Friday, March 27, 2015

Succulents

Things I like #6

I'm a succulent person. It started with hens and chicks in the backyard, and has slowly progressed to a growing succulent garden on my windowsill. Something about these little plants just makes my day.

I think I love how small and squat they are--they're just so cute! And I like that they don't have any spindly stalks or shedding leaves; they feel...full.

Does anyone else have this kind of succulent obsession? Don't tell me I'm the only one....

Little succulents on the kitchen windowsill--I'm planning on stealing them and keeping them in my room :)


My favorite little cactus--I love all the little ones!


A couple of my favorite succulents.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Falling Asleep


I don't know about you, but I have a lot of trouble falling asleep. I think it's gotten worse since I've started high school, because I have a lot on my mind, and when I lay down to get my beauty sleep...that's when all the thoughts hit me.

Going to sleep should be easy--but it's not. The minute my head hits the pillow, my mind starts going over my day, reminding me of the assignments I need to complete for the week, and checking that I've done all my homework that's due tomorrow. If I remember a project that's due in a couple days, I have to get up, go across the room, and set a reminder on my phone, telling me to work on it the next day. Even though I know I won't actually forget to work on it, the little voice in the back of my head tells me otherwise. This sometimes happens two or three times. It's very frustrating.

Once I've set enough reminders for myself, I start to think about all the work I have ahead of me. Then, all the worries about not being able to get it done begin to overwhelm me. It's so much work! I'll never finish it! WHY DIDN'T I START IT THIS AFTERNOON WHEN I HAD TIME?! All the panicking that should have come earlier, when I actually had time to do anything, only starts once I've resigned myself to going to bed. I take a couple deep breaths and remind myself, You'll do it tomorrow. For now, there's nothing you can do but sleep.

Okay. So everything I could possibly freak out about has been freaked out about. Now is when my brain decides to get creative and come up with ideas for stories, characters, entrepreneurial activities, and countless other projects. None of this inspiration came earlier, when I was sitting in front of my computer, ready to get those creative juices flowing--it always has to come when I'm trying to sleep. Then, of course, I have to scrounge up a notepad and write everything down, in case I forget it--which I never do.

Now that I've finally set three reminders for the next day, had a mini breakdown, and scribbled down all my ideas, maybe I can go to sleep. Or maybe I'll have to lie awake for another half hour, before I finally get comfortable and sleep overtakes me. It usually takes me 20-40 minutes to fall asleep. When I've had a long day, and all I want to do is be rested enough to wake up without too much effort at 6:20 the next morning, it can be really frustrating to be unable to go to sleep immediately.

Does anyone else have this problem--where your head suddenly goes crazy right when you're trying to go to sleep? It happens for me most nights, unless I'm super tired.

Later skater,
Ella. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Write a Song



As a few of you may or may not know, I'm in a band with my best friend, Marika, called the Zii Trees. We've been playing together ever since fourth grade. Back then I played the guitar, but now I play the baritone and soprano ukulele and Marika jams out on both the ukulele and the piano.

We wrote our own songs from the very beginning. And, in the very beginning, they were...subpar (to put it nicely.) In case you were wondering just how subpar they were, here are some excerpts that I will reluctantly share with you, from our early days of songwriting.

Ningas - note, the spelling of ninjas with a "g" 
was intentional, cuz we were cool like that.
We are the ninjas.
we are the ninjas,
we are the ninjas,
creeping through the night.
We are the ninjas,
we are the ninjas,
we are the ninjas--
That's right! 

Snowfall
Snowfall covers the plains,
when will we see spring again?
Flurries of snow are passing by,
I-I-I-I-I watch them fly.

It took us way too long to trash those songs. Fortunately, our songwriting has improved immensely over the years, and now I feel the tiniest bit at liberty to share with you some tips about songwriting. I'm no professional, trust me. But if you've got an instrument and a notebook, you can write a song, and these are just a few tips to start you off.

1. Write the music first. One thing I do not recommend is writing a verse and THEN putting a melody/instrument to it. Songwriting is a whole lot easier for me if I make up the melody while I'm writing the verses--the flow is better, the tune works, and you don't have to compromise around words that might not fit right.

2. Songwriting is all about bending words to rhyme them. When you're writing, it's easy enough to incorporate "half rhymes"--words that might not rhyme in, say, regular poetry, but sound just fine when sung. For example, in a song I wrote recently I managed to rhyme "think," "dreams," and "in" all in the same verse.

3. Your song doesn't have to have a deeper meaning. You'll always hear famous musicians being asked, "Why did you write this song?" "What does it mean?" "What was your inspiration?" But listen up: you can bet at least 3/4 of the songs on someone's album were about nothing (unless they're Taylor Swift--but she's totally a level up.) I, for one, find it very difficult to write songs about specific events or people. Most of my songs are just angsty gibberish. It's okay to have no idea what your song is about, and it's also okay to admit that to people if they ask.

