"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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Life Jealous

Comic by Mark Stivers

Sometimes, I just want to live someone else's life. Specifically the people I admire most. Successful writers, my favorite Youtubers, people who I think are more beautiful or smart or funny than me. That's not to say I sit around all day and mope about how terrible my life is, but sometimes the feeling is strong enough that it scares me a little.

I call it being life jealous. For those of you who haven't experienced this before (which I find rather hard to believe), here is a quick definition of my own making:

Life Jealousy: The overwhelming desire to live someone else's life. I'm not talking about wanting someone's wardrobe, or wishing you had a cottage by the lake like they do. This feeling is characterized by a desire for another person's job, friends, family, and experiences. Sometimes it gets so bad that you find yourself wanting their problems, too (because hey, they're bound to be better than yours, right?).
Note: This often leads to the thought that if only you could become more like them, your life would be magically imbued with the potential for awesomeness.

But the truth is (and this is a hard thing for me to come to terms with, too) that these people you admire so much for their spunk and creativity, and for whom life seems to come so easily, would probably laugh at you if you told them you thought they had a perfect life. No one's life is a piece of cake. No one is spunky or creative all the time. Everyone has bad days, and everyone deals with their own bouts of life jealousy.

When you're caught up in the fantasy of someone else's life, it can be hard to see your own with an unbiased eye. But when you think about it, (and I'm going to get kind of cheesy here) our lives are already imbued with the potential for awesomeness, and when we find it, our own potential, we won't need anyone else's.

So let's think about who you're life jealous of. Most of mine are listed in the People Who Rock My World post I did back in November, but I have one addition: Robyn Schneider. She's a writer, fashionista, and generally an all-around beautiful person. Oh! And she's friends with some really cool people, like Kaleb Nation and other great YouTubers. Obviously getting over my life jealousy is still a work in progress, but I'm trying to see them as role models and not people I constantly compare myself to. Let me know in the comments if you've experienced this and who your role models are!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: The Keep

Creepy me with creepy book!
I finished The Keep by Jennifer Egan over a month ago, but I haven't really been able to formulate any coherent thoughts about it until now.

Here, in all its glory, is the Goodreads plot summary: Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation. 

Great premise, right? I picked this book up because it wasn't the kind of thing I normally read. I mean, I'll read just about anything so maybe that's not the best descriptor, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not usually into the whole mystery/horror genre. I am, however, fascinated by old European castles.

But that's the thing about this book: It's hard to describe. Yes, it's creepy. Yes, there are funny bits. Yes, there is some mystery to it. But just the simple combination of those feelings isn't enough to tell you how I felt when I closed it.

Let's start with the narrative structure. This book is really two stories in one. The first is about Danny, a guy who travels to an unnamed country in eastern Europe to help his cousin renovate an old castle. He's a bit quirky: He must be connected to the internet at all times, and he has kind of a sixth sense when it comes to finding wireless internet access. He wears eyeliner and is very attached to a pair of lucky boots. I really liked his character and he's definitely one of the most unique narrators I've read in a long time. The second story is about a prisoner who's enrolled in a creative writing class. He too is interesting, but almost more interesting are the people who are in jail with him, especially his roommate Davis, and Holly the creative writing teacher. The stories are told in alternating chapters, with Danny's in 3rd person and the prisoner's in 1st. And then the reader realizes that the prisoner is actually the one writing Danny's story.

Once that happens, things move along very quickly. The setting is just plain awesome, and the keep, the stronghold, seems to loom over you through the entire story. Secrets come out, alliances form, and everything speeds toward a heart pounding and very surprising climax.

The two things that bothered me about this book were:
a) There were a couple rather significant loose ends that weren't really tied up.
b) The last chapter is basically a short story told from the POV of a minor character. The last few pages of Danny's story left me feeling so emotionally raw, but that feeling was lessened by the add-on.

Overall, I suggest you read this book for the feeling you get when you finish it. It's the type of book that leaves you staring up into the darkness, ghostly images and words still echoing in your mind. That's why it took me so long to write a review of The Keep. It's hard to distance yourself from it, even after you've read the last page.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Most Rewarding Moment

This will have to be a quick post because it's late and I still have homework to do, but I couldn't move on without posting this:

This evening I went to the awards ceremony for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. I won a regional Gold Key for my Senior Portfolio, as well as a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts award, which were both huge honors. I got to christen a beautiful new dress by wearing it to the event, and it was all around a wonderful evening.

One of the best parts, though, was meeting one of the judges who read my portfolio. After I described a couple of the pieces in my portfolio (since all the judging is blind, she wouldn't have known which one was mine), she told me that it was one of the best portfolios she read. She went on to reference a specific story and told me it felt like she was standing in a bookstore, reading something she'd picked up off the shelf. I kind of stood there numbly during this praise session, a huge smile on my face, as it began to dawn on me that this woman was my first reader. What I mean by that is she was the first person outside of my friends and family and critique partners who had read my work and was telling me, in person, what she thought. The whole time the only thing I could think was, "This is what it must feel like to be an author." Somehow this little interaction felt like the beginning of something larger than I expected, like some aspect of the writing world I haven't experienced yet was waking from its long slumber, arching its back, coming to life. It's that relationship between reader and writer. It's that feeling that your words have touched someone, and the realization that your story resonated enough that they would want to share their reaction with you.

And that, above everything else, was the highlight of my evening. Of course I'm grateful for the tangible awards I received tonight, but as for the most rewarding moment, that one has to be it.

My dad and me were all smiles tonight