A Month of Giving Thanks (Part Two)

Hello again!  It’s already been a week since my last post?  I suppose time flies when you’re having fun.  Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older.  I swear I don’t remember the days going by so fast when I was a kid.  Anyway, enough rambling.  A new week means another chance to share more things I’m grateful for!  As I said last time, feel free to join me.

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“A Break in Reality” by Xetobyte

1. The Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing.  If you’ve perused previous posts, you’ve probably noticed my affection for this program.  I mean, come on.  It’s the first academic setting where I actually felt like I belonged instead of it simply being a stepping stone to my next life goal.  Of course I’m thankful for it and all of the people associated with it.  I highly suggest applying if you’re a writer.

2. Pretty Asian males.  If you know me at all, you knew this was coming sooner or later!  I’m entirely comfortable admitting that I like eye candy, preferably Japanese and in a dress (but not always in one).  If you don’t like it, that’s fine.  Most of the males I stalk are musicians, so they are also ear candy.  A couple of samples:

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Hizaki (Jupiter) and Kaya (Femme Fatale)!
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Hiro (Nocturnal Bloodlust) and Sono (Matenrou Opera)!

3. Music in general.  If there’s one thing in life that has kept me (relatively) sane, it’s music.  Yeah, as a kid, I went with the flow (aka listened to the things my friends were listening to), but I eventually came into my own.  I still remember flipping through radio stations once when I was bored and coming across Zip-Lock by Lit.  That was the beginning of my punk days.  The first time I broke away from what everyone else in my world was listening to.  It was so freeing.  My tastes have fluctuated a lot since then, so I now listen to an eclectic selection.  It keeps me going, so who cares what everyone else is doing?

4. Technology.  Without it, I’d not only be confined to one spot all the time, I’d also probably be dead.  When you require help for something as simple as breathing, you learn to appreciate the machines that help you out.  Wheelchairs, ventilators, patient lifts, and all of that delightful stuff is what I’m talking about.  Sure, TVs and cars and radios and all that are fan-freaking-tastic, but right now I mean all of the stuff that helps to make life more or less normal for folks like me.

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We’ve come a long way.

5. Stuffed animals.  I know it’s weird for a nearly 30-year-old to admit her love of plushies, but I adore them.  They’re soft and cuddly and cute.  Their beady eyes are next-level creepy, like they’re staring into your soul and getting ready to eat it.  You should know by now that I’m strange.  Don’t act so surprised.  But yes, stuffed animals rock!

I think that’s all for today.  See you next week!

No School! The Feels…

Hello there!  I think I’ll address another question/comment today.  Remember, feel free to send me questions or comments or whatever here or at Facebook or TwitterThis one is from Dallas FunkShe recently brought it to my attention that we aren’t preparing for a new semester, we aren’t panicking to finish up our last packets, and we aren’t getting ready to travel halfway across the country for ten days of writerly business and fun.  How does that make me feel?  Well…

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Actually, that’s only kind of right.  Sure, I’m sad, but I’m also a little excited and relieved and not as stressed (though I fully admit to facing new kinds of stress).  I mean, right about now is usually when I’d be starting to prepare for the residency and worrying over the drive that isn’t for another month (irrational fears FTW!) and all that.  Instead, I started writing a new novel this month while I wait for feedback on the other one.  I had been working on a collection of short stories, which was becoming tedious, so I switched projects.  The fact that I’m not working towards a thesis, and that I didn’t have to check with anyone first, made it much easier to convince myself that this kind of shift is okay.  The freedom, man!  The freedom!

I will definitely miss everyone, but this is what happens as we grow.  We lose touch with some and make new connections with others.  Also, I’d normally have a social buffer right around this time to make the transition easier.  A weekend out among other similar minded freaks (granted, these are anime lovers, not writers, but still).  Also known as A-Kon weekend.  But I’ve chosen to skip it this year (that was a dumbass move on my part).  I think that has me more sad than anything.  I knew school was a limited time thing going in, but this is the first time in thirteen years that I’ve skipped A-Kon.

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The Minion and I almost ready for the masquerade ball last year.

Don’t get me wrong, it is time for a break from A-Kon, but I kind of regret doing it the same year I finished school.  However, I am trying to stay a little social by going to readings and stuff.  Yeah… I guess that’s really the biggest “sad” part about not prepping for a new semester.  It’s just the lack of socializing that’s got me a little down.  That’s actually a pretty terrifying revelation for someone who never really cared about having a social life.  Gee thanks, Stonecoast!

I guess what all this boils down to is that I’m having feels about the situation, but none of them are really standing out.  Actually, I posted a Facebook status a few days ago that said “It feels weird to not be prepping for A-Kon or a new semester.  I shouldn’t have stopped both in the same year.  Sad Cyn is sad.  In other news, I decided to start a new novel tomorrow.  It’s a standalone.  Much more post-apocalypse (but not really) sci-fi than I’m used to writing.  I’m kind of excited.”  That was when a friend’s mom asked if I was bipolar (jokingly, of course) and I replied with “It’s a writer’s life!  Conflicting emotions are the norm.”  So, that there’s the short version of everything I just said.

