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

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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?

Of Timelines and Travel

Currently listening to The Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Album

God I love this show’s soundtrack. I mean, really–have you listened to it yet? You probably should. Normally, I would say that rap/hip-hop/R&B are so not my kind of music. But damn. It is an impressive album. Up until a couple of days ago, I barely even knew Hamilton was a show at all. I was vaguely aware that there was a lot of hype around the musical, and that I’d heard that tickets were unbelievably difficult to get. I’m pretty sure I also knew that the music was…a bit unconventional for Broadway.

I took a listen to a couple of the songs on Thursday, and I’ve been obsessed with the show ever since. I streamed the entire soundtrack last night, refusing to go to sleep until I’d listened to the whole album. All 46 tracks. This afternoon, I bought the soundtrack, and I’m listening to it (to “Right Hand Man”, to be specific) right now. Why am I going on about Hamilton? Well, next week, I head to New York for a couple of days. The show I’ve already got a ticket to is Finding Neverland, and I’m so excited to see it. But what else am I going to do? Well, I’ll get in to the city at around 3:30pm or so, and I don’t have a ticket for a show for that night. I’m going to buy a cheaper ticket to Something Rotten, or maybe Aladdin. But that’s not what I’m really hoping to see that night. No. I’m going to hang out outside of the Richard Rodgers Theater to enter the lottery for a ticket to Hamilton. And watch the Ham4Ham show–a little mini-performance of whatever kind Lin-Manuel Miranda and his friends (or other Broadway stars) decide to present–that takes place before the lottery drawing.

And I’ve got a new deadline in place for my writing, but it’s not for the manuscripts I’m working on. Instead, I’m doing some formatting changes to Songstruck in preparation for getting a new cover designed. The deadline? Wednesday night, before my New York trip. If I hit that deadline, I can take my little vacation free from any worry or unfinished business. The cover design would be done sometime at the beginning of December, I think, so my new timeline for the sequel is to have the first draft finished by the end of November, and preliminary edits finished by the end of December so I can start getting other sets of eyes on it.

~Sofia

Of Rescheduling and Redesigns

Currently listening to the Finding Neverland Broadway Cast Recording

Rescheduling. I have been doing nothing but rescheduling things for the past week and a half. Not for writing things, but rather for my graduate assistantship. Who would’ve guessed that managing a crew of 50-odd people would mean so much rescheduling? We’re only about a week into their duties, and they’re calling in absent left and right.  Not that I mind; it goes along with the job and so far, all of the rescheduling has gone fairly smoothly.

I have also been rescheduling writing-related things. We’re in the final stretch of September, and Stagestruck is…not complete. I mean, the draft is coming along fairly nicely–I’m about two thirds of the way to being finished with the draft, I should think. But it still isn’t done, and the deadline I had set for that was the beginning of August. So I’m running just a bit late. The new deadline is to have it finished by Halloween. My grad assistant job should be calming down significantly now that my workers are actually working–the planning/preparing stage is finally over–and my internship is…well, I’m honestly not completely sure what’s going on with that right now, but there’s not a lot of interning happening with it at the moment. Basically, the moral of the story is that I should finally have some free time opening up, and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. And I will be desperately trying to get the first draft of Stagestruck finished on Halloween, because I want November freed up so that I can participate in National Novel Writing Month with a fresh story–the third book in the Songstruck series. It would be phenomenal if I could bang out a good chunk of that manuscript before moving on to preliminary editing of Stagestruck. I’d get that warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment that only about five people in my life will respond to with anything more than a mildly confused stare.

Now, what’s the bit about redesigns, you ask? (You probably didn’t ask, I know. But nonexistent, hypothetical you totally asked) Well, I’m planning on commissioning a new cover design for Songstruck. It’s not that I don’t like the cover I have now–I absolutely do!–but I think I need a change. Something a little…flashier? More striking? I’m not exactly sure yet.

Still terrible at maintaining this blog, but valiantly attempting to breathe life back into it again,

~Sofia

Of Intent and Interpretation: Does the author have the final word?

Currently Listening To: Stronger, by Kiesza (from Finding Neverland: The Album)

Interpreting literary works is a tricky thing. There’s an image I see posted to places like the National Novel Writing Month Facebook group, where it looks at an English teacher’s interpretation of an author’s work versus the author’s actual intent. Like this one here:

Now. Do I agree with that meme? Not necessarily. I think that it creates too much a divide. As an author, I am well aware that not everything has a deeper meaning. For instance, if I say somewhere in Songstruck that there’s a red chair (please don’t go check; I’m 90% certain that I never mention the color of any chairs*), I don’t mean anything significant there. There’s no special meaning to the red chair; it was just the color I happened to like at the moment. But does my lack of intent really matter? For instance, if that red chair happened to be in a room with a small group of characters, and one individual who was in that room was later in that room as a bleeding corpse, might there be some symbolism or foreshadowing there? You could make a solid argument.

Maybe I subconsciously added that detail because I knew what scene would be written in that room later.

Maybe it’s like I said first, and I just liked the idea of a red chair.

So does my intent, as the author, really matter? And why am I rambling about intent vs. interpretation in the first place? That’s an easy one to answer: it came up in one of my classes, about counseling diverse populations. A large part of the course is about recognizing cultural differences and what those differences might mean as far as how someone sees the world around them and how to find connections with people who don’t have the same cultural framework as you. We watched a video that I honestly can’t remember the name of, and someone in the video mentioned doing work with the Tiv of West Africa. That, in turn, reminded me of this article, all about interpretation and cultural frameworks: Shakespeare in the Bush. The article is a great read. The background is that an American and her British friend have had a disagreement about understanding Shakespeare. The Brit claims that Americans can’t fully understand Shakespeare because Shakespeare is so “British”, even though his writings deal with universal elements of human nature. The American disagrees, and claims that since so many elements of Shakespeare’s stories are universal, anyone can understand. She ends up telling the Tiv elders the story of Hamlet, with…interesting results.

The Tiv elders’ interpretations of Hamlet’s story are wildly different than what we conventionally teach and learn. But they’re not really wrong, either, and they arrive at the same place in the end, even after correctly predicting a few of the events based on their interpretation of the story. Give the article a read, and see what you think. Is their version of Hamlet still Hamlet? Has it become a different story due to them imposing their values and beliefs on the text? Would Shakespeare disagree with their interpretation? More importantly, does it matter?

Honestly, I don’t care if people overanalyze the hell out of Songstruck or any of my short stories. To me, analysis means that someone is invested enough in the work to seek out further meaning. They want to understand every bit of nuance that the author could have included, and they want to see the story to its fullest potential. Who am I to tell them they’re wrong, when they care so much about the work and find so much meaning in it?

~Sofia

*On second thought, yes. Do go check if I mentioned any chair colors. I’m curious and can’t check myself right now.