Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mookychick Blogging Competition (Flash Fiction): Pink Shoe Laces

Mookychick Blogging Competition
Flash Fiction – Pink Shoe Laces
By Rebecca Carvalho


For all ladies out there who just want a chance to be themselves, despite what feminist trends say they should or should not be or do. The following is a sad parody of what happens when we get lost in piles and more piles of theory.


She sat staring at her shoes. They had pink laces.

There was a young man sitting nearby. She knew he was just pretending to be reading his newspaper. Who could read a newspaper in a day like that?
She quickly rummaged in her backpack and found a copy of “A Vindication of the Rights of Women.” She knew that Wollstonecraft would back her up.
But then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed he had peered at her.
She looked at him. He was back pretending to read. She looked at her pink laces again. He had stared at them. She was certain of it! What was he thinking just then? She felt terrible. That same morning, prior to going to the park, she noticed her white laces were not white anymore. They were gray with dirt. The pink ones were the only at hand.
Ah, how she hated pink. Pink was the most anti-feminist color, she thought. Pink was men's idea to segregate women. They had given them a color – just that color – and told them they were allowed to use only that. Only pink. Poor Grandma had not known she hated it. Those pink laces had been a gift, along with new shoes, of course.
She rummaged in her backpack again. Woolf waved at her. She grabbed “A Room of One's Own” and started reading it too. Wollstonecraft in her right hand. Woolf in her left hand. That would do just fine.
But her pink laces were still there. She knew he simply had to be looking at them. Who wouldn't look at such bright color? Pink was the sort of stuff that wouldn't pass unnoticed.
She needed more support. She needed to ascertain herself. She had a trump card and would use it gladly. That's when she pulled out her reputable copy of feminist literary theory. She placed it on her lap, and read it. And continued reading Wollstonecraft. And Woolf too. A paragraph here, another there, and a third one there.
Literary theory, though, was simply too boring. She thought of that vampire series in her bag, and wanted to read them, but couldn't. People said they were anti-feminist; just like her pink shoe laces were. She sighed.
The young man looked at her and smiled. Ah, oppressor! She had to fight back. So, trying to balance everything, she rummaged in her backpack one last time, and found Austen. Austen was sharp. Austen's wit would defeat anyone trying to enslave her thoughts. She held “Pride and Prejudice” along with “A Vindication” in her right hand, and “Emma” and “A Room of One's Own” in her left hand.
But, with her hands busy, she simply couldn't turn the page of anything she was reading. She leaned forward, and tried to turn pages using her nose. At first, it was difficult. But, when she was starting to get the hang of it, she noticed that her pink laces were actually sparkling sun beams. She didn't know they had glitter. Tiny bits of pink glitter!
She looked at the young man. He smiled again. She gasped. She knew he had noticed her shoe laces had started to sparkle.
That was enough. Nasty, nasty color! She started shaking her legs to get rid of her shoes. In her furious fit, she lost her balance and all books fell. She desperately jumped forward to pick them up. And, as she grabbed them back, she noticed that the young man had just approached her.
She stood up, and was ready to throw at him her best swear words. She wouldn't be intimidated.
“I was wondering if you know what the time is,” he asked her in a faltering voice.
“Um. . . four o'clock,” she said, after checking her wristwatch.
“Nice bright salmon shoe laces,” he said before leaving.
She stared at her shoes. “Salmon?” She murmured to herself. And stood staring at them for an hour. After that, she put her books back in her bag and sat back on the bench, this time with her vampire series. There was no one around. And her shoe laces were not pink. They were salmon. And they didn't sparkle. They were bright. She finally felt at peace.

This is an entry for the Mookychick blogging competition, FEMINIST FLASH FICTION 2011. Enter now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello! Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

We're having a strange, though interesting Wednesday. Our apartment smells like chicken, and that's not bad. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we're (yours truly very proudly is. . .) making salpicão, which is a Brazilian type of cold chicken salad. It's a wonderful, magnificent (though, very simple!) dish I've never made before, but I've seen my mom preparing it many times. Our family is quite fond of it, and of her recipe in particular. Every Christmas, my family requests my mom to bring it to our dinner. Hopefully, my salpicão will turn out just as good as hers, because we'll be taking some to Michael's parents' house tomorrow.

