Monday, June 27, 2011

"There's nothing to writing...

All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Or if you write artery.

And so, the Seton Hill Residency is over, and I'm back at home.  Books I've ordered for the "Haunting" Horror module surround me, although the class doesn't officially start until August.  My manuscript beckons to me begging for revision, since I now have new tools to attack and edit it, and I find I have a lot of planning to do. I have a lot of reading and writing to do, but I am committed to doing it.  Committed to learning more about the craft of writing. I thought I knew so much, and I certainly had some skills before starting this endeavor, but I have so much more to learn. And I'm grateful for the path I've chosen.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't just a little daunting. I'm used to balancing work and studies, but not used to writing every day (at least for 25 minutes, Joe). My pledge is to bring my manuscript out once on a new calendar date to write (or at least edit) what I've done already, and to finally bring Dr Johnny Stench to life. He's been with me since 2008. A faithful friend. It is the very least I can do for him, but now I know I have to torture him more, make him go through more pain, put him through greater emotional roller-coasters...and I have to ask...Will he ever forgive me?

So today is dedicated to pulling out my first three chapters, and attempting to apply the tools I was given at Seton Hill this past week, and apply them. I hope I do them justice.

Time to slash and hack...


Saturday, June 25, 2011

"The doors we open and close each day...

...decide the lives we live."
~Flora Whittemore

I actually socialized today and didn't mind it.  It's a shocker I know, but I finished the day feeling like I actually had I might be able to connect with people who have the same passion as my self.  It was a revelation.  Part of me is afraid that perhaps that epiphany came wrapped in my beer.  Or maybe the second beer.  Ok...maybe the third.  But the important thing is, it finally came and when I wake up tomorrow I hope it's still there.

Gina, Joe, David, and Jason, I would sound like a drunk if, after 01:30 I said "I love you guys.", but I do.  I love and admire the artists and human beings that you are.  I love your writing, and your bravery at taking the steps to pursue your dreams.  We are Ink Warriors!  :)  Pen and Sword crest on our chest!  Brothers and Sisters in the WPF cause.  I've never been so proud of being part of a group bound for a professional and artistic pursuit.

There are so many other SHU Writer Griffins this Residency, that I wish to say to all of you, "I'm glad we met." And I look forward to the Winter Residency (guess most of us are at the Marriott since no dorms then) and seeing the progress we've all made since then.  Carpe Diem, my friends.  Seize the damn writing Muse and wrestle it in to submission!  Don't give up, and it WILL tap out for you.  :)

If I can get my bum out of the rack at 07:00, I'll be there for breakfast!


Friday, June 24, 2011

The Oldest and and Strongest Emotion...

is Fear.
~ H.P. Lovecraft

Seton Hill's motto is "Hazard yet Forward" which should be a stand alone warning in its own right, but goes deeper when considering the full impact of the phrase.  It is etched over a SHU archway in ye olde English in this photo below.

Today was filled with critiquing fellow writers (which I find harder on me than being critiqued myself), and listening to Tim Esaias's lecture on "Conflict, Plot and Scene Building."  Afterwards I attended two thesis presentations/readings from David Day (Horror) and Stephanie Harbulak-Barron (YA Horror), and as I listened to their prose I found myself wondering if I'll be able to pull my novel together as well as they did theirs.  I was particularly fascinated with David's presentation, which consisted of a story about a man's transformation into the Antichrist.  His descriptions were elegantly crafted in the mode of gruesome horror which makes one's blood run cold and sends chills down the spine.  The piece was well done and something I aspire to in terms of the way he was able to put tension, action, dialogue and scene setting together so well.

The part of the day I dreaded most was the "Wine Social" in which we all got together, had a little wine and cheese and milled about socializing while perusing novels that faculty and alumnae have written.  If you haven't already guessed, I'm not a huge people person.  I can handle one or two at a time, but large crowds make me nervous.  If I could turn myself into a fly on the wall, and hang out unnoticed, as the invisible observer I wouldn't mind a bit.  Being present in the room however implies mingling, conversing and rubbing elbows as our student body is so frequently encouraged to do at this residency.  While I understand the need for it, in order to build community and make new friends in the writing world, I find it difficult.  I don't know why.  I don't fear rejection, it's just not my scene, and I'd rather hang with 2 or 3 people in a quiet place, philosophizing about literature, art, music...and so on.  Still, I went to the social, and grazed my elbows against others, drank wine (ate too much cheese, so I'll be constipated for sure tomorrow) and tried my best to put on the butterfly vibe.   It didn't work out well.  I talked to a few people.  Got my "Many Genres One Craft" text signed by a couple professors I hugely admire, and then made a mad dash out the door to escape to my fiction book (I'm reading Tim Waggoner's Nekropolis) and smoke my favorite cigar.  (Photo of me, and fellow SHU student/alumnae Darin Cook at the social, proving I was there...)

