Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas "Break"

If I write a blog post about my own life right now, it's going to be one huge complaint about all the school work I find myself doing in the space between Christmas and New Year's.  I'm going to spare you (Whoever you are.  Who are you, blog reader?  Leave a comment and tell me.) and talk about other people and the things they're doing: 

First of all, my beloved sister (herself a lurker here at The Feather and the Rose) has opened an Etsy shop!  Right now she has her beautiful magic wands up for sale.  If you follow the link and check out the pictures, you can see that I finally got to follow my calling as a hand model. 

She also throws pots and weaves on a loom, so look for pottery and textiles in the future!!  I myself have ambitions to make something out of the many, many, manyyyyy Lindt truffle wrappers I have accumulated this season and have her sell it on there.  (Suggestions of what, exactly, I should make with these wrappers are welcome.  You could also leave that in the comments if you are in fact a human being and not a spambot.) 

These are not the highest quality pictures ever, but: 

A scarf  my sister wove and gave me for Christmas--a preview of PurplePeacockTongues weaving.

Also gifted to me, a preview of PurplePeacockTongues pottery!
The shop name, "PurplePeacockTongues," is tangentially related to my WiP, so that's obviously just another reason to go check it out and buy stuff. 

Second, some music I discovered recently:  She's called Eurielle, she has some cool stuff, and her album is coming out sometime in 2015!  Check it out at SoundCloud!  My favorite song is called "City of the Dead," but she has some cheerier songs, too. study break has expired!  Have a happy New Year, blogland!  Tyler-Rose and I will be here in 2015, writing, reading, writing, reading, and questing on after adventure, true love, book deals, and scones!  ;)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Excuses and Patricia McKillip

Life's been pretty crazy the last couple of weeks. This Hell Week* and Finals Week were probably the worse I've ever had just for the amount of work done and the number of hours of sleep lost throughout the experience. By the end of those two weeks, my eyes were completely bloodshot and weeping constantly. It hurt more to take my contacts out than to leave them in and I really didn't have any emotions left.

Basically, I was a weeping Photoshop zombie who spent her time eating her weight in candy and carbs in the few moments when she wasn't working.

Needless to say, it's taken me a bit longer than usual to get back to feeling normal. Having lost so much sleep isn't really helping me get over my jet lag any faster. I still don't feel normal.

I also just got a new computer, so I've spent the last several days getting that set up and now it's Christmas and I will be on my feet cooking for the next three days.

So, I haven't really had many thoughts about writing recently.

However, I've made up for that by reading some excellent books! I love Patricia McKillip and recommended her Winter Rose to Susan, but Susan was allergic to the copy she acquired** so I gave her my copy in exchange for her cat-tainted one, but then I had it in my hands so I read on the plane home.*** Then, when I got home I realized that I had two other Patricia McKillip books that I hadn't read yet. I am now happily enthralled by The Bell at Sealey Head which is turning out to be everything I want in a fairy story.

McKillip's books are always delightful intricate and twisting full of beautiful language like old rose vines. Things drawn in small beautiful detail so that her magical world comes alive in radiant color. But despite the intricacy and elegance of her word-smithing and the magic that infuses all her stories, her characters remain warmly human.

Kinuko Y. Craft is the illustrator who makes all my favorite book covers. She did both the covers of Winter Rose and The Bell at Sealey Head as well as some of Juliet Marillier's covers. She also illustrated my favorite version of Cinderella. 

Her illustrations are always stunningly beautiful and minutely detailed. They give up their secrets slowly. I've owned and admired both these books for years and yet noticed something new about Sealey Head only this morning. Craft's illustrations perfectly capture for me the feeling of McKillip's books. Beautiful. Finely detailed. Magical. Secretive.

That's how I want the books I write to be. I would love to be worthy of a Kinuko Craft cover.

In other news, I've acquired a Pinterest account and have started filling it with pretty things. Please, come follow me if you care to! Or just lurk. The more the merrier. So far, I've mostly pinned a bunch of braiding tutorials, a whole lot of quotes about writing, and a picture of a hot guy reading in the snow.

In fact, I think he's so special I'm going to include him here.

You can thank me later.


* This is what our school calls the week before Finals when you are called to account for everything you have done during the semester and are generally found lacking. All papers are due during this time and this is week when the most all-nighters get pulled.

** Apparently, the nice lady had cats.

*** For the third time.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Break TBR

I have enough school work to do over Christmas that I'm contemplating calling it "Winter Term" instead of "Christmas Break."  But I'm determined to make time for some reading (AND WRITING.) or else I will no longer have a soul after these four weeks.  So, here's what's on the TBR list:

Books that I am partway through and intend to finish:  

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Books I haven't started yet that I want to start and maybe finish:  

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin  (probably won't finish this one...)


Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri (probably just selections, unless I get on a roll)

*maybe* The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Books to read for college-related reasons:  

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

King Lear by the same

sections of Historia Regum Brittaniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth

sections of Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus

^all secondary sources related to the above four items^

the (utterly useless, btw) CLEP Chemistry study guide

selected sentences and passages in ancient Greek

I'll make it.  And I will make time for the lists at the top of this post as well as the one at the bottom. I promise. 

Thomas the flash drive owl, aka Thomas Archimedes Flashdrive, believes in me.

And now, I'm off to make myself a schedule! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Launch Party: The Sun's Rival

It was our first day of finals today, so we are arriving fashionably late to the party, but here we are at last!

So, let me introduce you to the newest addition to our beloved Danielle E. Shipley's wonderful Wilderhark Tales:

The Sun's Rival


Check out her fabulous blog at Ever On Word.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Time: Part III

We're always talking about this.  There isn't enough time.  We wish we had more time.  It takes a long time to write a novel.  We barely have time to write blog posts.  Time-turners are the coolest idea ever and I want one and I suspect Tyler-Rose wouldn't turn one down. 

That's how Susan's post last week started, and here--surprise, surprise*--is yet another blog post about time. In case you hadn't noticed, the Feather and the Rose are currently preoccupied by this topic. We've talked and blogged a lot about this lately. We've written about our struggles balancing our academic and writing lives, with distraction, and with excuses. We've reduced our blogging to one day a week, told you why we aren't doing NaNoWriMo, and asked you to kindly direct us to anyone with a time-turner.

And you've all been lovely and supportive and told us your secrets for balancing your time and made your own excuses down in the comments because all of our many, many explanations are perfectly legitimate. We all have busy lives and many demands on our time.

