Monday, July 8, 2013

Video: Katherine's Tips/Rules for Writing Stuff and Also Not Having a Panic Attack

Katherine's suggestions for writing success and sanity... I couldn't decide whether they were tips or rules, so the language in the video varies, sorry. I was also too lazy to make another title card, so there you have it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hi I'm Katherine and I'm a Writer (Video!)

So, this video was made because I am, as it seems, unfortunately, not cut out for traditional blogging. But here, have a videoblog instead!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Emerging From the Cave of Senior Year

So, it's been a while since my last entry. Sorry. I'm sure you were all panicking about where I'd gone.

The reason I'm only re-emerging now is because I've been caught up in the whirlwind that is the end of my senior year of high school. It's been crazy. I had prom, the last burst of tests at the end of the year, and then my senior class went to Hawaii. (Yes, Hawaii. Yes, my school rocks.) Now I'm back from Hawaii, all my schoolwork is done, and all I have to do between now and my official graduation next Thursday is go to two rehearsals and wait.


It's been a long ride. I've been at the same school with the same 100-ish girls for six years now, and it seems absolutely insane that all of that is very soon coming to an end. I love these people. I mean, honestly, all in all, I've had an amazing class. I've made amazing friends. It still hasn't really hit me that I'm leaving (the vast majority of) them in less than a week, mostly because I'm in denial that I have to.

It's strange, leaving things behind. I feel as if I'm not really going to understand what it really means for them to be gone until weeks after we've left each other. My close friends, I assume, I'll see again, as much as possible, over the summer--but the strangest part of it all, I think, is going to be not seeing the people I'm not close friends with. There's a lot of people in my grade that I don't know that well, but still, I like them all. It's going to be strange, not waking up and seeing the same familiar, comfortable group of people every day. Of course, you know, going to all-girls school has had its drawbacks throughout the past six years, but all in all, I've been extremely happy at this school, made a lot of really good friends, had a ball, and learned a lot (both book learning and learning about myself as a person.)

At the same time, though, I'm excited to venture out into the world and be on my own a lot more. I feel like I'm ready for it. Yes, in so many ways I'm still a child--and in others, I feel like I'm ready to be an adult. I want to explore what it means to be independent (or at least more independent than I am now--I know college will at least give me some structure!) and what it means to make all my own choices. I have been living with my (wonderful, fabulous) family for the last eighteen years, and leaving them is going to be really hard, but at the same time, it will create a whole new life for me, one I am excited to explore.

I'm at the point of my life where I could be anyone. I could do anything. I could start a school or become a wildlife photographer or move to Tibet or run a marathon at the north pole (yes, that's a thing, click here) and I'm excited to see what is going to happen. It could be anything, and if there's one thing I wish for myself moving forward into the next part of my life, it is that I don't say no to anything too quickly. I want to keep my doors open, and I want to have adventures. I don't even care what kind of adventures they are, as long as they're good ones. I want to jump wholeheartedly into the things around me.

So, in conclusion: onward. I will miss everything that I have had here in Los Angeles for these 18 years (a lot) but I am ready for the future. I mean, I'm not leaving just yet. I've still got summer. But graduation, in a lot of ways, feels like the end of an era. I'm sad to see it go, and I'm ready to see it go. I'm excited to see what comes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Writers Are Not Their Stories

As some of you might know, my book is about a teenage serial killer.

Naturally, when I tell people that, I usually get some form of surprise in reply.

"A serial killer? But you're so happy!"
"Wow, really?"
"That's pretty dark, isn't it?"

And sometimes, they just laugh.

I understand their surprise, I suppose. I'm a generally bubbly teenager with lots of joie de vivre, and looking at me, you probably wouldn't immediately realize that murder stories are my cup of tea. But still, it feels a bit odd whenever people say those sorts of things.

