Ah, July! It's always one of my favorite months of the year, for pretty obvious reasons that have BIRTHDAY written all over them. But I feel that this July has been one of the best.

On the blog

  • To kick off my birthday month (I'm fifteen now! EEEK), I opened up a Pinterest contest for writers! That ends TODAY, and the results should be out soonish after that!
  • Alyssa the Great tagged me for the #MoreHappyThanNot tag, so I incorporated that into a Weekend Wordfest post about my writing growth.
  • #LitLove (with my lovely ATTAC gang) swung by for another round, this time on the haunting horror work and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.
  • I participated in the Tag of Randomocity, thanks to the loveliness that is Alex McCarron and her blog.
  • For another Weekend Wordfest, I shared some bits of On the Midnight Streets by doing my part for the 777 Challenge (thanks Rachana for the tag!) and linking up with Alyssa and Emily's Snazzy Snippets. 
  • I announced that book reviews and other bookish whatnot are coming back to Fairy Skeletons.
  • I did a mini-review of Emily St. John Mandel's gorgeous and poetic Station Eleven.
  • I also did a mini-review of my Freshman Fifteens mentor Kim Liggett's spooky, romantic debut, Blood and Salt.

That one time I was offline *gasp*

  • I had so much fun on Independence Day meeting with family friends and having lots of good food and watching fireworks. 
  • My birthday was wonderful! I got to do just about whatever I wanted, because my family is the best, and I had so much phenomenal food. I just.
  • I took a short trip out of town with a dear friend of mine, and we spent lots and lots of time together. I also got to see one of my other friends who moved to the area about a year ago. It was a wonderful experience, if a little strange (it was the first time I've gone on a plane trip without my parents). I'll be able to put it to good use, as I learned so much about observing people and absorbing subtleties of character.
  • And, um, food. We had Indian and Italian and Korean food while we were there, to be exact. Oh, and pastries and French toast and the most sublime omelet I've ever had in my life. (The friend I was with is the biggest food snob I know, so.)
  • I've been writing and exploring a lot for my Adroit mentorship, which is pretty much over at this point. I wish I could share some of my most recent work with you all, but alas, I've got to revise it and put it together for competitions and things. 
  • Yeah, I have to up my game so I can actually get into a decent college. Fun times.
  • Anyway, I feel that I've grown leaps and bounds as a poet, and I've tapped into a really unique headspace that I think has come from Adroit forcing me to be prolific (two poems a week is no joke for this turtle-speed writer, you guys). I've also been reading lots of contemporary poetry to try and inform my tastes better, and it's been fascinating. I love how my style has developed over the summer—well, when it's not busy being a disaster—and I hope you all will be able to see some of my newer poetry in the coming weeks/months/years.
  • Oh yeah, and I managed to finish the longest poem I've ever written without losing my mind. (All right, fine, that last bit is debatable. But hey, at least the poem is done.)
  • I just really liked this month? I need to be more productive, yes, but I feel like this month was really nice.

I've been watching

surprise! my parents actually let me watch this
While it 120% is NOT something I'd have watched purely out of my own interests—this movie is solidly outside of my standard comfort zone—I'd been hearing a lot about Mad Max: Fury Road on Tumblr. It was tasteful! It was feminist! It was well-executed! So naturally I became curious.

This film is essentially a two-hour car (truck? assorted post-apocalyptic vehicles?) chase across a brutal but very aesthetically pleasing desert landscape. I've heard it described as "very artsy but also explosions," and I'm here to tell you all that that's completely accurate. The soundtrack is gold (hello flamethrower electric guitar), the action is heart-in-your-throat thrilling—high praise coming from me, since I don't normally enjoy action movies all that much—and the worldbuilding is subtle but incredibly ingenious.

All of that good stuff is made brilliant by the heart of the movie: the characters.

The storyline of Mad Max: Fury Road centers on a group of sex slaves, or 'wives', who are forced to serve Immortan Joe aka Actual Scum of the Earth, a prominent leader in this post-apocalyptic desert. But surprise! These women are fed up with being treated as objects, and they show it by getting the heck out of Immortan Joe's fortress.

With the help of Imperator Furiosa, who is one of the greatest female characters I've ever had the privilege of encountering in film.
FURIOSAAAA
My absolute favorite thing about this movie, beyond all of the wonderful aspects I mentioned before, is how it treats its female characters as human, as deserving of respect, as fierce and kind and sometimes cruel. As full of anger and the potential for anything and everything. The women are never sexualized by the camera, despite the fact that the wives are wearing little more than strips of gauze the whole time. It's blatantly feminist without ever explicitly mentioning gender inequality, and it's critical of other issues without mentioning them, either. It's so well-done. Ahh.


