Narrating my own writing

Yesterday was the second Creative Writing class of the term. Yesterday was the first day I read my own writing out loud. Yesterday, I was grateful for microphones and editing tools.

Narrating stories isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s not extremely difficult. It requires, among other things, an intimate knowledge of the work you’re reading, so I tend to reread stories a few times before I get in front of the microphone. Even then, some particularly difficult lines will often trip me up and need to be re-spoken more than once to get the correct tone and convey the right message.

I figured that words I wrote myself would be easier. Wouldn’t you think that?

I was wrong.

Our assignment for the week was to write a relationship. Any relationship, any style, any tense or point of view. Three to four pages, double spaced, times new roman 12 point. That was the only real specification we were asked to follow.

Always the rebel, I wrote 5 pages and could have kept going. (And, I will keep going on this story, by the way, as it wasn’t concluded. I kind of like where it’s going.)

In addition to our instructor, the class has 13 students. Ten of us had brought work in to read, and I was last to go. I stumbled, stuttered and slurred my way through. I even lost my place at one point! If I told my classmates that I narrate stories, I doubt they would believe me, after that performance.

It was nerve-wracking, but, I made it through and actually received some great comments. As I mentioned, the story isn’t complete, but the instructor did remark that it is “a nice slice of a longer piece” and liked the detail I put in. I needed that encouragement. This is going to be more fun than I thought!

A different sort of podcast

A couple of weekends ago, my husband I and went to Colorado for President’s Day weekend. We didn’t go to celebrate past heads of state, nor was it for a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway (although that just happened to be a fringe benefit). We went because one of my absolute favorite bands was reuniting; four years after they “broke up.” That band is Ween.

If you’ve never heard of Ween, you’re not alone. You’re sadly uninformed, but you’re not alone. Wikipedia has this to say about Ween. While they are “generally categorized as an alternative rock band, they are known for their highly eclectic catalog of songs inspired by funk, soul, country, gospel, prog, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and more.” In short, they run a wide gamut of genres.

As I was saying, the band broke up in 2012, but in November 2015 they announced that they would play two shows in Colorado in February. The two days quickly turned into three when Sunday February 14 was added to the calendar. I was lucky enough to get tickets for my husband and I for all three days. The hardest part was waiting.

After we returned home from Colorado and the shows, I saw a post on a Ween facebook group that a podcaster named Craig Smith from a show called The Pods & Sods Network was asking if anyone who had gone to all three nights of the reunion would like to be interviewed. I was still feeling the excitement of the magic (because it was magic) so I volunteered, along with three other people.

This morning, the episode went live. (I guess it’s NSFW due to language?)w01

The podcasts that I am used to doing have at least some sort of script, so this was a lot of fun, and just a little nerve-wracking. (That does exclude an episode I was a guest on of the podcast “A Podcast of Ice and Fire,” about the books by George R.R. Martin. This was from May 11, 2011.) It was a fantastic time though, and I’d like to thank Craig again for having me on his show. As I said, I could talk about this band for hours!

Getting schooled

Today is the day!

Back in November of 2013, I wrote a post that I had begun to write a story. I wrote about 500 words and then…nothing. The well had dried up. I got involved in other things. I made excuses and that was that.

The desire to write stayed with me, but the inspiration had shriveled. It was like feeling hungry with no specific craving. Mildy uncomfortable, but, easily ignored. Until I started slush reading for Cast of Wonders last Spring.

(Slush readers, if you’re unfamiliar, wade through submissions made to publishers to separate the good from the bad for the editors. I am just one part of an incredible team at Cast of Wonders, and I am always so impressed with the comments made by my fellow readers. We’re a pretty great team, I think.)

Having read scores and scores of short stories since then, some great, some not so great, has kept that itch to write active. So when the local community college sent the quarterly Continuing Education pamphlet recently, I was happy to see a Creative Writing class was scheduled, and that it fit into my schedule!

Full disclosure: I have actually taken this class before. It was in my first or second semester of college. Back in the very early 1990’s. I was not a very good student back then, so I don’t remember a single thing about it, except that we printed our assignments with a dot matrix printer.

