Thursday, October 31, 2013

Advantages of Scifi or Genre Fiction

As a follow-up to Daniel Abraham's talk this week, I thought we might spend a bit of time expanding or focusing on one small part of his talk. While he did not say it in quite this way, one of the points Abraham made was that there are advantages for writers in writing genre fiction, or in his case fantasy and/or scifi. What about for readers? What are the advantages for readers who prefer to read mostly fantasy, scifi, or any other type of genre fiction? What does such fiction provide readers that "mainstream" does not? If you read genre fiction often, why do you chose that over other types of fiction?

The Writer and Egoism

This past Monday when Daniel Abraham came to talk with us, he asked a couple of us the purpose of our writing. Although, I am not a writer, I was a little surprised when he said he doesn't write for himself. I understand his argument that writing for your own interests in egoistic and that is why he writes for his audience.

However, I think a writer will always put a little of himself in his writings. Even Daniel Abraham said that to write about an emotion, you have to have felt that emotion otherwise it doesn't come across to the reader as the writer intends it to. Then, how can a writer leave his ego out of writing if everything he writes is about the emotions he felt or would theoretically feel in a scenario?

The person that is writing leaves pieces of themselves in their writings since, through what they write, they are expressing their desires and emotions. Therefore, how can a person separate themselves, that is their ego self, from their writings? I don't think it is possible. Ultimately, a witer would want someone to read what they wrote, but that itself is egoistic because it comes down to a desire by a person to have another person read what THEY wrote.

So, did I misunderstand Daniel Abraham when he was talking about his purpose of writing? What do you guys think he meant?

Sunday, October 27, 2013


So, are any of you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I already explained it in class, but I'll explain it again just in case: NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Basically you write 50,000 words in one month, starting on November 1st, which is coming up pretty soon.The website is here, if you want to check it out: NaNoWriMo.

To win, you write 50,000 words before November ends. I've never won, but I've always thought it was a good experience, and of course it's really about doing it for yourself. If you manage to write more than you normally do and get some good ideas or stories out of the process, then I consider it a success! :)

So are any of you doing it? Have any of you done it before? What did you think, and did you win (or have any other kinds of wins)?

If you haven't done it before, would you be interested in doing it? What do you think? It requires writing about 2,000 words a day. How much do you write a day normally? Do you think you can do it?

By the way, there are other national novel writing months. I've won JulNoWriMo before. It can be easier to do it at different times of the year, but it seems like the most people get worked up about NaNoWriMo. It's the most popular writing month, it seems.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Range in writing

If you've read "The Cambist and Lord Iron" by now, you may have noticed how fable-like it is, or an "economic fairy tale" as the website put it. I loved it, and was really surprised by how recent it is, because it reads like a centuries-old fable that parents read to their kids at bedtime. It has the elements of a humble but clever protagonist, a villain, a three-act plot (or three "challenges" if you prefer), and a happy ending.
Afterwards, I read "Hurt Me," which was the polar opposite of a charming childhood fable (except for another triumphant protagonist). It was chilling, violent, tense, and was still very well-written. I really enjoyed both stories, but "Cambist" only a tiny bit more. However, I was more impressed overall with Abraham's range, and his skill at two far ends of the genre spectrum (even more so since he's more well known as a science fiction/fantasy writer).

If any of you have read another of Daniel Abraham's stories besides "Cambist," what did you think of it, and how does it compare to "Cambist"? Do you prefer to write in one or two particular genres, or do you like to experiment with a wider variety?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chaco Canyon

Hey Everybody,

Thinking back to V.B. Price’s Chaco Trilogy and how all the poems are based on the location: Chaco Canyon. Do you think it made or would make a difference if you had been to Chaco Canyon? I know for me when I read the poems there was of course visual descriptions of the canyon and I kept trying to picture myself in the canyon. I wonder, however, would the poems speak to us more if we had been to said location? I know I enjoyed the visual description and the meaning that place brought to the poet, but I wonder if we would feel the same if we went to the canyon? It is funny after reading the poems, I really do want to go to Chaco Canyon. Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poetry Vocalized

After yesterday's experience in class and a lot of wonderful poetry reading by V.B. Price I feel that we should talk a little bit more about how poetry is vocalized. If any of you all have a favorite poem spoken please share, I would love to hear them. One of my favorites is called "OCD" by Neil Hilborn, there is a link below. I found that he has a lot of emotion to his words and he is passionate and it brings me to tears every single time I listen to or watch it. What do you find most important in poetry readings? Feel free to talk about thoughts on V.B. Price's readings or Neil Hilborn what they did right, or maybe what they didn't do so well. Enjoy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meeting a Pulitzer Prize Winner

So here is the story, and it's kind of long. 

