Kutná Hora and a Church Decorated with Human Bones

I’ve been devoting most of my blogging time in the last month to my new blog about Czech beer (http://ceskepivo.wordpress.com). In doing so, I find myself reminiscing about last year. I also realized, going through this blog, that I had said many months ago I would post photos from my visit to Kutná Hora but I never did.

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This is the first sight you see after walking past the train station in Sedlec. When you walk a little farther, you arrive at the Sedlec Ossuary, which is what goth and metalhead kids on Tumblr seem to be obsessed with. You see pictures of the inside of the ossuary quite often, it being decorated with the bones of people who were once buried, but were removed because with all the plagues, there was simply no room to bury the new dead. Many of the remains of the people who make up the decor of the church had died from the plague or from wars. But, very rarely do you get to see pictures from the modest graveyard around it. My roommate, Ilayda, and I walked around the cemetery, finding all sorts of unique tombstones, many having photos of the people who were buried there, as they were in their lives. Exploring a village’s cemetery in Central Europe is a very good way to learn about its inhabitants, both past and present.

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After we had explored the snow-buried cemetery, as more snow fell around us, we went into the church. We took our time on the stairs down so that we wouldn’t slip, paid our way in, and collected our laminated handouts in English that told about the history of the church.

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If you are ever in Prague to visit, I strongly suggest making the day trip to Kutná Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary for yourself, along with the rest of the city. It’s also a great village to find nice, Czech blown glass.

The Article that Funded my Trip to a Black/Death Metal Festival in Belgium is Up

You can read it here.

At the last minute, we decided that I would write an article about why students at my university who will be studying abroad through our sibling schools program should consider Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. However, I did take two trips to Gent and Brussels while in Belgium and did some cultural/aesthetic sight-seeing, so I was perfectly equipped to write an article about why you should go to Belgium/what there is to do in Belgium. But if you are interested in reading about my trip to Belgium, I have a blog entry about it here.

I Just Lost an Entire Blog Post Despite saving it as a Draft

I spent a rather sizable chunk of time writing a post this morning. I have limited time and so if there happened to be a way to get that time back so that I could do something more productive with it, I would do so. Situations like this make me want to stop using WordPress, or “rage-quit” the blog if you will. Apparently though, if you have more than one blog (like me), there’s a risk that WordPress might forget which blog you specified for the post to go to when you hit “publish post” and just pull something like, “un_known post” or “we forgot where you said you wanted this to go.” Well, don’t do what I did. Don’t say “Okay, I’ll just save this as a draft then and try to redirect it to its rightful home from under my drafts page.” No! Big mistake. Even though, I waited for the screen to confirm that it was indeed saved, when I got to my drafts page I couldn’t find the post. It had vanished.

This has happened to me at least three times, and it’s a reason why I don’t update my blog as often, because of stupid technical derps like this that eat up my time and force me to have to conclude that I just wasted an hour trying to update my blog and have nothing to show for it. It’s time to move on to one of my 8 billion other projects I’m working on or else just resign myself to doing homework. I really don’t have time for stuff like this.

Anyway, I’m just going to do a short recap of what I actually wanted to post, since it pertains to my last blog entry and my future blog entries.

1.) I’m not doing the second part of the Liebster Awards. I’ve had a gut feeling ever since I first saw this thing floating around that this award is just fictional and it’s basically the WordPress/blogger version of a chain letter. I appreciate that someone thought my blog was awesome and wanted it to be recognized and thought this was a great way to network with people. But I don’t have time to fulfill the demands of this “award”. Also, I’m noticing that most bloggers view this as spam, so I’m not going to bother them with it. Yes, I decided at first I would try to do it because there are also a lot of bloggers out there who use this chain letter as a means of networking, and I see no issue with networking. In fact, I think the one good thing about the “Liebster Award” is that it got more bloggers to network. But I can find other ways to network that are in line with my current goals. And speaking of goals. . .

2.) I’m going to temporarily abandon this blog for the next 5 weeks to work on another blog that I’m doing for my Professional Writing 4160 course. It’s going to be about my experiences with Czech beer. There will also be beer suggestions and information about where you can get these beers if you ever travel to Czech Republic are happening to be planning a trip. I will put up another post when I have my first entry up so that you guys can find the blog.

3.) I’m also working on numerous translation projects. Still. I’ve got a project with Jewish, German-speaking writers from Prague who were in the same literary circle as Kafka and Max Brod. I’m still working on my Belphegor and other death metal/black metal German language interviews that I’m translating to English. You can view the results as I finish them here.

