Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: What Do You Think?

This has been on my mind for quite some time now, especially now that I'm part of a 15,000 person nation, essentially, where this tends to be a very visible difference between people. Changes of perspective come in different forms. Visiting another country, getting a new experience, becoming politically active, going to college. In fact, just today when I was studying with a friend I was given an 'awareness' survey and asked various questions about on-campus and off-campus happenings. The girls who gave me that survey probably regretted it, because I elaborated on every non-multiple-choice question. But then again, if you're going to ask me about American history and what America has learned from it, sit back and make yourself comfortable because I will talk about it for at least ten minutes.

One of the very vital parts of a person, the part that differentiates one from another, is ideology. What another person thinks, their perspective of how the world works, and how they plan to do in that world are very individual. This part of a person is one of the most important factors in characterization, as well. Why? Someone with no drive and no sense of how the world works is either a badly done character no one will root for or connect to, or they're not long for this world. Diverging ideologies separate hero from villain, families from each other, or even individual people from others.

Take, for example, Anthem by Ayn Rand. Prometheus's diverging ideology that being just like everyone else is a waste of human potential separated him from everyone but his lover, Gaea. He's the hero of the story because his ideology is different. To go a little more contemporary, the ideological difference between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters shouldn't even need explaining. Magical genocide versus inclusion and support? Are you kidding?



I've been chugging my way through my second draft of TA, and I've noticed that as I write the characters again, they're becoming more distinct. Not because I've decided that Oliver suddenly has freckles or that Collins now seems to have more of a law-abiding nature, but because I've delved into their ideologies. Ideology stems from your background and experiences along with your knowledge, and the more you learn about a character's past the more their ideology stands out. There's always the flat, isolationist 'if it doesn't benefit me, I'm not doing it'. Yawn. That's always part of an isolationist ideology, but it's not very interesting. In fact, it's the basis of just about every 'edgy' character you can find in literature.

Instead of something simple, complexity is important. Take, for example, Collins, my protagonist. She's grown up in impoverished conditions, relying on her brothers to take care of her and feeling responsible to pay it back in spades. Her ideology is shaped by the way she was raised and the experiences she had - be more open to taking care of the family first, if people approach you then they definitely want something, decisions made always need to be made with family in mind, with work and security in mind. This thought process differentiates her from the artists, especially Oliver. Having lived in relative comfort and security most of their lives, their ideologies are varied, but a serious divergence from hers. I mean, the reason they meet is because of Oliver's ideology: Do what you love, make time for what's important, take care of the artists, fly below the radar, but say what needs saying. Collins wasn't going to seek him out, he had to have the mindset to find her.

And I think that this lacks in literature in general. Especially now that I'm in writing classes (for real, not just an English class creative assignment that allows anything with good grammatical structure), and I'm reading about many different protagonists experiencing many different events, reacting to them in many different ways. If you're looking for a great example of divergent ideologies and how that changes characters, I highly recommend the graphic novel Watchmen. It's a masterpiece (won a Hugo award, you know. No graphic novel has done that) and with the format it's very easy to see the differences in thought and how that makes a person act.

Hey, I just made two posts in a row, go me! Stay tuned for more posts on depth, and stay warm, dear followers. I just had my first snow of the year, and it's nineteen Fahrenheit.

Hot cocoa and political discourse,
Brie

Monday, November 17, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: My Arsenal of Weird Noises Has Only Increased

As if I didn't already seem weird enough, my time spent with other students complaining about assignments, exams, and people leaving their laundry in one of the ten dryers meant to service over 200 people for three hours, my vocabulary of grunts, moans, weird Wookie-esque calls, and banshee screeches has become more complex. One is a very distinct 'I need to do this action but don't want to leave my bed', another being 'why am I craving food when I literally just ate', and my personal favorite, 'this is a place of higher education, how are you this stupid?'

Anyway.

Unfortunately, college continues to be a roller coaster for me in terms of time, energy, socializing, and eating habits. Some days I feel like I have all the time in the world, others I'm sprinting from place to place. And as someone who has friends in college but never knew what the world was like, it's pretty weird. In fact, I'm actually writing a manifesto for a friend as a graduation present that's essentially 'How to Succeed in College Without Really Trying'. Everyone's experience in college is different, but she should definitely know how much Easy Mac will change her life and not make my mistake of only stocking the room with Kit Kats in three-pound bags following the Halloween sale at Kroger. Even now, it tempts me with its chocolatey deliciousness and wafer crunch.

Hopefully with Thanksgiving coming up and my assignments winding down as finals loom instead I have more time to post, and while I'm home I'll try and rack up some posts to queue up. I don't really like queuing, it seems artificial to me, but at the same time I don't think I have time each day like I used to for just writing a blog post. I also have a research paper to do before I go to Pittsburgh this coming weekend, so there's that, too.

Suffice to say that this upcoming blog series is going to be something different than my usual. I'm getting introspective, as I'm prone to do when days get shorter and nights get darker and I lose feeling in my fingers after ten minutes of walking. I hope that the shortening light has treated everyone well, and that my American readers are gearing up for exciting Thanksgivings - I'm salivating at the thought of stuffing already. For my other readers, just the weekend is a long time coming, right? Stay warm, make yourselves some tea, and get ready for depth.

Big sweaters and wool socks,
Brie

Monday, October 6, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: My Conversion to Easy Mac

Hello, everyone.

The last post on this blog was over a month ago, August 27th. I was still reeling over the fumes of the first week of classes, joining clubs like it was going out of style, and trying to meet people. This whole period of freshman year is wonderful, but when it's over, it hits you like a truck.

It hit me like a truck that was full of bricks. I went down, hard.

My departure from the honeymoon phase of Welcome Week wasn't really noticed in my classes - I turned in assignments, got good grades on papers, whathaveyou, but personally my life was falling apart. I had no time to be social, I was constantly doing homework, staying up late. I hadn't written in two months, The Artist sat in it's finished form untouched, unedited, unseen. I was having trouble concentrating on my work and my studying because characters would fly into my head like neglected baby birds. It was a dark time.

But now, I think I have a handle on things. I'm writing for English now instead of just reading, so that's a wonderful outlet, and when I can I slip some things into either book two or I go back and see what to do with The Artist. I literally had a talk with my first year advisor, also a writer, who pretty much freaked out when I told her what was happening. She ordered me to make time to write, and it has been absolutely wonderful. I feel so much better.

Anyway, college is getting cooler now, I can finally wear pants (and not shave...sorry, boys), my scarves from Spain, and not come back to the dorm covered in sweat. And I have discovered the joy of collegiate life that is Easy Mac. Seriously, within three minutes you too can have melty, cheesy, ultimate-comfort-food goodness in a little handheld bowl. Pro tip, though: use that Parmesan cheese powder stuff and mix it in. It adds just another cheesy element and makes your belly happy. These can be found in any dining hall, or at any grocery store for dirt cheap in nice shaky containers.

On a final note, one of the best parts of being a writer in college? The people watching is utterly spectacular. Where else can you find people in droves walking dimly lit sidewalks in togas, American flag garb, or see someone play bumper cars with their body and the cars parked on the street? Ah, college. A writer's paradise, except that whole thing about socializing. Whoops.

I'm going to be doing my best to start queuing up posts for this week early, as I'm currently writing this on a Wednesday. Maybe I'll get really lucky and be able to do a week of postings! I hope you've all been doing well since I've been gone, and have a great week!

Easy Mac and Goldfish,
Brie

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Witty Wednesdays: Free Brownies, Steve, and Other College Nuances

And, like I said, my posting might be sporadic. So of course I missed the post yesterday, I practically prophesied it. But lo and behold, I have returned! Between my 8:30 classes and my Bio, I have a little smidgen of time to blog, and after this long weekend (All hail Labor Day!) I can probably start to queue up some stuff, get it all going, and keep this blog alive while I panic-flail through my first few  weeks of classes. How does one read a syllabus? Through guessing, my friend, always guessing. Though I have to say that some profs' syllabi are better than others. The ones dripping with sarcasm are my personal favorite.

