Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Wrap-Up | Oxford Adjustments | 2016



Vacation | I might as well declare to the world that I was able to get an extra two weeks off of school. The english school district was a bit slow to process our paperwork, so my sister and I got that time to relax and become accustomed to the culture of this new place. We spent more time with each other in January than we have probably November and December combined mostly because we were all each other had and at home, we don't have a single lunch or class together. Whereas at home we are individuals, in Oxford school and life, we are a package deal. This is sometimes fun, sometimes annoying as heck, and most definitely... interesting.

Adjustments | In terms of my overall demeanor and outlook on my three months in Oxford, England, I had only shared pure excitement and exuberation towards the experience. However, during the first month of me being here, I went through the natural period of adjustment which, I'm going to admit, involved some resentment towards my parents, the situation, and the school my sister and I are temporarily attending. The reason I was so reluctant to make the move in the first place was because it felt as if I had just settled down in Syracuse, made friends, and actually love school only to be torn away from everything I had built. While there are still many moments I want to return to my freezing cold home of Upstate New York, I think I'm finally coming to terms with the reality of me being here in England and using my time in accordance. In essence, I have the power over my education and everything I learn from now until I return. I'm determined to better my French and even get ahead in Spanish. My schedule will have me finished with all the math work by mid February, and then I'll move onto Global and Earth Science - two subject I know I must begrudgingly carry out. Nevertheless, it's exhilarating to have so much power over my intellectual experience here. I had/still have a lot of negative thoughts and feelings towards my present school but I don't want to voice them because of the negativity it would impose on all of you as well the fact that the mindset will most likely change. In short, I'm making the best of what can truly be labeled as the experience of a lifetime, and I'm still connecting with my friends from back home - some of them on a level even deeper than when I had left because the new medium of communication required improvisation.

Duolingo | Considering the fact that I'm on a 23 day streak with a total of almost 7,000 experience points from Spanish and French instruction, I would say I'm only slightly obsessed with this app. Essentially this is the most perfect app for me that could ever have been invented because it gives me the personal validation of a game while also being educational. I swear through duolingo as well as my personal research, I have learned more french in the month of January than I have the 12 months of french instruction I have received through school. With my precursory knowledge of the language, Duolingo was really the best thing ever to have walked into my life because I'm learning by doing. The app provides speaking, listening, reading, matching, and writing activities and I honestly think my overall comprehension of the language has doubled if not tripled. January was the month I discovered my avid interest in languages and linguistics and I'm beginning to consider it even as a possible career path seeing how much I adore learning the intricacies of not only the language, but the way they're used and the various connotations of translation.  

A Sonderous Denouement | As seen in the quotes above (which are indeed original), I have been quite busy this month with my second marking period writing portfolio. I went with every single bell and whistle I could think of for my 68 piece compilation of prose, poetry, and creative non fiction. It was quite a time consuming endeavor but wholly worth it. The portfolio genuinely encompasses 20 of the most volatile, important weeks of my life in terms of my writing and development as an adolescent. I'm hoping to make a version available for the public soon with slight changes to retain my privacy. 

BARD COLLEGE @ SIMON'S ROCKOf Silence and Shatterings | I heard about this three week, intensive writing camp back in September and had been eagerly awaiting the time when I could send in my application. Naturally, I procrastinated until the first week of January to actually get the most important aspect of the application written. This turned out to be Of Silence and Shatterings, an extremely personal memoir and one of the best pieces I have ever written. I anticipated and hoped for the two weeks between the application being sent off and hearing a reply, but I am so happy to share with all of you that I got in!


Living Deliberately | I think I put something along these lines in my December Wrap-Up, but I'm too lazy to check. I expressed last February how it seemed I was all gung-ho about the new year in January and then fell into a slump. However, I believe my inspiration slump occurred from mid-January to now and I am extremely eager to arrive into February, armed with my mission statement (see below). I'm keeping up with all the schoolwork from New York which is a test of time management and delegation. As I also mentioned, I spent a lot more time on Duolingo and in depth analyses of both Spanish and French. I want to mentally allow myself to do something like that in February, veer way off course from what I hoped I would do, and be absolutely okay with that. 

Scholastic Writing Competition Results | It's forward thinking to hope any of my pieces I had entered won, but the results are made live on the 3rd of February at 5pm. You can bet I will be on the website at 9:59 pm, Oxford time, eagerly waiting for the webpage to reload. The thing about the writing version of Scholastic Awards is that it features the entire region versus a local competition, so essentially all entries are competing against the entire Northeast of the United States which is what would make the win all the more meaningful.  



