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.


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,

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!


@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,

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?


@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,

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.


@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!]


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.


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.


@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,

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:

The smell of hot metal, hot sidewalk
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,

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,