"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thought Sandwich

I don't know how you bloggers do it. How can you write about just one thing per post, when it seems like all your thoughts have formed a mob in your brain and are yelling at you and waving crudely made signs that say things like, "Don't Forget your Dog!" and "Respect the Math Homework!" Both of which would be totally boring things to write about, and unfortunately they're both vying for my attention right now. So, at the risk of writing a very disjointed and all-over-the-place post, here are some of the (other) things that are on my mind at the moment:

This Book:

I am almost finished with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. And I'm conflicted about it. Seriously conflicted. Without giving too much away, let me just say that it is a little too "real" for me. It is one of those books that truly captures what life was like during a certain time period, but such raw, un-sugar coated subject matter has left me feeling a little bitter towards the world (and humanity, and men). 
But then, I think about what I like about this book. I like the friendship between the main character and her laotong, a sworn sister for life. I like the rich descriptions of just about everything, the clothing, the food, the setting. And I really enjoyed learning about Chinese culture at the time; it has been a fascinating look into an idea set completely foreign to my own, written in an unbiased way that lets the reader decide their own feelings about it. The truth is, despite the things I don't like about it, I haven't been able to put it down. I should be finished with it shortly, so be expecting a full review soon.

300 Word Essays:
I sent my Iowa Young Writer's Studio application out last Saturday. They asked for a ten page writing sample and a two page statement of purpose. After making the mistake of applying to only one summer writing program last year and being rejected, I have decided to apply to several this time around, and right now I'm working on the applications for both the Sewanee and Kenyon summer workshops. They both are asking for 300 word essays detailing myself and why I want to attend their program. Just 300 words! I know I should get used to the concept of telling a lot about myself in a small amount of space, seeing as I'm going to be applying to college next fall, but 300 words seems ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if 300 words were a thing and not a number, what would it be? Can it contain love? Or even love poems? Can it span a year, or a day, or just an afternoon? If it were an event would it be a wedding, or a birthday party, or the drive to school? And if it's not even the equivalent of the drive to school, how is it supposed to convey my love of words, or my dedication, or my personality? I don't know, maybe it will be easier than I think. Maybe the judges will see my 300 words and think, "Ah, I understand you." Or maybe not. Despite my lack of confidence in them, I suppose the only thing to do is to make those 300 words the best that I possibly can.

The SAT:
This is a big, scary topic. A few weeks ago I took my first real SAT test. We were hoarded into a room, deprived of our electronic devices, and made to sit for 5 hours (or what seemed like 5 hours) in front of a test that would decide our fate. Sort of. At least, I try not to think of the SAT as a life altering, all powerful being. Maybe if I did, I would study harder for it and ultimately get a better score- but after hearing about the competition that goes on between some students over their grades (on everything, not just the SAT) I'm kind of glad I'm not a cut throat gal, willing to push myself over the edge just to get a better score than that genius over there. Still, with all of the other stuff going on my life (mainly trying to keep myself from sinking into the interminable sea of homework that is washing up on the shore of my desk), I haven't had enough time as even I would like to devote to practicing for the SAT. I guess what brought all this on was that I just got an e-mail about SAT scores being in, and I haven't had the nerve to look at them yet. So...Wish me luck!

The Feel of a Book:
This last thing I'm going to talk about is a little quirky. Or you could call it picky, or you could call me a dreamer and leave it at that. Some girls plan their weddings years in advance. They have the flowers and the dress and the color scheme and the cake and the music and maybe even the presents all planned out (not to mention a pretty good idea of what they'd like to see in a groom). And, I can wholeheartedly say that I am not one of those girls. But, if I could plan out one aspect of my life as thoroughly as the people that plan their weddings like that, it would be the feel of my book. If I ever do get a novel written and published, I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to feel like when someone holds it, or turns a page. And, like the girls who want their wedding to be exactly like Angelina Jolie's*, I have a certain book in mind that I would totally love my book to feel like. (For those of you who know me, this will not come as a big surprise.)
The book is:

That's right, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. This is my favorite book of all time. I read it in elementary school and I love everything about it. Other books have come close, and may have even surpassed it temporarily, but I have yet to find one that makes me feel the same way whenever I pick it up. The writing is magical, the story is un-put-down-able, and the characters feel real enough to be my best friends (How I've wished that were possible!). And though I could talk about the merits of this wonderful book for hours, that is another blog post for another day. Today, we're talking about feel. I love the way this book feels. At 383 pages, it is just the right size for your hands- not too skinny, not too fat.  It's squatness makes it feel slightly shorter in width than most other books, even though it's not (I checked). It's pages are a wonderfully rich cream color and they have a nice thickness (I've never liked books with with flimsy pages). Not only that, but who couldn't love the stunning cover**, the simple, but intriguing end pages, the map (!!), and the font, which compliments the story perfectly. Now, I know Mrs. Hale probably didn't have very much say over her cover or the font or anything like that, but I must say, she really lucked out. And I'm sure, as much as I dream about the feel of my own, yet to be conceived book, the feeling of holding my book in my hands will surpass any of these silly fantasies.

But, just for fun, here's some more pictures:

* Just for the record, I know nothing about Angelina Jolie's wedding. I'm sure it was very nice.
** Unfortunately (in my opinion), this beautiful cover was replaced by a typical teen fantasy cover that I do not like at all. This dislike, however, is not directed in any way at the writing in this beautiful, beautiful book. You should read it, no matter which cover it has.
Note: Also, if I sound contradictory about some of things in this post, it's because when I write I tend to work everything out in my head at the same time, which makes it very hard to create consistent points.
NOTE: I feel I should give credit for the title of this post to a friend of mine, who thought it up during a random brainstorm session. I used it simply because it sounds cool and because I think it captures the feel of this post. Any more thoughts to add to the sandwich?


  1. Good luck with getting into those writing camps. It shows great spirit that you are trying again, a spirit that every writer needs if they want to get anywhere worth getting to. 300 words is rather short but I've heard it once said that a great man can be described in one sentence. I'm not so sure about that but it brings something to mind. Always when I am writing something that has to be short, I start with one thesis statement that is the naked idea of what I'm writing. Next I start dressing and elaborating it until I've reached the limit.

    Best of Wishes!

    1. Thats great advice! I will definitely keep that in mind when I'm writing. I'm so glad I have people out there supporting me. Thanks again for the comment!