Tuesday, November 27, 2012

High School and The Writer

Recently, I read a post on yahighway.com, that I couldn't help but correlate with what my high school years were like.

You see, I wasn't the girl with tons of friends for my head was always somewhere else, speeding what seemed like a thousand miles an hour in every direction. Though I didn’t know back then that I wanted to be a novelist, more like a songwriter that wrote killer radio hits and got paid the big bucks, I knew without a doubt that I loved to read. Reading helped me believe in being that type of dreamer who knew that if I dreamt big, I could do anything I wanted to do and still do to this day.

There was one novelist who inspired that spark of nerdy dreaming in my early high school years and still does till this day. Caroline B. Cooney was my world changer. The four novels from hers that I’ve read more than a dozen times by now were the Time Travelers Quartet, still my guilty pleasure till this day. I cherished those books and anything else she has ever written because somehow just reading one of her novels made my high school, family life and troubled thoughts a little more bearable than having a false group of friends who really didn’t care about me most of the time. You see, I knew I was different than the rest of the 5,500+ students at my high school. Yes that’s correct, during the 2007-2008 school year Cypress Bay High School had reached an enrollment of more than 5,500 students and got named the most overcrowded high school in the United States. The school even got a show on MTV in 2008 called, The Paper.

Sometimes in a school that larger, I felt like I would never fit in anywhere. I was that girl whose style of clothing, friends and music changed every year because I didn’t know where I was wanted. I went from freshman hip hop to sophomore rocker to junior prep. When senior year rolled around, it was more of a preppy rock attitude I tried to pull off because by then I was thinking of college and high school was just becoming a bittersweet aftertaste that I was quickly trying to get rid of.

Till this day and more so back in those four years, I was seen as that nerd that wasn’t necessarily school smart, but sure knew how to dream of a world outside of myself. I was the friend who others asked for help in writing their papers and poems. They knew me as the girl that liked to write flowery words in black and white composition notebooks, now a day’s one is more likely to see my jolt down ideas on my iPhone.

Even though in my life today I have to hide the part of myself that wants to soak in the world of my novels, I still have my personality speared around my cubical at work. O’Hara’s Having a Coke with You Poem is tacked in the wall in my direct view, a Saint Augustine historical timeline tacked in another wall to remind me why I took the job in the first place so I could live in Saint Augustine, while a plastic pumpkin sits nearby to display that my love of Halloween doesn’t only get seen in October. These small objects keep me sane more then I let on sometimes. 

When I have to get so consume in a world I have to grin and bear to live in, remembering that part of myself that dreams crazy ideas, makes me believe in a future where I can and will be a world changer. Where my art will become my whole life, where the nerd will finally be able to breathe easily and laugh a little more. So to all those out there that have been laughed at and spitted upon, take it from the girl who spent most of high school eating lunch alone on the back steps of portables. When you want something so badly it’s hard imagining what the loss would feel like, keeping pushing forward because nothing will burn worse than giving up on your daydreams and seeing others doing what you know you should be doing as well.


All Hail the Dreamers

I was That Kid. The one who was colored pictures of unicorns when she was supposed to be solving equations. The one who kept a book hidden under the desk while her teacher lectured. I was the kid who imagined myself a warrior princess, a witch, a wise woman, until grownups told me I was too old to believe such things.

I'm willing to bet most of you were That Kid too. If you are a reader, or a writer, or a dreamer, you were probably scolded. Probably teased. You were probably called a ditz, or a nerd, or a geek.

It's ok. Most of us were.

As we grew up, we were taught how to hide it. How to pay attention when the teacher was talking. How to be smart and professional. How to live in the real world.

It's ok. We all did it. We all learned how to be normal.

But the older I get, the more I resent the "normal" mask, and the more I think it's not ok to wear it.

In recent years, we've learned so much about multiple intelligences, and all the ways that people learn. We've learned how to encourage children who learn by pictures and pretend games and storybooks. But we have not yet learned how valuable it is to be a dreamer.

