Tag Archives: Carlow University

Day 5: 12 Days of Blogmas

Mairy Hairy Blogmas, minions!

d30d33f753a349f4b95f2e072cce11c7Today is a special post. I’d like to share an old prompt that was a result of my attempt at a prompt sharing group. It worked well for a few months, but I got busy and it was hard to keep a schedule for writing new material while still in school. Anyhoo, this prompt highlights Rule #2 of Prompts: A Picture is worth…at least 500-2500 words.

The old saying rings true as evidence of why pictures make easy and effective prompts. During my (third) residency at Carlow, with the aforementioned Janice, I became obsessed with her prompts, which we took part in at the end of every workshop.

One day, she had printed out simple, but elegant pictures for us to choose, ranging from a chair with peeling paint (I chose that one and it didn’t make the final draft of Dollhouse Daughter), a praying mantis, a beach. All of the photos were simple, straightforward and provided a way to tell the story by providing you with a visual cue to begin with. Again, like with the beginning sentence prompt, it allows you some guidance in that you will have to use what is physically shown in the picture, i.e. if it’s a green praying mantis you can’t describe it as purple. Yet, it also allows you to shape a story around one image, which to some authors is how a story begins.

The prompt below is a reaction to a photo of the Khao Luang caves in Thailand. (Picture below) And the short story is tentatively titled, “Heritage Honeymoon”.

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“Dakota!”

My voice bellowed through the cavern, echoing at least four times before the copycat was no more than a whisper. A flock of tropical birds fluttered through, chirping to each other in a whirlwind of vibrant colors. Dakota had the spare batteries in his pack, while I wandered in the darkness of Thailand’s largest national park with a lighter and my dead flashlight.

The last time I saw him, he shoved his way through some thick foliage covering one of the cave entrances that popped up along our trail. Some people take their honeymoon to Mexico or the Bahamas. Dakota wanted to explore his heritage after 25 years of Americanization by taking a two-week backpacking trip through the national parks of Thailand.

Now, when I say national park, it isn’t a tourist stop with a light helping of nature. With the exception of our elusive tour guide Aran, who lived in one of the nearby villages, we were alone in our travels through the uncharted rainforests. I tried persuading Dakota towards the cozy resorts a few miles away in Hiu Hin, but he was determined to “rough it.” With the extra-tall backpacks filled to the brim with the survival necessities, we had set out last Saturday for our epic adventure.

Epic may have been a hasty definition of our journey when Dakota left me soaking wet in the afternoon rain outside an unmapped cave. My slicker felt like twenty pounds with the amount of water it had absorbed. I peeled it from my skin as I checked out where Dakota had led me. Once I had maneuvered through the narrow passage, I found myself in one of the illustrious Khao Luang caves. Enough sunlight filtered through the ceiling openings that I didn’t need a flashlight to see after all.

There was a lofty set of stairs in front of me, so steep that all of the loose stones had fallen to the bottom stair. I kept walking, hoping the sun’s warmth would dry my button up shirt and cargo pants, which were only slightly less drenched than my coat.

“Dakota Finnston, where are you?” I yelled, hoping he wasn’t far behind.

My black hair swept in front of my eyes when a blast of warm air rushed passed, reminding me of home. I was born in Kihei, Maui, my little slice of heaven, and I had left it six years ago for Dakota to pursue his dream of hiking every national Park in the United States. As a financial advisor during the week and hiking enthusiast 24/7, Dakota took me along for the adventures hoping I would catch the “nature bug.” I comply because I love him, but it’s just not my style. He’s the one built for the outdoors—tan and muscular with energy to spare.