So you're probably wondering why I titled this Witty Wednesday post with free food, some stranger, and the promise of an explanation. Well, you're in luck. College is great, and I'm all for the college life, but there are some things here that just aren't permissible anywhere else. On one hand, they're kind of random things that make you smile, but on the other you kind of end up looking like this:



To start at the free brownies: During move-in and Welcome Week, free stuff is everywhere. Free shirts. Free food. Free ice cream, music, and bubbles. My History professor, a perfectly adorable beanpole of a Dutchman, walked into our Monday 4:00 class with a tray of brownies, blondies, and other goodies. He believed that on our first day, particularly at the dreaded 4 pm time, we'd be burnt out and need the sugar. That was delicious free sugar. Is a tall, accented man giving out free sweets normal anywhere else? Of course not! But in college, it's free food, which means it's automatically okay. We're weird like that, we really like our stuff to be free. But if you see how much meal plans cost you'd be in line for those free breadsticks, too.

On to Steve. My roommate and I were sitting ourselves in our rooms, studying away in what we had deemed our temporary 'studyy dungeon'. I had even written a note by our door that she was studying for a huge math test and to please let her accumulate genius in peace, and some of the girls in our corridor wrote really nice notes of encouragement. But when I went out to find our RA, I saw that each and every white board by the doors had an arrow, a room number, and the name 'Steve'. Upon searching the basement, I realized that this occurred on all floors. My roommate and I followed the arrows, wrote on Steve's board (yeah, that's right, mess with us. Try it.) and met the kid. He's very nice, and there's a meetup for Steve this Friday. It's a really creative and non-creepy way to meet people, especially girls. Apparently his friends decided he needed to make some girl friends and took it upon themselves to subtly advertise Steve. And while I was looking for him, I met some other cool guys, Nate and Cal. Again, could you graffiti your friend's name, address, and an arrow pointing to him on other people's apartments and get away with it without being arrested or at least hated? No. But it's college. This stuff flies here.

Moral of the story is, whether you want to take this as a part of life or as a part of writing, the rules change. People are weird, but they're also creative in how to get what they want. It's really inspiring. Keep in mind when you're writing that the social rules change every time your setting does. It's like the handshakes vs. cheek-kissing thing. In college, you can walk up to anyone and start a conversation. In real life? You'd get plenty of weird looks and the occasional cursing-out for getting in their way. They're not kidding you when they say college is different, but everywhere is different. So don't be afraid to be Steve and try and meet people in some crazy way that's totally acceptable for your environment. Seriously, be like my History prof and bring free food, that doesn't turn anyone away. Get out there, do you, and find the other people who do them, too, and like you for it. This wasn't actually very funny (I mean, I thought the Steve thing was genius), but it just goes to show you, anything can happen. People draw cartoons of themselves on the doors, one of my friends' door tag is a picture of Beyonce. Let your freak flag fly, and see who else comes around. And for now, I must leave you. My Biology lecture calls.

Clickies:

Everyone knows that lots the food in college is free. @themoorewriter talks why this is weird anywhere else. [Tweet it!]

@themoorewriter on Steve: the man, the myth, the legend. [Tweet it!]

Scrounging for free pasta,
Brie

Monday, August 25, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: #collegelife

So, if you guys couldn't tell from my week-long hiatus from the blogosphere, yes - I am actually on campus, sitting in my dorm right now, writing this blog post. If I couldn't already tell from the expensive meal plan, uniform furniture, and itty bitty living space, I AM OFFICIALLY A COLLEGE STUDENT.


Basically, I've been running around like a well-dressed chicken with my head cut off, sweating in the humidity and sun and getting really weird tan lines as I try to figure out my way around campus and about my classes while Welcome Week is in full swing. So far, I've taken one, Spanish Literature. I wasn't aware, but apparently the class is completely taught in Spanish, and I'm a little rusty. We'll see how that goes. But what really gets me is that even though I've been here almost a week (moved in the nineteenth) and I'm technically a sophomore by credits, I feel like I've been here forever. On one hand I feel like I'm home but on the other it seems like I'm just staying here awhile and I'll go back to Hilliard soon. The complete lack of supervision here is both freeing and appalling (uh, seriously, that's even legal?) and otherwise, I'm sitting in between classes right now writing this, feeling like a criminal because I have an open book in my lap I should be reading. Instead, I'm talking to you.

Unfortunately, my life might still be pretty hectic for a bit while I figure out my classes, adjust to homework, and try my best to not repeat senior year and my complete lack of a social life. So if I miss a few posts, I'm dreadfully sorry. Once I get settled in, I can start doing this every day, make sure that I queue up some posts for some continuity. For those of my followers who have started school, how's it going? For those out, you're lucky in ways you don't know. Walking fifteen minutes to each class is not my idea of academia, but I also like spending time inside just me and my laptop writing stories. Which, by the way, I still have one to edit for the indomitable Rae Slater (follow her here) and then my own to crack down on. Everyone in my head has been straight up misbehaving, and it's about time I put them in their place. So until next time, everyone, happy school year, happy end of summer, go make something happen!

Clickies:

@themoorewriter just moved in! How college is treating her and why mac 'n cheese is suddenly nine dollars. [Tweet it!]

#collegelife has officially started for @themoorewriter. She may or may not be taking it well. [Tweet it!]

Stressed but well-dressed,
Brie

Monday, August 18, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: Apex

This morning, I woke up to boxes.

I've been packing my things the past two days to move to college, and it's been a bit emotional for me. Not in the sobbing or nostalgic way, yet, actually the anxious way. What do I pack? Is this too much? And seriously, since when have I had eight billion pairs of socks?

A representation of what my room looks like right now.

As I'm going off to school for the first year tomorrow, I have absolutely no idea how much I should be packing. I thought I packed too many pants, but what if it gets cold? What if my sweaters aren't enough? Should I bring a heavier coat? These things plagued me all day yesterday, and I really only got two of my boxes shut. Now I'm down to the nitty gritty things I need: contacts, medications, all the good small things that you generally tend to forget when you go somewhere. Like toothpaste (which I totally did buy in bulk and totally did pack) and other things. So if you don't hear from me tomorrow, rest assured that I am hauling boxes into my room and wishing that I were sitting comfortably on my couch and writing a blog post. Because honestly I probably won't have time today between packing, cleaning, and my last supper to write another blog post, since I leave early tomorrow.

The one thing I did not expect is a sense of transience, like the point at which a jump becomes a fall, the apex. I'm not really home at my house anymore, but I'm not home on campus yet, either. I'm at this halfway point between being a teenager and a high school kid to nearly being an adult and being a full-time student. All of the expectations of me are now gone except for those that are my own, and besides the posters, flags, and photos, I don't really have a space that is my space. It's wherever I inhabit.

But unfortunately I have to cut this post short - packing calls once again. So until I blog again, good luck to you guys going back to school, and for everyone else like me who is moving out to college, can you give a girl some tips?

Clickies:

@themoorewriter talks being stuck halfway and other weird concepts that come with leaving home [Tweet it!]

Boxes on boxes on boxes: @themoorewriter is gearing up for #collegelife and freaking out in the process. [Tweet it!]

Packing tape and Sharpie labeling,
Brie

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: Raise Your Pinky Finger

On Tuesday, you guys got to see my thing about depth in literature, and how it's there if you have the courage to pick a book that has what you're looking for. But for my more ranty Thursday post, I'm talking about why those stereotypes about YA literature pervade.

I mean, even when I was looking up the picture for this post, all the posts had similar titles in it, as shown below:


Don't even get me started as to why these people consider Harry Potter young adult fiction. Just goes to show what a lot of people know. Fun fact: Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, and other beloved classics were published for the young adult audience. I mean, Jane Austen was pretty much considered a women's fiction writer and she wrote some of the most analytical and true-to-life stories of English society in that age. So why is it that these radically successful trilogies like Divergent are still being blasted as simple stories with a love triangle and hot boys and whatever else? Well, like all stereotypes, part of them are true. There are a lot of stories with love triangles - it's a simple plot device that takes up some time in the novel while other things occur to give different readers different focal points. It also taps into the more realistic fiction market, because most realistic fiction offers very simple plot devices built up with writer finesse, and YA has a very wide range of reading abilities, intelligences, and ages. Some YA readers simply aren't ready for something more complex. I've yet to see a twelve-year-old read a Joyce novel.

But there's also the stereotypes bleeding in from other areas. Who, predominantly, reads young adult fiction? Teenagers, for one. Already considered to be a 'good-for-nothing' age group consisting of rebels and Molotov cocktails of hormones, this time in a person's life is considered to be unsubstantial by adult standards. And furthermore, who of teenagers reads more often than any other group? Girls. Teenage girls. And the societal expectation of the teenage girl is clear - a boy band-swooning, vapid, materialistic Barbie doll. Not meant to really have big ideas, strong thoughts, or be interested in 'deep' topics. Can you tell these words are dripping with disdain? It's true, I'm a tad bitter about that one, because I was held to that standard. The reason that YA fiction is written off is because the people who read it are written off. That's why written-off characters like Tris are so easy to identify with, a good proportion of YA readers have been there, or are still there.

