Monday, May 31, 2010

Graduation!

Thursday afternoon was my department's graduation ceremony. It had been raining torrents earlier in the day, then calmed down for the afternoon, which was wonderful because my housebound grandma was planning on attending and didn't want to get wet. The venue was supposed to be outside on a lawn, however the location was changed to the auditorium in the music building. A setting which made things feel much more formal.

The stage

The gathering crowd

When receiving a Master's or a Master of Fine Arts, you have to wear a specific hood for graduation. Well, my graduation sack or whatever you call the robe is either left over from when I graduated high school or from the year I was Harry Potter for Halloween and bought one at the Good Will. I bought the silly hood and think I ruined it when I started trying to figure out how the heck it went. I wound up darting across the room to some friends to plead with them to help me fix it, but one of their responses was, "I have no idea how it goes. I was just gonna hand it to the teacher and hope that they knew what to do with it!"

Trying to sort out the darn hood

Waiting for the ceremony to begin

The professors file in

The Master's students went first, followed by us MFAs. There were only three of us at the ceremony so our section went by quickly and we each said a few words of gratitude after getting "hooded" by the professor of our choice.

Professor Taylor putting on my hood

Giving my thanks


Hugging Professor Douglass

Jarred attended despite recently having surgery on his arm after an incident with his ripstik

With my thesis director, Nick Taylor

The rain paused for the afternoon

Helping one of my professors who wished to remain anonymous. Not really, but the angle of the shot works perfect for that.

With my wonderful siblings

My beautiful family

Beautiful Alex

Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, and Norman Osborn showed up

Grammie! She was so proud and I was so happy to make her proud

My amazing mom and dad

After posing for many pictures, we made our way over to the reception.

An artistic shot of red and white reversed!

Matt!

I don't know what was happening, but we appear amused

Poor Vince burned his hand in a cooking accident then fell and broke his nose on the way to the car to go to the hospital!

We all first met at the orientation three years ago. How time flies!

Beautiful Charanya is built like a model.

Gorgeous Mary and Professor Cox

Under the rainbow!

After the festivities on campus, we all headed over to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner.

Heading out

Opening a lovely gift from my aunts and uncle

Yummy half Mizithra and browned butter and marinara sauce

The girls

My big brother

Mmm. Yes. Indeed. Art.

Tracie -- I love your dream of the meadow full of butterflies. You could watch them for hours. You must see the film Bright Star -- there are some amazing butterfly scenes in it!

the other amanda -- Whoo! But actually, having AB- blood means you're the universal recipient, so we're set. And Rachel's doing much better! ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Animal Updates!

Cheech comes to say hi with his new haircut

Today, I graduate with my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction and Screenwriting. Given that I've been in school since I was two, this is a surreal moment. It will certainly take some getting used to. And today of all days, it is storming. The end of May in California, and the rain is pelting down! I don't mind because our drought has finally been alleviated and this rain means less likelihood of fires later in the summer, but it will add a bit more tension to today's proceedings, especially if my grandma (who has to be in a wheelchair) feels well enough to attend.

Let's hope all goes well!

Today I have some pictures of the animals. But first... here's a funny story.

Yesterday, the high school was doing a blood drive so Alex donated. While she was waiting for it to be her turn, her friend Rachel passed by on her way out and jokingly slapped her name tag onto Alex. Alex didn't think anything of it and filled out the forms then donated a pint of blood. My mom and I both have the rarest blood type in the world (AB-) so I'm curious what my sister's type will be when we find out (especially since, once again, someone mistook us for twins yesterday). Anyway, she donated the blood then went and sat down at the snack table to drink juice for a few minutes when all the sudden she started feeling queasy.

She thought she was about to throw up, then felt light headed. A man rushed over and said "She's really pale" and several more helped her to her feet and tried to lead her to a bed, but apparently she announced that she was about to faint, then did.

She woke up with a bunch of people in lab coats staring down at her, calling out, "Rachel?! Rachel? Rachel!" over and over. Alex blinked. Logically, she decided that she must be pulling a SpongeBob and have entered someone else's dream, so she ignored them for a few seconds. "Rachel? Can you hear us?" Then she recognized the gym and realized where she was, and said, "...My name is Alex." They all began to chuckle then.

But could you just imagine? It's like a scene from a movie where someone wakes up and forgets who they are. We've been laughing about it all day. Apparently, the doctors were excited because they got to ring an emergency bell and everyone rushed over to tend to her. She felt cold and dizzy the rest of the day but should be okay.

Now... onto the animal updates!

About two weekends ago, Kate made this beautiful garland for Black.

Alex helps the Commie strike a pose

Black and his momma, Froggy, snuggle. They look pretty good for 16 and 17!