Strangely, since I moved to the U.S. this is the first time I haven't seen snow on Thanksgiving. If I remember correctly, the two times I was invited to the Kozaks' house on Thanksgiving, Casey Kozak joked that I had brought snow with me. The corn fields would be entirely white. Deb Kozak would be afraid of driving. This year, though, there's no sign of it. I wonder what's up with the weather. . . Global warming, I suppose?

That's all I have to say for now. There's still cooking to do. And writing to work on later. With or without snow. . . happy Thanksgiving!   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Blog Entry On Writing. And Neil Gaiman.

It's Sunday. Not a lazy one. Though not as busy as it should be. Michael is working at home, too. But, when he takes breaks from programming, he takes photos of me. Here's one. I'm happily (. . .I'm sorry if you can't really tell) working on the last chapters of my latest novel.

I'm glad this project is almost over, but I know I'll miss it. I'll miss my characters, the cities I've created, and the dreams I had at night because of my writing before going to bed. The idea is a year and five months old. There was a lot of writing, planning, thinking, worrying and celebrating.

I'll try to publish it. You know that already. Wish me luck.

Perhaps, later tonight I'll watch The Simpsons. I want to see a yellow, Simpson version of Neil Gaiman. The episode is called “The Book Job.” That might be interesting. I recommend it. He mentioned that the next step is to become a talking head in Futurama.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Time in the Countryside

I wrote First Time in the Countryside today. I'm not sure, but it is either a chronicle or a short story. Either way, it is a personal narrative, and I hope you'll like it.

-- Rebecca Carvalho

First Time in the Countryside
The year was 2002. I was fourteen, and I had never been to the countryside.
I was born and raised in a big city in the northeastern part of Brazil. I come from a family of police officers and soldiers, so they over-protected me, sheltered me, and kept me indoors as much as possible. It was like I was one of the inmates they had to watch, except that I could watch TV, and the food was exceptionally better.
So, at the age of fourteen, I had not gone too far.
My mom, on the contrary, at that point had visited the countryside many times. She had friends there. She had even been to those rural towns where rain is scarce. It is so rare that people celebrate when it rains. One day, when my mother was visiting a town in particular, it started raining. She saw people dancing on the streets, dancing in the rain. She said it was beautiful. They thought she had brought rain with her, and so she was invited to many houses, where they fed her their best treats, and regarded her presence as good omen. She was like a goddess. A goddess of rain bringing fertility to their land. Those were her best days.
It was Easter. The entire country closed so people could spend that holiday at home. Kids didn’t have to go to school, adults didn’t have to go to work. It was perfect, except that I had tons to study. After Easter, our exams would start. The first one would be our Portuguese test.
My mom was invited to go to a farm in the countryside. She insisted I should go. She said I’d be able to study there. So, we packed our bags, leaped in the car, and left.
We arrived later that same day. My mom’s friends were there. The house was spacious, and they showed us our room. Everything was perfect, except that I felt lost.
Up until then, I had spent my entire life in a big metropolitan area, which means that our garden was just a narrow strip of dirt on the left side of our garage, behind a bench. One day, when I was five, I decided I wanted to plant a cashew tree. My grandfather had to break a hole in the cemented area in front of our house, by my window. In that tiny hole I planted my tree. The poor tree died earlier than you think, but the hole is still there.
So, I didn’t know what to do.
I tried to remember everything I had heard people say about going to the countryside. People talked about reading, so I decided I would do that too. I didn’t have fiction with me, so I got my Portuguese grammar book and sat in a hammock outside.
It was a sunny afternoon, and the view was pretty, and my book was boring. I stayed in the hammock, swinging back and forth, until I realized there was no way I could read there. For no particular reason, I looked back, and caught my mom staring at me from a nearby window. I think she was waiting to see how long it would take for me to give up on reading.
I went back inside, a little disappointed, and tried to think of something else to do. I leaned on a windowsill and pondered that if visiting the countryside meant taking time to admire nature, I would do that too.
So, I stood there looking at the horizon, and day dreaming was something that actually came to me quite naturally, when I finally looked down at a pile of logs, and my heart almost jumped out of my chest.
There was a spider there. The biggest, hairiest, nastiest spider I’d ever seen in my fourteen years of sheltered life. It looked as if it had been observing me all this time from that pile of logs, because it stepped back when I made eye contact.
I tried my best not to scream. I didn’t want to be the stupid city girl who goes to the countryside and squeaks in horror after the biggest-hairiest-nastiest spider ever seen appears on a log. So, I stiffly walked to a man who worked there taking care of the grounds, and told him I had found the biggest. . . just a spider below the window.
Of course, he paraded the animal as if it were a kitten. Of course, people there looked at it as if it were a kitten. And, of course, I had to pretend that spider was a kitten, because that was what they did there. There in the countryside.
But, when the spider was gone, I had nothing else to do.
I tried to think of other things people did in the countryside, and remembered that people liked to go out for walks. My idea, in fact, was praised by my mom, who is addicted to sightseeing. She used to go sightseeing even back where we lived, and took photographs of trees and doors like tourists so often do, and pretended to be from Spain, even though she doesn’t speak Spanish.
The farm’s owner suggested we should go see a waterfall he had in his property. My mom was very excited, my mom’s friends where very excited too, and I. . . well, I was there. The same man who had previously taken the spider received very specific instructions on which path to take that would lead us to the waterfall.
He seemed a little confused, but in the end he nodded, and condescended. Those were his boss’ orders, after all. I was the only one, though, who saw he looked confused. Now that I think of it, I should have asked him why he looked confused. I don’t know. I could have told my mother, right? Whispered something about it, if I were feeling particularly shy. But I didn’t. Regretfully, I didn’t say a word.
And so we left, wearing our swimsuits underneath our clothes. And at first, we took photos of flowers and rocks, and grass and more grass, and then we took photos of us pointing at more flowers, rocks and grass. We walked, walked and walked, and that afternoon seemed endless, as the sun refused to go down. And it was still very bright, although it was already late.
I would have been drinking coffee & milk, as I watched my favorite evening soap operas. . . if I were at home.
But I wasn’t. I was in the countryside, crossing what soon looked like a jungle, and eating sour berries that we picked along the paths we took. The only way to comfort our hungry stomachs.
After what to me felt like an endless amount of time walking, we heard water. We took a left, jumped over a handful of bushes, and we ran overjoyed to our precious waterfall.
But it turned out to be something else.
There was a pipe up in a rock, and water streamed from it down in what looked like a man-made lake bed. A woman was sitting there, washing her dishes and her kid.
Disappointment crept into our faces as we watched dirty bubbles floating on the water. There would be no swimming that afternoon. So, we went back, and going back was as fast as a quick turn up the closest path. And that’s what we did.
When he saw us, the farm’s owner burst into laughter. He hysterically pointed out he had made us go down the longer path to find. . . nothing close to what we had envisioned. And pointed at our hurting feet. And pointed at my face, which was deeply red, as it always gets when I’m exposed to sunlight. Or when I’m embarrassed.
Our guide scratched his head. “Oh, now I see why he told me to go the other way. I thought to myself there was a shorter one,” he said with a sheepish smile.
His life was spared due to his naivete.

