City, Globe

Eva B

I went to  Montreal last week for four days but it wasn’t until the last day, an hour before my mom and I had to leave for the airport, that I found my favorite place in the city: Eva B, a mash up of a thrift shop, book store, and cafe.

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This is the outside of the store, which stood out even among the posters and street art that covered the rest of the street.

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Entering Eva B. was kind of like entering art. Not like a museum, but like I was inside of a collage. The same excitement I felt writing and painting I felt all mushed together when I walked through the doors.
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There was so much going on in Eva B. I never knew where to look.  Things hung from the ceiling, books were stacks on the floors and bizarre clothing was lying around everywhere. The railings were dusty, and the floor was littered. And the more I walked around the more rooms I found!

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I didn’t know if I wanted to concentrate on the cafe or the hanging racks of clothes or the the bookshelves. I wandered around the store, piles of clothing and books in my arms, my eyes darting around, trying to take everything in all at once.

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It was complete sensory overload. It was bliss.

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I mean the potential of what could be found in this store! Without even looking I spotted an entire stack of feminist theory next to a rack of school teacher dresses!

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(This suitcase was my down fall. Best eight dollars I spent in my life!)

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I could only imagine that the employees must be marvelous, artsy, witches to have created such a magical place.

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I was a Shakespearean heroine who had stumbled upon a coven of modern day witches! The witches steamed their clothes with their wands,

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practiced Herbology on their smoking breaks on the patio,

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and made my tea in cauldrons while dancing to Stevie Wonder!

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Like the store itself, the witches that occupied it also looked like art. They wore it on their fingers and in their hair. They ran around carrying plastic baby dolls and cutting out pieces of lasagna for their customers, as Michael Jackson played in the background.

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This is a picture of me in their patio/cafe area. I look pretty composed, but on the inside I was beautifully overwhelmed. It is what I imagine the people who stumble upon dancing fairies felt like. The fairies seduce them to join their dance and once the people start dancing they never can break the spell and just dance and dance the rest of their lives.

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It was my day with the fairies and witches.

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We Are Water
Art, Opinion

Book Review: We Are Water

We Are Water

We Are Water is not a book one treads lightly. It is not a book that you buy for light reading or despite it’s name, as a good beach read. This novel is over 550 pages and covers topics from race to death to child molestation. As dramatic as this introduction is, I do not want to discourage readers from endeavoring on the journey. As exhausting as the novel is to read, the experience of feeling so much from one story is so unique it makes Wally Lamb’s novel a must read.

We Are Water tells the story of Annie Oh, a successful artist living in New York City, who is about to get married to her art coordinator, Viveca. Annie and family (ex-husband, children, and new wife) must come to terms with their pasts to move forward. (As a side note: Along with the touchy subjects, Wally Lamb also takes his readers into the art world in NYC, which I found extremely enlightening. So it’s not all death and destruction here, regardless of what you’re about to read in this review.)

I read the majority of We Are Water on a plane, which was a pretty ideal place, because I couldn’t run away from it. When covering such difficult topics (again, race, death, molestation) it can be very difficult to read at points. There were points where I had to physically take a breath before I started reading again. Looking back, I think that is what makes Wally Lamb’s book so incredible. You really, really feel this amount of dread when characters are faced with pain.

I can only imagine how extremely difficult (emotionally as well as writing-wise) writing these scenes must have been. But Wally Lamb never shies away from the most gruesome of human experiences. When you most want to look away, he forces you see. I think this is a quality that many writers lack and one that I admire most in Mr. Lamb.

But, of course, this goes both ways. As the reader you also get to experience character’s delight and joy along with their pain. And most importantly, you get to really understand them.

We Are Water switches points of view which makes for a very interesting read. I think the different points of view work to the story’s benefit, especially when you get to experience two characters you love and understand clash.

This, for me, as a reader and writer, was especially fulfilling. I find it extraordinary how intricately unique Mr. Lamb creates each character. As the reader, you understand both character’s points of view and you have experienced their pain, so when they clash you get the experience of really seeing.