Does this mean that we can't change the perception of various genres? Of course not. The way to do it is with purchasing power. It's no coincidence that dystopian novels and trilogies are exploding, or that female protagonists are parts of very popular series. Teenagers want to read about the world going on around them, and for a lot of people, dystopians are the closest thing to reality. Teenage guy readers aren't swayed by gender like people want to think they are, and they're looking for stories. Everyone, everywhere is looking for a good story. The only problem is that stereotypes like we have deter some readers from picking up a book. There have been studies where 'girly' covers are glossed over by guys. We have to push back and fight for the stories to define their genre instead of society doing it for them. We can do this.


Clickies:

@themoorewriter talks #YAlit and why judging a book by its cover can hurt an entire industry [Tweet it!]

Underdogs make for the best stories because stories are read by underdogs: @themoorewriter on nixing genre stereotypes  [Tweet it!]

Viva,
Brie

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REVIEW: Dying for a Drop

I promised you guys that I'd review Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. I didn't tell you guys that there's some back story to this whole thing.

As you know, I'm a part of the Thurber House Young Writers' Studio, which often hosts visiting authors, poets, and other creators of fiction. Mindy stopped by one beautiful late summer evening with a power point, cards, and the cover of her book prominently displayed on the wall. My first thought was holy crap.

First off, let's just look at this cover.


It's beautiful. No sign of a teenaged girl in a poofy dress or a couple in some sort of loving embrace here, folks. And Mindy is absolutely lovely; charming and sweet and very down-to-earth. She also lives in the same state as I do (in fact, her protagonist lives in it, too) and for some reason that always just excites me a bit. So she talks about her writing process and about how she went from having a slew of words on some Word document to having this drool-inducing cover, a companion novel (with equally awesome coverage) In A Handful of Dust, and about how the process of being published works. And she didn't gloss over the waiting, the shark agents trying to scam hopeful authors out of their money, or how long it takes to even get a query accepted. She had power points. It'd be disappointing if it weren't so nicely laid out in pie charts.

Anyway, after meeting her and seeing her eyes light up talking about this dystopian YA book about survival and learning how to live instead of just make it through, I knew I had to own this book. At the very least, support an author I like and give it a read. Well, let me just tell you. It's being optioned as a movie for a reason, my friends. It's not often that I read books like this, but if everyone wrote like she does, then I'd revert to ten-year-old me, reading constantly and having my books confiscated because I would rush through tests and activities so that I could keep going.

Synopsis:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it...

Overview: 5/5 Stars

This is one of those books that I recommend to everyone I see who asks. In fact, I let someone borrow it and drove forty minutes through driving rain and wind in a typical Ohio storm to get it back after they held it hostage for two months without reading it. To say that I enjoyed this book would be an understatement, as I read it completely engrossed on my plane rides to and from Spain. It has a very realistic, gritty feel to it that the cover conveys in its texture that I found to be a nice touch on part of the artist, and the color scheme of the cover conveys a certain muted mood that the beginning of the book takes up at first. It's a wonderful combination of the senses for the reader and takes advantage of how the reader experiences the book, plunging them into the world without that jarring sense of 'this is not what I expected'. And this story is more than just a girl trying to survive in the big, bad world. It's about how your world changes over time and how you have the ability to influence it, even if just a little.

Characters: 4/5 Stars

Protagonist Lynn is, as promised, gritty and logical. A survivalist, through and through. With a very interesting and complex relationship with her mother, she stands alone as a different entity as opposed to a carbon copy of the only person she's ever had a real intimacy with. Each new person introduced into the cast of regular characters - and there are few - has a different voice but similar elements to each other, effectively binding them together into one group whether Lynn likes it or not. As a relatively sheltered teenage girl, Lynn navigates the more sordid parts of being around others like anyone would - with awkwardness and embarassment. She doesn't blink when she shoots someone, but take one look at a strange boy and she's out of there. I feel you, Lynn. I feel you. By no means a perfect character, Lynn attempts to navigate her world as best she can while it grows, changes, and gets a little more moral.

This book is one of the rare ones that can get away with mainly being about one person as opposed to their relationships among others, and the characters besides Lynn are truly relatively minor. Yet there is still a palpable connection between her, her neighbor that stumps along in the house off to the side of her, and the new people who come through, the good and the bad. Part of what characterizes them is Lynn's immediate judgement of them before more experience around them breaks it down, and the other part is their sparingly-described actions and frank speech. There is nothing flowery about anyone in this book, and given the mood and the personality of the protagonist, that's the way it should be.

Plot: 5/5 Stars

The plot structure in this book, if studied, is quite clear. However, while reading it seems to be a simple account of a girl's life, surviving in the Ohio wilderness for herself and watching out for strangers. There is no sense that 'oh, I'm in the rising action', 'there's the climax', or 'wait, is this book over, I thought there would be more?'. Rather than take the approach of other writers in her genre, McGinnis chooses to expertly weave a rather simple plot as opposed to throwing together an enormously complex one and tying it off with a square knot and hoping it holds. The initial slow start lulls the reader into a sense of security which immediately is dispelled by sudden events, much like a person would experience actually surviving as Lynn does. Instead of leading the reader through the animal attacks and people encounters, Lynn walks beside the reader who discovers her world and analyzes the situations she's in as she does. I never had that agonizing moment of 'how are you not seeing this?' while reading because I was figuring things out in tandem with Lynn. Beautifully done, as a writer, I'm envious of how smoothly this plot was delivered.

Author finesse: 5/5 Stars

McGinnis is no stranger to the lush wildness that is rural Ohio, and that is portrayed clearly in how she weaves the story and setting together, complimenting each other and playing with the reader's emotions and expectations as she goes. It's very clear that this book is her pride and joy in the way that she has attended to every detail. There are no loose ends the reader catches, no sense of dysphoria as characters run around who the reader doesn't recognize, and I personally loved the ending. It perfectly suited the mood, character, and plot, and was different enough for me to sit back and say, 'oh, wow', but not so out of the blue that I had to reread what had happened to make sure that it did, indeed, go down that way. To me, it feels very odd to separate characters from plot from setting from other pieces because they are all so organically threaded together. The brutally realistic voice of Lynn compliments the harsh landscape which invites people unlike either of these things in to change Lynn's world. Generally, it is difficult to compare a writer's finesse to something else, but in this case it's easy. Mindy McGinnis writes like warm chocolate: thick, deep, enveloping, and completely paralyzing the reader in word delight. This debut novel is one to be extremely proud of, and I am very proud to own this book and see it on my shelf.

Clickies:

@themoorewriter reviews Not a Drop to Drink by @MindyMcGinnis #YAlit [Tweet it!]

@MindyMcGinnis Not a Drop to Drink leaves @themoorewriter thirsty (see what I did there?) #YAlit [Tweet it!]

Thoroughly embarassed by how much I fangirl over this book,
Brie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Think Tank Tuesday: Making Those English Classes Worth It

There's a complaint I hear a lot when it comes to literature - especially in the young adult sphere. "Well, books now just lack symbolism! They lack depth! Young adult novels are all about the love triangles now, there's nothing to them!" Whoa there, slick, let me slow you down right now.

It's easy to say this is true, and there certainly are books in various genres like that. There's nothing wrong with a light read and a simple plot. But the pervasive thought that all books in a certain genre or for an age range is just toxic.

I mean, just look at Harry Potter. A simple children's fantasy, right, that just got really popular? There's actually research indicating that it changed an entire generation - my generation. We're kinder, more tolerant, more liberal, more politically active. There's symbolism, character development, it's a beautiful read. And if the lovely J.K. Rowling can do it in a small children's book, then it's clear it's possible in longer texts.

So how do you do this thing? It's actually pretty simple. Like most writing concepts, the actual doing of it is quite easy. Plot structure, character development, setting, they're all relatively simple to throw together. What's hard is the art of doing so. You know exactly what I mean, when you read the book and you don't notice the structure of the plot because it seems completely natural, and you can smell the dirt in the setting because it's described at a nice balance between description and imagination.

I generally start with my protagonist, because I'm going to have to know him or her better than anyone else so that my readers can know him or her. I write their name in the top of the page I'm working on - whether it's a Word page or a notebook page - and think of who they are. Are they a rebel? What's their purpose in this story, what's their fight? What do I want to portray about them to the reader? I'll use my current The Artist protagonist, Collins. She works a blue collar job and tends to be a bit rough around the edges, but warm and a bit maternal.

