039. Harry Potter and the Post-Grad Life of Doom.

There are many things I could talk about since it’s been such a very long time since I posted a “real” update (i.e. not a review). But I think I’ll stick with the basics, and what’s been most important so far.

#1. I finally graduated about a week and a half ago. I got my final GPA (3.9), my final standing (Summa Cum Laude), and although so far no word is out about my diploma (it’ll go to my home in New Jersey, not my apartment, and my parents haven’t said anything about it), I’m feeling pretty good about it. Except now all my friends are in classes. Some of their classes sound great, others not so much, but it does make me simultaneously jealous and pleased that I’m not in classes anymore. My schedule is nowhere near as strict, as right now I only have my one day a week internship with Ann, so I’ve been trying to Get Things Done, namely writing and reading, which has not been going quite as well as I’d hoped. I did have an interview for a second internship this past week so we’ll see if anything comes of it. If not, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

#2. Writing. I’ve been doing terribly with it. I think I hit a severe patch of writer’s block, and have (hopefully) just broken through it. I think one of the problems is that I have too many ongoing projects and not enough focus on any of them. One of which is my thesis project, my crime novel. I started rereading what I’d written the other night and cringed at how … not right the writing is. But I also had a paragraph that I was starting to write as a new beginning to the book and that’s shaping up much better. I simply need to just reread what I’ve got, see how I feel about it, and go from there. I plan on doing that rereading within the next few days.

My other project is much newer: a YA novel centering around vampires. Sounds typical, I know, and I’m sorry, but hopefully it won’t come out as typical. It’s supposed to be serious yet funny, and the main vampire, Flynn, is a bit of a failure and doesn’t know it. I started writing a bit of it, but somehow it’s not gelling for me quite yet — I think maybe I need to start at a different point in the story, as I’ve got a particular line stuck in my head and I can’t get past that. So perhaps I’ll start from the other character’s storyline and see where it goes from there.

Third project is the usual monthly/weekly contest at Brigits Flame on Livejournal. Although I’m not really big on the LJ community in general, I find that this is a way to really get myself writing. It’s a competition, which always makes me more motivated, and I write to win. So we’ll see how that goes.

#3. Harry Potter. Yes, I am rereading. I’m on Chamber of Secrets right now, and have also recently gotten into Pottermore. I’ve been exploring the site, which is interesting, although since it’s in its very beginning stages, there isn’t all that much to do and it’s a tad disappointing. I did, however, get Slytherin, which makes me quite pleased. I loved the way they had you choose your house (answering questions that, unlike the myriad of sorting hat quizzes out there, are NOT easy at all to cheat upon. Remember the ones with the really leading questions like, “which colour do you like best? green, red, yellow, or blue?” Yeah.) I’m eager to see what the rest of Pottermore is going to be like; I’ve already found out some really interesting information about McGonagall and The Dursleys’ courtship, as well as a lot more in depth information about wands and such.

That’s pretty much all for now — hopefully I’ll be able to update with another book review soon (after Chamber of Secrets I’m going to take a break and read something new before going back to the Harry Potter series again)!

033. Class, Class, and Internship.

Recently, many things have occurred. I’ve written a lot of stuff — including speedfics, other short stories for the competitive writing community I belong to, and many articles — and I’ve read at least three books (for school, mind you, although Ann gave me three books from authors she currently represents and I’m in the midst of one).

I’ve been remarkably stressed out lately, mostly because the last week of class is finally rushing towards me like a very unavoidable bullet train. Next week, I have the following things due on either Monday or Wednesday: my adapted screenplay of “The Hortlak” by Kelly Link; a paper on Horseman, Pass By and its film adaptation, Hud; the rough draft of my profile piece; the revision of my travel article; and the book Cold Comfort Farm. There are probably other things, due, too, that I’m blocking from my mind.

Magazine Writing has been incredibly difficult and exhausting. Our assignments could be fun if we actually had a decent amount of time to write them and research them, but as it is, I perpetually feel rushed and anxious about them. Luckily, for my profile piece, I have already done my interview. Which is actually a great thing that happened today: I met bellydancer Ela Rogers and her husband today, and interviewed her for my article, which will be workshopped in class, revised, and then posted here, as well as a few other places. She was adorable, enthusiastic, and so sweet; it was wonderful to meet and talk to her. She’s an inspiring and impressive person!

