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Things I learned at When Words Collide, 2014

Every year I attend a writing conference in Calgary called “When Words Collide”. Every year I have an absolutely supreme time, and this year I thought I’d share some of what I learned with the internet at large. 

 

1) Desire + Obstacle = Conflict

This should be common sense, but I had never heard the question of conflict explained in such a way before! Thanks to Anna Maria Bortolotto for this lesson!

2) It pays to be friendly

Especially at a writer’s conference.  I guarantee that literally everyone there has one thing in common: they like to read. I guess if that fails, you can always talk about the weather. 

It also pays to be friendly in marketing–give first. Your mom was right, you catch more flies with free bookmarks than with vinegar. 

3) There’s a lot more to editing than finding new ways to tell people that they suck. 

I’m still convinced that “dental draft” is a euphemism for something. 

4) No one can agree on whether or not digital publishing is a good thing. 

5) Editors really like in medias res. 

6)  You don’t always get rejected because you’re crap. Editors are actually pretty nice people. Mostly. 

7) The cake isn’t a lie, but the chocolate might be

This one is a bit of a story: there was supposed to be a chocolate social on Saturday night of the conference. My gaggle of pals and I waited for about 2 hours. No chocolate. It was all a lie. 

They did let us have leftover cake from the banquet, so the cake? All truth. 

 

 

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Language Moment: May 12th, 2014

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Welcome to a new feature on Sweetly Snobbish–the site where I’m always right, but at least I’m nice!

This new feature was actually given to me by my english professor and fellow poet Gerald Hill. Kind of. In his class, we had language moments, where we pointed out interesting turns of phrase. Now, it’s going on my blog.

This week’s language moment comes from the Anberlin song, “Reclusion“.

There are a lot of really neat language moments in this song, so I’m just going to pick my three favourites.

“They don’t know they’re dead to me cuz/intent never makes a sound” 

I love “intent never makes a sound”.  I think it’s a unique turn of phrase. Right off the bat, this line establishes the loneliness and isolation of the speaker, as well as their inner darkness.

“There’s a lot of seclusion/production in depression/if a stranger turns up missing/this song is my confession”

Wow. That stuff I already said? Turn that up to 11 in these lines. In this like, the fact that the speaker kills people is very, very clear. It also speaks to mental instability.  Maybe I’m just biased, though, because of the “production in depression” line. Depressed people gotta stick together.

My absolute FAVOURITE language moment, though?

“My mask is growing heavy/but I’ve forgotten whose beneath” 

I just adore this. I find this turn of phrase so powerful.  I love the simplicity in the statement and yet the power in it. It really points to true instability in the speaker, and adds an element of tragedy to the song.

This has been the first edition of “language moments”. Like? Don’t like? Tell me below!

God Bless,

Kelsey J.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

(Turn and face the stranger)

 

Guten Tag meine Freundin!

I apologise for not having this up yesterday, as scheduled. I had no internet access. As we speak I’m sitting in the lovely Moose Jaw library looking out at the town. To my left is the young adult section, and behind me is the graphic novels. The building sits on the edge of a beautiful park–all the better to see the spring thaw.

Spring is a time of change. In Saskatchewan, it means that one can actually see the ground again.

Here, on Sweetly Snobbish, it is also a time of change.

From now on, updates will be on Friday. That way I can write all week to give you all some great content. Only the best for you, my dears.  And you, my dears, seem to enjoy my Writing and Psychology posts and my poetry more than anything else. In all my experimentation, these are the posts that resonate with people the most. Thus, I will be moving to mainly posting features in that vein. New Poem Saturday and Slam Sunday will remain much the same.

In May, after my final exams are finished, I am planning on doing a month of Slam Sundays featuring local poets in my area (Regina, Saskatchewan).  We are a small but talented bunch, and I hope that you enjoy that feature.

I am also going to attempt to post more about my writing.  I find many interesting tidbits when I write, and I would like to share them with you.

