TWIP: Recollections from a Twenty-two-year-old Art History Student (or, My Love Affair with College)
(TWIP: This Week In Progress)
When I was eighteen, a visiting college rep laughed in my face when I said I wanted to study Art History. She did the whole shebang--quirked one eyebrow, the air catching in her throat before she tossed her head back and blasted out a guffaw. This was not what eighteen-year-old me wanted to hear, and after brushing off the shock that an adult would treat my interests with such contempt, I promptly broke down crying in the dead middle of the senior hallway.
It's 3:25 in the afternoon four years later, and I can look back on that memory and laugh. Or, at least offer up a half-smile.
Eighteen--when the American school system expects you to decide what you're going to do for the rest of your life while also not preparing you for it at all--seems like such a young age now. I was a child! Eighteen! I didn't have any friends who weren't white and at least pretending to be religious; I'd never questioned my sexuality and I didn't even own a car. My world was a small space and I was determined to bust out. I was also incredibly arrogant about my 'worldliness' compared to my peers. I was "fluent" (by small-town standards) in two languages, daydreamed about far-off places, loved Shakespeare, knew the history of the Taj Mahal, and read National Geographic.
Fast forward to August when I cut my hair and stepped foot on a college campus, majoring in Art History and French in hopes I would have a third language under my belt by the time I was a senior (so old! Twenty-two was ancient! A true adult!). I was thrown flat on my face with the exhilarating yet frustrating realization that I was "small town worldly" and, here at college, nearly everyone was as smart as I was or far, far smarter. My hair grew shorter, I got that car, I dated, I drank, I traveled. For the girl who grew anxious driving fast on the highway and stoutly declared she'd never drink much because alcohol "tasted gross", I wonder if my high-school self would properly recognize me. I suffered what I came to realize were anxiety attacks. I worked my butt off and got into two research assistant-ships. I published two books and contracted five more; I got accepted to two grad schools and fell in love with theater again. (The summer I was fifteen, I looked into going to Juilliard for Acting. My parents kindly told me to please add a back-up major to this. I still love theater and would love to be in a play someday, but writing pretty much filled that gap.)
College, I write with oozing sentimentality, has been the best four years of my life, and I mean it wholeheartedly. Yeah, parts of it suck--crippling bouts of loneliness where I'd cry in the shower, apartments with no heat, and stress where you'd want to clamber to the roof of the campus library and curse the heavens--but so much has matured me. Friends whom I'd never have met in my hometown have helped me grow and laugh and love. I've been sadder than I'd thought possible, but I've also felt happier than ever before. I feel more positive about my body than I've ever been, and my interests, because at college lots of people accept diversity and you don't have to simply go with the flow. The world is bigger than I ever dreamed it could be. I've been to New York City, Peru, England, Ireland, Scotland, and France. I've wandered the ruins of priories in the icy rain and stuffed my face with macarons after climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower. I've watched Ghibli movies in a Queens apartment with one of my best friends, staying up late after seeing Aladdin on Broadway.
I am not the person I was before I left for college. I'm not even sure I'm the person I was a year ago. I'm stronger, more ambitious, more open-minded. I'm more content. I never got that French major, but I can mumble in French, Italian, and know the Greek pronunciation of Cyrene (which is very applauded by scholars, believe you me).
After college ends and I have to cry my way home, I'll spend the summer working at a bookstore and then be hopping a plane to London for UCL's Masters program in Museum Studies, a program my professor urged me to not bet on and not get my hopes up for. It's for a whole entire year, and I know I'll become the biggest patriot I know and miss home terribly, but it's an incredible opportunity and I'll be living in the clouds as well. Getting the acceptance email was pretty much like getting kissed on the mouth and sucker-punched in the stomach simultaneously. Living abroad is something I'd dreamed of all my life; actually achieving it was a bit of a shock.
I mean, my sister and I used to spin my dad's old college globe and stab a finger down to figure out where we'd travel in the future. For a girl who wanted to be Indiana Jones when she grew up, calling UCL's Department of Archaeology my soon-to-be home is something worth cheering about. But for now, I'll stay sitting in my college apartment, oversized hoodie from study abroad keeping me warm, listening to the crack of pool balls wafting in from the bar next door, and enjoy this whole senior thing while it lasts.