My mom stumbled upon this little French animation film at the library and decided to bring it home for us to watch. And OH MY GOODNESS. The concept and characters were adorably done, and the art itself was gorgeous. Ernest and Celestine's story of unlikely friendship is heartwarming and lovely—who could imagine an artsy mouse and a lazy bear having such a grand adventure together? I'd recommend this film for fans of Kate DiCamillo's books.

Also here, have some screenshots:




Help, someone teach me how to Instagram

As always, click to get to the full-size photo!
birthdays call for cake. mine was delicious. (and had a nice color palette to boot.)
i tried out steller with some much-deserved piano appreciation! i've embedded that below:




Links of interest

  • This essay by Andrew Solomon in The New Yorker outlining some advice for young writers is gorgeously written and very thought-provoking. Well worth the (admittedly somewhat long) read.
  • Meg over at Cuddlebuggery redesigned the covers for Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy (you all should know that's one of my favorite series of all time by now). And GUYS, she has mad design skills. Her use of colors, fonts, and icons basically totally rocked my world. It's all amazing. I actually kind of prefer them to the actual covers!
  • This article in The Atlantic about teen writing contests is super insightful, and it contains a lot of hard-hitting points that I can definitely agree with. Some very good food for thought, especially for teen writers like me who want to get more competitive. 
  • This essay by Ocean Vuong on his experiences and growth as a writer is beautiful and brimming with meaning. Ocean Vuong is one of my favorite poets ever—right up there with Siken and the crew at The Adroit Journal—so this is really special to me. 
  • Alyssa @ come on, you know exactly where (it involves takeout and a killer color scheme) did a great, very on-point post on ethnicity and casting for Disney's live-action Mulan adaptation. (However, just a historical note: I don't think China ever technically had Korea under its jurisdiction. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that was my understanding.)
  • The lovely Paola Bennet @ Paola Francesca discussed some things that creatives should keep in mind if they're ever feeling out of inspiration.
  • This amazing post by C.J. over @ Deadly Darlings discusses some issues with the current landscape of 'diverse books' in the literary world.

So that was my July! How was yours?

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Another mini-review for you all today! This one is of Blood and Salt, a forthcoming YA debut from my Freshman Fifteens mentor (!!!) that you won't want to miss.

NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Category: YA
Genre(s): Horror, fantasy, romance
Pages: 352 (paperback ARC)
Format/Source: Paperback ARC, Received from author (Thanks, Kim!)
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

★★★★

A haunting look at the time-transcending bonds of love and revenge and fate—all drenched in blood and magic.

Blood and Salt combines two things that are pretty out of my comfort zone: horror and full-blown romance. (I mean, I love a good romantic subplot because as you all know, I can SHIP THE SHIPS. But I usually pass over such overt romance for something with a different main plot and romance on the side.) It's not the kind of thing I usually actively seek out; in fact, even the cover isn't something I would be drawn to of my own volition.


However, the author—the lovely and ever-so-insightful Kim Liggett—was my mentor for the Freshman Fifteens COMMON ROOM writing project, and I was getting an ARC of her book as a prize. I'll admit I was terrified that I might have to lie politely through my teeth to the world if I ended up not enjoying it. But I felt that someone who gives such good editing advice would have to have written a pretty decent book, and I pushed past my misgivings.

I'm really, really glad I did.

Firstly, I think the fact that I tore through this book in less than a day really says something. It's incredibly readable and easy to settle into even for wary readers like me. The pacing, quite frankly, is downright addicting. The plot is full of twists and turns and tension, and it all plays out with an urgency and force that I wouldn't ordinarily expect from a story like this. This book went from intriguing to unputdownable really quickly, and that was both refreshing and fitting for the story it had set out to tell.

The overall ambience of Blood and Salt is a unique and strong one. From the very beginning, we're given full-on spooky aesthetic, made even better by haunting, story-savvy prose. And by full-on spooky, I mean full. on. spooky. Visions of floating dead girls, centuries-old flashbacks, predatory corn (you think I'm joking but you haven't read this book), violent deaths—this book has it all. If you know me at all, you're aware that I am a shining example of unapologetic aesthetic trash, so I ate this up. The story of Katia, which almost runs alongside Ash's plotline thanks to Ash's flashbacks, is deeply tragic and stunning and scary. The way those two plotlines intersect and eventually meld is also extremely well-executed and refreshing.

Bonus points for the chapter titles because oh my goodness. The chapter titles are exquisite.

