A Writer Needs a “Real” Job (Part 1)


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**This will be a two-part series, the first one is me tossing my two cents in and the second one is more research-based.**


Courtesy of Pinterest.


Most writers would say that we have a consensus on some lines you shan’t ever utter to us. Some of them are, “Must be nice not to have a real job,” and “I wish I had time to write” or “I think I’m going to write a book, too, you know, when I’m retired and things have slowed down.”

Trust me on this, pal: No matter where you are in life, you will always find it difficult to find the time to write. Truth is, you don’t find the time, you make the time. Remember, you’re the master of your fate and if you want to put a story down on paper, just do it. No excuses, no dragging your feet, no daydreaming about being invited to The Ellen DeGeneres Show because you published a New York Bestseller. (I speak from experience.)

Bottom line, every writer needs a routine, a chunk of the day reserved purely for writing. I found a great Infograph on tumblr a few weeks ago explaining the differences between “a morning writer” and “an evening writer.” It also tells the pros and cons for writing in the morning and in the evening. I’m gonna look for it later this weekend, because it helped me figure out what works well for me. I prefer writing in the evening after my most time-sensitive obligations for that day are behind me, and I know I don’t necessarily have to scurry off anywhere. I can relax, make some tea and emerge myself in the story.

That said, having a day job isn’t a bad thing. You’d think it would get in the way of your writing, but one thing you got to realize, if it wasn’t a job, it would be something else. Unless you’re living under a rock, you will always have people and things in your life “distracting” you. That’s how life works. Frankly, having a day job is healthy for you, because it helps you build a writing routine, gives you further incentive to write and it simply gets you off your butt. It’s healthy to be busy (busy to an extent, of course), to keep yourself moving, because if you don’t have something to do during your day, you will get lazy. You might lose motivation and energy to write. You will most likely get bored–and grumpy. But the worst thing of all… all the creative ideas flurrying in your head might dry out as well.

Working, interacting with other people, just plain LIVING are the primary sources for inspiration. You might pick up things in your favorite book, in music and movies, and so forth, but the most exciting creativity happens when you experience things. Granted, I’m lucky that I’m working at a newspaper. I am sitting in the front row, exposed to the details of the game. I talk to so many different people, ranging from lovely to strange to informative to stuttering, and I do research on so many different things on a daily basis. It may be easy for me to say that having a day job is good for you since I’m basically fishing at the lake of stories.

However, if you’re working at McDonald’s for example, wouldn’t you be motivated to write once you got home? Maybe you don’t pick up a lot of ideas at your job then, but it does give you time to daydream and figure out the plot, the characters, et cetera. I’m speaking from experience again, because the thing with minimum wage jobs like McDonald’s is that it’s the same damn thing every day. While it may be hard manual labor, it works as a meditation mechanism. Not every day perhaps, but definitely during your slow shifts. I wouldn’t have survived McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway or any of my other shit-jobs if it hadn’t been for my wild imagination.

Besides all that, being a starving artist isn’t as cool as it sounds.

Get a job, man.

Food Review: Killer Hibachi


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When I went to dinner at Killer Hibachi last week, I wasn’t planning on writing a review on it; just wanted to see a good friend whom I hadn’t seen for several weeks. The day after as I was eating leftovers from the restaurant, I talked with my colleague about the food and the strange atmosphere. It occurred to me later that I really should write a few blogs about the various restaurants, bars and coffee shops here in Mt. Pleasant. I love food, I love sharing my opinions with the world, so let’s go.

For those who don’t know, Killer Hibachi is a Japanese steakhouse, or that’s what they call themselves. I have doubts that people from Japan would be flattered by the food they serve, much less the decorations, and their logo may flat out insult them. When the place first opened on 4520 Collegiate Way, I recall one of my professors calling the logo “racist.” I’d say it’s a little bit racist.

You be the judge.


I do appreciate the haul they put on your plate. I had the teriyaki chicken, which came with white steamed rice (I think you have the option of fried rice) and some zucchini, carrots and a ton of onion. There should have been more zucchini and carrots, but otherwise it tasted good. But not good enough to justify the price.

