“I want a girl that’s full of life and enthusiasm and optimism and creativity and assumed profundity. Who I do not have to brag to. Who I can engage in a dialogue. I want honesty, more than anything, “— Marina Keegan, “Cold Pastoral”

April is National Poetry Month, and there was this challenge associated with it to see if you might be able to finish 30 poems in 30 days. It seemed like a cool challenge, and one I was excited about participating in, but it’s already April 6th and I haven’t written a single word. Even blogging has been somewhat of a challenge. I don’t know what to share, often.

The creative block I have been suffering, the thing that tells me I suck and don’t have any original ideas and there’s absolutely no point spending hours writing stuff nobody is ever going to read, just isn’t going away. In an ideal universe, I’d be using a lot of the time I have not being able to go out and interact with society to be creative in a brilliant-but-disturbed-Virginia-Woolf kind of way. However, it turns out, the same things that make me feel angsty as a person create angst as a writer, and so blank pages just stare back at me.

I, of course, conquered this in the best way possible: by watching hours of television. This week was also Comcast’s “Watchathon”, the one week where they give you access to all the channels you want but don’t get (even though you also get 100 channels you never use, and could watch at any given time.), and therefore, you can catch up on a series that you’d normally miss out on.

I watched the mini-series (which was 10 hour-long episodes, almost as long as a regular American dramatic series) adaptation of Phillipa Gregory’s “The White Queen”, which I highly enjoyed. I like both historical fiction and period drama, although too much romance and sentimentality is not a selling point for me, and today’s authors tend to go too much in that direction. Phillipa Gregory does her research, but she also tells a compelling story; it’s really a compelling soap opera that is so much better, because at some point, IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. If you are one of the 5 people on the planet who has Starz, or you can find the series elsewhere, I highly recommend watching it.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating was even more ambitious, and managed to catch up on “Game Of Thrones”, which I refuse to watch. It’s really a shame; despite the fact that it is the type of story I’d typically love, I can’t watch the level of violence and emotional abuse on that show without crying. (And I watched both “Sopranos” and “Oz”, so violence is not necessarily a deal-breaker in my show choices.) There’s something about the way the show is done that makes the violence and killing and sadness so much more affecting than other shows, and it didn’t take long to realise the show would give me nightmares. I do still have the book on my Kindle, which I haven’t read yet.

I suppose it was either last year or the year before, but I was really profoundly affected when I read about the death of 22-year old Marina Keegan, right after her college graduation from Yale. I didn’t know her; I’m about 10 years too old for her to have been closely connected to anyone in my circle, but I saw her story and her writing through a friend of a friend at Yale. It was one of those stories that simply stayed with me, and reminded me of the cruelty that accompanies the randomness and impermanence of life. We can all lose everything, so quickly, and lives change in the blink of an eye.

She was a talented writer, and the piece she wrote for classmates before their impending graduation was heartbreaking, because it was all about everything she and her friends might grow up to be. She never had the opportunity. I am really happy that her writings are being collected and published, because although I never knew her, it felt like she left an absence in the world. Her book, The Opposite Of Loneliness is being published on April 8th through Amazon, so if anyone would like to gift me a copy, I’d love that. ;) The New Yorker, where she interned after graduation, has honoured her by publishing one of her pieces, a short story more than worth reading.. I suppose her story resonates with me, because it is a reminder that death does not discriminate, and every day, life says “What are you doing that’s worth leaving behind?”

I’m not a hyper-competitive person. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, not because I didn’t get in (I was accepted at both Penn and Columbia), but because I didn’t feel the freedom to be me. I felt like it was yet another step on being rewarded for properly pedaling the hamster wheel, a path that never ends until you have the right resume, the right internship, the right job, the right awards, the right house, the right spouse, the right kids and/or dogs, the right air of respectability, the right legacy, the right funeral. At no point on the wheel is there too much room for self-expression or for saying “I don’t care about any of that. I am not a resume. I am not an image. I need you to see me“. It is a battle I am still fighting; I’m not equipped with the right anything. I have more than once fallen for someone who could never fall for me back, not because of lack of feeling, but because I am “not the sensible choice”. I am not a stop along the maze-hampster-wheel path, and for those who are, noticing me may be ultimately destructive.