I followed the staircase as it looped around making a bridge across the spacious chamber. On the other side, I heard shuffling coming from the right, and I hesitated before entering the next room. Scattered around the floor were a congregation of Buddhas. The tiny, globular statues hugged the wall made of various material and decorations. I spotted a few statues that reached several feet in the air, some even jeweled or gold-plated. The entire cavern was filled with candles that illuminated what appeared to be a petite shrine. Dakota told me these shrines would be popping up, but I had no idea they would be so beautiful. Somehow my concept of Buddhism did not include the wonder of nature even after Dakota insistent teachings. I had always assumed vanity was not a big concept for this particular faith.

I still hadn’t found Dakota, and the noise I heard earlier grew louder in the minutes that followed my entrance into the Buddha room. What nerves I had being left on mine own were shaken quickly into fight or flight response complete with racing heartbeat and weak knees.     Turning the corner slowly, I discovered a secret alcove to the shrine that an ornate statue had been tucked away from the main area. The man stood with a burnt orange robe covering his back, and a soft chanting echoing and the shuffling that I had heard earlier was the man switching from a kneeling position to a standing one. He must have done that motion twenty times since I first heard him.

“Sir?” I asked. “Have you seen a tall, American about 6 foot 3 with green eyes and a large red backpack? I lost him about a half hour ago.”

The chanting continued. My frown deepened as he treated me like one of the many statues posted around the cave. The nerves turned to anger at my unanswered question. My husband was missing and the only person in sight was this monk, who couldn’t do more than mumble to a stone face.

“Hello? I said I lost someone. Can you speak English? I think Buddha can wait. I just need to know if you’ve seen my husband.”

I felt my face burning in frustration until the man finally faced my complaints with a serene disposition. He removed the satin hood and a familiar head of lush black hair popped out, followed by my husband’s face locked in anger until he met my eyes. The shock on my face caused Dakota to fill the room with his boisterous laughter—all at my expense.

 

Find a picture, ask a friend to pick one for you, and share the results with me. I would be happy to post one on the blog.
Happy reading/writing!!

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If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Friends

Credit goes to my dear friend Alora who is photographed in this picture as well.

Credit goes to my dear friend Alora who is photographed in this picture as well.

I have some talented, creative friends. Some I’ve known since high school while others I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the interwebs and social groups. And yet I’ve found a few of the most rewarding and passionate people through my MFA family at Carlow University. As easy as it is to enjoy the company of people with similar interests, I think I admire my friends more for our differences. Now, I know this is a normal side effect of being social is having the opportunity to learn from those around you, but I hit the jackpot which brings me to the main event of this post.

Rion.  K Orion Fray to be exact. That pseudonym will be one to remember, so it’s important to establish who you will be googling long after this post is over.  Currently residing in Virginia (too far from me in little ‘ol Pittsburgh), my time with Rion is limited to the interwebs for which I am incredibly sad. At the same time, I am forever grateful for the moments where I had the opportunity to hang with her in person and enjoy her company. She is a wealth of not only knowledge beyond both our years (Rion is older AND wiser), but of sheer talent and creative expression.

Credit to K Orion Fray. This is her recent cosplay of Cecil Palmer from Welcome to the Night Vale at Tekko Con 2015

Credit to K Orion Fray. This is her recent cosplay of Cecil Palmer from Welcome to the Night Vale at Tekko Con 2015

When I first met the phenomenal entity that is Rion, I was just settling into my writing chops and discovered some writers within my MFA program to have honed skills that I never imagined could exist.  Rion and I were in the same workshop group for the semester and our mentor, the wonderful Janice Eidus, assigned us a quick ten minute writing prompt. It was one of many that we would get over the next two weeks, but it also allowed us to share or writing with each other.

And this is when I realized what a powerhouse Rion is with words. In the ten minutes we had to write I managed a measly half page of composition notebook paper. Rion had typed well over 5 pages worth of material. I’m not talking D-grade, needs a dozen revisions quality writing. I’m talking A-quality, ready for an editor’s commentary and approval. She is like the Mariah Carey of wordsmithing.

AND THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING!

