A road too long to mention

Well, there are only a couple more days left of our time in El Paso, and then it’s the trek back to Denver. In preparation, I’ve been reading On the Road. I’m glad I waited until now to read it, actually, because his journey in the beginning of the book, from New York to Denver, is very similar to the way Patrick and I drove with our U-Haul when we moved. I can really picture it: I also traveled through Illinois, took a quick stop in North Platte, felt the excitement of getting close when we hit Cheyenne.

Then, when he’s actually in Denver, I could imagine him running around Colfax; I could relate to his friend’s basement apartment and poems about those Denver pigeons.

Of course, there’s still parts I don’t understand at all– like when he casually mentions walking five miles to a friend’s place. I’m just like… How??? Wouldn’t that take a long time?? Was this a normal thing, to walk five miles to meet up with someone? Did they just sit around waiting for however long it takes you? EXPLAIN PLEASE.

Right now I’m sitting in a Starbucks, across from a stranger who is also on a laptop. It’s crowded, needless to say. I just tried to move my foot and I accidentally nudged theirs and I died for a second.

Another thing about On the Road is the way he hops from city to city, job to job. He gives his shirt away to a fellow traveler (and later, gets it back). It reminds me of what I love about movie hit-men: if they lose their coat or their gun, they just find another one laying around and use that. Goals, man. If I could go with the flow even half as much as movie hit-men and Sal Paradise…

Oh, the stranger got up for a second. Time to stretch my legs… Oh lord. Well, at least I’m not the guy who got stuck with just an armchair in a corner.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the road trip, and to getting home and having my own pillow back, and doing some projects. (One of which, I keep joking to Patrick, is going to be the opening credits of an indie film with the song “Rights of Man” playing in the background for absolutely no reason.)

I’ll miss this city, though. El Paso makes me feel so refreshed (*one hundred sun emojis*).

Also, I slept for twelve and a half hours last night… Which I guess might have something to do with it.

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Here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten

It’s summer? I feel like one day I woke up and all the leaves were popped out and the sun was shining and my brain just made the adjustment like, “Okay, so that happened.” And now it’s so freakishly normal to resume my favorite lifestyle– the one where I never wear shoes anywhere, only carry them around to places in a half-attempt at being civilized. This summer is weird, though, because I have already been to the beach approximately five times. Despite living here all my life, I’ve rarely been to the beach at all because my dad hates germs and the city.

But now already I’ve gone on a few trips to Edgewater with Oliver to sit on rocks, eat ice cream, and watch sailboats, all as the sun sinks into the lake and we discuss such idyllic topics as trial-by-combat. Also we had a picnic there, which involved a box of wings which we devoured like mad hyenas. And Huntington twice, where we climbed a shale cliff, walked all over, climbed onto a broken chimney that was sunk in the water, waded in a creek, found a ton of beach glass, sort of got a tan, and played volleyball. (I actually hit the ball a few times. Such sporting, wow.) Also while we were there the dogwood trees were shedding their cotton like snow and it was glorious.

The nature on that beach restored me somehow. I think it’s not just the way everything looks, though there is so much there that’s lovely and interesting. But it’s the fact that I could touch everything, all the rocks, the water,the sand, the grass, feel the breeze and the sun, for hours and hours, all day long. I felt like I absorbed everything through my skin. Maybe it’s not the salt water that heals you. Maybe it’s just the beach.

And amazing books. I just read one such book called Annihilation, and then I told the entire plot to Oliver on a car ride, and then to Bug, except Bug got excessive hand motions and me shouting, “NNNOPE! NOPE!” to explain major points. When Eliza got back from work and I was still at their house, Bug mentioned that I had been telling her about a book… Eliza asked, “Oh, what is it?”
Me: *flails and falls to the ground* “AAAAUUUGGGGGHHHHHH”
Eliza: “OK, I don’t actually need to know.”

So, actually a lot more than just beach-combing and book-reading has been going on, but I don’t even know what else to say specifically. Except for one thing that was specifically not mentioned, which is: I got a car today. (!) (?) (!!!!)

It is a Pontiac Grand Am as white as porcelain. It has woofer speakers that make people give me a sideways stare at stop lights. It is almost as old as Poncho. It has shiny chrome wheels and it doesn’t smell like something died inside of it (Yay, bonus). But that’s all I can say about it for now. I’ve only had it for a day, and besides that I am tired of talking cars for the time being. It is exciting, though. And I never thought I’d actually be excited about getting a car.

