As always, I apologize for the long delay. I tend to fall in and out of love with the internet and fandom, especially during the summer, when all I want to do is spend as much time out-of-doors as physically possible. When I want to remove myself from any traces of academia and taste the sunlight dancing on my tongue.

I might start updating here soonish, since this is primarily a fandom/writing journal with a little life thrown in, and both SPN and FNL have started again. When I get time to write (and more importantly, read) fic, I'll definitely begin posting again.

The real reason for this post, however, is to share a friend's website/blog/project with you. It's called The Intimacy of Strangers, and it's a fascinating venue for connection and conversation about life in general, New York living in particular. Go check it out. (For those of you who read both of my LJs and have therefore seen this announcement twice, go check it out more than once!) There's a great discussion about the inherent versus assigned versus interpreted meaning of photographs going on right now. Pop in, give it a look, and maybe drop a comment or two into the discussion. It's still a work-in-progress, and it could definitely use some of the intelligent commentary I know you as a group could provide.

Anyway, I'll be catching up with you all sometime in the next few weeks. For those of you who've recommended or commented on my fic recently, I'll get back to you ASAP. I had no idea how many new people I'd rather passively acquired. For now, I'd just like to let you know that you're appreciated, even if it's taken me this long to notice. *cringe* And it's good to be back, even in this tiny way.

Life: good

Jul. 1st, 2007 11:54 pm
I am not stressed about anything right now. It's amazing. I can't remember the last time I wasn't under some sort of stress over school or work or paying rent or a relationship or a friendship or a pet or something. But as late, I sleep through the night, I wake up in the morning wanting to get out of bed, I take long walks, I come home after an uneventful day to be slammed against a wall and molested by The Boy before I even get a hello, and it's pretty damn good.

I haven't been writing as much as I should, but that'll change as I get back into the habit. Speaking of which, I'm going to be making my poetry posts private soon--I'd like to start submitting and putting together my thesis, and having that stuff available online could be a bit awkward. So if you want anything, save it, and if you decide you want something after it's gone, just let me know and I'll send it along. This is of course assuming that you want something. If not, feel free to go on about your business.
I just finished reading J. M. Coetzee's Foe. It is superficially a retelling of the writing of Robinson Crusoe. That's interesting, but not the part I was interested in.

Because really, it's an exploration of the inherent darkness of writing, its seductiveness, the loss of fact in pursuit of truth, the loss of truth in the pursuit of a beginning, middle, and end. About how storytellers are always a little in love with their stories. About how authors warp and bend to fit their needs, starting with a stolen grain of truth and finishing with a masterpiece of fiction. About substance.

And I wonder: am I that author? Is writing inherently a process of theft, each one more clever than the last, until we are left with nothing but hollowed-out shells of the truths we have used?

My aunts constantly reinvent family stories. Each Christmas, they bring out the whole repertoire, each time making themselves the centerpieces of others' experiences. When I was young, my mother told me never to take what they said as truth without asking her first.

This fascinated me. Not that they lied, because I lied then and lie now, as does everyone. Not that they lied, then, but rather that they perceived their lies to be truth. That they could tell a different version of the same story each year. I began asking for the same stories, noting dissimilarities between each person's telling and the various tellings of a single person.

The project of documenting my family's inherently incomprehensible past thus became instead a project of understanding the mind of the storyteller.

What I post here is as true as I can make it. Yet I constantly resist the urge to invent myself, to tell stories that never happened, to embellish those that did. I don't want my sister to pull aside her children, ten years from now, to tell them not to trust me. And I live in a subtle but constant fear that one day I will not be able to know the difference between the stories I have lived and those I have lived only in my mind.
I've been struggling with what Sicily means to me lately, because all I can come up with is home. And it was more than that, and less than that, and I was so insignificant among the sand dunes and the ruins.

Sicilia

Columns that held up the sky
temples ancient and crumbled
hills like brown patchwork to the horizon.
I will gain your sunburnt shore.

I will walk back home to you. I will
wear sandals and carry my heart in a backpack,
shuffle over the needled beach of Baltimore,
beyond the foam and fishermen.

The ocean will spread before me. I will walk
along its warm surface and sleep on whales
and eat fistfuls of salty plankton
as I pass the Straits of Gibraltar.

