Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Being Afraid of Making Mistakes with Characters of Color

I've witnessed a lot of conversations wherein White authors have expressed some trepidation about writing Characters of Color in their books. While I totally understand where they're coming from (after all, I write characters who are from different cultural heritages than me and ask for help/do research to make sure I Get Things Right™), I must admit that I’m also quite perplexed at the same time.

An example:

I’m a bi-racial cis-female. My father was white, and my mother is Filipina. I grew up in a single-parent household, as my mother took us with her when she left my father. I was around the age of eight, and am thankful every day that she removed my brother (who is four years younger than me) and myself from an alcoholic and abusive parent. My mother worked three jobs to make sure that her children would be well-provided for, and I’m happy to say that we grew up not really wanting for much. Sure, there were years when we got that cool new toy that came out during the Holiday Season (why we ever wanted a Furby is beyond me), but there were also years we knew that cool new toy wouldn’t happen. Although I was disappointed, I was safe, loved, and taught that reading was something fun people did in order to pass the time.

In high school, one of our required readings was The Catcher in the Rye. While some of my classmates absolutely loved the book, I hated it. I thought Holden Caulfield was whiny, and I had no time then (or now, really), to suffer boys who whine about their problems and refuse to do anything to change their circumstances. One could make the argument that I missed the point of the book entirely, and I’ll admit that I haven’t re-read it since high school, so maybe now I’d feel different about Holden. Maybe.

My point is that, even though I love reading, there are some books that I don’t think are worth my time. I couldn’t identify with Holden’s struggle at all, and didn’t care about what happened to him. So, for about ten years, I’ve walked around hating The Catcher in the Rye.

Question: Does my hatred of The Catcher in the Rye prohibit White authors from writing more stories with White protagonists?


Another question: Does someone’s disagreement with how a White author portrays a Character of Color hold back other White authors from writing books with Characters of Color in them?

The answer I’ve found so far is a resounding yes.

And this, my friends, is privilege.

This fear of confrontation (in this instance, of being critiqued for a character choice) is, perhaps, one of the more subtle forms of privilege, but it exists nonetheless.

While I am by no means the spokesperson for all bi-racial White/Filipina cis-females, I can vouch for my own experiences – and for the fact that I get asked quite frequently where I’m from from, as if my answer of  “Virginia” isn’t good enough. The looks I usually get are confused, or incredulous, as it does not compute that I come from Virginia. The temporary relief that crosses their faces when I explain that my mom is from the Philippines wrenches my stomach every time.

It makes sense, all of a sudden. I’m from Virginia, but my mother is not. My mother is foreign. My mother is not one of us.

This is a confrontation that I didn’t ask for – but it’s one that I have to face on (at least) a monthly basis. Or whenever I meet someone new. I have to explain my right to be considered “American,” because, when I have a tan, I happen to look…not white. My example is also one of the lighter miroaggressions one can face. I’d also like to remind everyone that people are dying/have always been killed for looking or presenting a certain way.

My mother didn’t dare teach us any of her native dialects, because she wanted my brother and me to not be questioned as much as she is. Other families kept their traditions going while ours fell by the wayside.  I have bi-racial friends whose mothers are Filipina and their fathers are White, and they can speak Tagalog fluently. And, like I said before, I can only touch on my own experiences. What I do know is that I lost a crucial part of one of my cultures, because white is the default. It’s the expectation. It’s the norm.

When White authors write White characters, are they afraid of getting “whiteness” wrong? Some are, sure, but others keep on trucking like there’s nothing holding them back. White characters get to be intelligent, moody, make terrible decisions, win the championship soccer game, slack off in school, have an excellent grasp of sarcasm and snarkiness, have powers, save the world, live in dystopia, etc – and people rarely bat an eye or sweat over whether they’re being “true to the White experience.”

