"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, October 11, 2014

Letter to October #11

Dear October,
      Here are some of the things I did today:

1. Wrote words.

2. Had pumpkin cake for breakfast at my favorite coffee shop.

3. Listened to several podcast episodes.

4. Finished reading First Light by Rebecca Stead.

5. Wrote more words.

6. Talked about Paris, cats, and music videos over dinner.

7. Watched one of my favorite movies ever, for like the millionth time. (Ever After - Oh, 90s movie trailers how I love you)

Extra Thoughts:
-First Light was really good! It's a middle grade book about two kids from separate worlds: one is a boy visiting Greenland with his scientist parents, the other is a girl who is part of an ancient civilization who have build a home for themselves deep under the ice. I've read one other book by Rebecca Stead, and each time I am blown away by her writing. It is beautiful in its simplicity, and she is one of those rare children's book authors whose prose feels effortless, as though someone is just telling you a good story. I enjoyed this book just as much now as I would have when I was ten, and if you're up for a good adventure story with endearing characters, I highly recommend picking it up.

-I actually didn't write as much as I had hoped for today, but I'm trying to teach myself to be happy with new words, now matter how abundant they are (or aren't). Most of the time I think I have to rush through writing stories or I'll never finish them, but I've been trying to go at a slower pace and let this story unfold at its own pace. I have a sign up in my room that says "Trust the Process." It's so easy to want to jump to the finish line, but I'm re-discovering the joy of simply putting down words.

-Need podcast recommendations? My go-to's are Radiolab and 99% Invisible, but lately I've been listening to the Love Hurts series on a podcast called Strangers. Just, wow. So raw, so real, so fascinating. Also, if you don't listen to podcasts, I suggest you start. Audio is the one of the most incredible storytelling mediums I've come across.

-And finally, Ever After. I did sort of watch it for a reason besides, you know, re-living my childhood. In my Renaissance Art History class we are talking about the "making of an artist," and specifically the stories we tell about artists and why some of them loom so large in our cultural consciousness. One of the ones we've been talking about is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci, and we have to do a project where we write our own narrative about the artist, based on both scholarly and pop culture sources. Since da Vinci makes a pretty prominent cameo in Ever After, I thought I'd give it another viewing. I'm not sure I gained much more insight into da Vinci as an artist besides the fact that his movie self fits very nicely into the "wise old man" trope, but I did discover that I can quote almost every line. I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise, judging by the number of times I've watched it...

Well, I think that's a long enough letter for one evening. Tomorrow will most likely be another day of writing and reading, and maybe some laundry....Exciting, I know.


Song of the Day: Land of the Living by Roo Panes

Friday, October 10, 2014

Letter to October #10

Dear October,
      I'm sorry I've been so silent lately. I'm sure you don't want to hear excuses, but this was midterms week, and you weren't the only thing I had to neglect in favor of studying. Luckily today I turned in my last assignment, and I'm officially off for the next four days! Fall break is always a little depressing because so many of my friends live near enough to go home, while I'm still stuck a couple thousand miles away. Still, I'm going to have company this time in the form of my roommate, which is certainly a nice change.
I spent most of my evening doing the things I haven't had time to do all week. It was a night partly inspired by an author interview in the back of one of the books on my shelf (why yes, I am one of those people who skips to the back of books I haven't read).* The question she was asked was "What is your idea of fun?" and she answered, remarkably, with a description of what she and her family like to call Abbey Nights. (No, not Downton Abbey. That's where my mind went, too.) Basically they turn off all unessential power in their house - lights, TV, computers, phones - and spend the night doing "nineteenth-century activities": reading, talking, and playing music. "Suddenly," she says, "the night is so long, and we feel so much more connected and grounded, away from all the noisy screens we're so addicted to." And so, I spent my evening reading and writing letters, drinking apple cider, and letting the stress of this week melt away with each scribbled word and each soft rustling of a page. I couldn't do an all out "Abbey Night" namely because we aren't allowed to have candles in our dorm room, and because I am sitting here, typing this letter to you, but it was close enough to remind me just how slowly time passes when you're not mindlessly clicking between tabs. Over the next couple of days I plan to disconnect from the internet as much as possible and return to the thing that has always been a place of refuge for me: words.
So it's been a wonderful day, October. Thanks for being patient with me while I struggled my way through this week, and I think you'll be hearing from me much more frequently in the near future.


* The book, in case you were wondering, is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Song of the Day (to quiet your mind): The Violet Hour by The Civil Wars

Monday, October 6, 2014

Letter to October #5

Dear October,
      As crazy as this upcoming week is going to be, I don't feel too nervous about it because I spent most of today studying. I still don't feel completely caught up, but I feel a lot more prepared than I did a few days ago. One of the things that has been helping me stay disciplined is writing every day, not just your letters, but also my own stories and poems. I'm discovering that if I'm disciplined in one aspect of my life I become more disciplined in others. That seems like common sense now, but for some reason I hadn't thought of it before. It also just feels really good to be taking time each day to indulge my imagination, and to see my progress spool out in lines of text, a little bit more each day. Maybe at the end of the month I will show you my calendar that I've been using to keep of track of my writing, where I get one star sticker for each day that I write. There's something to be said for personal encouragement through stickers. I highly recommend it.