Car

Oh yeah, that reminds me– I have developed a serious love for gifs. Among other things… It’s like I just discovered the internet. It used to be just a few websites to me, and now it’s a whole big thing and greatly amusing.

Anyway, I guess that’s all for now. But I’m sure there will be no shortage of new adventures to tell in the near future.

though my memory rusts, I will always see the icicle tusk.

So we were supposed to have this life-threatening winter snowstorm deep freeze thing today… but at the moment, it’s just extremely cold. Which is bad enough, okay, but seriously….?

People’s obsessions with weather used to annoy me, but then I got obsessed too. Or at least mildly interested, maybe because of my interest, always, in the atmosphere of everything. Some of the most lovely and interesting weather I have seen happens very late at night when Oliver has to drive me home and try not to crash. Fog, mist, rain, sleet, snow– movie-set snow, snow like moon dust or sand, and last night’s snow that seemed to hang in the air like fog, casting everything mysterious and white.

I don’t very much appreciate the atmosphere of danger that ice imparts, though.

Darn! I wanted a snow day, an excuse to drink excessive hot chocolate and lie around listening to records and reading books and maybe finally topping off the candles I made with Bug and Marie, which have been sitting in a box waiting patiently while I gallivant around in everyone’s Christmas break. “Yeah, you really need a break from… nothing,” Oliver said.

But it wasn’t a break! Actually, I think my brain has been more active lately than it’s been in ages. I’ve been reading every day, chewing my way through alleged classics and The Secret History (yum); I’ve been researching and gathering materials constantly for my current “Robots” story; I’ve been absorbing my surroundings better than ever, remembering more conversations, getting better at character sketches.

This probably still sounds like a break, actually, and I’m not saying that this was super difficult for me, or that any of this felt like work. But lately I keep remembering what someone in my writer’s group once said to me. She was talking about the advantages of keeping a journal as a writer, and she said that you start out just writing things down when you’re looking for inspiration, or when you’re waiting for the “grist”, as she called it. But then after a while you realize that you’re not writing stuff down while you’re waiting for the grist anymore; that stuff has become the grist. For me this isn’t all totally intentional, gathering grist– but thinking about that advice, I have become more aware of (and hopefully better at) the practice.

This probably also sounds like I’m all, “I’m taking time to focus on my Art” [*adjusts tortoiseshell glasses*], but… I did lie around a lot, too. Whatever.

oranges and lemons

So, our yearly migration ended last weekend (finally) and now I’m back in the comfort (um, relative comfort, I might say instead– as I survey the disarrayed dishes hither and everywhere) of home.

Poncho: “I want a man-sized hobbit house. Like, to legitly live in.”
Me: “Legitly? Legitly is not a word. ‘Legit’ comes from legitimate, so you’d say ‘legitimately’.”
Poncho: *blank stare*
Me: “Yeah, I know, no one cares.”
Poncho: “Nope.”

So now I am trying to think of all the things I wanted to write a blog about since Thanksgiving– but yep, the ideas have flitted into my brain and right back out again. Or, as Dad said tonight to me (as he demonstrated proper shoe-shining technique), “You have all these good ideas, and you end up dead.”
Me: “Thanks for that inspirational quote, there.”
Dodge: “That’s how he always ends his stories. ‘…Well, that guy’s dead now.'”
Dad: “It happens to everyone, eventually.”

A never-ending fount of optimism, my dad is.

Last night we ate dinner with the grandparents, and Mom started reminiscing about staying over there during the Migration.
Me: “I liked how when Poncho started watching Dr. Who over here, Grandpa said, ‘This is the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen’.”
Dodge: “And it’s not even a movie.”
Grandpa: “What movie?”
Me: “TV show. Dr. Who.”
Grandpa: “Dr. Who?”
Everyone burst out laughing.
Grandpa: “Well, what’s his name?”
Poncho: “That is the name! That is the point of the show!”
Grandpa: “I dunno. That’s some weird kinda movie.”