(TWIP: This Week In Progress)
Forty-nine weeks ago (according to Instagram, because my moleskine from that time period is about a hundred miles away at my house), I had just plunked down in Nottingham, England. Since then, it seems I’ve been in a state of tumult. Not bad tumult, but tumult nonetheless; like I'm being hurtled through a bunch of fascinating things and I can't quite focus on a single one.
In Nottingham, I was overloaded with adventure and culture saturation. I climbed towards ancient Scottish priories in the rain, dyed my hair purple, and succumbed to drinking tea when, for literally months prior, you’d catch me making leaf-water/Boston Tea Party/Revolutionary War jokes. Then I returned home and got slammed with junior year work, acclimating back to more stoic professors and the intense American school system. Summer appeared in a blazing rush and I got hired at a wonderful, semi-elite bookstore while also working as a paid (!) research assistant. And now here I sit on a carmine-colored couch in a very white apartment usually filled with some really great girls. My eyes ache (I had to switch out my contacts after Ancient Greek Civilizations), I’m itchy with sweat because my apartment exists on the third floor, and I’ve drunk alcohol on two different occasions already.
It’s only Wednesday.
Yesterday, I was headed to the library to get some Spanish packets highlighted while thinking, "I can grab Costa after this. I can't wait. I love Costa coffee!" Only, Costa exists at Nottingham, not here at my college, and Nottingham is some 3,000+ miles away. I paused for a minute, just a little confused as to where I was.
It probably didn't help that my bookstore job wasn't too taxing on my brain and now I'm operating at maximum usage.
What I’m trying to say is, a lot can change in a year. And my life only seems to be going faster. So I just needed to write it all down somewhere. Expulse my thoughts between trying to not lose my temper at John Locke’s long-windedness and planning my senior thesis and
accepting another research assistant job. Gotta pad that résumé.
Also, I just drank a mug of coffee, finished it, and an oddly Gollum-like thought of MORE slunk through my mind. This is gonna be quite the semester.
A new story idea scratched at the inside of my skull a few hours ago and I’m trying really hard not to scare it away. I bought plane tickets for New York City this coming January to visit my friends just as I promised freshman year; I’m applying for graduate schools next year (London and Edinburgh are looking especially dashing).
On the very plus side, Nicholas is being released this winter (you can read the first chapter here) and possibly even my first published novel, Shubiao’s Girls. Nicholas started off, as my other novella, The Christmas Lights, did, as a Christmas present for my mom. I feel no shame whatsoever of buying into the cliché of a charming London thief. I feel like everyone should write about London thieves at least once. Or any thief, actually.
Nicholas was adapted from a loose plot of a book I wanted to write called Jamie’s Mercy (still really proud of that title). Jamie was a teenage pirate with a one-man sailing ship and a penchant for wandering rooftops. Mercy was a headstrong bishop’s daughter who discovered a treasure map on a document in her father’s church, which brought her to the attention of loads of loathsome ruffians. However, for whatever reason I couldn’t create more than that (and even now it raises questions such as, ‘Aren’t bishops celibate? Should she be a nun or novice-nun, then?’)
And so, I nipped up Jamie and switched his name, dropping him in Westminster, London, into the vague eighteenth century, and let him loose. He quickly stole stories from the top of a palace tower and discovered the very strong Crown Princess—the teller of the stories—was soon to fall into a plot almost as dark as her tales. Nicholas is much more “fairy-tale” than my other books: hence the princess, and a villain who is only referred to as “the duke.” I didn’t feel the need to let the read in on his name. He was too despicable; too hateful of his title—for why would a king’s twin brother be merely referred to as a duke? Some love lost there, I assume.
I’m eagerly awaiting cover art and the Final Galley for Nicholas and cannot wait for people to learn about him and HRH Alexandrina.
I’m just realizing now that this is a bit long, and think I’ll gush about Shubiao’s Girls a bit later, perhaps in a week or two.
Hope everyone's weeks are manageable!
Writing is a really weird profession. You live your normal life and then out of the blue--some random fake people catch your attention and you have this whole story in your head you have to see through to the end.
I haven't had any fake people tap me on the shoulder recently, which gives me an odd sense but also allows me time to juggle the other 1,001 things going on in my life. Round Robins are sort of my only source of literary release because otherwise I'm chipping away at being an art history research assistant (the type of writing and editing that really, really hurts your head but it super interesting), and working at the bookstore, so I always perk up when Rhobin sends us a new theme for the month:
Topic for July: What makes a novel memorable?