I've always posited that writing is a lot like acting. Writers take characters and inhabit their minds, their thought processes. We know what they think, and feel every emotion they feel, because we need to in order to portray them faithfully. Yes, I write about serial killers. No, I'm not a serial killer. In the same way that Anthony Hopkins is not Hannibal Lecter and Tom Hiddleston is not Loki and Hayden Christensen is not Darth Vader, I am not my novel. Writing DEAR KILLER, I was only telling a story. That story is not me.

That being said, some parts of me do exist within the novel.

Oddly enough, in one of the more interesting plot twists of my life, I was interviewed by Mark Z. Danielewski for one of my college applications a few months back. ("The Fifty Year Sword" is fabulous, and everyone should read it. "House of Leaves" is great too, I have it on good authority, though I must admit that I only got through the first hundred pages or so before getting totally scared and freaked out and having to put it down. I'm a wuss.) We talked a little bit about my book, and in particular, where this character came from within me. It was the first time I'd really talked it out. After a bit of thinking, I said that she is the darkness within myself. She's the dark spaces, the inverse of me. She is who I would be if I were a serial killer.

Obviously, I don't have serial killer tendencies. I'm a normal teenage girl that likes stories. But much of my story was born from my negative emotions, from feelings I have experienced at some point or another. "Write what you know," I've come to realize, doesn't mean that I should always write about well-adjusted, bubbly teenage girls in high school that write novels and like horses. "Write what you know," rather, means that I should write about feelings I know. It means that I should draw from my bank of emotions to create characters, narratives, worlds. Like an actor, I cannot accurately portray something I don't understand.

I am not my story. But at the same time, my story is a part of me. I learned things about myself while writing it, and, of course, the process of writing it helped me become a better, more experienced writer. Just because I write dark things, it doesn't mean that I'm a dark person. I'm really not.

It just means that I'm a writer.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dealing with Stress

Ok, so, as one might imagine, writing novels and attending high school and applying to college all at the same time is not an easy thing to do all the time. This past week has been particularly stressful, for a few reasons that I won't go into here. Usually I'm pretty easygoing, pretty steady, but I've felt unusually high strung recently. Here are my tips to dealing with that sort of thing (which work pretty well when I actually listen to my own advice and use them) in case anyone is interested...

1. Drink tea (not caffeinated) or milk, or another soothing drink of choice. This sounds stereotypical and stupid, but honestly, it works. Get a big glass/mug of it and drink like your life depends on it.

2. Take a shower. Coming out of the shower feeling really clean and nice and shiny just makes everything better. It washes things away.

3. Sleep. Take a nap. Much of my stress, at least, comes from the fact that I'm tired. Naps do wonders. It doesn't even need to be a long one--sometimes, ten minutes can be the ticket.

4. Get out of the house and do something fun, if you have the time. Go see a movie. Go to the beach. Anything. Being shut in to a routine or a project just drives me up the wall sometimes--so I try to escape it. I don't mean that you should procrastinate, that just makes things worse later down the line. I mean escape, forget about things for a little while, if your time is well-balanced enough... that project/whatever else you're stressing about will still be there when you get back.

5. Discover new music. Find an album or artist that you haven't heard before and revel in its glory. For me, this week, that music was the Catch Me if You Can soundtrack. (which is FAB, by the way, in case anyone cares.)

6. Remember that life will, inevitably, go on. There will be brighter days, ones less filled with hysterics and hyperventilating. Things will be okay. Maybe not now, but eventually. Seriously, things will be OKAY.

6. Make lists to organize yourself. Like this one! Life is nice when it's organized.

7. Most importantly, remember that this happy little sloth wants you to be happy too.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Antique Books and Why I Love Them

I am in love with old books.

Whenever I go to a good used book shop it's basically impossible to get me to leave until I have found and purchased at least two books published before 1920 (though sometimes I make exceptions to that date, though, for example this book was published in 1927 and it's BEAUTIFUL. Look at that cover!)