But, like those countless rule-following, over-achieving friends I admire and feel a great sadness for simultaneously, I spend a lot of time wondering what I will have done with my life that’s worth leaving behind. It is poignant to read Marina Keegan’s stories and poems, because she examined that a lot; like many 20-somethings, she had a lot of questions about the future and so few answers, and wasn’t afraid to discuss how utterly terrifying that is.

I wish she were still around, so I might tell her, “In 10 years, you still won’t know. All the questions you’ve answered will be replaced with new ones”. It makes me terribly sad that such a bright light, such a curious and intuitive mind was taken from the world so quickly. It makes me more determined than ever to find something worth leaving behind. I know I will never change the world, but in some small way, I’d like to be remembered by someone for the tiny little mark I left behind. Perhaps if I’d done things “just like everyone else”, if I’d “lived up to potential”, I’d be a stellar resume with a cute studio apartment by now.

I suspect I’d be miserable, staring at a lack of authenticity and freedom to exist in an unrestrained fashion, both from myself and everyone else. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t admit to wondering.

It occurs to me pretty frequently that I may have less time on this planet than most of the people I know, and so the pressure to live, to leave a mark, to be worthwhile, it is something that feels greater. I am terrified of running out of time. I’m terrified of all the chances I’ve never taken, all the alternate ways things still might work out, but I may not be around to see. I’m terrified that after a fairly colourful life, I’m still lacking in self-confidence and inhibited. I still can’t say “I love you”, or “Please don’t leave, because I’d miss you too much”, or even “Why don’t you think I’m worth getting to know?” I’m terrified that I’ll never be the strong, unique, loving, accomplished person I’d like to be. I’m terrified of always being overlooked, as if there’s little special to note about me. The friends who define success in the level of accomplishment and attractiveness of their mate and the net worth that will result from a lifetime of hard work tend to make me feel invisible, despite the fact that they simply see the world differently than I do.

I sometimes wonder if *anyone* sees the world as I do, or I will keep losing people to the beguiling mistress that is conventionality. I wonder if I’m going to be in the world long enough for it to matter.

Last weekend, I finally did what I could to make myself social again, and I had a party. Most of the people I love most in Atlanta were able to show up, and I had a wonderful time. But what I noticed most acutely is how different life is as an extrovert. Being ill has given me a gift I never had before, the one of being calm and focused enough to get to know people on a one-on-one basis—to actually feel more inspired and content by a few days with one person, than by meeting 100 new people. It has taught me, perhaps, what the world looks like for introverts. I still love parties, and crowds, and dancing, and singing, and costumes, and martinis, and awesome clothes, and cities that don’t shut down. But the times that make an impression on my heart are increasingly the times I went out for drinks with a friend, and that turned into an adventure; the time I went to dinner with someone I liked but didn’t know that well, but talked until the place closed down and walked away with a really special friendship. I think, maybe, I’ve learned to be both fun and substantial…and it’s something I wish I could have taught my 25-year old self.

I’ve learned not to take anyone or anything for granted, and that if you want something, you have to take a chance. You can’t wait around for life to happen. You can’t wait around for someone to notice how fascinating you are. You can’t wait for people to come knocking at your door, asking to be your friend, because they rarely do. You can’t wait for someone else to create the next adventure you’ll remember.

Life is really short. If you want to watch every episode of Game Of Thrones, do it now. :P

I don’t often cross-post things I announce on my Facebook wall on this blog, or vice versa. I mean, really, since I have mostly the same group of friends, and I don’t need strangers with Google to know what I ate for lunch or where I’m going clubbing on Friday, what’s the point?

However, this piece by Charles Warnke, entitled You Should Date An Illiterate Girl, appealed to me so much, thought everyone should read it.

I absolutely love this piece. Not only does it indulge my overly romantic, manic pixie side by making me feel a bit more appreciated for those sometimes annoying qualities, it makes a statement about the utterly boring, uninspired, conformist culture in which we’re all encouraged to participate.

