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Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Twitter Poetry and a NYPL Contest

If you don’t know the premise of Twitter — posting micro-thoughts of up to 140 characters — you must be anciently old or infantile-y young.

There are obviously some polarized thoughts on this no-longer-new form of expression.

Blah, blah, deteriorating attention spans, darn lazy young people, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, new forms of expression, advancing society, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, social media marketing, brand-consumer interaction, blah, blah. Blah.

Was that quite enough blah’s to make your brain hurt? Okay then, moving on. I think that all those people with the polarized views are missing the point. As people with polarized opinions often. Yes, I think it’s a shame that people’s attention spans last about five seconds due to the constant stream of… whatever, but I read somewhere that decreasing attention spans has been a lamentation-du-jour for centuries.

And as a writer, Twitter’s limited space for expression is a great place to practice using language economically. “Brevity,” as we learn in Hamlet “is the the soul of wit.” I agree entirely with the sentiment, despite the irony of the fact that it comes from Shakespeare’s long-winded, dull Polonius. This is true whether we’re discussing humour, poetry or a novel. Why waste a paragraph on what can be said with more strength in one sentence?*

Really, twitter works with the same premise as poetry. I think my creative writing teacher from last year explained that poetry is prose distilled, and I think that in an ideal twitterverse, tweets are blog posts distilled.

They’re also a great medium for an up and coming form — Twitter Poetry! That’s right, poems composed of 140 characters or less. The New York Public Library has caught onto this trend and they are having a super cool poetry contest! You can find out all about it on their site and enter if you have a twitter account and live in The States (which I now do, so yay me!). The contest only runs until March 10, so get writing and check out my submissions at @asolitaryramble!

May the brief, witty, poetical forces be with you! (Whatever that’s in reference to…. Seriously. I have no idea what I’m referencing there. Something science-fiction-y?)

*Disclaimer: the only form that this does not hold true in is the academic high school (and possibly university) essay. In such pieces of writing, it is essential to be as redundant as possible, rephrasing the exact same idea using different words and examples as much as you can without absolutely dying of boredom. For some reason, teachers love this and will call your work things like “excellent” and give you mid- to high-nineties. There will be the occasional hundred-percent, but only if you say in five paragraphs what could have been summed up in one sentence.

More Posts to Come (Probably…)

I wonder what Elizabeth Anne’s been up to lately. We (my online persona — who is basically just me under a different name — and I) seem to have lost touch lately. I’m not sure what she’s been up to, but I’ve been pretty busy with my new school, new home, new friends and such.

I’ve been trying to write more, after an extended period of what one of my teachers calls “creative blockage”. So far I’m mostly working on poetry for my Creative Writing class and in my Screenwriting/Playwriting class I’m writing a screenplay about a psychopathic Math teacher I once had.

In Music class I discovered that I like playing piano. In Art class I found out that I’m capable of drawing. I’m singing in the school choir (probably just because the woman who leads choir is one of my favourite teachers here and she said I have a pretty singing voice). I’ve already gotten a reputation for playing five-year-olds in my Theatre class (not that playing a five-year-old requires much acting for me, despite my eighteen-and-a-half-and-and-a-quarter years). I’m learning what the duck a Plie is in Dance class. Then there’s Filmmaking and photography… I’m not really sure what I’m learning in those classes…

This is what I’m learning how to do in Art class. It’s my hand.

Our school is in a cute little building (that was seemingly once a house), tucked away in a cute little neighbourhood somewhere in The States. And it’s a very small school, so we can basically do whatever we want and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere. Some of my peers react to this by spending class socializing in the lunchroom. I choose to take off my shoes the moment I walk into the building and walk around in socks all day. I also bring a blankie to class and spend a lot of time cuddled on or beside the radiator during class (because adorable old buildings tend to come without central heating). That’s all the freedom I need. Well, that and coming to school twenty minutes late every day — at least I’m consistent…

I’ve also been learning how to wash dishes and do my own laundry and trade with a friend when I get stuck on garbage duty — I don’t mind washing dishes (especially with the help of rubber gloves), but for some reason dealing with garbage is where I draw the line.

