I WROTE ANOTHER BLOG POST. Two posts in two months? Who am I? Queen of productivity? Master of words?
Really I just liked a lot of stuff this month, so I felt compelled to keep the streak going. Also, I had a lot to do school-wise this month, so working on this blog post was a fun way to procrastinate, I’m not going to lie. So, without further ado, here’s what got me through grad school in the month of March (and if you want to read last month’s post, click here).
My Alma Mater’s Women’s Basketball Team’s Run in the National Tournament
Holy COW. This is at the top of the list because it’s the most recent development and one of the MOST EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS.
I attended undergrad at a little university in western Oklahoma: Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU for short). I was lucky enough to play four years of college volleyball, earn a fantastic education, and deeply immerse myself in all things Bulldog pride during my time at SWOSU. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve remained a fiercely proud alumna. I’m a bulldog forever, and if you ask I’ll sing the fight song loud and proud. Heck, I’ll sing the fight song no matter what; it’s my jam.
ANYWAY. The SWOSU women’s basketball team made it all the way to the NCAA Division II championship game. The game went into DOUBLE overtime. (DOUBLE.) (!!!) In the end, our Dawgs were not victorious, but watching those girls play their hearts out for SWOSU and their teammates made me so proud. SO PROUD. My heart goes out to those athletes. Even though the team ultimately came up a little short, there’s no denying how incredible their season was and how much they brought the entire SWOSU community together. My heart was so full for a solid week while they were competing in the Elite Eight–there was so much Dawg support and pride flooding my social media, and I was reminded that this little school in the middle of western Oklahoma is full of the best people; there’s no place like it. I miss it sometimes; I really do.
SWOSU women’s basketball, I’m so dang proud; all of Bulldog Nation is proud. Thanks for the wild ride.
My Dog, Because She Turned Two
Ellie is TWO YEARS OLD. Just thought y’all should know. Her birthday was on the 24th. She’s my little Aries girl, my fiesty little thing.
Ellie Kevin Lancaster, you have my entire heart and I’m so thankful you’re my little pal.
MY MOM, BECAUSE SHE ALSO HAD A BIRTHDAY (AND BECAUSE SHE’S THE BEST)
My Mom’s birthday is March 22, and my sister and I were lucky enough to be home for spring break to celebrate. She’s the best. The BEST. Here’s a picture of all three of us.
Love you, Mom. I’m so lucky to have you.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
I read the book Red Clocks early this month when snow days seemed to pile up one after the other, and it was such a wonderful break from required reading, even though the required reading has been awesome (more on that later).
This book was so addicting and so horrifying (in a good way). It’s feminist dystopian fiction that feels contemporary and very real. While the story sucked me in, what kept me captivated was the prose–beautiful and strange (again, in the best way) and suprising. I also really loved the characters, but I especially connected to Ro. I read a library copy, so I don’t have the book to quote, but Ro’s attitude toward life is something I can relate to. She’s doing life on her own terms (or at least trying to), resisting expectations and the norm, and there were moments in her narrative I wish I could have highlighted, but, alas, I had to be a good citizen and return the copy in tip-top shape. All in all, I highly recommend this book.
Better World Books
HAVE I GOT THE BEST ONLINE BOOKSELLER FOR YOU! (At least in my humble opinion.) My friend Nataly introduced me to this website, and I’m hooked.
Better World Books is an online new and used bookseller that has a mission to give back. They’ve raised over 28 million dollars for literacy programs, and they’re doing other cool stuff. Here’s a link to their “impact” page on their website.
I’ve ordered two books (used but in fantastic condition) through Better World Books so far, and I’m hooked–shipping’s always free, and you can find such great copies for so little. Both of my copies were under FOUR BUCKS.
In short, Better World Books is incredible and I love them. I’m a loyal customer for life.
Performances Found on Youtube That Inspire Me Creatively : A [wordy] ramble, an ode to musical theatre
It’s no secret I love musicals. My eventual financial goal is to be able to afford two things:
- An annual pass to Walt Disney World. (Duh.)
- Season tickets to whatever theatre is closest to me so I can see all of the traveling Broadway productions that come my way. All. Of. Them.
Anyways. I’ve always been a fan of going down YouTube rabbit holes, especially when it comes to musicals and other performances by my favorite artists. Whilst tumbling down these rabbit holes, I discover new performers I love, new songs I can’t get enough of, and new musicals I swear one day I’ll see. When I find performances/artists I admire, I keep coming back to those videos, and I’ll have them playing as I write. It’s almost like listening to a well-worn playlist, but instead of strict audio, I can look up every once in a while and see a person doing their thing, making their art.
As a writer of fiction, good performances can be the most inspiring. There’s something about the way an actor can say so much in the portrayal of their character without explicitly saying anything at all. Sure, explicit stuff is getting said (well, sung). But it’s that unsaid stuff–a look in the actor’s eyes, their body language, etc.–that’s so powerful. As I write, listening to and watching performances inspires me to uncover and write the nuanced stuff in my stories: the interiority of the protagonist, unspoken tension between characters, and all the other subtleties. Watching a good performance, for me, can make me want to craft a human, whole, complex character with messy emotions, makes me want to capture a human experience in the most effective and creative linguistic way possible.
