Working for “Exposure”

I’m part of a couple writing groups on Facebook, and at least once a week, someone posts an article about someone (be it a freelance writer or graphic designer, a comic, or a well-known animator or artist) who was asked to do work for free because it would be “good publicity.” One of my favorites was the open letter that Revolva wrote to Oprah after Revolva was asked to work for Oprah’s tour for free. Oprah. The woman who makes $10 a second couldn’t pay for variety acts for her national tour.

Another great one that just surfaced is when Rian Sygh turned down someone asking him to work for free (he says it was an overly-violent man-pain revenge story) and got this in response:

re: work offer

good sir,

im very sorry to hear that. this could have been a great opportunity, for you as an unknown to get your work out there. I understand the lack of upfront monies is unsatisfactory for craftsmen of higher calibers, but i had assumed – I suppose wrongfully, that your dedication and passion for your craft would supercede your base desire for monetary compensation.

Perhaps you would like to think on the subject longer? I am not heartless my good fellow. I’ll give you another chance to accept my offer, a do-over response if you would like, but should you decline again I will walk away from this encounter to someone else and you will never see a moments reflection of the magnum opus that could have been again.

Do you still decline? or will you take the red pill with me and join this epic adventure, sir?

With great regard,

(Name redacted,) author.

“This will be an unpaid gig, but think of how much theoretical money you could gain!”

These are not uncommon occurrences in the art world. It is honestly baffling. Would you ask your doctor to see you for free because “I’ll tell all my friends I go see you and you healed me and it’ll get you lots of exposure?” How about walking up to your favorite fast food chain and expecting free food because “if you put it in a bag with your logo on it I’ll carry it around town while I eat and it’ll be publicity for you”?

Of course, when you’re an artist, and you’re just breaking into your field, it either seems like a dream come true (“Wow! Someone wants to publicize a nobody like me? This could jump-start my career!” ) or really scary. (“How do I tell them that I expect to be paid when no one knows who I am? What if this is the only job offer I get?”)

So, my new and old artist friends alike (and those who ask artists to work for free, if you’ve bothered to get this far), let me run through a couple points on working for free.

1. Exposure is not payment.

“Exposure” and “good publicity” are really, really empty words. They are promises that no one actually has to deliver on. It’s the promise of “You’ll get your name out there! It’ll be a good way to get even more customers!” but the company or person you’re doing the work for doesn’t have any way to ensure that you’ll actually get more customers. Where are these customers coming from? Who cares? Not them! They don’t have to do squat after you work your magic for them.

2. Family and friends should be case-by-case.

“After that, I want one of my other cats, too. All individually. For free, of course. You can do that, right?”

Let’s say your mom wants you to draw her something pretty for her desk at work. It can be anything you want. Okay, sure, you should probably do that for free. She’s your mom. But let’s say your Great Aunt Lisa wants you to make a picture of her cat Louis, and you hardly ever see this woman or her cat, and to be honest, you’d like to keep it that way. You probably want to consider charging Great Aunt Lisa for your services. Sure, maybe you give her a discount because she’s technically family even though she married in and again, you never see her. And if she doesn’t want to pay, she doesn’t want the picture of her cat very badly. No matter how much your family pressures you into giving it to her for free.

Let’s say the conversation goes as follows.

“Your mother tells me you’re very good at art! She showed me the picture you made for her desk at work.”
“That was a lot of fun to make, I’m glad she asked me.”
“I want something like that of Louis. My cat. Something dainty, maybe black and white.”
“Oh, absolutely! A picture the size of my mom’s picture would be about $7. More if you’d want me to come to your house and paint Louis in person. If you’re looking for something larger, I’d be happy to discuss prices with you!”
“I am your family. I shouldn’t have to pay anything! You should do it as a gift to me!”
“Well, I’m sorry that you think my art has the value of “free,” but at least that tells me how much you actually value my art.”

Maybe not the most diplomatic way to put it, but you don’t owe Great Aunt Lisa diddly squat.

3. “Good practice” should also be on a case-by-case basis.

“Good practice” are also two dangerous words to fall into, but not as dangerous as, say, “exposure.” If someone comes to you asking for your services for free so you can get some “practice” out of it, the answer should almost certainly be no. Not unless you are able to keep the rights to whatever you do for them and sell it elsewhere. (As a print, as a short story in a collection, whatever.)