Froggy enjoys the warmth. When Alex was a toddler, Froggy would sit on the rock wall like this, watching over her as she played outside. She's such a good mommy. And she's obsessed with cheese, just like Teyla and Comanche.

Teyla has issues with meeting new people. She barks and barks and barks, and sometimes she nips if someone reaches for her. Though Kate is over quite often, Toot still sometimes barks at her so we've told her not to pet Teyla yet, just in case. Though as you can see in this clip, Teyla seems ready to make friends!

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There was also a big surprise for Chee Chee... a new bed! I bought this one in the hopes that it would make him more comfortable when we go camping and he has no grass to lie on. Teyla is small enough that she can fit in a chair and has had her own chair since she was a puppy. At first Teyla thought she could claim the new bed, so Comanche still isn't sure if it's for him yet. He's going to be nine this September and has some arthritis issues that we're going to discuss with the vet soon, so I hope this helps him stay comfy!

Yesterday while jogging, a tiger swallow tail butterfly crossed my path with four painted ladies in hot pursuit. I couldn't tell if they were attracted to it, or readying to dive-bomb it like songbirds on a raven, but the chase went on for as far as I could see. My idealized image of butterflies was shattered! Are they territorial? Here are some pictures of the painted ladies that have been so bountiful these past few days that they have literally been falling at my feet.



And now for the most shocking picture of them all. While watching Be Good Johnny Weir a while back, there was a clip of one of his competitor skaters. The young man (forgive me, I have already forgotten his name) looks from the scores to the camera, and in that instant... I realized that I'd seen that face before. It's Black! The Commie! He rarely looks at you, but when he does, he looks just like that!

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Black as a human

And since at least two of you asked... I got that shirt off of e-bay. It was a little expensive, and it kept shifting to be like "look at this boob! Now look at the other!" but it was worth it. The size ran a little big so I had to pin the halter strap. I bought it here. They have a lot of cute designs that look a little impractical yet gorgeous.

Mackenzie's Momma -- Haha I love your comment, and you're dead on with your observations. That door does look like a mouth, that pose does look like an action figure, and those cups are totally cheap. But given that the state schools now have so little money that they have to shut down several times a month (furlough days), I'm not surprised!

Hammy -- Thank you, and I totally (obviously) agree! Culture has this bizarre practice of trying to teach people that once you reach a certain age, you're not supposed to enjoy playing. That's a tragedy, and is one of the biggest sources of distress in adult life. If you don't feel okay to cut loose and be childish and playful and ridiculous, you live a sad life, in my opinion!

Tracie -- Thank you! I'm hoping that I won't spend a lot of time unemployed, but given the current state of world affairs, that's an unfortunate reality. Matt will be flattered. I love him and he's one of my closest friends, and is quite the McKay, if you can imagine. I think he and David Hewlett were separated at birth (don't worry Matt -- that is a compliment!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thesis Reading and Defense


SJSU, I'm going to miss you

Last Saturday, friends and family gathered in the Martin Luther King, Jr., library to listen to the my thesis reading and defense and those of my fellow MFA graduates. I have been nervous about reading aloud from my book for 10 minutes for ages now, so after I selected a passage, I practiced it aloud all week. I wasn't going for any dramatic effect -- I just wanted to be able to read the darn thing without stuttering. Once I make a mistake while reading aloud, I often stutter and get red in the face.

My fiction professor and thesis director, Nick Taylor (author of The Disagreement) introduced me by using the nickname the screenwriting agent I've been working with has given me: "the poet laureate of bad ass women." Then he switched gears to talk about my, "dare I say it, sensitive side," which I thought was sweet but amusing. I know the female characters in my stories are full of piss and vinegar and that, after three classes with him, Taylor knows my irreverent, no BS side, but I never thought people actually perceived me as "tough." If only they read my blog, they'd know I spend my free time caging communists, playing dinosaurs, and decorating LOST cakes. He tells the story of how I once gave him an Iroquois talking feather.

Professor Taylor's Introduction

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Thanking my family, friends and teachers before I read. I have no idea why I look so concerned.

I don't really have pictures of the actual reading, but my friend was running about snapping them with a much nicer camera than mine, so if he sends me those, I'll have to share them. Overall I was happy with how I read. I don't think I stuttered at all, I remembered to breathe, and I paced myself so that I didn't read too fast. The only problem? By the time it was my turn to read (being at the end of the alphabet never has its advantages, especially in an air-conditioned room) my mouth was so dry that I could hardly speak. Hopefully everyone wasn't wincing, but I was sure uncomfortable at first. Here's a clip, and for anyone keeping track, this section takes place after the section I shared on the blog a few days ago. Isabel has followed Devon to his camp and the two have just shared a meal.

Snippet of my Reading

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After our readings, we all had to come back up and stand as if we were facing a firing squad and answer questions from our professors and the audience. That was our "defense."

