Pseudonym

Ginny Brattle isn’t my real name, and I don’t even like it.

How am I supposed to pick a pen name?

Why is this even on the top of my mind?

I hate my real name, too, to be fair.

Ingrid, Ingrid Peterson? I.P. Introvert Playground. Intellectual Property.

I.P. I pee. Nope. Or yep.  Whatever.

Ginny Brattle, bah. Reeks of youth.

I want my author persona to be one of mystery and age, like red wine and balconies, not one of a whining teenaged poet.

Brattle. After the Brattle Book Store, which I’ve gone to a handful of times.

Creating a Persona. A Star is Born. If everyone knows I’m fabricated, does it mean I’m even fabricated? Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm). Ginny Brattle (born Ingrid Peterson).

What is your mother’s maiden name?

Answer: I don’t know.

And why a pen name, you ask? Because my book is bathed in controversy before it even hits paper. It’ll be judged and hanged before it’s even read. Mothers and teachers and “the man” will condemn it.

That is, if anyone even hears of it.

Am I damned to be a nobody? Will no one even know my pen name, never mind my “maiden name?”

My worst fear is not never being published, it is being published and selling 43 copies, mainly to family and friends.

Absolutely Remarkable Things

This isn’t a book review, by the way. It’s more of a life review?

Anyway. A million years ago (…10, I guess, in retrospect) my friend introduced me to the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, starring Hank and John Green. I got super into them, watched every video, and John’s book Looking For Alaska quickly became my favorite.

Then The Fault in Our Stars came out, etc.

Anyway, the other brother, Hank, just came out with HIS first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. To be honest, I wasn’t going to read it. I’m kind of over watching their videos–they’re aimed at a younger audience, which is fine, but it’s just not my thing anymore.

However, that friend (who introduced me to them 9 years ago) and I recently reconnected after like, a five year separation (I started dating her ex, we went to different colleges, then ended up back in our old home town). And she had an extra ticket to An Absolutely Remarkable Tour, the book tour starring the Green brothers. So I went.

And it was great, and weird, and everything I knew it would be, being a stage show put on by two incredibly famous middle-aged YouTubers. And the book (so far) is pretty good, too, but that’s not my point.

As the Greens were talking about how strange and complex and wonderful the world is, and the internet and books are, I began thinking about how strange and complex and wonderful it was that I was in that theatre at that moment. All the things that had to happen to bring me there…I had to pick the cello as an instrument in third grade, I had to stick with it and be just good enough to be my friend’s stand partner in middle school, I had to like Vlogbrothers and fall in love with John Green’s books and let them influence my own budding writing, I had to go to the same high school as her, and watch her break up with her boyfriend and consequently (a year or so later) start dating him myself, then go to a different college and then reconnect and then have her current boyfriend-fiance bail on her extra ticket, then be free on that day and then bam, there I was. In a theatre with this friend and these YouTubers I’ve known for a decade.

That friendship had become inextricably intertwined with the Vlogbrothers, and my loss and reconnection with both my friend and Nerdfighteria mirrored each other in an absolutely remarkable way.

It just goes to show the crazy weird coincidences that happen every day.

September

This is the exact day when I used to write, “Time to go wake up Green Day.”

As if “Green Day” was a person and as if “Wake Me Up When September Ends” isn’t about Billie Joe Armstrong’s dead father.

Ah, did you miss me? I’m a spark of sunshine in a dark world, huh?

 

Right now I’m in a library, a library that closes in an hour. I’ve been here for three hours and haven’t moved from this table in the center of everything. I’ve actually gotten a lot done. But not enough. Never enough.

 

Did I mention I’m a teacher, now? High school English, yeah. Starting off by covering a woman’s maternity leave. About fifty percent of the time I tell someone that they ask me when the baby’s due. I’m not the one with the baby. If I was, I wouldn’t be at work.

Sometimes people’s mouths move faster than their minds.

I’m starting Hamlet with my seniors tomorrow. I haven’t read Hamlet since I was a senior in high school. I was supposed to read it as a senior in college, but I figured I knew it well enough. I don’t think I know it well enough anymore.

