Thursday, April 20, 2017

Day 1571: Reading and Writing

While it's been nearly 16 years since I was last in Kindergarten, I can still clearly remember some of my first favorite books. One in particular could probably be better described by my mother, but I remember it because it was one of two books I read constantly on a trip to Walt Disney World. The first book, which was called Up, Up and Away, or something similar, was about a rocketship...and that's absolutely all I remember about the plot of the book. Regardless, I remember reading it at dinner at The Garden Grill that trip, showing it to Chip and Dale as they stopped by the table. I also remember the mac & cheese, which, quite honestly, I could go for right about now. 

The second, and the one I remember the most, was called Chick’s Walk and was about a little chick who roamed around meeting new animals. Chick would say hello to each one, from the pigs to the cows to the alligator…wait. Alligator? Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. (That’s how the book ends…because of course, a chick probably doesn’t want to meet an alligator.

After that, there was only one book amongst the slew of others I read: The Ghost Family Meets Its Match. It was about a family of ghosts who, at the start of the book, live happily in their ghostly retreat. Then, out of the blue, another family moves into the house, and the ghost family devises a plan to haunt the newcomers out of the building. Only it doesn’t work…because the new family is a bunch of werewolves! They lived happily ever (eternally?) after in the house after that. I must have checked out that book at least every other week for a good few years in Elementary school, and I distinctly remember making my parents read it to me until I had it memorized…and then I read it by myself hidden in their closet. Why the closet? I have no idea, but I do know that it’s the one book I’d give anything to have a copy of now that I’m older.

While I wonder if The Ghost Family Meets Its Match is still hidden somewhere in my elementary school library (even though I wore out the binding before I even left), a few other books also come to mind, like all those series I read anywhere between second grade and the end of middle school: Heartland, Warriors, Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter, The Princess Diaries (but definitely not in that exact order). Each was completely different, but like Chick's Walk and Up, Up, and Away, they all contributed to one important element of my reading and writing: a personal style. 

We all love different books, and we all write different ways, and the way I look at it, the books we read throughout our life make up a unique recipe for our writing style, as we take little bits and pieces from things we've read and apply them to our own style. I mean, I can't say that I'm about to write a story about a chick and an alligator, but I definitely love short funny moments in my writing, and that's exactly something that was in Chick's Walk all those years ago. So reading is important, my friends, especially if you want to be a writer. 

Have a magical day!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Day 1561: Literary Parents

I was supposed to write this blog post for my Creative Writing seminar a week ago, but then life got in the way and it never happened. I did, on the other hand, think pretty deeply about the answer to the question we used as a prompt - Who are your literary parents? - and as I like to say, better late than never! 

Honestly though, I initially had no clue about how to answer the question at hand. While I've been an avid reader and writer my entire life, there isn't anyone in particular that's inspired me to the point where I'd single them out as a "literary parent." Well, I suppose, with the exception of Walt Disney and the writers behind some of our favorite animated films. And if we're citing Walt as a literary parent in regards to fairy tales, we really should be citing the writers of the original stories, and that's where things get deep. 

One could say that I don't know precisely who my literary parents are because it's unlikely anyone knows who they are. If the root of my literary background stems from fairy tales, my literary parents are sort of like those long-lost relatives someone might try and search out on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? In the fairy tale tradition, many of the stories we know and love are simply transcriptions from oral fairy tales that were passed down through the centuries. Unfortunately, no one apparently found it important to write the names of the storytellers down, or dig up information as to where the tales came from before that, so much of the knowledge has been lost or destroyed. Aka, a tough break for those of us trying to figure out where our literary parents are. 

