Thursday, December 9, 2010

100th post.

“I exist!”

That’s the first line of the book I’m reading for class right now (Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, not that good). My last book of the semester. I feel like I just got here yesterday, and now I’m reading my last book of the semester. What happened? Where have the last 4 months gone? IT’S DECEMBER in case anyone hasn’t noticed, and I can’t get over it. Here is a breakdown of how my December is going to go:

This weekend, Scotland. Edinburgh to be exact. Alisha and I have been talking about going for ages, and now we finally are. We found some cheap bus tickets, and despite the fact that it’s about a 9 hour bus ride, I think it will be well worth it in the end. Yay Harry Potter Café and Castles!

Next weekend, Dover. Ramsgate actually. That’s where the bus is taking me anyway. I’m going to visit one of my mom’s blogger quilting friends and to see the White Cliffs. Hopefully I’ll see another of mom’s friends in Edinburgh too. This is another thing I’ve been meaning to do for ages and am just now getting around to. Once again, cheap busses are my friends. Find me a cheap bus ticket and I’ll go just about anywhere.

The next weekend, Christmas at home! I am so excited to go home! Unfortunately I only have a week and a half to be there in which I have to cram a lot of family and friends into, but I think I can do it.

The next weekend, I’ll be in New York City!!! Adventuring with my friend Edward, seeing Avenue Q, then off to see Nicole for a bit, than alllllll the way to Baltimore where I’m flying out.

The next weekend, starting a new job in Oxford. Now I’m going to do something they tell us not to do in my classes, jump through time. To talk about my new job I have to first go back to November when Beth was here. Oh yeah, so Beth was here, for almost two weeks. We learned a lot about each other, actually only one thing we didn’t already know for sure, that we could never live together. She was a wonderful house guest, but I think for the sake of our friendship we should never actually be roommates. Personality clash; we would probably drive each other crazy. However, in the two short weeks Beth was here she managed to do the following; showed me how to get pictures off of my phone, got me TWO jobs (or made me apply for them anyway), taught me how to successfully interview for something, rewrote my resume, solved my Christmas gift idea problem, gave me dating advice, and made me get a lot of work done. She came right in the middle of November, so I was well on my way with my book for NaNoWriMo (which I’ll get to later), and I didn’t get behind one day while she was here. Amazing. If anything I stayed ahead. So thanks Beth, for everything. Come back whenever you want. Next time we’ll go to Paris.

The first job she found for me is the coolest. I’m the research assistant for a novelist living in New York who is writing a book that has scenes set in Oxford and London. He sent me my first assignment a few weeks ago where I had to go to the Bodleian library and figure out how his character would get from point A to B and what he would see along the way and so on and so forth. It was pretty fun. I got to sit inside my favorite library in the world for a few hours and write down what I saw, fantastic.

The other job is also all about the Bodleian. I am going to be working in the gift shop, which for most tourists visiting Oxford, is as far as they will get inside the Bod. They told me that people will come from far and wide to see this amazing, old, historical library and then find that they can’t even get inside without paying for a tour or having a library card. However, everyone can go to the gift shop. Beth found me the job with her magic job finding skills online, I applied, got interviewed while she was still here, and was called the next week saying that I got it. This is why I have to come back to OX so soon after Christmas, training.

I don't know these people.

Alright, what else have I done? Well I finished my book for Nano. Nicole beat me in the race by hours, well done Nicole, and we both managed to finish a week early. This is pretty amazing; usually we are working up till the very end. So I finished, but I also realized that what I was writing was not right. I did it all wrong. I don’t regret telling the story like I did, but I see now that I need to do it all over again. I’m scrapping everything and starting over. However, if I had not done it the way I did in November, I would not have the clarity I have now, and might have made this mistake next semester for my final project, run out of time and then been screwed. It’s all good.

I was a pirate, Alisha was a ninja. Those are her nun-chucks around my neck.

Still tap tap tappin. I also had a bass lesson yesterday and played a game of Warhammer (and won). So many useful skills, I know, it’s a collection. I went to two parties in one night (pirates vs ninjas and youtube themed), had bagel sandwiches for Thanksgiving dinner and am now witnessing a very frosty Oxford. It’s white and cold and lovely here, the city put out their Christmas lights the other day, suspended over the streets between buildings. Shobha made St. Nicolas Day dinner the other night, so like a late Thanksgiving, early Christmas dinner. SO good. I’ve been getting a lot of work done since my deadline is fast approaching. For the first time in my life I can actually see myself getting better at writing, which is pretty cool. I’m sure I’ll think of many more things I’ve done since last I wrote after I post this.

OK, back to work.


UM, eat shit Pitt!

This is my 100th post. WEIRD.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

a newborn puppy that curls in your hand to sleep

Since I have so much going on this month I think i'll mostly be posting picture blogs. At least in November anyway. So check out what I made today when I should have been writing:


This one is for my NaNoWriMo book for this year called 'Skye.' It's really 'Skye 2.0' because I have another version of it, but it's all been sort of scraped and used as back story that is alluded to every now and then. Everything I'm writing this month is new.

This one I think is especially pretty. 'Ameliorate' is Nicole's Nano book for this month. It's a story about friends, and after lots of searching through my random Oxford pictures I found this one. The actual picture is about twice as big as this, I just cropped this bit out to get only the boy and the girl in it. Man oh man so I love photoshop.

These are not book covers. Duh. This is what happened in my back yard last night. Intentionally, don't worry. We started the month off with a bang, more specifically volcano firework type things.

So I like stealing things. Not in a kleptomaniac sort of way, just in a 'oh good one, I'm using that' sort of way. I think most people who write things do this, so I don't feel bad about it. I am constantly stealing things from my dad, he's a funny guy, and all my brilliant friends. If you ever read anything of mine that happens to make you laugh, it's probably because I stole it from someone. I mean come on, I can't make that stuff up, I'm not funny! I usually tell the person that I'm stealing it, and more often than not I steal it in my head, but forget to write it down and it gets lost forever. So if I ever say to you, 'HA, I'm totally using that,' make sure I actually write it down. If you want me to use it anyway. Here is one I wrote down today:

VOMIT RAINBOW! Isn't that great? I got it from the Style Rookie's blog, which is fantastic by the way, in case you were wondering. It was in reference to a tutu she bought that was vomit rainbow colored. So thanks Style Rookie, I'm totally using that.

Alright, back to that damn book in the picture. 500 pages of nothing, that's what it is, absolutely nothing noteworthy. Just blow up the bridge already! I already know that you love that girl (named Maria, gurr) you met three days ago because you said so EXACTLY ONE MILLION TIMES IN THE SAME WAY. Get a room already, preferably in another book so the last 100 pages go by quicker for me. Thanks Hemingway, your a pal.

Ok, goodnight oldnewalwaysfriends, (I stole that too) farewell to the fairground and all that jazz.


Monday, November 1, 2010

The morning and I are not friends, but we’re working on it.

