Saturday, January 28, 2017

Planning a Wedding in 15 Easy Steps

The following is an essay I wrote while planning my wedding, conceived as a lighthearted way to keep sane while dealing with wedding stress. It has never been published before. Enjoy!

Planning a Wedding in 15 Easy Steps

Step 1: Tackle groom to the grass in front of a high school that belongs to neither of you, where two years earlier you decided on baby names.

Step 2: Make appropriate calls. Wake your mother out of a sound sleep. Have to repeat the news twice. Her only response to ask for the date. You are fairly certain she's still sleep-talking.

Step 3: Use every minute between that night and graduating from college (that is not dedicated to insane girly giggles) to repeating the word "fiancé."

Step 4: Move in with the groom's family. Be asked at least once by everyone at his graduation party for a date.

Step 5: Write vows in the margins of a manuscript. Realize they suck. Lose them on purpose.

Step 6: Move 1200 miles away, together. Sit in the apartment with more half-unpacked boxes than pieces of furniture. Visit the pet store. Find love at first sightwith whiskers.

Step 7: Have an existential crisis two months before turning 24. Consider running away because very little makes sense anymore. Rapidly approach five year anniversary.

Step 8: Get over it. Have make-up make-out nights on the couchfor a whole week. Remember the worshipful way the groom looks at you.

Step 9: Create a wedding board on Pinterest. Try to find a pub to rent out in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Step 10: Consider eloping.

Step 11: Question how a seven-letter word adds 3000 dollars to the cost of anything. Question when 1000 dollars started looking cheap.

Step 12: Consider eloping.

Step 13: Jump out of bed at midnight when you and the groom come up with the perfect cake toppera chipped teacup.

Step 14: Beg to elope. Get shut down because the groom wants to see how beautiful you'll look in your gown. Feel like a really shitty person.

Step 15: Find the perfect invitations. Decide that everything else could go wrong as long as you get those invitations.

Step 16: Go look at wedding dresses. Have the saleslady look at you like you set an orphanage on fire when, a) you ask for no bling, b) you say your budget is $500 (when it's actually 300), and c) you meant July of this year.

Step 17: Find THE DRESS before discovering it's more than twice the budget for the dress. Drown sorrows in a pint's worth of frozen margarita. Go home. Get told you're crazy and just to buy it if it's THE DRESS.

Step 18: Call a firehouse because a) they're affordable and b) your fiancé's father is a firefighter and you think it's this whole poetic thing. Painlessly secure a date. Ask your mother twice via text, once via voicemail, and twice on Facebook if she's sure she can make that date.

Step 19: Go back for THE DRESS. This time, don't break out in hives. Buy THE DRESS and celebrate by stuffing yourself with soup and coffee.

Step 20: Fill out an online form for Caterer #1.  No response.  Call and then text Caterer #2.  Slow response.  Call Caterer #3.  No response.  Question whether or not legitimate catering services still exist in NEPA.  Get confirmation from Caterer #2.  Refer to it as "the event" each time so they might think it's a graduation or anniversary party, to avoid the $3,000 "wedding tax."

Step 21: Give wedding planning advice to a friend also on a budget.  Tell her the three rules you've learned: a) It's stressful as fuck. b) It's expensive as fuck. c) You and the person you're marrying will figure it out eventually.  (This last point is more a hope than a fact.)

Step 22: Discover invitations from Step 15 no longer exist. Find better ones (because the hair colors of the cartoon bride and groom are right) and order those before someone from one of your families travels 1,200 miles to beat you to death with your own wedding dress.

Step 23: Wonder if everyone knows they need to RSVP or if they think because they asked about the color and fabric for their bridesmaid dress that their attendance is assumed.

Step 24: Justify why you picked the state you did (Pennsylvania) for the wedding, whether or not you'll have a Catholic priest (he'll be the Lutheran groomsman and secular and technically you'll have already gotten the paperwork signed in Arkansas), and whether you were aware you did or didn't invite X, Y, and Z person (to which you have a ready "we're keeping it intimate" reply.)

