Author Archives: Nicole

Inadvertent Nostalgia

This morning, while enjoying a breakfast of Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini-Wheats and a banana, I made an initially horrific discovery.  A discovery that, even with the sheer amount of homework I had, drove me to our lovely blog and demanded that I write about it.  It was quite persistent.

That, of course, and the fact that I’m procrastinating. Senioritis has struck me hard and at the worst possible time, but anyway. Back to Nicole Story Time.

To put this all into context, I’d been reading a few blogs this morning, minding my own business and generally still a bit sleepy, when I stumbled upon an article about internet identity.  The blogger had Googled her own name on a whim and realized that the first search hit was her Xanga account from when she was 14 — obviously, this was quite alarming, considering she’s now graduating from college and applying for jobs, and she doesn’t want her emoticons and early high-school boy crushes to cost her employment.  Reading this article sent a little frisson of terror down my spine.  Like many other young adults, I spent a good portion of my adolescence online, and I’d written a lot of things (both fiction and journaling — why anyone thought LiveJournal was good for society, I’ll never know) that I’d rather never see the light of day.

When I was younger, I was a bit paranoid about internet security.  My parents refused to buy things online for fear of identity theft (which at the time was annoying when I wanted to get in on the eBay craze, but in hindsight was a smart move).  For some reason, I was terrified that someone would take something I had written (copied and pasted from my online journal, I feared), and claim it as his/her own.  In terms of irrational fears, I obviously favored the more mundane.  But, as a result, things I wrote were always hidden behind “friends only” locks or tagged with little copyright bubbles with an internet penname.  Even years later, I’m meticulous about my Facebook settings and other social media outlets I use on a regular basis.   So naturally, because of my past caution, I figured that searching my own name would probably not come up with anything of any great importance.  I’m applying to graduate schools, and it wouldn’t be terribly uncommon if they were to do a cursory search.

So, I typed my name in and hit search.  The first page of Google results was acceptable.  Nothing interesting was revealed except for a few hits on my friends-only Facebook page, along with the realization that nearly 150 women with my same name live in the USA.  However, disaster struck when smack dab on the second page was the full text of a story that I had written junior year of high school.  I hadn’t put it online — I had entered a writing contest in high school, and the link was to an official university webpage.  I must have given them permission some time nearly five years ago to publish it, and there it was, sitting on the internet, free for all to read and judge.

Now, at this point, I’m not concerned that it’s going to be stolen.  Heck, if someone wants to use it and make it the next blockbuster (or horror film, or flip book plot, ballet choreography, etc.), I’ll be as shocked as the next chick on the street.  Instead, I was more surprised by the way my writing has changed, and in my estimation, for the better.  In high school (and earlier) I wrote a lot more angrily, using violence to supplement character development.  I loved words like “weeping,” “tears,” and “blood.”  My sentences were confusing and convoluted, and if this story was anything to judge by, I thought I understood how neuroscience worked.  I wrote a lot for shock value, and scanning the words I couldn’t believe that my teachers and peers had read this piece.

Looking back now, I’m deeply grateful for the improvement that I’ve managed to achieve in the years that followed this particular piece; taking classes at my university has definitely allowed me to better hone my craft, and I’m a much happier person.  University has been kind to me (oh, the irony of saying that now while I’m eyeball-deep in stress) and I love the world of academia.  I can still tap into the dark imagery I used then, but I don’t rely on it.  Which is good, because you can only kill so many characters.  It makes me sad.

So, in conclusion, I don’t know if anyone else will stumble on the piece or what they’ll think.  Seeing that the page is dated and it’s obvious that it was put up in 2006, I don’t have any real cause for alarm.  Well, other than a slight wince of embarrassment when I think about it.


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How I Started To Write: An Annotated Essay

When it comes to writing about the beginning of writing, I find myself faced with an infinite loop.  The exact first dates are fuzzy and motives have been lost to selective childhood memory.  I don’t remember a beginning to writing in much the same way that I don’t remember reading my first book; in my conscious memories, writing and reading have always been something in the gray area oscillating between pastime and constant obsession.  Words have always done the work of making the world make sense to me.  I’ve traveled to dozens of countries, time periods, alternate realities, with only the aid of ink and my imagination.  Words are manipulative, but they also tell the greater truths about our selves, about our culture, and about our deepest secrets.  Stories are powerful, especially the ones we read in childhood.[1]

During early elementary school, I wrote a story for an English class about a flock of wild turkeys that walked down the street in front of my home.  My teacher (who at that point was slightly jaded by the American early education system) oohed and aahed over the punctuation, the properly controlled quotation marks, and the use of interjections.  At the time, I didn’t understand all the excited hand waving or pats on the back; the turkeys really had walked down the street, and I was just utilizing the form that I read in books.  I simply thought it was funny, so I wrote it down.[2] During most of my childhood, my writing resembled a diary of my own life, but with more interesting tidbits thrown in.  I’ve discovered old, childhood journals that have factual entries that take a swan dive somewhere near the middle of the story into a dream I must have had the night before.[3] My parents, although never quite sure why I had such an interest in writing, have always been very supportive if sometimes befuddled.[4]