Under the name, write some objects or ideas to associate with that person. For example, my list would look like this:

Collins
Metal
The smell of hot metal, hot sidewalk
Dawn
Yellow, pink, amber

Feel free to justify each thing you add to yourself; I did. But this is only the easy part! Now that you have a list (it's cool if it's longer, that's just my quick little list for example purposes), it's time to integrate it into your piece.

When you describe the character, use words that remind you of things on your list. If you can, slip some of them directly in. When you introduce them, talk about the smells around them that you associate with that character. Like we do in real life, readers will associate the things in the setting and physical description with the character when they meet them. The trick now is to be able to continue these throughout the manuscript. Slip them in every so often as to continue the thread, but don't smother the reader with imagery and motif. It makes the characters more real, and makes the writing more deep. It'll be our fist raised high against the waves of naysayers who believe we're all writing love triangles and ridiculously-muscled male love interests, no matter what we tell them. The rest of the week, I'm talking how to bring your English concepts back into writing without making your manuscript sound like an English workbook.

I'm going to *actually* attempt this click-to-tweet doohickey. Click the links below to send a tweet and brag about reading this post! It's super easy and requires literally two clicks. Or thumb taps, if that's what you're into.

@themoorewriter talks about why #YA is the underdog of lit and how you can help the fight. [Click here]

@themoorewriter talks the Harry Potter generation and why it's upped our expectations on book depth. #muchness [Click here]

Bringing English back,
Brie

Monday, August 11, 2014

Maniacal Monday: I Think I'll Go to Boston

If you didn't honestly think the second our car passed the Boston city limits I didn't start singing that song, then you don't know me very well. In fact, I texted the lyrics in all caps at various people who would accept my weirdness with an idiot smile on my face. As you may have seen on my twitter feed, I've been on hiatus for this past week as I spent a week with my aunt and uncle up in New England. Not only was this a great trip for me to see how people live in various states in my country (because contrary to popular belief, each state has it's own identity and way of life), but it was wonderful for research. The people-watching in New York City was spectacular, and my only complaint was that the New York Public Library wasn't open for me to wander into like a child into a four-story candy store. The amount of sheer humanity there was ridiculous, and I learned to play chicken in the sidewalks instead of weaving my way between people like I would normally do in the city. NO, SMARTLY DRESSED ASIAN MEN. YOU ARE IN MY WAY.



Anyway. We also took a trip to Maine, which I honestly believe I could live in if the winter wasn't so horrifically cold and snowy. The food is amazing, everyone is kind, and the colors are wonderful. I'm not even really a visual person, but you can't deny a certain pleasure in watching a storm come in over the ocean and seeing every color of blue you can imagine and several that you couldn't wave over you as you stare through your car window and snap pictures. This week was great for me to unwind from freaking out over school, where I move in eight days. I also learned the art of the bun hair, and have found that I, in fact, really like my hair up. It's become my hardcore writing hairstyle, as I don't even need to bother with the ponytail or wispy hairs in my face while I'm entrenched in the other world.



Boston, however, was my most favorite place of the three. The perfect mix for me of Maine's colors and New York City's opportunities and industry, I had a wonderful time on the waterfront, walking the Freedom Trail (the Old North Church, Paul Revere's House, etc.), and hanging around Little Italy, which completely surrounds many of the Revolution-era historic buildings. I find it wonderful because we're talking about powdered-wig British colonists and you walk outside and there are festival banners for the Feast of Madonna Della Cava right outside Paul Revere's house. The vivacity of the city was incredible. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture for you, as I took all of them with my camera and I haven't unpacked yet.

But I'm back and better than ever this week, ready to start some new postings and finally finish that review of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. Is this my super-casual and totally clever way of promoing this book? Take that as you'd like. It should be up this week, though, since I find myself with a couple days off and I actually have my laptop again. I've missed you, lappy. I love you.

I hope you all had a wonderful time while I was on break, and thank you to my new readership, my blog post reads have soared over the week that I was gone! It was a great 'welcome back' present from you guys!

Unpacking and unwinding,
Brie

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: Who Am I?

24601.


With a friendly wave the the Les Miserables fandom, this is what we're talking today: figuring out who the heck you are. Because not only do you need to know about the deep, dark parts of your characters, you need to know those parts of yourself. And this isn't some sort of post championing myself as master of this topic - because I'm not and hopefully I never do that because I'm not the master of anything - this is more of a 'this will help you' blog post, because people who know themselves naturally know their characters better. Whether you're like me and you take pieces of yourself to create others or you find archetypes and embellish them to your liking, or whatever you do, knowing yourself can only help you.

Like we were talking Tuesday, it's important for transformations to include cognitive change - whether that's emotional, intellectual, or the actual growing of your brain. The thing is, writing with experience makes it easier in abstract cases like these. There's no way to tell that someone is changing or that their brain is growing (unless you're into lobotomy - I'm not) except for thoughts, which you can't illustrate, and actions, which come from thoughts. The whole 'write what you know' thing isn't quite true with concrete concepts, like knife-throwing, being shot, or talking to animals, whatever your genre. But in the case of something that you can't see, it's a little tougher and at least for me, it's easier saying it after you've done it.

A lot of books - especially in the YA genre - are about figuring out who you are. And a lot of who you are lies in what you think. And there's really no set way to get to know yourself to figure out what you're thinking, it's a personal journey that is unique for everyone and explored through different avenues for everyone. Writing has been part of mine, as has my other experiences. I have friends who have gone to camps or conferences and come back being changed. Part of finding yourself is having experiences that challenge you and force you to look at yourself in a different light. This may seem like a very general and vague post, but that's because it is. This whole 'who am I' business is a journey to Mordor of one. You're Frodo, and you don't get a Sam to go with you. But don't fret - you have your fellowship around, you can have support. You just have to do the heavy lifting on your own.

What are your thoughts? Got any experiences that truly changed you? Get any inspiration with an experience that really helped her character? Let me know!

Looking into the Pensieve,
Brie


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Witty Wednesdays: Cringeworthy

Last night, I sat out at a bonfire until one in the morning with some old friends. We went through old pictures of ourselves on Facebook that we'd posted four, five, six years ago. And we had completely forgotten how horridly awkward we all were. Everyone was different- new hair, better clothes, no braces, better complexions. It reminded me not only that I have come a long way from being the gangly, awkward, Pillsbury-dough-boy-complexioned preteen that first started this writing journey. I still may be awkward (and arguably fair-skinned), but I've transformed. I have made my way through the various rites of passage to where I am now. Everyone has theirs- the Ugg boots phase, the 'wearing jeans is dressed up, right? ' phase...I could go on.

What's the moral of this story? It gets better. Two sets of braces, one full round of puberty, and a better fashion sense later, I no longer look like a cave dweller. If you're trying to change, it's totally doable. Promise.

What are your rites of passage? Got any awkward stories or photos to share? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @themoorewriter . I'd love to know I'm not alone!

Pimples and random growth spurts,
Brie

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Think Tank Tuesday: Us Against the World



Change has always been part of our lives. When we were younger, we watched the seasons change (or watched the weather change every ten minutes if you live in Ohio like I do), and we saw ourselves change as we grew. We got legs we didn't know what to do with, weight gain we didn't know how to handle, and social change that we weren't quite sure how to navigate. But these changes didn't just happen out of the blue like it appeared to us that we did. The whole 'thing' about change is that it is catalyzed - something happens that makes us change. In the case of our bodies, hormone signals tell various body parts to develop, mature, or sometimes come about at all. Socially, environmentally, though, something happens to us that we understand. When the weather gets chilly and the sun hides away, we feel less happy, more tired and stressed. If someone argues with you and you avoid them for a few days, that social change was started by that fight.

The thing is, in young adult fiction, change is necessary. Part of the gig of being a young adult (or any sort of human being, really, but especially at this age range) is that you are constantly changing. Physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially. You go through a period where you are not the same person you were an hour ago, and considering your earlier years of mostly stasis (staying the same), this is pretty freaking scary. You can't exactly tell who you are, much less tell others who you are. Yet it seems to me that in YA literature, especially popular literature, everyone has themselves figured out, it's the external changes they have to navigate. I mean, there are some people who go through the changes early and get at a more stable existence in their late teens, but at sixteen years old pretty much everyone is a Molotov cocktail of hormones, decisions both good and bad, and short-term aspirations. It's why so much realistic fiction lies in getting a significant other or getting a former lover back. These are short-term goals that require a little change but that are very easy to accomplish in the grand scheme of things. It's easier to get a boyfriend than it is to change the world, just ask Tris Prior, Katniss Everdeen, or Harry Potter (girlfriend in this case, but he had the hardest time of the three of them. Poor awkward little nugget.)

