Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The End of an Experience

Silhouette of  the Woodbridge Ferris statue at Ferris State University
On the 29th of March my time as editorial intern ran out. It was an interesting experience, which I will not soon forget, but it opened my eyes to a few things. That while I love writing and copy editing, I really am not the best on working on editorial materials or working in an environment where there is no office. These are my own faults, not the company's. The Musa and Penumbra staff were nothing but supportive, educational, and wonderful coworkers.

Hopefully they find another intern with a little more vigor, and preferably a journalism minor. I know that lack of writing knowledge had my head spinning. An English major knows how to write, to be sure, but we also lack a lot of skill that a journalist might have. We're good at analysis of work, but there is so much more I felt I should have known. Then again an English major may be able to do it, they'd just have to be quicker at learning on their feet than I was. I can think of a few fellow students back at college who might have handled the experience better than I did.

In the end the internship made me realize that while I may want to try this sometime again in the future, for now I need to focus on gaining new skills for another career. A career I feel I would be more stable in. I decided that this summer I will re-enroll at Ferris State University for a degree in Computer Information Systems.

I went to a career counselor about two thirds of the way through my internship realizing I needed a change, and this is the path that we found seemed to suit me. So, for now I'm going to say goodbye to the professional writing world and hello to the tech industry. It was fun, but I can honestly say, I didn't know what I was getting into. I may still try to write a novel, but this time it will be as a happy author with a completed manuscript outside of the industry.

Happy Writings!

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Will The Students of Tomorrow Learn?

I'm going to take a wild guess and say robotics. At least, I think it will happen here in America. My reasoning  is based on an event I recently went to at Gull Lake High School in Richland, Michigan. They were hosting the 2013 FIRST robotics competition in Michigan. I chanced upon the event when I was checking out the local High School flier for the Gull Lake area. FIRST was the cover story and a highlighted upcoming event, and the article promised something akin to the television series Robot Wars I used to love watching as a kid.

Students from all over my state came to the competition with their robots in tow to put the robots they built to the test. These kids spent several months building and testing robots they made, with the help of mentors who are professional engineers and scientists by trade. Each group was excited and living up to FIRST's name which translates to, "For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology." Groups had mascots (who danced to pop music in between competitive rounds,) buttons, posters, and stations where you could talk to them. These kids were enthusiastic and ready to do their best in the ring.

Morgan Freeman had it right, "It's the Super Bowl...of smarts!" While not as violent as I may have anticipated it being from my earlier exposure to Robot Wars in early thousands, these competitions were still quite the spectacle sometimes exciting and sometimes downright funny. I had a blast as a spectator, but as a writer and fantastical thinker I couldn't help but wonder whether these teams of high school kids would become more common place as time went on. It seemed possible to me that, The Flying Toasters from South Lyon, MI (who were by far my favorite team) might actually become a supported sports/ mathlete team of the future. I also wondered if it wouldn't become part of regular curriculum over time.

I would venture they will. I hope that programs like this will continue to flourish throughout the U.S. and take kids towards careers that are not only practical, but that will become the superstars of the future. I'll be curious to see how events like these will be incorporated into the books and stories as well. Until then happy writings, and oh, yeah....


Friday, March 1, 2013

The Patriotic Zombie and Inspiration from Image Generators

I used ZombieMe.com to make the picture (and GIMP
To even things out a bit.)
Yay, a new blog post for Penumbra! This was the image (I made) that I had hoped would go with the article, but some things just don't work out. The link and an excerpt from the article are below.

The Patriotic Zombie: by Kristen Saunders.

Super Bowl Sunday is about as American as you can get. As I sit watching the commercials and writing this story (a few...

I noticed another grammatical mistake I didn't catch before my post went live. Urgh, nothing quite as frustrating as missing things! I quickly glanced at the bottom of the page and realized that I had written, "A bit (of) mindless entertainment," the "of" plainly missing in this particular sentence.

