Thursday, December 26, 2013

Honesty is More Valuable than Praise

Here's an anecdote:

After most people had left, one of the few remaining guests at the Christmas party I was at happened to be a musician. The hosting family has been known to enjoy his music, so he offered to put in a CD of his, which they were delighted to hear.
"That's me playing the drums on the keyboard," he said during one track, "it's really bad."
I had only just entered the room, and had not heard enough to have an opinion, but it was probably not bad at all. One of the other guests even said "nonsense! It's really good!"
As we passed each other, I chimed in, saying "I thought it was terrible."
"Thanks," he laughed at my sarcastic remark.
After a moment or two of consideration, I realized that this was a fellow creative mind I was in the midst of, and that I understood his nervousness in standing around and listening, waiting to get some sort of feedback and hoping for it to be good. I know what it's like to want to apologize for all the minor flaws that you see in your own work.
I decided to offer up a bit of wisdom on the subject. "Unless people cut you down every once in a while, you'll never get better," I said.
"That's deep," he replied.

I've met creative minds who were terrified of being critiqued. Obviously I didn't actually give the musician a real opinion or advice on his music, since I'd not even really listened to it, but it was nice to meet someone who understood the value of being told your work is crap from time to time.

Always tell me if my work is crap.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Damnit, Snow!

I had things to say this month about interesting topics such as existentialism, sexism, and fibromyalgia. I also could have come up with something to say about my writing.

Instead I want to tell you how quickly I've learned to dislike snow.
Some learn quicker than others.
We all know how it goes, right? When you're a kid, every time that frosty white stuff falls from the sky it's a sign of a possible snow day. You watch your parents shovel the driveway and sidewalk and pile it up onto the yard for you to enjoy, ignoring their warnings that someday you'll despise the chilled white gold.

My Kia Rio does not do so well on the roads when there's any more than zero snow beneath the tires, and the drive to and from work takes anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes. I've discovered that that time can double because of the very substance that I once leaped for joy to see.
Not only do I have to deal with the painful art of becoming mobile after a stop thanks to manual gear shifting, but just about every car on the road is bigger than me. This wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for the odd fact that people who've grown up with snow their whole lives forget how to drive in it during the seasons in which it does not fall.

Thankfully I've not been in an accident or spun out yet, but with my daily commute being longer than ever in the past, I cannot confidently assume that I never will.

At least I don't have to deal with shoveling. Yet.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Clearer Vision Means Throwing Out Hours of Work

I've written before about my devotion to writing to the best of my ability, and how that sometimes means throwing out hours of work for the greater good.

I went through a chunk of time in the middle (more like the beginning) of writing An Offbeat Affair where I didn't write anything. This was partially due to a lack of time, but it was also because I didn't feel comfortable moving forward until I had a better idea of where I was going.
You see, gentle reader, despite having planned out my novel from beginning to end, the process of writing is nothing like making a blueprint for a building. It's much more fluid and dynamic; nothing is set in stone. The story takes on a life of its own and you milk that life for every word its worth - initial planning be damned!

Sometimes, as was true in this case, the story was taking on a life of its own that was quite terrible. I fell into old habits of giving characters traits that were nothing more than gimmicks. It makes sense why I did - I'm used to writing short stories where a character's intentions and psychology don't go nearly as deep as they do in a novel. In a short story I can get away with a character having a gimmick, because the story won't go on long enough for you to realize how shallow a character trait it really is.

I didn't even realize this at first - what I realized was that my story was uninteresting and I had no idea what the characters were really like. I didn't even know what fueled my own main character. Luckily, all I had to do in her case was to go back to the short story I'm basing this novel on and examine her from a new perspective. Her actions could no longer be described simply as "interesting" or "funny," as they had been when all I was concerned with was a short story. I needed to understand why it was interesting or funny. I needed to get into her head and see where she was coming from.

The other characters weren't as easy. In the short story you barely get a glimpse of each one; they hadn't been fleshed out nearly as much as my main character. For her roommate (who actually only appeared in one of my other short stories), who suffered from the most from gimmicks and stereotypes, I had to re-imagine her mental state in a way that was different from her stereotype, and added to the story in a way that the main character did not. I ended up taking a bit of advice from Pixar (yes, the studio that made Toy Story); the best stories come out of forcing two complete opposites to interact with each other (for Toy Story - Buzz and Woody being the new vs. the old).

With a better understanding of who my characters were, I set off to edit what little I'd written of the novel, only to find that there were entire scenes that no longer made sense. As I said earlier, I'm not one to dwell on something I've spent hours working on if it doesn't end up adding to the overall story (a characteristic I surely hope an editor will someday love about me). I've thrown those scenes out, and am going to approach the story from the new understanding of what these characters are like and how they would interact with each other. Throughout this entire process, I've also begun to re-imagine what the ending might be like - again deviating from my initial plan,

So what do I hope you get out of all of this? After all, my blog shouldn't just be me shouting out my struggles and triumphs into a great empty abyss.
If you are a writer: I hope that this inspires you to look at your story with a more critical eye - to realize that parts of your story that you love just may be holding it back from greatness. Realize that your story can be better, but first you need to be willing to let go of what's holding it back.
If you're not a writer: take this example to your own life. Is what you're doing going to be worth it in the end? If you spend hours a day sitting in front of the computer or television, ask yourself if it's worth it. Realize that you can be better, but first you need to be willing to let go of what's holding you back.

If you're an editor: please give me money to write this story for you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lack of Apples, NaNoWriMo, and a Rename

Just when I was starting to think I was running out of things in my own life to tell you about, and was about to resort to mindless rantings, a whole bunch of interesting things happened.

