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Thankfulness

What am I thankful for this year?

My mother, who believes in culinary indulgences like wrapping the Thanksgiving Turkey in bacon, but also respects my vegetarianism enough to make me her homemade mac and cheese so I have more to eat during thanksgiving dinner than beans and potatoes.

I’m thankful for Skype, because it allowed me to talk to my sister who is currently over four thousand miles away in England, and this was our first Thanksgiving without her.

I’m thankful for this guy:

Who is a master of chopping apples, mashing potatoes, and cuddling while watching Pixar Movies (yesterday we watched Ratatouille and Up). Not to mention eating massive amounts of delicious food, as my mother and I are incapable of cooking for anything less than an army.

Including delicious pies.

I’m thankful for food comas.

And adorable sleeping cats.

I’m thankful for having days off from school. For warm fuzzy blankets. For hot soup and tea on cold days. Movies that make me laugh until I cry and cry until I laugh. My family. My friends. My life about to begin with graduating college. My car. Good books. Good music. Hot showers. Backrubs. Joss Whedon shows. My writing, and my love of the written word.

And love.

I’m especially thankful for love.

Happy day-after-thanksgiving, my fellow Americans. I hope you spend it hidden away from the insane shoppers and football like I am. Curled up with those you love, doing something you love. Or at least having fun.

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Apologies for a lack of updates, random readers. This week has been taken up with much busy madness due to the Job Hunt I have been undertaking in the last week.

I am about to graduate. Upon graduating I will gain a Bachelors Degree, making me more qualified than over 75% of other US Citizens (according to this). I will also lose my current job, student library lackey at the Engineering Library. This makes me sad, as I rather love this job. My coworkers and boss are a lovely bunch and I’d keep working there if I could, not in the least because I can dick around on the internet while on the clock.

Sadly this is not to be, and in less than a month I will be expelled from academia into the cold, big world, where I must find gainful employment or starve to death/mooch off my parents until they set me on fire.

So here’s a few of my thoughts on hunting for jobs in today’s economy.

1. Job websites = a good thing

Last Tuesday I posted my resume on careerbuilder.com. The next day I got a call from one company asking for an interview, and the day after I got a phone call from a second company. Clearly this website posting idea was a good one. The first company offered me a first and second interview, and even though they weren’t  quite what I was looking for, it got me started. So yeah, post your resume on a job website. All you have to lose is the occasional spam e-mail saying ‘we can hire you for work-at-home job! yes?! give us money first and we’ll hire you long time!!!!111!!!”

2. Shopping for Interview Clothes is hard

It has probably come to the attention of some of you that I am a girl (and if it hasn’t, well now you know). I am female, and have female parts. This is true. However, when it comes to traditional ‘girly’ things, I kind of suck. I’m not much for sparkles and bows, I own a grand total of two skirts which I almost never wear, I wear makeup almost never and I absolutely LOATHE shopping.

So of course, hunting down interview clothes this weekend was an ordeal. My mother, who is a saint for putting up with me, took me to the mall and ran me through the gauntlet of finding a nice pants suit, a few shirts, and new shoes. This took several hours of me sniffling and coughing (as I’m still recovering from the Cold of Doom I picked up last Thursday) as I tried on pants, jackets, shirts (both hideous and boring), and then proceeded to try on half the shoes in the store, most of which didn’t fit my canoe-sized feet (I’m a size 10 US Female. Finding heels for me is hard). This took several hours, and my mother, infinitely patient, rewarded me (despite my sniffling petulance) with quesadillas at Qdoba and going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that evening.

The moral of the story being, if you hate shopping like I do, try to get it done as fast as you can, and have a reward ready. Then you have a set of work/interview clothes, hopefully without losing your mind in the mall.

Also, my Mum rocks. I’m allowed to say that, even though I’m 23 years old.

3. Cut and Paste job application answers

In the last week I’ve managed to memorize my references, contact information and basic work history. Seriously, I know my boss’s phone number, my former boss’s phone number and the number of my friend and former coworker Sam. I’m not great with numbers, but typing these in over and over again has led them to be lodged in my brain like a bad Christmas Carol. That said, all the information they require you to put on online applications, especially describing past job duties, takes a lot of typing and a lot of time you could spend filling out other applications (or dicking around, whichever).

