The Liebster Award!

Something wonderful happened last week: this blog was nominated for a Liebster Award by Laura at Caledon Acres! Thank you so much for thinking of this little blog and its stories. It’s wonderful to know that they’re being enjoyed. I’m very happy to accept it… and to answer all the fun questions that come along with the award!

(I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but I find any sort of questionnaire irresistible. I used to spend hours on those quiz websites, doing quiz after quiz until I forgot who I was.)

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11 Questions about Me

  1. How did you arrive at the name for your blog? Well… it’s my name.
  2. If all forms of the name had already been taken, what was your second choice? I called my tumblr ‘the glittering grey stars’… it’s from a poem I wrote (yeah, I’m self-centered) where I used that to describe neurons that are struggling with life problems.
  3. What or who inspired you to start blogging? I knew I had to do it, since I wanted to be an author and all authors have blogs. At least, that’s what all the tutorials say. But it’s turned into a great place to get a summary of who I am and what kind of content I like to produce.
  4. Describe yourself in three words. Optimistic, goal-oriented raccoon.
  5. What is your biggest fear? Looking back on my life and being unhappy with the choices I made.
  6. What is your own personal favorite of your own blog posts, and why? SixI love Six. But Mzungu Town is the non-fiction piece of which I’m the proudest.
  7. Where did you spend most of your life, and where are you now? Paraguay. I’m now back, but just for a little while.
  8. What is a “big” blog that you enjoy and why? Probably Trout Nation. I just can’t stop myself from reading detailed reviews of extremely problematic books. And her tips on writing and plot have really helped me, while being very entertaining.
  9. What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? It’s extremely long. But it’s also extremely good… and you can find it in this post. I love envisioning life as an eternal search for something that transcends us.
  10. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your fresh-out-of-school self? You’re going to be more than okay.
  11.  I am all about bloggers helping other bloggers. Help us help you. If someone wanted to show your blog some love, what would be your preferred method — a Facebook share? Sharing on Twitter? Subscribing to your blog? Commenting on your blog? Submitting your posts to Stumbleupon? Or something else? Let’s all read their answers and try to make that happen. Any sort of publicity is welcome! But Twitter, Facebook and likes are my favorite. Leaving comments on my work is also a really nice thing to do.

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I have fanfics lined up as far as 2018. I even have outlines for them.
  2. I never actually thought I would be a Person Who Travels. I always knew I wanted to study outside of Paraguay, and maybe do a year of service somewhere else… but all the travelling it seems that I’ll be doing really comes as a surprise.
  3. A weird side-effect of my moving back home has been the inability to catch up with shows I missed. Instead, all I do is watch shows I’ve already watched.
  4. I don’t believe in writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction. I just don’t believe that it can be done well.
  5. There’s a song called ‘Noviembre sin ti’ that me and my friends only allow ourselves to sing in November. We REFUSE to sing or hear it on any other month.
  6. I was bitten by an Aedes Aegipti mosquito last week and I don’t have dengue yet, so I guess it wasn’t contaminated.
  7. If I’m ever unable to have a cat because of the size of my apartment, I will adopt a chinchilla.
  8. The Last Coven was inspired by the city of Posadas, in Argentina.
  9. My best friend has been my best friend for over 16 years.
  10. Moddi is possibly my favorite artist of all time.
  11. I have been writing novels for a long time… but I still haven’t discovered The One: the novel that I can truly dedicate my life to. Right now, I’m still exploring.

Nominated blogs

There should be at least five blogs here, but the truth is I could only think of these three as worthy of an award. That makes them all the more special! They’re my favorite.

  1. Cleansing Our Misconceptions: a blog by my friend Ruha Matin, whom I know in real life. It’s full of passionate, in-depth posts about feminism, human rights and various social issues. She’s covered all sorts of subjects, and she writes in both English and Spanish.
  2. The Old Shelter: Sarah maintains a blog full of really interesting info, pictures, videos and fiction about the 1920s. I started reading her posts during NaNoWriMo a few years back, and going through her blog is like plunging deep into the 1920s!
  3. Heed Not Steve: I feel so calm when I read the posts in this blog. I found Silly Old Day ridiculously adorable. Steve’s work is quirky, short and profound.