The dip – oh, excuse me, signature sauce – was more like a dip. Actually it was exactly like the potato chip dip my dad makes Friday nights. I skipped it. I think they should think about having a selection of sauces, ranging from sweet’n’sour to mild to spicy. Speaking of which, are there any spicy items on menu? There’s no indication that any of the meals are spicy, but someone on a Google review recommended “the spicy killer meal” so I’m not sure.

Let’s talk about the design of the restaurant, which to be perfectly honest, is the thing I wanted to talk about the most. My friend told me the building Hibachi resides in used to be a BBQ place; fine, but that doesn’t justify having a Western interior style at a Japanese place. It’s like they think that putting up a large pseudo-Japanese picture of a hanging bridge in a foggy forest will make up for it. And the music! They’re playing jazzy 1940s music like “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” by the Andrew Sisters. It’s the kind of music they played in the beginning of the 20th century. Weird.

I should add that the service is pretty good, though. Nice servers and you got a manager walking around, asking the guests how they are doing. My friend and I were there when the restaurant wasn’t super busy so I can’t say with confidence if they do as well during rush hour, of course.

Overall, three out of five stars. I would go there again if they lowered their prices.

Grocery Shopping is an Art


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My dad is the type of person who clips coupons on mPerks and reads the weekly ads from the grocery store and buys things in stock. For the last four years or so, he’s been trying to teach my brothers and I to do the same thing. I didn’t think much of it before, you know: How hard can grocery shopping be? You write a list of the things you need, walk in, get your things, pay and leave. Right?

Foolish woman.

No, I get the sense that whoever decides how to set up the stores, they place the food and all the things you really need – like soap, paper towels, toothpaste, etc – in the back. The fun things – clothes, make-up, books, scented candles, booze, the kind of ottoman you’ve always wanted – all that crap is in the front to confuse you. Before you know it, you’ve “just picked up” a new hand towel because it was purple and only $1.79, candles that smell like apples, a bottle of wine (always good to have extra one around) and a $3 face mask because this is the weekend you’re going to pretend your living room is a spa.

Granted, you might pick up the useless crap that’s on clearance or generally just cheap, but once you add it up, together it can become expensive.

Rule #1: Always ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Ask yourself this at least three to five times, because you’ll see that you have no good reason to spend extra money.

Of course you’re welcome to treat yourself. We’re busy, hard-working people, aren’t we? We deserve something nice once in a while. But can you afford it? Now, I’m not saying that I am poster child for wise spending, but I try my best. In the last six weeks, I’ve noticed that there are three ways to live comfortably without breaking the bank:

Rule #2: Treat yourself but don’t throw all your cash away.

  • Spread it out. When I moved in my apartment, there were a bunch of things I needed to get, but my parents warned me not to get it all at once. I needed a curtain for the window on my front door so I got that first. Other things like baking pans, frames for my photographs and a door mat, I held off on that for a few weeks. (In fact, I’m hoping to get a mat for my birthday, plus a coffee table… ’cause I’m clearly an adult.)
  • Put a limit on weekly spending. If you’re making plans with people, knowing that some of things you’re gonna do will cost money, tell yourself how much you’re willing to get rid before your pockets feel too light.
  • Only once. Sometimes you may go overboard, which is alright; it can be inevitable. In that case, tighten your belt for at least a whole week. Doesn’t seem like much, but you can call it a draw.

Then finally, how is grocery shopping supposed to work? I probably can’t help those with children and pets, but maybe this still applies to you; who knows.

  • Write a list. (And fricking stick to that list.) Remember rules #1 and #2.
  • Think rationing back in WWII, only less depressing. When you’re buying for only yourself, it’s easy to buy too much food at first. I’ve found that it helps to more or less plan your meals. Not telling you to write a menu, but I try think about how soon something’s going get eaten, if I’m in the mood for anything special and how much time will I have for cooking in the upcoming week.
  • Coupons and memberships are your friends. Not that I’m a corporate groupie, but I tend to buy groceries at Meijer, Aldi and Kroger. I check their weekly ads and write a list of some things that are on sale; I’m signed up for mPerks and got a Kroger card; and frankly, Aldi is a great place to buy vegetables and cheese for a reasonable price, plus wine and candy imported from Europe.
  • Don’t buy it because it’s furry. Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean you have to get it. Unless it’s something you need or usually get, leave it alone. (P.S. I hope Gilmore Girl fans appreciate the reference.)
  • Expiration dates! Smell the potatoes. Get the green bananas. It’s a pet peeve of mine to throw things out. I care about the planet so I don’t want anything to go to waste. I was so mad at myself earlier this week when I had to toss a whole banana in the garbage. So check the date on the milk; reach for one in the back of the row if you have to. Seriously, smell the potatoes, because you don’t know how long they’ve been sitting there and they go bad quickly if not stored properly. Buy the green bananas so they don’t go bad before you can enjoy them. (Yes, I know that sounded dirty.)

