Long overdue!

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The End of an Era

I know I haven’t written in a while. I have another huge writing project that’s been taking up all my time. However, I feel like if there’s any day to write, it’s today.

Tomorrow, my childhood officially ends. Okay, I know that sounds ridiculously dramatic. I wouldn’t risk saying something like that if it didn’t feel so very true. Now I’m sure that, unless you completely avoid your television and computer, you know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiers tomorrow. I will be there, in line, in a plaid skirt and tie and my dad’s old graduation robes. Twenty one years ago, I was born and J.K. Rowling was a waitress living in her car, writing notes on napkins. Just as we were all turning eleven, the first book came out.

I didn’t read it. I actively chose to avoid it. Harry Potter? That sounds stupid, I told myself. A bunch of wizards in a school? I don’t really know why I rejected it so strongly. For my entire reading life, I had devoured every fantasy book I could find like it was crack. Assuming it was a type of swallowable crack. After wearing away the pages on my copies of Narnia and The Dark is Rising, I should have thought, “Oh, hey. British children with magic are whimsical and awesome. Harry Potter contains magical British children. Maybe I should read it and become obsessed with it.” Instead, I ignored all my pleading friends and refused all contact. Until finally, my friend Tracey shoved the first three books at me and commanded me to borrow them. I read them in a week.

Then there was the wait you all remember, between books three and four. I swear it could have been eternity. I was a heroin addict (yep, we’re switching drugs) and suddenly, heroin was extinct. So I got into fanfiction. Roleplay forums. Anything for a quick Potter fix. The fourth came out, another eternity to the fifth, sixth, seventh. Then suddenly, it was over. I cried on the last page of the seventh book (we’re pretending that the Epilogue doesn’t exist, by the way). But still, there was light. There were movies. Tomorrow at midnight, that all ends. The people (not characters, that’s not what they feel like) I grow up with are going their separate ways. No more stories. No more adventures. Harry and the gang are adults now, with lives and kids of their own. They don’t have time to be sharing their adventures with outsiders. They just want the quiet.

For all us misfit kids who never really made it to the upper social circles, Harry, Hermione, Ron (and Draco, if you were a girl and went through that bad boy phase, not that I’m admitting anything) were more real to you than half the people who never bothered to notice you existed. Wow, that sounded melodramatic. Really though, Harry Potter was more than a series of books. It was a world we all lived in. A place we went when the real world was too much. A group of friends we knew better than ourselves. Harry will always be there to go back to, but like the Beatles and Tolkien, he’s slipping out of the now. Already, there are teenagers who have never read a single book. Harry Potter is our generation’s savior. We won’t forget him, even once those final credits roll tomorrow night.

But that isn’t the only thing ending tomorrow. For all you Chicagoans, there’s another thing ending. For twenty years, Q101 has been Chicago’s ultimate alternative rock station. They started with “Friday I’m in Love” by the Cure–incidentally, one of my top ten favorite songs of all time. They were there counseling troubled kids when Kurt Cobain’s suicide shocked everyone. They fostered Disturbed, Local H, Fall Out Boy, and dozens of other local, now international sensations on Local 101. They’ve always been there for a song, a concert announcement, an interview, a dirty joke. Tomorrow, Q101’s DJs come off the air forever. After that . . . well, no one actually knows.

For twenty years, Q101’s djs have brought together rock fans all over the city. They’re more friends that are departing now, for a new life. Long ago there was Mancow, who used to shock the airwaves in the mornings. There are Sherman and Tingle, who kept me laughing all morning as I drove back to college for the first time by myself, fighting back tears over my anxiety over graduation. There are the Manno brothers, who greeted me every day after school. Twitch, god of the web page, offering up concert updates and silly videos. Tim Virgin and Pogo riffing about bands. Electra, ruling the airwaves with the Last Letter Game. Top 9 at 9. What’s the Point. Just to rub it in, Sarah and I missed the very last Q101 Jamboree. Lolla is great, but there’s nothing like a good, muddy Q101 show. Or there used to be. Rumor has it, all this will be replaced by an all news station. I think I could cry. The days of radio are over. Commercialism wins. Pick another platitude.

So tomorrow, I say goodbye to two icons. Millions will be crying with me over Harry Potter, but I hope there are a good few who sit around to listen while the Q101 djs share the best of the last 20 years. IPods and Grooveshark just can’t replace a whole community, listening to music together. I heard almost all my favorite songs first on Q101. I don’t know what I’ll tune to the next time I turn on the radio. I guess it’s time to do some searching.

So, I’ve finally finished Dark Moon. Again. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of me and this book, I’ll share. It started over a game when I was nine and evolved into a story idea too irresistable to ignore. I spent several years writing the first draft (if only I could find that original looseleaf!) that I finished when I was twelve. I still look back on that first effort, half plagiarized in the innocent and confused way of children, and cringe. Full of uninspired names, vomit-worthy plot “twists”, and every cliche I could pack into 58 pages, it was the masterpiece of someone delusional. But it was my first long work, and though I may cringe, I still feel a little pride to know that I wrote something then that has evolved into what I now call my first novel. From that first version from 2002 came the much more reasoned effort that was finished in 2004. Since then, seven more versions of the book have cluttered up my hard drive. The first was meant to be the last, the second a simple edit, the third a list of very important revisions, and then the game was on. Any writer plagued by perfectionism knows the peculiarly feverish joy of stamping out extra adverbs, cutting and pasting paragraphs, changing names ten times and then changing them back. Every time the nagging thought that “This isn’t good enough” would strike, up would be a new version. My friends and family would groan, but I would tell them only, “I had to. It was necessary.”