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The Boys in the Soccer Field (and what they did there)

20160124_164046We meet them in an empty soccer field: a dusty rectangle between a maize field and a house abandoned in mid-construction. There’s some confusion as we try to figure out a place to sit – the dirt is still somewhat damp from the morning’s drizzle – but then most huddle together on the dirt with their backs to the brick wall of the roofless house, a few others perched on what would have been the windowsills. One skinny boy climbs up and down the walls, his feet finding protruding bricks. The smaller children sit cross-legged, knees touching, giggling intermittently. The rest of them are mostly boys ages 11-14, and all eighteen of them have determined expressions on their faces. Lua, my Tanzanian friend whom I am visiting, and I, sit down facing them.

A sweet-faced boy with a seemingly permanent smile explains their dilemma. The neighborhood kids want a new soccer ball – as we speak, two boys are unsuccessfully trying to patch up the old one, using two sticks and the force of their fingers – but they don’t have the funds to buy one. Lua translates quickly, since my Swahili is still much too weak, and we ask them if they’re interested in carrying out a project.

They look at each other, excitement and hesitation battling in their eyes. “What sort of project?” they ask. Already a boy in a purple shirt, one of the older ones, looks skeptical. He speaks up, unsure about the support neighboring adults could offer, doubting the commitment of his friends. “Why don’t we just all put in some money and buy it?”

“But not everyone has enough money,” another boy points out, surprising everyone with his insight. “And then some will have more of a right to the ball than others. There might be arguments. It’s better if we do something where we can all participate.”

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Between Two Years

Well, 2015 is over, and so much has happened! I haven’t had time to post anything before now, but I’m currently in Tanzania, so I’m starting 2016 in a completely new continent.
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Highlights of this year have been:

  1. My service in Haifa and Akko. Though it began in June 2014, this year has certainly been the most challenging segment of my service in the Holy Land, but also the most fruitful year of my life. I’ve made some unbelievably amazing friends, and I know what I want to do with my life from now on.
  2. Publishing ‘Rules of The Altar’, my first story ever published in a magazine! Knowing that I can achieve that has encouraged me immensely, and confirmed my aspirations to be a published author.
  3. Participating in the QLFC. We made it to the semi-finals and then lost (by 1 point!), but the friends I’ve made and the wonderful plot ideas I’ve been able to explore thanks to the challenge have changed the way in which I view fanfiction, and helped me discover my own strengths and weaknesses in writing. I now have fifteen new stories in my portfolios on AO3 and fanfiction.net, and the knowledge that writing a story every two weeks is well within my abilities.
  4. Getting healthy. My brain is now in perfect working order, and it’s amazing to know that I can be comfortable and happy in my own skin at last. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of what I’ve been through, and learned how I can help those going through similar experiences.
  5. Travelling. I’ve been to Poland, Ethiopia and Tanzania. I never imagined I would go to any of those places at this point in my life, but somehow I was able to!
  6. New fandoms. Ok, maybe slightly less meaningful than the other points, but Mad Max: Fury Road, The Force Awakens, Sense8 and Jessica Jones have given me new faith in what can be done with movies and shows.
  7. This blog. Hey, I didn’t forget about it again, did I?

What to expect in 2016!

  1. Me, travelling even more! And more unpredictably, maybe! I’m going back to Paraguay at some point and then going to either the USA or some unknown location. We’ll see.
  2. A conclusion to The Malfoy Case! It’s been going on for almost two years now, and I’m hoping to conclude it by its anniversary.
  3. The beginning of Mariusmy crime fanfic novel set during the Blitz, which follows Marius Black’s life as a Squib and a criminal mastermind in Muggle London.
  4. More of The Tisroc and the King. I’m hoping to finish it this year but I’d rather not make any promises!
  5. More opinion pieces both here on my blog and on other sites.
  6. Perhaps some new original short stories? Definitely new blog posts about my experiences here in Africa. We’ll see!

 

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What are you planning for 2016? Is there anything you would like to see more of on this blog or in my writing?

Learning to edit

There are very few things as painful as having to cut a 6,000-word-long story down to under 3,000 words.

Still, sometimes it’s necessary. Editing and proofreading things has become almost as prevalent in my life as writing itself – I’m in the process of going through two novels for two different friends of mine (which I’ll definitely review and encourage you to buy once they get published), and last week I edited four different fanfics for teammates in the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. Not to mention my own work – which is significantly harder to edit, since it’s so close to my heart.

