Hipster Dystopia

The Hunger Games. Divergent. Uglies. Legend. Matched.

Name one thing these series all have in common–chances are it popped into your head just reading the titles (I know it’s in the post title but just go with me). You guessed it..Dystopia with a capital D! (You must be psychic, really)

Dystopians are “the new black” of the book world. They are the trendsetters, the it girl, the celebrities. I mean, who doesn’t wish they’d written the Hunger Games? (darn you, Suzanne Collins). There’s nothing wrong with dystopians. I personally love them when they’re done right. I also love the attention and celebrity they have gotten, reaching out to broader audiences through big budget Hollywood movies and media. Authors are some of the most under-appreciated workers, so I love when they get the recognition they deserve–plus all the hype makes loving books and fangirling cool. 

One thing I love about dystopians, besides the cool, creative, and vivid worlds, is (the ones that are done well) make a statement about society. They put our flaws and our issues into this alternate reality, and suddenly it’s shocking and exciting and awful. Think killing children on reality television awful. But I have noticed a downward trend in dystopians: they are losing this meaning, this purpose. More and more they are becoming just an exciting story or an unusual world for a 16-year-old girl to team up with Mr. Dreamy (who she probably used to hate) and bring down the bad guys who just want to make their lives suck.

That’s the problem with copying something: a copy is almost never as good as the original.

I’m in no way against dystopians–like I said I love reading them, even my own MS leans dystopian. But I think dystopians more than any other genre right now come off just plain canned.

My absolute favorites are the “hipster dystopians” (you know, dystopian before it was cool). Think The Giver, The City of Ember, or even Fahrenheit 451. These authors weren’t chasing a trend. They weren’t trying to become the next big thing or get a mega movie deal starring my soulmate JLaw or Theo James/Liam Hemsworth (but I’m not complaining about the eye candy). It was more than just a cool story, they were trying to say something. 

We are so easily desensitized to the world around us. When reading dystopians, it is easy to forget that they can be based on true events. They are not just stories. What seem so shocking and horrible when written in a book are atrocities that are still happening in our world TODAY. (If you don’t believe me, check out this article on Upworthy: http://www.upworthy.com/whats-it-actually-like-in-north-korea-a-million-times-worse-than-you-imagine?c=reccon1#)

As writers, we ride a dangerous line. In this hyper competitive industry, it is all-too-tempting to throw betrayals, love triangles, and tear-jerking deaths into the story in the hopes of making it exciting enough for our audience (who seems to have the attention span of a squirrel, and is often drawn to shiny things). But don’t forget, it’s not just about telling a story or trying to entertain people. Art should always speak in some way, or else there is no point other than “Oh, that’s a pretty picture.” And even though writing is full of words, sometimes we forget to speak.

What about your book? Is it just a cool story? Or is there something more?

Please do everyone a favor, and write a story that speaks. Don’t get caught up in the trend and the glamour, and lose sight of the art.

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(Hipster Cinna is not impressed by your hipster fangirling)

How Writing Saved My Life

I have debated whether or not to write a post on this for some time, but am finally relenting. When I decided to start this blog, I knew I didn’t just want it to be a fluffy, happy, light blog about writing and trying to become an author. I wanted to be honest, and not just write about the happy, pretty things. I wanted to use this as a platform to talk about the difficult things too, the things people don’t always like to talk about. It may be early on to dive into it this heavy, but regardless, here it is.

More or less this has been the most difficult week of my life. Not only did another episode of illness knock me out for a week, but as I was starting to feel better I lost someone close to me, in a completely unexpected tragedy. Now I am not telling you this so that you can feel bad for me. As I am going through this difficult time, I am realizing again what an impact writing and art have on my life, and I know that I am certainly not alone. I hope that for anyone else going through trials right now, this can be helpful to you.

A while ago, my friend and author Lindsay Cummings posted a video with her testimony, titled How Books Saved Me (you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhZsgDNGtug). Our stories are nearly uncannily similar, and it was part of the reason we became instant friends. I have been chronically ill for most of my life, and was undiagnosed until about a year ago. My last two years of high school were when my illness was at its most severe. It started when I became sick with mono–which I would find out later often triggers postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS. I struggled with extreme dizziness, weakness, and twitching (which I now know are all part of POTS) and most days I couldn’t walk, even the few feet to my bathroom, without help. I was literally trapped in my bed for three months, and as a 15 year old junior who had just moved to a new state, this was about the worst it could get. My fledgling friendships quickly died off when I disappeared from school, and even my friends back home whom I had grown up with eventually lost contact. Outside of my family, I had no human interaction. I could not have been more alone.

Even as an introvert, this was incredibly difficult. I am a very independent person, so to be entirely dependent on others for everything was hard. Outside of sleeping 16 hours a day, there was little to occupy my time. I felt alone, useless, and completely worthless. With no diagnosis and no foreseeable cure, I couldn’t see an end to this hell. I was a vegetable. How was this life even worth living?

Though my condition was not life-threatening, I felt like I was waiting to die. At that point, I would have welcomed it.