This is perhaps most prevalent between Annie and her ex husband Orion. Both characters care a lot about each other, but their pasts, together and apart, have made them too different. Unable to understand each other, and hurt by their past relationship, they often fight and question one another.

And Lamb isn’t afraid of making you question his characters. Throughout the novel Annie and her family make some decisions that are cringe worthy. But when witnessing these mistakes there is no question as to why they were made. They were made because these characters are human. They are filled with fear and love and, like all humans, they act upon these emotions. Wally Lamb has this amazing ability to create true, beautiful and horrifying people. If anything I think it is worth reading We Are Water just to experience this amount of humanity.

We Are Water is a book I want to just sit around and talk about for hours and hours. I think when you read a good book, you are taken into, not just the characters’, but the author’s world. In the case of Wally Lamb, his world is filled with graphic horrors, violent delights and a lot of gray area in between.

Campus

All About Mentors

In the competitive and, at times, daunting industry of media and communications we Emerson students are lucky to have such people as mentors.  Mentors are defined as experienced and trusted advisors who are there to simply help you out. (Some famous mentor/mentee relationships include Dumbledore and Harry Potter, Gandalf and Frodo, and Yoda and Luke Skywalker.)

The benefits of having a mentor are pretty everlasting. Some are strictly work related. They see your potential and they go over your manuscript with you, give you advice on job interviews or point you the right way. Other mentors can be more spiritual or emotional and concentrate more on you as an individual, your relationships and your health.

In either case, a mentor is a person who knows what is going on when you are wandering aimlessly. They’re the hand pointing you in the right direction, someone to listen, a name to put down as a reference on an application.

As students hanging out in Boston and attending such focused classes we’ve all got people in our lives who we admire the hell out of. I think the trick to forming a stronger relationship with them is to very simply keep in touch. The person (be him or her a professor, a relative or a yoga instructor) is obviously really cool and experienced if they’ve impressed you so much. Ask them out to coffee to talk about their work or get their email. Just keep in contact!

Whether or not you’ve found a someone to ask advice from I have decided to let you borrow my mentor, Suzy Chamandy, for some quick advice. I met Suzy at the University of Virginia’s Young Writer Workshop two summers ago where she was teaching fiction. When I moved to Boston (where she lived) we continued to email and meet up.

Since then, Suzy has again encouraged not just my writing but my position as a writer. She’s extremely supportive and kind. I think perhaps one of the most important things a mentor can do for you is to respect and help harvest your work. As a writer and psychotherapist, Suzy has always been there for me to bounce ideas off of or simply receive priceless advice from. I admire her greatly as well as the amazing work she has done.

In this short interview, Suzy talks about finding time to write, strength and the personal choices each artist has to make in his or her life.

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Chloe:  What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in your professional/work life? How did you overcome it?

Suzy Chamandy: My greatest challenge is an ongoing one – how to fit in time to write with my regular 9-5 professional job. My job as a psychotherapist (in a college counseling center) can be demanding, and I find writing at the end of the work day very difficult to do. Early mornings are the only time I’m fresh enough to write. Early mornings are the only time I find I’m fresh enough to write.

As a professor and psychotherapist what do you think is the most important thing for young people to know/learn?

I always tell young people — whether I counsel them or not — to seek help when they need it, whether they need help because they’re feeling anxious or depressed or overwhelmed, or because they need help thinking through a job search, for instance, or exactly what degree to pursue to do the work they want to do. My advice: Talk to someone who might know more than you do and can help you problem solve. There’s no need to go it alone.

Writing and other artistic occupations are very competitive. What would you have to say to students struggling to find work in their field?

Writers handle the issue of how to pay the bills while also pursing their art in different ways. I decided that I needed a steady job, a profession that paid me enough to feel fulfilled.  I went back to school to get a Masters in Social Work degree so that I could be a counselor. And I fit my fiction writing around that work. It happens that counseling seems to require some of the same skills I use in fiction writing – which makes it a neat fit, a very satisfying fit. I know writers who have put their all into their art. They take more writerly jobs (freelance journalism or teaching composition, for instance) to pay the bills, and they have a bit more time to write more consistently than I do. Some have succeeded as writers and some less so, but I think for them the pursuit of art has been fulfilling. It’s a very personal decision each writer has to make.