Song of the Day: One Minute More by Capital Cities

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Letter to October #4

The Haunted Bookstore!

Dear October,
    Here's something I need to remember for future reference: Book-filled days are the best. Today I went to Iowa City for their annual book festival. I don't think it will ever not feel strange to be in Iowa City, because it's a place that feels both intensely familiar and foreign at the same time. The one thing that isn't foreign is books, and, oh man, did I acquire a lot of them. We went to a reading by a Jamaican author at Prairie Lights, and walked around the booths that were set up around downtown. The highlight however, was visiting The Haunted Bookshop. It's a used bookstore nestled just off the beaten path. We spend at least an hour wandering its convoluted shelves and getting lost in it's nooks and crannies. Afterward we got into conversation with the owner, who just happened to be a Coe College Writing Center Alumni. She talked about the bookstore as if it was an extension of herself, and in a way, it was. It was her personally curated anthology, and her life's work was devoted to putting the right book in the right person's hands at exactly the right time. Picture four college students and the owner sitting cross-legged on the floor of the bookstore, listening to stories of her time at Coe and updating her on things that had changed. When we left (and we didn't want to), she gave us a ridiculously generous discount on our books.

That one conversation was enough to remind me why I wanted to go into writing in the first place. The desire hasn't waned, of course, but it's encounters like these that make me realize more and more why I do what I do. I write for people like the woman who owns The Haunted Bookshop, people who love words and learning and believe that real connection is more valuable than money or success or the latest gadget. I want to be the kind of person who builds their life out of things I love, and I think today was a pretty good start.


Song of the Day: Carrying by Jukebox the Ghost

Letters to October #3

 Still life from the front desk of the writing center

Dear October,
       It's almost midnight, so once again my letter will arrive a few minutes late. I've been finding it more difficult to reflect these past couple days. Each day is impossible to categorize, swinging between glorious highs where I'm surrounded by friends, or my writing is going really well, and pockets of boredom or stress about the upcoming week. Overall, I can't shake the feeling that I'm being swept up in some kind of slow-burning change. I can feel something shifting, and I don't know if it's me or my environment. Could it be both? I'm doing my best to steer it in the direction I want it to go, but there are times when it feels like I'm trying to catch up to my own life.

You always hear people talk about living in the moment, but what they don't tell you is that when you let go of the future, you let go of your last road map. That's not to say you've lost the ability to navigate. There are still signs to go by, and you can figure out where you are from the sun and the stars, but suddenly everything is more instinctual, more uncertain. Right now, I'm clinging to a direction and hoping it will take me to where I need to go. Let's hope I end up somewhere new.


Song of the Day: Everything Moves by Bronze Radio Return

Friday, October 3, 2014

Letters to October #2

Dear October,
      One of the hardest things about writing letters to October is trying to distill an entire day into a few words. Of course some days are easier (aka: more boring) than others, but the truly outstanding days, the ones that sneak up on you without you noticing, the ones where you find yourself a little bit in awe that this is your life, are by far the most difficult to describe. Yesterday was one of those days.

The first highlight of my day came around lunchtime when I discovered that I got into the Paris May Term that I applied for. What does that mean? That means that I will be spending May in Paris,  learning about the city's history, literature, and art, with a bunch of really amazing people! As someone who thrives off of having something to look forward to, this is going to keep me in high spirits all year. If you supposed that I spent the rest of my day daydreaming about Paris, you wouldn't be too far off except that life has a funny way of reminding you of the important things just when you're about to loose sight of them. As excited as I am about Paris, what made yesterday truly extraordinary was the fact that I spent my evening surrounded by friends, telling stories and really listening to each other. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of clarity, calm, and gratitude. I am so incredibly lucky, not just to have the opportunities that I do, but to have the chance to be around incredible people who inspire me every day.  In that moment, Paris was the farthest thing from my mind, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Song of the Day: Cloud Nine by Ben Howard

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Letters to October #1

Dear October,
       Here we are again. I can hardly believe that you are already here. You, too, seemed a little unsure of yourself, starting out chilly and getting warmer, teasing us with sunshine and clouds. I'm not sure how I feel about today. It was one of those endless days where as hard as you try to get everything done, by the end of it your to-do list is still only half finished. There is so much I need to do before next week (nicknamed Hell Week in my head because I have an important assignment or test literally every day), and no matter how much I do it still feels like I'm behind. Still, it got me thinking about all the times before when I've felt completely overwhelmed by school work, all of which I made it through, all of which were stressful but still pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So needless to say, if I seem a little distant in the coming week, October, it's because I'm holed up in the library, writing essays and studying for midterms. I'll see you on the other side. In the meantime, hold on to some of that beautiful fall weather for when I actually have time to appreciate it!


Song of the day: Maker of My Time by The Paper Kites