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Dec. 28th, 2009

Fall Semester Over!


Well, it finally ended!  I did what I could with revisions on four short fiction pieces and half a screenplay.  The screenplay is nowhere near finished, but maybe I will novelize it instead into a historical romance because that seems to be the most "do-able" thing to do with it...a historical film epic is way too intense!  As for the short fiction, I have the beginning of two novels, but where do I go from there?   Right now, I am just so tired from school and all the Christmas hoopla that I just need a serious break.  But, happy news! I got 2 A's!  Still have my 4.0 GPA! (Gotta brag a bit!)  So, an A for Fiction Workshop and an A for Screenwriting Workshop.

And more good news...one of my poems will be published in the Spring publication of a literary journal--Touchstone!  I'm starting to feel like a legitimate writer/poet now.  For all you non-writers out there, you may not know that is a pretty big deal.  It's not the easiest thing to have a poem or short story selected for a literary journal, even those that are only published on-line.  I actually, sent 5 poems and they only chose 1.  It's one of my Tex-Mex poems...the prose poem Zapatos de Hule  (zapatos are shoes and hule is plastic)

Zapatos de Hule

 

a pledge made in heat after summer toil, forged in flame and weightless
animal skin where nights ignite and smoke over rivers of glass. remove
yourself from catalogue gloss. torch the mixture of damp skin against
fraudulent nubuck. deliver the brown scraps from tethered rubber. obliterate
echoes of shame raw on brown toes—scuffed soles have no place this side of
the Rio Grande. send them back to man furnaces beyond Tamaulipas past
the maquiladora lines sprinkled like black ants across foam scum on water
edge, far from the playground where Sandy Ramirez combs sweet corn on her
head, a sequined Indian princess with fair skin—dream shoe, you are not
the one from mexico.

 

I fly ovals in rattlesnake skin, dizzied by greens fed on shallow water sheds,
a slither of gold and borderland sweat round south Texas wind the color of
cracks and forgotten mud. before the shadow-myth captivates. before nike
dusts my name—the wraith. before stadium lights scoff at disheveled hair
from Neuvo Progreso. my ears exposed to the plop, plop, plop, plop, plop,
plop, plop of chanclas inside a ten year old head, the sound of cheap vinyl
never quite as new or good or intoxicating. never the scent of mainstream
affordability and Payless.

 

I offer my shoes to the wind. I watch rain warp bedroom walls and chafe
blue-silk victories. I listen to the obsidian butterfly grieve—no match for the
divine charioteer. I offer my shoes to the wind. They burn and no longer win,
blistering, shaming a glory built on zapatos de hule, defeated to mow lawns,
to trabajar, to whatever, to pump arms far from maroon obliques under feet.


Oct. 28th, 2009

The Outfield - short story or a chapter 1


Well, this past Monday I had a short story or chapter due for my fiction workshop. I had really wanted to write a chapter to continue with the YA story I want to write (think I posted a flash fiction/prologue for it a couple of weeks ago here).  But, I just couldn't get the right sound or feel...just wasn't happening the way I wanted.

So, instead I turned in a short story (could possibly be a chapter for another YA novel...got the general idea summarized already) called The Outfield.  I'll post it here now.  It's kind of long, but if you are interested...here it is...


The Outfield

           

That's baseball, and it's my game.  Y' know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave 'em there.  You yell like crazy for your guys.  It's good for your lungs, gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops.  Pretty girls, lots of 'em.  ~Humphrey Bogart

 

*

 

The outfield.  That’s where they put all the weak kids in Little League.  Or, so my sister’s kid claims.  Never really thought about it like that, even though outfield was the only position I ever played growing up.  To be truthful, the outfield is what I played about 1 or 2 innings.   Now this kid lays it out as truth, even though that used to be his position. 

Ten years old and his Little League days are far gone.  Yeah, I know, you think Little League and you see a boy growing out of his ears, pin-striped pants hoisted over the calves, batting gloves, and a pack of bubblegum.  Not for this kid.  He learned early on if you can’t play, well, you can’t play. 

“You know, the world doesn’t revolve around baseball,” said Frankie.

“Oh, and you’re what?   8 years old?”

“No, I’m ten now, and even when I was 4, I knew this.”

