Summer Update

Wow, it has been some time since I have posted here. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only been a couple of months, but given that I was trying to keep up posting every month, it feels like a while.

Here’s what’s new:

  1. I’m still writing both of my books.
  2. I’m still learning Japanese.
  3. I’m still working at the same job, just had a really cool potluck with my team, actually.
  4. I’m two episodes (and a minisode) in on my podcast with Ariel.
  5. I’m starting another podcast soon – first episode recording this week!
  6. I’m busy, but a good busy.

I’ll say more about the podcast once it’s actually kicked off with the first episode.

Have you ever printed out your long-form writing and just held it in your hands? I really enjoy taking a break from a screen and editing on paper. It feels different, and it makes me feel like I’m more in control, I guess. Maybe I just won’t always kick that habit, because that’s the type of editor I was trained to be from a young age – I may be “of the internet,” but my teachers weren’t, so I wasn’t exactly taught to be. It’s funny the habits we have that aren’t actually our own.

Printed out, my book – that I started last year during NaNoWriMo – is pretty hefty. It was such a jolt of energy to see it there and know that I was really making progress. Admittedly, I’ve taken a long break in between writing, but I’m still very jazzed to jump back in every time that I do, and I think that says a lot about where I am with this project, and where I am in my own writing.

How have you been?

Within Walking Distance – the podcast

I have some news. After months of planning, my college bestie and soul sister Ariel and I have started a monthly podcast. Today was the reveal of the first episode!

Go check it out and subscribe now! More episodes to come in the next months.

Each episode is accompanied by a visual component of our adventures on Instagram:

 

Follow us at @wwdpod on Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud for more episodes in the future. We hope to have more structured episodes in the future, and to be on iTunes and TuneIn along with Soundcloud.

Five Ways to Get Involved with Your Local Library

This is one of those times that my blog blog will overlap with what I post on my website.


When it comes to accessibility to the tools and resources people (young and old) need to improve their literacy and reach their highest level of education, I believe it all can begin with encouragement and books. Unfortunately, those two things can be a novelty for some neighborhoods and families. That’s why getting involved with your local library – to make sure its patronage never dwindles and can continue to serve its community – is a strong step in keeping doors open that prove a safe space for others to learn and grow.

My life practically began in a library.

So here’s my five tips for you if you’re looking to get involved with a library:

  1. Go to your library. – Don’t click away, I’m not being sarcastic. It’s easy to notice your library, but it’s another to be a member, to go inside regularly and to help it succeed. Simply being there, having a card, trading in and out books, and sharing that experience with others is a small step into making it an active part of your community. And the more of a necessity communities deem their libraries to be – before they are at risk – the stronger of a chance they have of remaining in your neighborhoods. Hold small writing groups at your library. Find the non-quiet corners of the library to host your soft-talking book clubs. Take the children in your life there for a fun day out and get them excited to read something you used to love – or explore a new story together.
  2. Vend from the digital library. – With the invention of e-readers, and just anything that has words printed on a screen these days, it’s easy for many libraries with the system to loan you digital copies of your favorite stories. If you can’t make it into the library, borrow from the digital one in your county/town. Being a patron that way validates the system’s use.
  3. Get involved in programs. – This one is more than just being there, but it’s so helpful. Whether the program you’re involved with requires you to be a helper, instructor or crowd participate, be there. Some libraries host summer reading events for kids, teen/youth events after school and during breaks, adult literacy classes, and even classes for random things like Microsoft Office Certification. (Really, my library does that!) Either find your library’s website, or reach out to the Information Desk at your local branch, and find out what programs are available to you. It’s great if you indulge in it for yourself, but finding ones you can help run with/for staff is just as important. Have an idea for a great one not listed? Find out what it takes to be the host of that event in your community!
  4. Work outside of the library. – Not every straying wanderer will find their way into a library on their own. Sometimes you have to be an influence for bringing others there. There is a magic to books and reading, and if you share that with people you know (or not), and also recommend copies of stories you love – hinting that they will be at the library to check out – you are more than likely going to casually bring people to the library better than any poster can.
  5. Donate. – As a patron, your monetary donations matter and your books matter. Many libraries will have programs where they sell your slightly worn books, or repackage your well-kept books you’re done using in laminate covers to add to their shelves for patrons to borrow. Got a slew of books you want to donate? Try there first. The more you can offer their selection, the more there will be for others to enjoy when they do come by. And outside of that, if you see the opportunity to donate to build a library/school, help build it yourself, or help fund an event for a library in need, don’t turn a shy eye away. The government won’t always save it for you. (I mean, we’re having to do a lot of work just to save libraries as we speak.)