And while this is totally true, it also really isn't. None of us are busy every minute of every day. There are days when some of the clutter can be shoved out of the way to make a very small, clear space.

The Saturday before last,** Susan and I were able to do this.

I don't know how many weeks it had been since I'd actually sat down and written something. I'd even had a little free time, but had decided I was too exhausted to write, which then fed all the lovely amorphous fears about failure that writers (especially writers who aren't writing) are particularly prone to.

We decided that despite our hectic lives we could spare one hour on Saturday nights. No matter what. That one hour wasn't going to make much difference in our academic careers. We would likely have spent it settling slowly into some unpleasant work that doesn't really need to be slowly settled into.

When the time arrived, we got our laptops and . . . we actually wrote. And As I wrote I remembered all sorts of 'whys' about my life that I had forgotten while I wasn't writing. I got more done than I'd gotten done in the last month. In fact, I even finished a draft and gave it to Susan.

I was amazed by how accomplished I felt and how a lot of the fears about not writing melted away immediately.

I know it's best if you can write every day, but sometimes it just isn't possible. So, instead of putting it off until some mythical future time when you won't be busy anymore,*** set aside a little sacred time designated for writing and only for writing. Write. Stop for nothing short of the apocalypse.

That's all for today, my friends. As one of my professors says, "Have a good life. Be of good cheer. Sing 'hey nonny nonny.'"


* Or "Suprees" as Susan and Katie the Roommate now pronounce it.

** Last Saturday was part of Thanksgiving break and Susan and I were not together for accountability. I spent my time writing a paper I turned in an hour ago and hugging my family.

*** I'm not sure I'm old enough to be able to say for sure, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it probably won't.  

Monday, November 24, 2014


We're always talking about this.  There isn't enough time.  We wish we had more time.  It takes a long time to write a novel.  We barely have time to write blog posts.  Time-turners are the coolest idea ever and I want one and I suspect Tyler-Rose wouldn't turn one down.  (Especially at times like these when the semester is careening to an end and she's recovering from missing some class.  She was sick last week, you see.  That is why there was no blog post last week.  She is better now, and that makes me glad, and I did not catch it, and that does too.)

But anyway:  time.  Not only is there not enough of it on a daily basis, but it's also something we confront as writers because, well, it does take a long time to write a novel.  Or (I hear you, NaNo-ers!), at least, a lot of time.  One of the few endeavors that takes even more time is another one we're invested in:  learning to write a novel well.

All that said, I kind of thought I had spent enough time thinking about time that I had thought about it in most of the relevant ways.  Then I stumbled across this quote of Ursula Le Guin from an interview in The Paris Review:

The whole process of getting old—it could have been better arranged. But you do learn some things just by doing them over and over and by getting old doing them. And one of them is, you really need less. And I’m not talking minimalism, which is a highly self-conscious mannerist style I can’t write and don’t want to. I’m perfectly ready to describe a lot and be flowery and emotive, but you can do that briefly and it works better. My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to waste all that time getting there. But if you listen, if you’re with it, he takes you with him. I think sometimes about old painters—they get so simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.  

It seems normal at this juncture for the college-aged writer to say she hasn't given much thought to the way the process of aging and mortality itself will affect her writing career.  But I'll be honest:  that is something I've thought about.  Le Guin can say things about it that I cannot, of course.

What she says is rather interesting and something I know I needed to hear.  I think Le Guin is saying here not just that having less expected time left in this life makes you realize you can't waste time as an artist; she seems to be saying, along with this, that mature artists know well what they do and don't need, what does and does not belong, and so they are not only driven to not waste time, but are also able to not waste time within their art.

The Nike of Samothrace.  This is here because I think there is a really cool analogy you could draw between what Ursula Le Guin is saying and the way we today see a lot of ancient art in a physically reduced state.  This analogy has invaded the blog post because it is past midnight and I am writing a paper on the Nike of Samothrace. 

As a seriously not-mature artist, what I take away from this is the awareness that I probably insist on including a good many things--be they words, sentences, scenes, or whole characters--in my work that are not actually needed.  I was already noticing this, to some extent, in part of my WiP, so it was good to hear.

On the other hand, affecting the mature streamlining of content that comes with age might do more harm than good to the work of someone as young as myself or Tyler-Rose.  The best we can do is probably just this:  to test every moment, every facet, and ask ourselves why it deserves to exist.  To be good about not wasting time, if not by the godlike vision of one who is in complete control of the craft, rather then by the disciplined testing and trying of each piece we include, so that whatever is there is not, properly speaking, a waste of time, but rather a splash of youthful decadence from that fountain of what we actually have in plenty, at our age, however much it may seem that we never have enough. 

Monday, November 10, 2014


I am not participating in NaNoWriMo.  I really wanted to do some sort of extra writing this month in honor of the event.  The (short-lived) plan was to write a thousand words a day and get my WiP to 60,000 words by Thanksgiving.  That would have been great.  But I'm not doing that either.

I have many excuses.  Many reasons to share with you that will explain why I am not, cannot, and even should not, write that much in the next few weeks.

Some excuses are good excuses and most excuses are bad excuses, as everyone over the age of three knows.  Feel free to join me in sifting out the legitimate excuses from the balderdash that follows:

Excuse #1:  My free subscription to the Online Oxford English Dictionary will expire in May when I graduate from college.  I will not be getting a subscription again in the forseeable future because it is outrageously expensive for private individuals.  This is the dictionary that allowed me, a few moments ago, to look up the word "balderdash" and learn not only that I was using the word correctly, but also that scholars appear to know almost nothing about its etymology--a fascinating fact.  Clearly, I should be spending my spare moments this November learning new words from the OED, because words are what writers write with in the first place, and come May I won't be able to learn any new ones.

Excuse #2:  November is the worst possible month in which to write an entire novel.  This month was clearly chosen by someone who was either living rent-free in an attic somewhere or imprisoned--and certainly not by a college student because if you are a college student, there is only one month worse for writing than November.  That month is April, and it is worse not because you have any more work to do than you do in November, but because Christmas is much farther away.

Excuse #3:  I have read so much Latin, ancient Greek, medieval English, and scholarly prose in the last two months that my own prose style is positively in flux and my normal sentence structure, which is at the very least shorter than all this, has been replaced by long, convoluted sentences in which I attempt to arrange words and ideas in ways that no sane twenty-first century native English speaker would arrange them.

