Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

The Promised Changes Arrive March 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 2:10 PM

In my last few posts – from quite a while ago, I apologize – I talked about blog structure changes. Utilizing my spring break, I finally got them rolling.

I started a personal tumblr this summer and found the interface a lot simpler and more welcoming than WordPress’s format. It’s better for shorter posts or links intended to share a trick or two, which is what I’ve found myself gravitating toward. College life, you know. (And sometimes I really don’t have that much to say.)

In summary, I’m shifting home base. If you’re interested in following, my new location is There will probably be content more frequently, but it’ll tend to be information gleaned from other sources. I’ll still be making my own observations and posts, but they won’t make up the entirety of the site.

If you’re interested, give it a follow. If you’re not – thanks for coming along for the ride. I wish you all the best and remember – keep writing. Especially when it hurts. 


March 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 4:27 PM

Lately I’ve been tackling applications for some writing internships (solicitation letters and press releases, mostly, nothing too exciting, but still experience) so I’ve been absent. The constantly shifting nature of WordPress hasn’t made anything easier, either.

Keep an eye out, though. I have some plans for changes to my blogging structure, which I hope to work through once spring break finally arrives.



Unanticipated Illuminations February 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 3:45 PM

Not long into my winter break, I started getting a little concerned. I’d been feasting on my mom’s cookies for days, and I hadn’t ventured outdoors very much at all. (Cold weather is my kryptonite.) The extent of my exercise was climbing the stairs. This would not do. Eventually I allowed my mother to drag me to the community center, where I learned the (very) basics of some of the equipment. I also learned – or really remembered – something else: exercise can be really good for ideas.

Now, I’m not talking serious exercise. Whenever I’m forced into a shambling run, my brain can’t produce much more than ‘Auuuuugh!’ Walking or jogging, however, is different. My body is in motion, but I don’t have to pay much attention to it. My thoughts are free to run around. There’s none of the guilt when you ‘should’ be doing something else, either. After all, you’re doing something constructive already. The brainstorming is extra.

There may be some brain chemistry explanation for why I have sudden epiphanies on the elliptical. My suspicious nature leans toward a different reason – it’s inconvenient. Haven’t you noticed that you have breakthroughs at terrible times? I can’t count the occasions I’ve rolled out of bed to scribble something down, only to find it illegible or insane in the morning. (I have something scrawled on the back of one of my rough drafts, the product of some nightly dream. The only words I can make out are ‘ninja turtles’. Yeah. I think I’m happier not knowing.) If you’re comfortably ensconced, otherwise occupied, or don’t have pen and paper handy, I can almost guarantee that you’ll come up with the solution to all your plot hole problems. It’s the gift and curse of an always active mind.

What activities help you brainstorm? How do you remember good ideas?


Updates and Promises July 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 3:19 PM

Hey everyone. I’ve been MIA for a while, but hopefully I’ll be getting back on schedule soon.

A heat wave has been sweeping my area. Two weeks ago I was in France, where the thermostat stayed in the sixties or seventies and it rained almost every day. (In her departing speech, our tour guide said she hoped we’d all changed over the course of our trip. “Yeah,” I said. “We got wetter.”) Back home, we’ve reached 108. I think my brain may have cooked. Cooked or not, the heat kills all motivation, and I haven’t been working like I ought to.

I’ve also had to deal with a sick cat, unfortunately. The vets think she has cancer, and we’re giving her steroid treatments. If that doesn’t work… there’s not much we can do. But she’s alive right now, so all is well. Still, that hasn’t helped my concentration.

I’ll be dragging myself back into working order soon, and you should get a regularly scheduled post on Saturday. Until then, farewell.


Cheating Death June 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 11:05 AM

All stories need tension. For a romance, it might be the question of who will snare who. A novel set in high school might center on a team victory or an important test. In many other genres, though, danger to life and limb is one of the characters’ main concerns. What would a thriller, mystery, or fantasy be without people dodging bullets or arrows? The reader will invest nothing in the story if they don’t think the characters are in serious danger.

