Fear and Loving in Fanfiction

So…the other day, I created a Tumblr. For fanfiction.

Let’s just go on ahead and get that out there. Take a deep breath. And now, we’ll diagram the sentence.

So: in which I create the air of “Man, have I got something to tell you.”
… : my chosen form of writing the action of scratching the back of my neck sheepishly.
The other day: this is a recent development.
I: that’s right, me.
Created: set up, somewhere far away, in the lands of This is Not Under my Name for Reals.
A Tumblr: a type of blog that’s a lot like Livejournal where people are very passionate about things they like.
. : another pause here. Another breath.
For fanfiction: for the purposes of writing and sharing online fictional works based on established characters from comic, cartoon, movie or television series.

This was how I started writing, you guys. The first writing I did was fanfiction. It was looking at other people’s playgrounds and jumping in the sandbox. It was picking up their dolls and shooting them out of cannons. It was painting on top of their pictures.

I am so happy. I haven’t felt so creatively vibrant in a long time. Even when doing NaNo, there was a certain degree of very, very, very hard work. This is fun. This is a playdate with myself. It’s changed everything for me.

I stopped doing fanfiction around early-ish college. At some point, someone somewhere – maybe just in my own head – said to me, “Okay, this has been fun, but if you’re going to be a Serious Writer(TM), you have to get into original work. Time to pack up the Barbies and get into the meatgrinder, kiddo.”

In fact, when I mentioned this whole development to someone recently, they asked me – with no malicious intent or anything – frankly, “So how are you going to monetize that?”

I couldn’t help balking. Because that’s not what this is about. This is just for me. This is a treat. This is a damn delight. And even if the stories themselves won’t see the light of publishing sunshine, the good lines and aspects of situations and adventures absolutely will. It’s dancing to a song on the radio. It’s making a sandwich. There’s no other goal to it than making something that wasn’t there and enjoying it.

When’s the last time you did something really crazy and fun? I recommend it.

A Writer’s Nightmare

Oh God.

Last night, I had a dream of a lush storyscape. Full of characters and beautiful scenery. There were accents and glorious tension. There was physical attraction, and oh the dialogue: natural and unique, the likes of a Hollywood-Dickensian lovechild.

I rose from my bed, grabbing an old book. A library book, bought at a used book fair. I opened to the pages and started to write in the margins, over the words themselves. It felt dirty. It felt so wrong, but I was so happy. Happy that these wonderful characters and their wonderful-er world hadn’t slipped from my nocturnal fingers.

And as I watched the ink bleed through each aged page…as I studied it, relieved that I had it all down…

That, dear reader, is when I actually woke up.

I woke up, realizing that not only had I not, in fact, captured this tale from my slumber but…

It was just a Harry Potter knock-off.


If there is one thing I always feel like imparting to people, that I try to tell people that they can do, that I wish I could have told myself some number of years back, it’s this: chill.

It’s December, and I live near a very popular mall in the Pittsburgh area. As I was driving home from getting my car inspected, I watched a long line of cars get progressively longer on the way down the highway, heading toward the exit. I could read in the way people were driving – with stiff jerks, quick breaks, and wiggly swerves – that tensions were growing between two groups: the people trying to get to the mall and the people trying to get away from it.

If you let people get under your skin, you’ll never survive. Not right now and not in the future.

If you allow the persnickety voices in your head to snipe at you, you’ll lose your mind.

If you refuse to take a breath and remember that none of this will kill you and all of this shall pass, you’re going to die.

Okay, that last one is a bit dramatic. But have you seen the studies about getting stressed to death? Scary stuff!

And don’t think me a paragon of virtue (or do — and tell me all about it, in flowery detail!). This topic came to me because while I sat in the Ford waiting room – one of my favorite waiting rooms; does that sound crazy? – I took out a notebook to try to diagram out what was making me feel so overwhelmed recently. I had been feeling aimless. Stuck. I didn’t know why. So of course I was expecting needing some great amount of time to dissect all my inner turmoil and problematic scramble of ideas, mismanaged priorities and opportunities that had fallen to the wayside.

I was done in about…twenty minutes. And I was left, laughing to myself as I loaded up Hulu, going, “Uh. I was really built up over nothing.”

None of it is a big deal.

So there we go, folks. Which are you going to be? The serene Ford Focus that passed its inspection and is taking its time heading home while listening to Pinkerton, even if it make take an extra ten minutes? Or the honk-happy Buick who almost slammed into an elderly couple because if it had to wait through the light one more time, it was going to have a hernia?

Your choice.

Japan, or How to be Away From Home

Write about the first time you went away from home alone — The Autobiography Box by Brian Bouldrey

japanThe first time I truly left home was in 2002. I had been picked to represent my school on a trip to Neyagawa, Japan. That was a trip of so many firsts: first time away from home, first time my parents wouldn’t be a phone call away, first trip out of the country, first trip on an airplane.

