Music To Her Ears, Poetry In My Pen: A Mother’s Guide to Writing, By Blanca Crespin

Music To Her Ears, Poetry In My Pen: A Mother’s Guide to Writing, By Blanca Crespin

Sometimes finding time to write is tough, especially if you work full-time, or go to school full-time and work a part-time job too. Finding time while doing that is hard, but imagine when you have a child. Time is nonexistent; your day is full of mommy chores and baby stuff. Sometimes writing can’t fit into your schedule, like mine––I work full-time, I’m a student full-time, and a mommy on top of those two things. Trust me, I know it’s hard squeezing in time to write. I know most people’s advice is, “Have a notebook ready or in arm’s reach when you have an idea or something you need to write down before you lose it!” But that’s not always the case. Sometimes having a notebook and pen in arm’s reach isn’t always the solution, because either you’re too busy doing mom stuff, chores around the house, or just plain busy making sure your child doesn’t get into something they shouldn’t.

Mommies, having a child doesn’t mean you no longer have the time to write like you used to have. When it comes to being by yourself and writing to your heart’s content, it means making sure your little human is taken care of and happy. I’ve learned that being with your child and noticing the smaller things can make a beautiful poem that others can enjoy with you. Here are some examples.

Movies

Watch a movie with your child and notice how they’re reacting to the movie, the music, and the characters. Do they pick up any mannerisms from the characters in the movie? If so what is it they are mimicking? Use that to make a poem that embodies that moment. Let us, the readers, live through that moment with you, let us feel what you felt when you noticed this smaller thing that most don’t.

This can be an exercise to help with a poem; it helps you notice small details like body movement, and facial expressions. This should get your creative juices running, if it doesn’t then try this exercise next.

Music

I know all of us listen to music no matter what genre, or where it comes from. I listen to whatever music sparks my attention or gives me a feeling that I need to get down in paper. This can also be linked to the first exercise with movies, depending on the movie––many kids’ movies have fun, upbeat music for our little ones to be entertained and not be jumping around (let’s hope, but not always the case) like my daughter, Rocio, who loves Coco because of the music. If a piece of music or lyrics bring something to life inside you or bring back a memory that’s been itching to get out, use that opportunity to write it no matter how messy or sloppy it can get. It can always be cleaned up. No matter what music you use to write with, even try to write to the beat of the song if you can and make it into a spoken word piece. If you can, experiment with the music and writing you are doing while listening to the song.

I actually use music a lot to write some of my pieces, I find sanctuary when it comes to music. It gets me to a place in my head and heart that helps me write what I need to write––not what I necessarily want to write. Later on I add what I want but first I try to write what needs to be written.

Both options can also buy you some quiet time from your child to write some ideas down (if not a whole piece) because they’ll most likely be too entertained from the movie or music. I’ve been doing this with my child and it’s gotten better now that she’s older; she’s able to be entertained for much longer periods of time than when she was a year old. I hope these exercises and prompts help spark a poem or piece that you’ve been wanting to get on paper!

Meet the blogger:
BLANCA CRESPIN is a recent Hamline BFA graduate now studying in the MFA program there. Her current work centers on being a mother and issues influencing her everyday life. Blanca spends her time working at Avalon School, writing, being with her daughter, and waiting for a new adventure to begin.

9 Reasons Why I Can’t Trust You If You Don’t Like “Adventure Time”, by Noah Tilsen

9 Reasons Why I Can’t Trust You If You Don’t Like “Adventure Time”, by Noah Tilsen

I remember when I heard Adventure Time was ending. It felt like an invisible hand was squeezing my heart. I stumbled. My vision became blurry. My left arm began to tingle. Everything smelled like burnt almonds. I woke up in a hospital.

But what do you care? You don’t even like Adventure Time.

Adventure Time is so good that it reminds me that someday I will die. In reminding me of my impending last breath, it makes these brief, liminal moments so sweet. Not many shows can make me appreciate being alive. Alas, deep in the loins of my achy, breaky heart, I knew this gem of gems had to end.

Aspiring storytellers take note! Here are just a few reasons why the show is one-of-a-kind:

Totally Righteous – I say righteous with no pretension behind the word. The goodies never bully the downtrodden but are always up for whooping some baddies. If you aren’t aspiring for righteousness then what are you doing?

For Adults – I’ve heard criticisms that the show couldn’t make up its mind if it was for children or adults. That’s a false appraisal. It is an inner-child’s show. It’s a kid’s show, yes, but any self-respecting adult should love it. If you don’t like Adventure Time then obviously the clammy tentacles of this world have suffocated your inner child. You don’t believe in magic.

