Ensemble // Hundred Word Challenge

Word limits are difficult. The challenge of limiting yourself to certain constraints in an art form feels tight, but as my good friend Rachel said one time, it also helps to focus on the important aspects of a memory or a certain scene, and today, I wanted to tackle this one-hundred word memory prompt, seeing that I'm missing theatre a bit more than usual.

“Diva.” Our theatre director initiates the game, singing a song where lyrics fall out of everyone’s lips but my own, an unfamiliarity I’d grown accustomed to but could never shake away. Songs about a wealthy man, minutes in a year, and Frozen blared.

I wanted to enter in, and quietly, I start thinking about the songs and how they related.

Think. "I wanna be a billionaire, so freaking bad..."

Everyone surrounding in our make-shift stared at this ensemble voice belting 2009 Bruno Mars. Arms rise, grappling sepia’s tinged air. Everyone bounced to the rapping and harmonies and—

We sing.

Will you take up this challenge to write a memory exactly one hundred words, nothing more or less? How's school been lately or the remainder? You have a little over a month to sign up for the yearbook! Would you guys be interested in seeing a mini-senior series?

p.s. I need to focus on AP Calc BC and AP Physics; everything has been okay except editing blog posts which  and replying to comments on the blog, so please be patient in that aspect! I'll also be changing up my schedule to post at least once during the weekend at a minimum. Let's see how this works!

Three Ways Reading Your Writing Aloud Improves Your Craft

As a way to get myself down into full-on writing mode since essays and competitions are calling out to me, I've been listening to a ton of performed pieces online.

Nothing is better at reading than how we read in our heads, and our introverted selves knows this well. Everything is perfectly intonated without flaws, but getting it out verbally is another story. Why would anyone want to read their writing out loud? The effort doesn't appear worth it. But it is! Here's how.

This is the most glaringly obvious reason to read your work aloud. No matter how many times one goes through their document to hunt down all of those typos and misconceptions that hadn't been cleared up before, not all of them will get cleared up in one sitting. I'm not relaying either that this method is always the most effective way for simple line edits involving punctuation-- words may soon turn into mush and then mouths just rattle on until spittle begins to form at the cress. Reading your work out loud for editing and revising purposes demands full attention, but it is more effective than having a computer read off your work and perhaps not catch that missing comma within quotes.

Reading your work out loud does point out areas of improvement that may go unnoticed. Maybe some sentences are wonky in word structure. Perhaps the color of a silk blanket changed to blue, when it had been established green two pages prior, and maybe this blanket ends up causing an entire village to perish because it had been riddled with a terrible virus strain and investigators in the story are trying to find the blanket's origins from two villages that make different silk colors.

Sure, a voice reader produced by a Kindle reader or a computer can easily do these things. Why be bothered with doing something that sounds so tedious? However, it shouldn't be always relied upon, as it would omit the next two important points I'm about to tell you, which are very much important and you can't receive from a computer dialect.

There are books with some incredibly lyrical writing that can draw you in right away, sucking you into the world the author has created. The way their writing wanes and ebbs along the lines, the poetic pauses and the faint breath before starting another sentence. How can one possible get on that level? It's hard to figure out, but the answer lies in understanding rhythm.

While reading your writing aloud, it's easy to find common fallbacks, which ties in to the previous point. Skews of long sentence after long sentence wraps the pages and it drags on. Some adjectives (particularly those dressed at the ends with -ly) feel like they bog down the quality of the piece because the word pacing is slightly off. The main thing to do is to one, consider what scene is on the page, and two, understand the atmosphere in that moment of the book.

For example, if a scene encompasses characters chased out of a forbidden area, use short sentences. Instead of saying, "They stopped to catch their breath," show them doing that by how the sentences are written! It doesn't need to be written down because it's presented without having to be verbose. Make the sentences short and snippy, and gradually build length as they regain their breath and their sense of panic is arising again.

