Monday, June 14, 2010


Hello everyone! It's nice to be blogging so often right now--suddenly I find I have things to say and ideas I want to share again!

My boyfriend and I did some shopping this past weekend for manicotti and muffin ingredients, and of course ended up buying other fun things like Greek yogurt, cherries, and risotto. I've been eating the cherries this morning, and just decided I want to bake with them instead--we have enough to cook with and eat on their own, so I want to have fun with them. I found a recipe in the cookbook my boyfriend got me for Christmas (The New Taste of Home Cookbook) for raspberry coffee cake, and since I have all the ingredients but raspberries, I think I'm going to put my own spin on it and use cherries instead. I don't know if I'll have time to make the coffee cake tonight or if I'll wait until tomorrow, but I'm excited!

This cookbook is great because it has sections with labelled tabs for things like poultry, seafood, vegetables, sauces, quick breads, candies, etc., and many of the recipes offer four variations: classic, time-saver, light, and serves 2. I particularly love looking through the breads/cakes/desserts sections and bookmarking particular recipes I'd like to make. In fact, I have more parties to bake for in my mind than are actually on my schedule!

I also got the next Auel book, The Mammoth Hunters, this morning. My boyfriend's mom talked to her friend at the library near where she lives, and they held the book for her to pick up. She brought it over here this morning, and I'm already blazing through it!

I also got a good start on packing this morning. I have a final load of laundry to do before I leave that will clean up some shirts and (a-hem) undergarments I'd like to take with, but for the most part, I am largely packed up. I leave for Detroit in a few days, and from there fly to Europe! My Prague roommate (and close friend) and I are planning on doing some cooking in Europe--we'll be eating baguettes and nutella for breakfast most days to conserve our money so we can travel more and splurge on delicious lunch/dinner foods. As I am a recent captive of the deliciousness of nutella, I am very excited to have it for breakfast so often! To make up for the less-than-nutritious breakfasts, I'm bringing vitamins and supplements. I'd hate to get sick so far from home!

Well, when I make the coffee cake, I will take a picture and post it for any interested parties. I may or may not have time to blog much in Europe, but I'll make sure to update pictures and stories when I get back!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Books and Food

Well, it is officially 8 days until I leave for Prague for four weeks of poetry, screenwriting, and travelling! I am very excited and also rather nervous--nervous mostly for packing, which I've barely begun. So far I have three jackets or varying thickness, for use depending on how cool the nights get, pants, and two dressy outfits for when our group goes to see a show.... and I have most of a suitcase left to fill. Yikes! Better get started on that soon, but first must do laundry.

As I've mentioned before, I have been doing a great deal of reading. I'm currently working through the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel. This is the third time I've read the series (which consists of 5 books, all of which are between 500 and 900 pages long--the sixth and final book in the series is due out next year, and I am SO EXCITED!!) since middle school. I've been taking the books out of the local library because my copies are still at my parent's house, 6 hours away, but I've just discovered that my library doesn't have the third or fourth book! I finished the second two days ago and spent many moments yesterday and this morning aching to continue reading the story. Today I plan to go to a library where my boyfriend grew up and check the books out from there. And yes, I do plan on having those two books finished by the time I leave so I can get the fifth from my local library the day before I leave. What can I say? I love books!

I actually feel some fear about reading this third book, called The Mammoth Hunters. The very first time I read it, I stayed up the whole night to finish it just so I wouldn't have to spend hours dreaming about what might be happening to the characters in the pages. It is an agonizing story about love, communication, truth, and exploration. And when I say agonizing, I mean agonizing--think Love Actually, when the boy Sam says "Worse than the total agony of being in love?" and Liam Neeson's character replies with, "Yes. Total agony." Well, this book is like that; the cultural differences between the two main characters and the people they are spending the winter with make for some grave miscommunications, misunderstandings, and a near loss of their relationship.

Just thinking about reading this book again puts knots in my stomach and a lump in my throat. But despite the professed agony that I know to be buried in the long pages, I can't help but love the book and the whole story that follows the series--I could no more skip this book and move on to the fourth than I could skip a dificult time in my own life and move on to simpler times. So, I may be a glutton for punishment; I do love a good tear jerker. A book that can make me cry and laugh and cringe and read in awe has my seal of approval any day--and Auel's endearing series never fails to surprise and torment me.