1. The characters
Duh, right? I mean, of course. But I have to point this out. I've read plots that are superdy-duper amazing, but the trope of the "I'm not like the other girls" girl who's borderline mean and don't need no man really turns me off. That's just one of a handful, for example. The characters carry the story. If they suck or irk you, no matter how five-star that plot it, you're going to drop it like a hot potato.
Take Sir Percy Blakeney ("Sink meh!" [oh, you've never seen the 1980 film with Anthony Andrews and Sir Ian McKellen, either?] It's okay, I only saw it two days ago and it's not as amazing as the book) from The Scarlet Pimpernel, for example. (What, say you? You've never read this? Get your hands on a copy, now, say I!) I really adored his character; and not just because Batman and 007 are apparently based off him. One, yes, he's this suave, golden-hearted Brit who dons ridiculous disguises to save aristocrats from the French Revolution. But two, he also plays himself off as an idiotic simpering fop, so much so that a French agent catches him at a rendezvous point for the Scarlet Pimpernel and doesn't suspect him for even half a millisecond. Also, his secret symbol/signature is a little red pimpernel (a wildflower, seen above).
Characters can catch me because
I relate to them (Lady Jane in My Lady Jane, Clay in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore)
I am afraid of them (Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel, that horrifying monk guy or any of the antagonists in The da Vinci Code series)
I want to be friends with them (Razo, Finn, Enna and Ani/Isi in the Books of Bayern series, literally everyone from Harry Potter)
or they're so cool I'm just really impressed with them (Magnus Bane in the Mortal Instruments books) etc., etc., etc.
I'm such a fan when plot twists surprise me; when the writing is so ingenious and imaginative that my eyes rush to follow along. I'm thinking of The Night Circus and its fetes of magical tents and experiences, or even Water for Elephants because, whoa, August was terrifying and I really wasn't sure how all that was going to end up. If I can tell what happens next, it gets kind of hard to finish the book. Complex story lines are also really exciting.
4. The Emotional Range
Did I snort, roll my eyes, or actually laugh out loud? Did I weep and my face get so puffy that my college room mate had to ask if I was alright? Did I get so nervous that I may or may not've skipped to the end of the chapter to see if the main character was okay--and then my heart jumped because they weren't? I don't think I've ever done all of these for any one novel, but eliciting a physical response out of someone looking at a piece of paper is always impressive.
5. And Lastly, Beautiful,
Sometimes I simply moon over the writing style. I just started Everyone Brave is Forgiven and I got a little heady. Chris Cleave, the author, could be describing a bag of chips and I'd probably have to fight a swoon. The same with All the Light We Cannot See (hint: I'm a sucker for WWII books). I don't know why certain combinations of words have such a more profound effect on me than others. But when an author uses similes I've never dared dream of, or describes something so clearly that yes, I am in that London garret in 1939 holding that freshly cooked jar of jam while one of the characters says something I've always felt but never had articulated into words....I'm blindsided by the beauty of it.
Alright, enough of me muttering. What about you? Favorite book? Character? Something you read that absolutely enamored you? Toss me a comment and then follow along the list to see how these other authors feel!
Dr. Bob Rich
"Write what you know." -- Mark Twain
“The more you know, the more you know you don't know.” -- Aristotle
"I know nothing." -- Jon Snow
TWIP = This Week in Progress
I'm kind of nauseous just typing this write now, and I'm going to tell you why. I would love to admit it's because I'm hard at work on some gripping novel, but the truth is it's Finals Week. And finals are hard. I literally exclaimed, "Oh, I is smart!" while editing a paper maybe 40 minutes ago. I'm at that level already. Yesterday I spent over five hours creating a study sheet, and another hour today finishing it. I fixed up a 21-pg rough draft on the cultural uses of Central Park this morning that my professor viciously edited but now I come off sound pretty darn smart. Why am I bothering to write about this?
Because I know what I write.
Okay--pause. That sounds dumb. What I mean is, I'm really thankful for what I'm going through right now, because it happens in my books. And you know what phrase, "Write what you know"?
I heard that phrase when I was very young--I mean, like when I was twelve and I was first realizing I wanted to be a writer. Since then I've heard people who preach this and people who want to hop in a time machine in order to murder whomever first said it (Goodreads says Mark Twain. Watch your back, Mark). The point is, I took it to heart, then rejected it. If you only write what you know, you're going to have pretty limited options. Now, I take it as I make sure I know what I write. When I wanted to write about a faux Degas artwork that was hiding a real, unknown Monet, (Monet Evanesce, a novel hopefully coming out in 2017) I did tons of research that even included going to the National Gallery in London. That was unintentional, but I went so far as to buy a book solely on Monet and stumbled across a version of Le Gare Saint-Lazare, where I quickly went into cardiac arrest and died because I never thought I'd see the painting that plays a key role in my novel in the flesh (or, canvas).
