Monday, January 21, 2013

The Years to Come and The Writer

WOW. You know that feeling when you’re working on something and it’s turning out above and beyond what you anticipated and you can barely sit still because you know you’ve got something special and you’re at the part where there’s a lot of work left to be done but you just KNOW everything is gonna turn out perfect??? I get my high off of that feeling. I basically live my professional life trying to set myself up for that feeling because it’s so potent and powerful and PURE. I feel like that scene from Wall-E when he and Eve are twirling through space. Currently working on something I’m THRILLED about; haven’t been this excited for a long time.
Hold me in your arms and feed me chinese food immediately.

-Adam Young

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Passion Writer

In 2011, a clever entitled song, Honey and the Bee, was released by Owl City AKA Adam Young. One line from it sums up my latest novel in both contempt and theme. Young sings, “There’s something about you that makes me feel alive.” I get chills even reading this to myself. How did he know this will be the emotions I would portray to my two main characters in Ambience as they juggle life, choices, and the discover that life is worth living till it’s fullest when you find that love is real?

Though Ambience was something first imagined back in August 2009, through many revisions and death threats from me to end the project, I saw it through. Along the way, I grew up and can honestly admit after much thought, I found that I learned more from writing three novels about writing then I ever did receiving my four year degree, in English Literature nonetheless. I read and wrote, read and ignored. Yes, lots of ignoring. Lots of, ‘I just want to give up because who will ever want to read this’.

But then I thought, Wait!? I want to read this. I discovered that the most important reader a writer will ever have is themselves. Writers write what they would like to read, if not what are you doing trying to write a book not even you will read? Its true and the moment you figure that out, your doubts start to drift away. Though they’ll always linger around, look those Christmas tree pine needles that show up months after the holidays has past and no matter what you do they stick around. So I say embrace them, maybe even have a good cry with them.

Writing and life are a journey, a lone adventure only you can see through to the end. It’s hard when you see others doing what you know have the right to be doing as well, but don’t give up. If you really want this life, see it through. Explore the world, discover your fears and relish in the impossible. Be fearless and weak. You’re only human and one that knows that zeal takes years to mature, that growing up must happen in order to be the person you daydream about.

Be a Passion Writer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Answers and the Writer

Lost but now I am found
I can see but once I was blind
I was so confused as a little child
Trying to take what I could get
Scared that I couldn't find
All the answers
-Lana Del Ray-

Sometimes I wish I had the answer to life. Then again, do I really want the answer?

My meaning of being?

Yes and no.

As a full-time employee at a Fortune 500 company, I sometimes wonder what is the meaning of my life right now.

I'm 23, a month and six days till I'm the big 2 oh 4.

College degree? Check.

A sustainable income? Check.

Place of own? Check.

Insecurities and insomnia? Check Check.

But I want more.

Sure I might sound greedy because I have so many good things going for me, but maybe I just want a few questions answered.

Want to know what's next for me, or isn't?

Whose the guy that will finally steal my heart?

When will I meet those friends that will actually stick around longer then a month?

When will it not feel like everyone's stabbing me in the back with their lies?

I'm just a simple girl, trying to live life with a timid smile and a way to write clever plot twists like I was born to do it.

Someday, I hope to have all these answers and no more questions that will render me sleepless.

To look at the moon in awe and wonder, not puzzled and desperate for the night to cease for I can't think of another word to write to describe what I feel or don't feel. To look at the moon like an owl does and love it, cherish it, forever.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Florida History: The Ponce de Leon Hotel turns 125

