Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't Touch the Cotton Candy!

As you read this, I'm moving into my dorm at the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics. (Phew, that's a mouthful!) So in the spirit of starting a new school year at a brand new school I figured I should share a fun, if embarrassing, moment. And a brief warning about school pep rallies. Mainly the ones where kids are mixing the cotton candy.Don't touch the cotton candy at the pep rallies. Seriously. Do. Not. Touch. Not only was my tongue dyed purple until the next morning when it was merely a hint at the tip of my tongue, but my fingers had a nice tint as well. Oh, and your spit is also brilliantly hued. And believe me, when the cotton candy is that vibrant, you won't be able to taste anything but bitterness for a few hours. And soda-of any kind-doesn't fix it. Trust me. Luckily I was around friends of several years. But that didn't save me when the teacher who took this picture showed it to all the kids in all his classes the next day.

New schools can be scary, but they can be a great opportunity to grow. Yes, I know that's what parents are always saying, but it's true. Whether you are moving up to high school or going on to college, don't be afraid to stretch your comfort zone. Meet new people who share your interests by joining a club or sport. For those musically inclined, marching band is a great option. These people can help you find your classes, warn you about the really strict teachers, and save you a seat at the lunch table. Marching band did a lot to help me through my freshman year of high school because I met people who were already familiar with the surroundings and were willing to help out the geeky flute player. So don't be afraid to try new things!

Good luck to all of you students bracing for school! And don't forget to pick up you copy of
Just One of the Guys* to help ease the transition!

*now on Kindle!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One time at Band Camp...

Most of my friends are currently in various stages of summer band camp. The percussionists and color guard are at their super-focused camps without the regular band crazies to distract them. The regular band crazies are bracing themselves for their camp starting next week.

And this is the south, so everything is hot and humid- and it's worse because everyone is working on super hot asphalt. And it's not even nice and smooth hot asphalt, its old rocky, bumpy asphalt. (And for accident-prone people like me, this leads to tripping and stumbling, the likelihood of which is only increased by the aforementioned heat.)

So it occurs to me that I have 2 years worth of stories to share with you, my faithful readers. Hm. Now which one should I feature today? That's it! Dragonflies!

(This involves a section leader who will now be called SL for the sake of privacy.)
We had to learn lateral slides- which are painful and awkward until you get the hang of them. The idea is that your feet always face the direction you are moving in while your instrument (a.k.a. arms and face) is parallel to the sidelines at all times. See below. On the left of the field are normal, easier directions of travel. On the right is a lateral slide.Now, SL was trying to teach us how to do these while walking in a straight line, playing our flutes, and marching the prescribed distance. We only escaped when a crippled dragonfly became stuck to SL's shoe and hung on for a good 5 minutes while she danced around. But then she executed a kick worthy of an international soccer star and flung him onto somebody's windshield, where he promptly died.

But she didn't lose the dragonflies that easily. No, two weeks later at an after-school practice, SL had another one fly into her sports drink. The next week there was another dragonfly stuck to her shoe. At our first game, one flew into her hair. The list of encounters is endless.

I don't know if the curse has been broken, as she left for college. But it makes you wonder... Do dragonflies have some sort of psychic connection to each other? Is earth populated by Jedi dragonflies? And does anyone else know of other band camp curses?

And don't forget to see what I've got cooking at Teen-Seen today!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet." (Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii, lines 43-44)

But is it really true? When in the process of creating a character I know his or her, well, character long before I know his/her name. I know how they act, their strengths and weaknesses, and their history.

For me, naming a hero or heroine can be the toughest part- after all, their names should mean something or nothing. The name has to represent the person to the readers who will meet him/her.

Example: Samantha is the star of Just One of the Guys. According to "Samantha" is a common English name that may be the female version of "Samuel." It's not super feminine and it's common, so it isn't particularly flashy. It's a down-to-earth name for a down-to-earth girl. There's also the added plus that it can be shortened to "Sam" which is the name she chooses to go by. Her name allows her to blend with her guy friends, and lends a credibility to her character.

Now, imagine her name is Isobel. Sure, maybe Isobel's a tom-boy, but her name doesn't really fit that fact. So if I were to use that name, I'd have to justify it by turning it into a conflict. She'd be likely to make comments such as: "I hate that name." and "Why did my parents have to be so old-fashioned?" Things like that. Isobel's looks and history would also be different because "Isobel" is obviously foreign (Italian to be exact). Instead of having auburn hair she'd have darker, Mediterranean looks. Her grandparents may be immigrants, so maybe she's fluent in Italian in addition to English.

Maybe if rose bushes were instead called thorn bushes, they'd smell just as sweet, but how many people would stop to smell them? Would you risk getting cut by a thorn bush in order to smell its flowers? I'll admit, I'd avoid a thorn bush like the plague. But a rose bush? Those are known for their beautiful flowers, so maybe I'd actually approach one.

So written by an author currently naming new characters,
Iris Black

Just One of the Guys is now available for Kindle and can also be found in other formats at Quake. For more updates on what's going on in my head, go to my Facebook, my Fan page, or follow me on Twitter (@IrisBlack).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why I'm Almost Ready for School to Start

Yep. I'm almost ready for school to start. How am I almost? Why am I waiting? You will find two short lists below: "Ready and Waiting" and "Not Quite Ready."

Ready and Waiting
  1. When school starts, I'll probably have more blog material to choose from.
  2. I really want to be a Governor's School student in the Governor's School.
  3. I want to meet all of my classmates and find out what my schedule's like.
  4. Oddly enough, I like school. My summer has been lacking in science material.
  5. I just want to get started.
Not Quite Ready
  1. I still have required reading to do.
  2. I haven't seen much of my friends this summer.
  3. Nerves.
  4. I actually do like my family and pets.
  5. Goofy reason: I want to see the new G.I. Joe movie before I leave =)
So anyways, that's what's been floating around in my head. Now it's floating around on the internet.

