A happy Saturday to you! I hope you're somewhere cozy because the weather outside's getting pretty frightful.
With any luck, I am currently bumbling around Yorkshire in a town called Haworth, near Keighley (maybe I'm even wandering the moors, I've always been enchanted by moors.) I've been posting more than usual, so allow me to specify this as November's Round Robin.
Topic: Tell when you either performed or received a random act of kindness that made a difference.
Something very shocking has befallen me these past two months. Back home, on account of some of my friends' observations, I thought I had, for lack of a better phrase, a resting b@!$% face. If you haven't heard of this before, it means your resting expression is not a very kind-looking one. You probably sport dead or narrowed eyes and a frown; a generally talk-to-me-and-you'll-die-slowly expression, even if you're actually quite chill and happy on the inside. Even this summer, I was really confused and excited about something and my friend told me that she originally thought I was furious.
However, while walking to class or to the library--even around Beeston, town just a ten-minute walk from campus--I've been stopped and asked for direction no less than five times. Maybe even six; I've lost count. But, me! This sounds like a weird thing to get excited about, but this applies as a two-way act of kindness, performed by me and the person stopping me on the street.
The funny thing is, I'm an exchange student who's never stepped on English soil before, let alone this campus, so during 80% of the encounters I had to direct them to someone else, ogle confusedly over their map, or just shrug, apologize, and wish them luck because I had no clue what they were looking for. Most of the time, the person asking me was also an exchange/new student who only knew slightly less than I did. A few times I knew where to go and happily pointed the way, but I was so happy that they thought I looked kind and able enough to flag down, especially because I know how awkward and semi-frightening it is to catch some stranger's attention and ask them for help. Maybe I looked like a native. :)
Okay, so this wasn't any grand act of kindness; sometimes being nice doesn't have a grand outcome like saving a person from a burning building or rescuing a band of cheeky orphans from a runaway train. Has anyone helped you out lately in a way you greatly appreciated? Have you done anything particularly nice lately? (December is next month, so I imagine everyone's on their best behavior.)
Feel free to check out these other authors who've decided to share their experiences!
I was originally going to post this yesterday, because November 14, 2015 was the one-year anniversary of The Christmas Lights, the first book (okay, novella) I've ever published! And a whole lot's changed from last year. However, yesterday I woke up to friends and family making sure I wasn't in Paris, because if you saw last week's post you saw me in front of the Eiffel Tower. Two days ago, Paris was targeted in a terrorist attack culminating in the deaths of over one hundred people. I didn't think it was prudent to throw up a celebratory blog post while I was shaking and reading news articles about events happening in a place I'd been just a little over a week ago.
So, I might not be as peppy as I'd planned to be (I even wanted to maybe make a video or my own GIFs or something), but I do want to mark the occasion because my life has drastically changed since I got that "WELCOME HOME!" email from MuseItUp Publishing.
First off, I was a wee college sophomore, not the wise junior I am today. I was also at my college home in the States, trying to juggle 20-page papers on Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi, presentations on John Everett Millais, editing my book, and surviving the winter winds of New York State. Now I'm currently sitting in my dorm in Nottingham, England. I've seen works by Leonardo in the Louvre, visited castles and ancient manors, mastered British public transportation, eaten my body weight in scones and drank my entire body's water percentage in tea/coffee/cocoa, worn my duvet like a comfy cloak and sat on the floor to devour A Game of Thrones, stood before the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and made friends from literally all corners of the globe, and even been to Sherwood Forest (that's where I was yesterday, aha!).
I've learned a lot. And, writing-wise, I've improved tenfold.
I still cringe a tiny bit that The Christmas Lights is the first thing I've gotten published. Very rarely do I write flat-out romances, and when everything began to roll into motion, I wondered if I'd have to defend myself. It was...such a girly thing. Romance if often not taken as seriously as other genres for some reason. It seemed like something I'd be mocked for, and I was anxiously I'd be somehow pegged as a romance writer and all the stereotypes that go with it. The Christmas Lights has tons of adventure and the romance is sort of the string that sews the whole thing together, however, and none of the nightmares came to fruition. Nobody cared what kind of book I wrote, really. They were just jazzed that I published a book.
I still remember my dad's excitement when we made/ordered posters and I brought some with me to my college: after emailing one to the library so my book advert would flash across the two large televisions above the main staircase, my friend and I ran around the academic buildings, giggling wildly about movie adaptations and book signings as we taped up posters in the English department, the town library, the town museum, and every bulletin board we had access to. I was so proud to be part of Muse that I ordered a Canadian hockey jersey (their home base is in Quebec) embroidered with a 14 for 2014, with Muse It Up in place of a player's name. It's hanging in my closet back home, and you can bet I'll be throwing it on as soon as I get through the door, because Muse also signed me for THREE OTHER BOOKS. (Okay, two novels and another novella.)
I write. A lot. Which is good for a writer, I suppose. :P Final exams are approaching like a freaking herd of wildebeests, and because I'm an exchange student that means I have to do essays instead of tests so I can be home in time for Spring Semester. It also means I've been up to my eyeballs in scholarly sources and writing about Richard Parkes Bonington, Master of all things Watercolor, widows and courtesans during the Italian Renaissance, and John Sell Cotman for whom, apologies, I haven't had time to do more than pick up sources.