Firstly, my plans to plant an apple tree have unfortunately been cancelled, on account of me accidentally killing the apple seeds that I was so excited to plant.
You see, the instructions I had found online (which I will not be linking you to) told me to germinate the seeds in my refrigerator for at least six weeks. Last week would have been five weeks, so I checked up on them only to find that not only had the seeds not sprouted at all, but there were spots of mold forming on the damp paper towel around the seeds. I promptly threw them out and consulted a real live person who told me that I should have put them somewhere warm and in the sun -- you know, the type of place that plants actually grow.

Secondly, I've officially decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month ( for the first time. I've signed up on the site and have started tracking my word count. The unfortunate irony, of course, is that I cannot count the words written in my blog, making the time it takes to write this very post a bit wasteful when you consider the difficult goal of 50,000 words of a story in a month. I'd been aware of NaNoWriMo in the past, but this was the first year that I realized that it's an actual organized event and not just a title slapped onto a time of the year.

Lastly, and tied to NaNoWriMo, is news about the novel I'm writing. I've been writing the novel based on my short story titled "The Other Woman," and so I was tentatively using the same title as the short story for the title of the novel. I never wanted to use that title, as the novel is about much more than the main character being "the other woman" (dating a cuckold/married man). For the longest time I couldn't think of one, but didn't stress over it since I'd barely finished the first two chapters.

On the NaNoWriMo forums there is a place for people to get help with the titles of their works, and I was tempted to use this resource since part of NaNoWriMo is putting the title, description, and excerpt of the novel you're writing in your profile. It embarrassed me to have such a simple and inaccurate title.
Instead of using the resource, I started brainstorming while simultaneously using an online thesaurus. I wanted a title that couldn't be thought of in five seconds, and I'd always been fond of titles of classic literature (I had joked a few times of calling my novel "Having Once Been Normal" simply because it takes a simple phrase and makes it sound elegant).

Long story short (arguably), I've thought of a new title for my novel, which, henceforth, shall be called "An Offbeat Affair".

Wish me luck in reaching 50,000 words in a month!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Modern Fantasy

Have you ever realized just how few fantasy movies take place in the modern age?

I'd venture to guess that number is somewhere around ... hold on, let me do the calculations here ... NONE.

I didn't even realize this until I had a fantastically brilliant idea a while ago when I was watching Jack the Giant Slayer with m'lady. You see, the movie shows the whole Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer thing at first where it's a fantasy adventure set in (when else?) medieval Europe. Then at the very end (SPOILER-ISH THING) it transitions to the modern day where it is implied that the whole movie takes place not in a fantasy world, but in our world, and that Giants are still living on floating islands in the sky that none of our planes have crashed into or our (Google) satellites discovered.

So this movie isn't the best representation of a true classic fantasy story, but still, who says elves, dwarves, wizards, and orcs cannot exist in our modern world?
Imagine if some crazy hack decided it would be a good idea to pen up a Lord of the Rings movie sequel that took place today.

Gandalf (now known as "the Blue") would be a Broadway tech engineer (or a dentist), Legolas would be a FBI agent, the dwarves would probably still be mining (except for oil and natural gas), and Frodo would be dead, because you know ... he's not an elf or wizard and hobbits only live for like 150 years or something.

Seriously, what would those fantasy worlds be like if technology/magic progressed?

This is the sort of stuff I think about in my free time.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Fourth Wall + Padded Cell

You can finally read one of my short stories (and an accompanying flash fiction story) for free online!

It's called "The Fourth Wall" and I've actually been blogging about it for a while (click that link to see all of my blog posts labeled "The Fourth Wall"). The first draft was written ‎February ‎19, ‎2012 for a project for my fiction writing night class, wherein we were to write and share a short story with the class. The professor said that the stories didn't need to be edited or even complete, but I decided that I needed to get the most out of the class and be taken seriously in the process, so I made it my own personal quest to write the best short story out of the entire class. (In my opinion, it was a tie between myself and a friend I made in that very class)

I took an old idea I had about a main character who know's he's the main character, and decided to write a story that was one huge inside joke to English students and my class in particular (including a scene that took place in a night class). The story became about a man who admits himself into a mental health center (referred to as a "nut house") because he was convinced he was the main character of a story that was plot-driven, and he wanted to control his own destiny.

It's a short story with incredible depth to it. There are three or four levels to the story's reality, depending on your interpretation, and it's written to be comedic and lighthearted while still exploring themes such as fate, love, and the philosophy of solipsism (a word I only learned just now).

The accompanying flash fiction story (one page long) is a sequel/summary of The Fourth Wall called "Padded Cell" which I wrote for my college literary and arts magazine simply so I could guarantee that I got published in the magazine (yes I know that sounds egotistical, but it worked).

In the end, these are two stories that have been very well-received, and will only take a short moment of your time to read.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to my GoodReads collection of self-published work and read them for yourself! Please leave comments/reviews on GoodReads or in this post, and share with your bookworm friends! I'd love to hear what you think and it's a great help to spread the words!

Enjoy! And I'm sorry it took so long!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Plans to Plant a Tree

Remember my previous post in which I said that I went apple picking with my fiancée?

Well, I was eating one such apple the other day, and two of the seeds fell out. I immediately decided that I'm going to plant an apple tree.

I collected all the seeds from that apple, and they are currently germinating in my refrigerator. Some light research tells me that I'll need to keep them in there for six weeks before I can plant them in a pot, so I plan on updating you all with the progress of that little project via this blog (notice the label "apple tree" attached to this post, all the updates will have that label so you can easily find them all).

The apple in question was a Golden Delicious, which are probably my favorite to eat on their own. My fiancée, on the other hand, loves McIntosh because she loves to bake with them, so I also grabbed a few of those seeds so we can try to grow a McIntosh tree as well!