In other news, there are two job opportunities that I need to take a look at. One is a salaried position at Perseus, where I interned this spring. The actual job is an Editorial Assistant position, which is definitely in my interest — plus, I fit all the requirements and have worked there before, though admittedly in a different department. There is one major downside, though: I’m not terribly interested in the subjects the imprint works with — namely women’s health, pregnancy, parenting, self-help, etc. I don’t know how fun it would be in terms of subject matter. But can I afford to be picky? Here’s an entry level job in Cambridge where I can work and get experience and a salary, and … then you know, if I feel like picking up and moving to NYC, it’s not impossible. I’d just have to wait for another job to come around. But because entry level jobs in most of the publishing world require at least a year of experience, I’d have a leg up on all the competition elsewhere, if I’m young, out of college, and already have an assistant job. I will probably apply; what’s the worst that could happen?

The other job opportunity to pop up is a paid internship at  — guess what? The Helen Rees Literary Agency. Sound familiar? You bet. I work for Ann Collette, one of the three agents at the Agency. So even though I technically work just for her right now, this internship would be for the whole agency (and would start either August or September 1st). I want to talk to Ann about it, mostly because I want to see what her thoughts and advice are — if she thinks I should apply for this internship, I will. I love working with her, and it wouldn’t be the same thing, but I’m not sure how long she wants me to stay on as an intern anyway. So we’ll see.

Annnd that rambling post was a blog post. And even though it didn’t really go anywhere, I am tired and I want to go to bed. So the end!

031. Review of Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link.

I have an assignment for my novel into film class. I have to adapt a short story into a screenplay, and it can’t be one I’ve written. This means I have been reading many, many short stories, and I came across a brilliant collection that warrants talking about*.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link is undeniably brilliant. It’s one of those books that’s full of compact but well-thought out concepts and worlds, and it is also the kind of book that upon after finishing it, you wish you could read it all again, and also that you’d written it yourself. It’s been recommended to me often enough — Amber Benson told me about it, which was the first thing I’d ever heard about it. Link’s been regarded as the freshest voice in short fiction and in fantasy by many, many writers, and after reading through the entire collection, I can see why. Her voice is unique: at turns funny and frightening and touching. She’s very versatile. She uses first person, third person, and sometimes even switches briefly into second person. She writes about many different characters: teenage boys and girls, married couples, small children, ghosts, zombies, witches, and magicians. She uses modern technology and present-day settings and she does it well. You don’t wonder about their timelessness. They are timeless.

I was grabbed immediately, as any Bostonian would be, by the first page of the first story, “The Faery Handbag,” mostly because it begins with a description of The Garment District, a misnamed “thrift” store in Kendall Square. But I didn’t keep reading because of the familiarity, I kept reading because Kelly Link has the ability to make everything twist into something unexpected and brilliant. She has that rare gift of explaining things precisely the way you know they are but the way you never’d have thought to describe them on your own. And no story is like the next. I bought this book on Thursday. I have already read the entire thing, even though I have a lot of homework and an article to write, plus a social life that sometimes needs tending.

My favourite story in the bunch — although it is hard to choose, and it’s very dependent on mood — is the title story (which is really a novella). “Magic For Beginners” has this brilliant television show in it and I have never wanted anything to be more real. The characters are real. Her characters are always real. In short fiction, it’s hard to care much about a character, but every time she writes one, you cheer for them or empathize with them or despise them with every fiber of your being. She writes characters with quirks; in “Magic for Beginners,” Jeremy’s father is a recreational shoplifter and writes thrillers about (and only about) giant spiders. In “Stone Animals,” Catherine pretends she’s had an affair, and Henry’s boss has a problem with her tear ducts. These are things — tiny details — that real people do or don’t do, but you don’t question their validity; they work and they are brilliant.

And the fantasy — it’s got zombies, sometimes, but not the kind you’d usually see. Vampires are mentioned once and are not involved at all. Werewolves don’t even come close. Ghosts are important. There are aliens. And there are cats and many witches and magic handbags and for the most part, Link mixes magical realism and science fiction and urban fantasy and literary fiction into something wonderfully compelling.

There are many books you buy on a whim that sit on your shelf and after you’ve finished you regret ever buying it, and you think you should’ve stuck to the library version. But Magic for Beginners is that book where, even though Kelly Link’s got a free download of it on her site, I have never been happier to hold the physical collection in my hands.

*This review is a little convoluted. I apologize. I got very excited and I don’t much care if it’s a jumbled block of energetic ravings.

029. Four(ish) Things of Varying Degrees of Importance.

I suppose it’s important to note that in the time I have not written, classes have begun, and so has my internship. Because I want to spare the internet my whining, I will put things as succinctly as possible, as objectively as possible:

1. My license. It is missing. I wish to discover it. Because it is missing I cannot buy beer. This is a problem because I just finished my last one. I plan to search for it more this weekend; if not, I shall get another.