Of course, some of them are definitive. There are some fairy tales, many fairy tales actually, created by the author that's listed on the front cover, such as Hans Christian Anderson or modern day fairy tale writer Emma Donoghue. Plus, my writing style has certainly been impacted by the show Once Upon A Time, so you could also say that the creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, along with their army of writers, have earned a spot on my list of literary parents as well, but the point still stands. No on in particular jumps out as the literary parent, and here's an additional thought as to why that may be: 

Somewhere out there, there's a quote that talks about how we're influenced by every person we meet, even if it's only a small influence or, perhaps, no apparent influence at all. I'm not entirely sure it would be fair to say that if you'd never interacted or "randomly stood next to each other and didn't even notice each other that one time" that you entire life would change, but fate does seem to work in mysterious ways. Regardless, if you apply this theory to literature, you could say that every author I've ever read is one of my literary parents, because they've all impacted me in some way. Some may have made a major impact, like the authors of fairy tales, and some may play only a minor role, like the authors of the books I read but don't remember reading in middle school, but the important part is that they all, in one way or another, have influenced my writing. 

So who are my literary parents? I'd say everyone, and while that may seem a bit messed up biologically, this isn't a science class, so who cares? 

Have a magical day! 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 1543: No Rest for the Disney

Apparently I'm only stopping by to write blog posts for my creative writing class because I favor sleep over more writing at the end of the day. Ironically enough, this blog post is distinctly about how we don't need sleep...sort of. 

A few weeks ago we read an article on sleep for class, and while I'll admit that I completely forgot to read it for the class period we were supposed to read it for, I did go back and read through it afterwards, and I'm glad I did. The article, How to Sleep debunks some of the myths about sleep in an informative and somewhat comical way. As a college student, I can definitely say that the amount of sleep I'm getting probably isn't what I should be getting, but to read an article about sleep itself made me think about more than just my current schedule. 

In the article, James Hamblin discusses how much sleep we actually need, if caffeine really works, and my personal favorite part - if we can train ourselves to need less sleep. Hamblin tells the tale of a high school student in San Diego who stayed awake for 264 hours. He did it for a science project, and while I know for a fact that I wouldn't be able to stay awake for 11 days, I'm almost sold on the idea of training ourselves to need less sleep. Why? Disney World. 

If you've ever spent a day or two at a Disney Park, you might be familiar with the early mornings, exhausting afternoons, and long nights. Honestly, my motto generally is that there's no sleep at Disney World, because typically there's always something going on that you'll want to experience. So, instead of resting on our "vacation," we head to park opening in the morning and stay until we're the last ones out of the park at night. Then we go back to the room, catch a couple of hours of sleep, and get up to do it all over again. 

Of course, at the end of the article, he wonders how one might break the cycle of sleep deprivation, and in our everyday lives, that might be possible. We might be able to turn off our phones long before we go to bed, sleep at regular times each night, and drink less caffeine in the real world, and there's our solution. But in all honesty, I just don't see that happening at Disney. We need to be on our phones to post all the exciting pictures from our day, there are no "regular hours," because when Animal Kingdom opens at 7 and closes at 11, but Epcot's hours the next day are 9 to 9, you go with the flow, and with all the Starbucks locations now open in the parks, caffeine is all too easy to find. 

So sleep at home. Save the sleep deprivation for Disney World. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 1529: Reading For Fun

Our prompt this week for Creative Writing Seminar is to write about something we've been reading lately, or have read, outside of class that has either inspired us or put us off. If I was lying, I'd probably go on some rant about how much I enjoyed reading The Martian this past summer and how it really impacted me emotionally and reminded me just how much I love reading (although, is suppose, that wouldn't be all that distant from the truth). However, as Pinocchio taught me, I must not tell a lie, and that means that I have to be honest about the fact that I haven't had a lot of time for reading lately. Aside from my regular schoolwork, all my spare time has gone to rehearsing for Knights on Broadway, which leaves in just a couple of days to perform in Florida, or practicing my pieces for my recital, which is quickly approaching in just over a month. So yeah, not a lot of time to spare. Unless I learn how to dance while reading. That could be fun. 

I suppose I do  have that giant and ever-growing stack of books that resides on the bottom shelf of my bedside table, which features novels and memoirs I've been intending to read and may finally dig into sometime this upcoming summer (that's probably wishful thinking though). Still, even as I think back to what I've read over the past few years (which, as I said, isn't much), nothing really stands out to me as important in some way. Actually, it's almost as though I can't remember any book I've ever read (except, apparently, The Martian and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?). So no, I suppose I don't have an answer to the question about which book I particularly enjoyed or didn't enjoy, and maybe that says something interesting in itself. 