Hair pulling induced by grammar aside, I really need to think about something new to write about. I don't think Space Opera's are going to be a good subject for me, as the earlier post mentioned. So maybe I should try to find something else to talk about, like art and writing. How one influences the other. I always enjoy creating art as much as writing; I often do them together.

Some art, like the picture above, is done with cool apps online. I also did a pulp science fiction cover for one of my older story ideas, Dreida, today on an app called Pulp-O-Mizer. The generated picture is below.

I have another picture of my hand drawn cover art for this story. It's a little more sentimental, but not nearly as crisp or professional looking. I think these silly online apps can be inspiring and I hope those reading have some fun with them.

Happy Writings and Creation!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

When if Ever Will a Space Opera be Feasible?

Toroidal Colony  by Michael Anissimov. A design for a
possible space colony in the future.
The last few weeks have lead to a few developed thoughts in my head. Penumbra asks me to chip into their blog once a month. It's part of my internship and I usually have a blast doing it. The subject of space operas however, has left me feeling rather unproductive. How can I approach the nuances of something that has yet to come into existence? That thought inevitably became, "When can we foresee a space opera (In its modern form) happening?"

Right now the only life forms we know that exist on other planets are microscopic. We haven't seen  other intelligent species, let alone gotten to know one well enough to believe that we could be having diplomatic relations with another planet. If we do find other intelligent life in our universe I would be curious to see how they behave. Will they be peaceful, warlike, or like humans have multiple sides to them?

We don't know what those first encounters will look like or if they will even take place in this universe. I can see science someday taking us to another dimension, another reality. What kind of experiences will that sort of travel bring us? I could speculate, but I would more than likely be horribly wrong.

We are currently moving towards a more industrialized vision of space in America. I find that rather exciting actually (at least as much as I find it terrifying,) because it may bring us towards discovering much more about space exploration.

Star Trek is a long way off from becoming a reality. Space colonies like the one above are not something that will likely happen in my life time.

Life is a funny thing, because if I have to think about what might happen after its over all I can think is, "Well it won't apply to me. Why should I care?" I know in theory I should be excited, should want to push our society towards making those breakthroughs and at the very least encourage the next generation to find an escape planet in case this one should ever fall to ruin to say, a stray meteor over Russia. I should care, but in the end I doubt I'll live to see it and outside of science fiction my interest ends there. I'm more interested in how space companies plan to mine asteroids without having the human error to drop rocks on the earth below.

My guess is that unless they come here I won't see aliens. I won't get to see humans make the first connection with another species, or the first intergalactic council elect the equivalent of a Vulcan as their level headed leader.

Right now I don't see meaningful (widely known) alien encounters as a feasible thing. Until we can go on long trips at the speed of light away from earth I will conclude the only space opera's I'll ever hope to see will be ones in the Senate. Those opera's will be much more tedious, and will involve how much money can be "squandered" on machines that will provide planetary protection from gigantic flying rocks. C-SPAN will broadcast them and I'm certain, as ever, we will all skip over the channel and miss that these long drawn out legislation dramas are ever happening in the first place.

All I can hope is that Space X and NASA manage to make some drastic discoveries during my lifetime which will bring us one step closer to intergalactic story telling on a massive scale.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How Do You Stay Regular?

Fiber is not the answer for this particular question. My thoughts on becoming regular pertain to work productivity for the online, home based, self scheduled worker.

Writing two to three blogs a week is not hard. The idea of sitting down and expressing new thoughts on a daily basis isn't that daunting either. I think the problem I have with writing regularly simply comes down to a lack of discipline. 

I have a calendar that decoratively hangs on the wall in my room/ office. It has Mucha's art on it and I fell in love with it at first sight, glitter and all. I'm certain that if I took a pen or a marker to it and circled days that said "Thou shalt post on these days!" It would get done. However, there is a little part of me that doesn't want to harm the glorious pieces of art on back side of each calendar month. 

I find it peculiar that whenever I write that something needs to get done it gets done. Even if by writing, I mean circling a few random number days on my calendar. I find it peculiar because I can say something all day long (or admittedly even month long,) but unless I write it somewhere, it tends to be left to the wayside. 

