Friday, October 3, 2014

Virginia Woolf: Bride

The tenth of August, 1912.

Earlier that year the Titanic met her demise, 
becoming the only thing its maker promised she would not.

Did you read about it in the paper, hear it from a friend? 
Did you see the obituaries and look into the eyes of a woman named Edna 
or Joyce and did the pull of her soul tug you down down down?

Did you wear something traditional? Something white? I can’t imagine 
you like this; I will assume you wore wool trousers 
and a collared shirt. Your lips you deigned to paint a rose pink 
so close to your natural color he didn’t even notice it on you.

Did you think of them as you said Yes, Yes, Yes—their bodies 
went into the ocean and the ocean stole the lights from their eyes.

The officiate watches your lips say Yes, but 
could he see the lipstick? 
Could all those souls, frozen, bobbing, slick, dark, fit so neatly into your chest?

Did you know then you wouldn’t be able to carry them all?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013


He breathed like air was the cure and the disease.

“I can’t,” he said. Lowered brow. Wild eyes. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I c—” His breath hitched. He lowered his forehead to the dull surface of the table.

After a long time, he looked up. The sun had shifted and he sat in the glare. He felt clearer. Calmer, in the setting light of the sun, buttery orange. The sunset was unremarkable, like thousands he’d seen before.

All was quiet. He closed his eyes. There was no one there to see him smile at the dinged kitchen table in front of him, scuffed by many happy family members’ knives and forks.

No one to see his pale skin made golden in the light, his hair turned butterscotch. He opened eyes made of amber and honey and stared straight into the light until his vision was dominated by a radiating ultraviolet sphere.

As long as he didn’t move, he could ignore it. As long as he didn’t think about anything at all or anyone at all—

The left side of his vision came to life. Words scrawled across the dining table, the wall, the window in front of him, the sun itself. No matter where he looked, the text was there. Words and numbers. Statistics.

He tried to look away and not read it. He tried to clear his head again and think of nothing but the cold metal in his palm, but he relented.

7:34 PM - 16 August 2054 − 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tracking location….
Location Out of Range
Current Assessment: State of Crisis…
Psychological Peril Detected
Seek Medical Treatment Immediately

I am, he thought.

His mother’s face flashed in front of him. Gaunt, angular, expressionless. He felt no remorse, only the emptiness he now recognized as his inability to love her.

She was the person responsible for the gun he held in his hand.

The weight of it was like a promise fulfilled. It was a measured delight he took no remorse in acknowledging. He edged his eyes right, trying to outrun the feed in front of him as it shifted and swirled with his thoughts.

He almost laughed as he brought the gun to his temple. His last attempt—through the mouth, the tang of metal on his tongue—had caused a cataclysmic panic to rise inside him.

It would have to be through the temple.

As he pressed the gun to his head, he remembered—those lines he’d made sure to memorize. They were whispered in his ear gently, rhythmically, and were then echoed in the scrolling feed.

I grow old ... I grow old ... 
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

The reminder was almost enough to make him lower the gun. The note. He never did get around to writing it. The IS feed in his brain made it impossible for him to forget anything, but it didn’t chime in reminders like an anxious parent.

Every thought, every image associated with parents and notes and poetry scrolled in front of him. His mother bringing a syringe to his neck. This will hurt, she said.

He slowed his breathing and remembered a time when he wasn't a fully-functioning hard drive. He put his finger on the safety.

The feed spun.

Death… Afterlife?… Gun… Bullet… Hurt… Will it hurt?… The fear… the fear… the fear… the gun… The trigger. Pull it. Pull it. Is this it?

From the door came a sharp knock.


Monday, September 24, 2012


Absolution Olive Streeter never could get a good answer out of her mother.

In response to a question about a certain piano piece that Abby just couldn't get right, Mary would spout off about meter and timing and the importance of counting off methodically in one's head while playing--one two three, one two three--in a way that, for Abby, thoroughly eliminated the joy of playing.

And yet when Abby asked why she was given a name that sounded like a daytime soap opera with characters named England and Cashmere, her mother would say, "I'm sure you know it was nothing more than that I liked the sound of it and wrote it down on a piece of paper after you were born. Now try it again from this measure and don't forget to count."

It was obviously no use asking her mother, and the one time Abby asked her father Tom, he'd smiled and said, "Is that really your name? That's awful," and rubbed her head in a way that ruined the perfect part in her hair.

Then, before anyone knew what was happening, her father moved out because they had "grown apart" after seventeen years of marriage, and no one but Abby seemed to think it was odd to say that, since things don't really grow together or apart but up, which left Abby to wonder whether her mother or father was left behind over time, or which of them had separated out like coagulated bits of day's old milk.

This time, when Abby asked her mother a question--why did Dad leave, just walk out the door like that with a bag over his shoulder and his wallet in his mouth while we were watching reruns of Boy Meets World with the sound as loud as it can go and no one even noticed what had happened until Excalibur started barking at the door like he does when something is wrong and I finally looked over at you and you were fast asleep and I had to shake you awake to ask you why why why--her mother said nothing, and Abby's sister Talia looked at Abby like she was the stupidest person on earth and said, "What the hell is wrong with you?" which is exactly what Abby wanted to ask everyone else.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sheldon Conch and the Mysterious Note

I am fascinated by anonymous letters and notes.

