Feeling Oriented

So. Yesterday I spent the entire day at orientation for my MFA program and, honestly, it was awesome! It was really cool to be around writers again, to get to talk incessantly about books, and to realize how much future I still have ahead of me.

I’m 24, but I would say I was probably the youngest person there. I feel like I suddenly have entered BONUS TIME and that my whole life is ahead of me. I’m just so stupidly excited.

Anyway, classes start on Tuesday and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of awesome workshop tips to share thereafter, but now that school is in session, my book is going to be tabled for a while. I’d like to work on it intensely over the holidays, but I think the best thing for it at the moment is to let it snowball.

In other news, I am of course still writing. I had a fairly intense writing weekend and wrote two very short, very rough stories. I hope maybe to continue to work on these for the next week before quickly delving into my next work. Strike while the iron is hot and, now that I’m in class, while the volume of work I’m expected to produce is about to triple.

So. If I’m not writing here, don’t worry, I’m still writing somewhere.

We Should Never Meet

IMG_0988.JPG

We Should Never Meet
Author: Aimee Phan
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thoughts: Excellent Writing; Kind of a Downer; Frustratingly Ambiguous; I Wish I Knew More About These People

So I grabbed Phan’s collection of linked short stories off a shelf at my favorite used book store in New Orleans (she’s the director of my writing program so I felt I needed to read it before classes began) and carried it around with me for a month before I could finally bring myself to read it. Something about it just seemed like it would be a painful read, but I was surprised to learn the opposite. Each story was fluid, gliding into each other and these people’s lives.

Set both during and in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the book explores, through various persons related to the event, Operation Babylift (an American intervention to immigrate orphans left in the wake of the war–mainly those children with American parentage) and the lives of the orphans related to it as they grew up in America. So clearly this was going to be a fraught topic: babies, war, American foster system and orphans. It’s a rough subject, but Phan doesn’t make things too wrenching. She isn’t trying to punish the reader, but rather give them this brief glance into the window of those affected’s lives.

I think, though, despite Phan’s seamless writing style, I couldn’t bring myself to love this book. She builds some frighteningly tense situations (the scene with Bac and Vinh in “Visitors” is wrenching) and then, at the last minute–right before the climax, takes you out of them. I felt a bit cheated to never hear the end of Bridget’s story, only left to assume the worst of her. The final story was, to me, the most flat and a bit of a bitter note to end on. And as for the various characters left behind in Vietnam, I craved more knowledge of their lives. What happened to them in the war. The worst is the terribly vague opening, effective in what it never says, but I felt most connected to Nan and then you never even learn the details of her situation and she’s never heard from again.

Overall, it’s a fast read with an interesting, lesser-known perspective on the Vietnam War. Worth a read, you may learn something, but overall, it won’t be replacing any favorites on the shelf.

Flash Fiction: Keys

Keys

20140420-143420.jpg

She slipped the first one off her key ring on her last day of work.

“I guess I won’t need this anymore?” she said as she placed it on the granite countertop and slid the brass monstrosity across the surface to her employer.

“That’s so sad,” her boss stated mildly, looking down at the key kissing the countertop in front of her, but quickly too distracted to pick it up and pocket it somewhere safer.

She guess the key would be lost before the end of the day, forgotten or stolen, and shoved into a toy box for the children to fight over later.

#

To her landlord, she enclosed both her square deadbolt and green door key in a white envelope she’d asked someone to steal from their work supply closet. Her roommate dropped hers, in inverted colors ying-yang to hers, in the envelope too and they both scratched out their forwarding addresses on the front with an old pen, just in case.

“This is stupid,” they both seemed to be thinking as they stood huddled by their front door, unable to re-enter their recently polished apartment. “Why are we doing this?” echoed silently.

They dropped the envelope in their landlord’s mailbox and stood around joking with each other for as long as they could manage before finally the lingering sadness became unbearable and they both got into their separate cars to drive away in different directions.

#

“I dropped by to say goodbye.” She was already on their couch waiting for her friends when they got home from work.

“I feel like we’ve done this a few times already. You sure you won’t be back anytime soon? You keep leaving and then we find you here all over again.”

“Pretty sure,” she replied, hopping off the couch and grabbing her set of keys on the way out the door. “Oh, I almost forgot–” she stopped halfway out the door and started to pry apart her key ring, sliding the colorful–decorated like a puppy–one off and setting it on their kitchen table. “Won’t need this anymore.”

“Wish you hadn’t done that,” they protested as she edged towards the door. “Now it feels so final.”

#

“I’ll walk out now then, if you don’t mind. I don’t want to prolong this longer than necessary and I have to get back to work.”