Now I need to finish up that LAST critique before I sleep, and I'm so tired.  I think of all the readings I'll need to do in the next few months and then the reports on those readings.  My mind drifts over the chapters of Dr Stench I'll be sending to my Mentor and critique partners, and the pieces I'll be receiving from my partners to critique and the work will be over daunting in the face of full time work, and family.  I take solace in the fact that it will at least be FUN.  :)

Doubts still hide near me like little toothy predators waiting for a crack to open in the calm of my ceramic soul.  I'm sure they would be glad to devour any shred of confidence I have hiding within me, and so I make myself repeat the mantra: I am a Writer.  I am a Writer.  I am a Writer.  I will Succeed.  I desperately hope the words will have some type of force-field, holy water, silver bullet protection factor woven inside the words.

I hope I succeed.  I'm resolved to try.  I promise not to fear (much), nor to kick myself too hard if I fail.  (I''ll let Joe do that for me.) After all, the pain is only temporary, and the broken bones of a manuscript can be healed if I take time to do it.  And as Tim Esaias said today, he's given me all of the tools to do just that.  So I am resolved to take faith in that writer's talisman, roll up my sleeves and get to work!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Peversity... the human thirst for self torture."
~Edgar Allen Poe

Poe said it, and I'm living it.  As I undertake what I've thought of as a lifelong dream, to learn the skills of being a good writer (maybe even a great writer one day), and to (for once in my life) really enjoy my work, I find myself submitting to a quivering mixture of dark fear and doubt trickling through the neurons of my brain.  Is it enough that I love to write?  Is it enough that every day stories pour through my subconscious and wish for me to scrawl them down, on paper, on a napkin, on a gum wrapper or on my cellphone? 

Maybe my ability to write is like the illusions (or delusions) I have every day.  Monsters still hide under my bed.  The creature in the closet is ever present when the lights go out (I ALWAYS make sure that door is shut so it doesn't come out and suck at my brains while I'm asleep).  In caves, and in pitch black forests barely lit by a sliver of moonlight, I find my eyes roving for midnight fairies; I jump at the sounds of what must be trolls coming up from the underworld;  I ask questions to passing Ravens and wait for them to answer me back.  Sometimes, I think they do.

This week, I am surrounded by a sea of talented writers who have many skills I don't possess.  Some, who have words that seem to come so easily to a page and immediately make sense...effortlessly making a compelling story.  How will I compare to these scribes?  The next few days will be both a challenge and a creative stimulus for me, I believe.  I've waited long enough, rolling from one degree to the next.  Learning one craft from another, but putting off the one that's really mattered to me most. Until now.

Rolling stones gather no moss, but what good is moss?  It is green, lush and some mosses contain natural medicines that help fight infections and bring the ill back to health.  Perhaps, as I study and learn the craft...perhaps as my writing grows, my 'moss' will too.  Then I'll have something to combat the wounds I'll endure, because this time around there will be no holding back.  This time I'm seeking the greatest torture of all time...and I'm going to drink it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Writers and Politicians are natural rivals...

Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory."
~Salman Rushdie

It's Monday, and the Seton Hill campus has exploded with people unlike the sedate environment that surrounded the place over the weekend.  Much of the day, for me, was spent getting my financial aid in order, checking in to various student offices, getting my keys and student I.D, and figuring out how to print some of my assignments for the next few days.

I toured the campus, and took a few pictures.  The zoom on my Blackberry isn't working, but will suffice for taking/receiving and sending photos for this blog.

Before I knew that the cemetery near my dorm was a final resting place for the Sisters of Charity, I had visions that this was where they buried all of the failed writers...

The grounds of the Seton Hill have undergone, and are still undergoing, a large number upgrades/renovations, and it is visible the amount of work that has been done to give the place a facelift.  As I write this, workers are laying down fresh sod, caulking windows and painting walls.  This is summer break, and I believe (except for a few of us in Residency programs) most of the dorms and classrooms are vacant, allowing for maintenance and other personnel to focus on their work unencumbered by students tramping back and forth from classes.  Below is a photo of one of the beautiful buildings here...