If I'm going to plant any trees, they're going to be ones that give me more than shade.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn has Arrived!

I'm sorry that I haven't blogged yet this month, but I've been incredibly busy with work during the week and with having an amazing time with my fiancée on the weekends.

In fact, here's a photo of me holding a basket full of 12 lbs of apples we picked this past weekend!
I absolutely LOVE Autumn! It's the best season out of all four in the year (five if you count both winters, chronologically speaking). So apple-picking was a fantastic way to start off my favorite season!

Unfortunately I don't have any awesome and long blog post ready quite yet, but in the meantime check out my short stories, now on GoodReads!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Directions My First(ish) Novel is Taking

For those of you who haven't been living under my rock, I'm writing a novel based on a short story I wrote for college.

It's still going pretty well, honestly. Despite some stressors and events in my personal life, my mind keeps coming back to the story with more ideas of how to expand it. I'm constantly adding layers to the plot and characters in my mind, and I've been puzzling together how they'll add to the overall story, and in some cases I'm realizing just how much potential this novel has to become something more.

At the risk of regretting it and not being able to live up to promises, I'm going to share details that are very subject to change regarding the direction of the novel right now, with you, my loyal readers.
Again, this is subject to change, and this is a really personal project to me. Pretend I'm naked while you read this so you feel as awkward about it as I do, since I'm exposing a bit of what goes on inside my noggin.
My Brain: It's not empty! It's full of potential!
For starters, I'm mixing genres. I've only drafted up a few chapters (and one is facing a pretty large rewrite), but right now the novel is heading in a sort of comedy-drama direction that feels completely natural to me, since I love dramas and thrillers but I'm a positive and humorous person. It's also a love story as could only be told in the 21st century that sheds light on a subculture that society has yet to acknowledge on a larger scale, and to top it all off, it only feels like the beginning of something bigger.

My primary influences are the Millennium trilogy and everything by Chuck Palahniuk, which should give you an odd idea of what to expect.

I don't expect success. That would be foolish of me. What I expect is to continue to surprise myself. I just happen to be checking off all the boxes that I've had in my head for what makes a good novel great, and I'm excited to see if I can pull it off.

If I don't pull it off, at least you'll have these lovely blogs to read over and over again until you rot away!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: Pygmy & Drive (by Chuck Palahniuk and James Sallis, respectively)

I'm going to try something new. I'm going to review two books I recently read.

I had some time off and finished two books last weekend. The first was Drive by James Sallis. (Read my short review on GoodReads here).
Drive Book Cover
Drive has gained some popularity ever since it was made into a major motion picture. I myself was a huge fan of the film, and immediately put the novel on my to-read list when I found out it existed. After doing some light research, I braced myself for the fact that the movie is a very loose adaptation of the book. In fact, many events in the movie are either very minor plot points in the book, or were made by combining the several loose plot points of the book into one cohesive narrative. To be blunt, the book is not the same as the movie.

Drive is about a young and unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who gets pulled into the criminal underworld as a getaway driver. The book is written from a third person perspective, which makes it a bit awkward whenever the narrator referrers to our unnamed hero as if his name is actually "Driver."  I've never read a noir book before, but Drive is written in a noir style that keeps things just interesting enough to pull you through to the end.
The pacing can loose you at times, especially in the beginning, but this is by no means a bad novel. That being said, the movie's story was much better, as it benefited from being more focused and streamlined. If you enjoyed the movie, you might want to pick this one up, especially since there's a sequel (called "Driven") that may get turned into a movie as well. Otherwise this isn't a must-read.

The second book I read was Pygmy, by Chuck Palahniuk. (Read my short review on GoodReads here).
Pygmy Book Cover
I am, and probably will always be, a fan and admirer of Chuck Palahniuk. He's one of my biggest influences as a writer, and for good reason. he knows how to write a compelling, albeit weird, story.

Pygmy did not disappoint.

Pygmy is about a boy born in an unnamed totalitarian country who was indoctrinated to hate the United States, and is sent there undercover as a foreign exchange student in order to carry out a terrorist attack. The first thing you'll notice when you open up Pygmy is that it's written entirely in broken English (sometimes known as "Engrish"), from Pygmy's perspective in the form of reports presumably sent to his homeland.
From the very beginning, Pygmy had me laughing out loud at his twisted (though sometimes enlightening) perspective of US culture. The book is, essentially, a creative way of showing us how ridiculous some of the things we do are. For example, when walking through the isles of a Wal-Mart, he says “All object printed: Love me. Look me. Million speaking objects,begging. Crown American consumer with power of king, to rescue choose and give home or abandon here for expire.”
As per Palahniuk's usual modus operandi, the book is full of wit, over-the-top events, and his signature choruses. This is a must-read for any fans of humorous fiction, though you ought to be warned that the content gets a bit graphic during chapter 2, though the worst of it ends there.

TL;DR - Drive was okay. Pygmy was awesome.

Add me on GoodReads to keep up with what I'm reading and whatnot.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Non-Linear Writing

As those of you who read this previous post know, I got the program Scrivener for graduation, which helped me to plan out my next big project; a novel based on my well-received short story.

Well I'm here to tell you, firstly, that the writing is going well! I'm taking this project very seriously, as I've not only been having a lot of fun with it, but I honestly think it might go somewhere (and certain friends of mine have told me the same). Secondly, and mainly, I'm here to tell you how the writing process of this story is very different than any story I've written before, and why that's a good thing.