After dinner, I still didn’t know what to do. But then I thought: Some people go to the countryside to write! There were many authors -- William Wordsworth, for instance -- who appreciated the idea of writing surrounded by nature.
I’ve always liked to write. And, at the young age of fourteen, I already knew I was a writer. There was nothing else I was good at. I horribly failed at sports, I had no sense of mathematical logic, and my drawings were as good as they had been when I was four; the difference was that when I was four, they said I was a child prodigy. When I grew up, it seems the world had grown tired of my art.
They had a covered area with a table at the back of the house. Lighting there was also good enough, so I grabbed my notebook and sat down to write.
Despite a few jokes I heard earlier that day about keeping journals, I felt very proud to be writing down my thoughts. I was also very proud I had finally found a thing to do in the countryside.
My happiness, however, was short-lived; and so was my writing.
The back of the house was pitch-black, but soon I noticed an army of geese had just entered the pool of light where I was working. I say “army” because that is precisely what they looked like. They were in formation, side by side, and very synchronized as they flapped their wings and turned to me. I felt like a general saluted by a troop.
But there were at least twenty of them there, and geese are always so intimidating. The truth is that they can be very vicious creatures. I asked them what they wanted, and they continued coming closer and closer. So I ran back into the house, scared. I had been cornered by them, by the army of countryside geese.
The next day, we packed our bags and got in the car to leave. Someone gave me an apple; and I played with it, throwing it up and catching it back. And I did that a few times as we drove away. I felt happy. I had not known what to do when I arrived for the first time in the countryside, but I found out I had learned important lessons to keep in mind when visiting it again: (1) Always bring a novel in your bag, (2) spiders are to be regarded as kittens, but shouldn’t necessarily be petted, (3) never trust your guide, nor your guide’s boss, even if the latter is a friend, (4) and geese can form very strong armies, so they must be avoided at all costs.          