It's due to this strange behavior that I try to keep up my diary when I'm particularly stressed out. My diary is really one big to do list that has little notes and random artwork inserted between the pages. However, the diary is usually my last resort and I'm beginning to think that I may need to mar up the beautiful calendar soon if I'm to become a productive member of society. 

The introspective part of this particular blog post makes me wonder what is so compelling about a few written words? Is it because I see it as some sort of promise to myself? Or is it simply like a contract with a date and time, giving me physical proof of time philandered away on the internet instead of focusing on things I ought? I'm not quite certain where the motivator lies in those written words. I know I feel guilty if I neglect something even though I've "said" that I'll do it.

I think writing down tasks has to do with intentions more than guilt. It's a personal guess, but it makes more sense to me when I sit and think about it. It's like a daily resolution to resolve the little problems in my life. Just like how I decided I was going to have a carrot smoothie today. I did it, and it was delicious.

So now I resolve to get back to work and to finally start brainstorming some ideas on space operas. Penumbra will need a new blog shortly and I know very little on that particular subject. 

Happy Writings, and better concentration to all the creative people out there!

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Introduction to the Godfathers of Science Fiction

Ray Bradbury the man that
made me realize the error
of my ways.
This was a piece I did for the Penumbra blog on my lack of literary exposure to the great authors of Sci-fi. I'm currently reading, "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus" by Orson Scott Card because of this piece. I read it only while exercising in the morning, and as ever I have a bad habit of reading five or six books at once making my reading completion rate very slow. Here is a beginning excerpt and a link to the blog:

Penumbra eMag: Introduction to the Godfathers of Science Fiction: by Kristen Saunders You must forgive me for what I’m about to write, but I’ve committed a most grave sin among passionate science fiction ...

I plan on reading pieces from all the great Sci-fi writers in the near future, but unfortunately I can only do so many books at once. I'm currently reading "A Storm of Swords" by George R. R. Martin, "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas, and numerous magazines strewn throughout the house.

Happy Reading and Writing to all of you out there!

Ending a Future and Finding Another

What January consisted of for me.
To say January was unproductive isn't quite covering all the problems I've had last month. Preparing my story for a month before and then trying to write up several new story ideas when my first failed made it very clear that my NaNoWriMo was a disastrous failure. It seemed no matter what I wrote I had no connection to it and it didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything. At week three I tossed the pencil across the room, threw my hands up in the air, and promptly gave up on the whole venture deciding to relax for a little while instead.

Problem was I couldn't really relax. It was becoming clear that I wasn't comfortable with writing regularly. Writing was something I wanted to make a career out of and it still potentially is. My inability to have any creativity made me ask myself constantly, "What is wrong with you?"

The answer was a mix of several things. One, I'm in the middle of a depression which can make writer's block feel like a real life hell. The self loathing that comes with not accomplishing your own goals makes you not want to get out of bed and to consequently bury your head in the sand so you don't have to deal with the rest of the world and it's expectations. The second was that I've been thrown (by my own will) into a creative business that I haven't really tried my hand at before. Honestly I never took a journalism course outside of high school. And when I did take that course all I did was make poorly drawn Microsoft Paint comics for the school newspaper; a far cry from professional editorials of any sort. Thirdly, I have begun to wonder if my college degree was really what I should have been pursuing for five years with the constant feelings of unsteadiness that I've been dealing with.

This mess of facts and questions lead to a perfect storm of personal turmoil that I'm working on getting my butt out of. I will always like writing and will probably continue this blog (2-3 days a week instead of daily.) However, it has become plain to me that I need to stabilize my future by setting up some goals. The first of which will include me going back to college while I still can. My father works at a university, so I get nine credits free a semester at my school. I may return to professional editing and writing again later on in life, but for now I want to explore other opportunities. 

I'll start writing for fun on the sides when my Musa Internship is over and keep my skills sharp in any way I can. I'm still artistic at heart, but when it comes to perfectionism in this field I know I'm lacking. Thus, I think as a growing writer I will relegate my writing to a page a day (for fun).