I have also resumed reviewing books for the Bearded Scribe (http://thebeardedscribe.blogspot.ca/). It’s a great review site, if I do say so myself. I encourage you to take a look around it.

Finally, I have achieved some measure of stability in my personal life. I hope that the days of late posts (barring internet access issues) are behind me, and that I can work harder to provide my readers with the best possible content.

Spring has sprung, my friends.

Time to face the strain.

 

God Bless,

Kelsey J.

 

PS: Zombvenger! Episode Two: Dog Days is up: http://www.zombiepop.net/zombvenger-episode-two-dog-days/

On Purple: Yin, Yang and Magneto

Professor Charles Xavier: You know, I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”

***

Within the greater discipline of psychology, there is a branch known as humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology is special, as it deals with more than the physical world. Humanistic psychology is a discipline that borrows ideas from all over the world and incorporates them into a greater understanding of the human experience.

One of the ideas borrowed is an idea that is familiar, though barely understood, to Western culture: the yin yang symbol. Most people associate the yin yang symbol with the new age movement (hippy stuff, as my dad would call it). In humanistic psychology, the symbol is used as a tool to understand dialectical thinking. Dialectical thinking is about blending and change, but change that takes place through conflict and opposition. So how does this relate to the yin-yang symbol, which is often used as a symbol of peace?

There are three main ideas behind the yin yang symbol as it relates to humanistic psychology:

1)      The interdependence of opposites: There is no light without darkness

2)      The interpenetration of opposites: There are bits of light within darkness, and vice versa

3)      The unity of opposites: we cannot understand darkness without light, and vice versa

The writers among you will recognise that these principles also relate to storytelling. I believe that every story should be utilizing these principles, for both plot and character.  A story without darkness is boring, but a story without light is just as devoid of life. No light should be pure, and no darkness should be absolute.  You should always be able to see the darkness of the hero reflected in the villain, and vice versa.

***

Magneto might be my favourite character of all time.

Magneto

 

 

He is one of the single most complex characters of any medium, a holocaust survivor devoting his life to the protection of his people by any means necessary.

I used a quote from the film X-men: First Class to begin my post. This is because Magneto represents the culmination between the two opposites, rage and serenity, illustrating the nature of dialectical thinking.

How can you tell? He wears purple.

Bear with me.

Just like white and black, red and blue, the colours that make up purple, are opposites. I won’t bore you with the grade school explanations of the colour wheel. In the human consciousness, red and blue represent two opposites as well. Red is associated with rage and fire, whereas blue is associated with calm and water.  When mixed together, purple is created.

A place between rage and serenity.

Magneto himself is a mix between these two things. On one hand, he’s a classy villain, who has definite air of the Shakespearean about him: he soliloquizes, uses proper nouns, doesn’t curse and has full control over his power. On the other hand, he’s prone to fits of rage against the human race, and occasionally his foes. In his determination to keep mutantkind safe, he ruthlessly kills regular humans.

A lot of fans, myself included, have to wonder if he’s right on some level. The members of the X-men frequently wonder this too, and often find themselves working with Magneto towards a common goal.

How does this relate to the above?

Magneto and the X-men are opposites of each other at first glance, but they need each other. There are shared philosophies between the groups. Their motivations are understood by their status as opposites.

This is a prime example of using the yin-yang idea in writing.

And it makes stories better.

 

 

Agree or disagree? Comment below! Like this post? Click the like button!

On another note, for more of Magneto check out the trailer for X-men: Days of Future Past:

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.

Writer’s block: Let it come.

Ladies and gentlemen, I had been working on a spectacular post about Magneto for this Friday. I had been working on this post for about two weeks. I had a burst of creativity early this morning, and I thought I’d have it up today.

Then, it just stopped.

I was angry. I was upset. I couldn’t believe that my creative energy had just left as quickly as it came.

Then, I let it go.

Like a Disney song.