And then there’s “Dr. Nope”, the phrase that Dodge coined and has now become somewhat infamous among people who hear me say it too much. Any time that Dodge or I use this phrase, Mom is bound to ask what we mean. Francis always says, “I don’t get this Dr. Nope.”
The other day was no different, except that the fabulous Marie was there to explain it all.
Francis: “What does this ‘Dr. Nope’ mean? I just don’t get this Dr Nope.”
Marie: “It’s an expression. Right? It means, like, something’s just not gonna happen. Dr. Nope.”
When I told this to Dodge, he said, “Finally! Someone understands me!”

What? I don’t count as someone? Lest it be forgotten, I was the first adopter of “Dr. Nope” (and everyone smacks me upside the head and asks me why I follow in Dodge’s annoying footsteps). (Although, I might add that Dodge has started calling me “Nachos”, which I don’t think I will ever understand.)

Something else I allegedly don’t understand: 1984. I finally read it, gave it another shot… And I’m glad I did. Not because it’s my new favorite book or anything, but it was interesting and it definitely made me think. Actually, you know what, I think I did understand it (mostly… I just finished it yesterday, so I’m still kind of mulling it over). The truth is, though, that both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, in their own ways, made me vaguely depressed about life and about the future in general. Oh, not because of the state of the world, not because of the dystopian stuff– but because of the majorly messed-up relationships these characters have. I mean, come on, you guys! Some of us are young and trying to not panic.

I should go re-read Jane Eyre to cleanse my mind. Good grief.

But still. If a book has the power to draw me in to the point where, upon a big revelation, I repeatedly throw it against the couch, it must be pretty good.

One more thing… Snow! Glorious snow! And bad driving conditions, and scraping windshields, and that pale grime on everything, and cold hands while typing this. Yay, winter. (Oh, but outdoor skating! And ice! and salt and rolling in snow and every shade of brown and all the woods and soft as chalk and an excuse to drink excessive amounts of various hot beverages! Yay, winter!)

R is for Rocket

This is how I spent last night and also part of my Independence Day (who calls it that? I seriously thought the name of the holiday was “Fourth of July”; I mean… Well. I digress.): eating sticky red grapes and reading The Martian Chronicles.  And this is what my family experienced as I read:

Me: “Dude. This should be made into a movie.”
Dad: “It was a movie.”
Me: “No! It probably sucked! They probably ruined the Martians!!! I mean, if the movie doesn’t get the vibe, it has no vibe.”
Dad: “Oh…kay….”
Me: “Shh! I’m reading.”
Family:
Me:
Family:
Me: *GASP*
Family: *eye roll*
Dodge: “What? Pen?”
Mom: “She can’t hear you, she’s reading.”
Family:
Me:
Family:
Me: “Wha–? I don’t get the ending.”
Mom: “She doesn’t get the ending.”
Me: “Oh! I get it!”
Mom: “She gets the ending.”

And it was a really good ending. In fact, I liked the book a LOT. Except for a few chapters that I thought were kind of unnecessary even if they were a cool idea, like the automated house, and even the House of Usher bit– they sort of introduced the idea of “robots”– which were really androids, obviously– but then the idea never really gets carried through much. Except for the bit with Hathaway and his robot–android!–family. I’m just saying, there could have been a lot more done with that. Although maybe it wasn’t supposed to be its own theme, maybe it was actually just another piece of what I felt was the overall, underlying theme of the book: Do Not Wish You Could See Your Dead Loved Ones. Seriously. No. Because basically, on Mars, your dead loved ones appear all the time, but it’s never really them and it never ends well. I don’t know if Ray Bradbury just thought this was a cool idea or if he was trying to say something meaningful or whatever, but either way, that’s what I got from the androids and the hypnotic, hallucinogenic Martians.

I mean, there were the obvious themes, too: Who Is Really The Alien In This Situation, Go West Young Men/Humans Spread Everywhere, The Destruction Of Native Cultures, Space Makes People Crazy. But another theme I really liked in the book was the significance of memory, dreams, and perception/perspective. These are things that show up a lot in my own stories, so it was nice to know that I’m not the only one intrigued by these things, and that they don’t have to be cliche.

