New Travel Blog!

Hey Sort by Genre followers! If you like travel writing and photography check out my newest blog: thedamselindiscovery.com!

I will be saying goodbye to Sort by Genre soon because it’s content is very dated. Please follow the new blog to see my current writing. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you soon at The Damsel in Discovery!

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Did you chose writing, or did it chose you?

I’ve had an intense relationship with the writing process for as long as I can remember. I recall going on play dates as a little girl and suggesting to my friends that we write a book instead of play with Barbies. Sadly, as you can imagine, Barbies won every time. Lately though, I have become obsessive about writing, to the point of considering dedicating all my education resources to the craft.

In attempt to solve my quarter-life college induced major re-thinking crisis I began reviewing the list of degrees offered at San Francisco State University. The “Technical and Professional Writing” BA caught my eye, sending me on an hour long Googling session about what a career in Technical writing would actually entail (in a later post I will present my findings).

Along the way, I found a blog called I’d Rather Be Writing, authored by a practicing technical writer which led me to a post titled “Writing as a Holy Calling.”

The notion of the “holy calling” suggests that writing is less of a hobby and more of an unavoidable calling for some individuals. Although there are more talented, seasoned, intuitive writers than I, I consider myself to be one of those people writing has called upon. It is not an activity I want to do, but rather it is something I have to do. It consumes my thoughts to the point where if I have a bad or traumatic experience, there is a little voice in the back of my head that says, “it’s okay, at least you’ll have something new to journal about!”

Like many folks who enjoy writing, I often find myself writing in my head during the day, flipping through my mental book of adjectives to find the perfect words to describe my surroundings. Every overheard conversation is a dialogue opportunity-an idea from which to build. This habit and thought process is the reason I believe writing chose me. I didn’t consciously make it a hobby, but I know at this point, I won’t feel satisfied with my week until I word purge on paper (or digital paper). When I read, I get distracted from the plot because I am focused on how strong of an urge I have to write and I tell myself the only way I’m going to be able to improve my writing skills is to read. Thus begins a vicious cycle of writing, reading, and getting overwhelmed with writing and reading.

If this sounds like you, then writing might be less of a hobby and more of a call you have no choice but to answer. Consider yourself whipped.

Whatever “holy calling” pushes me to write has been there for longer than I would care to admit. Perhaps, I haven’t wanted to accept it until now, because I never thought the compulsion could carry any weight in selecting my future career. However, the more I research, the more I realize that writing provides for other career opportunities outside of bestselling novel composition worth exploring.

If you think that writing chose you too, I encourage you to accept your need to create as many of the wonderful word puzzles that are sentences as you can. Don’t dismiss the idea that your inner author can potentially walk you down a fulfilling career path. Use the call of pen and paper to your advantage.

Did you chose writing, or did it chose you? 

On writing and rewriting and re(you guessed it)writing.

A couple months after starting college I began writing a book- a book I told no one about because it is, at present, a sorry seven pages of rubbish. I had just enrolled in a creative writing class when I wrote those seven pages and little did I know I would end up telling that same story in a one line poem, a five page short fiction, a single act play, and ultimately a thirty page compilation to be turned in for credit.

You see, that seven page book I started to compose had already been drafted dozens of times and continued to be reworked until I was forced to end my war with it and accept the constraints of a dearewrite-1dline. I am still working (and will probably work perpetually) on getting that story  “right.” However, the principal lesson I learned from class was not about writing the perfect story, but rewriting a perfect revision.

I had never intentionally revised a piece before, so the thought of taking a lengthy story I felt was complete and smushing it into a tiny poem or scraping out the dialogue for a play not only seemed impossible, but flat out wrong. I was “married to my piece” as the professor put it. I didn’t want to change the rhymes in my poems or the characters in my short story because they were fine the way I had originally written them. Or so I thought.

The greatest thing I could have done for myself as a writer was open myself to genre fluidity. Pieces that I categorized as “fine” were just that: fine. They weren’t conveying the right emotion. They weren’t putting the emphasis on the right syllable. In the middle of writing this post I examined my seven pages of rubbish and exhumed from it a gem of a poem that I think is much more interesting than anything I wrote in those other paragraphs. Would I have found it if I didn’t revisit the story? If I didn’t allow my draft to be rewritten into a more satisfying morsel? No. Which is exactly why I now accept revision as part of the natural writing process and maybe even the most exciting part. It is like trying a mystery food with a blindfold on. You are convinced it it one taste, but then you open your eyes to find out its not what you expected. And maybe it’s your new favorite food.