I used to be confused when I read interviews with famous authors who said that they had rewritten their novels about a million times before ending up with the finished product that they published. The concept was baffling to me. It’s already so hard to produce a quality first draft – how on Earth did they find the energy to rewrite the whole thing so many times? And once you’ve written a story, it’s mostly set in stone in your head – how much could possibly change drastically enough to require a full rewrite?

But nowadays, sitting at the computer with no less than thirty-five browser tabs, three pdf files and four different Word documents open (and all for a story that ranges between 3-6K), I think I’m beginning to understand. My writing has significantly improved over the past few years, thanks to things like the SATs that taught me to recognized when a sentence isn’t structured properly (I’ve never actually taken any English classes), and from editing other people’s work and figuring out what common mistakes we make as writers when we assume the reader will just get what we mean. I’ve rewritten and restructured short stories, and learned to go over them many times (on separate days, ideally, to try and keep a clear mindset every time). And beta readers are life savers – especially when even I’m getting confused with my plot.

Making every word mean something takes a lot of detachment, especially when there’s a flowery sentence that sounds amazing but doesn’t really contribute anything to the story. Switching between creative and critical requires a sort of blunt sincerity that I’m not used to – but it’s extremely useful, even though I have to control it when beta’ing stories for my friends, or my constructiveness will turn destructive. I’ve also found that reading snarky book reviews (see Jenny Trout’s hilarious blog) is both really entertaining and educational; sometimes after reading a ton of badly written mainstream fiction, you need someone to point out the gaping holes it has in order to avoid making the same mistakes yourself. It’s hard to notice when you’re so used to them.

And while I used to hate editing my things, I suspect that once I get back on track with my novel and actually finish it, I’ll have a much easier time going through 100K+ words and getting something of quality out of it. I know that I have a tendency to repeat words and use way too many commas, so those mistakes are some of the first things I seek out in my finished draft. I’ve become much better at punctuation and much better at cutting unnecessary things out – even though it hurts my soul, sometimes. But it’s refreshing to know that longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. You can write short things and still keep the same quality content.

(I’m still in pain about that story, though – I actually posted two versions. But I’m learning to let go.)

(also, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to put any editing energy into my blog. I’m lazy like that.)

What’s been your experience with editing? Please tell me in the comments!


Last week I wrote A Tapestry of Bruises for the QLFC, a Harry Potter fanfiction competition. I’ll be posting a new story within the next few days.

I have some pretty intense exams coming up this weekend, so please keep me in your thoughts! And if you see me on tumblr too much, please yell at me. I should be finishing the next chapter of The Malfoy Case sometime next week… I don’t want to focus too much on that and end up getting a bad grade.

All characters should be like Peggy Carter

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Okay, so they don’t all have to be smart, beautiful, talented and noble-hearted women from the 40s/50s, but Peggy Carter is definitely one of the best-written characters I have ever seen in the action/adventure genre and the traits that make her so wonderful should be studied closely so that, in a world where it’s surprisingly hard to find three-dimensional and not over-sexualized female characters (especially on screen), we can finally have good role models to inspire us when writing.

Now, I’m not saying that Agent Carter is the best show in the history of television; it’s obviously flawed (especially when it comes to PoC representation). I’m also not claiming that I’m completely knowledgeable when it comes to the history of TV shows or that I’ve carefully analyzed every single female character ever created. But there are some things about their leading character that , in my opinion, make Carter an excellent role model for all our potential characters – and not just the female ones.

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Rain

This blog has now survived past December 1st and I think it deserves a hug. My new goal is to keep it up and thriving for another year.

We tried to go on a picnic a few days ago. That went well.

We tried to go on a picnic a few days ago. That went well.

A little over a week has passed since NaNoWriMo ended, and I admit I’ve been kind of lazy. I’ve poured most of my time into tumblr, watching Supernatural (in an attempt to discover what all the hype is about), catching up on Pottermore and engaging in an admittedly embarrassing marathon of Project Runway Australia (I’m not even sure why).

I turned 19 just as December began, and I’m really happy with the way my life is right now. Even though I spent the last week totally wasting my time, I realize that it’s good to take a break once in a while and just enjoy myself in my free time instead of spending it stressed out about self-inflicted deadlines and word count goals.

I also think it’s important to mention that I finally found a relatively nice cutting board and I’m really excited about it! I also found BOB: No Ordinary CatThe Return of the King, and The Hounds of the Baskervilles, White Fang and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (part of a Children’s Classics Collection… I wasn’t aware that these were books you’d give to a ten-year-old but okay… I mean, good for you. I also thought it was Hound but apparently this edition made it plural). And everything for free!