Hope that’s helpful in any way. I think I’m gonna go and eat some leftovers now.

The Newsroom, Part 1


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Courtesy photo.

Courtesy photo.

The last five weeks have been incredibly exciting. I gotta say, thank goodness that “living with my folks after college graduation” was indeed temporary. Especially since I had to simultaneously work full-time at Wendy’s and part-time at Subway.

Half-way through September, I started working at the local newspaper Morning Sun here in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. and writing for a real paper has made me realize that I chose the right path. This summer has been nothing but a season of horror as I spent nearly every night lying in bed and wondering whether I wasted the last four years of my life. During the day I searched for a writing job; not just at newspapers and magazines, but anything that was remotely related to the media or included working at an office of some sort. I was prepared to be some administrative assistant, anything so I didn’t have to say, “Hi, welcome to Wendy’s” anymore. Hell, I was ready to do PR. *shudder*

Anyway, no need to further bore you with my scars. Now that I’m finally where I belong, I want to share five tips with those of you who are still at school, preparing for an internship, or job hunting and don’t know what to expect.

* Fight through it: I used to be reserved and more or less scared of talking to strangers. Yes, big problem when you want to be a journalist. Can’t tell you why, but I wanted to be part of that world too much to let it stop me. The idea of reporting the news enticed me more than any other possible career (for a while, I considered becoming a prosecutor). All you can do is go out there and be scared, do the best you can and repeat the next day. Eventually it will be fun. On my first week, I thought all that crap would come back to me. Fortunately, it really didn’t because I was too focused on putting my best foot forward. So if you want it badly enough, simply do your best.

* Prioritize: It’s a big part of the job overall; we have to decide on a daily basis what needs to go out first. For example, you might have a story with a lot of impact coming out, but then it gets moved, because a lethal car accident happens so the paper has to print it first. That’s just example. You as a journalist, when you’re juggling several stories at once (note the WHEN, not if), you gotta plan ahead and try to guess how long it will take you to finish a story. Never procrastinate. Doesn’t work well in college; it won’t fly in the newsroom either.

* It’s business: Your instructors and professors tell you this on first day of class, but I will say it just for good measure: You can’t take anything personal. It’s cool to have opinions – most journalists have it inevitably – but you can’t share them with the public, much less nuance them in your writing. Don’t get too attached to a story; sometimes you gotta drop one or hand it to a colleague. There are times the topic or event you’re covering interests you, and there are times it puts you to sleep or confuses you.

If it’s the latter… bite the bullet and write the shit out of it. There’s little cherry-picking in this business.

* Have a sense of humor: Plenty of people will hate you, complain, make many angry phone calls, Facebook message stuff to the paper, sue you even, et cetera. That’s nothing you can control so you might as well brush the dirt off your shoulder and bring it up at a cocktail party later.

* Get into a great sleep-routine: It’s not a ridiculous advice! Hear me out. Missing out on one proper night’s sleep will fuck up your day, possibly the next two days. Lifehack.org said in an article that having bad sleep habits is like running an engine without an oil change. I speak from experience, plus I read way too many articles on sleep habits for my own good. I do that mostly because my brain won’t shut up or like one night two weeks ago, I couldn’t fall asleep until it was almost four in the morning. Now, one hour before I go to bed, I do something that relaxes me both physically and mentally. It can be drinking a cup of tea and reading a book. By the time I lie down, I can close my eyes and fall asleep within five, ten minutes.

Hope this helps, and happy reporting.