Another example is describing the ocean on a warm sunny evening. It contrasts tonally with the chase scene. Instead of necessarily saying, "The ocean rose and fell," allow the sentences and the descriptions to rise and fall by the strength of the words being used by saying something like, "'El mar, mija,' my grandmother would say. 'El mar.' Her dying words came at a light whisper as foam kissed my barren toes in soft greeting. The waves retreated back to the heart of this vast sea where, like abuela, all living things returned to at the end."

As the advice goes, "Show, don't tell... balance these two aspects out" This is an aspect of that. It takes years practicing this. It's something I've focused on in my writing a lot, and even after writing for over seven years, it's something that I still work on. But, even if there is only a slight understanding on rhythm in the beginning, so much improvement will occur the more this gets delved into and the more it's understood.

Twelve-year-old me despised presentation time at her writing group, for one good reason: everyone read their pieces in a monotone voice, which irked her so much that she tried not to flinch when the next person got up and began reading. Writing is meant to evoke emotion and feeling, even if the piece isn't classified as "deep." Stories are meant to evoke emotion. They're supposed to make you feel trepidation, despair, zealousness-- the feelings a character feels-- among many things. Even if the words are beautiful, if the presentation isn't great, people will automatically start tuning out.

Getting to the point where your voice conveys what's written melodically is hard, and there's only two ways to do just that. One, listen to a ton of written pieces being performed. Go onto YouTube and search up Spoken Word videos or go to an Open Mic night at your cafĂ© or library. Watching videos and listening to writers perform has actually made me grasp a better sense of how to be sensitive with my pieces and my craft as a whole. Even if one's sole works are primarily novels, one still learns a lot because the rhythm in writing is much easier to listen to. If listening isn't easy to concentrate on, find a transcript or put on subtitles and just listen.

Secondly, read your writing aloud. Understand how each sentence should sound. Recognize what the words are saying and how it should be conveyed when said aloud. Do the same for other works by published authors-- study their poetry and prose, take notes and record yourself saying their work out loud. Mastering this will result in a much better understanding of what your piece is saying, and what you're trying to say. This all seems very tedious, from hind sight-- but who ever said writing is easy?

Do you ever read your writing aloud? What are some authors or poet slammers you enjoy listening to because of the way they read their pieces? What other kinds of writing advice posts should I hit on?

It's Time to Admit I Have a Fear.

I've never told anyone outside of my immediate family I blog.

For those unfamiliar with my four and a half years of blogging journey: this is my first blog. I used to write under a nom de plume for awhile for the sake of privacy and the freedom of writing whatever I want, and over the years I've accumulated so much confidence as a writer and as a person. It wasn't until this year that I revealed my actual name and stepped into the limelight, and while I'm incredibly proud of what I've accomplished both in and out of the online world, this suffocating feeling of revealing the blogging part of myself, an aspect I've coddled away from the blogging world for almost five years, downright terrifies me.

There have been close calls over the years. A group of girls in middle school kept teasing me over the blog, and long story short, they dropped it after some time. This is most likely where my fear of blog sharing stems from. My huge group of friends also revealed they knew I blogged since my browser opened up to Blogger ninety percent of the time, and after many months trying to bog me down with the URL and getting no response, they've moved on. People from my math class ask where I publish my writing and I stay lip sealed. I'd always reply Blogger is used for coding when prompted to defend myself, but this secret of mine had been kept under wraps, and I'm all right with this arrangement.

Senior year is coming up, and perhaps younger me is saying, "Wow! You should just tell everyone you blog! They'll love it! It'll be all smiles and happily ever after!"

It's sweet and hopeful, and in some ways I am still the optimistic I was five years ago, but if I had to undergo this situation realistically with that optimism... Probably not.

As artists, there's the stigma of being afraid to share what we create with others simply for the fear of being judged. In fact,  judgement is the main benefactor when narrowing down the basis of most fears. "What if this is gets negative responses? What if people say that I suck and should burn all of my manuscripts?" Maybe not to the extent of that second one (because that's just a horrible troll looking for someone to react), but like all creators on the art or technical sides of the spectrum, fear is okay. Fear is inevitably part of the process. A ton of authors say once a book is published, it's not in their hands anymore, but the people's, and for some that is just shocking.

