Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Assemblage a Success

Here are some photos of my "Skeletons in the Closet" assemblage I did for my class.  At first, most of the others at the center didn't know what assemblage is until I showed them some pictures of such art I founded on the Web, then made an example at home. Once they saw my example, they got into the idea, and now some even want to do some of this on their own. I was glad to have introduced this idea to them and that I got to do it after months of planning and proposing the idea. I've already begun buying more cheap game pieces to try making another such assemblage.

I had spray-painted my box at home before before beginning the project at work. One person who participated had to paint her box in class. It took the first day for her just to do that, but she finished the next day.

Each participant had their own theme and brought their own objects and materials. The center provided glue, scissors, paper, beads, markers and such for embellishment.  Click HERE and HERE to see some of the materials I used for my piece.

The finished piece. Some objects are not visible in this shot, so I took
closeups of different areas.



This was hard to photograph without being so dark.
Using the flashing made it too bright and blurry. These are some
of the handmade hangers and the shoes scattered on the floor of the closet.
The "carpet" is felt protector pads and the walls are
lined with brown construction paper.

I made this bra myself. I probably should not have used
black, since I had a black dresser drawer set in the closet
(the dresser was originally unpainted and I made it black).
This  makes the bra hard to see.
Above is the closet door. The skeleton was printed
and mounted on foam and decorated with silver glitter
and black beads. I hung the purses with chess pieces (the other
purse unfortunately is not visible in this photo). I glued the pants
on the hanger to the skeleton's hand. The mirror is made from
aluminum foil wrapped on cardboard and the trims are from a See's
 Candy box lining.  Below is the bottom of the door, with some of the hangers
scattered, along with a hand-made pair of
panties and some umbrellas (drink umbrellas).







I printed his OMG image and emojis and a blank speech
bubble and mounted them on a piece of foam. The piece was
glued on to the top of the closet.



I pasted an image of a screaming mouth
on  the fake Barbie's face to make her appear
to be screaming.





I angled the camera to get this shot. The
plastic dinosaur skeleton is mounted above the dresser (hard to see in
this photo) and is holding the bra and one
of the clothes hangers. the clothes arranged are
glued to the hanging rod so as not to fall off.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's in a Name, or Title?

Before I began notes for my memoir more than year ago, I had felt discouraged by the idea considering what had inspired me to do so.   If yo regally read my blog since then, you may recall that I felt I was about to do something too similar, but that others convinced me I have a different story to tell.  The other day, I came across this blogpost:

Allegra Nation

The depression memoir “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel was so much of a smash hit that Hollywood made a movie out of it. I suppose that should prompt me to write a memoir called “Risperdal Nation” since I’m legitimately schizophrenic. My life isn’t nearly as interesting as Elizabeth Wurtzel’s, so maybe I’ll have to hold off for a while. You know what else would make a weird memoir? “Allegra Nation”. Ever since having nasal surgery in 2006, I’ve been gagging on my own snot and blowing my nose like an elephant whenever I’m out in public. Allegra seems to be the only over-the-counter medication that works so far. If you managed to get this far in the blog post without falling asleep, kudos to you. The point I’m trying to make is Elizabeth Wurtzel is a one of a kind author with one of a kind skills. To try and duplicate her work would be next to impossible. You can’t just remove the word “Prozac” from the title of your memoir and replace it with another medication. Suppose you have chronic constipation and you tried to write a memoir called “Phillip’s Colon Health Nation”. Would that sell very many copies? “The diarrhea splatter looked like guts after the Vietnam war.” I’m sorry, but there’s simply no way to make diarrhea or constipation interesting. Same thing with “Yaz Nation”. I suppose a memoir about having lots of sex would prove to be spicy and hot, but we don’t need to hear that you constantly used Yaz as a birth control pill, especially now that women are having strokes because of it. Hehe! I said “strokes” in a sentence about sex. You know what else would make a weird memoir? “Pamprin Nation”. There’s simply no way to make periods sound readable. “After I bled all over the floor like a Saw character, I yelled at my boyfriend so loudly that he began bleeding out of his ears.” There’s simply no way a blogger with testicles can make that sound interesting without coming off as a sexist pig. I assure you I’m not a sexist. I’m merely trying to prove a point that if you try to write a memoir based on a random medication, you won’t get the results you want. Elizabeth Wurtzel is a Generation X icon with a lot to say, even after 1994, when Prozac Nation was published. Her memoir is more than just constant complaining about being sad. It’s social commentary. It’s psychology. It’s something you can’t write if you’re constantly ingesting Phillip’s Colon Health pills