And, speaking of, my main character, Apollo, gets under an indescribable amount of stress while he's planning the largest art forgery ever attempted--to the point where he nearly has a breakdown and buys coffee and alcohol in bulk. I almost suffered a breakdown (okay, maybe like two) this semester, and that was just because of college. It kind of threw things into perspective for me and I almost wonder if I should have him more on edge.
And so, at first I was really bummed this semester because I've had no time to write. Well--I had time to write forty pages' worth of information on gender studies and Central Park, but no fake stuff. That was really hard for me to deal with. BUT--aha!--I forgot one of my novels coming out, Shubiao's Girls, takes place at a college in Massachusetts. And the main character is a college junior, as I am now. And she gets incredibly stressed, as I am now. She also has a mouse spirit attached to her, stealing her life as she sleeps, but that's a different story. I have all this personal angst and fatigue now that I 110% understand where my MC, Cara, is coming from. Now whenever I get my edits, I can compare what I imagined with what I felt this semester, and that's kind of exciting.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to stagger away from my laptop and return about 10ish books to my campus library. Wish me luck!
I have just sent off my first round of edits for Nicholas, which is beyond exciting. Since December 2014 or early 2015 maybe when I sent my publisher a handful of manuscripts for novels, a series, and a novella (Nicholas is the latter), I've been kind of languishing from the wait. I received contracts August of last year, performed a happy dance, and then the waiting game began.
Well, more or less. I wrote a whole new novel about art forgers in Paris, NYC and Poland and sent that to them as well, but then since college started up again in January I've kind of been hanging out to dry. The superhero story doesn't want to write itself, and college has been pretty stressful. Then--this past Sunday, I got edits!
I hadn't written anything in months, and diving back in was kind of overwhelming. I was at school in my apartment, and started on a day when my Intro to Hispanic Lit class was canceled: I edited half the novella in one day and had no idea where the three hours had gone off to. I also realized how much I loved editing.
Nicholas takes place in early 1700s England, on an alternate timeline where the Palace of Westminster never burned down in the 1500s and turned into Parliament. I hadn't touched the Word doc in over a year, and had to regain the feel of my characters. It was like getting in touch with old friends. It was a little fuzzy as to whose character traits were whose, and I actually found shadows of future characters buried in the text.
Editing is like getting your characters ready for a job interview. The editor takes a look and maybe your main character has a couple traits that don't sync with his backstory or need further explanation (like Nicholas is a thief, and my editor asked me point blank why he had a moral compass; I explained that he'd been forced to attend a Christian boarding school when he was very young and, even though he ran off, the values stuck with him). The editor sweeps through your writing and point out things you never noticed, because you've run through the manuscript 12,000 times and it all blurs together, things like:
a.) oh, God, you wrote the word "as" or "but" five times in the same paragraph
b.) you really enjoy explaining where people are looking/gazing/peering/squinting and you really should mix it up with the body language
or, the ever pleasing
c.) yo, hon, you have a really weak scene where the villain finds out who's helping the princess. I mean, he could tell who it was based on some eyes he saw peeping through a portrait? Skilled man, that evil duke!
But I love it. I thrive off it, and usually my editor tells me to expand on a scene as often as she tells me to drop others, so the story always emerges for the better.
Editing is like brushing stray hairs off your character's jacket, smoothing their shoes, adjusting a tie. They go from begin a rabid little though in your HP laptop to--bless--a grand stage. They get cover art, and blurbs, and page numbers and--the best of all--you get to introduce them to people. Recently, a man in Cairo, Egypt, read The Christmas Lights and rated it on Goodreads. It blew my mind that someone thousands and thousands of miles away met my characters and now knew their story.
Lately I've been doing lots of little snippets and mood boards/character studies on my Tumblr. Everything on Tumblr about my writing can be found here. It's my main outlet for my more silly, creative side with my stories.