It's 7am on November first, readysetwrite! This time last year I was super excited to start my NaNoWriMo book, driving along to a coffee shop to do so, and my car got all smashed up in an intersection. My first car wreck, aw how sweet. Not really, it ruined my day. So as long as today does not end in tears I'll count it a success. Although, after the aforementioned crash I did have the perfect name for my bad guy. It had been driving me crazy that she did not have a name and then who comes on the scene at my wreck but none other than a surly lady cop with a great bad guy name. Perfect. However my bad guy this year already has a name (well, sort of) so I think I can do without the crash. That and I don't have a car at the moment, so I think I'm good. Hear that Universe!!?? Don't mess with me, I'M GOOD! Leave me be and let me write!

So why am I on blogger and not writing my book? I don't know, just am. Today is like turbo writing day, I'm going to try and get a good word count start this morning, then I'm going to meet a group of my classmates at the library on campus to edit stuff and work on other things for class. NaNoWriMo is always hard, but I think it will be harder this year, what with being here and all. It will be interesting watching my writing buddies word count's go up this year with the time difference. Really that will be weirder for them. If I succeed in writing in the morning like I am today, then by time they wake up it will look like I stayed up all night writing. Whatevs, can't wait.

Alright, better get to it. I have a kicking new playlist and a new first scene I thought up as I was falling asleep last night that I actually bothered to get up and write down for once, that's all you need. I'll leave you with a few pictures from Halloween. You all know how much I love Halloween. Well, most of you do anyway. For those of you who are just tuning in, I LOVE HALLOWEEN. My outfit was not the most creative this year, Little Red Riding Hood, but I was just in the mood to be a fairy tale character, like most days, but only on Halloween is it socially acceptable.

Happy writing world!



Friday, October 22, 2010


OK, here is what I came up with for my poem. I had it structured a different way for class, it looked more like a paragraph sort of, but I knew blogger would have a fit if I tried making it look like it did in word, so I made it more narrow. Again, a form I made up. Whatever. The only comment my classmates gave me was to take out the reference to Stephen King, which I might do if this was ever going to see the light of day. But it's not; I'm not using it for anything but this blog, for laughs, so it's staying.

I want the Sandwich Party Life.

I want the Sandwich Party Life.

Each morning Stephen King style: day can't start till word count achieved.

Mug of hot seasonal drink on my desk, a potted plant.

(The kind you can't kill)

I'll have a view for inspiration, watch the world go by.

Walls full of pictures, scraps of paper worth saving, articles and movie ticket stubs.

Framed pictures of where I've been, of sharks landing in roofs,

hobbit holes, flat top mountains, Freddie Mercury striking a pose.

That Cuban cigar.

But onto the sandwiches. You're all invited.

White bread, wheat bread, pumpernickel, rye. Fillings you fancy.

In this life, construction and creative contents count:

In the making lies the fun.

In this life I can have anything.

Fly to Greece tomorrow and be back for tea. Everyday can be Halloween.

I can make it rain, read to the sound of thunder. I'll have a globe, a wardrobe to Narnia.

Blueberries straight from the farm.

In this life I go to Oxford, Wellington, Virginia, London, and back to you.

Winter won't be so cold in this life.

People who want to sing will sing, no one will hesitate. We will all be equals at last.

And even if it doesn't work out, if nothing happens, we'll know it exists.

It will be hard.

This life only has successful parties.

The house will be a mess, but you will help me clean.

Ice cream will be healthy, so we'll have some.

I want the Sandwich Party Life. With you.

The 'I' is me, but the 'you' is fictional. Or is it? The 'you' could be anyone, the 'you' for all you know, is YOU. By that I mean, anyone who wants to come to my Sandwich Parties and help clean up afterward. Because this is a serious future people, this is happening one day. Just you wait. OH, and just to post it to the world, my dad told me on the phone the other day that if I become Harry Potter rich (I mean WHEN), he has pledged to do all my laundry for me. Sort of like an incentive for writing the next big YA title. You know, get rich, never do laundry again. However, he has already found an easy way out. I'm going to set up a computer that stays on a clothing website of my choice and he will just order me new clothes every day so I never have to wear the same outfit twice, then just toss my dirty clothes. Laundry solved. I wish I could have fit this part of the deal into the poem, but that might have gotten a little too weird. Oh well. So in case he forgets, now EVERYONE knows, dad is my future laundry man. Bwhahaha.

Alright, it's far too late for this. Goodnight party people!


PS, Blogger is probably the worst place ever to post a poem with any sort of form to it. It was not supposed to look like this, but that's the way Blogger wants it to be, so I'm defeated.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wear Purple

I never usually write about anything in this blog that is too heavy, it's not my style. I like it keep it fairly upbeat. However today I want you to all wear purple, so I'm going to have to take it down a notch to explain.

Today across the country (and world since I'm all the way over here) people are being asked to wear purple in memory of the teenagers who ended their lives for being bullied about their sexual orientation. I'm sure you have all seen Ellen's PSA. Today is Spirit Day, a day to celebrate what makes us all unique and different and to embrace it. Here, this will do a better job, I got it off facebook:

"It's been decided! On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the LGBT youth who have committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and schools.

PURPLE represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that's exactly what we'd like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality.

Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Cody J. Barker, Harrison Chase Brown, Caleb Nolt, Billy Lucas, Jeanine Blanchette, and Chantal Dube."

Look at all those names! That is ridiculous. And all because mean kids decided it would be funny to bully them. This has got to stop people, no matter what your belief is on the matter or gay marriage or even on homosexuality in general, I think everyone can agree that this is just plain wrong.

I for one try to be an open minded person. Usually I can see both sides of things; even if I don't agree with the opposite side I can still see where people are coming from. However this is one issue I cannot in any way see the other side of. I cannot wrap my brain around someone telling someone else that they cannot marry the person they love because of their sexual orientation. I cannot see how anyone can say that love is wrong, ever. I mean, why the hell does it matter? Why is it wrong for gay couples to adopt and raise a child? Oh no, then that kid will have TWO people who love them and support them, heaven forbid. I just cannot understand it. And now, because of children who have been raised to think there is something funny about being gay, who think it's a good idea to bully their peers, because of this act 11 young people killed themselves. Whywhywhywhywhy??

I'll respect your opinions about anything else you believe in, but if you think that to be gay is to be wrong, I don't want to be friends.

SO, wear purple people!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


SO, for my class this week, I have to write a poem. It was assigned last week, a poem that mimics anything about these four poems we had to read for class, but besides that it can be about anything. Just to let you all know, I don't write poetry. The closest thing I come to writing poetry is an occasional haiku about how I hate poetry. I know, I don't really hate it, but I sure don't enjoy writing it. I wrote one the other day, and I'll share it with you all so you can have a good laugh. Because if this blog is good for anything, it might as well make you laugh everyone now and then.

I want to live here.

The silence is only

disrupted by faint

tap tap taps

of keyboards and

worn pages turning.

The dust I could live with.

The quiet would not bother me.

I sit in a place where others have sat

and will continue to sit

for decades,

for lifetimes and more.

The English weather does not touch me here,

but I can see it.