This from a kid with an official Kid Nation Red Sox lunchbox?  It’s amazing how any kid can change without warning into a Jell-o mold with pineapple chunks—the kind that won’t go away.  There it sits.  Slightly quivering, daring you to poke it.  Even if you ignore, it slimes over to you anyways.

 “OK.  Enlighten me.  Tell me about the world.”

“Well, did you know the state of –“

“Forget it.  I don’t want to hear it.  Just watch your cousin play and keep your hotdog breath out of my face.”  I had suddenly lost my will for stop-the-annoying-nerd-relative-with-sarcasm technique.

“Hey, you want some string cheese? Mom packed a couple of extras.”

“Just shut up.”

Funny, but I vaguely remember feeling the same way about baseball while growing up, believing that maybe, just maybe baseball wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.  All I could hear was Coach yelling Blake, you better hit way harder or I’m gonna…

  Apparently to him and every parent from our team, baseball was the meaning of life. 

These guys were grown-ups.   If baseball simultaneously drew out exuberant praise and cuss words in the name of the ball game, then I had better listen to Coach and do my darnest to save the world with one good hit, one good run, and one good slide to home base. 

My darnest never happened. 

The Good try, Kid changed to Next time, Kid and then to Aw, that Blake kid is up again.   The worst came the first year I played coach-pitch.  By the end of the season, even my own team began glaring at me.  I guess the play-with-toy-trucks-in-the-dugout era was over. 

Maybe I should have accepted my lack of ball skills and thrown in the towel for computer camp or art club or something without athletics involved.  I mean, look at this kid.  My nephew—he’s the all around proclaimed champion of thumb wars, math tests, and video games.  Which means when he’s twenty-six, he’ll be some kind of Nintendo game programmer or a brain surgeon. 

Frankie with a stethoscope and trendy, casual shoes.  He’d be the kind of hip young doctor you see on those TV medical dramas rolling around in wheel chairs on their breaks.  Having impromptu flings in between the life and death situations.

Now that’s life.  Only on the warped world of American TV programming.

Well, I’m still figuring out what life is all about.   If I had figured out the third year of t-ball that I always played right outfield while the infield caught all the balls before they even got to me, then maybe I’d be OK right now. 

I went through the whole Little League program.  I didn’t let it all go until I was about twelve years old.  But, Frankie, a future Dr. McDreary, gave it up at seven. 

I had 5 more disastrous years than him, and for every year you play baseball, and you suck at baseball, it takes away about 2 years of getting it right in life. 

So, I’m nineteen right now and just about getting it.  That there’s more to life than baseball.   Frankie never entered the parent-glare stage.  He got out a couple of years of t-ball when you can do no wrong.  You can play with ants, eat dirt, yell I love you, Mommy, and run across to 2nd base. 

For all that you get a standing ovation.         

The kid’s pretty much a genius.   He just enjoys the game from afar, admiring the loaded bases.  No pressure, no stress.  Just a Coke and a pack of Corn Nuts, dreaming of the ultimate birthday bash hosted by Wally, the official Red Sox mascot. 

I think some grown men would break out into a brawl just to attend.  Just to take a picture with Wally’s arm around their beer guts.

 

*

 

Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off... the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases.  ~Rick Maksian

 

There is definitely one great thing about baseball.  The girls.  They come in their pony tails and flip flops.  Just something hot about a girl who likes sports.  Who knew baseball could be so sweet? 

Just there.  Watching my nephew’s game.  Next minute a breathtaking girl from the Bostonian suburbs sits next to me with her Go, Tommy! and Aw, come on, Ref! 

To top it off, she’s all decked out in her high school softball gear.  Going against the face of Frankie and all his there’s more to life than baseball crap.  ‘Cus, right here, smelling of lilac deodorant and sweat is a brunette with tan arms who’s made baseball, I mean, softball her life. 

Baseball? Softball?  What’s the difference?   I can’t play either of them. 

All I know is that this babe could squash me out on that field.  Yeah, I’d get in a couple of decent hits and runs.  But in the end she’d kill me with her smile and fast-pitch game.

I glance over at her, thinking of some stealth line.

“You play?”  What a complete idiot. She’s only draped head to toe in the green and white of Garfield High.

“Um, yeah,” she says rolling her eyes. “Every chance I get.”

Nice.  Didn’t even try to hide the sarcasm.  

“What I mean is what position do you play?”