I was originally planning on doing a full video discussion and why that may still happen, I might as well get the majority of my points out now considering my track record for BookTube hasn't been the best this month. Anyways, I have listened to the radio theater audiobook of Little Women no less than  probably 50 times. I can recite whole passages and spent many, many hours of my childhood playing on the family room floor and being totally ensconced in the family Alcott created. However, it was certainly high time I crack down on myself and read the actual book in order to give myself credit for Little Women being one of my favorite books of all time in the eyes of certain people. When my friend Ella read the book last year, she expressed her objections towards the lengthy paragraphs of description towards absolutely everything from Plum Field to a character's reasoning for limes. Armed with this knowledge, the descriptions actually didn't bother me that much and I enjoyed the immersive feeling the book gave. 

***Spoiler Alert***

Bhaer had always seemed a little like an afterthought in the audiobook because of the late stage of the story in which he came in. However, in the physical book, as readers, we get to truly see Jo's fascination and adoration of his character and it's quite amusing watching her do what she swore to Laurie and her family that she would never - fall in love in love. While Amy is a favorite amongst readers, I found that after the divide of Meg's wedding and she ceases to be a little girl, she becomes annoying. Her focus is so much on making a rich match and while Laurie's behavior deserves it, she brutally slaughters him. The way the two of them ended up together seemed positively ridiculous and I don't truly understand how Amy and Jo could have switched places in Laurie's heart quite so easily. In a way, the in depth view to characters such as Beth and Meg made me like them a little less, mostly because we actually see their faults and some of the foundation work of who they are that had been excluded from both the movie and audiobook.

***End Spoilers***


During this month, I saw the new episode of SHERLOCK The Abominable Bride in an actual movie theater and the big screen experience was definitely an irreplaceable one. I've been a fan since the beginning, but this was the exact thing I needed to recharge my love. 

Against my parent's better judgement, we went as a family to see The Danish Girl and to some of the scenes all I can say is "interesting." The generation my sister and I are in and the one of my parents are most definitely different in terms of views/opinions on the transgender moment but without a doubt, The Danish Girl is an essential movie for historical and current reasons because of its significance to 21st century society. 

One of my parents took my sister and I to see The Big Short which, to someone who has never ventured into the economy that deeply before, was nothing short of a horror film. That's probably an exaggeration, but it definitely made my sister and I more aware of the adult responsibilities we will have in a few short years. 

And finally, the thing most members of the bookish community have been buzzing about - regardless of being negative or positive - Shadowhunters. Being cheap and in England, I've only seen the pilot and for what it was, what it was setting out to do, and the restrictions, I think it was fine. I'm not in love, but I'm also not about to trash it. What are your thoughts about the episodes that have already aired and the ones to come? 


I am Hamilton trash. That is all I have to say.


When you really know somebody you can’t hate them. Or maybe it’s just that you can’t really know them until you stop hating them.” --- Speaker for the Dead : Orson Scott Card 

"What a person had in mind. Once you understand what people really want, you can't hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart.”  --- Speaker for the Dead : Orson Scott Card

"He loved her, as you can only love someone who is an echo of yourself at your time of deepest sorrow.
 --- Speaker for the Dead : Orson Scott Card | It's pretty clear that 2016 will be known as the year of my obsession with Orson Scott Card. I don't know what it is, but I've always admired Card's writing style and his understanding of the human condition. He has this way of absolutely destroying the souls as well as lives of his characters but it's utterly purposeful and in other character's perspectives - for the greater good of humanity.

Because talent isn't genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing.” --- Little Women : Louisa May Alcott | This is one of my favorite quotes from the novel, not in terms of literary progress, but my personal connection with the statement and what I actually want to do with my art. ***Insert overly long essay about wanting to leave behind a legacy...***

It’s not rocket science, Nan. You show someone they matter to you—do whatever it takes to show that.” --- The Boy Most Likely To : Huntley Fitzpatrick | Having been away from home for more than a month, there is nothing that rings more true than this statement. Long distance relationships of any sort require a hell of a lot of effort and people have to be prepared for that.

What is your mission statement for the month of February and/or year of 2016?

