"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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel Log: 30,000 Ft, 6:40 am

I am writing this from an airplane headed for Chicago. Actually our final destination is Cleveland, Ohio, but we are switching planes in Chicago. I’ll be visiting two colleges, Kenyon and Oberlin, and I thought it would be interesting to document the people and places that I encounter. So, I guess think of this series as one long “From a Writer’s Notebook” post. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures!

This morning my parents dragged me out of bed at 3:45 am. I had a bagel and iced chia tea for breakfast, and then it was out the door and off to the airport. I find airports fascinating, especially when you are there early in the morning or late at night. You can always tell who’s having a bad day, who didn’t get enough sleep the night before (seems like that applies to everyone these days), who’s traveling for business, sporting events, musical gigs, or just for fun. Even with the constant activity, airports have always seemed like large, lonely places to me. Everyone’s detached, all of them going separate ways. I like to imagine them completely empty: no security, no coffee/gift shop employees, no bag checkers, flight attendants, maintenance workers, or passengers. With people, airports are really just buildings you walk through to get from one place to the next. Without people, they are just empty shells with only a vague memory that anyone passed through at all.

This morning however, the airport was crowded with interesting people. A few of the characters I saw were:
- A twenty-something who was dressed in a sweater, black skinny jeans, and leather boots. She was carrying a broad rimmed black hat, and a vintage leather bag. Her hair was done up in a cylinder-like shape  on the top of her head, and she had an air that said, “I’m anything but mainstream.”
- A middle aged man in a white v-neck and khaki shorts, with a gold chain around his neck. He was talking on his phone and I overheard him say, “If I get a chance to go to the LAX candy store, what did Sarah say she wanted? I’ve already forgotten.”
- A mom with two bright pink suitcases, a pink outfit, and a little girl dressed in pink, too.
- An Asian woman boarding the plane with a musical instrument case under her arm. 

When our plane took off it was 6am, and the world was still dark. We rose above Houston and the lights stretched out beneath us like stars. Now it’s almost 8 o’ clock, the sun is up, and according to the pilot we’ll be landing in Chicago shortly. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Road Less Taken: My thoughts on social media

Being a human is hard. Compared to other species, our existence is so much more complicated than eating, sleeping, and making babies. We have relationships and careers and hopes and dreams. We spend innumerable moments pondering questions that we know have no answer, while at the same time deciding what to have for dinner. One of my favorite quotes of all time, from (I believe) one of the best books on writing ever written, puts it this way:

"Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautifully, or full of wrinkles. We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. At the same time we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and all winters we are alive on the earth. We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded."- Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones. 

This, I think, was one of the original goals of social media. It was meant to give us a place to record both the mundanities and the mythologies of our everyday lives and connect with the things that are important to us. While I think it still does this to a certain extent, I also think that it is quickly becoming a substitute for real relationships and real intellectual thought. Summarizing our ideas in a tweet or Facebook status makes us consolidate our thoughts. It causes us to move from one train of thought to another too quickly, without actually thinking deeply about what we are saying or absorbing from others. That means shorter attentions spans. It means jumping to conclusions, and not taking the time to consider sides before spouting our opinions to the world. And that brings up another problem. There are so many people out there who are doing this. They are all interesting people with thoughts worth sharing. But by trying to listen to all of them at once, are we really listening to any of them? 

I've been reading a lot of blog posts lately about people who have become discontented with social media. I don't know if I really fall into that category, and I'm not sure I'd  be willing to delete my Twitter or Facebook accounts just yet. But what I do know is that we need to start learning how to listen to people again, and how to start thinking deeply about what we put out into the world. We are human beings and we have complex thoughts and feelings. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to fit "all sorrow and all winters" into 140 characters.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Perks of Being an Author

Everyone talks about becoming a writer because they love writing. And I mean really love it. For most people who call themselves writers, writing is something they will do no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. Even if these hypothetical people are flipping burgers or working as lawyers or dog trainers or astronauts, chances are they are still finding (or trying to find) time to write. But let's face it. Not everyone is happy with just writing. Most aspiring novelists hope and dream that someday they too will join the ever coveted realm of the Authors. 

Texas Book Festival 2011
I feel this wish (with a burning, soul crushing intensity) every time I am in the presence of an Author, especially a group of Authors. Being in their company just makes me want, more and more, to be one of them. Over the years I've written on this blog about attending events in which Authors congregate, such as the Texas Library Association Conference (where I got to meet my idol, Shannon Hale), and the Texas Book Festival, which you can read an account of here. And yes, I write first and foremost because I love it with all of my being. I will always be a writer, and I will always write. It's like a part of my identity. But despite loving what I do, part of me feels like I won't ever be fully happy until I become an Author. Here's why:

1. Community: Authors are a very close knit group. Case in point: I was watching an old Youtube video today in which John Green was having a writing party with Maureen Johnson and Scott Westerfeld. In another he was talking about how Libba Bray had managed to break both her elbows and how that is totally something that would happen to her, as opposed to oh, I don't know...Sarah Dessen? The only thing I could think while watching these videos was, "How do you know all of these awesome people?!" and  "I would break both my elbows to be part of the company you keep!" 

2. Lifestyle: Besides being awesome and getting to hang out with awesome people, Authors have it pretty good as far as work goes, too. Sure, the actual writing part can be stressful and demeaning to the point where they probably want to burn their manuscript by the time they're done with it, but I like the fact that they can work in their pajamas if they feel like it. No dress suits and high heels for me! Give me a cup of coffee, a comfy chair, and a computer with a word processor and I'm the happiest girl in the world.

3. Readers: Almost as much I want to belong to a community of Authors I also want a community of Readers. I want to get mail from people who have read my work and who will ask interesting questions and tell me honestly what they think. I want to sign copies of books for anyone who's willing to take them. Most of all I want to know that there are people out there who have read my words and been moved by them.

Sounds pretty great, right? Of course it does! One of the reasons I wanted to write about this topic is because I am attending this year's Texas Book Festival in late October and I'm super excited! Just getting to spend time surrounded by books and Authors is a wonderful feeling, and while hopefully someday I will achieve Authordom, right now I can be happy by simply being in the presence of intelligent, compassionate people who write fantastic books.

'Till next time, and thanks for reading!