Thursday, December 16, 2010

A long misadventure, if you will

How about an adventure???

This stems from a blog I've been reading for a long time now, written by two NU alumni who are pretty badass, if I may say so myself. Basically they do a lot of crazy shit, then write about it so we can all be entertained. Even if you don't like road trips, zombies, steampunk, or pirates, you'll love The Unplanned Misadventures of Mirmir and Bess. Now, these guys are pros at misadventures, but I have a few of my own to share. Maybe I'll do another post if this one turns out ok.





Let's call this particular adventure, THE TAXI, because that's what the story's about. Well, actually it's about crazy people, but we'll stay with THE TAXI.

In sophomore year I went to Six Flags Fright Fest with a few friends on a sort of school-sponsored field trip (I.E. A bus drove us there and back, and we got great discounts). Eventually the group split up and I was with my friend Miles, one of the organizers of the trip, and my other friend Susanne, a foreign exchange student who truly is made of awesome.

Note: None of us are IL natives. Keep that in mind. It comes back to the story later.

SO we got to the park at 4pm, and were expected to be in the bust by 9:30pm, or some other equally ridiculous time. Because really, who goes to a theme park at 4pm? No one. It's just not smart. You ride like, two rides and then you leave? Not cool.

So Miles, Susanne and I got on one ok ride, then we HAD to go to the haunted house, and then, at like 7:30 or 8, we decided to risk getting in line for SUPERMAN, which is hands down, the best ride at Six Flags IL. We got in line, realized it was going to take WAY longer then an hour and a half, Miles called the buss at 9:30 and we ended up missing it. On purpose.

Because we are innovative college students, and we can figure out public transportation, logic be damned.

Sigh.

The ride was great, but when we went to see when the next bus to take us to the EL was, we realized we had to sprint to get to the stop on time.

And sprint we did. Or rather, we power walked, which may as well be sprinting.

Anyways, we made it to the stop just in time to wave goodbye to the bus, and found ourselves face to face with four people. Two couples. They all had swooshy hair, various piercings in various places, and dark, tight clothing. I automatically assumed that they were either a) the kind of folks I hung out with in high school or b) vampires. So I struck up a conversation while Miles called a cab.

We sat at that bus stop for a good twenty minutes, and our cab didn't show. So we decided to try another cab place. This time, and I'm not sure who suggested it, we decided to share a cab with the other people, since it would down the cost significantly.

"As long as you don't mind riding with a bunch of crazies," I joked.

One of the guys looked at me. "No, I'm pretty sure we're crazier than you."

Awkward Kira should have said nothing. Instead, I said, "Doubtful." The smile made it not hostile, ok???

The cab came, I got in the back, one couple squeezed next to me while Susanne and the other couple sat in roughly the same arrangement in the next row. Miles got the front seat, because he doesn't sit next to anyone (haha, jk Miles).

In our tired delerium, Susanne and I promptly fell asleep. Miles stayed awake, and therefore his story would be far more interesting than mine, but I DID wake up a few times, catching conversations (between the vampire boys and cab driver) along these lines:

"And then we beat him up."
"Why?"
"He owed us money. Almost killed him."
"Must have been a lot of money."
"Oh yeah, almost 400 dollars."

And

"And then he stabbed me. In the ribs. Wanna see the mark?"
"Uh, sure?"

And

"This is where he shot me. Caught me right in the wrist. And I'm missing a few teeth from a fist fight, which is why I always bring brass knuckles with me wherever I go now."

And

"And then they made me their chief."

Ok, maybe not that last one, but the others are barely paraphrasing the conversations. I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones etched into my memory. Forever.

Strangely, I was never afraid, just mildly interested and tired beyond belief. I did catch a few glimpses of Miles, whose eyes remained a little too wide the entire time as he stayed silent and tried to remain off of their radar. I also saw Susanne, sleeping peacefully as talk of near-murder and death and let-me-explain-how-stupid-those-darn-democrats-are filled the taxi.

Looking back, I'm glad I was too tired to freak out. I might have incensed the boy with brass knuckles, and we wouldn't want that, now would we? This problem also could have been avoided if we'd had a basic understanding of the Chicago transit system, or if we had NOT SHARED A TAXI WITH CRAZY VAMPIRE PEOPLE.

Eventually we found out the El had stopped running for the night, so we spent roughly an hour with the crazy people, before arriving safely on campus. Honestly? They might have been lying, but then I don't want to know where those scars came from. I'm surprised we got out of there without them saying anything too douchey or racist or sexist to ignore. Not that I'd have noticed if they did...

The moral of this story could be that one should never trust a man who wears skinny jeans. Or maybe the moral should be that if a person might be a vampire, you shouldn't assume they sparkle, and you should assume they've killed someone. All's well that ends well, perhaps? No.