Step 25: Report steps 10, 12, 14, and 24 to your therapist.

Step 26: Write an 853 word email to MOTHER OF THE BRIDE and MAID OF HONOR explaining the loose plans you have for arrival on the east coast.  Make a mental note to buy train tickets whenever you get paid next.

Step 27: Caterer falls through.

Step 28: Calculate how many slices of pizza you need to feed 40 guests.

Step 29: Struck by inspiration, decide to come down the aisle to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song.

Step 30: Wonder if you'll be able to run in your wedding dress from the torches and pitchforks that are sure to ensue from this "ceremony."

Step 31: Re-write the vows from scratch the morning of the ceremony.

Step 32: Edit the vows in your wedding dress while hiding in a back room five minutes before the ceremony.

Step 33: Wing it.  All of it.  Hope it comes off as something in the realm of endearing.

Step 34: Survive, with the pictures to prove it.

Step 35: Remember this was supposed to be only 15 steps.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Best Writing Snacks

1. Gummi Worms/Sour Watermelon Gummies

2. Mini Marshmallows

3. Strawberries

4. Granola Bars

5. String Cheese

6. Almonds

7. White Cheddar Popcorn

8. Teddy Grahams

9. Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

10. Fudge

So those are some of my favorites! What do you love to snack on while writing/reading?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

WIP: Representation & Empathy

My WIP novel is a YA queer fairy tale. At the heart of all of it is two girls falling in love; around them, a school that works by dark fairy tale logic. I've discovered, the deeper I get into this first draft, how much of it rotates on an axis of self-acceptance, shame, and the temptation to wish away a part of yourself.

So I want to focus on the two main characters of this whole romance. First, we have Celeste who, among other things, realizes that she is bisexual over the course of the novel, thanks to the fact that she falls for the new girl in school. Simone has known for quite some time that she is a lesbian, and she has relatively recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

When I came up with the idea for this story, before this story was even a fantasy, I made a very conscious choice about these girls' identities. One of the first decisions I made about the novel at all was that Celeste would be bisexual. As a writer and as a reader (and as an avid viewer of television), I get frustrated by the lack of fair representation that bi women get. (Bi men have a whole set of problematic representation/lack thereof of their own, of course.) They may be confused, "gay now," or villainous, or, more often than not, they're just not represented at all. I've written before about opportunities for bisexuality that go untapped, and some of my frustrations with that, so I won't go super into detail with that here. Suffice it to say that I wanted Celeste to have some part of me, so she inherited my bisexuality, my glasses, and my sweet tooth.

Simone has fibromyalgia. This realization came significantly later, but I realized that I had an opportunity here. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in March 2016, and had been showing symptoms since at least October 2015. Granted, I walk with a cane and Simone does not, as one separation in the manifestations of our disability, but fibro comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I saw a real opportunity here to represent someone with fibro--a condition that many don't know about and way too many don't believe exists, despite the fact that it's estimated more than 5 million adult Americans have the condition--and that's without getting into worldwide stats. And this girl who had fibro could be a love interest and a hero and function as more than her disability or what people have termed "disability porn." The fibromyalgia was one of my first windows into Simone's life and mindset, and she only developed further from there, inheriting from me a need for answers and an independent determination to fix problems on her own to a point of it becoming overwhelming.

That said, neither one of these girls is a perfect representation of me, either me now at 26 or me at 16. For Simone's identity as a lesbian, for instance, it requires more intuiting of her feelings and mindset than it does for her fibromyalgia. Celeste might be bisexual, but she's also of Peruvian descent, which is not my experience. Representation of different kinds of people is important to me. It's something that I want to make sure I get right. I think the first step toward that is the simplest: Remember to imagine other humans as complex humans with full lives and intersectional identities.