However, if you’re asking someone else to let you do something for them for practice, it should probably be free. Example; my sibling is coming home from college this weekend, and I asked her if we could do a photoshoot so I could practice not only portraits, but lifestyle photography. Will she get something out of it? Yes, she’ll get (hopefully) beautiful pictures to show her friends and use however she wants. But I’ll legitimately get practice out of it, too. She’s doing me a favor. Another example? The lady who introduced me to lifestyle photography has offered up her children as subjects if I ever wanted to practice. It wasn’t a “you should do it for me, let’s see, how’s this weekend for you? We could do it then! And it’ll be good practice for you!” No, it was a “if you’re ever interested, feel free to give me a call and we’ll set something up.” I totally have a clear choice in the matter, and if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.

4. You know what it costs to produce your work.

Whether it’s supplies, time, rehearsal, set up, or travel, you know how much your work costs you. Most people don’t. They assume it didn’t take you long or cost you much of anything, and so they expect your prices to be cheap (or, y’know, free.)

A few years back, I faced something similar with my photography. I’d opened up a little online store that really did nothing but handle the PayPal and storefront end of things. I still had to get the prints myself and mail them out myself, and handle any return issues myself. And on top of that, the storefront took a cut from each sale, since I couldn’t pay a monthly fee to keep it open. But it was cool. My work was finally out there, for the public to buy if they wanted it. I put the link to the store on a couple social media outlets.

Basically what it looks like when you’re barely breaking even and someone tells you your prices are too high.

A friend of mine from college messaged me about it. “I think your print prices are too high,” she told me. “My friend was thinking about buying one, but photography really shouldn’t cost that much just for a print. And what’s with the shipping cost being so high? You’ll never get customers that way. I would never charge that much for one of my little chibi drawings that I do.”

I went off at her. I had to pay for the prints, I had to pay for more expensive shipping than normal so that I knew the prints arrived undamaged. How dare she compare her art to mine, when she clearly valued her work so little? Did she spend the same amount of time on her two-minute drawings as I did taking the pictures, paring them down, running them all through editing programs to make sure the colors were as beautiful as they could be? My rates were comparable to those you’d see at craft shows, aside from shipping, because you didn’t have to worry about shipping when you bought in person. I told her I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, that it was making me angry and not really helping. But she just kept going. Maybe I should try lowering my prices. Maybe I should sell digital copies. Maybe I should consider working as a stock photographer. She was just trying to help, you know, she was just giving free advice. She said all this like she knew how things like this worked much better than myself. I don’t think I’ve spoken to her since that day.

Can your prices be too high? Yes. But that’s only if you’re making a huge margin off of your work. If you’re just barely breaking even, your work is not too expensive.

5. Being unknown doesn’t mean you should give in.

Breaking into a new art community is hard. It’s scary. It’s risky. People and companies feed on the difficulty and the fear of not making it. They target artists, new and old alike, saying “you’re a no one. We can help you. Just do this one thing for us, and our entire customer base will know your name.” It’s the carrot dangling in front of the donkey’s nose, edging him on. Let me ask you something. When was the last time you actually saw the name of the artist who did promotional work? Do you remember the name of that random-ass band that played at your high school pep rally? How about the student DJ who was in charge of a couple school dances?

Most people won’t remember your name, if they hear it or even see it.

Moral of the story? “Free” has it’s place. What gets to be “free,” however, should be up to the artist, no the one who wants the art.

Since I’ve talked about it so much, here is my photography Facebook page in case anyone got curious.

50 Shades

As someone who no doubt goes on social media, and apparently reads blogs, you’ve likely at least heard of the controversy that 50 Shades of Grey has caused. For those of you who somehow have completely missed it, congrats! You are blessed. I am about to ruin that blessing for you.

A quick rundown; 50 Shades of Grey started life out as Twilight Fan Fiction. If you’re not familiar with this word, it’s basically when fans take the characters and/or universe of a book/movie/tv series/what have you and write about these characters in a non-canon setting. So 50 Shade’s characters Christian and Anestassia began life as Edward and Bella. No, I’m not kidding. You used to be able to read the original fanfic online, but it’s recently been taken down for copyright reasons. The plot hinges around our young, naive female lead falling for a rich, powerful man. He has her sign a contract, outlining all the things he is going to do to her and her body, and all the things he expects in return. The fanfic was so popular that the author was picked up by a publisher; the names were changed, the setting was changed, and BAM, instant novel. Just add water. It got hugely popular, because it was seen as “acceptable erotica” to read in public. Who knows why? Not me. There is now a movie in theaters about this book.

Now, okay, for some people, this sounds exactly like their cup of tea. A lot of women have cited 50 Shades as the beginning of their sexual awakening. Which is great, surface level. But when you start getting into the meat of the story, there’s a lot of issues that need to be talked about. I could go on for ages about how it’s a poor representation of how BDSM should work, or how the book and movie is not about love, but abuse, or how Christian stalked and controlled Anastasia, or how the book is arguably the least sexy piece of literature on this planet or literally anything else about this shit heap, but I’m going to try to focus on one thing at a time.