Moral: Don't share cabs with strangers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So you want to write a novel?

I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Wait. No I'm not. And that visual? Really graphic. Really unnecessary.

But I am panicking. Crazy thing, I love writing, but I hate papers. HATE THEM.

Hate.

But I have a video to share with you, that I've been meaning to share with you for a while. I hope you like it!

"I wish I could kill you, and get away with it."



Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Procrastination

Good news: I'm in the middle of an AMAZING amazing story. Writing it is a blast, and my beta likes it! WOOT!

Bad News: The aforementioned story was my NaNoWriMo novel, and I only made it halfway before the end of November.

Conclusion: NaNo rocks because even though I didn't finish, I'll probably finish the draft in the next month or so, rewrite, revise, have my other lovely betas take a gander, and revise some more! So stoked!

In other news, I just read one of the best books ever! I can't wait to get my hands on the next two in the trilogy.



It's called POISON STUDY by Maria Snyder, and it's so awesome I could barely contain myself while reading it. Actually, I'm pretty sure I got on a few friends' nerves (sorry!). Anyways, the book is about a girl sentenced to death for murder, who is given a choice: Hang until death or taste all the Commander's food to make sure it's not poisoned. Things get complicated, characters fight, and of course, there is a smexy man to liven things up a little. Overall, the book was well written, the characters were great, and the plot wasn't ridiculously predictable. Go read it. NOW!

The last, depressing thing is that Thanksgiving break is over. Thanksgiving break for a student at NU is inevitably the eye of the storm. In anticipation of the end of the quarter, teachers just LOVE to give us too much work, even though we're still all recovering from midterms. So we scramble to finish it, go eat too much food for five days, come back, and suddenly there's a billion things to do before the beautiful yet dramatic escape to winter break.

God I can't wait.

Right now I have to do the following:
1) English 385 Paper (Blech! Politics hidden behind a pretty English label)
2) Philosophy 311 Paper (Eek! Love love LOVE this class, but it's over my head, and even my teacher agrees with me! Trying not to fail)
3) Music 170 Paper (Two of these. One is due tomorrow, and I still have to find sources! The other I have another week or so, so Sunday night I'll work on it...)
4) Music 252 Final (If I study, I'll do alright, I think. This is on Friday. Wish me luck, because this intrepid English major has serious test-taking issues)
5) Music 252 Project (Again, not due till next week, but as I'm leaving Tuesday of finals week, I have to get it in before I leave. It'll probably take me three hours plus Facebook time, which translates into a day)

Am I forgetting anything? No? Ok. Five main things, guys. Six days to do it all. Godspeed.

Listening to: Winter Song
Eating: Pretzels and yogurt, because I'm broke
Thinking: It's too cold, there are too many carols blasting around me, and I wish I could just hang out and write
Craving: A good solid cup of Green Tea
Planning: An all-nighter at the library (because THAT'S a good idea...)

Friday, November 12, 2010

What is this NaNoWriMo you speak of?

*Hides*

Ok. FINE. I'm behind. Like, really behind. Almost 10k behind.

But for now at least, I'm still trudging along, pounding each word out of my keyboard like an angry wildebeest. Maybe it'll amount to something, but mostly I'm just trying to finish my second book so I can move onto my third, instead of being interminably stuck as thatonegirlwhowroteabookonce.

Despite my unending optimism, I know that this book will be riddled with errors. In fact, it'll take many an editing session (plus the cost of coffee) to repair the train wreck that I like to call writing.

Like everything mentioned in this brilliant post. It's about things your characters do too much ,and I'm guilty of all of the above.

See you all in December! *stalks off to tiny, poorly lit room*

Harry Potter posts upcoming!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Crazy (For NaNoWriMo, That Is)

You read that right. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Whether or not I make it to 50k depends on a lot of things, like how many energy drinks and tea I can guzzle at one time. Or how much homework I'm willing to not do. Or how much sleep I can sacrifice.

But so far I love it.

There's something about the reckless abandon of jumping in before taking a thorough look at an idea that gets me high. Like a sugar rush. I know that if the analogy pans out, I'm gonna have a wicked crash in the not so far future, but let's just hope for the best, shall we?

Why am I doing NaNoWriMo? A lot of reasons. Writers get to hang out and ban together even more than usual, and the idea of writerly camaraderie just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. It's like running a marathon with friends, for you sporty people out there.

Oh. Oh. I didn't explain it. Let me explain: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's held every November. The goal is to write 50k in 30 days, which is fairly intense, lest you haven't tried it yet (go try it now... you'll understand how hard it is when you start crying in front of your blank microsoft word document).