So you will forgive them their assured skepticism now, when I tell you that version 7–if I can curb my enthusiasm for reworking, the last version until it crosses the eyes of an editor–is complete. Oh, the random edit here and there may find its way onto the page, but I here vow not to open Darkmoon v8.

Unless it really, really needs it.

In the spirit of a happy conclusion, I give you an excerpt from what everyone I know (I’m sure) can only hope will be the final revision. Enjoy. Next stop: actually finishing those short stories…and finding a good literary magazine that accepts pieces with 8000+ words. Eep.

P.S. I also vow never to write a blog entry at 3:50 am again. Though =/= Thought. Excepts =/= Accepts. 3:50 am =/= the proper time for blog writing. Oh dear.


With exaggerated niceness, Lena drawled, “Oh yes, great Trent, please forgive my—what is that!” Her eyes popped. Behind Trent, standing stiffly next to her desk, was the man. The same stark coloring, the same electric eyes. With a cry, Lena clutched her hands to her head. A pang shot through it like someone had cracked a hammer between her eyes.

“What? Lena, what’s wrong?”

“There, behind you, idiot!”

Trent seemed to look directly at the man, but when he turned back around he was chewing his lip. “Lena,” he said lowly, “there’s nothing there. Is this what happened at school?”

“You kidding? There’s a—” She nearly choked. In the space of one blink, the man had vanished. The intense pounding in her head had dulled to a low throb. She breathed raggedly.

“Lena, once is an accident. Twice is something serious. Maybe we should call the doctor.”

“Says the boy who almost got himself killed ‘cause he didn’t tell anyone he was hurt ‘til his appendix almost blew up.”

“Are you taking something?”

“No!”

“Lena, you’re—”

“Just tired,” she insisted. The last thing she needed was her parents thinking she was crazy.

“Lena—”

Eyebrows knit, voice low, she growled, “You so much as hint to mom and dad and you’re dead.”

Trent stretched out across her bed and threw his head back with a loud scoff. “God, I’m not going to tell them. But you need to take it easy.” The scowl broke and he laughed quietly. “Yeah, little sis, you could definitely beat me up. Look at those muscles.” He poked a finger into one of her arms.

She scowled. “You’re such a loser. I don’t need muscles to punch you in the nose.”

“Yeah, yeah, just try.”

That dissolved into a very one-sided fight starting with Lena throwing a halfhearted punch at Trent’s shoulder and ending with Trent putting her into a headlock until she sighingly proclaimed that he was the coolest and most accomplished of the Angeleses. Still, when he left her room, Trent told her pointedly that if she started seeing invisible things again he was bringing her to the doctor, in a straightjacket if necessary. Lena grimaced, knowing that even though Trent would keep their talk to himself, he would not forget it. When she went to sleep that night her head still pulsed like a whole baseball team had used it for batting practice and for the first time in years, she pulled out her old night light and plugged it in, just in case she awoke in the night to a pair of soulless violet eyes.

Is there any excuse for the hiatus that has separated my last, casual attempt at a poem from now?  If there is I will strive to make it, and for the drabness of the title, but I promise you no miracles.  The first few months of disappearance may be accounted for by my adventures abroad, which took up the whole of fall semester and occupied my time, if not with writing here, then writing in my chronicles of my Roman days.  And since then?  Well, suffice to say the muse is a greedy little tart.  If the current work doesn’t feed her passion, she immediately drops off.  Not to say that I have not written.  I’m well through what seems to be the seventh version of the third version of Dark Moon, and ironing out those difficulties which for my pride’s sake I can’t publish for free here.  Then there have been my stories for Introduction to Fiction Writing, which may make an excerpted appearance here if I dare to show them.  And grad school?  Well, that beast and all it requires has been devouring my time all summer, with little more to show for it than a One Note labyrinth of resources and the probable beginnings of an ulcer. 

So there are my excuses, if any can be made.  But I care too much to abandon this, so I’ll start up again, in perhaps less ambitious fashion.  No need for a daily rambling, when my Rome blog is still awaiting its conclusion and three weeks will have me slumped over a desk performing statistical analyses.  So what has changed in nearly a year?  By my little list of facts, not much.  I’m still crossing my fingers for a Sox playoff run.  I still haven’t finished The Idiot, though I’ve chowed through at least a dozen books, not counting those for class, since I started it. I’m still listening to roughly the same music, I’m still tired and cranky, and ironically enough, or is that coincidentally, I’m still enjoying the sound of the rain.

So there is my re-introduction. Good to meet you again too. Now that we know each other, let us never speak of this absence again.

Cheers.