I knew I could not use the same title since I was writing on a similar topic. Titles aren't copyrighted, but most people would not dare duplicate a highly distinctive one. A generic one, like "P.S. I Love You," has been used over and over, as a Beatles song title, a teen romance I once read  as well as other books, including the Cecelia Ahern novel that was made into a movie in 2007 (I saw the movie, not knowing about the book). No doubt someone else will try using this title in the future for either  a book, song or film title.   Confusion with other works with the same name is the main disadvantage to reusing such generic titles.

Despite what the quoted blogpost says, you can write a memoir on your experience with any medication as you will be doing so from your perspective, something I was told a year ago when I felt discouraged by my idea. I read that Wurtzel had wanted to title her memoir I Hate Myself and I Want to Die, but that her editor convinced her otherwise. The title that was chosen sounds less like one person's memoir and more like a look at the use of Prozac as a whole. If any other medication were written about in a memoir or in a nonfiction book looking at the use of the med in question as a whole, the person penning such a work will find a way to put his/her idea across and come up with a title that that fits. Even if their editor eventually convinces the writer otherwise on the title. I agree most of the fictional titles mentioned in the post quoted above seem a little weird, but there are ways to make the med in question work as a memoir. The person composing the story will have something to say about their individual experience with the medication, how they got onto it and things like that.  I just happen to have the same condition as Wurtzel (dysthymia) and get on the same antidepressant (Prozac), but it took me much longer to find out had this condition and that I needed Prozac.  It's been 30 years since the introduction of fluoxetine (known by the trade name Prozac) as an approved antidepressant and people are still using it today, as I have been doing. If I had been prescribed any other antidepressant, I certainly would not have thought to title my memoir "Paxil Nation," or "Zoloft Nation," but would have found a way to use the name of the medication in the title somehow as I have done with my work-in-progress, "Delays and Detours on the Road to Prozac: A Memoir of Depression and Anxiety." It took me a while to come up with this title, but not too long after I'd written my longhand rough draft more than year ago. 

Some side notes: I'm deciding whether to write an afterword to my memoir, with notes on Prozac and on names of places mentioned in my book that others may not know about (my hometown, for instance).  Also, as I've said on my blog, I've begun writing a journal-like story set in the 80s. No title yet, and only about 11 pages types as of yesterday.

How do you come up with your titles?

Monday, April 24, 2017

When to Avoid Chronology








When I began writing longhand notes more than year ago for my memoir, I found myself not following a timeline. Rather, I began seeing series of events that could easily make up a story in and of themselves.  This was how I chose to group the events. When one family friend read the preliminary story I had sent as PDF by email, she critiqued me for not following a timeline. This made me panic as to how much rewriting I was going have to do in order to keep the details I'd included intact. To write everything chronologically was going to take a lot of redoing and rewriting. Yes, I know "Writing is re-writing is re-writing.." But could I do this without having to totally reconstruct the timeline?

What I did not know then was that some people do advise avoiding chronology in a memoir. Here are one such piece of advise from this post on Standout Books:

4. Avoid chronology

That’s right.
Memoirs are distinct as they underplay chronological dates and times which novels, short stories and even autobiographies rely so heavily on.
Of course, our lives are not comprised of solitary, isolated bundles of experience. Rather, the repercussions of our life choices and events all form threads which bind together to create experience. The single contained nugget of your life you are writing about will of course have implications on other aspects of your life too.
It’s important to bear in mind that the actual turning points and the implications of the turning points are two separate entities. It is understanding the turning points (i.e. the events which have inspired the memoir) which are significant to the story and require deep unpicking to succinctly convey their emotional significance.
So, how does one avoid chronology in memoir writing? The answer is simple.
Ignore it. 
This appears to be what I have done. I kept seeing different subjects in my life I felt were important to the story. One chapter is devoted to what occurred in 2001 just before the fateful September day. I almost could have written an entire story on that year!  But in each chapter, I did mention events in order, though in the 2001 chapter, I began with an overview of the year, then began with January 2001 (which included my 30th birthday) and ending with the 9/11 incident.  Another chapter takes on another year of what I labeled my personal traumas.  I go in order of months, dates for that year. 

Do not confuse memoir with autobiography.

Memoirs exist to express the essence of a moment in time, not to list a series of events. Don’t restrict your story to a front-to-back chronology of how you ended up where you are today.
Instead, hone in on the most compelling moments, memories, and emotions. Rather than focusing on the events of the story, focus on the purpose of it, and steer what you choose to share toward that purpose. Just as you would in a novel, allow yourself to skip time, ignore meaningless events – and get to the good stuff.

Once again, this what I have appeared to have been doing.  

When I began writing my memoir, I had no idea of how to go about it--just write down what I felt contributed to what I planned to write about.  I can see that all this time I had the right idea and approach. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How To Write About Your Life

From Writerslife.org:

How To Write About Your Life - Writer's Life.org






'Write what you know' is age-old writing advice that has been given to us writers time and time again. While we can decide how to interpret this, writing about your own life and your own experiences is that path that many writers choose to take.
Even in highly fictionalised work, we can’t help but be influenced by what we have experienced in our own lives, the people we’ve met, the places we’ve been, the conversations we’ve overheard. Times of joy, of loss, of anger - the way we feel, what we have endured - all these things come out in our stories, whether we consciously decide to include them or not.
Harnessing what happens in your life and using that to influence your stories, whether a memoir or a piece of fiction can be an incredibly powerful tool for a writer. But how do we do it? Here are some helpful tips:
Keep a notebook with you at all times
Keeping a notebook handy wherever you go is a sage piece of advice for any writer. You never know when a thought might strike you that you want to use in your story. You also never know when you might overhear a conversation or have an experience that you want to remember in exacting detail. A notebook allows you to capture everything you are thinking, feeling and experiencing at that moment so no detail will be lost later.

I haven't been doing this one, but now I think I should. I'm sure I can find one that's small enough to carry in my purse. 


Get in touch with your emotions
Being able to capture and express emotions is hugely important when it comes to writing. We need our readers to be able to engage with our story, and the characters within it, on an emotional level. Whenever you feel an emotion strongly try to write about it, what caused it? How do you physically feel? If it involved another person, how did they react? What thoughts went through your mind? Being able to really capture the details of our emotions will make them all the more real, raw and beautiful when we express them on the page.

Before I decided on a memoir, I'd also considered the possibility of a novel, but when I began taking notes, it began sounding more like memoir.  Either way, it would have been based on my life experiences with depression and beginning on Prozac. 


Decide what you are comfortable with
Of course, when you choose to write about your life you have to decide how much you want to expose. If you are writing a memoir readers will expect you to get down to the nitty-gritty, to share personal secrets, to expose your flaws. If you are using your life experiences in a work of fiction you need to decide how far you will stray from the truth, and which experiences you are comfortable retelling and sharing with the world.

Say yes to things outside of your comfort zone
The more our lives are full and interesting, the more we will be inspired to use them in our work. Get out there and live the most exciting life you can. A good story is full of unexpected events and by going outside of our comfort zone and saying yes to things we perhaps wouldn’t usually, we often find ourselves in situations which are simply too good/ scary/ funny/ bizarre not to share with our readers!

For both of these, I decided to say what I felt mattered to the focus of the memoir.  Though it's a true story, I did exaggerate some details, but kept them as close to the truth as possible.  