Now that I’ve been in this crazy new place for a bit, I think I’m actually adjusting (as opposed to when I thought I was adjusted after being here for literally three days and then freaked out when I realized that I wasn’t adjusted a few days later) hopefully I’ll have some more time, energy, and ideas for posting more than once a month. I bet the internet’s been pretty quiet without my voice chiming in lately — just like they say my house has been since I moved away just over a month ago. Regardless, of the noise level on the internet, I do hope actually resume posting again — no more excuses!

Am I a Writer? (Probably Not)

Writing sucks. I hate writing. It makes me miserable. It stresses me out. It makes me feel really bad about myself.

So why do I do it?

Because it’s awesome. Because I love it. It makes me happy. It calms me down. It makes me feel really good about myself.

Credit: Wikipedia

I write because I’m a writer. But what does that even mean? What makes me a writer? I started writing (outside of school assignments) about a year and a half ago, just before I turned seventeen. It quickly became my “thing” — for some reason kids and teenagers feel this need to have a “thing”, something we own, that’s ours, that makes us unique. (I imagine not all kids and teenagers are this way, but I am — when I was fourteen my “thing” was an addiction to drinking Starbucks coffee, now that I’m eighteen it’s an addiction to putting words onto paper.)

When I started, my writing habit wasn’t something I shared. I didn’t talk about writing with my friends and it would never have occurred to me to let them read any of my work. I loved having my parents and grandparents read and fawn over my stories and poetry, and I would give some of my stuff to a favourite English teacher so she could give me feedback. Other than that no one really saw my writing, and few people knew about it. Then I took a creative writing course at school. And I started this blog. And I applied (and got accepted) to a gap year programme for next year that has a focus on creativity and writing. So people started to find out about the fact that I like to write. And then they started calling me a writer.

Aside from other art forms and creative fields, I doubt there are many other jobs that have this ambiguity with titles. If you take Biology and put a bandage on someone’s cut, that doesn’t make you a doctor. If you’re in med school, but haven’t graduated and cannot yet practice medicine; you’re not a doctor. Maybe your loved ones may think of you as one, or brag about you as one, or refer to you as a future doctor, but until you’ve graduated and filled whatever qualifications required, you aren’t a doctor — there’s no ambiguity. I imagine the same thing applies to most professional professions. Also, keeping with that example, being a doctor is just a career. I don’t say that to imply that it’s inferior to something creative, like writing — what I mean is that there’s no such thing as practicing medicine as a hobby. It’s a job. Of course, I imagine that it’s just as much of a lifestyle choice as writing, as is any career you choose. But most people aren’t a doctor “on the side”. They don’t dabble in stitching people up or giving checkups or prescribing antibiotics.

Being a writer, or calling yourself one, is a lot more complicated. For many people it has to be “on the side” because, from what I understand, most people don’t make enough money from their writing to “quit their day jobs”. For some people it’s a career, for others it’s a hobby and there are many gradations in between. It also has a lot of definitions. Blogs, poetry, stories, novels, reviews, articles, gossip columns, opinion columns, news articles and a million other modes of expression are all comprised of the written word. Does it follow, then, that someone who writes one or a few of these is a writer?

I dabble in poetry. I’ve even had two published in a small magazine. Does that make me a writer? Does it make me a poet? I don’t know if I think so. I’ve written a bunch of  stories. I’ve even sent a some of them out into the world and already have my very own collection of rejection letters (something which every writer has). Does that make me a writer? I don’t really believe that  it does. I’m trying to write a novel. I’m actually trying to write two. (Neither are really working out.) Does that make me a writer? A novelist? I doubt it.

Then there’s this blog. I have a bunch of followers. (Hi guys! Thanks for following!) You guys are the best. Sometimes you click the ‘like’ button. Sometimes you’re extra awesome and take time to leave some comments. Sometimes new people come along and follow me. Email alerts telling me these things make my day. In a small way, these notifications validate my existence. I write words, “publish” them and there are people who actually take the time to read them. Still, I don’t know if that makes me a writer. Maybe I’d go so far as to say I’m a blogger — if I’m feeling particularly full of myself and my awesomeness.