4.) I’m thinking what I don’t get done for the Prague Writers project will be going into my proposal for a Fulbright Research grant. I’m also dealing with that now and trying to get a translation internship abroad though AIESEC. To do both of these things, involves a lot of back-and-forth with representative from both of these programs.

 

 

 

My Blog was Nominated for the Liebster Award! (Part I: Shout-out to Writing Gallery and Q&A)

Due to my hectic schedule and infrequent posts on here though, I haven’t been able to respond to that nomination in a timely manner. I feel a bit guilty that someone thought of me and wanted to recognize my blog, and that I haven’t been able to respond. My requirements I must fulfill for the award will be broken up into two posts. The second post will cover my four nominations for the Liebster Award and my questions. This post though, will cover the first two requirements.

I was nominated for this award by Writing Gallery, who runs her blog mostly just to practice English, being a non-native speaker, and speaks English already almost like a native speaker with very minimal exceptions. Popular topics she discusses are dealing with conflict and stress, improving one’s writing and foreign language skills (an interesting topic for me, because of my career interests). If you’re looking for a casual, laid back but well-done blog to read, you should check out Writing Gallery.

Here are the questions that Writing Gallery came up with for her nominees to answer.

1.) Iphone or Galaxy?

Neither. Due to Apple’s recent treatment of their employees in China and other countries outside of the U.S. and their massive price hikes and general unwillingness to help customers with Itunes related issues just because they don’t have a recently purchased apple device or this new Apple limited warranty service that you now have to pay extra for–although when I got my Ipod Nano it was included free for about 2 years–I haven’t bought any new Apple products in 5 years and won’t be. I don’t have a Galaxy either, but I have no issues with Samsung as a company. I actually have an Android Transform at the moment, but I’m due for an upgrade soon.

2.) What’s your favorite book?

Well, that is difficult to answer with just one title. Being a writer and a literary translator, I read a lot of books. Actually, I have a post from around February or March of this year that details some really good world literature that I hold dear to my heart. But, I won’t do the lazy thing and link to that–I’ll answer the question, with updated information, because I have read quite a lot since then. *Pulls up Goodreads page*

I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar once about every three years, so I guess you could say that there’s something about the prose and feelings in that book that cause me to return to it again and again. I also enjoy short story compilations and the journals and letters of Franz Kafka. I’ve read his most famous stories in both English and German, but the journals and some of his lesser known stories, I’ve read just in German. The complexity caused by the sheer length of his behemoth sentences provide me a good warm-up for translation projects. I’m also exploring the short stories of Anne Valente, a native of St. Louis, Missouri–where I am also from. I first read a short story from her in the online literary magazine, Memorious, and have been exploring the works accessible through her portfolio. I think she has a very interesting perspective.

As for whole books, other than The Bell Jar and selected short story compilations, I remember enjoying Edith Pattou’s East, Joanne Harris’ Runemarks–I need to get around to reading the sequel to that one of these days–Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices Series, and pretty much everything I’ve read by Libba Bray.

3.) What’s your dream job?

If I were answering this when I was thirteen, I would say guitarist of a death metal band. But having witnessed what that lifestyle does to professional musicians, I’ve since changed my mind. (I still love playing my guitar though and writing about it.) Now, my dream job is best-selling author. With the economic climate in the States though and the majority’s general disinterest in reading literature though, this dream is probably unachievable. I think I would just really like to get to a point in my life where I can just focus on my writing and have enough of a following that I can justify the ridiculous amount of time I put into writing, revising, editing, etc.

4.) What’s motivates you to write?

Dreams, my hectic emotions, really good books and writing, looming deadlines, finding lit. mags with intriguing themes that I would like to submit to.

5.) What’s your favorite dish (food)?

Also a very difficult question to answer with just one option. I have lived in three countries besides the U.S. and sure, those countries all have culturally similar dishes, but one dish you would find in Czech Republic for example originating in Czech would be called something else in Germany or Austria and made slightly differently. I also have traveled a lot and experiment in my kitchen to find healthy but delicious recipes. Well, I guess I am really missing my favorite Czech dish, svičková na smetaně, which is beef tenderloin in a creamy sauce served with flat, white bread dumplings (Knedliky). I also really like fishes served in various sauces with couscous or rice, Wiener Schnitzel and home-made potato salad, and anything with lots of spice, peppers, and tomatoes, or involving creative usage of avocados or pomegranate.

