Art, the Messenger

I discovered the video “To This Day,” based on a poem by Shane Koyczanwhen reading the blog Synapsis & Synopsis. This well-designed animation tells a clear, powerful story in an aesthetically pleasing way, while sending a strong, accessible message.

Haven’t we all dealt with bullying at one time or another in our lives? If not bullying, exactly, we certainly have all had to find and make friends, enter or leave social groups, and learn how to participate in social dynamics.

This video moved me because of the experiences I have had in my life, and for the messages I would like to send with my own work. My novel features a college girl who must learn to navigate the treacherous social situations in her sorority. Female relationships often include bullying/cyberbullying and back-stabbing while women vie for popularity, and my book incorporates these themes. I know as an artist you cannot control how your work will be viewed or the impact it will have. However, my hope is that the young women who read this book will reconsider how they treat each other. I hope they might change their views and actions, and try to boost each other up, rather than tear each other down.

Recently I picked up Tammara Webber‘s Easy at the library. While the book prominently features a love story, there were several elements of confidence and learning to stand up for oneself, emotionally and physically. The protagonist experiences near-rape within the first few pages of the book, and she spends most of the book in fear of her attacker. *Spoiler alert* She takes self defense classes and ultimately triumphs–in a final confrontation with her attacker at the end of the book, she not only fends him off, she uses her new skills to give him a bloody nose. I had no doubt that she would stand up to him in court. At the close of the book, I enjoyed the way her love story reached a happy ending, but I was more impressed by the way she had grown. 

Easy

In the pages following the story, there were discussion questions. One of them was, “Did reading Easy make you want to learn self-defense?” and my answer was a resounding YES. I absolutely felt a heightened sense of awareness of the issues women who have experienced rape face and wanted to take action to protect myself. I haven’t signed up for self defense classes yet, but I have become much more aware of the message “90 percent of self-defense involves reducing the risk of attack in the first place.”

Visual media and the written word are two powerful forms of art. The video moved me and strengthened my desire to impact the conversation on bullying among women. The book inspired me to take action and change the way I live my life. This kind of impact is what I aspire to in my own work.

Advertisements

I am, first and foremost, a Creator.

“Do what you love.”

This mantra, instilled in me by my mother, is one of the many reasons I’m grateful for her guidance. She’s said this to me many times over the years, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have chosen to be a writer without her support. Not that doing what you love is easy, but it’s much more fulfilling. I know this because I’ve done things I haven’t loved. No matter how hard it can be to sit down and set my fingers to the keyboard, it always leaves me feeling like I’ve accomplished something—the gratification of a creator.

Indeed, creativity breeds inspiration, and vice versa. The creative mind is always at work. Some days, I will sit down to write and not notice the time passing, and I’ll look up and five hours have passed and thousands of words have flown from my fingers. These days are rare, unfortunately. More often I’ll slog through an hour or two and need something to recharge. Sometimes the simple acts of walking the dog or doing the laundry will clear my mind and allow my subconscious to solve the problems of plot or character or dialogue. I have noticed, however, that working on other creative tasks feeds my writer’s mind. And so, in between writing, I create other things.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do what I love.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do what I love.

IMG_1965

I couldn’t say exactly how this works, or why, I just know that it does. Sometimes I worry that I’m procrastinating. I ask myself: wouldn’t my time be better spent at the computer? But I’ve tried that, too, and you can’t force creation, only encourage it. There’s common advice in the writing world, in which you set aside your work for a given amount of time before going back to revise. Some say a month, some a year. For me the time varies and I always wish it were shorter. One of the things I’m learning as a writer is finding the best ways to encourage my creation.

Sculpey dragon. A reminder that I hold the key to my imagination in my hand.

Sculpey dragon. A reminder that I hold the key to my imagination in my hand. 

Also between writing, I’m still researching away. My phone call with the agent last week went very well—not only did he give me some invaluable advice (formatting is crucial, and the 25-lines per page rule should most definitely be followed, for example), he agreed to read the manuscript. Draft 6 is “done,” and I think I may finally have achieved the triumphant end. Of course, now that I have this opportunity, I feel like I need to revise it at least fifty more times. I have a week and half to nitpick, and then it’s time to take a deep breath and send it off.

Story Slam WINNERS

In the 2013 Stanford Story Slam, there was one first-place winner, and two runner-ups. The story I wrote with my writing group captured the first runner-up, so we essentially won second place! See our story “At Bike’s End” listed as a runner-up in the 2013 Winners tab of the slam webpage.

story slam winners

This was a ton of fun to do—I thoroughly enjoyed spending several hours with three other writers discussing plot, character, diction, etc… It is so gratifying to see our hard work rewarded. We have all grown so much as writers over the past few years, and now we’re starting to see our dedication pay off. Not that there won’t be a ton of rejections and failures ahead, but this win is just the beginning.

Story Slam my section

Section 2, “The Routine,” written by yours truly. (I also came up with the title–you can see our title thread here.)

I also managed to submit my query letter and the first five pages of my novel for a couple of meetings at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference. Despite having gone over the query and pages with my writers’ group, and incorporating incredible advice from a successful author friend, I spent the days before submission stressed, worried, second-guessing. I was freaking out. Especially the hour directly prior to submission.

Had I really done my best? Would my best be good enough? How important is it, really, to get exactly 25 lines of text on each page? (I learned from my friend to turn off “widows and orphans” in Word, and in doing so learned what “widows” and “orphans” even are.) I chose Times New Roman, but what if my readers are in the Courier New camp?

And on, and on, and on. In the minutes leading up to submission, I called several members of my writers’ group, frantic, to ask their advice. Ultimately, I just had to make choices and go with them.

Tomorrow I’m speaking with a literary agent, a friend of my father’s massage therapist (that’s how networking works, right?), and while he doesn’t typically represent my genre, I can’t wait to ask him all kinds of questions and listen with rapt attention to his advice. As my uncle reminded me yesterday—he is an accomplished writer/director, and yet still had a treatment he’d written torn apart by his writing guru—there is always more to learn.

(P.S. For those grammar buffs out there who might be wondering, both “runners-up” and “runner-ups” are correct, according to Merriam-Webster.)