***

As a writer, you see many posts about how to beat writer’s block or how to deal with it. I never thought I’d be writing one of these things. I thought, in my vast pretentiousness, that I was better than that.

The problem is that there is no one way to deal with writer’s block, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. This post is about how I deal with it. Take that at your discretion.

I dealt with it by letting it go. If the creative juices stop, that means that I’m not really ready to write at that point. Maybe I have something else going on it my mind that needs my attention. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I can’t say what I need to say.

There’s no magic secret, no super technique. I just trust in my mind and my heart.

Though, in retrospect, I probably picked that attitude up from years and years of Disney.

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.

 

Zombvenger!, the zombie superhero extravaganza, is live at Zombiepop: http://www.zombiepop.net/zombvenger-1/

Of course, if you want the backstage pass, check out the official site (http://dawnoftheundead.wordpress.com/) and the official tumblr (http://undeadinblue.tumblr.com/)

If you want to gaze upon my beauty, check out my beauty blog: (http://artdecoprincess.wordpress.com/)

Psychology and Zombies: Brainz!

zombvenger time What up guys. Zee here.

It seems that instead of returning from her midterm hiatus, my creator has saddled me with the task of “Psychology and” this week. Let’s see what she’s making me do.

….

WHAT!?

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Just because I’m a zombie, doesn’t mean I eat brains! Why the hell would I go for the one organ in the human body that’s protected by the THICKEST BONE in the body AND is basically its own defence system?! That’s just asking to get shot! I’ve seen a lot of good zombies go down that way. THIS IS STEREOTYPING AND I WON’T DO IT!

Oh, she’s giving me chocolate milk to do it? Oh, okay.

Presenting: THE BRAIN!!!!

 Dun Dun DUN!!!!

No, not like that you idiot! Good help is hard to find these days…

 

The brain is the big boss, the head honcho, the grand poobah, of the human body. Averaging at 3 pounds, 100 billion neurons and 60% fat, the brain is…actually sounding tastier by the minute. Huh.

Anyways, since the brain basically manages everything the body does, it’s not just one big lumpy mass of tissue. It’s divided into parts, and each part has a function. We think. Actually, certain functions have been localized to certain parts of the brain, but they interconnect so much that it’s not clear if any one part does any one thing.

There are two big parts to the brain: the cerebrum and the cerebellum. The cerebellum is that little brain glued to the big brain up there. It’s mostly in charge of motor responses and impulses, and other functions that people don’t consciously think about. The cerebrum is the big honking part with all of the gross wrinkles. The wrinkles are the result of folding, by the way, to get the brain to fit into the skull. Humans have the most icky brain wrinkles of any mammal.

The cortex (the wrinkly, outer part of the brain) has 4 lobes: the parietal, the temporal, the pre-frontal and the occipital.  There’s a picture:

The parietal lobe is about perception of stimulation and movement. So, if you smell some delicious food (such as milk, or rats) the parietal lobe both lets you smell it and move to obtain it.

The occipital lobe is for processing vision. So you really do have eyes at the back of your head.

The temporal lobe, in addition to being a place you really, really don’t want to get hit, is all about hearing stuff.

The prefrontal cortex is said to be what separates us from the animals, because it’s freakish big in comparison. It’s in charge of decision making, logic, planning, all that boring stuff.

Inside the squishy, wrinkly cortex is a whole whack of internal structures that I’m not going to go into here because I’m a zombie and I don’t care what’s inside the brain as long as I get to eat it. Apparently.

To be fair, this is boring. I know the creator has a psyche education. But come on. No one wants to hear all this academic crap.

The brain does a lot of crazy stuff. I think everyone knows by now that one side of the brain controls the other side of the body (and if you didn’t, you know now! The more you know…). But, did you know that the brain generates enough electricity to power a light bulb? I wonder if you can get a literal buzz from eating one then…

The brain can survive 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen, so be prepared for the long haul if you want to strangle people. People who eat seafood at least once a week have been found to be less likely to get dementia. The thing I’m worried about is what happens if you eat a brain.