This presents a problem. Writers need to show that the escapades in their story are dangerous. If the main character skips through four death traps without a scratch, no one will take the fifth one seriously. By virtue of being the story’s focus, he/she is invincible.

On the other hand, you can’t main your MC too badly. Killing them (unless it’s at the very end of the story) is also out of the question. At least it used to be.

Space for rent.

See, writers of books, TV, movies, you name it, hit upon this simply brilliant idea. Why not kill someone temporarily? The character dies, showing how dangerous things really are as well as hopefully eliciting horror and anxiety from the audience. Then some loophole is triggered – magic, CPR, time paradox, etc – and they pop right up again. No harm done. Now the stakes are shown to be high and you’ve still got a functioning MC. Perfect, right?

Maybe. Used sparingly, this plot ‘twist’ can work well. Unfortunately, these days everyone exploits it. Almost every final showdown has heroes falling in droves, only to jump up shouting “I’m ok!” five minutes later. What used to be a surprise and a relief has become run of the mill. It’s so bad I was driven to complain, “No one ever stays dead anymore!”

I’m not saying that this trope should never be used. For better or for worse, the “I got better” phenomenon has become widely accepted. Just take care not to overuse or abuse it. Cheating death too much will cheapen it.


Racism in Popular Culture, Revisited March 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 8:52 PM

This is Amandla Stenberg:

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks that she’s adorable. I mean, come on. When she appeared in The Hunger Games as Rue, it was all I could do not to squeal, “Aww!”

Which is why I don’t understand why Hunger Games ‘fans’ reacted to her casting or appearance in the movie with comments like “Eww!” or “Wow, her death isn’t sad any more.”

It turns out that there is a vast legion of people who read the Hunger Games and completely skimmed over the description of a Rue with “satiny dark brown skin”, who comes from a district based on agriculture where workers are treated harshly and sing songs to keep their spirits up. Parallel, anyone?

Maybe they missed her race. I can understand that. The book only mentions it once or twice. What I cannot comprehend is the horrified reaction that came from many so called ‘fans’.

“This just ruined the movie for me.”

“Why did they make all the good characters black?”

“I pictured her whiter and innocent-er.”

“Why is a black b*tch playing Rue?”

Excuse me? How does a black character ruin an entire movie? Why do good and innocent characters have to be white? Why is this girl a bitch for daring to be cast in a racially appropriate role?

The sad fact is that racism is not dead. Not even close. We might like to think that it’s the nasty habit of a backward era long gone. If we live in certain areas, we might not even notice it. But trust me – it’s there. It’s there in obvious places, like tweets calling Amandla the ‘n’ word, and it’s there in the subconscious as well.

Because here’s the thing. When readers missed Rue’s “satiny brown skin” – or ignored it – they automatically pictured her as white. White is the default setting of our brains. Did anyone check for textual evidence that Peeta, Cato, or Haymitch is white? Of course not. We just assume – mostly because YA books and movies are whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm. This is the only thing that will sell, Hollywood and publishers argue. Ethnic characters aren’t marketable. So whites continue to be the heroes while teens of color never see themselves represented favorably in fiction. They’re shunted to the background, stereotypical roles, or the spot of the villain. Since when is that fair?

If you’re a writer, I challenge you to take a look at all of your characters. Are they all white? Subconsciously our own bias may be showing. We have the power to put people of color in the spotlight instead of constantly giving them supporting roles. We don’t have to write white, white, white. The choice is ours.

And if I ever get a book published, I’m definitely posting a list of each character’s race online. That’ll stop a lot of the confusion.


What am I Reading? 8/22/11 August 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — katblogger @ 5:45 PM

Didn’t know there was more than just the Wizard of Oz? Actually, Baum wrote fourteen Oz books. The first is one of my least favorites, to be honest.