Over the past month I’ve been slowly putting up parts of Chrysanthemum Frowns (CF) in serial. I never provided any sort of explanation about the piece, so I figured that I’d take a little time to talk about that, my current project, and what I’m doing with the blog.
CF was my undergraduate thesis at Cornell College, where I finished my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing a little over a year ago. Because Cornell functions on a schedule far different from the average University semester (you only take one course at a time in an intense seminar setting), I only had three and a half weeks of actual writing to complete the project after my proposal was approved.
For the first half of the seminar our group focused on writing analysis pieces about the current state of the humanities. All of the seniors in the English Department, regardless of major or focus, took this part of the seminar together. Besides analytical work, the core part of the course was compiling and proposing a topic for your thesis, which you would write in the following block. In summary, one month was spent doing snobby literary stuff that supposedly proved my worth as a member of academia while slowly driving me batty and sucking my will to function*, and the next month was spent doing what I wanted to do with my life, writing fiction.
* “snobby literary stuff” is important, but the specific work I was assigned for that class was simply given for the soul purpose of taking up heaping amounts of time. Which it did, and I loathed most of it (yay, college?)
CF was approved, and I had three weeks to put together something “sort of concrete, polished/publishable, and academic.”
I originally proposed a ninety page (literally ninety page) story that took place over Alexander’s life, and it wasn’t until the the middle of the seminar that I hated everything that I had written thus far. It felt forced: I was trying to sound like a high-brow, soon to be fresh graduate of le collège. So I scrapped everything and had a premature midlife crisis. Miraculously, though, all those nights spent wailing to “My Heart Will Go On” whilst surrounded by piles of notes taught me one of the single most important lessons about writing I’ve learned to date: if you force yourself to write something for the sake of appeasing a specific audience, it’ll probably be your worst work. So I started writing for myself, and now it’s some of my best.
The final product was a series of vignettes about a family over the span of three days and nights:
Vivian Elisabeth Pomeroy, whose middle name belonged to her mother, and whose last from her father, spends her hot summer days playing with a stuffed rabbit and one of her brother’s old toy soldiers. Her mother watches from the balcony window, shuffling back and forth whilst reading a book. Olivia’s eldest child, Lawrence, is pulling on the cat’s tail in the hallway, whose bitter screech causes their father to abandon his work and angrily shuffle out of his dark office. The family gathers at dinner to eat, and then they each retreat back to their own rooms where they spend the night whispering to the shadows.
As all pieces do, CF needs a lot of love if I plan on moving forward with it. I spent the final week and a half writing and trashing hundreds of pages of drafts scribbled onto any scrap of paper I could find until I had my final submission: a neat, forty-two page collection of vignettes, painstakingly formatted to the margin (something I wasn’t able to convey via blog post on WordPress). It was my own little masterpiece, and I was actually proud of it.
To my surprise, the faculty were also smitten and I was nominated to participate in a oral Defense for Honors in front of a panel of judges (cough, which I nailed). It needs work, but it’s one of the pieces I love to pass around when people ask for writing samples because it exemplifies why I love to write. As the kids say these days on social media: it’s an oldie, but a goodie.
Besides putting CF up piece by piece as individual blog posts since late April, I haven’t posted much of anything else. That’s because I’m writing a book. For the past few weeks I’ve been sat down with a stack of legal pads world building. It’s one of the largest projects I’ve taken on to date. I’ve been working out the story in my head for a while now, but I’m finally putting it down on paper. Right now, I have little to show of it besides a whole plethora of notes. I plan on having a few sample chapters in the weeks to come for professional inquires (you can find contact information via my LinkedIn page). It’s a high fantasy epic about a girl in the midst of a massive war(s). There’s blood and death, unicorns, raunchy sex, sexy sultry villains, booze, tragedy, tears, and lots of long flowing hair. It’s a beautiful mess, but I’m getting some great early feedback and have loved every minute that I’ve spend with it thus far.
Although new fiction will be scarce on the blog while I’m working on the book, I’m going to be posting more personal anecdotes to keep the content flowing (with the occasional blurb or story). There’s a lot to come, and I’m really excited.