlights the continuing years of motherhood for a select few of the girls (another show, Teen Mom 2, follows girls from the later seasons of 16 and Pregnant, and a Teen Mom 3 is planned for the season that just aired). Because the focus of the show is, naturally, the pregnant girls, they are generally (though not always) portrayed as the good guys -- the girl next door, the ambitious go-getter, or even the poor, naive victim. Just like any reality show (and even in the world of celebrity), producers will sometimes go to great lengths to uphold an image for a girl.

Take, for example, Teen Mom cast member Maci Bookout. Maci, like, me, is a Southern girl; she was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, no doubt amongst plenty of sweet tea and Baptist revivals. As a pregnant teen (and, later, a mom), Maci was an all-American girl. A popular cheerleader ambitious enough to finish high school early, with significantly fewer money problems than many teen moms, fans identified with Maci and sympathized with her when Ryan, her baby daddy-slash-fiancé, appeared less than thrilled at the prospect of being a husband and father. Even after they split for good when their son, Bentley, was a year old, Maci continued to mourn their relationship and Ryan's apparent lack of fathering skills. And mourned it. And mourned it. And mourned it...until most of us were like this:

Fittingly, the caption on the original photo  is "just shoot me now." Yep, that sums it up.

Post-breakup, Maci found a new man and moved him in after just a few months of dating. She later criticized Ryan for going out during his weekends with Bentley, after his bundle of joy was already in bed. Two years later, Maci tagged along on Ryan's family vacation and promptly dragged his new girlfriend through the mud, purposefully intimidating her and criticizing their decision to vacation together after dating for only a few weeks. Because moving in with your boyfriend of a few months is totally better.
A little further digging reveals more incriminating information: Not only does Maci travel frequently, leaving her precious Bentley for weeks at a time, but she's quite the party girl herself. In a scene from the much earlier 16 and Pregnant, Maci laments her then-fiancĂ©'s decision to go out several nights in a row as opposed to spending time at home. A valid concern? Perhaps...or it would be, if it weren't for the blatant black X's across Maci's palm. At this point, she might as well take that permanent marker from the bouncer and write "I'm a hypocrite!" across her forehead.

So what's my point? Sure, criticizing a cast member on a reality show is a questionable way to spend one's time, even if it is technically an escape. But people wouldn't do it if it wasn't some sort of release or form of entertainment for them. A few weeks ago, there was an article on Cracked about why people are driven to negative internet discussions. Long story short: Being positive about something is often seen as a waste of time. And in terms of writing...well, this sort of makes sense.

Imagine a story that went like this: Once upon a time, there was a perfect princess who lived in a big castle, had plenty of money, and always got her way. She was as beautiful as the day is long, and she had plenty of family and friends who loved her and they never fought. 
One day, the princess met a prince from a neighboring kingdom. He was as handsome as the day is long and had just as much money as she did. They met, immediately fell in love, and decided to get married. He moved in with her and they lived happily ever after. They never even argued about money because they both had as much as their hearts desired.

This guy was so bored by that one that he fell asleep in a damn cart. (source)

Not exactly a great story, right? Humans are drawn to conflict because we are imperfect, and conflict is in our nature. Any time a story starts out like the one above, there's generally something beneath the surface. Maybe the prince had a girlfriend he left to marry the beautiful princess. Maybe the princess's family and friends never fought with her because they were all afraid of her and were reduced to being her "yes men." Or maybe there were other problems in the princess's marriage that drove a wedge between her and her husband. Plenty of families have great lives, but you never hear about the good times. You mostly hear about the wives who cracked and shot their husbands...or the teenage daughters that got pregnant at 17.
So next time you're fed up with a conflict and just want to focus on the positives...well, that's not necessarily a bad thing! But remember why people focus on negative things, and turn that negativity into a creative positive.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reality television and writing

Over the past few months and years, after I started seriously looking at author websites and bios and wanting to become a published author just like them, I noticed one thing a lot of writers have in common. Well, a lot of things. There's that whole "we spend hours slaving over our works" thing, and maybe even that whole "we're crazy" thing. But another, more unusual thing I've noticed is that a lot of writers have a particular fondness for reality TV.
Former literary agent turned author Nathan Bransford periodically begins a blog post with a recap of and/or statement about The Hills or America's Next Top Model. Divergent author Veronica Roth has written about both Top Model and Project Runway. And Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (aka the best zombie book ever) has an entire list of her reality tv guilty pleasures on the FAQ page of her website.