When stars begin to press themselves
into the vaulted darkness, then I will listen
for the waves, lapping at your edges
that reach seaward to pull me home.


And another one, related in theme and imagery )
There is nothing in the world I hate more than meeting a new person and having this inevitable exchange:

Person: So what sort of hobbies do you have?
Me: I'm a writer.
Person: Oh? What do you write about?
Me: ...

It's impossible to answer. I don't write about anything--I write through things and around things and to things and like things and towards things. Wrong preposition! I want to shout.

But usually I just smile weakly and mumble something about how I've been experimenting with blues rhythms and leave it at that. Because I have no idea how to explain what I'm doing, other than to bring out the work itself, and I know that's not what the person is asking for when they pose that no-so-innocent question.
Last night, I realized I needed a poem to turn in for workshop and didn't have anything in presentable order.

This was at, oh, eleven-ish.

Five hours later, I had something strange and lifted from a bunch of places and weirdly formatted and simultaneously the most abstract and the most concrete poem I've ever written.

It's in need of massive revisions, mostly for language, because I think I like most of the experimental rhythm and form and am going to keep it relatively intact.

Anyway, I'm pasting it in here because I'm terrified that I'll lose it somehow and it's about five solid hours of writing.  Yeah, I don't know what this is.

Terzetto
     to Edward “Son” House

[0.1.1  walking]

it’s just that sometimes
    when you look too hard
the horizon disappears

and that sometimes
    when you squint
all you see is the journey

Is it really, unbelievably sad that I saw a review of Pandaemonium, a movie about Wordsworth and Coleridge's collaboration on Lyrical Ballads, and immediately thought "Milton!" followed by "Coleridge/Wordsworth OTP!"

THIS IS MY LIFE.

*dies a little bit on the inside*

I really want to see it, though. Because. You know. You can't go wrong with lines like, "Sam, opium is not your worst addiction. Your worst addiction is to Wordsworth."

Oh dear. Now I want to write poet!slash. Does it count as RPS if they're dead?

A better question: what on earth is wrong with me?
You know, I used to think that people who said poetry was all about your feelings were kinda, well, entirely full of something that doesn't smell like roses.

Last semester, I revised that opinion to "almost entirely full of something that doesn't smell like roses."

Because it's like this: there's poetry. And poetry, for me, is something fundamental, something that's born more than created. Which is not to say that it's just writing down what you're feeling. It's not about that at all. When I write, it's from hundreds, thousands of points of view, from different times and places, through different senses, across different prejudices and mindsets. I'm not writing about me. I'm certainly not writing about how "i feel stuck sometimes/ like gum to the sole/ of the world's shoe."

Because I am not fourteen. But that is beside the point.

The point is: the poems are not about me. Most of them don't even say anything about my current mood, and at any rate, by the time they're revised enough to post or show to anyone (which is usually at least twice, and about two revisions before I pronounce them [temporarily] complete) they don't have any connection to my original frame of mind.

Every once in a while, though, one of the lines, or one of the images, or one of the quotes, will be so intensely about me that it will echo inside me for weeks afterwards.

The inchworm is proof of the existence of God, my brother said once, breaking an amiable silence that had folded like goosedown around us. He went on to explain why, how nothing that had evolved could possibly be that stupid-looking, how only a deity with a sense of humor could design something whose main function in life was to serrate the edges of leaves with its teeth and fold itself in half in order to move a few millimeters farther along. None of that made it into the poem. In fact, none of the context made it in at all; in the poem, it's something said by a "he" to an "I." The "I" is not me. The "he" is not my brother. Every time I read it, though, it means something to me that it means to no one else.

What brought on this sudden navel-gazing? you ask.

Two lines.

Bend an ear to the kettledrum heartbeat
of the pendant earth.


I wrote these a few weeks ago, scribbled in my notebook on the drive to Philly with my dad and brother. And I can't stop hearing them, listening to them beat out a tempo in the hollow where my ear meets my jawbone. They are possibly the most amazingly personal lines I have ever written, and I have yet to figure out why, since they do not relate to anything I can express. (Percussion, perhaps? Maybe I miss playing the tympani? Milton? The loss of paradise, the rushing void of the universe, something quivering and fragile and somehow as strong as the mountains?)