So when I saw this random scrap of paper lying on a countertop at Ikea, I folded it up and put it in my pocket. My husband thought I was weird for doing this, but I had to know why someone would leave a note like this around. I knew that it was from something and I had to check it out.

Well it turns out that if you search for "some people say my head is too big for my body, then I say: compared to what?" the first result is a series of "short films" called Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

I had seriously never heard of this little guy before until this note and I am so glad that I finally did.

There's a second part too that you should watch!


Monday, April 30, 2012

The path I lay

this is love. this is fragility. this is me in the standing-room-only arena saying your name over and over. the crowd chants, recognizing the declaration as a universal appeal to all hearts from the places inside us where our stories are purple, are yes and infinite. your face crowds my mind and I find I cannot bear to speak, not even to say your name. but now others will say it for me. you may see this as an example of gross pandering but I see it as a most sublime display of worship. they worship love as I worship the way you say forever. this is the reckoning of our silver ecstasy. this is the beginning of the path I lay, one brick each time I say your name. two bricks each time you answer.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing, Character Inspiration, and Pinterest

So... I discovered Pinterest...

And now my life is centered on making dinner from recipes I found on Pinterest, emailing my husband funny pics I found on Pinterest while he's at work, pinning people and places and things that remind me of my story ideas on Pinterest... etc, etc, etc.

Now, major time suckage aside, Pinterest is a pretty cool place for writers to be.

I've started following any other writers I can find and they all seem to have at least one Pinboard dedicated to their craft. Maybe it's called "The Writing Life," or "The Creative Life," or "Novel Inspiration."

I have one called IDEA BOX that I am very much in love with.

However, what has become very obvious as I browse these writerly boards and pin more pictures and ideas to my own board is that many writers have ideas of what their main characters look like from people that they have actually seen before.

Maybe it's the lead singer of a band they recently discovered (guilty), that kid that longboards down your street at approximately 3:07 PM every weekday (guilty), or the small forward for your favorite NBA team (guilty). Wherever these people are seen, they can serve as great inspiration as the writer tries to create characters that are well-rounded and interesting.

However, what bothers me about this is that many writerly folks will post a picture of a famous actor or actress, or a beautiful person who is clearly a model, and will write underneath, "This is what Gray looks like," "An older version of Genevieve," etc.

I feel like most writers have done this at some point. Most likely their main characters do not look EXACTLY like the beautiful person from the picture, but the fact that the beautiful person serves as inspiration for most characters is annoying to me.

Because when a reader picks up a book written about a main character they identify with very closely, they imagine themselves in that character's life, as if they were a real-live person. Often, they actually imagine and feel that they ARE that character. This transmutation is such a real feeling and it is one that I love to experience as a reader and that I hope to create as a writer.

However, what if those readers knew that the characters they identify with so easily were created by the writer with an appearance akin to perfection, based on a model found in the pages of Vogue, a character from Vampire Diaries, or another beautiful person who is essentially PAID TO BE BEAUTIFUL?

I feel like this realization would break the spell cast by the writing itself, by the act of reading itself, because the reader finds that they were identifying with a person who, if they were part of this world, would be gracing the pages of fashion magazines and could star in their own reality TV show, if they were so inclined.

Does anyone else see a problem with the way that writer's today portray their characters or love interests? Does anyone else feel that characters should be just as flawed PHYSICALLY as they are personally or emotionally?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

I've never read a character analysis like yours. Many, yes, have been good; some have had moments of eloquence or panache. 
But yours is exceptional from the first to the last word.  
Not only do you expose Howard's character, but you do so in a clever, astute, and stylish way that rivals the novel's own distinctive flair and intelligence. 
I hope—I really hope—that you work as a creative writer, Alyssa, because you sure have a gift. 
A remarkable pleasure—really fine work.

The assignment was to analyze a character from one of the novels we read in Contemporary British Lit in question-and-answer format. I chose Zadie Smith's On Beauty and its protagonist, Howard Belsey. Because I'm lazy and I think rules are for suckers, I wrote a story at the last minute.

I teared up reading this response in class. I almost got hit by a car in the parking lot, trying to read this and walk to my car at the same time.

I took another class from this professor, and not just because his response to my paper was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

We were assigned another character analysis in this class, Modern British Lit, and again I chose to write a story instead of write the paper as assigned (boring). This time, I chose Richard from Mrs. Dalloway.

Here is the response:

I would've liked to have seen a preamble and analysis, but that wish amounts to mere carping in the face of this extraordinary, compelling work of imagination and critical thinking.  
You've got sure talent, Alyssa.

I have no idea if he was just being nice, my professor. I have no idea how much merit he really saw in my writing.

I worry that he really thought that most of it was crap, but saw that I was a bit shy and reserved and decided to save me from self-destruction by praising me, incessantly.

But for a few moments at least, while I read those responses from a professor I greatly respect and admire, I feel amazing. I feel like a talent that the world should know about.

I feel so much like a writer.

So thank you, nameless professor. Thank you for making me recognize something within myself that I should have seen all along. The need to tell stories, the need to say something, say anything, the need to be read.

The need to write.

I will never get over it.