What was weird, though, was reading a sci-fi, spacey book from the forties. Sometimes it made me laugh– a hot dog stand? Really? And  why is everyone in this book from “farm” states like Ohio (har har), Idaho, Minnesota? Not to mention: atomic wars. Also, how come no country besides America sent people to colonize Mars? Really, the Russians are atomic-warring us on Earth in this story, but they don’t have rocket ships? I guess it would have added too much complexity for there to be other Earth nations mixed in when we already had conflict between the Americans and the Martians– but then I think, when the English colonized America, there were French, Dutch, Spanish, and German people coming in, too, and somehow that is still comprehensible. So… I don’t know. Maybe Ray just figured that since the Americans in the story were all killing each other anyway, adding other Earth people would have been redundant.

“He did not turn. He felt a cold wind blowing. He was afraid to turn. He felt something on the seat behind him, something as frail as your breath on a cold morning, something as blue as hickory-wood smoke at twilight, something like old white lace, something like a snowfall, something like the icy rime of winter on the brittle sedge.

There was a sound as of a thin plate of glass broken– laughter. Then silence. He turned.” 

I loved the descriptions best of all, as you can tell. The words had poetry. And pacing. And, as Bug and I would say, VIBES. Which is probably why I kept wishing I could somehow make this book into a really, really good miniseries or movie. The Martian costumes would be an absolute dream to create, silk and silver. Most of all, strangely, the scene I most want to make is Ylla cleaning the house on Mars. I imagine how the magnetic dust would look as she tossed it out of the window, toward the valley where York was supposed to land. I also would love to make the guns the Martians have: “From it hordes of golden bees could be flung out with a high shriek. Golden, horrid bees that stung, poisoned, and fell lifeless, like seeds on the sand.” I mean, that’s just… cool.

In conclusion, The Martian Chronicles is the most creative, original, intriguing, and surprising book that I’ve read in ages. It definitely gets put on the list of books that have changed (or at least moderately altered) my life.

Aaaaaand it was first published in 1945.

Sigh.

Also, I have realized that I’m knee-deep in sci-fi of late. This, plus watching old Star Trek episodes with Eliza and Bug, plus Poncho and I just finished watching the full fifth season of Doctor Who. ( Every single time there was a hint of aliens, Poncho said: “I bet it’s a weeping angel. Maybe it’s actually a giant angel. Wouldn’t it be awesome/funny if it was a weeping angel?”) I’ve always liked sci-fi-ish stuff (see: Lost, superheroes, The Golden Apples of the Sun), but now I am well and truly falling down the rabbit hole of no return. I’d like to make one of my new story ideas into a sci-fi, but I’m kind of afraid to take the leap. Fantasy is easy for me because you can pretty much make it up and/or manipulate the world so the weird stuff makes sense, but with science fiction I feel like I’d have to understand, say, radiation. Or, you know, technology in general.

At least I know the difference between a robot and an android. Geez.

Yours til the final frontier,
Pen

It’s beginning to look a lot like… an utter failure on the part of nature to deliver an actual winter.

All I want for Christmas is SNOW.
I will aslo accept:
slush,
sleet,
brooding gray clouds,
marrow-clenching cold,
or a combination of the above.
So, yeah, hint-hint, you guys. Better get cracking on that, because so far it pretty much still looks like October. It’s already St. Nicholas Day, didn’t you know. (And I already snarfed the chocolate coins I found in my shoes this morning. I can’t control myself around those things. Shiny! Tasty! We must have the precious!) 

Hey, speaking of preciouses, I finally got my hands on Reached, the sequel to the fab book Matched (I am pretending Book Two never happened. Although it did help me learn something about myself: I can’t handle guys with issues. Sorry, I just don’t get the whole brooding + depressed = attractive thing. I mean, Rochester has issues, and he can be brooding sometimes– partly because that’s just his face– but he’s also teasing and independent and he doesn’t give in to melodrama. And seriously, if a guy in a GOTHIC NOVEL doesn’t do melodrama, then what the heck is your problem, Ky and that soldier guy and Arthur Clennam who I secretly love anyway?)