One of my roommates moved in today.  Her name is Kris, and she is has a very large personality that (I believe) will spill over onto the rest of us in this part of the dorm, and demand that we be happy.  Not in a really terrible way.  She's from LA, and brought with her a large sundry of items to decorate her room and the common space.  A veteran of Seton Hill, and graduating this term, she knew what to expect from the sparse surroundings.  In no time her bed was completely 'pinkified', complete with rose colored accent pillows, and wall sticker flowers.  (Did I say it was going to be an interesting week?)  The common space now sports a door sized $1.99 wall sticker with a print of three palm trees in front of a beach scene and an array of flowers in the foreground.  Now, if she could only provide an ocean breeze and the scent of flowers to cover the musty staleness in this space.  (Heidi, where are the scent-bots when I need them?)

The evening draws near, and I've discovered one of the most important places on campus, which is where to find food.  The dining hall has early evening hours (4:30PM to 6:00PM), so I'm off for some early evening chow, and then back to the computer to do some critique/editing!  I don't know if this will ever get old, but I thoroughly relish being able to write, read and absorb the written words at my own leisure.  Currently, I'm reading Heidi Ruby Miller's book, "Ambasadora."  It's an interesting blend of Sci-Fi, Romance and Sexuality.  The story didn't really pull me in until Chapter 12 because the previous chapters didn't connect well for me until then, but afterwards the story hooked me and I'm really enjoying the read.

Well, off to dinner and another round of reading and critiquing!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The road goes ever on and on...

J.R.R. Tolkien was one of my first Fantasy favorites growing up.  Much like many of us who adore fantasy, I suspect.  I read "The Hobbit" early in my years (perhaps when I was 10 years old), and later devoured the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings.  In each of these stories, there were witticisms, and poems I set myself to memorizing.  I'd already memorized Poe's "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee",  and Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade."  I enjoyed the way the words were put together, and the way they rolled off my tongue when they were recited.  I also worked on composing my own lines of poetry, which were well received by my Literature and English teachers.

In my childhood, I had always wanted to be a writer, and teachers encouraged me along this route.  But my mother told me, "Writer's don't eat", and the whole undertaking of becoming a writer was discouraged by a large number of my family and friends.  I'm sad to say I listened to them.  And I'm also pleased to say I listened them.  I'm grateful I heeded their words.  If I'd taken the road of writing right away, I doubt I would have experienced such a fulfilling and interesting life as I have.  The life dilemmas and crises, the situations I've found myself in, the people I've met around the globe...all of these will add to my writing content in the future.  I just hope I have paid enough attention in my own daily living to add richness of character and depth of personality to the people who I place in my story lines.  We will see.

This week, I begin a new journey.  I start a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) program in Popular Fiction with Seton Hill University (SHU). My main genre focus is Horror, and Urban Fantasy, and perhaps with the help of SHU's esteemed professors, I will finally finish "Dr Stench", and also complete another new novel titled "Sapien Farm".

I flew to Pittsburgh just yesterday (I got to fly First Class!  A fluke.),  and landed just outside the city around 6:30PM (18:30 for you military types).  From there, I rented a car, and drove to Greensburg Pennsylvania.  The sun was nearly down by the time I arrived, and I met up with Officer Farris (a rather tall, Italian dude) who spoke English with a bit of a German accent.  I found out later he was from Genoa, Italy...quite proud of his northern heritage.  Officer Farris and a Grad Student (Desmond)...Business Masters....assisted me with finding my room and getting me settled in.

As I walked into the room (on the second floor), it reminded me of my early enlisted days at the barracks in San Diego. Sparse decor.  Cinderblock walls.  One small twin bed.  A chest of drawers. A flimsy desk and black plastic chair.  Bare bones, so to say.  There are 4 small separate rooms like this one clustered together in a corner of this level, with a tiny central toilet space, and a separate shower space, for everyone to share.  When the rooms fill up this week, I'm sure it will get interesting.

I had decided to show up early to SHU, a day or so before the classes began.  I didn't want the confusion of trying to get settled and started with the program without understanding the lay of the land and getting my writing assignments in order, and I'm glad I'm here a little early.  I'll do my read and critiques, read a book, and perhaps even write some.

This blog entry is the first of my entries for my MFA program at Seton Hill.  It is my journal of progress along the road of pen and sword.  It is (for me) the daring step towards achieving a long wished-for dream.  As Tolkien said,

"...Now far ahead the Road has gone, 
And I must follow, if I can, 
Pursuing it with eager feet, 
Until it joins some larger way 
Where many paths and errands meet. 
And whither then? I cannot say."

I've got my feet planted shakily on the old bricks of yellow,
but I'm not going to Oz to find my way home.
I'm traveling to Oz because I want to BE the Wizard,
and I'm willing to storm the Emerald City and pay the price.  :)