Read Just One of the Guys, a much more interesting approach to summer vacation and all of the little adventures that entails when you're in high school. Available now at Kindle and Quake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

War of the Pages

Some of you may be aware that I have been posting reviews/guides to commonly assigned summer reading books. (Whew! That's a mouthful!) And actually, none of those books are ones that I have been assigned this summer. A new school means new books and new focus. So while most of my old classmates are reading Beowulf and other British classics I am reading a motley assortment of craziness (literally!) and global classics.

Also, I had to go on the hunt via for specific editions with loooong forwards by other authors, etc.

Assigned to me (in my intended reading order):

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (American, pub. 1962)
Status: Completely Finished
Enjoyment: Mild- good book, tough topics, want to see the film
Dubliners by James Joyce (Irish topics/published in London, pub. 1914)
Status: Finished Preface, Midway in Intro, yet to see author's work
Enjoyment: Wish the boring stuff was shorter, looking forward to the stories
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (American, pub. 1920)
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: No intell to influence opinion, mostly curious
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (American, pub. 1947)
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: Looking forward to it- was meant to be in the curriculum last year
How Good People make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living by Rushworth Kidder
Status: Unstarted
Enjoyment: Facing the reading with great dread- luckily, it's short

And just a disclaimer: I know that summer is not forever and have a plan to reduce the pile of looming pages. I have a plan, I have time to implement it, and am resigned to my fate.

So have any of you read any of these? Opinions?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I march...

Or should I say marched? While I am moving to a new school (one without a marching band) I will never forget the times spent on the football field with over 100 of my peers. I marched in the Stratford Bands for 2 years and have learned so much in such a relatively short time.

Those 100+ peers I mentioned? Yeah, I knew all of their names and faces- and was able to match the right face to the right name for the most part. We were all odd, quirky, and downright crazy at times. Particularly on the bus or during a rainy-day indoor rehearsal. But the laughs weren't really the reason I continued to march with them for a second season.

No, it was about the family. The sense of community. We shed sweat, tears, and the occasional blood, together from July until December. From heated band camp to windy parades. When a band member was hurt, you helped. When a band member was struggling in class, you helped. When a band member needed help piling their hair into their hat, you took joy in knotting their hair into wacky pigtails and other twisted hairstyles. (Sorry boys, but dress code is dress code. No hair on the collars!)

My first season of marching ended with knee surgery after I stepped in a pot hole at our very last parade. My second season started with knee surgery. Because I couldn't march, they put me on the front line with the mallet percussion. Even though I had no CLUE what I was doing, they managed to fit me in and I didn't mess up too bad at competition. And I never once felt left out.

But that's the thing. An organization like band has so many different types of people. Injury-prone persons, tie-died hair persons, geeks, nerds, the works. And the only thing we all have in common is music. But its enough to start. And by the end of the season? We're family. That's why I marched.


top right: Show shirt from 08 season. We made State finals for the 1st time in 6 years!
middle left: Me marching at State my freshman year. The show was Musicology 101

Want to know what it's like to be part of the band? Read Just One of the Guys available on Kindle and other formats now!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am pleased to say that The Great Gatsby has arrived at Sam's Space!
Book Summary: This classic novel is set in Long Island, NY during the 1920s and Prohibition. The story is told by a young man, Nick Carraway, who has just moved to the East Coast from the Midwest. There, he meets his neighbor, Jay Gatsby- a man who is full of money and doesn't have the class to go with it. Nick also finds his distant cousin, Daisy, her husband Tom, and Daisy's friend, Jordan. This is the point when everything devolves into a messy soap opera drama. Gatsby is in love with Daisy, Daisy loves money and stuff, Tom cheats on his wife with a married woman named Myrtle, Nick has an affair with Jordan, and everyone is getting drunk at Gatsby's parties illegally. A definite recipe for disaster- as Tom knows Gatsby loves Daisy and Myrtle wants Tom to get a divorce so she can leave her husband (George Wilson). And Nick is the unfortunate observer caught in the middle.

Review: This is not my favorite book in the world, but I did enjoy it. The characters involved in the story will have you frustrated, indignant, and shaking your head at turns. But each has some sort of endearing quality- Daisy is so innocent of the world, George knows nothing of Myrtle's infidelity, Gatsby just wants the love of his life, etc. The book addresses the immorality of society and the injustices dealt to the lower classes without being dry or boring.

What to Look For/Impress Your Teacher: The use of color is extremely important in this novel. The green light that Gatsby sees (no, I won't tell you what it is) represents hope. When Nick first visits Daisy, all the white articles represent her almost child-like innocence and her fleeting nature. Abstractly, using the terms West and East Eggs to refer to the different neighborhoods by Fitzgerald was deliberate. An egg is white on the outside, but yellow at the core. (The appearance of innocence at the surface, but a rotten heart lies beneath.) Also, pay attention to Tom's dialogue when he buys Myrtle a puppy. Read it with the thought that he isn't really talking about canines, but women. Tom had no respect for the fairer sex. And pay attention to the season. Spring is full of hope and budding dreams, Summer is hot and passionate and full of life, Autumn represents death and decay. Hmm. Something to consider when watching Gatsby's actions...

Author Facts: F. Scott Fitzgerald's full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. He coined the term "Jazz Age" in reference to the 20s and sometimes found himself nearing bankruptcy- forcing him to work in Hollywood. (He found this distasteful.) His wife, Zelda, was in and out of mental institutions and Fitzgerald himself was an alcoholic. For more, go to Wikipedia.

And after you finish reading The Great Gatsby, be sure to find a copy of Just One of the Guys on Kindle or Quake!