So we've covered the fact that change is the only reason books are written or that people encounter different scenarios, but what about characters? Half of the whole book (or more if you're into classics like Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) is about the character becoming a different person. There's even a term for a book that talks about coming of age: bildungsroman. Not exactly the prettiest name, but there are so many books that explore the young adult age range and how people change during that time they have their own term. And if you've seen a Joyce book, his bildungsromans are thicker than my arm. The elements of change a person experiences during their time as a preteen and adolescent are so complex people write whole books about it. So why don't we have that in young adult literature as a minor element? People change, of course, but is that it? Someone becomes more compassionate, another learns about loss, but there's no way that's all the changing they do. Look around, check out books filed under 'bildungsroman' or 'coming of age'. Embrace the fact that characters at this age are changing drastically, just as we are. Does that mean they can't save the world? No, but to write them like an adult and focus mostly on how their decisions change based on experience is to shut out a beautiful and extensive part of what it means to be a teenager. We are still changing, forever and always. Maybe it's about time we stopped pretending like we don't.

Still changing too,
Brie

Monday, July 28, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: Wings

This past weekend has been weird. I went to my cousin's wedding in Maryland, which was a six-hour car ride. We spent a day in DC wherein the patriotism and heat was so intense my sunburn would look like the star-spangled banner, and I learned that my true habitat lies in air conditioning with free wi-fi and my laptop. But that's no surprise there, is it?

To be honest, part of the reason why I'm late for this Maniacal Monday is because, well, I have nothing to say. I had little to no sleep theses last few nights and without wifi or my laptop all I could do was attempt to plot and make mental lists, and with my lack of sleep those were all shriveled up and gone by morning.

But among the weird things happening today, besides doing a stint in a cardboard compactor (yes, I essentially went dumpster diving during work today), I've sort of realized that I'm actually a college student now. It's one thing to have an ID card and have paid for your tuition, but it's another thing entirely to know that in less than three weeks you will no longer lie on the floor of your room each night doing homework, and your parents will not be making food for you. I will no longer have my own room, a bathroom shared with only one other person, or a car. I'm going to be two hours from home and just out of reach of anyone that I was friends with before, except for maybe five people.

I consider myself a pretty independent person, but this whole idea of suddenly being thrust onto a secluded campus of over twenty thousand people ages 18-24 is pretty terrifying. I'm not worried about keeping my room clean or being able to do my laundry or making sure my studies are paying off. I'm afraid of all of the things that don't have rules - socialization, sororities?, finding my niche, figuring out how to project the identity that I define as myself, not a judgement from others. I've spent years from the time I was small finding a niche and filling it. When it was prudent for me to become the class bookworm or the know-it-all, so I became. I was like a caterpillar trying to find a place to become a chrysalis, only a means to survive. But now I need to learn to find primo areas. I'm a big, bad butterfly now, and instead of folding my wings and hiding, I need to put those things out for the world to see. I need a place that makes room for me, not vice versa.

Me in butterfly form. Intimidating, right?
Everyone says that college is transformative, and a place to figure out who you are. But the thing is, I'm already pretty sure of who I am. Of course I'll change over the years (and hopefully get rid of this whole 'face of a twelve-year-old' thing), but I've already had that transformation occur. The hard part now is finding a place that will give me space to spread my wings without someone trying to tear them off, because there are birds at college. Both metaphorically and literally. There will always be someone around seeing your butterfly-self as a tasty afternoon snack. You can't let them near you, but in a new, strange environment all by yourself, it's sometimes hard to see the trees for the birds when you're still freaking out about the trees.

So this week my topic is what I've been struggling with: transformation. Change is the reason any book is written, and the point of every sequel. Especially in YA literature, change is a must-have. So stick around this week for posts on literary transformation AND a review of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis!

Fluttering off for now,
Brie

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: The New Age

This whole thought train started with a conversation I had with my mother a few days ago. I asked her about country clubs, since she and my father had recently been to a work party at one. Every time that I'm in one or one of my parents is, they begin to talk about how they aren't what the used to be. My question was, why not? My mother told me that it got to be too expensive, and people in my generation weren't looking to join. They became less and less exclusive to continue earning money.

That's actually quite a trend between her generation and mine, not being alike. People my age are, studies show, less materialistic and less concerned about physical wealth. And we're not spending or investing, we're saving. We grew up in a recession and have been surrounded constantly by information with the dawn of computers, the internet, and social media. We are expected to be reachable instantly because of our smartphones that not only call and receive messages like their ancestors, but also browse the internet, play music, download files, post to Instagram, hold data, and run a touch interface. And while every generation is different from the one before, we have quite a bit different from those who raised us.

It's one of the reasons it's pretty evident when there's a young adult author writing that's from my mother's generation. The values of the characters are different and their pursuits go to ends that we don't always recognize as viable. It's like when I go to watch Jonny Quest, one of my favorite cartoons. It was created and aired during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when my parents were kids watching these kinds of things. I love them because of their hope for the future in cases of scientific advance, the subtly sinister villains, and the campy sound effects. But what differs so much of from the cartoons of the 1990s and early 2000s that I watched as a kid is that the plots are simpler. The women are portrayed as women 'should be' - helpful plot catalysts or attractive one-episode crushes for any of the male characters. And most of the villains were Russian, because at that time the United States and Russia were in the midst of the Cold War.

My generation is not the 'Me' generation that many newspapers claim it to be. We are the largest generation, outnumbering all others still living, and we work the most and the hardest. We're also paid the least, and are the most in debt from our student loans. We network better and are more politically and socially active than our ancestors due to our increased connectivity on the internet. And the question now is, of course, why does this matter?

Well, according to American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis, we've delayed passage into adulthood so much we've created a new phase of aging - 'emerging adulthood'. Basically, we've been so affected by economic pressures and by seeing the mistakes of the generations before us that we wait longer than any other generation to make traditional rites of passage into adulthood. So things like buying a house, getting married, and having kids are being pushed back because we can't afford it, and when we can we want to do it right the first time. We're also more likely to be skeptical of religion, more liberal, and more open-minded. That means that young adult characters, especially being written right now, should have those traits to reflect the audience.

I remember when I was a kid reading The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix - my first true dive into dystopia. I loved it, but I couldn't wrap my head around a bunch of sixteen-year-olds protesting the government. But today? I've seen it. Protests for gay marriage, protests against the U.S. support of Israel, pro-Palestinian movements, you name it. That's one of the reasons dystopia is so popular right now, besides the fact that world seems to be falling apart. Now, more than ever, the young up-and-coming generation is ready to fight back for whatever we believe in. None of this 'good-for-nothing kids' nonsense. We're creators, protesters, petitioners, agitators. We don't take the status quo as fact, we create it in the image we want. But with this whole set of strengths comes new problems - mostly financial right now, but what about later? This whole change in generational perception allows for new plot arcs, new stories, new conflicts. And like our perspective, our literature has to change to reflect our new values and our new struggles. No more stories like Gatsby about trying to get into higher classes. Nowadays, we don't want that. We want closer relationships, we want justice, we want different experiences than sitting in a country club while a struggling college student shines our golf balls. When the target demographic changes, so must we, the writers.

What do you think? Have any other interesting trends you see in the new generation that concern you? Let me know in the comments below!

Hoping to make this generation look good in the history books,
Brie

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Witty Wednesdays: Put On Your Sweatband

Today was originally going to be a review post in which I review Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, but that's been moved to Friday because I feel that Wednesdays by default are the days in which you need much more motivation than the rest of the week - hence the sweatband reference.

I know that my last Witty Wednesday post was less than witty, considering its focus on religion, but I hope that today's is a little more light-hearted. As you may know, I am nearing the finish line on my first draft of The Artist (finally) and have been pushing the last two days to get it done. What you may not know is that I had a full day yesterday and spent at least half the time I spent writing trying to motivate myself to getting back to doing so. I mean, the Law of Inertia does have something right: objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once I sit down to it and get my fingers going, it's easy to crank out a huge chunk of writing. Unfortunately, when you're a college freshman like myself that still has to buy dorm materials and you still live with your twin brother and parents there's really no way to just have several hours to yourself for writing.

