Trusting the Path

If all else fails in the universe, there are at least two things of which I am always certain.

The first, is that Book Ron and Book Ginny will always be better than their film counterparts. (Even though I love Rupert & Bonnie. They couldn’t help bad character development in the scripts, poor dears.)

The second, and what this post is actually about, is that nothing in this universe gets me more excited or filled with hope than NaNoWriMo.

Growing up, NaNoWriMo was always a frantic rush to 50K during November. It came when the air was cooling, the leaves were crisping, and the hot chocolate cravings were calling. But as with most things that we do for many, many years, NaNoWriMo has changed, and last year was the first time I decided to increase my yearly amount of noveling shenaniganry by participating in my first two Camp NaNos.

The idea behind Camp NaNoWriMo is simple. You get the same creative rush, but you use it towards a word goal you choose for yourself, or you can use the month to edit. It’s more loose in its creative restraints, but no less thrilling than November, when you get to share in the energy of lots of people all creating at once.

My very first Camp NaNo attempt was supposed to be last April, but due to uncertainties about the story I was trying to do at the time, and a certain trip that changed my life, I didn’t get past a few thousand words. It didn’t feel like a real crack at it to me. It did, however, end up being the month that set me on the path back to Alteria. That call made in a small cafe in Edinburgh ended up informing the rest of my year, as I would come to spend July’s Camp NaNo, and November’s official NaNoWriMo 2015, working on versions of They Are The Last.

Funny how you can start off thinking you know precisely where you’re going, and life can be like NOPE, RIGHT THIS WAY PLEASE. IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHERE YOU PLANNED. Kind of like a story, if you ask me.

All that being said, the plan I’m attempting to carry out will involve me writing 50K this April, something I’ve never achieved outside of November. While time is running short, I’ve actually yet to decide if the 50K I write will be towards my second draft, or if it will be 50,000 words worth of backstory short stories. We’ll see what happens. Regardless of which path I choose, I’m sure I’ll end up right in the place I’m supposed to be.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, being alarming levels of excited by the fact that I have no idea where that place will be.

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12 Years in Alteria

Get your flux capacitor and TARDIS ready, everyone. For today’s post, we’re going back in time. To when, you ask?

February 9th, 2004 at 10:13am. Room 107 of East Norriton Middle School.

I was 13, sitting in class with a teacher I didn’t much like for a subject I was rubbish at. The few days prior to that, I’d made the decision that I wanted to write a story. Heavily influenced by the magic of Harry Potter and the space and time travel in The Pendragon Adventures – a YA series you should absolutely look up if you’re unfamiliar – I knew that I wanted the story I’d be writing to be some combination of the those elements. Science-y magic, if you will.

I came up with a character to lead this universe, Piper Anderson, who was so named because Piper was my favorite girls name, and Anderson was my 7th grade English teacher’s name. Next, I realized Piper needed a universe to belong in – a world. Sitting in that math class, I tried to come up with a name. Something original. But with nothing around me but other disinterested classmates and a teacher droning on, there wasn’t much for inspiration. So I worked with what I had . . . my math worksheet.

I started using different words from the instructions on the page, combining them in scribbles at the bottom of a piece of paper that I have sadly since lost. I rearranged words and letters, until at last, I jotted down a word that just worked. It clicked.

My world would be called Alteria.

And so I opened my notebook to a blank page – a page I still have – and jotted down the date, time, place, and just above it a phrase. Alteria: The Adventure Begins. Below that, a chapter title. And below that? A horribly cheesy first line that only 13 year old me could have come up with.

Piper Anderon looked like your typical 17 year old girl. But she wasn’t.

Yes, in the first line of my first book, I spelled my own character’s name wrong. DERP.

The rest of that year was spent coming up with alien races, doodling notes, and handwriting pages upon pages of story. That November I decided to write a prequel to this first Alteria story, and the result was very first NaNoWriMo novel called The Waters of Nen. As anyone who’s read this blog before knows, NaNoWriMo is the other thing I’ve been spending the last 12 years doing.

The ensuing years after 2004 saw much of my free time being consumed by coming up with grand ideas, some of which stayed, and some of which went back into the communal creative consciousness for someone else to grab. But even when I came up with something bad, I’d just scrap it and keep going. Most people are still surprised when I tell them the story is as old as it is, usually asking things like, why didn’t you get distracted and just stop writing? I can without a doubt say one of the biggest reasons was an incredibly kind and endlessly encouraging middle school librarian who told me to keep at it. (Spoiler: When I get to write a dedication to this book one day – you can bet she’ll be in there.)