Depression is an ugly thing, but clearing up your future plans definitely helps with making life feel better. Exercise, a schedule, and accomplishing tasks seem to be factors that help dissipate my lethargy and irritability. However, knowing how many expectations I can have of myself is key too. Making too many goals only makes my problems worse, thus the drop in the number of blog posts I will be doing. For now I'll trudge on and look forward to the days yet to come.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Short Hiatus

Hello Fellow Writers,

I am going to take a short break to focus on my novel/ short story project for the rest of January. If I see something truly compelling I may pop back on, but for now I need to focus on this one thing. I've become so obsessed with the technical and methodical way of approaching writing that I've been neglecting the fun aspect of it. In this way the blog has become something of an inhibitor rather than a tool that is helping me be creative.

This blog has afforded me quite a bit of insight into different ways to approach how I write. However, I need a short break to start applying some techniques and focusing my writing. February I'll come back and start over, but for now, I need to just do and cut out a few of the little things that are taking my time away.

Happy Writings, I'll see you in February!

Kristen Saunders

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reading for Fun

I spent most of the day reading from books. I read a few pages from Blogging for Business by Shel Holtz and Ted Demopoulos and a few chapters from Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. It was what my mother would call a "lazy day" and one I spent mainly on my couch slowly reading and absorbing information. I had a feeling Card might have understood some of what Chimamanda Adichie was saying in the post I made yesterday. His characters are so complex that they are believable. Even the children he writes say things children would say and do, much to their parent's annoyance. 

I was supposed to focus on writing today but got wrapped up in this narrative instead. I grabbed the paperback from my mother's ancient book collection, dusted off the half inch of dust from years in the back corner of a hutch, and started reading it during my morning runs. After getting through the first chapter I ended up reading it almost all the time in any location. The choices his characters face caught my attention and have made me wonder if I would have made the same choices. 

Writing that makes you question your own choices, without posing direct questions to you, is in my opinion some of the best writing that there is. This work embodies several of those questions and at the same time makes me care equally about the narrative that is taking place on the page. 

Now to tackle some of that writing I was supposed to be doing... Happy Writings!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Do You Mess with Expectations and Perspective?

Chimamanda Adichie is a story teller and in this TEDtalk she tells her own in a way I could never replicate. Her narrative makes you think about what perspectives we keep on the world and how we should be aware of them. She explains how our perceptions of a culture may not apply to every single person or community and results in us losing the richness of the stories around us in everyday life. Stereotypes become the spotlights that shed light in a negative way and reveal little else to the untraveled eye.

Her speech makes me want to understand the cultures of the world more intimately, and to expand my understanding of the effects of globalization on cultures all over the world. That intimacy will help me visualize Chinese or Indian characters listening to music from around the world and living lives I might not have expected.  Understanding that there is as much good that happens anywhere as there is bad can make you realize the depth of human complexity anywhere in the world.

Her tale really helped me to widen the horizon of my thoughts onto what the intricacies of an individual might be. What a character may be exposed to in the world is much more vast than their own culture. For instance though I am white American I have an intense love of Japanese culture and can often be seen dancing to K-pop and J-pop. Mind you I've been listening to this genre of music for awhile, long before Psy came into vogue. Random exposure to the world around us makes me think of the movie Slum-dog Millionaire. The main character who knows Benjamin Franklin is on the American one hundred dollar bill is in its own right an interesting narrative. Someday soon I should get around to reading the book and see if I obtain anymore enlightenment from what lies written on the pages.

There is so much that can be learned from this twenty minute piece. After watching it three times I still feel I have not grasped all that she has to offer in her biographical narrative.

Take a break from writing and enjoy watching!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Found My Groove!

