Monthly Archives: June 2014

Birthday Post: On Turning Twenty-Three

It’s my birthday today. I’m twenty-three.

It’s odd. On the one hand, all of my friends are older than me. Consequently, it feels like I’m always playing catch-up. I’ve reached the stage where some of my friends were four years ago, but now they’re onto the next one. On the other, I feel like 23 is the last year of “early twenties.” 24 seems solidly into “mid-twenties” territory. I’ve been out of undergrad for a year now—life’s getting real.

Is there a little bit of anxiety around that? Maybe. Some. I’m actually quite optimistic for this twenty-third year. I have an apartment and roommates—and I like them. I love my dayjob. Writing is going well. I’ve found several wonderful communities.

I was a *good* Peter Pan...

I was a *good* Peter Pan…

But I think there’s a reason I took to the role of Peter Pan so well. I’m reminded of my first visit to Virginia, and one of the first conversations I had with Sonic Boom:

“You know,” she said, looking me up and down as we arranged stuffed animals in her room. “You’re different than I expected.”

First visit, remember, so I was already kind of nervous.

“Oh yeah?” I said. “What did you expect?”

“Well, I didn’t think you’d have glasses…”

Oh. Okay, then.

“…and I thought you’d be older.”

“Ah,” I said. “Well, I am twenty-one…”

“Yeah, but I thought you’d be a grown-up. Like, thirty.”

I thought for a moment. “It’s kind of cool,” I said, at last, “because I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” Then, too nervous not to ask, I said, “So, is this better than you expected?”

Sonic Boom considered that, and then nodded very solemnly. “Yes.”

So there you have it. Apparently, thirty counts as being a grown-up, but twenty-one did not. I wonder where twenty-three falls?

But all joking aside, in hindsight, I see that I subconsciously hit the nail on the head: “I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” The youngest in the room, but still among peers. That’s a role I know. It’s one in which I’ve spent most of my life. It feels familiar. Safe, even.

Being the bright, precocious kid may be a familiar role, but it’s not a sustainable one. I’m growing older, growing up. The day will come when I walk into a room at a con and there’s a new twenty-three-year-old with starry eyes and unbridled optimism.

However…

There is a trade-off.

At twenty-three, there are stories that I am not ready to write. Honestly, objectively, I know: I do not yet have the emotional maturity or life experience to do them justice. Similarly, a repeated theme since starting my MFA is that I have a good writer’s toolkit. I just need to build cooler, more complex things with it. During this first semester, there was a lot of talk about “developing” and “maturing” my craft, finding my voice and who I am as a writer.

I don’t know who I am. Of course I don’t, I’m twenty-three. Writing is one of those disciplines in which takes years, if not decades, to fully mature. I got very lucky, very early—but I’ve still got a lot of growing up to do. Asynchronous development hasn’t bitten me this hard since grade three. I can see where I want to be. I want to be there now.

But I have to wait. You can’t rush time. You can’t rush maturation, or experience, or practice.

You can only keep writing.

And there’s an upside to this whole “I don’t know who I am/what sort of author I am” conundrum: I get to find out. Ideally, I think you should always be learning, always growing, always discovering and rediscovering both yourself and your art—at the same time, this is the stage of life when a huge amount of that work takes place.

I know a few things.

I know that my best works have always been love songs. I know that there is something in the air lately, in this golden sunlight falling through the leaves, and these ripening raspberries and first tiny proto-apples, which makes me stop and think, “Is this not wonderful?” I know that “faith over fear” is a theme running not just through Hapax, but several works since.

So, I’m twenty-three. Young enough to power through on grit and coffee; old enough to know I can’t do that for much longer. Too young to know myself completely; old enough to be aware of that. Too young to be grown up; old enough to be growing.

Let’s see how this goes.

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

There’s something in this poem that touches me very deeply. This is the sort of thing that sings to my own creativity:

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877.

Alone by Myself in Solitude: an introvert’s trials

So, in order to get time off for Stonecoast this July, I traded a whole bunch of shifts at work…which has resulted in me working eleven days straight. Right before that, I worked ten days straight—I had a day off in between the two stretches. Plus, I write at night.

I shouldn’t complain. I know people who work more hours, longer stretches, more stressful jobs.

But darn it, I really just want to sit alone by myself for a day. In the dark. And silence. Without people. Alone.

Huzzah for introversion!

As most people know, introversion isn’t about shyness or anti-sociability. It’s about energy production. Introverts generate energy within themselves, and lose it during social interaction. Important caveat: the energy loss varies from person to person. Chilling with friends takes energy, but significantly less than dealing with irate customers or dozens of strangers at a party. By contrast, extroverts generate energy through social interaction, and lose it when they have to be alone.

