Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fallow Ground

After getting slammed with a particularly atrocious cold in November, I quit writing and watched lots of Star Trek reruns and played way too much Uno. While I'm finally feeling better, I still don't want to pick up the quill. Not until January, anyway. Truthfully, I've lost the motivation to write even more word. I need a break. Fallow ground to germinate new ideas.

My mother passed away in 2008, but I will always treasure the emails she sent me while I was at college, and her constant encouragement to pursue my stories:

"Don't be afraid of what lies ahead. Just love your dreams, and go for them. See what happens. You'll always regret it if you don't."

"Take care, and follow your dreams. They are the best part of you."

"Just remember that I love you to pieces, and I believe in you totally and completely."

"If I could I would take every pain and trial from you, but then you could not grow, and I cannot do it anyway."

Despite these wonderful words, I must confess that for the past few months I have felt terrified that I had nothing left inside me worth saying. That all my stories are irrelevant, especially in a world with so much sadness on a global scale, from climate change, struggling economies, wars, and mass migrations of refugees. What could I possibly say in the face of all this sorrow that matters?

I don't know yet. But I do believe there is a difference between fallow ground and wallowing grounds. I refuse to give into useless self-pitying. I want to open my mind and heart to the goodness of the universe and learn how to better share it. As the poet Sara Teasdale said in her poem "Night," "Look for a lovely thing and you will find it, / It is not far--/It never will be far."

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fargo Snow Bunny

Elusive Fargo snow bunny sighted with first big North Dakota winter storm!

Beware, holiday decorators! This frost-furred creature survives primarily by consuming outdoor Christmas lights (especially the orange ones).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Moment of Shine

Every winter when my sisters and I unpacked the ornaments to our Christmas tree, there was one we always searched for in particular. We gave this ornament a place of honor in the center of the tree where everyone could see it. It wasn't expensive or made of blown glass, but a homemade silk and styrofoam bauble that grew just a little bit shabbier with each year, losing beads and splitting into frizzy threads. Still, it has always been my favorite ornament because I thought it looked like Cinderella's coach, or the dream of it. I hung Cinderella's coach on my own tree for the first time this year, carefully angling it so that only the good sides showed. Dreams fray with time, too, but we still angle them to catch the best light; a brief moment of shine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Autumn Ode


As trees lose their summer-time silhouette,
I slim, too—
Undone by Autumn,
Stripped into a colored frenzy
Of wings.
As the wind scatters my soul
Across the pavement,
My mind skitters into gullies and corners,
Heaping up hopes like dried vermillion. 


*A poem I wrote a few years ago, 
a picture I took a few days ago,
All things come back to red.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was always a big production in my family. Towards the end of September, we'd decorate the house with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, witches, fall leaves, spider webs and spooky candles. At night, my dad would tell my sisters and I scary stories by the flickering lights of the pumpkins. My mom would make us awesome costumes from thrift store finds and old clothes: Gypsy Fortune Teller, Miss Moffett, Sorceress, Witch, Calamity Jane, and Princess Leia--I've become them all for one night a year.

However, I must confess that my Princess Leia costume complete with lopsided buns was one of my favorite get ups. As a child I was just a tad obsessed with Star Wars; green was my favorite color (note the fabulous green outfit) because that was the color of Luke's (second) light saber!

But this year I am celebrating my other sci fi obsession: one slightly wrinkled Star Trek selfie for 2015! Live long and prosper, folks. May the candies be with you.

P.S. Please enjoy this spooktacular Halloween poem, "The Ghost of a Flower."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pac-Man: The Portrait

Autumn cherries on the ground and this shape on the sidewalk . .  . I simply couldn't resist!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This world is brought to you by Dark Water . . .

Growing up, was there one fantastical, fictional world that spilled over into your own?

For me, that world was the alien planet of Mer! When my sisters and I were little, we were enthralled by "The Pirates of Dark Water." This animated series by Hanna-Barbera followed the adventures of Prince Ren and his crew of marvelous misfits to save his home world from Dark Water (malevolent tar-like goop with a penchant for eating, well, everything!). It only lasted for two seasons, but the adventures of the main characters stayed with me all through my childhood: the stalwart lighthouse keeper Ren, who had only his father's broken sword to remind him of his royal heritage; Tula, the feisty barmaid turned stowaway turned ecomancer (earth magician) voiced by Ariel (aka Jodi Benson); Ioz, an avaricious mercenary pirate who oh so reluctantly learns the worth of friendship; and Niddler, a ravenous monkey bird who learns to balance his cowardice with courage in between scarfing down minga melons. A magic compass throws them all together on a quest to find the lost Thirteen Treasures of Rule, because only by uniting the pieces can they save Mer from the Dark Water. But they are constantly on the run from the monstrous humanoid Bloth, a heinous pirate that makes Captain Barbosa look like a tame wee thing. For Bloth doesn't want to banish the Dark Water, but use the Thirteen Treasures of Rule to master it and control the world. It also doesn't help that Bloth kind of has a fanatical desire to wipe out the last descendant of King Primus of the ruined kingdom Octopon: Ren.