When I was growing up, do you know how many characters I found who were the same kind of bi-racial as me? (HINT: The answer is none) So, I went to the next best thing I could identify with – I found Asian characters that I could cling to. And what was I presented with? Tiger Moms, Book Worms, endless math equations, broken English, submissive women, Geisha, Samurai, cultural barriers that were passed off as jokes, nerdy best friends who only existed to validate the White best friend (and who never got a date), and Miss Saigon syndrome (wherein: the Asian woman is wooed by the White American man, who is obviously her ticket out of her horribly under-classed existence, but she’s then dumped for a better/more suitable female. Usually White).

I was presented with a portrait of Asian-ness that was as true as it was incomplete. Sure, there might be some Asian/Pacific Islanders who’ve had these experiences – but that doesn’t mean all of us have. I am no more a spokesperson for the Asian/Pacific American experience than the next, and I certainly don’t expect White authors to spearhead the movement, either.

In fact, the only thing I expect White authors to do is some research. Acknowledge my culture by putting in time to get to know it, and then write it as well as you can. Will some people think your depictions are spot-on and true to their experiences? Sure. Will some people take issue with what you’ve written? Of course.

That’s art. That’s how art works.

Art isn’t built to have everyone agree on everything all of the time. That’s why I used my Holden Caulfield example. I didn’t particularly care for his experience, nor did it resonate with me. That doesn’t take away from someone who does enjoy that book. My experience is just one in a sea of endless experiences.

Now, this isn’t carte blanche to just go off and start writing things without research. If you rely on stereotypes to convey your Characters of Color, we’re going to have a talk about why that exists in your story. As a very wise friend pointed out, if you’re writing a story about a pilot, you’d take the time to do research on what being a pilot entails – so why would you not take the same care with a Character of Color’s experiences?

Mistakes are inevitable. Everyone messes up. But to refrain from writing Characters of Color because you’re afraid of backlash is unacceptable, and it only ensures that underrepresented kids will grow up unable to find themselves in stories. They’ll be relegated to the best friend/side-kick role and never understand that they can be the protagonists, too. They can save the world, win the soccer game, be moody, intelligent, have an excellent grasp of sarcasm and snarkiness, too.

If you do make a mistake, own it, listen to the people calling you out, and figure out a way not to make it again. Uplift and help underrepresented writers who crave to get their stories out – who clamor to be heard every day. Who have amazing stories to tell, but are held back for systemic reasons and because they’ve been taught that their stories aren’t worth telling.

But, whatever you do, please don’t make the biggest mistake you can make: assuming that there are stories out there that can’t be told. Somewhere out there is a child who desperately needs your character, your world, your story. To deny them that is a truly frightening thing.

Isn’t it?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

To Get the Thing Worth Journeying... (Part 2)

Okay, so when we left off in the thrilling saga of Alex does musical theater, I'd gotten a call back and was super excited. So, here's what happened next!

I got to the call back...about thirty minutes early. I was so freaked out about being late that I basically booked it there (woops). Anyway, I got there about the same time as another person, who I'd talked to a little during the open audition night. She was excited, too, and together we journeyed into the building.

The Director (who, coincidentally, is my bathroom buddy from the last post) split us into three groups. While I was busy trying to figure out the method with which they divided us, I was herded into the first round of the call back - rhythm.

Stephen Sondheim likes to make people cry (especially the performers), so his songs are...challenging. Yeah, we'll go with challenging. We had to sight-speak what might be the hardest song in the musical because it's so fast-paced.

We were randomly assigned parts, and I got The Baker the first go 'round, which was quite disastrous. Our group stumbled through that for about fifteen minutes or so, and after slowing down the tempo to a snail's pace, we left that part of the call back feeling defeated.

Then we went right to choreography and half my group groaned tragically (myself included). When we did musicals in high school, I was always that kid in the back that the good dancers hid. Don't get me wrong, I have rhythm and was always one of the people keeping people on-beat - while we were singing. But you ask me to dance and I have two left feet, and whatever the other non-dancey cliches are. So, I stumbled my way through that two eight-count, mostly jazz squares routine and thought that perhaps this wasn't for me, after all.