So I said ‘screw it’ and made use of my two favourite shortcuts on my keyboard: ctrl+c and ctrl+v. Made filling out three practically identical banking job applications that much easier. I highly recommend it.

4. Know what you can and can’t do

Sounds simple enough right? It isn’t.

I have limited job experience. I’ve worked in a library and in food service. That’s it. Now I’m about to expand my options and I need to start considering what kind of jobs I’d not only be capable of, but what jobs I’d actually be able to survive with my sanity intact. Now, I’m open to a lot of things. I thrive on office jobs (I type 70-75 wpm on a bad day), I love to cook (making food service tolerable under certain conditions) and I’m disturbingly good with people (I think this is because I hate them, more on this later). However, there are things I know I cannot do, and the big one is this:

Telemarketing.

Telemarketing and anything to do with extensive use of phones. I HATE talking to people on the phone. Truly loathe it. I hate the awkwardness of stumbling into each other’s sentences, can’t always understand what the person is saying, and overall just feel awkward. I’ll do it for little things, like answering the phone in an office, but spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone talking to a stranger sounds like my special kind of hell.

So when I was offered a job this morning in sales that involved a lot of cold calling, I declined. I know that whether I can be good at it or not, I’d spend my days contemplating stabbing my eyes out with pencils just so I can go home. That doesn’t sound like job satisfaction to me. And if it does to you, then you’re special and I’m going to run away now.

5. Care about Sports, or at least know enough to fake that you do

This one is more regional, but it contributed directly to my getting a second interview on Monday in my opinion, so I figure it’s important to share.

I live in Lincoln, Nebraska. Those of you who know anything about sports, or Lincoln, understand the rabid, undying obsession most Nebraskans have with the UNL college football team, the Cornhuskers, or Huskers. People out here live, breathe, and drink football from August to November, then wake up and repeat this for the bowl game (if there is one), and then yammer about the upcoming season for the other eight months out of the year. It turns downtown into the ninth circle of hell on gamedays for one thing, and turns normal civilized humans into drunken morons.

I don’t really care about football. I’m aware of it’s existence, but I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch Husker games, I don’t track scores online, I don’t really get upset if the team wins or loses.

But I still know the score. I know who won. I know if there was any team or crowd drama.

Why?

Because in this town, employers will talk to you about Husker Football to break the ice.

No. Seriously.

So it’s a good thing I pay attention to my facebook feed and saw that there was serious drama about players quitting, coaches getting in trouble and officials being unfair, because otherwise I would have stared at the nice man who interviewed me on Monday with a blank expression on my face and gone ‘derp’ instead of nodding and saying ‘yes, it’s horrible isn’t it?’

So, whether you’re from around here or another town with obsessive sports fans, it’s good to keep up to date, even if you hate it.

So there’s a few tips from my initial jobhunt experience. Those of you hunting, best of luck to you. Hopefully we will all be successful in finding day-jobs that don’t make us want to jab forks into our eyes. Or anyone else’s. lo

There’s been a lot of amusing talk wandering the interblag lately about the idea of dating writers and just interacting with writers in general (see Chuck Wendig’s amusing Beware of Writer post and Rebecca Rosenblum’s Why Date a Writer for an idea). The gist of these posts, and it’s a gist I can agree with, is that writers are terrifying, tempermental, unpredictable animals who do not play well with others and are best when avoided.

I won’t argue. We writers are a surly, pissed off, poverty-stricken bunch who hide behind their notebooks and computer screens with ideas running around their heads muttering ‘you wouldn’t understand’ to anyone who gets within biting distance. We’re mostly intolerable, narcissistic self-involved geeks who bury ourselves in our own little worlds that we do our best to transcribe onto paper. We don’t even really get along that well with each other, as we’re a solitary breed by nature.

So what happens when two writers date each other?

This is me, Lora. 23 years old, almost out of college, writer and aspiring novelist since she figured out how to hold a pencil for something other than stabbing people and that all she needed was a story and a healthy touch of insanity. Originally from the US and lived 12 years in London, she’s been lurking in Lincoln, Nebraska for the last five years and seems to have survived despite being a liberal and a vegetarian.