Vaulted windows show the outside world,

the spires of the colleges,

the domes and stone walls I

formerly only dream about.

And I did dream.

I dreamed.

I've been dreaming.

Red leaves blow outside.

Tourists tirade in throngs.

But not in here.

Here I'm surrounded by all my friends,

old and new.

I'm safe, I'm happy.

A tiny bell rings, time to go.

The corridors empty.

I'll be back tomorrow.

LAME LAME LAME LAME. It's so cheery and predictable! Poems are supposed to have depth, to be seen all sorts of ways and affect people. THIS crap is clearly about a library (actually, I'm not even sure if that's clear or not) and not anything else. LAME. On top of all that, it does not in any way mimic things done in the poems we had to read. SO I can't even use it as a backup in case I don't think of anything better. And what's with the stanzas? 6, 6, 6, 3, 6, 3 lines in each? What kind of structure is that? A MADE UP ONE THAT'S WHAT. Sappy, lame, made up, that's how I write poetry.

On top of this, my house is dripping. Dripping with wet clothes. I will never again in my life EVER take for granted having a washer AND a dryer. We have no dryer, and right now the washer is sort of broken so when it gets to the end of the cycle where it spins most of the water out of your clothes, it spins super fast and hard and shakes the whole house and moves the washer out of the wall and you have to turn it off or it will surly eat someone. Man eating washer. This used to happen sometimes in Morgantown, but I feel like all we had to do was restart it or something and it was cool. Well, this is certainly not cool, and I can't get to any sort of restart button or even the plug. So, sopping wet clothes are hanging off of everything that you can hang cloths off of because I waited ages to do cloths, including bed sheets on doors and jeans on the banister.

Happy Tuesday everyone. Despite my drippy existence at the moment and inability to write poetry, it's a good day. A friend of mine told me a while ago that I'm in a good-day time in my life, so even when things are not going well, it's still a good day. I'm going to this one women show tonight where she is going to read her poetry accompanied by a jazz band or something like that, not too sure. Should be weird and awesome. Hopefully hearing poetry will inspire me to write poetry, but as Phillip Pullman said, I need to learn how to write even when I'm not inspired. Working on it.

I'm out!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Step One: Dramatic Pudding.

"You're a damned good man, sister."

Whenever I go to print stuff out at this one place in town, the same guy always helps me. He had long hair, always wears baggy shorts and fun colored socks poking out of his Vans. Today they were hot pink. The first time I went in, he printed my stuff and told me as I was paying that usually he has to charge an extra fee for printing things off a flash drive, but that he had done it a lot that day and didn't feel like doing it again. HA. Score. Then every time after that he came up with some other reason not to charge me. Like, 'oh well I did not charge you last time so I won't today', or 'oops, forgot to charge you'. Today I went in and he rung me up and I handed him my money. It was £1.30 and I handed him exact change. He took it, opened the register, and then handed me my 30p back. I think I've made a new friend.

I have a bank account, a bank card, checks, a library card with my picture on it, a valid student ID, a Blackwells rewards card, two Oyster cards (from when Nicole was here, so now I can take friends to London), Top off card for my phone, UK Starbucks card for the internet, YHA membership card, house keys, growing book collection, solid handful of friends, junk all over my bedroom walls, a growing pile of laundry to do, a plastic champagne cup full of pennies, homework and Student Representative responsibilities within my course. I SO live here now.


The other day Rose made bread. The house smelled amazing and warm. I was up in my room working and she knocked on my door and without a word brought me a slice, buttered and everything. So sweet.

Homemade bread and American junk food for my housemates from Grandma and Grampa.

We made sushi the other night. It was the first time I've ever enjoyed sushi, like really liked it. I have liked it before, but too much of it always left me feeling a little funny. I guess because I saw this being made and I rolled some of it myself. I don't want any mystery rolled up in my sushi.

I went to London on Monday to see Les Misérables for the first time. I don't think I need to tell you that it was amazing. On My Own gave me chills from start to finish. However, before the show, since I must have incredible good luck, we happened to end up at the London premier of Despicable Me. AND saw Steve Carell, Russell Brand and Miranda Cosgrove. Whoa.

I decided that I want to be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween. Random, I know, but it should be pretty easy. Red cloak, white dress, basket, sorted.

Remember when I almost went to film school? I still want to do that. I got this idea in my head that I want to make a short film with Catfish Productions sometime, but I have no clue what about or anything. As if I don't have enough projects to work on at the moment. What I really need is to get Nicole to come back here so we can shoot it in Oxford. That would be amazing. Any ideas?

karaoke in London. One of these days I'll sing something besides Beyond the Sea.

I bought a backpack today. Don't worry, it was cheap. I know it might be a little silly to buy a backpack when I have so many at home, but there is no point in getting yet another thing from home sent here when I could just get one for as little money as I did today. I was really getting fed up with not having one. It's still small, but it will fit all my things for class and my books and even my computer. And like I said, it cost me very little, so I can always leave it here at the end of the year or something. It's the first backpack I've ever owned that has not been green (it's brown).

Another thing I want to buy, a bookshelf. I found a little one today, but even it might be a little too big. I think it will fit in my room perfectly actually, and it's only £10, but I'm so indecisive. But you see my window ledge right? It's getting out of hand.

I obviously have no point today. Just felt like blogging. That's code for Maria has tons of laundry and reading to do but decided to write a pointless blog instead.

Our vacuum, Henry. Funny because that is one of my all time favorite boy names'

"Now, sir, we'll talk if you like. And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."


Monday, October 11, 2010

Windy windy windy Monday.

The topic of this blog was stolen from Nicole, which she stole from an elementary school's writing prompt. Funny. If you want to read Nicole's 10 exciting things, click HERE.

Ten exciting things, in no particular order:

1. Making things: I love to make things. When I was little I was the queen of making things, mostly things to play with. I made my own toys, mainly pipe cleaner people, and places for them to inhabit, mainly space ships made of cardboard boxes. Now I still like making things, making stories, crocheting scarves, wall art for my bedroom, scrapbooks, photoshoping pictures (totally counts), French braid, anything really. It's exciting to me to make something and have it turn out just how you wanted it to, know that YOU made that out of nothing, that it exists because of you. In this vein I have always wished I could paint, draw or sculpt. Maybe one day.

2. Socks without holes in the toes: All my socks here have holes in the toes and it's really irking me. On top of that, I can't find the tiny sewing kit my mom so lovingly put together for me to take here, so I can't even fix the problem. So, if anyone wants to send me anything, please send me socks, because I'm far too cheap to buy my own. But, I guess I will. It's starting to get colder and holey socks will soon be an even bigger problem.

3. Finishing things: I have a bad habit of not finishing projects. BAD BAD. I have a bunch of unfinished writing projects, lots of half backed ideas floating in my head and two gigantic books I have yet to finish reading. I hate not finishing things, and yet it keeps happening. I think one of my new year's resolutions for this year was to finish things, like, all things. I believe it read, 'finish books,' which could mean books I've written or books I've started to read. This year I have finished some things, lots of read books and my magic paper story, but even that is not finished. The second draft needs to happen, and soon, because Nanowrimo is right around the corner and I have a whole other idea for that. So anyway, when I do finish things, lately when I finish a book or writing assignment, it excites me.

