Tag Archives: Master’s program

Day 9: 12 Days of Blogmas

Another more relaxing post for Blogmas.

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Blargh Little children brainssss!

AND ZOMBIE SANTA!

This is a post with fiction!! Fiction from my manuscript Dollhouse Daughter!

I know my minions will be excited to get a glimpse at some of my well-revised work that, not to brag too much, has its merits. These two scenes are from the prologue and gasp! were both written via prompts. The fateful semester with Janice had many positives, one of which being that almost every single prompt I was given I used to write new content for my manuscript.

This is unlike what most writers use prompts for as the likelihood that taking almost completely unrelated items such as prompts which can vary from: use these set of words, write; here is a setting and a set of rules, write; here is the beginning five words to a sentence, write; here is a picture, write.

I was writing a YA novel with magical realism (specifying in vodou) and all of my prompts could have been way off base. I could have had: write a story set in a western ghost town, use this picture of a spaceship and write, etc. All of which would make my job, to write and make the writing relevant to my work in progress incredibly difficult.

In truth, I was just lucky. They were aptly detailed (not too much, not too little) and I was able to quickly write scenes I needed rather than nonsense I would never use. These two scenes were the most emotionally satisfying when used with the prompt. Shown below are the prompts that inspired the scene and then the scene. Enjoy my lovelies!

1.Bathrooms. Marion Winik (wonderful author that was a guest for our program) mentioned the fear of writing bathrooms, and now we shall tackle it. Also, read the link to help understand the use of bathrooms for characterization.Part of being a writer means having to ground your reader in the characters, which may require them using the bathroom. Your prompt is to write a character in or using the bathroom.

From the outside Azalee’s weathered one-bedroom apartment looked like a garden shed. Cracked mortar held the faded bricks into place, and the roof lost patches of brown shingles as a man might lose his hair in old age. Azalee stood in the cramped bathroom stark naked as she stared at herself in the mirror. She hated this bathroom, so claustrophobic and meager. There was only enough room to fit a toilet, a porcelain tub, and a smudged mirror with chunks missing from the bottom of the glass. Through the screen of the porthole window, the traffic outside her apartment blared up to the second floor where she dressed for the evening.

The bare light bulb reflected the dingy yellow of the walls onto her skin, which left Azalee feeling dirty even after she turned off the light. She warmed the sweet smelling cocoa butter in her hands before massaging it into every dimple of her trim abdomen and shoulders. She took extra care to rub the stretch marks and the scar protruding down her empty womb. Every time Azalee touched the incision, she could feel the ghost of the child stir inside her as if it was still alive. Her lips trembled as she whispered the unborn child’s name.

“Johanna,” her thick accent slurring the consonants together. “My Johanna.”

She brushed away tears from her cheeks and moved to the porcelain tub filled with more herbs to cleanse her legs and feet. Fresh sprigs of mint floated in a few inches of lukewarm water along with halved limes and sage. She used a small blue mug to pour the fragrant water over her legs, and let out a sigh of contentment from the warmth. Just as she picked up a towel, she heard sharp knocking from downstairs.

She quickly rubbed herself down and dusted herself in a mixture of cornstarch and cocoa before adjusting a backless red blouse and pulled on a pair of slick leather pants. Azalee flew down toward her apartment door as another knock echoed through the front hall. When she opened it, Jean knelt before her on the stoop as a knight would honor his queen. The pedestrians ignored the scene, hurrying home before the chill of the rain seeped through their coats and into their bones. She kissed her dark-skinned lover lightly on the forehead and he followed her silently into a dark alleyway.

2.This prompt was simple. Write using an abstract concept (like eternity/courage/love) or animals. I chose animals.

The chatter of bones pierced the comfortable silence of the quaint Georgian courtyard. Azalee threw the contents of a velvet pouch with force into a decorative wooden pan balanced on the brick walkway. A white robe concealed her street clothes in keeping with the traditional Vodou attire. She had only a few minutes to complete the ritual of reading the bones before the energy from the lunar eclipse would fade.  Azalee peered intently at the odds and ends mingled with the bleached animal bones, clenching her hands into her lap because the loa wouldn’t appreciate such nervousness coming from a priestess. She calculated how each piece had landed next to one another, letting the flow of the reading guide what answer the loa would give her.

