Adventures in NYC: Part I- Anticipation

Currently listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack

So.

I’ve graduated from my Master’s program.

I’ve secured a job that doesn’t involve crazy hours and will pay me enough that I’m not stuck eating cardboard for the foreseeable future.

I’ve put down a deposit on an apartment that is surprisingly not-awful.

So naturally, it’s time for a vacation! I’ve already mentioned where I’m going, but for those who don’t regularly read my admittedly-sporadic blog entries, I’m heading back to NYC this week! A friend of mine is going with me, too, and we are super excited! She’s never been to New York, which means I can ditch her in Central Park and sell her Hamilton ticket for a small fortune show her around the areas of the city that I like (read as: the Theater District). And of course, we’ll have the main event of the trip:

hamilton-broadway-musical

I’m excited, of course, and my friend is really excited. I may or may not have spent the last 90 days or so since we booked the trip taunting my friend about how great the show is.

But what else are we doing aside from seeing Hamilton? We’ve made up a nice little list of the assorted stuff we’ll be doing. If you’ve got any suggestions, let me know in the comments! Especially if you’ve got some suggestions for where to get food/drinks in Manhattan!

What we’ve got so far:

  • The various exhibits at Discovery Times Square
  • Some comic book store in Times Square that my friend wants to go to
  • Entering some ticket lotteries for Thursday evening shows
  • Hamilton
  • Exploring Central Park and visiting the Central Park Zoo
  • Aladdin
  • Stop by a couple of dessert places
  • Possibly wander around 5th Ave
  • Possibly the Hamilton’s Harlem walking tour
  • Possibly a hop-on, hop-off bus tour (a good option if it ends up raining, maybe, and it’ll let my friend see more of the usual touristy sights she’s not seen yet)

So? Any other suggestions of things we should do? We’ll be there from Thursday-Sunday morning. And of course I’ll be working on my writing in some of my spare time.

~Sofia

Back Down the Rabbit Hole

Currently listening to: “Just Like Fire” by P!nk

I HAVE OFFICIALLY GRADUATED! Now I have my Master’s degree, and I’m gearing up to start the brand-new job I got to go with it. But in the meantime, I realized something.

I’m not a student anymore. I’ve been a student for my whole life (okay, minus the first couple of years). And for the last two years, I was a student all the time. No summer breaks, no long, luxurious winter breaks…I didn’t have more than 5 days’ worth of break at a time, and I certainly haven’t had a break where I wasn’t expected to be thinking of assignments that needed completed.

There are no assignments right now. No papers or presentations or exams.

What the hell do I do now???? My job isn’t going to involve a ton of off-hours work. For the most part, I’ll be able to work while I’m at work, and once I’m home, that’s my time. You know what that means? I’m going to have time to write again! This will be the first time I’ve ever had that-leisure time that I can actually afford to spend writing. I had to shoehorn writing in while I was in undergrad, and quite frankly, even I wasn’t on top of my shit enough during the last year of my Master’s to put my coursework on the back burner like I did back then. It was rough trying to get Songstruck written, and it was rough getting all of the finalizing work done on it last year. But it was doable. This year, though? Guys, there are a lot of exams and things involved in wrapping up a Master’s degree. I’ve had time to sketch out some basic ideas–including some ideas for changing up how Stagestruck is currently going-but that’s about it.

And now that’s gonna change! I’ve got a few things coming up–a little trip back to NYC and then an event at a Barnes and Noble store–but then I’ll be getting on a more solid writing (and hopefully blogging because seriously, I suck at this. Someone give me an idea for a fun topic that can turn into a daily/weekly blog thing. :P) routine. I’m really looking forward to it.

~Sofia

Opportunity Knocks, or How To Sell Books

You know what’s tricky? It’s not writing the book (though that’s hard), or editing the book, or getting a cover for the finished book.

It’s getting people to buy the book.

That’s kind of where I get stuck. My book sells, don’t get me wrong. I see sales come in, or take a look and see that someone’s been reading a Kindle copy. But I don’t like to throw myself out into the spotlight, and along with that, I don’t actually enjoy marketing. I don’t like trying to get reviews. I don’t like reading reviews. I’m really just content to know that my work is out there, and that some people might find it and like it. I never thought that would happen, and never really imagined that I would be able to say that I’ve published a book. So to some extent, that alone is enough for me. But I do still like to see sales come in. I mean, there’s always something especially nice about seeing that someone, somewhere has decided to spend a couple bucks to read my work. I mean, that’s just outrageous, right? This thing that I spent so long making, and someone I don’t know–and in quite a few cases, someone who lives on an entirely different continent–decided they wanted to buy it? I love that. I’d love to see people keep finding my work and taking a chance on it.

