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Wow it's been a while you guys. Let me get you caught up on my past three months:

WRITE WRITE WRITE READ WRITE WORK WORK WORK pause for tendonitis WRITE WRITE WRITE WORK WORK WORK WORK.

Now you're caught up.

So obviously I've been bloody rotten at keeping up with you guys, and will likely remain so for a while. If you've got good/bad news to share, need to whinge on an empathetic shoulder, or miss me horribly and yearn for my glorious conversation, drop me e-mails at zenithblue@gmail.com. I am also bad at keeping up with my e-mail right now but I will do my best to stay in touch. I am also get-in-touchable via facebook. Just don't try to get me in on Mafia Wars, I am trying to graduate my program with at least a part of a novel.

I miss you all and hope someday I'll have a slacker job again whereby I can surf the net all day and read your blogs. Love.
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An essay I wrote for my "Metaphysical Messages" class. The original had footnotes, which I don't feel like figuring out how to format in lj, so they're rendered here in brackets and small text (to differentiate them from the copious amounts of parentheticals I seem to use these days). This was written for a comics skeptic, so apologies for anything that comes off didactic.

Invisible Arches )

an excerpt

Mar. 14th, 2009 09:11 pm
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...from a paper I had to write for class, about my relationship to experimental or metaphysical fiction. It was really supposed to be more narcissistic than it turned out...but I've been wanting to write about my first reading of Infinite Jest for a while now. There's nothing in this piece, yet, about the visceral feelings, about the personal feelings, about seeing my own loneliness expressed in a way I couldn't even have expressed it. But it's a start.

So of course you grow up... )

dollhouse

Feb. 8th, 2009 04:51 pm
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On the way home from lunch Hodge and I heard an interview with Joss Whedon about the upcoming Dollhouse.

By the way: Dollhouse? A show pivoting around identity, misogyny, and Eliza Dushku? Was there ever a show more geared towards my own interests?

Anyway, the interview was a little bit obnoxious. Jacki Lyden asks the oft-feminist-lauded Whedon how having a disempowered identityless protagonist who is programmed to have sex with whoever is willing to pay for her when she's not going on crazy black-ops missions is remotely a feminist idea. This would be a reasonable question once, but she grills him on it throughout the whole interview. What makes the interview worth listening to is that Whedon articulates the conundrum of the politically-aware storyteller quite gracefully.

"The fact of the matter is, I've been worried about this. It's kept me up nights. But I believe the best way to examine anything is to go to a dark place," Whedon says. "You can't be a storyteller and a speechwriter at the same time."

This is something I fret over all the time. How do you create art that is dangerous, new, risky, etc., if you're hyperaware of the hegemonic potential of your medium? What if the story you need to tell involves women who are weak? I think part of why Buffy has been meaningful to so many people is that it reflects the power struggles young women face much more accurately than a consistently empowered heroine would. Guess what? We don't live in a world of consistently empowered women. We live in a world where you have to fight to become empowered, and it's so much more meaningful to see a Buffy who is sometimes naive, vulnerable, and powerful, because we know we can count on her to grow and fight exactly the way the rest of us must. I'm assuming Echo, Dollhouse's new heroine, is not going to be passive for a full season. I'm guessing we're going to get some fight out of her, and how satisfying will that be, to see her strength finally push through?

The audio is worth a quick listen (the printed version just paraphrases; the audio will be available later tonight) just to hear Whedon's calm confidence about the power of a narrative to do something that a polemic cannot accomplish.

Also, Dollhouse will be on my television this Friday, so if any of y'all is looking for a spot to watch it give me a ring.

(PS: I obviously fail at livejournal. Apologies. It has been that kind of month.)

a notice

Aug. 12th, 2008 10:25 am
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I have three weeks left to finish all the writing I can this summer. As a result, I'm weaning myself away from livejournal for a little while. If anyone wants to talk to me, e-mail me directly--zenithblue@gmail.com. I'm still here, and not so busy I don't want to hear from people--I just can't keep up with my friends list right now.

xoxoxo
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So now that I'm finished with my semester, I can get started on the real work. My program offers us a certain amount of money towards "professional development," which we can take for almost anything--conferences, production costs (for the playwrights and screenwriters), or summer writing projects. I've taken some summer money so I can get a jump on the novel. Here we go.

