Writer’s March, a Recap

Hello readers,

As you may remember, I had entered a challenge for the event Writer’s March (discussed in this previous post).  My challenge to myself was to write at least a page a day of personal writing every day for the entire month of March. I am here to give you a recap of my experience.

So, I may or may not have written sporadically, as I always do. At first, I tried to write my page every night before bed, but that only worked for about 10 days. Then, I started writing my page (or less, or more) in the mornings and while waiting for my tutoring students. I did not necessarily accomplish my goal, but I also wouldn’t call the challenge an unmet failure either. There wasn’t a page of personal writing every day, but some days I wrote thousands of words of personal writing, including the start of a fiction story that might become something interesting.

I did write a lot more in my journal for the month of March than I have been. Even if it was only a few sentences some days, I think it was quite productive. I did think about it practically every day, although some days I actually just forgot. Oops.

So, at the end of this month what were my creative gains?

  1. Learning more about my writing needs. I didn’t realize how that daily practice of writing non-fiction articles had really shifted my writing tone, until I started trying to write fiction again. It was a pretty startling change. I think I need to keep following other writers’ blogs, and keep challenging myself to write for myself even if I am tired.
  2. I started singing, more cell phone pictures, and oil painting again. Oddly enough, thinking of what I needed to do in terms of writing opened up a lot of other creative outlets for me. I have also been more inspired lately to dream big, and have decided to create a list of creative goals for myself to enrich my life.

    Typing for Pemberley (and many other projects)

  3. Despite the fact that I was partaking in a challenge for Writer’s March, I also seemed to keep encountering facts and information about NaNoWriMo, the writer’s month in November that challenges people to write an entire novel in a month. Information about this event kept popping up this month, in books and on the internet. I think it’s a sign I need to write a longer work soon, a thousand words (ish) a day.
  4. I have learned that I need to be more kind to my wrists, and to write with pen and paper as often as possible. I am also going to start stockpiling money for a new computer. The tiny netbook was great for riding my bike around, but it is a little cramped for being a professional writer and working on it all day, every day. Nope, pen and paper are my friend I also think more clearly when I write with pen and paper as well.

4.5. My reading increased pretty dramatically, although I keep losing my books (so not sure I can count this as a whole gain). Really, losing books is quite a nuisance, and has never happened to me as much as it has this month. I am starting Ulysses, am reading short stories from Jane Austen Made Me Do It, was almost done with the Happiness Project (before I lost it), reading another Jane Austen continuation, The God of Animals, and a few other novels currently.  (I promise to have a book review for you in the coming weeks!) I am very close to the end in a few, if only I could find them.

I highly recommend checking out the Writer’s March site for helpful writing discussion and writing tips. Even though I may not have reached my goal in the traditional way, I did it in my roundabout way, which is really generally the way I do things, and has worked for me so far. It has been rewarding. Thanks to the creators of Writer’s March for their support, and thanks to my readers as well.

Cheers,

Miss E

Creative Chaos Blogging Award

I was nominated for my first blogging award! I always see these awards around, and have always been curious about them, so I am very glad I get to partake! Thanks to Laurissa at Lest Twenty Two for nominating me. Go check out her comics- they are very entertaining!

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Here is the list of rules, from her site:

1. You must tell 3 completely weird things about your habits. If you claim to have no weird habits, you’re lying and we’ll have to send an investigative team for further analysis.

2. You must tell why you look at the “glass half full” scenario and ask “what? No coffee?”

3. Complete any one of the following essay questions:

A. You find yourself in a desolate place when your car breaks down. You have no cell phone service, no stores, and only a candy bar for food. It is 150 miles to the closest town. What color are your pants and why?

B. You find yourself having to ride an elevator quite frequently. How do you pass the time to show off your creativity?

4. Then you are to nominate 5 random people and let them know.

5. Make sure to show proper gratitude to the person who nominated you whether that is to shower them with gifts, prizes, and cash or to see that they are put into a clown costume and photographed for internet mocking.

6. Make sure to post the award somewhere other than the underside of the toilet seat.

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Here goes nothing, except my attempt to answer them to the best of my abilities.