A cardboard cutout of Henry M. Flagler drew long lines of people Saturday who waited in the dining hall of Flagler College for a chance to get a picture of themselves with the oil tycoon.
“That is so neat,” said Theresa Lee, of Virginia, as she held pictures of herself, wearing a lace shawl and holding a white parasol, standing next to the black-and-white cutout.
Just 125 years earlier, the real Henry Flagler opened the same building as the Hotel Ponce de Leon, a luxury hotel and winter resort visited by the wealthiest of the wealthy, famous personalities and U.S. presidents.
On Saturday the college, the city and about 4,000 people turned out to celebrate Flagler, the hotel and the tourism boom he launched. After a ceremony saluting the 125th anniversary of the hotel’s opening, people walked through the entrance of now-Flagler College to tour the former hotel, learn about the man and pose for pictures with his cutout.
Inside, tour guides told tales of what life was like in the grand old hotel.
Finished in May 1887, the hotel featured electricity, more than 70 of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass windows and other priceless pieces of art.
Off the rotunda was the ladies’ parlor, where the women would spend their time listening to music and mingling as the men checked in, said guide Kalei Fowkes, a senior at Flagler.
“Ladies were actually not allowed at the check-in desk. It was forbidden,” she said.
The parlor is the most expensive room at the hotel and boasts Tiffany chandeliers and a clock made of the “largest piece of intact white onyx in the western hemisphere.”
A crowd gathers outside of Flagler College during a celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Hotel Ponce de Leon on Saturday morning.   By DARON DEAN,
A crowd gathers outside of Flagler College during a celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Hotel Ponce de Leon on Saturday morning.
Men who stayed at the hotel and needed a shave could head down to the barbershop, where Flagler and other notables such as John D. Rockefeller probably went for a trim and got the best-of-the-best kind of treatment, said Scott Jackson, another tour guide and Flagler student.
“This was the hotel for the elite — you were rich, you were powerful, so you had to be very well taken care of,” Jackson said. “You were given the best business, the best service you possibly could.”
The barbershop is now an office, but the original mirrors and woodwork remain.
A billiard room reserved for the ladies was another interesting feature of the hotel, said Thomas Graham, professor emeritus of history at Flagler College, during a telephone interview.
“Billiards was regarded as not proper by some people in those days,” he said.
“This billiard room today is (Flagler College) President (William) Abare’s office.”
Daily life at the hotel was “pretty leisurely,” Graham said.
“A lot of people came down just to spend time sitting in the sun.” That time was spent in the courtyard. For entertainment, people took carriage rides, listened to concerts in the courtyard and the rotunda and played cards in the solarium.
Saturday’s anniversary ceremony started in grand fashion as a Florida East Coast Railway train brought notable figures including Henry Flagler, played by John Stavely, and Mayor Joe Boles, St, Augustine Alligator Farm owner David Drysdale and Abare to the stop near Palmer and West King streets. The four men made the rest of the trip in a horse-drawn carriage that delivered them to the crowd waiting outside the entrance of Flagler College.
Boles spoke to the crowd on the sunny and unseasonably warm day.
“As I squint out at you in the midst of this bright sun, let us be reminded why 125 years ago on Jan. 12, this opened because of that sun,” he said.
Boles read a proclamation from the City of St. Augustine and spoke about the “profound” influence Flagler had on the city and the state.
“If not for Mr. Henry Morrison Flagler 125 years ago, people would not be flocking to the state of Florida, the most visited state in the union.”
Flagler, the cofounder of Standard Oil Company, is considered the father of Florida’s tourism industry. He developed St. Augustine and much of the east coast of Florida, building resort hotels and the Florida East Coast Railway.
Stavely, who portrayed Flagler, dressed much like the statue of Flagler that stands outside of the entrance of the college. His speech, delivered in what he called the “bombastic” style of the day, used quotes from Flagler and stayed close to what the tycoon might have said if he had given a speech that day 125 years ago.
“ … I do wish to welcome you to the opening of this grand hotel in the year 18 and 88,” he said.
“My friends, I’m often asked, ‘Why St. Augustine? Why did you leave the board rooms of Standard Oil and leave the comforts of New York City to come to the Ancient City for a new venture?’ And I reply the same way. I say: Well, it just sort of happened. I happened to be in St. Augustine, and I happened to have some spare money to spend.”
Stavely, in character, talked about the challenges and expenses of building a hotel that the modern 19th century guest would enjoy while staying true to the town, and he gave credit for the final product to his architects, Thomas Hastings and John Carrere.
“I think they did a nice job, what do you say?” he asked, gesturing toward the building with his top hat.
“We are now going to open the doors and allow you inside this grand hotel,” Stavely said. “Thank you for coming, one and all.”
When Henry Flagler came to St. Augustine and stayed at the San Marco Hotel in 1885, he could see things were changing and he saw opportunity, Graham said. A railroad from Jacksonville to St. Augustine had been built in addition to the San Marco hotel.
“... he could see the guests coming to St. Augustine were no longer sick Yankees but were now becoming rich Yankees.
“He had accelerated a trend that had already started before him.”
The opening of the Hotel Ponce de Leon was much like Saturday’s ceremony, even down to the numbers. The Jacksonville News Herald reported at the time that 3,000 people attended the opening on Jan. 12, 1888.
“As the hotel was being built, local people kept saying, ‘We want to go inside and see what it looks like on the inside,’” Graham said.
Builders had been resistant to that, but eventually officials agreed to let the public in for a few hours on opening day. The local newspapers announced that there would be a general reception.
On that day, people from all sections of town and level in society got to see the hotel.
“Everybody came in,” Graham said. “It was the general populous from St. Augustine … Minorcans, and black people and poor people.” Flagler did not give a speech, but he was there with his wife, and there were bands that “struck up a tune” as the gates opened and people went inside.
“They did what people did today,” Graham said. “They wandered around and looked at the art and said, ‘Oh my, isn’t that wonderful.’”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What will you do with an English Degree and The Writer