Thing is, the money is very generous, but I'm in the unfortunate position of having $17K in student loans that come out of deferral the instant my semester ends. As in, now. So the money I got from the Michener Center is going to be quite thin, and I'm in the process of tightening my belt. Anyway, the point is, I have a small list of the same 5 cheap meals I've been eating on and off during various harsh times for the past decade (baked potato, egg stir fry, eggs and toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, spaghetti and sauce), and I'm looking for new suggestions. What's your favorite easy-to-make, money saving meal? Post it here and earn my gratitude.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I like to eat vegetarian as often as I can. And the meal suggestion doesn't have to be totally dirt cheap--I'll splurge on things like fresh veggies a couple times a week. Thoughts?
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Mimsy Buttons has another of our incredibly fruitful chat sessions up on Polterheist. If you want to learn all about the glories of NASCAR romance novels skeedaddle on over. And comment on her blog, if you feel inclined. She's lonely over there.

Who Knew?

Feb. 14th, 2008 01:07 pm
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I'm writing a play about first love and bear maulings, and it's surprisingly sad. I thought I was writing a comedy.
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If I can avoid a nervous breakdown I'm going to kick this week's ass.

In other (related) news, I am so behind on comments, e-mails, and phone calls there is no chance I will ever catch up. I suck and I'm sorry.
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You know how there's supposed to be five stages of grief? Well, it strikes me that you can chart out a similar process for contextualizing/processing the various feedback you get in a particularly spirited fiction workshop. I'm trying to accept that these stages are inevitable and necessary to the workshop experience, as opposed to functions of my temperamental and contrary nature.

1. Defense: This one usually happens during the workshop proper, where your reactions to every criticism leveraged at your work are a set of  knee-jerk protests. "But that's not what that meant...but you don't understand...but you're reading it wrong..." and so on. An emotional desire to stave off perceived attack (and possibly a temporary inability to differentiate between your text and your person). The best way to survive this is to keep your fucking trap shut so you don't sound like a defensive whiner. This feeling may be an inevitable part of the process, but that doesn't mean it's attractive.

2. Despair: After you're done feeling self-protective, you succumb to a (hopefully temporary) belief that everything negative said about your work is true, that every criticism and complaint has equal weight, and that the task of revising and editing is so insurmountable you may as well sit in the corner of your office running the edge of your manuscript back and forth across your wrists in the hope that you may hit a vein, rather than attempt to salvage this decrepit piece of shit you inflicted upon your  intelligent classmates. You in fact hypervalue any negative input over positive statements in this stage.

3. Defiance: Suddenly, going over the workshop in your mind, you realize how many insensitive, prescriptive, or flat out stupid things were said about your work. You dwell on the two or three absolutely foolish remarks that inevitably come up in the course of the workshop, and manage to generalize these gems of stupidity, dwelling now on the insipid and thoughtless. You begin to suspect you have cast your pearls before swine, that your first impulse was correct: they didn't get it! This stage may involve listening to Irish punk music on repeat or pacing your house delivering a swear-laden philippic at the imaginary presence of your detractors.

4. Epiphany: You suddenly remember two things. One is that you wouldn't have taken the story to workshop if you thought it perfect. The other is that you, yourself, have your own aesthetic tastes and readerly concerns and textual philosophies to apply to the workshop feedback. In other words, you recall that you get to filter all this feedback through and towards your own goals.

5. Recuperation: You approach the feedback from a new and more balanced standpoint, remembering that you cannot denigrate your own tastes and concerns just because they don't match someone else's. You realize that, even if you ignore the prescriptive comments or the less helpful suggestions, these same comments point out how certain readers will approach the text. Sometimes this will give you an idea how to change your work; sometimes you'll be liberated to ignore their feedback entirely. You integrate the feedback that seems most conducive to the story you want to write, and take the feedback that seems to come from a place of taste or temperament with a grain of salt. The most important thing to remember is that if everyone in the room likes your story, you're doing something wrong. Writing is not a democracy. No one can tell you what to write or how to write; all they can tell you is how they read it. This isn't information to be taken lightly, but it's not information that should undermine your own sensibilities.
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Well, I finished the draft of the story about the street gang murder. Now it's time to start the draft about the prostitute in the Nevada brothel.

My workshop compatriots will be happy I continue to live up to their expectations. Or maybe they won't.
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So I don't know if I have much to add to the conversation about the WGA Writers' Strike, but my TV is off until the strike is settled.

Part of me is sad that, of all the injustices corporate America perpetrates, the one that gets attention is the one that threatens to take away peoples' televisions. Somehow it's become unfashionable to support workers' rights in this country (you get called a socialist! Or worse: French!). This is even more disheartening as the divide between rich and poor becomes more absolute.