It’s Honest – Somehow, throughout it all, Adventure Time has been able to never come off as cynical. Unlike you. It never condescends to the audience. The themes can run deep; you’ll be questioning your identity while the show is making a fart joke. And it never sugarcoats the real talk.

Flippin’ Fantastic Characters – What cartoon has characters with an ever-expanding wardrobe!? Just like their clothes, Adventure Time’s characters can change physically (Finn’s lost his arm how many times?), emotionally, even spiritually. Even the baddies worth their salt can realize their mistaken ways. But I forgot that you fear change.

Chances at Redemption & Room to Mature – Finn and Jake were plagued in the early seasons by their nemesis The Ice King. In the episode “Thank You” Finn becomes aware that the Ice King isn’t really bad, just pathetic. At the very end Finn gives the defeated Ice King a kiss on the forehead. After that episode the Ice King still did annoying stuff that totally annoyed Finn and Jake (and countless princesses) but they treated him like a brother – one you could pick on but defend if need be. I’ll do my best to treat you better, but I still don’t trust you.

Chronology – Adventure Time can be enjoyed in any order. Maybe if you’d stop staring at your phone for eleven minutes you’d know that. No other episodic television show, especially a cartoon, has so many permanent changes happen to its characters, yet a newcomer can sit down and watch three random episodes and be completely on the level. It’s that warm ‘n’ gooey spot between lyric and narrative.

Perfect Length Adventure Time packs a lot of story into eleven minutes. It’s perfect for our short attention spans. Some episodes feel like five minutes and others feel like twenty-five. Even you should be able to handle that.

Perverse Let’s face it: there’s a lot of kinky imagery in Adventure Time. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Hopefully it makes you wonder why you’re so uptight about sexuality anyway. There’re even theories that the show is just one big allegory for discovering sex. Let’s just say Freud would be having a field day watching this show.

Schmowzow – There’s so much play in the language and storytelling. The ability to get away with almost anything in this show is greatly owed to the post-apocalyptic-anything-goes fantasy world Pendleton Ward has created. Some episodes are eerie and linger like a Twilight Zone. Some are touching and gentle. But there’s always humor. There’s so much use of off-the-wall ba-naynay words, if you were just able to appreciate the absurd then it all would all make sense.

So, no offense, I just can’t trust you if you don’t like Adventure Time. We live in a bizarre and overwhelming world, Finn the Human and Jake the Dog – though flawed beings – anchor us with their ultimate goodness. I could go on. I didn’t even get to the songs! Adventure Time has a largesse of lessons on how to make a great all-ages story. The more I watch, the better creator, friend, and person I become. You should really give it a try.

What did I miss? Make a comment and express yourself!

Meet the blogger:
NOAH TILSEN is a current student in the BFA program at Hamline University. 

In Defense of the Swearing Writer, By Lauren Stretar

In Defense of the Swearing Writer, By Lauren Stretar

Hi, my name is Lauren and I swear. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) Does it have something to do with my being a writer? Because come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who doesn’t swear. As my vocabulary has grown larger, the amount of times I’ve been told swearing is unbecoming has increased. So in defense of writers (and non-writers) who swear, I’ve found a list of science-backed studies that show that occasional profanity won’t hurt you. In fact, if used in a healthy environment, it’s even good for you.

Swearing can help reduce pain

A study done by the School of Psychology at Keele University proved people who swear generally have a higher pain tolerance than those who don’t. Other research has hypothesized that swearing can activate your body’s release of natural, pain-relieving chemicals. However, using swearing as a method of pain relief works best when you swear sparingly, so those of us who drop an f-bomb on a regular basis won’t have as much luck. I’ll tell you, I thought I was being really edgy as an eighth grader when I said cleaning a cut was going to hurt like hell, but because I swore, it didn’t. It just hurt. And that was because I said hell.

Swearing is a sign of intelligence

Those who believe that people swear because they don’t know what else to say are incorrect. In fact, a study done in the United States illustrates that people who swear actually have a higher IQ than those who don’t. This is due to the larger vocabulary people who swear tend to have. If you’re interested in testing this out yourself, get a couple of friends together and have them think of as many words beginning with the letters F, A and S as they can in a minute.

Swearing can give you a sense of calm

In an article in Psychology Today, Neel Burton, a psychiatrist based in Oxford, England, explains that swearing can help increase circulation, elevate endorphins, and bring an overall sense of calm, control and well-being. To quote Elle Woods: “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” Therefore, the rush of endorphins you get from swearing can make you happy. When you’re happy…well, let’s just say swearing is a good thing.

People who swear might be more honest

In a society where truth is so highly regarded, this is the point that should sway doubters. According to a study done in collaboration between researchers from Maastricht University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Stanford, and the University of Cambridge, there is a positive relationship between the use of profanity and degree of truthfulness. In short, the more you swear, the more ways you have to express unfiltered feelings and sincerity.