Another Year Another Page by Judyta Murawska
Apparently yesterday's creative reboot was exactly what I needed for my writing. I can hear a thrumming buzz in my ears as new thoughts whiz by for several short stories that take place in a future China. I'd say it's a dystopic collection, but the thing is I think dystopia's are happening all the time. We just don't tend to notice the dark things going on around us in America. Western thinking has made us believe that we are beyond the reaches of losing our civilized nature as a collective. Losing our humanity seems laughable when there's a Walmart, drugstore, hospital, religious house, bank, and Salvation Army down the street. Thing is, take away electricity or introduce something like a plague onto the cities of today and I don't think it would take that long for things to slide out of balance. Societies are meant to eventually fall whether by disaster, war, or internal collapse. No government can last forever.

My government rants aside, the entire time on my two hour car ride home today I was happily thinking of new ideas for short stories. I wasn't trying to weave the characters together so it worked well. If it becomes more later, awesome! If not, I won't be crying about it. Most importantly the stories I'm thinking of make me want to draw. When I feel compelled to create and visualize a character and universe it is extraordinarily refreshing. I feel a bit of my old self reviving. The girl who wanted to take on the world and prove she had something great in her jumps out of the closet like she's been locked in there for a year or two. Though I feel more of an amateur now than before, it's kind of refreshing to know exactly where I stand. That and it makes me feel comfortable enough to start searching for my own writing voice. To craft it beyond the obvious and delve a little more into the details.

Richland, a town nearby, has a writing group and I need to start attending. It meets twice a month and with any luck one of the writers will have been published. I need to meet some people who know the ropes of publishing and acquaint myself with them in person, not just read their articles on my phone and laptop.

I'm excited about what 2013 has pushed me to do this year and with any luck I'll find just enough success to keep me moving forward. That and with all this creative energy flowing around, who knows, I may post some personal art here in the near future.

Until then, Happy Writings!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Monday mornings are good for a change of routine. Although I've talked of nothing else for the past month I've decided to let God Syndrome sit for awhile and focus on a compilation of short stories. I'm thinking they may have a shared theme like strong women, or an area of land. I'll start writing and let it flow from there.

I was inspired to make my pieces into smaller chunks by the article, Why Do Most Writers Start With Novels? by Jason Boog. It's a relatively short piece, but it definitely is something to think about. With the writer's block I'm experiencing coming from character development I figure short stories are a good way to flex my brain muscles and obtain some focus.

My friend is at just over 9,000 words and we are both supposed to be at 11,000. I'll start over again and hope that in some miraculous fashion I can manage to catch up even a little bit.

Time to put on some good music and obtain some focus. Happy Writings!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Do You Do When You Feel Your Muse Has Died?

This is Ken, and this is his blog
which I will read at a later date.
I'll start off by saying four days into my personal nanowrimo and I'm already hitting the nail on the coffin head. I didn't type at all yesterday and right this very moment I would like nothing more than to crawl into bed and go to sleep. It's technically Saturday (even though I'm still counting it as Friday night) and I've yet to break the first 1,612 words that I needed for the first day. This however is something I'm going to need to work through. I'm keeping today's post brief so that I can devote a little more time to my project, but I thought I'd leave you lovely readers with a link to the blog that inspired me to keep trudging through the mud. To keep writing despite the fact that I feel a little disconnected to my own story line right now.

While I work for Penumbra EMag I often truly find inspiration on their blog. The post WRITE MORE: by Ken Liu tells aspiring writers a simple message to, "write more." It may be easier said then done, but experience is the giver of wisdom and I am certain this seasoned writer knows what he's saying.

Happy Writings!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Convention Crazy!

Jumping back into the work schedule brings me to a peculiar topic. Conventions. Musa is having me compile a list of conventions to help its authors share their writing with those of like minds and interests. I've been compiling lists of science fiction, horror, romance, fantasy, and general book conventions for the past couple days with location information and links to event and artist coordinators. The lists are insanely long and I never imagined there were this many conventions every year. Almost every weekend has one and several weekends have multiple gathering's all across the United States.

Despite my lack of knowledge on the number of conventions, I am aware of their power and existence. My first experience with a convention was Youmacon 2007, an anime convention that was in Troy, Michigan. Anime conventions usually cover anime (Japanese cartoons) and manga (Japanese graphic novels.) I've loved manga and graphic novels ever since I was introduced to them in seventh grade. When art and writing meld together you get a unique story telling experience. It may not be literature, or require the depths of your imagination to visualize what is going on, but there is humor there that you can't really get anywhere else. 