What is one of you proudest professional moments and why?

I guess I think of myself as having two different professional lives.  There’s my work as a psychotherapist and then my work as a writer (and a teacher of writing during the summer). My proudest moment as a writer came when one of my stories was anthologized in a collection of stories put together when the journal the story had originally appeared in closed. That felt good. That recognition felt really good. My professional life as a psychotherapist gives me proud moments fairly often. I’m proud when I can make a real connection with another person, when I can establish a rapport and help the student to get more settled or stable or understand herself better or just feel more accepting of herself. That’s a big deal for a person.  Those moments make counseling really satisfying work.

In general, what do you think makes a strong woman?

I think the same qualities that make any person strong – independence, resilience in the face of obstacles, clear principles and the fortitude to stand up for them.

Any other advice, or things you want to say to college students?

Pursue your interests with vigor; seek input from others, always keep learning.

Suzy received a BA in English Literature from Boston University, an MFA in Fiction writing from The University of Virginia and also an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Iowa. She has taught fiction writing to undergraduates at the University of Virginia, the University of Iowa as a graduate fellow, and fiction writing at the UVA Young Writers Workshop for ten summers.  Now she works as a psychotherapist at Newbury College where she has been counseling for eight years.

 

Florida suburbia
Globe

Floridian Suburbia

My friends tried to convince me that if we went to the lake in their backyard we could pull off a fake “Florida Wilderness” photo shoot.  We couldn’t find an upcoming day where all of us were free to head over to Jonathan Dickinson Park and take photos in the actual wilderness, so Jacob’s backyard lake was our last resort. On a rainy day, we all gathered at Jacob’s house for the shoot. Making the lake and ten feet of foliage look like a national wildlife park was a complete bust but I realized, when I was looking through my pictures, that I had accidentally captured Floridian suburbia pretty well. Mostly this meant rainy days, palm trees, pink  houses and well-cut grass.

The “photo shoot” consists of our walk over to the lake, some very cheesy, “candid” shots in nature (you can see sidewalks and houses in the background) and Jacob’s typical Floridian neighborhood. Even though we technically failed in our mission, we had a pretty great time pretending to be models and wilderness explorers in the middle of suburbia.

Looking at these photos, I am hit by how different my home in Florida is to my home at Emerson College in Boston. Though they’re polar opposites of each other, I’m slowly learning to see the unique beauty in both.

(Special thanks to the guys for modeling.)

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Flower Crown
Opinion, Style

I am a Poseur

I’m a huge poseur. I have been all my life. And while I’d been mimicking other kid’s skooter tricks for years, the art of posing truly began to manifest in my sophomore year of high school. That’s when I decided enough is enough; I was going to look exactly like Rae Jefferson. Rae was a girl in one of my classes who I’d been idolizing for over a year. She was effortlessly cool, confident, and dazzling. I wanted to be just like her even though we had nothing in common. I decided the best way to do this was to start with her clothes which I mimicked horribly for the next three years.

That’s where it began: my horrible imitations of Rae’s outfits. With that, the act of copying those I admired became a way of life.

In fashion, I looked to more people I admired and started dressing like them too. I admired Rachel Berry’s talent so I bought bobby socks. I listened to a lot of Lana Del Rey so I made and wore flower crowns.

Later, when I decided to become serious about writing, my poseur life dramatically shifted in a new (and not so surprising) way. At this point, I had written a few stories but, like every young writer, lacked an individual voice. As a result, I decided to copy exactly how other writers wrote. I read Les Miserables and forced myself to write like Victor Hugo, I read Mrs. Dalloway and did the same with Virginia Woolf. My point of view switched as I changed from J.K. Rowling to Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Each author suffered my embarrassing wannabe stories in their style. When I go back into my journals and read my old short stories I can distinctly identify who I was reading at the time.

Of course, this whole confession of my posing is embarrassing. Looking through the archive of my Facebook I usually shutter. But while I was trying my hand at floral button downs and abstract prose I wasn’t just looking and writing poorly, I was figuring shit out.