And that’s where the “opportunity” from the title comes in. It’s still in the planning stages, and may not happen at all, but I might have a chance to participate in a workshop at a pretty big bookstore, and that bookstore would put in a special order for copies of my book. I would take part in some of the activities planned, maybe do a talk about what the process of self-publishing and/or writing a book is like, things like that. It’s the best kind of marketing for me, really, because I wouldn’t really be doing any marketing–I’d just be talking about stuff I know and like, and my book would just happen to be there.

~Sofia

Hamilton, or ‘Why I’ve Sold My Soul To See This Show’

Disclaimer: I did not really sell my soul for Hamilton tickets. I’m also pretty sure that a soul doesn’t have a high enough market value to get you tickets to Hamilton. Especially not if those tickets are from the resale market. Do not try to sell your soul to get Hamilton tickets. Even if it does work, it’s probably a bad decision in the long run.

So anyway. Hamilton. I saw it back in October, and it was a fantastic experience. And now I’ll be seeing it again in May. I’m super excited, and I got the tickets at a bargain. All they cost me was my firstborn child.

Kidding, again. No one’s going to pay me for the privilege of having to raise a yet-nonexistent newborn, and they’re certainly not going to part with their Hamilton tickets for that. No, I paid the appallingly overpriced resale value instead. But luckily, I nabbed my tickets a few weeks before tickets for that night made their way into 4-digit prices.

Why would I do such a thing? Well, after my first time seeing the show, I was a little excited. By which I mean I chattered about the show nonstop (NONSTOP!) to anyone would listen and quite a few people who tried very hard not to listen. Most of my friends politely tolerated me and assured me in soothing tones that of coooooourse they would listen to the soundtrack as they backed away slowly. One friend finally really got kind of interested after watching Hamilton’s Grammy performance, but that interest never went much beyond “Oh, yeah, that actually seems like a cool show!”

One friend in particular, though, took an actual interest. Like, a lot of interest. I loved it, because I could tell her all the random trivia and nonsense I know about the show, the actors, and Alexander Hamilton and she actually cared. And one day in February, she suddenly texted me and told me she was going to see Hamilton. I was thrilled. I mean, finally I would know someone else who’s seen it in person! And then I got an idea. I could go see it again, too. So I texted her back and told her to let me know when she was looking at going, and she informed me that she expected me to go, too.

So that settled that. I had an excuse, and we booked the trip two days later. I’ve had about a dozen people question that decision, and ask me why I “wasted” so much money to see the show again–and this is after getting grief for weeks about how much I spent the first time, too. But the thing is…Hamilton is important. For so many reasons. And I consider myself extremely lucky to have seen the original cast, and even luckier to have the opportunity to see it again with most of the main cast (Groff, you were phenomenal and it’s sad that you’ve gone. Best of luck to O’Malley, King George III the Fourth! I look forward to seeing your performance!). Being in the Richard Rodgers Theater and seeing that show…it’s an experience that’s difficult to describe. I’ve seen quite a few shows over the years–some on Broadway, most in Chicago–and even though I’ve loved almost all of them, Hamilton feels different. The atmosphere in the theater is different. And I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to see the show and be even just a tiny, tiny part of the phenomenon that this show is. Which is why I’ll be seeing it in Chicago shortly after it opens this fall as well. I want to see how an entirely different cast breathes life into the characters just as much as I want to keep seeing the original cast’s performances.

~Sofia

Journals and Jobs

I know, I know-I apologized about a month ago for the lack of activity, and then I promptly went silent again.

