From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Would You Finish This Piece? (A Writing Exercise)

The last thing she did was give me money for pizza. "Be nice on the tip, John," she said. Then she walked out the door in that red dress she used to wear with the thick black belt. She left, and it was 37 minutes between the ambulance noise I heard but didn't think much about and the knock on my door. They said drunk driver. I don't really remember too much about what happened after that.
I jotted that in my notebook the other day. Sometimes I'll think about something or overhear something and it will spark an idea and I'll have to jot the first paragraph down in my notebook, but then the electric spark stops. I'm realizing lately that endings take a lot of thought and deliberation for me.

So I'm bringing it to you to see how you guys do it. How do you decide how to end a piece?

And how would you end this one?

It can be flash fiction, novel, short story, whatever. Write the next and last paragraph if you want, or tell me what you'd do. I'm really interested to know.

And go!


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Have Something To Say (Aaron Sorkin for President)

So, we know I tend to freak out about things. Like, not in a "the sky is falling" way; more in a ITS SO FLUFFY I'M GONNA DIE way. That's like, my thing.

Ok. You know how in the Twilight books (yes, I'm talking about Twilight), the vampires have a heightened sense of smell of the people around them, and how Bella is like Edward's "personal brand of heroin"? I already have a tendency to get overexuberant about, well, pretty much everything, but there are a more limited number of times when something is punch me in the gut good, its literally a physical reaction good, I don't want to eat or pee because then I'd have to take out my headphones good. This is The Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin what have you done to me.

There are three--yes THREE pining couples in this show, and Jeff Daniels plays one of the most achingly good kicked puppy wrapped in a fiercely intelligent and crotchety middle aged man characters EVER. This show is so good it HURTS MY STOMACH. MUCH YES. SO CAPS LOCK.

Anyway. We know you're a weirdo, Sarah, get to the point, you say. I will try. I mean, I've already taken out my headphones after all.

I think as writers and artists of any kind, we worry about taking a stand. We don't want to alienate people by saying things they disagree with. We aim for subtlety. From the big speeches and rants to the really, REALLY epic pining and grand, cinematic backing score, The Newsroom isn't necessarily going for subtlety. I mean, Jeff Daniel's character calls the Tea Party the American Taliban. And the thing is, normally I am uber sensitive to that type of discussion, especially when it comes to politics. Generally I just get stubborn and contrary when people talk politics, and argue conservative with liberals and vice versa. But the thing is, the writers of this show have managed it so neither they nor the characters are pounding anyone for believing something differently than anyone else. They're only pounding on illogical thinking and dishonesty. But they're making their point unabashedly. And it is incredibly refreshing.

I think we all have something to say, and we shouldn't be afraid to say it. Especially if we can manage it like this show, and entertain any line of intelligent inquiry even if its different from our own. As artists, we should value transparency as much as we do in our government. Talk about the changes you want to see made. Talk about what problems you see, and who you see that's doing something positive about it. In a way, art is journalism. Find truth, and express it simply. I think that's the ultimate goal of any artist.

And yeah, if The Newsroom is any accurate indication of Aaron Sorkin as a person and hypothetical politician, I nominate him for President.

Sarah Allen

p.s. On an only somewhat related topic, famous youtuber Hank Green as well as others had the chance to interview President Obama. Here is an article Hank wrote about the experience, and the somewhat strange, unexpected and perhaps antiquated reaction of some of the mainstream media.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The House That Jack (The Ripper) Built

I wish I had more pictures of our California house. Especially the inside. We only lived there a couple years, during the internet boom (the burst burst us right with it) and the house is gone now. My sister only found that picture up there on an old site. You can kind of see the swimming pool, the the small vinyard we used to cut through to get home from school. It was really the only house in the bay area big enough to fit 7 children.

But let me just start from the top. The top floor was, for the most part, one large ballroom. It had a built in pool table, and for some inexplicable reason, a foggy glass panel in the middle of the floor, looking down into the rooms below. For many weeks we were scared to stand on it for long.

The only other room was a bedroom, where my sister and I slept. There were not one, but two doors leading to in-the-wall attic type rooms that provided the most perfect club meeting places conceivable. We documented our presence on the walls in sharpie.

Once in one of the attic rooms we found a rat squished flat like a rug. We waited for Dad to come home, then he took it out to the trash in a dust bin.

Really it was the basement that was inexplicable. A thin staircase led from the main floor kitchen (where we kept lizards perpetually named Toby in tupperware containers with sticks and leaves and potato bugs until the Toby's died, poor things) to a kind of basement furnace room. In that room, years ago, some frat boy renters had painted pin-up girls on the wall. My mom added bloomers, and forever after one girl had a line of white paint dripping down her leg until the walls were knocked down.

My mom was giving a tour, once, of the house, and someone leaned against the wall to the left of the pin-up girl. It turned out the wall was more of a partition than an actual wall, and it collapsed backward into a room that was more like a gravel pit that we hadn't known was there until then.