The thing is, writing and fashion have become the two main ways in which I express myself. Being 14 and not knowing anything about myself, it was imperative that figured out who I was by copying. And now, since I have gone through all the posing, I feel I have a better grasp of what I like and who I am. I am able to more easily craft what I have to say and present myself to the world according to what I’m feeling. All this with the help of being a poseur (*crowd cheers*)

Of course, a lot of people say that this time for experimenting is contained to high school but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Since people are constantly growing I think it’s safe to say posing is something that happens your entire life. With that being said, I think, in particular, Emerson is a place where it’s impossible not to be a poseur.

That sounds like an insult but it’s not. Emerson, as campy as this sounds, is a place for artists who are trying to find their individual voice. It’s a place where people with great taste are able to pluck what they like from those they admire and string it together to make it theirs. Are yes, they are poseurs until they do make it theirs. They are poseurs when they are inspired by a filmmaker, when they have heroes and when they create through that lens. And, you know what? It’s wonderful.

In many ways being a poseur seems like the most human thing in the world. It’s how people adapt to who they really are; like Eat, Pray, Love mixed with Darwinism.

I think Lourdes “Lola” Leon, Madonna’s daughter, sums up the embarrassing yet beneficial life of posing in her recent blog post. As an aspiring fashion designer Lola experimented a lot of clothing which eventually brought her closer to the style she likes. She writes:

“Oh how I wish I could go back in time and urge my 14-year-old self not to wear black rhinestone-studded t-shirts with bloody skulls on them, purchased from really “hip” stores (wtf is hip anyways). I like to reassure myself though, that I had to go through that awkward time of ‘trying stuff out’ to figure out what I liked wearing best.”

Art, Style

Goodwill Fashion

I’ve been shopping at Goodwill since my sophomore year of high school when I reluctantly went into the store and then came out 30 minutes later with a cubism skirt. I’ve been addicted ever since. I buy the majority of my clothing at thrift stores and, over the years, have collected some weird finds. To prove that thrift shopping is the “bomb.com,” my friend Hooly and I went to Goodwill and found the most outrageous, cool and strange outfits/knickknacks we could. Extra bonus: Everything Hooly is modeling was under $15.00!

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Writing Camp
Opinion

Ode to Summer Camp

When I was in my junior year of high school I decided that writing was something I, like, actually wanted to do with my life. This, for me, meant that I needed to buck up and do something to further my writing career. So I went online and looked into some writing programs.

That’s how I found out about University of Virginia’s summer program, the Young Writers Workshop.

Up until that point I had bid my summer camp days farewell. I’d had my fair share, like any other American girl, of Horse Camp, Gymnastics Camp, and “Wilderness” Camp. And sure, running around and canoeing as an eleven-year-old with the YMCA was great, but summer camp had never been my thing, until the summer before my senior year.

The Young Writers Workshop (YWW) is a three week sleepaway camp held at Sweet Briar Campus in Virginia. It specializes in writing and was the first place where someone told me that I was not trying to be a writer; I already was one. The kids here were eccentric and nerdy. They wore bizarre clothing and talked excitedly about modern poetry. I had been accepted into the Fiction major but, in time,  made friends with Nonfiction, Poetry, Song Writing and Screenwriting kids too.

Within the main five “majors,” there were smaller “classes” which I attended with my peers twice a day. One of my favorite lessons included watching ‘Help, I Can’t Sleep’ commercials (which are nightmare inducing) and then writing our own “dream sequences.” In other, more serious lessons, we workshopped pieces, studied other writers and read our own work. I got really close with some of my classmates and still keep in touch with a few by email.

Although I spent a huge chunk of my time at YWW writing, there were loads of others things going on. We hosted dinners and dances for ourselves, we gathered together for poetry slams and listened to lectures from visiting authors. We had an entire day dedicated to creating a 24 hour play, a play that is written, directed and performed within 24 hours. My favorite one was called the Great Catsby.  We also saw a local showing of Macbeth and even visited a cottage that poet Mary Oliver had lived and written some of her best poetry in. They handed out popsicles and pages of her poetry and I read it laying on the grass outside her old home.