What I especially like about this time of year in this part of the world is that it’s starting to get cold and rainy. After months of heat it’s really a relief to put on a woolen sweater and boots and a scarf and carry around an umbrella (I already lost it a few weeks ago). Walking in chilly wind is an amazing feeling; I feel like it somehow clears my mind and helps put everything in perspective.

I like being cold.
Exposed to the four winds, bared to the air; and for an instant, I am
unwoven, exposed, shattered and rebuilt again
in the cold white light of sober clouds and rainbow lights entrancing.
I like wet hair and dew-tipped leaves and a mouth that tastes like tea -shot with memories
bursting heat inside with icicles on my skin.
I like daring refusal to take refuge, the momentary permission to shiver, to stop
unwound and uncontrolled, my breath takes shape before me like a ghost
my clothes are now incapable to hold me in, like shredded film, the air invades
just me and the world -the weakened flesh is nothingness in face of the elements.
I like the distant mist; the city now lies whitewashed with fire on its lips
stripped bare of names and ranks and feuds and lawless rules -alive, and struggling to breathe
a shared lung as we grapple towards warmth
but I will sit here in the cold a little longer, maybe.


What to hope for expect from the next month: a new chapter of The Malfoy Case , possibly a new one-shot and hopefully a new short story. Also some whining about upcoming exams, and probably some useful blog posts.

Do you prefer warm or cold weather?

 

Things to feel happy about when your plot is too big for your word count

Help! I’m almost at 35,000 words and my characters haven’t even begun to unravel the mystery of my novel (and neither have I, for that matter. I still don’t know what happens in the last third of the story, and this novel has no title and therefore no excerpt posted on my profile). This came unexpectedly, since I was under the impression that I was writing a fun short novel that would be fast-paced and entertaining.

And I don’t really think it’s either fast-paced or entertaining, to tell the truth.

But this is the middle of the month –okay, a bit more than the middle, but whatever– and I think it’s normal to feel incredibly insecure about how things are going at this point. So in an effort to make myself feel more motivated, I’m going to brag a little (in second person). And hopefully my bragging will make you feel like bragging as well, because if there’s one thing you can always count on, it’s human ego! And then we can make each other feel better about our writing progress, whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, and arrogance will actually be a helpful thing, for once.

1. You’ve written a ton of words. So maybe you thought your novel was going to finish at around 50,000 words, and now you’re thinking the word ‘end’ will probably end up being word #108,245. Yes, you have a lot of work ahead, but think of how proud you’ll be when you get to open your Word document (or whatever) and see all the pretty numbers, and scroll through an impressive amount of text and feel extremely proud of yourself. Just don’t zoom in too close; avoid looking at all those typos and bizarre metaphors.

2. You’ll have more material to edit later. Which sounds like a punishment, I know, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise! This way, you’ll be able to pick and choose which scenes you want to keep, which paragraphs need to be shortened and which characters can be cut out all together, without feeling like you’re cutting off your novel’s limbs. You’ll actually want to make it shorter, so your finished product will be a concentrated version of all the things that make a good story: emotion, action, dialogue and great characterization. And you won’t even have to think up new scenes!

3. You’re exercising your writing muscles! They say that to become a good writer, you need to write every day. Not only are you currently writing every day, but you’re also writing a lot every day. And that’s an excellent achievement. Sadly, it doesn’t mean that it counts as actual exercise… so make sure you’re not eating too many snacks at 3 a.m. like I am.

4. You’re creating more for your story. Even if this first draft ends up being one of those novels that gets completely rewritten, and ends up looking like some badly-written Alternate Universe fanfic of your future published material, this will be what that successful bestseller will be born from. You’re getting to know your characters, expanding their stories, realizing what you need to learn more about and writing a couple of really funny or poetic lines in the midst of all that rambling and rather rushed description. This is like the first time you try to cook something by doing it straight from the recipe: you’ll do your best, you’ll be totally confused most of the time, and you’ll probably get the measurements all wrong. But next time, when you try again, you’ll know how much you should put of everything and it’ll all go much more smoothly.

So for now, I’m happy just aiming to just write as much as possible, no matter how far behind I am in the actual story. And you should join me in looking at my dashboard and smiling self-centered-ly because we’re achieving something.

This makes me proud.

This makes me proud. What makes you proud?