So ideally, for an introvert, life should look something like this:

IntrovertGraph

And for an extrovert:

ExtrovertGraph

Energy loss more-or-less equals energy generation. For introverts, that means that they get enough alone time to balance out the social interaction (which, while fun, is expensive, energy-wise). Extroverts get enough people time to compensate for the times that they’re alone. Everyone is happy.

It doesn’t always work this way.

Sometimes, like at cons, the creative environment and awesomeness of seeing everyone face-to-face masks the energy loss. That’s why so many introverts collapse after conventions; we’ve been steadily losing energy all weekend, we just haven’t really noticed. Adrenaline does the same thing. We had a fairly busy weekend in the brewery recently—and man, I was flying.

Sample! Growler! Growler sample growler! RETURN GROWLER SAMPLEGROWLERSAMPLESAMPLE!

And then I went home and promptly crashed.

Since Balticon, however, my own graph has looked more like this:

SadIntrovertGraph

It’s out of sync. My alone time isn’t enough to pay for the energy I’m spending on work, writing, and various other things. Think of a bank account. If my paycheque is suddenly slashed from $500 to $100/month (I’m using round numbers, bear with me), I’ll go into debt if I keep trying to pay my $200/month rent (again, I am pulling these numbers from the air).

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, your energy source is just as important as food and water. Extroverts need people. Introverts need solitude. Force them to go too long without their generator of choice, and bad things happen.

All of which explains my own exhaustion and irritability. Yeah, I’ll own up to that—I’m trying very, very hard, and I feel terrible after snapping at people, but it happens.

Oh hai. I see you there. Trying to take my precious, precious energy.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Oh hai. I see you there.
(Wikimedia Commons)

But what can we do? After all, at some point, every one of us will go through stretches like this.

Setting boundaries and limits helps, I think. I am protecting my few off-days. Communication, as well: explaining to people that you love them, AND ALSO need to sit alone by yourself in such solitude that you cannot even sense the presence of another human being.

And of course, knowing yourself and maybe planning for those stretches. For me, some of these extra shifts were unexpected; I’m trying to roll with it, but having strategies in place—carving out time with/without people, allowing yourself breaks, getting enough sleep and such, which I admit I struggle with—might have made this easier.

Ah well. Only a few more days. And then—

This:

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

Apparently, I’m getting a reputation as a lush! My ten-year-old self would be horrified. Two people sent me the same link to 18th century drink recipes—I raise my eyebrow at the ones with egg and cream, but some of them actually look quite good!

Multitasking: the Creative Life at Work

I sat at the spinning wheel. Grey afternoon light fell through the window behind me. The spinning wheel clicked gently as I moved my foot up and down. Pinch the wool. Draw. Release.

Besides the clicking, the log cabin was quiet. Faint traces of wood smoke lingered, but the hearth was growing colder. With no one else around, I let my mind wander.

Pinch. I hope they’re taking care of him. I wonder if he misses me. I wish I was there—I should be there. Draw. It’s meant to be me. I trust Mairi, but it’s meant to be me.

Release.

He’s my son.

Ha! Startled some of you, I bet.

So, here’s what is happening. I think the Victorian Dark Fantasy is starting to gel. The novel has changed throughout Stonecoast—I think the plot’s getting there, now I’m bearing down on voice and character. To help with this, my thoroughly brilliant mentor posed me an interesting challenge:

One thing you might want to do, and this will sound less strange to you as a playwright than to other people, is to go around being each of the main female characters for a while, and do things the way they would do them.  How do you feel as those characters?  How do you walk and talk? 

I laughed in delight upon reading this. So…I thought, grinning, I spend most of my days wearing period-appropriate clothing, doing period things…

Plus…I kind of stole half our buildings.

 

This house pulls double-duty, appearing as two different homes.

This house pulls double-duty, appearing as two different homes.

This is the house that gets to me most - it's a fairly major set piece.

This is the building that gets to me most – it’s a fairly major set piece.

Heck, I can reconstruct entire scenes in these buildings, mapping out exactly where this character was standing, where that one paused before coming around the corner. It’s like being on a movie set.

For some reason, I don't have any good pictures of Burwick House. That's ok - my villain's home is a highly exaggerated version anyway.

For some reason, I don’t have any good pictures of Burwick House. That’s ok – my villain’s home is a highly exaggerated version anyway.

 

Of course, we need an inn...

Of course, we need an inn…

 

So…I have the right clothing (mostly—for two of them, I really need a crinoline, and I only wear that in the brewery), I’m doing the right things, and I’m in the right place. Sometimes, it’s almost a little disorienting.

It’s also taught me a lot.

I’ve always talked with my characters. Usually as mental knitting—on the bus, while walking, during quiet times at work. Just relaxing, asking questions, hearing what the response is. Sometimes full-on conversations develop; Serafine, for instance, rarely shut up once she got going.