First off, I work for the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) here on campus and on Wednesday October 16th I was manning their table at the Celebration of Student Writers (CSW) in the SUB ballrooms. It was a pretty cool event, with talks and booths and presentations from classes. I was only working from 10-12, so I knew I would miss a lot of it because most of the events were after 12, but I didn't mind. 

Anyways, towards the end of my shift around 11:30, one of the guys who I was pretty sure set up the event comes over with another gentleman. The gentleman asks me questions about CAPS and I was surprised to find myself in a deep conversation about the effect of CAPS on campus and how CAPS has one of the top writing centers in the nation and how we are on the cutting edge with our technology and that I personally was currently involved in building some of our online tutoring pedagogy.

It was the most I had talked the entire time I was sitting at that table. Everyone else (mostly students required to go) would have a 10 second conversation with me so they could have one of the cool pens we were giving out. Anyways, the gentleman asked for my name, I gave it; he thanked me, shook my hand and walked away.  I realized that I hadn't asked his name and I felt like I might have been rude, but I figured eh, it was no big deal. 

My shift ended at 12 and I decide to walk around and visit all the cool booths. I also knew there was an author talk happening at 12:15 that I thought I could get credit for with this class. Around 12:10 someone announces they will begin the talk shortly and I take a seat in the front row. I notice a few people talking off stage, the coordinators I presumed. Then I see the man who I had that conversation with and I assumed he was also one of the people “running the show” which confused me a bit because the questions he asked me seemed to imply he was not from UNM or even Albuquerque. Again, I brush it off.

A few minutes later a man takes the mic on stage and introduces David Shipler, the author of The Working Poor, which was the Freshman Learning experience book (a book all the freshman in entry level English or university studies classes had to read). They, of course, mention that he is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which I was impressed by, and that he has numerous other books. Then the author comes on to stage…and it was the man who I had the CAPS conversation with.

I could feel my checks immediately turn red from embarrassment. Did I seriously just meet a famous Author/Pulitzer Prize winner and not even ask his name at the end of our conversation. I was mortified. At the same time, I was proud that I knew enough about caps to give it a good word in front of this man.

Despite wanting to run out of there, I stayed for the whole hour long talk. There weren’t many people actually actively listening to the talk, there was a lot going on at the booths etc. so it was hard to hear, even from the front row, which made it even harder for me to sit there because he looked me in the eyes multiple times during his talk. I learned a lot and found out this man was really interesting.

His main premise was that we do not have a poverty problem; that poverty is a result of underlying, more significant problems in America. He talked about the ways of measuring poverty, and how wrong we are to use income, since it is just a snapshot, whereas debt is a moving photo. He also said poverty is psychological and relative.

He also went into the fact that poverty leads to malnutrition, which leads to poor brain development in children, which can lead to high cases of misbehavior and high dropout rates, which then leads to poverty. It is a vicious circle.

One of the last things he talked about was the internal problems that can cause and be caused by poverty. Self-loathing and low self-esteem leads to people not trying to get jobs or not holding them because they don’t feel important. He told a story of a friend who owned a business and had to hire people and his frustrations at people who didn’t show up. He told his friend that, often times, people don’t show up because they feel like they are not important and no one will even notice that they are gone.

