who the heck knows anything, anyway

Saturday, March 31, 2012

pretty little treasure chest

Last Monday, my mom and I went to Value Village. I got some sweet flannel shirts and this:

I don't know if you can tell how ugly this jewelry box was, but it was so ugly--and a little broken. However, when I saw this in the "house stuff" section of Value Village for $6, I fell in love with it and knew it must be mine. This is something that DIY Bloggers do regularly--thrifting and then making their finds glamorous--but I admit, I've never had this urge before. Hell yes, I buy stuff at Goodwill like always (mugs! the cutest mugs! and tea pots! swoon!), but never things that can't be used immediately. I'm not the most patient person when it comes to acquiring new pretties. This little jewel box was different, though. I knew exactly how it was meant to look...

Like this:

Four days, a little sanding, three coats of paint, hours of tedious fabric-gluing, and two coats of varnish later, it's my beautiful little treasure chest! 

See that ugly green felt on the inside?

Now it's pretty floral fabric! 

And here's the top view. (I love me some herringbone.)

In addition to finishing this, today I made (1) a cardboard neck-&-shoulders to hold the rest of my necklaces, (2) a fabric earring-holder to hang on the wall and hold the rest of my earrings, (3) a funky, long-necked bottle stand to keep my bracelets all nice and stacked. I also CLEANED MY BUREAU. I will not tell you how dusty/gross it was*.

Oh: hilarious side note. Remember yesterday, when I was all "Omg, I'm sleeping so well/easily/delightfully!"? Guess how I slept last night. ...Yep! Terribly. I was hoping that wouldn't be the case, but I can't say I'm surprised; I'm a superstitious creature who jinxes herself regularly. It's a gift.

Ok, that's probably it for now. I'm going to go read in bed** for an hour and then help my little brother (who's staying with Daniel and I for his spring break) write an English paper.

*yes I will: IT WAS SO GROSS. 
**"read in bed" is code for "nap"

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sleep Disorders and Gettin' Stoked for School

Hey guys. It's been a while. That happens to me every now and again--I go from having a million things to say, to having nada. See: any of these.

Oddly enough, I've slept through the night--and fallen asleep in less than an hour--for, like, 10 nights in a row. This is what I call a "good time". I don't know how long it will last, or why it's happening (miracle? because I can't identify a single lifestyle change in the past two weeks), but I'm gonna roll with it. Maybe it's the extra daylight? Who knows! I get lucky sometimes. It's all cyclical, though; soon enough, I'll be hitting the Anxious Insomnia/Paranoia Stage, followed a month or so later by Nightmare Time, then Depressed Daytime Napping and complimentary Depressed All-Night Insomnia, and then, finally, Miracle Sleep Time. It's like unpredictable clockwork--the time frames for each vary, but that's pretty consistently the pattern they follow. Interestingly enough, I was chatting with my aunt--who's a naturopathic doc, and who just had a baby--about sleep habits. She mentioned that there's a stretch of people who were born when doctors were recommending that new babies not sleep near their parents (prompted by fear of SIDS, no doubt), and that the children whose parents followed this advice have, as adults, reported having an amazing and prevalent range of sleep disorders. Interestingly, my parents followed this advice with me, but not with my brothers*. Who gets night terrors regularly at age 23? This lady. It's pretty interesting. At some point, I might try to do a real sleep study, but that will probably have to wait for when I have health insurance again. Oh, health insurance--you tease!

In school news, I'm starting to get really excited about Pacific. Each semester is comprised of a set of goals that are communicated between the student and a single professor/advisor. These goals include: a set number of creative pages to be written/edited, up to 20 books/essays/long articles/etc to be read (15 or so of which will be reviewed in craft analysis papers), and whatever other things student & advisor agree upon. This sounds like a ton of work, but it's like a build-your-own curriculum! It's essentially a one-class semester on whatever topic you like! Granted, the advisors can suggest changes to your goals/reading list, but I'm a fan of getting new reading suggestions from smart people. I shan't complain. (Though, really, I hope they let me keep my plan, because it's THE BEST.)

What am I going to work on, you ask? Well, for this first semester, I'm basically creating my own Magic Realism curriculum with a focus on narration/authorial reticence (so, in addition to Magic Realism--and a little Surrealism that sort of toes the line--I'll hopefully be looking at some classic 20th cen. Russian works and a few American classics from around the same time**). It's basically my dream class. And I've already got ideas for next term, too. Hint: folk lore.

Hot dang, literature is such a turn-on.