The word “writer” is really just a title. A label. An identifier. To most people it probably has little philosophical significance. Non-writers throw the word around applying it to people with presumably little thought. The word probably has some associations and connotations attached to it, but other than that, to most people, I imagine it means little to nothing. But to people who write, to me at least, it means everything. It encompasses my hopes and dreams, it represents so much more to me than I could express in the few words I want to put into expressing it. So it’s hard to bring myself to call myself one. It feels presumptuous.

It also feels as though it sets me up for failure by raising people’s expectations. Calling myself a writer feels like it gives me credibility that I don’t believe I’ve earned. It seems to imply that I’m good at writing. Of course I believe this of myself (sometimes) but it feels safer to let people judge for themselves. I have this fear that if refer to myself as a writer, or my friends/family brag that I’m one, then the people who of are told I’m a writer will have high ideals and expectations of me as such and will scoff if they have the opportunity to actually read my work.

But, I guess that’s what I am or that’s what I’m becoming. And people need labels and titles and identifiers, so they will continue to be presumptuous and give me this title that I don’t feel I deserve. So I’ve started embracing it. A little bit. Sometimes I refer to myself as a writer on my blog — without even surrounding it in ‘air quotes’. Sometimes I tell people about the fact that I’m taking a year off from formal education next year to study creative writing (among other things) in a ‘not-for-credits environment’.

“I guess you like writing,” they normally say. “Yup,” I tend to respond.

I do like writing. I guess. I can’t seem to stop, so that may imply that I like it — although alcoholics can’t seem to stop drinking, so this may not be a good thing. Writing is actually a pretty self-destructive habit. It often stresses me out, keeps me from sleeping (because I’m up late doing it or thinking about it) and tends to be a very antisocial activity. Those traits remind me of the lists of symptoms for various mental illnesses I had to memorize for a test in my Psychology course last year.

And yet, I keep writing. I want to say it’s because I’m a writer. That would be a nice, tidy, somewhat ironic way for me to end this post. But like I said, it’s hard (and more importantly scary) to think of myself as a writer or to call myself one. So no, I don’t write because I’m a writer. I write because writing is who I am.

Do you consider yourself a writer? Why or why not? What do you think makes someone a writer? 

Running Around in the Rain

I should really be doing something else. That seems to be the most prevalent theme in my life. The constant internal conflict. I want to do this but I should be doing that. And then, as soon as I can do the thing I wanted to do, I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do something else, and the previous want becomes the current should. During the school year, I want to be blogging or writing creatively or sitting around all day reading or even just finding some time to clean my room. What I should doing is homework. Of course, I procrastinate the homework, but feel that if I’m not doing homework, how dare I do anything else, so the things I want to do get procrastinated as well. I certainly have time to do both, but the things I enjoy always seem to take back seat.

So, I make all this wonderful resolutions. I decide that when the summer comes, I’ll do all those things I would love to be doing during the school year, but just can’t. I never plan to do very much in the summer, like get a job or go to camp, and I tell people that I don’t have plans aside from a week or so at the cottage and a week or so on vacation. But I do have plans. I plan to read — smart books, enjoyable books, any and all books — I plan to write — blog posts, short stories, a flipping novel — I plan to organize — my closet, my room, my life. In short, I plan to do everything that will make me happy, I plan to conquer the freaking world. But then, because I plan to do all these things and have the best summer I’ve ever had (and do all this because it’s what I want to do), all these wants become shoulds.

And it isn’t just that I should read, because I like reading, but then it’s about what I should read. I should read smart novels and stories and poems, that will expand my mind and make me seem smart, but then, I should also be enjoying what I’m reading. And so, if I decide that I’m going to spend this moment reading, and even if I’m not thinking of all the other things I should be enjoying, I worry that maybe I should be reading a different book. It’s the same with writing. Should I write on my blog now? In a journal? Should I instead be writing ficticiously? Should I be trying out a writing prompt? Maybe I should give my “novel” a go?