Let’s talk about consent.

Consent is a necessity in any relationship, even in non-sexual context. If you take your date mate out to dinner at a place they absolutely do not want to go and make them eat food they do not want to eat, you might want to rethink your relationship. That’s a lack of consent. They did not consent to going to this place or to eating this food. Even if you think this is secretly their favorite place to eat in the world, you don’t know for sure. If they say or act like they don’t want to go to this restaurant for dinner, as far as you’re concerned, they don’t want to go. Case closed.

Consent is even more important in the context of a sexual relationship. If you want to do anything in regards to sexytimes, you want to make sure your partner is on board. This could be by saying yes, reciprocating, smiling, whatever. Important note: the absence of a no does not mean yes. If your partner is pushing you away, saying “stop,” crying, passed out, etc., they’re not consenting. If they are drunk or underage, they cannot consent while knowing the full repercussions of their actions.

But okay, let’s say this is a partner who is into fighting back. (As in, they’ve specifically told you this, not “well they’re fighting back but they actually like it.”) What do you do then? The two of you come up with a safe word. This is a word that, no matter what, you or your partner (or partners) say this word, everything stops.

In 50 Shades, Christian blatantly ignores when Anastasia says the safe word. And when she protests that he’s doing something she doesn’t want to do, he threatens to tie her up and gag her. In a very non-sexy, threatening way.

“But it’s about BDSM!” some of the masses cry out. “BDSM is all about pain and control and–” nope. Christian is not a good dominant, and he ignores what most consider to be the three basic rules of BDSM; Safe, Sane, and Consensual. And beyond that, there is no aftercare for Anastasia. Scenes for a submissive can be traumatizing and emotional, and a good dominant will make sure their submissive is okay. Aftercare usually consists of the dominant snuggling the submissive and calming them down. It can take hours. Many BDSM couples watch feel-good movies or partake in similar relaxing activities as part of aftercare.

In 50 Shades, Christian leaves Anastasa after scenes, no matter how upset she is. He leaves her to cope on her own. Which is exactly the opposite of what should be done.

“It’s just a book,” many people online have said. “Were you upset when children died in The Hunger Games?” The answer is yes, I was. Moreover, every death of a child was accompanied with a thought of “wow, this is really fucked up, something needs to change.” There was no such thought in 50 Shades. Arguably, Anastasia realizes that this relationship is toxic and leaves Christian, but there are two more books of her going back and letting Christian abuse her. And since we’re comparing The Hunger Games to 50 Shades, The Hunger Games has been seen referenced throughout protests all over the world; many people have quoted Katnis’s line “if we burn, you burn with us,” or have used the three finger salute as a symbol of protest in the streets. Stories do not exist in a vacuum. They have an effect on people. There are girls out there wondering where their Christian Grey is. There are ads around my town advertising adult shops that contain “more than 50 shades.” If it were “just a book,” this wouldn’t be true.

I’ve seen one argument online that says “Ana knew what she was getting into. She signed a contract.” That contract may have outlined her future sex life, but it did not tell her that Christian would continue after she’d revoked consent. It didn’t tell her that he would be emotionally and sexually abusive, that he’d bug her phone and stalk her, that he’d control her to the point that she wasn’t allowed to leave town to see her mother, that she’d find him in her home without her inviting him or giving him a key.

If you take away anything from the phenomenon that is 50 Shades, let it be a guide on how not to treat people. And please, if you must see for yourself how awful 50 Shades is, do not buy the book from anywhere other than a second hand store. Don’t go see the movie in theaters or buy the DVD/Blu-Ray when it comes out. Do not give any money to people who will give it back to the people who facilitated this steaming heap of shit to come to life.


I’ve always struggled with the concept of death. I mean, when I’m sick, or feel a random pain, I’ll make myself dizzy with anxiety over “this is it, this is the end, this is how I die, I don’t want to die, I’m not ready to die, I’m too young to die.” And occasionally I’ll think about the timer my body’s running that ticks away to my natural death. But when I think of actually dying, it just seems like it won’t happen, or it will just be a thing that happens. No real loss, nothing to be upset about. I’m dead. Boom.

It’s that way with other people, too. When my poppop and great grandmom died, I don’t remember crying. I was sad that I couldn’t see them anymore, but I wasn’t sad that they were dead. I cried when my sibling shattered her spleen because I knew she was in pain and she was losing so much blood she couldn’t stay conscious. I cried because I was scared of the situation. I don’t remember crying over the death of any of our (few) pets as a kid. I am 100% more likely to cry over the death of a fictional character than I am to be upset over the death of something that was real and alive.