Below are three of the services my beloved friend has to offer my beautiful, intelligent internet friends. Each service has a description from Rion as well as the link to said services. I have the pleasure of ordering a pair of her handmade earrings, which I will show photos and my experience down below in that section.

Writing/editingkorionfray.com

I love writing and telling stories, so those two have been something I was interested in for ages! When I found out people would /pay/ me to read stories? Gracious. That was something I jumped on, especially since for most of my life, I was always the one who had to read everything in school, because I was the only one “good at it.”

The website hasn’t been updated recently, but I promise I’m still around. I’ve done copyediting semi-professionally for several authors, and am willing to talk about doing it for others. Payment can be discussed on a by-project basis, at korionfray@gmail.com  I’ll do anything from manuscripts to looking over essays and college applications. Just gimme a shout and we’ll work something out.

Audio workhttps://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A1WR4LIZKZJRWN

I am on ACX as an independent contractor available for audiobook narration. I have clips up of my work, and can answer questions if needed via the same email as above. I’m very flexible in what kind of work I do, and I’m always willing to try something new! I love narration and have a pretty quick turn-around time. And at the prices I suggest for my work, I’m significantly cheaper than a lot of other VAs out there.

 Azazel and Penemue: Handmade Jewelrywww.etsy.com/shop/AzazelandPenemue

I’ve been dabbling with the idea of making and selling jewelry for a while now. In fact, I had several finished pairs of earrings already made when I opened the Etsy store, from when I first bought/got the beads. (I don’t have a clear memory of where they came from, though! How strange.) So when I lost my job, I figured that now was a perfect time to finally get on that bandwagon. Not only did it give me a potential source of a little money, but it also gave me something to do, to keep myself active instead of sitting like a sad little unemployed lump. I’m hoping to branch into other jewelry outside of necklaces, as well as knitted/crocheted items as well, and maybe some embroidery floss bracelets. You never know! The possibilities are endless.

 

Credit goes to K Orion Fray owner of Azazel and Penemue. This is the mascot  Toby, the Corgi.

Credit goes to K Orion Fray owner of Azazel and Penemue. This is the mascot Toby, the Corgi.

The set of earrings I purchased were Hoo, Hoo Brown Owl Post Earrings. The photos below show what you get in the bubble wrap envelope. A hand written note and the earrings packaged in a neat, little bag come with your order along with an invoice (not shown) with a thumbnail of your order and all the details.

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I’ve got to say the earrings are flawless. They don’t feel heavy despite the fact that they are posts with a little dangling charm. At the same time, the material feels much sturdier and wearable than most of the jewelry I have in my jewelry box. I cannot wait to purchase more earrings when she has more animal based ones in stock, and I even have a collaboration planned with her for a custom necklace based on the one in my novel, Dollhouse Daughter.

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2015-04-18-19-09-42-982So, my minions. That concludes the feature of Rion or K Orion Fray—my friend, colleague, and entrepreneur. Check out the links to her work/services and you will not be disappointed. Let me know what you all thoughts of this Friend Feature I’m starting and if you have any suggestions for friends of yours that you’d like to feature!

 

P.S. Rion’s website korionfray.com also has a multitude of material for your reading pleasure including a blog about writing and several serialized pieces. There is plenty of Rion to go around. You will not regret the time you spend getting to know Rion.

 

Happy Reading/Writing!

Obligatory Cat photos:

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Advances in My Personal Book Collection (Verging on Bibliomaniac)

Thanks to my new job, I can now continue my quest to hoard books. I say hoarding because the thrill of purchasing tons of books will eventually consume my future house if I don’t prepare for it properly. At this point in my life  I probably have about 50-60 books acquired, which is not that bad by standards for writers. However, the amount of books that I have read out of that number is not as impressive. I have at least a dozen books that I have not read yet, and that frustrates me. My typical routine is that I start one book, find another that I also want/need to read, and then slowly work on the list of currently reading until I’m done with the books.