Block out writing advice sometimes


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“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” ~Lev Grossman

Borrowed from psliterary.tumblr.com

Borrowed from psliterary.tumblr.com

Last night, I saw these gifs on tumblr from a video by Alice Oseman; this young British woman is the newly published author of Solitaire and she has a tumblr blog about writing and other fun things on the Internet. (Realized today that we both like the YouTuber Phil Lester.) In this video, she gives you comforting tips on how to get published. The seven steps she lays out are over-simplified, but amusing and probably helpful anyway. I’ve read about the publishing universe for the past eight years or so I didn’t learn anything new, except for maybe the first strep. I would recommend it; there’s a link at the bottom of this blog post.

Oseman says, “The good news is that writing literally has no rules whatsoever. So please, do not take the advice of writing blogs that tell you things like: Adverbs are banned, never use adjectives, prologues are always awful. It’s all lies. Just write whatever book you want to write. If you want to write a book about sparkly werewolf vampire boyfriends in a magical school… Just write it! Because we don’t know, it might be fabulous. We don’t know, you haven’t written it yet. Go write it, right now!”

Well, that statement kind of under-minds my blog’s very existence. Nonetheless, there’s truth to it. Whatever story you got to tell, you have to write it. If not to get it published, but for yourself, for your well-being. Yes, writing is healthy. Look it up.

Another thing that I liked hearing was that the rule about prologues, because I have heard from several people that prologues are pointless. Like an unnecessary preview. Funny enough, I thought about what those people said and concluded, “Nah, fuck it! I am gonna write a prologue. It’s needed.” And I wrote an awesome, funny prologue. I hope other people think it is, too.

My point is that writing advice is helpful, but sometimes you have to block it out. Especially if it makes you feel insecure. Like Oseman says, “Believe in yourself.”

Millennials Aren’t Lazy


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Borrowed from huffingtonpost.com

Borrowed from huffingtonpost.com

The general assumption about my generation is that we are “lazy people with unrealistic expectations who want a lot of things out of life without having to work for it.”

It’s true that some of us look at our phone too often, or have grown this inexplicable adoration for cat videos, or avoid participating in politics. The Internet has replaced taking drugs – for some – and hipsters have become the new hippies. I won’t deny any of this, except for one thing: My generation is no more lazy than the men and women who came before.

You know why most of us move back home with our parents after college? Do you understand how difficult it is to stand on your own two feet when the odds are stacked against you? Here in the States, if you want to lease a car and you’re under the age of 25, they jack up the cost. Same thing for car insurance, because anyone between the age of 18 and 24 is considered a risk. You can hardly call it fair, considering that there are plenty of people older than me who drive a lot more recklessly.

When you decide to leave the nest, you have to consider the following costs:

  • Rent, plus security deposit and most places will ask you to pay the first and last month’s worth of rent.
  • Possibly renter’s insurance, which isn’t terribly expensive compared to any other insurance, but an additional cost nonetheless.
  • Possibly an application fee when you try to get the apartment in the first place.
  • On top of that, you have bills for water, gas, electricity, cable/Internet, maybe parking and pet rent.
  • Gas, monthly lease payment, car insurance and if you’re unlucky or don’t take care of your vehicle, repair costs.
  • Depending on where you live, you may have to pay the city to pick up your garbage. I have heard of some neighborhoods where people are so poor, they burn their trash when it isn’t picked up.
  • Health insurance.
  • Money for food, water, clothes, and household essentials (soap, toilet paper, etc.).
  • If you have children, that’s even more money going towards diapers, food, school supplies, and so forth.

Now I’m one of the lucky ones who finished college without a mountain of student loans clawing on my back, but imagine what that does to someone who’s trying to get a job in their field. Imagine them having to accept a minimum wage job or two when it doesn’t work out immediately. Imagine the interest going up as they struggle to make ends meet.

I have friends who are doing fine taking care of themselves, but not without having to split the costs between themselves. For example, a friend of mine shares an apartment with three other women, drives her dad’s old van and works like a dog at a restaurant as a manager. Another friend of mine had to quit school for a while when her financial aid didn’t come through. She had to move back with her mom and start working two jobs. At one point it was three when she had a temporary position at Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t until last year she could afford a (crappy) place on her own. Only recently did she return to her studies and she’s getting a better place but she has to share it with three or four other people.

