Tuesday, February 28, 2012

21 and Reaffirmed

Two days ago I turned 21 years old. One day ago I got to sit in class while my fellow students and professor critiqued a work of short fiction I wrote.

Let's start with the obvious. I live in America where the drinking age is 21 and the culture around alcohol encourages getting drunk and having a party. For the record I've never really drank before, aside from a sip or two of some things more recently to see if I would potentially enjoy the taste. Therefore I didn't feel the need to get drunk on my birthday because I've never seen the benefit of becoming less rational and in control of myself.
I spent the night before my birthday hanging out with some friends, playing pool and video games, and trying out a few drinks. A friend of mine offered to mix me a drink, but didn't tell me the alcoholic content of it and I didn't feel the need to ask. One minute I was fine and the next I was quite goofy to say the least.
Pictured: The drink in question ... glowing.

Yes there are videos. No you cannot see them.
While I still stand by my opinion that there's no rational reason to get drunk, I admit I see the appeal now.
But beyond that my birthday weekened was amazing. I had a total of three parties; one with my family, the one mentioned above, and one the day of my birthday which wasn't a party for me but it turned out everyone there knew about it. I had a different cake for each, the highlight easily being a professionally designed cake that looked exactly like an old book supposedly written by me that tasted like a chocolate peanut butter cup.
Pictured: A cake (courtesy of http://www.itzmyparty.com/).
Overall it was a fantastic birthday weekend, and I'd like to thank those of you reading this who were either a part of it or even simply who wished that I have a happy birthday.

The fun didn't stop there, however. As mentioned in my previous post I was scheduled to listen to my night class critique a short story I wrote last night. They saved mine for last, and so I was nervous but excited to say the least. I had heard positive feedback from some family members and friends I had shown the story to,  but to hear an entire classroom (and published professor) critique my story seemed like a whole other ballgame. I hoped it was so good that the class would end up analyzing the story instead of critiquing it, which has always been a dream of mine that my stories would be so deep that future students would study them. My expectation was that the classroom would instead do as it always did and critique the story, pointing out what they liked and didn't like about it whilst offering suggestions on how to improve it.

For the most part my dream came true.
Pictured: The stack of critiques I was given to look over.
While there were definitely things mentioned that I could do to improve the story, there were no real particular improvements to be made ... more like general suggestions for deeper meaning and clarity. Instead my story inspired the classroom to dissect the story as best they could and the professor to give a short lesson on postmodernism and meta-fiction. Even the most pessimistic guy I've ever known who sits in class and rips every other story we've read to shreds seemed to have very little to say about his distaste in the short story.
What I got from this experience (besides a 50-minute-long audio recording of the analysis itself) was much more than euphoria from excessive praise. I got some amazing feedback that has inspired me to make some tweaks to the story and the inspiration to push onward in my quest to become a published author.

This new year is looking up already.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eyes on the Horizon

Well this has certainly been a busy past few weeks. My work shifts are a bit shorter but much more demanding, classes are in full swing and I've already had two tests (of which I finished first in my class, confidently), and my time off is spent catching up on homework and apartment chores.

Pictured: The horizon I have my metaphorical eyes on.
(photo by buck82; some rights reserved.)

If there's one thing I'm loving so far though, it's the mixture of classes I have this semester. I don't dislike any single class this semester so far, and more excitingly is that as opposed to last semester in which I had nothing but advertising-related classes (which are typically serious-focused and demanding classes), this semester I have a good mix of (more relaxing) advertising classes as well as some English classes which are a breath of fresh air to take.

Upon entering my first English class of the semester I was reminded why I used to enjoy school so much. The atmosphere is so much more relaxed and upbeat than at most advertising classes. I get to actually have fun applying my knowledge and discussing the area I'm most passionate about in English classes as opposed to simply declaring whether an ad is effective or not.

One English class in particular that I'm excited about and enjoying so far is my night "Fiction Writing" class in which the main long-term assignment is to write two short stories (one to be critiqued by the whole class), and the weekly assignments are to read and critique the short stories written by everybody in class (as well to read and discuss one published short story a week). It's so fun to be among people that, generally speaking, have the same interest in writing fiction as I do, and have fun reading and discussing everyone else's.

I had decided almost immediately that I would submit my unfinished novella for at least the teacher to read and critique, which meant that I had to think of and then begin writing a new idea for the class to read.
Pictured: The reaction I do not want from my readers.
(photo by Aidras; some rights reserved.)
My immediate goal was to do something different than what I expect the rest of the class to write. I want my story to stand out right away from everyone else's. It is no easy task to think of something you expect to be different than some 25 other stories without knowing what they are or even much about the people writing them. Luckily I had come up with an idea just unique enough that, to my recollection, it had only been done popularly once before. As I began to write out the ideas, though, it became apparent that while it was a good idea and it was certainly unique, there was something too typical about it; the tone. The originality of the tone is just as important as the originality of the story itself, and in this way my idea would be too similar to other people's because it was a serious and dramatic tone; much like most short stories seem to be.

So it was back to the drawing board, except with time running out until my deadline I decided to go back to my the drawing board on which I keep all of my old ideas I've yet to use. My eyes fixated on an idea I had summarized in one character quote: "You're not even the main character".
So I took this idea and am running with it. The story and tone are both unlike anything I expect to read from my classmates, and to ease my paranoia that if nobody likes it I'm a failure as an aspiring author I've recruited four of my closest friends to read it over before I submit it to class.

Expect to read it yourself in the "Stories" section of this site before the semester is over, and wish me luck!

PS: My birthday is this month.