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Archive for July, 2012

In an attempt to finish my second story for this so-called “book”, I’ve been doing plenty of research on names for my two main characters.  My Google search bar has filled up with “unique baby names”, “old lady names”, “shy-girl names”….etc.  As I scroll through these lists of “unique” names, I find myself flinching at some of them—I would never name my daughter Happy, Easter, or Demi (which means “half”….sorry Ms. Levato/Moore).

I feel as if I haven’t connected enough with my two main characters to be able to name them.  I should feel motherly to them, but I don’t.  I almost understand the difficulty in naming a child—you have to find something that leaves an imprint.  I want my characters to have names that leave impacts on the reader.  As opposed to Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name….” quote, I do find that names mean a lot.  They identify a person.  People who I meet identify me as the girl with the long/complicated name.  We often look at people and say, “oh, they look like a _____.”  Maybe it’s just me trying to be a good writer, but I think that a name should reflect a personality.  With real people, that can often be difficult, as a name lasts forever….and newborns hardly have personalities.  We can’t see into the future—see where newborns will end up, who they’ll be, how their names will play into their lives.  But a writer is God in his/her world—he/she can see the future to all extents, can change it in any way, can shape the way a person turns out.  Names are, therefore, important.

On a different note, as I was searching through “unique names”, I came across Opal, the name which started my long-lasting series.  I’m a bit bipolar when it comes to believing in “destiny” or “fate”, but I think that Opal was fate.  Opal, meaning a jewel, comes from Sanskrit roots, the same roots as my own name (Sanskrit is the root language for all of the Indian languages, with significant influence on other languages of the world).  It originated in India around the 17th century, and was one of the most popular names in the US in the early 20th century.  Fate.  I didn’t know Opal was a Sanskrit name, but I suppose that my roots always creep up on me somehow.  I think I’ll always have an attachment to this name.

So I still haven’t found names for my two characters.  This is my way of procrastinating during a time of severe writer’s block.  I had Stella (old lady) and April (teenager)—–> Amelie (old lady) and April (teenager)—–> Aurora (old lady) and May (teenager)——> finally, I have Amelie (old lady) and May (teenager).  I don’t like either.  Oh woes.

-B

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(I only made the video to share the music part….I hate the video itself…)

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Inner Artist

When it comes to watching movies, I’m a hopeless romantic.  I opt for clichéd chick flicks with plenty of romance and cheesiness in order to make up for many voids in my life (I’m half kidding…).  Yet, these are all one-time movies, movies that I can bear the first time and forget about until years later [Exceptions are, of course, Mean Girls and A Walk to Remember].  Last night, after cooking Italian while reading on the counter and listening to classical music, I sat down to watch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, chosen mostly due to my love for Emily Blunt.  And wow, I was taken aback.  I’m not really sure where the idea comes from, but they make it work.  It’s about a project to introduce salmon fishing in the Yemen, and the blossoming relationship between the head of the project (Emily Blunt) and the expert fisherman (some Brit I don’t know…).  It was phenomenal.  It lacked the typical clichés of my favorite movies; rather, it was full of intellect and culture.  I also say this because I’m biased towards Emily Blunt—her strong-mindedness as a woman (Adjustment Bureau, anyone?) is preferable over demeaning female characters in other movies….I’m clearly a women’s rights activist.  The movie was just so down-to-earth—it made you feel good about yourself, and simultaneously was refreshing.  It’s the type of movie that I would curl up to watch on Friday nights with a cup of tea…or after a long, bad day.  And I have very few feel-good movies in my life.

In terms of books, I’m still reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman for my English class, a book that I’ve had mixed feelings about.  It explores the Hmong (a Laotian tribe) culture, and their assimilation to the American society—and, boy, is it well-researched.  I feel like I’m a part of that culture now—but I’ll admit that some parts of the book are painfully slow for me.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it—it might be worth it in a few weeks or so.  Otherwise, I’m still getting over The Fault in Our Stars.  I have started Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, but I’ll admit that a combination of long, tiresome rehearsals, as well as laziness has kept me from the book for a few days.  I’ve also stumbled upon some writer’s block, which leaves me staring at my screen for hours, frustrated.

For the past few months, I’ve started this whole health-craze lifestyle.  Rather than me being aware of my health, it’s more of a feel-good sensation.  Eating healthy has made me feel better than ever, and I plan on continuing this.  Unfortunately, the only junk food I haven’t given up is sweets—I refuse….and probably will for a while.  Other than this, I’ve switched to all wheat, which is, for lack of a better word, disgusting.  If I despise anything, it’s whole-wheat foods.  There’s something so tasteless about it, yet I’m still forcing myself to eat it.  Last night I made pesto pasta with whole-wheat, organic pasta—-the taste of which I covered up with extra parmesan cheese (I feel like this defeats my purpose).  The only path to sanity right now is the occasional creemee or Cookie Crumble Starbucks Frappachino (maybe it’s more than ‘occasional’).