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sickness, Possible Christmas Gifts (?), Sphinx's Queen, And Youth Ambassadors!

I spent the afternoon feeling sick, and that is always very, very frustrating. I don't know precisely what's the matter with me, but I think this time my anemia and this crazy sleeping habit are taking revenge for the way I neglect my body.

It doesn't help that I forget to take my iron pills. And, also, the fact that I barely eat during the day, always distracted with my writing, or job hunting. On top of that, I can't avoid staying up all night to write. From midnight to 5ish in the morning, my best ideas are at their peak. My words flow smoothly, and I feel I can better see my story when the rest of the world is asleep. But, going to bed so late is killing me slowly.

Do you also sometimes put work before your own health?

This afternoon, then, I'm paying the price for being reckless. A few hours ago, I felt so tired and weak, almost as if my body was begging to shut down. I thought I'd end up falling asleep, but I did my best to keep my eyes open, and tried reading a book. I did some reading, and then decided to watch a documentary. It was a BBC one. It was on Egypt.

When I felt stronger, I got paper and used markers to write down a few ideas for the short story I am working on for a literary magazine. So, I wrote as I watched the documentary. I felt like a scribe, inspired by Ancient Egypt.

Something I've always, always wanted to have was a calligraphy set, and parchment paper. Like these, for example:

It is very upsetting, though, to feel like the way I'm conducting my work is now starting to affect it. Physical and emotional pain, though at least today the latter is nonexistent in my case, are obstacles to writing. How can I concentrate, for instance, on describing happiness, when my body feels like it is falling apart? I remember earlier this year I was reading George Eliot's journals (or, perhaps, it was Frances Burney's!) and she complained that she couldn't do any writing that day because of a pestering migraine. One of those two writers complained about other migraines that didn't let them work.

I'm feeling much better now, yes, but I'm still a bit queasy and drowsy. I shouldn't be glued to the computer again, but I can't help it. I suppose I should try going to bed early tonight, but that will probably be difficult after so many days of my undisciplined routine.

On a different subject, I'm almost done reading Esther Friesner's Sphinx Queen. The book is great, the reading goes easily and fast, and I'd recommend it if you're interested in Ancient Egypt. At least when I'm interested in the life of an iconic figure, I can't help picturing what their lives really were like. What were their likes and dislikes? What thoughts did they have when facing such and such event? 

In general, it's the sort of stuff no historian would be able to address, because they not always have access to such information. Unless there's a journal or some other type of personal documentation, it's almost impossible to know what worlds people like Nefertiti brought within their heads. So, in this case, historical fiction plays an interesting role. Although it takes many liberties with history, which might annoy a few people profoundly, it also allows us a chance to continue building up our fascination for ancient cultures and historical actors, as we pretend we know what they were thinking, how things really went, and what mannerisms they had.

Here's the link to Sphinx's Queen on Random Buzzers:

Finally, I'd like to ask you a favor. The Youth Ambassadors '11 were not able to go to their reunion, because I guess the U.S. Embassy couldn't afford to fly everyone to Sao Paulo this year. They decided to participate, then, in a photography contest. The winner will be able to take 50 friends on an all-expense-paid trip to Sao Paulo to attend a party hosted by MTV. That would be their best shot at getting everyone together.

This is very important because these kids haven't seen each other since January. They live in different Brazilian cities, and it's very unlikely they'd have a chance to see each other again. And we're talking about a group of teenagers who only spent two weeks together, working as diplomats in Washington, D.C.; but, despite this short amount of time, developed really strong, dear friendships. The great majority of them come from financially unstable families, so traveling is a luxury they can't afford on their own.

The contest is Panasonic's “Lumix: A Vida Como Voce Nunca Viu” (Life As You've Never Seen), and to help them you only need to 'like' (curtir, in Portuguese) their photo on Facebook. Here's the link:

Many thanks, and feel free to comment.
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Living Dreams


Last night (or, rather, this morning) I had the greatest dream I've had in a while. Well, I stayed up writing until way past 6:00 a.m. and I only went to bed because it was already very late, but I could have stayed writing. My mind was still buzzing with ideas, and I didn't feel as tired as I was supposed to be. But I went to bed, anyway, and fell asleep with a strange feeling that I had just arrived from a meeting with friends.