This is my entire collection as of now, and I expect it will get bigger over time: 

There's something beautiful about old books. It's not just the stories in them that make them wonderful, although the stories are great too. It's the fact that these books have traveled, been given as gifts, done things you've never done, been places you've never been. They've survived wars and revolutions and somehow, despite everything, persevered until they found their way into my hands. There's a real poetry in that, I think. 

One of the things I love best about them is the notes from the books' previous owners that you find in the front of some of them. I have a math book from 1877 that, according to the writing in the front, was printed in Baltimore, made its way to San Francisco in 1889 and in 1969 was in Spain--and when I found it, it was in a bookstore in Iowa City! There's a story behind that, I know it, and I always end up wondering what that story is. 

I have to say my favorite book in my possession, though, is a huge book of Grimm's Fairy Tales from 1909. It's illustrated by Arthur Rackham(look him up), and there's a note in the front that says (as far as I can read the handwriting)

         Daisy with all her love.
Xmas 1911. 

This book was given to me by a very old and dear friend who took care of me as a baby. It was printed in London and she and her entire family was originally from England, and so I can be fairly certain this book made its way through the thick of both World Wars. It's huge, with cut pages and thick paper and writing in gold on the front:

It's an absolute treasure. In addition to the cover, it's got brilliant illustrations inside, both color and black and white. I've spent more than one afternoon just sitting down and reading through it (fairly gingerly.)

I want to know all about the books I own, where they came from and all the places they've been--but at the same time, I relish their mystery. It's delightful, wondering how these books have made it from then to now. You can imagine all sorts of pasts for them, mad adventures and epic romances. You wonder if this has ever been anyone's favorite book, if they've packed it away and moved to an entirely new place with it, if, perhaps, it's passed through the hands of some famous character in history. I want to keep collecting and collecting. There are specific books I want to find a first edition of (that's not obscenely expensive) and specific bookstores in strange places that I want to go back to in order to find more treasures. And maybe I will someday!

Old books are beautiful, and they hold secrets and adventure, both in the words and the physical pages themselves. If you ever want to make me really happy, get me a nice old book. I will love you forever.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Can You Teach Writing?

So, I know this is an question that has been covered by a ton of people, but I just thought I'd add my own two cents' worth.

Can you teach writing? Yes and no.

Writing--good writing--comes from practice. It doesn't come from some magical mythical invisible fountain of awesome inside your head. Writing is really a learned skill, in my opinion. Even getting good plot ideas is learned, I think. As you look at the world around you and learn to see the beauty and the terribleness in it with an eye for story and character, you learn how to get inspiration, as strange as that sounds. You just really have to devote yourself to it. Let your inhibitions go, don't be afraid, and write like your life depends on it.

However, that being said, I don't think I'd be the writer I am today if I hadn't attended the California State Summer School for the Arts (studying creative writing) and the Iowa Young Writers' studio. In both those places, I attended workshops and class-type-things that were mostly discussion-based and interactive. By having my peers critique my work and critiquing the work of others, I learned how to view and dissect and truly understand my writing in a way I hadn't before. As I discussed in my other post, What it Means to Read as a Writer, going to these programs has taught me things I don't think I could have effectively learned on my own.

But, when you really get down to it, I'm not sure my experiences at CSSSA and the IYWS weren't exactly teaching so much as supplementing my practice. If I just went to those programs and I didn't practice, I would be a pretty crappy writer. You're not going to become a great athlete or musician by learning about it intensively for two weeks a year, or even six months of a year. Without exploring something on your own, you're going to miss out on a large portion of the learning process. Writing is the same as any sport or musical instrument in that way.

Basically, I believe that writing can't be taught, in the most literal sense of the word. No one can tell you exactly how to do it. There's no set of rules you can memorize, it just doesn't work that way. At the same time, critiquing work and having yours critiqued in turn are essential parts of the writing learning experience. This doesn't mean that you have to go to school for it--you can, if you want, I think it can be very useful--but it does mean that, if at all possible, you should seek out critique groups or summer programs or whatever you might want to do. That sort of thing has been absolutely invaluable to me.