So I suppose my real question is: Is this a universal thing? Do you have anything you've written that feels very...I don't even know how to say it. Intimate? Are there aspects to writing that leave you wondering when you lost that layer of skin that kept the world from burning your fingertips?
When I updated Firefox the last time, Google somehow (via magic, I assume, though other possibilities exist) developed the ability to suggest search terms I might want to input based on a few words typed into the search bar.

This is an extremely distracting feature.

Yesterday, as you might recall, I posted a list of Google's suggestions after I typed "how to."

Today, I was bored. So I typed in "why" and looked at the ten suggestions I received in exchange. Some of them are not interesting (why lyrics, whyy), but some of them are fascinating:

1. why is the sky blue?
4. why we fight
7. why do cats purr?
8. why do we have christmas trees?
9. why do men cheat?
10. why don't penguins' feet freeze?

Tenth result under what: what is the answer to life the universe and everything?

Four out of the ten results for who have to do with the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? (One of the others is who let the dogs out?)

Second suggestion under where is where's waldo?

Under when: (1) when is hannukah, (6) when was jesus born, (10) when is easter 2007. The rest of them are either lyrics or (9) when harry met sally.

I'm endlessly fascinated by these. They're so impersonal, but somehow they force me back into the mind of whoever was typing them, into the person's reasons and motivations, into his relationship with his kids or the job she hates. It's cool. I want to write some of them down. Maybe I'll create a series out of it.
Sometimes I really want other people just to do things because they'd make me smile. Like the dude in front of me at Walgreens? I really wanted him to drop the packet of socks he had oh-so-casually draped over a box of condoms. He would have blushed bright red, because it's his first girlfriend in a while. He'd finally grown into those extra pounds he gained when he was fourteen and when she smiled at him in Physics class, his ears burned. He freaked and angsted over whether to ask her out for two weeks before finally muttering, Hey you know if you wanted to like grab a coffee or something sometime or not because you know whatever but I'd be cool with it either way. Feeling like a total idiot until she said, Sure, whatever, and smiled in the warm way girls do when they want to be wanted.

They talked about themselves because they thought they had nothing in common. He didn't know how to have a conversation, kept threading his fingers through the handle of his mug. His coffee was cold, but he was afraid to put it down, afraid of not having anything to do with his hands. She excused herself for a minute to use the bathroom and he breathed out, first time in a long time, while a girl curled in the corner seat near the back nodded at him, tapped her fingers to the beat of the music through her headphones.

What bands do you like? he asked her when she came back, and she told him that she liked Interpol and Frou Frou and this hip-hop group from Minneapolis, Atmosphere, you heard of them?

Dude, he said, because Atmosphere, he fucking loved Atmosphere. You know that one, Tears for the Sheep, he said, and she grinned at him.

It's all about Say Shhh, she said, love song to the Midwest. No one sings love songs to the Midwest.

He set his mug on the table between them, leaned forward. I do, he said. I do.

Yeah, well, she said, her voice soft.

He wanted her, wanted to wrap his fingers through her hair and pull her towards him, kiss her until the older couple at the window clucked at them. He wanted to feel her legs spread wide over his, feel the tension thrumming the muscles of her lower back. You wanna get out of here? he asked.

He walked her home, and she smiled at him before she went inside. When he shoved his hands in his pockets, the scrape of denim against his knuckles made him shiver.

On the walk home, he felt the twist of his sock around his left foot, the whisper of cold air, and remembered the hole in the toe. Walgreens, then, six-pack of white crew for five bucks. Ten feet away, an aisle of Lifestyles and Trojans and Beyond Sevens, and he unhooked one of the boxes, fighting the tightness of embarrassment just below his adam's apple. Stood in line, saw a girl standing behind him, hair down, left thumb hooked in a belt loop, right arm cradling a ream of printer paper, and thought, There are people here. He nestled the packet of socks over the condoms, twitching a smile at the linoleum.

Fifteen sixty-two, said the clerk, snapping her gum. The blue of her vest brought out the green of her skin. She looked twice her age. He blushed and fumbled a twenty from his wallet. Shook off the offer of a bag, shoved his purchases into his backpack, let the night cool the rush of blood beneath his skin. Thought, maybe. Yeah.