6.) What kind of sport do you like and why?

I don’t really like any sports. However, I did used to do ballet and pointe until I developed knee problems, and the amount of strength and conditioning and practice that goes into that rivals your typical sport, I think.

7.) Nature or urban life?

I’ve experienced both, although I have more experience with urban life. It depends on the city and country though. Like if I am living in Austria, I wouldn’t mind living out on the land in the Alps, surrounded by nature. But if I am living in Czech Republic, then give me the old, foreboding architecture of Prague any day. Brno is a runner-up just because they have awesome student life and people there are just really friendly.

8.) Who influenced you the most in your life?

I don’t know. There is no one person I want to be exactly like and when I was younger I didn’t have someone who fit the traditional definition of “role model”–someone who I would want to emulate. I had people I thought were cool and I respected because they dared to be themselves. I have the same still today, and so it is hard to say who has influenced me the most when the thing I hold most important in life is being yourself.

9.) Whose blog do you like to read every day?

Well, I don’t read blogs every day, which is why I lag behind in views and networking. I just don’t have the time during classes and when I am working and trying to save money while also trying to fit time in for catching up with my lengthy goodreads to-read list and working on my projects, while trying also to keep in touch with my closest friends on a regular basis. So I can’t name any names.

10.) What’s your favorite quote or saying?

I have a lot of quotes from Nietzsche and Kafka that I really love. But I am trying to focus on ones that do not have to do with religious or personal life philosophies that would potentially alienate people from me. I also don’t want to get preachy on this. So I will post this one from Kafka , addressed to Max Brod in a letter, that amused me:

“I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.”

I think it puts living with panic disorder in perspective as well. 

The part II post for the Liebster Award will be posted as soon as I gather my nominees. I fear that I may not be able to reach 10 though, given my limited time and how many people I know of who already have been nominated for this award or have more than 400 followers.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Summer of Frustration: My Summer of Striving to Write Realistic Mental Illness, Professional first Translation Projects, and Getting Myself Interested in my own writing again

I feel like I’m stuck in a rut when it comes to my writing. I have to admit that I haven’t been able to move the plot line of Mind Terrorist forward because I just feel iffy about the scene I’m currently writing. In it, Lenore has wandered away from a bar and her friends and gotten herself lost in Prague. She gets picked up by the police in the city park and tries to evade arrest by running. (For those of you just passing by, I should mention that Lenore is no ordinary special flower. She’s just had a mental breakdown and is trekking through Europe intending to kill the man she believes is controlling her thoughts. Her friends know this and this is why the police were called.) I’m hesitant about finishing this scene, because afterwards I’m unsure where the story is going. I can’t decide if I want her to spend a night in jail or spend the night with her friends (who have become more pushy and less patient with her). It’s too early in the book for her to land in the hospital. I don’t want this to be a hospital novel, because I feel like the niche market for books about people struggling with mental illness is overpopulated by narrators in mental institutions and psych wards–I mean, that’s the most obvious place you’d look when you want to find people who are mentally ill. But the reality of the situation (and I’m more interested in my book being realistic and believable) is that the police would probably take her to the hospital, and the hospital would try to find a way to keep her since she is such an extreme danger to herself and others.

I’ve kind of switched gears this summer because of the frustration I’m having with the plot of Mind Terrorist. I’m finishing a translation project I started for a friend. My friend asked me to translate a few German language interviews with two bands we really like to English so that she could read the interview. I’m fortunate to be in contact with one of the interviewees, so if I have any uncertainties about his intended meaning of a statement or if I have trouble interpreting the mood of the conversation (the first and third parts are a round table discussion between three people), I can just run the question by him. Of course, I don’t want to irritate him–he is busy–but I am striving to translate it so that the original meaning and message of the articles are not lost. (That happens sometimes with more experienced translators, and since this is my first major translation project, I know I’m not a seasoned professional yet and I don’t want to mess it up!)