High school saw me getting into other projects, trying new things, and you know, learning how to be a person. Then in college, I was so caught up in the incredibly exciting task of learning to be a filmmaker. While those years were amazing and shaped me so much as a storyteller and creator, Alteria spent much of that time on a shelf, waiting until I was ready to tell the story as it deserved to be told.

Flash ahead to 2015. At the conclusion of one creative project, I found myself wanting to take up the mantle of another one. I debated relentlessly in my head as to which story I should work on, and carried the dilema with me when I went to London and Edinburgh in April for my own adventure. I sat in the very cafe where JKR wrote her much of Harry Potter, thinking about Piper and Alteria, and wondering: is it their time? Am I finally ready? As I walked home that night, mulling it all over, I stopped by a shop, looking for a souvenir for the friend who helped me get there. In that store, I saw this . . .

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I took the hint. I went back to Alteria.

I spent July to October writing the first 44K words, then November and December I began a new draft which I completed with less than an hour to spare of New Year’s Eve. I rang in 2016 standing on a street corner waiting to catch the bus to my friends party, because I HAD TO finish my book first. Watching fireworks explode over the city skyline, happy drunken cheers all around, and with Hamilton the Musical‘s song My Shot blaring in my ears, I gotta say – that was one of the most surreal and profound moments of my life.

Which brings me to 2016. A new year, new beginnings, and a new chapter in the life of my story. And now – a new challenge.

This time last week, I was working on revising my draft, with no idea when I’d ever be published, or hell, even how I’d be published. Would I self-pub? Find an agent? I was preparing myself for all possible avenues I could think of. But as I’ve discovered is the pattern in my life, God usually tends to answer my prayers in the one way I that I could have never expected or prepared for.

Along came Inkshares. My friend – bless her heart – sent me a link to a contest called The Nerdist Space Opera Contest, run by the magnificently wonderful Inkshares website. The rules? Get my book to be one of the most pre-ordered books by March 15th, and I get published. That’s it. I’d be a real live published author, and one of the top 3 items of my bucket list would get to be checked off when I’m only 25. Talk about blessed.

So here I sit. My story turns 12 today. 12 years of my life spent with my head lost across the stars in a world I love, which no one ever used to know existed, until now. Now, Piper’s story isn’t just mine. It can be yours too. I imagine this must be what a parent feels like seeing their kid off to school: thrilling, exciting, nerve-wracking, happy, overwhelming, etc.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this contest or my story will find itself in the winners circle, because to be honest, SO MANY OF THESE BOOKS SOUND SO GOOD. But the great thing about Inkshares is, even if I don’t win the contest, I still have until May 4th to sell 750 pre-orders, and if I do that, my book will finally be on your shelves.

Suppose it is fitting that a post with the words 12 Years in the title should take a while, but if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me. Not just in this blog post, but in life. On this crazy journey I’m on to live passionately and fiercely pursue my dreams. I hope that if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll take some time to check out this story that’s meant all the worlds to me. You can read Chapter One here.

If you’ve been there at any time in any way for these past 12 years, I thank you. You’ve become part of the story between the lines inherently by being in my life. As for the rest of you, Alteria will be waiting.

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Update: As of September 14th, 2016, Elayna cancelled the funding campaign for They Are the LastRead her official announcement here. Readers can still visit theyarethelast.com to learn more about the story.

Thankful

To me, Thanksgiving is not a day about the dinner, or celebrating any of that crap about pilgrims that they make you enact in elementary school. It’s not about Black Friday and deals and getting your Christmas shopping done a month early. For me, it really has just become another day of the year. But the one reason that introspective little me does enjoy it, is it calls to the forefront the idea of thankfulness, which is something we don’t often recognize enough. The world would be better if we took more than just one day a year to focus on it.

2015 is probably the year where I have more to be thankful for than I’ve ever experienced in a single other year of my life. I think back to 15 year old me, and I feel if she could have seen where 25 year old me would end up, see the things I am blessed enough to be able to do, she’d be pretty proud. So while I don’t want to spend an incredibly long post recapping my year (that will come in December) I do want to take a moment out of this day to detail for you five (of the many) things I am truly thankful for this year.

5) Getting to travel to London & Scotland.

This was without a doubt one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. Getting my plane ticket a whirlwind seven days before flying, being able to be part of MuggleNet’s very first fan convention, spending time with those MuggleNet friends at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, and spending five of the most beautiful days of my life in Scotland, in the city where my favorite novels were written . . . it was powerful to say the least. And on top of all that wonderment, it was that very trip that led to me working on my novel again. (Which I’ll get to in a moment.)

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Standing up by Edinburgh castle, with Arthur’s Seat at my back.