Maybe that’s because I have a million reincarnation theories. My most visited one is that there is only one soul that has ever existed, and every time it’s body dies, it reincarnates into another body at any point in time, human or not. It has a similar personality to its past life, but not identical. And then, when that body dies, it reincarnates into someone or something with a similar but not identical personality as that life. So, according to that theory, you (the reader) and I have the same soul, but we’re at least one death away from being each other. Following this theory, that means fictional characters die forever once they die, because they have no soul.

I didn’t cry when Robin Williams died. I wasn’t even upset that he was gone. To me, he would live on in his works. And I don’t mean that in a “this is how I’ll cope with him being gone,” I mean that in my mind, his death doesn’t matter in the mortal sense. And this is how I view all celebrity deaths.

Monty Oum himself.

The first person I ever can remember being actually upset over their death was a man that I knew hardly anything about. Monty Oum.

For those who don’t know, Monty was a part of the Rooster Teeth team. He died due to a severe allergic reaction to medication. It was very sudden; Rooster Teeth announced that Monty had been hospitalized for undisclosed reasons one day, and two days later, we got the word that he’d died.

I’d been trying to get out of the RT community for months. I don’t like the way the guys conduct themselves, the slurs and things they throw around. They’ve said in the past they’re never going to change for their fans, so rather than fight people over the whole “your fave is problematic” crap, I decided to just… quietly slip away from the community. I stopped watching them. Stopped following them on twitter. I found new Let’s Players to watch, new people to occupy my time.

I got the news of Monty’s hospitalization came to me through a friend on Facebook; they shared the link that Rooster Teeth had put out, asking for help to donate towards Monty’s hospital bills when he was inevitably released. I kind of shrugged it off; I knew Monty only through the first season of RWBY that I’d watched in the past. And I mean, being in the hospital is not the end of the world. I’ve been in and out of the hospital, as have my dad, my sister, and many of my friends.

Except he wasn’t released. He died. He died, and upon hearing the news through Markiplier, I cried. And then I got upset at myself for crying over this person I knew next to nothing about when I couldn’t even cry over my own grandfather dying. The more I read about Monty, the more blog entries I read written by the RT team about how he lived, the more I cried. I talked to my friend Ally, who is deeply rooted in the RT community. “At least you’re reacting,” she told me. “No one else really is.” She and I talked over Skype and cried. She watched the RT podcast that night, but I couldn’t; I had to go to dinner with my boyfriend and his sister, and I had to hold it together.

On the way to dinner, I texted my friend Rick about the whole thing. He was a lot more chill about the situation than I was, and at first, all I could think of were Ally’s words of “No one else is really reacting.” But nonetheless, we talked the entire way to the restaurant, and though I wasn’t any less sad about it all, I somehow felt at least a little better.

The more I read about Monty, and how he lived, what he did, how he interacted with others, the more I feel he was cheated. He deserved more time, more life, more chances to make his dreams a reality. He was only 33 when he passed, and yet he literally never wasted a single second of his life. He was always doing something, always working toward a goal, always dreaming bigger. And always encouraging others to do the same.

As sad as I am, and as baffled as I am that I’m sad, I’m pretty sure Monty would want me (and the RT community) to keep moving forward. Onward and upward. On to the next project, the next dream.

Movie Review – Annie (2014)

If you were ever under the impression that I was not a musical theatre kid, or a Broadway movie kid, or a go-watch-every-kids-movie-in-theaters-possible kid, I’m sorry. You are sorely mistaken. You have been deceived. I am all of these things.

I wanted to go see this movie ever since the first trailer came out. Annie was one of my favorite musicals as a kid, especially growing up with a sister named Annie who also had super curly hair. Before this one, I’d seen at least three movie adaptations, I worked in the light booth for a live production, and by the end of that run, I could sing every song by heart.

There was a lot of people who were actually upset over the adaptation, though. And I don’t mean “theory people,” people who only exist in theory and everyone just assumes they exist. I mean real, actual people that I have spoken with. On Facebook, one of my friends was upset that “they were changing the whole story, it shouldn’t be modernized, why isn’t his name Daddy Warbucks?!” (I’m not kidding, that last one was part of their argument.) And then, of course, there was the Internet Dweebs who yelled how it wasn’t right for Annie to be black, because Annie has ALWAYS been a white, red headed girl with freckles.

Me, I’m just happy when a movie has a female lead that’s worth getting emotionally invested in. And I love seeing how directors and writers modernize old ideas. Plop a Broadway plot in there? Two tickets for the next showing, please.

Of course, now that I’ve built up how excited for this movie I was, you’re probably not going to believe me when I tell you that I’m very critical when it comes to movies. Especially if I see them with my boyfriend, Brandon. After we’re out of the movie, we’ll discuss acting, camera work, audio mixing, character development, the whole she-bang. Even if we like it, we’ll end up picking it apart.