Have you seen Once Upon a Time? I just started watching the series. It's one of those TV shows that everyone I know seems to love; and I think I know why. It speaks to something deep and instinctive in us - something that begs to be part of a different story.

Dreamers, artists, writers - those are the Henrys of the world. They are the ones who see princesses where others see housekeepers and teachers and college students. They are the ones who see a cursed land in need of healing, when others just see a boring little town. They are important.

You are important.

Your art is important.

You may think of yourself as just someone trying to write a book; just a reader; just a dreamer. But your dreams and your art and your books are vital. They mean something. They add to the world. And maybe we aren't real-life princesses or witches or warriors; but something about art and beauty makes us feel that we can be.

So embrace the fact that you are That Kid. Be a ditz, or a geek, or a nerd. Be a world changer. Make us see the goodness and light behind the cursed land.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Middle School and The Writer

My dad on a trip in NYC
June 2000

When I remember middle school I recall September 11th 2001.

That Tuesday morning I was in my first period history class. We were about to watch a school safely video that was being broadcasted to everyone at our school. The time was either a little before or after nine in the morning and the channel we were supposed to be watching was blank. So my teacher switched the channel to the news to see what was going on in the world. That was when I saw it, sitting in a desk in sunny Weston, Florida, hundreds of miles away from New York.

Even till this day, eleven years later, I can still see those smoky streets of New York and the scared reporters when I close my eyes. It felt as if time stood still as we all just gawked at the TV till my teacher ran out of our classroom as if she was on fire, leaving us twelve year olds alone and staring confusingly at the events taking place

What I was able to comprehend was that something really bad was happening. A plane had hit a building in New York. Wait, now another one got hit as well? What was going on? It wasn’t till a few minutes later when my teacher returned and explained to us that it seems we were under attack, before racing to the phone to try to call her dad that worked in downtown Manhattan.

Till this day, I don’t know if that school safely video ever did come on. The rest of the class was spent focused on the news, trying to learn as much as we could about what was going on and failing to make sense of the tragic events happening in NYC. It wasn’t till December 2005 when I myself visited New York on a family vacation for the first time. My dad, who had spent his teenage years as a New Yorker, had made it very clear that he didn’t want to go the memorial site, didn’t want to pass a place he remembered from his youth that was no longer there. But on a day trip to the Statue of Liberty, we happened to stumble across the site. It was strange, seeing the look on my dad’s face of pain and regret, as he peered through the metal fence at the spot that once housed the city’s tallest buildings. I believe that being back after the attacks helped him heal, like it had for others who had seen the towers before they were taken away from this world forever.

Tragic moments like these define a person. At twelve years old, I was suddenly faced with a world that was on high alert, even at the mall a place I thought I was once safe to wander about. But I guess it’s like discovering that fairy tales aren’t as truthful as you would like to believe when you’re a kid. 9/11 made me more aware of the world, fast. Innocence was taken away from all eighteen and younger in 2001. The world lost that hint of spark to us all, ones are parents tried to replace with hugs and kisses.

I was too young to remember Columbine, but 9/11 will be forever written into my Middle School years as do tragic events that have happened every day since. It helps me sometimes, when I doubt what path in life I should have taken or where I should go next, to remember that scared twelve year old who awoke on that Tuesday morning innocent to the worlds evils and came home forever changed.

Everything moves forward, I’ve come to realize through the years as personal tragedies and accidents have befallen me. But that past I’ve come to learn can’t be forgotten about. The past makes us who we are today. It’s in our blood and views. Our values and loves. One’s past is a luggage we all must carry, but don’t over stuff that bag or the burden might just take over your present and future. Writers Beware.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Music and The Writer

Back in 2009 I heard a song on the radio that not only changed my views of life at that moment, a confused sophomore in college but also of my writing in general. I’ve always had a special relationship with music that goes back to the time I was a kid, just ask my family. I love to sing and write my own music, guess that’s where my love for novel writing came from. I didn't grow up dreaming of being a writer. I grew up dreaming of becoming a famous singer, though stage fright always got the best of me.