This is Jeff. 22 years old, a philosophy major, and has been certain since a very young age that he could write a novel, a damned good novel, and he could keep writing damned good novels and telling damned good stories until the day his brain eventually fell out. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s a fan of live music, good mixed drinks and silliness. And doesn’t like football, which in this town is a crime practically punishable by death.

We’ve been dating for the last seven and a half months. And we’re both writers. Writers and aspiring novelists.

Everyone’s writing process is a little different. Some of us talk to ourselves, some never speak a word. Some of us work best with deadlines, pounding out a certain amount of words a day, others just let things percolate a while and then throw words on to paper. Some type, some write longhand. It all depends.

In terms of process, Jeff and I have different styles. I type a lot faster than I write longhand, so I work best at my laptop clicking away furiously at keys, occasionally distracted by a chat window or a twitter post. Jeff likes to write in longhand using pens and spiral notebooks, distracted only when he needs to change the music on his iPod. One thing we do have in common is that we enjoy writing as a solitary pastime. To this date we’ve never both been writing at the same time in the same room, and that doesn’t seem likely to change.

Jeff is not a NaNoWriMo participant. He’s not looking to start a brand-spanking new novel every month, he’s been working on the same one, slowly but surely, for the last three years. Every couple of days he cranks out a few more hand-written pages.

I am a deadlines person. I like reaching my wordcount goals. I’m prolific in my pages and my scenes. And I start at least one new novel a year, even if I don’t finish it (if you gave me a dollar for every half-finished novel sitting in my hard drive right now… well, I’d have a lot of dollars).

We have different styles and different methods, but the madness often associated with writers is understood. And that’s the biggest advantage I’ve found to dating another writer. Even if Jeff and I have different processes, different stories to tell, when I inform him that I need to stay late on campus because I ‘just have to finish this scene’, he gets it. When he is sitting in his room at his desk with his headphones on and doesn’t stop when I enter through the door, I know it means ‘am writing, do not disturb.’ When he asks me what’s wrong and I tell him “oh, [insert name of  current main character here] is being difficult because of x,” he doesn’t look at me like I just grew an extra head.

We have writing swaps, where I throw my laptop at him and he gives me a pile of half-finished notebooks and we curl up on the bed, reading each other’s work. We recommend good books to each other. We talk about the hopefully-attainable dream of writing full-time, as we please, being Authors, Novelists, professional Storytellers with published stories. We talk about collaborating. We give each other feedback, knowing full well that we’re as honest as we can be with the bias of being in a relationship. We help each other through tricky plotholes and confusions, even just by acting as a sounding board.

It’s not all a walk in the park. We’re both poor as dirt. Neither of us likes the idea of returning to school after finishing our respective B.A’s. We both get temperamental and irrational in our own ways (I’m overemotional, he’s stubborn and distant). We bicker about silly things like any other couple. It’s normal.

But we both write. And for me, that’s better. He doesn’t always understand HOW I get to where I do in my process, my methods, but he understands WHY.

I still say beware of writers. We’re a pretty scary bunch. We’re morbid, creepy, isolated, rude, conniving bastards a lot of the time.

We even sometimes want to eat your brains.

But ultimately, we have each other.

Even if only because it’s nice to be able to look up from my computer and say “honey, do you know anything about the street price of heroin in New York City” and have him respond with: “have you googled it?” as opposed to “Why in the name of god would you need to know that?”

Dear Craig Finn;

This isn’t my traditional method of communication; writing letters or blogging them. However, last night I was inspired, and felt the need to share with you (should you ever come across this on the vast expanse of the internet) and my readers the joy that your music brings to me.

I’m a recent convert to your band, The Hold Steady, and like many of my musical journeys this one started with a guy. When my boyfriend Jeff and I started dating seven months ago, he made me a playlist on Rhapsody to keep me upbeat during finals week at College. Among the songs he chose was one off of Boys and Girls in America, Massive Nights:

From this point he let me borrow the rest of Boys and Girls in America, which I copied into my music library and devoured like a greedy child, instantly falling head over heels in love with basically every single song. I listened to them on the long walk to my apartment before I got a car, I listened to them in my car when I finally needed a car, and they kept me entertained on my long drives up to Omaha to visit Jeff when he still lived there.