So how do you keep yourself going even though there's a delicious chicken avocado quesadilla calling your name from the fridge or a twittersphere updating at the speed of light on the phone perched at your side? I got you.

1. Remove All Distractions


I know I've used this GIF before, but come on, seriously? It's perfect and goes with everything. But back to the tab at hand, don't give yourself an exit if you can. You'll know it's there, and the second something gets hard the overwhelming desire to abort mission and do something else is hard to fight. Eat before you sit down or graze as you go so that you're not forced to sate your grumbling stomach halfway through a scene that's going great. Keep your phone out of easy reach so that it's more of a chore to check it or go on twitter or my new vice, Houzz (like Pinterest but for pretty houses). Have a blanket and water nearby. If you have research or other notes, nest it around you. I do this for school work, too. I literally surround myself with what I need to do so it discourages me from getting up and lying on the floor in front of the TV or sleeping.

2. Start Your Jam


Some people need music, some people can't stand it when they write with noise. Either way, get into your jam. If it's silence, close doors, open shutters but not the windows, and find a way to sit so that you cause minimal noise. Also with the eating thing, because stomach noises are the most annoying, especially when you hate noise. If you need some tunes to go along with your writing prowess, either create a playlist before you get your things together or play one on repeat. That way you're not stopping every so often when some random song that breaks the mood comes on and you have to change it. Whatever inspires you for a particular project works, but don't be throwing brand-spanking-new songs in there. The point is that you're only half-listening and really working. New songs you're relatively unfamiliar with pull you out of your writing because you're busy listening to them. I personally have Spotify lists and iTunes playlists for pretty much anything I need ever, so I don't have to listen to the same thing into oblivion. Apparently that method of mine has received recognition throughout the house. Oops.

3. Reward Yourself


Writing is hard work. Slightly like the Hobbits' journey to the fiery death that was Mount Doom, it requires going on when you don't want to and running from various creatures out to stop your mission. Theirs were Orcs and Ring Wraiths, yours are procrastination and fatigue. But even the Hobbits got some down time. Nothing can sustain working all the time - I learned that with my laptop battery and now turn my laptop off religiously - so don't freak out if you can't keep going for hours upon hours. Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can't. Build in some good time for yourself to go and do something else for awhile and let your brain relax. Read a book you have near you, maybe just sit back and listen to music, or take a quick walk. I'd say make them mini-rewards so that you're not away from your work too long, but sometimes a forty-five minute lesson on how to longboard is just what the doctor ordered. The road rash from learning wasn't so much part of the plan.

These may seem like really obvious steps, but the thing is, we don't always do what is good for us. Sometimes I watch two hours of TV because I've missed Perception for a couple weeks. Other times I eat full sleeves of Double Stuf Oreos. It's just part of being human. But if we just keep these steps in mind every time we sit down, there's going to be a better chance of someone getting something done than if you just flop down and try and crank out the next great masterpiece. Make it a habit, make it a routine, make it something that helps you achieve success. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a first draft to finish.

Climbing Mount Doom with the Ring of Power,
Brie

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: The Muse

I read a really interesting article on tumblr the other day about a psychological study that was conducted at the Iowa Young Writers program - a program similar to the Kenyon Review Young Writers program but a plane flight for me instead of a short car ride. Basically, the point was that the stereotype that writers are moping wallflowers is wrong, and it was proven by young writers including Kurt Vonnegut.

Basically, the way a person's mind works when it comes to mood is that there is eurythmia (the sort of baseline, feeling normal) and mania or depression, where the balance of your mood escalates to either a high (mania) or a low (depression). You'd think that all the writers waited until depression or mania struck to write, right?

Wrong. In fact, it was found that during periods of mania or depression it was impossible for the writers to find inspiration or write. It wasn't until after they were back in their normal flow, their eurythmia, that they could write. However, when the writers were in a normal mood state, they could reflect on their periods of depression or mania without being attached to them personally, being able to perfectly describe these periods without the effects returning to them.

I think it's really interesting, but also unsurprising. Writers are generally thought of as brooding or otherwise not sunny, happy creatures frolicking in meadows. (What I do in my spare time is not yours to judge, okay?) But the reason this is isn't because everyone knows a writer that sits in corners with their tea and stares listlessly out the window, it's because the literature describing depression and how it feels and acts on a human being is so vivid. I mean, writers are supposed to be able to make a reader feel how we want them to feel using description, so this comes as no surprise.

What's the point of this entire thing, you ask? Am I attempting to start a support group for depressed writers? Of course not. What I'm trying to say is, writing isn't all about the craft in your words or your character arcs or your ability to cause emotional trauma with your deaths. Part of it is the technicality of it all. I mean, good runners don't eat two Big Macs and a large Coke and expect to run a good time on their five miles. As writers, it's up to us to make sure our machinery is working. And more than many other pursuits in this world, that requires that we take care of our brains. Obviously there's no real 'cure' for this roller coaster of emotion - it's a natural alteration of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain. But there are things that you can do to keep yourself inspired, focused, and ready to write. Eat right, exercise a little, get good sleep, those are pretty common. But don't forget to give yourself a little lovin' every so often.

Everyone is so stressed nowadays with work or school or whatever else that it's easy to drop into these high or low periods because they're so busy with everything else. But as a writer you have to maintain your brain machine. Watch your favorite show, make yourself some cookies, lie on the floor, people watch. Do whatever you need to make you happy. When you're running at full steam, so is your brain. Let out those lovely ideas and ground-shattering philosophies, and don't worry if it's not coming for a little while. Like the study shows, that's just natural. I know a lot of writers who are slaves to their work, and I think we could all take this lesson to heart (especially myself). When you're good, your writing is good. Simple as that.

Brain food and good sleep,
Brie

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: Lifeline

You guys may have noticed (or you're being yanked out of pleasant, ignorant bliss) that I stopped blogging last week abruptly in the middle of attempting a post theme for the week. And although I'm sure I had all of you hanging on the edge of your chairs, stools, and couches, it's not for lack of ideas.

My laptop died abruptly on Wednesday before I could send out more posts, and refused to turn back on. Now, for most writers this is a nuisance and quite possibly like the loss of a pet, but for me it was devastating. Not only could I not blog, but my works were on the hard drive. I've had horrible experiences with flash drives being lost by others who temporarily borrowed them, files being corrupted, idiots stepping on them and nearly destroying them...I could make you a list. A hard drive is one of the most structurally sound parts of a computer, so long that the computer doesn't get any viruses that target it or, as happened with mine, crash. Fortunately, I was able to temporarily revive it and pull out the most important pieces from the hard drive onto my flash and send it to a friend for safekeeping, but shortly after I couldn't revive it again.

Cut to a run to Micro Center, a few hours spent in a frigid electronics store in which I purchase two new 16 GB flash drives, an external hard drive, and a new battery. The guy who checks me out likes my laptop sticker. (Block letters in teal stating THIS LAPTOP IS A HORCRUX)

So long story short, the battery works. My laptop is (knock on wood) currently experiencing no problems and running as smoothly as ever. My hard drive is safe, and now I have a complete mirror image on my external hard drive in case anything should go wrong.

But there's a reason that I have that sticker on my laptop. It's my baby - I love it to death. I actually began experiencing some serious mood swings and depressive episodes while it was down. I couldn't write, even if I wanted to. I had my desktop in the house, but it's not really mine and my ability to use that thing is very low, because the parents have piled things into it that would infuriate Bill Gates like no other.

So fortunately I'm back and bigger, badder, and better than ever - I think. I'm dangerously close to finishing my draft, and I have the perfect weapon in which to do it. Moral of the story: back up everything. Hold your important things close - even if it's a laptop - and secure it. Everyone's got a horcrux, everyone has something important. Keep it safe.

Happy to be back (and hugging my laptop like it's my child),
Brie

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: Real-life Horcruxes

This title definitely isn't related to the fact that yesterday I watched the entire TV special Harry Potter: The Making of Diagon Alley. And it definitely doesn't show how excited I am for that theme park when I haven't actually been to Disney World since Apple came out with an iPod Shuffle and Expedition: Everest was still a dusty lot.

I'm going to attempt a horrid segue here into our topic today, which actually does tie into the title of the post (thank goodness I got something right, huh?). I mentioned it a little yesterday about giving a piece of yourself to whatever you do, whether that's drawing, writing, cooking, or something else entirely. Like a significantly less murderous form of a horcrux, your work should house a little sliver of your soul. You can't create life out of nothing, something needs to be living first.