What's not okay is to expect the world the world to be perfect and treat the art we create with no ounce of malice armed towards ourselves when exposed to a larger audience. Blogging is considered an odd thing to do; if a person says they blogs, many automatically assume Tumblr and give weird looks which is not the case. I've submitted so many small pieces to various competitions and the like only to receive rejection letters, and this is only in the writing sense. Misunderstandings and confusion have enveloped much of my high school life to the point of just wanting to bundle up in bed and just hash it all out in writing, and while I acknowledge and accept this fear is there, it's not something I want to always face straight on.

The good news: ours fears can be worked on.

There have been times when I may have slipped in telling others about this little abode of mine I've created on the Internet. I've told two friends of mine at a writing conference, back when this blog was doused in a hot pink color scheme at the end of 2015, and accidentally blurted out the fact just recently in amidst of twenty other people I'd only recently been acquainted with at a meeting this past summer. Unlike the (unfortunate) scenario involving the three girls in middle school, the response was somewhat okay.

I still brace myself for negative comments, because I'll know they'll come racking in like a bulldozer. Even after this post years down the line this will still be something I will still need to work on, because some struggles are just hard to make go away entirely and getting to the point when they're fully "conquered" isn't a linear process. Some months things will get better only to falter negatively, then slowly hover at a bearable mark. To those dear friends whose limbs are immobilized, know that while this battle is daunting, we must learn to fight off the fears in my mind because we are the ones who must tame them, whether it be small the fear of staring into a person's eyes feeling vulnerable or big, like the fear of public speaking.

I am putting on thick skin. My courage has some bounds, and that is okay; I've decided to impart the info about my blog to close, trustworthy friends, the link and all, and whether or not they decide to read it is all up to them.

To real-life friends redirected to this post that have never seen this before: Hello! I hope you guys understand the reasons why I've never actually said anything about this little corner of mine where I write, and yes, this is also the reason why I have to stop us from eating whenever there is good food or there's a pretty plant in the garden that has no shade. Hopefully you don't mind my musings, and perhaps stay awhile?
Have you ever told anyone about your blog? How do you deal with the fear of negativity attacking your art? I start school on Monday-- when are you heading back to school? Do you like the new blog design and the mostly updated pages? Also, have you signed up for the yearbook yet?

The Homey Boardwalk Town

 The mountains on the drive to are ginormous-- just look at the telephone poles.

Looking out to the river at the rest stop. 

Hello, everyone! Recently, my family did one of the most uncharacteristic things ever-- take a last minute trip to a town over three hundred miles away from where we lived. I remember doing some online research one Saturday evening when my parents announced us leaving the following day for the overnight trip, prompting me to find the charger for my cameras and scrambling to download some episodes of Downton Abbey on my phone in case the trip droned on. Just as a small note: this town is the southern most town within our region of the state that's reachable by car. 

On Sunday morning, my family packed ourselves into the car with a day's worth of amenities and a cooler, and set off. The episodes I downloaded went unnoticed on the way to the town. It had been over five years since my family drove that many miles away. All I could do was watch as the coastline traded in for rocky shrubbery, to mountainous terrain, all the way down to picket branches. We passed by the fishing and clam beaches and proceeded to drive an additional hour just absorbing in the volcanoes and glaciers, with eighties songs, such as "It's Just a Fantasy" and "99 Luftballoons" playing in the background.

 One (of four) dormant volcanoes that are visible on the drive to the town.

 This particularly strand of boardwalk had a bubble blowing station. A bubble blowing station!

 A bike.

 Sadly, we didn't have a campfire during the trip.

Yes, "How Far I'll Go" actually is appropriate to sing when looking through the door... 

 All of the shops are this cute on the inside.

One of the interesting aspects of the town is the small long strip of land formed millions of years ago due to several geological features seceding away. The road goes on for about five to seven miles, and lined all around the edges are a ton of boardwalk shops. At first, we didn't know how long the strip actually went-- we only saw one strand of boardwalk and decided to explore it for a bit, as our parents were trying to look for a specific soap brand from the area. All of the buildings look cool, even the tattoo shop, and it just fit perfectly! The buildings all had large windows that looked out to the bodies of water as well as the ocean dwellers that lurked near the coastline.