If that isn't the most awkward bunch of idiots, I don't know what is

One of the questions was about genre, and another was about marketing. A man who said he was in marketing asked how important that aspect of writing was to us, and after everyone else answered "Oh, I never really think of it," or "I'm just now working on a query letter," I jumped in and gave the answer you get glares for in the classroom.

"Never forget that you're a product," I said. "Since I'm also in screenwriting, I've learned that you're never just selling your work, you're selling yourself, as well. If you want to view yourself as an artist who is writing something literary, then that's fine, protect that part of you by building a mask that you present to the world. I know I write to be published and assume the rest of us do, too, so you've gotta be able to pitch yourself."

The director of my program, Alan Soldofsky, then commented "that's a lot of maturity." At the time I couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not (since, as I mentioned before, what I just said slapped the cult of the artist in the face which is a big no no in workshop) but apparently he was being honest. Then the daughter of one of my older classmates asked the question, "what advantage do you have at entering the program at your age as opposed to someone her age," pointing at me.

In the span of a few seconds, it hit me that not only was I the one other female graduating, but that I was the youngest of our group. I'm not used to being the youngest (though to be fair, I think I've been tied for that position with a few of my other grad students for a few years now). If I was going to be singled out and profiled for my age, I was gonna call her on it. "For the record," I announced with a raised arm. "I'm 52." I didn't really think before I said it, it just sort of came out. The room burst with laughter that took too long to die down. For the rest of the afternoon, people were complimenting me on how great I look for 52. It wasn't really that funny, but I think people appreciated the fact that I wasn't going to just stand there and be judged, even though it wasn't something negative. I tried to shoot the woman's daughter an apologetic "sorry, I couldn't resist mate" face but wasn't sure if she got it. I still feel bad from taking some of the gusto away from my classmate's response (she sure as hell has earned her degree and the respect of her fellow writers) but she didn't seem upset, and her response was, "perspective."


Matt: I am so f*&^%ing nervous right now.
Me: Just put on your Bruce Wayne mask!

After the "defense," Professor Soldofsky awarded us with our "official proof" that we had graduated: SJSU Alumni key chains. I guess the diplomas won't arrive in the mail for a few weeks yet.

Receiving our prestigious key chains

The reading was followed by a champagne reception where we all toasted each other as the future of California's writers. Yet on the way to the reception, a woman who had attended the reading was waiting for me outside to let me know how much she enjoyed the section I read, and how her daughters (who hate Twilight) would love to read my book. She asked when it was going to be published and all I could give her was the address of my website where I'd certainly make the announcement when it happened, but talk about a compliment. That's the best response I could have hoped for!

Ben Linus and Richard Alpert celebrate

Chatting with the Department Chair

In this picture, you can glimpse the hair decoration that I made in honor of Mickey, Clara, and Junior. It is made of the feathers of a local woodpecker (as far as I could tell -- I usually gather the feathers off the ground when a bird has been plucked by a predator), a white seagull feather to symbolize the white dove who came to visit, and Mickey's hair from his mane, along with beads representing the four directions in the Lakota mandala.

My hair decoration

You can see it better here. This is my lovely auntie. You can so tell that we're related.

At the reception, three people came up to me to tell me how much they appreciated what I said about being a product. It is admittedly a tough lesson to learn, and one that most only learn through experience. I was lucky enough to have it driven into me in Las Vegas last month and wish we were more exposed to it in the classroom. One woman introduced herself as an artist and said that in a workshop she was taught that buyers don't want just the artwork, they want the story of the artist so that they could point to the piece of art and say, "And you know, the woman who made this..." They want a conversation piece.

Tomorrow is my actual graduation where I have to wear robes and this dumb hood thing. I was gonna be cheap and just use my Rasta zion lion scarf instead, but then heard my mother's voice in my head hissing, "we're going to be sending these pictures to relatives!" and thought better of it. Then... I'm done. I don't think the fact that, after being in school since I was 2, I am finally done, has hit me yet. Nor the fact that I am now leaving the campus where I spent 8 years both as an undergrad and a grad student. It's a lovely place, and a great school. There will be times that I'll miss it.

As for what I'll do after graduation? I wish I knew. I'm living off hope for the moment. I have a new script with the agent and manager and am awaiting their opinions. Two literary agents have requested pages of Sing Moonlight but I also have yet to hear back from them. I've learned not to hold my breath, but I'm hopeful that something will work out soon. In the meantime, I need to get busy working out the outline for my sequel, my new script, and the details of a TV show to pitch...

the other amanda -- Isn't he amazing? I'm glad he's interested in perusing music as a career. And the LOST cake not only looked good (or convoluted) but was very tasty!

Mackenzie's Momma -- Yes, you would have been lost (as were many longtime viewers, though!) and I agree. I have rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to hear him play and he's amazing.