Engage with others
Talk to people. Everyone you can. The most interesting stories have a range of characters and perspectives and to write them well, you must have experience with a range of people in the outside world! Even engaging with people you don’t like can be helpful for that villainous character - the evil doctor, the controlling husband, the mean boss. The more you talk to people the more they will open up and share their stories with you too.

This is one I haven't done much of, almost none at all. I have told many people I know about my memoir, since I have mentioned it on Facebook. I now am trying to think who I wold possibly need to talk to about this. I now wonder if I should explain more about why and how I was diagnosed as dysthymic.  I've also considered writing an afterword to my story, explaining some things mentioned such as SSRIs, my hometown and other things mentioned that readers may not readily know about.

Use your senses
Try to pause in your life, and really zone in on what you are feeling, seeing, smelling touching, tasting and so on. Often it is easy to go days without really concentrating on our senses. Next time you are out walking really listen, really look, really smell and note down what occurs to you. If you are in a bustling city pay attention to what is happening, the noises, the people. Observant details that ring true help readers immerse themselves in a story, so even everyday experiences can be used to help make our writing better.
Reflect
We often feel differently about things that have happened after time has passed. Memories change, emotions settle, we move on. Reflect on things that have happened to you in your past - how do you feel about them now, what would you have done differently, if anything at all? Writing about our pasts and how time has changed us can also be powerful fuel for any story.
I've tried my best to recall what incidents contributed to my feelings of depression and describe them as accurately as possible.  Not everything can be exact, but I've described them as best as I can, again possibly exaggerating some details.  



Writing about your life is a great way to reach out to readers and connect with them. Whatever kind of story we are writing, we can use our lives to help make it richer, more interesting and more real.
I'd have to say this is basically what I have been doing.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading Out Loud


Royalty Free Clipart Image of a Little Girl Reading to Her Stuffed Animals


Today at her blog  Discarded Darlings, Jean Davis writes about reading your work out loud while in the process of editing. I was immediately reminded of something that I recalled in my memoir.

In general, I've had trouble reading anything out loud. Others have said that I read too fast and that they can't hear what I am saying.  I'm guessing this comes from the fact that I'm normally the quiet, reserved kind of person. This sort of people can get nervous when it comes to doing speeches in class--something I dealt with in with high school and college, since speech was required both times.

"Does reading out loud help you remember things better?" asks this blogpost.   From the post:

Reading Out Loud and Memory

The Production Effect

When we read, we are using our visual pathways to form memory links. We remember the material because it was something we saw. People who have photographic memory are extraordinarily good at making these kinds of memory connections. For the rest of us, relying only on visual memory may leave us with many gaps, and so we have to find other ways to remember things. When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and so not only form visual but also auditory links.
Art Markman, Ph.D. writes in his blog in Psychology Today about the production effect, which explains exactly why reading out loud causes us to remember better. Specifically referring to a study in which learners were given a list and asked to read half of it out loud and half of it silently, the learners were able to remember the part of the list they read out loud a lot better than the part of the list they read silently. He adds that while there are memory pathways of visually seeing the words and also the auditory pathways of hearing the words, there is also a memory link to the actual production of the word, hence the production effect. Especially if the word or content is different, it makes it easier to remember.

Connecting to What You Read

However, what you should remember is that simply reading your entire textbook before an exam will most probably do nothing for you. Why is this? It’s because simply reading without categorizing, asking questions, and making connections does not do anything to organize the material in your mind. If you do not make connections, you do not have anything to anchor what you have read into your memory. Besides, wouldn’t you rather understand what you are reading rather than simply needing it for an exam and then forgetting it later?
Reading out loud while studying can be annoying, as it not only takes a longer time, but also has the possibility to make you look slightly deranged if you are muttering quietly to yourself in a library. However, it is another very effective strategy for remembering things. It’s worth the risk of looking like a lunatic so that you can remember better.
Another great way to learn better is to use Brainscape’s smart, adaptive-learning flashcards, which can help you learn a huge variety of subjects, from foreign languages to science, mathematics, and more. Check out all the Brainscape flashcard sets here.

