Sunday, August 31, 2014

Extra! Extra! America’s Next Great Author Volume 3! (FINALE Week 10 and Reflection)

I am skipping over weeks eight and nine of ANGA because neither week was extremely important in my eyes. It wasn’t some of my best or worst writing, and I didn’t find the prompts as exciting as some of the other weeks. Week eight we had to write a story based around color/colors, and week nine we had to write a story inspired from a piece we chose from the ELAC literary Milestone Anthology. I got third week eight with Avahline going home and tied for second week nine with no one going home.
            Week ten was the finale of ANGA and the last three contestants were myself, Lori, and Victoria. The challenge was titled “Your Universe or Mine?” and we had the task of going back to our original audition piece and creating and alternate universe or timeline from our original story.
I was particularly really excited for this challenge because my audition piece was an excerpt from The Unusual Isles. Because of this, the challenge basically amounted to me writing a fanfiction about my own book which I found awesome. It only helped that the excerpt was a part of Ellary’s story line, which is my favorite one from the book.
I don’t want to give away too much about the excerpt from the book I entered or the story I wrote for the challenge to avoid spoilers. I’m also not going to post my entry because this prompt actually gave me an idea to write a series of  stories that take place during the “two week gap” in the book, and the piece I wrote would be included in that collection.
As you’ve probably already heard from my Facebook page, I ended up coming in second for ANGA and I couldn’t have been happier about it. Sure, I would’ve loved to win the whole competition, but I knew that Lori had it in the bag since day one. She was at a skill level with her writing that was just beyond the rest everyone else in the competition and she really deserved to win.
            Out of all of the contestants in the competition, I probably had the lowest self-confidence about my writing. Although it may not come off that way, I am one my harshest critics and I think almost everything I write is terrible, and that almost everyone out there is a better writer than me. Throughout the competition the judges and the other contestants told me to have more confidence in my writing, but I still got extreme anxiety waiting for the results each week. Even coming in the top three a few times didn’t do anything to raise my confidence.
            Overall, I am so happy I got to be a part of this competition this year and last year. I honestly believe that this competition has helped me improve my creative writing skills more than any other workshop, Figment group, competition, or even English class I’ve even been a part of before. The prompts each week are always unique and challenging and they really helped me to improve my writing skills. Looking back at my entries from last year to the ones this year, I can see a substantial amount of improvement in my writing. The final reviews I got back from the judges said the same thing. They said I was the most improved out of all of the contestants in the competition, and I agree with them. Some people may see that as a bad thing, but I don’t.  I take it as a compliment.
            Where would I be today if I had never improved in my writing? Improvement is part of the journey of being a writer. Participating in contests like these on Figment are all about improvement. Some people may see it as a way to see if you’re writing is better than others, but it’s much more than that. In my mind, I would rather go home halfway in a challenging competition knowing that my writing had improved leaps and bounds from when I started, then end up winning an easy competition because everyone else failed to improve their writing.
            I don’t know if I’ll end up competing in next year’s season or not. I’m leaning towards no because I feel like I already did so well this season, but I guess I’ll decide later when the time comes down to it.
            For getting second places I get a winner’s certificate, a copy of ELAC: Milestone 2013 literary magazine, and $15. Keep updated on my Facebooks page because I’ll be sure to post a picture once I receive my prize!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Extra! Extra! America’s Next Great Author Volume 3! (Week 7)

I ended up having a lot of fun with this week’s prompt, although it took me quite a while to settle on what I wanted to write about. The challenged was titled “Sick, Sad, World” and the prompt was to write about something about we thought was wrong with our society. It could’ve been anything from lying to murder and everything in between.
                My first reaction to the prompt for was to write about abortion. It’s something I feel very strongly against and I was originally going to write an essay about the moral implications of it. I got halfway though the essay when I decided I wanted to change my topic. The essay didn’t really have the impact I wanted it to have, so I decided to write a short story on the same subject. It was going to be titled “What It?” and it was going to show two different mothers, one who got an abortion and one who didn’t. After a while of working in this one, I had a really hard time getting started and had a bit of an inspiration block, and I shifted gears entirely.
                My second idea was to write about the meat processing industry. I had recently watched a video from PETA about the horrors that occur within the industry. Although I am not against eating meat itself, the meat processing industry is something that I find very disturbing and morally wrong. I was going to write a sci-fi story taking place on a different plant with pig like creatures as the main characters. A young boy who’s father runs a “human meat” factory meets a girl in an activist group and is exposed to the horrors that occur in the factory. However I ran into an inspiration block for this story was well and scrapped the idea.
               I then turned to the dystopian genre, because it’s very easy to criticize society when writing a dystopian theme. I then ended up writing my piece about judging people based on their physical appearance. The story features a society with something called “The Judgment Board” who place people in jobs based on their first impression and physical appearance alone. I ended up really liking the idea and I am considering slightly expanding it into maybe a novella one day.
                Lori won the week once again and myself, Victoria, and Avahline all ended up tying for second place. Adam went home because he didn’t submit a piece.
My entry titled “First Impression” is below:

