Tag Archives: stories

Dreams of a Lifetime

So yesterday was my birthday. And in honor of that special day, my mother made me read through my entire baby book, which is basically a scrapbook covering the major points of my entire childhood. The only benefit, besides making my mother happy, was discovering a true treasure from my youth. My first story.

For the sake of readability, I’m going to be my own editor and fix any spelling mistakes and capitalization errors there are. But here you are.

“Silly Potatoes”

Once on a Saturday night, Ms. Vanilla and Mr. Vanilla were in the kitchen cooking potatoes. The recipe book said wait five minutes. Ms. Vanilla could not wait. She opened the oven door. Out popped Fred Fryer and Ms. Mashed with their little tater tots. They skied out of the house on French fries and never came back. So from now on, Ms. and Mr. Vanilla listen to the recipe book. Or they will starve.

THE END

My mother and I laughed so hard when we found this. I loved how I left it open ended. It just amused me for a while, and I had to share it.

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I suppose the main thing I wanted to talk about is pursuing your dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. Though this story is clearly some kind of school assignment from first or second grade, to me it still speaks to this lifelong dream I’ve had of creating and sharing stories. But what does it really mean to pursue your dreams?

When I was little I would always tell people I wanted to be an author when I grew up. When I went to college and started studying English, I still knew that was what I wanted to do. But at the same time I recognized it wasn’t the most logical choice of career in terms of a steady income, so I’ve moved writing to a side pursuit while making teaching my main focus at the moment. However, as I start into my adult life, I’ve had to wonder how this is all going to work out in the end.

I’ve recognized there need to be sacrifices made for this to work. For now I’m working at the YMCA with children, helping them with their own learning, encouraging them to chase their own dreams. And in my free time I write. And I continue to imagine the future, hoping one day I’ll actually have a book out on the shelves.

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I watch America’s Got Talent a lot in the summer, and I always have to shake my head at the people who say they dropped out of high school to be a singer. I suppose it always makes me wonder if that truly is chasing the dream. If that’s the best decision. For me, my dream has required balance. But maybe for others that isn’t the case. In the meantime, I pursue my writing in my own fashion, hoping one day maybe I’ll be published, but recognizing that the pursuit is the beautiful thing in itself. Looking back and seeing these old stories. Knowing I’ve finished novels in my lifetime. Those are beautiful. And I hope many more milestones will be met over the course of my life, even if those aren’t my only pursuits. Each little accomplishment is important to me. And I take what I can, while I try to balance my dreams with the realities of life around me.

What dreams do you have? How do you choose to pursue them? What sacrifices do you make for your goals and aspirations?

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Stormy Skies

I thought about spending some time revising this, but with the amount of essays I have coming up I decided to just post it for your viewing pleasure instead. Here’s another free writing exercise I did for my writing class. We were supposed to write about a scene on a vacation and convey something through the setting. Hope you enjoy it!

Stormy Skies

The beach was under assault. Whenever Ashley had pictured Mexico, she’d thought of sun and sand and clear blue water. But today’s forecast had chosen gray and windy with a chance of hurricane instead. She sat on a chair in her room looking out over the sea, watching the waves crash along the edge of the empty beach. Hotel workers along the strip of wild sea were hastily gathering up beach loungers to be put away until the sun returned. Ashley watched one of the large umbrellas topple down and begin a swirling run along the sand, moving further and further away from the original destination. A worker started chasing after it, shouting something in Spanish to the other men.

Ashley curled tighter under the blanket she’d dragged off the bed. What was there to do in Mexico with awful weather, she wondered. Well, perhaps if the internet was working it would prove a distraction for a few brief minutes. Grabbing for the computer she’d set on the desk Ashley pulled it onto her lap, glad for the warmth, drawing her legs off of the cold tile to meet the heat of the device. She typed in her password, fingers clacking against the keys and echoing in the small chamber.

Once online she scrolled through Facebook before flipping to her email. She let it load for a moment before scanning the ten new messages. It was the third from last that had her fingers pausing over the mouse.

Her brother had emailed her, a rare occurrence to be sure. She opened the little message, smile growing on her face, only to be dimmed as she scanned the actual words.