(Um. When did this become a story? *facepalm*)
I've been wondering lately whether being an English major might be messing with my ability to appreciate the face value of things. And then I was composing an essay in the shower (shut up, the shower is an amazing place to compose essays) and thinking about fandom offhandedly, and I came to a few conclusions and approximately six point eight billion questions. Let the navel-gazing commence!

I love text. I love the feel of paper beneath my hands and the shape of words on the page and sometimes I just breathe etymologies. But I have been trained to use it, trained to pick out the pieces of it that will prove a point I'm trying to make. My love for text has therefore come to endure only insofar as the text has something quantifiable to offer me, something I can isolate into a thesis statement and six to eight pages of supporting details with a works cited. Arguably, I have been trained to find things that do not exist and prove their existence. From time to time, I have crises wherein I wonder whether Chaucer is actually just sitting in the afterlife drinking ale and making fun of undergraduates for our incredible self-absorption.

And I love television. I love the play of images across a screen and the shapes of light and shade and the forced wait from week to week, from month to month, straining at the bit for another forty-something minutes of story. I interact with it on a much more visceral level: I fall in love with the characters. Their tears make me cry. Their laughter makes me smile. I live their lives. And if I don't connect like that, I walk away from them as I might from people whose company I don't enjoy. No hard feelings, just a mutual understanding that we are not meant for one another.

I've never been involved in a solely text-based fandom. Part of Star Wars (the part I wrote about, almost exclusively) was text, certainly, but the seminal medium was film. Buffy and Angel: television. Lord of the Rings? Originally books, but books that captured my imagination after the films prompted me to revisit them, and a canon whose film I actually enjoy more than the original text.

I've read Harry Potter, and I liked the books on a story level. They had magic and kids saving things and stairways that led to nowhere and talking paintings and dragons. But on a literary level (and I'm sorry, if there are HP fans reading this--I really do like the story), the books just didn't do anything for me. The imagery was old and cliche, the dialogue stilted, the use of adverbs painful. Clearly, though, the books caught the imaginations of hundreds, thousands of people, because the fandom is enormous, and amazing, and full of writers whose genius astounds me.

All of which is leading to a point. Which is: I think being an English major ruined me for text-based fandom.

I very much doubt I could ever write a fic for, say, Of Mice and Men. It's a brilliant book, and there's so much surrounding it that I want to and probably will explore someday, but as a piece of literature, there's no way anything I write will ever stand up to it. I'm not Steinbeck and as much as I wish I could write with his finesse, I can't. I get too caught up looking at use of pronouns and repeated imagery and other things that I only half-believe authors do intentionally. I know I can go back and look at some of the things I've written and pick those characteristics out even when they're not there on purpose. But once I see them in an original work, I feel the need to duplicate or at least do them justice in my own, which is simply a losing battle.

On the other hand, I don't think I could ever write HP fic either, for the opposite reason. I don't respect the literary value of the source text enough for it to inspire me to write back to it, and if that makes me a horrible person and a snob, well, I direct you to the entry after "English major" in the dictionary. I feel bad about it. There are so many books that deserve more than I can give back to them because I have been trained to shun their lack of importance to the literary canon. Which makes me sound like a totally passive participant in reacting only to "literature" and even then only in a cold, analytical way. I'm not. I've accepted this mode of interaction because it allows me to do well in school, but I don't know where I'll stand on it ten years from now. I suspect I'll be more than a little bitter. I'll probably start writing long and pornographic Harry/Draco fic in retaliation. This is what's called a "digression."

Back to the main thread: I don't have the above distanced response to "literature" and disdainful first reaction to "entertainment for the masses" with more visual source material. I have no problem watching a television show and then telling a story back at it. I honestly think that it's because I'm not telling it back a story in its original medium. I could never, for example, film a serious story set in the Supernatural universe. For one, I don't have access to the cast, but more importantly, I don't have access to the tools. And I know I don't have access to the tools. So I respond to it in the only way I can, which is through text.