I also really enjoyed meeting this cast of characters! Ash as a heroine is a combination of seemingly incongruous elements that still manage to strike a distinctive balance in her narrative voice, combining more-or-less mundane bits of snark with the magic that's running through her veins. In addition, Ash and Rhys's realistic, tender sibling dynamic is one of the high points of the book—in fact, I got pretty unreasonably attached to Rhys as the story went on. (He totally reminded me of me in some places. But I digress.) The eclectic side cast that populates Quivira is wonderfully strange, especially the way there are only a few main families and wow those are some messed-up family trees. The collective mindset of Quivira is portrayed perfectly, too. By this I mean it's very focused and very terrifying.

I'll admit the romance wasn't my favorite thing, and I became a little impatient with it at times, but I think that's largely due to my personal preferences. I tend to be leery of earth-shattering, supernaturally influenced romances most of the time, so I wasn't surprised when that tendency extended to this book. But if you gravitate toward those romances, then you might end up warming to this one much more than I did.

All in all, I'd say that even if this isn't your usual cup of tea, give it a go! It may very well surprise you. And it's absolutely a must for those who are already comfortable with the elements I've described here—a bone-deep romance, a chilling setting, and a gorgeously creepy writing style.

Favorite Quotes

[Quotes taken from an advance uncorrected galley / may be subject to change]
"[...] The Larkin women fall too hard, too fast, and too fierce." [...] "When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt."
I feel her life unfold in my bloodstream like a poem.
"It's good to be afraid," [...] "It means you still have something to live for." 
I felt my world crumble. I wanted to burn down villages, cut out people's beating hearts, and rip the stars down from the sky. 

Is this book on your fall TBR? (I feel it should be.) Or, hmm, are there too many cornstalks there for you?

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This is my first book review post on Fairy Skeletons in over two years! I’ve been incredibly behind on reviewing books lately, so I’ve decided that I’m going to be doing mini-reviews until I catch up. Here goes nothing!


Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Knopf
Age Group: Adult
Genres: Apocalyptic
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Ebook, Borrowed from library
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

★★★★.5

A lovely, eerie, thought-provoking look at humanity and the end of the world as we know it ("not with a bang but with a whisper").

Station Eleven certainly wasn’t something I would have picked up on my own. For one thing, I rarely read outside of YA—a habit I should change, perhaps?—and I generally don’t go in for Weighty Literary Adult Novels that Have Won Pretentious-Sounding Things (unnecessary capitalization is great, just saying). But then Alyssa read it and adored it, and although our book taste diverges on some points (I’ve got a much bigger soft spot for romance and sentimentality, possibly too big, and I am also an unabashed YA fantasy monster), I still trust her opinions because she’s an amazing writer and an even better friend. So when Alyssa pushed this book in my direction with the promise of Shakespeare love and gorgeous writing and also the apocalypse, I had to give in to my curiosity.

Moral of the story: LISTEN TO ALYSSA.

This book was such a visionary work. Let me just get that point out of the way first—it was brilliantly conceived and executed. It was audacious and new and stunning. Yes, the end of the world is something that has fascinated us for a long, long time. But Emily St. John Mandel takes this premise and breathes life into it. She makes it realistic and uncomfortable to read. She connects characters across time and space with the quiet power of coincidence and chance meetings. She makes her setup into a work that is honest and sad and, by all accounts, thoroughly poetic.

Oh gosh. The writing style. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what about it is so entrancing, but it’s so easy to settle into and navigate. At first, I felt mostly unimpressed, but as I went on, I began to warm to the style. While it is, at heart, definitely more for the high-minded and/or cerebral readers out there, the prose in Station Eleven reads like the voice of an old, intelligent friend.

I think I took the half star off mainly because it was kind of hard to connect to the characters. But I realize that deep character connections are extremely difficult to pull off with this kind of ensemble cast and the third-person narration, and I respect that.

To conclude: Station Eleven is a brave, brave book, and I highly recommend it, especially to fans of Interstellar or Cloud Atlas (I’ve only seen the film, so I’m basing my rec off that).

Favorite Quotes

He felt extravagantly, guiltily alive.
Because survival is insufficient.
It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.
Hell is the absence of the people you long for.
First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.

So what do you think of my review comeback? Does this book sound like it'll be for you? 

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So I'll get right to the point: book reviews (and other assorted bookish posts) are coming back to Fairy Skeletons.
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Around two years ago (wow, it's been quite a while), I announced in this post that I wouldn't be doing as many book reviews on this blog. And I stuck to that. In that time, I haven't done a single book review here. But that doesn't mean I haven't been reviewing; I'm very passionate about literature and I have opinions about it that I love sharing. Instead, I've been posting my reviews on Goodreads and book blogs, the most recent one being Literoses. The content here has been almost exclusively writing-related. My reason for doing this was that at the time, I felt keeping my book love and writing talk separate would be a good idea.