No word on a set release date, or cover art, yet, but once I get word, it'll be all over my social media. :3
TWIP: This Week in Progress
(alternately titled I Think I'm in Mourning and Maybe Spilling My Feelings Here Will Cleanse Me)
Six months ago, I thought there was nothing bad with study abroad. I was actively editing a book that now has been contracted for e-publishing (!!!!). I did not know who Anakin Skywalker was. If you handed me a packet of tea, I would've hotfooted it the five minutes down to the lake and tossed it into the water. I also was not exactly interested in American history.
I was so innocent. (melodramatic time? Oh yeah.)
One, I never thought about after study abroad. There was never any point. Who cared what happened after? I wrongly assumed that, like a rubber band stretched or an ear plug squeezed, things would revert no worse for wear. So nobody explained that going from weekends spent wandering art galleries hidden inside castles, lounging in tea houses, and partying in clubs or pubs literally set in sandstone caves to living in a small town where the college students work out or get wasted to relax and having homework that's reduced me to tears once already might, possibly, send me into a bit of a shock.
It sounds really stupid, but I didn't realize how much study abroad would change me. That studying abroad wouldn't fill the desire to travel I carry around inside me; it would rip it open into a hungry void, reminding me that there are so many places left to visit, and so little money and time for me to put towards it.
I've been home for a good two months and now mentally equate my time abroad and its aftermath to a romantic relationship: it was something new and wild and carefree that ultimately ended up with a separation, complete with flashbacks and a haunting of my waking days. I mean, I don't think a day's gone past when I don't slow a little, thinking of it. Someone's laugh reminding me of a friend's I left in England, my law homework reminding me of a friend who was at Nottingham to finish her law degree, drunken laughter outside my window similar to that I heard outside my housing overseas.
Maybe study abroad spoiled me; I don't know. For the last eleven days I was in England, I backpacked with three friends across Edinburgh, Dublin, Bath, Oxford, and London. It's actually these days that haunt me the most, because of the sheer adventure of it all. We slept in hostels, sharing rooms and tables with Germans, New Zealanders, and Brits alike. Up at dawn, our feet and the Underground moved us until we stumbled back after light had left the sky. We would make a cup of tea--
OH. Yeah. I drink tea now. Me, the one who told countless Boston Harbor jokes before I left, who only went to a tea house because I wanted to try afternoon tea. Now, I drink it to relax and when it's too late for coffee. I'm considering...now get this...purchasing a kettle. Past Me would grab Present Me by the shoulders and demand, "Who are you??" It's such a cultural thing in England, though: once I even saw a boy walking down the street with a ceramic mug, sipping it and chatting with his friend.
After we'd made our tea in the public kitchen, my one friend cracked open her laptop and showed me Star Wars. The premiere was happening when we were in Dublin, and blissfully innocent me was like, "So what on earth are those about, anyway? What's the hullabaloo about?" Because people were going crazy. One night in Bath, we popped into the common room and found this New Zealand guy streaming all of the movies in chronological order, and we came in halfway through the first prequel, I think. I was half-watching, half-on my laptop, and asked if Luke Skywalker and this new kid Anakin were brothers. My friend explained that Anakin was Luke's dad and I nodded. Then, when Anakin started turning a little shifty, I slammed my gaze from my laptop screen and remembered the only quote I'd ever heard from the movies. "DOES ANAKIN BECOME DARTH VADER?" I yelped, proud of my deduction. The room (now crammed with ten people) went dead quiet, and one girl whispered, "Such innocence."
I still haven't seen the third of the prequels, or the third of the originals (I know, shame on me), but I was reading the Lunar Chronicles a couple of nights ago and legitimately thought, "Ah, hmmm....so is the Lunar gift sort of like the Force, then?" and I was so ashamed that I texted it to my mom. So, anyone reading this who has seen Star Wars and read the Lunar Chronicles, please share your thoughts on the matter.
Lastly (this is a long post, but I'm ranting, remember), a certain sold-out musical about a certain founding father has been sort-of/not helping me be productive lately. In Oxford, the same friend who showed me Star Wars introduced me to the musical Hamilton, and I've been listening to it ever since. It's extremely catchy and deep and sad and hilarious, so I'll listen to it to pump myself up while doing homework, or while I'm drawing. And it's not easy to focus on new story ideas while someone is rapping about debt plans and torrid affairs and duels, just saying. On top of that, I have really strong memories of running around Oxford and traveling on the train to London whenever I listen, because that's where I first heard it.