I’ve always loved the fluidity of words, and even when I was young, I liked playing with their meanings and motives.  To me, sentences and phrases have always been beautiful tools.  In my first writing classes, and in the ones that followed over the course of my primary, middle, and high school experiences, I was lucky enough to pique my teacher’s interest.[5] The books I read held the rules, had inky guidelines firmly established, although they were disguised by stories of goblins and lost children.  I was incredibly lucky to have supportive teachers who encouraged my love of writing, suggesting books, and sometimes reading portfolios of work and discussing what goals I was trying to achieve.[6] The idea of writing a book was something long term (comfortably in the distant future) that I could tell them, despite my own personal fear that it would never be accomplished.  In my junior and senior years of high school, I became close friends with my school’s librarian[7] and she helped edit my work, more confident about my writing than I was.  My first years at University finally gave me the opportunity to practice creative writing in an academic setting, but still, something was not quite right.

At SUISS, I finally began a novel that I’ve had in my mind for several years, but have never quite had the courage to coax out coherently.  Much of my writing in late high school and early college has been paralyzed by the fear of not being good enough or not having the endurance to finish a longer project.  In an environment like I found in Edinburgh, writing a novel seemed not only possible but also vitally necessary.  It was a natural progression, fueled by the contact with published writers at the International Book Festival who were extremely enthusiastic and supportive[8] of aspiring writers.  Being surrounded by young, budding writers was an experience that I never experienced in Kentucky, neither in the rural town I grew up in or the university I attend.  Discussing plot ideas over dinner and character motives before bed completely changed the way I look at my own writing and showed me the importance of a strong, supportive community.

Now, “how I started to write” (both an assignment and in exercise of thought) has hit a juncture in where I am now.  As a senior in college, my final year of undergraduate studies, I have to make difficult choices about the future of my writing.  I’m teetering between a life of permanent academia and the study of law. I look back now and I’m not sure where the young version of me has scampered off, with her big glasses and mousy hair, writing stories because she loved to and not because of a looming deadline.  I miss that simplicity, but I’m excited to be moving on to opportunities to explore my own voice in writing, and seeing which way my learning will veer.  Whatever happens, I plan to continue writing.  At the very beginning of the program, I wrote a creative writing manifesto, and I intend to follow my own advice.  I will write, I will write often, and I will write well.

I had a great summer, and in some ways, my writing did begin here. Thank you.

[1] In no particular order, the authors that most influenced my life and my writing: Garth Nix, Phillip Pullman, Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, J.R.R. Tolkien (mainly The Hobbit, not so much the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Juliet Marillier, Neil Gaiman, Lois Lowry, and Roald Dahl.

[2] This is the earliest evidence of my own writing that I’ve found.  My sense of humor hasn’t really changed since then; I still find turkeys hilarious.

[3] Unless, of course, animal dancing troupes really were parts of my childhood.  However, that doesn’t seem like a memory that I would repress.

[4] My parents really are great people; they put up with countless hours of me typing at a keyboard instead of forcing me to play outside with neighbor children, and all the other imaginative quirks of childhood.  Now, they’re helping me through the stress of “what to do with my English major.”  Neither of them are writers in the traditional sense, but a psychic at a water park once told me that I was “a writer from a line of writers.”  My father loves to tell stories, and his father before him was known for his enthusiastic tall tales.  The quack may have been on to something.

[5] I earned a reputation for stories about tigers with purple eyes, surprisingly gory Arthurian legend retellings, and other assorted projects.  I once tried rewriting the Aeneid from Camilla’s point of view, setting it in a Big Brother, crazy-capitalist society.  If it sounds like a good idea, rest-assured that it wasn’t.

[6] The strangest interaction I’ve ever had with a teacher occurred during my freshman year of high school.  I eagerly handed in a thirty-page short story about an alternative universe for a homework assignment.  A few days later, I was asked to stay after class and was asked if my parents “had done anything special” to me as a child.  She quickly clarified that she wanted to know if my parents had taught me to speed-read and what kind of books they had read to me.  She was young and I think she wanted parenting advice.

[7] Yes, I am a nerd.  I also got special library privileges, free use of the faculty copier, and first dibs on books before they were given barcodes.  I have a strong admiration for friendly librarians.

[8] With the exception of Ian Rankin.  Apparently he doesn’t believe in Creative Writing programs.

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The Postman: A Minifiction

A postman has a mid-life crisis and decides to open the handwritten envelopes in his bag.

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