I made the helmet and scythe. It took a lot of work, but I had one hell of a time during the con.
Youmacon 2007 was one of the smelliest experiences of my life. It consisted of no AC and lots of nerds with body odor packed tightly together indoors. In spite of the smell there were artist's there who created my favorite animes and mangas. More importantly I got to know people who had the same interests I had and got to explore the culture further. I vowed I would come back and I did from 2010-2012 with friends in tow. Thankfully that experience was much less smelly. Those years the convention was at the Detroit Marriot where AC killed the stink of a couple thousand of people. In 2011 I went as Celty Sturluson (image above.) I was randomly chosen to do a free photo shoot with a bunch of people who wore costumes as a hobby. Costume's are a major part of anime conventions and I chose to take part that year, spending a good day making and putting together the outfit.

It's a zany experience and I have a hard time believing that any other convention could top the craziness factor of anime cons. However, I think in the future I should also start scooping out the lists I'm currently making for the Musa authors. There's professional aspect as a writer and an editor that becons me to attend. I hope I learn something at one of these conventions, but I also hope that it doesn't lack a fun atmosphere. I may not wear a costume, but I wouldn't mind an improptu writer's circle or a panel about online publishing.

I love these gatherings and hope I'll be at one in the near future.

Happy Writings!

P.s. Day three have thoroughly neglected writting. This creativity block is killing me. I will do better on the weekend.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Makes a Book Musical Worthy?

The content better be as good as the size!


Black mascara streaked down  my face as I hiccuped, sniffled, and quietly bawled my way through Les Miserables this past weekend. The music has been so inspiring to me that I have been playing it at every opportunity I've had since I saw the film. There's something about a musical that reaches into your soul and makes you feel a person's triumphs, losses, and emotions more than any other medium. However, I did not realize until the opening credits that Les Miserables was a book written by Victor Hugo. I will be curious to see if the book can emit as much feeling as the soaring music that captures a listener's heart. In short, I'm adding the gigantic tome to my incredibly long reading list.

Several books have taken on new life and have been adapted for the stage as musicals. One of my personal favorites Wicked was originally Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Other triumphant transitions from the page to the stage include Ragtime, The Color Purple, Big River (The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin,) Oliver, My Fair Lady (Pygmalion,) and Cats which was based on a children's book called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot.

Plot lines don't always match up between the play and the original. Wicked and My Fair Lady are shining examples of drastic changes from the leaves of a book to a full on drama extraordinaire. (Others in the list above may differ from their play counterparts, but admittedly I haven't seen all of the plays or read all of the books.)

So my question, one that will require more research, is what causes the spark to go off in a stage write's head? Creativity has always flowed in my veins, but it did not seem to spark the fire that takes a novel to another stage. Whether that stage be a movie, TV show, radio drama, a stage play, or a musical It's always baffled me how someone could rework a novel into something more than it was. Mind you I don't think all medium transitions are a success, but it must take some sort of inspiration to make someone take a novel they've read and make it more.

Is there some quality in a book that makes it easy to transition to a musical, or is it pure determination of the play write or composer to make music from what he/she knows? Do the novels have something in common that makes them so heart wrenching on stage? I mean it's not like we've seen romance novels become stage plays. My opinion is that Spider Man became a musical to make a profit and nothing more. Maybe it's amazing and I'm missing out, but until someone tells me it's outstanding, I will remain skeptical. What makes a novel, or any story become a great musical? If you have an incite or ideas please share them. I'd be curious to see what other people think.

P.S. Day one of my personal novel writing month. My writing buddy has been updated and we are ready to go! From here on out I drop the pen and move to the key board. With 1,612 words to write a day I've got to conserve my energy. So I'll let a computer do my word counts and keep my wrists from cramping up by sticking to tapping keys rather than writing on paper.

Happy Writings!