And then I dreamed. . .

I dreamed that I had been published. I had published fiction, perhaps my latest, I'm not sure. But I had been published, and it felt extraordinary to have a story in print.

Well, I remember when I got two copies of Operation Legacy. Professor Barrett mailed them to me, because I couldn't attend the signing. I opened it and went to the cafe upstairs to get coffee or just something to eat, I don't remember precisely; but I opened that anthology, and read my story (or, the story of the veteran I interviewed) as if it were written by someone else. I remember an acquaintance asked me what I was reading, and I proudly showed it to her. “It's my story. I got published,” I said and the feeling was extraordinary, it was amazing.

But, strangely, the way I felt in my dream was different. The way I felt when I got Operation Legacy was accomplished, proud that I finally saw one of my things in print. But, in my dream, I felt complete. This probably will be a very unfair remark about contributing to Operation Legacy, but when I read my piece of non-fiction one of the first thoughts I had was “I hope one day I'll be able to publish my stories.” And then, in my dream, the feeling I had was that I felt I had just fulfilled my biggest ambition. You know that old expression people say, something like “oh, if I die today, I'll die a happy person.” That's precisely how I felt in my dream last nigh. . . this morning.

And in my dream I believe my publisher, which happened to be Random House (..!), told me I would be going to Tokyo, I guess, on a tour. And I was very excited. I believe Michael and my mother would be coming along. And there was some other place I'd go to, but now I can't remember where.

This afternoon, I am feeling quite good about myself, which is strange. Strange, though, in a good way. I could still be either living my dream and thinking it to be real, which is a little alarming – or, and this second idea pleases me the most, somewhere in the world of dreams I am writer publishing fiction. So, if everything goes wrong in this concrete world, I could always say that in some other dimension I am what I've always wanted to be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lions Roar At Four

I was hoping I would get some writing done tonight, but it didn't go as well as I thought. I'm tired, and my sleeping habit this week is the worst possible, which affects my brain a little. On top of that, my anemia has been killing me, literally. I spent the day feeling weak and more tired than ever.

When I write, I have the strange tendency to tune in my characters' feelings. For instance, if I am writing about sad moments, I often feel a little down the 10 minutes or so after I'm done writing. If I describe a party or some other interesting social event, I feel just as excited and overwhelmed as I would have felt in real life. And, oddly enough, my mood also deeply interferes in my story. Happy days will trigger happy moments in my characters' lives, and sad days will bring disgrace upon them, poor things. We're all interconnected for better and for worse.

In general, I consider this literary-emotional engagement a blessing. It is good to be able to feel my characters' feelings, which allows me to describe emotions more accurately. At least I think it is, as long as I don't develop schizophrenic signs, right? The only problem, however, is when I am tired. Feeling exhausted brings nothing inspiring, unless I am writing about a character who's complaining about his work load. At this point in my book, I should be shaping up a few characters' tense meetings and then describe the most bizarre Halloween party. (And I might be hallucinating, but I just now heard a lion roaring outside. I sure hope it was just a neighbor yawning, otherwise I'm going to have to watch my remarks from now on on this blog). Anyway, at this point in my novel my writing needs to be more focused and engaging, and it must not reflect a tired, burned out mind.

It's almost 4:00 a.m. and I should be going to bed soon. I hope this Sunday will be more productive and lionless. But, despite my existential talk about my writing habits, I am getting more and more happy about my career choice. It is hard to be a writer, and my writing might be trash (or... rubbish), but I simply can't give it up. I'm already too involved to deny what I am. And, if you're wondering.. I'm a writer!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Little Rat

This is a series I created, by the way. My cousin's daughter, Anita, is a big inspiration.

Here I am posting on this blog again, as I said I would. I haven't been outside tonight, but Weather.com told me this would be a clear night, and I believe it. Weather.com never lies! And, as I take a break from writing, I can't help thinking that UW-Madison party people and their visitors will have a lovely Friday of walking down State Street, happily dragging themselves from bar to bar. I almost wish I could join them, but Michael promised me we would go on a date tomorrow. He wants us to enjoy time together, after we had to put up with a stressful week of his urgent school assignments and my unfruitful job hunting.