The Judgment Board knew everything. They knew how you eat, how you think, how long you spent getting ready in the morning, and how your mind worked. They could do that by just a quick glance at a person. They were the best at the job, and that’s why our government put so much of their trust into them. I trusted their decisions, and so did the rest of society.
            I have only heard stories about how they made their decisions. They looked at the smallest details; ones that you didn’t even notice about yourself. How often you blinked, if you tapped the table while you were taking a test, the color of the shirt you were wearing, they would all give away something about yourself. They took almost every physical detail into account. Eye color, hair color, height, weight, freckles, they all meant something different.
            At birth they determined what type of school you could go to, how long you had to study, what you had to study in higher education, and what things you could do for fun in your free time. They had placed me in sixteen years of schooling studying chemistry and I could play soccer and volleyball in my free time. They had read me perfectly and I couldn’t have been happier doing anything else.
I was scheduled for my first ever occupational screening today. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I would get placed in a lab doing some sort of research, taking my past studies into account. Occupational screenings were a big deal for most people, but I wasn’t nervous, I was rather excited. I trusted their judgment and I knew they would place me in the right spot. It was unfortunate for me that this was the one day my alarm decided not to go off in time.  
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” I yelled at my roommate as I stumbled into the kitchen, my clothes looking a bit disheveled and my hair only half brushed.
“It’s not my responsibility to know your personal schedule.” She responded while not even glancing up from her newspaper. She’s not the roommate I would’ve picked, but the Judgment Board assigned us together, so we must have compatible living conditions on some level. I impatiently tapped my foot against the tile floor as I waited for my coffee to brew.
“You know,” I heard my roommate say while still not moving from her position. “Taking coffee into a screening can affect how they judge you.”
“I thought it wasn’t your job to know my schedule.” I snapped back at her.
“Well that doesn’t mean I don’t like to be nosey.” She put down her newspaper and crumpling it up into a ball and throwing it into the trashcan. “Those things are just a bunch of bullshit if you ask me.”
“Why would you say that when they just assigned you to three more years of law school? You’re almost guaranteed to be a top notch lawyer by this point.” She was luckier than most people who got placed working retail or flipping burgers for five years at a time.
I heard her sigh before she responded. “It’s just a bunch of obnoxious people staring at you and thinking of ways to tear you apart. Besides, this is the third time I’ve been placed back in law school. I’m twenty-seven now believe it or not and I have a feeling I’m never going to get out of school.”
“Well maybe they just know that you need more education than the average person.” I knew better than most people that she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I picked up the coffee pot and quickly poured it into my mug, spilling a bit and burning myself in the process. I began to sugar and cream as I listened to my roommate ramble on.
“I think it’s because those people don’t give a shit about anyone. They don’t know anyone’s background history and they judge a person based on what they see at a given moment. You can’t know a person just by a first impression.”
“Maybe they don’t need to take background information into account. They can figure all that stuff out just by first glance. They are professionals after all.”
She laughed at me as she walked out of the kitchen, taking a seat on the couch in front of the TV. “Tell me if that’s what you think when you get back.”
I rolled my eyes at her as I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door. I practically sprinted down five flights of stairs and down two blocks before I caught the bus to the Department of Occupational Services. While I had the chance to catch my breath I took a sip of my coffee and immediately recoiled at the taste. I had put way too much sugar in it. I must’ve let myself get distracted by my roommate as she was rambling on. I didn’t think much about what she had to say. She probably got sent back to law school because she never showed up to her lectures. I knew from firsthand experience that she skipped out on her classes more than a few times.
Minutes later the bus came to a stop in front of the gleaming white doors of the Department of Occupational Services. As I got off the bus I didn’t have time to sit and admire the building like I would if I were passing by on a normal day. By now, I was already five minutes late for my screening. I didn’t feel like waiting for the elevator and opted to run up three flights of stairs to the screening room.
“You must me Hannah Anderson,” The woman sitting behind a desk asked me as I ran into the office.
I nodded my head while still catching my breath. She only smiled to me as she motioned to a black door off to the right of the reception area.
“Go right on in. The Board is waiting for you.” I took a deep breath as I walked over to the door and reached for the door handle. As I twisted it and pushed the door forward I was greeted by a hundred pairs of eyes, all staring directly at me.
The room was gigantic and I could barely see the top of the ceiling. Rows of seats were stacked up ward in rings almost like a coliseum. Every single seat was taken by either a man or woman wearing a black suits and glasses. The room was dead silent and I could almost feel their glares as they looked down on me, ready to choose my future. Their eyes were all trained on me as I walked into the middle of the room, surrounded on all sides by their knowing glares.
“State you’re name.” A man shouted out from somewhere in the room I turned around trying pick out the person the voice came from, but the voice had echoed throughout the room, making it hard to tell the direction it had come from.
“Hannah Anderson,” I shouted back, not really sure who to direct my answer to.
In an instant, the room erupted in shouts and yells from every direction.
“She’s a girl.”
“Eliminate all jobs in professional sports leagues.”
“As well as construction,”
“She has a boring name.”
“That eliminates all jobs in film, writing, and singing.”
“She doesn’t strike me as professional either.”
“Look at her hair! She doesn’t even care enough to dress nicely for us.”
“Eliminate beauty school as an option.”
“She was out of breath when she arrived.”
“She needs more physical exercise.”
 “She was late as well.”
“So eliminate all jobs in business and customer service. She obviously can’t keep up with simple deadlines.”
“She seems very stressed. I don’t think she could handle a high stress job.”
“Eliminate law enforcement, security, and emergency response jobs!”
My head swiveled in all directions as I tried to keep up with the comments being made about me, but it was nearly impossible. I just started up at them blankly as they decided my future right before my eyes.
“She relies on daily caffeine boosts.”
“Someone test the contents of that mug she has!”
            Before I had the chance to respond, a man in the front row grabbed my mug right out of my hand and took a sip out of it, recoiling the same way I did when I drank it for the first time.
“Excessive amount of sugar, signifying immaturity.”  
I guess my roommate was right when she said brining coffee effects your placement.
“That was a mistake,” I tried to explain to the man who still had my mug clasped in his hands. “My hand must’ve slipped when I was putting in the sugar this…”
“She is also careless and inexact.” The man holding my coffee mug stated as he gave the mug back to me with a condescending stare.
“Elimination all jobs the culinary field.”
“She doesn’t wear glasses.”
“Then her intellectual mental ability is substantially lower than most. Eliminated jobs in the scientific and medical fields!”
“But I’ve been in school studying chemistry for the past sixteen years! I’ve been trained for a medical research job!” I tried pleading with the ones in the front row, but my plea seemed to land on deaf ears.  
 “Assessment complete!” A man yelled from somewhere in the room and everyone went silent.
“Hannah Anderson, you are assigned to work in the mail delivery service. Please schedule a screening in ten years for reassessment.”
I looked up at the room of people in shock. Surely they couldn’t assign me to ten years delivering mail because I didn’t wear glasses and put too much sugar in my coffee this morning.”
“Can I request a reassessment?” I yelled up at the group of people.
“You may file for a reassessment, but it may take up to twenty years to confirm. Please leave now, or you will be removed by force.” I looked over to the door where I had entered and saw two large men standing on either side. I slowly back out of the room, not wanting to look anyone in the eye. At the front desk, the smiling woman handed me a brown cardboard box.
“Inside are your job instructions along with your new uniform! You will excel in whatever career path the Judgment Board has picked for you.”
I took the box from her and carried it down three flights of stairs and out the front doors of the building. On the bus ride home the cardboard box sat on my lap. I felt like it was weighing me down from what I could’ve accomplished. I couldn’t help but think about how a group of people who had never met me before decided my future in less than five minutes. All based on what? What they could interpret about my personality just from physical traits. How was that even fair?
As I pushed open the door to my apartment, I could hear my roommate laughing before I could even shut the door behind me.
“What did I tell you?” She shouted in a rather mocking tone. “It’s just a bunch of bullshit.”
This morning I would’ve never agreed with that statement, but we were in the same boat now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Writing/Inspiration Playlist