But almost a year ago I got real antsy and sent Muse three manuscripts because they said, once you were published, you could just send them the entire shebang with query letter included. So I sent them (A) Nicholas, a novella-and-also-2013 (I think??)-Christmas-gift-for-my-mom about a redheaded Londoner who steals stories, (B) Shubiao's Girls, a novel about family secrets, Chinese mouse spirits, college and best friends, and (C) Serpents and Flame, the first book in a trilogy I started when I was like 14 and nearly completely reworked because I loved the characters too much to let them rot away in young-teenage-me plot lines.
Then, bursting with excitement on what Muse might say, I waited. And waited. March came, and I waited. College ended and I went to my summer job building semi-truck engines. Still no word. I finally built up the courage to ask if they'd received my manuscripts (I thought that was more polite than writing WHAT DO YOU THINK?? AM I TRASH?? I AM TRASH AND YOU DON'T WANT THEM DO YOU?? I'LL NEVER PUBLISH ANYTHING AGAIN....) and one of the ladies who runs it said, yes we have them, ;). She actually put a winky face and I was dying inside because I had no idea what that meant. A couple weeks passed, however, I got spammed with three "CONGRATULATIONS!!" emails, and my mom burst into tears on our back porch when I told here.
The contracts have been signed and now I play the waiting game until all the edits and fun things like cover art start to happen! Two poems and a short nonfiction piece I wrote are also going to be published by my home campus in our literary magazine. I've come a long way from the girl who thought, "Oh, I should make a website AFTER my novella gets published, because otherwise what will I write about??" and firstly made a Tumblr thinking it was the same thing as an actual writing blog. It's been a crazy transition. Now, I've really got to go because I'm meeting friends at a coffee shop in like half an hour so we can decide where to backpack around the UK after classes end. I'm going to fight for a trip to the Giant's Causeway and Stonehenge. :)
Paris is like a whore. From a distance she seems ravishing, you can't wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. You feel tricked.
Wow, okay--small apologies for the dark quote up there, but it applies perfectly to what I'm going through right now.
I watched the animated film Anastasia when I was two. Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart was a song that, pardon the pun, I embroidered onto my heart. It made me dream of walks on the boulevard. Paris was beyond a dream. It was scarves, Vespas, pain au chocolat, baguettes and croissants. It was coffee at bitty cafes and I cannot tell you how many times I ached thinking about the Louvre, or the Eiffel. I vowed to teach myself French and filled a sketchbook page with To-Do items. (Truthfully, the phrase "Parlez-vous anglais" saved my life a million times over.")
Five nights ago, I hopped a bus from Nottingham, England, set for Paris, France. My stomach squirmed with excitement. My brain wouldn't function correctly, viewing everything like a hallucination.
Last night I slammed into my university dorm, exhausted and thanking the powers that be that I had finally (finally) escaped the City of Light. I highly doubt I will ever visit again; that's where the story begins.
I actually had nightmares both nights while I was in Paris, about Paris. I was so vehemently disappointed. Disillusioned. Which sounds melodramatic, but really? I FaceTimed my mom back in the States and replied with "It was okay," when she asked how visiting the Louvre was, how seeing Notre-Dame was.
I said OKAY. Not "mind blowing," "phenomenal," or just a primal squeal because eloquence was lost in my excitement. I was at the horrible point where you realize places are just places. The Eiffel is just a construction that was never meant to last this long.
Dark, right? Past-me would've slapped present-me across the face for saying something so sacrilegious. But...where was the music in the streets? The art? NOTTINGHAM had more public art than Paris! Graffiti was immensely popular, but rarely was it beautiful. The most disturbing thing was that I felt so angry that I considered ripping Paris entirely from the story I'm editing. The city was not nearly as quirky and enthralling as I'd thought. It was quiet, every building looked the same, you got lost easily, it was really cold, there really wasn't anything to do once you visited the big monuments...I spent two full days there with a friend, and on the second afternoon we stayed inside and watched Arrow. I told this to my mom and something like insult crossed her face.
In my novel, Monet Evanesce, Paris is a beacon for art forgers, a place of art nouveau, of fashion, and culture, and just...magical. The Paris I saw was lackluster, expensive and...boring. Maybe because it's November? Maybe we were in the wrong section? Sure, it was nice, but it was a dull counterpart to the Paris in my head. Yeah, I know the saying about building stuff to unattainable status in your head, but everyone said Paris was a dream. By the second day, I was burning to flee back to England. We switched coaches in London, and I watched the Thames sparkle in the dazzling light of the skyscrapers, glittering off hotels like the Dorchester, early holiday lights and buildings so various in their architecture that they looked like something from a fairy story. London was more like the Paris in my head.
I'm thinking the blame lies with the fact that I'm American. I expect cities to be imposing, demanding, artistic, burning and busy. Paris was sleepy. I was startled to see maybe a hundred people at the Eiffel, no more. The Champs de Mars was borderline empty.
HOWEVER. Yes, there is a "however." Now I have all sorts of information to fact-check in my book. I know that Parisian taxis are a godsend compared to US city ones. I now know how many Parisians speak very little English. I know how their museums work.
I also know it's an author's tendency to varnish over places and make them too good to be true.
Sorry for the dark outlook on this post. I just thought it was really interesting and necessary to discuss for writers. Has this ever happened to you? Has a place defied expectations or made you totally spin a one-eighty on your opinion?