Feels

A writer’s life… So many feels, bro.  So many feels.

My Stonecoast Experience (Part 2)

As I’ve mentioned, my Dad and I made our last trek to Maine in January, where I graduated from Stonecoast.  I’ve spent the last few weeks sorting through my feelings about it all.  I haven’t even forced myself to look through all of the pictures and videos we took, because that would mean saying goodbye.  I won’t kid myself by saying things like “we’ll keep in touch” or “I’ll see them again,” because the truth of the matter is that I’ll probably never see or interact with 99% of these people again outside of Facebook or email.  But that’s okay.

In all honesty, I’ve never really had many “real life” friends, so the switch to maintaining cyber friendships with these people, my Stonecoast family, isn’t a big leap for me.  However, many of them are less active online than I am, so it’s still a bittersweet adjustment.  I won’t get to see everyone twice a year.  Won’t get to catch up with those I don’t see much online.  And, possibly the most depressing thing of all, I won’t get to be in Maine.

South Freeport (Docks by Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Co.)

Granted, I’m not entirely sorry I missed the grand snowfall, and it’s not the most handicap friendly of the states, but!  It’s beautiful, and the people are super friendly.  After each trip, when we get home, I always miss Maine more than I ever missed Texas.

In fact, one of my fellow Stonecoasters once asked me what I missed about Texas.  I told her I missed my dog.  Just my dog.  That was a half-truth.  I missed Mexican Coca-Cola.  I missed having easy access to decent Mexican food, or at least Tex-Mex.  I missed BBQ (don’t get me wrong, Maine has something it calls BBQ, but it ain’t the good stuff).   I missed 99.5% of public places having wheelchair entrances.  It was little things like that that I found I missed.

Chewy! (My dog)

It’s all thanks to Stonecoast that I got to experience these things.  Friendship outside of the computer.  Travel.  Finding a home away from home.  Figuring out what I would miss about my current home.  It was all part of my crazy new experience.  I’m thankful for it all.

Yes, I will miss Maine with its moose heads (see below), its wonderful people, and its crazy weather, but it’s time to move onwards and upwards.  It’s time for me to focus on my writing and where I want to go in life and how to get there.  Who knows, maybe when I’m a rich and famous author (a girl can dream big, can’t she?), I’ll find my way back to that home away from home.  Maybe by then, it’ll just be home.

Please don’t fall on me, Mr. Moose. (At the Broad Arrow Tavern in the Harraseeket Inn)

That’s all for today.  Check in next week for something completely different!

The Speech of Doom

First, a little background.  At Stonecoast’s commencement ceremony, the faculty elects a student speaker from each genre (pop fic, lit fic, poetry, and CNF).  Apparently, they decided that I should represent popular fiction.  This meant that I had to give a speech.  On stage.  In front of everybody.  Yeah, not my idea of a good time.  But, it went over pretty well, and people have asked me for copies or to post it on-line.  So, here it is, notes to myself and all.

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Giving the Speech of Doom. Courtesy of Joseph Carro.

Speech of Doom

Thank you, Dean Tuchinsky. Thank you, Justin Tussing and Matt Jones. Faculty, fellow students, thank you. And a very special thank you to Robin Talbot. She is the heart of Stonecoast, and she keeps our dysfunctional little family functioning. So, next time you see her, give her a hug and tell her thank you.

*pause, deep breath*

Hello. My name is Shawna, and I, like most of you, am a compulsive liar (also known as a writer). Yes, that includes the CNF folks as well. We all embellish the truth and hide things inside pretty little metaphors, some of us just include more fairies and dragons and zombies than others.

In his dedication of It, Stephen King writes to his children, “Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.” He’s right. The magic is there, waiting to be found, if only you’re willing to search for it. We all write lies and hope some universal truth is hidden inside, but what about the magic? Now, I know my fellow pop fiction writers are sitting there thinking “we write about magic every day.” But there’s a difference between writing about spells or wands or potions, and knowing that real magic exists.

In May of 2012, I received my B.A. in English. I had switched away from psychology, from my plan, and majored in English. What the hell was I supposed to do with my life? That was when my adviser planted the seed that would lead me to my own magical path. He introduced me to low-residency MFAs.

I fully admit I had no intention of ending up at Stonecoast, but then Robin called. She made me feel wanted, like I could actually be a part of this family, because that’s what we are. A family. In other words, she uncorked the magic bottled up inside me and it started trickling over the edge. This first encounter with Stonecoast was followed by approximately 30 e-mails and phone calls from faculty and students (now, realize that this was over a period of maybe two weeks). Needless to say, I was a little (okay a lot) creeped out. It was like some cult was out to get me to join. The funny thing is, I was entirely okay with that. If you know my writing, you know I’m no stranger to the creepy and disturbing, so their tactics worked. I became part of this weird cult/family/tribe known as Stonecoast. And yes, I have heard it described as all of those things.

The point is, Stonecoast took someone whose mantra had always been “get in, get the degree, and get out” and turned her into someone who desperately searched for ways to extend her time here. Granted, I never found a way to stay and two years was much too short (just ask any one of us), but if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. I found friends here, I found myself among the voices in my head, but most of all, I found that magic is real. Stonecoast is my Hogwarts. A sentiment shared by many of us.