A significant portion of my life has been spent reading, and there are days when I want nothing more than to curl up on my balcony or in a comfy chair with some tea, a blanket, and some excellent music just so I can spend an evening reading the latest hardcover or paperback I've picked up. However, with being a full time college student, recently those books have been more in the realm of Shakespeare plays I'm reading for my independent study rather than something for fun (not that Shakespeare isn't fun). It's still reading, yes, and I can definitely still curl up with a blanket and some tea, but there's still a difference between reading for enjoyment and reading about the typical range of your average Bb Trumpet. 

It is important to note, however, that I typically bring books with me when I'm traveling. I almost always buy a new one before I leave, because there's always ample time for me to do nothing but read while sitting at an airport or on a plane. It's like time automatically set aside for reading. Unless, of course, I manage to finish my book before I even get on the plane. Then we have a problem. Coincidentally, I've also been known to do some of my best writing on planes, so perhaps I should be reconsidering my life choices and spending more time at airports and less time on the couch in my living room. The goods news here is that I'll be traveling within the next 48 hours (I'll actually be in Florida 48 hours from now), so perhaps I might actually get some reading and writing done then. 

None of this has been a description of a book that's influenced me though, mostly because I still can't recall most of what I've read in the past couple of years. It's amazing how your memory will fail you like that. So I'll just go with a blanket answer - it's not as much about what I've read recently or in my life as much as it's about why I've read. Reading (and writing) have been important parts of my life for almost as long as I can remember, reaching all the way back to reading a children's book called The Ghost Family Meets Its Match in my parents' closet every other week (the library wouldn't let me check it out more frequently than that), and all the reading that has shaped me into the book-loving English major I am today. Plus, there's definitely something to be said about all the wonderful books that inspired Disney movies over the years, because yes, this is still a Disney blog and I have to relate it somehow. Just think, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Tangled, or Cinderella wouldn't exist if not for the fairy tales they're based on. Even films such as 101 Dalmatians and Mary Poppins are derived from the pages of a book, and those films have definitely inspired me throughout my life, so there you go. 

Which means that the answer to the initial question, about what I've read that has impacted me in some way, lies somewhere in between The Ghost Family Meets Its Match and Mary Poppins, although to be fair, I've never actually read Mary Poppins

I should probably get on that. 

Have a magical day! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 1512: A Significant Moment

It's time for another blog post focused on my Creative Writing Seminar, although since I haven't had a chance to write another blog post since the last piece focusing on the class, it's almost as though no time has passed at all. Regardless, this week we've been challenged to discuss an important moment in our writing history, and, for me at least, there are few moments that could top the stirrings of Everyday Disney back in late 2012.

Prior to January 2013, and really prior to later that year, blogging had never been my strong suit. The most I'd written in the blog post category could be found in the expectations section of any number of high school syllabi, and that meant that even the first few months of constant blogging were pretty rough, although that's not why starting Everyday Disney takes the cake on my list of significant writing moments.

Like many of my peers, I can definitely recall moments as a kid where I'd make little books out of blank paper and a few staples or where I'd seek out a spare notebook from the depths of my basement to scribble in. I'd typically write stories about dogs, probably from the dog's point of view, but what can I say? I watched a lot of Air Bud as a kid...and I really wanted a dog. I suppose one could suggest that these early days were important because it gave me an opportunity to explore my imagination, but in the overall scheme of things, that just wasn't the most significant part of my writing journey, and that's okay.

Fast forward to my high school years, where, amongst all that horrible blogging, I discovered not particularly that I liked writing as much as it just came naturally to me. I can still recall sitting in an Intro to Business class, of all places, happily typing away at a paper or letter we had to write for an assignment, and my friends, who sat on either side of me, commenting on just how quickly I was moving along. I figured they just meant my typing, because I've always been notoriously fast and loud at typing, but in reality they were talking about the actual writing I was doing. In a trend that would continue throughout the remainder of my high school years, where my peers would struggle with what to say on an in-class essay or any essay in general, I'd quite contently work my way down each page, writing, writing, and writing some more.