Over the years, I’ve been able to work through my reading list relatively quickly. At the same time, there are so many books out there that I don’t know if I’ll ever get to them all. Couple that with a full-time job/school and you have a recipe for an overwhelmed writer. I know that one of the most important parts of writing is constantly reading to learn vital skills. Sometimes, the reading part gets in the way of the writing because books are just so addictive. Other times, books make me want to stop reading just so I can write.

This love of books and writing has given me a future full of things to do. If I ever claim to be bored it will only be because I have forgotten to bring a book with me or I’m doing an activity that doesn’t allow me to write. Anyway, I’ve decided to share with you my recent book purchase to share some hopefully good books and get some opinions on them.

1. Devices and Desires  by P.D. James-It is a requirement for this practicum’s reading list, but it is so much more than that. My love of crime/murder mysteries is rooted deeply in my love of cliches. I foresee this book to be like greatly once I read it. Set in Norfolk, “Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, in Larsoken to settle an estate left him at the death of a relative, is drawn into the investigation of a serial killer, the Whistler” (Amazon).  I am thrilled to get this book started, but I will have to wait because I am saving it for my last critical essay. I am hoping my knowledge of crime novels will help me to make this the best paper of the practicum.

Even the cover makes me want to read it and feel the power of the Amazon women

2.The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman-I found this book after finishing my assignment with The Blackbird House. My re-connection with Hoffman instilled a desire to find more of her books, which led me to this one. A classic coming of age story following a young girl, who is destined to be the leader of the powerful Amazon warriors. Just the fact that it is about Amazon warriors was enough to make me buy it (getting it for $0.75 was even better). I am so excited for this book knowing the magical quality of Hoffman’s writing. I have always been obsessed with Greek mythology and like stories, so this will be right up my alley. It is only one of many Hoffman books I must now cross off my list.

 

The Mists of Avalon-so epic!

3. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley-I was suggested to read this book by my mentor, and in a spur of the moment I purchased it as well. When she first suggested the book I was intrigued by the subject of Arthurian legends. They are an integral aspect of all fantasy writing, so I was dedicated to reading it with such a strong suggestion. Lo and behold, I had already read the prequel to this book called, The Forest House. I read the book during my high school library escapades where I picked the library clean of awesome books.

Yet, I never remembered the title. So, going back I searched key words I remember and found the book. Then, the pieces of the puzzle began connecting. It is even more special for me to read this book knowing its connection to the prequel, which I adored. Bradley’s spin on the Arthurian legends comes from the p.o.v. the book is written. She wrote the story from the perspective of the under appreciated women of the tales. Morgan Le Fay, Gwenhwyfar, Viviane, Morgause, and Igraine all find their voice in this version of the classic fantasy.  I await the arrival of the book to get started on this epic adventure!

After I read the book, I will have to check out the tv series and A&E special on this creepy looking book!

4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman- This was another suggestion by one of my good friends from Carlow’s M.F.A. group, Colin O’Boyle, who definitely knows good fantasy/science fiction. This particular novel is focuses on Richard Mayhew, a young man who stumbles into the dark, mystical world of London Below. Without much more information than that I was hooked. I would have purchased all of his books, but I can only read so many at a time. So, hopefully this book will live up to the big name Gaiman has made for himself.

Overall, I believe my purchase has been a success. I managed to get the final book I needed for school and plenty of light reading in between. I also just finished Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card, and I am ready to move on to the Shadow Series to complete all books in the Enderverse. It seems that I have plenty of inspiration coming my way to develop my short story.

Please comment your opinions, reviews, and suggestions for other books by these authors or genres. I love hearing what people think of books before I read them.

Happy reading/writing!

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Life of A Grad Student: Not So Grand

So, a few days ago I posted about my life as a graduate student and how fun it is. Well, here is the opposite side of that coin.

Today, I sent off my first assignment of at least 10 pages of fiction.  Within 24 hours, I had a response from my lovely mentor. I was anxious and excited at the same time. Every minute of our workshop time, I was eating up every word she said. The experience and the stories she told were magical. The insight she gave into the stories I wrote revolutionized the way I looked at my own work.