However, a lot has changed since then. I've become something of a poet person (okay, debatable), I've changed blog designs several times, I've gained heaps of experience and hopefully useful insight, I've become much better at writing blog content (I mean, I'm frankly quite embarrassed by my older posts now)—in short, I feel like mixing books and writing has become necessary for me again. I haven't really had the time to maintain a book blog and a personal blog separately, and the community over here is much more engaged. I love each and every one of you readers for that.

This means that in addition to my usual writing fare, you'll also be seeing bookish thoughts from me. Hopefully it shouldn't be too much of a stretch, since I don't think I've met a single person interested in writing who isn't also interested in books. So look out for reviews and increased amounts of book love from me in the near future! I'll also be adding page content here and there—a review archive, review policy, etc. Thank you, as always, for sticking with me.

What do you think of this change? Do you think I can pull it off? (Do you think I should redesign the blog to mark the shift?)

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Hey all! For this week's wordfest, I'm bringing you all some of my own writing again, in the form of two different excuses to share snippets of my WIP On the Midnight Streets.

First up, the lovely and ever-so-supportive Rachana tagged me for the 777 Challenge! Check out her challenge post here. The rules for this challenge are as follows:

Share 7 lines from the 7th page of one of your manuscripts. Then, tag 7 bloggers.

The following bit is the first seven lines of OtMS's third chapter, told from my heroine Chantilly's point of view. She and her family are being escorted to the Upper City (the wealthy neighborhood of their city, Peralton) from their home in the Middle City, as they've just come into an absurdly large inheritance and have to leave behind all they've ever known. 
The carriage has stopped at the wall.

I’ve heard tell that Peralton’s walls were built over the bones of Clarabel and Rosalind’s fallen supporters, and I can believe it now, seeing it tower over us like the entrance to a grave.

Again I have to fight the urge to shrink down into my seat, ashamed of how disheveled I must look, when a thin, balding man, presumably a wall guard, leans over to speak through the carriage window. We’ve all put on our best clothes for the move to the Upper City, but we’re wearing years of work on our hands and the thinness of not-quite-enough on our faces, too.
I hope that bit was interesting to you all! For this challenge, I'd like to tag:


Up next: Snazzy Snippets, a delightful new linkup brought to the Internet by the devious and brilliant minds of Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout and Emily @ Loony Literate. It's basically the best excuse ever to pour my writing onto you all.


The snippet I'm sharing this first round fulfills two of the linkup's 'themes': A snippet that's mostly dialogue and a snippet that shows your MC's personality.

This is from the seventh chapter of OtMS, in which Chantilly has a confrontation with a policeman (just the first of many to be had in the future, I'm sure). (Wow, I just realized there are going to be way too many policemen in this book.) The following snippet showcases a part of Chantilly's personality that she herself doesn't know too much about yet—Social Justice Chantilly. Also, Eloquent Rage Chantilly.

Italicized bits are underlined.
“Begging your pardon, my lord [Charles], but it is standard procedure.”

“But is it legal?” I’m stunned momentarily by the venom in my own words. Charles turns towards me sharply, probably just as taken aback as I am, but my tamped-down outrage is starting to rear its head and I’m powerless to stop it. “Is it just, as you insist, to abuse a civilian without a trial?”

The policeman raises a placating hand. “Your ladyship, I entreat you to calm yourself—”

“Don’t you dare,” I lash out, and I struggle to find the right words to go on. “I will not calm myself like the lady all you men want me to be. I refuse to on the authority over my own self that my humanity grants me, and I marvel at the audacity with which you disparage my mother’s household by so disrespecting one of her employees. This is, as I stated earlier, an internal affair, and if justice must be brought into it, our estate will take that responsibility as fairly as possible.”

So what do you think? Is my novel a train wreck? Did you link up with Snazzy Snippets (if not, DO IT)? 

By the way, if you'd like to read OtMS, you can do that on Figment or Wattpad.
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First basic takeaway point today: I'm terrible at titling tag posts. I should just accept this and move on.

Second basic takeaway point: Alex McCarron, over at Third Star to the Right, tagged me for The Tag of Randomocity and is therefore a lovely person who should be showered with virtual fairy raspberries (since she likes raspberries so much). Not that she wasn't thoroughly lovely already, of course.

The rules

  • Paste the button onto your blog post.
  • Leave a new list of questions (or just pass on the question list you answered) and tag a few people of your random choice (and say why you tagged them, if you have time)! (Be original and nonsensical and disastrously random!)
  • Write down three facts about you – one of them is WRONG. Let your commenters guess in the comments which one is wrong (and tell them in the comments after a while)
  • Answer the questions of the person who tagged you – make it all super random and interesting.

Did you know?