Dear Ashley,

I know you’re on vacation, but I figured it was better if I told you this now. I hope it doesn’t ruin things for you, but I knew you’d be upset if I didn’t tell you.

Leila was found dead yesterday morning. Her boyfriend found her in the bathroom with her wrists slit. It was a real mess apparently. I guess she’d been off her meds again. I didn’t realize. You probably didn’t either.

I know we haven’t been close for a long time, but I wanted to let you know I’m here for you.

Your brother,

Paul

Ashley stared at the words for a long moment. She was distracted by the clattering nearby as the chair on her porch blew over. She muttered a curse and stood, walking over to the door and opening it, staggering out into the storm, robe flapping. The wind whipped her dark hair into her eyes, blinding her momentarily, but she pushed it aside and hastened over to pull the chair up and tuck it in the porch corner. She grabbed the other one and stacked it on top, hoping the two wouldn’t fly away.

After a long moment she turned to the railing of her hotel, placed her hands against the hard wood, raindrops cold beneath her fingers. The sea air filled her nose, salt and sand forcing their way towards her on the wind. She stared out at the sea, and wondered if this storm would ever end.

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Reality in Fiction, AKA Don’t Anger the Writer

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So I’m working on a novel for my senior project. And it’s about a college freshman who goes to school in Idaho and her weird roommate she lives with, and the problems that go on in their strange relationship. For a true synopsis see my What’s in the Cup page that includes my fiction works summarized for your perusal. However, in writing about a college student, I’ve had multiple people ask me if it’s a true story.

No.

I had a wonderful freshman roommate. We’re still friends and we even lived together a second year and would have lived together this year if housing had worked out better. Sure, I include a few elements of inspiration I found from other parts of life. I mean the roommate first meeting, a few random quirks about living with a different person, and the roommate bonding experience have little bits of truth to them. But the majority of the plot is fiction.

Real life circumstances can be great inspiration. They provide a level of realness to the text, probably help show your real feelings and passions as well. It’s usually not the happy times that really inspire me though. No, it’s the ones where I’m upset or hurt. And sometimes I include those. And other times I don’t. However, I feel like life inspiration requires balance.

A few months back I was working on a fiction piece specifically inspired by real life feelings and circumstances. Sure, it had a lot of fiction thrown in, but it had enough basis in reality that one could easily track what had inspired it. I wanted an outlet for the crazy emotions of the moment. I felt dedicating a book to unrequited love and the pain of that might be meaningful as I wrote about in When a Writer Falls in Love.

However, the circumstances surprised me. I felt overwhelmed by putting all of my life on a page. I worried what people would think of me, became too concerned about how my protagonist would be received, and hit writer’s block at a certain point on realizing some of the story I felt was important was obviously meaningless. My emotional connection to the work was simply too much to deal with.

Similarly, my roommates of last year asked me to write a book loosely based on us. I came up with a crime novel, hoping that would remove some of the reality of the story, but still it was hard to write about real people. I was concerned they wouldn’t like how they were portrayed, sometimes felt I didn’t understand their motivations and actions the same way I do with characters of my own creation. I still do hope to continue working on that one some day, it’s a fun story really, but there are challenges included regardless.

Sometimes I find my writing subconsciously absorbs what I’m dealing with in my life, whether I want it to or not. Writing last year I was dealing with friendship issues and I suddenly found this randomly interspersed:

“The options before her battled fiercely. In the end what did it really come down to? People came and went in everyone’s life. Living as long as she did she knew that this was simply a reality. Friends moved on. Family changed or died or left. And often one was left seeking newness in their life. Her heart, however, was in utter rebellion with this logic. Wendy. Her name was being called by every fiber of Melanie’s being. Smart interesting funny clever Wendy. Did she abandon that for nothing? Or did she cleave instead an infectious tumor beginning to turn malignant? There was no true telling. Would removing this woman from her life remove a part of her very soul? Or could she survive, thrive, come to new life as a result?”

I stare at that looking back. Hold on, did I just write about choosing my own health over friendship? Did I just put myself in one of my character’s shoes? Did the brutal death later represent that coming to an end, my own frustration with all that had happened?