I’m terrible at maintaining a routine, you guys, and I doubt I’ll really get better at it. I’ve been trying for years to be good at things like this. Things like using planners consistently to keep my schedule straight, or journaling every day, or keeping up a blog…I try. I’m just really bad at it. So as an update, here’s my life so far, broken down into easy-to-digest (or easy-to-ignore for those of you who really don’t care 😛 ) bullet points:

  • I have another exam on Saturday. This one’s to certify me as a National Certified Counselor. It’s a Big Deal and I’m hoping I don’t fail.
  • I haven’t studied for that^ because, again, I’m bad at routine things like regularly making time to study.
  • I got a JOB!
  • I’ve bought about four new journals in the past two months, and they’re all still basically blank
  • I dozed off and fell off my exercise bike the other day
  • I have another trip to NYC (and another ticket to Hamilton)

 

That pretty much covers it. I’m also using April (or more specifically, Camp NaNoWriMo) to buckle down and finish Stagestruck. I’m so horrendously behind schedule on that, and part of the reasoning is that I feel like I need to overhaul a lot of it. Something just isn’t clicking right now, and I’m not 100% sure which element is bothering me. Not knowing makes me reluctant to work on it, because I don’t want to work on a project if I don’t think I’m going to like the final product. At the same time, I don’t want to scrap it entirely and I don’t want to start editing things prematurely. It’s a pain, and I keep finding excuses to procrastinate. Granted, some of those excuses are pretty damn valid. For example, that exam I mentioned up in the list? That’s pretty freakin’ important. Because as much as I’d like to be a super-successful author who doesn’t need a day job to survive…I’m not, and I’m getting ready to start a career outside of writing. To guarantee that career, I need to pass that exam. No passing means that the job offer I snagged a couple of weeks ago will be withdrawn and I’ll be in some serious financial trouble once student loan payments start. I need a job, so pretty much everything leisure or hobby related needs to be on hold until at least the end of this week. After that, I think I’ll have finally run out of excuses to feed my procrastination and uncertainty.

And hell. Maybe I will just start rewriting Stagestruck. Or maybe I’ll break from my usual habit and actually plot things out and find out what needs to change that way.

~Sofia

Reading and Reviewing

Currently listening to “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” by Panic! At the Disco

I don’t like writing reviews.

After a see a movie or read a book, I usually want to write a review. And sometimes, if the movie is little-known or the book is by a self-published/indie author, I feel like I really should write a review. But then I sit down to write one…and I don’t. I can’t think of what to say, or the whole endeavor feels awful and heavy, like some kind of terrible chore.

I was going to review two different books today: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice and A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. I’m still going to try to review them…at some point. But for some reason, when I try to review, the words just all go away. I end up left with vague thoughts like, “I liked it,” without being able to put into words what, exactly, I liked. That, or I just really don’t want to put it into words.

Basically, I’m completely worthless at reviewing, most of the time.

New York, New Shows, and No New Writing

All right. I have been massively slacking on getting Songstruck’s sequel written. Actually, I was already slacking on that because I’m doing a few things to Songstruck in preparation for getting a new cover commissioned but anyway

But.

I decided to treat myself to a vacation. I headed to New York City for a few days, with the express purpose of seeing Finding Neverland (and it was great, even though I was a tiiiiiny bit irritated that Matthew Morrison happened to be out that day). But there was also another show I was there to see: Hamilton.

Let’s rewind to about a week and a half before my trip. I was all set, ready to basically just screw around in NYC for a few days, see Finding Neverland, and then haul my ass over to New Hampshire to see my sister. I was ready to go, and I keep hearing about some damn musical called Hamilton.

I mean, all of the sudden, I’m seeing stuff about this show everywhere. And my first thought was that a musical about Alexander Hamilton sounded like the stupidest damn thing I had ever heard of. (Sorry, @linmanuel; I didn’t know any better!) I mean, really. A musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury? And I read more about it, and I keep seeing mentions of rap/hip-hop. What? So the music styles in the show are really not my thing, and overall from what I’m seeing, this whole musical is definitely not a thing that should make any damn sense. It shouldn’t work. So I dismissed it out of hand, but there was this niggling sense of curiosity. Because the musical should suck; it just doesn’t make sense for it to not be a trainwreck.

My resolve cracked about a day after I read up on what, exactly, the musical was about. The soundtrack was up on Youtube. I listened to the song “Schuyler Defeated”, which dealt with a character beating out another character’s father-in-law for a senate seat. And it wasn’t bad. I laughed aloud at this exchange:

“No one knows who you are or what you do!”

“They don’t need to know me–they don’t like you.”

I clicked another link, listened to another song. Then another. Then five more. Then I streamed the whole damn soundtrack. By the end of the day, I had made a trip to the store purely to buy an iTunes gift card and I bought the soundtrack.