The difference is comfortable, in a film-to-text interaction. The film is strong; it has its own integrity and canon. I like to think of myself as a decent writer, with a pretty good idea of how to present what I want to say in a way that will give back to the source material. I want to tell stories that stand on their own but also find a place within the larger structure of the source. This way, we're both sticking with our strengths. The screenwriters and directors and actors are creating their stories on a screen; I'm creating mine on a page. Our worlds spin in harmonious orbit.

Actually, in looking back at this, I'm not sure whether this is a conclusion or a very long question. So I'll pose a few shorter questions that I'll think about over the next few days and which you are of course welcome (and invited!) to answer:

1. A professor once said that a storyteller told him that she couldn't analyze the story she was telling, that she instead had to retell the entire thing. Is that what we're doing?

2. What's the real difference in reaction to visual versus text source material? Is it the difference between love and appreciation? (I love Copland; I appreciate Mozart. When I was a kid, I'd dance to Appalachian Spring and fall asleep to Mozart concertos.)

3. Does any of this make any sense at all?
Do you also find yourselves constructing playlists as you write? Taking your inspiration from lyrics and melodies, writing about them as much as to them? Is the association always logical?

This generally happens to me a lot more with my original fiction, but lately I've discovered that, rather unconsciously, I've been constructing two SPN playlists. One corresponds roughly to the progression of season one; the other is just a random free-associated list of music I listen to while writing fic. Perhaps it's because the music is such an integral part of the show? I certainly never did this with Star Wars, the only other fandom I've ever become this involved with.

The [livejournal.com profile] spn_j2_bigbang fic is progressing nicely. And not at all how I expected. I don't know why I bother being surprised by this sort of thing anymore.
I purchased this strange green tea granola from Target today because it looked interesting. Surprisingly, it's not bad. I really like Target's proprietary food brand--they make a lot of food that's pretty tasty, pretty cheap, and doesn't have all sorts of fake shit in it. Also, they make these fantastic jalapeño cheddar potato chips that are To Die For.

In addition, I purchased chocolate (yay!) and macadamia nuts (yay!) and another skein of yarn to finish up my sister's scarf o' doom.

Most importantly, however, I got the monster pack of Sharpies and five brand-new Pilot .5 mm pens. Since I can never find a Sharpie when I need one and those pens are the only ones I ever write with, these are Important Purchases. Sharpies are like safety pins--prolific when you don't need them and strangely skittish when you do. Except for the yellow and light green ones, which turn up in hordes every time you go looking for their siblings. It's one of my pet theories that all Sharpies turn yellow or light green after a fortnight, in the same way tapes all turn to Queen. (Oh, Gaiman and Pratchett, you geniuses.) As an added bonus to the solution of the Sharpie Dilemma, I now have enough pens to give them their own mug separate from the knitting needles, which makes my aesthetic sense a little happier.

I am so lame sometimes omg.

I can't figure out what to write next. I think I want to work on some of my original stuff, but I haven't felt very drawn to poetry lately and my prose is very much all dialogue. And I'm working a split double tomorrow--11 to 2 and then again from 5 to 10:30--so of course I'll have very little time to do much of anything. But my paycheck will be beautiful.

This feels very pointless. Today has felt very pointless. Every once in a while, it's nice to live a pointless day.
The new next week on SPN is up over at the CW website. You know how sometimes people say they flail at something to emphasize their strong reaction to it? I--quite literally and physically--flailed. *flails again for good measure*

Also: I'm thinking about writing little reference companions to the fics that required a lot of research, description of locations, etc. I've written about such a variety of things that sometimes I end up doing redundant research, and it's a waste of time. Besides, I like to keep track of those sorts of things.

On that note, while I was thinking about how to organize these companion references, I realized just how much random information I've acquired as a byproduct of writing. A couple years ago, during my [very] brief fling with Buffy fandom, I wrote Fulgurite, about how Spike gets back from Africa between seasons six and seven. It's not one of my best fics ever; it's not something I was terribly interested in even at the time. It was mostly me, writing a story to resolve some of the problems I had with canon. I never expected anyone to read it.

I spent almost four hours researching Victorian beliefs about the meanings and uses of herbs for one throwaway paragraph.

