Enduring Readers of mine will know that I recently did pretty well in an on campus publication, Periphery, with a piece of fiction and a poem. I just got back from their launch party and man, do I feel great. After all, it's not very often that you get a chance to speak to an audience of people enthusiastic not only about the arts, but about things you've written. The event was held at Mars Cafe — a local legend of a coffeehouse (I recommend getting Earl Grey tea and Chips and Hummus — it's incredibly cheap and caffeinated) which was pretty packed.I went in extremely nervous, and alone. YES I DO HAVE FRIENDS. It's just that I was embarrassed. When you read fiction, you put yourself out there. If I had it my way, I would have everyone read the nice little blurbs and ignore the actual story and poem. So I didn't tell anybody about the party, really, and didn't invite my friends.I really regret that now. The Periphery staff started talking to me almost at once, making me feel welcome and comfortable. I was asked to read first — I accepted, because I wanted to get it out of the way. I was introduced, and given a prize for my award (NO, IT WASN'T A CHECK!) in the form of this beautiful moleskine notebook. I love notebooks, but I never buy anything other than 50 cent college ruled ones at Wal-mart. Having this is sort of like having a four course gourmet meal handed to you when you're used to burgers and fries — it's awesome!The reading went from strange to intense in only a few seconds; my story, "The Wolfhound" is supposed to be suspenseful. I never realized how suspenseful it actually was, though, until I looked up at one of the most intense parts and realized the entire coffeehouse, including the Mars Cafe workers, had gone completely silent, and were giving me (ME! THE FAT PHYSICS MAJOR WITH A COWLICK!) their riveted attention. Man oh man, that was strange.Afterwards, I was interviewed by my former employer and beloved student newspaper, the Times-Delphic. It made the event so — special, somehow. I'm always the interviewer, never the interviewee. I tried to give her good quotes, but I think I talked in circles a lot.The Periphery staff did such a great job with this publication. The design, the layout — everything is just great. The other authors were great to listen to — their work is so outstanding, you've got to read it on peripheryjournal.com. (You can also view my stuff there.)I thoroughly regret not inviting people that I knew to the event. There's a difference between being humble and keeping your talents hidden. Maybe I'm being a little egocentric with this post, but I know the attention won't last. A week from now, celebration of my work will be over, and I'll just be another body in the crowd. Got to live it up while you can, right?
So I haven't really blogged about this yet, but I recently kicked a whole lot of butt in my fiction writing endeavors. Two of my submissions for Drake University's "Periphery" journal were not only published, but THEY WON AWARDS TOO.Huh? No... no I'm not getting a check... be quiet, okay?! This is the type of reward that comes with a warm, fuzzy feel and the knowledge that I can actually write worth crap. What I REALLY won were two very wonderful blurbs from people who actually know what they're talking about — I'm going to reproduce them here, and it's going to seem like my ego is similar to Tiger Woods' pre-Thanksgiving 2009, but I don't care. This is MY Web site. I can write all the nice stuff about me that I want, and if you don't like it, feel free to click out (although please, please don't leave me!)The first blurb was from Johnathon Williams, a founding editor of Linebreak.org, a weekly magazine of original poetry, and an MFA candidate in the Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas. He was writing about my poem, "Alive.""Here I admire the poet's effort to tie the timeless to the temporary, the grand to the small. 'Now is the time of memories' is a bold, provocative opening line, the reach of which is made accessible by the many specifics that follow, such as the dandelions growing in the cracked sidewalk. Such juxtapositions are one of the many things that poetry does well, and here the technique is used with aplomb."APLOMB! If I saw that word out of context, I would probably think it was a pokemon, but here it practically makes me jump off my feet and start fist pumping the air.The other blurb was written about my short story, "The Wolfhound," by Andrew Porter, the author of the short story collection "The Theory of Light and Matter" as well as other awards I don't feel like typing out."From the opening paragraph of Matt Nelson's "The Wolfhound" I could tell I was in the hands of a natural storyteller. There's a certain confidence and honest in the narrative voice that immediately drew me in and made me care about his characters. Even more impressive, however, was the way Nelson subtly developed the conflict beneath the surface of the story, raising questions about the past, while at the same time keeping the reader firmly grounded in the present. A psychologically complex and emotionally powerful piece. If this story is any indication, I think Mr. Nelson has a very bright future ahead of him."Not just any future, you notice. A very bright one. Not bad for a physics major, huh?I shot off an e-mail to Mr. Porter and Mr. Williams, thanking them for their awards. Mr. Porter responded, and it turns out he's coming to Drake. TONIGHT. For a visit. And I get to meet him. In person. Better than Facebook.I've been opening and closing doors all day, the most annoying nervous habit ever. I'm pretty sure the refrigerator has lost it's chill, and I'm probably driving my roommates crazy. The thing is, I've NEVER had someone other than a parent, school teacher or friend tell me my writing was any better than anyone else's. Any person who has ever read my work met me before they read it, never the other way around. That's why I was so pumped that he had such good things to say — there were no first impressions, no communication, nothing. It was just the writing he saw, and that's really what's most important.
