Sweet Fifteen

Today, I turn fifteen years old. This weekend, I’m going to have a party, a pretty big one, to celebrate. For the past few years, I’ve woken up on January 29th and been able to say that I’m really happy it’s my birthday. I’m really glad I’ve turned one year older. But does one specific date really matter in the scheme of things? Just because I’m exactly fifteen years old today doesn’t mean I’ve gotten any smarter than I was yesterday, or any more mature. But we celebrate our birthdays all the same.

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I think we do this because our birthdays are something reliable, something that will not stop no matter what happens in our lives. If you can just make it through another year, you get a party and a day dedicated completely to you. We celebrate because this is something stable in our ever-changing lives, and I like that about our culture. You always have something you can hold on to, something you never have to worry about making, because it happens no matter what. Maybe not the actual party, or even any recognition at all, but you still know that there is one thing in your life that never ever changes.

I’m very lucky this year. I don’t know how it happened, but the weather must have taken pity on me. It snowed about half an inch last night, but in my town, that’s more than enough to cancel school. So I woke up to the knowledge that, on my birthday, I don’t even have to go to school. And I’d finished all my homework last night, so I am really free to do anything today. Except, you know, leave the house, because I don’t live close enough to anywhere to walk and I can’t drive yet.

Probably, I should be thinking deeply and reflecting on the last fifteen years of my life, but the truth is, I don’t really want to think about it. I want to be happy about right now, not about what’s happened previously. And honestly, I only remember a third, maybe a half of my life so far. There isn’t much to reflect on.

My sister is insisting on baking me a cake (from cake mix, not scratch, of course) and putting ice cream in the middle. Since it’s just our family, I don’t know why she wants to go to trouble of doing that.

You can put the ice cream on the side. Obviously.

Speaking of great things happening on my birthday, the TFiOS trailer premiered! I am so excited! Have you watched it yet?

By this time next year, I’ll have my driving permit. I’ll be a sophomore. I will, hopefully, have finished my book. And I’ll be sixteen. I wonder what else I’m going to do this year.

Guess I just have to wait and see.

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In Which Harry Potter is My Life

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would be a completely different person if J.K. Rowling hadn’t written the Harry Potter series. Sometimes I think about it, late at night. What would I be like if someone used a Time-Turner to go back and stop Jo from writing down that first idea on her napkin while riding on the train? What would have happened to me?

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Because if I think about it, Harry Potter has shaped my life. I hated reading when I was little. I was good at it, but I thought it was boring. The only books I’d been given were ones I didn’t care about. But one day, in late 2006, I was home from third grade, and my mom handed me Sorcerer’s Stone and said, “Read it. If you don’t like it, put it away, but give it a chance.”

I stayed up pretty late that night.

I read the series as fast as I could, which, being in third grade, wasn’t that fast, but it wasn’t too slow, either. I was halfway through Order of the Phoenix when its movie came out, and I remember being outraged that my mother had gone to see it without me because I hadn’t finished the book yet. And I didn’t get to go to the midnight release of the seventh book because I was only a quarter through the sixth, and Mom knew I would want to start reading Deathly Hallows with everyone else.

When I finished the seventh book, I went right back into my room and picked up the first one again. And finished the series. And read it again, and again, and again, until Mom finally told me I wasn’t allowed to read another one until I read something different first. I was disgusted, but I read something else for a while.

Ultimately, though, I went back to Harry Potter only a few months later. By the time I was in fifth grade, I’d read the series about ten times already. At that point I started slowing down, reading other things, but I was obsessed with Harry Potter.

And then I discovered the fandom.

I was clicking through iTunes one day, bored out of my mind, when I came across a free podcast called MuggleCast. Interested, I clicked on it and downloaded the latest episode. After that, I followed those podcasts loyally. They’ve recently retired from that particular podcast, but still release episodes occasionally. I download and listen as quickly as I can.

After I found MuggleCast, I discovered the website it came from, Mugglenet.com, which has lots of Harry Potter news and other tidbits. And that’s where I first discovered fanfiction.

I read lots of that, and started to write my own, finding more on a different website called Fanfiction.Net, which I still go on pretty often.

And once I was on there, I went to every website I could. Mugglenet has an interactive HP game, called MNI, and I was obsessed with that for a while. I roleplayed for hours there, and quizzed myself and made a few friends. And then the Mugglenet creators made Hypable, which is now my most-visited website, and I’ve never stopped looking.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t even begin to describe all of my experiences with Harry Potter. I’ve written fanfiction, a lot of it, which led me to original fiction. I’ve gone to conferences, the theme park, London. I own eighty percent of the merchandise from any of the official stores you go to, and I was Hermione Granger for Halloween for four years.

When I meet someone new, one of the first things I ask is if they like Harry Potter. Most people say yes. Some people say no. I don’t hate those people. I just feel sorry for them. To not have such a wonderful thing in your life… I don’t know how they do it.

I’ve never loved anything as much as I love Harry Potter. No other book, movie, or TV show even comes close, and the ones that do are in some way related to HP. I don’t hang on the end of my seat for anything anymore, waiting for something new to come out. I don’t go to any more midnight releases of anything.