Trying to depict your character as entirely driven by, say, their relationship with one person is lazy writing. For the marginalized, complex and informed and empathetic representation is vital. There are lots of possibilities for how you can approach your characters in such a way that they function as people first, people who happen to have, and to varying degrees are affected by, different aspects of themselves. For instance, you could find one or two qualities that you share with each of your characters and use those as guiding anchors toward crafting other parts of their personalities. Another strategy is that you could use life experience to draw on, which depends on you truly listening to and trying to understand other people in a meaningful way. However you attempt this, I think the way to get at truth is with compassionate rendering of people both like and unlike you--not an obligation to make all characters likable or perfect, but to go beyond the obvious stereotype, and then the less obvious stereotype, beyond simply defining a character by one aspect of their life or another, and make your best effort to craft characters who are well-rounded and dynamic and as alive as words make possible.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

First Post: 2017 Book Releases

I'm Audrey, aka author Audrey T. Carroll. My first book, Queen of Pentacles, released in 2016. Fiction is my first love, but I also write poetry and nonfiction (both creative nonfiction and pop culture/gender criticism). I have my MFA and my BA, both in Creative Writing, and am pursuing my PhD in English at the University of Rhode Island. My focus is Creative Writing and Gender/Queer studies.

Now that we have a short intro out of the way, I thought I'd make this first post, which is only a week into the new year, about the 2017 book releases that I'm most looking forward to. There's a whole list of books that I really want to read that include titles published pre-2017, of course. But for now:

Big Lonesome, Joseph Scapellato
Feb. 28, 2017

I was able to take classes with Joseph Scapellato in undergrad, which involved listening to some of his work at readings. If those stories were any indication of Scapellato's aesthetic, this is sure to be fun, funny, eccentric, and just an overall enjoyable read. You can check out what the Kirkus Review has to say about it here.

The End of Magic: An Echo Park Coven Novel, Amber Benson
May 16, 2017

This book is the final in a trilogy, and one that I've wanted to read for a very long time (see: one year, since book #2 released). The first book, The Witches of Echo Park, manages to introduce us to this world and this cast of women in a way that makes us care about and connect to the characters, especially Eleanora and Lyse. There is a lot to enjoy here even aside from the character development: the engaging writing, the building mystery, the emotional resonance, the strong feminist themes. And, of course, there's magic and witches, which are exactly my cup of chamomile. In the second book, The Last Dream Keeper, the stakes are definitely raised. The feminist themes meet darker opposition. There is a lot more danger, and it stretches well beyond Echo Park. A scene towards the last third of the book gave me one of the strongest visceral reactions I've ever had while reading. How these previous two installments will all develop into The End of Magic is sure to be a really satisfying read.

Jane, Unlimited, Kristin Cashore
Sept. 19, 2017

So I don't know a whole lot about this book, if I'm being honest. The fact that it's written by Kristin Cashore is enough to sell me on it. Her Graceling Realm series is phenomenal. Cashore's ability to create different female protagonists who are strong and flawed in various ways is great. She also has a masterful control of world building. The aspect of Jane, Unlimited with the umbrellas is just quirky enough to remind me of Aimee Bender, one of my all-time favorite writers. The twist with Tu Reviens feels slightly Gothic, and gives me a Series of Unfortunate Events kind of vibe. I'm excited to see if my instincts about what little I know pan out.

So those are three books I'm looking forward to in 2017, and I'm sure there'll be more. While I'm waiting, I'll have to get started on the books I want to read that are already out in the world. I'm also definitely planning to re-read the Coven of Echo Park series before The End of Magic releases, and I want to also re-read Erick Setiawan's Of Bees and Mist, as it's my favorite book of all time and it's been an influence on the aesthetic of my WIP novel.

I'm probably looking to post once per week on this blog, but we'll see what shakes out. Thanks for reading!

Here's a question for you if you'd like to comment: What books are you looking forward to in 2017? Are there books you want to pick up ASAP, whether they're coming soon or released in 2016 or earlier?

Happy Snow Day!