I don’t tend to try to write other characters as people I know. Sometimes it happens. However, I can’t deny there is something therapeutic in letting off steam at people who frustrate me, at situations that are distressing. So, if anyone who ever pisses me off reads my works and wonders “hmm is that me she’s writing about as a villain/brutal murder/pathetic character?” Probably, but you’ll never hear those words from my mouth.  You can simply live knowing that if you make me angry, you’ll likely face the consequences in my fiction.

So yes, writing can emulate life. Sometimes that’s purposefully, using experience to create a greater sense of emotion in writing. Other times, it comes out subconsciously, especially in negative emotions. And sometimes I simply have to separate fiction and reality, because they become too overwhelming together. It largely depends. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see how the two cross over.

Fellow writers, how much do you include real life experiences in your writing? Any other writers relate in how they react to people who have hurt or angered them? Any other remarks to make? Any of my friends suddenly scared?

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When Stories Don’t End “Happily Ever After”

“NOOOO!!!!” I cried, tilting my head back and letting out a howl of horror.

“What?” my roommates asked, looking over to make sure I was alright.

I let out another soft groan as I sank downwards in my chair, the book in my hands coming up to cover my face.

“Emily, what happened?”

“Whhhhhhhyyyyy!” I moaned as I continued to sit slumped in my seat.

One roommate glanced at what I was holding over my face. “Um…problem with the book you’re reading?” she guessed logically, figuring, as an English major, that might be the cause of my distress.

“Yeeeeesssss!” I chose to whine. “Everyone dies! Five pages from the end everyone who is important diiiiieeeeesss!” I knew I was sounding pathetic, going on about a book and its tragic ending. Nonetheless I was distressed. I had become attached to characters, formed bonds over the three hundred pages so far. Why did things have to end like that?

Tonight I went through a similar dilemma. I was watching a French movie, simply enjoying  a film. And as the film began wrapping up I got this weird intuitive feeling that things were simply too happy and a movie like this one couldn’t end so peacefully. As the woman walked out into the street I immediately knew she was going to be hit by a car. Sure enough a van comes by and smacks her onto the pavement. Her friend sadly looks down at her body before covering her face with his coat.

I’ll admit it. I like happy endings. A majority of the time I would rather watch a Disney movie than some tragic artistic film. Now admittedly sad endings have merit. Some of those stories are the classics, the canon…what we consider the best! But my poor little heart simply can’t take it.

It’s a matter of preference. One of my roommates continually makes me watch movies she calls “amazing” that end up making me feel depressed and hopeless. I have another friend who is averse to any kind of tragedy. I fall somewhere in between the two. While I admittedly do not pursue sad movies and books on my own, I can enjoy them every so often. I just like it best when there’s a bit of hope in the end too.

Sorrow is a part of the human experience and humans have always been drawn to trying to capture and portray pain. We question it. We wonder why it exists. We try to figure out how to escape it if we can. We sympathize with other’s experiences. And we simply sit and sink into those feelings in a small bit of helplessness, and yet holding onto the glimmer of hope that we are not alone.

I think in many ways that is why we are so drawn to sorrow. One of my friend’s favorite movies is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Though certainly not a tragedy, it is a sad story. The first time I saw it I cried throughout and felt depressed for a good week. The second time I admittedly felt a little better about it afterwards and held back any tears. And perhaps if I watch it again my experience will continue to improve. The story of a struggling high school student who is lonely and confused and finds refuge in books and writing speaks to my own experience. The first time I watched all I felt was the raw pain, the reminders of what it was like to be bullied, isolated. The second time I watched I felt more of a sense of peace. Others understand. Others get it. I am not alone.

There are benefits to both types of stories. One reaches into the joy we feel, touches those places inside us that yearn and hope. The other brushes across wounds, reminds of hard times, and lets us remember the human experiences of grief and pain. Which do you prefer? Perhaps like me it is a combination. At times it is hard to read the sad. But sometimes, it speaks to me in the right way and in spite of my obvious annoyance at the story not ending quite the way I want, I can appreciate having a better sense of the struggles all humans have. And I can enjoy a story, even if it doesn’t have the traditional Disney happy ending.

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