Characters are the easiest way to determine whether you've done this. If they jump off the page, they've been given life by their writer. And when that writer is you, you have quite the responsibility to your new people if you want them to end up like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, creating a fanbase or at the very least a loyal readership who adore your characters. Nothing's more of a sock to the gut than having someone comment on your Goodreads page, 'the characters were flat, I couldn't relate to them'. And the thing is, it's not an impossible feat to do this. It just requires a certain personal awareness.

And not everyone knows themselves best. I'm very fortunate to be what's called 'self-intelligent' according to the Gardener Multiple Intelligences test, meaning that I know myself and how I function very well. But the way to make good characters come alive comes from (in Voldemort-esque fashion) splitting a shard of your soul and sticking it in their chest.

That sounds pretty weird, right? But it's not. Take, for example, my protagonist from my current WIP, The Artist. This year I discovered that I'm kind of a Momma Bear, protecting those who I love and taking responsibility for them. I thought that would be an interesting trait for her to have, since I was having a hard time expressing her benevolence. But she seems so much more real now that she's constantly looking after everyone around her as opposed to random blips of kindness that appear in her actions. She's better for the little sliver of me that's in her. It's really great for your antagonists, as well, or characters that are antagonistic towards your protagonist. One of the antagonists that you meet in the first book of the WIP trilogy exhibits one of my flaws - my fear. I experience emotions very intensely, and fear is no exception. The way that fear paralyzes me and makes me completely paranoid got split off from me and sent into him, and that fear is part of his downfall.

Taking pieces of yourself and putting them inside characters doesn't hurt you, not like it hurt Voldemort in Harry Potter. Your soul is regenerative, you can split it off and stick it in however many characters as you please. But something that I think is wonderful about doing this is that, like with my antagonist, you can create themes in your works by doing this. My antagonist, unfortunately tagged with my ensnaring and petrifying fear, makes choices based on that paranoia and other emotions trying to compensate for that emotion - generally anger. But he falls. Not just because he's the antagonist, that's not real life. He falls because he is so wrapped up in his fears and what he thinks may happen that he makes several bad decisions in who to trust and what to do. It's a theme that I want to express to my readers and myself - fear cannot control you if you want to succeed. It's natural, and it will always be around, but you must learn to surmount it instead of allowing it to consume you as it consumes him.

So go on, try it! If you have existing characters, try and find bits and pieces of you in them. When creating your characters, don't be afraid to make a side of them in your image, even in the facets of your image you don't like. Writing is a very personal experience for this reason, because the writer literally sticks bits of themselves in the words. But those pieces of you are what your readers will latch onto and cherish. I know for a fact that there's a huge place in my heart for Hermione Granger, the young bookworm and brightest witch of her age. I was her, I was the nerdy little bookworm who excelled in school and feared failure. That connection has never been broken, and remains as strong as when I met her back in 2000. Don't your readers deserve that kind of connection to your characters? I think they do.

May your soul split easily,
Brie

Monday, July 7, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: The Inability to Can

This past week was a really rough one for me. I decided not to blog in order to keep what was going on off the internet, and let everyone get on with their business unaffected. But I'm back and better than ever this week, ready to get back on a normal blogging schedule and attempt to get down to it once more.

I'll keep this short and sweet (well, short and sweet for me, anyway) because I'm sure you guys have things to do like freak out about the World Cup or read all of those BuzzFeed articles sarcastically lambasting Americans and our ridiculous Americanism following the Fourth of July, also known as the one day the patriotism gene is switched on in every American and causes an overflow of red, white, blue, the letters U, S, A, and eagles. Along with drunken shouts of patriotic phrases.

'Murica.

What's going down this week on le blog? Introspection. I mean, it's no question that to make art, whether it's a painting or a piece of music or a great novel, you have to give little pieces of yourself to make it real. The really great books, the classics, they're classic because they have immortalized truths about human nature that will never fade. It's what made Harry Potter so iconic, it teaches these truths to children that will never be lost to the ages. A great book doesn't tell you 'be safe on the internet', it tells you something more along the lines of 'you become you through your experiences, not your knowledge'. Something that will last.

And especially with what I've been through this last week, some introspection is overdue. Each day is going to be a little bit of how to anchor a little bit of you in there, whether it's a book you're writing, some art you're trying to make, or even wondering why that one song that comes on the radio every so often makes your heart pound all through your body and you feel like your soul is screaming the words at the top of its lungs.

Hopefully, I'll be back in the swing of things soon, thanks for keeping with me, guys. :)

Brie

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Thoughts Thursday: Walk That Line

I really do apologize for posting three things today to catch up, dear followers, but I've been sitting on these ideas for quite some time now. Part of it is the fact that I'm very interested in politics and the human rights of people around me (hence my genres!), and another is just the infuriating fact that we as a species love to either stick our heads in the sand or sit in lawn chairs and complain about what's happening, yet never actually do anything about it.

The other part of it is that I'm on tumblr and that's a very big focus in the lit blogs I follow. There's actually a large part of tumblr, regardless of type of blog, that have noticed the serious lack of sexual, racial, religious, and gender variety. They champion the Bechdel test and note how many non-white faces they see in movies. As a generation, we notice. But here comes the problem with all of that. When you try to represent, that's great. But what happens when you go a little overboard?

You get what I like to call Textbook Syndrome. Does 'Lashawna, Mike, Qian, and Pablo all have seven watermelons' sound familiar? It makes the diversity and representation fake. As much as 'stay with your own kind' seems fake, sticking with everyone of every subset is just as bad. Not everyone needs to be a transgender pansexual half-Indian half-Chinese person. But to err on either side, to be so diverse it's obvious or so whitewashed it's appalling, is just as bad.

I see this quite often on tumblr where users tend to fly off the handle towards the underrepresented. I mean, there's even this post going around saying that in the Disney movie Frozen, which has caused both controversy over supposed 'whitewashing' and acclaim for allowing a mainstream, successful movie to not depend on the prince-saving-the-princess plot scheme, Elsa should be a lesbian, and that her lover should be an African Muslim who controls fire.

As nice as this sounds, this completely disregards the Muslim religion entirely. For the faithful, it's stated quite clearly that same-gender sexual relations are sin. This is an example of non-Muslims pushing this image just to represent a racial and sexual minority while not actually thinking of whether or not these combinations can exist. It's what I like to call pandering, trying to represent without respect.

So I guess this MTT's theme is simple: in life, you will meet people who are unlike you. Different experiences, genders, religions, sexualities, and races. But recognize in our shows, stories, and movies, that there is a difference between no representation, representation, and too much. Like many things, our living conditions, for example, there needs to be a balance.

Walking the tightrope,
Brie

Witty Wednesdays: Selfies with the Pope

Okay, so this first Wednesday post is pretty much because I have so much to talk about with this series about realism and the controversies that young adult literature seem to just want to leave alone. Race, sexuality, gender. If it isn't vaguely feminist or vaguely accepting, it's apparently not marketable. But there's a crucial part of many people's lives that seems to be seriously unrepresented: Religion.

And on one hand, I understand. In my current project, there's a rather major minor character who is a Muslim Arab. He's very religious and observes Ramadan, and struggles with maintaining his path to redemption while reacting to what actually happens around him. Most people won't even touch this, especially when it's not in the 'standard' Christian religion. Veronica Roth, in fact, barely touches this in the Divergent trilogy, where Tris is vaguely Christian but only really thinks on it when she's either facing death or contemplating suicide. Religion is difficult because it defines people in varying degrees, whether very much so or not at all.

But again, the representation of religion in YA literature is skewed: atheism or a lack of religion at all dominates, whether from tragic backstories concerning a turn away from God or just being raised that way. But truly, there are far, far many more believers than not, and Christianity isn't the only religion. Why a lot of people tend to avoid religious characters is that they don't want to offend, and it provides too many obstacles. The Muslim religion has dietary restrictions, but also many when it comes to romance. Faithful females generally wear a headscarf (the hijab), a burqa (full body covering) or other types of clothing for modesty and to completely terminate any sort of male gaze that we have problems with in Western culture, and there is no premarital sex. Heck, they can't even hang out alone until engagement. This would pose a problem for any sort of romance subplot if a character weren't allowed to even be alone with a potential love interest unless he put a ring on it.