We walked out of Annie completely stunned.

Not even five minutes into the film, Brandon leaned over to me and said “this is the best shot sequence I have seen in a really long time.” And through the movie, it continued to be the best camera work I’ve seen in a long time. Realistically, when you’re watching a movie, you should forget you’re watching it through the eyes of a camera lens. This is hard for me to do with most modern movies; the camera shakes, the swoops under and over and through things to remind you “we shot this in 3D, too, and YOU didn’t go see it!”, the amounts of cuts, the too-close close ups… all of the above were absent from Annie.

I was really impressed with the fact that it passed the Betchdel test in probably, say, less than fifteen minutes? For those of you who don’t know, the Betchdel test can only be passed if two women in a movie have a conversation, and that conversation is about something other than a man. (It happens less often than you think.) And through the movie, it continued to pass the test. Women conversed with other women freely, and without the need for it to be strictly about men.

The soundtrack has changed from that of the Broadway production; songs have been added, remixed, and re-worded to fit the modern era. “Easy Street” was different enough to throw me off while I was singing along, to the point that I wondered I was trying to sing the same song they were singing. (The answer, of course, was no; they were singing an updated version.)

I personally thought all the acting was great. I’ve heard people say they thought Cameron Diaz played the role of Miss Hanagan poorly; I think she played to the script she’d been given, and played it well. Miss Hanagan in this version was a has-been and wanna-be pop star who almost made it. Her character reminded me of Kesha’s stage persona if her stage persona had disconnected from her real personality altogether, had demanded her own record deal, and was tossed into the streets with no one to help her. Bitter, mourning for the old days, mostly always bitter, and trying to seduce every man that knocked on the door without giving up. And forced to foster children because she couldn’t find a better job.

The true star of the show was, of course, Quvenzhané Wallis, who played Annie herself. I had seen Quvenzhané before, in Beasts of the Southern Wild as Hushpuppy. (I didn’t know this until I IMDb’ed her, to be honest; I thought she was a newcomer to the film world.) And even though she blew me away in Southern Wild, especially considering her age at the time of shooting, she was ten times better in Annie. She was spunky, sassy, sweet, and most of all, believable. I find a lot of child actors to be talented, but there are moments I can tell that they’re just actors playing a role. Quvenzhané had none of that. You could tell me she lived the life of Annie through and through, and I would probably believe you without a second thought. On top of that, she had a great singing voice, and she totally nailed all the songs she sang.

The only thing that disappointed me about the movie was Sandy. In Annies before, Sandy the dog had been a somewhat key and iconic part of the movie/musical/what have you. Sandy’s involvement in the new Annie was negligible. She was seen on-screen only a handful of times, and had very little plot significance. I’m only upset about this because A) I love dogs, and B) the dog they picked to play Sandy was absolutely adorable.

All in all, I would go see this again. And again. And again. I would pay to see it every single time. Five out of five peppers for this one.


Wisdom Nuggets


I was invited to write as a guest for fellow NaNo veteran Ellie Mack! Check it out!

Originally posted on quotidiandose:

Senna  Collings shares some muddy middle advice for those of us who get bogged down. This is usually the point when I  start to go back over my  writing and edit.  Bad Idea! I always lose steam in the middle. In the past I’ve given into the Nazi editor, and cut over 25K words from my work. What was I thinking? 

This year I am trying a different approach. I have implemented Lazette Gifford’s system, and broken down my outline into 30 points.  I have an index card with notes for each day.  So far it’s working pretty well except for those days I haven’t been able to write. ( See Senna’s point #3) 

I must admit to violating #1, 3, and 4. (hangs head in shame) But we keep at it, each year  learning to do better.  I think anyone who is doing NaNoWriMo will benefit from these…

View original 961 more words

Car Trips

A lot of my life has been spent in a vehicle. Between hour long bus rides to school, driving all the way to Florida and back for a vacation, I know what it’s like to be stuck in a seat for way too long.

The most consistent time spent in a car, though, has probably been spent driving to and from my grandmother’s house. On average, I spend 96 hours a year in a car headed to Delaware. That’s a whopping 1,536 hours total for my life – and that’s not counting how often we went back to see her once we first moved to Pittsburgh, or trips to visit others in that area that were not my grandparents. So my parents were no stranger to finding ways to keep my sister and I entertained for six hours in one sitting.

The first way that comes to mind is window clings. My mom owed minivan after minivan for a very long time, and her last two had bucket seats in the middle row, so Annie and I each got our own window. We’d get window clings as gifts from our grandparents before we left for back home; the set I can remember most vividly was in ice cream set. There were cones, a dozen colors of ice cream, and toppings; Annie and I made ice cream treats that towered to the top of our windows. We’d pretend to open an ice cream shop and serve each other window cling ice cream.