So next time you feel like your draft is garbage or simply fine the way it is , think about how many forms it could possibly take, what flavors it could be, how it might surprise you if you gave it a chance. Then write, and rewrite, and rewrite.

 

My new life as a public transportation rider in training: a guide to making a smooth TRANSITition.

While some might curse the city, I was cursing myself for my inability to make it to Kaiser in under three hours. Let’s just say my San Francisco transit transition hasn’t been as fluid

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Cute old man I spotted reading a newspaper in Russian on the Muni.

as I had hoped. And my current grade in the class of life, for moving from point A to point B, gets a big fat D. Minus.

One of the things I love the most about the City is the efficient-ness of the Bart and Muni bus systems. Ditching my car was something I looked forward to, not having to worry about constantly being stuck in traffic or giving others rides. I felt free taking the bus on my own for the first time like I was finally a lone traveler, experiencing the world in a whole new way-even if I was close to home.

Yesterday, however, I felt less like a traveler and more like a trainee for a pathetic marathon as I raced up and down the hilly streets after fleeing buses, only to find out I was going in the opposite direction of my destination for a solid 20 minutes. Twice. By the time I reached Kaiser, my hair was windblown and matted, I was sweating like a pig, and I ended up in the Emergency room panicking at the sight of surgeons and wounded people on gurneys. All I wanted was to get a TB test so I could start my new job working at a preschool downtown. Rushing back down the hall of the emergency room, I knew I had to get out of there before I over-pondered my mortality. Naturally, the clinic was closed when I arrived, but some nice doctor ladies took pity on me and sent me over to get the injection. This whole fiasco could have been avoided if I hadn’t become so flustered after my 3 hour Muni trip failure. Since I have to go back again to get the test read, I figured I needed to shape up quickly, so I could steer clear of future marathons.

If you are new to San Francisco like I am and don’t have a car, I suggest you go out prepared unlike me who had to flail around to figure out these common rules. Here are a few uber basic things I learned:

1) Get a “Clipper Card” 

Don’t be that guy who carries around a bag of heavy quarters to pay the bus fare in exact change. It’s annoying and you block the door. Clipper cards are reloadable or you can buy a monthly pass. See https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/muni/fares.do for more information.

2) Get a backpack and wear comfy shoes.

Forget about your favorite heels or cute purses. I was deeply attached to heeled shoes and fashionable bags when I got here, but as a bus rider, you are bound to do a lot of walking, bumping into people, and quick moves from Muni to Muni, so its just best to say you goodbyes now. Your feet will thank you and a solid pack is just easier by the end of the day.

3) Make sure you are going on bus 28 and NOT 28R. 

Some of the buses are only differentiated by a single letter, so be very careful as to not mistake 28 for 28R because they will take you to different locations.

4) Keep your phone charged.

Apps like “Metro San Francisco- Muni Bart” are great for figuring out when the next bus will arrive and are far more accurate than google maps. Or the bus stops have numbers you can dial to hear the schedules. “Citymapper” also has some great reviews and works well for navigating.

5) Don’t rely solely on your GPS.

GPS is great and wonderful and I don’t think I could survive without it, but it doesn’t always supply the most effective route options. Do your research before heading out and figure out which stops will take you where in your area.

6) Don’t be afraid to ask directions-from the DRIVER.

Asking for directions is OKAY, buy pedestrians will lead you astray. The bus drivers are more than willing to answer your questions and are actually pretty friendly, despite any road rage they might have. Avoid relying on the word of random people on the street because they may not know the streets as well as they think they do.Just ask the bus driver. Or at least old people who are native San Franciscans. You are new to the city. Don’t stress yourself out more than necessary.

7) The bus numbers run on BOTH sides of the street. 

Something I didn’t catch right away that I probably should have, is the fact that a bus 57 toward Lakeshore Plaza is not the same as a bus 57 toward West Portal Station. Pay attention to the bus number and the in/outbound location displayed on it. Sometimes, you have to cross the street to a more discretely marked stop of the same number to get to the destination you want.

8) People on the bus can be super inspiring!

If you are a writer, public transportation rides can be a great way to find new experiences and characters to write about. Being on the bus gives me time to do my homework before my next creative writing lecture and I am never without a story. There is a constant flow of travelers and families speaking various languages. Eaves drop on a few conversations here and there. Strike up a conversation. You never know who might have an interesting story.

I know there is much left to learn before I can call myself a Muni/Bart pro, but hopefully in another month, I’ll be able to get somewhere 45 minutes away in less than three hours…

Four Amazon Stars, Four Year Plans, and Publishing Fortitude: A Small Tale of Writing Success

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Photo by Carly Christine Photography.