The other project I’ve switched gears to is a long-running fantasy project that I have no immediate plans to publish, but that I work on between major projects or when I’m feeling demotivated about my current project. This summer, I intend to hammer out one of the major details of my fantasy world: the fashion. Luckily, I found a doll designing template on http://www.dolldivine.com for the Showtime series, “The Tudors” that features gowns and clothing visually similar to what I envisioned for my fantasy series. Also, the template is not so strict that I have to make things exactly in the way that designers of that time period would have done them, it allows me to take various clothing details from the period and mix and match them into the kind of outfit I was envisioning. I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time doing this, but the clothing worn by my characters is a lot of the times important to the central plot. (For example, one of my female characters helps free another from the dungeons by switching clothes with her.) However, I need to minimize the amount of time I’m spending on Doll Divine making dolls, because I found myself spending the entire afternoon yesterday just making duplicate outfits for one of my characters for a certain part of the book when she is probably going to be in her nightgown about 70% of the time. I think my next mini-maintenance project for my fantasy novel will be sorting out my world’s religious practices and customs, because I’m finding this is another hole in my world that I can’t visualize through what I’ve already written.

So where do you think I should go with Mind Terrorist? I’d love to hear opinions from people in the comments, especially if they have any experience dealing with severely mentally ill people. My problem is that I don’t want the story to suddenly become unrealistic, but I also don’t want it to turn into a hospital novel. Confining Lenore to a hospital would halt the action of the story dead in its tracks.  But again, telling a realistic story is also very important to me!

Back in the States after a long Few Weeks of Travel

It was brought to my attention that I haven’t updated  the blog for a very long time. First of all, I apologize if anyone else happened to be looking out for one of my random posts. But I must explain myself. In the beginning of June, I started work on another post that requires quite a lot of research and thought. I underestimated how much time exactly it would take to put it together. As a result, I ended up burning myself out and I just had to give up temporarily on it. Then, my German history exam and all the studying I had to do to prepare for that came up. Right after taking this final exam, my boyfriend and I left for his parents’ house. That was when I became too busy to update my blog or work on my writing projects.

The last few weeks have included a day trip to a small town in Poland (the name of which I can’t remember–maybe my boyfriend will comment and remind me of the name of the city we were in 😉 ), a weekend trip to Slovakia, a weekend with my host family in Graz, Austria, moving out of my flat in Brno, three last nights in Prague with my boyfriend, being detained by security in Poland because my visa had expired the day before, and finally returning to the United States. (If anyone is interested, today I also got a haircut.) I’ve been back in the States for almost a week. I’m wondering if I should start texting people on my own, or continue to wait for them to text me, because I haven’t hung out with any of my friends since I’ve been back and everyone was so insistent that we hang out as soon as I came back. (Now, I understand there are busy exceptions who I’ve made plans with but we unfortunately cannot get together until a few weeks from now, but the amount of people bummed that I was out of the country and the amount of people calling my phone now are not equivalent. It’s an odd phenomenon, but also an experience I’ve had before. The last time I returned from a year abroad the same situation occurred. I’m at peace with the fact that people who were my good friends before I left last September will probably no longer be friends of mine next September. It happens. But nothing can make this not feel weird.

I hate how many of my international and Czech friends I will probably never see again. Or, if we do see each other again, it won’t be for a very long time. It is so weird that last month I woke up every morning next to my boyfriend and told him immediately about the nightmares and weird dreams I had. Now though, if I want to talk to him about the dreams of the night before, I must go downstairs, turn on the computer, and hope that he is on Skype. (This is another reminder that I need to ask for more people’s skype I.D.s because I only have two contacts.) It frightens me that a few of my international friends are returning to countries, which have recently become a lot less safer than they were before my friends had left (Egypt, Turkey, Syria) and I hope for the best for them and that we can meet again in the future someplace safe.

Every year for the last four years, I have felt like my life was starting over again or everything was changing and I had entered some kind of new era of my life. This year is no different. I feel like I’m starting over again from the beginning. I don’t want to do exactly what I did the last year I spent studying in the U.S. I want to try something new. I want to gain more experience working either as a German tutor or translator. But the lack of opportunities that I am finding in St. Louis right now is frustrating. I feel like I’m about to attempt to push a boulder up a hill, honestly. I’m just warming up. It’s really hard not to be overwhelmed by the frustration though, and I’m bracing myself for the next few weeks. I keep telling myself that I just started looking and that it will take some time. However, I don’t listen. I’ve always been stubborn.