Which means, at least in my mind, that if Harry Potter hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t feel this strongly about anything. Nothing at all. I might not have gotten into reading (though that’s doubtful). I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into writing, because fanfiction was the whole reason I did. I might even be friends with different people.

I would definitely have different values in life, I think. I wouldn’t be as proud to be smart. I wouldn’t be as willing to be different. I wouldn’t notice the little things that make life so… magical.

Put simply, I wouldn’t be me.

Too Many Ideas, Not Enough Focus!

I participated in NaNoWriMo, which, for those of you who may not know, stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the basics of it is that you try to write 50k words in the month of November. And not in separate stories or blog posts or anything. You write a novel in one month.

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Click to go to the NaNo website and check it out.

I’ve done NaNo for the past few years, plus the summer sessions. Put simply, I love to write. But I never finish.

Oh, I get to 50k every time. But the story’s never done.

Last week, I finished.

The problem is, now I don’t know what to do. Do I wait and then read over it, and then rewrite it?

Do I send it to a beta reader?

Do I never touch it again?

Right now, I’m leaning toward rereading it, outlining it, and then seeing what I want to change with the actual story before going through and nitpicking anything, and then changing those things, and then sending the second draft to a beta reader, and then changing it again, and then nitpicking.

This sounds like a good plan to me, and I’m happy I came up with it, but I worry for myself. Will it take too long? Will I lose interest? It’s happened before.

It’s either a blessing or a curse, how many ideas I get. I’m constantly coming up with new story ideas. The notes section on my phone could scroll forever. And I love that, I love having so many different ideas in my head at any one time, being able to think diagonally.

But I also hate it.

I’ll be working on a story, and I’ll be really into it, and want to finish and go all the way and maybe get it published–and then I get a new idea. I don’t work on the new idea, I don’t write anything with it except for the concept so I won’t forget, and I go back to the story I was working on.

But that new idea, it creeps up on me constantly. I keep getting new ideas, and new plot lines and character arcs and relationships and conflicts and I force myself to go back to thinking about the first story, because I really like it and I don’t want to abandon it. But that new, devilish idea just won’t go away. It’ll sit in the back of my mind all the time, while I’m writing, while I’m doing my homework, while I’m talking to friends, everything.

And then it will just go away.

And for a while, everything’s great. I work on the main story and I’m happy and I keep going, but then I get another idea.

And another.

And another, and another, and another.

And sometimes, I’m just too weak. And I stop working on my main story and go to whatever idea I think I can execute the best.

And then I get another idea for the first story, and it starts all over again.

This is the beauty of NaNo. I can just write whatever idea I’m passionate about at the moment, and then go back to the first story. Except it never works like that, does it?

I’m in a constant circle of new ideas, never getting anything done, always starting something new. It was worse when I was younger, because I didn’t even feel guilty about the first story that I abandoned. I would get an idea, write the first chapter, get another idea, write another chapter of a different story, and forget about the first one completely. I have a huge file from when I was little of just hundreds of first chapters that I simply forgot about. And some of them weren’t even that bad.

It’s not that I hate this, of course not. It would be much worse to never have any ideas at all. But sometimes I just wish that the ideas could come in the form of what I’m working on currently, and not something entirely different.

I want to finish. Just once, I want to finish.

Not All Laptops are Created Equal

I have two laptops.

My personal laptop, which I’m using right now to type this post, and my school laptop, which was provided to me at the beginning of this year because I’m part of the STEM program (which is essentially a gifted program for science- and math-inclined kids).
My personal laptop is simply a Macbook. My school laptop is a Macbook Pro. Let me provide you with two images. One, of a well-kept, pristine computer, and another, of an old, beaten-up, wobbly-screened laptop. Guess which is which.

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I guess you can’t really tell that the one on the right is beat up, but trust me, it definitely is!

If you guessed that the pretty one is my home computer, you’re correct!

My laptop, lent to me by the school, is a mess. It’s been used for years by other STEM students, who haven’t been too inclined to keep it in perfect condition. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve dropped it a few times, but it was always inside its case which has lots of padding, and it hasn’t garnered one scratch. None of the crap that’s been done to my computer is my fault.

I just learned that my high school will be getting quite a lot of money next year in the form of a technology grant, and that they’ll be using that money to give everyone in the school a laptop. And that’s great. But I have one condition.

We haul tail every day to get from Honors class to Honors class to STEM class to Honors again, and we use our laptops a hell of a lot. Would it hurt to push these old laptops down the ladder, maybe give them to the kids that won’t be using them? Or, if they’re getting that much money, just get rid of the ones we have?

This is my request:

Get the STEM kids some fucking new laptops.

Excuse my language.

Happily Ever After

The daily prompt today is to write about a time when everything worked out perfectly.

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I could do an entire blog–no, a twenty-volume encyclopedia, complete with alphabetical organization and everything–about everything I’ve done that did not work out perfectly. It’s kind of called life. I’m pretty sure it’s the same for everyone.

But a time that everything, every last detail, worked in my favor?