What I did yesterday instead of read was cook. I made blueberry muffins in the morning, and manicotti at night for a barbeque my boyfriend and I were going to that evening. We were going to bring the leftover muffins to the barbeque, too, but they were so delicious that we decided to keep them all to oursleves. So I have blueberry muffins for breakfast again this morning!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Genre writing: yes, it has a purpose

I've been a writer for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had countless journals and diaries that I filled with the dreams for and beginnings of novels. I wanted to go to college and major in creative writing long before I knew that such a major even existed. I read books like my very existence depended on meeting new characters, learning new words, exploring new worlds, and having impossible adventures.

Once I graduated from Nancy Drew and Goosebumps, I found my love for science fiction and fantasy books. This probably had a lot to do with my parents: my mom, who read my brother and I Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son long before we could really understand what was going on; and my dad, whose improvised storytelling accounted for some of my most vivid memories from a childhood that I seem to have largely forgotten.

In middle school, I entered a contest for young writers and completed my first novel (technically, a novella). It was a fusion of (as I mentioned in the last entry) Stephen Donaldson's A Mirror of Her Dreams and Diane Duane's So You Want to be a Wizard--and, of course, written by a 13-year-old. When my novel didn't win the contest, I thought about giving up on writing. I was sure that, if I wasn't good enough for a middle school writing contest, I wouldn't ever be good enough to get anything published. But after some time, I began to work on the story again. The plot and the characters grew with me throughout the years as I matured and read more and discovered new writing voices. I rewrote the book several times, killed and birthed different characters, created a new world, honed talents, introduced morality. Then I wrote a sequel and had lofty plans for a third in the series. But then my mind began to wander, and I wrote new stories and sequels to those. I tried writing from the point of view of girls, then of adults, and young children, then people who were disabled, some who couldn't speak, and I created new languages.

I became aware in high school of the stigmas that are attached to the scifi/fantasy genre. It's difficult to put into words, but largely I became aware that when I told people I wrote (and read) scifi/fantasy, they saw me as a joke--it was as if scifi/fantasy books couldn't be serious or important or have anything valuable to say about the world. I also felt, some place below my conscious mind, the stigma that scifi/fantasy was written by and for men only--and I'm a woman (and was a girl). Desperately wanting my writing to be accepted and for people not to judge me harshly the moment I uttered those words, I searched for a new way to label my writing--and I came up with creative fiction. Still, though, I wasn't satisfied.

In college, I went through a period where I lost my writing--I told my family I was still working on my novels, but I really wasn't. Sometimes I would sit down at my computer and read through my stories (often hundreds of pages worth of writing), change a few spelling or grammar errors here and there, and then quit. I worked on my writing for workshops, and since there was no "genre writing" allowed in most classes, I learned in another way that scifi and fantasy weren't good enough.

I got a fiction short story published my freshman year, but I resented it a little. It seemed to me that now I had to explain to my family and the people who knew I'd been a fantasy writer all my life that my first publication wasn't in my chosen genre. I had a difficult time explaining to new people I was meeting that I was a fantasy writer--not to mention the prodding, disbelieving questions when I told people I was going to school for creative writing--but I thought that the fact I'd gotten something published would give me some credibility in their eyes.

For so long, I thought that I had to overcome other people's bad opinions about genre writing, and though that is still true to some extent, what I really needed to change was my own attitude to it all. I considered myself and my writing unworthy--my embarrassment about being a genre writer stopped me from standing up for myself when I knew that the quality of my writing was very good, and my ideas were creative and clever.

Just this morning, I came to an understanding about my chosen genres. I'd been worried so long that people didn't think my writing meant anything or could say anything valuable about the world, but after so many years of reading scifi/fantasy, I finally understand something different. Fantasy gives people an opportunity to explore what's good about the world through the lens of a new one. Science fiction is a way to understand the potential problems that will develop in the future if the world society/economy/mindset stays the course it is on, and how to deal with them. While both these genres can be fun (and what isn't fun about discovering that you can hop through mirrors into different worlds, or play war games in anti-gravity, or how the needle may have been invented?), they can also be tremendously important. Reading or writing scifi/fantasy is not just about escaping our world and wishing you could live in another--on a very important level, it's about how no world is ideal, but ours is the one we live in, so how can we make it better?

That's what I want to do with my writing--I want to see my world and be the one to take a stand against a problem if I'm the one who sees it. But I also want to celebrate the joy and beauty of being alive. I know I can do that with whatever form of writing I choose.

Learning lots,