Excuse #4:  I am a human being with all the normal limitations that accompany humanness.  Among these is a need for sleep.  I could easily write a novel as a college student in November if I stopped sleeping.  Also, just to address the well-meaning comments I can hear welling up from the hearts of coffee drinkers:  so far my experiments with caffeine have made things worse, not better, to my chagrin.

Excuse #5:  The word "chagrin" comes from the French word chagrin and can also mean "rough skin."  Similar words are found in Italian, Venetian, and Turkish.  The relationship of Turkish to Indo-European languages is a fascinating thing, by the bye. 

The fantasy shelf in a Turkish bookstore in Izmir.

Excuse #6:  I have friends and I like them and I want to see them sometimes.

Excuse #7:  The general business of things has caused me to neglect social media to the extent that my Twitter feed has basically become intermittent explosions of @LeVostreGC retweets.  (See my Twitter feed in our sidebar for a recent example.)  As everyone knows, a strong social media presence is how books get written and sold these days, so I would be better off spewing a few extra 140-character-long witticisms into the internet than adding words to my manuscript.  

Excuse #8:  I am busy learning.  Tyler-Rose had to write up a fake writer's bio for me a month or two ago, and in it she wrote that I "studied Latin and life" at college.  I really liked that line.  It's really true.  I am devoting my time here at school to learning how to use language, how to tell stories, and how to begin to understand the basic subject of all stories, human life.  It's a privilege (one I earned with a lot of hard work in earlier stages of my education, but still a privilege) and a blessing, and I would do well not to squander it.  These years of concentrated and purposeful education are going to be one of the main reasons why I have things to write about.  So I should probably do what I'm here to do, and write just as often as I can, and not worry so much about things like NaNoWriMo. 

Yes, we're still posting on Mondays.

[Blog post to come within next few hours.  Because I know there are multitudes of you out there waiting on the proverbial edges of your seats.] 

Monday, November 3, 2014


Happy National Novel Writing Month: Day 3!!!!!!!!!!!! 

May the Muses bring much valor and strength to those engaged in that great and worthy contest.

I was going to write up some tips for the NaNoWriMo-ers today, but, as you may have noticed, I didn't blog last week and, truth be told, I didn't write much of anything else either.


Instead of spending an hour writing this blog post, I'm going to go spend it writing some novel. Besides which, you probably shouldn't be on the internet reading blogs either. After all, it's NaNoWriMo. You have better things to do with your precious, precious time.

Get off the internet. 

Go write something lovely.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Blog Turns Three

Guest Post by Katie the Roommate

Dear Folk of Blogland,

Do you remember me? I remember you. I’ve been watching you closely for a long time now.

I am Katie the Roommate. I’m the girl who lives in a world without lemons. I’m the one for whom a dead author’s face was powder-sugared onto a chocolate cake. And I’m the one who celebrates the birthday of this blog.

Today this blog turns three.*

Before we ponder that, though, let us reflect for a moment on the nature of this blog’s authors.

I’ve noticed that they like to talk a lot about plots, and a lot about pants. Probably there’s some rationale behind “pants” being the antonym of “plots,” but it a rationale that neither my godlike reason nor the Oxford English Dictionary has revealed to me. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but from what I understand one of them wears pants and the other wears plots. Have you ever worn a plot, dear anonymous personage of Blogland? No, neither have I. Maybe plots are invisible. Maybe we have an Emperor’s New Clothes situation going on here. Maybe the reason Susan sometimes leaves the shower curtain open in strange configurations is because she’s hanging her plots out to dry. Who knows?

Here is what I do know: I wear neither pants nor plots. Not only do I have a predilection for skirts and dresses, but I also was born with a lobe missing from my brain**, by virtue of whose absence I am unable to comprehend plot. I mean, I can read a work of fiction, yeah. But I find plot boring. And incomprehensible. And sort of useless. Give me some dude standing in a field having a forty-page-long philosophical reflection on a mouse’s tooth. That’s what tickles my fancy. That’s why I read books.

Which I realise runs against the entire purpose of life of 97.2%*** of this blog’s audience. My apologies. Include forty-page-long diatribes and I will buy your works of fiction despite the plot that so disgustingly plagues them.

But my handicap does permit me a unique skill, which is of benefit to you here. I am going to do for you what Tyler-Rose and Susan, beplotted (or bepantsed) as they are cannot. I am not going to tell you a story. Rather, I am going to suspend before your eyes a moment.

You’ll have to excuse (or, preferably, glory in) the absence of Richard Armitage from this not-story, because I’m afraid it’s a rather serious not-story. A rather beshirted****, non-bepantsed thing.

So here’s the moment. Okay, actually it’s two moments. I’m fickle, and also not-writing three papers, so we’ll have two moments. But first the first:

It is sometime in the summer of 2011.***** There is a street somewhat to the edge of a tiny college town. It is extremely tiny to one girl who flies from a city with more people than my corn-fed, prairie-bound brain can count. Her name sounds like the reverse of the Tenth Doctor’s only true love. She lands at the airport and is satisfied enough with a bottle of organic yuppy juice from Starbucks, but soon she boards a musty van to reach that street on the edge of the tiny college town, and as she approaches, everything gets tinier and tinier. Tiny inorganic grocery stores, tiny roadkill, tiny lack of any signs of human life. “What atrocity have I brought upon myself?” she laments to the rather-concerned-at-this-point bus driver, as he drops her off on the side of the street in the tiniest town she has ever entered.

At the same time, another girl approaches. Her name sounds like a children’s book character whose inordinate passion for nylons, lipstick, and invitations will eventually lead J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman to claim that puberty is sinful. Which is confusing. And silly. But I digress. She is not wearing nylons, lipstick, nor invitations, but shorts. (Maybe that’s what plots are? Just shorts? Huh.) Her grandmother is very concerned that she is wearing shorts for her arrival at a fancy college campus. Shorts-wearer is very concerned that her grandmother is very concerned. It’s generally just a concerning situation. Her van is less musty, but just as much filled with concern as the van descending into the hellish pit of tininess that is a tiny college town.
So there’s a tiny town, a street, and two concern-filled vans depositing two girls who have never met nor heard of each other****** on the side of that street.

They’re not thinking about novel-writing. They’re thinking about shorts and grandmothers and organic soda and dead deer.