“No worries. I’ll be gone in the next ten minutes anyway. Just need to take my bags down to the car.”

They kissed briefly goodbye and he set off down the hall. They both tried their hardest not to watch the other leave, but she stuck her head out the door and watched him go anyway.

It took her two trips to get her suitcases from the past month to her car. She still had his keys, but it seemed oddly irrelevant now. She tried to shove them under the door, but the crack was too small. She tried to put them on the top of the doorframe, but the ledge was too thin. She had to unlock the door and put the building keys inside.

She balanced bags filled with dirty laundry and books. A soda fell to the floor with an unsettling fizz. She locked the door again and forced the plain, silver key as far as it would go under the door.

#

“For some reason, I’ve lost my mailbox key, do you have one still?” her father asked.

She looked at her now-dismal key ring. Where once there had been an eccentric collection, now only a small metal family of three remained, and a cheap bottle opener she’d gotten at a street fair.

“Here, sure. Do you want the spare?” she started to pry the key ring apart again to remove the gold mother-child combo, but he stopped her.

“Why don’t you just give me the whole set?” he asked, holding out a large calloused hand to her. “We’ll need the car key too.”

“Oh, yeah. That makes sense,” she muttered, and reluctantly placed her last possessions–two gold, one small, one big, and a gnarly black car key–in his hand, shaking a bit as she dropped them in his weathered palm, the remaining keys jingling. She didn’t quite know what to do with her empty hands. “Guess I don’t need any of them anymore.”

“Here,” he said watching her. After a quiet moment he slid the rings apart and looped the cheap plastic off the ring. “Why don’t you keep the bottle opener?”

Day Ninety-Three: Announcements

I’m sorry to have missed yesterday’s post, I was in a competitive Cornhole Tournament at a brewery against my mother (which I won!) and then eating my bodyweight in Chinese takeout.

Win.

Anyway, I wanted to make a few announcements!

First, I did an interview for a fellow blogger, Rachel Cerrera, who is interviewing authors for her Friday series. According to our chats, mine will appear next week– so a week from today! Check it out, I’m sure it’ll be fun (although I did it so long ago, I can’t remember what I said, so we will all be surprised!).

Unfortunately, I’ll be in Dublin when it comes out so… I’ll try to keep an eye out for its premier, but I don’t quite know how available internet will be. So please feel free to check out her blog on Friday even if I have yet to pot a link.

Next on the agenda, I have a plot-bug for a bit of flash fiction nagging at me. I hope to post it, if not today, then in the next few days (I have to pack and have a lot to do, or else I’d guarantee it’d be today). It’s called Keys and it’s about saying goodbye… And is quite sad, I think. Keep an eye on this blog if you’d be interested in that.

Last, I’m leaving the country on Tuesday. It’s not really an announcement, I’m just excited!

That is all.

Oh, and here are some lovely flowers my mother gave me for Easter.

20140418-171111.jpg

Day Thirty-Seven: Boredom

The rains came today bringing with them laziness. Spent most of the day lounging, although I managed a bit (not as much as I hoped, but enough to stay on track). I stayed up much too late writing my ending last night, so I don’t feel too sick about lazing around all afternoon with a book.

However, I plan on finishing Chapter 12 very soon and editing the last section this weekend. 12 out of 22 chapters… It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.

This isn’t the first book I’ve tried to write. I have three or four really solid starts on my laptop. I have five chapters of a subversive chick-lit anti-love story for new adults. I have three chapters for a sisterly-bonding/self-discovery tale that I quite like. I have a paranormal love story. I have a lot of strange books of all genres that never quite got past the opening before I lost attention and steam.

Most of my finished projects are short stories. They’re the only works I never grew bored of. How could I? They were just short enough to get the story down without lingering. It was really the perfect length for my attention span.

I am proud of myself that this project hasn’t fallen into that document folder. I’m trudging along, but the best part is… I haven’t lost interest. I am still excited to wake up every morning and start working on this project! To me, that is all the sign I need.

I think what I am learning to love about the YA/Juvenile genre is that it’s so wide. I don’t have to write a bleak comedy. I don’t have to write a serious novel. I just get to write.

My book so far has mystery, jealousy, bitterness, an old man with a long beard, love, laughter, sadness, death, a bad prank, fear, destruction, time-travel, confusion, betrayal, new friends, a man in a tweed coat, ridiculous nicknames, a woman who looks like a clock, an imaginary garden, a new sport and a million other tales. It’s not just a story… it’s a universe.

How could I ever grow bored with such a wide world to keep me busy?

I have let my imagination run rampant. I’ve never been so happy.