I type fast and hard. The other library people keep glancing at me. Sorry. My fingers are silent to me. My thought-words drown them out.

I just uploaded all my Ireland pictures–pictures from a trip I took in July, almost three months ago. Yipes. Some things just get away from you. I wonder how many hours of YouTube bullshit I’ve watched since July. Probably a sickening amount.

On the plus side, my novel is truly, really, almost done. I mean DONE done, like ready to send to publishers done. I’ve “finished” 8 novels since I was 12, but this is the first novel I feel comfortable sending to a publisher. I’m terrified, lol.

“Terrified, lol” is how I’m explaining it to everybody.

Honestly, yeah. That sums it up. I’m terrified, lol. I’m scared I’m not good enough, lol. I’m hiding my fears in millennial internet slang, lol, to lighten the weight of my emotional load on the shoulders of my unsuspecting readers, lol.

I wonder if I’ll use the same pen name I use on this blog. Probably not, I’ll probably change it. Pen names are so hard. Do I go the gender-neutral initial route, or choose a good female name? Who knows.

The clock seems to go slower, here. There’s an art book for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and it’s still in plastic. No one is ever going to borrow that book. I wonder who ordered it.

Whenever I get back into blogging I realize how much I missed it. It’s so nice to journal out loud. And yes, lady by “New Non-Fiction,” I know my typing is loud. Sorry. It’s impossible to type quickly and quietly.

They probably think I’m playing a game or something. Heck, maybe I am.

 

How do people DO this art thing?! How am I supposed to deal? I never minded when college magazines would reject me because hey, they’re just as stupid about literature as I am, but a Big Boy Publisher? Damn, that will hurt. Of course I assume I’ll get rejected right out the gate.

I think it’s actually a good book, and that actually scares me more.

treehouses

Looking for Alaska used to be my favorite book, then it was Cat’s Cradle, and now I think it’s The Bell Jar. I really did like The Bell Jar. I really like most books I read. Nutshell was pretty good too, by Ian McEwan. Ian McEwan? I think that’s right. He also wrote Atonement, so, whoever wrote Atonement also wrote Nutshell. It was a story based on Hamlet, told from the point of view of an unborn fetus. It was pretty good.

Anyway. I like books about sadness and death I guess. Depression. I like things that remind me of myself. Things that make you think.

BUT. I’ve also been enjoying Little Women, which is so bright and positive and cheery and simple. I just love it. It’s so innocent and nostalgic. I wish I lived it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ‘cause it’s well written.

I want a treehouse. I’ve always wanted a treehouse. It was one of those things my parents promised me but never got. I would read in it, until the bees found it. Then I would have left it to rot, and my parents probably knew that. But I still want one.

book people

I only blog when I’m depressed.

Everything seems inevitable. I feel somewhat like nothing ever surprises me. Things are unexpected, I suppose, but not shocking. I’d love to live like characters in television, always overreacting to things, gasping their way into a commercial break.

I say television so much because television people remind me of ‘normal’ people. Book people are always more relatable, sadder people. Maybe that’s just authors.

I like that book people aren’t pretty, though that’s my imagination more than anything. I don’t see people’s faces often in my mind, just unfocused colors, like I live inside a Monet. Smudges of blonde curls for Amy March, a puffy Miss Muffet dress and blue boots. My mother is also her hair, swathes of black with artificially yellow streaks. My father is his gold-rimmed glasses, those of Gatsby’s billboard. My boyfriend, I think, is clearest, with the shape of his face and smile and kind blue eyes. Look, I’ve conflated the two again, book people and real people.

My book people—those I’m writing about—are based on real people. But, well, only in part. A professor, an aunt, a friend rolled into one Playdough mishmash with the voice of my own. I always see myself in my characters. Unfortunately, I’m not a great actor.

I’ve written three blog posts in ten minutes. I don’t want to stop my fingers. It is so freeing to write in this way, in one big long line without ever looking back.