I’m not trying to make excuses. My point is, things are more expensive than when our parents were our age. Getting a decent job has become a competition. Having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t seem to mean anything to employers anymore; they want someone with a master’s, five years experience and superpowers. It doesn’t help that we’re trying to spread our wings during a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t help that the government is spending more money on the military than public education.

My point is… we’re doing our best and every day, we try to make the most out of things. We want more than $8.15 an hour, and we work hard to get there.

Writing Advice: The Metamorphosis of Delinquencies


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Murder & Crime Done Right – Chapter 3.

We combed through a lot of theories in criminology class, two of them being Differential Association theory by Edwin Sutherland and Social Control theory by Travis Hirschi. The first one talks about how criminal behavior is learned and the second one attempts answering the question, “Why are some people law-abiding, and why do others break the law?” It focuses solely on young people and talks about causes for delinquency based on self-reported data.

Edwin_Sutherland Let’s begin with Sutherland’s theory on Differential Association.*

* Criminal behavior is learned: Negatively, this means that criminal behavior is not inherited, as such; also, the person who is not already trained in crime does not invent criminal behavior, just as a person does not make mechanical inventions unless he has had training in mechanics.

* Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other people in a process of communication: This communication is verbal in many respects but included also the “communication of gestures.” In a nutshell, this means that someone shows a young person how to commit a certain act, for example, how to break into a car or snatch a woman’s purse.

* The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. A small (the primary group) consists of family, close friends, guardians, relatives and so forth. Sociologists have labeled some of these primary groups as “nuclear family,” gangs, peers, roommates and colleagues. This means that the impersonal agencies of communication, such as movies and newspapers play a relatively unimportant part in the genesis of criminal behavior.

* When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometimes very simple; and (b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations and attitudes: Our professor said nearly everyone has a conscience so when a person does something they know is forbidden or frowned upon, they have to justify it somehow. The sociologist Gresham Sykes coined the term techniques of neutralizations, which is when a criminal creates justifications and rationalizations for his or her actions, and/or make up excuses to lessen the severity of their actions. The more someone justifies criminal behavior, the more it becomes a habit and the easier it gets to feel less or no remorse from it.

* The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable and unfavorable: In some societies, an individual is surrounded by persons who invariably define the legal codes as rules to be observed, while in others he is surrounded by those whose definitions are favorable to the violation of the legal codes. In our American society, these definitions are almost always mixed, with the consequence that we have culture conflict in relations to the legal codes.

"Daredevil" (1.11) - 'The Path of the Rightous.'

“Daredevil” (1.11) – ‘The Path of the Rightous.’

* A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law. This is the principle of differential association. When a persons become criminal, they do so because of contacts with criminal patterns and also because of isolation from anti-criminal patterns. (IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER.)

* Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity. “Frequency” and “duration” as modalities of association are obvious and need no explanation. “Priority” is assumed to be important in the sense that lawful behavior developed in early childhood may persist throughout life. “Intensity” has to do with such things as the prestige of the source of a criminal or anti-criminal pattern. (The latter refers to idolizing/adoring a role-model who participates in criminal behavior.)

* The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning. Thus, the learning of criminal behavior is not restricted to the process of imitation.

* While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, since noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values. Thieves general steal in order to secure money, but likewise honest laborers work in order to secure money.

**The explanation for Sutherland’s theory was largely copied from a worksheet and at some places paraphrased as well as expanded with my notes. Presumably Professor Adinkrah wrote the worksheet himself.

Travis_Hirschi_General_Theory_of_Crime_+_Social_Bond_TheoryInteresting, right? Let’s continue with Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory that talks about “conquering delinquency.” (This information comes from my notes taken during class.)

In 1969, this sociologist gathered data from various young men and women, and came up with this conceptual idea called BOND. He stated in his theory that children without strong social, positive ties have the tendency to grow up to become sociopaths, psychopaths and/or criminals. For a person to have a greater opportunity to become a law-abiding citizen, they need the following four things (most of them, I believe):

* Attachment, commitment, involvement and belief.