An overly cheery admissions counselor hands them their room assignments. They are in the same room. From what I understand of the event, they were more delighted, at least at first, that Tyler-Rose had showered since she last rode a horse so that Susan didn’t die of an allergic reaction at their meeting than that they were both storytellers.

They figured that out in due time, of course, but that’s a story and therefore incompatible with my brain. Ask them if you’re curious.

Back to the second moment: three and a half years later, October 2014. On the same street, but on the opposite side. Tyler-Rose and Susan are still roommates. And they’re spending their Friday evening not wearing nylons or lipstick or, I think, plots (but since those might be invisible I can’t know for sure), but writing greeting cards slogans they can sell for big bucks during their starving artist years.****** They laugh a lot. They think they’re quite clever. They probably are.

So there you have it: a not-story. One street in a tiny town, three and a half years, and two girls who haven’t left it, nor tired of each other. Except now they laugh instead of bemoaning their wretched existences and/or their shorts. Which is preferable, if you’re their roommate. And isn’t that a wonder, that a story I can’t tell you bridges two moments, and makes and keeps a friendship?

Okay, one more moment actually.

Tonight I attended a concert. A folksy, vaguely-famous-for-a-hellishly-tiny-town band had come to town, and that was enough to get all the professors out in fancy dress with their spouses. Across the theatre from me, I saw a line of professors and their spouses, all of whom I know to have heaps and heaps and heaps of children. Just an incomprehensible number of children. But none of the children were there. The parents must have procured some brave babysitter to wield the lot of them, or maybe they just gave up and left the zero- to seven-year-olds to themselves. Either way, here were these professors and their spouses, all friends, enjoying a night out together.
I think we tend to look at things like that and say that that’s the essence of friendship.

Except that it’s not. There’s twelve dozen children between those three professors’ homes; if these nights out are the essence of their friendship, then their friendship is pretty darn measly. The thing that has made them friends is not the vaguely-famous-band concert they attend together in vaguely-fancy dress once a year. It’s their mutual sorrows and joys, their shared endurance of twelve dozen children, their joint suffering of a teeny-tiny town and its inorganic grocery stores. That’s the meat of their friendship. The vaguely-famous concerts are, to be trite (because it’s 11:58 PM now), the icing on the cake. But it’s a really dry, tasteless cake of suffering and concern and horror.

This has taken a dark turn. There’s also some laughter in the cake! Some poverty-stricken greeting card slogans! Don’t worry! The cake sometimes tastes good!

But you, ye lucky little ducklings of Blogland (if you have managed to read this far), get the always-awesome icing of constant vaguely-famous concerts. You get Tyler-Rose and Susan in fancy dress all the time. You get the leisurely moments of the day, when they have procured a babysitter for their plots and their pants and are just chilling out in happy-land, clapping at a banjo solo
All of this to say: the constantly-awesome awesome cake of The Feather and the Rose is pretty awesome, but you wouldn’t have that cake without the tears-and-agony-and-occasional-laughter cake of their friendship, without their suffering each other’s plots and pants and potted plants. And that’s pretty awesome, too.

Everything is awesome.

Happy birthday, blog.


* Theoretically, it turned three on Saturday, October 18. But since the 2nd blog birthday was celebrated on Saturday, October 19, a day after the actual birthday, it seems fitting that the 3rd blog birthday be celebrated two days after the fact, on Monday, October 20. (By the time this is actually written and posted, this will no longer be true, but let’s just pretend. The infant Clive Staples Lewis wrote a poem cycle called Dymer that begins with this lovely address:

“You stranger, long before your glance can light
Upon these words, time will have washed away
The moment when I first took pen to write,
With all my road before me—yet to-day,
Here, if at all, we meet; the unfashioned clay
Ready to both our hands; both hushed to see
That which is nowhere yet come forth and be.”

That’s what we’re doing here. Welcome to my life: Monday, October 20, 2014, 10:04 PM. I’m glad to have you here. Isn’t 10:04 PM swell?

** Tyler-Rose and Susan will be starting a GoFundMe campaign shortly.

*** Hi, Arena!

**** Heaven forbid shirtlessness​.

***** I realise this is all written in the present tense and I know that Tyler-Rose and Susan hate that and that makes me giggle. Hee hee hee.

***** Unless Facebook somehow had connected the two of them before this, but that makes for a much more boring not-story. Ignore reality, please.

****** Sorry not sorry if one of you were going to write a post about this and I’ve now stolen your content. Or if I’ve let slip your top secret income source. Oops.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Epic Excerpts

Last time I was here I discussed, essentially, Tyler-Rose's love of the visual elements of writing and my love of dialogue. 

So, dialogue-loving, word-hearing kind of person that I am, I thought I would share two passages of literature which are effective largely because of their use of dialogue or other spoken elements. 

First, a quote from one of King Henry's soliloquies in Shakespeare's Henry V. 

Tom Hiddleston hiding under a cloak.
Ahh, yes, the good old "king roaming his camp in disguise" trope. 
No one ever seems to tell these guys how ineffective their disguises are.
Hi, Henry.  I see you. 

(Henry, while wandering his camp in disguise (see above), has just overheard soldiers blaming him for the damnation of their immortal souls because of the battle they're going to start fighting as soon as the sun rises.) 

We must bear all.  O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
But his own wringing!  What infinite heart's ease
Must kings neglect that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?
And what art thou, thou idol ceremony?
What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st more
Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?
What are thy rents?  What are they comings-in?
O ceremony, show me but thy worth!
What is thy soul of adoration? 
Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men?
Wherin thou art less happy, being feared,
Than they in fearing. 
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poisoned flattery?  O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure! 
Thinks thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation? 
Will it give place to flexure and low bending? 
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it?  No, thou proud dream.... 
(Henry V 4.1.226-250)

I just cannot stay calm when Shakespeare starts using apostrophe.  "O, be sick, great greatness, and bid thy ceremony give thee cure!"  Pretty great stuff, right? 

Right.  Well, this has been on my mind, it turns out, because in BBC's recent four-movie version of the Henry plays, "The Hollow Crown," Tom Hiddleston, who for the most part makes quite a good Henry V, DOES NOT DELIVER THIS SOLILOQUY.  They skipped it.  Just skipped it.  To my utter perplexity and dismay. 

Tom Hiddleston on a horse carrying the flag of England.
Yeah, skip the awesome soliloquy with this one.  He doesn't look like he could handle it.

But before this turns into a rant the size and vehemence of which have only been seen before when someone decided to put airships in a Three Musketeers movie, I will move on to our second Excerpt of Awesome. 