It’s one thing to invite a character into your head. Thus far, it’s been quite another to invite them into your skin. Really, really cool, but different. Because this way, I’m not guiding the discussion. I’m not prompting anything. I’m essentially retreating to the sidelines and seeing how my characters assert themselves once they have the space and freedom to do so.

 

  • One worries far more than she lets on; she’s clinging by her fingertips.
  • In another time, place, and culture, one could be a geek girl. As it is, she’s sensitive, carefully (and constantly, my God!) analyzing and observing.
  • And the last POV character…I don’t think I ever really understood the depths of her possessiveness, her sense of entitlement.

 

My circumstances definitely give me a leg-up, but it’s also interesting to take characters on field trips. Point out a streetcar, stop in a grocery store. What do they think, how do they react to this world so unlike their own?

It’s been fun—and I still love working on this story, still love exploring these people and their lives. Even after so long (yeah…longer than I anticipated…) the joy hasn’t ebbed.

Let’s just hope that I never, ever answer visitors as my villain.

Actually, that’d be hilarious.

But no.

I’ll be good. 😉

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

So, there’s the solar system, right? Then our galaxy, then our “local group” of galaxies, then our galaxy cluster, then our supercluster…and then the filaments.

Also, doesn't it kind of look like neurons?

Also, doesn’t it kind of look like neurons?

The thought makes me shiver. So many stars and worlds, so much void between them…

More than anything, it makes me want to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a Poem I Wrote In NZ Ended Up In An Opera

I don’t often write poetry. Sometimes I get the odd one, but I almost never share my poems.

But when I do, they become opera arias…

Story time! New Zealand and I adopted each other long ago. I love the landscape, the people, the culture, the history…but when I backpacked around the country by myself, I got a little homesick. To be clear: I had an amazing time, with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I do not regret a single second.

And I also missed home.

 

Of course, lately I've been pining for New Zealand...I think I left my heart there.

Of course, lately I’ve been pining for New Zealand…

146

116

 

So, one day while riding the InterCity bus between towns, I stared out the window at the impossibly green, mist-shrouded hills, and I composed some verse in my head. When I got to the backpackers’ that night, I tapped it out on my phone. Several weeks later, when I came home, I transferred it to my computer.

245

I liked it. Nothing super fancy or experimental; I wanted something simple. It had an interesting meter, though. The pattern of stressed syllables reminded me of someone running. Which was exactly what I wanted. It captured those nights in hostel bunk beds, staring at the bunk above me and trying to work out which direction home lay. I figured the poem might be interesting set to music (again, that very bare, understated pub song feel), but I don’t compose. Heck, I barely write poetry.

237

 

I came home. I forgot about it.

Fast forward to January 2013. I was rewriting the libretto for East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon. Since I was eighteen the first go-round and the performance requirements had changed in the interim, I was mostly rewriting from scratch.

Rose (our plucky young heroine) had an aria. There were some duets and trios, several chorus numbers for the kids. But the White Bear/Prince didn’t really have an aria of his own. I started thinking about how the enchanted Prince would feel: roaming through the northlands, lonely and just wanting to be warm again, waiting to come home…

And a spark of emotion and memory flared.

I dug into my files. I found the poem. It already had a strong meter; I’d already wondered if it would work with music.

Time to find out.

I slipped that poem into the opera almost unchanged (I think I altered the tense of one verb, maybe?). And there it’s stayed. My partner in this—composer Norbert Palej—did a beautiful job with the aria. I didn’t tell him what it was really about, and yet he crafted a lovely piece. The music aches.

Nothing you write is ever wasted. You never know when thoughts, emotions, and memories will reappear to inform your creative work. Save it—because someday, it may find its home.

-KT

 

Cool Thing of The Week

You didn’t think I’d go through all that without showing you the poem, right? I mean, it’s part of an opera now: I think I’ve lost any rights to qualms over sharing it!

I was waiting for the passing

Of the bleak and bitter night,

For the fleeing of the shadows

And the coming of the light.

I was waiting for the dawning

Of the absent summer sun,

And the waiting warmth that spurs me

On the distant roads I run.

I was waiting for the tasting

Of the season on the air,

For the old familiar fires

Breathing smoke upon my hair.

I was waiting for the greeting

And the chorus from the hearth,

For the end to all my calling

From the very end of Earth.

I was waiting for the sighing

When I stood before your door.

I am waiting, and so dying –

Waiting just a little more.

 

Ka hoki atu ahau ki a koe, Aotearoa; kei te aroha ahau ki a koe.  I'll come back, NZ. I do love you. :)

Ka hoki atu ahau ki Aotearoa; kei te aroha ahau ki a koe.
I’ll return to NZ. I do love you. 🙂