Walking past the pin-up girl furnace room led to the room that was probably the main reason we generally didn't go in the basement if we could avoid it. In the center of the room was what seemed to be a surgeons table, white, and nearly as tall as we were then. To the right was a set of locked glass doors that, as far as we could tell, only opened into the inner wall. Sometimes the old pipes would bang behind the walls, and it sounded like knocking. Those doors stayed locked. Across from those doors, inlaid in the outside window, was a display of surgical tools--tweezers, syringes, scalpels--arranged in a nice rainbow formation.

It was not a good idea to read Poe in that house.

Looking at what I'm describing, even I can't believe it was actually real and not some setting in a Stephen King movie. But then I remember places like the Winchester Mansion (which, when we toured, my mom said was a little too close to home) and remember that weird, creepy, awesome places are every. The world is weird and creepy and awesome.

I vaguely remember having a hard time in those California years, but not really. I remember having no friends, and getting teased, but what I mostly remember is that house. I remember the sunroom and playing with my dog and setting up beanie baby clubs in the barn out in the vineyard and frankly manipulating all my siblings out of theirs. And I had fun. I don't know specifically how the places we live in our childhoods affect us, but maybe I can trace my love of things like Night Vale and Neil Gaiman and The Addams Family back to this house.

And if any of you ever meet Stephen King, tell him I have some ideas.

Sarah Allen

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Matching Survey

Do you like 3 am Cake Boss?
How large is your library?
How many licks does it take to get the center of
whatever is at the center of you?
I don't want flowers. Do want kittens.
Are you camera shy?
Will you swear to wear mismatched socks
in sickness and in health?
Will you make me believe my pajama pants are sexy?
Check the box for
Will you be The Doctor for Halloween
and wear bow-ties to church on Sunday if I
asked you to?
An elephant's trunk can grasp something
as small as a peanut
yet rip a tree from the ground
roots and all, when needed.
With this in mind,
let me look closely at your hands, and see
how they feel against the skin
at the small of my back.

Sarah Allen

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Love Bruce Banner

It's hard to pick a favorite Avenger. Iron Man is just so hilarious, and quippy and smart. Captain America is the guy you want your daughter bringing home for dinner. He just makes you feel safe. But ya know, in a lot of ways I think Hulk may be my favorite.

Look at that cover. Just look at it. Bruce Banner is the pingingest of all the Avengers, and that's saying something. 

He's indestructible, yet totally vulnerable. There's just something so appealing about that mix.

I've never been a fan of the alien super-heroes. (Sorry Superman). In fact, generally my favorites are the genius's with no power except their genius. (Like Iron Man and Batman). And kinda Hulk falls into that category too. Bruce is a genius who accidentally scientifically altered himself. I can get behind that. 

Oh yeah, that genius thing. He's a genius.

And played by Mark Ruffalo? Mmm yes.

Science bros and Stark Spangled Banner. Am I right?

And did I mention that cover?

Basically, Marvel kind of rocks. Thanks Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thanks for this guy.

Sarah Allen

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Coming Back To Writing After a Break

December is always a weird month for me. It's my favorite month, but a weird one. Nothing seems real. There's just too much non-real-life stuff going on, like vacation and traveling and holidays. It messes with your schedule and structure, and let me tell you, I don't do well without a schedule or structure. 

Obviously I didn't do so well with the keeping up on writing thing these last few weeks. (Sorry about the unannounced hiatus...I think it was actually really good for me, but I definitely don't want it to happen again.) I know some people are really good at finding time to get their writing and social media in even when they're traveling, but I am definitely not one of them. But that's a separate thing, and one I want to get better at. What I'm thinking about today is coming back to your normal schedule after the hiatus. 

Honestly, I think the best strategy is to just avoid the hiatus. I know for sure I could have done better at working on my novel the last couple weeks, and even though taking such serious time off had its benefits, in many ways its good to be back to a normal schedule and I hope to arrange my schedule and habits even better so that hiatus's like that don't happen in the future.

So that's for the future. I have some goals for this year that will hopefully keep me making good progress on all my projects. But what about coming back to it now? I've heard somewhere that it takes 17 days to form or lose a habit. If you don't write for 17 days, or even two or three, then you lose your momentum. How do you pick it back up?

I've had success reminding myself that I can start small. You don't have to write your entire novel the day you come back from Christmas break. Start with one page. Or one paragraph. Or one sentence. And that sentence often leads to a second sentence, then a third, then hopefully a fourth. And that's enough to start getting your momentum back. 

Really, you just have to do it. If you dropped the ball for a while, pick it back up. If you lost your consistency in the past, be consistent now. Start small with your one page, then come back the next day and do another. Keep coming back, and you'll be back in your old good habits.

I'm going to be working on that this year. I'm going to do better at structuring and scheduling my days, prioritizing all the things I want to do so I get as much done as I can. I am ready for some serious progress, 2015. 

Whatever you did for Christmas and New Years, let's start this year off strong. If you kept the ball going, good for you. Don't drop it now. If you dropped it for some vacation and family time, that's okay too. Just pick things up now, and let's go!

Sarah Allen
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