Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: Lena Corazon (page 2 of 13)

ROW80: Change Is The Constant

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.”
– Christina Baldwin

 

Friends, it’s been way too long. But those of you who hang out with me on Facebook and Twitter know that it’s been a helluva year. Every time I feel as though I’ve gained a semblance of control in my life, it slips away and I’m left scrambling all over again. Solid ground turns out to be nothing more than an illusion, and “control” is all but impossible.

sinkhole01

That moment when “solid ground” isn’t as solid as it looks.

So I’ve reached the conclusion that, for the time being, this is the new normal. My day job is still the kind of place where anything and everything can, and will, happen–inevitable when there are involves 100 screaming kids, constantly ringing phones, demanding parents, and way too many surprises. I still have a dissertation looming in front of me, and an anticipated graduation date of June 2015. And I’ve still got those three novels sitting on my hard drive and taking up residence in my head, unfinished and gathering dust. Add in conflicting demands from family and friends, a boyfriend who’s going through his own share of massive transition and change, and the result is that “somewhat managed chaos” is really the best I can hope for.

It would be easy, I guess, I just do the bare minimum and try to get by. But I want to live, in ways that go beyond just moving through the motions. I want to be creative; I want to blog, to interact, to engage within a community. I don’t want to have to wait until I’ve finally got that PhD in hand in order to write, and speak, and exercise my imagination in all the ways I’ve been dreaming for years.

The trick, as I see it, is going to be mastering tools, tricks, and strategies to get things done. Over the last few weeks I’ve started to identify the ways that I can work smarter instead of harder, ways that I can make the most of my limited free time. I’ve also started identifying some of my habits that have been preventing me from accomplishing the goals that mean the most to me. My top 3 fatal flaws:

  • Trying to do things at the last minute. It’s been my MO since I was in elementary school. Once upon a time I was able to churn out brilliant work in a single night, motivated by panic and stress and a lot of caffeine. This isn’t an option anymore. I can’t write chapters, or blog posts, or an entire dissertation in one sitting. Hell, I can’t even pull together a newsletter for the Day Job in a 2 hour stint. My new goal? Spacing things out. Giving myself enough time to get things done. Which kinda goes along with the next point…
  • Trying to work for extended periods of time. Gone are my grad school days of having multiple days in a row to just sit in my house, grade papers, and write. Now my mornings are filled with exercise classes (Zumba FTW), my afternoons and evenings with the Day Job, and my nights with trying to stay awake past 9 pm. My attention span for writing has all but evaporated; I can barely manage 15 minutes before I start to go a little nuts. So I’m aiming for short sprints, 15-30 minutes of focused, sustained work where I’m not multi-tasking or daydreaming or Googling that random (but brilliant!) idea that popped up out of nowhere. Lauralynn Elliot talked about this in Monday’s ROW80 sponsor post, which I have printed out and tacked up next to my desk.
  • Being scared of success. I always scoffed at the idea of being scared of success. After all, don’t we all want to be successful? But I started thinking about the fact that I’ve abandoned tons of projects midway through, projects that I was super excited about at the start, and ones that showed a lot of promise. And when I really dig deep, it starts to become clear that I am terrified of what will happen when I’m finished. I don’t know what’s worse: the outcome being either (1) terrible, (2) mediocre, or (3) brilliant. The thing that sucks about #3? The fact that people might notice me, and that I will get attention. It’s horribly irrational, because there’s a part of me that loves the spotlight and enjoys having a somewhat public voice. But there is a part of me that is 12 years old, painfully awkward, and terrified of being seen. The key, at least for the moment? Reminding myself that I have important stories to share. Pushing past that niggling voice of doubt. Locking up my inner editor until I have something finished and complete to polish. Thinking less and doing more because, sweet Jesus, I have been overthinking everything lately.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to be honest with myself, and trying to retool things that just haven’t been working. And not everything in this last year has been a total disaster. I’ve made some important strides at the day job, drafted the introduction to my dissertation, and had a successful conference presentation at this year’s American Sociological Association meeting. I’ve also had some awesome experiences that I’m looking forward to sharing in the weeks to come: visits to cool historical spots around San Francisco, meeting a couple of amazing NYT-bestselling authors, and getting started with Penned, an awesome writing app currently building steam on iPhone.