This moment, I’ve chosen writing on my blog. But now I feel that maybe I should abandon this post, because who wants to hear me complain about my pathetic problems? I should really be writing about the trip to England I just got back from. I should tell you about my visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born or to Bath, where Jane Austen once lived. I should review one of the three Shakespeare plays I saw. I should be writing about those experiences or any of the other very cool, very literary things I saw and did. But I just don’t feel like it. Probably only because that’s what I think I should be writing about.

One of the pictures I took in England that I feel like I SHOULD post. Taken at 4 Sydney Place in Bath — where Jane Austen once lived.

That’s really the problem with me. I never want to do anything if I actually can. If I should. Only if I can’t. I never feel as compelled to write as when I don’t have a pen and paper with me or as when I have stuff to do that I don’t feel like doing. I never feel as compelled to blog as when I don’t have internet access or my laptop handy. I was itching to post on my blog for the two first days of my trip when I still hadn’t gotten internet set up. Then, as soon as I did, I wrote this post, which didn’t have that much to do with the awesome things I was actually doing in England. The next day I wrote another post, also not really about what I had been doing and seeing. Neither were what I felt that I should be writing. After that, I had internet access the entire rest of the trip and we were back at the hotel fairly early a few nights. But because I knew I could blog, I didn’t really feel compelled to. I’m on vacation, I reasoned. I’ll post when I get home. Because that’s always how it is with me. I’ll do it later. I’ll do it at this or that future date. Then I’ll have the time. I’ll have the motivation. It’ll happen. Later. I hadn’t posted what (or as much as) I had wanted. I felt okay with my justifications and I had a marvellous trip, but I still l felt a little uneasy. I had all these nagging shoulds. I enjoyed everything I did, and everything I did was something I wanted to be doing, but I was in England, so they felt very much like wants I should have. And I still felt the compulsion to blog and write about it, but without the desire and drive to do so.

But then today I tried something different. My room is still in a messy state, as I started cleaning it a couple of weeks ago and decided to finish it later. Add all the stuff I brought back from England to that mess and it’s really not looking so good. So I have to deal with that. Then there’s the stuff I should be doing because I want to. The reading, the blogging, the writing. I was going to do all of this today. I was also going to go run some errands and then come home and sit out in the sun because it was beautiful outside today. The latter two items involve getting dressed (something I tend to avoid until I actually leave the house). So I woke up and spent a few hours taking a shower and eating breakfast and figuring out what to wear — because these are totally things that should take a person a few hours. I was all dressed and ready to leave the house and about to go out, when the clear, blue sky clouded over and began spewing drops of rain.

I was stuck. It was another should versus want to situation. You see, I love the rain. I love the sun even more, but when I have no need to remain dry and a warm towel is at the ready, nothing gives me more joy, nothing is more exhilarating, than running around in the rain. Not only was it something I desperately wanted to do, but it was the epitome of a should not. Who would go out and run around in the rain? What was I thinking? Surely I’d catch my death. Besides, I had just, finally figured out what to wear and gotten dressed. I had things to do, things that I should do.

So I did what any reasonable person would have done. I changed into something I didn’t mind getting wet and I went outside to run around in the rain. My sister refused to join me. Someone who was at my house laughed at me when I came inside with water streaming from my hair and clothes. My mother shook her head — I think ‘crazy’ was the word she used to describe me. But you know what? I didn’t catch my death. I felt as though I had caught my life. Sure, when I came inside I was dripping and shivering. But outside, despite the rain, it was warm, peaceful. I love the steady sound of rain, hitting the wooden deck. I love walking barefoot through warm puddles. I love the warm wind whipping around, throwing raindrops in my face. It feels so good to just let go sometimes. To forget what you should do, forget what other people think, forget how cold you’ll be the moment you come inside and get hit with the freezing air-conditioning.