Fortunately, I haven't heard a single author express a positive opinion about Jersey Shore. (source)

As for me, I enjoy some reality TV shows, but I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of the genre (or would it be a category?). I can't stand reality dating shows because reality shows, despite their name, are already so artificial. I don't like seeing the dating process, which is something that we have already made way too artificial, be made even more phony.

But I do have a soft spot for those MTV reality soap operas. A few weeks ago, I spent an entire Friday night re-watching the third season of Laguna Beach. You know, that "reality" version of The OC that follows a bunch of rich teenagers through their junior and senior years of high school. And season three was the most boring season, so that says a lot about my state of mind at the time.

This is your brain on reality TV and too many rewrites. (source)

And, like the aforementioned Nathan Bransford, I also enjoyed The Hills, the Laguna Beach spin-off in which season 1 favorite (and now quasi oober celeb) Lauren Conrad moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. And apparently author, because she now has a YA trilogy out about -- shocker! -- a girl who moves to Los Angeles and gets on a reality show. She's also working on yet another YA trilogy about -- another shocker! -- a reality show, the first book of which was released a few weeks ago. I have not read any of her books...but I do follow her on twitter. Does that count for anything?

Alas, when The Hills ended, we MTV junkies needed something else to fill the void. Enter 16 and Pregnant, perhaps the most controversial thing to be shown on MTV since Britney wore that midriff top  in the video for "...Baby One More Time." The show is pretty self-explanatory, as is its spin-off, Teen Mom. Plenty of people complained that the shows glorify teen pregnancy, and maybe they do. But for many of us who are no longer teens, it's an addicting guilty pleasure.

So what is it with authors who spend hours slaving over ultimately brilliant prose and then sit in front of the TV to rot their brain with a phony reality? Maybe that's why we do it -- it's phony, but it's an escape. And, after all, isn't that what entertainment is supposed to be?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On books and bathroom use (not what you think!)

The other day, the lovely Michelle Krys posted a book review and claimed that the book was so good she only stopped reading to make tea and use the bathroom. TMI? She thought so. I didn't.

Though if my bathroom looked this nice, I might visit it more often, even if I was reading a good book. (source)

This entry reminded me of a category of books I call the "sleep and pee" books. Sounds kind of crass, and maybe it is. But that's the first title that comes to mind because these books are so good I only stop reading to sleep or pee. (But not at the same time!)

I'll start with the "holy triumvirate" of young adult novels: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight, all three of which I enjoyed immensely. And all three are popular for pretty good reasons: Harry Potter because it takes place in a world that is both different from and exactly like our own. Twilight because it is escapist fantasy fun at its finest (alliteration is awesome!). And The Hunger Games because the stakes for the characters are enormously high and the future world the characters live in is dangerously close to what ours could become someday. What it's already becoming.

And now the runners-up:

Paper Towns (John Green): I really like John Green's books, but even his most popular one, Looking for Alaska, doesn't hold a candle to Paper Towns. I think I enjoyed it so much because it has an element of mystery to it, and I had to keep reading to find out what the heck was going to happen to this missing girl.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan): One of my favorite zombie novels. I read it over the course of a weekend when my parents were out of town, and the first night I was home alone reading...well, let's just say I didn't get much sleep that night.

The Giver (Lois Lowry): A classic of children's/young adult fiction. Lois Lowry is brilliant; I've read several of her other books and she never disappoints. This is also the book that indirectly got me interested in dystopian fiction (I probably liked it before then, but didn't have a name for it).

Genesis (Bernard Beckett): I had to read this in college, so at first it was just another dull required reading assignment. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Like The Giver, it takes place in a futuristic/alternate world and has sort of a dystopian element to it as well. Why is dystopian fiction so awesome? For the same reason that shows like The OC and 90210 are popular; you think everything looks perfect on the surface, but it's not. Far from it, actually.