I'm so glad this month is almost over. It's been a rough one, Enduring Readers. I had this funny idea that this semester couldn't possibly be as hectic or as time consuming as Fall 2009. In April alone, I created an 8-page section of the Drake Relays Edition Times-Delphic (Features A, you better check it out!), studied for and took a quantum physics test (I can summarize that awful experience in one Northern Minnesotan word: Uffda), developed what I hope is just a mild caffeine addiction and pretty much decided on the course of the rest of my life.I'll begin with the latter. I am now enrolled in Drake University's School of Education program, going for an education degree plus endorsements in physics, journalism, general science and, believe it or not, possibly math. Also, I'm getting my BA in Physics — that elusive physics major, and, if it doesn't mean too many more classes, possibly a math minor.Yes, this will mean a solid platform (I think) I can sell myself to employers on. No, it won't mean I can graduate in four years. That's okay. I've accepted that, for the most part. I wish I'd planned a little better earlier on, but hey, what can you do at this point? I'll sneak in a few summer classes wherever I can, but I'm not holding my breath.I imagine that in the near future I'll feel the same way about my physics degree as I do about the Relays Edition of the Times-Delphic: intensely proud, but I still want to take it outside and burn it in a trash barrel.Don't get me wrong. I've pushed myself to places I didn't know I could go to with physics and the Times-Delphic (like pulling two all-nighters in a row, for instance). But when I think about tearing up the Relays Edition, even jokingly, I feel this strange sort of catharthis, like I'm telling this thing that had so much of a monopoly over my time that it doesn't own me anymore. That I won. I beat it.It's a pretty strange juxtaposition of ideas, I admit, but don't get worried; I'm not about to go Office Space any time soon. I haven't torn up the Relays Edition, and I'm definitely not going to torch my future physics degree. It's just my thought of the night, I guess.Does anyone else have any idea what I'm talking about? Do you ever just want to tear up that paper you spent hours writing, because you suddenly have the power to? Or am I nuts?
After six months and a lot of frustration (including around 12 hours in the last four days), I think I've finally figured it all out. My schedule for next semester. The direction I want to take academically. Where I want to go with the rest of my life. It's all set in stone.
If you've been following my tweets, you've noticed that I've been in credit hell. My plan was perfect; get a BA in Physics and a degree in Education along with endorsements in General Science and Physics.
It took me about four hours last Sunday to realize that this was going to be completely im-freaking-possible. There was just no way I could complete the Ed program without sacrificing my Physics Major for a Minor, which I was okay with, until my physics advisor pointed out to me the possibility of me falling madly in love with a hot woman from Massachusetts. This, he explained, would be a major problem.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with women in Massachusetts, but the fact is, I can't teach there without a degree in Physics. That's not the only state where I would be restricted either, although I've had a hard time finding concrete statistics.
There's no way I can pursue Education by pursuing my physics major, and there's no way I can be unrestricted by pursuing an education major. See my problem?
The good news is that I can get by another semester without making the major decision to stay at Drake another year or pursue my Ed major at some other point in my life, while still taking a couple of Ed courses next semester. Unless my Ed advisor says otherwise, that's what I'm going to do, and hopefully I can make a more informed decision sometime in the next few months.
Think I made the right choice? Maybe you could... Leave a comment, yes? Yes? Yes?
I'm Script Frenzying it up tonight! I have a solid 14 pages down, only 86 left to do during the month of April. So far, I'm having a pretty good time, but then again, first drafts are ALWAYS fun. You have no constraints to work with. No critic except for the internal one, and as long as you shut him up with a little stubbornness, you're good to go.In many, many cases, someone starts on a first draft, gets a page or two in, then gets frustrated/bored/pissed off and walks away. Forever. FOR-EV-ER. And that once golden idea you just had, well, doesn't ever come back.How do I beat it? I'm so glad you asked. Here are five writing tips I use to crank out content.1) Know your ending. You should have an opening A and a closing B. Anything between those two points can happen, but you must, MUST have and end game in mind. Even J.K. Rowling wrote the epilogue to Deathly Hallows way before she started writing Sorcerer's Stone. With that being said...2) Don't set things in stone. Sure, your main character might wind up happily married with two kids, but that doesn't mean he didn't fight off three sharks, have a dangerous affair with an exotic babe and own a yellow dog named Lexington who saved his life by pulling him unconscious from a raging stream after he fell in while fly fishing. To some extent, allow the ending to change too. Maybe he has two kids with the exotic babe instead of who you thought would be his wife.3) Write from another point of view. If you get stuck writing with one character, try analyzing the scene or situation from another character. You may not use any of the material you write, but maybe if you understand what Lexington saw and felt when he dove into the raging river to save his master, ultimately losing his life in the process, you might be able to better write about the anguish the dog owner felt afterwards. If you lose your keys, you don't stand in the same place and look for them. You get on your knees, checking under tables, trying to get a different perspective. Writing is the same.4) Do an exercise. Sometimes people try to write cold, and get stuck after only a few paragraphs. Take some time to write something creative — get warmed up. Read a passage of your favorite book and ask yourself why you like it so much. Try to copy it in terms of style and tone.5) If you get bored, get unbored. It's your first draft, and it can go anywhere, be anything. Throw in a car chase, a terrible secret from the past suddenly unearthed, a mysterious man with a bowie knife. Play with it! There's nothing more exciting to a writer than wondering what is going to happen next in his or her writing (except for maybe getting a check for millions of dollars from their first bestseller, but that rarely happens so we just kind of pretend it doesn't).That's why I like Script Frenzy — I have 100 pages to write about whatever the hell I want, in a format restrictive enough to give me focus, but free enough to keep it maniacally addictive. I may not be getting a grade, but darn it, writing about zombies is fun!