Weird Habits. This one was pretty hard for me, because I have a lot of odd idiosyncrasies about myself, but I also because I don’t really have a routine (I even took a facebook poll for this!):

  1. I tell stories about people from my life, using their full names. My current friends tease me about this, because they are like, “we don’t know this person- why are you telling us about them and using their full name!?” However, I do it because I truly feel like someday my friends from various parts of the world will know each other, and it has even happened quite a few times so far- a lot of my friends from New Mexico have met my Seattle friends, and a lot of my friends from South Dakota have met my other Washington friends. Someone from Austria has met a London friend, etc.
  2. I sometimes cover cans of food with saran wrap, instead of putting them in a Tupperware. Not only is that weird, but my roommate recently told me it may give me some sort of disease, which would be dreadful.
  3. I pull on my earrings when I get nervous.

2. I don’t know if I fully understand the question for this one, but here’s my answer anyway: I look at the glass half full because when I say, “what, where is the coffee?” I end up having too much caffeine and getting the jitters.

B. I’d make up songs about the predicament and sing them to myself, and dance around the elevator.

4.  Who to nominate? Do you guys know how many blogs I visit every day? Literally hundreds, on a slow day. There really isn’t criteria, but I will chose 5 of the text or art-based blogs I read the most, whose blogs are king of my “feel good” sites, and who post more than once a month.

  1. My first nomination goes to Little Wolf, an illustrator in Portland who portrays every day Portland characters in fun and quirky drawings.
  2. The second goes to one that really cracks me up, Kate, Cracking Up. She’s funny!
  3. I always read Hour of Gold as well, for her personal and entertaining recitations, stories of vegetarian adventures, and some doses of sarcasm.  I appreciate her conversational style.
  4. The blog Mile High Healthy gives me a daily dose of inspiration for healthy living and has a lot of tasty salad recipes. I love salads, and have a not so secret love of both the Colorado Rockies and food blogs, so this one kind of combines a bunch of my favorites.
  5. I am constantly surprised that the blogger of The Last Classic is young (17ish). She is very eloquent, and the style of her site is really fun. I always enjoy her posts, especially about reading and authors.

Other recommendations, and close contenders who deserve some link love: The humor blog Cereal with a Fork is definitely a go-to for me on writing days. One of my favorites is the 3/28 post. I love the blog Diatribes and Ovations, and it was one of the first sites I followed here on WordPress. The site Masculinity U is also very good for masculinity studies and gender topics, although I am not sure who would answer these questions since they have multiple authors. And, last but not least, the young blogger over at Operation Equality is very impassioned and it is fun to watch her learn about and take action for social justice issues.

What is this, you ask? A creative fountain of chaos, of course.

Thanks again Laurissa for the nomination!

Cheers,

Miss E

Definition of Hegemony

Last Thursday I met with a brilliant new student. She is working on a paper for the novel 1984, and wanted to bounce ideas off of me. It was very fun, because she had so many wonderful ideas already. She was talking about George Orwell’s rejection of totalitarianism throughout the book, but had many questions she was just dying to explore the answers to. Unfortunately, she is only a junior in high school, and her paper is only supposed to be 3-4 pages. Working with her made me want to go back to graduate school though. It was so refreshing to have that type of conversation with someone so young, who has so many ideas and questions. She was also very excited to learn a new vocabulary word during our session- hegemony.

Photo Credit: netcharles.com (cited in the hyperlink above)

After she learned about hegemony and how she could use it while conceptualizing her paper, she smiled and said, “I like that word” before typing furiously for ten minutes on her computer. I was glad to know that learning a new word like that could help inspire her writing so much. It was a very cool moment. I know I have mentioned hegemony here before, but I am not sure it really gets used very often in regular conversations, so I have decided to define it for you as well.

Hegemony, as I understand it, means the oppression of others by a larger dominant, overarching (and widely accepted) force that creates a structure of sameness and difference. All societies have hegemony, and the tools to create what is deemed “normal” often belongs to the people/ entities in power. Hegemony can be both cultural and political, and its presence can be seen in books, movies, and society as a whole, since a small percentage of the population controls what movies are made, which books are published, and who wins elections.

One small group of people, usually the ones with the most money or political influence, can influence the way the society as a whole thinks and acts, even if they are perhaps acting against their best interests as individuals. Perhaps the easiest example of hegemony at work is in media portrayals of “average” people, ethnicities, places, politicians, love interests, gender identities, religions, music, rituals, and cultural practices.

Here is an interesting article that discusses hegemony’s role in relation to media theory which might interest you.

In our conversation, my student and I were discussing Orwell’s subversion of hegemony. Totalitarianism tries to enforce and reinforce a strict hegemonic culture from which to work from. Any variance must be destroyed so that people don’t question, don’t think, and certainly don’t make connections with each other independent of the state.