Thanks to the aforementioned Scrivener program, I've got a rough layout of each chapter of the novel (in the form of digital note cards with brief summaries of that scene or chapter written on them), and the great thing about the program is that it treats the digital note cards as individual text documents. That means I can see my story laid out as note cards, easily find a chapter or scene that I want to write, click on it, and begin writing that chapter or scene. I can rearrange the note cards however I want and their content moves with them, so that when I'm all done, the program will save or print the whole story entirely in the order I've chosen.

When I wrote all of my other stories (including my first few attempts at a novel), I was using Microsoft Word, which doesn't really have any good organizational features, and I hadn't been introduced to (or just hadn't seriously considered) drafting out an outline of my story or using real notecards for organizing my thoughts. I wrote all of my stories the same way a person would read them; in order from beginning to end. I would then go back and edit it multiple times to tie scenes together better etc, but even that was a linear process.

This story is the first time that I've been able to write whichever scene I feel most prepared or interested in writing, regardless of where it takes place in the larger narrative. I once had an idea for a scene while driving, and instead of having to commit the idea to memory or write a note for later writing, I had the luxury of being able to go home and write out that entire scene from beginning to end while it was fresh and exciting in my mind. I've talked to writers who've always written their novels like this, so to them it may not seem like a big deal, but for me it's huge.

I honestly think that learning this new writing process could save the novel from being put on the backburner, as it means that if I come to a scene that I'm not sure about writing yet, I can put it aside and work on another. I've embraced the non-linear process so much that I've been writing in Scrivener, in Google Docs/Drive, and on a small legal pad depending on where I am or what I have access to. Each medium may have a completely different part of the novel than any other at any given time, but in the end I'll be able to put them all together in one place very easily.
It's so weird, but so cool.

In other news, I've been regretting not having my stories accessible on this blog for free, so maybe I'll get around to that soon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Never Be a Statistic

Today I'm going to share something very personal with you. Today you get inside my mind.

For as long as I can remember (and I have memories that go back to my days in a crib) I've made a conscious effort to be unlike anyone else. This probably doesn't shock you at first, especially if you know me, because my high school quote was "to be yourself is all that you can do," but this mentality goes far beyond being myself.
This is about being something more. This is about being important.

Blame it on being the youngest sibling, blame it on not being athletic, or blame it on the kids who picked on me on the playground and chose me last for every sport, but I've always had the urge to become better than everyone else. I want desperately to prove them wrong.

I'll share a generic example, and then explain the relevancy of this mentality to my writing.

When I was in high school, I had to get some oral surgery, and I was given the option to go under "the gas" as they call it. I talked to my father and brother who had both experienced the effects of Nitrous Oxide, and they described it saying, "It was like a dream, I don't even remember it."
I chose the gas, and I went in with a promise to myself that I would stay conscious and remember every detail of the surgery and the effects of the gas. As soon as I got home I wrote everything down.
I still have that note. It says, for example, that the sound of the surgical instruments sounded like beautiful music to me.
While this example isn't so impressive, it exemplifies my point; that I wanted desperately to be different than the norm, and I focused my mind enough to overcome the forgetfulness that the laughing gas supposedly gave my family.

As I grew up and reaffirmed to myself that I wanted to be an author, I realized that my writing was the best way to separate myself from the rest of the world.

I took writing classes in which I took everyone's critique not as insults to my talent, but as the concrete reactions that I needed desperately to learn from as quickly as possible (in one of my favorite classes, I even set out to make the best short story in the whole class and spent countless hours perfecting the first draft, which wasn't even required to be complete).

While everyone else said "they didn't get my writing," or "it's okay you didn't like it, since it was just a first draft," I said "tell me what you hated about my story."

Many writers complain that they need to be in a particular atmosphere or mood to write; for example, originally, I had to write at night, with hours to spare, and only listening to wordless music.
Now I write at all times of the day, with whatever time I have, listening to whatever the hell I want to.

I then learned that many authors simply stop writing after college. They have no time, or their priorities change.
I promised myself to do more writing than ever, and so far I've done just that.
I get a half an hour unpaid lunch break every day at work, of which I spend only the first ten minutes eating, and then I sit down with a small legal pad and write for the last twenty, every day.

I will continue to strive to be different, better, in all these ways, and there's a new one I've got my eye on.
According to some light internet searching, the average age of a person's first published novel is 36 years old.
I'm going to beat that.

This post is dedicated to everyone who ever brushed me off as a nobody.
I refuse to be a statistic.

Friday, June 14, 2013

One Year from Today

Today is a special day, because a year from today will be the most special day of my life.

Guys are allowed to get sentimental about weddings, too, you know.

I met my fiancée over five years ago, and we were just in high school at the time. All the statistics in the world told us that we'd remain high school sweethearts, and our future together would consist only of fond memories of our foolish teenage love.
Here's exactly what we looked like
on the night we met. True love?

We've never really felt like we were part of the majority. We always felt like the exception, not the rule.

"Everyone feels that way," my friends would tell me, "you won't last through your first year of college. You shouldn't even be going to the same college, one of you is going to resent the other for it." It's true that our first two years of college were perhaps the worst in all five so far, but we made it through, because each of us felt a pull that we couldn't deny. Even when I failed her, my fiancée gave me another chance, knowing me better than anyone else and trusting that deep down I really wanted to and was capable of doing better for her. Even when we were uncertain of our feelings for each other, we trusted our love.

This is not a method that usually works for people. At the risk of sounding like a dork while quoting Nine Inch Nails; love is not enough.
You need to be willing and capable of working through the rough times, and even then, you may realize that you just don't work together. Love is a complicated feeling that doesn't always pull us in the right direction.