This town has its own unique charm-- I feel like it's one of those places where the locals know each other very well and are super sweet. It's definitely the kind of town that I'd love to host the Blogger Party at. Somehow, the area has made fishing gear, painted signs, and flowers combined all together visually appealing. Every angle had a different color, and if a certain sign or picture was just a dark color, the blue and green background made it pop! Tons of people crowded the roads as they went from store to store, whether it be one of many seafood eateries, a knapsack store with a wood-wall interior and bags hanging from the ceiling, or a gift shop selling super sassy coin purses. Pretty much just imagine the first little bit of "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast, and this describes how the town is.

 There are many flags that go around the docks, and each one has their own symbol for something. I forgot what this one represented, though!

 Painted signs are all over the place.

 Some fishing equipment.

Wooden carved fish! It's about five feet tall. 

 I haven't had clam chowder in forever and this bread bowl was just delicious! It's probably because the clams have been freshly caught.

If driving constantly is difficult, rent some bikes! There were over fifty people getting around the area with them. Just be sure to pay attention to the long road where cars are constantly going by! 

 How did this log get to an upright position, and why? Some questions of the town can never be answered...

 Some beach houses on the edge of the area.

 People walking along the beach.

 Hiding away from the immense heat the sun has to offer.

 The dock here is twice as big as the nautical town, but like many towns bordering the coast, the main livelyhood involves fishing.

 There weren't any checkers or chess pieces available! It's a pity, too-- my brother and I had to wait at this table as our parents asked for directions. My brother was about ready to pluck off some flower petals still on their stems to use as checkers pieces and I was ready to scream out. Don't kill the span of flowers-- that's just cruel.

 The wind slowly caresses the wild grass.

 My family watched people cut some fish. The net and the rotten piece on the top left corner is supposed to ward off any wildlife, particularly seagulls and bears.

 Unlike the wooden fish, these ones are real and freshly caught, so the smell reeked!

 There are so many animal wooden windmills!

 Flower beds border the edge of the boardwalks.

 A dock station featuring some private and charter boats.

 Some wildflowers!

 Some other wildflowers-- all of the wildlife is just so lively!

 "She sells sea shells by the sea shore!" Still can't say that tongue twister...

Seagulls kept squawking-- I was tempted to burst out singing The Seagull Song. 

 I love the ocean!

 This eatery is adorable-- it has an upstairs floor that's awfully reminiscent of a tiny house.

This is under the small shack from the picture above. 

 Wood-stoved pizza, friends. Wood-stoved. The one pictured above is also vegetarian friendly (no meat)!

 A photo of the abandoned ship graveyard, where boats that are no longer in use go to pass, for a lack of a better word. 

The second day, dark overcast clouds loomed over head, so my family and I ended up going over to visit a ton of museums and other areas. One of my favorite places I ended up spotting is the boat graveyard, where all of the boats that are no longer in use go over and just lay. It's kind of creepy, but it's neat to look at the progression of what boats looked like five or ten years ago. For example, one of the boats (the brown large one pictured above) has a living space on the inside-- there are still books and vinyls covering the windows.

On the drive back, we passed by all the lakes and rivers again. We probably drove over fifteen of them, which is an insane number, and that doesn't even include the ocean that borders the left right when driving north! I brainstormed fifteen blog post ideas and drafted a few, which should last me the remainder of the year, took photos of the lakes, and then watched a few episodes of Downton Abbey. It was bliss.

 There are some other nearby towns, but they're only accessible by boat or plane.

 Some clay cups shown at a museum.

 This painting is meant to symbolize an ocean, and it's made by watercolor and tide book pages.

One of the many lakes on the drive back home.

Have you ever visited a boat graveyard? What are some qualities you like about small towns? Do you like wood-stoved pizza? Also, be sure to sign up for the yearbook, friends!