Her lover gently grasped her shoulder, giving his reassurance, despite the growing fear in her heart. It was at the will of the loa that she would find purpose again. A reason for her sacrifice. An explanation to why her daughter was taken from her before her first breath. With the reading complete, she returned the bones to the pouch, and cleared her thoughts to meditate. The clucking of their offering, a black hen, also soothed her nerves as it bobbed back and forth along one of the paths. Jean returned to the recess of a nearby alcove, waiting for his part in the ritual—spilling the blood of the chicken as an offering to the gatekeeper, Papa Legba.

A cup of black coffee steamed beside her even in the blistering humidity, and brought a sense of comfort as Jean offered the hen and her blood to the loa. The rich scent of coffee had muddled with the coppery tang of blood and Jean retreated to his drum and began to play behind her. The scents took her mind away from the distractions of modern life. She no longer heard cars honking across the road, the glare of the street lamp, or the taste of her lover’s cigarette smoke still on her tongue. Only the offerings of the ritual and the soft drumming remained, leaving her open to the will of the loa.

“Cassandra,” the wind called once more that day.

She turned to see Jean in the passion of the beat, seemingly unaware of the voice in the wind. With the voice came a vision, although this one was not as clear as what she’s accustomed to seeing. She saw flashes of books, a head of white blonde hair, and the pale, almost translucent skin of a young girl. The face was concealed from her, but the emotions that accompanied brought her out of the vision and caused a heart-wrenching cry to escape her lips. Jean stopped drumming and ran to her, checking her pulse and brushing her braids out of the way. Tears streamed down her face and yet Azalee had reason to smile.

“The loa show me our future, Cheri. There is a girl that we must find. A girl we will deliver from a life of pain and who will deliver us.”

Azalee thanked the spirits again for their guidance, setting the bowl of chicken blood before her as the offering. Jean knelt beside her now, not speaking, simply allowing her prayer to guide them in the right direction. To the girl named Cassandra.

 

I hope you enjoy this little glimpse at my first novel.

Happy Reading/Writing!

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Academic Update: The Fears of My First Residency

Isn't this the cutest piece of truth you ever did see?

Well, so far I have tackled the residency, and I am knee deep into the first practicum of the program. All in all, I am having a wonderful time learning about the craft. It’s not that I am unhappy with education I’m getting. Instead, I am frustrated with myself for not being “as smart as I need to be” while writing. I understand and respect the need for criticism. It is the most helpful tool for professors to give to their students.

On the positive note, I have passed the dreaded Integrative Essay, my first fiction submission, and my first critical essay. I should be ecstatic that I didn’t fail, considering there are only three options: fail, pass, pass with distinction. Somehow, I can’t get over the feeling that just passing is not enough. I know, it’s a Master’s program, it’s more difficult by design. I should be proud of my accomplishments, but I’m not. Maybe it’s the perfectionist inside, striving towards the pass with distinction. Maybe I’m afraid that my writing isn’t good enough. It’s a fluke and I managed to squeeze by until now. All of these concerns are racing through my head as I read my mentor’s criticisms.

However, it is making me feel considerable more helpless about my skills. I’m not as confident in my own writing anymore because I feel like I am losing my ability to write well. The one time I am shown how to vary sentence structure, and I become paranoid about it. Are these sentences fragments? Does this comma go here? Should I end this sentence in this? All of these questions are being answered, but not correctly by my own brain. Grammar and sentence structure should not be the criticisms I’m getting. I’m a native English speaker in addition to enjoying the language. So why is this so damn hard to accomplish?

Sometimes I feel like Jack from The Shining-crazy with nothing good to show for it

Then comes the ego, when I begin comparing my flaws with the others in my group. In my mind, I’m convinced they don’t have these problems. They can’t be suffering from the same ailments as I am. When we move up to more difficult mentors, what happens when I can’t provide the pass? Will I settle for pass rather than strive to get that “with distinction” or will my writing actually improve with practice?

With all of these questions, I barely have room in my head for my writing. Hopefully, after spilling the beans on here I will have the courage to try again. I want to work harder, make myself a better writer, and show the world the ideas I have to offer. I’m just praying that these fears are normal. I’m not crazy over critical because other students have suffered like this.

What are your fears about your writing? Do you struggle with imperfection or attempting to improve your writing? How do you cope?

I know that I may be afraid of what I can and can’t write at the moment, but I will force myself to start writing again. I might take a break, read for pleasure ( I still have the rest of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 to finish), and then come back to my writing with new confidence. I just hopes my confidence doesn’t take too long to find its way back.

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