(There’s a happy ending to this, I promise!)

Enter: writing. As I’ve said before, I’ve been writing my entire life. It was certainly nothing new to me. But one thing depression does is suck all the enjoyment and love for your passions and hobbies. I was plagued by the ever-blinking cursor at the top of a blank page. Anything I did write felt dull, lifeless, and boring. Worthless.

But after three months, I had run out of Netflix movies and Friends reruns, and I was losing my mind. So I began to write, and the words spilled out of me like somewhere a levy had broken.

They were messy. They were dark and ugly sometimes. I wasn’t writing because I wanted to be an author, or even because I wanted people to read it. I was writing for myself. Though I didn’t know it at the time, through writing these characters, their story, and their emotions, I dealt with mine. It was more healing than any therapy. Through untangling the mess of their lives, I untangled mine. And before I knew it, I was staring at a blinking cursor at the end of a finished book, and something changed. I had accomplished something. I wasn’t a vegetable anymore. I wasn’t worthless–I had written a book. I was a writer.

This moment felt worthy of fireworks and endless ice cream (there weren’t any fireworks, but plenty of ice cream) but it was more than that. I had reawakened something inside myself. For the first time in months, I felt alive. 

I eventually improved enough to where I was no longer confined to my bed (thank God) but through the roller coaster years of illness, doctors, and hospital visits that followed, writing has been constant. I have gained and lost friendships, struggled through school, and been through more than my share of boys and breakups. In my crazy, unpredictable world, it was an anchor, and it still is.

While I am in a drastically better place than I was a few years ago (I am diagnosed and coping with my illness, though it is untreatable, as well as managing college, new (much better) friends, and an amazingly supportive boyfriend) life always manages to throw curveballs. Sometimes, like this week, it knocks me off my feet entirely.

It gets better.

At that time, I couldn’t see an end. My uncertain future used to make me lose hope, but now it excites me. There are so many unknown surprises and opportunities just waiting! If you are ever at the point where you can’t see an end, please don’t give up. Find something you are passionate about. Painting, writing, music, LARPing, whatever. Something that reawakens you and makes you feel alive. Fight for it. Beat it. And come out 10x stronger.

And as I have learned this week, time is so precious. We don’t know if we have five decades left or five months. Though he died too young, Vincent lived every moment of his 30 years on this earth to the absolute fullest. He was an inspiration and role model to me, and still is. It may be cliche, but life really is what you make of it. Cherish the highs, each little moment. But also appreciate the lows, learn from them, and grow stronger.

Slow down a little this week. Take the time to watch the sunrise, or make a really good cup of espresso and enjoy it instead of inhaling for the jolt of caffeine. Open a door for someone. Walk in the rain. Hug someone you love, a little too tightly.

Time is precious. Art is one of the great gifts we get to experience in this world.

It may even save your life.

 

And now that you know more about me (maybe entirely too much), I’m curious to know a little about you. What are you passionate about? What impact has art had on your life? What have you overcome, and what or who inspires you?

Share this post with someone who needs it, and spread a little love this week.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: DEFIANCE

As I said in my What’s Up Wednesday post this week, I just finished Defiance by C.J. Redwine. It is book one in the Courier’s Daughter trilogy. Here’s the cover if you don’t know what I’m talking about:

(Which by the way I totally love this cover) but as for the book itself,  it took me not even two pages of reading to instantly fall in love with C.J. Redwine’s writing voice. She is amazingly talented, and has such beautiful prose and storytelling. It painted such a vivid picture, and completely immersed me in the book. This is the first book of hers I have read, but she is definitely now one of the authors whose writing inspires me!

On the other hand, in the beginning I was a little disappointed with both the characters and the plot. Not only were the future/alternate history sci-fi main characters named Rachel Adams and Logan McEntire (yawn…but then there’s the guy named Melkin?) but they and their relationship felt flat. The beginning felt a little too much like the cliche dystopian YA–evil guy in power making their lives suck, overly stubborn and spiteful redhead hates super handsome guy but secretly attracted to him and they can’t help but fall madly in love.

Now before you dismiss the book, let me say that I actually loved it, it just took me a little while to get there. But once I got past their names and contrived relationship, I watched their characters, the story, and the plot develop. A few chapters in, I was hooked.

One thing that makes this book special to me is its girl-power themes (girls are not allowed anywhere without their male “Protectors” and cannot make their own decisions–but Rachel is brought up independent and strong-willed, and the messed up system is emphasized throughout) as well as its unique combination of sci-fi and fantasy elements. When I started the book, I pictured their world more dystopian sci-fi, but at the same time it is set in a castle, but they also have technology/inventions, and there’s a powerful magic monster that terrorizes their world, and Tree People living in the Wasteland outside their city. It sounds like an odd combination, but it completely works.

I absolutely loved the ending of this book, and am itching to get my hands on the next 🙂 Definitely worth the read!