If you are a guy who is, or was, involved in my life in any way, you will love this. If you are a girl who has read a book, you will love this. If you are a guy who is dating a girl who has read a book, you will love this. If you are unconventional, idealistic, and not willing to settle for the generic ennui of life, you will love this.

Read on.

“My survival is, in fact, the final irony. Everyone was always in better health than me. All my friends, two husbands, my sisters, so many who never complained a day in their lives until death tapped them on the shoulder. The grass is green over them now–and I’m still here.” — “Mozart’s Wife”,Juliet Waldron

A few days ago, I completed an author interview that will hopefully be around and about in the next few months. In it, I was asked about the state of indie publishing, and whether or not traditional publishers were still the only reliable source for for quality literature.

A year or so ago, The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire, which I wasn’t even sure at the time I wanted. As it turns out, I love it, and it’s gotten me into the habit of reading more. Since I don’t live near a convenient library and spending $15-$20 for a new release every time I’m excited to read something can become an expensive habit, discovering relatively inexpensive indie authors is a fun hobby. I’m already somewhat addicted to clothes and jewelry and headpieces and perfumes. I don’t need anything else on which to spend money (but more about me and my 2013 shopping adventures later.)

The truth is, for every 10 “free” or “99 cent” Kindle books I download, one is worth reading. Recently, I downloaded a book that sounded so promising to me in premise, and was written by a retired humanities professor with the requisite letters after his name. I made it through 10 pages. I couldn’t help but remember a time, as a freshman in university who was slacking off and called into the adviser’s office for a “chat about my potential”, the professor speaking to me told me that I was more articulate and visionary than many of his colleagues. Even though I studied in the arts, where graduating with a job offer is considered a success, my adviser expressed disappointment that I didn’t turn it down in order to continue my education. I remembered this episode, with a total lack of humility, because I encountered an instance that proved him right. Not every well-educated person should be self-publishing, at least without an editor.

I’m picky about what I read, in the same way that I don’t have the patience to sit through a bad movie and will fall asleep during a TV show I hate. I don’t mean to be critical. I guess I just am. If I dislike a book within the first 20 minutes, I’ll delete it without a thought. I’m sure plenty of people would do the same to mine. ;)

I downloaded “Mozart’s Wife”, because it was a work of historical fiction (which I enjoy), and because in my years of singing, my operatic repertoire has become particularly Mozart-heavy. Mozart loved his coloraturas, and wasn’t afraid to write very difficult pieces for them. Of course, I know a great deal about the less-than-admirable life of the child prodigy who, like so many child prodigies, did not end his life with the same promise with which it began. However, I know less about his wife Constanze (Konstanze, or Stanzi in this book). She’s always depicted as petite, slightly plump, voluptuous, and bursting with energy that attracted many admirers. Since Mozart has a reputation as a philanderer, an alcoholic, a gambler, and a person of many other vices, it’s widely portrayed in books and popular culture that his wife was of the same temperament. One would assume, especially after watching “Amadeus”, that they were a pair of liberal party-hoppers with high aspirations but little sense of practicality.

This book shows a different side to Konstanze, a woman who struggled to deal with a neurotic, unfaithful, and chronically irresponsible husband whose flaws were to be forgiven because of her genius. She also struggled of living in the shadow of two gifted sisters, one an extraordinary beauty Mozart wanted to marry but instead helped her to launch a career as a prima donna. In the character portrayed, you don’t see a flighty and sensual woman, but one who might have been content with a less glamorous and more stable life. Upon Mozart’s death, she found herself to be 28, in severe debt, prematurely aging, and willing to bury her husband in a pauper’s grave and lock up all relics of his life. You see someone who is not mourning the loss of love, but carrying the burden of anger at how many lives the man she loved destroyed.

I do not know how much of the story is fictional, and how much is based on papers left behind by Mozart himself (which Konstanze later edited and published in order to build a sense of financial security), but the speculation that Mozart had illegitimate children and died by poison at the hands of a fellow Masoner who found his wife seduced by the musician is certainly a possibility, and an entertaining one at that. Regardless of Konstanze’s feelings toward her late husband, if she had simply thrown his stacks of compositions and correspondence into the fire, history would have been denied much. An artist who struggled to earn a living for his family during his lifetime has been turned into one of the greatest legends of all time, and I suspect most of that is owed to the sheer practicality of his widow.