Why put ourselves through the torture? To work for it. To enjoy it. To be able to say "The End." For the pure love of the thing, in other words.

Why would I specifically put myself through this? Because nothing is panning out. Each new WIP has died a tragic death since Morgantown, and while I have plans of a rewrite looming in the semi-near future, I want to sink my teeth into something different. Something new and juicy and wonderful.

And if I think about any idea too hard, I convince myself not to write it. Hence NaNoWriMo, where thinking more means writing less. Of course this WIP I'm writing now isn't entirely brand new. But I haven't really considered it, which means I haven't really doubted it.

I know, for all you seasoned NaNoWriMo-ers, I must sound like a doe eyed idiot with all this enthusiasm. And I'm sure when day 15 rolls around, I might hate life*. But for now, I'm caught up in this new world with these new characters that sort of feel like old friends.

For now, I can feel the same rush I had with Morgantown, and THAT makes everything worth it. For now, at least.

There's a chance I might fail, as much as I don't want to admit it, but as J.K. Rowling once said, "Failure is something it is impossible to avoid unless you live so cautiously you fail by default."

Helen Keller also said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

So have at it, fellow writers! Give it a go! See where it takes you! Write boldly where no man has gone before!



If you happen to be doing NaNoWriMo, drop me a line on the website at my profile page, or just stalk it to heckle me if I don't meet my daily word count.

Also, one of my cool twitter friends tweeted this link on NaNoWriMo tips. They're awesome. Check it out, writers!

I'm gone for now, to write or sleep (I'm having trouble deciding which), but I'm sure you'll be hearing from me quite a bit this month.

Listening to: Tegan and Sara
Drinking: The last pumpkin spiced latte of the season


*No, I definitely will. I'm not stupid. I've heard horror stories about NaNoWriMo like the absence of sleep, social life, and food. All for the love of writing, right?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's ALIVE

We all know the feeling when a daydream turns into something real (whether it be poem, short story, or novel). I think there's a moment, or at least a series of moments where what you're working on becomes more than just a notebook full of words, or a Microsoft document on your desktop. The skeletal story structure gives way to muscles and sinew, until it's a REAL BOY (Pinocchio style).

Suddenly it breathes, it moves, it grows, even lives. It is substance, it has purpose, no matter how much you might have hated or doubted it in the past. And that's when your book turns into Frankenstein's Monster.



So, would be Dr. Frankensteins, the point of this blog post is not to ponder the consequences of creating a living being. Rather, it is to not lose hope, that the moment of "creation" does happen, and when it does, it'll make the hard work worth while.

Just make sure you don't let your little bundle of joy off into the world before its ready. Edit, re-read, and edit again for good measure. But feel free to squee at random moments, because writing a book is an amazing thing.

Revel in it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writing Confession #2

It's more fun to write under the influence.



Of wine. Just a little. I'm not an alcoholic or anything...

This is Sparta!



Autumn update: I now have everything I need for my fairy godmother costume for Halloween, and I'm really excited/determined to use it. It involves hair dye. I know. Exciting, right?

Also, I'm going with three friends to Wisconsin next weekend! We're heading to a farm complete with pumpkins, corn mazes, and hayrides. I am ridiculously excited. Probably a bit too excited, but I'm so in love with October.

Last Tuesday we had a guest speaker at the writing group I'm in, NSTF. Her name is Kat Falls, and she got her MFA from Northwestern. Now she teaches screenwriting, and she writes YA! I was so stoked to see an academic who writes YA, because usually when I tell NU people what genre I write, the situation gets awkward.

She had a lot of great advice, so I'm going to try to pass the condensed version along via this blog. Here goes:

1) Don't wear out your story before the marathon.

Kat said she doesn't talk about a book before it's written. I'm pretty sure this is subjective, but I agree 100 percent on this one. So many times, I've described a story, talked about it, given away the ending, and then lost interest. Not surprising. In order to write a compelling story, you have to be engaged, and if you've already brought out the big guns, what fun is it?

2) Make the checkpoints outrageous.

"When I'm outlining a novel, I like to make one major scene wildly different from the next. It makes it more fun to write." This boils down to, if the writer is surprised, the reader is DEFINITELY surprised. If the writer is engaged and intrigued, so is the reader. Writing is hard work, but transitioning from scene to scene can be more fun than you think.

3) Keep it about the people.

My writing teacher once said, "don't write a story based solely on the situation." Granted, I think a lot of stories have very interesting situations, but the characters make or break a story. Kat said that good characters are tantamount to a book. If your characters aren't interesting, forget about it. On the other hand, if you have strong characters, they can sometimes make the reader forgive a weak plot.

4) Do your research.