Wither & Fever (Lauren DeStefano): I don't remember Wither as much as I do Fever, because I just read Fever a couple of months ago. But I do remember enjoying them both and plowing through them. A lot of people criticize them for their lack of world building, but their strength is the characters. You constantly want to know what's going to happen to them next and how they're going to react to it. And isn't that the strength of any good story? After all, stories are about people.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why scary stories are the best

Being the avid horror fan that I am, I just had to see Chernobyl Diaries this weekend. Despite what the critics are saying, the movie does not disappoint. At all. In fact, it sort of reminded me why I love horror movies in the first place.

And it's not just because of cool looking monsters. (source)

The movie, like so many other horror movies, follows a group of twentysomethings on vacation. Chris, his girlfriend Natalie, and Natalie's friend Amanda are visiting Chris's brother Paul, who left home and now lives in Ukraine. They travel to the city of Pripyat, a real city which was abandoned in the 1980's after a very real explosion at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant. And, like so many other horror movies, their car breaks down and they're stranded in the abandoned city. Their tour guide is mercilessly slaughtered by unseen monsters, which we later learn are (SPOILER!) the mutated people who stayed behind after the nuclear explosion and are now basically mutant cannibal zombie things. And now they're chasing the gang, who are getting picked off one by one. Pretty typical horror movie in some ways, but there's no way I could go into a movie about mutant cannibal zombie things and not like it.

The movie wasn't just awesome because of the monsters, but it was also pretty creepy. The monsters (I'm not sure whether to call them mutants, zombies, or what, so I'll just use the generic "monster" label) are only seen in the dark, when someone holds up a flashlight to them. So the characters spend a decent amount of the movie running around in dark places with flashlights, looking for someone that got eaten or having accidentally stumbled into said dark place and attempting to get out without becoming a snack themselves. So we see a lot of quick shots of the monsters -- just enough to pique our interest.

The horror genre, like most other genres, has lost its touch over the years. So many horror writers have forgotten what makes a story truly horrific in the first place -- the unknown. Why are people so afraid of death, the most popular subject in horror? Because it is completely unknown. We all have our various religious beliefs, of course, but nobody can know for sure what happens to us after death until we actually experience it. At which point, there is no going back.

Or is it? Haunted houses like Lemp Mansion are popular because of the idea that there is life after death.

There's a sort of underground internet sensation called creepypasta that originated in the early 2000's. Creepypasta is sort of like urban legends, but nearly all of them originated online, usually on message boards. They are usually very short -- what writers refer to as "flash fiction," 1000 words or less. And, like more mainstream urban legends, the most popular ones are more frightening than any horror movie. Because the thing about short fiction is that it doesn't have time to delve into characters or plots in the same way that longer fiction does. And when a short story is scary, there's no time for the dreaded explanations. The less explanation, the more frightening.
Unfortunately, when people don't know something or don't have an explanation, they want to find out. Once a week from 2004 to 2010, there were millions of us who sat down in front of our TV's to watch Lost. We didn't know what the heck was going on with these island or with these characters and dammit, we wanted to find out. Some people complained because they weren't satisfied with the ending and its explanation of what the island actually was. But maybe the mystery was a good thing. It kept people talking. If you lay everything out in the open, it's not nearly as intriguing.

That's why scary stories -- whether they be creepypasta, campfire tales, or a good suspense movie -- are so popular. They play on our fear of the unknown. Because if you knew for sure if ghosts existed...well, that wouldn't be very exciting, would it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On fitting in and failures to communicate

The yellow flower stands out well. A weed probably would not. (source)

In my lifelong effort to actually stay in shape and at least try to be somewhat healthy, I started going to a bi-weekly zumba class about a year ago. It wouldn't have been my first choice of exercise regimen, but I do like to dance, it's 2 bucks a session, and there's no commitment. You go when you can and only pay for the sessions you do attend. Plus, it's a really good workout. But the purpose of this post isn't to promote zumba (though you should at least give it a try if you're interested!).
Last week, our instructor had this idea to have a black light party. Blacklight? Black...light? Who knows. Anyway, all she really told us was to wear something white and that she would turn out the lights, turn on some disco balls, and we would all "glow." Problem is, you only glow if you actually know to wear something white. And when the instructor tells you she's doing it on Thursday, then you get to class on Tuesday and SURPRISE! We're doing it today! Well, that's not so much fun. Especially when you're wearing red and green. Just like a badly lit Christmas tree.