A very fun light from Spa Envy in Seattle- a group of people I have made individual connections with 🙂

In many ways, I like to consider this blog as a variance from hegemony. My interests include things that the hegemonic parts of Western culture accepts, like Jane Austen, but this blogging project also builds various connections with others based on individual interpretation and experiences. That, to me, does subvert hegemonic influence in many ways, and has been one of the primary benefits of the internet.

What do you think? If you have any more examples of hegemony in our modern times?

Happy Sunday,

Miss E

Review: Great Expectations (1998)

I watched Great Expectations the other night. The movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. If you have read the novel, or if you are as far behind the movie times as I am (it was released in 1998), you might want to check it out.

Ever since I heard of this adaptation back in 2008, I have been searching for it everywhere. (As many of you might have guessed from reading this blog), I kind of have an obsession with film adaptations of 19th century literature. Luckily, a friend of mine had a copy of the movie on hand, and I was able to borrow it from him and enjoy it myself.

An alternate version of the cover (from Google Images)

Let’s face it: Dickens is usually depressing. After all the torture he puts his readers through in small victories for each character, and long-winded (but frequently beautiful) descriptions of every atmospheric detail of the setting, he rarely ever offers a hopeful end for his primary characters. He  certainly does not give Pip a happy ending in Great Expectations.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Great Expectations the novel- although I do acknowledge its genius, I find reading it absolute torture emotionally (which, I also acknowledge as part of the genius). Pip and Estella are never really redeemed, and may only get worse and worse. There are not many characters who readers can connect with that don’t get slapped in the face by life, or Pip, or Estella. By the end of the novel, I always want to yell at them all, especially Pip.

In contrast, this newer adaptation of a similar story, unexpectedly set in a contemporary age, in a location between Florida and New York city, gives its characters much needed humanity, and I would argue, redemption. I did not want to yell at Pip or Estella after finishing the film, yet my heart felt similarly broken to how it feels after reading the novel, and throughout the movie I was also annoyed with Pip quite a large percentage of the time (as it should be).

I did not expect to like this movie very well, but before and after the first hour, I felt continually interested in it. The director and actor choices were really fascinating. I usually never say this, but I may like this movie as much, if not better than, the book, if only because I felt less debilitated after it was over. The movie made many of the same points as Dickens does, but was also more hopeful for the state of humanity. I also loved that Pip became an artist, and the beautiful messages that the artwork was used for throughout the film. It felt rich, complex, and not entirely hopeless, and for that, I was grateful.

Although it is set in America, something that bothered me at first, the storyline and the character motives were still pretty well-drawn. There are many differences between the film and the book, as there always are, yet the characters retained their integrity and had enough similarities to the originals that they were highly recognizable.

Another hesitation I had that was overcome while watching the movie, was that the actors are so well known I was wondering if I would believe them in their roles. However, I was extremely impressed with the acting and I actually think that the difference in setting from the original was a smart choice. Giving the adaptation some spatial distance was effective, as it both gave homage to the old while creating a new piece of art altogether.

My favorite parts of the film surrounded Miss Havisham. The woman who played her as “Miss Dinsmore” (Ann Bancroft) was an amazing actor. The Havisham role was portrayed with incredible and eccentric detail, and her broken down mansion was stunningly recreated in a very Florida way, wedding tables and all. Even though I didn’t know exactly what to expect from her modern doppelganger, I felt that the exploration of her insanity was even better played out in the film than it was in the book. She was not just tortured from being stood up on her wedding day. Dinsmore was shown to have a severe mental disorder and a drinking problem on top of that lasting grief and self-induced heartbreak. She also was shown to have way too much money and time on her hands. There was also a lot of creepy sexual tension and lack of boundaries in the film coming from Miss Dinsmore, which I feel Dickens did not point to quite as much, but made total sense with her character. In the film, Miss Dinsmore wants to destroy both Estella and Pip through creating this alternate (and very weird) space for them all to exist in misery and be motivated by their obsessions to both possess and destroy one another. Her character was just as terrifying and disturbing as Miss Havisham’s was, if not more so.

Miss Dinsmore and Pip drawing

There is also an amazing part of the movie, that had to be my favorite. **Spoiler alert** Pip (Finn) goes to see Estella and profess his love for her, but instead finds Miss Dinsmore (Havisham). There she tells him of Estella’s marriage to another person, all part of her cruel and scheming plan to use Estella as revenge for her past, as a vehicle to break mens’ hearts. He takes her hand and puts it to his chest, saying “do you feel my heart? It’s broken.” This mimics an earlier moment in the film when Miss Havisham says something similar to him to performatively gain his pity, and is his second act of defiance against her in the film.