I think it was a few months ago, maybe in September. It was the first friday of the month, and since I live in a small town, that’s a big day for businesses. They all stay open late and everyone pretty much goes into town and has a party and Rita’s gives out free samples and it’s all beautiful, typical small-town happiness.

I don’t usually like going.

The only people I know that go are either years younger than me, or I don’t like them, or they turn into a completely different person and hang around the people I don’t like.

It used to be okay, when the bookstore was open. I could just hide in there and read all of the young adult novels and go home and buy them on my Kindle. I would also talk with the people that worked there, all old ladies, because they were really nice and into books and stuff.

That place, sadly, closed.

So the only bookstore open now (I think) is the second-hand one, which has cool books but exactly zero of them are young adult. I’m fine with picking up an adult novel now and then, and the place looks cool, but there’s nowhere to really sit and it’s kind of awkward in there.

The only other place for me to go is the local coffee shop, which is so popular it’s called “[Town]’s Living Room”, which is pretty accurate. It’s fine in there when it’s not first friday, but all the fucking tourists make it so crowded there’s nowhere to sit.

Excuse my French.

Anyway, I choose to stay home, as you might imagine, to escape walking around like a loner and avoiding the people from the pretentious private school who think it’s fun to act like they’re better than me (which they aren’t, by the way, for least of all reasons that I’m smarter than all of them, but that’s another conversation for another time).

So my night, on first friday this past September, started with me staying home by myself while my entire family went into town. They hardly bother asking me if I want to come anymore. They know I don’t.

I spent the night watching Netflix, texting my friends, reading, writing, and mindlessly searching the Internet. That seems like any other night, right?

Well, nope.

I got to pick what I had for dinner, I got to choose what music I listened to and how loud, I got to curse out loud whenever I wanted to (my family and friends are under the impression that I don’t curse), I got to do absolutely anything I could possibly want to do that night.

And I avoided first friday.

Win.

Aside

Netflix Prompting

I watch Netflix, like most of the world. I love being able to just turn on the TV and watch pretty much any movie I want (provided it hasn’t come out in the past six months). What I also like about it is the incredibly detailed genres they suggest, based on what I’ve previously watched. Such as “Witty British Sitcoms” or “Feel-Good Tearjerkers from the Early 2000s”.

There’s a website (here) that generates Netflix genres, made-up or not, and I found it really interesting. You may or may not have gathered that I like to write. More than that, actually, I love to write. I’m in the middle of revising the first draft of my fourth novel right now, actually. And even if I don’t use them, I am obsessed with prompts.

I don’t use 99.876878% of the prompts I find online or elsewhere. I prefer to work from my own imaginations. But often, I do come up with ideas based on a prompt I might have read a month ago. And sometimes I’ll just write a really short story based on the prompt I saw five minutes ago.

So when I saw that website, I knew I had to take advantage of it. The “Based on a Book” or “Musical” parts I don’t bring into account, but other than that, it’s fun to see what story ideas I can come with using the (sometimes really restrictive) genres that are generated. And sometimes I don’t even write them. I just try picturing what Hollywood would do if they were given those constraints, and most of the time I laugh my ass off, because I could totally picture Hollywood trying some of those. And I’m sure they have, given the fact that they’re on Netflix.

I have a challenge for myself, then. At least once a week, I will write something, anything at all, based on one of those genres. It could be one page or fifteen pages or fifteen thousand words, but every week I will do something.

Even if you aren’t a creative writer, you could join me if you like. Use one of those prompts every week for your blog, or your journal, or even just to think about.

Thoughts From Fifth Period

My fifth period class is a STEM Freshmen Seminar. It’s only an hour long, and it’s at the end of every single day. So far this year, STEM Seminar is my favorite class (or at least one of them). (In case you aren’t aware, since a lot of people don’t seem to be, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and it’s basically a gifted program focused on those things.)

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In STEM Seminar we do many things. Recently, we’ve learned how to write basic code, we’ve each done our own “20% Time” (Google it), we’ve learned about different engineering disasters, and countless other things. Every day, however, we do much more than what our teacher is supposed to be teaching us, and we have a whole lot more fun than it sounds.

For example, today, my teacher told some of the boys to look up a very weird, random song that had absolutely nothing to do with what we were doing. And I was able to create a poll and share it with my friends, who in turn created extremely random polls of their own about whether Jordan is a better boy name than Carter, and which boy band is the best, and which types of gum people like and so on. I can’t think of a more fun, random, and informative way to spend my last hour of every day at school. It sends me home on a good note, as opposed to the rest of my day, which is full of pretty much extremely boring classes that I only have to try slightly hard in to be within the top two percent (or higher) of performers.

So when Mr. Teacher (I won’t say his name here) announced that we were going to be having a midterm in his class, every single one of our jaws dropped. It wasn’t that we were upset about more work, it was simply that (at least for me), we had no idea what the midterm could possibly be about. We’d learned so many things–did he really expect us to retain it all in order to take a midterm? But that turned out to not be the case. We simply had to present what we’d done with our 20% Time projects (I will go more in depth later), which won’t be too hard.

We were all, needless to say, quite a bit relieved and a lot less confused.