Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Staying Productive During the Holiday Season

In my household, the holiday season began this past Sunday on the 1st Advent, the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. I still have to make my Adventskranz (Advent wreath), fill the Adventskalendar (Advent calendar) with chocolates and other sweets, and decorate my home. Cookies need to be baked, gifts need to be bought and wrapped, and Christmas cards need to be mailed. My anxiety level is steadily rising as I realize how little time I will have to devote to my writing.
I love Christmas, I really do. However, the additional social engagements and to-do lists are crowding my already full days, and I feel I have to make a plan in order to maintain a semblance of productivity. Here are my tips:

Write 10 Minutes Daily: I keep a cookie jar full of writing prompts next to my computer. Each day, I pull a prompt out of the jar and write for a full ten minutes. If I have the time and the ideas, I keep writing beyond the ten minutes. If not, I file the prompt and writing away. (Sidenote: Do not throw your prompts and writing away, even if you don’t like what you have written. You never know what gems are hidden in your short pieces.
Write a Creative Nonfiction Christmas Letter: I’m sure several of you have received a Christmas letter detailing the firsts little Georgie has accomplished since he was born a few months ago or the wonderful wedding and honeymoon your third cousin enjoyed this past summer. Write your own Christmas letter that you can send to friends and family. Even if nonfiction is not your genre, it is a great way to expand your writing horizons and to chronicle your family’s life.
Read Magazines: Magazines and articles are piled high on my coffee table. Throughout the year, I tackle larger projects. More than likely you won’t have time to write a novel or read Atlas Shrugged during the holidays. Focus on the shorter readings that are accumulating on your coffee table instead.
Listen to Audio Books: You may be spending a considerable amount of time in the car driving to relatives or sitting on the living room floor wrapping Christmas gifts. Upload an audio book to your IPod and expand your literary mind while completing some of the more monotonous tasks of the holiday season.
Set an Attainable Goal Weekly: This week I plan on rewriting a short story. I have to change the point of view from second to third person. My characters, description, and plot are written, so a few hours this Saturday and Sunday devoted to rewriting will allow me to achieve my goal. Don’t set a goal too daunting. More than likely you will not even attempt to begin your writing because you will feel you don’t have enough time to tackle the project since your sister-in-law will be showing up in two hours with three children in tow.

The last tip I have is something I abide by all year long: Always Carry a Small Notebook with You. Jot down any funny family occurrences or loving moments you witness this holiday season. You never know what great stories can be developed from these snippets of events!
I hope these tips assist you in staying productive this holiday season. So now it’s your turn readers. What are your tips for staying on top of your reading and writing this holiday season? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Defining Great Literature

Every one of my literature and creative writing professors began class with the question 'what makes great literature great.' Not until I began reading more prose for my own benefit and less for class was I able to solidly define what great literature is to me.
Great literature is defined by effective character development and the efficacious use of metaphors, similes, and other literary devises. A great piece of prose must entail layers that the reader has to recognize and peel away. If a reader is not allowed to think, to search for truths, then the reading becomes mundane and lifeless. I want to finish a book, a poem, a short story and feel disappointment and a sense of accomplishment simultaneously.
I do not want the author to give me the answers, but rather make me want to search further, dig deeper, and start asking the questions to understand the truths that the character may never fully realize.
Please do not misunderstand me. I don't like when the author confuses the reader with inconsistent plot development, vague descriptions, and confusing characters. Instead, a great piece of literature entails clear and succinct prose, the effective use of symbols, imagery, metaphors, as well as other literary devises, and cogent character development.
Unfortunately, good and bad literature outweighs great literature. As a result, I continue my quest to find the great literature that I know exists.
To initiate discussion, I would like to ask you to add comments describing what great literature entails. The elements of what makes great literature great is purely subjective, and no wrong answers exist. So you tell me, what makes a great piece of literature great?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Taking the Southern Route

In 2009, my fiancé and I loaded a twenty-two foot Penske truck and moved our lives and belongings 888 miles from Lawton, Oklahoma to Pensacola, Florida.
            Twenty-four months before our big move, we had decided that in order to prosper, we would have to leave Lawton. I wasn’t sad about leaving the town behind. My best friends were both moving away as well, and although I knew I would miss my mother, there wasn’t anything holding me there. I was going to graduate college, and with a Bachelor’s degree in English, my options were limited in Oklahoma.
            Making the decision to move was simple. Choosing a place to move to was a bit more challenging. My fiancĂ©’s two children live in Louisiana, so our options were limited to the southern states. Since we are an interracial couple and acceptance wasn’t likely in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, we opted on moving to either Florida or Texas. Living near a military post was also a requirement. We visited San Antonio, Texas and Pensacola, Florida. In the end, the white beaches and close proximity to universities at which we could both study lured us to Pensacola.
            We found a nice duplex to move into on the internet, and the day after my 25th birthday, we pulled into the driveway of our new home. Within two months, I found a position at a Motorola two-way radio company. I’ve been working there as a marketing executive and customer service representative ever since.
            Making the choice to better our lives and taking the risk in moving to the unknown was easy. Living in Pensacola where life is quite the opposite of any place I’ve ever lived has proven to be more difficult. Another move appears to be imminent.
            So tell me readers, if you could move anywhere on the map, where would you move to?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Introducing Christina

            At 27, I am still unsure of exactly who I am or what I want to be. I do know that I am not a simple person. I am not a person that is easily categorized nor do I fit into a neat box.
            I am half German, half American. As a child and adolescent, I spent the majority of my time with my grandparents in Germany. Even when we lived in the States, I was counting the days to the next summer vacation or Christmas break when I was able to go back to Germany.
            I used to be an Army brat. Then I turned into an Army girlfriend. Soon I will be a National Guard Army wife. As much as I want to and have tried to fight it, the Army is in my blood. No matter where I have lived, I always knew I could walk into the commissary and know, for the most part, where I could find the milk. I’ve found comfort in knowing where the milk is.
            I am an avid reader and collector of books. As a child, you would find me in a tree or in the bathtub with a book. As long as I wasn’t disturbed, it didn’t matter where I read since books transported me away from life anyhow. My books are the only things that have accompanied me on moves across oceans and continents. I still strive to one day own the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
            I am a writer of short stories. My stories are character-driven, often discussing and evaluating the human condition. I am currently submitting my short stories in hopes of having it published in a literary magazine. I have never attempted a novel. It is on my bucket list.
            These are the few things that I know about myself. There is much left to discover about who I am and what I will become. I invite you to follow my blog as I write about who I was, who I am, and who I will become, collectively.