That said, this particular strike is close to home for me. I'm virtually married to someone who works in the media industry, which is a realm that gets away with treating people like garbage because "that's just how it works." We have friends in the production industry, and friends hoping to finagle their way into the production industry, most of whom do so because they believe that serial storytelling can, at its best, be a powerful creative medium. And the industry takes these people, grinds them to a pulp, and throws them aside.

So, yes: I support the WGA, and I support anyone who wants to take a stab at the behemoths we've created to sell us products.

Oh: and I do wish Steve Carell a speedy recovery from his unfortunate case of enlarged balls.
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...more or less dealt with.

I have twenty pages of my draft of The Diamond in the Window, and three more pages of notes on the parts I haven't been able to write yet. It's sort of a big messy ambitious failure, but that's why we call them "drafts" and then opt to rewrite them over and over. This play is going to have to be so physical and probably I'll have to collaborate with choreographers and puppeteers (and we all know how well I collaborate with others) if I ever want to actually stage it. I've never written anything remotely like it.

The good news is when I get back to writing for grown ups it'll be ridiculously easy. All the scenes take place in the drawing room? Awesome. I need a road, a tree, and two dudes? Fucking rad. Two guys in a California house working at typewriters? That's really it? Oh, and a million toasters. Well, I think I can handle that.

(Speaking of which, Sam Shepard is supposed to come hang with us playwrights at some point this year. You'll know when that happens because my blog will devolve to something like OMG ZB + SS 4EVR!!!!!!!)

The best thing in the draft so far: a firey speech from Louisa May Alcott. That's right, I got to write a speech for Louisa May Alcott. Presumptuous? Probably. Exciting? Most certainly. And it allowed me to make the female characters more active (it's always seemed weird that a children's book by a female intellectual privileges Thoreau and Emerson's philosophy over Alcott's activism and ambition). Super exciting.

lucky girl

Oct. 21st, 2007 05:49 pm
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So this week was busy. Yesterday Hodge and I went to see  Fefu and Her Friends, a really intriguing play by Maria Irene Fornes. I thought it was bizarre and incredible both. There was an argument afterwards about whether or not it was a feminist play, which I thought kind of a stupid argument since it comes down to a semantic issue (i.e. you have to answer what feminism is before you can decide if this thing fills the criteria, and good luck with that). Besides which, the play has an active discourse about women in the thirties struggling wildly with their roles as educated and impassioned beings who are still controlled by patriarchal forces. Whether or not the play didactically answers how they should live, it is much more about how they do live, and how they interact with the forces of their lives. That's the best kind of feminist play, if you ask me. I definitely wished [personal profile] te_amo_azul, the watermark feminist in my life, had a chance to see it with me.

Anyway, the other totally awesome thing that happened this week was the lecture at the Ransom Center. Because guess who came and gave a talk about Arthur Miller? Tony freaking Kushner.

Yup. I was in a room with the most important living American playwright, talking about one of the most important dead American playwrights. And it was awesome. He is probably one of the best intellectual/artistic lecturers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Besides that, I've spent the week writing scenes from A Diamond in the Window and trying to finish this stupid S.I. story (it's getting close but I'm just not sure how I want to end it). Also all the other reading and nonsense. I've been doing a lot of collage, which is something I like to do when I've written myself into a corner. Cut and paste is just plain therapeutic (plus putting your faith in the magazine gods gives you a chance to make some connections you might not otherwise have made with regards to a story that isn't working).

The cough and sinus infection are still there. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, so hopefully it'll stop slowing me down soon. Otherwise things are pretty much ducky.
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...that my adaptation of The Diamond in the Window become at some point a bit conflated with Gaiman's Sandman.

That's all right. I console myself with the knowledge that Gaiman was doing the Jungian cha-cha from the get go. So I'm not stealing. I'm tapping into the collective unconscious.

(And proving myself a gothy little fan girl.)
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My colleagues were with me as far as "child of a changeling trying to establish personal identity and understand her family legacy by trekking out across a dangerous uncharted faerie wilderness," but then I lost them with the phrase: "...accompanied only by Bill, a magical tapeworm."[Poll #1057991][Poll #1057991]
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...was pretty much the best in my life.

More later. Bed now.
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Page one: the first tentative notes about a story

Page two: increasingly excitable notes about said story

Page three: I AM A GENIUS, scrawled across the top of the page. Increasingly illegible notes about the story

Page four: a blotchy red wine stain over the top of notes. Dialogue and a few jotted scenes for story.

Page five: I AM A MOTHERFUCKING GENIUS scrawled across center of page. Multiple exclamations points. Notes at this point only legible with Sanskrit/English dictionary. More wine-stains.

It's almost like a narrative in and of itself, isn't it?

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