Long after the series had ended, my sisters and I would pretend that roads were actually rivers of Dark Water, and that cracks in the sidewalk were traps that would suck us into the Dark Water if we accidentally stepped on them. Sometimes I would pretend to be Tula, fearless and powerful. Sometimes I still call myself a Jitatin fool! I am grateful my imagination grew up somewhere between Earth and Mer . . . where did yours grow up?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review of Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making

I do believe that is the longest title for a post I have ever written. However, I must say the lengthy whimsy of Valene's book title is fitting for the wonderful meandering of the story itself. (Also, any book with a fun word like "circumnavigated" will always draw my attention). The story follows the many (mis)adventures of September, the book's unwitting heroine, who seizes an unexpected opportunity to leave her mundane life behind to visit Fairyland. But when she arrives, September discovers the land has been ruined by the many rules of the tyrannical Marquess, who issues such unreasonable orders as every dragon must chain its wings as such beasts are not authorized for flight.

Here are the 3 top reasons you should read The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making:

1. Quests for the absurd abound. September doesn't set out to oppose the Marquess, merely to take back a witch's spoon. But the consequences of that choice set her on a wild, wondrous journey that risks her life, heart, and shadow.

3. Alice in Wonderland would feel right at home in Valente's Fairyland, which is brimming over with the bizarre. There are herds of living Velocipedes, Marids (djinn) who meet their future children before their spouse, reverse werewolves (who are always wolves except on full moons), and golems made of lovely scented soap scraps.

4. The Marquess is one of the best villains I have encountered on the page in awhile. She is cruel, yes, but the heartbreaking history that made her so is equally cruel. She is not a stereotypical, flat character, for the choices she made out bitterness and hurt are uncomfortably human.

This novel nourished and enriched my imagination like a rick, dark gold maple syrup poured into all the folds of my brain. I can't wait to read the sequels!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why do you blog?

Over the past week, I've been wondering why I bother. Blogging, that is. What do I want to accomplish with my blog? To be honest, I haven't thought about it that much; I simply started it because I heard that's what writers should do to start building an audience (for their eventual NYT best selling book, of course!). So I've scoured my brain for useful and fun creative writing exercises, interviewed creative friends, featured mini book reviews, bared my soul in digital ink lamentations and micro-epiphanies as I navigated the sea of submissions. But when I started this blog back in 2010, I was also just starting graduate school. Bad timing! My posts have often been few and far between (even post grad school now). I'm not surprised that I only have a few followers at present.

Which brings me back to the question: why blog?

I've decided to approach my blogging like standing at the edge of a beach where the surf curls in, with each post I write becoming a castaway message in a bottle that might reach someone and bring something good to their day, or it might just flounder on the sea of cyberspace and sink unread. But the metaphor changes my mindset; no half-hearted scrawls allowed, I intend each message to bear a bit of beauty.

So here is today's shining strand of syllables by Carmen Sopia Cutler, from BYU's 2011 Inscape.

A Wider Universe Than Yesterday

It was the first time I thought,
“There are, now, worlds coming into being”—
created in the time it takes me
to eat a peach.
What immeasurable options knitting the stars.
alleluia, alleluia
in voices too sweet for sound.
may I have a bit of earth?
because I have been practicing—
balancing books on my perfect princess head

P.S. As an added bonus, I'm sharing my favorite silly joke:

Q. Why were the Middle Ages so dark?

A. Because there were so many knights!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Say it in Six: Plugging characters into the 6-word Memoir

Today I want to share a writing exercise I learned in graduate school that is designed to help students distill the essence of a novel or character in a brief sentence: the six word memoir! I think this exercise can also help writers to better understand their own stories. Writing a succinct pitch is already hard enough, so why cut the kernel sentence down to just six measly words? Because characters all have conflicting desires that result in different choices, consequences, and outcomes, and confining those truths to just 6 words can lay bare core traits.

For example, here is a pair of 6 word memoirs I made up for Harry Potter and Voldemort:

Friends—loyalty more powerful than magic.

Kill you first to live forever.

Perhaps this is just a fun little exercise, but maybe it can also teach you about what your character is willing to risk, or where the heart of your story lies. The core of several of my novels can be summed up something like this:

True magic is will over wand.

Even fool's courage sparks dragon fire.

Sun shines second star to sisters (accidental alliteration, I swear!).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meditations on Ink Asterisms

I recently read Brakkton Booker's NPR article on new research into the darkening of the universe. My mind has already been inundated over the years by material on how our universe is inevitably dying and twinkling stars winking out one by one as they consume their fuel, but I was stunned by the revelation that the universe is now only half as bright as it used to be. Well, a small portion of the universe that was studied, to be precise: 200 thousand galaxies glowing half as bright as 2 billion years ago.

Why does this slow, yet dramatic fade strike a chord with me?

Perhaps because as a writer on the submission circuit, I sometimes feel like I might already have burned up my best creative fuel, that I just don't have what it takes to make it. That perhaps I missed my chance to ignite into a celestial ball of burning glory and shall fizzle into an ignominious brown dwarf! So why do I keep stoking the embers of ideas that spin and glow in the deep recesses of my brain? Maybe because even just one scintilla is worth marveling over. The Child-like Empress reminded Bastian of this very truth by gifting him Fantasia's last shining grain of sand. My characters and their (mis)adventures bring me joy and hair-tugging and laughs and sorrow and my universe is better for their gleaming silhouettes, even if one day, we must say goodbye, and move onto another story. I can't promise that I will coolly turn the page. But I will be grateful for what light, what ink asterisms were mine.

Fargo Sunset
©Sarah Page 2015