And because let myself do that, I felt like I had accomplished something. I felt really good about myself, about my decisions, about my life. And now I’ve finally been able to just sit down to blog — something I should do — without feeling like I should be doing this or should be doing something else.

Of course there will always be things that should be done and have to done. Things I don’t want to do, but have to do anyways. But maybe sometimes it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to do those things, if I give myself permission to do something I want once in a while. To do something unreasonable and unnecessary and perhaps a little crazy. Just as long as there’s a dry towel waiting for me when I come inside.

What about you? Do you have a constant should versus want to debate inside your head? How do you reconcile with doing things you’d rather not? Do want to’s ever become shoulds for you?

Who on earth would attempt to write a 50 000 word novel in 30 days?

Obviously that answer to that question is me. I’d do that. So would the tons and tons of other crazy people who participate in the various National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) challenges throughout the year. The official and original NaNoWriMo is in November, but apparently the idea of spending a month chained to your notebook/laptop/other place to write appealed to a whole lot of people, so now they have month-long writing challenges several times a year.

On Saturday night, I got a tweet announcing the start of Camp NaNoWriMo, the summer edition, where you write a novel in either June or August. June started on Friday, I jumped on the bandwagon Saturday night, started writing on Sunday, and the rest is, as they say, history. Although it’s really more like present, as I’m in this for the long haul — or at least until the finish line on June 30.

So, clearly I came a little late, which is kind of tragic, but I’m kind of breaking the rules by using the very beginning of a novel I started (and left to die on the street corner) months and months ago. The way I see it, this balances out the first two days that I missed, and even with my head start on words, I’m still about two thousand words behind where I should be. I just hope the kind (and pretty — flattery will get you everywhere, right?) people at NaNoWriMo headquarters would see it in the same light. You know, if they knew… You’ll keep my secret, won’t you? Please, oh please don’t send the writing police after me!

Part of the idea behind this challenge is quantity now, quality later. The reasoning being this is that everyone’s going to write a novel “someday” and “someday” never seems to come. Plop down a big, red deadline and make charts showing how much progress you should be making, and “someday” finally arrives.

On the official Camp NaNoWriMo website, there’s this “stats” page, to make sure you know that this month’s “someday” has an expiration date (or so to say) and it’s coming soon. This page tends to be terrifying. I’m sure that its sole purpose in life isn’t to scare the living daylights out of me (because if it was, that would just be cruel) but regardless of its intent, that’s just what it does. There are a number of reasons for this.

Exhibit A — Numbers

As is implied by its name, the statistics page uses numbers, and a big scary graph. Numbers and graphs are math and owing to this alone, that page makes me break out in hives and tends to lead to “shortness of breath”. It seems as though I may have a slight allergy to numbers and especially statistics. Note that this was heightened by the Data Management course I took this year. I used to think charts were pretty cool. Now I sincerely believe that they were sent by the devil to steal my soul. Or something like that. Whatever the devil’s supposed to do. Turn me into a witch? I should probably go re-read The Crucible, instead of trying to decipher the evil graphs on the Camp NaNo site.

The big, bad stats page. The bars are my progress, the line is how much I SHOULD be progressing… Does anyone else feel their throat constricting? No, just me?

Exhibit B — What the numbers are trying to tell me

The graph is there to demonstrate how much progress you are (or aren’t) making, comparing that to how much progress you should be making. If these two coincide on your graph — yay for you, now go away. For those of you that have your progress bars higher that the “where you should be” bar — nobody likes you, you’re making the rest of us look bad. You’re the person who makes a whole freaking diorama when all the teacher asked for was a stupid Bristol board.  Please stop, it’s just unfair and you’re messing up the entire curve! For the rest of us (or at least for me) this line, which NaNo calls the “par line”, is just cruel. Rather than be ecstatic that I reached 6000 words today, I’m acutely aware that I should be at at least 8000.