Luckily, our group saved the best part for last. We went to the acting part of the call back determined to get something right - and we did! We had a couple of asides set aside, and got to act out various scenes from the musical. I was picked to go in the first scene, and was assigned Jack. With the scene I had, my only line was in the beginning and I basically spent the rest of the time off to the side while everyone else in it argued. So, instead of doing that, I started talking to an imaginary cow (he's milking it at various intervals in the scene). Since I was probably a failed stand-up comedian in another life, I encouraged the cow to produce milk because hey, if the US Hockey Team could be Russia in the Olympics and win the gold, the cow could also beat the odds and produce milk. I referenced the movie Miracle, and asked if the cow remembered watching it together and, by this time, the people not in the scene were laughing at how ridiculous I was.

We switched characters and scenes around, so by the end of it I'd had my fair share of yelling/fighting/being sad. Then we all went back into the auditorium and after five minutes of conferring, they called a group on-stage to talk out that difficult song from earlier. Guess who one of the people they called was?


I did a bit better this time, and even ran across the stage at Cinderella at one point (apparently I harbor a secret disdain for Cinderella. No idea how that happened). They ran it through a couple more times with a different group, and then lined us all up on-stage to sing a few bars from a song in the musical. That part was awesome because we all got to hear each other's voices (up to that point, we had no idea what everyone sounded like when they sang).

We were dismissed after that, and waited for an email with the cast list.

And waited.

And waited.

And then, it finally happened!

I'm pleased (and proud) to say that I got a part!!! WOOOO!

Which part, though...well. That's another story for another day :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

To Get the Thing Worth Journeying (Part 1)

Okay, so that whole "be better at blogging" thing starts...now! After my introspective last post I figured I'd put something a little more fun on the interwebs. I think I've touched on it a few times in the past, but when I was in high school I was a theater kid. And a chorus kid. Basically, if there was singing and a story, I was all about it.

Then I went to my undergrad, and while I loved it there and wouldn't trade it for anything, I stopped singing in organized groups. It had been the first time I wasn't in some kind of choral setting since I was in the fifth grade.

That "no chorus" streak continued into...well, this year (for those of you keeping track, that's 2007-2015). Then, while traveling back to Salem, I decided to look into community theaters to see if auditions were happening for anything interesting. I danced around my hotel room for a while when I found that a theater around twenty minutes away was doing Into the Woods...and that auditions were the day I was supposed to get back from my holiday shenanigans.

So, I rooted through my vast array of showtunes hoping to find something that would be a suitable audition song. I had a very good idea of which part I wanted, so I picked a song that would probably be sung by my character if she were in that musical.

One of my goals this year was to do something fun that was outside of work, because I love my coworkers, but everyone needs an escape. I also wanted to do something that was just for me, as a lot of last year focused on me taking care of other people.

I went to the first night of auditions armed with twenty to thirty seconds of a song and a universe's-worth of excitement to try-out for something that I love (Into the Woods, consequently, is one of my favorite musicals). I got there, and...

...everyone had sheet music. I had no sheet music, as I hadn't put that much thought into it. I almost turned around, but asked the nice registration lady if I could just go up there and wing it. She checked, and I was clear to sing a capella.

I waited for about half an hour as other people went ahead of me. Then, one of the directors came out and called my name. After I took a deep breath, I went through the creaky double doors and...immediately cracked a joke.

You see, I tend to do this when I get nervous. It's a terrible habit (or an awesome one, you decide). Anyway, about fifteen minutes before my audition, I'd gone to the bathroom and was washing my hands when another lady walked in. We did the awkward you're-here-too-I-should-acknowledge-your-existence head nod, and I left.

So, I walk into this auditorium and one of the directors also happens to be the lady I ran into in the bathroom. Naturally, I blurt out, "OH, YOU'RE MY BATHROOM BUDDY!" at this poor woman. I got a laugh out of everyone in the room, which was probably a blessing and a curse. My "bathroom buddy" quipped that she's a frequenter of the bathroom, to which I replied that I, too, qualify for this title.