Well, the song I heard on that Florida summer heated day was Fireflies, by Owl City, aka Adam Young. Instantly I felt like I’d found a long lost friend who got me, understood my sleepless nights and candy coated daydreams. It truly was a magical meeting of the minds.

In that same year, I decided that I wanted, needed to be a writer and hearing any one song from Adam just spurred me on, still does to this day. Hearing his lyrics and wonderfully arraigned music puts the M in motivation for me. Nearly a hundred song and 3 concerts later, I still get chills when I hear a chord of the song that is to come. His lyrics lets me daydream of the possibilities of knowing that simple dreams don’t turn to dust or that sometimes walking amongst the greenery of the forest, it’s better to waltz then to just simply walk on by, ignoring the simple beauties my generation takes for granted.
So next time a new pop hit comes on the radio and you start to bop to the beats, listen to those lyrics. Do they inspire you? Make you want to be the best you? Settle in your soul like a long lost friend? Chances are, most properly won’t.

Music in the 21st century seems to be losing the charm our grandparents and even our own parents use to hold like their own breaths. Sure, music changes over time as do people, but only true musicians and lyrics can stand the true test of time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life and the Writer

Sometimes when life gets a little to difficult to handle, most turn towards an outlet, a way out of life’s craziness. Maybe a short trip to paradise in some far away island in the Caribbean?

Well, I myself turn to writing, sometimes jolting ideas down on paper, my iPhone, iPad, or laptop, the last three all beautiful technology thanks to the 21st century I would never take for granted. But if any of those weren’t around, could I just sit back and chew on it for a bit? Figure out what I really wanted to bring across to my future readers by choosing my next words like one would answer a question on the SAT’s?


But then again, sometimes things just need to be written down, fear of it disappearing and never coming back to me a constant battle and itch millions upon millions of people in a creative driven life deal with all too constantly. I’ve had those moments when I just need to write it down, capture that thought in a voice recording while my baby sister gave me a weird glare or seek a single scrap of paper at work to jolt down a quick note.

So to fill my most undying itch of all, for a book idea that was on the back burner since the summer of 2009, I decided that in order to fully grasp the location of where I wanted this book to take setting in, I decided to move there. Itch crazy times ten. Three hundred miles away from my family, I suddenly found myself in the sea side town my characters resided in. At first I was thrilled. I was here. The 25% of the book that had yet to be written would just come screaming out of me to be written and so would everything else that followed, right?

Nope, because life got in the way as did my insecurities of my once pretty awesome book idea.

What if I fail?

What if no one wanted to read it?

What if I ruin all the good this town was doing in prep for the upcoming 450th anniversary of the cities founding with this book?

The closer I got to being finish with it, the more I seemed to ignore it, hated it like it was cursed. For weeks I wouldn’t read a single word. But then something changed one day as I was sitting typing away in my full time desk job. I was overcome was a sense to read it like I’d never read it before. And you know what? I discovered again why I thought this idea was great before I let doubt sink in. Felt that someone out there, just one person alone, would fall in love with these characters one day, just like I had when I first envisioned them in 2009, though through many revisions they have drastically changed forms for the better. I had found a happy median somehow for myself in this fast paced world where my daily life was always constantly evolving into complex agendas of just putting one foot in front of the other. I knew that the only way to be happy with what I had written was to finish the darn thing once and for all. To be gleeful when I thought of it instead of making me cringe at the idea of mustering up the courage to just read one more word.

Writers, in every vein of the worlds vastly developing genres, are unique. We are each our own aged wine and we all need time to mature, though sometimes we think that delaying the process will help the end result, when in fact a writer never stops dreaming of what’s to come. A writer never stops living life for their lives are a book in and of themselves. Though one can’t predict what will happen next like one does a books plot twist that will just wow the audience, writers need to find and listen to that little voice inside of themselves telling them that it will get better and happier time will soon find their way to us in due time.

Because when you do listen for it, hidden behind all your self-doubts and misguided thoughts, just a still small voice in the vast darkness of one’s sometimes irrational lives, can a writer produce a masterpiece, the ones that are so often a part of our daydreams.

Next Monday: Music and the Writer