Ohmygoodnessbuteveryonesaysthis. True. However, Kat went a step further when she talked about the agent search. She researched recent book deals and the agents' likes and dislikes in order to find an agent who liked the type of book she'd written, but hadn't signed something JUST like it. Taking research up a notch can really help the querying process.

5) Don't wallow.

Rejection is kind of like a breakup in some ways. It's ok to eat a little bit of rocky road and feel sorry for yourself, but if you spend a week in bed watching chick flicks and eating whipped cream from a can, you've gone too far. Kat said that she made sure to have eight queries out for every one rejection she received. She totaled at about 60 something queries, and she never had time to wallow in rejection. Productivity is almost always the solution to depression in the writing business, so never give up, never surrender. This is Sparta!

She said a lot of other great things, one of which sparked an idea floating in my mind for a while now. This isn't quite verbatim, but bear with me:

"Getting an MFA is like having two years to write. You talk about writing and write, so if you just want time to write, grad school is good for that."

Before those words, the only vision I had of grad school was similar to a jail. I thought I'd "done my time" with the higher education system, and if I had to take one more class I didn't like, someone was going to pay. However.

However. The idea of having two years of workshops, two years with BA teachers who really know what they're talking about, two years to improve the most important thing in my life, well that sounds a whole lot more enjoyable.

I still need time off. I need to breathe, to live, to discover cool things in the world and new parts of myself. But I'm almost positive at this point that I'm going back for my MFA. And yes, it'll be a lot of hard work, but I'll enjoy it too.

So that was epiphany #1.

Epiphany #2 is about Crash, mostly that I shouldn't give up on it. So I've been working on it (but not talking about it) and I'm pretty excited about where it's going. (Happy dance)

That's all for now.

Listening to: Iron and Wine
Reading: On Writing and Stardust
Drinking: A Cherry coke and LOVING IT.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Short Stories are awesome

I suck at bloggage. It's just that my life went from 0-60 in about .5 seconds, so I haven't had much time to breathe, much less write, much less blog about writing.

But stuff has happened in my life:

1) I'm ahead in my reading. WTF? When did I turn into an overachiever? Oh yeah. Senior year, when I realized that college ends in June.

2) I'm a SENIOR! This means real life (for better or worse) is just around the bend. Any ideas for my post-grad existence, please let me know, because I am freaking out about it.

3) I have about twenty short story ideas. Ok, more like ten, but still. It's a lot. I'm working on one right now that should be done by the end of next week. Then I'll edit it and let my wonderful writer friends read it!

4) It's not that I don't love my new WIP, CRASH. It's just that I love MORGANTOWN more, and I have to rewrite it/edit the beginning before I query more agents. I don't want to give up or admit defeat just yet.

5) October started, which means that the best month of the year is happening right now. I'm eating a pumpkin muffin as I type this now, and I can't get enough of autumn. If anyone knows about some good haunted houses or pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the Chicago area, let me know. I'm so ready for Halloween it's not even funny.

That's about it for now, but I hope to post some juicier stuff soon. Hope everyone is writing their hearts out!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yeah. I miss it.

I feel like a few of the skeletons in my closet have been stalking me.

See, I recently moved off campus, to tackle my final year of college in a much more adult-friendly atmosphere. It's not too far away from campus, but I am now situated in such a place that I have to pass the local music conservatory at least twice a day. If I leave the house, that is.

It shouldn't mean that much, passing a conservatory. It shouldn't make me want to walk inside. It shouldn't remind me of the way I could have been living my life right now. It shouldn't hurt. It shouldn't, but it does.

See, I used to be a serious musician. My dad's played classical guitar for forty years now, and on my tenth birthday I tried to follow in his footsteps. It was a lame attempt, granted, but in my senior year of high school, when I was convinced that music was my life, I started taking private lessons. This was all under the assumption, of course, that Northwestern would want me for both my journalistic insight and my musical skills.

Starting private lessons changed my life. That's not an understatement, but it's probably not as epic as you're imagining. I made weekly trips to one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Milwaukee. I practiced guitar about an hour (ok, a half an hour) a day, serenading myself and my neighbors with estudios and scales galore. I worked with a talented guitarist and performed with my peers in numerous recitals.

And I got into the school of music at Northwestern, but not the school of journalism.

Knowing what I know now, I count my lucky stars for not getting into journalism. For starters, I'm not a journalist. The rigorous, unforgiving program creates drop outs monthly. It might have been the academic kiss of death for me, trying to survive a program like that while going through my musical identity crisis.

On the first day, I realized that music wasn't for me. Not that I didn't love bringing out my guitar and learning something new, or better yet, playing something I already knew until my soul sang with the melody. But I didn't have the passion that everyone else did. It was so obvious how much they bled music, and how much I didn't. On top of that, I wasn't writing. At all. No time, in between not practicing, guilty lessons, and accelerated music theory (no, I wasn't accelerated, I had scheduling issues).