From Wolfram von Eschenbach's contribution to Arthurian romance, Parzival-- 
(Most of the book up until now has been straight narration, or very normal dialogue between characters, so this chapter opener comes as a bit of a jolt.) 

"To whom?  Who is there?" 
"I wish to enter your heart." 
"Then you want too narrow a space." 
"How is that?  Can't I just squeeze in?  I promise no tto jostle you.  I want to tell you marvels." 
"Can it be you, Lady Adventure?  How do matters stand with that fine fellow? --I mean with noble Parzival, whom with harsh words Cundrie drove out to seek the Gral, a quest from which there was on deterring him, despite the weeping of many ladies.  he left Arthur the Briton then:  ut how is he faring now?  Take up the tale and tell us whether he has renounced all thought of happiness or has covered himself with glory, whether his fame has spread far and wide or has shriveled and shrunk.  Recount his achievements in detail.  has he seen Munsalvaesche again and gentle Anfortas, whose heart was so fraught with sighs?  Please tell us--how it would console us!  --whether he has been released from suffering?  Let us hear whether Parzival has been there, he who is your lord as much as mine.  Enlihten me as to the life he has been leading.  How has sweet Herzeloyde's child, Gahmuret's son, been faring?  Tell us whether he has won joy or bitter sorrow in his battles.  Does he hold to the pursuit of distant goals?  Or has he been lolling in sloth and idleness?  Tell me his whole style of living." 
Now the adventure tells us that Parzival has ranged through many lands on horseback and over the waves in ships.... 
(Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, translated by A. T. Hatto, pg. 222) 

This one was on my mind because Tyler-Rose and I recently had to read it for our Arthurian Literature class.  (Yes, yes, we know--we're winning at college.) 

And what is this, even?  Personification of Lady Adventure, of course.  But also a kind of epic-style invocation to the muse wrapped in witty repartee? 

......and, now, before we part, you should Google image search "Lady Adventure" and cry a little bit with me.  (Don't worry, it's not gross--just not anything that Wolfram's cool writing here calls to mind...)  Someone with art skills should do a rendering of Lady Adventure that doesn't involve unicorn-rainbow-women and send it to us. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

That Black Hole that is the Internet

There are a lot of things in this world that have set themselves the personal goal of ruining as many budding writing careers as possible. At least that's how it feels to me most of the time. Especially on rainy mornings when I've been up too late for too many nights in a row and the floor of my bedroom feels more like an ice rink than a floor has any right to.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, sometimes life gets in the way of writing.

But it's never that simple, is it? LIFE never comes as one tidy package.* It's a whole lovely, ugly, jumbled pile of a thousand tiny distractions and demands on our time.** However, for me at least, there is one great LOOMING DISTRACTION that TOWERS over all the others. Even paper research and eating.***

And that is . . .



Now, people write about this all the time. In fact, I think this is one of the things I see discussed most in list-style posts of writing advice. Usually, you are encouraged to leave the internet alone and just write your novel.

No doubt, you have seen some iteration of THIS meme:


All well and good. Don't be distracted by the internet. HA. 

NOW for my main dilemma. We are simultaneously encouraged to have an internet presence. Blog, tweet, pin, tumbl, post and otherwise promote yourself so that future agents will realize you are a marketing genius as well as a poet who happens to write prose.

This requires not only marketing genius (real or imagined), but world class time management skills and a will of adamantine iron. How much time does one devote to one's internet presence(s)? How much is too much? How much too little? I've seen people suggest various percentage figures, but I find it nearly impossible--not to mention odious--to calculate how much of my time is exactly 17% of my time.

But the fact that it's a time suck, isn't the only reason the internet is a threat to my writing life.

I think it messes with my connection to my story. It's distracting and it . . . muddies the waters somehow. I feel less clearly. The words are more difficult to dredge up and less attractive. It's harder to value what I'm doing. Basically, I like what I produce better on days that aren't littered with cat videos. But while I'm enjoying my proverbial cat videos, I hardly notice the difference. It's only later, when I'm assessing how little I've accomplished, that I see the different. That's why it's such a very sneaky distraction.

I think if I were designing my perfect impossible writing life, the day would begin with poetry or a few pages of one of my favorite authors. Just something to get the taste of beautiful words in my mouth.

I have little time for my writing this semester, but I do have some. I can get up early before my classes and write for maybe an hour before I have to start getting ready for the rest of my day. I used to use a little ramble around the internet as a way to warm up, but I think it's hurting more than it ever helped. But I don't want to give up all my internet time. It's fun and I'm supposed to be doing some unspecified amount of socializing online anyway. However, I think I can conquer this problem merely by avoiding the whole internet until I've done my writing for the day.

RESOLUTION: This week I will put Self-Restraint on for the duration of my writing time. Further more, I will actually get out of bed at the appointed time and sit down at my desk no matter how groggy I feel. In addition, I will put my hands on the keyboard and write things.

Wish me luck. I'll tell you how it goes.


* Unless you've ordered a year's subscription to the magazine. In which case, I'm sure it's very tidy.

** I'm put in mind of an illustrated copy of "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" by Shel Silverstein that I once owned.

*** Unless it's pie. Nothing is more important than pie.

^ Says the girl writing a blog post. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eyes and Ears

It is an item of startlingly good fortune that Tyler-Rose and I found each other.  You probably already knew that, unless you're a new visitor to this blog (hi!) or you're exceptionally unobservant.  But it's true. 

Not only is she a wonderful human being and friend, and hilariously funny, and a writer like me, etc. etc... but she's also a very different writer than I am. 

Tyler-Rose is a pantser.  I'm a plotter. 

Tyler-Rose tends to deal with streamlined plots.  I gravitate toward subplot-heavy, multiple-POV stories. 

Tyler-Rose writes with her eyes.  I write with my ears. 

Beagle is pictured with its ears fanned out in the air.

I am trying to think of a better way to say that.  I am not coming up with one.  So allow me to explain: 

When I'm tired or being lazy, I write mostly dialogue.  The thing basically becomes a screenplay.  This is not because I don't want to use all the other resources available to a novelist, but rather because words are easiest for me when they're coming out of imaginary people's mouths. 

Tyler-Rose, on the other hand, has told me that when she is low on writing energy, she writes long, lavish chunks of description.  That is where the words flow most easily for her. 