4. Re-reading things the next day: I tend to do this thing where I'll write something one day and hate it right away, yet when I read it in the morning it's sounds a million times better. I don't know why this is, but with anything I write I need to let it sit at least overnight if not a few hours before I look at it again. Reading things the next day is always like reading something that some other Maria wrote, someone way better than yesterday's Maria. Not to say that things are perfect the next day, that is never the case, they are just better and far less discouraging.

5. Going to the movies: I think I've written about this at length before, so I'll keep this short. I love going to the movies. If I'm planning on going to see a movie later in the day, I spend the whole day excited about it. Something about actually going to a theater, getting bad popcorn and sitting in the dark with your feet sticking to the floor really appeals to me. One day I'll have a home theater, and not one of the wimpy little ones. I mean full sized screen, just like in the movie theaters. Yes you are invited, and yes you can bring your friends, if they're cool. Because you know me, I'm just the queen of cool. I can't even type that with a straight face.

6. Being told I'm doing something right: I am rarely right. Most of the time when I enter an argument, I lose (unless it has to do with the color of the One Ring from LOTR, MOTHER. I'm clinging to that win forever). It happens so often that I usually just give up before I start, or should anyway (yes Nicole, I'm thinking of the whole 'forks' 'fox' debacle. That still upsets me). So anyway, when I'm actually right, I get really excited. Also when someone tells me I'm actually doing something right. When I first started to spin back in high school, anytime someone told me I was doing the move correctly or said 'good job!' I would get SO excited. This happened the other day actually. I went to a tap dancing class on campus full of mostly girls who have already done tap in the past. So scary. I struggled, obviously, tap is really hard. I have no idea how they can get their feet to move that fast, it seems borderline impossible. However, when the head girl was helping me with this one thing, she told me my side step was perfect. PERFECT. She said it more than once too; I was not just hearing things. To all you teachers out there, or anyone who has to show someone how to do something, make sure you take the time to tell your pupil what they are doing right as well as what they are doing wrong. It makes all the difference. I clung to that 'perfect' for the whole day, and although I sucked at every single other thing we did, that 'perfect' is the reason I'll go back next week.

7. Traveling: I've also talked about this at length in the past. I love to travel, that's all there is to it. I love new places and new foods and new languages in my ears. I love planning trips, real ones and imaginary, and everything that goes into traveling. There is not much more exciting to me than getting ready to go someplace new, even if it is just a day trip to DC or a drive to Morgantown or Harpers Ferry. I love to travel.

8. Getting mail or packages: I LOVE mail! My grandma sent me a Halloween package the other day with two awesome Halloween shirts, Lucky Charms and Twinkies for my housemates (they love American junk food you can't get here), candy and a cute little handmade card. Thanks Grandma! And thanks to everyone else out there who has sent me various things in the mail, post cards, peanut butter, books, cloths, letters, you all know who you are. I love love love love love all of it.

9. Fall colors: The trees have been changing colors for a while, but I've just recently noticed. It's gorgeous. And you know what fall colors mean? Fall leads to winter, winter leads to Christmas, and on Christmas I'll be home with the family, and after that off to see all my friends I miss so much. I would not say I'm homesick at all, but I'm definitely friend-and-family-sick. I can't wait to see everyone.

10. Halloween: Alright, so half this blog is just me listing things I always talk about. Sorry, I think I get a C for originality. C+ just to be annoying. I love Halloween, and its right around the corner. I need to figure out what I'm doing, who will dress up with me and where we are going. I have dressed up for Halloween every single year, probably of my life, and I'm not planning on stopping now. Halloween is exciting because I'm a little kid at heart and I love to play dress up, if you haven't noticed.

SO those are my ten things. What are you ten things? I'll tell you what is not on my ten things list, reading poetry for class. Guess what I should have been doing instead of writing a ten things blog? I guess I better get back to that, I guess I guess I guess.

Happy Monday!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I talk about when I talk about pictures (and writing).

I love my camera. I feel naked when I leave the house without one tucked into my bag, just in case something out of the ordinary crops up that I just have to document. I never thought of my obsession with taking pictures as a hobby until recently. It's weird that I can so easily admit to being obsessive about something, but not as easily claim it as a hobby. I've never once pretended to be normal.

Just to make one thing clear, I enjoy taking pictures, not photography. I don't know the first thing about photography, about lenses and proper light settings and aperture or how to develop film. I've never been able to get my mind around which way to turn the dial if you need more light or less or what shutter speed I should be using. All the pictures I took with my mom's old 35mm camera turned out dark and fuzzy which was either because of my lack of skills or the oldness of the film (I like to think the later). In the end it comes down to this; I don't know anything about photography, I just like taking pictures.

The way I feel about taking pictures is very similar to the way I feel about writing. Not to say that I know nothing about the craft of writing like I do photography, not at all. They are both things I love obsessively, (there's that word again) that I do for similar reasons. I have this thing, and I know it's bad but I can't help it. Whenever I go somewhere, be it on a trip or out with friends or even exploring new places on my own, if I don't take at least a few pictures, I get this feeling like it didn't count. Like my experience did not happen if I don't have a picture to prove it. (I know this is a problem and I'm working on fixing it, don't worry.) In a lot of ways I feel this way about writing also, but with writing it's actually true. If I have an idea and I don't write it down somewhere, I'll lose it. It will be as if the idea never came across my head, like it never existed. Because of this you will never find me without a camera in my purse and a notebook in my pocket.

I don't know where this came from, what spurred this need to document my life so closely. I have this fear of forgetting, of growing old and having forgotten my entire life. I need my stories and pictures and e-mails to friends to go back to so I can remember that smile from a boy I liked in high school that made me happy for a week or to see again just how high we climbed that mountain in New Zealand. You always think you'll never forget the most important moment of your life, yet when you are asked to go back and write them down, to list the moments in your life that shaped you the most, it's always a challenge. And who's to say your memories of an event are accurate? Time changes many things. Not even your memory is safe from the great bully that is time. Many times I'll bring up something to my friends I've had since elementary school that I remember as clearly as if it had just happened and am met with blank stares. "I wasn't even there," one friend will say, or, "I don't remember it that way at all." This gets discouraging. Sometimes I feel like I've made up most of my childhood memories. Maybe that's why I think it was so great, because it wasn't real. I don't think that's the case, but you never know.

Sometimes, when off taking pictures, I'll get a gem. That is, sometimes I get lucky and take a picture that makes it look as if I know a thing or two about photography. I assure you I don't, so anytime this happens is purely accidental. Last summer I was in the Kilmainham Gaol (prison) in Dublin, wandering around in the courtyard and not paying attention to the tour guide. We were in an area where prisoners used to be hung or shot by firing squad. I wandered away from the group and noticed that a small girl, probably 9 or 10 years old, had wandered off as well. I had been watching her out of the corner of my eye the entire tour, wondering why her parents thought she might enjoy a tour of a famous prison and wondering even more if she was getting anything out of it. Would she remember? I'm surprised I even remember and I was 22.