I only listen to music when I write sometimes, but when I listen to certain songs, I can’t help but feel inspired by them. Below is a list of songs that inspire me to write, and help me to brainstorm other ideas.

Castle of Glass – Lincoln Park
Shatter Me – Lindsey Sterling ft. Lizzy Hale
Heart of Courage – Two Steps from Hell
The A Team – Ed Sheeran
Paradise - Coldplay
The Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine
Where We Used to Run – Landon Austin
Viva la Vida – Coldplay
Snow Fairy – Funkist
Counting Stars – One Republic
Like Yesterday – Luke Conard
Winterspell – Two Steps from Hell
Breath of Life – Florence and the Machine
Some Nights – Fun.
Tomorrow Will be Kinder – The Secret Sisters
Elements – Lindsey Sterling
Be Calm – Fun.
Fix You – Coldplay
Fireflies – Owl City
Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
Seven Devils – Florence and the Machine
Show Me What I’m Looking For – Caroline Liar
Sun and Moon – Two Steps from Hell
Crystallize – Lindsey Sterling
Run Daddy Run – Miranda Lambert
Breathe – Two Steps from Hell
Feel Again – One Republic
Anna Sun – Walk the Moon
No Other – Super Junior
Make it Up – Sam Tsui
Once in a Lifetime – Landon Austin
Aoi Shiori - Galileo Galilei
Kingdom Come – The Civil Wars
Abraham’s Daughter – Arcade Fire
Colder Weather – Zac Brown Band (I prefer the Home Free version)
Big Sky – Two Steps from Hell
At Least I’m Not as Sad – Fun.
Peter Pan – Jacqueline Emmerson
Secrets – One Republic
A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
Touch the Sky – Julie Fowlis
White Houses – Vanessa Carlton
Dollhouse - Melanie Martinez
Stuntman - DANakaDAN

This list could probably be a lot longer, but I’m going to stop for now.