(Of course, one of these is a heinous lie.)
  • I've been on three different splendiferous continents—Asia, North America, and Europe.
  • I will take any excuse to eat arugula. 
  • My heat tolerance is a pitiful thing that should not be tested.

Interrogation session

What is one food that you can (do?) eat mountains of because you love it so?

Oh my goodness. I absolutely ADORE food. Sadly, many of the foods I love involve soup and are therefore very difficult to make mountains out of. That said, I would totally eat mountains of sushi hopefully without getting sick in the process. Sushi is a wonderful thing that the world needs more of, no question.

If you were a Traveler Without Roots, would your home be a train car, an RV, a hot air balloon, a boat, or just a pack on your back? Or maybe another option completely?


I saw this question and was immediately going to say "hot air balloon", but then I realized that my fear of heights and tendency to get airsick would put a serious damper on my traveling experience.

So.

Unfortunately, a similar thing goes for the boat—I can get pretty seasick. And nothing but a pack on my back sounds terribly daring, but let's be real here: I can't survive without guaranteed shelter. So I think I'd go with a train car, because that sounds like the classy choice. (It would have to be a magical train car, though. You all know how these things are with me.)

Name a celebrity you wish you could spend one day with.  

VICTORIA SCHWAB.

(Technically not really a celebrity because she's an author, BUT.)

I WILL SAY THIS AGAIN: VICTORIA SCHWAB.

What fictional character’s house would you like to have as your own? 

Is this even a question?

I really want Bilbo Baggins's house. Yes, I said. I WANT BAG END (although scaled up so I'm not constantly hitting my head on that one chandelier that Gandalf has so much trouble with). It's such a comfortable, well-crafted, obviously much-loved house. Plus, so many reading nooks! And space for good food! Sounds perfect to me.

If you could take a class in ANYTHING what would it be? 

Hand lettering. 150%. I seriously want to learn hand lettering. Because look:
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I need to be able to do this.

Name a childhood obsession. TV show, stuffed animal, book, food, pastime—anything. 

When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with fairytale-ish things. (I mean, I still am.) Magical escapes, plucky heroines, and fantasy adventures were my lifeblood. (I mean, they still are.) One thing in particular that I made my family watch over and over was the film Stardust.
also if you watch this movie and don't ship the ship you're  l y i n g
It's the perfect blend of action, strangeness, magic, and kindness that boosts my faith in humanity every time I watch it. The way the plotlines mix is wonderful, and overall it's just a really great film that I'll love forever.

Oddly enough, I still haven't read the book. I should get on that.

What do you think would be an awesome theme for a party? 

I really want to throw a Night Circus-themed party at some point in my life. Everything would be black and white and gray, with sudden bursts of red, and there'd be impeccable food. Everyone would be extremely well-dressed, and there would a replica of Herr Thiessen's fabulous clock somewhere.

This has to happen, okay? Someone figure it out STAT.

Have you been in any clubs/groups in your lifetime? 

Oh yes! First there's the obvious—I was in Speech and Debate this past school year and am planning to go back for another round once I get back to school. In fact, I'm also planning on adding two more school clubs to my schedule: Model UN and Mock Trial. In middle school, I also participated in MathCounts for two years (to this day, I'm still not sure how I ever landed a spot on the team EVER; my math skills are shaky at best).

Then there's friend things. I'm fortunate enough to have wonderful, genuinely caring, wickedly smart friends both on- and offline. My current circle of IRL friends is basically like one big nerd club. And of course, I can't forget ATTAC! Alyssa, Topaz, Taylor, and AnQi are some of the coolest and most talented writers/bloggers I've met, and I'm so glad I know them.

And lastly, writing things! It's my privilege to be a part of The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program's Class of 2015, as well as the mentor group over at the Glass Kite Anthology Summer Writing Studio (which we've dubbed the 'GKA FAMBAM').

PS: I'm also part of these Tumblr networks.

What’s something you have to buy all the time that you wish you could just have an endless supply of (something that’s always the same thing—no books or movies!)?

Endless supply of college ruled notebook paper = a thing I need in my life. Enough said.

What park (national/amusement/theme/etc) would you choose to visit? 


Thing you should know about me: I loathe amusement parks because I'm terrified of roller coasters and other assorted park rides (heights + intense motion + that stone-drop feeling in your stomach? no thank you). I also don't love crowded places—case in point: Times Square was my least favorite part of New York City when I traveled there last year. So you're generally not going to find me in an amusement park or theme park by choice. I'd love to visit Glacier Bay instead. It's a national park and reserve in the state of Alaska that I once saw from the deck of a cruise ship but never got to properly step into, and what I did glimpse of it was absolutely breathtaking. I think I'd have a wonderful day there, armed with a phone camera, a notebook + pen, and some very warm and fluffy clothes.
it must be even more gorgeous in person. [via]

Spreading the love

I'm tagging (but do it only if you want to!): 

  • Morning (thanks for the shoutout in your last post + for being such an all-around lovely person!)
  • Rachana (thanks for being so incredibly supportive all the time!)
  • + you, because I want to thank YOU for reading all the way to the bottom of this post and I can't for the life of me think of more people to tag, which is horrendous of me.
I'll just pass along the questions above, because they're a pretty darn cool bunch of questions.