It is very quiet, and I think my neighbors went out. I sort of miss listening to the unintelligible noise of their TV and loud talking, and I miss talking with Michael, too. By now, he might be done with his test. But he said he would be hanging out with a childhood friend, and I'm here with Little Rat, who's been our friend-son-roommate for more than a year. I guess I've never said anything about Little Rat, so here's a good opportunity to make this post meaningful: He is, basically, a Christmas mouse plush toy. I can't remember when Michael gave him to me, but Little Rat has been a constant presence in our lives since he joined us. In fact, he went with us to Palo Alto last summer. He followed us to Las Vegas, too, when we spent a night at the Luxor hotel.

What makes him special is that when he is around it is impossibles to avoid being sassy. We call him Little Rat because he can't stand being called a mouse, and can be quite rude when upset, too. He's a fearless little thing that inspires us to step out of our comfort zone, which might entail pushing us to be up to no good at times. For instance, if you're caught being mischievous, in our world you'd be called a “little rat.” And, that said, if you're doing something mean or trying to playfully trick someone, we would point our your “little ratiness.” I know this might sound silly, but stop being a little rat and quit laughing at me!

Have a great Friday.



How are you feeling today? Yes, how are you feeling precisely today, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011? 11-11-11 should be a special day, correct? Facebook is crowded with people reminding each other to make wishes at 11:11. News agencies have already interviewed astrologers eager to let the world know that our planet is entering a new cycle. YouTube is filled with inspirational videos; and, of course, I've already watched one.

This morning, I watched part of a documentary about a man who forgot his entire past. He forgot his sense of personal and collective identity, he forgot about historical events and a few other details that we learn every day about our society and the world we live in. I was surprised to think, strangely, that forgetting everything and everyone was an awesome opportunity. I suppose that was just my weird instinct and necessity to live in oblivion, since facing a few problems recently seems to be embittering my days a little. I, then, saw his mom crying when talking about him, and I realized that my first thoughts had been too selfish. Michael protested: “What about me?” And I, then, quickly reminded myself that we're so interconnected that whatever happens to each of us will inevitably affect our family and friends, and I wouldn't want people to suffer for me, I wouldn't want to forget people who are so dear to me, as well. I naively thought that having no memories meant getting a new opportunity to start a new life, start a new cycle. But who would guarantee that in this new life I wouldn't make mistakes I made in the past? Now that I think about it, this new life would be even more complicated, since there would be no 'lessons learned' data in my brain I could go to before making new decisions.

I know today you'll probably hear many people telling you to make wishes at 11:11 p.m., which I think probably is your last opportunity to tune in this whole 11-11-11 celebration. I must ask you, instead, to simply stop for a while and meditate about your past. There's so much there, so much in our memories that could probably help us in the present and the future. Even if the past is a painful place to explore, if you carefully approach it, it will certainly give you one or two advices about how to live a better life from now on.

Well, enough with the sad talk, right? I'll leave you with Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl instead of my typical melancholy. He's an extraordinary writer and I dare say he's one of my favorite authors. I believe I shall write another post later today, since I'll be alone for most part of this Friday, and I like to think I have you to go to when I need someone to talk to. Michael is taking his GRE this afternoon, and he'll be done only at 9:00ish. It's an awfully long test, so let us send him positive thoughts!

Happy 11-11-11!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Random House, Random Buzzers

Hi! It's Thursday!

I thought I should start this post by reminding you that it's almost Friday, after I saw a few friends on Facebook complaining about how school (and life in general?) is killing them this week. In my case, since I've been working from home, it feels like Mondays and Fridays have no real difference; but I know how important Fridays are for the rest of the world. This reminds me that my mother and aunt were talking with me online last night, and they asked whether Madison was a calm place. My reply, of course, was “from Monday to Thursday,” though I'm not sure they understood the joke.

As I promised a few days ago, I'm going to tell you about my most recent work-thing-activity. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what I should call it, but the best way to describe it is that the glorious publishing house Random House picked me (along with a few other book lovers) to join their fall “Ambuzzadors” program. I don't know how many people applied, but for the sake of my ego (after a second “I'm sorry, no,” from another literary agent, I sure need more reason in my life to feel special...) I like to think that it was very competitive.

Random House has a website dedicated to teen books with a strong community of people (mostly teenagers and young adults) interested in discussing their favorite books. The best part about Random Buzzers (that's the website) is that awesome Random House authors every week are available to answer questions and discuss about their latests publications. How cool is that? I believe what always attracted me the most about books was getting to know more about the writers behind these stories. I love to hear about their writing habits, about what inspired them to write, etc. So, Random Buzzers definitely was a place for me, and now I am pretty happy to be helping promote it. By the way, if you're considering joining the community, make sure you talk with me... because I might have a little something to welcome you.