There was a black wooden cross sticking out of the ground as a memorial to all those who had died on that spot. The little girl was walking in the shadow of the gray stone wall to the right while the cross was just to her left in the full on sunlight. I took a picture, just for kicks. It was only later that I noticed what I had captured. The little girl looks almost ghost-like since you can't see her face. If you just glance at the picture, sometimes you can't even see her. However the cross, the place filled with the memories of the dead, shines in the light. 100% accident, 100% haunting.

This happens to me a lot when I'm writing as well. Every so often, when I'm not trying or just playing around, I'll come up with something I can be proud of. I was in a creative non-fiction class one time back in college, sitting with my friend Jeremy and talking when we should have been paying attention. We hated that class, the teacher had no idea what she was talking about, lost our assignments and proved each and every class that she did not know my name. It was not a big class. Anyway, Jeremy and I were looking outside at the bright and sunny day and I was expressing my wish that we were out there and not in our current situation. Jeremy at that point had long black hair to his shoulders, always wore dark clothes or a band t-shirt. His skin was extremely white, as if he had never stepped outside in his entire life. Just as I was thinking this, he confirmed my suspicions. "I hate sunny days," he said, "give me rain or snow any day. I hate the sun." I remember thinking to myself that is really depressing. I wrote down in the corner of my notebook, once upon a time there lived the saddest boy in the world…

I could not get the saddest boy in the world out of my head for weeks. I transferred the little line about him into the journal I keep just for little tidbits like this. I even named him. Dorian, the saddest boy in the world. I could not stop thinking about why he was so sad, about what could possibly make someone the saddest boy in the whole world. He would not leave me alone. The next semester it was time for my senior Capstone project, pretty much 40 pages of whatever we wanted to write about. Short stories and poetry collections were preferred. I wrote 70 pages about Dorian. I never told Jeremy that he was the inspiration for the saddest boy in the world (he did read parts of the story and liked it) and I've always wondered what he would think about that.

I write in the same way I take pictures, all over the place and with no end result in sight. Sometimes I take pictures without even looking through the view finder. Sometimes I'll write something in my moleskin like 'sawdust = dad' and then look at it later and wonder what I was talking about. Like I said, all over the place. Before I came to England, I decided that it was time I upgraded to a nicer camera. I have always used the tiny Cannon PowerShots that can fit in your pocket. I did some research (and by that I mean my mom did some research. I would have just gone to the store and picked up the one I thought was the prettiest) and once more bought a Canon PowerShot, but this time a bigger one. It's a PowerShot SX20 IS with 12.1 mega pixels, a view finder and a screen that can flip out and turn around for easier stalker shots. This camera is love. I reasoned that for my year abroad, I deserved a nice camera. In the same vein, I've been looking for a nice journal. I have so many at home half filled or forgotten; I just can't help myself sometimes. I bought a little paperback journal a few weeks ago that I've been using, but it's clear to me now that in England's rain and with my less than water proof bags, it will not do at all. So I'm on the lookout for the prefect journal for this year, something sturdy and, well, pretty, like my new camera. All the better to record. All the better to remember.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm busting up my brains for the words.

These are my housemates at Jazz night last week. From left to right, Shobha, Gavin, Paddy, Rose and ME. And Tesco Metro is a grocery story. We could totally be an add for Tesco. "Shop at Tesco and you can be as happy as this lot!"

So many things.

Thing one: I think Moonage Daydream is one of my favorite Bowie songs. I did name this blog after its lyrics. I don't quote lyrics lightly. Anyway, that has nothing to do with anything, I just thought about it today. Sometimes you listen to a song over and over but never really listen to the lyrics. Bowie should always be really listened to.

Thing two: Monday I went to a Society of Young Publishers talk. I know, I'm not a publishing student, but no one knew that. The talk was by David Fickling, the publisher who was putting on the book release party at Blackwells on my first day in Oxford. Aka, my all-time favorite publisher. He was just as charismatic and engaging to hear talk as the last time, cockeyed red bow tie and all. He is primarily a children's and young adult publisher (!!!) but at the talk he talked about publishing in general and about something very disturbing, the death of the book. This is something I don't like to think about, something that makes me want to take all the books in my room into my arms and cry, as if I could protect their future just by loving them. However it is important to think about, about the future of books as we know them and what they will evolve into in the coming years. I'll never go Kindle, but unfortunately, many will.

Luckily, the story will never die. David Fickling loves stories more than anyone I've ever heard speak on the matter. He practically begged the young publishers in the room to really care about what they published. "Care about what you're making," he said, "care about the book." He spoke of huge publishing companies as evil doers whose only objective is to make money, not to produce a story they are proud of. "Publishing is changing," he said in a serious voice that gave me goosebumps, "I feel like I'm strapped to the front of a steam engine racing through the black midnight." He spoke about the paperback and how different it is from any sort of electronic book. The paperback is just itself. It gives you no options, no choices about what you can do. It says, "Just read me," and nothing more. He spoke of Neil Gaiman and how he is a wonderful man because he works with small publishing companies. He said, "We want him, and we will get him one day."

I love this man. I want him to publish my book SO BADLY. One day. In the same way he wants Neil Gaiman, I want David Fickling. He loves the books he publishes, loves the authors, and loves books. On the death of the book he continued by saying, "I want to say the book is dead so that you all, in one voice, rise and say 'No it isn't!'" I want him to want me. I've got a lot of work to do.

Thing three: I get to use the Bodleian Library. This is THE library of Oxford University, and one of the oldest in the world. It consists of five buildings and is entitled to one copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland (11 million volumes, says Wikipedia). It includes the Radcliffe Camera, that building I keep gushing on and on about as being my favorite building in the city, and now, once I get my library card, I'll be able to get in. I went on Wednesday to turn in my form that I had to get signed by someone in the English Department at Brookes and a Brookes librarian to prove that I'm a real live Brookes Masters student. Only third years, research students and Masters Students at Brookes are allowed to use the Bodleian.

Before November, Brookes students are only allowed to go to the Bodleian to turn in forms and get registered on certain Wednesdays at very specific times. From reading the form we had to get filled out and all the rules, we thought we were going to go in and be yelled at. It's all very strict. So we went, my new friend Alisha and I, on a rainy Wednesday, the first Wednesday Brookes students were allowed to go. It was the type of day you would generally not leave the house, rainy, gloomy and muggy. But we just couldn't wait. We didn't get to see much of the library that day, but we did get to sit in this huge, parliament looking room with high ceilings and dark wooden benches that looked 100 years old (which It may well have been, the library was established in 1602).

In order to be granted access to the library, besides needing to be a Brookes student and have the proper documentation (passports, Brookes ID, paperwork), we had to verbally recite an oath. Not even all together as a group, each of us individually in our native languages. Here is what we had to recite:

"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

One girl said it in Finnish, but the rest of us were plain old English speakers. Back in the day you had to read it in Latin, but then they realized that no one really knew what they were pledging to do so they changed it. I've never had to give an oath to get a library card before. This place is so cool.

