A literary semester

It’s my last semester at Fairfield, so I thought I should take all the classes that I’ve been wanting to take. Why not?

Advanced Portfolio Workshop

Led by former Crazyhorse editor, Carol Ann Davis, this class is a capstone course for creative writing majors. By the end of this course we are supposed to have a publishable creative project. I’m choosing to compose a collection of short stories, all dealing with family dynamics. I supposedly volunteered to have my work examined in the first workshop. Don’t ask me how that happened; it’s all a blur. I plan to submit a very dark piece about a man who fights but eventually succumbs to his demons. Vague? Good! I can’t reveal all the good stuff here. Based on my impressions, I anticipate that this class will be beneficial to my development as a writer. Everyone seems interested in their craft, and I look forward to our sessions.

Teaching and Learning Grammar

Ah, grammar. There are so many bad, horrific, terrifying, embarrassing (OK, I’ll stop) memories of my childhood encounters with grammar. I remember getting back essays with red pen marks all over the pages. I vaguely remember being enrolled in an ESL class, because my English was so horrible. I apparently couldn’t speak English because my parents only spoke to me in Vietnamese at home. I don’t recall much of that ESL class (I did learn Spanish?). Anyways, grammar is my weak point. Yet, in my future line of work, I need to know grammar, so I thought I should finally have a whole course dedicated to grammar. So far, it is really interesting. My professor wants to teach students not only the basics to grammar, but also the history of it.

Issues in Professional Writing: Multimedia Writing

I will have a lot of trouble concentrating in this class. Why? Dogs. That’s why – my professor has DOGS. They’re Huskies, and they are so well-behaved and adorable. But, the whole class seems interesting. I’ve always wanted to build my own website, and that’s apparently one of our larger projects. I think that if I want to go into journalism (right after graduation, down the line, etc.) I would need to know basic web design skills. I like that we’re using blogs, Twitter, and computers to learn. We’re actually applying what we learn in class and what we read from our books. I always enjoy courses with hands-on tasks. As with my other classes, I can’t wait to get started.

Introduction to Poetry

Well. It’s poetry, so I am terrified. But hopefully I’ll survive?

Honors Thesis/Independent Writing Project: Novel Writing

I AM WRITING A NOVEL. That’s all I can say, because, apparently, it’s bad to talk about your writing. It’s the same novel I’ve been working on for over a year, and I am hoping to make serious progress with the help of Dr. Michael White, who is the MFA director at Fairfield.

Internship: Folio Literary Management

Folio Literary Management is a literary agency in Manhattan, so I commute Wednesdays and Fridays to work in the office. I’m an editorial intern so I read, read, read, take out the trash, read, refill the water cooler, read, read and, yes, read. I love it so far.

Work: The Mirror

What can I say? Working at The Mirror has become second-nature to me. It’s a part of my life, and I wouldn’t want to change anything. Of course I am nervous about this semester and the next, when the new staff will have to take over. I’m extremely overprotective of my baby; I think I’ve taken good care of it, so I don’t want things to change. I’m also trying to convince people that working at The Mirror is a rewarding experience. It doesn’t have to be a chore, I say.

We have a lot of competitions that are open to submissions. The first deadline is Jan. 24 for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards. I hope we win.

Wagner

Don’t ask me why the editor-in-brief, Leigh Tauss, had named it “Wagner.” I guess it’s random – just like the creation of this journal. Leigh has a vision for it – she’s still figuring it out – but I’m glad to be a part of it as the Spelling Witch! Boom. Greatest title ever. If you want to submit, please do.

Rowling’s new book is less than enchanting

In February 2012, fans of the fantasy book and movie series “Harry Potter” received news that J.K. Rowling would publish another book. Their enthusiasm was slightly dampened by confusion when Rowling said she had switched over to writing for adults.

“The Casual Vacancy,” released on Sept. 27, is about an idyllic town that significantly changes after the death of well-known councilor Barry Fairbrother. Barry’s death results in a ‘casual vacancy,’ an empty spot on the Pagford council.

Eventually the townspeople must decide on who should replace the deceased. Most importantly, the inheritor of Barry’s seat would determine the fate of the Fields, a housing project that is a blemish on the perfect façade of sleepy Pagford.

The fight for the seat leads to what Little, Brown and Company had described as “the biggest war the town has yet seen.” However, what the novel’s summary boasts is not fulfilled because the plot falls flat.

Each chapter consists of different characters’ coping with Barry’s death and the imminent voting that would change the town. Naturally, one would think more characters would add plenty of colors to the plot. The saying is: “The more, the merrier.” Yet, this gets repetitive and monotonous.

Crammed into the first 350 pages are descriptions of the town of Pagford and day-to-day thoughts of too many characters to count. The rest of the 500-paged novel details the characters’ emotional unraveling. Loyalties are reconsidered. Families break apart. Posts revealing secrets about the running candidates slowly appear on the Pagford council’s website and further enrage locals when the user’s name is The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother.

Harry Potter fans might resort, out of sheer boredom, to comparing this novel to the beloved series, but the only comparable aspect is a Vernon Dursley doppelganger named Howard Mollison, who is a pot-bellied, lecherous councilman with an abhorrence for the Fields. His wife Shirley, a gossiper, most definitely fits the mold of Vernon’s horse-faced wife, Petunia Dursley. Otherwise, Rowling does succeed in separating herself from her bestselling series.

Though the plot falls flat and characters crowd the novel’s pages, Rowling deserves praise for her story-telling; she has the sought-after ability to conjure (see what happened there?) a different world. Sadly, this fictional world is just not as interesting as the wizarding world.

When Rowling said this was an adult novel, she was definitely correct. Within the first hundred pages of “The Casual Vacancy,” the story branches into topics of sex, drugs and affairs. One sexually frustrated wife fantasizes about the men in town. The son of the local school’s headmaster fornicates with the daughter of a drug-addicted woman from the Fields. Every curse word in the dialogue causes a jolt, a sheer indication that Rowling has, in fact, moved on.

Recently, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in England, Rowling said she would return to writing a children’s book. Perhaps this might be a better choice for Rowling.