At this point, my brain really wanted my mouth to stop talking, but there was no way to derail the train. They asked me what I was going to sing, so I told them, "My New Philosophy." Someone said that they hoped I wasn't going to sing the whole song, to which I replied that I could sing both parts if they wanted (which would have been interesting).

If I hadn't already lost their attention, it was fading fast. So I finally stopped talking and sang.

My bathroom buddy almost fell out of her chair as she scrambled over to the piano, and, by the time I was done, everyone in the room had huge smiles on their faces. They asked me if I knew any of the part that I really wanted (which is a mystery for this post haha), and I told them that I did indeed know that part.

I wound up singing a bit of a character's song...right into the Director's ear, 'cause she was playing the piano. I projected like my life depended on it, and hit the notes as precisely as I could while I freaked out on the inside. I apologized for yell-singing into the Director's ear after we were done, and she laughed it off.

I left the audition hoping to get a callback. There was a second night of open auditions a few nights after mine, so I waited all week to get an email about my fate.

Said fate-email arrived Friday and...I GOT A CALLBACK!!! I pretty much ran laps around the building on Friday after the email came because I'd only ever had ensemble parts in musicals, so being called back for a role with a name --- any role --- was/is pretty awesome!

Our callback was yesterday, but if you really want to know what happened you'll have to check back on the blog tomorrow :)

Until then, I'm going to go back into the woods...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Oh, 2014.

2014 was a thing that happened. Honestly, I don’t even know how to begin to describe the year, but I think I’m in a good enough place to give it a try.
So, here’s my try.

The beginning of the year meant the end of my father. I found out that he passed away on January 1, 2014, and I didn’t know what to do with that information. You see, I hadn’t seen my father since I was eight. My last, most vivid memory of him (there aren’t many memories of him) was when he managed to track us down to our new house. My mom called the police on him as soon as he showed up, and he was a hurricane of anger and alcohol. That was probably the best way to describe the man: anger and alcohol.

What he was angry about and drank away, I’m still not sure. I never got the chance to ask him.

Whatever the reason, he was these things a lot. Not that I remember too much about him – or my childhood. I repressed everything that had to do with him. I have no memories of anything that happened while we lived with him, and I have no interest in getting them back.
I thought I was ready for the day he’d die. I spent all sixteen years he was gone preparing for it like it was an Olympic Event. I was going to get the gold medal in coping with your absentee father’s death. 

But when the day came, when it was time to show the world what I had, I fell apart.

I didn’t know why I fell apart. Death is difficult (understatement) but, for all intents and purposes, the man had been dead to me for sixteen years already. I owed him nothing, he owed my family (and me) everything. He owed child support, so much child support, to my mother who had to work multiple jobs to keep us afloat. He owed me all the memories he robbed me of, and all of the time I spent watching my younger brother while my mom worked, and worked, and worked. He owed my brother an explanation as to why he wasn’t there, because he’d ask nearly every single day. After a while, he stopped asking because he stopped caring.

But all the walls and safeguards I’d built up for sixteen years crashed down when I learned that I also had two half-sisters. Before my father married my mother, he was married to another lady. I had sisters.

And it was weird then, because things clicked into place somehow. It’s weird to explain, but I’d gone through life feeling like there was this missing part. A hole that I couldn’t fill. But I figured it was just me being super philosophical, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then this happens and it’s cool and terrifying all at once. My family had known about them all these years and kept my brother and me in the dark. Once I realized that, the good outweighed the bad. It was rough enough to be betrayed by my father – now I could add my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my hard-working mother to the list.

All I wanted was an explanation. Why were these people kept from me? When I couldn’t get one, I got even more frustrated.

My father’s death left me filled with grief, though only a small bit of it was over him. Instead, I grieved for the life I could’ve had, if only I’d known I had sisters while I was growing up. How I could’ve had people who knew exactly what I’d gone through with my father, because he was just as terrible with them.

I ended January with a broken heart. My heart would break a lot, though I didn’t know it yet.