Thing four: X-Men 4! SO, Alisha and I had just finished reciting our library oath and managed to find our way out of the room (we couldn't remember which way we came in, a problem we seem to have no matter what building we are in) and back outside into the rain and gloom. We were stumbling around and fidgeting with our umbrellas when we noticed we were surrounded by a bunch of perfect people in 60's garb. It was sort of creepy until we saw the camera crews. We were walking straight through a scene from a movie they were shooting in front of the Sheldonian Theater. We walked through the middle of it because no one told us not to, and because they were between us and Blackwells where we were going. When we finally got out of it and were standing in the street with the other onlookers we asked a woman what was going on and she said, calmly as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, "it's X-men." X-MEN! I could not believe it. So if you see two confused looking girls with umbrellas and rain boots in the next X-men movie, that was us. Who knew that Professor X went to Oxford? Well, probably a lot of people, but I was not one of them.

Thing five: my first day of classes. Yesterday was my first day of real classes. I only have two classes per semester, one day a week. Sounds like not much work right? That's what I thought, but not anymore. For next Thursday I have to fill out a character sketch outline, write 500 words about the character based on what I learn about him from the outline, write 300 words based on a theme in Heart of Darkness which we read for yesterday's class, write an unspecified word count about a hobby I have and pertain it to writing, read Dubliners, finish another book I'm halfway through and read 4 or 5 packets of pages photocopied out of a book that is no longer in print that were passed out. And the books are only getting longer. I had three packages in front of my bedroom door when I got home last night. Some of the books we are going to have to read are LONG. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining in the least bit. I'm excited. And I know 300 and 500 words don't sounds like much (after doing 50,000 a few times, that sounds like cake), but these are things I'll most likely have to share in front of the class, so they need to be something I'm at least a little happy with. AND the character I want to write about is almost a complete stranger to me, so that should take some time.

Overall, yesterday was the best day ever. Our first class, Narrative, consisted of 8 people plus the teacher in a tiny classroom that looked like the room where you stash things that don't go anywhere, or are broken, or you just want out of your sight. There were computers and random other pieces of junk all over the place. I think I'm going to pretend from now on that room is The Room of Requirement from Harry Potter, and that I'll only be able to get in when I really need it, which will be every Thursday at 12:15. Have I mentioned that right now is the closest I'm probably ever going to get to going to Hogwarts? I mean I live in England, I'm going to school, and writing to me is like magic, so I'm practically there. I was devastated at age 11 when I did not get my Hogwarts letter by owl post, but it looks like they have a Masters Program, so it's all good.

In Narrative we talked about Heart of Darkness and then did a few writing exercises which we had to read in front of everyone. SCARY. This is exactly the sort of thing I was afraid would happen on this course. However, once I read my first little thing, got a few laughs and one of Jim's gigantic smiles, the fear vanished completely. I have never felt that comfortable reading my own stuff in front of people before, it was great. And, something else happened that I've never encountered before in a creative writing class; everyone is good. Like, really good. NO offense to everyone I was in classes with at WVU, bbbuuuttt there were always a few kids in those classes who's comments on my work were practically useless, either because they did not even bother to try or did not know what they were talking about. Here, everyone knows what they are talking about. I could not believe what beautiful little stories were coming out of my classmates heads when we were put on the spot and told to write. All I've got is humor so far, that's the only thing that kept me afloat in that class, and they were not even that funny, just a little chuckle worthy.

After Narrative we had a break, then a talk/workshop by one of our Fellows, Bernardine Evaristo. She read to us from her book, Lara (which is awesome and I really want to buy now), a fictionalized history of her family in verse, and talked to us about her own process for writing. She had us do an exercise on character, and I did chicken out when it came to reading out loud. I'll get over it eventually, but there are way more people in that class so it's a lot more intimidating, and again, everyone is REALLY good. After that we had another lecture class with Rob and Jane, talked about all sorts of other things, then we were done. Long day, but probably my best first day of class ever.

So, I have a lot of work to do. Better get crackin.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My first sort-of-assignment-don’t-really-know-if-i-have-to-turn-this-in-or-not thing.

A lot of my writer friends have wanted to be writers their entire lives. They wrote stories when they were little and always dreamed of selling their first novel and going on book tours. That was not me. The first job I ever remember wanting was to be a glassblower. I think I must have seen a demonstration about it at some Civil War something or other back when I was little and got the idea stuck in my head that it would be a suitable career path. My parents just smiled and nodded and let it go, probably hoping I'd forget all about it at some point and pick a more fruitful calling. They were right about the first part, I did forget about it. If I've found a prosperous future for myself is yet to be seen. It certainly is fun anyway.

I've loved to read as long as I've been able. From the moment those squiggly lines became letters and those letters turned to words and those words bloomed into stories, I've been in love. I used to get in trouble in math class for reading a book under my desk instead of paying attention.

"Maria," scolded Mr. Math Teacher, "this is math class, you shouldn't be reading."

"But you have to be able to read to do math," my younger self reasoned innocently, thinking of all those insufferable word problems my brain had no patience for.

"That's not the point, put the book away."

I took, "put the book away," to mean "hide the book better," and kept reading. At this same time I was also writing. I wrote silly little stories about my favorite Star Wars characters and my 13 year old attempt at original science fiction, but never gave writing much thought. In high school I started to travel. I always kept a journal when I traveled overseas and wrote in it every day, recording the day's events and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to record at least a little of how I felt. I was terrified of forgetting. But still, I never gave writing any thought. It's just something everyone does, right? Everyone records the day's observations on little scraps of paper or on the pages of the millions of blank notebooks they have yet keep buying, right? Scout, in To Kill A Mockingbird, explains the exact way I felt about writing in her own regard to reading. "Until I feared I'd lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

Then I went to college, majored in English, and was instantly lonely. When you've had the same best friends since elementary school, a time before self esteem issues and shyness sets in, making friends out in the real world is hard. So I wrote about it. I wrote a silly little story with my best friends from home as main characters, imagining what we would all be daydreaming about if we were all together, bored in class. I finished it, let a few of said friends read it, then put it away and forgot about it until the next year.

Sophomore year I joined my school's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society, giving in completely to the fact that I was indeed a huge nerd. I wanted to submit something creative to the annual convention the Society had every year. All I had was the daydream story, so that's what I sent in. To my great surprise it was accepted. I went to Pittsburgh, read my story in front of a room full of people (not my cup of tea) and was astonished to find that people laughed where I meant to be funny and were silent during the serious bits. Even more astonishing was that people actually like my story.