I loved the portrayal, and was so captivated by Anne Bancroft’s performance that when she was on screen I almost forgot about the other characters.

Parts that were left out included: more tension between Pip’s past and present, and his inability to feel truly comfortable in either, Estella’s second marriage, the final realization about the criminal (won’t give too much away in case you don’t know the story), his relation to Miss Havisham, and Pip’s anger towards him were either left out or diminished.  Pip’s name is changed to Finn (short for Finnegan), which I thought was really interesting considering the tense relationship between Ireland and England (where the novel was written) in the 19th century.

There were also certain things added to the movie version that were not in the original story line, such as Pip as artist (painter), negative consequences of Pip’s actions on his family, and Pip’s isolation from his home community when he comes back to visit. I really liked that Pip was an untrained artist, but that his pictures were still impactful. I guess the drawings and paintings were done for the movie by Italian artist Francisco Clemente, who has become quite famous from it.

Finn's (Clemente's work) depiction of DeNiro's character

Watching this movie was a very weird, and very singular experience for me. It was beautiful, and also felt revelatory in a lot of ways.  I wrote for hours after watching this movie, and wanted to start drawing again (it’s been a few years since I just sat for hours and did nothing but draw- writing has become my primary form of artistic outlet).

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but contrary to some of the bad reviews of the film, I found the adaptation very inspiring. Even though I am enthralled by adaptations, such a positive reaction to one is unusual for me. I would highly recommend it to all adult viewers.

Here is the trailer: 

I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, for despite all of its problematic elements and loose ends, and the fact that it is set later than 100 years after the original on another continent, it keeps that same Dickensian mood, and the singular and almost dreamlike tension/ obsession that Pip feels throughout the novel would be very difficult to achieve in film.

I would suggest watching it with a glass of water (a theme throughout the movie).

Hope you can get inspired,

Miss E

4 Irish Authors You Should Know About

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! In honor of the holiday, I have compiled a list of 4 Irish authors for you to explore, if you are not already familiar with them.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849)- Actually, she’s Anglo-Irish, born in Oxford, but her work is often categorized as Irish Literature. She lived in Ireland, loved Ireland, and set most of her stories there. I think you should know about her, so I’m putting her on the list. Her books were a challenge to hegemonic structures, and often troubled race, class, gender, and nation. So, of course I am interested in her work. She is most famous for: Castle Rackrent (commentary about Irish landlords), Belinda (had an interracial marriage between two servants, which was later removed by publishers), and Helen.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)- “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.” Terrifying, but badass. Need I say more?

James Joyce (1882-1941)- Maybe he’s the obvious one, (and he is actually Irish) but the author of Dubliners, Finnegan’s Wake, Portrait of a Young Man, and of course, Ulysses, has won the loyalty of many adoring fans.

Ulysses, on my table.

I know we should read Joyce because I know someone who has dedicated her life to studying and teaching him, and two friends whose romance was inspired by him. I am currently still trying to begin Ulysses, and my goal is to read it before I go to their wedding in June (there will be Joyce references everywhere). It  has been on hold while reading other things, but because it is St. Patrick’s, I feel more inspired to start reading it again. So far, my issue has been one of intimacy-Joyce writes his characters in their most private moments, and as a reader, I feel like an intruder. I’ll have to get used to it, and will keep you posted on my progress.

Seamus Heaney (1939-present)- You have likely heard of Heaney as well. This Irish poet has won pretty much every accolade that a writer can earn, including the Nobel Prize in Literature, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the Golden Wreath of Poetry to name a few (yes, there are more). When you read his writing, it is easy to see why he has been so impactful in the contemporary scene. He confronts and copes with the political climate of Northern Ireland in both aggressive and heartfelt ways, and he does not stray from tough topics, but coaxes the reader to join him in surprise and misery. I would recommend reading the poem Mid Term Break for an example of how he does this (but be warned, it is intense).

There are many more noteworthy Irish authors, but I wanted to highlight a few of the names that have stood out to me. If I did not mention your favorite Irish author, please let me know who it is in the comments!

I also thought you might enjoy this article I read this morning, about the History, or Blarney, of Saint Patrick’s Day 😉 I am going to see a Sounders game tonight with some friends, probably to a pub afterwards, and may partake in singing Finnegan’s Wake if someone starts it up.

Do you have any fun plans for today?