Let’s face it: writing is a hard profession. It’s mentally and physically taxing and—on occasion—painful. After killing off my favorite character in whom I’ve poured my entire heart and soul, I need a pick me up. And since I’m not old enough to drink, I’ll take the next best option and say fuck.

Meet the blogger:

LAUREN STRETAR is a current BFA student at Hamline University. She is primarily a fiction writer, and currently drafting her first novel. When not writing, you’ll find her in the kitchen baking.

 

3 Nonbinary Characters in YA Fiction That I’d Want On My Crime Fighting Squad, By Tijqua Daiker

3 Nonbinary Characters in YA Fiction That I’d Want On My Crime Fighting Squad, By Tijqua Daiker

Long ago,
before the greater patriarchal regime
and its correlated ciscentric literary sphere
were erected,
humanity existed in relative harmony…
but that all changed
when the gender binary attacked.

Gender—in its entirety, in it’s full spectrum—is especially hard to understand when representation of gender variance is such a rare occurrence in the lit-o-sphere. There’s a reason that textbooks are a staple of academia. You’ve heard the chants from the woke millennials.

Representation matters.

While characters who don’t fit within the gender binary never completely disappeared from the lit world, they have been historically few and far between. It was (and continues to be in many spaces) taboo, and therefore talked around rather than explicitly stated or explored.

Until recently.

With social justice in all its forms on the forefront of the collective global consciousness and conversation, there’s been a greater focus on diverse representation. In the iconic words of Bowie, the lit-o-sphere is undergoing some ch-ch-ch-changes and it’s about time we turn and face the strange*.

*it’s part of the lyric, not some subtle derogatory commentary. If nonbinary identities are strange, you should take a cold hard look at the dystopia that is The Gender Binary.

[cracks knuckles] Let’s begin.

1. CRUZ ROJAS from Michael Grant’s Gone series

According to the wiki for the Gone series fandom, Cruz identifies as a female. However I contest that she fits in the binary just because she uses female pronouns. Your honor, I call Monster, the book in which she debuts, to the stand.

On page 28, Cruz describes her gender as “e) all the above, trapped in a True/False quiz”, which is an especially apt analogy. The way it makes labeling your gender seem like some sort of test is all too relatable for those of us who’ve felt boxed in by the binary.

Cruz’s power in the novel is a sort of invisibility/camouflage which has interesting implications in conjunction to her gender identity. Perhaps a commentary on the ways in which non-binary identities have historically been largely invisible in the media/literary sphere. Perhaps a commentary on the occasional necessity of camouflage to ensure one’s safety when one doesn’t conform to (cis)gender norms.

Of course, Cruz’s power (and her company) would be integral in my crime fighting squad.

2.  ALEX FIERRO from Rick Riordan’s Gods of Asgard series

Alex Fierro—child of Loki, pottery enthusiast, light of my life.

Alex identifies as genderfluid which is represented gracefully within Riordan’s novels. Alex’s gender shifts as do the pronouns used to talk about the Norse demigod. Sometimes Alex is a daughter of Loki. Sometimes Alex is a son of Loki.

Like Cruz, Alex also has a power. He can shapeshift. Like Cruz, Alex’s power also has interesting implications. Perhaps a commentary on genderfluidity as it relates to shifting senses of self. Perhaps a commentary on our shifting perceptions of people based on how they identify.

What I find interesting is that, when Alex shifts from identifying as male to identifying as female (or vice versa), he doesn’t change his outward appearance. Just her pronoun.

Although the main character, who’s totally (and canonically) crushing on her, seems to pick up some visual changes—he alludes to the fact that the shift is in his perception more than it is in Alex’s actual physical appearance. I dig this because it shows that the physical isn’t inherently an indication of gender as well as a depiction of how one can respectfully perceive and interact with someone outside of the gender binary.

In my crime fighting squad, Alex’s friendship and her shapeshiftery would be revolutionary.

3.  SORO FLYNN from V. E. Schwab’s Monsters of Verity series

To be completely honest with you, dear reader, I haven’t yet read Our Savage Song or Our Dark Duet. So I can’t give you specifics on why Soro would make the best comrade in my crime fighting soiree. This being said, I can vouch for V. E. Schwab.

Soro is different from the aforementioned nonbinary characters in that they go by they/them pronouns. When a fan expressed their confusion and dislike surrounding the grammatically sound use of a singular they, Schwab responded in a way that made my queer heart sing.

Schwab addressed this, via twitter, “Soro is non-binary, hence the use of THEY. I’m sorry that it distracted you, but respecting identity is important. Please try harder.”