Now I can't imagine a life for myself where I was not making up stories in my head and collecting names for future characters. My focus has been all over fiction and non-fiction and everywhere in between, but more recently I've found a comfortable little place in Young Adult fiction. I'd say that, as far as an answer to the question of why I write, it would be a tie between 'to entertain' and 'personal satisfaction.' There is nothing like the feeling you get when someone reads your work and enjoy it. I like to make people laugh and am still working on making them cry. However somewhere up there, 'to educate' would also be a reason to write. I have never wanted to be a teacher, I don't have the incredible patience or intelligent insight to teach others, but that's not necessarily what it means to educate.

A few years ago I heard Neil Gaiman speak at one of those nerdy Sigma Tau Delta conventions I was talking about. He said that the books we read before the age of twelve shape the rest of our lives as far as what we read and who we become. I wholeheartedly agree with this which is why I feel that writing Young Adult literature is not only lots of fun, but a great responsibility. I don't know about you, but I don't want any children I may or may not end up having growing up idolizing Edward and Bella from Twilight. I want them to grow up with Harry, Ron and Hermione like I did and explore the halls of Hogwarts in their innermost imaginations. I want them to go to Neverland when they close their eyes at night and dream of a world where they never have to grow up. I want them to read about strong characters that are so life-like that they love them as if they were real and cry when they die. These are the sorts of stories and characters that shaped me, and these are the stories I want to write.

I think the thing that has defined me as a reader, writer and overall person the most is my incurable Peter Pan syndrome. I had a happy childhood and wanted for nothing, have a supportive family and great friends (all reasons I'll never sell one non-fiction book. Who wants to read about a happy childhood anyway?). Growing up in such a stable and loving environment meant I never had to abandon my childlike sensibilities, something I'll be forever grateful. The child within me is my Muse, and man is she crazy. She can't sit still for more than five seconds which is probably the reason I tend to write so sporadically. I write at random times of day depending on what is going on and where I am. Sometimes I write nonstop for months, other times not touching pen to paper for weeks on end. I hope this year to not tame that crazy kid by any means, but maybe try and get her into more of a routine. And get her to stop eating so much chocolate. She'll rot my teeth out.

I would describe myself as an artist with reclusive tendencies, striving to gain social networking skills. I'm not talking about facebook here, I mean real, live social networking with real people. I am far too comfortable with shutting myself up in my room for hours on end with music playing and a word document on my computer screen. One of my goals for the year is to meet as many people as I can and make some connections. Even if that only means finding a few new writing buddies I'll count it a success. But first and foremost, I want to come out of this year a better writer. I want my Masters Degree to mean something, to mean that I spent a year in Oxford dedicating myself to being a better writer, and actually became one.

In the long run, I want to write books. In my wildest money-is-miraculously-not-an-issue dreams I see myself traveling around the world and writing books. I'm crossing my fingers, and so is my grubby, chocolate covered Muse. What a brat.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blushing and stuttering and Kung-Fu Fighting.

We could have been in a murder mystery. The room we found ourselves in was at the very top of the building. To one side were views of trees whose leaves were just starting to change colors, construction to the other. Rain pounded the huge slanted windows on either side of the room to the point that they had to be shut as not to drench one side of the semi circle. Behind me was access to a tiny balcony. The glass door was cracked and the autumn air breezed in and made me shiver. We all waited, chatting quietly, waiting to hear our fate and talk about the one thing the 20 of us, all different ages and from all different places, had in common.

There has been lot written about the pros and cons of MFA and MAs in Creative Writing. A LOT. The whole debate basically comes down to this: you do not need a Masters degree in writing to write. Many, if not most of the greats never went to school for writing and probably never even considered it or regretted not going. By no stretch of the imagination does it say anywhere that your chances of being published will greatly increase if you have a Masters degree. So why do people get them?

I'll tell you why I'm getting mine. I want to be better. Look at that first paragraph. I spent a good ten minutes trying to think of a way to describe the room where I met my professors, thinking of any way to describe the room without starting with, 'the room.' That first paragraph could be a lot better. There are infinite ways to describe a room, and all of those ways are better than the way I chose to do it. That's just the way it is, someone is always better. There is always a more creative way, always something more you can learn about what you are doing. That goes for everything in life actually, every single thing. I bet Ray Bradbury could describe the room without even using the word 'room.' I don't bet, I know.

When I went to my first session, I was excited. More excited than I can put into words, which is exactly why I'm taking this course. There is always a way to describe something in words, and I want to figure it out. I sat in the semi circle and listened to my new professors talk about the books we were going to read and the things we were going to write and I honestly felt like I was going to cry. If you know me, you know that this is weird. I don't cry, at least not when I'm happy. I make fun of my mother for doing that all the time (sorry!).

The head of the department, Jim, talked to us at length about why we were there and how we should feel. He told us we should be applauded for being there at all, because by applying and getting into the MA course we have proved that we take writing seriously. We are not just undergrads, sparknoteing our way through an English major just to have a college degree. We are all here because we all believe that we have something to learn about writing and we take our craft seriously. He kept saying that, using the word 'seriously,' which I liked. He said that being in that room proved that we are all committed to being writers and we want further help and instruction to do so. I like this guy a lot. He said all of this extremely fast with the biggest smile on his face. He said, "It's so fucking simple," in reference to doing what we want. As long as we know what we want to say and how we want to say it, it's just a matter of putting it down on paper. I love this guy. I'm not apologizing for the curse word. I know I've always tried keeping this blog to a PG rating, but I'm a grad student now. All bets are off.

After discussing all the important things about our course, we had a visit from Phillip Pullman. I'm going to try and not use a million exclamation points to describe this, because I have to stop being so star struck when I run into him at things. I am going to see a lot of him this year, so I need to start looking at him as a person and not a celebrity. So anyhow, he came into the room and talked to us about, again, why we were all there and what we wanted to get out of the year. He talked to us about how we must learn to write even when we are not inspired, and how he does not believe in writers block. He talked to us of the importance of writing everyday (something I need to work on) and how we need to have a place that we write and a time that we write and stick to it. If we write at different times every day in different places, it will be hard to get into a routine and concentrate. He said, "If you are in the same place every day, the Muse will know where to find you." (!!!) I could have listened to him talk all day.
After his talk, the whole class made our way through the M.C. Escher esc building that is Tong, the English Department, and to another room to hear Marilynne Robinson read and talk about writing. Ironically, Marilynne Robinson wrote a book called Housekeeping, which is the book my Southern Literature teacher, Gail Adams, gave me to read for fun after I took her class sophomore year of college. That is the teacher who encouraged me to start taking Creative Writing classes in the first place. My life has come full circle . So there I was, sitting in the very front row which was reserved for the new MA Creative Writing students. Marilynne Robinson was directly in front of me, Phillip Pullman was sitting directly behind me and for a time, Jim Hawes (my new professor and tutor) was to the left of me. I sat there and thought to myself, "am I really here? Is this really my life?" It is, it is my life and I am loving it.

So this was my first day of class. Well, not really. This week will be my first day of actual class. I have homework and everything, it's amazing. Stay tuned for, well, for whatever happens next. I can only imagine.

~major7th (!!!)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Enriching the tourist experience, one country at a time.