As the florid Thoreau remarks, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Today, I would have never imagined that direction would navigate me through a forest of e-mails while I hunted for not one, but two online order receipts so I could collect a refund.

This is the unfortunately dull tale of my first, but hopefully not my last of mini publishing successes.

You see, I am about to embark on a trip around the world through literature thanks to my first college English class that requests I buy The Norton Anthology of World Literature Volumes A,B, and C. Amazon only sent me vol. A when I paid for the whole set… so I frantically tried to hunt down the collection in a city that seems all too absent of bookstores. (Thanks, Internet). The Barnes and Noble guy laughed at me and said “Wow, you’re planning to do a lot of reading.” Then it hit me. I was about to do a shit ton of reading and I couldn’t waste time by not having my books. School would be starting in four days and I needed to be completely prepared.

But that’t the funny thing about life, school, work- we can never be prepared for what’s ahead, no matter how many four year life plans we make for ourselves (yes, that is exactly what I was doing a minute ago).

My rage toward the expansionist nature of the cyber-bookstore-lacking-non-stop-connection world calmed when I got an e-mail from an editor of local newspapers, saying the article, submitted in a flurry of other stressed messaging, was a “great fit” for their papers. Now this might have been a small achievement in the unforgiving world of publishing,but for me it was a huge “success in common hours.” I was definitely not expecting that news. All those dull e-mails I had to send during the day to get my appropriate textbooks or keep up with work were faithfully nudging me along in the direction I wanted to go. Sticking to the tasks at hand got my book situation corrected and- surprisingly -got my article printed.

To anyone who has a publishing dream or a simple Amazon order they need to take care of, my advice for you is to be vigilant and self assured that your efforts will allow you to achieve your goals.  You will get angry at the perpetual waterfall of e-mails you will almost drown in while editing, approving, and submitting work. You may doubt yourself- a lot. After the college application process, I was deeply saddened by the fact I was not accepted into any UC’s, not because I was sad about not being able to attend (I’m headed off to the state school of my dreams in four days), but because I thought it was the writing of my personal statement that failed my chances. I tore myself apart internally as a writer. And this is where I was misguided.

Receiving that e-mail from the editor made me realize I wrote something that someone out there was pleased to hear and thought others needed to hear too. All I needed was to find that audience. It may have been a small article, but the same principle applies to whatever short story, novel, poem, essay you seek to craft. (If it is an article you seek to publish, contact the editor of your local paper by going to their website, breathe, and submit). So before you dismiss a future of publishing, ask yourself, “Am I headed confidently in the right direction?” If you are writing, yes. If you are reading, yes. If you are invested in your own success, yes. And if you have the confidence to show that to the world? Absolutely.

With this new writing motivation, I think it’t time to revise the four year plan.

“The City” is (even more) Pretty After Reopening of SFMOMA

 

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SFMOMA exterior.

After a three year closure, the SFMOMA boasts having “three times more gallery space” open to art lovers of all ages and free to those 18 years or younger. Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying a bus full of individuals over twice my age to see the newly remodeled San Francisco Museum of Modern art. I must say, it was a bit intimidating to listen to all the others in the tour group discuss artists and styles that I had never even heard of, but I knew my job wasn’t to be an expert, it was to photographically document the trip held by the Sacramento Fine Arts Center.

 

This may go down in history as one of the best work days of my life. I got to roam around a stunning museum all day in my favorite city drinking over priced coffee and clicking my camera’s shutter button relentlessly.

The building itself beckons and the remodeling has created extra perks  ,including six art filled terraces that allow for city dwellers to breathe fresh air, appreciate sculptures, and take in the urban glory that is San Francisco.

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View from one of the SFMOMA’s outdoor terraces. Perhaps I am strange, but I was hoping for a foggier day… Photo by Carly Christine Photography.

For almost an hour, my friend and I sat enjoying the view. There was a great deal to explore during our visit (and an even greater number of stairs to climb), so we were thankful to have a place to rest that still made us feel like we were participating in art admiring activities.

We didn’t have to move a muscle to check out this stoned guy (am I punny yet?)!

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This outdoor sculpture is next to a glass window that reflects the cityscape. Photo again by me.