Of course this page is also a great motivator and it helps me stay on track and figure out word count goals for myself. It also keeps a fire under me, ensuring that I actually get work done. What about you? Does writing using set goals, time lines and deadlines help keep you on track? Or do deadlines and charts leave you curled up under your desk in fetal position? Or maybe you’re a little bit of both, like me. Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Un-Constructive Criticism

Yesterday the world came really close to ending. Okay, fine, maybe that’s just my melodramatic adolescence speaking, but still, it was pretty awful.

The final assignment for my Writer’s Craft class at school is to write a short story and we’ve been working on these for the past month or so. It’s a really fun summative assignment, far ‘easier’ and more enjoyable to write than the essay I’ve been working on for Ethics, about the morality of torture. The one caveat is that we have to workshop these stories. As an entire class. Which is basically a half-hour of sheer agony. We go around the class, giving each student a  turn to point out any and all flaws in your work. As you may have guessed, my story was on the chopping block yesterday, and it didn’t go over well. Wondering why that line is crossed out? I think my Writer’s Craft teacher (we’ll call her Ms. A) would feel that I’m telling too much, instead of showing. She thinks I shouldn’t explain quite so much. I think I need to explain some more, because she didn’t even understand the point I was trying to make.

The whole experience was just so disconnected and impersonal. To borrow a metaphor that’s been used a million and a half times (and is by now probably a cliché — oops, another strike against my writing skills), the kids in my class just don’t seem to understand that we’re discussing my newborn. And they aren’t just ‘discussing’; they’re informing me that her shirt doesn’t fit right and she spits up just a little too much. Okay, fine, I can maybe see what they’re saying about her shirt, fine, no big deal, I’ll change it if it’s really bothering you all that much. But with regards to the spit-up, she’s a baby, that’s what babies are supposed to do!

Before you call me on my whining, and start thinking that maybe my story just wasn’t all that good,  and un-follow my blog because you think perhaps I really can’t write, I just want you to know that I had another English teacher (we’ll call her Ms. B) read my story too and she didn’t see any of the flaws mentioned by my teacher and peers during this confidence stealing session.

I also want to make it clear that I do see the merits of these sorts of critique sessions. It helps to have a pair of fresh eyes look at what you’ve done. If it’s the right person, or group of people, this can help you see what needs improvement as well as how well the message comes across. However, this sort of thing has to be done effectively and gently. It’s difficult for anyone to have her writing critiqued, even if that criticism is given constructively and with care, by someone concerned for her feelings and best interests. It’s hard to hear, but can lead to a lot of strong improvement. But to be critiqued (and by that I mean criticized) by a class full of kids who literally telling you that your ending (of which you are very proud) just isn’t very good? And that your character is unrelatable, because they’ve never been in that position? That’s unproductive and unhelpful. It gets very overwhelming, very fast and you stop thinking rationally enough to (effectively) hear and weigh out what anyone’s saying. Personally, I just completely shut down.

I don’t really deal with these things very effectively and after I got home from school yesterday I was a mess. But worse, because I wasn’t just a stormy mess of tears that quickly blew over, I was a repressive and, consequentially, hyper-sensitive mess. Ironic, seeing as how that was the major theme in the story that brought on this awful state.

This class was second to last period, so I spent an hour seething and stewing, quietly at my desk (okay, that’s a lie, I spent it seething and stewing while I wandered the halls with my friends) before I even got home. Then I tried going for a run; you know how physical activity is meant to alleviate stress? Didn’t work, it just left me even more drained than I had been. I stewed some more, then tried pouring out my heart and soul to my dear diary. I gave up in frustration, feeling completely broken, having lost all confidence in my ability to write, even a silly, little diary entry. Then I tried watching some TV, but even Friends couldn’t heal my wounds. (It just occurred to me that a woman in my story is watching Friends and it also leaves her completely unmoved from her depressive state — what a strange coincidence.) Finally, I tried reading Runaway, an amazing collection of short stories by Alice Munro, that I’m in the middle of reading. Again, this did nothing to ease my state of discontent and, being drained from my both real and slightly melodramatized emotional state, I gave up and went to sleep.