I’m afraid to wear the kind of clothes these high school girls wear. One just complimented the amount of another’s ‘side-boob.’ Another has her shoulders bare, like those old peasant blouses worn by women stomping wine. Another has skinny white straps over the thicker bands of her bright red bra. My own bra makes my ribs ache. I feel like a ghost. They all ignore me, regarding me warily now and then.

I wish I’d chosen to stay home over these measly seventy dollars. I suppose I can’t complain, sitting here doing nothing while they talk about going to the Bahamas for senior trip. A year from now. How can kids do it, knowing they’ll be in these very seats an entire year from now?

And, if they’re me, four years from now?

“We’re all gonna be adults,” they say, talking about the island’s drinking age but meaning so much more.

Summer Approaches

I was here, and I am here again. Look, we are both heading into a blank summer. We will both likely be here next year, me after months of interviews and disappointments, you after sunburns and supermarket jobs and hours and hours in front of your television. My sister watched Grey’s Anatomy twice last summer, all thirteen or fourteen seasons of it.

I was unemployed in high school, thirsting for money and something to do in this boring suburb, and here I am again, four years after my graduation, complaining and lazing like Daisy Buchanan on a breezy sofa.

I’ll get lots of writing done, I say, not writing. I’ll read lots, I say, not reading.

I brush my hair at night until the brush goes through it easy as water.

I sit with my plants and candles, draped in a scarf I never wear outside. I copy symbols and recipes as if I’d ever do anything with them. I play with tarot cards and waste my time. I slice Havarti cheese and eat pickles with toothpicks, souring my breath even worse with white wine, pretending I have the budget to be blasé and aristocratic, pretending the books I do manage to read aren’t affecting me like so many pills.

I take a portion of The Bell Jar and wonder if it wouldn’t be so bad, sitting in a mental hospital and feigning growing health. I take a portion of Little Women and wonder if it would be so horrible to be a housewife, to find pleasure in a washing machine. I take a portion of Anna Karenina and the words wash over me like hot soup and I can’t focus and put it down.

It takes my eyes a long time to focus on things far away.

New Novel

I’ve been almost done with this novel for months now.

Maybe that’s actually fast in the literary world. I once read that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the author like, nine years to finish. Of course, he probably had a job and kids and a wife or whatever. Me? It’s just me.

I get discouraged. I open it up, all of its 88,000 words and like, 250 pages or whatever, and I see all of my 145 comments of things to change, and I just get sad. There’s so much more to do, and I’ve already written it over three full times.

Going into a bookstore is like getting reprimanded. LOOK at all these books. Surely, by odds alone, mine has to be better than some of them. At least one. It would be statistically impossible, otherwise. Someone would publish my book as is, right? It’s interesting. It’s well written. It’s certainly long enough, for the first time.

So why can’t I just finish it and send it somewhere?

Because I’m scared. Not of a publisher rejecting it, but of a publisher accepting it, and giving me a sign-on bonus or whatever, and going through cover design and marketing, and holding my first hardcover copy and crying and flipping through it, and going to Barnes and Nobel and not finding it but a week later finally seeing it…and then only selling 400 copies.

Not terrible, but nothing good, either. And no awards, no nothing. And then years later seeing it in a bargain bin at Big Lots.

All those books, even the worst ones, went through a similarly heart-breaking process of writing, rewriting, rejection, waiting and waiting…I am fragile, I am sad, I am overwhelmingly pessimistic to the point where it’s annoying even to myself. I don’t know if I have the strength to do this, despite my finger-trembling desire.

I’m going to, obviously. I just keep putting it off. Which is horrible.

But you, metaphorical you who knows me better than I know myself, who can bear to read back in this blog and see the “ME” I pretended to be for you, the ME who viewed my wordpress stats and had high hopes for advertisers and supporting myself off this silly blog, YOU say it’s worth it. YOU say being an author is all I’ve ever wanted, what I’ve been working for every day of my life since I was in second grade.

You’re always so right.

The stories others remember 

Today for class my professor had us text our friends and family and ask them, “what’s your favorite story about me?” She then had us put away our phones and wait.