My brother broke my heart in March. He’s struggled with depression for almost ten years now, and one night he called me, saying things that smashed whatever was left of my heart. I flew down to Virginia to show that he wasn’t alone, and that I really would be there if he needed me. I was already emotionally drained, and everything else I had went to making sure my brother would be safe when I left him.

Due to various circumstances, I wound up planning my father’s funeral. Since he was cremated, we waited until June to have the service. While I planned his service, every person I spoke to about it offered their condolences (I was tired of hearing that) and some (the Priest, definitely the Priest) were supremely unhelpful and even went so far as to ask me why I was the one planning the funeral. My answer as always that it didn’t matter why I was the one planning it. I just needed it planned.

But it kind of did matter. I planned it more for me than I did for him. I hadn’t seen the man in sixteen years. I couldn’t tell you what his voice sounded like, or his laugh, or even what color his eyes were. I planned it because that was a way for me to get closure. It was a way for me to know that this was final. I also planned it because no one else would.

No one else – not his siblings, or my mother – wanted to plan his funeral.

How sad is that?

My father was terrible, yes. Drunk, abusive, continuously unemployed – but he was still a person. Throughout this whole thing, I’d been trying to find something positive. Some glimmer of the person he was, because he couldn’t have always been this monster that haunted me.

I found the glimmer at a very odd time in my life. I was visiting one of my half-sisters, and our father came up. She told me about how they used to have dinner at his mother’s house, and how his father was worse than he was. His father would berate my grandmother, yelling at her about dinner and then refusing to let her sit at the table while everyone was eating. His father also couldn’t hold down a job, and when he did manage to get money, he spent it all on alcohol, instead of on his wife and kids, or the home they had. He was abusive, too, and terrible, too.

And my father was like me. He picked up the pieces. He was the oldest, the responsible one by virtue of birth order. He held down jobs, watched his siblings, did everything I did, but decades earlier.

All my life, I’d been terrified that I would turn into my father. But I’d already become him. Well, the good parts anyway.

For the first time in my life, I was able to sympathize with the monster.
I decided to take the good parts, whatever I could salvage, and ditch the bad. I couldn’t carry the fear around anymore – I wasn’t my father, and I wouldn’t make the same choices he did. I knew better, I could do better.

I’ll be better.


By the end of the year, I was crying on my kitchen floor at the end of every day. Depression had claimed me, as I struggled to reconcile my father’s death, my new family, my brother’s depression (he broke my heart several more times this year), and my family losing a very large sum of money that we didn’t have in the first place. Work had also been especially difficult over the summer and fall semester, so that added to my stress.

It didn’t help that I refused to acknowledge that I was depressed. Dishes piled up in my sink, sitting there for weeks – but I wasn’t depressed. My apartment got messier with each day, and I had no motivation to clean it – but I wasn’t depressed. I hadn’t written anything new since February, and couldn’t, just couldn’t, because everything I touched was worthless – but I wasn’t depressed. I cried on the floor for one, two, three, four, five days straight for no reason in particular – but I wasn’t depressed. I felt like I was terrible at my job, I couldn’t do anything right, I was a horrible person – but I wasn’t depressed.

And it’s weird, really weird, but the thing that helped me admit it was a horror movie. My friend got me to watch this Australian movie called The Babadook (which is a really awesome movie and you should watch it if you haven’t yet). I don’t want to spoil the movie, but it made me realize that I’d had more than my fair share of bad days, and I was, indeed, depressed.
I held everyone together while I was falling apart. I helped everyone find their way while I lost who I was.

And I fell, and fell, without realizing it.

The good news is, I’ve stopped falling.

The good news is, I was selected to participate in Pitch Wars this year, which was an amazing writing contest and the lifeline I so desperately needed – even though I didn’t know it. Pitch Wars made me focus back on writing, as I had to revise one of my books. I reconnected to something I loved, to who I used to be, and my heart stopped breaking. It pulled itself back together, very slowly.

It’s still trying to re-assemble, and will be doing so for a very long time.