Long story short (can I ramble or what?!), I love musical theatre, and holy cow do I get inspired to create after watching performers do their thing!
Here are some of my favorite online performances as of late from rehearsals or concerts and special events. These and other performances (I usually pick a video on YouTube and go with the suggested playlist) have played in the background as I started my last workshop piece of the semester, which is due pretty darn soon. (Oy. I need to write. Anyway.)
- Jessie Mueller in a rehearsal for Waitress, “She Used to be Mine.“ This is my favorite song of all time (it’s so specific to the story but also so universal for so many?!? It’s marvelous), and I love how Jessie Mueller portrays the heart of the song. So HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. The Tony performance is beautiful too, but there’s something about this performance that gets me every time.
- Rachel Bay Jones singing “So Big, So Small” from Dear Evan Hansen. This song and this performance gets me every time. Also, for my writing personally (in terms of themes and who my protagonists are as people), this is the perfect performance to set the mood for a night of drafting. The last few lines get to me in so many different ways emotionally–I think of my own mom and our history, and I feel an overwhelming amount of love and a smidge of sadness but mostly pride and gratitude. Ugh. So good. Everything about this is so good.
- Abby Mueller singing her Broadway Bucket List, but especially the last performance of the video when Abby sings “I Miss the Mountains.” What can I say? I love the Mueller sisters’ voices, the ways they convey the story of a song. I have never seen a production of Next to Normal, and I’ve only recently listened to the entire album (thanks to my friend Drake; hi Drake!), but I feel like Abby captures the complexity of Diana so distinctly and beautifully. I was so emotionally moved after watching this performance for the first time (even before knowing the context in which the song exists), and I think that’s a testament to Abby’s acting. Also, another gem is this video of Abby singing “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” So, so good.
- (How many times can I say *so good* in a post? Does the limit not exist?)
- Keala Settle in workshop for The Greatest Showman. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, do you even have a heart? (Kidding, but only slightly. Hehe.) But seriously, I love the joyful, raw energy of this whole video, and when I watch it, my heart swells and I get all sorts of inspired.
Ok, this section could grow and grow, but if you’re a writer who likes musical theatre, I encourage you to glean inspiration from talented artists like these. YouTube is your best friend. Listening/watching before and during drafting gets my brain a-goin’ and my fingers a-typin’, so why not give it a try?
My Required Reading This Semester: a 10/10
I just want to give a shout out to my professors this semester–the required reading, for the most part, has been SO GOOD. I am especially thankful for my New Voices in Native American Literature class. It’s my last literature class in my MFA, and we are reading ALL CONTEMPORARY WORKS. All of the authors are alive and kickin’! Do you know how rare this is in a literature class???? As an aspiring author, I appreciate that scholarship is being done on contemporary work. It’s awesome.
Here’s a complete list of what we’re reading in both of my classes, in case you’re curious and/or are looking for some new reads. I haven’t read all of them (we still have a little bit in the semester), but I’ve read a lot:
Native American Literature
- Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (soooooooooo good; heartbreaking but beautiful. READ THIS.)
- Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson
- Some of Tommy Pico’s poems
- Selections from When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
- There There by Tommy Orange (sooooooo good. Highly, highly recommend. I’m writing about this text for my seminar paper).
- Buckskin Cocaine by Erika T. Wurth (also really loved this one).
- Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhorse
- Selections from Moonshot
- Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones (this was SO GOOD. Read this.)
Seminar in Fiction: Writing the Short Story Cycle
- Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (ok, this one I didn’t particularly care for, but it was written in 1919, so I’ll cut it some slack).
- Florida by Lauren Groff (the queen of atmospheric prose).
- This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (problematic and I don’t know how I feel about it… except mostly not great. Diaz can write, though? All-in-all mixed feelings, but it was a quick read).
- Bad Kansas by Becky Mandelbaum
- Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth (very, very good)
- Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (one of my favorites; rereading now and I love this book so, so much)
- A Vist From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Behold, one of the best feel-good, “let’s get sh*t” done songs ever:
Here’s the link to this gloriously joyful song.
I “discovered” this song while on a walk after a week of stress and rampant imposter syndrome. The sun was shining, the weather was warm for the first time in so long, and I was feeling optimistic. This song put me in the best mood. The best. If you need a tune to help you get goin’ and productive, this is perfect for you.
I’m not talkin’ about those cutesy stickers that say DON’T FORGET or REMINDER or BIRTHDAY or whatever. No. I’m talking about these stickers:
Food. With. Googly eyes. The best. (Also, wow, is my handwriting something.)
Ok, I’m done
Thanks for reading, friends. Maybe you’ll see another post next month? Maybe? I know April’s going to be a doozy for me, so send some good thoughts and pixie dust.
(And I’m sending you some good thoughts and pixie dust. Thanks for reading!)