"To learn as much as I can with the time I have, take as much as I can from this incredible experience, and work hard towards my goal of being a writer"

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's the end of 2015!!! | December 2015 Wrap-Up


*This month's wrap-up is unusually sparse because it has taken until halfway through January for me to get my a**  in gear to actually put this together. However, eleven out of twelve months sounds good to me. No matter how much I have abandoned this blog, I will always have a wrap-up, even if it just lists noteworthy things that happened so that I may go back and remember all of the fun, idiotic, hilarious things I have done with my life.*


Hanukkah // Birthday | This year, my birthday was smack dab in the middle of Hanukkah. This is my second Hanukkah since moving to Upstate New York and it was an absolute blast both giving and receiving. I went with my family, Ella, and Ailin out to a fancy winery (no, I did not consume any of the aforementioned wine) and had the best pizza. We hung out reorganizing my bookshelf before that and after dinner went to my favorite ice cream place as well. Overall, this holiday season was such a fun time with family and good cheer all round. My "big" gift for Hanukkah this year was the Fitbit Surge and I have been OBSESSED with tracking my exercise and shaming myself on the days when I sit at home on my computer... not adding to my step count.

Final Cut Pro | My huge generous birthday gift from my family this year was the widely known editing software Final Cut Pro which I am so freaking excited to play around with and learn all of the functions and cool effects that can up the production value of my videos. I won't be using it for the first three months this year as I am abroad without access to my iMac, but as soon as I return, I am so excited to utilize it and learn everything I can. 

 Christmas Eve |  While I myself don't celebrate Christmas, I was invited to one of my best friend Nancy's family's Christmas Eve party and had an absolute blast. As you can see, Ella was there, as well one of Nancy's friends I had never met before who I had the pleasure of meeting. The four of us ate so much food, caffeinated beverages, and just chatted. 

Oxford England | If you haven't heard the news over my social media or YouTube Channel, I am living in Oxford England from January to March. My parents are on sabbatical and my sister and I have had somewhat of an extended vacation. We've explored the city, ate a ton of food, and been to Blackwells Bookstore around three times a week (I think that number may have to go up to four in the coming months). My YouTube channel will have a ton of vlogs and cool footage of my experience of living there so you should definitely follow me there.

Black Friday & Holiday Book Haul | I'm not sure how much more I can say other than I think I broke my bank account with the amount of books I have obtained over the past month. I made haul videos for both Black Friday as well as the totally trolling title of "What I Got For Chrismas" which is essentially of the books I was gifted for my birthday, Hanukkah, and a few I bought for myself. Yes, we have established I have no self restraint whatsoever.

Podcast | While I am not yet allowed to disclose what the particular podcast is, I am allowed to say that during the month of December I was contacted by a sort of lifestyle blogger to explain how I balance all of my obligations (self inflicted or otherwise). It was an amazing opportunity and I was so flattered to read the initial email inviting me to take part in the interview. I will most definitely be announcing what the podcast is as well as a link to my episode when  I can share more information 


Let's be honest, I just put this category here so I can ramble on about these books. 

I marathoned the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy in November of 2014 and Walk on Earth a Stranger only solidified my love for her as an author. It was a well developed debut for the series and it was legitimately the Oregon Trail which was the best game ever that ruled my childhood. Lee was such a strong character and of course, Carson made her a feminist, but I loved how she remained true to and actually embraced her femininity despite her need for independence.

I listened to The Rosie Project in one sitting and I can't imagine how much fun the experience was. Our main character has aspergers which greatly impacts his voice and the way the story was told. His perspective was refreshing and the love story one that was completely unexpected, not before enduring every possible obstacle, most of which self inflicted by himself.

The Bookseller is Roald Dahl's adult short story and the hilarious wit featuring adult protagonists was quite a contrast to all of his children's stories. The scam behind the plot was deliciously well thought out and I was on edge the entire time waiting to see where the main character's diabolical plans would take them.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is the second Mary E. Pearson novel I have read and I was intrigued with her debut. The premise was interesting and I love hearing about bioethics and the struggles characters and their authority figures must go through to save their lives and make monumental medical advances. I won't be reading the rest of the series but the first novel was quite an enjoyable time and gave me a lot to think about.

Faking Normal was such a great story of friendship and the intimate bonds between people who help each other cope with the terrible events that happened in their lives. Lexie is forced to interact with her rapist every day and Boddee has to cope with the loss of his mom. The two help each other and remain constants in each others lives despite everything.

Without a doubt, this will probably be my all time favorite video I have ever posted. I got my reluctant sister to unbox with me and since we had no idea what these books were about or what was going on in general, it served as an extremely entertaining experience.


I have had Alexi Blue on my wrap-ups time and time again so of course I have to blast it to the world when she has a new original single out. The music video is so empowering and while the sound is pretty mainstream, the message is great.