But when it does, boy is it worth it! I write this one year before I get married to the young woman I've loved since she was an awkward teen, and I can confidently say that I love her now more than ever, and am so proud of the woman she's grown up to be. The qualities I loved about her from the very beginning are still there in her, but over the years she's changed in ways that have made me love her even more.

Here's to the day that comes a year from now; my wedding day!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Continuing the Women's Perspective

For those of you who've been following this blog for at least a month, you know that I wrote a short story from the perspective of a woman that my college class loved. For those of you who have just joined us, feel free to re-read the post in which I talk more about that (that big link I cleverly hid in the text of my blog).

One thing it seems I failed to mention is that some of the women in my class started suggesting, or even demanding, that I continue the story, if only for one more scene. Obviously I had struck a chord and written something these students not only identified with, but felt the need to be completely lost in.

I don't take this lightly. This is the highest compliment I've ever received regarding my writing.

I knew I'd have to get around to writing more eventually, but for the time being simply decided I would add only one more scene to the short story, and get around to planning a novel in the future when I felt more prepared for such a task.

A creative mind is rarely a patient one in this kind of situation.

At completely random times during the following days, an idea would form out of thin air that my brain latched on to and held tightly for use in the novel. They were not simply "ideas," though, they matched the tone and plot that I was going for perfectly. It was as if I was finding hidden pieces of a puzzle that I had long given up on, and I suddenly needed to complete the puzzle.

Having received the writing program Scrivener as a graduation present from my parents (thanks mom and dad!) I set out a bit of time for myself one day and plotted the outline for what I expected to be a three-part story. I've never really attempted to outline a whole novel before, but Scrivener made it so easy and fun that once I started I became completely consumed with the task! After an hour or so, I had a draft outline for a novel in four parts with potential for a sequel!

To put this into perspective, the last time I tried to write a novel I saw it as a challenge, and eventually lost interest in it, instead opting to write a collection of short stories. This time, I see it as something incredibly fun to do, feel more capable and ready to do it, and it happens to be based on one of those short stories! In short, I feel a bit better about this attempt at a novel than my last.

A usual, I'll keep you updated, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Presenting Myself

I graduated college this past Saturday, and had my first interview today.

Who wouldn't want to hire
someone this dashing?
The timing is impeccable, especially since positions specifically in copywriting are pretty scarce in my area for someone with no real-world experience, and my parents got me a new suit as a graduation gift. As luck would have it, this particular company is looking to expand their marketing department, and part of that means finding a copywriting intern. This is where I come in.

Honestly I was pretty nervous for the interview, since it would be my first time interviewing for the position I've been dreaming of since I started working towards an advertising major. I didn't know how serious the interviewers would be or if I'd make a good impression. To prepare myself I researched the company to the best of my ability, then searched for common interview questions which I copied to a document and answered one by one as practice.

It's too soon to say whether the preparation paid off, but I can honestly say that I left the interview feeling very confident. In retrospect there were a few questions that I'm not sure I answered as best as I could (though that could be me over-thinking it), but overall I feel like the two interviewers were genuinely excited to meet me and happy that they did. I sure was happy just to have the opportunity, and as one of them explained in what direction the company was heading, I honestly got excited to the point of thinking "I need to work here. I need to be here for this."

Luckily enough, I get to meet with them again, as they've requested that I complete a little homework assignment for them and meet next week to talk about it. At the very least this means that I get another chance to give them an idea for how excited I am to be a part of the company and how ready for it I am.
I honestly can't wait.

Thanks for the support, and I'll keep you all posted on how it goes!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting The Women's Perspective

Ever since I took a class called "Psychology of Women" in my second year of college I've considered myself a feminist.
I know, that word can have some negative connotations. My thought on the matter are less in line with bra-burning and more in line with something that writer George R. R. Martin once said:
That class, although focusing on the female psyche, helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me more than any other class I'd taken before or since. I immediately decided that I would try to do my part to represent women as they actually are (people) in the form that I know best; writing.

It's no secret that women are underrepresented in entertainment/media unless it comes to something "feminine". We see this every day: most television shows and movies feature a male lead character regardless of the role. Women are typically only featured as main characters in chick flicks; and to top it off they're always looking to solve their problems by finding the right man.

My plan became twofold; to write more stories with females as the lead character, and to portray them as people and not simply as women.
The first step has been fairly simple. There are still times when I prefer to write with male lead characters, but even then I'm always sure to write any female characters as capable and well-rounded human beings instead of needy and codependent stereotypes.
The second step has taken some practice. It's one thing to make women capable and well-rounded, (which I've found also makes stories more interesting since it's so contrary to the stereotype), but it's another thing to get their perspective just right.

I may have finally done just that.

I recently had my writing class read over my latest short story about "the other woman" in an affair. The story is told in the first-person perspective from her point of view. Overall, the class praised my successful effort to make the reader empathize with the woman who could be viewed as a home wrecker (though there was one bigoted student who insisted she was a "whore") as well as my successful effort to make the character interesting (one student said "I wish I could meet her").
But there was one compliment that I wasn't expecting to hear.

Something I had written into the story simply as a character trait and stylistic choice really resonated with the female readers. It turned out I had accidentally stumbled upon something of a universal truth among most young women that one reader described saying (something along the lines of) "why can't all guys think like this?". Many more of the women in the classroom immediately felt the need to interject with their own excited claims that they, too, felt exactly the same way as the character in the story. You cannot imagine the feeling of hearing such praise for something I'd not intended to be so relatable!

I'm not saying that I've got it all figured out. But it's absolutely refreshing to know that I was able to, if only for this once, think like a woman and see the world from her perspective.