If you don't know me, or my friend Nicole, this paragraph is for you. If you know us, then feel free to skim. I feel the need to preface this blog about what Nicole and I did when she came back to Oxford with me with a little explanation about the sorts of things we like to do for fun. It's simple really; we play dress up. You heard me right. Two 23 year old graduate students with bright futures, college debt and semi-professional lives enjoy dressing up as fictional characters and parading around in public. Two Halloweens ago we took to Central Park in New York City as Giselle and Princess Leia. The semester after that we did an extensive Alice in Wonderland photo shoot in the Arboretum at WVU, complete with a few friends who played along
as cards. The last time we hung out in the States before I left, we dressed up and took fan pictures with Jackson Pearce's new book Sisters Red. So, what would you imagine to happen when Nicole visits Maria in Oxford, England, the exact place where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland and where the real Alice, Alice Liddell, lived and played? You guessed it.

We did a lot of random sightseeing while Nicole was here in Oxford. I loved being back here, showing her around and actually knowing where I was and how to get around. I showed her all my favorite buildings and places, like Blackwells, the Radcliffe Camera and Exeter College (where Tolkien studied). It was great having someone to wander around with who still thinks this place is amazing. All the people I know here are over the fairytale feeling of being in Oxford since they have lived here for a while. I don't think I'll ever get over it. However the most noteworthy thing we did in Oxford by far was our adventure in Wonderland.

I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive. I knew this was going to happen for months. Ever since Nicole bought the ticket to come here, I knew we were going to go to Chrsitchurch College in costume. There was no way it was not happening. The entire week we had been talking about it, planning the best way to go about bringing our dresses to the city and where to change. It was Nicole's last full day that we found the time. I was getting cold feet, but seeing as the trip was all about Nicole, I couldn't back down.

I think this was the most publicly nerdy thing we've ever done. Usually we are in a rather unpopulated areas (like the Arboretum or Nicole's back yard), or it's Halloween and we have a concrete reason to be dressed up even if no one else is. This time we were just two random girls, dressed like Alice in Wonderland and a deck of cards, wandering around for no reason. And don't think there were not that many people around. I'm talking Oxford on a Saturday morning. This place is usually packed with tourists, much more on a gorgeous Saturday like the one we chose.

Our plan was simple: have breakfast at Café Loco which is directly across the street from Christchurch, quickly change in the bathroom, then dash across the street and go take a million pictures. The only reason we picked that café was because of its proximity to the college. Our first hint that the day was going to be a nerdy good time/success was right there while we ate croissants and drank orange juice. Café Loco was a Mad Hatter themed café with huge prints of original Mad Hatter artwork on the walls. It wasn't called Café Loco for nothing.

We changed in the bathroom, a tiny cramped space we both barely fit into. Once our bows were tied and tights in place we made a run for the door, managing to get only a few funny looks on our way out. Then the neatest thing happened.

The moment we were on the street, in the middle of Oxford, surrounded by tourists, my apprehension melted away. I suspect Nicole was never actually nervous about it; she lives for stuff like this. She was instantly in character, and I was instantly making fun of her and saying 'come on Alice! Cross the street already! Stop being a brat!' Once the dresses were on, we were on, and it was all uphill from there.

I was the head photographer for the shoot, so I carried the gear and had my big camera around my neck the entire time, instructing Nicole to 'spin!' here or 'look at me!' there. We made our way to the entrance and waited in line behind a huge tour group. When we went to the desk to buy our tickets (less than a week after that day, I got my Brookes ID. Now I can get in for free. Drat!) the one guy nudged his partner behind the desk. He looked up and said, nonchalantly as if he said it ever day, 'oh hello Alice.' Once inside the halls and on our way to the Tom Quad we followed behind the tour group, snapping pictures and smiling. That's when the questions started.

"Can I take your picture?" one older man asked Nicole, "my daughter loves Alice in Wonderland!" With a curtsey Nicole said "of course," held out her skirt and smiled for the camera. He was not the only one. Every place we stopped to take our own pictures, someone was asking to take hers. It was awesome. We truly felt we were enriching the tourist experience for everyone who happened to be touring Christchurch College that day. How often do you get to actually see Alice wandering around Wonderland? Two teen age girls we kept running into kept taking pictures of Nicole and giggling together. They looked so happy, like their birthday had come early or something. One older woman said to us, "OH my granddaughter's name is Alice and she thinks she is Alice in Wonderland! I have to take your picture for her."

People kept asking us why we were dressed up. What we were promoting or what we were selling. We had given this a lot of thought before we set out that day as to what to tell people when they asked. We had lots of answers. School project, art project (which is true, that's what Catfish is after all), complicated storybook characters come to life photo shoot, all sorts of reasons. At first we would just say it was a project, but by the end of the day we resorted to the truth. When we were circling back to Christchurch on Rose Lane we passed a big tour group. The tour guide shouted at us from the middle of the group, asking why we were dressed up. At the same time Nicole and I both said, "for fun." Everyone smiled and said "good for you," and took our picture. What's the moral of the story? Honesty is the best policy, even if it does make you look a little crazy.

I mentioned before that going to Christchurch in costume was the highlight of Nicole's time in Oxford. Well, our highlight has a highlight too. When we were in the cathedral, we were stopped by an adorable old woman who worked there. She asked why we were dressed up, and at that point we were still sticking with the art project answer. Then she asked something we were not expecting. "Have you seen where Alice really lived?" Our eyes got wide as we breathlessly said "no!" She smiled real big and turned around. Behind her was a tall red curtain attached to the wall that we had previously walked right by. She pulled back the curtain to reveal a big wooden door. Taking a huge key out of her pocket, she unlocked the door and opened it wide for us to look through. It was the door to Wonderland.

Behind the door was a pictorial garden in a courtyard behind a few buildings of the college. It had a cute little path going through it with flowers on either side, leading to a green door in the far wall. "that building is where Alice used to live," said our new best friend, pointing to the building to our left, "and that one is where Lewis Carroll used to teach," she continued pointing straight ahead of us. "That green door is the one the white rabbit ran through, and the tree there is where the Cheshire Cat sat. This is the garden where Alice used to play." I didn't even know what to say. I was too shocked to come up with something intelligent to say, so I just asked "can I take a picture?" She said yes and I spazed out for a moment, taking a million of the same picture, trying to reach out and claim a part of Wonderland to keep forever. We would have never even known that garden was back there if we had chickened out and not gone to Christchurch in our dresses. That door was not usually open to the public. "I thought you girls deserved to see it," our new friend told us as she closed the door and locked it again, draping the red curtain back into place to hide Wonderland once more from prying eyes.

The rest of our day was relaxing. We put on pretty dresses and took some more pictures in the city and ate gigantic ice cream Sundays for lunch. That evening back in Headington we went into town wearing WVU jerseys in honor of the football game happening that day that we couldn't watch and got massive amounts of fish and chips to pregame. Then we watched episodes of The Wild Thornberrys on youtube.

The next day I took Nicole and her suitcase full of costumes to GloucesterGreen to catch her bus to Heathrow.

I wish she could have stayed forever.

The end.


More of these pictures HERE.