I believe that's it for today. And, about that literary agent, don't worry. I've heard so many people saying how difficult it is to get an agent, and I shall never give up. I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to that old dream of one day becoming a full-time author, and I outstretch my arms as far as they go in a desperate attempt to reach my destiny – or this vague idea of the future I envision to myself. It's so frustrating to know I still am swimming in the dark, but I shall not drown.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Welcome, Snow!

It is finally snowing in Madison, dear friends. I see many snow flakes falling from the sky and swirling around naked branches. I can't help wondering where the poor crows that so often cried during the morning went. I hope they don't get cold.

From my window, I can see that many rooftops are already white, covered in these tiny ice grains. I'm sure the ground soon will have a few inches of snow accumulation, too. I'm worried, because Michael and the other UW-Madison students are still used to desperately biking to class. Although I've never done it, I can imagine how slippery it must be to bike on wet streets.

Other than my general concerns about our routine from now on – now that winter finally has reached us – I am fine, and excited to see snow again. When it started to dance in front of our living room window, I greeted it and asked for protection. Snow will be a present friend for the next five months, and I asked it to envelope us with good news, the same way it embraces the whole town. It is silly, I know; but I suppose I am that strange.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Life in Madison -- New Neighbors, New Stories?

Michael and I, and the Capitol back there.
I heard from a few friends recently, even though some of them aren't official “followers” of my blog, that they often read my posts. In all honesty, I felt a little surprised. I mean I very rarely get comments here, so it's hard for me to believe that there are people visiting this website. I like to think, then, that my visitors are ghosts. They come see what's up with me without making a fuss about their presence, impregnate the environment with their positive vibe, and then leave. In this case, my analogy refers more to guardian angels. Ghosts or angels, they are still here – although invisible – and to thank them I promise I will try my best to make this a daily journal.

The problem, however, is that I don't think I have that many adventures to narrate, now that I'm not at school anymore. At Lawrence, there was always a lot going on, even if it wasn't stuff going on in my life. I could always describe what my neighbors, classmates, friends and other acquaintances were doing. I could always talk about the silly jokes I heard when on duty (because, if you forgot, I was an RA), or about the food served at the cafeteria. Now that I live in Madison, there aren't that many stories, other than the regular dream job hunting that my life turned into in these last few months. For instance, I barely know our floor neighbors here. But, for the sake of this post, I will do my best to give you at least a brief account of how life feels like in this building.

We live on a very large building a few blocks away from the Capitol. It is, I believe, divided into three sections, though, and every section perhaps belongs to a different housing company. Once, we went exploring the west-side of the building, and surprisingly it looks a lot more polished than our side, which is the eastern part. I have no idea what the middle section looks like, but at times I hear noises coming from there at night. Yes, because I think the noise (music, footsteps and whatnot) reverberates on the ceiling and travels to our side.

I don't know our neighbors well, but I've talked with at least two of them. One is a professional snowboarder, I think. He is tall and skinny, and smiles a lot when he talks. Another neighbor is a girl who lives in the apartment opposite to ours, and she is now using our Wi-Fi connection, because it is always a good idea to split expenses with others. Other neighbor is a tall, beefy guy, and his face is always covered by his hoodie. And, finally, the other neighbor I can think of lives right down the hall and on Sunday Michael helped him bring a very heavy desk upstairs. He offered us soda to reciprocate the help, but we politely refused it. We had had a ton of soda during lunch that same afternoon.

Well, I guess this is all for now. Next post, I should probably tell you about my link to Random House now, because – guess what – they picked me to be one of their “Ambuzzadors.” It is, basically, a program during which I'll be helping them promote their books and recruiting more members to Random Buzzers. Yes, I'm very excited! Today I got a package from them with a free copy of Esther Friesner's Sphinx's Queen. That is the book I'll be promoting this trimester and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Have a great week. Leave comments and love.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Lazy Sunday


First of all, I should say thank you again to everyone who took Michael's study survey today. It means a lot to both of us. At moments like that I actually miss the craziness of school, even though most of the times I felt really stressed out, and how I liked doing my homework assignments and struggling with strict deadlines. (And I have no idea where that second remark came from...). That said, I'm pretty sure I'll be going to grad school as soon as possible.