 

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My last sunset in London, sitting outside the Globe Theater.

4) Becoming an Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo.

This experience has been so rewarding in so many ways. I’m someone who has participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) since November 2004, so the opportunity to finally do more than write by giving back to people of my region through encouragement and support has been indescribable. Not to mention that I was fortunate enough to become part of the @NaNoWordSprints team, where I got to run word sprints for people around the world, and even began the #NaNoHouseCup, where Wrimos compete to write the most words for their respective Hogwarts Houses. Combining my loves of encouraging others, writing, and being a Harry Potter nerd is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

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Some of the writers at the 11/7/15 PhillyWrimos Write In.

3) Getting back to telling my story.

Piper. Alteria. They Are The Last. These are words that have been a part of my life and consciousness since I was 13 years old, and for the majority of those years, they became nothing more than a name, a place and a title that “I’d get to one day when the time was right.” Well turns out that time was 2015, because after a truly miraculous day in Edinburgh, Scotland, I realized that it was Piper’s story that I was always meant to tell. Since then, I’ve written almost 90,000 words worth of drafts, and am still going. This story is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and I’m so thankful that I finally accepted that truth.

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My work space from Day 10 of NaNoWriMo 2015

2) Finding God again.

Ever since losing my dad in 2005 and then my mother in 2009, God and the idea that there was an all powerful being in the universe that cared about me was something I just couldn’t accept. My depression and anxiety ate away at me, and despite being surrounded by loving friends, I felt at times to be very, very alone. But this past year, I’ve gotten more in touch with my faith again, and honestly, it is an integral part of what I believe made this the most positive, life changing year I’ve ever experienced. There is just too much beauty in the cosmos for me to think it’s all just an accident and that everything is chaos and chance. I couldn’t be more thankful for God and all they’ve done for me to remind me that I am loved and worthy of this life I’ve been blessed with.

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Edinburgh Scotland (April 23, 2015)

1) My friends.

Always and forever am I thankful for my friends. As I’ve gone through my life from phase to phase – elementary to middle schools, middle to high school, high school to college, college to ‘real life’ – I have had to grow and learn that not all friendships are forever. It’s a hard lesson, because the people I used to love in my life but have fallen away from for one reason or another still leave imprints on my heart, and whether things ended badly between us or not, I still cherish the moments spent with them and the inside jokes that still make me laugh. It makes me think about my friends now, and as sad as it is to think, not all of them will stay with me.

Life changes as the seasons, and who knows which trees and flowers will continue to bloom and which ones will wither and become a memory? All I know is right now, on this Thanksgiving Day of 2015, there are so many people that come to mind. So many people surrounding me who make me realize my life is worth it, who make me laugh, who believe in me fiercely enough that for the first time, I’ve begun to believe in myself. Know dear friends, I consider you all precious gifts, that I am now, have been, and always will be, thankful for.

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Friends from MuggleNet staff at Expo Patronum 2015.

 

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Me with friends at MISTI Con 2015.

 

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Friends and I at the ball during Geeky Con 2015.

Life Is My Patronus

This past week on September 4th, I spent much of my day crying . . . but not for the reasons you might think.

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The Doctor gets it.

Backtracking a bit, for anyone who’s been following this blog since I began it back in January, it has kind of been a really great freaking year for me. From starting my YouTube channel to London, from Scotland to MISTI Con, from my first Camp NaNo to Orlando for Geeky – it’s been a wildly excellent 2015 I’ve been having. Sure there’s been plenty of downs in that time frame, but for the first time in forever, the amazingly good is outweighing the bad in such a way that it’s much harder to get me down right now, when I have so many happy memories to make patronuses with.

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Take THAT depression & anxiety. 😛

But in the wee hours of September the 4th – just when I was thinking I might go to bed since it had become so late it was early – my phone buzzed. It was a notification that J.K. Rowling had just tweeted something. (When you work for MuggleNet, you kinda need to know when the Queen has something to say.)

The night before, we had just begun a campaign with MuggleNet called #PotterItForward, in which we’re encouraging people to leave a note about their positive experiences with the story in a copy of Harry Potter at a bookstore or library, so that a new person picking that copy up can know what a life changing tale lies between the covers of what they’re holding. I think it’s brilliant, and I am so proud of my friend at the site who came up with it. It’s one of those things that reminds me why the Potter fandom has always been so important to me – we’re all about the love & feels. So naturally, when I saw Queen Jo tweeting, I decided to tweet at her.