At the same time, I’m constantly struggling with how well my writing is being received by those in the “biz”: published authors, professionals, and teachers. I have a fear like most writers that my stories aren’t going to be good enough for people to enjoy. But that is not important at this point because I’m just starting to hone my craft and it will take a lifetime to become a good writer.

As I open the e-mail, my mentor explains that the following notes are meant to teach me things that I will be able to apply to all my writing. I sigh in relief knowing that what lies ahead are a lot of little details I don’t know about yet. I feel like I’m back in grade school learning the rules of Grammar.  I read through  13 pages of my story, watching as my mentor solved all of the problems I had in the story.

See, I have problems putting too much detail, too much information in the  story and not moving the action along enough.  And Jane Boyer, my mentor, solved the problem for me in a few paragraphs. Now this skill of being able to know what belongs in a story no doubt comes with time and practice, which I have neither. At the end of my mentor’s assessment, she gave me comforting words that although my draft was rough, it was not the end of world. It won’t be the end of the world, I’m sure, but if I can’t learn to keep those pesky unneeded details out it will be.

The hardest part about the program is the ability to grow as a writer. I know all of the things I need to write, but I don’t know if I can write them well enough. I hate that I’m afraid of my own writing, but I guess it helps me to constantly improve myself.

What do you struggle with as writer? Is it developing a character or depicting the perfect scene? What advice do you have for me struggling with putting too much detail or others with their problems?

Always remember your purpose regardless of your struggles

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Inside the Life of A Grad Student

I have stated before that I am currently seeking my M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Carlow University. Pittsburgh is my setting for the next two years and it is an under rated place for writers.

My master’s program is unique because it is low residency in addition to studying abroad. It leaves me with a lot of time to write and amazing places to see. My first residency began almost a month ago and ended 11 intense days later. The low residency allows me to absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Eight hours of seminars, workshops, and guest speakers with little time to breathe. I learned so much I can’t even write down the enormous amounts of knowledge I have now. You might not think 11 days can teach you a lot, but when you get a group of energetic, lonely writers together knowledge flows like a fountain of wine. I can tell you that already I have made life long friends in under two weeks. It is astounding what can happen when you put people with a common interest in the same room.

As the residency came to a close, I felt sad knowing I would have to go out into the world alone and use my new knowledge to write. It was so comforting to share my ideas with people who truly cared about giving constructive comments to improve my work.

From the end of the residency until June, I have some assignments and a lot of writing to do. Hopefully, though, I can count on the comments from my readers on here to help me with my fiction and guide me until my next residency.  Tomorrow I will have to e-mail 10 pages of my fiction to my mentor and in another two weeks I will have to  prepare a critical essay from a book I’ve read. Seems pretty simple for a graduate program, huh? Well, the easy part may seem to be the lack of work. In reality, the freedom and self-motivation become the difficult parts. Lucky for me I am a page away from my assignment due tomorrow.

The book I will start to read is The Gathering by Anne Enright, which is fitting because in four months I will be getting on a plane to Dublin, Ireland. My next residency is at Trinity College in IRELAND?! Since I am not a well-traveled young woman, this trip will be the first of many adventures I will have the pleasure of taking. Thanks to Carlow’s required study abroad aspect of the program, I get to visit a country I have dreamed of seeing for my entire life.

Only 11 days of class, four books, four papers, and then  trip to Ireland. How can life get any better? Let me tell you, I am one lucky girl that I can spend my days writing my heart away and my nights comfortable in my bed dreaming of four leaf clovers and Irish pubs.

I truly am grateful for the opportunities given by this program and enjoy every second of my new life as a full-time writer. My friends, colleagues, and family get to read what I do every day and see the happiness writing can bring a person.

Besides, how can a writer not be happy with this library to look forward to?

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