I’ve been going to a theatre camp for the last week in order to rehearse for Bye Bye Birdie.  While my role in the background is less than ideal (4 lines, woo!), I realize that I still love theatre as much as I used to.  I just don’t have time for it anymore.  Yet there’s something magical about divulging into a character, into lines, under bright lights—something about getting a standing ovation at the end of it all—late nights, tech rehearsals, building a family.  Although this camp isn’t exactly like this, it makes me nostalgic of the plays I used to do.  I prefer straight plays over musicals.  The best role I’ve had was the character Stage Manager in Our Town, who served as the enigmatic narrator with numerous two-page monologues.  There was no feeling like being up on stage, having the spotlight.  Our Town was difficult, as many messages were cryptic, and we were in middle school.  But in the end, I felt what I was saying, and it made everything magical.  During our last show, I had the final bow, and everyone gave me a standing ovation.  One woman came up to me and told me I had some of the best acting she’s seen in Vermont.  It was unbelievable.  I don’t believe that I’m a very good actor; it was more that my character was me.  I believe in all these cryptic messages that explain what life is about and inspiration and blahblahblah, as the Stage Manager did.  My favorite roles to play are narrators.  Other than this, I enjoy crazy, insane roles.  Last summer, at the same theatre camp, I played the role of Mrs. Potiphar in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  On stage, I had to attempt to seduce the main character, clearly stepping out of my boundaries.  Anyone who knew me in the audience couldn’t control themselves.  At first, I felt tremendously uncomfortable, but I realized that acting is about stepping into someone else’s shoes and having fun.  Once I got past the “this-isn’t-me-please-don’t-judge-me” zone, I had the time of my life, and got a few laughs.  I definitely miss theatre, but I think I enjoy performing in general.  Thankfully, I still have my violin!

My summer is unfortunately uneventful this year, which upsets me.  My show is this Thursday and Friday at 2 pm at Williston Central School, so please come if you’d like to!  Next week is the long-awaited Reveille!  Other than this, I haven’t saved any suffering bunnies from my dogs, or partied hard (just kidding…).  Maybe I’ll have some good stories eventually.

-B

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Etoiles

I fall for eyes.  I fall for star-lit skies in the summer breezes.
I stumble from the hypnosis of glimmers and pools of ocean-blue.
Once I used to fall for smiles,
used to watch lips curl into teeth.
Smiles unleash personalities; eyes unleash stories;
I am dazed by both.
Yet my comfort with people–my recent vivaciousness–
pulls me to eyes.

I am pulled by magnetic stares
like the moon pulls the ocean-blue waves.
I am a child with glitters, mesmerized by swimming colors and pupils,
drowning.  I drown, often.
I drown when the fervent sun tears away at the
world around me,
and mirrors of myself make me spin.

I am carried between their words, through their emotions,
into their bittersweet selves.

Some love through smiles; I, through eyes.

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Catharsis

I once knew a woman who used to believe in inspiration.  Rather, she used to live by the word.  She was a quoter; she lived by the notion that the world was a melting pot of quotes.  Her speech was hindered by clichés, yet she spoke with purpose.  Her eyes were glistening reflection of what she perceived everyone as, filters for immorality.  She lived in an illusion; she was an illusion.

She believed in the spirit of a person, in the way the spirit floated, in the way it could diverge from the physical being.  She believed in bringing about a catharsis in people–that change was inevitable in every lost soul.  She believed every person lived with a purpose in the world, that their niche was to change the world—for the better.  She carried herself without a doubt, yet she unknowingly created many skeptics around her.

I often questioned the sincerity of the woman.  Her kind heart and sing-songy words were sources of bliss for anyone she encountered; there was something surreal about it all, about her.  She often told me I was her inspiration, and in tradition, I said the same to her.  Yet, sometimes I considered her to truly be so.  Her optimism reminded me of my own dreams—of reaching out for them.  She was one of the few in the world who dreamt of changing others—and in my own selfish ways, I dreamt of changing myself.

I used to wonder about the woman’s childhood, about the source of her optimism.  Perhaps she used her idealistic views on life to escape something that left her scarred—something that reminded her each and every day of the strife in parts of the world, of the internal conflicts within every person.  In a way, she had her own solution for escaping this labyrinth of suffering.  She followed the traces of the sunlight until she found herself closer to the end, stepping into the light until its blindness eased the pain and suffering of her life.