There are more ways to divide up what I’ve listed here into really granular steps and details, but I wanted to help you see the basis for what you can do for your local library. It’s there to serve you and your community. Treat libraries with care!


Need more help understanding what you can do that is more specific? I’m always willing to reply to your comments below about whatever questions you have. And don’t be afraid to ask your librarians the next time you’re there. 

“I’ll never do that”

I’m not good at taking advice that’s said over me. I’m sure I’m not the only one, though. When I was around the age of 17 or 18, my best friend’s mother told me that I should “never say never.” This was in context to me talking about dating a boy – you can imagine I was on the opposing end. When she said “never say never,” I remember recoiling. If someone used to talk to me in that manner (even well-intentioned and polite as she was), I was 50 times more likely to do exactly what I said just in spite of the situation.

I’m starting to realize that I need to stop talking about the future as if I understand it at all.

If you blacked out almost three or four months ago, and just came to, I hope you’re doing better! But you might have also missed me talking about NaNoWriMo here. I started writing my first novel. It’s my first because it’s the first project that’s meant this much.

I remember when I was much, much younger I had an idea for a fantasy book. I maybe got all of three chapters in before I forgot about it, but I do remember the exhilaration I felt as I wrote. I discovered my desire for journalism when I was a sophomore in high school. My focus then quickly turned to understanding AP style, succinct writing and getting a pat on the back from my fellow student-editor. As I moved into college, my want to write a fantasy book fell even further by the waste side (as did the fuel I had received from JRR Tolkien on the matter). I started focusing on design, writing articles even more with purpose, and dreaming of working with Rolling Stone Magazine. (If any editors from RS are reading, what’s up? Give me a call.)

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Actual photo, already edited this way, found in the pits of an old Photobucket. I was totally cool in high school, shut up.

The more comfortable I became in this new role with writing, and how quickly I fell in love with creative nonfiction essays, I would often say “I’m not a novelist”. It didn’t even matter if it was true or not back then, I had determined that I knew my limits, and they fell into the article and short-essay range. I never looked down on novelists. Obviously I love to read, but I had made myself believe I could never do it, and I’m not entirely sure why.

Perhaps my attention span was low, and I didn’t use my Matilda-inspired brain powers for wanting to focus on anything for longer than 10 graphs at a time. Perhaps I was just completely uninspired in that particular area. Point is, I shouldn’t have tried to tell the future.

Hey, hi. It’s me, Jennifer. I’m about to tell you something so utterly fascinating and mind-blowing that you may not recover. Are you ready? Okay.

Young you is stupid and probably always going to be wrong about something. Because you’re stupid. And young. Which aren’t mutually exclusive, but for this particular situation they totally are. Hi past me, how ya’ doing? 

Yeah, take a second to take that in. “I’ll never do that,” is the dumbest phrase I could have ever uttered in writing.

We have a propensity for pompousness when we’re English majors in college. It’s something that’s bred in those departments, despite the best efforts of professors who will try to whip it out of you. It isn’t until we often leave those hallowed halls – which I miss dearly, don’t misunderstand me – that we realize that we were quick to box ourselves in or assume anything about ourselves, the world or our writing for both. We forget that our schooling isn’t meant to define our paths, but define our stances and understandings of how we can use what we know. Our paths can split off at any point, and as much as the skill set I’ve acquired and honed from my degree has helped me in my current job, I wouldn’t exactly say I saw this as a possible career path. But I’m glad I’m here.

I know some students who never face that fear of limitation or misunderstanding their purpose. They go into college with already some unique understanding of who they are – as if they lived 20 years longer than you – and their writing and their posture are built on much stronger ground. I was just thinking today that as I am here, I have a million ideas for long essays and off-shoot feature profiles and articles, and I never felt like I had the freedom to explore the topics in school. My professors tried to tell me, but I let myself try to fit into a space that was never meant for me.