Cheers with Harp Lager,

Miss E

Fun Center in my Mind: Best Songs for Getting in the “Write” Mood

What music is the best for productive writing? Well, it depends on what you are looking for that day. Some people can write with the same type of music on in the background every day, and some prefer to have no music at all.

I am unfortunately always most productive when I am surrounded by silence, like a vacuum- sealed library study room, but I love music, and try to incorporate it into my day whenever possible.

I usually listen to music when I write for at least half the day, and if I am in a loud coffee shop, I find headphone music incredibly useful for drowning out distracting conversations of patrons around me. As you may know by now, I do a “writing song of the day” on the Looking for Pemberley Facebook page. These songs often range from slow and gentle folk or blues, to fast-paced and energetic Cumbia music. Since I am looking for music that puts me in a certain mindset, I usually pay more attention to rhythm and tone than I do to the lyrics when choosing these songs every day.

Music can open up the "Fun Center" in my brain, provoke thought, and put me in the mood to write.

I have pretty eclectic music tastes, and like almost all types of music (with the exception of some scream0 and country music). Syncopated and complex beats are really interesting for me, since I was a percussionist back in the day. However, they are often very distracting for me and require my full attention, so I don’t like to listen to them when I am writing, even though I love them.

If it is raining outside, I will either try to pick a song that reflects the somber mood of the weather, or something more energetic to lighten my own mood and make writing easier.

Usually, I will listen to my Pandora stations or use another online streaming platform, and the song that first grabs me and gets me in the writing groove will be the one I share with you. Some days, I post the writing song of the day later in the day, because it takes that long for me to hear a song that puts me in the “write” state of mind.

I often listen to other music when driving (in the days when I had a car), cooking, or dancing than I do when I am writing. Writing music for me is also very different than editing music. In fact, when I am editing, I prefer complete stillness around me or music without lyrics. Although I can write faster without music, I enjoy adding it to the mix and seeing how it affects the finished product.

There are two ways that I combine music and writing.

  1. Listening to Music while I write or type. When I am listening to music, I am interacting with it, even when I write. Songs with a steady beat but kind of subtle lyrics really help me too. I can type to the beat of a song, or listen to music while I am writing that has presents the tone as the one I am trying to convey: energetic, melodramatic, alternative, edgy, angry, macabre, joyful, exploratory, etc. in very complex ways. Music is the best way to get me feeling a specific way. A great example of this is the song: 
  2. Reacting to a song after the fact is the other most frequent way I use music for my writing. Some songs do really have amazing lyrics, or fascinating tones (especially in classical music) that can conjure up dramatic stories in my head. When I was in middle school, a friend and I used to make up sagas and adventures that would be set to the songs we were playing, and it kind of became a habit. One example of this is the song: 

If there are lyrics, I think about what type of people or places they are referencing and it can spark a million subsequent thoughts. This is one of the reasons that sometimes I just can’t listen to songs with words or catchy refrains when I am writing- I end up Google searching lyrics and trying to learn them for my next Karaoke adventure.

Good writing songs, for me, need to fulfill one of these two roles- as mood/energy music, or as story inspiration in a way I can write and interact with, either during or before the writing process.

What makes a good writing song, in your opinion?

Cheers,

Miss E

Blog Update

Hi everyone,

Miss E here.

I did not fall off the face of the planet or anything, but I have actually been on the blog every day doing background work. P.S. I finally figured out the Pinterest button! (should be to your right at the top of the page 😀 )  I have actually been on Pinterest for a long time- it has to be my favorite social media site.

Lake Washington in the Winter

I have been trying to figure out a few secrets to blogging, setting up a host, and other bloggish things that I am still mostly in the dark about. I am adding more every week, but it is slow going many days!

Even though I have not posted, I have been logging in to read your fabulous comments! Yay! Thank you 🙂 and I also had my first “Troll” experience on the blog. Someone left some pretty negative comments to other readers, and to myself, that were just not productive or appropriate, actually.

I didn’t “accept” them because they would have been a waste of space, but they were a great reminder that I need to keep doing what I’m doing, and trying to create conversation (polite conversation, not the textual equivalent of yelling).

Usually, I accept every comment and respond to as many as possible, and I actually enjoy engaging with those who agree and disagree with my viewpoints. I am not cool with people attacking my other commenters or being just plain ignorant, however. Nope, not cool with it.  Looking For Pemberley is a safe space, and none of you should feel attacked here.

How do you handle “trolls?”

I will have another post for you soon, and hope you are all having an amazing weekend.

Regards,

Miss E