I’m jumping back into ROW80 in the hopes that I can use this momentum to stay accountable and bloody finish something for once. Here’s what I’ve got on my agenda:

DISSERTATION

  • Finish at least 2 chapters by September 20th.
  • Continue data analysis between September 20th and October 10th.
  • Read at least one dissertation-related book by September 20th.

BLOG

  • Write at least one ROW80 check-in each week until the end of Round 3.
  • Draft 4-6 blog posts by the end of Round 3, to be posted on the blog starting in late September/early October.

FICTION

  • Continue to jot down ideas, by hand, for the last remaining chapters in Act One of TELL ME NO LIES.
  • Outline the first few chapters of Act Two for TMNL.

This doesn’t seem like a lot, but honestly, it’s more than I’ve been able to accomplish for the last year. So we’ll see! In the meantime, I wave a hearty hello to all of you. I can’t wait to take a peek and see what everyone else is working on at the moment.

How’s the end of summer shaping up? Any fun plans lined up for Labor Day weekend?

Midweek Poetry: “Face of the Sun”

 

if i could speak, i would
tell you all the ways
i have wished away
midnight
and clung to the sun.

#NaPoWriMo Day 9: “That Fragile Moment”

we’ve done it:
survived that awkward first date–
coffee in a crowded cafe, to be sure
that you weren’t a crazed psycho.
things went well enough in that
this-could-be-lovely kind of way
no room for a guarantee,
just an abundance of what-if and maybe, perhaps
and so we met again for something
slightly more real–
creatures and cocktails and science,
a chance to exercise conversation and wit,
to search for spark and possibility.

we’ve weathered strained smiles
stuttered stumbling
stilted silence
and shared those first secrets
hardly blackmail material
but truths that move just beyond
polite small talk
ones that scratch beneath the epidermis and
graze flesh, sensitive and living and warm.

and now we stand on the brink
of something tenuous and cautious, fragile
as a dewdrop on spun silk,
ripe with disaster and glory alike,
a portal to a new beginning
or, perhaps, yet another ending.

— —a breath— ——a touch—

if you take my hand
will i ever want to let you go?
or will i be impossibly tethered,
wings clipped, bound and chained
to a future interminable?

could we be a pair?
or will this flame sputter out
and die
too weak to withstand the breeze?

one false move
one tiny mistake
could cost us everything:
a sacrifice of mornings not yet lived
the death of kisses never exchanged
the loss of a million dreams and wishes
uttered into the empty night
present yet not, hovering
just beyond reach.

if love is a leap
then i have never
been inspired to jump

until this moment, with this ache
in my heart
growing ever deeper.

to leave you now would be
betrayal and cowardice both
so i stand with you
listen to the echo of your heart beat
with mine
and wait for the knowledge that this is
love
strong enough to endure.

NaPoWriMo Day 8: “Pure Inspiration”

I wait each day for the
spark
the moment when words will
trip and twist,
collide, collapse, congeal
transform from Mundane–

“I need change for a twenty”

to Profound–

“If I could change like this twenty,

shed my skin from a single bill,

wrinkled, crinkled, rumpled and worn,

into the many, the fresh, the new!,

then this life would be worth

the price.”

I search the ever-present noise
that fills the day-to-day,
scrying through the screams and the shouts
like the old fortune teller and her glass,
reading between the lines
of shrilly ringing phones,
blindly groping through Chaos so profound
tangible
it is like walking through molasses floors
an avalanche of puzzle pieces and lego bits
a sonic wasteland that destroys all thought
a minefield with no escape.

Exhaustion dogs my steps
sometimes suffocates with a hand inescapable
and if it doesn’t succeed, the litany of should-do-and-failed
will finish the job.