In contrast, even my most final drafts tend to be deficient in description.  Tyler-Rose pointed this out to me, and you can see me beginning to work out the problem in posts from our early blog days:  "Defeating the Vacuum" parts One, Two, and Three

I haven't read much of Tyler-Rose's work yet, but interestingly, I hear her talk a lot about improvements she needs to make in her dialogue. 

Black and white dog with huge eyes sticks out its tongue.
Tyler-Rose observing nature.

Needless to say, it is REALLY helpful to have a writer-friend who complements your weaknesses.  This became particularly clear to me recently, when Tyler-Rose was working on a project for her graphic design class.  She had to design a book cover, and, to my utmost joy and flatterment, decided to make one for my as-yet-unpublished work in progress. 

It was a fine and dandy thing until she started asking me what things looked like.  I gave her a couple wrong answers, or at least some wildly imprecise answers, to start--and then realized after seeing her mock-ups that I had never really pinned down the visual features of certain important items in the story. 

Because Tyler-Rose is a true friend and a patient human being, this ended with me dragging precise descriptions out of my brain, image and word by belabored image and word, while she sketched what I was telling her and erased what I found to be not-quite-right once I saw it on paper. 

It was so good for me.  So difficult.  So not the way I am used to thinking.  (Thank you again, Tyler-Rose, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my now-deeper imagination.) 

Excellent as that was, and for all that Tyler-Rose and I help each other, you don't need an uncannily complementary writer-friend to work on your weaknesses.  Low on description?  Take a drawing class.  Not best friends with dialogue?  Try Donald Maass's "Stripping Down Dialogue" exercise on page 78 of The Fire in Fiction.  (I saw Tyler-Rose battle through that one.  She looked much the way I looked when I had to describe my villain's minions to her in enough detail for her to drawn them.) 

And of course, important as it is to work on your weaknesses, having a tendency like this isn't a bad thing.  I think my writing really does have its highest impact at verbal moments.  And thinking back to the last thing I read of Tyler-Rose's, she created an atmosphere that is still vivid to me, a person who tends not to remember images.  The important thing is to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can build up the latter and hone the former to the level of a precise and obedient tool. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

On Not Writing

 I have something to confess. The previous sentence is the first non school or work related thing I've written in at least two weeks. When I returned to school at the end of the summer I had all sorts of grand plans to get up early and do my writing for an hour every morning before my classes start.


Oh, I still get up early. I just haven't been writing. I've been doing my homework. Because I have evening classes almost every week day. And that would be okay, except that I have morning classes too.

I know. I, too, am stunned by my brilliant schedule making skillz.

And I know this sometimes happens. Sometimes life gets in the way. Whether it is over-work, illness, or emotional crisis, sometimes we simply cannot write.

And for a few days it's okay. Maybe even for a week. Then . . . Then a certain feeling starts to settle in. I know Susan feels this too, because we've talked about it. This feeling isn't merely anxiety about my career (though, God knows, I feel that). It's more of a sort of shiftless discomfort. A restlessness that doesn't allow me to settle in contentment on any one task. I am discontent with my life, with the world, with those around me. It is too empty, too grey. The brilliant colors start to leach slowly out of the fall leaves, until they also are grey and in the rush of things to be done and tasks to be checked off my list, I forget that I should notice them.

One day this summer I went to lunch with one of my non-writing, extroverted friends and tried to explain this feeling to her. Her concerned response was: "Oh my God, do you think you've become addicted to it?!"

I think I was too stunned by this utter breakdown in communication to be able to say anything coherent for a minute or two. Then I muttered something about "being pretty sure that wasn't it" and changed the subject, still entirely befuddled as to how that could have been what she got out of my description of the passion I have for my art. I still don't know. She's a very practical person. I love her anyway.

It wasn't till later (this may be why I'm a writer an not a public speaker) that I was able to articulate what exactly I should have told her. What I should have said is this:

"No, it's not an addiction. But, having gained my sight, I don't wish to return to blindness."

When you write, you have to take each moment slowly. Each new setting must be acutely observed so that the reader can see what you see. So you must know what you see. You must stop and look and decide what is important. I find that this practice extends to the rest of my life. I see the colors vibrantly because I'm thinking about what they are and how I would write them.

Over the summer I had the pleasure to read Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. It's part memoir and part thoughtful guide to the writing life. In this book she often discusses the "Discipline" of a writing or artistic life. Not just a schedule or a word count goal. A Discipline. Some amount of work you do every day even when you don't feel like it to keep your mind and writing muscles continually in practice and ready for the Work. That's how she talks about it. The Work.

I've heard other people talk like this. Mostly they were great painters, martial artists, and monastics.  

With my time full of little tasks, sometimes I forget that I am not only trying to write a book, but trying to shape my life. I want a writing life. I need one. Because without it everything is grey and I forget to look for what is wonderful on this earth.

Writing isn't optional for me. It's how I breathe.

So, I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Update: Blog Schedule

The "blog schedule" is not something we tend to do here at The Feather and the Rose. 

We're both trying to finish writing projects this year, however, so streamlining the blog seemed like a good idea. 

Tyler-Rose and I will post on alternating Mondays.*  Hope to see you then! 

On an unrelated note, I just discovered the zillion variations of "Keep calm and carry on" that the internet has to offer, and some of them are hilarious.  Like this one: 

*nods knowingly*  Next time I fail to keep calm, I will blame my heritage.

Look for us on Mondays!


*Which means, roughly, that if you like footnotes, you should visit on the Mondays Tyler-Rose posts, and if you like lists, you should visit on the Mondays I post.  But I just used a footnote, so maybe it's best if you stop by on all Mondays indiscriminately. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Other People's Wisdom

What with Tyler-Rose's visit and the end of summer, I've been doing a lot of writing.  And, since I'm going into my senior year of college (eep!), I've also been thinking a lot about writing--where I'm trying to go as a writer, and how to get there.

Especially at stages like this, one can get totally bogged down in reading too much writing advice.  The internet is full of it.

I've come across some helpful and encouraging tidbits lately, however.  These aren't all foundational things you need to know in order to be a writer.  They aren't even all the most inspirational things I've read.  But they're what's been helping me lately.  So, without further ado... 

Susan's long, short list of writing advice from the summer of 2014:

1.  "Eyes Up, Writers" -- a truly inspirational and needed piece of advice from Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater.  This is what you need to hear when you start researching agents before you're even done with your manuscript, or when you start freaking out because of someone else's success, or when you get thrown off by someone else's cynicism, etc, etc...  Tyler-Rose and I have said "eyes up" to each other more than a few times since reading this.  And we can tell you, it is helping.