I guess I'm just in a strange mood tonight – not in a bad way, though. Yesterday, I had the laziest Sunday ever: I got up at 10ish a.m., prepared brunch, read my emails (looking for my awaited “You Won a Pullitzer, Girl!” sort of email; but, no, it wasn't there... YET!), pestered Michael as he worked on his projects... and then we ate food as we watched the rest of Dances With Wolves (which made me a little sad, actually). Michael went back to his work, and I went to a bit of Frances Burney reading, but I fell asleep on page two. Don't take me wrong, I don't usually feel sleepy when I'm reading, but the couch was so comfortable, and the weather so mild, that I couldn't help wandering into Dreamland way too early. It was 3:00ish p.m. when I woke up, and Michael was still working. He's excited about a computer game he is writing. I pestered him some more, and wondered whether I should work on my novel.

I wanted to write, but I had that nap-in-the-afternoon feeling, which I can only describe as feeling drowsy and sugar+caffeine deprived, and perhaps a little on the sad side too. Most people I met in my life love to take naps after lunch, but I actually feel quite bad after I wake up from napping. Michael and my mother are the only other people in the world who feel this same way. So, I made myself some coffee, and bragged about barely using the computer that day (if you know me, you'll recollect I'm a computer addict, you'll know I'm a girl who stays glued to the keyboard and monitor all day long), but right after I betrayed my words and borrowed Michael's laptop. He was using mine, so I had to use his – and it's another long paragraph to explain why such complicated arrangement.

Writing, however, didn't occur. This month, I'm working on the last few chapters of my book, and I'm getting to a point when I need to feel truly inspired to write down my thoughts. These past two days, my imagination seems to focus only on refining and brewing the story... in my head, not on paper. It's a little frustrating, yes. But it isn't writers' block (knock on wood!). I must confess, then, that instead of doing work, I decided to accept that Sunday for what it was, and proudly declared that it would be a shameless lazy Sunday. I spent the day catching up with America's Next Top Model – Cycle 17 and figuring out which girl would be my favorite: I've come to the decision, of course, that Allison Harvard shall win. Have you listened to her song? I've been playing Underwater over and over, tonight.

Allison has something I found very interesting when I started studying about creativity at Lawrence University. When you are creating something, I suppose it isn't enough to merely have good ideas or to think extraordinary thoughts. It also isn't enough to just have an intellectual / artsy / etc personality, or to be artistically gifted. For sure you need both aspects if you want to be remembered, if you want to be remarkable in your field of work, but I'm more and more certain that there's a third element that makes what we call “genius.” I must say it is passion. When an artist, or a scientist, or just someone working on a project on someone else's lazy Sunday, manages to (1) glue with strong emotions (2) great ideas to (3) personality, then the product for sure will be a masterpiece!

It's Monday, and life is back on track again, after my break last weekend. Tonight I am eating spaghetti, and thinking about how great it is to have friends to support you when you need them – or, rather, when your boyfriend needs their help desperately. Also, thinking about work, and old dreams, and this screaming wish to get my book finished, published, loved or hated. Thank you, everybody, once again! And try listening to Allison's song. Underwater, that's the name. You'll like it. It's the ugly-pretty that people in the fashion industry talk about so proudly.     

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Wintry Days

Isn't it strangely depressing how the sun goes down early during winter? It's 5:22 p.m. and this room is already so dark!

Yes, I must confess I'm a big fan of gloomy looking days, when the sky is cloudy and threatening to pour down rain or snow on unprepared passers-by, but I can't help feeling a little sad at this time of the day, when it is past five o'clock and I'm here still desperately writing. I know people who would say it's just the sugar level in my blood stream going down, but I think that this daily sudden sadness has to do with feeling slightly frustrated as I notice the day saying goodbye without leaving behind a gift, a get well note, or some other thoughtful little thing.

During winter, in particular, I'm aware of how my days go by flying, and how slow I am. I feel, then, this urge to embrace the entire world at once, to do everything I can -- and can't -- and to live all experiences there are to be experienced. But, unfortunately, I realize how short my arms are, and how I always pull myself back to reason, and how I appreciate writing by hand... instead of typing up my stories. I can't help wondering, before 6:00 p.m. finally snatches me away from this world of expectations I have within me, whether I'll be able to truly accomplish my most ambitious dreams within the little time that these wintry days provide.