Ahem. Back to what I was saying… I finished Reached today after getting it last night. (Basically, I behave the same way around shiny new books as I do around shiny coin chocolate. Omnomnom.) It was not as good as Matched, which I obviously expected, but it was much more like Matched than book two was. So it made me happy.
It was also so good, good, good to sink my teeth into a book that’s not a classic, that’s not an “adult” book, that’s not something I want to nitpick or something I grabbed out of desperation. I just let myself enjoy this, you know? Classics can be enjoyable, but they require work to get through– I don’t mean “boo-hoo, they made me think!”, I mean “ouch my brain why why why are your sentences so wordy, Dickens?” Time and the evolution of the English language makes reading some classics hard. (To use Jane Eyre again, I initially rolled my eyes at that book every time it said “unclosed” instead of “opened”. But then I got into it, and I loved it so much, and also Eliza wrote a poem inspired by it that used the word “unclosing”, and I just couldn’t hate it after that.) I think some people believe that “easy reading” is for wimps or lazy consumers or the uneducated mass market or whatever. But you know what? Writers work so hard to write well, to make everything correct and clear and beautiful. They forge the same sentences over and over until it’s perfect. And then– they make it so you don’t see those words that they worked so hard over. They make it so that you see only the story. It’s hard to make it easy.
Plus, wouldn;t you rather puzzle about the meaning of the story– and by extension, the meaning of life!, says the hipster on my left shoulder– than the meaning of a sentence?

OK, well, I didn’t mean to go into a rant there… See what literature does to my brain?

Anyway. Hmm.

Oh, yes.

So, the other night we were watching “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” because it was on TV. By we, I mean: Dad, Poncho, and me. We were kind of sitting there in quiet bemusement, because the movie is so weird. I never noticed how weird when I was a kid (I always liked “The Little Drummer Boy” better, anyway), but, okay. Everyone in the movie is mean, especially Santa Claus, and Rudolph’s mom doesn’t even have a name. (Also the snowman is a Communist, according to Poor Bill.)
Then Mom came in towards the end of the movie, right when there’s a big snowstorm and they’re going to “cancel Christmas”.
Me: “So this is the movie that started that idiocy.”
Mom: “I don’t know if they started it, or just jumped on the bandwagon.”
Santa: “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Mom: “So basically, Santa’s a total jerk to you until you have something he needs.”
Rudolph: Of course” (or whatever he said to the affirmative)
Mom: “Jeez, Rudolph has some boundary issues. He should’ve been like, ‘Screw you, Santa!'”
Me: “BAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA”
Later…
Mom: “I’ve always felt that way about that movie, and I’ve never been able to express myself.”
Me: “Well, it’s true. I mean, Santa never has a change of heart in this movie. He gets fat, but he’s still mean. Also do you find it weird that Rudolph’s mom’s name is literally Mrs. Donner?”
Mom: “Yeah, kinda…”
Me: “And only the boy reindeer can fly, apparently? I mean, do not tell me that all of Santa’s reindeer are supposed to be boys. There’s girl names in the song. You know Dasher and Comet and Cupid and… uh…”
Dodge: “Well, they all have antlers.”
Mom: “Girl reindeer have antlers, too!”
Dodge: “No they don’t….”
Mom:
Dodge:
Me: “BAHAHAHAHAHAHA”
(Can you tell that “later” meant “after midnight”?)

Well, then I went to help “Saint Nick” get a certain present ready. It involved funneling fake snow into a glass ornament. The brand of artificial snow was called Rainbow Snow. But I mis-read it as “Raining Snow”.
Me: “Look, mommy, it’s raining snow outside! Ahahahahahahaha–”
Mom: “Har.”

Yeah, if only it were raining snow…

Yours till the snow flakes (DO YOU HEAR ME UP THERE! I SAID SNOW!!!),
Pen

Thoughts on the Hunger Games movie. Because I can’t think of any non-obvious titles.

Well, I should post a blog. But it’s kind of like when people ask what you’ve been up to and you can’t think of anything to say until like two hours later when a million things pop into your head. Like on Wednesday, a bunch of people who hadn’t seen me in a month asked what I’d been up to. And I was like, “meh. Writing. Saw Hunger Games. Being alive. Same old.” But then later I thought, Wait– a month? Saint Patrick’s Day! Duh!

So that’s where my March went.

Anyway. Speaking of Hunger Games. It was… interesting. It wasn’t bad (expect for the faces Peeta kept making– I kept wanting to laugh at all kinds of serious moments due to his overeager facial expressions) and it wasn’t brilliant (except for a few scenes which I’m getting to) and I don’t know what I think of it in general. I guess I can say I’m disappointed because I expected to be on the edge of my seat in a sobbing mess while my brain silently applauded. What actually happened was I felt-like-everyone-was-trying-so-hard-but-it-was-not-working. Like, I kept looking at the actors and thinking “That is supposed to be a shocked face, but he looks about to drool” “That is supposed to be really sad/scary/etc” but the emotions just couldn’t break out of the screen.