Another was our sketch pads. We’d draw for hours quietly. One year we didn’t have window clings (they all got lost,) and so we drew notes for passing cars on our sketch pads, dabbed a little water from our water bottles onto the edges of the paper, and stuck them to our windows for the passing cars to admire.

We also had individual CD players, since it was before the age if iPods. We got them and sets of headphones for Christmas one year. Before each trip, we were allowed to go through my dad’s extensive CD library and pick out some favorites. Even back then, I was the one who wanted to listen to Martina McBride’s Christmas album in the middle of June; I can still see the jewel case art in my mind. We also fought over a Disney Classic CD, which had a bunch of music from the Disney movies on it. Eventually it got so bad that my parents got us a splitter, which was a really nifty device. You’d plug it into the headphone jack, and then plug up to three pairs of headphones into the little doodads that branched off from the headphone jack.

Eventually, my dad cracked and let us get a gameboy. We were only allowed to play it on car trips, and we had to switch off every half hour, and there came a point where my dad told us “no more game boy this trip, rest your eyes.” To top it off, this was the era before backlit hand held gaming, so if we were playing at night, we had to use an abysmally dim overhead light to try and see.

Around that time I started getting really, really good books for Christmas, as well as Borders gift cards. I got myself a two-headed book light and read almost the entire trip sometimes. My all-time favorites to bring on any car trip, regardless of how may times I’d read the books, were The Palace of Laughter and The Tale of Desperaux. (Which was a challenging read, for sure, there was a surprising amount of French in it for a grade school level book.)

Once I was in 7th grade and Annie was in 6th, we got laptops from our cyber school to do school work on, but they also served as our recreational devices. I’d ask to take mine with me in order to write, and the answer was sometimes yes. I’d end up playing pinball half the time, but it was still a nice way to pass the time. When it got too dark, I’d have to shut it off, because the light of my screen would cause a glare on the windshield.

We also would tell stories to each other; we had several games that revolved around stories. Our personal favorite was the one word story game, where we’d each say one word at a time to make a story. Most of the time, they made no sense, and were about Elizabeth the Screaming Pickle or Tomathy the Possessed Toilet. She and I will still, to this day, text each other about those stories.

Anymore, whenever we go back home, I’ll bring my spiffy new 3DS (my dad finally lets my sister and I buy whatever game systems we pleased as long as it’s with our own money,) a blanket, and some music. I haven’t taken a trip with Annie in some time; she and I have lived apart for almost three years now. Of course, now that my mom has moved out to Philly, she’ll be relying on my dad to get her a ride to Delaware for Christmas and Thanksgiving, so I’m very excited to take more car trips with her.

Especially if it involves Eliza or Tomathy again.

When I Grow Up

Story time!

One of our patients came in with her kids the other day. I love it when kids come into the office almost as much as I love it when dogs come into the office (which is more often than you might think.) They’re so cute and their tiny voices are adorable and I answer “what are you doing?” like fifteen times and it is great. This patient brought her two girls in and was waiting for her husband’s appointment to be done. While she waited, we sat and talked for a little while. We talked about her oldest daughter and how she has read almost all of the Pony Pals books (which is a pretty incredible feat, actually, Pony Pals was still growing when I was a kid. That’d be like me trying to read all of Junie B. Jones.) And from there, she told me that her oldest wants to be a writer when she grows up.

“Me too,” I told the girl. “I want to write when I grow up.”

The daughter got a little shy about it, which I assumed was because I was a Big Person with a Big Person Job. And talking about what you want to be when you grow up to a Big Person who also wants to be the same thing as you when they grow up is a little daunting. Just ask five-year-old Senna; she was super shy around Big People who said they wanted to be singers when they grew up.

After a little bit of prompting from her mom, the girl recited a small saying that she’d learned; “if I can think it, I can write it. If I can write it, I can read it. If I can read it, other people can read it, too.” And that really, really stuck with me. At some point I want that on a decal in big letters on my bedroom wall, I’m not joking, because it’s a really important thing for me to remember. And the more I thought about it, the more I saw my younger self reflected in this girl. I used to have notebooks filled with teeny tiny short stories, and I would write boldly, really hoping one day I’d become an author.