I get to be a veritable academic master in exactly what I love. MASTER. Master of Fine Arts. Fancy, right? Wow. I love getting pumped about school. Sure, by the time mid-term rolls around, I'll be crying about how hard it is, but I thrive under that kind of stress. Plus, I'm ready for some new revelations, new perspectives, new books, new material. And, seriously, how frickin' cool is it that I get to work on what I want to work on? Dear Academia: I've missed you.

New Mantra: I'm young yet, but what I lack in experience I make up for in fervor.

*which I don't blame them for at all. They were young, and I was their first kid, and my mom just wanted to do everything right--so why would she not listen to her doctor's advice? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

grad schoooooooool, here I come

I've reached a decision. I'd say it's tentative, but considering the necessity of my making an official choice in the next, oh, five days, I have to admit it's not really all that up-in-the-air. So here's what's rollin': I'm going to Pacific next year. Still no idea what city we'll be living in, but there you have it--the perk of a low-residency program: ultimate location flexibility.

So what about the comics thing?

Well, it's not as though I'm going to stop making them. Psh. As if.

Also, Daniel said that, in a couple years (once I'm done with the first MFA), if I still feel like pursuing studies at the CCS, he'll gladly move to Vermont with me. Hooray! So it's still on the table for the future. Fantastically, I imagine that the craft tips I'll get through studying at Pacific will apply directly to comics, as well; a big part of Visual Storytelling is the "storytelling".

There you have it. And I wouldn't be surprised if the comics picked up a little bit of steam with my starting grad school. The more stressed out I am with writing homework, the more I'll want to pour my little, pencil-heart out.

In other news, my enrolling at Pacific means I have to assemble a possible reading list of twenty books/long articles/essays for my first semester (which starts in EARLY JUNE. WHAT.). I guess 20 books* would be a bit intense, but adding some essays and articles in there should even things out. Too bad I don't just happen to know about 20 books/essays/articles offhand that I should read. Sure, I have a To-Read list, but it's mostly poetry right now, and I, friends, am not a poet.

It's a bit unclear, to boot, whether these can be works I'm "revisiting" or if they need to be brand new things I've never read. I'd love to look at a majority of works that are new to me, but how do I find things that are awesome? I've trained myself into this habit (some say bad, some say good) of not finishing terrible books; instead, I throw them on the floor and hiss at them.

If you have any must-read book suggestions, I'm open to hearing them!

A caveat or two:
-Must be fiction, unless it's an article or essay on craft (that craft being some element of fiction writing)
-No YA fiction
-Preference for any one or combination of the following (though not necessary):
---creative, engaging narration/"narrative voice" (I especially like the feel of oral storytelling by way of books. See: Oscar Wao, Lolita, Everything is Illuminated, Busy Monsters, The Housekeeper and the Professor, The Solitaire MysteryKafka on the Shore, etc, etc. Essentially, first person narration--however, not necessarily with the narrator as the main character)
---magic realism or incorporation of folk tales
---authors from under-represented (social/racial/gender/etc) groups

I am not, despite my other bajillion preferences, picky about time periods. From ancient Greece to medieval Byzantium to hella contemporary U.S.of A, I'll take it.

Last, but not least, a big shout-out of thanks to my friends who weighed in on my last post, either by comment or facebook or general conversation. I think I'm making the right choice here (well, who knows what "right" is. It's not like this is a moral decision. But I do think this is the smartest choice for the time being, and one that I will not regret. Am I in love with it? I don't actually know. My feelings have been smeared all over the place, and my ability to identify emotions has been compromised by I-don't-even-know-what--stress? the rearing, roaring head of my depression? No idea! But the non-damaged part of my brain appears to be giving me the green light, so I'm just going to trust my brain bits and go for it).

End note: the band Parenthetical Girls writes the most depressing music in the world, and it is also the sexiest. But I have a thing for dudes who sing with...not pretty voices.

*particularly the types of books I would (ahem, no doubt will) idiotically pick out. "What? You can't just breeze through 1Q84 or My Name is Red in one day? ...I've made a huge mistake." 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I would like to outsource these questions to the Grand Scheme of the Universe

Today was not my emotional best, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I got a lot of stuff done. Did some writing (real, true blue fiction with no computer distractions), finished a new comic (view here, at your leisure), and I've been slamming down chapters of Oscar Wao* (my second time indulging--just as absolutely, insanely excellent as it was when I read it in 2008) like whiskey after finals. Not too shabby.