She winces at me, already irritated.  “Are your from Fitzgerald High or what?  I’ve never seen you around school.  Obviously you don’t follow Garfield ball ‘cuz if you did, then you’d know.”

“Yeah, I was a Fitz kid, but—“

“Save it—I’m not interested.”

And just like that she gets up and leaves.  To the visitors’ side.  With her Come on, blue! and Way to go, Tommy!  What a—forget it. 

She’s not worth it. 

Plus, she already said it all.  She’s not interested. 

 

*

 

Life's a pitch.  ~Cloquet Softball Team

 

I glance the other way, and wouldn’t you know, but there’s Frankie with his I told you there’s more to life than baseball.  Under normal circumstances, I’d agree.   But, not when a star player from the Garfield Tiger girls’ softball team thinks you’re a moron. 

Again, baseball let me down. First the outfield, then the fans, followed by esteem issues in middle school, and slacker mode later.  Now an icy attitude from the queen of the Game of Life. 

If life is a game of baseball, well, it stinks.  More than ever before.

Still, if given the choice between a full-tuition scholarship to Boston College or a ticket to Fenway Park, I’d still pick baseball.  How pathetic.  Little League ruined me, but the allure of baseball, the way baseball was meant to be played always gets me in the end. 

But man, that girl sure is the most exquisite specimen of athleticism and beauty I have ever seen.  This day, baseball, or rather softball is my sole reason for existence.  Not Fitz ball, but Garfield.  I will follow it religiously.  It’s my last shot at the meaning of life. 

 

*

 

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.  ~Greg, age 8


Oct. 14th, 2009

Where Metal Moans...Beginning of a YA Novel

Why am I sad?  A mother and boy from my hometown passed away in a deadly house fire this past Saturday morning...I just can't stop thinking about it.  Reminds me that no day is guaranteed for anybody.  We must love one another daily.

Here is my Fiction Workshop piece from a couple of weeks ago.  I've already received critical feedback.  I just need to go back later and deal with some of the elements.   It's about the YA novel I was talking about on a previous post.

Tell me what you think!



Flash Fiction:  Where Metal Moans  (a future prologue/ chapter 1 for a YA novel)

Blue sand over water and shifting photographs.  What I remember about you is transitory.  Something never settles, always changing hues.  One day you’re regular, gap-toothed and thin with arms gesturing in grand rhythms.  Sometimes quiet looking over the pier.  Sometimes ugly with streaks of icing coloring your lips blue.  Sometimes plunging into green depths where fishing boats tread.  I look at your pictures and I don’t recognize you.  I recognize me. Not Marlena.  My pale skin on your shoulders.  A dusting of freckles over the nose.  A searching smile.  The contours of a woman, out of focus.  I can’t erase you.  Only a film of transparency, a camera set to soft-focus. 

Funny—others don’t see this.  A certain clarity, a natural light reminds them of you and they say there is Marlena, that’s how I remember her, what tragedy, what a lovely young woman, wonder what she would’ve become, if only…if only I could see.  Then I’d know how to be different.  How to be Solymar.

Marlena calls out, “Solymar, just come with me.  It’ll be fun and Joaquin will be there.” 

Joaquin.  He was always there.  Joaquin is still here—in these photos.  He captured her essence as only an artist can.  Artists interpret.  They manipulate a visual to show a secondary image of something that is.  Marlena was, is.  I want to be. 

“Got a lot of studying.”  Brief, terse.  Not my usual self.

Marlena was of sand, sea foam, and beach.  A Latina Aphrodite.  Seaweed streaks running past her ribs, stopping at her hips.  Hips connected to Joaquin, his hands tangled in freckles, under her skin, fingers on top.  Honey shoulders.

“What’s wrong with you?  Are you mad or something?”

Freckles I share.  My freckles, my mouth of sand.  What do I taste like?  Aphrodite, the aphrodisiac.  Marlena as goddess.  Me as Solymar—the temple attendant.  Burning incense to my sister.

“No.  Just gotta study.”

I miss you.  The sand dunes whisper your name.  Joaquin ponders my skin, brown, spotted with tiny starfish.  Sea stars.  Does he have photos of me? 

I took all his photos of you.  I looked through black portfolios.  I examined his bureau.  When you weren’t looking.  When you were talking NYU, winter, forlorn flowers strewn in grass—the subject of some dead guy’s art.  I sketched them all.  Then he threw all the photos away.  Except for those he gave me.