We’re both relatively in tune with the local music scenes (i.e. we’re Hipsters, which we hate to admit, but admitting oneself a Hipster means that you have lost the true sense of being a Hipster in a way), so when we found out you guys were coming to play at the Slowdown in July, we bought tickets and I drove up to Omaha to enjoy what I hoped would be an evening of amazing live music.

And it was.

But, and I still think this to this day, the crowd sucked.

Seriously, you guys make amazing music, anthems for our generation, your performance was upbeat, so full of energy… and the crowd just stood there. People gave us dirty looks when we yelled and jumped up and down. I was disappointed in them. I didn’t expect much from the Omaha music scene I admit, but I felt bad. You guys deserved a better crowd. I’m sorry.

I loved the show personally. I was still pretty new to your music so I didn’t recognize half the songs, but I loved them and I danced to them, and sang along to the ones I knew.

And then you played my favourite song, the one I didn’t expect you to play as it’s a slower tempo and I wasn’t sure anyone else actually liked it, that maybe it was just me.

But you played it. You played First Night.

I admit it; I cried. I bawled like a small child in my boyfriend’s arms while you guys played the one song I hadn’t expected. It was a glorious night; we were drunk on screwdrivers and danced until our feet hurt. Had the crowd been less ridiculously lame, I would call it one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures because my camera was dead and buried in my backpack somewhere back in Lincoln. But it was wonderful.

A couple months passed. Jeff moved down to Lincoln, school started up again, I still listened to your music between classes and during my long night shifts at the library where I work.

I’m an aspiring novelist, and I started working on a new story idea over the last couple of months. As I was designing and creating character concepts one night (I couldn’t tell you which), I was sitting at work listening to Boys and Girls in America for what had to be the thousandth time, and something clicked. Two characters, now older and more grown up, remembering their younger, college days, dancing at parties and going to concerts. The songs spoke to them, made them come to life when before they were just names. Leo and Holly. (A pure coincidence, her name being Holly, but one that I embraced).

From then on the words started to flow. I listened to more of your albums on Grooveshark, playing them over and over as my characters interacted and the story progressed. The music became their anthems, and my inspiration.

Jump forward to last night. I hit a roadblock in my writing process and sat in my favourite coffee shop for hours, miserable and surly and worried about finding a new job, graduating university, following my dreams, trying to figure out if I was good enough, if I was competent in any way.

After a while I figured I should get something to eat, so I shuffled despondently across the street to Noodles & Co, knowing that if nothing else mac and cheese would cheer me up. I settled in to a table in the corner with my laptop and sketchpad, doodling and daydreaming and waiting for Jeff to get off work and go to the Bourbon Theatre. We’d both had a rough couple of weeks and needed a break, so last week I picked up tickets to your show.

Then I glanced up and saw a guy sitting at a table across the restaurant. He looked rather familiar. After a couple quick google searches and picture stalkings I confirmed my suspicions and found myself overwhelmed with nervous childlike fear and excitement.

Because I had just recognized Craig Finn sitting in Noodles, reading a book and eating some dinner before his show.

So, fangirlish little nerd that I am, I took a few deep breaths and dug frantically in my bag for a sharpie. Approaching, hands shaking, I warbled embarrassedly to you, saying you looked familiar and asking if you were Craig.

You were friendly, gracious, calm. Signed my sketchbook without a second thought, even asked me my name and signed it with the date on the top. I babbled a bit about how I’d seen you in Omaha last July, how I was a huge fan, how I was excited to see you perform tonight. Then I left you to your dinner and went back to my chair to hyperventilate a little.

I didn’t get to say all the other things I wanted to say. That your music inspires me, inspired two characters in my novel who are very dear to my heart. That your music sang to me as a girl in America who does a lot of wild things and has a lot of wild nights. That I hope someday to be as passionate about making art as you obviously are in your performance.

But all I could do was shake and babble, and that’s okay. Any more conversation and I think I would have been creepy or obnoxious.

I’m not sure I believe in signs, but if they exist, I think this is one of them:

The name of one of your better albums of course, but I took it to be something of a sign.