After awhile, we were to pick one of the responses and think about why that person remembers that story, and what it says about you. The idea was to deconstruct why we tell each other stories–to see the stories we tell at parties as a (true) mythology of ourselves. This is how we cement our personal identity in a group.

My sister told me her favorite story was the time we were playing hide and seek in my grandmothers house. It was my turn to hide, and the grown ups were telling me ideas on where to go. Now, my grandmother collects dolls. Three-foot-tall, life size dolls that live in the corner of her living room. My sister is counting down, and I decide, hey, I’ll be a doll.

So I posed in the back, smiled, and waited. My sister hunts around the house for a long time–she even makes eye contact with me and keeps looking. She actually thought I was a doll.

I thought for awhile why she remembers this and what it says, both about me and about her. It was funny, sure, and I do love making her laugh. But why does she tell other people this story? What trait of mine does it show, in disguise? 

I realized that this story shows that I don’t shy away from a challenge. Yes, a “safer” hiding spot would have been under the table or in a closet. But I chose to be a doll, the more interesting and difficult path.

This class literally just ended about 10 minutes ago, but I can tell this will be something that sticks in my mind. Why d we tell stories? Funny stories, cool stories? What does it say about us and our relationships? How is it that we bond through storytelling?

Telling stories is, of course, what I plan on spending my life doing. I guess it had never crossed my mind why stories exist in the first place. It had always seemed so obvious, just an integral part of humanity. It is, I think, integral. 

A shelf of unread books

When the Used Book Superstore opened up two miles down the road, I began buying books by the dozen. Books I’ve never heard of, in genres I’d never read before. Classics, like Gone With the Wind. Collections of Shakespeare and the full Sherlock Holmes.

I don’t think I’ve read a single one of those books.

When I began working at the Globe, my trainer told me that if you walk by the arts section, there are always bins full of books you can just take. They’re books they’ve already reviewed or have decided not to review, and instead of tossing them they just let you take them. Advanced copies! Unpublished gems! I would take one every day, maybe two on Fridays.

I haven’t read any of those books, either.

It’s not that I don’t like reading–I LOVE reading. It’s just that it takes up a lot of time. I used to devour books, but now I read them at a snail’s pace. It took me six months to finish Life of Pi, only reading snippets while on the subway.

It’s not that the books are boring, either. They’re on subjects I like, like poetry, art, religions, even on writing itself. They’re fun fiction stories with grabbing back covers. I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

And so, I have a shelf of unread books. Well, shelf might be the wrong word…it’s more of a full bookcase. I have four (!) bookcases in my bedroom at home: one for my absolute favorite books, one for books I loved as a child, one for miscellaneous books and Harry Potter, and one for books I’ve yet to have read.

It’s a disease, really. I’m addicted to hoarding books.

I recently made myself admit that I wouldn’t ever read half of the books I have acquired, and donated about 15 to the library. At least there, there’s a fraction of a chance that someone will read them, as opposed to my room where the chance is practically zero. My next book won’t be Art: Unraveled, no matter how cool the cover looked while walking past the arts section.

I don’t know why I do this. I don’t hoard anything else. I go through my closet at least once or twice a year. I never buy anything I know I won’t use, except books.

Maybe it’s because I want to be a writer, and books fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I want to be the kind of person who reads everything, even though I just don’t.

Well. Maybe this summer I’ll be a big reader. If I have time, between work, Nano, blogging, German (am I still pretending to learn German? I haven’t practiced in so long), cooking, and everything else. Well, this is why I never get through books. They’re low on my priority list, even though I love them.

I think I put things I enjoy at the bottom of my priority list too much.

James Patterson and the State of Fiction

Hello again! Today I bring you my final Emerson Pub Club book review of the semester, about James Patterson.

As a teenager I loved James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, but as they went on (and as I grew older and more interested in books) they began to frustrate me more. Going into this post I intended to pick Patterson apart, to list his inadequacies, to rant about how I couldn’t believe people think he’s a good author. During my research though, I had a change of heart.

Turns out, Patterson may be a genius.

You can read my post here.