This struck a chord in me. I have had a job at the same place for 5+ years now (not CAPS, somewhere else I won’t mention). Despite my hard work, I earn minimum wage have not received a raise (other than mandatory minimum wage increases) the entire time I have worked there. I have worked their longer than most of my managers. I have been told many times how great I am doing and I am certain I could do the job of any of my managers, but because I can’t work full time, I can’t take the position. This past year I got a job at CAPS (higher paid and WAY more fulfilling) and I cut my hours at this other job. I was going to just quit, but my boss asked me not to, so I didn’t. So I worked there about 10 hours a week. They started cutting my responsibilities and training others on things that only I could do. I used to be valuable and special, but I felt worthless all of the sudden. So I started calling in all the time. I almost never worked there if I could find an excuse, I wouldn’t go in. finally my boss sat me down and threated to let me go if I didn’t change. This was about a month ago. I have stopped calling in, but I informed him I would be leaving at the end of the semester.

It wasn’t until I heard this author talk about this problem with feeling useless, that I realized that was why I had begun to call in. I realized that my boss was really the problem and not me. I ended up talking to my boss Friday and he was finally able to see where I was coming from. He said he would try to tell everyone they were more important more often. Although it was not enough to make me stay another semester, I was glad to hear that maybe future employees won’t go through what I did.

Anyways, this guy really got in my head and I ended up buying his book, The Working Poor, right after his talk and having him sign it and I talked to him some more. He was a cool dude! I can’t wait to read the book.

(Sorry this was so long, it was just a cool story and I was really touched by his ideas and philosophy about poverty and education in America)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Trouble with Chaco Trilogy?

Hey, all!

While reading Dr. Price's Chaco Trilogy, I noticed that his style and grammar can be pretty difficult to grasp. Some (if not most!) of us aren't entirely comfortable with poetry, so I think it'd be helpful for anyone with questions or problems regarding Monday's readings to post them here and get support from the rest of the class.

What are you having trouble with?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hillerman Country Exhibition: Featuring the Photographs of Don Strel

On October 4th I had the opportunity to go to the Tony Hillman Country Exhibition. When I got into the law school I was amazed by the beautiful environment, the greenery, and the high end culture. There was unique live music being played. A wonderful woman walked me into the forum and guided me to some refreshments and finger foods. I could tell that the event was professional and I immediately felt underdressed. There had shrimp, an array of crackers and dips, and mini cakes. The food was outstanding but that was far from the best part of the event.

I walked around and perused the artwork, Don Strel is indeed a talented photographer. His works took my breath away and I was amazed by his attention to the details and the timing of the photographs. In one of the photographs it looked as if the cloud was smeared across the sky in the distance because it was raining. The concept of clouds falling is one of my favorite and I wished I had the 400 dollars to buy the photo. Sadly, I didn't have the money for it. Nor will I for a while probably, however I get to keep a mini version in the pamphlet. Another one of my favorites was "Condors, Grand Canyon" the photograph caught three condors flying in a circular motion over something. However, the photograph had the sky as the background so from that perspective you could not tell just what. I especially liked that the photograph was in black and white. I feel that black and white photography can bring out many of the details that we would have missed if it was in color.

After looking at all the pieces of art the event coordinator, Sherri Burr, introduced and spoke of the purpose of the event. Anne Hillerman and Don Strel spoke to the people who came for the event. Out of the people who talked Don Strel struck me the most because he was so genuinely touched that he was brought to tears. I felt myself tearing up at his thanks and I don't know what about his speech touched me so much. Possibly the raw expression of emotion that he had to hand off the microphone because he was too choked up for words is what got me, but I immediately had a lot of respect for him.

After the talk I had a chance to talk to Don Strel and I told him how much I admired his work and that my favorite was "Condors, Grand Canyon." After I told him this he told me about how tour buses come to the Grand Canyon and tons of people get out and the condors circle hoping that one of the people will drop dead. I don't know why but I found this really funny, and I liked him even more as a person. I know that years from now I will remember Don Strel and his amazing photography and great personality.

After meeting Don Strel I met Anne Hillerman and I spoke to her about how I am now in the "Meet the Authors" class. She was excited and welcoming, and especially excited to be coming to meet our class. I look forward to getting to know her more as an author when we will meet her later this semester. She signed my pamphlet since I had forgotten my copy of "Spider Woman's Daughter" which had come in the mail the night before. I hope to get a signature from her when she comes and to discuss her work.