I’ve been told to not expect much from the class. I’ve been told that this will help me immensely. I’ve been told that only idiots attend creative writing classes. I’ve been told that I have to attend creative writing classes if I ever want to improve.

I don’t know what to expect, to be honest. (I don’t even know who the instructor is going to be, to the annoyance of at least one of my friends!) I do have a hope though. I hope that having to write will help me get into the habit of actually writing.

To me, that’s the hardest part.

Cast of Wonders Staff Pick and a wiki page!

This week was pretty cool for me on the Cast of Wonders front. First, I got back into the recording booth in order to host an episode! I had the immense pleasure of hosting Episode 188, Above Decks by Terry Ibele. This steampunk tale of a coal boy on an airship was narrated by Phil Lunt.

Staff-Pick-2015-generic (1)

Recording again felt great. I hope to do more again soon!

I also have a new wiki page in the Escape Artists Wikia!

I am really looking forward to adding to that list!

 

 

Happy New Year!

It’s been…hold on while I check…over a year since I last made an entry to this blog. I’m now 42 and a “named” roller derby skater. I’ve skated in a few bouts, and was even awarded MVP jammer for the season ender game in October when my team, The Slaughters of the Revolution took the Mid-Hudson Misfits in a sweeping 261-78.

mvps

This picture was taken by the wonderful Canon Chaos, aka Photos by Mena. (The woman to my left is the incredible Octopi Wall Street #99% who won MVP blocker. She is amazing and I am so glad she’s on my team!)

In addition to a year full of derby awesomeness, something wonderful has happened in the fiction podcast world! Cast of Wonders, the YA speculative fiction podcast that gave me the start in narrating, has joined the Escape Artists family of audio fiction podcasts that kick-started my love for listening to stories! These include Escape Pod – the Science Fiction podcastPseudopod – the Horror Fiction podcast, and PodCastle – the Fantasy Fiction podcast.  This is exciting news for me, and it makes great sense. It also means that since I have been a slush reader for Cast of Wonders since the spring of 2015, I am now part of the EA team! (A slush reader, by the way, reads all submissions sent in for consideration of publication and weeds out the good from the bad.)

There were a few downs in 2015, but there were plenty of ups as well and I prefer to focus on the ups. There were a lot of small but wonderful things that happened in the year that just ended. The corner cabinets I’ve wanted in my dining room for years were finally built. One of my favorite bands – Ween – announced a reunion after 3 years apart. I’ve discovered a new band to obsess over – Twiddle. I got to see the band Fishbone in 2015 and a dear old friend at the same time (hi Danos!) My brother-in-law had a skin cancer scare and came out healthy.

I look forward to 2016 and I hope it brings health, happiness and prosperity to you!

Age is a weird thing.

My birthday is in a couple of days. It’s not a “big” one; my age won’t be easily divisible by 5. It is, however, making me think about how I feel about being another year older and how I think I’m supposed to feel.

I will be 41. Forty-one years old. My brain thinks 41 is old. I was 13 when each of my parents turned 41. As a brand new teenager, people in their forties were ancient. They were uncool, they were out of touch, they were boring. I may not have even thought of them as the same species as my friends and me. I must have realized that, if all went well, I would someday be that “old” myself, but I never thought about what that meant.

When I was a kid, I didn’t think adults could have fun. I guess I figured that the responsibilities of home and career and family negated a persons ability to enjoy life the way I was enjoying it. I assumed that the stupid things we kids did to amuse ourselves were so important they’d carry me through to the rest of my life or I would lose the ability to be amused. (Disclaimer…this isn’t to say that my parents were miserable. They had ups and downs just like everyone else.) Adult women don’t laugh at fart jokes, I thought. They don’t talk about boys or sing their favorite songs at the top of their lungs, sometimes changing the lyrics to something bawdy or ridiculous, right? I was even a little afraid of growing older. I remember telling someone that the thought of a routine life (going to work everyday, coming home to make dinner for the kids, just to go to bed and do it all again the next day) horrified me.

Now, 28 years after I became a teenager, I realize that in so many ways, I still am that 13 year old. Fart jokes are still amusing. I still giggle over good looking men with friends. When I hear a song I love, more often than not, I will sing and dance like no one is watching. I don’t feel any different inside than I did back then, really. (There are some aches and pains, but I attribute them to roller derby practice.)