It was a crash course in air travel, that. Norfolk, VA, to Newark, NJ. Then, Norita/Tokyo. Then, Osaka. 24 hours, with layovers, and yet the same day? The same afternoon? Or was it the next one? I sat in the Tokyo airport and watched blankly at the windows, wondering over the blue sky, bright sunshine. It was supposed to be night time, right? If I got on the plane at 5am, it should be the middle of the night. Yes. No.

The next morning after that trip, my homestay mother laid out a spread fit for a king. A king not suffering from jetlag. There was sticky white rice, eggs, sausage, a seaweed salad. Then, a bowl of cereal. And yogurt.

One of the first things we were taught getting ready for the trip was that we should never turn anything down that our families made us to eat. We should at least try everything. I picked at each piece of food gingerly. It was more than I ever ate for breakfast, and I could only imagine the dishonor that awaited me if I ended up yacking it into their robo-toilet (I wish I was making this up, but it had controls and temperature settings and a padded seat). And God, the dehydration. My throat was a dried sponge, and I was in a country that didn’t have water bottle at every table.

Once the jet lag eased off, though, there was so much to see. We toured the major spots of Osaka, including the Panasonic Technical Center, the Osaka Historical Museum, the Mint and Osaka Castle (which was surprisingly very modern inside, despite the beautiful ancient architecture outside). We attended classes at the local school. We practiced zazen (a form of meditation) in Uji and visited Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Then, there was Nara and its bazillion wild yet tame deer, that would eat right from your hand.

Then, our last journey was to Hiroshima. That could be an entire post unto itself. I’ve never been in a place that made me so very, very aware of myself. The atomic bomb landing on this city in Japan had always been like the Civil War or the French Revolution, in my schools — something that had happened that I knew the scope of in numbers and dates but little more. But to see it so clearly documented, told in photographs and dioramas and in the few things left behind…it all became very real. New and raw.

I want to go back to Japan someday, at a time where I can move at my own pace, where I’m not hauling the baggage of teenage despondency. I want to see that world that can be equal parts joy and peace and the other metropolitan buzz — want to see it without that nagging homesickness, that awareness of being in an alien place and longing for familiar.

I want to take my time. I want it to take its time with me.

One day, I’ll see Tokyo once more.

How to Bake a Poem

Photo: :: An awesome #cake for my awesome husband. A layered devil's food cake with chocolate buttercream and some chocolate sprinkles for the numbers. So decadent.

Standing over the breakfast nook in my kitchen, I considered blowing my nose but didn’t. I was afraid that if I did I would probably scream. Because what would have come out on the tissue would have probably been brown.

At that point, I had used the following ingredients: boiling water, sour cream, all-purpose flour, cake flour, eggs, egg yolks, cocoa (Dutch-processed and a small mountain of it — hence that fear of ol’ poo nose), oil, salt, dark brown sugar and probably a few other small ingredients I am leaving out now, the night after, as I sit clean in my room and away from the kitchen table. The slab.

Yesterday morning, before I took to the operating room, I drove through the city to a class I am taking at a community center. Every Saturday for six weeks, I meet with a group of women – all ages, all backgrounds, all types and shapes and sizes, all interesting – and we write. Poetry, mostly, intermingled with some brief essay prose. And we share.

I come back to writing poetry relatively frequently because it is nothing like writing prose. That sounds very simple, but when you write fiction more than anything else, poetry is like this refreshing palate-cleanser. Gourmet sorbet.

After class, back at the laboratory, as I started the process of combining three bowls of different ingredients in varied elemental states, I recalled how once upon a time I never thought much when someone asked me to bake a cake. I’d make sure I had eggs and oil, then I’d go to a store for a mix and some frosting. It didn’t even have to be a grocery store. You can get cake mix from the right gas station, if you know where to look. Everything went into a bundt pan – because that’s all I had – and then it got put in the oven, took a slathering of cream cheese/chocolate/sprinkle-laden sugar sauce and voila. Happy birthday.

As soon as I was halfway through the cake – the from-scratch, from-the-tiniest-little-nothing forward – I wished I was back at class. That I could have been “stuck” there, writing all day. My mind drifted to years and years before. I started writing poetry right before I began high school. It was my first publishing credit, and I found myself going, “Good poetry is, like, super easy. Why doesn’t everyone do this?” And I wrote some real stinkers.  If they weren’t horribly depressing, they were overloaded with wretched sentimentality (not the interesting emotional bits of living, but the cloyingly sweet stuff that coats the inside of your mouth and refuses to wash away).

It hit me today, after the cake was done, after I had frosted it (which is another production in and of itself) and tasted it (it was wonderful and decadent and moist and delicious), that writing poetry and baking cake are actually very similar. You can just do it and end up with something edible…or you can take the time to learn about the things that go into it and end up with something really remarkable in the end. And then even when it’s exhausting and you’re not sure what exactly you’re doing, and at some point during it you are pretty certain you’ve screwed up royally, it all comes together.

Or it doesn’t, and that’s okay, too.