2. Classes. This deserves subheads.
Class A: Class A is Magazine Writing. Sitting in the classroom is actually quite fun. We talk and I like my teacher and, for the most part, the people in my class, although some of them are rather dull. I think she’s very good at teaching this class. We do writing exercises, and we get extended breaks to walk around, which I enjoy since it is a four hour class, twice a week. The bad part is that she does not have any reasonable expectation about what a college student (all of us, it should be noted, have other obligations: for instance, I am taking another class and I have an internship) can do in a certain amount of time. To have us do five interviews for a 1,000 word service piece in a week and a half, over memorial day weekend, is, to put it kindly, absurd. She seems to be a difficult grader and a hard lady to please, but we shall see.

Class B: Class B is Novel into Film and it’s wonderful. My professor is a god among men and I should like to marry him. We are reading very interesting books and watching their corresponding films, and I even get to try my hand at writing a screenplay! Hurrah! As is to be expected, the workload for this isn’t tiny; there’s a lot of reading involved, and several papers. But I find them (and my professor) doable.

3. Internship. I just started and it’s brilliant. I just sit at a computer and read queries and first chapters. So far none have caught our interest. My boss — a literary agent — seems to trust my judgment already, so I see some manuscripts that need evaluating in my future. I find this way too thrilling for my own good. So far I will only work once a week, but it will be a glorious day to look forward to. Plus, she owns cats. One is very fat and enjoys me.

4. Writing. After quite the dry spell (by that, I mean “the two weeks I felt really burnt out and couldn’t write”) something broke into my consciousness. Not sure what — perhaps the fact that I now know what agents are looking for, perhaps the fact that I read China Miéville’s new book (which I reviewed very recently), perhaps because I’ve been reading some Kurt Vonnegut … I don’t know. But today, I rewrote the opening of my book. I’ve wanted to do this for a while because the first scene is so … blah. And I’m liking this a whole lot better. Mind you, I’ve only got a few paragraphs of it, but … it reads more like … well, me. We’ll see how much I get to play around with it in the coming weeks, and how much I am able to move forward. I also signed up for Brigit’s Flame — the livejournal writing community with weekly prompts and contests — and am hoping something will come of that; maybe it’ll get my gears in motion again. Who knows.

Otherwise, everything is going well. My social life’s suffering a tad, but to be fair, I’ve only been back in Boston since the evening of the 22nd, and I’ve already seen a bunch of people, if not for very long. I will try and remedy that ASAP. We’ll see if school kills me. Hopefully not. Probably not.

But we’ll see.

027. A Semi-Graduation.

I am now in limbo.

I “graduated” from Emerson on Monday. I woke up at seven, left the apartment at eight, stood around and waited forever after only having a small coffee, and then finally, finally, at around 10:50, we entered the Wang Theater. The ceremony was just a little longer than my wait time, but at least it was quick, simple, and our commencement speaker — Richard LaGravenese, a screenwriter who actually wrote the screenplay for Water for Elephants among other things — was really wonderful, and new exactly what new Emerson grads wanted to hear. I went to the reception, got to meet Ali’s dad, saw a lot of friends — and then I was rushed back to the apartment to pack to go home after not eating or getting a real cup of coffee.

But the moral of the story is that I am a graduate without a diploma. It’s not because I’m stupid; it’s because I have one semester of summer classes left to take. And those start on Monday. I’ve been getting emails both as an undergraduate student and as an alumnus. It’s odd. I don’t care for it.

I am not ready for classes to begin. My vacation in the North Shore was lovely and restful, but the past few days have not been. Perhaps it’s the weather that’s making me anxious. But it’s also the fact that I’m only in New Jersey, at home, until Sunday. And then I have to go back to school, to a new internship, and all I want to do is sleep and see my friends because let’s face it: I haven’t been here since spring and didn’t see some of them then, mostly due to different break times, and after Sunday, I will be gone for at least another three months. Don’t get me wrong — I’m extremely excited to go back and hang out with my Boston friends, but … to not get to see some of my best friends here for more than a couple of hours in a grand total of six months is rather disheartening.

Being home does allow me to get some things done, though. For instance, a pair of boots needs mending, and my iPod and laptop are more or less hating their lives. So today, my mom and I are heading to the Apple store — I can’t drive her car at the moment because it is also hating its life and may or may not be pondering suicide (hopefully not) — to find out what’s up with my iPod, and to (hopefully) fix my computer. Crossing my fingers that I won’t have to pay for either of these things. Or, god forbid, get new ones. So I shall be computerless for at least a couple of hours, which kind of sucks, but I do have the new China Miéville book to start on; it came out yesterday, but my dad’s friend who works at Random House apparently had an extra from the publisher and he sent it to me. Free hardcover book? I call that a win.