At the exhibit I learned that a lot of people consider Anne Hillerman's work to be a continuation of her father's work. It is interesting, because I never thought about how it would be to be the daughter of an author. She said that she grew up with the characters from Tony Hillerman's books just as if they were her uncles, aunts, and friends. Characters became reality for her and she had no problem writing about them just as if they were her own. Now that Tony Hillerman has passed away I felt that everybody at the event was nostalgic and the atmosphere became melancholic. People talked about how Tony was such a great guy and I felt regret at the fact that I never had the chance to meet him. But I guess that is how it is with many authors we admire, they died before our time. However, they live on through their works and words.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Place-based Fiction

In the first exercise we did in class today, we explored and discussed some of the techniques and approaches to writing about a place in a work of fiction. Let's expand on that discussion a bit more. Why is place or the physical setting in fiction seen as so central and important to the success of such a work? Can you think of any successful works in which the physical location is unimportant or bears little relevance to the rest of the story? Alternatively, why do some writers insist on setting so intensely that physical places serve almost as additional characters in a book that we come to love or abhor? In other words, why is place such a big deal in fiction?

Incorporating Place

As part of one of today's in-class exercises, you were asked to incorporate place-related words from a list you made into a paragraph. Did you find incorporating those words into what you had already written easy or hard? What did you learn about the process of making the concept of place a more prominent part of a piece of writing? Did the exercise change your views on any part of the writing process? What did you find most useful about this part of the exercise?

Someone Turns it into Poetry

Post here as a comment the poems you wrote based on another person's paragraph about place.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Books to Movies

Hey Everybody!

Just wanted to know your thoughts about books going to movies? Now I know Hollywood does not have ideas for movies anymore so they are taking them more from books and I don’t mean just basing them on books, or screenplays. For me personally, I enjoy classic books that become movies like The Great Gatsby, and Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now). And not so classical books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Sometimes, however, the movies do not live up to my expectation and don’t do the book justice. What are your thoughts? Do you think movies hinder people from ever reading the book or dissuade them from reading it, worse case scenario, if they don’t like the movie?

What Made X & O Successful?

Hi everyone!

So before Kate Horsley presented on Monday, I talked with a few people about how much we liked her work. A couple of people said she was their favorite author that we've read so far. I agree. I enjoyed her work very much. And it got me to wondering, what made her works so successful? (I mean with our group, specifically. I don't know how successfully they've sold or anything.) What did you guys think she did that made it so much fun to read her works? Was it the truth, which she said she always tries to put in her stories?

I realize there is already a topic about favorite X & O stories, and I'm not asking that. I'm asking what you guys think about her writing style, and what you took away from her talk on Monday. Will you try to put the truth into your own stories more now? Were you already putting the truth into your own writing, and are you more aware of it now?

You don't have to answer all these questions, but I would like to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Oracle

As we all know, the short story the Oracle in X&O is about a women seeking advice. While I was reading this story I began to wonder what I would ask of the oracle. So, I wanted to see what some of you would like to ask the oracle? Or if that is too personal, who do you think needs advice from the oracle in our world now? I can think of many people, starting with every member of Congress!

If I had the opportunity to consult with the oracle, I would want advice on how to live my life for the good of everyone around me. I think the American society has taught us to be individualistic and look out for our own well-being. I don't really feel a sense of community because this idea of "It's your American dream, what are you going to do to achieve it?" prevents that. Or maybe that is just my perception of the American culture since I wasn't born here, but yet have grown up here. What do you guys think?

The person I would like to see go to the oracle, if that was possible, would be John Boehner. As the leader of the House of Representatives, he needs to know how to lead a divided Congress.

I know this is all wishful thinking, but is there anyone you think needs advice from the oracle?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

I said I'd put this up on the blog, and here it is!

One of the most helpful things I found in this is the advice to simplify. Stories, even short ones, can quickly become complicated. A writer has to adjust the scope or depth of their narratives according to the medium. A character can be whole without every little detail revealed; if you do it right, your audience cares far more about what's going to happen next than about those microscopic plot holes. Reducing a story to its bare bones can help you to add details as needed.