I told myself that it was just nerves, but my guitar became the enemy, along with anything remotely associated with it. By winter break I decided to switch majors, or as I've phrased it so many times, I quit. I quit music, and a small part of me has hated myself ever since.

The truth is I didn't practice enough to keep up, and I'm not sure if "I didn't want to" is a good enough excuse. I know I've written bits of this story on this blog before. I've written personal essays justifying my choice. I've compared it to writing to prove my own passion, but in the end, I feel just as guilty as the day I filled in my change of major papers.

I still have my guitar. I strum chords and sing alternative music. I even wrote a song or two. But I forgot most of the classical music and scales I learned in high school. My fingers don't move as fast, and I can't read music like I used to. Where does this leave me? Not completely lost, but not completely found, either. Caught in my usual bout of indecisiveness, more like. I love words, but I love music more than I care to admit.

And I'm not sure how to deal with it, because pulling out my guitar and half-assing a song I could play at 17 isn't enough. I feel like I gave up on a part of myself, and a simple "sorry" just won't do it.

I have to pass the conservatory after I post this. I wish I could pretend that it's just another building, but it's not. It's a guitar-shaped skeleton in my closet, and it's stalking me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My last first writing date of the year

Today I'm going to my first writing date of the year. I'm really excited, but a little nervous as well. All the projects I've started have just kind of fallen apart, and now I feel like I'm floating around, clinging to my werewolves with all my might. I guess we'll just see how it goes, shall we?

What kind of commitment do you commit to a new writing idea, and how far do you pursue it before letting go of it for a new project? Are there any demands you make on that idea (a certain amount of passion or spark from it)?

I'm asking these questions, mostly because I don't know my personal answers to them. I should be able to answer them by now in theory, because I've pursued ideas to the last word and then some, and I've abandoned ideas in the first breath.

Right now I feel like the lamest writer in the world, right next to-- oh. I'm not going to bash authors online. Not even dead ones, or legitimately bad ones. Bad karma, and all that jazz. Oh, and it's not very nice at all. Consider THAT the lesson of today, because it's all I've got.

Listening to: "Parachute" by Ingrid Michaelson (amazing song! Go download it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wake me up when September ends

Green Day aside, I can't wait till October shows its beautiful masked face! It just so happens that October is my favorite month of the year. Fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday!

Any other autumn lovers out there? Can I get a woot woot?

I wish I had something cool to say about my writing, but I've got nothing except a recommendation that you've probably heard before: Read Stephen King's ON WRITING. If you want to be a writer, it's an amazing book. That's not to say that you can't write without it, but it's kind of like a tic tac. Can you breathe without it? Yeah. But I wouldn't recommend it.

Honestly though, the book is a treasure trove of advice, good habits to create, and stories about his own trials and triumphs as a writer. I'm not done with it yet, but it's a great read so far.

I'm all moved in (but not all unpacked) in my shiny new apartment, and school starts next week. So I'm trying to get all my reading/writing on a roll before my life turns into studystudystudyworkworkwork. We all know that life goes downhill from there. Ok, not really, but it'll get stressful.

I finished Mockingjay a week or so back, and I still don't know what to think about it. Part of me truly loved it, in a way that almost compares to Harry Potter. I cried, I laughed, I cheered for Gale and Peeta. In the end, though, I'm not sure how I felt about it. A small part of me hated it, but not in a way that made me regret reading it. I highly recommend the Hunger Games series to anyone who likes reading (even those who don't. I got my book-hating roommate to read it. SCORE).

Then I read Paranormalcy a few hours ago. That one, I can more safely say, that I liked. I'm not sure about love. It was a cool take on supernatural creatures, and it makes sense. It felt a little like Artemis Fowl meets Vampire Academy. There was a lot of cool mythology built in with some great attitude. I'm excited to get my hands on the second and third installations.

Next on my to-read list is "Firelight" which is sitting on my desk thanks to a wonderful blog contest by Katie Flanagan. Go check out her blog here. I'm quite excited to read Firelight, since dragons aren't as "saturated" as vampires/werewolves, so it's bound to be a fresh new experience. Not that I hate vampires or werewolves. Clearly.

I have a pretty long reading list: American Gods, Stardust, Song For Night, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. That's only what I have waiting for me on my desk. Part of me loves it when I have this many good books waiting to be opened, but part of me mourns the fact that I can't read all of them at once. I love the worlds, the characters, the stories. They're so addictive, and I'm always ready for another.