Part of it may have been that the style of filming, all first-person and shaky and dizzying. I felt like I couldn’t see a thing.

Not that I wanted to see a lot of gore. I went in thinking I would have to close my eyes at parts, but I didn’t. And maybe that was the other thing that dulled the emotions– the fact that they softened the violence so that you saw nothing, or if you did see something it didn’t give you that sick feeling. Again, I didn’t want to see gore, but… I think there are various ways to not-show it, and they didn’t necessarily choose the best one. I didn’t get that sickening someone-just-died-horribly feeling that I got from the books. And I should have. When that kind of violence happens, people should feel at least a little sick.

There were some scenes, though, that did ring with me. When Haymitch sees the Capitol kids chasing each other with toy swords. Cato’s final speech. Seneca looking at the bowl of berries. District Twelve saluting instead of applauding.

Notice how almost none of these are in the book.
Notice how almost none of these have words in them.
Movies are so lucky. They can have little five-second-no-words scenes that rock you. Like in A Man For All Seasons, when he walks past the ballroom and the colors and the one guy watching… Like, books can’t do stuff like that. That’s right, movies, put it to good use! If I was making a movie I’d put in tons of those fleeting-yet-impactful glimpses.    

People have suggested that the film is made as though the viewer is, well, a viewer– one of the people watching the Games on television. Which makes me want to watch the movie again with that mindset. I wanted so badly to feel something! Even if it was “this sucks”.

But maybe, if you look at it as being the viewers in the story, feeling nothing at all might be sort of significant, too. Because I’m sure people in the Capitol, and in the Districts, also watched and felt nothing at all.

And that might be more sinister than anything Snow could cook up…

PS: Or. The answer is that Books are Always Better.
But you knew that already. ;)

Should I check my watch, my calendar, or phases of the moon?

A week ago today I went to take a test as part of the “application process” to become a page at the library. This is the first time I’ve ever applied for a job– and gotten called in as part of Round Two Eliminations (sometimes I feel like my life is one big long game show that I can’t escape…). And it’s the first job that I’ve really wanted.

After I took the test (which was basically four pages of putting numbers and letters in order, and one page of answering questions about how often I could work), the library lady said I would get a phone call whether I was going to make it to Round Three: Interview or not, and since then I’ve been waiting.

And waiting.

And also, more waiting.

I mean, she said she would be done grading the tests at the end of the week. Well, the week’s over and we’re clear into the next one. And I’m still waiting.

And I’m thinking:

I bet I’m not getting the library job. Because they still haven’t called. And I bet they called the finalists ages ago but they’re stalling on calling people to say no because who wants to do that?

But, she promised. So maybe they haven’t called anyone yet.

Besides, based on how often I said I could work how could they not hire me? Especially when I am pretty sure I did at least average on the test, if not superb.

Maybe I should have sent a thank-you note. Maybe they all sent thank you notes and I looked like the stupidest jerk ever in the whole universe.

Although I did thank her in person. I was very friendly. Doesn’t that count for something?

And doesn’t it count for something that I can basically work every single day?

Didn’t my last page scream HIRE ME I HAVE NO LIFE I WILL BE YOUR MINIMUM-WAGE SLAVE HIRE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Maybe they’re ageist. And schoolist. And meanest. So I wouldn’t want to work there, anyway.

I mean, right? How could anyone not want to hire a hard-working, flexible-scheduled homeschooler? Whose purse is adorned with an image of a book fishing below the tagline “I’m Hooked on Books”. (Yes, that button thing has been on my purse for half a decade. And yes, I took said purse to the test in the hopes that it would give off some subliminal messages or something.)

Dear Library, I LOVE books! I love reading! I love wearing a watch and a pair of glasses on a chain! I will even pretend to love your overcrowded teen section, your dimly-lit study area, your nose-picking nerd patrons who swear profusely! I will dutifully and cheerfully report to work and go about my tasks– well, I would say skipping and whistling, but of course a library is a hallowed, quiet place of learning and literary pursuits!