So what do you think? Was I appropriately random? Are there any answers of mine that you relate to?

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Hello, everyone! ATTAC is back (that is the coolest phrase) with our fourth round of #LitLove! 

(Can you believe #LitLove has been a thing for over half a year already?)
graphic courtesy of alyssa [image source]

So what is #litlove?

It's a collaborative post series that happens every two months or so. It debuted in December 2014, featuring myself and four other lovely writer/bloggers, a group that I dubbed ATTAC:

Alyssa / Topaz / Taylor / AnQi / Christina (that's me!)

Officially(ish) speaking:
#litlove is our chance to spout our love for the written word in all its forms, and it happens once every two months. it was born from a feverish twitter fangirling session (as so many good things are) and then put into action. we've got a veritable army of ideas cooking, and we plan to spotlight everything from authors to tropes in the future.
Previously, we've featured brilliant middle grade authors Kate DiCamillo and Roald Dahl, as well as the peerless William Shakespeare. Today we're highlighting another classic writer—Edgar Allan Poe!

You don't know Poe?

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I find that a little hard to believe, but no matter! I'd be happy to include a small, basic intro from the Academy of American Poets:
Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of style and structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.
I first really got into Poe's work in my eighth grade lit/history class, where we did a unit on gothic literature that included some of Poe's horror stories. I immediately fell in love with his haunting style, his remarkable (not to mention terrifying) story endings, and his thoroughly memorable characters. To quote a previous blog post of mine where I mentioned him:
I adore Edgar Allan Poe's writing, and there's so much retelling potential in all of his work I just can't. The mystique of the macabre, the tragedy that saturates the words, the smell of the grave. Magic, madness, malice. The doleful tolling of a funeral bell. There is just such a magnetism in Poe's particular brand of darkness.
My favorite works of his include "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Black Cat", "The Raven", "The Fall of the House of Usher", and the one I'm going to be discussing today, "The Masque of the Red Death".

Welcome to the masque

1919 illustration by harry clarke
I couldn't find a decent blurb online for this story that doesn't also spoil the ending outright, so I'll do my best to sum it up. Behold my summary, which is rather poorly written and doesn't do the story justice in the least:

"The Masque of the Red Death" centers around a deadly, highly contagious illness called the Red Death (who would've guessed?) and the aristocrats who try to escape it. That has... consequences, to put it lightly.

It's part of Poe's body of horror work, so it's maybe not for everyone, but its brevity and force have made it a classic American short story. In addition, it contains several elements of traditional gothic fiction, so it's a good study of that genre as well. Critics (and literature teachers, grr) often focus on the story's clear symbolism and allegorical undertones when discussing it. While I do think those elements are crucial and very well-executed, I'd like to elaborate more below about what I personally really value in "The Masque of the Red Death".

What this story means to me

This sounds so, so weird to actually say, but my absolute favorite thing about "The Masque of the Red Death" is how completely Poe captures a unique and dangerous atmosphere. The overwhelmingly gorgeous but decaying ambience of the piece is what makes it memorable. The beginning of the story is arresting, to the say the least, and it immediately made an imprint in my mind (underlining added + cuts made by me):
The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal--the redness and the horror of blood. [...] And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
That deep scarlet feeling of menace permeates and more or less defines the entire story. Poe's strong introduction makes you remember it even as the story goes on. But right after that horrifying paragraph about the effects of the Red Death, Poe launches straight into describing the practices of Prince Prospero, who rules the country being ravaged by the disease.

As a both a reader and writer, I was immediately struck by Poe's powerful use of contrast. Prince Prospero has walled himself up in a magnificent palace filled with nobles from all over his kingdom. He's throwing decadent, ridiculous parties to ignore the reality of the devastation in the outside world. Within the frame of this particular story, Prospero has decided to host a masquerade. All of that immediately sets up tension that Poe is incredibly skillful at manipulating with his characteristically stunning writing.
There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these --the dreams --writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. [...] in them [the rooms of the palace] beat feverishly the heart of life.
That tension is just stretched and stretched and stretched until it snaps, and that's part of this story's brilliance.