Everyday there was a designated “Writing Time” and I’d go to the little library, sitting silently among my writer friends, and dedicated myself to two hours of pure writing. All the other campers sat around me, frowning in concentration and typing furiously. We were all together doing what we loved.

As I was rummaging through the diary that I kept at the time, I came upon a quote from YWW’s founder Margo Figgins that accurately captures my thoughts as I look back on my 2012 summer. Written in the margin of my journal, I had recorded her quote, “Everything only happens once.”

Now that I’m in my first summer of being too old to go to camp, I find myself thinking a lot about the Young Writers Workshop. I, like so many others, have experienced my first jolts of passion and independence at summer camp. I danced with my friends and wrote short stories late at night. As a sort of representation of these memories, I have taken excerpts from my  photo library to celebrate the times we have all had at summer camp.

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Small Town
Opinion

Old Town, New Person

Eight months away from home changes you. Any freshman at college could attest to this, especially Emerson students who are so often from out of state and living in a city for the first time. You don’t have your parents there to guide you, you don’t have them there to say no. You are forced to learn time management or else suffer the consequences. You make friends. You lose them. You cry and, in the process, you learn about yourself. It’s impossible not to. But then this weird thing happens after you’ve shoveled your way through all those experiences. You come home. After all this change you are suddenly thrust back into familiarity. You come home for the summer. It’s hot, you’re sweating and all of a sudden you’re not sure what’s going on.

Personally, living in a small town in Florida has never really suited me. Boston’s busy atmosphere and northeastern brick buildings are much more my speed. I think living in Boston also made me accustom to a life that I was constantly excited and passionate about. There was always a house show to go to or a class I was looking forward to. Here, not so much.

My small home town is like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: forever cursed to relive the same ordinary events day after day. This always annoyed and scared me when I lived there. I lived a lot of my early teenage years like that, annoyed and scared, and now I’m back here again resisting the urge to scream at my parents (for no reason) and slam my bedroom door shut. Just like when I was 16.

But I’m not 16 anymore and god knows I don’t want to be. When nothing around me has changed, how am I supposed to remind myself that I have? How do I refrain from reverting back to who I was in high school after a year of self growth?

It’s a difficult question and one that obviously does not have a clear three-step answer. But for me, and for the friends I’ve discussed this with, there have been a few things that have helped.

The first thing I had to realize was that you can’t act like your high school self if you want to convince yourself you’ve changed. And in a small town that pretty much boils down to forcing yourself not to rehash the same gossip you’ve been hearing for the past 12 years. And really why would you want to? Why do you care? Why do you care if Karen and Joe broke up again? If your neighbor failed his classes? Who still hates who from high school? You dont! You’re better than this! Gossiping, especially in your small town where everyone literally already knows what’s up, is shallow and redundant. And getting sucked into the old drama you’ve already moved on from is even more detrimental. When you let that go you remind yourself that you’ve grown up and you also look super sophisticated about being the bigger person in your situation. (Bonus points.)

Of course, this doesn’t prevent you from missing your new friends and the exciting things you did in Boston. A huge perk Emerson has going for it is that there is always something new to do, explore or learn. I’ve really missed this, especially my classes which challenged that growth I’m so proud of now. But I figure just because I’m not taking any official classes doesn’t mean I have to stop learning about things that interest me.

I’m a big reader (literature being ⅓ of my major) so I’ve been trying to keep myself busy with new, cool books this summer. I took a really interesting theatre class last semester and discovered I loved reading plays. They’re great and usually short so you can read one in a day! I’ve been reading a lot of recommendations from my professor. Playwriting, scripts and theatre in general are all things I discovered I really love and I’m curious about. Now that I’ve got all this free time I’m using it to further learn about something that excites me and that I might one day get involved in.