Just…. HIRE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

a slightly sarcastic library letter

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear sentries of knowledge, dear keepers of treasured volumes, I beseech you.

Please sort your teen section.

I am an avid reader and frequent patron of the County public library system as a whole, and of the Brooklyn branch in particular. What I have found during my forays into the so-called “teen” fiction section is this: there are so, so many books marked “teen” that should not be.

I must express my intense frustration at the categorizing of many of these books. In the publishing world, there are categories called “Middle Grade”, “Upper Middle Grade”, and “Young Adult” (also called “YA”). Note that nowhere is there such a word as “teen”, for the simple reason that it does not work. Specific age does not determine what a person reads; reading level, intellect, and personal maturity do. There is no way to categorize such things, because it so vastly varies from person to person.

Now, I do see the benefit in having a label such as “teen”. Lots of people fit into it. It sounds “cool” (note my use of quotations here to convey my disdain at this notion). Besides, those younger than YA will happily glide into a section marked “teen”.

That is just the problem. I am on the older end of YA, and do not enjoy having to sift through innumerable titles that seem plucked from my fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade bookshelves. Instead of feeling welcomed and relaxed in the section of the library allegedly set aside for my age group, I feel foolish, forced to browse through titles written for people four years younger than myself. Again, I must stress that it is the personal which determines what one will/won’t read. There are certainly enough mature thirteen-year-olds out there, but they will naturally read ‘ahead’ of their years— whereas someone like me is bothered by books that are too young for me being labeled as for my age group.

This is why I propose—nay, beg—the separation “teen” and “YA”. Vaguely aged and/or Upper Middle Grade could be put into a “teen” section, and books for older teens/young adults into a “YA” section. At the least, they need distinctive stickers on their spines. I feel that this will make things clearer for everyone, while also easing and enhancing the browsing experiences of your youthful readers.                                                                                                                     

Yours Most Sincerely,
Pen

…and I could smell the milky moon and the hardness of stars.

The above title is the last line I read last night before I went to sleep. From Ray Bradbury’s The Rocket Man. I really don’t care for space, or rockets, or anything of that sort, but I like The Golden Apples of the Sun and the many stories contained therein. The Exiles is my favorite, but I also like The Murderer and There Be Tygers. He generally has a good writing style, and sometimes he comes up with a line or two that I can almost taste. Such as the one I mentioned above. It’s like literary M&M’s.

I’m really jealous of him, though, for having the ability to write so many short stories– enough to make a book out of. I’ve written maybe three short stories, one novelette, and I’m in the process of novelette #2. Novelettes are UNSELLABLE, I tell you. I just spent the last hour and a half scouring websites of small presses, literary magazines, agents, whatever– and guess what? White Funeral fits nowhere.

Leave it to me to write completely outside all acceptable forms and genres.

Now, I know that Apricotpie is… well, “Apricotpie”, as the DHFs and I say. (When we want constructive criticism, we say, “Don’t be Apricotpie”, because AP tends to give great encouragement while lacking the critical side. Which is not a bad thing; when you’re in the middle of something, you sometimes need a group of people cheering your story on unabashedly.) But anyway… I still wonder, How can all these people think that White Funeral should be published, and all these people really like it, and yet no one will publish it? Just based on length, they won’t even look at it.

I don’t understand why novelettes and novellas are so apparently unaccepted. Sure, they’re not mainstream, but maybe they would be if they could actually get published. Maybe it would be nice to pick up a thin volume once in a while. To read a story in one day, in a few hours. To pick something up and read it, the core of a story– only just enough background, just enough characters. Short plots can take twists, too, you know; and maybe not every YA fantasy has to fit into the same cookie-cutter mold of 80,000 word tome.

Even the Comic Sans publisher guy won’t accept anything shorter than 50,000.
That’s just depressing.

And literary magazines? Well, their guidelines are even harder to follow. Most of them want the quirky, the strange, the offbeat– which, you’d think, perfect. But the storyline of White Funeral is pretty straightforward, not weird enough, not cutting-edge or contemporary. It’s only the format, the length of it that’s bizarre. And besides, there are about 3 YA literary magazines. Wow. Great odds there.

I’m about to give up. 

Except not.

Because I still have some faith left in White Funeral. And a lot of faith left in readers. Real people in the real world want good stories. Period. 

At least, I hope so.