So, you've enrolled in a four week study abroad program taking classes you're excited for in a country you've always wanted to visit...Sounds like a dream come true, right? That's what you might think! But what happens when you arrive at your dream destination only to find that it's way hotter than you anticipated, and you've only brought pants because you don't like the way your shins look in shorts? Well, let me tell you the five simple tricks I employed when I found myself in this same situation:
1) Get COVID!
Now, there are a couple drawbacks to this strategy. For one, you'll have COVID. And two, you'll miss out on the academic, social, and basically every other component of the trip that involves leaving your room, on account of having to isolate for a week. BUT...staying inside for a week means beating the heat for a week. And it gives you an awful lot of time to catch up on Stranger Things.
4) Okay I'm bored now, this sucks. I'm ready to be hot again.
5) Pour a cooler of water over your head like they do to the coach at football games.
The Diner Incident
The sizzle of bacon smoking in a frying pan greeted me with open arms as I pushed open the diner door. Bacon. I wanted bacon. I was four years old, with all the single-minded determination that entailed. My grandpa, or Papa to me and my baby brother, was on babysitting duty that morning, so he took me to the diner for a late breakfast. Little did he know what we has in for. We had no sooner sat down at the checkered table against the wall than I was already reaching for the ketchup bottle by the windowsill. My grandpa gently swatted my hand away, preventing a timeline where I accidentally splashed ketchup all over the tablecloth while fidgeting with the bottle. He seemed amused by my antics more than anything else, but still, babysitters must babysit.
Eventually, our waiter came over to the table. His frosty attitude clashed with the welcoming environment of the diner, and he asked in the most ambivalent voice possible, "What can I get for you today?" This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. With all my (admittedly little) might, I banged my ketchup-bottle-free fists against the table and shouted
My grandpa stared ahead, mortified. Then after a brief second, he started to chuckle at the sheer awkwardness of the situation.
We never went back to that diner.
1. When did you begin to write?
As soon as I was able. The first time I remember writing a story was in Kindergarten, when I wrote (and illustrated, though not very well) a picture book called "Talk, Talk, and Away!" The story was centered around a talking airplane, which now that I think of it, seems a little derivative of Knight Rider's talking car, but I didn't know who David Hasselhoff was back then.
2. What does writing give back to you?
Writing allows me to voice thoughts I didn't know I had. To clear my cluttered mind. To offer something out into the void and hope that it resonates with someone, so that both of us know we aren't alone in feeling the way we do.
Also, I get to post reviews of movies that my friends aren't interested in hearing about.
3. What is your ultimate writing goal?
To be the best writer I can be. That's all you can really ask for at the end of the day. It's a great goal because it pushes me to constantly evolve and it's a horrible goal because I know I'll never reach it. Oh well.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say...Lie.
The first time I was ever published, I didn't believe a word of what I'd written.
In high school, I was selected to participate in a program where students would watch and review plays at other high schools. Some students applied because they wanted to pad their college applications with extra-curriculars, others were enticed by the promise of free food provided by host schools hoping to get good reviews. As for me, I genuinely enjoyed watching other schools' performances even when I had to pay for them, so why not take the opportunity to see some for free?
During the training session for new critics, one thing they stressed repeatedly was that we could not say anything negative in our review. This isn't the New York Times, and these aren't professional actors, so there's no need to take them to task. "Your reviews had a 600 word limit anyway," we were told, "so it just makes sense to focus on the stuff you liked and leave out the stuff you didn't." It's a fair point. If you see Hamlet, and you talk about how great Gertrude and Claudius and Ophelia all were, but you don't mention the guy in the title, people can probably put two and two together themselves. Besides, all the shows I'd seen up until that point were pretty good for the most part. Not perfect, mind you. It was high school theatre after all. But there were at least 600 words worth of good I could write about without worrying about how to dress up the bad.
Or so I thought. The first show I saw as a critic quickly put that principle to the test. There was one good-not-great performance, and, uh...the set looked competently built? Other than that, I was at a loss. So I threw journalistic integrity to the wind and lied. I heaped praise on the costumes and the acting and made the show out to be the event of the season. I felt bad about it, but I knew the people in the show probably would have felt worse if I told the truth, so I figured it was worth it to lie. Clearly, the people running the program thought so, too- I was selected as one of 8 reviews out of 50 to be published. While it maybe doesn't send the best message to reward someone for lying, I was still thrilled. I figured that if I could get published on my first try for writing about a show I didn't even like, it would be a breeze getting published again for a piece I actually believed in!
Not exactly. I ended up only getting published once out of the next five shows I reviewed and then a few more times after that, out of 20 reviews total. Often, the ones that got published weren't even the pieces I was proudest of. But it did still teach me a few things. For starters, I learned how to write quickly on a tight deadline, since I often had to see and review multiple shows within a 24 hour period. But most importantly, I realized that although I got lucky the first time, it's more rewarding to write the piece you want to write rather than the piece you think publishers want to read. You can edit your work to reflect the latter, but it's better to start from a foundation of something you actually believe in. That way, if it doesn't get published, at least it's still a piece you are proud of.