Of course, Pixar's methods don't apply to every form of story telling, but they possess beautiful utility. I'll definitely think of them whenever a story of mine becomes too much to handle.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art Show at Law School Forum - Oct 4

Yesterday afternoon my brother and I had the chance to go the art show/author signing at the UNM law school. I had an incredible time while I was there to say the least! First impressions: I was surrounded by a lot of old people discussing trivial old-people-matters over a cup of wine. The food was free and delicious. Anne Hillerman was also selling and signing books! The photographs on sale were expensive but breathtaking. The music being played by musician Johnny Alston was very relevant to the event and he played very well. About half an hour or so into the event (which allowed for mingling, eating, etc), I was incredibly humbled and had second thoughts of exactly what kind of event I had attended!

The event had taken the efforts of many people to plan, schedule, organize, and promote. There were judges that attended the event. The beautiful photographs were taken by Don Strel. Don's photographs were inspired by the very works of Tony Hillerman, and he was very touched by the fact that in the 65 years he had been a photographer, this was his first art show. Personally, it was a very touching moment, he thanked those closest to him and those he loved on the verge of tears. I later met him, and complimented his work! Tony Hillerman's wife was also present, as well as their daughter Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman's Daughter, who I also got to meet. I told her I was in Dr. Donovan's Meet the Authors class, and her eyes kind of lit up when I told her that. She said she was looking forward to going and talking to us. She also admitted that she looked at the list of all the writers that had and will present before her and that she was a bit nervous about it - "what did [we] think of them?". I told her everyone had been fantastic so far, and she had nothing to worry about, our class doesn't bite!

Overall, that was my experience at this show. I had a good time, and realized that I was not just surrounded by "old people", I was surrounded by art fans, judges, law students, lawyers, authors, critics, artists, etc. I realized that there was more there than met my eyes. I also realized that so many people there had devoted themselves to the beautiful state they lived in, as well as the works of Tony Hillerman. (While I was standing in line waiting to meet Anne, the woman in front of me enthusiastically greeted me and told me right off the bat that she had read "ALL of Tony's works - isn't he just incredible?!"). I'm very glad I went and met one of our authors in her element before she comes to inspire us in class!

Favorite Story in X & O

Hi everyone. I finished X & O yesterday, and I think I enjoyed it more than anything else we've read so far. The story that stuck most with me was "Marla in Empty Space," the very existential what-is-life story whose plot Ms. Horsley said "cannot be explained" in the foreword. That description alone intrigued me, and the story successfully held my interest throughout. It also seems to be the type of story that I would get something new out of each time I read it. This first time though, I was struck by the message of how important other people are in giving meaning to our existences. Even having to deal with loud, highly irritating people seems better than being alone in eternal nothingness. However, the type of people you spend your time with also affects your quality and acceptance of life, from merely tolerating existence to surrendering contentedly to it, as Marla does with Geebie.
So what does everyone else think of X & O so far, and which of the stories is your favorite?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Until Now....

Up until this point in our class, what themes can you guys think of that all the literature we have read has in common? Is there something (whether it be the actual stories or more generally) that they all share? What kind of themes could we discuss towards the end of the semester that encompasses all the material we've read and will have read?

I haven't really put much thought into this question, but I'd say in three (or so) books now, we've read about a strong, independent female protagonist who ends up winding in trouble or causing it. Two, there are consequences for the actions we take or do not take. Three, New Mexico is the place to be if you want to a good, credible story (apparently!). Four, first person voice makes it more difficult but more interesting for the reader to understand and therefore immerse his/herself in the story plot. Finally, the world craves action, adventure, mystery, magic, and romance in today's age.

Why might that be? Why does our generation not all of a sudden take a strong interest in history, or music, or math? Is it because we are dissatisfied with the current state of things today, and seek to escape into fictional worlds our minds can create with ease? (That was a mini rant!) And why are authors so eager to please their audience this way? Why can't they break the rules and write something that exceeds all other expectations? What does everyone else think?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More Author Events

Hey Guys,

I found some websites with author events! I'm sure some of these would count. Here are the websites:

LOCAL IQ (not just author events, so  you will have to look through them):

Also, the UNM Bookstore is doing a few more author events this month. 

On the 15th, Gabriel Melendez will talk at 1pm and on the 17th Terri Grion-Gordon will talk at 2pm, both are in the bookstore again. 

Do you guys know any other sites to find author events or other  events?