I have been listening to the soundtrack non-stop since then. Non-stop, you guys. My poor iPod has literally not played any not-Hamilton songs in like two weeks. My poor friends have heard nothing but Hamilton every time they’ve gotten into my car. My poor dog could probably bark along to “Guns and Ships” by now.

Back to my NYC trip planning. I was about to embark on a somewhat-impromptu trip to NYC. And I realized, to my amazement, that I needed to see this show. I needed to see these songs that had–to my complete bafflement–captured my attention play out on a stage. I was reading up on the show. Lyrics were being memorized. I was reciting random bits of trivia about it to people who had no clue what I was talking about and who probably did not care. But I didn’t care, because I had gotten myself really excited about the show’s very existence. Three days before my trip, I was faced with a huge problem.

Hamilton is sold out until like fucking January or something. Seriously. How absolutely ridiculous is that??? The only tickets available are either through the pre-show ticket lottery or Ticketmaster resale (don’t buy resale tickets from other places, guys; Ticketmaster issues a new, verified ticket with a new barcode when you buy a resale ticket. No forgeries or fakes to be found there). I thought, okay. I can try the lottery. Except apparently HUGE numbers of people enter the lottery (which isn’t exclusive to Hamilton; lots of people enter ticket lottos for shows).

The day before I left for my trip, I ended up paying a stupidly high price for a resale ticket instead. I couldn’t risk not seeing the show. My ticket was for the next day, just a few hours after my plane was due to land in NYC. So about a day later, I was standing in front of the Richard Rodgers Theater, apprehensive and clutching my ticket printout (I really wish I had a proper, physical ticket from the show to save, since I collect them, but with the short notice I was stuck printing from home). I was terrified that I would have spent such a ridiculous amount of money on the ticket and then I’d hate the show, or come to my senses halfway through and realize that the musical style and the subject of the show were just a ridiculous mashup that didn’t work. I’d realize that I really did hate all the rap and such in the soundtrack and had just tricked myself into liking it because I’d bought into the hype. I’d end up squirming uncomfortably in my seat trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance that came from spending so much money for a show I didn’t like, and wondering how I could possibly talk about the show when my friends and family asked how it was without making it obvious what a monumental mistake I’d made by buying that ticket. I kicked myself for not just buying the (far cheaper) ticket to see Something Rotten! instead as I walked myself through the list of all the ways I’d realize that seeing Hamilton was a terrible decision.

None of that happened, though. Hamilton had me from the moment the lights in the theater went down. The show totally blew me away, and I walked out of the theater just…stunned. I’m still stunned. I don’t normally stage door for shows, unless there’s an actor I really admire in the show. I had no idea who most of the people in Hamilton were. The only person I recognized was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and star of the show. I remembered him from some episodes of House and an episode of HIMYM. I was kind of aware of him being involved with some other Broadway shows I hadn’t seen. Under normal circumstances, I never would have stage doored Hamilton. But after the show, I practically ran to the stage door. I had to meet these people, these amazing individuals who decided that the show didn’t sound completely insane and wanted to be a part of it, and then proceeded to make people like me believers, too. Most of the cast came out to sign autographs and talk with fans, and I got some pictures with a lot of them. Most of which won’t get posted here, but here! Have a picture of Lin-Manuel Miranda and I. He tends to take your phone and take a bunch of selfies with you himself, before laughing and moving on to the next person in line. All of the actors who came out were pretty great, and it was one of the more fun stage door experiences I’ve had. (and when they signed my book, quite a few of the actors remarked that it was an excellent book, which makes me wonder if the–again, like 730-page–book is required reading for the cast. :P)

Hell, I even went back to the stage door the next night, after Finding Neverland ended (bonus: Hamilton runs a little longer, so I could get a pretty great spot in line that night). Why? Because even though I got my playbill signed the first night, I had also bought another curious bit of merchandise at Hamilton: a roughly 730-page biography of Alexander Hamilton, which served as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to make that man’s life story into what is probably one of the strangest musical concepts I’ve ever seen. I got that signed, and spent my five-hour bus ride to New Hampshire reading it. And my flight home reading it. And my spare time reading it. So that’s been interfering with my writing, too–too much time reading Chernow and not enough time working on my own material. 😛

Alexander Hamilton’s life was actually pretty damn interesting, you guys. Who would’ve thought? Well, who, aside from the lunatic-cum-genius who decided to turn it into a hit musical?