There's this thin line that Poe isn't afraid to walk on—between life and death, between lovely and rotting. This is enhanced by his work with the many-colored rooms in Prospero's palace, as well as the symbol of the ebony clock. There's so much great foreshadowing and so much that is beautiful and strange and frightening.

This story means so much to me because not only is it practically a textbook in the short story craft, but it's also just spellbinding in its execution. There's so much potential in it, and so much horror, and so much elegance. I can't recommend it enough.

The ending will absolutely SLAY you, but I don't want to share that here because SPOILERS. (Really, really old spoilers, but still.) Instead, you should go ahead and:

Read the story. Do it, if you will, "for the aesthetic."

Also, I want to do a retelling of this so badly, but it's already been done in the YA world. SEND HELP.

Wait! There's more! Give some love to my fellow ATTAC girls:

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Happy fourth of July to those of you celebrating in America!

Before we jump into this post, a reminder:
Let's get to it! My phenomenal friend Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout linked me ages ago to do the #MoreHappyThanNot tag. This was a very cool thing created by Shelumiel of the blog Bookish and Awesome. (Check out the original post here, and read Alyssa's tag post here.) Essentially, I'm supposed to answer the following question:

What makes you more happy than not?

photo by shelumiel @ bookish and awesome, who created the tag // also eeek look it's simon vs.
The reason this also doubles as a Weekend Wordfest post? Other than all of the wonderful family and friends and other assorted people who make my life brighter, the biggest thing that makes me more happy than not is words. Specifically, writing my own words.

So I've decided to turn this tag post into a positive celebration of my latest growth in writing. (I swear I'm not as conceited as this post is making me seem. Really.) Some things that make me more happy than not, in the form of some of my favorite lines/quote-worthy things I've written in the past year or so:

From my Freshman Fifteens COMMON ROOM story "Destinata":
Adrenaline, hope, the clawing desire to live live live—these are all singing through my veins. But most of all I'm aglow with love, love for life and people and the shattered being that is me. [...] I feel as fierce and lovely as daybreak.
From my short story "Transmutation":
"I'm immune to capitalism."
From the tenth chapter of my novel-in-progress On the Midnight Streets:
This is about when I recollect that I am standing here, far from home, between two obviously dangerous criminals who are probably about to slice each other to ribbons, and that I should have started running… well, a while ago.
From the eleventh chapter of On the Midnight Streets:
[...] I’m not a fighter, not a real one whose entire body melts into motion at the tip of a hat, whose blood has run onto the street as much as in her own veins, whose bruises are worn like a coat of arms.
From my poem "some things i know to be true":
tomorrow there will be clouds and in a city / far away, a girl will open her windows / and sleepwalk the friday sky. we will have / the same name. no matter what language / i say it in, it will always sound like want.
From my experimental prose/poem "Princess and Dragon in Convers(at)ion":
We are nineteen and we are soldiers—all fight and no heart—and our lips are too far forward, like spears; when they meet head-on, I think I taste either blood or glory. Purity counts for nothing here, where no one will ever hear my screams. My back hits the wall of a building, the first casualty. For a split second, I forget that you are a girl and I am a girl and I am still not used to this picture. For a split second, I even forget how to breathe.
From PaDiC:
There’s a trick to enduring: pretend everyone is a surgeon’s knife, immerse yourself in anesthesia, tell yourself that you’ll breathe easier once they’re finished with you.
From PaDiC:
who spears a monster / for sport, darling? is it you? / is it me? do i hold your heart / in my hands / and should i let it fall? will anyone know / what treasons we have laid down / in the dark?

And that's a wrap! (This was essentially meant as a boost for my self-esteem because I'm trying to write poems for my mentorship and it's all word vomit.) What do you think of my writing? I promise I'm not fishing for compliments.

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It's my birthday! (Not really; my real birthday is in a few days.) But it's my birthday month, at the very least. I've been thinking a lot about how I've been alive a whole decade and a half and that's pretty cool. I've also been thinking about how this blog has been my outlet and place of comfort here on the Internet for over three of my fifteen (!!!) years.

I can't ever stress this enough: this blog has gone on for this long because of you, my readers, and I'm so grateful.

So instead of demanding birthday presents and virtual cake like I totally would normally, I'm making an effort to give back to this wonderful, inventive, brilliant, kind community that has given so much to me.

I've decided to open up a Pinterest contest for writers, inspired by a similar contest run by writer Amanda Foody last year. It is going to be super fun.
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How it works

So if you're like me, you've seen a lot of people's inspiration boards for their novels-in-progress or writing projects on Pinterest. (If you're like me, Pinterest has basically taken over your life, but, y'know, whatever.) And more than once, you've looked through someone's board and wanted to tell them, "THIS BOARD IS AMAZING. THEREFORE YOUR BOOK MUST BE AMAZING. FINISH WRITING SO I CAN THROW MY MONEY AT YOU."