This is a trend, not an anomaly. I spend more time researching the little details in stories than writing the stories themselves, sometimes. I sift through city municipal websites, I research mythology, I do a disgusting amount of reading any time one of the characters even mentions a medical problem. I spend hours looking at pictures of things so I can be sure I'm giving a diner the correct number of windows or a car the correct detail.

And the thing is, half the time I research something, read tomes on it, and write it into one sentence, I end up editing that sentence out by the final version of whatever I'm composing. Which means that at any given time, I have so much random information circling through my head, it's a miracle I get anything done at all.

I assume other people either (a) have this same problem, (b) think this problem is a bit of an absurd one to have, or (c) are now backing away slowly without making eye contact.
I keep seeing everyone doing these "first line of each first-of-the-month post" things, and I thought, You know, that'd be pretty cool.

This was before I actually looked at what I've posted here over the past year.

First of all: I sort of took a break from this journal from September 2005 to May 2006. So already, I've only posted for nine months of the year. June and July? Were only fic. May and August? Were mostly fic. I started posting things that weren't fic at the beginning of September, when I started getting out of that initial binge of writing Supernatural fic and started getting into Supernatural fandom. This was also when I realized that as much as I like my RL livejournal, there are certain things I just can't post there.

Therefore, I am going to riff off the theme and instead give you Twelve Favorite/Most Telling Passages of the Year ).

Yes, I am a dork.
I should be doing things like studying, but instead I'm curled up in bed writing fairy tales.

For serious, like tales about fish and fishermen and soldiers and the long march home. I read this little biography of Hans Christian Andersen and it stressed that he invented most of his tales, didn't just retell folk legends.

I thought, Hey, that's pretty cool. I bet I could try that.

As it turns out, capturing the tone and mood of Andersen-ian fairy tales, using a sort of cobbled-together archaic diction, and coming up with new plots at the same time is hard. But it's a lot of fun, too.
As you may have guessed, I am in college.

This means I am:

a. Poor; and
b. Poor; and
c. Stressed all to hell.

Alors! Here's what I propose instead of cards for Christmas/your holiday or winter celebration of choice:

Give me something. No, not a physical thing. I'm talking a word, a phrase, a favorite poem, a picture, a rant about how your cat won't quit puking in the corner.

And I will write you a sonnet [sort of maybe a little] related to whatever you give me. I make no promises about the quality of said sonnet; however, I am actually majoring in this stuff, so it should not make your brain hurt too badly. It will be done by January 1, known in Madison, WI as "The Day We All Get Wasted Out of Our Fucking Minds."

In all probability, it will be done by December 25, known in Madison, WI, as "The Day We Exchange Presents and Then Get Wasted Out of Our Fucking Minds."

Any takers?
So, you may be thinking, wasn't Carmen doing NaNo? What happened to that anyway?

Well, real life happened to that. But not in the way you think--real life happened in that I had too much inspiration, and the novel I started out with was not what I realized I wanted to write. The roundup for the month turned out something like this:

-30.000 words on the novel
-2 completed SPN fics (about 6.000 words)
-7 SPN beginnings (about 3.000 words)
-omg so many poems (about infinity words)
-3 short stories which need to be edited and posted (about 7.000 words)
-1 sonnet sequence (technically a crown of sonnets. also in dire need of editing.)
-1 insane research paper on the decade following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the southern US (2.800 words)
-1 fic that totally has nothing to do with Robin Hood at all and in fact doesn't exist
-4 short story introductions

In conclusion, I have been insanely productive. And while I did not technically win NaNo, I'm happy with the fact that I got this much done. *does writing dance*
untitled. John, pre-series, originally posted as a response to [livejournal.com profile] onelittlesleep's post here.

John loves running through the summer. )

Oh, for crying out loud, it seems like all I can do is write and write and write, stories and poems and fic and in my notebook and on the backs of receipts at work and on my hands and through the cloud of my exhaled breath.

It's this constant outpouring, and I'm not sure it's okay, not sure I trust myself to stop without running into a wall. Like I'm headed downhill without brakes and wow it's cool to have this much wind in my hair but what happens when I get to the bottom?

Also: it's precluding everything else I have to do. Like editing my paper or reading or eating or sleeping or showering and yeah.

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May 2010

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