Questioning that English Degree or High School/College class that others are saying is a waste of time, enjoy the below fellow lovers of the written word.

My View: What will you do with an English degree? Plenty
He's now Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In grad school? He studied literature -- W. B. Yeats, to be exact.

Courtesy Michael Bérubé
By Michael Bérubé, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Bérubé is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, and the 2012 president of the Modern Language Association.

(CNN) - Almost every college student who considers majoring in English - or French, or philosophy, or art history - inevitably hears the question: "What in the world are you going to do with that?" The question can come from worried parents, perplexed relatives, or derisive, incredulous peers, but it always implies that degrees in the humanities are “boutique” degrees, nice ornaments that serve no practical purpose in the real world. After all, who needs another 50-page honors project on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire?

Well, strange as it may sound, if you’re an employer who needs smart, creative workers, a 50-page honors project on a 19th century French poet might be just the thing you want to see from one of your job applicants. Not because you’re going to ask him or her to interpret any poetry on the job, but because you may be asking him or her, at some point, to deal with complex material that requires intense concentration - and to write a persuasive account of what it all means. And you may find that the humanities major with extensive college experience in dealing with complex material handles the challenge better - more comprehensively, more imaginatively - than the business or finance major who assumed that her degree was all she needed to earn a place in your company.

We have plenty of anecdotal evidence for the value of the humanities. Over 25 years of teaching, I’ve had many students tell me - sometimes five, 10, 20 years after they graduated - that their English major gave them the intellectual skills they needed in their careers, while introducing them to some of the most challenging and delightful works ever written in our language. At the Modern Language Association, any one of our almost 30,000 members can say something similar. That’s why we’re such passionate advocates of study in the humanities.

And as Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, has pointed out, we can point to success stories like Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, Nobel laureate and former director of the National Institutes of Health. Each of them earned a Master’s degree in English. Dempsey studied Joseph Conrad and William Butler Yeats; Varmus concentrated on Anglo-Saxon literature. In other words, they immersed themselves in dealing with complex material that requires intense concentration, and they honed their intellectual skills in so doing. It turns out that those skills are useful - and transferable - anywhere there is thinking to be done.

But for the first time, we also have statistical evidence for the value of the humanities. In 2011, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa published “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” What most people took away from that book (no doubt partly because of the title) was that college students are goofing off: They spend far more time on social activities than on homework. The results show up on a test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which basically asks students to deal with complex material and write a persuasive account of it. “At least 45% of students in our sample,” Arum and Roksa write, “did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in CLA performance during the first two years of college.”

That’s not a happy result by any measure - and it makes college sound like a waste of time and money. But when you break down the numbers, a funny thing happens: Students showed improvement in “critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills” largely to the degree that their courses required them to read at least 40 pages a week and write at least 20 pages in a semester.

The more reading and writing they did - serious reading, analytical writing - the more they learned. A remarkable finding!

All right, it’s not really a remarkable finding. It’s precisely what you would expect - except that it’s precisely what everyone manages to forget every time they ask a humanities major, "What in the world are you going to do with that?" In Arum’s and Roksa’s findings, humanities majors scored quite well; business majors did not.

Too many students (and their parents) think of college as the place that will grant them the degree they need to work at X job. The problem is, X job might not exist 10 or 20 years from now. Or X job might be transformed into something else, something that requires critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills.

When that happens, and it happens all the time, humanities majors find that their degrees were good investments after all - and that they are employable anywhere in the economy where there is thinking to be done.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Michael Bérubé.