The majority of V. E. Schwabs books, according to the author, have been a reaction to something she’s read or haven’t been able to find. AKA: She’s all about that representation.

Schwab’s resume of representation in her personal lit-o-sphere is immaculate, her characters are fierce, and I cannot wait to meet Soro in Our Dark Duet (I’ve already purchased both a print and digital copy).

So, there you go!

My crime fighting, non-gender conforming, literary dream-squad.

We’d be a small, but capable group—and we’d always be looking for more members. Who do you think should join the squad? What powers do you think would complement our nonbinary identities? Comment below!

 

 

Meet the blogger:
TIJQUA DAIKER lives in Minnesota. 

The Skinny on Fat People in Literature, By Abigail Morton

The Skinny on Fat People in Literature, By Abigail Morton

My mom used to gush how she read to me while in her womb, how I kicked when hearing a story. Essentially, I’ve been a reader before I could even read. I’ve also been fat most of my life, and sadly, as a result, I’ve struggled with my self-esteem.

Maybe that’s because all my life, I’ve been taught fat people are not people with value and personality but are fools, side-kicks, and villains. Maybe that’s because in all my years of reading, I’ve never read a novel where the protagonist was fat, beautiful, and proud.

I’m not saying novels with positive portrayals of fat people don’t exist. They do. However, those novels are certainly lacking. This is despite more and more Americans qualify as overweight or obese, or that body positivity is spreading everywhere else in popular culture.

Obviously, there’s a need for more diverse roles and purposes when it comes to fat people in literature, but how can a writer who’s willing to take on this task accomplish it? What should people hope to see in the future? The answer, simply put, is representation, acceptance, and most importantly, whole identities.  

Finding a whole identity can be a Herculean effort for a fat bookworm. While researching for this article, trying to find literature featuring fat characters, I kept running into the same problems. Perhaps by looking at the issues with these characters, we can, as writers, see a way toward writing fat characters with whole identities.

1. Jokers and Jokes

Fat characters were side characters only good for cracking a joke, sometimes to the point of being irritating smartasses. Their role was that of a fool meant to boost the thin protagonist’s ego and spirits.  

A more disturbing and harmful trend was fat characters being made the joke. Fat characters were ridiculed, bullied, and singled-out as outcasts. Piggy from Lord of the Flies (my first experience with a fat character) is a prime example of the bullied, fat outcast.

2. Bad People

Fat characters were bad or outright evil people.

Often, they were described as lazy, sloppy, gluttonous, unhealthy, and/or stupid, characteristics Western culture often associates with animals and ogres.

In many examples they were antagonists of some sort, whether as abusive, creepy men or corporate bastards who, especially in older literature, served as symbols of greed (“fat cats,” you could say).  

3. Only Fat

Maybe the biggest problem is that fat characters were defined only by being fat. This was often as self-definition, especially on the rare occasion when a fat character was the protagonist, where as fat characters were obsessed with their bodies.

Body obsession came in two main forms. First, the fat characters hated their bodies and themselves, which lead to overall unhappy lives. Second, the obsession sometimes led to characters changing their bodies through dieting, exercising, or even surgery. If they lose weight and were no longer fat by the end, they had a happy ending.  

 

Future Portrayals of Fat People

So to the real issue: how to write a fat character?

First and foremost, don’t do the things listed above. That’s not to say fat characters can’t joke around, be bullied, or be evil in your work. Just give your fat characters—as with any characters—dimension. Don’t make them flat with only two details coming through: being fat and being “X” as a result.     

It’s okay to have a fat character experience problems with being overweight or obese, such as struggling to find clothes that fit, experiencing chaffing, etc. These details make a fat character real. However, other character details are important, and they are probably much more important.

Hopefully, you see what’s most important when writing fat characters. If not, here’s the grand takeaway—write fat characters as people!

I’m not kidding; it’s that simple. Write fat characters with complex, intersecting identities who have the same struggles, dreams, and experiences as characters of all sizes.

Sarah Hollowell says it best in her article “Writing Fat Characters”:

“I want to see a fat girl go on an adventure…I want her to ride dragons and steal magical artifacts and seduce a pirate captain…I want a fat guy to get into a sword fight over a lady’s honor and win…More than anything, I want to have fat protagonists…and have them be treated as more than their fat…Can we just have that? Please?”

So next time you write a character, try making them fat.

If you want to sample what’s out there in terms of fat representation, check out this list. And if you have any pointers or questions for writing fat characters, or book suggestions, add your knowledge in the comments section.

Meet the blogger:

ABIGAIL MORTON is a senior at Hamline University majoring in English with a creative writing concentration and minoring in women’s studies. She enjoys reading works by Stephen King and hopes to have her own horror novels published in the future, with multiple pieces of such fiction currently in the works.

 

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