For the first time in a while, I have hope. Although cynicism and sarcasm are quite natural to me, at my core I’m an obnoxiously annoying optimist.


This year leeched all of the optimism out of me. I walked around like a zombie, not feeling, or caring, or thinking. I was on auto-pilot, I was in despair, I was lost, confused, and locked away somewhere.

I’m not sure how the optimism came back. It just hit me one day, like the universe remembered it borrowed it and gave it back, apologizing for keeping it so long.

The good news is, I’m really looking forward to 2015. 2014 was a rough year – and not just for me. All of my friends had something terrible happen to them or the people they love this year. And that’s not counting everything that’s happening in the country and the world right now. But I’ve got a good feeling about 2015, because I think this year will be about change.

The world is changing, for better or worse (hopefully it’s for the better). I’m determined to change – to let go of things that are out of my control, and all the anger and resentment I’d carried around because of my father. I don’t want to walk around thinking he owes me anything anymore. I want to let the guy rest. Maybe he’ll find more peace wherever he is (if he’s anywhere) than he did in this life.

The beginning of the year marked the end of my father. So, it’s kind of fitting that the end of the year marks the beginning of whatever I choose to become. There are a lot of options out there, and I have no idea how this is going to go.


Despite whatever happens, I’ll be better. Which was the whole point of 2014, I suppose.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I'm Thankful For...

I am thankful for my generation. No, seriously. For all the crap we get about being lazy and self-centered (selfies, by the way, are nothing more than digital self-portraits which people used to do; only they stood in the same pose for months on end to capture their image during the old painting days), I'm thankful that, for the most part, my generation is mad.

But we're much more than that. We want to see change, because things cannot stay the way they are. We want to bring a little more balance to a skewed world. We want more, we expect more, and the fact that it's still out of reach - that it's still being held from us - makes us mad. So I'm thankful for my selfish, sloth-like generation who stares at their computers all day, doing absolutely nothing. One day, people will see how wrong those labels are, and I can't wait.
I am thankful that I have people who will support me, no matter what. And, that if times get difficult, I'll always have a place to stay. Not everyone can say that, and my life is filled by people who have helped me through what can best be summed up as the worst year of my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but trust me, it was pretty bad.I am thankful that I can express myself through writing. Sometimes I forget how truly awesome it is to be able to say that I've written a book, and will continue to write. But, even better than being able to say that I've written a book is being able to say that people have read my book and enjoyed it. That will forever and always blow my mind. I still have so many stories to tell, issues to explore, and things to do that I'm truly excited for what the future brings.
I'm thankful for the students I get to work with everyday. My Resident Assistants, Academic Mentors, and Desk Receptionists are all amazing, and it saddens me that people don't give them enough credit sometimes. I've never met a more compassionate, aware, and active group of students. They are the future, our future, and I fully believe that they will change things for the better. 
I am thankful for rage, sadness, joy, excitement, fear, happiness, and every other emotion out there. It's what makes us human, the good and the bad. 
And finally, I am thankful for you, whoever you are, reading this post about being thankful. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to stop by, and hope you have an awesome day! 
Since I would be remiss to not address the negative things associated with today, I'll leave you with this quote. Let us not forget that America was built upon and hasn't yet broken down a heinous system of oppression.

"Throughout history, the subjugated have always had to be nobler. That is a hell of a thing, to expect nobility in the face of disgrace." - Roxane Gay

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Not-So-Random Whose Line Reference

Okay, it's not so much a reference as a hint, I guess! I'm about to watch a lot of these (and unearth my copy of Double Indemnity) as I write my post Pitch Wars book!

A real blog post will happen sometime soon, as I've watched Nightcrawler and Interstellar and have thoughts to form on both of these films!

Enjoy the clip!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pitch Wars, Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, and I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!


It's been the longest of whiles since I did anything with the blog. There are lots of long stories to go along with why I've been radio silent for so long, but I'm very happy to say that I'm back for reals!