I mean, Buddhism, Sikkism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, Atheism, there's interesting facets to all of these that create both a more realistic character and allows you to portray something more relatable to people. I mean, many young people struggle with how to balance their faith and their reality, or attempt to find one that works for them. Yet I see few, if any characters doing the same thing. It all goes back to representation, seeing yourself in the literature that is there and finding role models, learning through the literature how to manage your life or overcome obstacles.

This crazy life we live is hard enough, but by glossing over real topics like this readers don't get those deep, meaningful themes they're looking for and writers' works are emptier. I mean, you don't need the Pope riding a donkey backwards blindfolded to show that religion is important to many people. They show motivation and guide people on their life journeys, regardless of their degree of religion. And especially in the United States, religion affects everything. Politics (unfortunately), life choices, the economy...and to just pretend it doesn't exist just doesn't make sense.

This WW post wasn't really all that witty, but I promise next week's will be.

Namaste,
Brie

Think Tank Tuesdays: Monochrome

So, I may be posting these a little late, but it 's not for lack of thought. In fact, it's for an overabundance of thought, where I'm trying to narrow down  what exactly I want to say. This is a big topic, and definitely one of controversy. Public figures like Sandra Oh, George Takei, Whoopi Goldberg, and others talk about this topic all the time, and there's even a nationwide campaign, #weneeddiversebooks, that strive for this.

In a word: representation.

It's no secret that most book markets are almost disgustingly white: the YA industry features about 98% non-POC (person of color) protagonists. And those that do are either delegated to the 'black voices' section or set in some strange genre few browse, like 'world cultures' or the like. This is why the Legend series is so important, it's both a protagonist that isn't white and isn't a racial stereotype. Not to mention the fact that it's very, very successful, especially for a woman writing young adult fiction (I'll post on that later).

It's really well-highlighted by the group Dear White People, who started as a satirical tumblr page that now have a movie deal. Watch the trailer, and see that they ask real questions no one wants to answer: Why are the black faces in the movies either ghetto queens, gangsters, rappers, slaves, or Uncle Toms? Where are the black faces that reflect who they are, the young professionals, the overachievers, the surfers, the tops-of-their classes? The answer: they're just not really there.

The topic of today's post is representation because it's an important part of a world. Not only is it important that it's there (because no real country is entirely comprised by one race, sexuality, or gender), but it's important that these things don't define characters. I can't tell you how many books I've read where there's one gay chracter and their sole duty is to be gay. Be the butt of gay jokes, and be ridiculously oversexed. Or a black character who's a ghetto king or queen. What about the random smart, quiet Asians?

It's 2014, people, why are we still reducing each other to these stereotypes? The United States especially has had a hard time with racial differences in the past (hello, 1960s Civil Rights movements) and even still, there isn't equality. But as a writer, it's important to include other races, other sexualities, other genders in the world. We can't all be Wonder Woman and come from an island full of only white women. Even though race isn't even a real thing (we're literally all humans just with different skin tones based on how much sunlight we're exposed to and various traits that are built to help us best survive in our native environments), the literary industry is pretty hostile to non-white, non-heterosexual people.

I'm not saying that you need to have a gay Indian protagonist with a transsexual, lesbian Chinese best friend. And if you do, that's great. But imagine having an entire medium of books devoted to talking about people who don't look like you, don't value what you value, and take people like you and twist them into these images that just do not reflect you. The phenotype we consider white is, in fact, a minority in the world. And even though not every country may be predominantly one certain look or another (Italy is 92% white while the United States hovers around 72%) that doesn't mean that certain types of people don't exist. In your world as a writer and your true world as a reader, people of all kinds thrive here. It's about time that our media, and books especially, reflect that.

Because apparently it's too impossible with magical fantasies to include anyone not white,
Brie

Monday, June 23, 2014

Maniacal Mondays: Pura Vida

It's been two weeks of silence on my end, and as is customary in this Monday post I'm going to do a little bit of explaining why, but first off, hello again, my loves! Through these last few weeks of what can only be described as fantastic mayhem I've been thinking up blog post after blog post, and I'm ready to get back in the swing of things.

So, a little update about my life since the last time I blogged. Well, I graduated high school:

My brother Ian and I pre-ceremonies
Which was both in my mind four years late and far too early. It didn't really hit me until I was about to walk the stage for my diploma that I am, in fact, now a college student, an adult, and a new, terrifying kind of student. I need to start writing down my thoughts and the like, because as I get older and farther away from this age that I'm writing for, I want to be able to keep the voice. But more on that later.

I also got a summer job, working retail and slowly but surely realizing that we as a species are actually pretty dumb. (Don't ask me what the price of something is if it's marked on the tag, and sure as hell don't ask me all of our promotions. There's almost always at least seven, and they're always marked on our tables.)

But most recently, I spent two weeks in Costa Rica with my family as a graduation gift, hence the lack of communication. I didn't bring my laptop, which ended up being fortunate given the humidity and overall general lack of wifi, so I was away from the internets. But it was amazing, so beautiful and biologically diverse. I learned to surf, I went ziplining through the jungle, saw the volcano in all her glory, went to some natural hot springs...it was a wonderful, incredible experience. Although being home is nice, what with the lack of high humidity and paved roads. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. It really taught me to slow down after school and the constant go-go-go of projects and work. The Costa Rican lifestyle is summed up in their saying, 'Pura Vida'. It's their equivalent of Hakuna Matata, pure life. Let it go, it will all come to you. No amount of stressing or panicking will bring life any closer to you than it already is, and there is beauty and wonder in the spaces of life we don't plan for. Definitely a perfect present for graduation.

Also, I held a baby monkey. It was pretty great.

And as we end this literal deluge of personal updating, I thought I'd give you guys a preview of what's coming up on the blog. We're gearing up for some realism talk, foremost about the controversial stuff, because it's been affecting us internationally for centuries and Rand Paul just made it part of his platform in the U.S. You'll hear all about that later. But for now, my lovelies, enjoy your summers, and I'll see you all tomorrow.

Pura Vida,
Brie

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: Madrid and AP crunch studies

Hello, my loves. I'm sorry it's been so long since I last posted - it's been a hard couple of weeks.

I came back to see that I'd written a line for what was supposed to be a Maniacal Monday post from a couple months ago. Let's start this over. Obviously I've been on hiatus for a stretch - one that goes on for more than a couple of weeks. The last you guys heard from me, I was gearing up for my trip to Spain (my heart flutters at the mere thought) and bracing myself for the AP test gauntlet I was going to run in a couple weeks after.

Well, APs have been over for a week now.

If you guys haven't figured out by now, I'm what some people might call an academic achiever. I have taken a total of eight AP classes (four this year) and spent pretty much every night doing my homework until at least 12:30 am just to wake up at 6 am and begin the process all over again. During the school year, I live for my classes. Is it healthy? Probably not. But up until now, about three days until I am officially released from school as a senior and a week before I don my cap and gown, I haven't been able to write a blog post. So forgive me that, if you please. I thought I'd be able to get things I wanted done back up and running after APs but my classes had different ideas. I'm now swamped with a quiz and a project three days before I leave high school forever, and I'm definitely not amused.

But back to the original intention of this post, besides apologizing for my absence: What the heck have I actually been doing all this time?

Barring studying, homework, and sleeping, I've been living life. I have to tell you guys about Spain, because I think I've found my mother country. I mean, I'm an American, but the Spanish culture and lifestyle just feel so much more like me than how I live in Ohio. The people dress nicer, they are kinder, they are more open, and they're more worldly. The food is more to my taste, too. Fresher and cleaner and better on my body. I was there for a week, starting in the south of Spain, ferrying over to Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, and then north to Sevilla, Grenada, Toledo, and then spending my final three days in Madrid.

Sevilla, also two of our teachers, Snas. Braun and Weiant.


Not only was it beautiful and wondrous, but I met so many amazing people and learned so much from the locals and from my guide, Ulrich, a German living in Barcelona up north. It taught me that I need to come back to this beautiful country and stay longer, and that The Artist is in need of some serious changes. It was hard to write about a country I'd never visited, but now that I've been there, it's really going to need some work. Fortunately, I have time for that, and I have a reference now! But seriously, I am still giddy about that trip, and it's been two months. My need to study abroad there is stronger than ever.

So, what have you guys been up to these last couple of months? I've missed you all, come talk to me! Tomorrow I'll try to actually post something writing-related, but until then, I'm going to try and update you all on my personal endeavors in small blocks on the Mondays of summer. (Spoiler alert: I'm going to college and I got my first real job.)

Hasta luego, mis dulces,
Brie