Oh, and they thought the story was hilarious! You'll have to read it sometime.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What I'm (Apparently) Up To

So I've been writing a novel for my class, and I must admit I'm not as interested in it as I originally was.
I'm not giving up on it completely, but I've admittedly been dragging my feet while writing it and will let it sit on the back burner; writing bits and pieces as I get the urge to do so. Luckily I've managed to keep writing other things on the side as well.
I absolutely love writing short stories, which is complimented by the fact that a lot of the ideas I have are simple and meant for short stories (or perhaps I simply don't attempt to flesh them into larger narratives since I'm so content with short story-writing). In the past few weeks I've finished two short stories (one of which is twice the length of the other), and while they're still drafts full of imperfections, I'm incredibly proud of them and enjoy reading them myself.

So apparently I'm writing a collection of short stories. In the back of my mind I'd always wanted to do this, but I didn't consciously decide to do so. Another interesting thing to note is that the short stories I've written are all connected by characters and a few themes.

Again, I didn't plan to do this. I started overlapping characters because it was easier than coming up with new character names and back stories, and because it's just fun to have the stories connect with each other. As for overlapping themes, this came about because, as I'm getting more and more into writing, I'm discovering what themes and topics are most important or impactful to me at this stage in my life.

This is especially fantastic because it means that putting the stories together into a collection would make even more sense and give them a sort of adhesiveness to each other. It's also great because my fiction stories act somewhat as a nonfiction biography of my mind; they're what I'm thinking of.

On that note, I've also been slacking on my project that biggest impacts you, dear readers; actually releasing something of mine for you to read.
I want you to be reassured that this is happening, but I'm procrastinating because I want it to be perfect (and I'm admittedly a bit scared). Sorry for the delay, but keep checking back here for updates!

It feels nice to have things accidentally fall into place.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Keeping Opinions To Myself

As I become an adult, I realize that the world isn't as perfect as my child eyes thought it was.

Everyone is taking sides. Conservative or Liberal, Theist or Atheist. We live in a world of diversity, and so even within these four broad categories lies diversity.
Rodney King was once misquoted as saying "can't we all just get along?" (which holds more meaning than his actual phrase "can we all get along?") and the answer is simple: sometimes people don't want to get along, they want their side to be right, because they believe in their side.

There's nothing humanly wrong with this idea, because why would it be your opinion if you didn't believe it? The problem is, of course, that we can't all be right, and a lot of people want to prove each other wrong.

Yes, I'm one of those people. Who isn't?

The difference is knowing when to speak and when to shut your mouth. Over time, through trial and error, I've been learning to tell the difference between these times, for example it is often unwise to comment on a controversial topic on a public forum such as Facebook. I know that now, because I made the mistake of doing it a few times and realizing that controversy creates more controversy. As a result there are people I know who I thought of as my friends who have drawn invisible lines between themselves and I, ultimately severing the innocence of the friendship that was and turning it into a rivalry. I can think of at least three of these, and while I remain "Facebook friends" with them and keep civil, I cannot help but notice that something has changed and ruined our friendship forever.

And over what? A difference of opinion?
Take the following example:
I like blue and you like green. That's good for you, what did you do this weekend? Yes I realize that plants are green. Yes I realize that blue is the color you turn when you die. Fine, don't tell me what you did this weekend, we should argue this instead.

It's ridiculous. I think blue is awesome. I want you to appreciate blue, maybe even like blue as much as I do, but I definitely don't want you to bring up how much I "hate green" (I never said that) months later during a completely unrelated conversation. Besides, I respect that you like green and you have some very valid reasons for liking it (that I just happen to disagree with). If you can't live with that, don't be my friend. I can live with the fact that you like green and I'd like us to get past it so we can make aqua.

Okay, so maybe it's not that easy. After all, I get offended if you express an opinion that's drastically wrong compared to mine, but I promise to have a civil conversation about it if you do. Debate is healthy, after all; how can we make informed choices without being given our options first?

I admit that I'm still learning when to keep my mouth shut. I've heard that I should just keep my opinions to myself, and maybe that's true, but I shouldn't have to feel afraid to express myself, and neither should you. If someone brings up something controversial to you, feel free to bring up your side, but don't turn it into a mud-slinging argument. I've been trying not to, and I usually get mud on my face for it, but every once in a while the other person realizes I'm not trying to insult them and we have a decent conversation about our differing opinions. Those are the best conversations, even if neither of us converts the other.

I'm also a huge fan of putting cheese on everything.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Slightly Larger Victory Dance

It's time for yet another small victory dance!

Last year I got a little poem about zombies accepted into my college student literary and art magazine. While that was fun, it was a bit bittersweet since I'm no poet and I wrote the poem in high school. I decided, as a result, that I needed to get something accepted into the magazine again, but only a prose piece that represented my current quality of writing.

I had just written a fantastic short story called “The Fourth Wall” that I wanted to share with everybody, but unfortunately it was a few thousand words too long. I decided to try my hand at some flash fiction (very short fiction).

The trick to flash fiction is that you have a very limited area in which to tell a story. If a novel is a cake, and a short story is a slice of that cake, flash fiction is one small bite of the cake.

My idea was to write a series of moments.
Of course, if I can only give the readers a taste of the cake, that taste has to be rich and delicious and lousy with flavor (I’m using “lousy” in the traditional meaning here, which is “full of”. My prose stylistics teacher would be proud). Inspired by some very small ideas for stories that I’d been saving in my memory banks, I decided that the weight my flash fiction needed was an emotional tie that everyone understands; the loss of innocence.
I wrote six flash fiction stories about the moments that change us forever, titled each of them after songs by Death Cab For Cutie, and called the collection “Crooked Smiles”. I submitted only five of these six stories, not because one was too incomplete or personal (on the contrary, I felt they were all incomplete and made sure to submit the most personal ones), but because I felt one of them didn’t fit with the rest.