I kind of agree with the part reading out loud when studying. Though sometimes it did come in handy when learning to pronounce foreign-language words or science terms derived form Latin or Greek. But it certainly was annoying and time-consuming when studying for that boring history exam. 
In my memoir, I recalled that having trouble speaking up is no doubt something that has been brought on my anxiety tendencies.  I'm now seeing trouble reading even one part of my memoir out loud!





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

3 Good Reasons to Keep Your Book Shorter than 80,000 Words

In the midst of editing and feeling frustrated on how long a memoir should be, I came across this article from the Huffington Post:
Kill your darlings. It’s a phrase you’ve all heard, but how many of you have been brave enough to be truly ruthless with your own writing, to cut in a big and bold ways when needed? How many of you have written a too-long manuscript and allowed an editor to go in and hack huge swaths of work that represented weeks, maybe months, of effort and tenacity to get on the page? Courageous writers do, but so do writers who understand the business of writing, and why too-long books are more difficult to sell. There are in fact readership, publisher, and cost considerations that factor into why the industry standard for the length of a book is 80,000 words, and I would argue that in today’s publishing climate, less is more. Here’s why:



short attention span

1. Attention spans are shorter. People are reading more than ever, but there’s more competition than ever for those readers’ attention—and not just with other books. As an author you’re competing against online content like blogs and news sites, and against anything readers read. If you can, aim for under 80,000 words. I’ve been working with novelists and memoirists who are writing 60,000-word books, something I would have discouraged ten years ago. Writers will argue with me on this point, I know, reminding me of crazy-long bestsellers (Goldfinch, anyone?) and pointing to authors’ success with long books (J.K. Rowling, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ken Follett), but these authors are the exception, and most readers simply don’t have the attention span for long narratives. So if you’re just starting, aim short; if you’re running long and are pre-publication (and you can stomach it), work with an editor to cut cut cut.
(The image above is from another article on writing for short attention spans.)
 I'm not sure if I really have a shirt-attention span, but I seem to read faster than many people I know (I honestly hate to brag!)  But the longer the book is, the more days it takes me to read.





2. Overly long books are a red flag to agents and editors. While there will always be space in the literary landscape for authors’ magnum opuses, you shouldn’t feel that your first book needs to be one. In fact, you’re better off if it’s not. Putting yourself on the map with something more modest and reasonable is a good strategy. Long books are a big risk, and they’re difficult to sell because of agents’ and editors’ bandwidth. Publishers, for the most part, do not want to grapple with the higher costs of publishing a long book (see point 3), and most authors could use an aggressive edit. Someone recently told me that she thought Jodi Picoult’s editor was getting a little soft. I thought this was an interesting observation, but it led me to think about the fact that most editors probably err toward being soft because they’re not given the mandate to be aggressive. It’s easy to get very precious about your work, and much more difficult to trust that an objective eye (coupled with your hard follow-up work) may be just what your baby needs to truly thrive in the world. 

Not everyone has the desire or ability to write a book as long as War and Peace or Outlander.  I certainly don't think I will be writing a book of such a length. I still keep finding stuff I want to add or revise. I'm just trying not to be frustrated over the word count.  


3. The longer the book, the more expensive it is to produce. Most writers aren’t thinking about the length of their book and its correlation to various expenses, but it’s all publishers are thinking about. And if you’re self-publishing, or footing your own production or printing bill, you need to be thinking about it too. The longer the book, the more expensive the copyedit, design, and printing. If you have a 400-page book, you’re cutting into your profits to keep your price point low. And yet you want to keep the price point competitive to, well, compete. You’ll discover if you end up printing your book print on demand (the way of the future) that a single book is expensive, and it behooves you to keep your page count low. The difference in cost between a 60,000- and 100,000-word edit is about 20 hours of work, and about $1.50/unit on printing. So it’s a big deal—no matter who’s footing the bill.
Printing costs is definitely something that should be taken into consideration.

I'm still confused on how long it really should be. But many have said it's the effort you put in that matters and that it matters that you tell the story you want to tell. I want to believe all this and I'm trying to do so. I'm definitely telling what I want to tell and then some.  I now think that is what I need to be doing.