4. Songwriting is HARD.  It really is. Sometimes a song flows right out of you with barely a tug, and other times you have to pull and pull and pull some more, and even then you might not get a full song out of it. Sometimes you come up with a great riff, but for the life of you, you just cannot put words to it. Other times you write a really great verse, but you just can't write a chorus. Half of my songbook is strands of lyrics and half-finished songs that I ran out of steam on. Don't feel bad if songwriting is tough for you--we're all in the same boat.

5. Have a partner. So you're in a rut. You've realized that songwriting is, in fact, very difficult. Maybe you have half a song scribbled out, or just a verse or a loose chorus. You want to continue, but you just can't. This is when a buddy comes in handy. I'm lucky to be in a band with Marika, and every so often she pulls out my songbook and orders me to play her all my loose songbits. If she likes something that I couldn't finish, she'll help me. Same goes for me if she's in a rut. We sit down together and work through our songwriter's block, and the two of us can usually make it work.

That's about it, folks. I can't write your song for you, but I can give you a tip or two. Everyone has their own songwriting style, and these tips might not work for everybody. But if you can sing, and you can write, you can write a song. Bonus if you can play an instrument. Now go forth and write!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Writing Resources // Get Published!


Most bloggers out there are writers. We write for the fun of it, but at the same time we hope to someday get published. But, alas, that's not going to happen until we're much older...or is it?

Lots of teens think they can't get published. That's not true. If you dig deep enough, you'll realize that there are plenty of places for a kid to have their short stories and poems published, especially with the great place known as the internet. If you're looking for opportunities, look no further. I've compiled some of my favorite writing sites and literary magazines that can give the world a chance to see your writing--and you might even get paid for it.

Note: Most of these are geared towards American writers. Check the guidelines to make sure it's okay if you're going to be submitting from elsewhere.

1. Teen Ink.
This is a monthly print magazine that publishes the art, photos, short stories and poems of teens throughout the United States (I'm not sure about other countries). Just create an account and submit your writing--even if it doesn't get published in the magazine, it will still be on the site for anyone to read and comment on.

2. Stone Soup. 
This is a bi-monthly magazine of short stories, book reviews and poetry, all written and illustrated by kids ages 8-13. If your story, poem or book review is selected for the magazine you'll recieve $40 in compensation. Illustrators get $25 dollars per illustration. I was published several times when I was younger, and you could be, too!

3. Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.
This is an online monthly contest, where you write a short story according to a prompt. It's open to anyone, even adults, but if you win you get $50. I just recently discovered this platform, and I really enjoy submitting to it.

4. One Teen Story.
This is a literary magazine that publishes one story every issue. Every year they have a short story contest for teenagers ages 13 and up, and the winner receives $500. The contest runs from May 1st-June 30th. Get writing!

5. It's All Write!
This short story contest for kids and young adults is currently open to submissions, but quick, it closes on March 13th! The winner receives $250, and second and third place also receive compensation. It's open to writers in grades 6-12, with different age categories (so 11-year-olds aren't compared with 17-year-olds!)

6. New Pages
This is probably the best resource of all. This site caters towards all different writers, who are looking for open submissions and publishers and the like. The page I've linked is the Young Author's Guide, which has a TON of literary magazines and contests for kids young adults to submit to.

As you can see, there's more out there than you'd think. If you can just dig a little deeper, you'll realize that young people really can get published. What are you waiting for? Go write!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Frozen Lake

Where I live, we've just had a long cold spell, during which the lake froze over for the first time in quite a while. My family decided to take advantage of this by venturing out onto the tundra to--EXPLORE. Epic. I know.

It was pretty cool. The cracks in the ice were all spider-webby, and the ice was completely black in some places and white in others. We saw a guy fishing, too. If you can see in the photo below, we walked out to that little lighthouse, where there was a rotting trap door that opened into the inside, which was more like a little crawlspace. I went in, but all I found were a bunch of spiderwebs.
(note the lighthouse in the distance)
Chunks of ice/snow pushed up over the breakwater.
The lake.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How I Write

Hello, Blogging Beings. 

As most of you know, I'm a writer. I divide my writing time between this blog, my community blog, different writing websites, and literary magazines/writing contests. I've been writing ever since I was little (back then my work was stapled books about my stuffed animals), but I only really discovered my passion for writing when I was ten. 