Oh, come on!

I’m not the only one thinking about it.

Am I?

Anyways, eating human literally drives humans insane in the membrane. You get these things called prion diseases and it messes around with the proteins in the brain and then the fun begins. So, what about a zombie, then? We don’t really have an immune system, so it would hit us harder, right?

Not so, according to research. Humans carry some genes that can protect them from getting these fun diseases. That’s led scientists to believe that humans used to eat humans…

HA! In your face, humans!

I’m going to try telling that to the next person who tries to shoot me for eating things they think I shouldn’t be.

Like their arm.

 

-Zee

 

*Kelsey J’s notes: I’m back! Thanks for being patient with me. Speaking of my wonderful creation, ZOMBVENGER is finally live! Go check it out here: http://www.zombiepop.net/zombvenger-1/

What are you waiting for? Go! Read! Enjoy! Share!

I’ll be back on Friday.

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.

Writing and Psychology: Revenge, Actually

Oh sweet revenge. I often tell people never to make a writer angry, because we’ll get revenge on you through angry poetry or killing you in gory ways in our fiction. Everyone loves stories of revenge, according to the box office and the best seller list. But what is revenge, really?

Revenge, boiled down to its simplest definition, is to inflict injury in return for insult. Psychologists have studied revenge responses in a variety of victims of trauma, including rape survivors and children growing up in a war zone. Revenge fantasies typically come about in the late phases of the psychological response to trauma. Cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis (the recent stuff, not the Freud stuff) agree on something for once: both theories maintain that that revenge is a comfort response to fear and shame. The desire for revenge and the perception of the self as a vengeful person comes to take over the mind. People who tend to seek revenge typically believe in right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance.

If I were to list all of the different depictions of revenge, we’d be here all day. People really, really like reading about revenge, and writers are more than happy to give readers what they want. Why? Why are people so obsessed with revenge? Psychological research suggests that revenge is a form of emotional cathartics. So, I postulate that reading about revenge is also a form of emotional cathartics. Reading about it, as opposed to actually doing it, is probably a more healthy emotional release. I also think that it’s popular because of our social structure. We’re not the only animals that take revenge. Society has agreed to a social contract, and we hate when this is violated. Everyone has had harm inflicted on them. Revenge, perhaps, we see as fixing the violation.

Okay, so how exactly does this apply to writing? Well, if you’re going to want the reader to identify with a character who is seeking revenge, they better understand the reason why that character wants revenge, and they better be able to see themselves doing the same. This goes for both the protagonist and the antagonist.

The next bit of advice depends on how realistic you want your character’s revenge arc to be. You know that (kind of lame) trope where the protagonist gets their revenge and it doesn’t make them happy?

That’s kind of how it goes in real life.

Several studies of violent crime victims and societies at war have shown that the punishment of a perpetrator of a crime doesn’t make the victim feel better, and that actually taking revenge doesn’t make someone feel better.

That’s a hard pill to swallow for most of us. We want to feel relief and glee when “bad” people get their comeuppance. And you don’t have to do this in your writing. But if you want to make it realistic, but still climactic, write the revenge arc so revenge accomplishes more than personal gain for the seeker. Have it accomplish, say, getting rid of a powerful and tyrannical person. Maybe have it accomplish a great social change.

Or just have something die. That works too.

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2011/october-11/the-complicated-psychology-of-revenge.html

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/revenge.aspx

Irwin C. Rosen. Revenge—the Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name: a Psychoanalytic PerspectiveJ Am Psychoanal Assoc June 2007 55: 595-619, doi:10.1177/00030651070550021501

Orth, U. (2004). Does perpetrator punishment satisfy victims’ feelings of revenge?. Aggressive Behavior30(1), 62-70.

Mardi J. Horowitz, M.D. Understanding and Ameliorating Revenge Fantasies in Psychotherapy. Am J Psychiatry 2007;164:24-27. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.164.1.24