Twelve year old me was much wiser in some ways. I was willing to try anything, even if I was too afraid to show it off to the world, I still tried. Occasionally some of those efforts were posted on Fanfiction.net – then found later as a 20-year-old and gawked at like a monkey in a zoo – but for that girl who was sitting at her Windows XP desktop computer I owe her a great deal, because those memories are what I look back on as I sit at the computer today with a document open typing away as if I’m her.

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Look at that melodramatic, middle school action shot. Ooh yeah.

Last year, right after visiting family in Georgia for a funeral, I wrote half a chapter while sitting on an air mattress, with very finnicky WiFi, by the way. I did this thinking that the idea I had would be easy to communicate, but maybe not always easy to write. I forgot about that half a chapter – sorta – until I was reading Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham tonight. In the book, she writes a lot about writing her other book, this book and future books. She writes about the opportunities she didn’t expect, the opportunities she wanted and didn’t get, and the opportunities she took a risk on that ended up being more fruitful than she anticipated. I’ve always loved Lauren Graham, but now I think I respect even more as a writer, as someone who gets it.

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Nothing I’m doing now in my professional life or in my writing is familiar or like what I thought it was going to be, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

This year I have two novels I want to finish and hopefully one day have published. But instead of trying to predict what’s going to happen, I’m going to take my own advice and just say, “Tonight I have two documents open, one for each novel I’m working on. That’s so cool.”


“I still find that, in general, having a plan is, well, a good plan. But when my carefully laid plan laughed at me, rather than clutch at it too tightly I just made a new one, even if it was one that didn’t immediately make sense. In blindly trying a different path, I accidentally found one that worked better. So don’t let your plan have the last laugh, but laugh last when your plan laughs, and when your plan has the last laugh, laugh back, laughing!”
Lauren Graham, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between

My Japanese Studyblr

Have you heard of studyblrs? A studyblr is a Tumblr that is geared towards studious types – users who are blogging to keep others motivated or to motivate themselves in their studies.

tiny desk (studyblr)

I didn’t really find refuge in this when I was still in school, though it might have helped me some. But now that I am out of school and not in classes or working with advisers or teachers, having a place that I can step into my studies with can help.

I’ve been wanting to learn Japanese, and I started a few months ago, but then life happened. Determined to not let that deter me again, I’ve started a studyblr for my Japanese studies. So join me, won’t you?

Move in 2017

In the year 2017, we are seeing a lot of people in my age bracket and above trying to make change rather than wait for the change to happen around them. As if it all happens by magic. Change requires action.

I have missed a few events due to other obligations or the need to step away – for example, a few women in my immediate life chose to use the Women’s March for self care, which is just as important – but I don’t want to let that continue.

There are votes and issues that matter to me. I think they’ve always mattered, but I finally feel like I have a voice with them. And I have so many friends who aren’t going to not be involved either. Because of them, I am more than a little inspired.

So I’m asking you all to care, too. Be part of something bigger and make change for future generations and yourself.

Here are some things I’m starting with:

  • 5calls.org – This allows you to part in the votes in the Senate & House that could affect our lives very directly. Here, you can reach out and implore that your representative really do what they can to represent you. It allows you the comfort ability of scripts, if you’re scared to speak on your own, and direct numbers for your region’s representatives. Make those calls. Let them know how much you care about what’s happening.
  • Women’s March – I missed this last one, but there will be more (fortunately and unfortunately), so make sure you’re there for your friends and family and yourself.
  • Black Lives Matter – Too often do majorities show out for the Instagram-able demonstrations, but not for any others. And I’m not going to be counted among them. I have some friends that are practically family who are deeply affected by BLM & the events that caused the movement to take flight.
  • Planned Parenthood – In the US, Planned Parenthood is quickly nearing the top of the list of the most threatened organizations for healthcare and parenthood help for women and families in the country. There are also support groups and organizations cropping up to help the funding and the access to their resources in communities. Let’s start helping and volunteering!
  • Self care/care for others – Take days for yourself and spend time caring for your loved ones. This is important just on a basic human need, but I think right now if you have someone who is hurting because of the political climate or just personal issues/relationships, make sure you are there for them. Even if they seem fine, be there.