Ornaments courtesy of the now defunct Picnik.

Pretty stupid thing to get upset over, right? After all, it's not like I have this overwhelming desire to be turned into a human glow stick. But no matter how much we glorify standing out, no matter how many people say "be yourself" or "don't follow the crowd," anyone who looks like an evergreen Christmas tree amongst people who look like snow is going to feel a bit awkward. Especially when all the little snowflakes clearly got the memo that the evergreen tree missed.

Believe it or not, standing out isn't all it's cracked up to be. If I showed up to work in a tank top and yoga pants, I'd probably be sent home because that's not the appropriate way to dress for my job. If I was in the left turn lane at a traffic light and went straight when the light turned green, I'd probably crash into the car opposite me. Then I'd sure stand out...but in a really bad way.

When you're a teenager, it can be remarkably easy to fit in. Sounds crazy, right? After all, most teenagers will easily tell you that they don't feel like they fit in anywhere. But it's a lot easier to find a group of friends in high school than it is in the real world. In high school, you're forced to spend a certain amount of time in the classroom or on campus, even when you're not doing anything productive in class, so the best way to spend that seemingly wasted time is to get to know people. You know that you will see your classmates almost every day for hours at a time because they're required to be there.
In the real world, not so much. Not doing anything in class? No big deal. Just leave. Don't want to go 8 hours a day? No big deal. Just go part time. It's harder to connect with people when you're an adult because everyone is doing their own thing.

Holy crap, that was all very sporadic. So what's my point? I guess my point is that everyone has times where they feel like they don't fit in. For some reason, it ceases to become socially acceptable to talk about it when you become an adult, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen to us. I wish I had an easy solution, but it's just the way things go. Since that's sort of a depressing note to end on, here's a picture of the oh-so-gorgeous Adam Levine that I took Sunday night. That helps a bit...right?

Not the greatest quality...but hey, there's nothing quite like a guy playing a guitar.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An important message for everyone

The other day at work, I was nearing the end of my shift when I ran into my ninth grade English teacher. I hadn't seen her in years, and it took us a moment to recognize each other. But as soon as we made the "hey, I know you!" connection, the conversation inevitably turned to what we had been doing. As I recall, it went something like this:

Her: So are you still in school?
Me: Nope, I'm done.
Her: Really? And you're working at Target? What is your degree in?
Me: Creative Writing
Her: Oh. Well, that explains it.

I didn't initially want to write about this because I didn't want to sound like a whiner. There are always going to be assholes who say things like this, and you can't dwell on them or you'll never get anywhere. Or can you? No matter how old you get, no matter how much you go through and grow and learn and stop letting stupid, petty little things get to you, there will always be things that do get to you. There will always be things that people do and say that hurt you. And that's okay. After all, we are only human.

The key is to believe in yourself, even when others don't. I'm an adult. I have a college degree and graduated with honors. I worked my butt off to get that degree, I worked my butt off to find a job after I graduated, and I work my butt off at my actual job. I don't have a family to support (yet), but I am working toward the goal of being able to support myself. Regardless of how I end up making a living one day, if I am able to write for a living or if I have to look elsewhere for a career, I do plan on making a living and being successful.
So...can someone give me one good reason why I should be degraded for what my degree is in and/or where I work? Yeah...didn't think so.

Don't ever let anyone convince you that you're beneath them. Don't ever let anyone discourage you, or tell you that you can't do something. It probably won't be easy to find a job and make a living, at least not at first, and there is a stigma against having a liberal arts degree. But lots of thriving, successful adults do have them, and one day I will be among them. If you're doing the absolute best that you can, if you have a good, realistic goal that you want to work toward and a healthy, positive, realistic attitude about life, then nobody has a right to put you down for that. So don't let them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The world's greatest time wasters

This pretty much sums up how I've felt for the past few days. (source)