I’ve always adored Mozart’s “Requiem”, and the dramatization of his death surrounding the composition of it in “Amadeus”made it that much more heart-rending for me. At one point, Waldron writes a scene in which Mozart acknowledges the requiem he is writing is for himself, and cries during attempts to create the “Lachrymosa”. (the last part of the “Requiem” most scholars agree Mozart completed completely on his own.) This scene shook me, because it is perhaps the most musically powerful piece ever composed by someone who spent so much of his gift creating entertaining stories and bawdy farces. It is at the very end of his life, you see and hear the true genius that was perhaps never entirely discovered.

I had to look through 20 “free” Kindle books to find something as well-written, well-researched, and engaging as this novel. Fans of Phillipa Gregory, Juliet Grey, Antonia Fraser, and Alison Weir will all enjoy this work.

On a somewhat related note, I experienced something that I can now cross off my bucket list: receiving my first rejection letter. I submitted a series of short stories for publication as a chapbook, and it was rejected with a polite semi-form letter that said “I’m glad to have read it, and while I found much to like in it, I think I’m going to decline the chance to publish it as a title. Please don’t take this as a reflection on you or the work–when making editorial decisions like this it’s more about the larger picture of the vision for the grouping of titles as a whole than it is a singular comment on one particular book.”

I actually took the rejection harder than I thought I would. I am not unused to rejection. You don’t get through a lifetime of working in theatre without knowing how to handle rejection. You don’t live life as the sort of person who will tell someone how you feel about them without the risk that every so often, your feelings simply won’t be reciprocated. You don’t apply for freelance jobs expecting every single person will be awed by you.

Yet, there’s something about a rejection letter that’s extremely personal and final. It is the equivalent of hearing “It’s not you, it’s me, but it’s really you.” I cried and felt inadequate about the whole business. At least when you don’t get a role in a show, it’s often because of a director’s vision, or because you’ve seen with your own eyes that you weren’t right for something or someone was better than you. When you confess your love for someone who replies with “But I’d rather be with someone who isn’t you”, you cry and realise that person is just an emotionally unaware idiot and it’s for the best. When you don’t land a job, it’s a disappointment, but an impersonal one. The real and personal nature of a rejection letter has a way of hitting hard. It must be a little like being one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends listening to her new album for the first time.

It isn’t even so much that I believed that a chapbook was the right format for what I wanted to put out there. As always, a simple idea of “I should write some stories” turned into a larger project that will likely end up being a 150-page novella with an over-arching theme that 10 people will read. My inability to do anything on a small scale is nothing if not consistent.

I suppose it was more just a case of me hoping to hear validation and encouragement, in the form of “You’re a creative person who isn’t wasting time working on creative things.” When I received the opposite, it felt like quite a blow to my already delicate self-esteem.

On a final, somewhat related note, I’ve had my first author interview published regarding “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse“. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read it here. Make certain to leave a comment or a “like”, to let both the blog owner and myself know you’ve visited and appreciated what you happened to read.

It’s been an odd week. The weather changes almost every other day, as does my mood, and both have been difficult to handle. I hope to be able to take some time in June to travel and visit a few friends I’ve been missing dearly, as both travel and the company of friends I see too infrequently generally makes me feel more exuberant and less…well…old. *laughs*

On the up side, we have tickets to see Fun. in October, and while that’s a lifetime away, I have something to look forward to. :)

This is really just a re-post for those who don’t keep up with me on Facebook, but it’s time to pimp out another awesome blog. :)

Since it seems I don’t have that many close friends who aren’t either scientists, atheists, or part of the poly community…or a combination of all or some of the above…much love should be given to this blog. :)

Plus, Gina = totally talented, awesome Philly chick.

In other news, I am slightly improved today, but still sick. Not terribly enjoyable. :( I am, however, going to drag myself out to appreciate art and general literary awesomeness with some friends…even if it means I’ll be back home in bed with my stuffed animals by 11 PM.

Life gets more and more exciting as I get older and older….*laughs*