I just needed to write to get this all out of me. Hopefully I'll be feeling less...not depressed, but wistful about study abroad now, and not so surprised about my new interests. :P I'm not even that big on the Star Wars movies, it's just how interesting the concepts are. Plus the new movie was amazing. And I kind of want a light saber. Plus tickets to Hamilton. But neither of those things are probably going to happen, so hopefully I'll go back to writing about exciting things instead of moping about them!
If you survived until the end, thanks for hanging with me. :3
Oooh, this is my first post in three months that's been written in the United States! Alas, I've been home a whole six days. No more Nottingham. No more attending a top 1% uni in England. :( To be fair, I did royally wear myself out climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, trying on old clothes in Bath's fashion museum (also the city where I crouched on a horribly stiff bean bag in a room with ten-ish of my fellow hostel guests and watched Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and therefore began my journey of learning the plot/watching all the Star Wars movies), exploring Dublin's cathedrals (just the outside because it was too expensive to go in!) and sitting in a bitty cafe called a Bit Out of Life (it's right down the street from Saint Patrick's Cathedral and it's warm, the food is cheap and amazing, and when my friends and I got up to leave a waitress blinked and said, "You're still here? You should be outside, exploring all those places on your map!"). I visited the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the National Portrait Gallery AND the National Gallery all in the span of maybe ten hours, and that's what brings me to the topic of this post.
Up an inch or two and to your right, you'll see the cover of Simona Bartolena's Monet, a Masters of Art book I found for just under ten pounds in the gift shop of the National Gallery in London. There were also ones on JMW Turner and van Gogh, but as I wrote a book that features Oscar-Claude Monet, I spazzed and bought the one on him and stuffed it deep into my backpack to take home to America and read at my leisure, a sort of fact check because all the info I used for Monet I got from...no one hurt me here...online. Especially Wikipedia.
Wikipedia was my amigo, my close comrade, my bosom friend while writing the first draft of Monet Evanesce (currently in it's...maybe third round of editing?) perhaps six months ago. It's the bane of public school teachers who nearly shook us by our shirt collars and vowed that Wiki lied and it was not a reliable source. A college student now, I took my past mentor's tongue lashing with a heavy grain of salt and a high level of aversion to lugging more reference books from the library than I already was. Who exactly were the Impressionists? What years did they operate? What works of art have been stolen during the 1900s, and from where? What is museum security like? How much absinthe can you drink before it's lethal? Let's check Wikipedia! These were all things I've wiki'd for my novel. No kid.
So I used the mighty W as my teacher, and now had this handy, and might I say, scholarly reference book in my hand. This morning I cracked it open while my sisters and I were making quiche, and started laughing as the crust browned in the oven and we sat at the kitchen table. Everything I'd written, all the facts....were correct. All of them! I'd been bracing myself for some serious plot holes, some horrendous rewrites, but Wikipedia proved very well informed. I'm not saying Wikipedia probably has some pages that are horribly, laughably incorrect, but mine weren't. I also learned a lot from Bartolena's book, fleshing out the bare skeleton of a man I'd read a couple web articles about. I also feel like a detective when I do book research, which is really dorky but it's so fun.
For example, I learned Monet painted TWELVE copies of Le Gare Saint-Lazare (Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, France), the painting one of my main characters forges. It's extremely crucial to the plot, and it just so happens to make everything easier since there are so many copies. In the late 1800s, it would've been much easier to pass off a painting when there were very similar yet unique versions. The one Wikipedia provided me with is below and to the left; at the National Gallery last Tuesday I saw the one on the right. Obviously different, yet done by the same person. Oh, and Bartolena's book offers close-ups and little bios on the pieces.
Wow, this was a long post. Apologies for that. I just really wanted to spread the word that Wikipedia's rap isn't as shady as public school portrays it, and I don't feel nearly as bummy as I did before for just looking something up real quick online! Whether writing or just for curiosity, have you ever found something utterly ridiculous on Wikipedia? I heard a rumor once that a school class wrote a paper on Stalin and, having used Wikipedia, turned in papers on how he was in a secret relationship with Adolf Hitler. That was probably a lie, though! Writers--do you spurn or embrace Wikipedia? Take it's facts with a grain of salt?
Okay, this miiight become a once-a-fortnight thing or once every month, because college class comes cracking down this Monday and I don't see myself doing anything terribly fascinating that would translate well to a post. HOWEVER, this week I
*learned the ABJECT HORRORS OF SHIPPING
*got to fulfill a forgotten childhood dream of FEELING LIKE AN ABSOLUTE PRINCESS
*realized that the answer to anything in Nottingham is most likely "ROBIN HOOD"
DHL shipping: a haiku
Wha--where's my stuff?