You know how when you're in high school and college, you get down to finals week and are basically doing nothing but studying your butt off for nearly a week? You stuff yourself with junk food when you need a break, get together in study groups, and become best friends with your coffee pot (or local Starbucks). And then finals are over and suddenly you're completely burned out and have the whole summer (or December) to relax. Kind of a nice contrast, huh?
Even though I'm not in school anymore and, therefore, have no finals to worry about, I guess living in a college town has rubbed off on me because I'm feeling a bit burned out too. Just like when I spent all those hours studying for college finals, my brain feels like it was just dipped in grease and warmed over a skillet for half a day. The work of a writer never ends, but I have been working significantly less over the past couple of days in the hopes of "sharpening the saw," so to speak. Also, I have about 80 trillion library books checked out right now and need to finish those up before I get stuck with as much due in late fees. (You know how some people go into the grocery store planning to buy 5 things and they come out with 20? Yeah, that's me in a library. And on iTunes. And at McDonald's...)

So what do you do when your brain cells have all sort of pooled together on the grease-filled bottom of your brain to fry? Why, you fry them, of course! I've spent the majority of the past week watching the Disney Channel and old episodes of Laguna Beach.

And I'll definitely have to get back to writing sometime. Probably within the next few days because even though I can't quite bring myself to pick up the pen again, I'm itching to do it. I just don't know what the heck to do yet. Or I somehow do but keep managing to avoid it. I'm an expert procrastinator, especially when Stephen Colletti is on my TV screen.

My point is, doing absolutely nothing isn't always a waste of time. Sometimes it's just what you need to recharge your batteries and  come back better than ever. The lovely Veronica Roth blogged also blogged about this very subject a couple of years ago, and now she's a full-time writer. So, you know, I'm not totally crazy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Holy crap -- this is real!

In between novel research and Frasier reruns tonight, I caught an episode of Killer Kids on the Biography channel. For those of you not in the know about the most morbidly fascinating show on television, Killer Kids is about...well, actually, the title is pretty much self explanatory. Each hour long episode features three stories, in documentary fashion, about kids who have killed people. Like I said, fascinatingly morbid.

This particular episode was about school shootings. I was about to change the channel when a segment caught my eye -- the segment on Luke Woodham. In 1997, Woodham killed two of his classmates at Pearl High School, just an hour and a half down the road from me. Well, I lived in a different city at the time, so it was technically an hour down the road. But you get the idea.

The other two teens featured on this episode were from foreign countries. Most stories that make the national news take place far away from us and we are far removed from them. This kid made national news in my own backyard.

Unfortunately, my backyard doesn't look quite this nice. (source)

I've never been very good at grasping things going on around me. Sure, I know when things happen, but it takes me awhile to process the fact that HOLY CRAP THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. When I got into the Mississippi School of the Arts at the end of my sophomore year of high school, it took me a full year to realize that I had both been accepted to and attended this school that I had worked so hard for years and years to get into. And I didn't even stay the full time -- I went back to my old high school for senior year. By the way, I don't regret going and I don't regret leaving. Everything worked out for the best in the end. But I digress.

In July of 2009, I was watching the Jonas Brothers host the Teen Choice Awards. A week later, I was standing in front of them. Meeting a celebrity (or, in this case, multiple celebrities at once) makes you feel a little like the M&M's in that Christmas commercial where they come face to face with Santa -- "they do exist!"

Real M&M's, however, aren't nearly as interesting as Santa. (source)

Whether it's a band, a serial killer, or just an out-of-the-ordinary event, seeing it and experiencing it are always different. Think about it -- when you see a celebrity on TV, you're learning about them via the same medium that you learn about The Avengers and Spongebob. We see so many things in the media that aren't real, so it's natural to tend to think that nothing, not even real people on TV, are actually real. After all, if some dude carrying a hammer walked up to you and told you he was Thor, god of thunder and from some ancient civilization of whateveritscalledintheclouds, would you believe him? No, you'd probably call the cops. Well, maybe not if he looked like Chris Hemsworth...but again, I digress.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have this trait. After all, if aforementioned guy-who-says-he's-Thor-but-really-isn't did come up to me and, say, tried to whack me with his hammer, would I process what was going on in time to duck? Or would I get my brain smashed in? What's going to happen if I get a book deal? Get married? Have children? I've got so much ahead of me to look forward to. I just hope I can learn from my experiences -- and have many, many experiences, both good and bad.