As for my own stories, well, that's not going quite as swimmingly. I'm still daydreaming about Rachel and her werewolf friends, so it's hard to give Danny and Co. a fair shot. They may be bad ass humans, but I think I need a solid "villain," because right now it's just the system. Very stickittotheman of me, I think. We'll see how this pans out, because I don't want to turn into thatgirlwhowroteabookonceithink to all my friends and family. I want to turn into thatgirlwhokeptwritinguntilshewroteanawesomebook. That would be killer.

Speaking of Killer, go see Kick Ass if you haven't already. It's an amazing movie, and if you don't mind a little gore, the story makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I solemnly swear I am up to no good

Note: I know. I know this is WAY overdue, but here it is. The post on Harry Potter World!

I was lucky enough to stay with my awesome friend Jillian at her house in Orlando, and one beautiful (albeit cloudy) Saturday, we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!



Alright, so before I go completely fangirl, I'm going to say this: If you're planning on going to this park, WAIT. It's not that it's not worth it, but people are flying from all over just to see HP world. That means that even when the rest of the park is abandoned, HP world will be FULL of people. There are lines for rides, lines for stores, and lines for eating. It's all worth it, but if you're claustrophobic, just wait till next summer. It'll still be crowded, but probably not as much as the opening summer has been.

My trip to heaven:

1) We got to the park at about eleven, and parking wasn't too bad, despite the weekend. Apparently the rain deterred many people from going, which was fine with me. It rains in England, so I think it only added to the atmosphere.

2) It was a long walk from the garage to the actual park itself. THEN we had to walk through city walk. THEN we had to go through Marvel land, Toon Town, Seuss land, and Jurassic Park to get to Harry Potter World.

3) We made it to Harry Potter World.

4) I seriously could have spent the day staring around. Yeah, the shops were cool. Yeah, the rides were fun, but OMG I'm in Diagon Ally/Hogsmeade! Look at all the shiny stuff!

5) I said it once, I'll say it again. It was CROWDED.



6) We got butterbeer! It wasn't amazing, but it was cold, and I think it was 90 degrees outside. Also, they had a lot of people from England working this section of the park. I wonder why?



7) The line for the main ride seemed long, so we decided to bring our drinks with us. Then we bumped into one of Jillian's friends who happened to work there, and she put us through the express lane! It was so awesome! We didn't even have time to finish our drinks.

8) The ride was beyond awesome. Like, SO awesome. It was a combination of a projected movie thing and actual props jumping out at you. I don't want to ruin it, so I'll just put a brief warning that if you're afraid of spiders you should ask someone when to close your eyes, or just avoid the ride entirely (depending on the severity of your phobia) because it gets quite intense. But speaking as someone who is a complete wimp when it comes to spiders, it's worth the temporary fear. I promise.



9) After the ride, we decided it would be a good time to go to Ollivanders. It was one of two shops you can enter, and it's kind of a combination of several shops. Ollivanders was really Ollivanders + Flourish and Blotts + Owl Post. Honeydukes is Honeydukes + Zonko's. There is a line to get into Ollivanders (there's a line to get into ANYTHING in HP world, including the bathroom and restaurants), so we just looked around. There is so much cool stuff there that you could legitimately just sit around and absorb it all. For example...

10) They had Hermione and Harry's dress robes on display:



But back to Ollivanders, because there was so much cool stuff in there. Like the monster book of monsters (it moved every so often to growl at random people):



Also, it had a model of the solar system, which of course means you never have to take another astronomy class at Hogwarts:



And check out the BROOMS! They moved, and I had to fight every urge to get on them:



11) We then went into Honeydukes/Zonko's. It was a madhouse, and I didn't buy anything (because I just wanted chocolate, and Florida+Chocolate=hot mess), but it was so much fun to see all of the candy from the book.

In the Zonko's side of the store, they did not play around with the HP toys:

Fanged Flyers!



Pygmy Puffs!



Cool, right?

12) For lunch we went to the Three Broomsticks (DUH), and there was yet another line. Again, it was worth it. The inside of this place looks EXACTLY like it does in the movie, and I seriously think my heart skipped a beat.



13) I should mention now that it was raining on and off for most of the day, so the other cool coaster, The Dragon's Challenge, was also on and off for most of the day. After lunch, we decided to wait in the line of people waiting to get in line. Twenty minutes later, the uncomfortable and awkward location of the line (smack in the middle of the park) paid off, and we pretty much waltzed up to the coaster.

The downside of this, is not having sufficient time to soak in the atmosphere. Let me explain, because I feel like I need a DAMN good reason to complain about a line moving too quickly. See, the good people at Universal put a lot of effort to make HP world look genuine. I highly suspect that actual props from the movie were used. Here are the decorations JUST for the Dragon's Challenge:

Hagrid's Hut:



Ford Anglia (flying car from year 2):



Champion's Tent:



Goblet of Fire:



Triwizard Trophy:



Golden Eggs:



Do you get it now? Waiting is part of the experience. Sitting in the champions' tent after seeing dozens of posters rooting for the different Triwizard champions, it gave me goosebumps. So no, I'm not really complaining about the lack of lines, I'm just saying that if you go to the park, don't worry about waiting in lines.