I also want to continue with my hopes to work more closely with my local library system and to possible extend that into reading programs. There is a lot of work to be done, and if I can make even a small bit of a difference somewhere, I’ll know that I have done something right.

Join me in making moves in 2017.

What things have you already done and want to continue to do this year? 

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I want to make my art matter, and I hope that you will all, too.

“Art has its own power in the world, and is as much a force in the power play of global politics today as it once was in the arena of cold war politics.” – Boris Groys

There have been studies for years that during political upheaval, economic depressions and personal crisis, art stands in the middle of it. Some great movements in art happen because of hard times. (Not always, but it’s true.)

If you’re an artist, don’t keep your voice out of the mix. Make sure your voice is heard in whatever medium is yours.

Right now, I’m feeling a lot of things. And I’m coming off of the high of seeing the Women’s March on Washington. I realized today, while at brunch with some friends, that I have to make sure that my voice is  heard not just in conversation but in what I make. I hope you’ll join me.

(Seriously. We don’t even have to agree. I love that people don’t all agree. I love spirited debate and constructive conversations! Even if you hate everything I stand for, please make your voice heard. Make the difference you can. Do it. Do it. Do it.)

Post NaNo Writing

Are you all tired of me talking about NaNoWriMo? I sure hope not. I’m not quite done.

I started using my more personal, fandom-enthused Tumblr, as an outlet for my writing – exploring my OCs (original characters), engaging in fanservice for myself. Mainly writing drabbles/one-shots and answering questions about my OCs that my friends might have. In order to get back into writing after taking a break from the month-long stretch I had, I knew that I had to submerge myself in this world.

Let me tell you, there are so many characters to my story, you might as well call me George R. R. Martin. Give me two middle initials. I’m down.

In focusing so heavily on my OCs with my friends, I have discovered what might be the next best method of writing sprinting that I could come up with: character narratives.

I wrote about 5-6 chapters of my story in November (not sure if I am going to break one of the chapters up just yet), and I keep going back to the latest chapter and finding that after two or three paragraphs my momentum just isn’t there. Some of that may also be because of how foggy the future looks for my story. I have plot points and places I want to take my characters, but I am finding it hard to just get to the point on this chapter. So, I’m taking a break from chapter writing and sitting down with each of my characters and writing their stories. Chronologically, historically, in prose. I’m telling their stories from beginning to end.

I expect to go through a myriad of emotions with these characters, but I need to do this. I need to flesh them out. I have so many ideas and inspirations surrounding them that not giving them this would be a disservice. Plus, it will give me so much more material for current and future chapters – I already know that any drabbles I write on Tumblr will probably end up, in some form, in a chapter later. I would love these pieces to be able to make my audience connect with these characters and want to be with them through their journeys.

I have two backers of my OCs so far: Melody and Liz. I thank them. Their excitement for my bbs makes me excited to keep writing about them. I don’t know if I would have already given up or not without them and using Tumblr this way. I don’t really plan on going back to anything less with Tumblr in the future, either. This has been a lifesaver.

Do you write your characters’ stories first, or do you just draft them out? What methods help you stay in your story for the long haul?

NaNoWriMo 2016 results…

NaNoWriMo post-mortem. I know this post is late.

After a few days of a break, I have tried to get back into writing as much every day as I can. It’s hard to pick up that momentum where I left off, but I’m doing my best to get there. By the end of November, my total was 30,715 words.

I can’t believe I made it that far. I never thought I would get that far with any project, especially one of fiction. I’ve been most notably nonfiction for the longest time. I managed to make myself get up early every day for the last three weeks, but not every day of the month, sit down with some tea/coffee/breakfast and write something. Even if I barely made it to 1,000 words, I made myself. A few times I was really lucky and hit 3-5,000; that was rare.

I don’t want to give up the drive or momentum just yet. There is proof that I can do it. I can continue this project. Imagine: I may even be in full editing mode by next NaNoWriMo, or I may be shipping it out to potential publishers.

I plan to rotate each day for what I’ll write: every other day will be my novel; then some pieces that need touching up or have yet to be written in the nonfiction genre; then in between will be nicking away at either drabbles/one-shots, or continuations of never-completed Fanfiction pieces. I mean, I’ve got to get my other indulgences in while I’m at it~

How did you do this past NaNoWriMo? Remember, any result is an achievement!