“My timing is off. But I had to get it out. Some things you have to tell, no matter how stupid they may sound. Some things you can't save for later. There might not be a later. ”
--- The Adoration of Jenna Fox : Mary E. Pearson

“I decide that sometimes definitions are wrong. Even if they're written in a dictionary. Identities aren't always separate and distinct. Sometimes they ARE wrapped up with others. Sometimes, for a few minutes, maybe they can even be shared. And if I am ever fortunate enough to return to Mr. Bender's garden, I wonder if the birds will see that piece of him that is wrapped up in me.”
--- The Adoration of Jenna Fox : Mary E. Pearson

“He's opening a door, but he already knows I won't walk through. The power of Bodee is in the way he reads me, sees through me, and then understands the truth behind the facade. He's the guy who can walk straight through the House of Mirrors on the first try. It's almost annoying. No one should ride tragedy like a pro surfer while I drown.”
--- Faking Normal : Courtney C. Stevens

What are you most looking forward to in 2016?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Of Silence and Shatterings | A Memoir

This is a short story / memoir I wrote as part of my application to the Bard College at Simon's Rock Young Writer's Workshop. The guidelines were to write about a particular time words impacted you. This is actually my second attempt at following the prompt as the first ended up more of an essay versus a prose piece. It is non-fiction and 100% true. If you were one of the lucky people to read the actual draft I sent in, you may notice there are a few names changed for privacy reasons but that is the only aspect that has been changed. 

This is the kind of story that spans an afternoon. It is told in first person, omniscient, where hindsight is twenty / twenty. If I do my job correctly, you will have no choice but to carry on with its weight and resonance emblazoned in the dark matter between cornea and eyelid.

Nothing is as simple as it seems. The world is not black and white but an innumerable amount of greys in between (not fifty, mind you), an infinite spectrum of individual experience and circumstance that makes us flawed and human. A book is not simply a few hundred pages bound between two pieces of cardboard, but a relationship trapped between realities until it is read.

Sofia Li’s life had always been just that, hers, apostrophe ‘s,’ possessive noun. Until the summer of 2014, when it wasn’t. Her mother, Sabrina had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September of 2012. However, it isn’t until where our story begins that Sofia actually comprehends that the woman who adopted her from Shanghai, China when she was thirteen months old, can no longer take care of her. At this point, everything in Sofia’s life had changed.

“Well, time is up for the day. You don’t have to talk to me, but you need to express what you’re feeling to somebody. I’m going to speak with your mother before I leave. Do I have permission to tell her about what you’ve said today?” Bianca says, caps her pen, and slides it into its appointed place on her clipboard. Sofia wonders if the clipboard is devoid of words because Bianca’s reluctant patient refused to say anything of importance. The other, more likely outcome being that every line was scribbled in wannabe therapist shorthand as she meticulously recorded every time Sofia took a sip of water only to set the glass down and recross her arms. Bianca isn’t even a licensed psychologist, because those are the kind you go out of your house to see. Yet it seems the reluctant focus of this story can’t leave the house without making it a must-attend event, inclusive of mother, daughter, sister, life support machines, and everyone’s stares accompanying them.

“Fine,” Sofia replies, staring down into her lap. Bianca nods to acknowledge her response, remembering that indifference is even worse than sarcasm or petulance from adolescent guinea pigs.

Sofia listens for the wood to cease creaking under the chunky, uneven blue carpet that envelopes the staircase. When she knows Bianca is on her way to the other end of the house, she untangles her arms and legs from their crossed positions to creep downstairs. Once there, she listens to the absurd analysis of her mental state Bianca tells her mother and aunt. As if they had conspired to do so, the door was left open just enough for Sofia to watch them converse in the Sunflower slash Mac & Cheese Room, the name dependent on who was referring to it.

Siri’s voice is speaking to them, reading aloud the carefully composed paragraph Sabrina had typed in preparation for this discussion. Sofia bristles against the monotonous recitation, so unlike how her mother would have expressed her concerns had she been able to speak. The cancer had compelled the doctors to perform a tracheotomy which in non-medical terms is an incision in the windpipe to help a person breathe. Be that as it may, freedom for the windpipe comes at expense to the vocal chords. The twenty-ninth of May was the last time Sabrina Li spoke to her little girl turned isolated teenager who now refused to communicate voluntarily. In addition, that was the last day our main character truly considered her mother alive.

Sofia slunk away from their conversation, her mother’s concern conveyed in Siri’s bone-chilling voice still reverberating through her thoughts. Upstairs is safe. Upstairs is where Sofia has the slightest bit of control over the Pandora’s box her entire life had been carelessly chucked into. This was where she could wrangle in the forced interactions between the ‘pro’ and ‘an’tagonist.