Attachment refers to having strong social ties to a “conventional other,” which can be parents, teachers, peer, et cetera. If these bonds influence the person in a positive manner – and that encourages lawful behavior (remember Sutherland) – then the possibility for criminal behavior diminishes.

Commitment to conventionally pursued goals, which can be for school, jobs, some passion, anything that will keep their mind off juvenile and/or criminal activities.

Involvement in conventional activities: recreational activities, hobbies, sports, academic/cultural/community centered clubs, and volunteering will keep young people occupied. These activities may also entice better behavior. Professor Adinkrah told us the expression, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.”

Beliefs: According to Hirschi’s research, young people with a set of high moral principles and/or who were religious were less likely to become delinquents. They were taught honesty, kindness, fairness and other attributes that contradicted a criminal lifestyle. Even those who were patriotic – who wanted to serve the military/government – would not participate in criminal behavior. This also ties in with committing to long-term goals.


I hope you find this helpful if you’re writing about a young character (or several) that doesn’t like to follow the rules, or something along those lines. Happy writing!

“Astronomy” by (classmate) Zachary Riddle


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A classmate of mine recently got his poem “Astronomy” published in the national literary journal The Blue Route, which is pretty awesome. His name is Zachary Riddle and you can read more about him at the bottom of this blog entry.

I decided to talk about “Astronomy,” because why the Hell not. Most poems I’ve talked about in Poetry Tuesday so far have been written by people who are dead by now. It’s time I changed gears a little.

Astronomy – Zachary Riddle

I am stoneskinned in the wake of you—infested, nightmared,
a scarecrow in a barren field, sunsore and crucified, nails pierced

through hayweed veins. At dawn, tasked with creation,
I leave the city lightless

and blindly run my fingers across the bridge of your nose,
slowly skim the thin of your upper lip, the small of your thumb,

the whole of your lower back. I sew myself into your treeborn
body, make seams between our myths and merge—

one fractured cosmos with another. You trace the fire
between fjord and shipdeck and tell me:

The sun rises and sets within two hours in Antarctica.
Under swollen red stars, I explain that I’ve lived

below Orion’s Belt my entire life, that I’ve only
seen the Southern sky in photographs.


The Blue Route, Issue 14.

The Blue Route, Issue 14.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know how to analyze Riddle’s poem; this is one of those times when I don’t fully “understand” it but I like it, because it has beautiful diction, smooth lines and such abstract imagery. The voice here makes me feel as though the speaker is an otherworldly being answering the question, “So how was your day?” Since it’s called ‘Astronomy,’ my guess is that the speaker is somehow the cosmos itself… it’s not literally a scarecrow in a barren field, but an object of mystery and fear for us human beings.

Maybe I’m saying that just because recently I began watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s The Cosmos and thinking of that episode when he talked about the scientists who were scorned (crucified, nails pierced) for studying the sky and making claims such as the Earth is not the center of the universe and there are more galaxies like our own in existence. I especially get that from tasked with creation, because life itself started out in space – the Big Bang, the expansion of the universe, rocks colliding with each other – but this line also talks about the beginning of the day, the sun rising.

My favorite sentence is: I sew myself into your treeborn/ body, make seams between our myths and merge–/ one fractured cosmos with another. I might be all alone in this interpretation, but it makes me think of the phrase, “God is in everything,” and the idea that even though everything in the cosmos looks so chaotic on the outside, everything and everyone is still connected. There is a system behind every movement, behind evolution, behind birth and so forth. That’s probably the agnostic in me talking.

Either way, it’s an amazing poem and I love reading it. Perhaps it’s more important to say how it makes us feel rather than trying to come up with explanation for what it means.

Link to Riddle’s poem.

Link to Blue Route’s wordpress site.

PDF format of The Blue Route, issue 14.

Writing Advice and Staring out of Windows


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Lately it feels as though I’ve been staring out of windows a lot. It’s not like there’s a busy sidewalk outside with pedestrians to look at, though. One looks out to the backyard where the most interesting things are the birds and squirrels. Same goes for the other window, which turns towards the neighbor’s house and a partial view of the road leading to the busy traffic. Maybe it seems to happen a lot since I’m at my desk whenever my mind begins to wander…

Borrowed from tumblr site "samisoffthewall."

Borrowed from tumblr site “samisoffthewall.”

