Making Stuff

Yesterday, John Green made a video that was largely about how artists create. In that video he said: “Individuals don’t really create stuff so much as they process their influences and try to build upon them in order to create something helpful for others.”

So, this is a pretty bold statement. Creators don’t really create, they synthesize. I tend to agree. I think that all artists, their work and their consumers are part of a community and partake in an unending dialogue that reflects our cultures and the human condition. Just for fun, here is a list of my favorite influences.

Here we go (in no particular order other than in which I thought of them):

Pablo Neruda
Hank Green
JK Rowling
Jane Austen
The Lives of Others
Julio Cortazar
JD Salinger
Ray Bradbury
Jonathan Safran Foer
Casablanca
The obituary section in any newspaper
The band Fun.
Garth Brooks
Erin Morgenstern
Sharon Creech
EB White

What are your influences?

Read on,
Kelsey

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Putting Yourself Out There

Happy mid-March! It’s finally warmer than 10 degrees here, which is a lovely fact. This winter I have come to realize how central the weather is to life. It is all anyone has been talking about, which is strange. What on earth will we talk about once there are no longer catastrophic storms to prepare for or recover from? I love conversations about writing and the writing process. I am taking a class this semester called Writers Craft and it is largely focused on habits that writers have. We’ve been talking about observation, detail, writing constantly, and emulating other great writers.

One of my favorite blogs is Christian Mihai’s blog. Mr. Mihai is a young author who grew up in Romania. He has several short stories, a novel and a novella. He helped to start an online magazine called Irevuo. That is everything that I know about him personally. What I know about him as a writer is that he is very good at articulating his writing experience and habits to which he subscribes. Yesterday, I read his most recent post “Write, Write, Write.” He opens the post saying, “there are two main rules to becoming a writer: read a lot and write a lot. You can’t do one without the other, no matter how much you try.” I agree with this. However, if I agree with this, then I have to say that there are three main rules to becoming a writer. *Disclaimer: I am still working toward this* The third is putting yourself out there.

I suppose that it depends on your definition of “being a writer,” but to me, sharing what one has created is an important part of the process. In fact, it can be a refreshing and integral part of the process. Writing requires a lot of alone time, so when there is an opportunity for someone else to read what’s been created, it is exciting, nerve wracking and valuable to the writer. Mr. Valentine, writers craft teacher/published author/very aware of writing life, told me once that no one will come to find my work, I have to put it out there. Especially at the beginning, no one will seek out a writer, he or she has to put himself and his work out there.

The great thing about blogging is that it makes one more comfortable with sharing, it forces one to write and it connects people to one another. Three great practices/habits for anyone who loves literature.

If anyone has any comments on this or thoughts or advice, please leave comments below or send emails to bookstomark@gmail.com. Also, check out the video from last week: The Ultimate Book Tag

Read, write, put yourself out there, do things that scare/challenge you.

Read on,
Kelsey

Go with the Snow

Once again the snow is proving to be a nuisance. Snowy weather tends to come during inconvenient times, so why should this storm be any different. It is exam week for me and our whole exam schedule has been changed. But as I was sitting at my desk, trying to study, I wondered if there ever was a convenient time for a storm. Certainly, there are more convenient times than the middle of exam week. Let’s think about everything that comes with a storm: the inability to easily/quickly leave one’s house; the ability to drive safely; the need to shovel; the inescapable cold; the mountains of outerwear required to go outside; and the fact that my dog has to fight through the snow when he goes outside. Well, the last one can be pretty funny, but otherwise, snow generally brings a lot of hassle and requires extra effort.

So, is there a convenient time for a storm? It’s really about relative convenience. If there is not a lot to do, sure, more convenient. If you are prepared, more convenient. And I guess that is true about any kind of problem or challenge, it can be fine if you are prepared. But really, how often are we prepared for unexpected challenges. I did not know this storm was coming (winter is coming), that may be because I was not on weather.com, but I adapted. I reorganized my exam prep, I had a mug of hot chocolate and rolled with it. So, now I’m thinking about all of the good things that come with a snow storm: hunkering down in sweaters and blankets and socks (it’s an excuse to be extra cozy); drinking excessive amounts of hot chocolate; when I woke up this morning, there was ice on my window and the sun was reflecting through it and it was nice; catching up on reading, movie watching and TV shows; and a very entertaining twitter feed. Would next week have been better for Winter Storm Janus? Probably, but it’s okay. Sometimes you just have to sit back and say “Oy with the poodles already.” And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a (semi-unrelated) Gilmore thing, but nevertheless it applies.

This was not a particularly literary post, but I was thinking about the snow. Anyway, I have added a list of the next couple of books I’ll be reading on the Book List page, so check that out. I was supposed to go on another bookstore trip this Friday, but that is being rescheduled– stay tuned it should be a good one! Enjoy the weather, wherever you are.

Read on,
Kelsey

IMG_1473
(My hot chocolate mug)

New Experiences and Slam Poetry

I realize that I have forgotten to share a very unique and cool experience. It happened in November, but it’s okay, I have reached the point of finishing the draft now. Anyway in November (yes, apparently November was a while ago now), two of my friends and I decided to venture into New York to hear slam poetry. I experimented a little with slam this summer and heard it performed, but I had never been to an actual slam competition. So at 7:30 on a Friday night we took a train to the city, found our way all the way downtown to third street and waited outside the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for an hour.