By the start of my senior year, I was locked in an internal debate about what I'd major in when I headed to college the following fall. I knew I was good at writing, and I knew I liked writing, but I also knew that music would be a good fit for me, and history was constantly knocking at the door as well. But trying to achieve a triple major sounded like a horrible idea, so I did the best I could and dropped the official major for History in favor of focusing on English and Music. That decision wouldn't have come, however, without Everyday Disney.

To this day, I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking in the last few weeks of 2012 that made me so eager to write a blog post a day for an entire year. It was a lot of work, I'd be going through a lot of changes, the internet at my house was slower than a turtle on a bad day, and I had no prior experience with blogging. Little did I know that there was one day to fix at least a few of those problems. Blogging every day was, at first, really difficult and taxing. It still is on some days, especially now as I head into the fifth year and frequently struggle with coming up with brand new topics that I have yet to cover, but the more I blogged, the easier it became. Because of the consistency of writing a daily blog, I was able to keep writing even when it seemed like my muse was floating away, and that's a lesson you can only learn through continuous writing. You have to push through it, and I wouldn't know that without my daily blog. In addition, I've gained writing experience, found a voice of my own, expanded my vocabulary, learned what it means to write professionally on a regular basis, meet deadlines, and continue to pump enthusiasm into posts even when you're writing them at 11 pm on a Monday night and all you want to do is go to bed.

Was Everyday Disney the only important moment in my writing journey? Goodness no, and to be honest it doesn't have all that much to do with creative writing specifically, because there are plenty of other elements at play there, but when it comes to my writing as a whole, I'm incredibly thankful that 17-year-old me decided to start a daily blog about Disney...even if I'm behind for what seems to be the hundredth time.

Until tomorrow...or the next Creative Writing Seminar blog post,

Have a magical day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Day 1493: A New Challenge

I write...a lot. 

For my wonderful regular readers here at Everyday Disney, this probably isn't much of a surprise anymore. You know quite well how I am capable of rambling on for what feels like days about some Disney-oriented topic that probably didn't require a five-page explanation. Alright, so perhaps my blog posts aren't that long, but in the four years I've been writing here, I have discussed my writing more than a few times, and really, things haven't changed much. I'm still writing for Everyday Disney, as well as The Odyssey Online, multiple classes, video scripts, in a personal journal and, for the most part, anywhere else I can find a spot to jot down a few ideas or a quick story. 

But as we start a new month and as I write the first in a new series of blog posts (which I'll explain in a moment), I've decided on a new challenge for the month of February that will encourage me to actually keep up with daily blog posts, tie in my coursework with Disney in a whole new way, and will be, I believe, rather interesting.

I'm going to count every word I write in the month of February, and here's the how and why: 

As I round out my final year at St. Norbert College, I've returned to working toward a degree in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and am enrolled in a creative writing seminar. It's more or less an extension of a fiction workshop course I took last semester, which reminded me why I love writing in the first place. This semester, we're required to write a few blog posts in addition to our regular writing exercises, which I took as a brand new challenge, figuring it would be fun to really intertwine my coursework with what I'm already doing here. 

And as for the first blog post topic? You guessed it - writing. 

When I really sat down and thought about my writing though, I realized that much of my writing style has been, at least in some way, shape or form, influenced directly by Disney or through some connection to the company. In particular, through reading Anne Lamott's bird by bird, I've noticed a few direct examples of this. 

I write like I'm directing a film. Lamott notes that, when writing, she'll frequently imagine a scene as though it were on film. What would the background look like? How would the characters be situated in the scene? What would they be wearing? What would the lighting be like? In all reality - what would it look like if it were a movie instead of words on a page? When I read this, I couldn't help but smile because thank goodness someone else does this too. Working as a videographer and photographer on the side, I'm always picturing exactly how everything would look as though I were in the Disney studios creating a storyboard to make my work into a movie. 