As I write this, I’m “living the author lifestyle” for the afternoon; I’m sitting in a cafe, on my second coffee, wrapped in a fringed shawl. I’m not that much closer to being a real author than I was when I was young, though. I can’t finish what I write most of the time, and I end up hiding my work from people, thinking, wow, this is awful, no one is going to want to read this. I’m writing specifically so that others can read what I write, and yet I’m afraid to show my stuff to people. Little Senna would show her work to literally everyone, and expect them to love it. I wrote boldly and whenever I wanted. One year, I even asked for a typewriter for Christmas (and got it, my dad bought an old electric one at a yard sale) so that I could feel like a true, sophisticated writer.

A slightly older Little Senna than the one I’m talking about. But still, Little Senna in all her short-haired glory.

So the fact that Now Senna sits around and pretends to write while actually watching Sailor Moon is probably a huge bummer to Little Senna. The other huge bummer would be that Big Senna has written so many things that might have had a chance to be published, but didn’t finish them. Heck, Big Senna is bummed about that, too.

And so the universe has provided me with another push to finish this dumb NaNoWriMo novel, despite thinking it’s getting worse and worse. (My boyfriend assures me that with every new copy that I send him that it’s still just as good as when I started, though I only believe him about 72% of the way.) I’m behind on my count by a day and a half (I have 21k words when I’m supposed to be at 23k, and trust me, that’s a pretty big gap,) I’m running out of steam, and I’m sacrificing sleep for only a few extra words, but mark my words, I’m going to finish this. And then I’m going to hand it to friends with red pens and say “destroy it,” and I’m going to revise it, and I’m going to get it published, even if I have to publish it myself.

Just watch me, Little Senna. I’m gonna do it.

NaNo Week Two – Mountain Climbing

I’ve never been a real outdoorsy person.

Granted, I’m more outdoorsy than my boyfriend; I like being out in the sunshine on a beautiful day, and I have this itch to get out and do something if the sun is shining and I’ve done nothing but sit on my butt all day. But as far as things like hiking, or camping, or taking extended walks through anywhere, you can usually expect me to be the one waiting by the car with a notebook or my phone.

Suffice to say, I’ve never been a good mountain climber, physically or metaphorically.

Week Two of NaNo is, in fact, a mountain. There is just so much there. And the drive up to the mountain base was just so easy. And in my head, I thought, “oh, cool, a mountain! That’ll be so neat, I bet I’ll be able to climb it this year!” And I sang campy car songs all the way along the road, picturing this happy little mountain in my head.

This is not a happy little mountain. This is a colossal mountain that extends into the clouds. You could convince me that there were ancient gods living on top of it in their version of paradise.

I feel like my plot is going nowhere fast, my characters are boring, and I’m putting in a lot of filler. My boyfriend and I will write side by side sometimes and he’ll look over several times in an hour and tell me “you’re not writing” because I’m busy wasting time on the internet.

It is a struggle.

There’s this one patient who always comes into my office though and asks how my novel going. He is always so enthusiastic about whatever we’re talking about, my writing included. (Before NaNo started, he asked what I was writing, and I told him a blog post. He asked for my blog url there and then, and was super excited to read it. If you’re still keeping up with my blog, sir, hello!) I’m pretty sure my word count could still be only 100 words and he’d be super happy for me, that I got that much done. This morning I was putting off writing anything because I’d forgotten to transfer some of my story from my laptop to my google docs so I could work on it at work, until I saw him on the schedule.

Of all the people I don’t want to let down with this novel, he’s a big one. Because he has every confidence in me that I can get this dumb thing written 100% of the way. Every time, he tells me “just keep going, just keep writing, just keep plugging.”

And so I am. Because more than anything else I’ve ever written, I want people to read this. I want them to read it, and enjoy it, and talk about it excitedly to each other. This particular patient just helps me remember all of this.

And so here I go, scaling this mountain and pretending I’m a mountain goat, determined to climb the mountain that is Week Two.

See you at the top.

Follow my novel progress here, and help me raise money to support NaNoWriMo here!

Just need to keep telling myself this.

NaNoWriMo – Week 1

Alternate title: This Chapter is Over 12k Words With No End In Sight Someone Save Me From Myself

Week 1 is probably one of the most interesting weeks of NaNo. Everyone has this Great Wonderful Idea that they’re writing, the word sprint twitter is in full swing, the facebook group is lively as ever, and everyone is happily passing out tea and coffee suggestions.

My placeholder cover. Woo!

This year seems to be the year of Anything Is Possible. I got my (very non-writer) boyfriend to join in on the fun, and he’s writing his own novel. He has an idea that he absolutely loves, and even hopes he can turn into a webcomic of some sort, which would be great. On top of that, this year I’m actually attending events. He and I both went to the midnight kick-off at iHop, met some great people, got stickers, and wrote a good amount. I’ve been to two write-ins since then and met some super awesome people.