“Fine.  See you later.”

Did the waters embrace you, welcome you home?  Did Poseidon capture your seaweed tresses?  Hair flying under imploded glass at 60 feet below sea level where metal moans and drowns to the unknown sea anemones and God created oddities.  You have been reabsorbed by salt and water.  Your Volvo resurrected.  Your body gone.  I only take pictures of beach.  No

Faces, no bodies intertwined,

locked in smiles.  Nothing

of me to remind of you.  I see you

floating on water,

ethereal.  Among the dolphins. 

When the sun sets

over Pirate’s Landing.

Silver bodies speak

your language.  Words like

piccolo notes, high,

fairy-like, beyond

the speedboats. 

 

Oct. 5th, 2009

Screenplay Barely Coming Along

I am stressed.  I have to turn in a bullet-ed "treatment" of my screenplay this Tuesday.  A "treatment" is an outline, and the full 30 to 40 page "treatment" is due next Tuesday.  For tomorrow, I need a 10 to 20 page bullet-ed outline.  I have the story more or less, but I need to get the details into many, many bullet-ed scenes.

Story?  Based on a historical tale of love and politics:  2 young men, rasied as near brothers, in Carthage and Numidia (northern African kindoms about 150 BC) compete for the love of a Macedonian princess.  Basically, the princess is used as a political pawn by a Roman general...or maybe by a Carthaginian general who raised her (?). Not sure.  But, I gotta decide now.   So, the prince of western Numidia truly loves her and believes he is to be betrothed to her.  Later, he finds out she has been betrothed to the ruler of eastern Numidia, his friend-brother.  He fully sides with Rome against their battle with Carthage.   So, he attacks eastern Numidia alongside the Roman general, goes to palace to get his woman, doesn't find her, but then knows exactly where to find her.  He marries her in secret, yet knowing she is a captive of Rome since western Numidia is aligned with Rome. 

In the actual historical story, the princess dies.  She willingly poisons herself at her husband's suggestion.  More honor in death than in a humiliating triumphal procession as a captive.  He will be crowned king of all Numidia.

My version?  She doesn't die.  Or, does she?  The last scene will show her laying down next to her husband by a lake under the moonlight...symbolic of their youth...the place of magic they first encountered together in their youth.

Ok, I must now get back to the outline!

Sep. 29th, 2009

Been a Long Time! My YA Novel Idea

Wow, I really want to keep this open diary going, but...it's so hard to keep up with everything.  So, here is my new attempt to do this the right way. 

Again, I want to use Livejournal as a way to document my aspiring career as a writer.  Hmmm...am I allowed to say "aspiring" even though I am not very active about it?

Well, for all my blog followers at athenasbooks.blogspot.com, I had posted about a month back that you could check out my screenplay pitch for my screenwriting class over here on my Livejournal.  Well, turns out my screenplay pitch has now turned into a synposis of the first YA novel I want to write and the major work for my graduate thesis. 

Synopsis: 17 year old Solymar de los Santos has always idolized her older sister, Marlena. It seems to Solymar that her sister, is on the brink of some greatness and feels guilty about momentary bouts of envy. Marlena has always included Solymar in every aspect of her life and has of late taken Solymar into her private confidence.   As soon as summer is over, Marlena is eloping with her 22 year old boyfriend Jorge and moving from Texas to New York City where Jorge hopes to study artistic photography and expand his career as a photographer. Only Solymar knows of their plan.

But, then tragedy strikes when Marlena’s vehicle plunges off the Queen Isabella Causeway in deep South Texas,a bridge linking South Padre Island and Pt. Isabel. Although divers search the murky waters and recover survivors, Marlena’s body is never found. Solymar and her parents must now deal with differing degrees of grief, while Marlena’s fiancée falls into near depression. Their devastating personal loss comes on the heels of 9/11, in a way linking the two tragedies together. To Solymar, her family, and other residents of the area, the tragedy on the bridge is the other 9/11 story in that it represents the reckless loss of innocence closer to home.