The main difference inside is that while I do go to work every day, just to come home and do it all again tomorrow, I am OK with it. Today, I live the daily grind, and it can be boring and routine, true. The 13 year old me had some of it right. She wasn’t able to see the peace in living that kind of life. (I didn’t realize back then that not having children was a viable option, so I sure wasn’t able to see living in peace.)

Staring down the barrel at 41, thinking about that young teen-aged Dani, I can’t help but smile. She may not have been so scared if she knew it wasn’t too bad.

Gratitude, 2014 version

Today is Thanksgiving day in the United States; a day to reflect upon the (hopefully) many things we are grateful for. Looking back at the post I made last year on Thanksgiving, I realize what a difference 12 months can make.

2013 was not a bad year, per se. It was almost the same as the year before, and the year before that. It was a normal year. I, however, seemed to have grown BORED with normal. Normal had become un-challenging and safe. My husband Brian and I had, before we even became “middle aged”, turned into old-fogies who rarely left the house except for work or family obligations.

I turned 40 years old in December 2013 and I did a little mental inventory or sorts (I’ve got inventory management in my background so I’m sticking with the metaphor) and realized that while I was content, I wasn’t really happy. I had a bit of a health scare too, which in combination with a milestone birthday, almost forced me to evaluate things. By the time New Years Day 2014 rolled around, I realized I needed to be a more active and social person, like I had been in my “youth”, and actually made it a new years resolution. (https://danireads.com/2014/01/01/a-look-ahead-and-a-glance-back/)

The first quarter of 2014 was a lot like 2013 though. The routine Brian and I had developed and honed to perfection was hard to break. The winter was cold and while we hadn’t exactly pushed our old friends away, the ties we had holding us together were frayed and not easily brought back together.

By the spring, I was almost resigned to breaking that resolution. I just could find a way back to my old “social Dani” self. Then I saw an advertisement for something that had always interested me. Something that I knew very little about, but wanted to more of. I saw that our local roller derby league, SIDR or Strong Island Derby Revolution (http://www.thederbyrevolution.com/) was playing in late April, not even 10 minutes from the safe haven of my home. Seeing that I had always wanted to see a bout, I took a deep breath and asked my oldest friend if she and her husband would be interested in going with us and she said sure, why not?! I hadn’t even asked Brian yet if he’d be interested, but I hoped he would be. Neither of us are “sporty” people, so it was not certain he would want to go. To my surprise, he also said yes!

We all had a great time at that bout, SIDR versus the Broome County Rollers. Watching the women skate around that track had lit a fire in me. While I had only the most basic understanding of what was happening, I was enthralled. So much so, that it barely registered that it had the same effect on Brian!

We learned at the bout that SIDR was having a recruitment event late the next month. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I had turned 40 in 2013. While 40 is certainly not old, it’s not exactly young. While there is no maximum age, the minimum age to join SIDR is 21, an age I hadn’t been in a long, long time. I was, however, in the best shape I’d been in in almost 10 years. So when Brian expressed interest in the refereeing side of roller derby, I realized that I wanted to play! It looked like a lot of fun, even if it did look like it could hurt.

We decided to try, so we bought some skates and some pads and found that tennis courts are great to roller skate on! By the time the recruitment event came around, we were confident enough that we were not going to kill ourselves on 8 wheels so we committed to go.

That was the beginning. The beginning of a journey so incredible I have been riding high for over 6 months.

Since joining roller derby, I feel like the girl I used to be. The outgoing people person that I had been was back from her exile. My body has become stronger, and so has my self-image. My marriage has never been better too, as doing this together has brought Brian and I even closer.

I am so incredibly grateful to each and every one of my incredible league mates. I am grateful to my family for the support they have given Brian and me – in watching our practices to helping at the bouts and even just listening to me ramble on and on extensively about this all-consuming sport. I am grateful to our incredible coaches who have taught me so much, and who still have more to teach!  I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the women and men who have welcomed us so warmly and who have become like family.

Thank you, roller derby. Thank you SIDR. Thank you to my family and friends. I love you all.

roller turkey

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