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For some reason, the audio and video don’t match up, which makes for an awkward cover–but other than this, this song is probably one of my favorites!  I spent all of Saturday figuring this out (what takes a pianist 5 min. takes me 5 hours), and I kind of figured out what the lyrics mean.  They’re beautiful.  It’s about how we’re all “men of snow” (or wo-men…) and we eventually “melt”, or die.  But she doesn’t sing this morbidly—rather, she’s appreciating life, and is suggesting that we live life to our fullest. It’s brilliantly written when you think about it.

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I am thinking of ways to word this so that I don’t sound like every other teenage reader.  I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green within the matter of a few hours, the fastest I’ve ever read a book.  At this point, it’s still fresh in my mind, and I’m a bit taken aback, I suppose.  I can’t explain my feelings right now.  The book floored me.  I spent the moments after closing the hard end cover contemplating the meaning of, well, life, maybe.  Maybe the universe.  Maybe the purpose of existing, and the purpose of meaning.

Before I explain my cryptic feelings, I should briefly summarize the book.  Hazel is a girl with cancer, Augustus is an overly-attractive cancer survivor—the two fall in love, contemplate the meaning of life, etc etc.  Honestly, I can’t explain it.  It would be a disgrace to John Green if I tried to explain it.  But I have yet to talk to a person, male or female, who hasn’t liked this book.  AKA—please, please, please read it.  The characters in the book consistently point out the clichés in their lives, which makes it all realistic.

After reading this book, Augustus and Hazel are basically people to me.  I cried not at the expected scene of tragedy; rather, I cried at the moment that reached out to my heartstrings, and affected me in ways that other people wouldn’t understand (for the record, I don’t cry while reading).  But I feel cheated by Green’s masterpiece.  Everyone has read this book; everyone is fervently in love.  I feel cheated because it isn’t special—in other words, I don’t feel unique by being moved by the book.  I feel like Green’s words reach out to everyone as intensely as they did to me, but I’m trying to convince myself that this book was written for me—in the sense that I am the only person who can understand it, who can connect to it.

I have this theory in my mind that everyone has a book that reaches them in unforeseen ways—a book that allows them to divulge into the words, the story, the characters; a book that makes us wonder who we are and what our purpose in life is.  I am convinced that in my sixteen years, The Fault in Our Stars is that book for me.  Although I’m thoroughly impressed by Green’s wit and style, it was the characters who really affected me.  Before this, I read An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska by Green, two books that were inarguably well-written and touching, but not as spectacular as people made them out to be.  Yet Hazel and Augustus must have triggered something within me—the way they were so realistic, so charismatic, so in touch with themselves and their surroundings.  I guess there are parts of the book—tears that were shed—that can only linger in mind…..emotions and memories and thoughts that are too valuable to be shared.  It’s almost like by keeping them to myself, I can preserve the sensation I had after reading it.

Immediately after reading the last words, my first thought was, “I can’t ever be a writer.”  I don’t think I can; rather, I don’t think I want to live in the shadow of writers who compel the reader like John Green.  No matter how dignified my words are, or complex, I will never be able to touch a reader like his book touched me.  I am suddenly in this pessimistic mood that makes me hate my writing.

Ironically, Paris Amour was chosen to be broadcasted on VPR sometime during the year.  This is exciting for me—this is all I ever wanted.  Yet, I’m drowning in melancholy.  I realize that more people will see my writing, that my first chapter of my so-called “book” is somewhat successful.  Yet, I can’t help but feel as if there’s no point to writing anymore.  I’d rather just bury myself in the words of other writers.

I don’t want to reveal too much about The Fault in Our Stars, because I believe that each word should be taken as a surprise.  But one scene of the book takes place at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, the same place which inspired my piece Dear Anne.  This may have been the first tear-jerker.  Here, Green pointed out the same snippits that I mentioned in my 8th grade piece—the markings of growth on the wall, the TVs with concentration camps, the museum lines that veiled the history.  Maybe these are all the generic facets of the museum, yet I felt as if I was back in the same spot, reading my own thoughts.  Ironically, Dear Anne was the piece that prompted two phone calls from readers around the state, who were moved by my words and maturity, and inspired by my thoughts.  To this day, it’s the one piece of writing I’m still proud of.  I often wonder how John Green feels writing these books that move millions of people—mine affected two, and that itself is one of my happiest and proudest moments.

I think I’m experiencing an after-book high—the type of high I aspire to get after any book.  I don’t want to start anything new today, just so I can keep this sensation.  I think tomorrow I’ll either finish the Hunger Games series grudgingly, or start This Side of Paradise by Fitzgerald.

I just wanted to share two quotes that kind of struck me from the book.  Out of one of the most quotable books I’ve ever read, these two, for some reason, were the most meaningful or interesting to me:

  • “In freedom, most people find sin.”
  • “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations”
Beautiful.

Best,
B

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