I honestly had no idea what to expect, but what I got was very unique. While we were waiting, we struck up a conversation with the couple waiting in line behind us. In between analyzing the saga of the pizza delivery guy trying to make a delivery at the apartment building next door, we asked them how they came to be at the Nuyorican. Neither of them was affiliated with writing or literature (other than the occasional pleasure read), least of all slam poetry. But one of them had been there before, loved it and so decided to return. It was interesting to see the draw of slam poetry for all kinds of different people. There was a wide variety waiting on line and the diversity of the crowd only became clearer once we got inside. Poet and Nuyorican employee, Mahogany Browne (@mobrowne) opened with a casual monologue. She started off by surveying the room to find out where people were from. It was like she was calling attendance. First, she asked about the boroughs, then California. By the end I think we had covered nearly every state and several countries (including Iran, England, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). When the New Jersians announced their presence, Mahogany said, “Oh please, New Jersey is a borough who are you kidding.” Then they turned all the lights off, concealing the slightly cliché, but nevertheless atmospheric exposed brick walls, and everyone danced around and sang a song, which I was definitely supposed to know the words to and definitely did not. I realize that this sounds very strange, and it was, but it was really fun.

The first poet we heard was Shira E. Her work was humorous; mostly poignant anecdotes about life, her relationships and conversations she has had. She read with clarity and with a very distinct personality. We then heard from three slam poets. Interestingly, the first two poets both performed poems with candy metaphors. I am not kidding. If you think of the name of a candy it was in these two poems. It was a bit unfortunate for the second performer, because although his poem was very interesting, it could not seem as original given that the first performer presented something nearly identical. It was cool to see the difference in the uses of the metaphors however. The common aspect of all of the poems was that they were all very personal, very passionate and had a purpose. They were communicating something, it seemed with the intent to evoke change, or an emotion. And in true slam fashion, the audience chimed in throughout.

It was new, unique and every single person there was just having so much fun. It was around poetry, it was about social change, it was about passion. The only requirement of being there was to be passionate about something and to have an appreciation for performance. If you ever have the chance, go to a poetry cafe, or a slam competition, a poetry reading, anything. Anywhere that artists are presenting their work is bound to inspire thought and passion. Enjoy it.

Read on,
Kelsey

Cheers from Scotland!

Cheers! Sorry for the radio silence recently, but I’m in Scotland! I got here a week ago for a writing program and have been quite busy since.

Part of that included reading Paper Towns by John Green. Oh, wow. It is rare that I find a book or an author that really truly affects me and makes me think. However, every time I read one of John Green’s books, I have some sort of epiphany. He is simply an amazing story teller with a penchant for giving his stories a “moral heart” as my professor likes to call it. Paper Towns is about realizing that everyone around you is also a person with emotions, problems, relationships etc. This may seem obvious, but if you really think about it, we are the center of our own universes by default. How we think about other people is usually through the lens of their relationships to ourselves or how we have perceived them. Another thing is that we often think we know a whole person. But we don’t. We can never really know a whole person, we might only know half of the things that he or she is thinking. We only know what they want us to, likewise people only know us the way we choose for them to. We get caught up, however, in the notion that our version of someone is the right and true version, which may not be the case. This is what happens to Quentin with Margo Roth Spiegelman in Paper Towns, what happens to Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), what happens to Ludwig in Journey into the Past (Stefan Zweig). We get caught up in ideas of people rather than in people themselves. We should try to realize that every single other person knows him or herself as well and is as focused on his or her life as much as we are on our own. I think that is the message these authors are all trying to get across. It is one, I think, that we will always struggle with, it might even be at the heart of every moral dilemma.

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins”- Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

This turned out to be a lot deeper than I anticipated when I sat down to write it this morning, but I hope you enjoyed my slightly philosophical rambling. I’ve been in some very inspiring writing locales in the last few days with many more to explore!

Read on.

Kelsey

Updates, Admission and Fiction vs. Non

Hey Y’all,

So, holla! I am on spring break! I have been reading a ton which has made me really happy. I am reading Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz. (It is particularly apropos because I am also looking at colleges this break). What I think is intriguing about this book is that it comes across to me as a non-fiction piece. It is a novel, it says so on the cover and in the author’s note. But I find myself feeling as if it is non-fiction. Maybe it is because I am beginning this process myself, I’m not sure. I find myself comparing this reading experience to the one that I had when I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers. In my english class we discussed the fact that almost everyone in the class referred to it as a novel, when in fact it is non-fiction. Admission, as I said before, is a novel, but I find myself thinking it is non-fiction. Which brings me to the question– what makes something fiction or non-fiction in our minds? Is it the subject matter? Perhaps because I could not put myself into the shoes of the characters living in the Mumbai slum of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, it became a fictitious story to me. Perhaps because I am about to embark on the college process around which Admission is centered, that seems more real to me. Either way both reading experiences have significantly broadened my literary outlook and I think my frame of mind in general. I am discovering new styles, variations of old styles and their impact on the reader (hello, AP Lang). It’s all been very enlightening, I am enjoying it. And I am bringing it to my own writing. I have had a lot of time to write so far this break too… it’s amazing how much I can get done when I don’t have tests to study for or problem sets to do. Hope you all are making it through this so far dreary March!

Read on,

Kelsey

This post is brilliant. There are two things I want to say about it. First, this post actually explains itself. What I mean is that only an artist would take the time to analyze other artists or analyze himself in relation to the world and come to a profound conclusion. Second, once again I have found something that both inspires me and makes me sad. I agree so much with what he is saying, but then (and I feel this all the time), how am I supposed to come up with something that can explain what I feel as well as he did? It does not seem like I can. Which is really frustrating, but also challenges me, but also I just want to read this a thousand times and marvel at the miracle of someone thousands of miles away whom I do not know writing down the way that I feel and think all the time in exactly the terms I would have put it in if I could. Writing is amazing. Art is amazing. And the people who create are amazing. *Also note the colored apple from the 1997 commercial*