The show at the Bourbon was wonderful. Both supporting bands set the mood (seriously, first show I’ve been to in years where the openers didn’t suck), and Jeff and I went through the same routine we did last time we went to see you guys: screwdrivers and dancing.

Hey Citrus, Hey Liquor I love it when you touch each other

I admit, I’m poor as dirt, and never found the time to track down and really give Heaven is Whenever a good listen. But I recognized and sang along to more songs last night than I did the time before.

The crowd was better. The crowd was so much better. We all danced and yelled and sang along. A guy in front of me kept on saying ‘Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Clearly a first time attendee of your concerts, and definitely a huge fan. We were among good company.

I even remembered my camera.

You played songs I loved as well as ones I wasn’t familiar with. I danced until my feet ached and I reeked of sweat. Everyone around me got sweaty too and we all stank of beer and didn’t care.

You didn’t play First Night. Or Massive Nights, which is Jeff’s favourite of your songs. But we didn’t care, because you played Stuck Between Stations. You played Chips Ahoy, and You Can Make Him Like You, and We Can Get Together, and so many other songs that made us laugh and smile and scream and punch the air. And so did the rest of the crowd.

I thought it was better than the night at the Slowdown. I hope you did too. You guys deserved a crowd that wild and joyous.

We stumbled home and called that night a victory, a triumph in escapist tactics and recreation. An example of why live music is glorious and beautiful and should be experienced loudly and often.

I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

So thank you Craig Finn, you and all your awesome companions in The Hold Steady. Thank you for inspiring me, for putting on such an amazing show last night, and for reminding me that above all, it’s important to stay positive.

You are one of my heroes. I hope you stay positive too.

With sincere appreciation and rock love,

Lora

In a Funk

It’s just past six o’clock on Tuesday. My wrist hasn’t stopped hurting since last night and it now hurts not only to type but to move it.

Yesterday I made it to fifty thousand words, and I’m not sure I can continue this novel. I need to take a break, to breathe, to decide if what I’m writing is really my best. If this is the novel I need to be working on right now. If I have the time or energy to reach the 100k goal I had in mind at the beginning of the month.

I have a month left of my undergraduate experience. I am still unemployed outside the university, and am trying to complete and send out applications on a regular basis. Finding a job that pays more than minimum wage is going to be a bit tricky, especially around here.

I have a month left to complete my schoolwork. I have at least a dozen stories left to read and respond to in writing class. I have a 10 to 20 page research paper due in my religion class, along with a 15 minute presentation. I have another presentation in my other religion class, which will require substantial amounts of group work. I have to construct a final project in my history class which will require a lot of artistic work.

I can’t help but feel like I”m going to have trouble pounding out 3k a day and do all these things and maintain my sanity. I’m already slipping.

I just need to take a break. Decide if I want to keep this novel going, scrap it and start again, pick a different one and work on that. Maybe go for my minimum goal of 75k so I can work at a slower pace and have a more manageable month.

I just seem to repeatedly have great ideas, but lack the ability to express them to my satisfaction.

Maybe I just need to sleep for a week. Or at this point, just find something to eat. I’m going to a concert in an hour or two, and that should be fun.

I guess we’ll see how things go. Tonight though, tonight the writing just isn’t going to happen. It hurts too much to type.

The Green Bar

I made it to fifty thousand words today.

I wrote all evening, my hands hurt, and I could use a good sleep, possibly even a drink, but I’m there. I have my green bar, and I’m halfway to my personal goal.

Today is awesome.

Real life’s been a little nuts again; I’ve spent the bulk of my weekend helping out a very good friend going through a rough time, so that’s taken up the vast majority of my writing moments.

I’m currently a little less than 8k away from the big 50k, and the story is starting to escalate. I also have no other plans for today save for running some errands, napping and finishing up some work-related business.

Things are a little nuts here. This is by far the most stressful NaNoWriMo I’ve ever attempted, and while I’m going for 100k no less. Still totally worth it though in my opinion.

Other than that there’s not much I’m at liberty to ramble about. Except that Jeff’s roommate is getting a kitty today. Picspam of kitty might follow.

… I have a problem. An adorably cuddly, meowing problem.

Time to go clean up the kitchen. Everything smells like bacon.