I actually am in love with my story and characters, and I can see this story being something that people pick up and read more than anything else I’ve ever written. Any time a patient comes into the office with a book, I can’t help but get giddy thinking maybe someday that’ll be my book. I even have an excerpt on my NaNo page that I am happy with (and I’m never happy with exerts.)

I brought a single chapter with twelve thousand words into this world. Truly, anything is possible.

I’m actually really distressed about this. I’ve always been the kind of person to write abysmally short chapters. As in, a few pages in Microsoft Word short. Scrivener happily reports that in a hardback, my first chapter as it is, right now, is 50 pages long. And I’m still not done with it. This is unprecedented for me, and it worries me, because oh my god this is going to be way too long, no one is ever gonna get through it.

Nonetheless, I have been assured that chapter length is a matter to worry about in December, which has unofficially been dubbed my wrimos everywhere was “National Novel Revision Month.”

The other reason I’m worried is Week Two. The Dreaded Week Two.

Week two is the steepest part of the mountain. Week two is when you know where everything is supposed to go, but you don’t know how to get it there. I always lose just about all motivation during week two. Of course, I’m hoping this year will be different; for one thing, I have no idea how my novel is going to end, which could make things easier, or maybe a whole lot worse.

Either way, I’m pushing through. I’m determined. I have my Big Girl Pants on and I desperately want to finish this novel.

We’ll see just how much of this determination I can hold on to in the coming week.

Want to help me raise money for the people who help me write each November? Click here!

I Am The Annoying Christmas Person

It’s true. I’ve always loved Christmas. I’m the really annoying person who is super enthusiastic as soon as it starts getting chilly. And everyone asks the question, “how can you possibly have the energy for Christmas already?”

I’ve liked Christmas since I was little. I used to ask to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer. I’d want to put up the Christmas tree as soon as November hit, and I was always sad when we took it down. Any Christmas that wasn’t a white Christmas, I would get really upset about it.

Christmas was always a big affair when I was younger. The Christmas eve, Annie and I would get to open our first presents, which were always new pajamas that we’d wear that night. We would sit at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning and wait to be told breakfast was ready. Breakfast was always pancakes and eggs and it always tasted like magic because it was Christmas morning. And we’d eat as fast as we could because after breakfast was presents. And we’d have to wait for our dad to get the video camera and make sure we had a blank tape and wait for the red light to come on and we’d yell “Merry Christmas!” at the camera and then open stockings, and then take turns opening presents under the tree, presenting our spoils to the camera every time. (Later in life, I was responsible for transferring these from tape to DVD, and the one memory that sticks out is hearing my young self yell “POOCHIE! POOCHIE! I GOT A POOCHIE!”) And we’d spend the rest of the day playing with our new toys while our parents packed up the car, because that evening (or the day after,) we’d make the six-hour trek to Delaware to see our relatives.

Our grandparents would have a whole other Christmas. We’d eat Christmas breakfast of pancakes and eggs and scrapple and it was always good, and then we’d open our Delaware stockings that Santa came through the front door to fill because they didn’t have a chimney, and then we’d have to wait for the night to open everything else. That night, we’d have a belated Christmas dinner with my cousins and aunt and uncle and then we’d all take turns opening presents under Mommom’s beautiful tree. And each day was another Christmas. We’d see friends and family and exchange gifts and eat wonderful food and talk and laugh, and it was good.

My mom moved out of my dad’s house the summer before my senior year, and I went with her. That year was the first year I started suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as seasonal depression and SAD.) As soon as the leaves started falling, I felt really down, and like nothing was worth it. Not even Christmas. I didn’t know what was wrong with me; I hadn’t realized I was depressed, I just thought I was broken. I wasn’t excited over Christmas, so I had to be broken. Something was definitely wrong with me, and no one seemed to understand, not even my boyfriend or mom. My dog was pretty much my only real friend, it felt like. To top it off, the holidays seemed broken, too; I only saw a fraction of the people I usually did because I didn’t get to see my dad’s side of the family or friends, or even Annie. Things started looking up late spring, and I finally figured out that I’d suffered through my first round of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

And so it comes back, every year. I’ve been looking into a sun lamp, since one of the leading causes of SAD is lack of vitamin D from sunlight, but those things ain’t cheap. So I do my best to get through as best I can. As much as the season does a number on me, I get annoyingly excited annoyingly early for Christmas because it helps pull me through. I start getting pumped and counting how many sleeps til Christmas (65) before Halloween starts because it’s the best way I know how to not think about the days getting shorter and more overcast and what that’s gonna do to me. Even with my messy Christmas (which will be messier this year, with my sister in college and my mom moving back east,) Christmas is still a beacon of like, cheeriness to me.

I know it’s annoying, but please, forgive me if I seem overeager or start blogging for a holiday two months away.