Overall, I give this book 5 stars! (Here’s a link to my short review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/895823331?book_show_action=false)

What’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

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Defiance by C.J. Redwine. I actually just finished this last night, as I finished my writing quarantine after I reached my monthly (which I exceeded! Woo 🙂 I went on a little bit of a reading binge (whoops). While it took me a little while to warm up to this book, it wasn’t long until I was hooked. Especially loved the ending, and can’t wait to get the next one!

What I’m Writing

I am currently a little over 30k into writing the sequel to my manuscript. As I said, I was in writing quarantine/frenzy until I finished my monthly. Now I’m taking a little breather outside of minor tweaks here and there to keep myself working and involved. But of course, inspiration has struck again with a possibly crazy or genius idea that could change both the original and the sequel. I am very excited to delve into that 🙂

What Inspires Me Right Now

I am constantly inspired by what I’m reading, and what other authors are doing. This week I was inspired by a lot of C.J Redwine’s beautiful prose and poignant lines. I was also inspired this week by my psychology class, specifically learning about defense mechanisms. These gave me insight into my characters as deep, complex people with pasts and ways of handling things, and partly inspired the upcoming crazy/genius change that may involve repressed memories, a betrayal, and a suicide that turns out to be a murder (gasp). And as always, I am continuously inspired by art and music (if you want to check out more inspiration for both art and writing, check out my board on Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/victoria_elaine/inspiration-writing/)

What Else I’m Up To

Lately, I have been more or less healthy (knock on wood) though I did pay for it by being sick 80% of the month of March. So for now, I am enjoying my good health: girls night, Ellie Goulding concert, painting, much needed date night with boyfriend. But I am also frantically trying to catch up with my courses, while fighting to stay motivated and persevere until the end of the semester (five more weeks!) Currently, I am about to write an essay, then leaving to meet a friend for coffee and later watch Catching Fire (which I could never get tired of). Making the most of my good health while I can 🙂

Happy Wednesday everyone!

 

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

I don’t consider myself a typical writer, though I suppose there isn’t a such thing as a “typical writer.”

I have been writing stories since before I knew how to spell, and the love of writing has been with me my whole life, as much a part of me as my arms or my heart. I wrote when I was inspired, when I was discouraged, when I needed an escape from reality. I wrote through break ups, through family drama, and through my ongoing illness. I am 19 years old now (this month) and have completed three manuscripts (that should never see the light of day) and one that was worth possibly sharing. I finally had characters, and a story, that were so real and so strong they practically wrote themselves, and then they jumped off the page and took up permanent residence in my head (whether I liked it or not). I’d been writing all my life, but I finally had a story worth telling.

It’s a terrifying thing, to take something that is more or less a piece of yourself, and expose it to the world and the possibility of rejection and hurt that comes with it. But finally, I did–slowly, at first. My notoriously optimistic and cheery cousin, who gushed about it and couldn’t wait for more. My best friend. Snippets here and there, not enough to be harmful. It was enough positive feedback to boost my spirits, but not enough for me to truly put myself out there. The publishing process seemed like Mount Doom on the horizon, and I didn’t have enough courage or lembas bread to get there.

Then I met my friend Lindsay Cummings (author of the upcoming book The Murder Complex as well as the Balance Keepers series) and when she asked to read my book, I was terrified. Here was someone with experience, someone who knew what she was doing and was in no way obligated to tell me nice things about it to make me feel better. But, with sweaty palms, I sent her the first chapter. I think my heart stopped for the whole hour it took her to read it. Then I read her response, and my heart stopped again. She liked it? Like, a lot? It seemed too good to be true. I’d never given much serious consideration to having anything published. It seemed an unrealistic and unattainable dream, so I crushed it before it could take root. But here she was, telling me I was too talented not to publish. Surely this was a dream! But after rereading several more times,  I finally convinced myself it was true.

Maybe I did have a chance at climbing Mount Doom, after all.

It’s been a roller coaster for me, and a huge learning curve, to educate myself in the publishing process, and to tackle the transition from passion to profession. I have finally allowed myself to dream of actually becoming an author, and now it’s a need so embedded in me it is as much a part of me as writing or my arms or my heart. Not because it seems like a cool job or at least way better than a 9-5, but because I have a story that I have to share–whether it is with 50 people, or 50,000.

So far, I have sent out 7 queries, and will be attending my first writer’s conference in May. I am still overwhelmingly inexperienced in this field–and perhaps, have no qualifications to be writing this blog–but I hope that there are others out there at the start of this daunting journey that are as overwhelmed as I am. When I first sent Lindsay my manuscript, I thought–What the hell am I doing?

What am I getting myself into?

If it had been up to me, I would never have shared my manuscript with anyone. I would never have been anxious, or rejected, or discouraged. I would have curled up with my coffee and my dog and my books, and been perfectly content. But my characters and my story, with all their vibrance and life, would have been stuck forever on the pages of my computer screen. And that’s not fair.

I hope you can share in my experiences, my mistakes, and my triumphs. I hope that I can inspire, encourage, or at the very least entertain you so that we can climb our Mount Doom together. So I invite you on this messy, overwhelming, terrifying, exhilarating roller coaster ride, and leave you with this:

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Now let’s kick Mount Doom’s ass.