So many things happened while my blog was silent, but the real highlight has been Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars! In September, I found my name in the Alternate List and walked around skipping/casually not freaking out (or actually freaking out) because the wonderful, gracious, Zombieland-loving N.K. Traver decided to make me a part of #TeamTallahassee!

Based on Nat's feedback, I started to revise my YA Horror - which was easy some days and something close to the part of the action movie where the heroes destroy a major city while trying to defeat the villain on others. But I wound up adding a lot, like A LOT A LOT to my word count, and my story is so much stronger now because of this contest, Nat's advice, my awesome teammate Marisa's feedback (she got NINE REQUESTS in the contest, by the way, so hell yeah best team ever!!!!), and my CPs, who had to read like 50 billion versions of my story and never complained! You all are awesome, and I <3 you to the end of the universe and back!

But to fully appreciate the beauty of my new first page, I think it would be kind of cool to go back to my first first page of this story. You see, it started two years ago as my NaNoWriMo endeavor. While I managed to win NaNo with this story, it was very much a hot mess of like 53,000 words. It had it's creepy moments, yeah, but it was also really different. It started out following a group of teens who lived in a boarding school - and were also participating in a reality TV show. I wanted to deconstruct reality TV and have ghosts running around, and it...well, like I said, it was a hot mess. The characters were also rehearsing a certain Shakesperean show, which was going to be cool once I figured out how to tie the cameras and fake reality show things in, I swear.

Anyway, the first page of that...

I don’t know what I’m saying.  That’s the problem with Shakespeare, I guess.  He finds just about every way of saying something without actually saying it.

Oh, God.  I’m starting to sound like him.  Cam laughs – it’s a high melody – kind of like a bird chirping or something.  Huh, there’s a thought – maybe Kate can sing along to Cam’s laughter.  

“Miss Thomas!”  Our theater teacher’s voice scratches out my name like nails on a chalkboard.  Thankfully, we don’t have a chalkboard in the auditorium.

“Yeah, Mrs. Jones?”  I ask, squinting into the light.  She’s standing off-camera, directly behind the blinding light coming from the top of that stupid recording device.  Excellent. I don’t suppose I’ll get used to being watched like this anytime soon.

“Get back to the play, please.”

“Ah, yes, it is the thing,” I mumble.  Cam laughs again and I shoot her a look.  She shakes her head, swinging her white-blond hair everywhere.  She’s so pale and fragile looking that she makes perfect sense as a witch.  Me…not so much.

But, whatever, I need this theater credit.

Mrs. Jones drums her long fingernails on her clipboard. “Miss Thomas, if you would start reciting lines from this play, perhaps we wouldn’t have to stop rehearsals every two minutes.”

“Hey, I could’ve been a great Hamlet- ”

Mrs. Jones rolls her eyes and waves a dismissive hand in my face.  “Spare us the jokes, Quinn.  Just get on with the scene.”

I dramatically hold the script in front of me.  Well, it’s not really a script.  It’s the Spark Note’s “No Fear Shakespeare” version of Macbeth.  Spark Notes totally had the right idea with this “translation anyone can understand” thing.  I’m still not sure why we’re using this version – it’s not like Prufrock Prep can’t afford actual Shakespeare scripts.


So that was a thing that happened. A few months after NaNo, I was still tearing my hair out and trying to make the story work, and it wouldn't cooperate. Then one day I figured out that I had the whole thing wrong. Like way, way wrong. I decided that, while I loved my MC, she wasn't really in the right story. So I took her out of it, away from the prep school drama and the Shakespeare rehearsals, and threw her into the world of Colonial Williamsburg, urban legends, and missing relatives. Oh, and I decided to make it mimic a found-footage movie, because I got it like that.

If I wanted to make it super found footage-y, though, I knew I had to start it with something a little creepy. Though I deliberated for a long time about who should start the story, I ultimately landed on Quinn's cousin, Eli, who disappears along with her friends while hunting an urban legend for a reality TV show.