And still I search for words
listen with ears deafened to the glorious music
that comes from a phrase well-turned
a passage that is unflinching in its truth.
I long for the sweet kiss of a single sentence
try to wring them from my soul like blood from a stone.

There is nothing

—-yet—-

Nothing is never the Absence of Something
but the Beginning of Everything
Pregnant with Possibility
Rich with Could-Be
Inexhaustible with Chance.

So I wait
listen
grasp at words with greedy hands
cram them into my mouth
swallow without chewing
and pray for a moment
of pure inspiration.

Mixing It Up: #ROW80 Goals & #NaPoWriMo Day 7

ROW80LogocopyAnother Round of A Round of Words in 80 Days is upon us, and I am delighted to participate. For those who have never heard of this wonderful writing community, ROW80 is the writing challenge “that knows you have a life,” and allows we over-worked, over-scheduled creative folk to build our own goals.

After a rough and tumble year (or two… or three?), I’m all about treating myself with flexibility and care. I gave myself permission to take the weekend off from NaPoWriMo, because I’ve learned that placing pressure on myself is counter-intuitive. When I tell myself that I’m a failure, or that I’m lazy, or that I’m useless because I couldn’t wrest a few minutes out of my life to write, I ruin any chances I have to be creative for days, and sometimes weeks, to come. So Round 2 of ROW80 is all about being kind to myself (like fearless leader Kait Nolan writes in this awesome post), about allowing myself to make mistakes and to stumble without self-flagellation, and about actually remembering how to enjoy the act of writing, both academic and creative.

Before I get to my Round 2 goals, have a bit of a poem. I’m trying out a “lune,” a modified haiku form written with 3 words in the first line, 5 words in the second, and 3 in the third. And based on the subject matter, I’ll bet you can all guess what I was dealing with today…

“Migraine”

brain throbs incessantly

senses stunted, tongue silenced, thought completely eliminated

migraine strikes again

—-

And with that, here are my goals for Round 2:

Dissertation:

  • Finish 2 chapters by the end of Round 2.
  • Start coding data sources.
  • Hammer out an inventory of data sources.

Creative Writing:

  • Read 1 piece of fiction each week.
  • Figure out how to move forward with TELL ME NO LIES.
  • Write at least 20 poems for #NaPoWriMo.
  • Start blogging in May–maybe with weekly book reviews? The jury is still out on this one.

-oOo-

I’m still trying to keep things simple, as you can probably tell, but with the way things are going at the moment, simple is most definitely best.

I’m looking forward to rocking the ROW with the rest of y’all! Anyone else participating in NaPoWriMo this year? Any big goals slated for this Round? Can’t wait to see how everyone is doing!

 

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#NaPoWrimo Day 3: “But Even Under These Conditions Man Can Reveal”

For today’s poem, I used one of Kelli Russell Agodon’s NaPoWriMo prompts:

Open the closest book to you to page 46. Count down 7 lines. That is the first line or the title of your poem.

The closest book to me was a copy of Emily Post’s ETIQUETTE; the line in question contained the wonderful fragment that I’ve used for the title, and as one of the lines in the poem itself. It opened up an interesting way to explore the question of male privilege, and how that privilege harms not only women, but men themselves.

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boys don’t cry

because emotion

is

foreign

sissy-stuff

only girls–

irrational and

silly

sweet, with sugar

and spice smiles,

countless neuroses

bubbling over

feelings that

explode–

ever experience.

 
boys become men

tough

strong

softness has

no place with them.

 

and these are the lies that we are fed

the falsehoods that

entrap

ensnare

justify a world where

women cannot lead

and men cannot feel

two different species

perpetually estranged

 
but even under these conditions man can reveal

sinew and bone

muscle and tissue

a heart that

squeezes

flexes

contracts

trembles with the enormity of

love

and desire that

is more than

skin-deep

 
because we are stronger

when we can be whole

when we can

transcend

the myths that

hamper

constrain

damage

and we are more powerful

when the old dualities

male/female

rational/irrational

mind/body

dark/light

are dashed to dust

for then only

love

will remain.