Angry enough to set whole
cities up in flame.
For those who don't know, DHL is when you pay a ton of money for your stuff to get shipped extra fast and extra securely. Japanese poetry set jokingly aside--I realized it sucks to know some of your most personal possessions are in transit, especially so when they were supposed to arrive nearly a week beforehand. It became clear that my packages were sent to the wrong place and I had to haul them myself, in my arms...and still have the bruises to show it. Customs tore open my stuff, and so did a different UK border control. Though they have every right and it was surely a routine check, I don't know why some plates, a coffee maker, scarves, hats, coats, and bed brickabrack warranted such treatment. And whoa, when I had to carry it all the way to my dorm...my full hell-hath-no-fury-like-an-exchange-student-scorned, I'll-kill-you-just-by-making-eye-contact anger strut propelled me like someone possessed. However, when I popped open the boxes and made my teeny tiny bed with my own quilts and fired up my coffee maker, I was incredibly relieved.
Speaking of coffee maker, I'm always kindly vocal about tea. I mean Boston Harbor, 1776, leaf water...I could pee myself teasing about tea. When I was younger, though, I was the girl who had her own china tea service, who practiced how to pour just so, to ask, "Cream, or sugar? One cube, or two?" in the perfectly hospitable hostess tone. Or I was a princess entertaining guests; my cousin and I would hold tea parties with water and fish crackers, my dolls would make plans over tea...you get the idea. So, ever since my emotional clinginess to all things related to the coffee bean, tea fell into a new category. For one thing, I'd tried some and hadn't expected the bitterness compared to a cup of joe (it sounds wrong, I know. But coffee isn't bitter. It's...intense). Really...it tasted like hot water; like someone had scraped some leaves off the ground and thrown them in a pot.
Today I went into a tea house called the White Rabbit; a shop with spectacularly nice workers and an atmosphere I can only describe as adorable. Everything was cute: the colorful fabric flags hanging from the ceiling, a hand-sponged rabbit/garden wallpaper, the teacups painted with yellow roses....goodness, I was in heaven. If a princess had stopped in, no surprise would've shot through me. Even the tables and chairs were small, to invite close company, I'm guessing. Ordering 'afternoon tea,' I drank white tea with rose and pomegranate and yes, it tasted like fragrantly boiling water until I gulped down the dregs and winced at the bitter, leafy tang. But it was the experience: I felt so happy to be in a cheery tea house, eating scones with clotted cream and jam, macaroons, and nibbling prawn sandwiches. I've never had scones before (yo, God bless whoever thought up scones); where I come from people drink tea out of mugs and only in the mornings or after a very hard day. It was a pocket-size and fluffy place and I think I'm in love. I might order a cappuccino next time, but I'm in love.
On to Nottingham. Robin hood's home turf. Holy green tights, he's everywhere here! Inescapable in a good way. If I got stopped by any rogue on the street heading home from the tram, I could probably spit "Robin Hood!" and they'd let me go and rear back at the sacred name. He graced statues, plaques, advertisements, pub names, museum exhibits, artwork, bus lines--I even saw kids wearing his trademark cap and wielding those arrows with the suction cups at the ends that always end up stuck on someone's forehead on TV. So now I really want to watch something Sherwood-related.
Scratch that--I want to throw on a tunic and scramble up a tree to join the Merry Men. Let's be serious, now. Ever since I saw the Nottingham Castle walls I've kind of been preoccupied with sword fight scenarios and sneaking into places.
What about you? :) Have any of you been to Nottingham? Do you love tea houses? Never been to one? Tea or coffee?
Well helloooo!! Obviously this is not a Round Robin, which is basically the only thing I've been doing on here since I MADE my website. So I'm trying out something I made up called "This Week in Progress." I've been doing a lot of new things lately, including temporarily moving to Great Britain AND signing contracts for two novels and a novella. But back to Britain--WHUH? MOVING?!
Normally I live in New York, USA, where there are beautiful swaying cornfields and country music with twang, and go to college at a SUNY college (which I'm having withdrawals from, ahhh!). BUT since December I wrote 12,458 emails and stressed enough to give myself permanent under-eye moons, and now am currently sitting just off campus of the University of Nottingham. Yeah, like the Sheriff of Nottingham? Sworn enemy of Robin Hood? I watched the movie with Kevin Costner when I was applying, and royally freaked out. Yes, there is jet lag, and confusing product names, and ACCENTS I have no prayer of understanding, and nobody knew what I was saying when I asked were the "carts" were at the grocery store, but I saw a castle today AND have had insane ideas and insights for writing.