She exhales freely, selecting a book from the stack of ten that teetered precariously on the slab of wood deigning to call itself a nightstand. The particular title, raised to what would either be the chopping block or the podium of Sofia’s critical opinion was Audacious, a novel written in verse by Gabrielle Prendergast.

Sofia dons her earbuds, now a necessary part of the armor, carefully worn so as to prevent any casualties between her family and her feelings. The soundtrack is a perfect match with the scene we are confronted with. The jungle of thorns erected in defense looms over experience as we have no choice but to delve into the horrors the antagonist has prepared.

Quite simply, no more panem et circenses than required, Sofia begins to read. She reads and reads and reads, only pausing to free a post it from its adhesive brethren and lay it on a page she has deemed worthy of remembrance.

Audacious follows sixteen year old Raphaelle, who, when confronted with the hierarchy known as high school, merely laughs in its face. She considers herself having broken free from the rose colored glass it seems that everybody else in her small midwestern town remains encased in. As an intentional act of self expression against the transient, flippant attitudes of those living in her community, Raphaelle takes a sexually explicit photo of herself, and that is the unquestionable point at which Sofia knows this is no ordinary book.

Sofia soaks in each page, absorbing the antidote of action and disregard to consequences each word of Audacious provides. The story is the first sound she has heard in weeks, the solution of gorgeously gritty writing and relatable Raphaelle disbanding the heavily guarded wall of emotions felt towards her mother’s illness. Sofia’s identity had been a fast flowing river beneath a frozen lake, but the ice had finally cracked.

Sofia’s disposition towards her present state wasn’t going to one-eighty into the empathetic kumbaya singing daughter people wanted her to be, but she was no longer the shell. Maybe she was exhausted, or maybe she didn’t want to resist rescue any longer. From Audacious leapt the spark, one of righteousness and awareness and get-off-your-ass-to-confront-the-world-ness that had been missing. Its fuse went straight for the jugular, which converted the angry, resentful skeleton of a girl into flesh, a circulatory system now running on the oxygenated passion it had missed for so long.

Sofia wouldn’t respond to the situation at the extreme degree Raphaelle had, but she was finally respondent. At last, she felt she could curse whatever faith she had in humanity, in God, in whatever the hell had placed her in this position. Her summer days were spent playing bed nurse for her sick mother. Her nights endured as she awaited the banging of a gong to alert her to attention so she could resume the position kept during the day.

Reading Audacious unlocked every ounce of selfishness, passion, remorse, and sympathy that had been out of her reach. When Sofia closed the book, she was no longer content with the way she had been carrying on life since her mother’s prognosis worsened. Instead, the productive, motivated book blogger, and future Great American Author had returned.

However, it was too late for her to slip back into the skin she had been separated from, and she would be forced to use every ounce of gained energy to continue living, for more than herself.

The twenty - seventh of July 2014 was the last day Sabrina would reside in the home she had spent half of her sixty years in. That very night, her sister Jennifer decided she and Sofia weren’t adequate enough to take care of their stage four sister and mother. The two of them watched the ambulance take her away, and by noon on the twenty - ninth, she was dead.

While Sofia Sage Li was the unwilling main character of this story, you as the reader deserve to know, I too am Sofia Sage Li. This is my story, scripted, directed, edited, and presented by yours truly. The narrative style maintained for two reasons. One of which being the predicted difficulty of writing from a first person account of how the events played out. The subsequent reason being, I don’t believe I am the same person the events of this story followed. Don’t worry, I promise there aren’t any dissociative personality disorders at play, but simple recognition of the evolution my identity underwent. The state of mind I kept up from the twenty - ninth of May to the twenty - ninth of July is what I hope to never return to seeing as it was the most negative, toxic, unhealthy one I have contained myself in.

I write this now with the knowledge that whatever you're struggling with, no matter how unhappy you are, it will pass. You have been shattered, may think of yourself as dirty or damaged, but the feeling can only last for so long. The pieces that are no longer relevant have been discarded. What remains is rearranged and plastered onto the mosaic of who you have become. The 25,815 words in Audacious arrived on the doorstep of my life exactly when they were most needed and I firmly believe the journey to recovery wouldn’t have begun as swiftly without everything this novel compelled me to feel when I didn’t want to feel anything at all.

I hope you enjoyed this and my goal is to share a lot more of my writing in 2016. I would love to hear anything you have to say about the style, characters, events, etc. Special thanks to the author herself Gabrielle Pendergast for telling me the exact word count as well as reading the piece. 
Thank you so much for visiting, keep calm, and read on!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...