#NaPoWriMo Day 1: “Tales Twice-Told”

Happy National Poetry Writing Month! For all 30 days of April, Flights of Fancy is going to be filled to the brim with poetry, and I cannot wait to get stared. I adore prose, could write short stories and novels forever, but there’s something deeply visceral about stripping back language to its bare bones, slashing away till there’s nothing left but feeling and emotion. As poet Mina Loy once said,

“Poetry is prose bewitched
a music made of visual thoughts
the sound of an idea.”

That being said, for this first day of #NaPoWriMo, I’m toying with bridging poetry and prose, using poetry as a tool for fleshing out character and backstory. Today I draw inspiration from Tempest Dumont, the heroine of my steampunk tale, TELL ME NO LIES. While Tempest spends most of TELL ME NO LIES recovering from heartbreak and trying to track down a crazed killer, “Tales Twice-Told” explores a bit of her past, chiefly her chance meeting with a rakish, dashing, and an all-too-dangerous airship pirate. 

“Tales Twice-Told”

 

He told her once

that Home was prison

and she believed him

because Love had never grown

between the four walls where she had been born.

 

“Home is the Coward’s last refuge,”

he said,

“a fortress to hide from Nature and Neighbor.”

 

He’d found his Freedom in the skies

untethered

untamed

He answered only to the Elements

and thrived on their Chaos.

 

He called to her,

a Man freed from Fear,

and promised a life that could be her own:

“Clouds will line your Parlor;

stars will be

Blossoms

in your Garden,

the

Heavens

themselves will be yours.”

 

He gave to her

wings of Bronze

strong, stealthy and true

born from

Genius

and the need for escape.

 

She left the World of

too-weak

too-scared

never-good-enough

stole away

in his winged Chariot.

 

For the first time in her short life

she found Happiness

that was neither lie nor pretense

but was as real as the

Coal

fed to its Furnace,

the massive Gears that tilted and

whirled

in its Engine,

the scalding Steam that poured

from its Pipes.

 

But Dreams are not all they seem:

The Heavens can be cold

unforgiving

and Freedom from the world

may be a Prison in disguise.

 

The most dashing

Hero

can be revealed as Villain

and Tales

twice-told

may not always be True.

 

 

 

ROW80: The Train Has Left The Station

Hey there folks! I missed Sunday’s check-in because I was in the midst of a research trip (SUCH an awesome experience! More about it below), so I figured I’d post something today. Gotta keep working to stay accountable, right?

I know there’s only one more check-in left for this round, but right now I feel like I’m just gaining steam. Last week was a really good one in terms of stoking the creative fires and taking baby steps to integrate self-care into my life. I did a lot of thinking about TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk murder mystery project, and realized that it’s not nearly as incomplete as I’ve been telling myself, and everyone else, for the last year. My mom and I did two days worth of Zumba classes, which means I’m starting to feel a little more fit and active. And I had the BEST RESEARCH TRIP EVER to the Sisters of the Holy Family’s archives.

The SHF motherhouse is located in Fremont, not too far from Mission San Jose, founded by Spanish missionaries in 1797. While the Sisters originally lived in San Francisco, they moved to Fremont in the late 1950s, and built their motherhouse on the property of Palmdale Estates, a historic property that dates back to the time of the California Gold Rush. The place is absolutely exquisite, and I got the chance to take a walk Sunday afternoon to clear my head before going back into the archives.

 

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

 

cottages

Two of the English Tudor-style manors on the property, built in the early 20th century.

 

ponds

A view of one of the ponds on the property.

I’ll be doing a couple more overnight stays this summer, and I’m really looking forward to it. In a lot of ways, I feel like this research trip (my first archival jaunt in almost a year) is exactly what I needed to get me back on track with my dissertation. Between the stresses of work and life and change and such, I’ve fallen into a real malaise when it comes to writing. It’s the usual–not feeling good enough, doubting every word, depending way too much on the delete key. But this past week I was also reminded of the glories of the zero draft, and how true passion for a topic can produce something that has crazy potential, despite inconsistencies and mistakes and huge gaping plot holes.

