creative feature

When they tell you you are made of stars,
do not let them forget what stars are made of.
Stars are not glitter, not stickers on the ceiling,
not there for decoration.
Stars are chunks of collapsing galaxy. They are
hundred-thousand mile wide nuclear furnaces
that consume their surroundings into death.
They are not friendly; they do not exist
to write poems about. Stars
are not made of metaphors. You
are not made of other people’s words.

When they tell you you are made of stars.
look them in the eye and remind them
that so are they, and so is the earth,
and so is the gum on the bottom of your shoes,
and so is the fist you will hit them with
the next time they try to placate you
with their condescending bullshit –

When they tell you you are different from other girls,
ask them why you should want to be.
Do not let them call you dream girl.
Do not let them trap you up on a pedestal,
surrounded by books that cannot hurt them.
Read things that can hurt them.
Your mind is a forest richer than folklore;
do not let your curiosity be reduced to an accessory.
Your intelligence is not a fashion statement.
Your existence is not a novelty.
You are not a metaphor
for someone else’s problems.

When they tell you you are made of stars,
tell them you have always known this.
Tell them you have fire in your bone marrow,
that you are burning with the deaths
of the entire universe before you.

When they tell you you are made of stars,
tell them you know.
Tell them they should keep their distance.

—  When They Tell You You Are Made of Stars - Melissa Victoria
Writing Strong Emotions

@chemistreat asked: “How can one control and write the pure emotion of learning you aren’t who you think you are- in ethnicity, religion, race or otherwise? Something that makes a character rethink all of their traditions?”

When it comes to writing these moments of epiphany or emotional overload, it might feel like your writing in these scenes just can’t get to that level of emotion you hope to achieve. With some of these moments, the emotion might start to feel cheesy or just not enough, or it might be such a mess of different emotions, like anger, shock, disappointment, and betrayal that you don’t really know how to show it all. 

In either case, the big emotions are not easy, however there are a few techniques you can use to become better at putting them into words. 

1. Describe the setting after… This is one exercise that helps you write with emotion in a way that goes beyond what the protagonist may be able to directly express. Examples of this might include, describe a living room after an argument. Or describe a bride’s bedroom the morning before her wedding. These exercises force you to think of how emotion can shape the world of your novel beyond just the protagonist’s experiences. 

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Describing Character Appearances

Anonymous asked: “Do you have any tips on how to describe characters effectively? I always find myself dumping a paragraph on their appearance the moment they appear which often really halts the action.”

Even in great manuscripts, character descriptions can come off pretty clunky. Some writers will get pretty creative to minimize that aspect of it, but it’s usually there to some degree no matter what. Though character descriptions might bog down the writing to some extent, I know they’re necessary. As a reader, I would feel that something is missing if a character wasn’t adequately described. With that said, descriptions do not have to be long, just long enough to help the reader picture him or her. 

There are a few ways strategies to describing characters that can help avoid that long description dump at the first sight of a new character:

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Washington D.C. in 48 hours

From rooftop views of the White House to the best Indian food in the city, Garrett M. Graff, former editor of Washingtonian magazine, reveals how to spend 48 hours in the capital.


Day One

08:00 – Like a local

It’s hard to miss the power and grandeur of Washington, the centre of the city remains a political powerhouse and it permeates nearly every corner, but there’s also much more to the city than simply politics.

After landing at Washington Dulles International Airport and you’ve settled in, start your morning like the locals with coffee and breakfast at the Tryst Coffeehouse in funky Adams Morgan, before heading up to the National Zoo (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, to give it its full name). It’s seen a dramatic renovation in recent years that has turned its 163 acres into a shining gem filled with great exhibits from elephants and pandas to American buffalo. Entry is free and it’s open 364 days a year.


Noon – Power lunch

Recharge with a casual pub-style lunch at Duke’s Grocery on 17th Street NW (have the Proper Burger) or indulge in the city’s best Indian food at the fine dining Rasika in Penn Quarter, where you might very well find yourself dining next to a Cabinet member. Don’t miss the palaak chaat – crispy flash-fried spinach – that’s one of the city’s most-requested dishes.


14:00 – Read all about it

Spend the afternoon at the Newseum, the towering interactive museum of news, where you can revisit the world’s most notable events, and lose yourself for hours watching old footage and breaking news coverage. The Washington D.C. Explorer pass offers a package admission to the Newseum and other top D.C. sights like the International Spy Museum.


17:00 – No reservations

Getting into many of Washington’s hottest restaurants has grown harder in recent years, with some of the most popular adopting no reservations policies that can lead to long lines. At Bad Saint, a 24-seat Filipino restaurant – named as the second best new restaurant in the USA by Bon Appetit magazine in 2016 – lines can begin as early as 17:30.

Not up for waiting? Plan ahead with a reservation at Tail Up Goat, a Michelin-starred restaurant featuring creative Mediterranean and Caribbean food by chef Jon Sybert – expand your drinking horizons at the bar by following the lead of sommelier Bill Jensen.