Sorry for the disorganized post — it’s been a longish time since I wrote anything and much has happened since then. And there are things that I can’t write about here, either. Ah, to be politic.

026. Spring Semester Blues.

Today, I have done nothing.

Nothing, is, as usual, an overstatement. But what I mean is that, aside from waking up, hopping on public transportation to get back to my homeland, taking a brief walk, and getting Dunkin Donuts twice, I have actually done nothing I need to do. This is somewhat upsetting but mostly typical, and I find it difficult to be bothered. At least, I did until I realised that it was 9:15 p.m. and I still need to pack for vacation, which conveniently begins tomorrow.

Vacation means a break from the end of classes; from the stress and anxiety of assignments, catapulting me into the glorious bliss of doing nothing and the world being okay with my sudden lack of responsibility. But vacation means something else, too. Three months separate Kendra: College Student Extraordinaire from Kendra: Ex-Student/Hobo Hybrid Without Even the Vaguest of Plans. Yesterday was the last day of my internship at Perseus, which was bittersweet. There were times when it frustrated me, times when I was bored out of my skull, and times when I felt like upending all the filing cabinets and weeping at the futile attempts at locating things that didn’t appear to exist at all. But that was my cubicle for two days a week, dammit, my crappy, tiny-fonted computer with horrifyingly slow internet, my rolly chair that looked like a werewolf had taken a liking to it. And I will miss Jennifer as a boss, and I will even miss good old Mer. Except maybe not that.

And of course, before internship ended, classes ended with a whimper that turned into a bang. Problem: Teacher doesn’t show up for the final. Imposter does and gives us a survey. Effect: We feel cheated. Solution: We go to Sweetwater and get beers in the middle of a raging downpour. Problem solved. Shoes wet. Bladder full.

In all seriousness, though, it was a good semester. I got closer to people I wanted to see more of, went to bars, did a lot more stuff in Boston in general, and didn’t even lose a single friend. I spent too much money, sucked at a lot of things, wrote 80 (terrible) pages of my novel, and generally wondered how anyone ever thought i was good at writing, because clearly I am terrible at it and will never succeed, ever.

Now, for two weeks — minus the unfortunate interlude that is commencement — I get to do nothing; have no responsibility except that article I have to do all the time. And then, after that, I’m back to college. My last semester. My last hurrah. A time to regret everything I have not done and taken advantage of in my short career as an Emersonian. And a new internship. And generally, this post is wildly unfocused, but I’m elongating it in order to procrastinate on packing.

And look — it’s working!

023. A To Do List, In Paragraph Form.

The end of the semester is fast approaching. Typically, for me, this would mean that in a week in a half, I’d get to go home, relax, watch re-runs of Criminal Minds and CSI, devour many gyros from my favourite local restaurant, and spend time with all my New Jersey friends who, throughout the year, I’ve barely seen. But this is not a typical summer.

Technically, I believe my last real day of finals is May 3rd (give or take). And then four days later, I’m heading on vacation to the North Shore of Massachusetts for a week with some friends and my parents; then I walk in a commencement ceremony on the 16th. And on the 17th, for six days, I go home. Just for six days. And then it’s back to classes and an internship.

It’s a new internship: with a literary agent (Ann Collette of the Helen Rees Literary Agency), and I’ll be reading query letters and manuscripts, mostly of commercial fiction. It sounds like fun, and I’m quite excited about it. My classes are likewise going to be interesting. But this is it: at the end of this summer, I will no longer be a college student. I will be what I’ve deemed a Real Person, which means I need a Real Job and a Real Life Plan. All of these things are, unsurprisingly, terrifying.

Before then, though, I need to finish my thesis. “Finish” is not really the proper term, because when I turn it in it will hardly be complete; I won’t have written the whole thing (only approximately 50-60 double spaced pages of it), nor will it be ready for publication. But it will have a title page, a table of contents, an epigraph, the first three (or four) chapters, and a prospective outline of the rest of the book.

Right now, I have several things to do before I can turn it in: I need to come up with a proper dedication, and think hard about it. I need to fix any glaring errors in the text. I need to finish writing chapter three and perhaps chapter four. And even though I don’t need to, I’d like to have some preliminary cover art. I am, unfortunately, not particularly artistic and I don’t have any photoshop-esque programs.

Any suggestions on where to find some? Or ideas of what it should be? Or how to make some?

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