14) Once we got off The Dragon's Challenge (which is an awesome coaster in its own right), we caught a dancing show! It's one of two that take place every thirty or so minutes. The other one is an a capella group with frog puppets. I didn't get a chance to see that one, but the dancing one was pretty fun!

Here are some pics:





Aaand a video:

video

Cool, right? As the girl in Hogwarts robes said, it's all in the name of international magical relations.

15) We browsed around the stores a bit more, and ducked into a few of the other parks (much to my dismay... I really could spend like, a week in HP world without blinking an eyelash), and then returned for another round on the main HP ride. This time, we got a LOT more pictures:









16) "The time has come," the Walrus said... It was high time to leave the park, so with one last picture (with the beloved Hogwarts Express), we headed back to the car for a lovely Italian dinner with Jillian's family.

It was perfect, and I would recommend any Harry Potter fan to get thee to HP world!

One last gem (Sorry for the picture overload!!!):

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writing Confession #1

It ain't pretty, but...


I turn into a whiny brat when my work in progress isn't going the way I want it to.


(This is the first of what will probably be a series. I'll try to keep them down to once a week)


What is YOUR writing confession?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rainforest adventures and Weddings (but which is more daring?)

Alright, this post isn't nearly as epic as it may seem, but it IS the last post I'm writing about Puerto Rico. It's also the only post I didn't write IN Puerto Rico. See, a lot of things started to happen in a small amount of time, and writing blog posts, well, they kind of faded to the background of my mind.

Sorry.

I was trying to think of the perfect way to end my epic trip to the land of my ancestors (or at least, 25% of my ancestors), and I think I've got it. A List! Besides, I only need to cover the last two days of my trip. Mind you, they were two very epic, very action packed days.

Day 1:

1) Tai and I explored the rain forest called El Torro Negro.



2) It's near the center of the island, in winding mountain roads, and my stomach was NOT a fan.





3) We found this cool water fall we could have swam in, but I didn't have my bathing suit. Sad moment.





4) We left for another water fall, deeper in the forest.



5) We found it.



6) Tai informed me that no, we could not admire it from the car. There was hiking involved. I was dressed for a carnival. In other words, flip flops.

7) I got really terrified of the sharp slippery rocks.

8) I sucked it up after ten minutes of whining, and went up barefoot. It was epic.



Day 2:

1) We got ready. I realized how terrible my tan lines were.



2) We went to the hotel. My dad was waiting with Janet's family. He had a drink, haha.



3) People arrived. I took too many pictures.

4) Ceremony starts. I get up with the three other children and recite benediction. In Spanish. I found out about that the night before the wedding. Great, right?

5) They Are Married. Husband and wife. For better or worse. Till death do they part. For realz.



6) Dancing. Cake. Food. Alcohol. Embarrasing pictures are inevitable. But I won't post them here.

The night ended and my grandmother and I went to the airport early the next morning, leaving Dad and Janet to hang out in Puerto Rico for another week. You know. Newly weds, and stuff.

Then I arrived in Orlando! Which will probably also be in list form. Yes. Get pumped, because the post is on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which I was lucky enough to go to. Oh yeah.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puerto Rico 7: Food (among other things)

One absolutely terrible thing about Puerto Rico is that there’s so much good food and so little room in my stomach. Well. Comparatively, at least.

Day after my eventful return to San Juan, dad, grandma, and I went to Maggie’s for lunch. She had blood sausage (surprisingly good considering its name), and cheese stuffed pana (unsurprisingly good). Pana is basically breadfruit. It tastes a bit like potato, which means it tastes awesome, and it’s not very healthy.

Lunch tends to be a bigger deal than dinner here, which makes more sense to me. You know, seeing as eating a heavy meal right before sleep is a metabolism disaster. It took us like three hours to finish everything from the stuffed pana to the amaretto cheesecake. When someone suggested dinner later that day, I could only shake my head and hold my stomach.

However.

However. There is always more room for good food, I’ve found. Later that night we went to Janet’s mother’s house again, so that I could meet her sister, Glorimar, who is also getting married. Yep. Double wedding fun! Glorimar was nice, and soon the whole family was squished into a very tiny space. Think fifteen people in a single dorm room. Yeah. That’s how we roll in Puerto Rico.