Day Two

08:00 – Morning rush

Breakfast at the Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the city’s oldest restaurants, usually packed with lobbyists and power players first thing in the morning before the tourist crowd sets in during the day. 


09:00 – Famous figures

Across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery is best known for its stark and formal Changing of the Guard ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honouring America’s war dead, but the 600-acre cemetery is home also to the graves of many famous figures like John F. Kennedy – marked with an eternal flame ­­– boxer Joe Lewis, and Pierre L’Enfant, the architect who designed Washington. Save your feet and jump on the Hop-On, Hop-Off trolley.


Noon – Fit for a First Lady 

Lunch on the Georgetown waterfront at Fiola Mare, the glimmering Italian seafood restaurant of chef Fabio Trabocchi – a favourite of Michelle Obama.


13:30 – Remember them

Spend the afternoon wandering ‘America’s Front Lawn’ on the National Mall, starting at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall, then up to the sunken World War II memorial, where you can see the emotional visits of buses filled with veterans, and gaze up at the Washington Monument. [NB the monument is closed until spring 2019 but can still be looked at].


14:30 – A history lesson

Nearby, take in Washington’s hottest new attraction, the giant National Museum of African-American History and Culture, honouring the artistic contributions of African-Americans while also wrestling with the nation’s still-unfolding racial legacy of slavery and civil rights. Plan ahead – or wake up early – to score timed-entry tickets, but it’s well worth the effort.


17:00 – Treats and eats

Spend the evening wandering the environs of 14th Street NW, which has been the centre of Washington’s revitalization over the last decade. Window-shop at the boutique Salt and Sundry, Detroit-made watches and leather goods at the city’s flagship Shinola store, or vintage and antiques at Miss Pixie’s, a long-time 14th Street fixture. 

Once you’re hungry, the area has something for every palate: for the city’s swankiest French bistro, try Le Diplomate, where the breadbasket alone is worth the visit. 

Prefer Latin American? Try Tico for its hibiscus margaritas, tacos, and a delicious shredded cabbage salad. Or, on nearby 17th Street NW, get in line for mouth-burning, authentic Thai food at Little Serow [NB Little Serow is shut for summer 2017, reopening 7 September] from one of Washington’s top chefs, Johnny Monis (if it’s a weeknight, be in line by 17:00 or 17:30 for dinner, if it’s a weekend, try even earlier). Once your name’s on the list, have a drink around the corner at Hank’s Oyster Bar while you wait. 


Where to stay 

W Washington D.C. – head up to the cocktail bar for presidential views down on the neighbouring White House.

Washington Hilton is home to many of the city’s black tie galas, including the star-studded spring White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Hilton Garden Inn is a new hotel in the city’s West End, you’ll be just around the corner from where former President Barack Obama has set up his new office.

Plan your Washington trip now


Words by Garrett M. Graff, former editor of Washingtonian magazine 

Photo by tpsdave on Pixabay

10

SEEKING & ACCEPTING HELP FROM OTHERS on Design*Sponge

As creative, hands-on people, there’s an incredible amount of pressure to do things ourselves. That mindset may be what got you to where you are: accomplishing goals you set for yourself, turning a passion into a job, or building your dream home bit by bit. As a result, you now feel invincible. You might have even made yourself a needlepoint or woodblock print that says “I can do anything.” But can you, reeeeaaaaally?

There are a lot of things that we need. We need websites! We need to give our employees health insurance! We need a 60-second video pitch for Shark Tank! It’s not easy, but it’s time to learn how to seek and accept help. You’re the best at your thing, and you rely on clients and customers to need you. Now it’s time to go need someone else. A paintbrush is a tool and so is an accountant. Use both to create beautiful work. –ADAMJK

On Filler Words

Anonymous asked: “I have a terrible attachment with just. I use it way too much in my writing, and I know it’s one of those words you should avoid, along with very and really. The problem is I don’t know what words to replace it with.”

Just, very, and really are what I’d call filler words. They don’t actually serve much of a purpose in writing unless they’re part of the voice and they don’t make much of an impact on the sentence. 

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I think the thing about missing someone is that it’s not constant.
 
You can go without thinking about them for days, weeks, months, years. Then all it takes is a familiar smell, or picking up one of their shirts from a clean basket of laundry, or reading just the right sentence in a book you only recently started.
 
Missing someone can hit you so suddenly that you’re left reeling and disoriented, as if you’ve been abandoned, except when you look around, you’re in a place you’ve been many times before.
 
It can hurt, right in the center of your stomach like you’ve swallowed your weight in regret.
 
Or it can be as small as a buzz right by your ear that you take only a second to acknowledge before you swat it away.
 
What I know is that missing someone is humbling; it causes you to admit that you are not a solitary force in this world.
 