The suburbs isn’t the ideal place for a writer like me to reside. I’m not making excuses for my slow progress – writing a detailed and improved (new) outline for my novel – I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind being somewhere else to do my work. I probably should make it a habit to drive over to the local library or a coffee shop, because trying to finish stuff like this at my house is a mean task. There’s always someone shouting after me and asking me to do some household task “since I am not doing anything.”

Another observation I have made is that staring out of a window is much better than gluing my eyes to a laptop screen. Easier to gather my thoughts. It has rained a lot, too, in the past two, three weeks so I have had that comfort at least.

I can also say with confidence that the revision for my novel is going excellently, even though my life feels so chaotic and busy nowadays. I got myself two jobs last week. Two jobs! That is a new ball game for me; we’ll see how I manage that.

Anyway, the title of this blog post does say, “Writing tips,” so here they are: These are a myriad of helpful writing advice I’ve found on tumblr. (Click the links for the full article.)

12 Questions to ask yourself about your Magic System


  1. How is it learned and executed?
  2. How is it accessed?
  3. Does it have a will of its own?
  4. Is it restricted in space and time?
  5. What does available magic do?
  6. How does it relate to the character, plot and theme of the book? …


Top Ten Things that are not Impressive for Action Characters [Example]

  1. Sticking the landing . All this does is jack up joints. Collapse and roll. Hit the ground with the largest surface area possible.
  2. Headshots . You sound like bragging gamers.
  3. “One shot, one kill.” Same as above. Aim for center mass and unload until they stop moving.
  4. Disabling shots . Depending on the time period, you’re either consigning them to a lifetime of nerve damage and pain or a slow death from infection. Also, injured people can still fight back. […]


How to Write a Scene in 11 Steps

1. What needs to happen in this scene?

2. What’s the worst that would happen if this scene were omitted?

3. Who needs to be in the scene?

4. Where could the scene take place?

5. What’s the most surprising thing that could happen in the scene?


How to ensure that something happens in a scene [Example]

1. Pick a goal for the primary character in the scene.

2. Before you start writing, brainstorm ways in which your character tries to achieve that goal. Will they win or fail?

3. How do the other characters in the scene feel? Do they reveal their feelings? Do they know the primary character’s goal? How do they help or hinder him/her? […]


In the near future, I will post some writing tips of my own. Happy writing!

Tardes, noches by Jerónimo G. Balanta.

Tardes, noches by Jerónimo G. Balanta.

‘The Portrait’ by Stanley Kunitz


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My apologies for being two days late with Poetry Tuesday this week. Here is the poem I want to talk about this time: “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz. I was actually going to talk about another poem – “Hope” by Lisel Mueller – however, just now when I opened my book at a random spot, I saw this one and remembered what Professor Fanning told us in poetry class once. He said he and Kunitz were in fact good friends. Fanning was even appointed the executor for the Kunitz’s affairs when he passed away in 2006.

If my memory serves me right, Fanning told us how he discovered all these unpublished poems in the house and old letters . He then read us “The Portrait” to show us how sometimes it can take years, decades (!), before a poet finds the right words. In this poem, Kunitz talks about the pain of never getting to meet his father. When he brought the photograph to his mother, he was only a child and it wasn’t until he was an old when he knew how to talk about that experience.

Personally I find the burning cheek to be an excellent example of good metaphor. It brings home the awful reality that Kunitz wasn’t allowed to ever talk or ask about his father. I don’t know whether he found other means to find out more about him later in life, but it’s sad nonetheless that the slap in his face discouraged him to mention anything of the sort to his mother again. It’s as though he was punished for his curiosity.


The Portrait – Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father

for killing himself,

especially at such an awkward time

and in a public park,

that spring

when I was waiting to be born.

She locked his name

in her deepest cabinet

and would not let him out,

though I could hear him thumping.

When I came down from the attic

with the pastel portrait in my hand

of a long-lipped stranger

with a brave moustache

and deep brown level eyes,

she ripped it into shred

without a single word

and slapped me hard.

In my sixty-fourth year

I can feel my cheek

still burning.


Stanley Kunitz (Poetryfoundation.com)

Stanley Kunitz (Poetryfoundation.com)


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