This is, of course, applicable to anyone and anything. Anything new that strikes your curiosity can be thought out, explored and tackled over the summer. I have a friend who will eventually be studying abroad in Italy so she’s using her dull summer to learn to cook Italian meals and snacks for her family. Another one of my friends is going to teach herself how to skateboard because she wants to wheel around the common when she get’s back to Boston. In each case, my friends and I are, at the heart of our chosen activities, trying to remind ourselves of the excitement that is so unique to time spent in college. Plus, in the process, we’ll all acquire cool, new skills. (Yes, reading plays is totally a skill).

I guess overall what I’ve been trying to remind myself as I angrily squint into the blinding sun through my windshield, is that no matter where I am, who I am is always changing. My thoughts are always evolving and being molded. Growth is constant, but, overall, I am the one who gets to decide what kind of person I grow into, no matter if I’m in Massachusetts, Florida or Singapore.

Stuart, Florida
Opinion

Small Town Tourist

When I originally pitched my idea for this blog post I planned on going out, exploring my town like a tourist (seeing things like museums and parks) and then going back home and writing about them. In the process of writing this article I would look back on my day and think something like: “Huh, my town really isn’t that bad, I’ve been acting like a brat these last 12 years.”

A few weeks have gone by since I pitched that idea. In the mean time, I have worked on articles for Atlas and other blogs that discuss my life in Stuart, FL. I’ve thought a lot about my position here and planned to give this article more of a positive spin.  I even went out to a museum, saw a show and was prepared to write about that.

I realized in this process though that going out to new places I wouldn’t normally go to (though an interesting experience) was not going to change the tense relationship I have with my hometown. This happy conclusion was the point I was assuming I would make at the end of my original article. When it came time to actually write that though it felt extremely sugary and fake.

The truth about Stuart is that no one here is a tourist. I guess there must be people whose cars break down on their way to Key West and instead of being tortured by serial killers or sacrificed to fields of hay, they are greeted by a town full of charming citizens. Those are the only people I can think of who might reside in the rooms of our local Marriott Hotel.

This is mostly because Stuart is strictly a family town. My hometown, like so many others, is extremely safe and quaint. It’s ideal for bike rides, Christmas parades, and cub scouts, perfect for raising children. (I had a job when I was 16 where my only responsibility was to go around to festivals and shops and blog about how cute my town was. Seriously. That was my job. It was for a real estate company and they said Stuart’s charm was its number one selling point for new families.) Everyone here is part of a family and they probably have a sister whose best friend is dating your brother and works at the local barber’s shop. Most of the “festivals” are exhibits of old locals paintings and the shops cater to dog lovers and new parents.

Because there is no reason to stop here on your road trip, there is no reason tourism would exist. Because of this, I found it extremely hard to look through the eyes of the nonexistent tourist.

But then I thought- and this is where this post gets super meta- what if there was a tourist in Stuart, what if I had been a tourist all along? It makes sense. Sure I lived in Stuart, but it never really felt like I belonged there, so it wasn’t a home. I’d always planned on leaving and going to school in a big city, so was I not just biding my time until I moved on (like Stuart was some kind of cheerful, hotel-like purgatory)? So, I originally planned to impersonate the tourist identity for a day, only to discover I had been residing in it all along.

Of course, I’m not the only teenager who feels this disconnect from where they grew up. (Isn’t that feeling the characterization of every young adult novel available in Barnes and Noble?) But because of this realization I now find that I can write about how to act like a tourist in your hometown. You don’t have to go to museums and live theatre (though they’re totally cool) you just gotta act like the rebel babe you already are. For me, personally, this means at least these three things, all day, every day.

1.) Drive around your town with the windows down playing loud, mildly offensive music. A personal favorite of mine is Kanye West (but the clean versions; your act of rebellion should not hurt the children). Bonus points if you have a cute, unassuming car.

2.) Wear the weird ass clothes you normally wear at Emerson and let people call you a hipster but whateves because you look great. You’re expressing yourself and they just don’t understand.

3.) Get mad at your parents even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Feel bad for them and yourself, apologize and continue to glare at the world outside your window.

It’s a tough life feeling like a stranger in your own town. Of course as a tourist it is implied that you’re traveling and wandering, so rest assured that your days of wandering will one day end and you can go and discover a place that feels more like home.