I’ve done it plenty of times before, but she never has interacted with one of my tweets before, which tbh I don’t take personally. The woman’s got over 5 million followers on twitter! Everyone and their mother tweets at her, and probably hundreds of thousands of people have their phones set up to know when she tweets, just like me. Every time I tweet to her, it feels like a shout into the void, but I’ve continued to do it every once and again hoping she catches it.

Well guess what kids?


THE QUEEN KNOWS ME

SHE FECKING CAUGHT IT.

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Guys, I really tried so hard to not freak out and wanted so much to just be like:

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Ah yes, the Queen has seen my tweet. How pleasant…

But to be honest, my reaction was much closer to:

HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT
HOLY ROWLING IT HAPPENED
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IS THIS REAL LIFE?!
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ME AF RN

I’ll be honest in saying I pretty much immediately started crying. The really good kind of crying. The kind of crying where you’re more so crying for the sheer disbelief that such beautiful moments could happen in your life.

I have looked up to J.K. Rowling since I was an 8 year old girl who fell in love with a magical story. The more of her books I read, and the more I learned about her as a person . . . there was just so much about her to admire and respect. And for just a moment that morning, the woman who’s inspired me more than anyone, saw a lil icon of my face, read the words that I had to say for a change, and liked it so much she felt compelled to give it a little gold star of approval.

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Me, myself, and I at that moment.

Some people might think it’s crazy for me to have reacted in such a way – crying, having trouble breathing, being incandescently and ecstatically happy for the entire ensuing day – but if J.K. Rowling (and Luna Lovegood) have taught me anything, it’s to not care what others think of you, especially if it means not being yourself.

After a night of not being able to sleep, having a mediocre day at work, and then a night spent mostly online talking to my MuggleNet friends who mean the world and a half to me, I found myself sitting alone, and I once again started to cry. Like really, genuinely, happy cry. But the reason, I realized in that moment, was not just because some author took 2 seconds of her morning to like a tweet.

I’ve been happy crying because I have reasons to. While I have spent so, so much of my life, crying because of depression, anxiety, loss, rejection, self loathing, and a million other things, I have finally reached a point in 2015, where I have so many loving, genuine people surrounding me and filling my heart with joy and reminding me that I’ve got so much light in me that I can share, but only when I stop to realize I have it. I’ve got a job that’s okay with an apartment that I love, I’m giving back to my school through an amazing LGBTQ Alumni group, I’m starting to lose weight and feel healthier, I’ve traveled to two new countries and two different states in the last five months, I’m working for the Harry Potter fan site I’ve loved since childhood, and I’m writing again. Writing a story that’s been with me for 11 years, and which most recently helped land me a leadership position as one of the Municipal Liaisons for Philadelphia for this fall’s upcoming NaNoWriMo.

 

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How I feel about me and my life rn.

No low balance in my bank account or any hate that anyone could try to fling at me right now can take that away. My happiness is so strong that it could hold back 100 dementors any day. I’ve got so much passion, friendship and love in my life right now that I can honestly say I’ve never felt this unstoppable. But all of this realization, came from a single little gold star on a tweet that I thought would never been seen.

So if you’re feeling like your opinions (or tweets in this case) don’t matter, or that you yourself don’t matter – remember this story, and remember these words:

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Well, I’m Back

As the great Samwise Gamgee said at the end of the adventure that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Well, I’m back.

Back from London and from Edinburgh and what was honestly two of the greatest weeks of my existence on this earth, and that friends is no exaggeration.

I arrived home Wednesday afternoon (which felt like Wednesday night, thanks to the time difference) and needed a few days to catch up on sleep, to remember once again which side of the road vehicles belong on, and get reacclimatized to my favorite skyline – which includes a very different clock tower than the one I’d been getting used to. There were so many days and so many adventures to recount that one blog post just really isn’t going to cut it, so over the next two weeks, you’ll be getting a nice lil bundle of blog posts that will document my journey from the moment of my last post (getting ready for lift off!) to the return home this past Wednesday.

So many amazing, beautiful and down right miraculous things happened that I now can add to my pensieve of memories to cherish. (No really, I mean miraculous. I spent over a week in London AND NOT A DROP OF RAIN!) I’ll also be putting together a number of exciting video blogs about my journey, which will be uploaded to my YouTube channel, and shared here as well with some commentary. I can’t wait to get it all down and have the chance to recount my amazing adventures to all you out there in the interweb. I came home feeling happier, more refreshed, and more ready to live my life than ever.

I guess that’s the most surprising thing of all, really: I thought coming home would be sad, heartbreaking and make me hate everything about home that isn’t like the wonderful things I experienced abroad. But I’m not sad – I just feel incredibly blessed and can’t wait for the next adventure.

Back to that #BlanketFort life.
Back to that #BlanketFort life.