2.  Goals, hopes, and doubts with Brent Weeks --  I recently finished The Black Prism (Loved it!) and was perusing this interview, in which Weeks talks a lot about that series, but also spits out some writing advice along the way:

"I define a goal as something you have control of. Getting published is a hope. Finishing writing your book is a goal. Getting an agent is a hope. Sending your best query out to 30 agents is a goal. I used to confuse the two, and it caused me a lot of heartache."  (He continues in this vein.)

Heartache is not what I aim for, believe it or not.  I'm guessing it's not what you aim for, either.

Weeks also has a large hoard of writing advice on his website, and if the lack of happy-happy-inspirational-time in that last quote made your stomach squirm a little (first, follow the link to the interview and read the context, and second--) try what he has to say about "Overcoming Self-doubt":

"Do the work. That’s the solution. You don’t manage self-doubt. You ignore it. You don’t look at the fifty thousand sentences that are going to make up this book. You look at the one you need to write next.  ...  There’s only one way to address that voice that tells you that you can’t do it. It’s not by arguing with the voice. It’s by doing it."  (Also excerpted from a longer treatment of the subject which is worth reading.)

3.  Not writing advice, but -- Allow me to interrupt the program to introduce you to my favorite funny Twitter account:  Chaucer Doth Tweet.  You're welcome.

4.  In which George R. R. Martin makes a simple but important point -- I cleaned up my room recently, which involved sifting through a large pile of Writer's Digest magazines.  In the November/December 2012 issue, they interviewed Martin, and the theme was clear:  quality over speed.  He talked a lot about writing slowly in order to write well.

Now, you may be thinking, "Duh, Susan.  This is the man who's famous for taking forever to write his books.  This is also someone whose success has earned him the ability to write like a snail.  What's the point?  How is the Ent-like speed of this guy's writing life relevant to you or to me?"

Well, impertinent imaginary reader, I'm glad you asked.

The online writing community I come into contact with is very interested in speed.  Groups and events like @FriNightWrites (which I love!!  Check them out here.) and NaNoWriMo emphasize getting words, any words, down fast.  (Granted, @FriNightWrites is totally open to small word counts.  I'm just saying that it is easy, in any wordcount-mentality situation, to become personally very focused on speed.)

Getting words down is important.  I know it's important. But speed isn't everything.  I've seen CP's send out drafts wayyy before they were ready.  I've almost been that writer myself.  (Thank you Tyler-Rose, for stopping me.)  I've sat next to people in writing workshops who were too impatient to accept the (in this case, exceptional) teaching that was going on right in front of them.

And, before this becomes one huge blog post on why it's okay to take your time, I will just add this:  George R. R. Martin isn't the only one who is able to take his time.  There exists a class of writers who have even more time to hone their writing than he does:  the as-yet-unpublished aspirers.

5.  Finally, everything Donald Maass has written about writing -- He's the best.  And oh--will you look at that?  Huh.  Check out the top of that Twitter feed.  What a coincidence... 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


A stack of vintage trunks waiting at the airport.
I realized the other day while I was thinking about writing a blog post and deciding that doing the dishes was much more important that I never actually told the blog where I was going. I'm pretty sure Twitter was informed a number of times, but I don't think the blog got to share in my excitement.

WELL . . .

First, I went to a wonderful Youth Conference in Chicago that was really amazing. I got to see a lot of old friends that I hadn't seen all together in years and years and I met a lot of great new people and had a number of fabulous adventures that I would tell you about with great flare and hyperbole if we were actually meeting in person, but since I don't actually know who reads the blog I will refrain.

When that was over, I flew farther east to STAY WITH SUSAN for a week and a half. This was the first time in the whole course of our friendship that Susan and I were able to spend time together without papers and other wretched school related things looming over our heads. We were able to talk late into the night about writing, and life, and the universe, and everything without having to check our phones and say silly thing like, "You have exactly three and a half more minutes to unburden your soul to me, and then I have to go write my paper."

It was wonderful.

Blissful luxury.

We did a lot of fun things,* but being what we are we actually spent most of everyday writing. Because that is really what we want to be doing when we are researching obscure areas of academia in our cold northern college.

More on that later.

Meanwhile, I'm finally home from my travels. This is the first day I don't feel droopily jet lagged. So, I've decided today is going to be a wonderfully productive writing day.**

Wish me luck.


* Most of which involved eating. One of the especially fun things was the evening Susan and I went and got sushi together and I taught her how to use chopsticks. She is the first friend I have ever taken to sushi who has claimed to enjoy it. I love her.

** Thereby assuring that I get nothing done whatsoever.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers

As seen in Tyler-Rose's hilarious review of the search terms that bring people to our blog, people sometimes search "the federalist papers" and end up here. 

I have no idea why.  Tyler-Rose and I thought we recalled publishing a post on the Federalist Papers, but this proved to be mere patriotic fancy, as we could find nothing whatsoever in our archives to do with them. 

So, to remedy the situation once and for all, and since I happen to know a bit about the Federalist Papers and since it's still rather close to the 4th of July, I give you: 

The Feather and the Rose's Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers

(Definitive of their place in our search terms, that is.  Not, goodness me, definitive of the Papers themselves.) 

So, what are the Federalist Papers? 

The United States' Constitution had to be approved by at least nine states before it could be ratified.  Debate over whether the Constitution outlined a sound government for the new country was often carried out in newspapers.  The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles which contributed to this public debate. 

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison argue in support of the new Constitution under the pseudonym "Publius."

Federalist 51 contains what is perhaps the most famous passage in the entire series.  Madison here discusses the need for a structure of government that takes into account the self-interest, and even vice, inherent in its all-too-human officials: 

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.  The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.  It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.  But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. 

The Federalist Papers in their entirety are available online here, from the Library of Congress. 


So, now you people have a reason to end up here by searching "the federalist papers."  Enjoy! 


Or, in the parlance of book-review-bloggers: 

5/5 bald eagles.  Highly recommended to anyone interested in political philosophy and/or the founding of the United States.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Beautiful Standing Desk

***Warning: may contain Tyler-Rose whining about her ailments like an 80-year old***


The Writing Life lends itself very easily to becoming almost completely sedentary if we aren't careful. I'm sure there are some of you who are just bursting full of enthusiasm to go and work out or play the organized and sweaty sport of your choice.