What happens when you spend the better part of your day writing a paper on Alfred Lord Tennyson? You procrastinate by writing Tennyson-inspired poems, that’s what. Yet again, this is only a first draft.  It was a delightful procrastination tool, and I thought I’d share it here.  As with the others, newer versions will follow as I edit them.  Prepare yourselves for more of these.  We’re not out of the frying pan yet. 

 

Come sweetly, soft, and do tread lightly, dear.

Cruel thorns will tear your brow, your feet, your hair,

Sly rocks your ankles twist; no longer near

The sun, but frozen brambles, trees stripped bare,

Mud-choked the stream where even serpents fear

To sift.  Not e’en the frown of winter wear

The mountains’ mouths, but fleshless faces’ leer

O’er changeless plains, shaved of the seasons’ hair. 

These Nature’s bones, too long less hands to rear

Too-tender seeds, the phantom portraits bear

From careless youth, when dyads danced to hear

Spring’s feet approach out Hades’ new-shut lair. 

Lay down with me where late the stern frontier

By our hand smiled, ‘til absence wrought despair

To wilt our Eden, change our bed to bier. 

Our home we scorned to tend, your fate we share!

Our glass eyes other keepers bid beware,

That untilled soil can naught but tombs prepare. 

But let them know that we were happy here.

So, taking this Brit Lit class has really benefitted my poetry, even though my fiction projects are still languishing in the face of travel, pasta, and RPG.  This poem was inspired by Tennyson’s fear of death in his “In Memoriam A.H.H.”  Like the last one, it is not completed but is a work in progress that I thought I’d share.  The final version will make it’s way here eventually, I daresay. 

 

If you would seek Avalon, turn back

Seek shelter in the raging storm

Your eyes may burn, your skeleton crack

But though your body grind to ash

Untried your soul won’t come to harm.

The lasting wound is not the gash

Of sword or brand, recalls offense

Once earned, concealed, where mental lashes

Find no balm, but that they burn

At every touch, destroying sense.

Gold Eden promises to turn

Mind’s ache to joy, and heal both brain

And body—if you merely spurn

Your life and limb, choose loneliness,

Embrace despair, for later gain. 

Destroy yourself, for heaven’s bliss

If sure your loss will earn your fate

For Earth’s content in vain you’ll miss

To find Forever made of glass

Where piety trades cruel real for naught,

Unconscious tomb for ivory gate.

Alas, so much of my writing time of late has been taken up in my detailed chronicles of my Italian adventures for my Rome blog, or else in actually having these adventures. I’ve been working on my novels some, but with very full days, most of my energy goes to my meticulous descriptions of each day. However, I did, inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Cry of the Children” as read in my Brit Lit class, pen this poem on the train to Florence. It’s just a first draft, and I’ll post a better version once it’s edited, but I will post it here. It might be interesting to see its progression.

In sleepy town on quiet streets
Are swings the wind pumps to and fro
And dirty mitts and baseball bats
Left rainwashed sunbleached in a row.
But where the ghosts to haunt these stones?
To graves indoors they steal the sounds
Of ghastly hum and dying moan.

In plastic soil they dig their trench
To practice their peculiar sin:
That in their world so taught to flinch
From stranger, ally, kith, and kin.
By tutors, taught to self-rely
And distance keep from friends who pry
They fashion perfect graves within.

Though friends they claim, or feign as such,
And lovers doting to their whim
They earn these through not smile or touch
Or playground games and jumprope rhymes
But courtship they conduct in walls
Their voice and face in well-stocked cells
To face the world on their own time.

But “face” falls short to name the life
They own; too delicate and dear
Their parents say, for earthly strife.
Much better close to keep them here
Where words on screens their bones can’t break
And failure grind their wishes weak
For safety’s price they must learn fear.

For men strike down these tender souls
With murder, rape, and notions sick
And new. Some children raze in brawls
The pure, or teach them hellions’ tricks.
With structured play, they cannot learn
The habits that will bid them burn
Or cut their spirit to the quick.

In clean white houses on white lanes
These clean white children own the world
With blinking boxes, high-def screens
They flirt and fight and safe unfold
The games and places obsolete
For what reality can compete
When packed perfection’s cheaply sold?

Who suffers if a boy of five
Can fly on screen but loathes to run?
Or girls share secrets, songs, and smiles
In type, but face-to-face speak none?
No limit on who they can be
They’ll craft themselves a self or three
Why stop pretending if it’s fun?

For friends you touch can see your worst.
Identity demands such strain.
When ten at once you can converse
Why talk in person, one friend gain?
Just try the lot. For each a new
Persona; if these friends wear through
Just shut them off and choose again.

And outside play? Forget the thought.
It’s dirty, tiresome, tooth and nail.
Experiences can be bought
On-screen your wishes cannot fail
In half an hour traverse the globe
Don’t leave your polished room to probe
The blackened streets beyond your pale.

For caveat, think on but one,
That if these youths the world address
With Earth to hold they’ll know it none.
With thirty selves, all are repressed.
Small wonder that they lonely brood
Or raise their guns and spill their blood
When faced each day with facelessness.