The Kind of Dilemma that can only Arise from being Scatter-brained and unable to make a Decision

There’s a quote from Virginia Woolf that describes me very strongly:

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.” (from her diary on May 11th, 1920)

I’m in the doubt stage currently. I feel like if I could just get over my doubt of my current project and finish part II that I would go on writing parts III and IV smoothly and then the editing process could begin and I would finally have SOMETHING to show to publishers (that isn’t a teenager’s first attempt at figuring out how to construct a novel). But the more time I spend not focusing on my piece, the more my mind wanders and I begin to contemplate new projects. Also, I’m kind of risking damning myself anytime I attempt to write a short story. Thus far, half of my short story attempts in the past two years surpassed 12k words and could go even longer to form a novel. So I had to put the project on hold in favor of my current two projects.

This is what my workload looks like (concerning novels and compilations, I won’t even list the unfinished short stories sitting on/around/in my desk at the moment):

Mind Terrorist

Main Character/inspiration: Lenore, a voice of a character in my head who happened to be the loudest when it came time to write a short story for my Short Story writing course last spring.

Plot Synopsis: Lenore is an American expat living in Austria who is having a very serious breakdown. She is convinced that a specific man has found a way into her mind and found a way to control her thoughts and sexual desires and that he is seeing all of her thoughts. The problem is that she does not know who it is, and is suspicious of any man she comes across because even if they found a way to placate her and convince her that they are not the ones inside her mind, that this could just be another mind trick. Lenore, needing a holiday, is invited to spend the weekend partying with two musician friends in Prague and she accepts. But during the train ride through Austria to Prague, she realizes that perhaps it could be her friends who have been reaching into her thoughts.

Themes: Coping with sexual assault/rape, alcoholism, mental illness, mental illness and sexual trauma, travel, Central European culture and history

Status: I shopped this around in its original form as a short story. It was considered for 3 months to be printed by an American literary magazine, but in the end they declined it because they felt that the word count was too long to be a short story, and that the story needed to continue. When I turned it in to my teacher, she said basically the same thing. . .so here I am trying to finish this novel.

But doubt creeped in and I started a new project while I was dealing with writer’s block:

Short Story Compilation (“The Sea Monster’s Bride” and other Stories)

I found myself writing a lot about love and mental illness in the last six months, and aside from my novel, I’m beginning to move past this fixation. However, mental illness and love are and probably will always be recurring themes in my writing for personal reasons. This particular short story compilation has a focus on love within institutional settings between someone who society has deemed to be mentally ill and someone who isn’t but may be missing some important things. I would like to release it on smashwords, but I’d like to first get some of the stories published in literary magazines and therefore attract publicity and more public interest for the short story compilation in the first place.

Now, within this project I started writing a short story which takes place in a Victorian workhouse, and then later an asylum. The narrator has a romantic relationship with Satan (or she thinks she does) and this is why she is in an asylum. I’ve realized after rewriting it that this story could not be told in its entirety in just a short story, and that since she is in her late teens and I have the opportunity, I’d like to send her to a haunted finishing school in Scotland and extend her narrative into a book series. This is my Darling series, which I posted about earlier this week. Now, I have three projects going because I am still missing a short story since I’ve had to pull Darling from the compilation. Mind Terrorist only has 15,000 words, and I want it to at least have 30k. But these are just the projects I’ve started fairly recently.

During my time on Mibba two years ago, I completed an internet fantasy serial story. My readers on Mibba really liked it and I have been asked to expand each weekly section into a full chapter. I’ve been doing that since 2011, and have ended up splitting the book in half so that now there are two books–both from different points-of-view. The story line is done. The rough draft is written. I am just editing this now and going back and rewriting some passages so that they connect more smoothly and there are less plotholes. I even have an idea for the sequel to each of the points-of-view, a book that combines both by making one of my narrators have a bigger part in the life of the character who shall be narrating. But it’s a fantasy project: imaginary world, intricate religious and cultural beliefs, and a political system, and all. My senior year of college is not a good time to embark on such an endeavor. Though, I will admit that when I’m frustrated with Lenore and writing short stories and queries to literary magazines, I find myself editing my fantasy novel, designing costumes for my main characters, and even writing new scenes. This is a particularly bad habit for me, because it’s taking away from me time that I would be spending working on my projects that I’d like to get done before the end of 2014, when I’ve told myself that this fantasy novel could not reasonably be finished at least until 2016 if I put all my free time into it, and should just focus on one thing at a time.

But no, I don’t listen to myself. I’m too scatter-brained to listen to myself. There are too many voices inside of my mind for me to listen to, and as a result I’m having trouble picking which one I’m going to listen to when it comes to my writing projects.