Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

My Life’s Soundtrack (Side A)

I’ve mentioned before that I do not listen to music while I write fiction (although Amanda gave some great tips on that!). However, I hope that has not given you all the impression that I don’t like music. In fact, I love music. The reason I cannot write to it is because it distracts me; I enjoy listening to it too much to focus on much else at the same time.

Music is a wondrous art form. It is, arguably, the art form that brings up the most emotions and memories instantly upon contact. While I love books, reading a certain passage never quite strikes me the same way as hearing that perfect lyric or that gorgeous guitar chord. So today, I want to share with you ten songs I love. However, these are not just songs I enjoy, these are songs that carry specific, personal meaning for me. If my life were to have a soundtrack, these would make up Side A.

1. Helena by My Chemical Romance

Confession time: My Chemical Romance is my band. I can’t describe it to outsiders. Gerard Way’s lyrics speak to me in a way that no other verbal art ever has — books included. I feel the music in my blood. The first song I heard by them was “Helena,” which is also one of their most well-known songs. I was thirteen, and I learned the lyrics from a friend while we swam in the Lake of the Ozarks before I even heard the band perform it. I listened to it on repeat for the three hour drive home. It was love at first listen.

2. Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas

This may be my favorite song of all time. I’ve always loved it, but it first grew meaning for me as the season finale theme to the TV show Supernatural. As a teenager, I grew a bit away from my dad, as girls are wont to do. But Supernatural brought us back together and bonded us stronger than ever (which is a feat, because I’ve always been a daddy’s girl). Now, we have matching Supernatural tattoos, and we danced to this song at my wedding.

3. American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Every summer, my parents and I drive down to Stockton Lake. It’s our favorite relaxation spot. When the Kansas City radio stations begin to crackle out, we put in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’s Greatest Hits. This is the first track and my favorite. It always takes me back to those lake trips and that feeling of being young and not quite sure how to grasp life yet (which I still experience as a young woman).

4. Second Chance by Shinedown

When I was seventeen, we had to put down my first horse. I had lost pets (which I consider siblings) before, but I had never witnessed the process of putting an animal down. After it was over, I had to move my car to a different spot in our driveway. This song had just started. The lyrics are strangely fitting, and now it always makes me think of that day. Luckily, it has also extended to remind me of all the happy memories I shared with my horse.

5. Kids by MGMT

Once upon a time in middle school, the “cool” thing to do was wander around this one subdivision late at night with friends. One night, we all went back to someone’s house and had a “rave” in the basement. This song brings me back to wandering the streets and feeling absolutely free with my friends. For this freedom connection, it is also the song I listen to when I need help getting in the right mindset to write.

6. Kerosene by Miranda Lambert

I’ve been told that everyone has a break up song. This was mine in high school. It’s about a woman who is cheated on and burns the guy’s house down. If my MCR love and the plot of The Cogsmith’s Daughter didn’t clue you in, I love revenge tales.

7. Bastards at the Gate by The Architects

I can already tell you, when I move to Connecticut, this will be my homesick music. The Architects are a local band; I would argue the best in Kansas City. This song swells my KC pride and reminds me of the many KC and Lawrence adventures I’ve had with my best friend, Sam. I will always think of driving around with the windows down with her when I hear this band.

8. Homecoming Queen by Hinder

Hinder was my first “real” concert. I attended with my best friend, Jess. Hinder always makes me think of her. It was also my paper writing music in university. I don’t know what it is, but I can listen to music while writing academic papers, but only if it is Hinder. Listening to this song still makes my eyes strain and brings hints of late night Mountain Dews to my tongue.

9. Take Me for a Ride by Bad City

Incidentally, Bad City was the supporting band for my first concert. Jess and I are the only people I know who have heard of this now-gone gem, so again, it reminds me of her. However, more strikingly, it reminds me of driving home from university. First semester freshman year, I hated my roommate and always went home on the weekends. I drove home eating a green apple and listening to this album. This is the song that came on as I reached the city limits of my university’s town.

10. Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips

Daniel and I have many songs — a whole album’s worth. But, if we are being honest, this is probably our song. In late November 2013, we were stuck on a bridge due to an accident. It was the holiday season where the PS4 and XBOX One were both coming out. The radio DJ was on an idealistic rant about how maybe his wife would buy him one (or both!) for Christmas. Whenever he did, he played the “I would do it for yoooou!” lyric. Daniel and I thought this was hilarious, and it has been our “true” song ever since.