After submitting these five stories, I read them over and realized that they did not represent either my quality or style of writing and instantly regretted submitting each and every one. I tried to be artsy and poetic, when I’d rather be informal and direct.

With the deadline rapidly approaching, I went back to “The Fourth Wall” and quickly conceived of a story that I could write from the main character’s perspective recounting the events that led him to where he is and then contemplating his next move. It would be both a sequel and a summary of the story I originally wanted everyone to see. I wrote it out in one sitting, (titled it “Padded Cell”) looked over it once the next day for edits, and submitted it.

A few months later I heard back, the magazine had accepted two of my submissions! One of which, “Steadier Footing”, was from the collection and the other was “Padded Cell”. The irony was that I thought “Steadier Footing” was the least likely of all the stories to be accepted as it held the least personal significance.

I hope to release "Crooked Smiles" soon,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Second Year In Review

Two years ago today, I made my first post on this blog. One year ago today, I reviewed my first year of blogging.
Sadly I don't have a record high number of views in a month again, and in fact it seems that recently my readership is on the decline. This could be partially due to the fact that I stopped posting links to my latest blog posts on Facebook twice and now only link to them once each. Ironic that a guy in advertising has not been advertising as much, right?
However, I can say that I've now got over two thousand total page-views since the beginning, which is pretty cool.

This time I don't think I'll give a summary of the past year the same way that I did last time where I link you to almost every single article I wrote, because that's difficult and boring.
All you need to know is that I tried posting three times a month but teetered off when school started, got really worried about my future, and kept on blogging and writing fiction.

So, about the future; if you can't tell, I'm taking the site in a new direction ... again.
Originally this blog was complimentary to my website "The World in My Mind" and was called "Further into My Mind". Don't remember this? Here, I have a picture to prove it:
The original look and title of the blog.
I then decided to merge the website with the blog and call it "Ryan Matejka's Blog", partially to make it easier to read all my literature, and partially because that's my name.
The blog was entirely focused on my life as an aspiring writer. The subhead of the blog title even said "inside the mind of an aspiring author" and just about everything was about my desire to be a successful fiction writer.
The look before the most recent change.

As you could probably tell, things have changed. As my future adult life rapidly approaches, I have things to talk about in regards to my search for a career in, as well as the world of, advertising. As more things happen, I expect I'll also want to do some talking about what it's like being let loose in the world, being engaged and eventually married at such a young age, and occasionally what my new favorite book/movie/album is (it's been very hard to keep myself from reviewing random things that I like or don't like, maybe I should let myself).

I also have to keep in mind that, as somebody looking for a job in advertising, potential employers will be looking me up on Google to get a better idea for who I am. I want to show them that writing and advertising consume my life, and that I'm a creative and interesting, yet professional, person.
The layout, content, and appearance had to be changed.

The new layout is sleeker and more professional,  the content is going to become much more varied than I originally conceived, and the subhead now reads "a place for me to say things to you" (because that sounded honest as well as silly). I want to talk not just about writing, but my life.
I expect it will be difficult to balance this professional look with a more loose form, but I think it's going to be fun to try.

Here's hoping you stay interested,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've been applying for post-college jobs. I have no choice, you see, because my current job is tied directly to my status as a college student. Once I graduate, I'm unemployed.

I'm going to be honest. I'm not used to rejections on a professional level. I've gotten hired for every position I've applied for in the past (minus one), and all three colleges I applied to accepted me (not that I was aiming incredibly high). Hell; I even got engaged-to-be-married in the first serious relationship I entered into. So this weekend when I got my first two rejection letters from places I applied for, it was a breath of fresh air.
I know, you were expecting me to say that it was a surprise. It wasn't, I'm no fool. I'm also aware that the other places I've applied for haven't contacted me back in any way, which likely means I'm rejected from them as well. In my defense, some of the places I applied for required experience that I just don't have. Sure I made my résumé look really nice and imply that I've already got what it takes for these jobs, but the fact is that I don't have any professional experience in writing or advertising.

Though I hoped that my skill in general writing would mean there would be a lot more job options available to me, it turns out most of the ones available are technical writing jobs for technical things of which I have little-to-no knowledge of. With graduation fast approaching, I've got to start keeping an open mind about what kind of jobs I can apply for.
One such technical writing job that I'm actually qualified for required me to be able to work in an environment full of raw meat. I have no idea why I need to be okay being surrounded with raw meat, but I am okay with that, so I applied. Of course, I haven't heard back from that place yet.
As for advertising jobs, most (if not all) of them require or prefer prior experience even if they're for semi-entry-level positions, and even if they don't "require" experience, somebody with experience is probably going to be more preferable over me; the guy with nothing but a fancy college degree that everyone told me I needed at a time like this.
All I can do, aside from apply for full-time positions at grocery stores, is work on my portfolio and keep applying until some place sees me as the potential golden nugget that I feel like I can be, and keep the mentality that I've been rejected not because I'm not going to be a great worker in my future career, but because I haven't applied to the right place yet; the one that wants a guy just like me.
Applying for jobs is like dating; you may be good at dating, but that doesn't mean you're dating the right person. I need to find and apply to the job that is the right fit for me. The one that's excited to have me.

I know it's out there. It's just going to take some time to find it.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The College Forty: Part 2

Let me get straight to the point: I didn't meet my goal by my birthday.
But the good news is that I've been eating healthier in general (aside from the delicious homemade cake-type desserts that I'm obligated to consume every night to prevent spoilage) and have been consistently eating less and healthier for lunch than the dinner-sized portions of unhealthy crap that I used to.
Instead of my weight hovering around 173, it now hovers around 170. I wouldn't be so quick to say that I've lost three pounds since a person's weight can fluctuate around two pounds a day, but the way I'm looking at it is that I stopped gaining weight and perhaps lost a minimal amount as well.