Although the building’s exterior had much to offer, the SFMOMA’s interior brought the eye to something exquisite. More than ten floors of crisp white walls supported art of all media, size, and color. Over one day-even more than 2- is needed to digest all the works. Even the sitting areas with random splashes of  blue were worth appreciating . And don’t even get me started on the bathrooms…

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One of the only spots without a white wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bathrooms (at least the woman’s) were the most vibrant shade of red-a hue so intense, that my eyes needed to readjust after taking a potty break and admittedly a few selfies. I never thought a hand washing station in a public restroom would be so inspiring, but leave it to SFMOMA to blow my mind.

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Yeah, I made my friend model in a public restroom. Deal with it.

The loo aside, my favorite exhibit hands down was a two wall section filled with photos by Jim Goldberg: an excerpt from a series titled “Rich and Poor” that takes an uncomfortably intimate look at the desires and feelings of Americans on various levels of the social spectrum. The concept of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is challenged by Goldberg as he quite literally meshes his subject’s own words into his photographs, giving the still picture subjects a haunting, yet strong voice.

 

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Photo from Jim Goldberg’s exhibit. The intensity of the collection had me messed up for a while…That’s how you know art’s good.

 

I was sorry I couldn’t spend another day at the SFMOMA, but impending wine and cheese on the bus ride back definitely made saying goodbye a little less difficult. Besides, I will be back. Hopefully many times more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Jitters and Caffine Creativity

There’s no better time to sit down with a cup of coffee and take in the scenery than a month before moving to a different city. And not just any city, The City. My stomach is in knots from due to the excitement and anticipation (and maybe a little of the caffine). The whirlwind of change, although positive, is stressful.

My current dabbling in art avocation for a non profit started out as the perfect gig for me as a rookie photographer. But even that is becoming yet another pressure and my most recent photo job ran my creativity dry.

I needed to wind down, so before the fourth, I took a much needed break to go hide out in the woods and take a bunch of photos of the cabin I often visited in the summertime as a child. It was amazing how every twig and every dilapidated object suddenly became something to reminisce over.

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As much as I am looking forward to the hustle and bustle of urban life, stepping back and getting close to nature again was just the thing I needed to ditch my anxiety and get out of my creative funk.

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Each morning, I sipped a cup of coffee and photographed at my leisure.

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And I quickly realized that the wildlife  makes for a much more patient portrait subject.

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No time is wasted fixing hair or photoshopping skin.

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The beauty is natural and effortless.

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Although, it flies away fast if you don’t have a quick shutter…

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So I enjoyed it while I could and will remember it while studying in the city – a place that has a natural beauty of it’s own.

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I’m sure when I get there, I won’t be left uninspired.

Monday Metawriting, Anacrostic Awesomeness, and Political Poetry

Today I learned the term for all those little projects I did in grade school attaching adjectives to each letter that made up my name…

Anacrostic– otherwards, phrases, words, or letters that when taken out of a larger body of text, make up a word/words. A good example of this is Edgar Allen Poe’s A Valentine, a “secret” love poem to a woman whose name was coded not-so-discretely into the work.

After a few lame and unsuccessful attempts to find “Frances Sargent Osgood,” in the text, I was instructed to write an anacrostic poem myself. Always hesitant to write poetry, I cringed at the assignment, especially since I had to write about a political topic of my choosing. That meant, I had to think of something a little more interesting than:

Classwork

Always

Requires

Lots of

Yawning

Yay…

I attended a Bernie Sanders rally not too long ago and just recently registered to vote.

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As a photographer, I was super happy to get some shots of the old guy!

Voting has always been of great importance to me so I am extremely excited that I will be able to participate in the next election. If people don’t vote, then what’s the point of a democracy?

This was the inspiration behind my poem, but I had no idea where to begin.

So I wondered what I would write if I were a rapper. Believe it or not, thinking of my poem as a rap helped my thoughts move along smoothly. If you have never done this before, give it a try! It helps writer’s block.

At the end of it all I got this. I didn’t make it anacrostic, but oh well.:

A Man With A Gun

EVERYONE listens, watches, and cries as

The refugees from Syria run for their lives.

ISIS may choose the next one who dies.

The religious, they pray straight up toward the skies.

 

A man with a gun without his country is dead-

And all these conspiracies have me sick in the head;

Some say the States are merely hanging by a thread

And I’ll never forget what my late grandfather said,

“I fought for this land, this place I call home,

where the people are free to love and to roam.

You MUST fight for your country, your men, and your bread.”

 

“A man without a gun in his country is dead.”

 

They say Bernie, and Hillary, and Trump are the same,

All faux politicians wrapped up in some game

The United States government is ALWAYS to blame

And no people VOTE- my God it’s a shame!