When I say, “I miss you,” I’m saying that I’ve discovered a moment in my life where your absence was evident. I’m admitting that I can’t do certain things without thinking about you, and who you are, and the memories we have.
 
And while I’m made to believe I should apologize for that…I won’t.
 
I miss you. It’s that simple.
—  “miss -vb 6.(tr) to discover or regret the loss or absence of.” // dionne sims
You’re Not Too Lazy to Write

Anonymous asked: “Any advice on not to procrastinate and not become lazy to write? I end up taking longer days to write out my story when I don’t feel the mood.”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but in my experience, writing every day is the best way to combat that. Don’t force yourself to write a ton. Just write a little. A page maybe if you can - a few hundred words.

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What does fanfiction teach us about writing?

On the internet, there’s no doubt about it: fanfiction is popular. In literary circles, it’s highly controversial. Some writers love the idea of their works being turned into fanfiction–is there any better form of flattery than a reader wanting to live in your world so much that they add to it? Others are adamantly against it–they claim its stealing or that they’re not comfortable with fans altering or adjusting or even adding to their worlds. 

But whatever your personal opinion may be no the topic, the truth is that writers have been creating fanfiction for just about as long as writing has existed. The great Shakespeare, credited with some of the best works of all time and the inventor of a good chunk of the English language, based almost all of his plays off of either histories or already known stories of the time. Some of his “original plays” are simply stage adaptions–with great creative license–of other works. And then of course, there are the modern examples, the most notable of which is Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Fanfic gone viral.

The reasons we engage in fanfiction are pretty cut and dry: we love the world or characters, we want more, and it’s a fun creative outlet for fans and writers alike. But what can it teach us, and are their productive uses to fanfiction even if it never gets you famous? 

  • Fanfiction or canon based RP both force you to think in the mindset of a specific character. While there are always the examples of self-insert or “out of character” fanfiction (where the protagonist is greatly altered from their original form to better fit the author) for the most part, fanfiction is a perfect example of voice exploration. In order to best represent that character, the author must do extensive research into the source material and not just read for pleasure, but read for understanding. They have to track that character’s development, their dialogue, their history, and find out what exactly makes them click. The reader has to understand the character so well that they not only follow the story already written but move on to a whole other level: the ability to predict the character’s next move. 
  • It’s an empathetic exercise. In order to write fanfiction properly, you must be able to understand a character so well that you can place that character in any situation and know what they will do next. You have to know their psyche, have to be able to track their behavior, have to fully and completely understand them. That sort of empathy link can then  be applied not only to your future original characters but to the real world. It helps you interact with others because it forces you into a mindset where you see more than a person’s actions: you see their reasoning. You learn to track humanity’s cause and effect relations. 
  • It gives beginning writer’s confidence and experience. By posting on sites like Fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own, beginning writers get to see first hand what it’s like to have an audience and how to interact with readers–before their career is on the line. This allows beginning writers to have first hand experience in seeing what readers respond to, what they want more of, and what they’d rather not see again. And because these sites have comment features, new writers will also experience their first reviews–for the good and the bad. 
  • It teaches writers to market themselves. Writers who publish fanfiction tend to want their fanfics read, and so they need readers. Promoting their fanfiction allows them to get first hand experience with selling their writing, beginning with a satisfactory summary for the fic to draw readers in, and extending to tagging, blogging, and advertising. 
  • It’s just good practice. Any writing is good writing. Even if that writing is terrible. Even if it never sees the light of day. Even if that fanfiction sits in a drawer for all of eternity, by engaging with and exploring that fictional world, the writer is able to put in the much needed practice that it takes to become a skilled storyteller. Sometimes it is easier to start with the known; sometimes we need the safety of someone else’s universe before we can engage with our own imagination. 
Plotting with Flawed Characters

Anonymous asked: “Do you have any tips for writing good and believable flaws for characters and making them effect the plot?” 

All good characters are flawed in some way. Even if they are good and kind people, no one is perfect and this rule is especially true for fictional characters. Flaws do not always have to be big and in your face. They can be smaller and relatable. 

Some people will say that the character’s flaws should work directly against him in his pursuit of his goal, but I don’t think that is necessarily true. It should however effect how he progresses to his goals. When trying to connect character flaws and plots, you can either know the plot and figure out how the character will get tripped up along the way or come up with the character and try to see how that could hinder him in working towards his goals. 

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Watch "Crashing" on Netflix!

I know this is minor compared to The Get Down or Sense8, but there’s this British comedy that Netflix started producing called Crashing. It’s set in London and about a group of 20-somethings and reminds me so much of the Office and Friends. Its so funny and creative and features multiple LGBTQ+ characters, including a catatonically bisexual man. It so avoids heteronormativity in it’s humor and plot devices which is really important. I hope it can be another example of how any show of any genre can thrive while including LGBTQ+ characters.

Season 1 aired over a year ago and it has yet to be renewed. I would really appreciate anyone watching it and helping the ratings, it’s so original and funny and 6 episodes long, all on Netflix.