Which means my first page looked like this:

This is the part where they disappear

June 21, 2013 (Summer Solstice)
8:00 PM
Outside of Williamsburg, VA
Battery Level: 89%

We shouldn’t be here. Despite all the signs, and how much we want to help, going into the White Woods this close to sunset is a stupid idea.

“When’s it supposed to get dark again?” Josh asks. If he’s joking, I’m gonna punch him.

“Not for a few more hours. It’s the longest day of the year, remember?” Alanna stands behind me, leaning on my shoulder as she stares into the camera’s display screen. She’s wearing her usual overly floral perfume – which is kind of ridiculous, since cryptids don’t really care how she smells. Well, that Wendigo in Oregon kind of did, but that was the only time. If it even was a Wendigo. I still think it was an overzealous bear.

But Alanna didn’t become a Wendigo-meal, or a bear-meal, so I guess it worked out.

She laughs as she moves next to me, keeping her eyes on Josh. “I think you’re gaining weight, Banks.”

Josh sticks his tongue out at us as Jira laughs. “I think she’s right,” Jira says, poking him in the shoulder. “Maybe you should stop eating so many cheeseburgers.”

“As fun as it is to point out Josh’s obsession with Big Macs,” I say, panning the camera across the open field. “We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover before the sun goes down.”

Josh laughs, walking over and clapping me on the shoulder. “Eliza, you need to stop worrying. Cameramen are supposed to be fearless, remember?”

The camera’s light mysteriously shines right in his face. Josh’s hands go up in front of his eyes as he staggers back.

“What the hell was that for, Chen?”

I shrug. “I’m a camerawoman, not a cameraman.”


Which is all right, I suppose. It stayed like that for a little while...until PitchWars made me re-evaluate my life choices. After much toil and trouble (see what I did there?) I wound up submitting that and thennnnnnnnn the work began! Fast forward two months, and my first page now looks like this:

This is the part where they disappear.

The Wailing Wanderer
 Season 2, Episode 1
Day 6

Cameraperson: Eliza Chen 

June 21, 2013 (Summer Solstice)
8:00 PM
Outside of Williamsburg, VA
Battery Level: 89%

We shouldn’t be here. Despite all the signs, and how much we want to help, going into the White Woods this close to sunset is a stupid idea.

Josh throws an overly dramatic hand on his forehead. “Can we speed this up? I’m too pretty to risk being stuck in these woods for forever.”

Oh, good. If he keeps this up, I’ll punch him right where that embroidered eagle sits on his preppy polo. I swear, if we get trapped in these woods because we listened to someone who marks time by when the next J. Crew sale’s about to go down, instead of all the warnings – well. Let’s just say there aren’t enough words in the English language that can describe what I’ll do to him.

 “It won’t get dark for a few more hours. It’s the longest day of the year, remember?” Alanna stands behind me, leaning on my shoulder as she stares into the camera’s display screen.

She’s wearing her usual floral perfume – which is kind of ridiculous, since cryptids don’t really care how she smells. Well, that Wendigo in Oregon did, but that was the only time. If it even was a Wendigo. I still think it was an overzealous bear.

But Alanna didn’t become a WendigoMeal™, or a BearMeal™, so I guess it worked out.

She laughs as she moves next to me. “Either the camera really does add ten pounds, or Josh needs to lay off the cheeseburgers.” She tosses her dark hair back, waiting for whatever smartass comment he’ll shoot her way.


It's been really cool to see how much this book has changed over the past two years, and I'm really excited about what it's become. Although there have been times where I've cursed it's name, it's turned out to be better than I ever thought it would be, and there really isn't a good way to express how happy I am with it!

I've learned a lot, and am really grateful for being chosen and having such an awesome opportunity! I snagged quite a few requests, and I will now and forever Snoopy Dance around my apartment because my ghost/Japanese demon/Tarot Card/authentic Colonial Williamsburg story is pretty kick-ass...and slightly terrifying ;D

And now I'm on to the next story while I wait. It's also going to be a YA Horror, so get ready :D

Until next time!