So I’m thinking of my dissertation as a zero draft, and reminding myself that there’s no pressure (right now, at least) to make it perfect. And hopefully that’ll help me lock my inner editor away, and liberate the creator in me, and I’ll actually get something done.

Here’s the week’s progress, in a little more detail:

Dissertation

  • Data Collection: Spent Saturday night and Sunday in the archives, read roughly 20 years worth of historical annals, and made some plans for how I want to start coding my data.
  • Dissertation Chapter: I didn’t read the 3 chapters I had planned to, but I managed to do a lot of thinking work. The new goal is to actually use my words this week. More specifically: Write 250 words each day, and GET THIS CHAPTER DONE.

Creative Writing

  • Poetry: I didn’t write anything new, but I did post an old poem in response to a really good prompt. Rereading my other old poetry reminded me that the only way I’ll be inspired to write poetry is to read it, and so I’m trying to add that to my reading repertoire. And I would like to write 2 poems in the next week, at least 1 haiku and maybe (if I’m inspired), something longer.
  • Novel: I’ve got a working outline of Chapter 14 of TMNL, so this week I’m going to finish the chapter. Woot!
  • Reading: I read THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brooks, and ohhhhh mahhhh gawwwd. So. Friggin’. Hot. So dark and glorious and wonderful and on-the-edge-of-my-seat action, along with scorching love scenes. I think I will start doing book reviews in April, and I can’t wait to write this one. For next week, I’m going to start Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I picked up the box set, so that’ll keep me busy for  while.

My main goal for this week: to try a new system where I  complete 1 item on my to-do list in the mornings, and 1-2 on my list in the evenings. The trick is to not overwhelm myself with the fact that OMG I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING I AM SO BEHIND, which usually results in me reading celebrity gossip columns for hours and hating myself. Self-hate = bad; self-love = good, therefore I am going to aim for fewer gossip columns, and more gettin’ it done.

Whew! That was a lot. How’s the week progressing for everyone? East coasters, has spring reached you yet? I’m dreading the drought that is currently spreading through California, but… ugh, I’m kinda loving the summer-ish weather, especially when it gives me sunsets like this:

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello and cheer on the rest of the ROWers. We’re just about to the end of Round 1!

Midweek Poetry: “Recalled to Life”

Over on Poets on the Page, the wonderfully creative Morgan Dragonwillow posted a prompt that caught my fancy. The theme is “Wild Self,” and includes a passage from one of my favorite books, WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

The poem I’m sharing today is an old one, written in 2012 after I first read WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES and was learning to listen with my wild Self. Given how the chaos in my life has overwhelmed and choked off my creative output, the central message continues to resonate.

white door

white door (Photo credit: lamont_cranston)

“Recalled to Life”

 

I.
a wild woman beats at my door
(connect, she says)
i ignore the call
    too busy too rational too damned busy to listen
       theory beckons
       there's a thesis to write
       nothing left over for her.

(come to me, she cries)
i refuse
    too much grading too many emails too much reading to give in
       academia devours and when it doesn't
       friends need healing
          happy hour therapy sessions
       nothing left over for her.

II. 
a wild woman wails at my door
(do you know what you have become?)
i bury myself in objectivity
    waste away shrivel up bones dry as dust
       all the water in the world can't save me
       nothing left over for her, nothing left for anyone.

(listen to me!
    hear me!)
i am hollow
    no defenses no barriers no strength to resist
       the empty dark is all i know
       a sightless soul my only companion.

III.
a wild woman breaks down my door
(i have never been polite)
i cannot turn away
    she surrounds me overpowers me illuminates every shadow with light
       no longer the socially awkward academic
       a lividly beautiful goddess is all that remains

(look at what you really are!)
for once i see
    the reflection is true:
       winds and water at my command, elemental fury
       creation and order birthed from inhuman acts of chaos
       pen wielded as scepter and sword, rod and staff.