R.I.P. my former Data Management binder… Just another way of venting my emotions last night. Don’t worry, I finished the course already.

Then I woke up feeling awful this morning, almost like a hangover from my ‘grief-fest’. Regardless, I dragged my unsettled stomach to school, having had an essay to hand in and a dreadfully boring PowerPoint to present for my Data Management class. Still feeling less-than-serene, I went to speak to the teacher we called Ms. B. I’m so glad I did. She, a supportive critic, actual helped me figure out how to change my story ever-so-slightly, so that it’s how Ms. A wants it, without taking away from the message I want to portray. I felt so much better and more relaxed after that.

Then I gave my presentation and went home to watch Sense and Sensibility. I watched the Emma Thompson version, which is fine, but next time I’ll be watching the 2008 mini-series. It’s long (four hours) but worth it; it has so much more detail than the shorter one, and I’m the kind of person who really cares about the details. Only after that, did I really feel better. I should have tried reading or watching something by Jane last night. 

You can read my story here, on Figment.com and judge how perfect or flawed it is for yourself. It’s the original version that was ripped to shreds by my class. I may be posting the revised version on the same site at a later date. You can tell me what you honestly think, and I’ll try to avoid crying and brooding over what I perceive to be your opinion of me as a person.

What do you think of critiquing as a group? How do you deal with criticism? Do you curl up into fetal position and cry about it, like I do? Or do you throw a temper tantrum (like I am also apt to do)?

P&P&Me

As I may have mentioned,  an amazing English teacher introduced me to Pride and Prejudice when I was in grade 9. However, it took me until grade 10 to actually get around to reading it. Then, once I finally did, it took me an absurdly long time to read (four whole months), as I had to get used to the language and social conventions.

Thankfully, I found The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (annotated by David M. Shapard). I can’t recommend this book enough for people reading Jane for the first time. He’s also annotated a few of her other books, I own them and I’m sure they’re also annotated amazingly, but have yet to read the annotations — for me, one annotated copy was enough to get me used to the language and historical context &c. They’re very heavily annotated, so if you understand what’s going on without the annotations, it tends to hold you back and makes reading the book take twice as long.

Anyways, Pride and Prejudice. This book changed my life so much and in so many ways. The problem is, the changes were so gradual and over such a long period of time, that “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun” to fall in love with this book.  (Of course, this quote from Mr. Darcy, and he was referring to Elizabeth…)

This book changed everything for me. I seriously do not know where I’d be without it. It was the first “real” book I’d ever read, before I even knew that the proper word to use would be literature. Before this book, I didn’t know what reading was. Oh, I read, I read a lot, I loved to read. But nonsense, I read nonsense.

I remember in grade 9 we filled out an “about me” sheet on the first day of school, telling our teachers a little about ourselves. One of the questions was “What’s your favourite book?” Hmm, I thought, I don’t know, how can I pick just one favourite book? Nothing I’ve read really stands out… I can’t even remember half the books I’ve read. I think I ended up writing something along the lines of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (by Ann Brashares) and The Clique (by Lisi Harrison).

Then I read P&P and it became my most favouritest book in the whole entirety of the world. Then I went and read the rest of Jane’s works. And my teacher recommended a million and one other books for me to read. So I find myself back with the same problem. Except now the problem is, all the books I read are so amazing — can’t they all be my favourite?

This is the book that whetted my appetite for literature. This is the book lead to more recommendations from this teacher. That led me to enter a Jane Austen inspired writing contest, from which I discovered that I love to write. Thanks to this book, I take all three grade 12 English courses offered at my school (English, Literature and Creative Writing) this year, instead of three sciences. I credit my decision to major in English (when I get to University) to this book (and my teacher who recommended it). While I may be getting a little carried away here, the truth is, I really can’t know what direction my life might have taken, if I hadn’t read this book; I’m sure it would have gone very differently though, and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am now. Which is a pretty crazy impact for a single book.

You can check out the list of my other favourite books here.

So, have any books changed your life lately?

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