 

How do these people expect to see change

When they don’t use their right that freedom arranged.

A lovely world it would be if all were on the same page.

But no one is sane.

 

My code was a bit more explicit than Poe’s, but we all can’t be that advanced!

 

 

Coffee, Anthropomorphism, and “College Readiness”

As an incoming college student, the enrollment process and stress eating occupies a great deal of my time and  few things seem to hold my attention at school anymore. At this point, I only go because I need to pass Physics and for some reason really love English. I was given a writing assignment last week to personify an object and as half-alive me chugged my coffee, I thought it was only logical that I contemplated my addiction through a letter from the beverage itself.

Which reminds me, (in the midst of writing an essay for SFSU’s totally fun “directed self-placement” assessment) it’s time for a coffee break.

If you’re at all a coffee addict, you’ll understand my anthropomorphic story below. WARNING: this work my contain punny content!

Photo by me: Carly Christine Photography

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  Coffee Break

You were young when you met me, too young for your own good.Oblivious of your affections, you married me to chocolate, a wedding you thought to be so kind and so sweet, that you drank in the romance and savored the flavor of new love.  After my divorce, I became bitter. I drowned myself in sorrow and a promiscuous woman named Lucerne Leche- a most dispassionate girl,  pale white, and as cold to heart as she was to the touch. She said she grew up on a farm and was looking for adventure in the city. I used her up quickly, leaving her high and dry, and forgot about her as quickly as she came.  Feeling like I was fluid, falling, with nothing to anchor me, I found solace in Pot for awhile. But soon enough, my infamous dealer Keurig got into some trouble and I supposed it was time for a change.

When I left Lucerne, a new type of boldness pervaded me. I accepted my dark side and became at peace with my demons.  I even bought a new Arabian cologne that matched my new found confidence. I chose the scent after you- after you told me your favorite dance in the Nutcracker ballet was Arabian coffee.

I never planned to grow old with you.

I always thought you deserved better than me. I wore all the brand names to please you-Starbucks, Pete’s, Temple, but none of that mattered because  you took me anyway, without judgments, day after day, keeping me within arm’s reach. And that love of your’s, well, it swallowed me whole.

You knew I was bad news, all your friends even said so, and perhaps this is what made me more desirable. Intoxicated by my aroma, you inhaled my scent, becoming more and more alert. Oh my dear, I was like a drug to you.  “Happy and alive,” you called the feeling. I’ll never forget the way you laughed, the way you smiled next to me.

We never spoke of it, because in the light, all was well. At night however, you would lay awake, head pounding, heart racing, restless. You’d stay up all night thinking and writing, and pacing, and writing about your thinking. Your mind was buzzing because you couldn’t shake the adrenaline. And when I left the next morning I saw your face, what I had done to you and I simply could not bear it. Your eyes were heavy and your mouth was dry and that pretty little head of yours, struck by a violent migraine.

All because I couldn’t be there for you.

I want you to know that my apologies are sincere and perhaps I should have had more of a filter during our relationship; maybe that would have helped me get clean.

But as it turns out, you my darling, are the one who needs to get clean.

I was your drug of choice and now you must forget about me.
Sincerely, your melancoffee love,

Folgers.

Catfish and The Bottlemen Album Review: The Balcony

The Alt-Rock group Catfish and the Bottlemen has fallen out of love and into lust with the release of their debut album, “The Balcony.”

In 2013, the band made themselves known with the singles “Homesick” and “Rango,” but didn’t start topping charts until the following year when the hit “Kathleen”  topped the US Alt-Rock chart at number 17.

Ditching all traces of hearts and flowers, these Welsh natives channel their inner teenage boy jamming in mom’s garage while still sounding sufficiently grown up. “The Balcony” is upbeat, fast paced, spunky, and thoroughly irritated, with longing. The lyrics are anything but subtle in songs like “Business”, which tell of eager intentions “to get drunk in [the] bedroom,” despite having no time to be friends. A lustful Van McCann belts out raspy cries of exasperated desire in between otherwise clear vocals, desperate to reconnect with a former lover on nothing more then a physical level, for the relationship always just “seem(s) to fall out” when he needs her most.

Even the album artwork emphasizes that the dilemma is physical rather than emotional. What better way to represent the drunken and blinded need conveyed in The Balcony then a headless couple getting physical? The naïve and youthful nature of the album is refreshing and strays from the other serious rather intimate albums in Alt-Rock as of late. So far, Catfish and the Bottlemen have achieved success as the new kids in the genre and will hopefully continue to create pleasing work in coming years.