In her numbing grief, Solymar becomes interested in photography after seeing several of Jorge’s pieces at a local restaurant. Solymar decides to enroll in Jorge’s photography class, catching him off guard by her uncanny resemblance to her sister. A friendship of grief ensues, drawing Solymar and Jorge closer together. Jorge begins to see Marlena in Soylmar, while Soylmar experiences the first pangs of longing.  She begins to play Jorge’s game, becoming more like Marlena even though she realizes Jorge will always belong to Marlena is some way. Will she be able to choose her own path and own way of growing up, or will she always be in her sister’s shadow and grief? Will she choose to be Solymar even if it means losing Jorge?  Will she come to understand her sister's death and her own identity as worth?

What do you think?  Some really great, poignant writing can come out of this.  I want everything, the beach, the sea, the bridge, 9/11, photography, Mexican-American culture, and Greek mythology to all come together in some way.  My inspiration?  Justina Chen Headley's novel North of Beautiful...I love how everything in her novel flows in and out of one another--how her novel is a tightly woven work about finding personal worth beyond physical beauty.  If you have yet to read North of Beautiful, I highly recommend it.  Then you'll know what I hope to achieve.

My title?   Thinking about Blue Sand Over Water.

Jun. 21st, 2009

Wish me luck...

Today was a great Father's Day....my husband got some awesome gifts chosen by us...we ate roast beef with all the fixin's and apple pie al la mode...we rearranged my bedroom furnisher (so I kinda got a brand new room by doing that)...we watched one of the greatest all-time sports movie on HD--'Rudy". "Rudy" has got to be about one of the only movies I know that'll choke up a room.  It doesn't matter if you're a kid or a grown man.  What is it about this movie?  I mean, there are all kinds of films out there that could be considered "feel good" movies with inspirational themes and plots based on true events.  Maybe its just the idea of the impossible being possible because pretty much most of us don't dream that big.  I mean, we may dream, but to actually pursue it to the end and make it?  Most of our lives are run by realism.  Rudy was a guy with no chance whatsoever, and even he knew it, yet he still did it.  Wow. Brings to mind one of my favorite Bible scriptures...I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I think I should make that my own personal motto this coming year because this is the year I actually want to start writing and finish a full YA novel.  I don't mean my thesis novel but just something that begins and ends the way I decide and people would be willing to read.  I have several novel ideas and pieces of some already started.  I just need to decide and start. 

I feel more confident about my writing after having finished my first year of grad school, and I've read so much YA this past year that I feel I have a pretty good grounding in what kind of YA I want to write.  I just kind of feel like my summer hasn't started.  I've got several more weeks of teaching summer school, and until that's over, well, I don't have the physical energy to start.  Or, maybe it's just another excuse.  Sometimes I think maybe I'm just too afraid to start because it could be overwhelming.  But, being a published author is why I got into grad school in the first place.  Why wait?   I have to write something more "literary" for my thesis and it's going to take the rest of my time there, but it's not like that's the kind of writing I really want  to do.  I want good, mainstream YA with a strong narrative that will appeal to a broad audience.  Of course, I want it to be relevant.  Of course, I want to be "literary."  But, I want it to be accessible.  Wish me luck. 

Jun. 19th, 2009

A Little Bit About the Thesis I Hope to Write

Well, no MFA classes this summer.  But, I can't wait until the fall--I'll finally be taking the Fiction Workshop with one of the best professors at UTPA, Emmy Perez.  I took her Poetry Workshop this past year, and I really appreciated the preparation and effort she put into our class.  I admire her as professor, person, and mentor.  She truly helped me find my voice a little more and even managed to pull out the Hispanic in me...the part I didn't think was really there.  And I'm especially looking forward to this class because her main genre is poetry, and I think she will give me a lot of valuable advise and insight on writing my thesis. See, I want to write a verse novel, or if not a full verse novel, then a novel with segments of poetry mixed in for my thesis.  I think there is a strong market for this in YA.  So, I'll be writing what I love to read (which is YA), but yet making it "literary" in the eyes of the graduate program.  I have a general concept of the plot, and I'll write about that next time.

Why am I here?

I needed a place to do some other type of blogging besides book reviews...if you haven't checked it out lately, go to athenasbooks.blogspot.com

Ok, so what do I want to do here at Live Journal?  I think I want to chronicle my goal to be a published author.  Write about the MFA up's and down's.  Just say what is on my mind whether anybody is interested or not.  Talk about favorite movies, books, songs.  Just do other things besides post book reviews.