Since then I've continued writing, and I can say for sure I've improved. I've still got a long ways to go, I know--there's always room for improvement. But I thought today I might share with you my writing space, and some essentials for my writing.
★☆★
Below, you'll see my writing workspace. My desk is tiny, because my room is tiny, but it holds everything I really need--my lamp, my computer, my little succulent garden...and a random roll of duct tape. I like that it's by a window, even though it only looks out onto my neighbor's roof.
 Fine. I lied. That is not what my desk looks like. Usually it's twelve times messier. The photo below is probably a better representation of its natural state.
Ooh, here's a fun game. Can you spot these items? Laser pointer, polka-dotted mouse, pencil, GoPro.
My computer is an old 2008 MacBook. My mom got it when it was state-of-the-art technology, but now it has a multitude of problems, including (but not limited to): not connecting to the WiFi unless it's literally right next to the router, shutting down if left unplugged for more than twenty minutes, and being super slow in general. Fortunately, it still fulfills my writing needs...for now.
 If you don't have an external hard drive, I suggest you get one as soon as you can. Backing up your writing is extremely important, especially when your computer is as fickle as mine. Think of how anguished you would be if you woke up one morning and your computer had died--taking your words to the grave with it. A hard drive keeps that from happening. What I have here holds a terabyte (100GB), but a thumb drive will also work just fine.
I'm lucky to live in a community with great writing opportunities for young people. There's an organization in my area that lets kids submit their writing online for possible publication in a variety of local newspapers, which I know is rare in a lot of places. But even if I didn't have this gateway, there are still plenty of online literary magazines that will take work from young writers. If you want to get your writing out into the world, there are opportunities for you. You just have to look for them.

I don't know what I expected this post to be, but it turned out like this, so hopefully you enjoyed it. Let me know how you write, and what your writing essentials are!

Later skater,
Ella

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I'm Not A Guy

Hey there! How are you gu--wait a second. 

Do you identify as male? Does EVERYONE who will read this post identify as male? I didn't think so. You are not all guys. But chances are, if I'd said, "Hey, guys," no one would have batted an eye.

My question for you all is, why is this? In our society (I'm talking about America, here, but I think it happens elsewhere, as well), we address a group of people as "guys" even when the group is all female, or a mix of female and male.

It may not seem strange to you that we speak this way, but that's because this is how we've been conditioned to speak. People rarely stop to wonder why we use male pronouns when talking about a group of women or girls. To tell your female friends, "Hurry up, guys!" or "Let's go, you guys," is not out of the ordinary in this society.

Picture this: what if your teacher came into class one day, turned to face the students, and declared, "All right, girls, today we're going to be learning about DNA." The students would laugh uncertainly. They would give each other weird looks. They might even think the teacher was using the term girls as an insult--kind of like the common expression, "You throw like a girl."*

So why, when we use "guys" to talk about a mixed gender group, do we pass it off as perfectly acceptable?

There are plenty of other terms we could use instead. A group of only females can be addressed as girls/women, gals, or ladies, or any un-gendered possibilites, such as: everyone, y'all, people, folks, all, or everybody. Those last ones can be used to address a mix of genders. This new way of talking might throw you at first, but in time you'll settle in.

I'll admit, it's a hard habit to break. I still say "guys" frequently. But I try to catch myself, and in time hopefully I can train myself and others to be more conscientious of our language.

This may not seem like such an important step in creating a gender-equal world. Certainly, there are bigger things to worry about, but we have to think about the small things, too. And, being the next generation, if we can fix our language, it can give us a little boost that can help fix the larger problems at hand.

Think about it, people.

*Obviously, this expression is dumb and stereotypical. Being a girl has nothing to do with athletic ability, and is in no way an insult. See a cool commercial about this here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Favorite Things (Without the Hassle of Dog Bites and Bee Stings)

I love a lot of things, so I decided I might as well share a few of them with you. Because sharing is caring and caring is good for the soul. ☯ ☮ ♥

1. Guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are adorable, sweet, fluffy, and basically the best pets ever.
oh, hello there, would you like a kiss?
2. Succulents. I have a little garden of various cacti and hens and chick and such on my desk, and in the dark of winter it really brightens my day. For some reason, I just love succulents.
I bought the hedgehog at a gardening store, and I think it adds character.
 3. Head massagers. Hint: let someone else do it for you; for some reason it's better that way.

4. ChapStick. Especially during the winter months, this is a lifesaver.

5. An earring rack. I got this for Christmas, and it's super helpful for keeping my dangly earring organized. I also really, really love earrings. Like, a lot.

6. Effective hand creme. My hands get really dry in the winter, and hand creme is extremely useful. Burt's Bees is usually a great brand, for any of your cosmetic needs.

7. Nice stationary. Letter-writing may be a dying art, but it's always fun to have some special stationary lying around, for birthday cards and the like.

8. Narwhal finger puppets. Because narwhals.

9. Awesome hats. I personally love riding-cap style hats, as you can see, but any cool hat will suffice.

There you have it! Nine things that make life a little brighter for me. If you're obsessed with any of these things, too, or you have some of your own favorites you'd like to add, feel free to leave a comment. 

Later skater,
Ella