So, this is for everyone here, but especially my fellow graduates: find your magic. If you haven’t found it yet, trust me when I say you will. When it hits you, because it will be that metaphorical ton of bricks, don’t ignore it. As you venture back out into that big, scary world, be open to the magic it offers. And remember, we each carry a tiny satchel of never-ending seeds. Do your best to plant those in everyone you meet, so that they can find their magic, too.

Thank you.

Talking to the Voices

I have returned!  I was away most of January, so that I could participate in my final residency at the Stonecoast MFA program.  I graduated with many mixed feelings, which I will talk about at a later date.

I actually came away from residency with many ideas for this blog o’ mine, which I will mention at the end, but first, I want to get into today’s topic.  The voices in my head!

A lot of people ask me how I come up with my characters, but the truth is, I don’t really know.  They almost always start as a nagging voice in my head (at least the main characters do).  It’s going to sound crazy, but I talk to these voices and most of them won’t go away until I write their stories.  I talk with them for many reasons, not just to learn their stories, but to learn their voices.  Their likes and dislikes.  What kind of person they are.

I fully admit that this can be both a blessing and a curse.  Sometimes, I get attached to certain voices and put off writing their stories, because I don’t want them to disappear.  I’ve only really mourned the loss of a couple of voices, but it’s still a sad process.  On the other hand, it makes for some unique characters.  I have less trouble getting into the voice when I’m writing.

Do you talk to the voices in your head?  If not, I certainly encourage it.  Yes, we might come off as a bit eccentric, but what writer isn’t?

I think I’ll leave it at that for today.  Before I sign off completely, I want to talk about “what’s next.”

1.  I’m seriously considering moving my blog to a different platform (most likely WordPress).  Would anyone have any objections to that?  I know I don’t have many readers, so I feel like now would be the optimal time for such a switch.

2.  This will soon be a weekly blog!  Every Wednesday, I will be posting, starting on February 11th.  People have requested that I post my graduation speech, so that’s coming up next week.

3.  I’m hoping to form a more cohesive blog, so forgive me as I dabble in different topics until I find the one for me.

That is all.  If no one has argued otherwise by February 11th, I will see you on WordPress!

My Stonecoast Experience (Part 1)

In May 2012, I graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor’s of Art in English, specializing in creative writing, and minoring in psychology.

About halfway through my stint at SMU, my Dad talked me out of majoring in psychology (he reminded me that I’m not a people person), so I was left without a plan beyond graduation.  Luckily, my adviser introduced me to the concept of low-residency MFAs.

I applied to five of the top ten programs.  At the time, I had little to no hope about getting in (I wasn’t very confident in my writing).  Of the five that I applied to, Stonecoast was the only one to offer popular fiction.  I had only ever really studied literary fiction, so I thought it might be a nice change of pace, but it wasn’t very high on my list of desired programs.  Of the three that accepted me, Stonecoast was my second choice.  However, this opinion quickly changed.  When I got the call, not even two weeks after I had sent in the application, I was shocked to say the least.  I was already feeling like a potential member of the Stonecoast family after that call.  Add to that the plethora of e-mails and phone calls from faculty and students and I was starting to believe that maybe this place really did want me.  When the acceptance packet came in the mail and it was purple (my favorite color), I was sold.

At my first residency, I had no idea what to expect.  The one thing I did know was that I wanted to hole up in a corner and treat it like every other school experience I had had.  Get in, get the degree, and get out.  My fellow Stonecoasters had other ideas.  They decided we needed to be friends, and since my Dad was with me, he needed to join us.

It was an experience like no other for me.  I was used to Texas, to Dallas, where people ignored my existence for the most part.  Being invisible was a super power I had grown to appreciate.  I don’t know if it was the weather or what, but in Maine, my super power didn’t work.  People expected me to socialize.  Me!  In all honesty, it was pretty damn creepy at first.  Then, it slowly dawned on me that I was making friends and that was kind of cool.

Aside from the weird socialization aspects, I had another new experience.  I learned things.  Throughout high school and community college and undergrad, I had grown accustomed to teaching myself.  It was extremely rare for me to come out of a class (except for Japanese) with that fulfilling notion that I had learned something useful.  At Stonecoast, I was learning things left and right.  Things that would improve my craft.  Things that would improve me as a person.  It was everything I was looking for that I didn’t know I wanted to find.

That was January 2013.  For the past two years, my experience at Stonecoast has continued to exceed expectations.  I’ve even reached a point where I can look at my work and admit that it isn’t horrible.  That’s a huge step for a writer.  One I couldn’t have taken without Stonecoast.

My time at Stonecoast is drawing to a close.  I will be graduating in January, which I have mixed feelings about.  I should be proud and happy to have come so far, yet it’s the first time I’ve ever felt sad to be leaving a school.  I will be exploring these feelings more after graduation, so look forward to that in February!

Next time, I’ll be discussing villains!  Come back and see me in January!