Yeah! You Twine That Algae!

Most of the time, the story of how a story is made is boring. The Great Story Birthing often takes one of the two following forms:

  1. The Hollywood Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of a shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, and, shower still running, pen an entire story in one sitting.
  2. The More Often Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of my shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, remember that I most often write on a laptop, eagerly tap out five brilliant lines, go eat a slice of an entire box of pizza, forget about the story, return to it a week later, try again, hate myself for not being a better writer, eat an entire box of pizza, and repeat this cycle for several years until something finally manages to reach a somewhat conclusive ending, oftentimes because my house is at that point flooded and I have other things to take care of.

Sometimes, though, a story is something you carry with you throughout your life — something that grows as you grow, both personally and as a writer who goes from thinking ALL SENTENCES ARE COOL to knowing the precise rhythm and feel that make her heart sing.

And that, friends, is the story of the story I’ve just had published on, And How the Algae Twines!

The first time I wrote this story, I was a sophomore in college, staring out my dorm window at the shifting snow drifts howling across the campus quad, thinking of another time when the world was also made of snow and I could feel my first real relationship reaching its zenith and beginning its long, slow descent into the frozen ground. The result: a creative short essay, and the feeling that I wasn’t done.

The second time I wrote this story, I was mored on the shores of a criticism-ridden grad school workshop, trying to be a better writer than I felt I could be. Somehow, I stumbled upon this old essay, languishing in an ancient Word file, and found myself horrified at my use of language, yet intrigued by the thoughts, images and emotions that lay behind it. I returned to my keyboard, and tried to remember what it was to feel. The result: a thirty page behemoth, with ten pages of striking imagery, ten pages of a writer reaching for a moral, and ten pages of a 24-year-old woman, demanding her true experiences find an outlet. And a workshop with an excess of praise and an excess of criticism that would change my writing forever.

The third time I wrote this story, I had been torn down to my core. There were no safe places left — not for me, not for my work. Everything I did was wrong. There was no warm hearth upon which I could nestle. After so many years of fighting for independence, I was on my own and barely able to breathe. Left with the few words that meant something to me. The few words that wouldn’t leave me alone.

It’s been three years since the third time. Three years, and this story has won awards, and finally found publication. The joy of finally seeing this story in print…well, I can’t quite put that into words. Nor can I promise I won’t write this story a fourth time, as I navigate the shriveled climes of my very non-snowy setting. But I can say that the story of this story — this story that began nine years ago and continues on — is one I will carry with me, wherever I go. This story has not left me.

You can read And How the Algae Twines at

Can’t Finish What I Started

I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I’m a master of beginnings. As in, my MFA really stands for, “Master of First Attempts.” But middles? Ends? Yeah, not so much. Let’s just say if my hard drive is a vast desert, story beginnings bounce like tumbleweeds over the horizon. And there I am, dragging my parched, sunburned body along the sand, just trying to capture one of them — any of them — in my maniacal story web. How’s that for dramatic imagery?

Rather than attempting to give this post an end here, I’ll toss you over to Write By Night, who have been kind enough to publish my musings on the subject of beginnings that have no end. Here’s the article. Voila! Go forth! Complete something for once!

I’m not writing The Hunger Games

When I was in 7th grade, I won 2nd place in a contest for a poem I wrote about the Israeli prime minister’s assassination. My parents were proud of me, my grandparents were proud of me, everyone was proud of me right on down the line.

But I wasn’t proud of me. An hour before I had to go read at the award ceremony, I had a meltdown in my room. We’re talking lots of sobbing and plenty more throwing my body dramatically from my bed to the floor. The poem sucked, in my opinion, because it didn’t rhyme. And everyone else’s poems rhymed. Therefore, I did not have a poem. Therefore, my entire life was a fraud.

Now, as the lines for The Hunger Games reach from the Alamo Drafthouse to Timbuktu, I’m looking at the draft of my book and thinking, “My dystopia is no dystopia.” There is no teen killing teen action. There is no cutting or anorexia or suicide.

But there are Insult-o-bots, which rove the school waiting for that moment when you’ve fallen down the stairs and spilled spaghetti sauce all over your shirt to say, “Nice face.” There are “Get A Life Planes,” ready and waiting to write, “Nice job, loser” with exhaust in the sky. There is a word machine and a “muse” named Frank who has a Bronx accent, hairy armpits and spits when he speaks. There are anthropomorphic Shakespearian insults and word machines and chefs with steaks for heads. There is a kid named Alexander Grapefruit, with an all too appropriately shaped head.

So, what do you say? In our dystopic world, is there room for a sarcastic, self-deprecating, goofy dystopia as well as teen-on-teen murder?

I’m throwing myself from bed to floor here people. Because it’s 4.5 days before my book is due. And I’m telling you, it doesn’t rhyme.