I want to reward the ingenious and inspiration-rich minds behind these boards. I want to point at these people and say, "The aesthetic is strong with this one." And I want to give writers the opportunity to receive some creative goodies to go along with their projects to fuel their brains and make them happy.

The good news? It's super easy to enter, and if you win, I will make ALL THE THINGS for you. (Seriously. There are some pretty snazzy prizes up for grabs, if I do say so myself.)

Rules

  • Submissions are open from the moment this post is published to 11:59 pm EST on July 31, 2015. So, roughly a month.
  • Since this contest is meant as a thank-you to my blog readers, you must be following this blog on either Bloglovin or GFC to enter. (No worries if you don't already follow; you can do that right now by finding either the Bloglovin or the GFC widget on my sidebar and folowing!)
  • This contest is for specific project inspiration boards, not general writing boards.
  • You may submit as many boards as you like, but please submit them one at a time.
  • Your entry will be judged based on the Pinterest board alone, so please do not submit any part of your manuscript, as I unfortunately won't be reading it.
  • Since I won't be reading any part of the manuscript, this doesn't need to be a board for a finished project! In fact, you don't even have to be currently working on it. (Goodness knows I have way too many boards for projects still in the planning phase.)
  • No erotica on the boards, please.
  • Your board should have at least thirty (30) pins on it. If the board has over 250 pins, you may still submit it, but I probably won't look at the entire thing.

Prizes

First place:

  • (Optional / If you have a Blogger blog) Blogger design featuring responsive template (not coded by me, but customized by me), possible header, and any other bits and pieces you might want to flesh out your blog.
  • An interview here on the blog
  • A fanmix (at least eight songs) inspired by the board
  • A poem (at least three stanzas) inspired by the board
  • A book cover (whatever dimensions you'd like!) inspired by the board
  • A graphic inspired by the board featuring a quote I feel is relevant

Second place:

Pick three of the following:
  • A fanmix (at least eight songs) inspired by the board
  • A poem (at least three stanzas) inspired by the board
  • A book cover (whatever dimensions you'd like!) inspired by the board
  • A graphic inspired by the board featuring a quote I feel is relevant

Third place:

Pick two of the following:
  • A fanmix (at least eight songs) inspired by the board
  • A poem (at least three stanzas) inspired by the board
  • A book cover (whatever dimensions you'd like!) inspired by the board
  • A graphic inspired by the board featuring a quote I feel is relevant

Honorable mention(s):

(I will only pick honorable mentions if I get at least 20 entries.) Pick one of the following:
  • A fanmix (at least eight songs) inspired by the board
  • A poem (at least three stanzas) inspired by the board
  • A book cover (whatever dimensions you'd like!) inspired by the board
  • A graphic inspired by the board featuring a quote I feel is relevant

Enter! Enter! Enter!

The contest is now closed to entries. Many thanks to everyone who sent a board in!

Entries received

I'll be posting links to boards that have already been submitted here, so that a) you can see examples of novel inspiration boards and b) you can confirm that I've gotten your entry. In addition, if you include a link to a blog/website, I'll link that down below as well, so that people can visit your site. (Entries are posted in the order they were received.)
  1. I Wish I May | Adelyn Sterling [blog]
  2. hail the pumpkin king | Samantha Chaffin [blog]
  3. 100 Levels of Immersed | Jamie Terry [blog]
  4. The Startling Fragility of Eternity | Topaz Winters [blog]
  5. Fragments of Aurora | Topaz Winters [blog]
  6. Never, Never | Cait [blog]
  7. Winner Takes All | Alyssa Carlier [blog]
  8. Witches Black and Silver | Alyssa Carlier [blog]
  9. The Tenjima Series | E.R. Warren [blog]
  10. Because I'm Irish | Sky [blog]
  11. Petrichor | Sky [blog]
  12. Angel Veins | Sky [blog]
  13. Matroyshka | Alyssa Carlier [blog]
  14. The Voyage of Rowena Roundabout | Alex McCarron [blog]
  15. 986 | Anne Brees
  16. Chasing Royalty | Anne Brees
  17. Thorn Among Fleas | AnQi Yu [blog]
  18. The Summer of Little Ox | AnQi Yu [blog]
  19. The Foxmont School for Boys and Girls | AnQi Yu [blog]
  20. When I Am Weak | Opal [blog]
  21. Hidden in the Shadows | Morning [blog]

Ahh! Best of luck to you all; I'm so excited to see what kinds of entries come in. (Also: I'm fifteen. I could be actual YA novel protagonist material now. What.)

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