I also rely on the details, similar to the way Disney-Pixar so carefully creates the shadows and reflections that make films such as Finding Nemo or Cars so realistic. I do my research and ground my works in reality, even if the characters and events of my writing are completely fictional. If I'm writing a piece I want to set in Ireland, I'll search the internet until I find the exact location I'm looking for. If I'm writing a piece on a car salesman in the 1950s, I'll search out that perfect name for his wife, what suit he probably would be wearing and what car he'd be likely to drive. I'll do research to the point where, if you read my piece, you'd probably believe that I'd been to Ireland or actually lived as a 1950s car salesman in a former life (spoiler alerts: I haven't been to Europe and I'm fairly certain I wasn't a car salesman...I think). Anne Lamott discusses this too, only for her the topic is gardening, and she works to insure that her writing is as accurate as the apples that are growing on a tree in the fictional backyard, despite the fact that she has fake flowers outside her own home. 

I write with the knowledge that it won't be the final product. Mickey Mouse, as you may or may not know, wasn't Walt Disney's first hit character, meaning Mickey Mouse wasn't the first draft. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was, and he was stolen from Walt along with his workers just before the creation of the mouse we know and love today. But Oswald taught Walt important lessons, and served a purpose of his own. Our first drafts don't have to work out, because they're just paving the way for the spectacular drafts yet to come. Reminding myself that even the creators of Tangled and The Lion King probably had, as Lamott notes, "shitty first drafts," keeps me going through the day. Maybe I won't get it right in the first draft, or the second, or the third, but if I keep working at it, eventually I'll find my own Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, although, perhaps I should aim for Mickey in this metaphor.

The point here is this, because this blog post is getting much longer than anticipated - my writing is constantly evolving, but no matter how far off track I get, I'm always grounded by the habits and strategies I've picked up along the way, the most important one of which is writing a lot. As I tally up the words that make up blog posts, articles, assignments, and journal entries throughout the month of February, I'm excited to see just how much I'm writing, and to reexamine what I'm writing as time goes on, because I'm sure that, as always, it will be quite the adventure.

Expect to see more blog posts from my Creative Writing Seminar in the future. Each will be tagged with #sncEngl425 if you want to hone in on just those posts - or if you're one of my classmates and don't feel the need to listen to my sometimes lengthy spiels about Spaceship Earth.

Have a magical day!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Day 1475: Carrie and Debbie

It's not everyday you see hundreds gather with lightsabers and umbrellas at Disney's Hollywood Studios for a lightsaber and umbrella vigil, and it's even more rare that I'm able to be there to capture it all since I'm only at Walt Disney World for select days of the year. I haven't had the opportunity to attend a fan event since the D23 Expo in August of 2015, but as magical as that was, there was certainly something special about January 14 and the gathering at Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, on a Saturday in January, fans gathered at Hollywood Studios to celebrate the lives of two of the world's greatest: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The mood throughout the day, at times, was somber, but for the most part was filled with the spirit and energy the two women were so known for, and it was incredible to see their legacies directly portrayed through only a handful of their most dedicated fans.

Since I'm frequently found with a video camera in hand, I made a special effort to create a Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Tribute Video, which you can watch above. It features some of the fans I met while at the event, sharing why Debbie and Carrie are so important to them. I was a bit nervous at first, worried that I wouldn't get enough people to make up an entire video, but I eventually relished in each word the fans spoke into my camera, and as I spent an evening editing it, I couldn't help but feel an immense sense of pride. I was getting to edit this video, and no matter how big or small the scale of it, these fans, like myself, felt a connection to Carrie and Debbie, and for the first time since their death, I felt comforted in the fact that we aren't alone, and they most certainly won't be forgotten. 

I encourage you to watch the above video, not for me, but for the fans and for Carrie and Debbie. Share it, and let's continue to pass the lessons they've taught us to future generations. These women may have left us right when it seems we need them most, but that doesn't mean they aren't here beside us, because the force is strong, and we are the future. 

Have a magical day!