(remember this, she whispers)
i listen.
i follow.
i write.

This is a blog hop! Click the link below to view the other participants in this month’s poetry challenge.

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ROW80: The Power Of The Force

Happy Sunday, friends! As you can see, I’m all about the power of the Force this weekend. My friends and I are going to see the Star Wars exhibit at the San Jose Tech Museum in a couple of weeks, so I’m fixing a few holes in my nerd cred and finally watching the original 3 films. Not sure why it took so long for me to get around to doing this, but I’m glad it’s finally happening!

This week I had the chance to hit up the California Academy of Sciences‘ weekly 21+up event, “Nightlife,” for the first time in a couple of months. Nightlife is the only event in the San Francisco Bay Area with music, creatures, cocktails, and science–definitely my idea of the perfect night out. As always, the creatures were out in full force, with butterflies flitting about the rainforest…

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…tropical fish floating about in their tank…

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…a brightly colored lizard, who left his perch to peer a bit more closely at me…

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…a sleepy frog…

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…and some very industrious leafcutter ants.

IMG 6234 from Lena Corazon on Vimeo.

 

I’m feeling a bit like those ants right now: running to and fro, sometimes in the wrong direction, with a giant leaf that’s several times larger than my body weight on my shoulder. I’d like to think that I’m getting things done (honestly, just checking in feels like a huge accomplishment, so I am going to congratulate myself and tell myself that it is), but some days the things I finish hardly seem proportional to the things left languishing on my to-do list.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? I just purchased a handy weekly planner in the hopes that having something tangible will make it easier to schedule the few free hours that I have each day. It’ll arrive eventually; in the meantime, I’m trying to check in with myself every couple of days, if not daily.

Progress, hey-o!

Dissertation:

  • Dissertation Chapter: I’m iiiinching my way along with this chapter. I printed the current draft (9 pages long, lots of gibberish), and I’ve got some notes on how to refine the outline. I also bought a copy of sociologist Patricia Wittberg’s book FROM PIETY TO PROFESSIONALISM–AND BACK?: TRANSFORMATIONS OF ORGANIZED RELIGIOUS VIRTUOSITY. While it’s a study of current Catholic women religious (unlike my historical study), she utilizes the sociology of organizations and institutional logics, the perspective I’m attempting to apply to my project. I read sixty pages this week; the goal for next week is to read another three chapters. 
  • Dissertation Data: I haven’t gotten around to looking at all the data I’ve collected, but I’ll be in the archive next weekend doing a bit more collecting. To prepare, this week  I’ll be reading up on the overall history of the religious order, the Sisters of the Holy Family. Cool story: they were the only religious order to be founded in the US, west of the Mississippi River.

Creative Writing:

  • Writing: Nothing new in terms of fiction or poetry. I’m halfway through Chapter 14 of TELL ME NO LIES, and I’ve been trying to fix the outline. I’m merging multiple drafts into one, and I still can’t decide what I want to keep and what needs to be discarded. This week, I’d like to have a chapter outline complete.
  • Reading: I finished ALL THE PATHS OF SHADOW by Frank Tuttle, and ohhhhh. Can we talk about a book that just left me devastated when I was done? Not because of some horribly sad ending, but because it was lovely, and wonderful, and it made me feel. The novel is fantasy with steampunk touches, and gave me lots to think about in terms of the fantasy/steampunk hybrid novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo 2012. This week I’ll read CHASING THE STAR GARDEN by Melanie Karsak.

So that’s me this week! Be sure to wave a friendly hello to all the other ROWers participating this week.

As a fun aside, and in keeping with the Star Wars theme, I leave you with the greatest comedy sketch of all time: Eddie Izzard’s “Death Star Canteen” sketch from his stand-up show, Circle (2000). Some brilliant person with way too much time on their hands rendered the entire thing in Lego, and it is glorious. Warnings for strong language (multiple f-bombs, etc.). Oh, and don’t eat or drink anything while watching. 😛

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