What are your favorite songs and/or artists? What songs will always carry special meaning for you? Music lovers unite in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing Craft & Tips

Following the Stars: How I Discovered I Am a Writer

The original subtitle to this post was “My Journey to Becoming a Writer.” However, as I thought about my progression from regular person to “writer,” I realized: I’m not sure that I ever was not a writer. Or, at least, I have always been a storyteller of some sort.

2481261494_3520edfe12_zMy mother likes to tell me stories about my childhood, as mothers do. Whenever my love for language comes up, she likes to tell me about how I was quick to speak and read. When I was a child, my mom read to me every single night. Apparently, as soon as I could speak in sentences, I would tell her the stories simply by looking at the artwork in the books. Most of the time, I would quote the books verbatim. However, every now and then, I would add my own flourish for dramatic effect. Soon after, I was reading on my own, and I would read the books to my mom with little stumbling over words.

This all happened by the age of three. Like my mom says, I have always been quick to language.

While my storytelling began in my toddler years, I did not take up “writing” until I was about six or seven. My first memory of story writing comes from second grade. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Cram, was brilliant. She gave prizes out to avid readers, directed several plays for her students each year, and best of all, she encouraged creative writing and made time for it in class. One day, she gave us blank pieces of paper stapled into booklets and had us make our own story books. I don’t remember the specifics of my story, but I can clearly see a picture I drew of a young girl standing under a tree and staring up at the Big Dipper. My story was about a girl who ran away from slavery during the Civil War and traveled north to find her freedom. Heavy stuff for a seven-year-old, I know. If anyone feels like psycho-analyzing that, have at it.

big dipperThe rest of my elementary school years are spotted with memories of writing. First, I recall computer class. On special days, our teacher allowed us to use a story-making software to create our own story books. This was my favorite aspect of computer class, and I would meticulously craft my sentences and construct the perfect image from the clip art templates. Next, I remember my fifth grade class with Mrs. Vopat, who also gave us free time for creative writing each day.

In Mrs. Vopat’s class, I wrote the second story I remember from my childhood. It was titled “The Adventures of Kate and Lizzie,” and it featured my best friend and me as mystery solvers who saved our crushes from danger. I was too shy to read it aloud to the class, so my friend read it for me. Even though we are no longer close, this childhood best friend is still one of my biggest fans, and I can honestly say that her enthusiasm for my writing, both then and now, has given me a great deal of confidence and reassurance. So, if you read this, thank you.

downloadIn middle school, I switched gears to the world of fan fiction. I religiously used Quizilla (back when it was cool and the HTML-savvy ruled) to write and read all kinds of fan works. I started out writing NASCAR fan fiction, of all things, and even co-authored a series with another fan my age. In high school, I wrote an embarrassing (okay, I’m actually really proud of it) amount of Harry Potter fan fiction. My Draco Malfoy romance series (okay, that sounds embarrassing) frequently made the Most Popular and Highest Rated lists, and I had many loyal readers. If I put each story’s chapters together, I probably wrote three full-length books. My experience on Quizilla taught me three things: that I can finish projects, that my writing is actually decent (even if it is just fan service), and that I work best when I feel held accountable to people (ie: my readers).

When university rolled around, I pursued two Bachelor degrees: English (with concentrations in literature and creative writing) and Sociology. Unfortunately, my university was small, so there was only one creative writing professor. While she was fantastic at teaching poetry (which I hadn’t written since a seventh grade Language Arts unit) and creative nonfiction (which I had never heard of and is now my best genre), she was not the best at teaching fiction. I understand this perfectly, as fiction is out of her realm of expertise. However, the result of this is that I spent my college career waxing poetic and recounting my life in new way. Useful and enjoyable skills, applicable to fiction, but not fiction. I haven’t made a real go at fiction writing in about three or four years. Needless to say, this leaves me a little nervous for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Despite all this, I am confident that I can get back to that place of fiction writing. Why? Ever since I could talk, I’ve been crafting stories, and even when I’ve been writing poetry and nonfiction, my mind has been swimming in fiction ideas. When inspiration strikes, it still strikes as a fiction story. Fiction, well, it’s in the stars for me.

And all I have to do — just like that little girl in my first ever story — is follow my stars to freedom.