Glorimar’s husband, David, is from the Dominican Republic, and he cooked some kind of plantain dish while we watched Puerto Rico VS Venezuela volleyball. Even though I’m not very into sports, their enthusiasm was contagious, especially once I started referring to Puerto Rico as “Us” and Venezuela as “them.” I’m sure the beer helped my enthusiasm.

HA.

I kid.

Anyways, we won, just in time for David to finish cooking, and despite my full stomach, I wanted to try a little. When he made my plate, I asked for half of what he gave me.

“You’re sure?” he said, doubtfully.

I nodded. “I’m not really hungry.”

He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “When you want more, let me know.”

One bite of this glorious dish and I was SOLD on second helpings. SOLD. It’s called “Mangu,” and it’s basically mashed potatoes (except plantains, not potatoes). It’s got garlic, onions, and lots of amazing flavor, and the best part is I can cook it now! Here’s a picture:



Yeah, it’s not the most glorious presentation, but trust me. It’s good. David made chicken with it, and used the spicy broth as gravy for the mangu. He won me over.



Back at Aunt Elba’s, she’s been cooking a LOT. So much good food that I no longer know what to do with it.

And one fateful day (Tuesday, maybe?) I adamantly insisted that I want to learn how to cook. Especially Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s just too good.

At this point I should make it known that despite years of sitting in the front room while my grandmother cooked countless amazing Puerto Rican dishes, I’ve never once tried to learn.

But Elba quickly fixed that by insisting that I would learn how to make mangu and dulce de leche. On top of that, I helped make fish.

Then this morning, she taught me how to make flan de queso!





Add that to my impromptu tostones lesson earlier this summer, and I feel quite confident of my cooking skills. Roomies, if you’re reading this, be prepared for a LOT of awesome food next year.

I wish my writing was going as well as my cooking though. By the time I post this, things may have changed, but right now I feel pretty bummed about writing. It’s stupid, but I feel like I don’t know enough about the story to write it.

Wow. That sounds like a lame excuse. But it’s true. I’m afraid that if I don’t know enough about the story before I trudge through the first draft, it’ll be beyond editing. Too crappy.

Sigh. I know. Suck it up and write. Hopefully I’ll have a bit of time in Florida to work on it.

Days left in Puerto Rico: 2
Days until Key Largo: 12
Listening to: Andres Segovia

Note: One more Puerto Rico Post, then Florida. As of this posting, I'm back in Texas and eagerly waiting to return to Milwaukee. I miss my friends, and my mommy. Just thought you all should know.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Viejo San Juan Part 2; The Young Folks

I think it’s getting to the point where I sound like I’m trudging through my adventures, and I’m sorry. I fell behind by a lot in the craziness of the past few weeks, and now, during my downtime in the last few days of my trip, I’m trying to catch up. Selfishly so. I want to remember Puerto Rico, and this blog is the closest thing to a diary I’ll ever keep up with.

“Tienes que levantente temprano.” Those were Tai’s last words after the movie on Tuesday night. They were a warning, if you will: You’ll have to be up early. Or, more literally, you have to wake yourself up early. Really early. Way more early than the 12 or so in the afternoon I’ve gotten so used to.

But on vacation it’s not worth it to sloth around, so I set my alarm and (after some moaning into the pillow) got my sorry ass out of bed.

Aunt Elba made some amazing Puerto Rican coffee (read: really strong), and I was awake. Yessss. Then Tai and I were off to San Juan. When I asked him where we’d all go, he shrugged one shoulder, puffed out his lower lip, and flipped his hand. “Por Alli.”

Translated, it means “around.”

It should mean “everywhere,” because that’s basically where we went.

First we got an authentic Puerto Rican lunch at Subway (hehe, get it?), and I stood in awe of the skyscraper-sized cruise ship.



Then we headed away from the tourist district (and by default, Hard Rock Café and Senor Frog) towards El Morro.







We walked through the Gate of San Juan, the last of four entrances through the original fort.



It was so breathtaking! I loved going back to Capilla de Cristo, and I spent more than a little time trying to find thrifty souvenirs.





On the way, we met a few really nice vendors, one of which asked about the flood in Wisconsin once he found out where I was from. The other vendor confessed that she was hung over, haha. Honesty, peeps. It’s the best policy.



At the end of Calle de Cristo, there’s a pigeon park (Parque de Palomas), and you can buy a bag of seed and feed the birds! I did just that, which became the funnest thing of the day:



Tai and I left once the pigeons stopped attacking me, and he showed me a quieter side of Viejo San Juan. It’s just as beautiful, but with fewer shops.





Tai wanted to stop at the bookstore, and I found a treasure: a small book of poetry. In ENGLISH! Score! It was written by an English Professor in University of Puerto Rico, San Juan. And it’s just my type of poetry! I love it!