In an art-historical-con-adventure WIP I'm editing, Monet Evanesce, the MC goes from Switzerland to NYC on a moment's notice and bums it in an abandoned apartment (ARGH, I almost wrote 'flat.' MY BRITISH METAMORPHOSIS HAS BEGUN)--I took three flights to get to Heathrow, London, and arrived with five hours of sleep from twenty-four-plus hours of travelling, all my clocks were wrong, I missed my bus and I was starving, but one of my main thoughts was "Oh yeah, I totally had his emotions down for that scene!"
Jet lag is weird; it's been two full days and I'm JUST pulling out of it. Before, I wasn't hungry and was extremely exhausted, lonely, and overall messed up. I couldn't draw, write, or even open Monet Evanesce to edit. It's like I was empty. THEN I started walking around, and signed up for a Ghost Walk underneath the city, and today a new friend from Seattle and I found Nottingham Castle, stopping afterward to eat at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, reputed to be the oldest pub in the England. I'm still majorly weirded out that I'm allowed to buy/drink alcohol here and classes don't start until next week, so this week is party week (ugh, no thank you, really), movie festivals, tours, fiestas, buying school supplies, registering for class, getting our lives together, etc.,etc.
Coffee shops here, thank God, are pretty abundant. I hate tea (tell no one this). All my bedding, mug/plate/bowl, cold-weather-gear and *sheds tear* coffee machine got held up in customs and SHOULD be here by tomorrow, but I'd found a place nearby called Bean that makes a mean cappuccino and looks like the sort of place I'd love to do homework and maybe even write.
My mind has been compartmentalizing all these interesting things I've been told or have overheard, just cultural things I didn't get back in New York:
*there are bird that LOOK like crows but have white bellies and wing tips; they are very pretty but apparently are magpies and attack bikers/walkers. Sometimes environmental ignorance can be really dangerous...?
*people will assume things based on your religion such as alcohol drinking/swearing. I wasn't using any profanity with this boy I just met, because it's rude to swear in front of someone when you don't know their preference where I come from. The boy patted me on the shoulder and went, "Look at you, not swearing. Good honest Catholic." I took the compliment, then explained I wasn't nearly as strictly religious as I seemed.
*"A CROW NAMED SINCLAIR": Doesn't that sound like a book title? The girl I rode to Nottingham with worked at a zoo for five years and knew a lady who'd befriended a crow. She'd put food out for him and so he'd come right up to her every time because they have facial recognition. Just a quirky thing that would go well in a story.
DOWN STEREOTYPES: a boy I met was born in Canada, has white-blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin and a very Brit-European accent, almost American at times, but he's lived in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai, China, and loves to speak Cantonese. Like, wow. That made me realize people from the other continents travel a lot easier than Americans can. Two New Zealand boys on our coach bus to the University came up through Vienna/Germany and Prague before getting to the UK. One of them warned, "No! Remember what happened in Prague!" to the other when we got dropped off at the wrong place and he started to wander off.
I still don't know what happened in Prague.*
*(It did make me think of The Avengers, though.)
*KIND-OF-TRUE STEREOTYPES: Uh, yeah, lots of British people do say "You alright/okay?" instead of "what's up" or "How are you?" which was kind of jarring because I wanted to say, "Fine, thanks!" but that doesn't make sense unless I say "I'M fine, thanks." They also say "love," "bless," "brilliant," and are generally very polite. I missed my stop on the tram and had to stand in the dark with a man fixing the ticket kiosk, and he asked if I was alright, if I was a student, where I was from, and chatted with me so I wasn't awkwardly standing by myself. And the tea section in the grocery store? HUMONGOUS. The smell of tea leaves smacked me full in the face, and it was all packaged!
Basically, it's really nice because I'M doing the adventuring for once instead of writing it...and it's almost as exciting! Luckily my edits for my contracted books won't come for a bit so I can handle the culture shock, soak up Europe and MAYBE even edit while I'm here, but we'll see. I'm sort of learning to say "yes" more and so far it's led me to seeing pretty sunsets over boating lakes and wandering outside a castle. :)
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