It's important for me to keep busy this week, since it's Acceptance Blow-Up Time. Everybody is losing their pants over grad school decisions** and I am no exception. I was accepted by Pacific (in OR) yesterday, and it felt WONDERFUL--for about two hours. For some reason, I just can't feel proud of myself. Yes, I worked my butt off, and yes I think I'd enjoy going there, but the Michener rejection has gotten itself wedged in my throat. Not in the way you'd think, though. So, a girl on the MFA draft page got accepted at Michener yesterday--for fiction--and she said she her hands were shaking so hard that she couldn't open the champagne to celebrate. I'm totally supportive of this girl I've never met ("happy" would be a lie, let's be real) and am really, truly, absolutely not all that jealous of her getting the spot. What made me most envious, most incapable of feeling happy about my own little success in light of hers, was the freaking champagne

When have I felt like I deserved a bottle of champagne to honor an accomplishment recently? Or ever?

So that sent me down a good ol' despair spiral. When did I last feel proud of myself? I still don't remember. Finishing college is about as close as I get, but I don't feel all too self-impressed with that. Finishing my last short story felt dandy, but it isn't published or anything. Minor accomplishments, sure, and worth  feeling a little self-satisfied, but they just aren't quite good enough. I want to be proud of myself. Champagne-popping proud.

"So do something about it!" you say. 

I'm scoffing. And adding an eye roll. You think I'm not trying? Think I'm not submitting my stories and trying to write every day? Believe me, I'm trying. It's difficult. Especially when you feel like a total useless loser (yes, that's been me lately).

Then this thought weaseled into my head late this morning (a result of a tweet by Kate Beaton): what if an MFA in fiction isn't what I'm supposed to be doing? What if I should be looking into school for comics?

Or, wait, maybe you've lost your marbles.

How do you know what you'e supposed to do in this situation? I love writing, and I'm sure I'll keep knocking out prose, but what about an MFA in cartoon studies? eh? EH??? I have no idea. Maybe I'm delusional. Though it's not like I'm getting my fiction MFA funded, and they cost the same amount of money.

How are some people so sure of what they want to do? My current "idea for the future" is: going low-res, getting a new part time job, basically living my undergrad life all over again. Not that that's a bad thing, but I don't know if it's right.

A million questions are running through my head: am I afraid of applying to CCS? Is my Catholic Guilt somehow playing a part in this, prompting me to stay on this path because it's what I've told people I was going to do and I don't want to disappoint them? Is it pride, telling me I'm not allowed to give up on being a traditional novelist because the key word there is "giving up"? Or are the reservations rooted in something better? I know I'm good at writing (despite recent grad-school-related events that have made me doubt myself), I know people believe in me, and I know that I'm not going to write anything Great with a capital "G" until I'm at least a little more wizened (30's at the earliest). These are facts. I should feel totally zen about not being mind-blowingly genius because I'm a baby, and babies should be learning from their skilled elders, not pretending (or suffering delusions) like they're already equal to them. And I feel fairly zen about that, actually, but what the heck do I do with the years between then and now??*** Do I get a job that's super crappy in hopes that the pain will inspire me? (does not sound great). Do I get my MFA, then spend 10 years feeling guilty about having Daniel support me while I continue being mediocre, until the day I write something wonderful? I don't want my life to be empty. This year's been awesome, but if the next 10 years were like it, I would lose it. What if I could make comics my gig, be exposed to a whole new group of people? Would that inform my writing as much as an MFA? More so? 

But comics and fictional prose are sisters. Neither one requires secondary education. It can be helpful, definitely, but it's not necessary. This makes the choice extra difficult. It makes either one feel like a throw-away, a poor choice--creative writing MFAs are oft perceived (not always incorrectly) as a racket, and what if comics are just supposed to be my hobby? 

Sheesh, I should probably just go back to school for botany or something. I could use a field with a bit less wiggle room.

Too bad I've never been very good at making tough decisions. Oi vey. 


Update/Note: I've also thought a lot about an MA in Folklore/Mythology. This and the comics thing introduce an issue I completely forgot to mention, which is: so, do I decide now, after all the money and work, that the fiction MFA is a bad idea and then wait an apply for Folklore and/or Comics next year? Do I get the fiction MFA (a 2 year commitment, on average) and then get an MA or comics degree after that? Is that bad? Is having two Masters degrees ever a good idea? GAAAAAAAAAAH. SOMEONE GIVE ME SMART ANSWERS, PLEASE. *falls over*

*The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. If you haven't read it, you should. Dude won the Pulitzer in 2008 and he 100% deserved it. He used footnotes like a CHAMP. Also, he's coming out with a book of short stories soon! His first book since Oscar Wao, and I am STOOOOKED.

**pro-tip: if you apply for a Creative Writing MFA, stay the HECK away from the facebook group entitled "MFA Draft __(insert year here)__". Not only will the suspense of waiting for a phone call/email/letter in the mail totally kill you, but associating actual humans with the spots at top tier schools that rejected you will sting like you just fell into a hornet's nest. I don't think it matters how good of a sport you are: it hurts.

***aside from practicing and improving continuously, of course.