What I haven't been doing is exercising. Let's face it, it's winter and I just want to stay warm inside all day (also I had a nasty cold for a week or so). It's just harder to convince myself to get out to the fitness room when it's freezing outside and the pathway to the fitness room is covered in snow and ice.
Yes I could be doing exercises inside as well. Unfortunately it turns out I'm quite lazy.

My plan for the future is simple: keep working at it and trying new things until I find what sticks and what works.

I take full responsibility for this, I really do. I just like to look on the bright side of things.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Advertising Myself

The future is fast approaching, and it is still a completely blank canvas.

I've got less than a semester left of college before I graduate. This is the first time in my life that I've seen a dramatic change in my life approaching and had absolutely no clue what it will look like. I loose my job when I graduate (it's an on-campus job for students) and I've got to find a new and affordable place to live somewhere around my hometown.
I finally started working on my résumé, and I've been encouraged by a professor to use it not as a professional document that informs the reader of my background, but instead as a platform for which I can advertise myself, thus showing off my advertising skills.
It's incredibly fun to bend the facts and claim that my job flipping burgers has everything to do with preparing me for the world of advertising, and it feels good that a person who knows the industry like the back of her hand is assuring me that it's a great way to stand out.
But still it's hard to get my hopes up knowing that, even if I managed to get an interview lined up, I don't have a portfolio ready to present. I'm taking a portfolio-building class this semester, but the fact is that I need my portfolio to be finished and fantastic right now, not at the end of the semester when I'll need a job already secured.

Luckily, as you all know, advertising/copywriting is simply a subcategory of my larger interest and skill: writing. I've created a second résumé, a more serious one, that I can use to apply for jobs in the field of writing. It also feels good to know that I can, in a sense, fall back on my minor of writing for other jobs, but I never want my advertising major to go to waste, either.

It's complicated.

I'm both worried and reassured. I'm both excited and nervous.
All I can do is my best. All I can do is work hard to make this happen. To make my life happen.

Please, give me a job.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Novel Idea

Though I've always stuck to writing short stories, I've been slowly building up a catalog of ideas for novels in my head.
This semester of college (my last semester, for those counting) I've got an Advanced Writers' Studio class in which the students are to pick a personal writing project to work on through the semester and turn in about fifteen pages of at the end.
My first thought to this assignment was "wow, only fifteen pages? Sure that's going to take some time but given how much short story writing I've done recently, it shouldn't be too difficult". After all, I've got three "finished" short stories that I feel represent my current level of quality, and a fourth one (first draft) halfway done. If I wanted to, I could even turn those all in and have an easy semester.
Then I realized, that's not why I signed up for this class.
Advanced Writers' Studio is a capstone writing class meant for students majoring in writing, which I am not. It is not required for me to graduate in any way, I'm taking it as an elective. I signed up for Advanced Writers' Studio so I could take advantage of my last semester and improve my writing, maybe even challenge myself.

As much as I didn't want to start writing my first novel until I felt I was talented enough to make it publish-worthy, I realize that, aside from the normal struggles, there's not much challenge left for me in short story writing. That's not to say that I've perfected the craft and that there's no room for improvement, it's just that I've gotten too comfortable with writing short stories. I need to move on to the next level. I need to use this class to improve myself.

I've got a novel in mind that excites me to think about. It's a dystopian novel with social commentary, which means I get to invent an entire world and give it real meaning.

Maybe I'll surprise myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recording and Sharing My Life

From May 31, 2005 to April 3, 2012 I recorded my thoughts into a journal, which was made up of three black composition notebooks.

I didn't mean to stop, it just sort of happened, and when I realized it had been a while since I wrote I decided not to worry about it.
I didn't write in it regularly, you see, but only when it struck me that I had something to say or record. As life went on I realized that I had less to record or less ambition to record it, so near the end the gaps between dates in the journal got larger and larger.

I never really intended on keeping a journal. It just sort of happened. I was sitting in the classroom on the last day of 8th grade, looking around the room at the faces of all the people I'd spent almost a decade growing up with, wondering if I'd ever see them again. "Will they remember me?" I wrote.
I always thought it was poetic that I began my journal at the very end of the first phase of my life. The world of being a teenager awaited me, and I was already sensing the roller-coaster to come, especially since I knew that I was going to a high school with none of my friends.

I got hooked on writing my feelings and thoughts. Looking back on it, it makes perfect sense. I was going through a difficult time in my life full of puberty and all the internal and external drama that comes with it. I recorded my rebellious thoughts of distaste towards my parents, my insecurities as an awkward teen boy with acne, the time I got braces, the times I hung out with my new friends, and how it felt when I started dating my fiancée.
Keeping a journal was a form of therapy. A way of talking through my issues. No matter how small or embarrassing some of them seem now, I know they were important to me at the time.

Sure, life still has it's drama, but it's a different kind of drama. It's adult drama. Instead of worrying whether or not anyone could ever love me, now I'm worrying about getting a job and supporting the woman I love.

A part of the reason that I gave up on keeping the journal, I suppose, is that I've got this blog. And while I use it mostly to record announcements and thoughts about my writing, there are times (like this) that I love using it to detail some more personal aspects of my life. Sure, I don't feel comfortable blogging about some of the more private matters, but there are so many things I feel that I can share with those willing to read.

I've got several blank pages left in my last composition notebook, and the drama of graduating college is coming. I think I'll go back and finish it up.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for memories and I'm a sucker for inspiration in the form of real lives.