But somehow I feel you might be the minority. As writers tend to also be introverts, we often prefer calm indoor activities that aren't going to drain our Energy Bucket* too quickly. Lovely things like writing some more, brewing tea, reading great books, cooking, watching movies that make us weep, gardening, writing again, maybe some yoga, day dreaming.

A lot of those activities are not only slow moving, but also are easiest to do sitting down for the duration of the activity. If you're writing, you require a surface. Most convenient surfaces occur at about mid-thigh height and have chairs of various cushinesses pulled up in front of them making it very tempting to just sit down in them since that is after all their purpose.

However, I rode horses when I was younger and injured my back by doing several fabulous swan dives out of the saddle.** By the time I got to high school, sitting in the wretched one-size-fits-only-the-exactly-average-sized-male desks with the one armrest that kept my writing arm permanently at boob level*** caused me daily agony.

I've had a lot of doctoring since then, so now I can usually make it through the day without having to lay on the floor with a chunk of pool noodle under my neck.& However, if I spend the amount of time sitting that is required for me to finish my word quota for the day, I will be sore, achy, and probably have weird shoulder pains developing by the end of the day.

And I'm not even twenty-five yet. The idea of what my forties might be like often sends me into paroxysms of pure terror.

I can defeat most of the roaming back pain by putting my laptop on a surface high enough for me to stand up at while I work. Then I get the added bonus of feeling superior and healthy because of everything we've been hearing lately about sitting down all day every day being pretty much one of the worst things you can do to your body.

Even this will cause me problems after a while, though. If the keyboard is at the right height for my hands, then the screen is so low that I have to look down while I work, which really isn't good either.

But never fear, because . . .


Tyler-Rose's laptop on a stack of books.
The angels are singing.

Side view of the above with my bookshelves in the background.
Can't you see the light of heaven
shining down on it?

The unfortunate thing is that to create this wonder I had to commandeer both my mother's usual spot at the tall desk and her keyboard, as well as her squishy wrist support strip. Sadly, this means that my beautiful arrangement will evaporate like Cinderella's coach at about 5:30 this evening.

I'm buying myself a keyboard on Amazon right now, though, so I will soon be able to reconstruct this magnificence in a more permanent location.

I also found DIY instructions online for how to construct a standing desk on top of a regular desk for about $22. I will be building this the very instant I set foot back in my frigid, evilly non-ergonomic dorm room at the end of the summer.

My back is so happy right now.


* If you consider yourself an introvert or are an extrovert who is lucky enough to love an introvert, and haven't read the introvert article with the explanation of how Energy Buckets work, you need to. Right now. THEY UNDERSTAND US! *tears of joy*

** One time I fell off right into a pond. That was epic. I think I gave my poor mother a heart attack.

*** That's about nine inches above the level where a writing surface that fits a woman of my size should be.^

^ Generally, I keep my feminism fairly sedate, but good heavens, if you ask me about FURNITURE SIZES I will give you a speech you will never forget.

& Susan knows.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Forgotten Word: Adventures in Turkey

Far, far away--or at least, far from where I type this--

From a hill near Urfa, Turkey, the picture looks off into the misty distance of thre Syrian border.

--there is a small Turkish city called Sanliurfa. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey
The old city center was especially gorgeous. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey

The fish pool in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

A brilliantly blue fish pool in Urfa, Turkey, bordered by white columns.
Urfa was the farthest east we went during my trip to Turkey.  Most people there spoke very little English, and it felt more like stepping into another world than any place we visited. 
Despite this, in the bazaar there, my friends and I found, of all things....
Wait for it. 
Wait for it. 
An English major.  We found an English major in the Urfa bazaar. 
A white sheep looks quizzically at the camera from where it stands on the green lawn.
We ended up talking to him because--well, first, we glanced at the soap he was selling--but then he greeted us in perfect English, complete with a crisp British accent.  In a place where we really had to use the rudimentary Turkish we had been scrambling together over the past week, that was rather startling. 
The poor man was desperate to practice his English--especially since there was no one in Urfa to speak with him--so we talked for a while as we sniffed our way through the soaps. 
As it turns out, he was a Syrian refugee (Urfa is rather close to the border.) who had been studying English literature and teaching English at a university in Syria.  The unrest in his country forced him to flee to Turkey, however, and made his future plans impossible:  He had been planning to move in with his uncle in England and attend a British university as a PhD candidate. 
I usually think about the grisly cost exacted by war.  The death, the violence, the disruption of families.  This encounter made me realize that that isn't all.  These people have plans and hopes and dreams just like the rest of us, and war ruins those, too. 
None of this had diminished the man's love for literature, however.  We asked him what his favorite books were, and he immediately listed Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Atonement.  He said he loved these books because they had been a comfort to him during the crisis in his country. 
And then--to finally circle around to the title of this blog post--he used a word...a glorious, luminous, perfect word, to describe those novels....  It was a word I never would have used, something only a non-native speaker would have selected.  And it was perfect. 
And we can't for the life of us remember what it was. 
I think it started with a "b."  Katie the Roommate wasn't so sure about that.  We spent probably an hour in our hotel room trying to think of it that night, once we realized it had slipped our minds. 
I don't know what it was.  I don't think we'll ever remember.  But I hope that somehow, someday, Adam the Syrian refugee will get his PhD in English literature and have a chance to use that word again. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

What happened on the Fourth of July

On July 2 of the year 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain.  On July 4, they unanimously approved their method of making this decision known to the world:  the Declaration of Independence.  (full text here--complete with eagles)

The Declaration is, plain and simple, treason. 

But the signers believed they owed allegiance to something greater than kings.  Thus, the second paragraph of the Declaration: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.---

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,---

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The year before, Alexander Hamilton (at the age of nineteen) had written of the claim such truths have upon us in "The Farmer Refuted"

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records.  They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power

The Declaration of Independence is at once an act of rebellion and an act of obedience.*  The signers rebelled against a man and the laws of men, but before truth and justice and a duty to their own humanity and that of their countrymen, they fell to their knees and offered up their lives. 

Happy Independence Day, and may we ever defend Liberty. 


For something a little more light-hearted and downright hilarious, allow me introduce you to Lady History(Be sure to check out "the captioned adventures of George Washington."  Her Yankee Doodle fife solo is also precious.) 

*I cannot take credit for this way of describing it.  I have had some very good teachers.