Dancing Through Life

Pardon the Wicked reference, but it seemed to fit for the title of this post. Hopefully by the end of it, you’ll understand why.

In my true writerly nature, I don’t do well talking about my feelings. In fact, the only way I seem able to process my feelings is by writing them down. The tougher the stuff is to deal with, the more I feel I need to write.

Today I got some sad news. Terrible news. News that took me a while to process, but when it finally hit, I had to hide in the bathroom to cry, because I didn’t want my roommate to ask what was wrong.

I received word that earlier this evening, my wonderful, energetic, amazing Irish dance teacher, Ann Richens, lost her battle with cancer.

I used to dance ballet when I was younger. I danced for several years before quitting. But soon after I quit…I regretted it. I never got to dance pointe. I missed the graceful movements. The regret hit harder in college, when I got the chance to take a couple of dance classes for PE credit. And then I fell in love with watching Irish dance and I knew that was what I wanted to learn next.

Two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take Irish dance classes downtown. I fell in love with it immediately. I made friends quickly, I loved the movement, it was fun. I was glad I joined Columbus Celtic Dancers…and a lot of that was in part because of Ann.

Ann was, honestly, the most energetic person I’ve ever met. She could easily have kicked any of our butts if she’d wanted to. She was strong and inspirational. She encouraged us to try our best…and for those of us to whom the dance steps came a little easier, she pushed us to jump higher, step lighter, extend more. Those of us who chose to compete, she expected us to, not necessarily BE the best, but to DO our best.

And we did.

Many of us have won medals in competition, many teams from our group have gone on to place. We’re not world champions, but she treated us like we were. It was because of Ann that I felt comfortable enough to go into competition after dancing for only a year. It was because of Ann that this year when I competed, I won five medals.

Ann had more energy than most people her age I’ve met. She would travel an hour and a half each Monday evening to and from downtown to teach our dance class. She traveled to Ireland several times a year. She worked with us adults and she also worked with the Richens-Timm Academy kids. I don’t think she ever sat still for more than a few hours.

It was apparent to anyone who knew her that she loved teaching. She challenged me, she encouraged me, she inspired me. I’ll continue dancing, under however many teachers I end up having throughout the years, but Ann will always have a special place in my heart. She will never be forgotten by anyone whose life she touched, she was just that kind of person.

Ann, you will never be forgotten. You will live on in everyone you taught, in every dance step we learned from you, in every medal we win, and in every performance we put on. Thank you for everything. May you rest in peace.

Casting Characters

You’re lucky you’re getting a blog post today. I have been living in a state of constantly refreshing my inbox that is somewhat reminiscent to querying agents. Most of my friends have gotten activated into the beta of Pottermore. I, however, am still waiting. It’s rather like being picked last for the team in gym class.

I don’t wanna talk about it.

So, instead…here you go. Writing Tuesdays. For the next five minutes, my mind will be OFF Pottermore pain.

I went back and forth between two topics. One I might save for later, when I get more involved in the concept. Today, I’ll be talking about casting characters.

To be fair, this is not something I’d ever done before this weekend. I’d always considered my characters to live solely inside my head. I’ve never been good at finding physical representation of any of my characters, because I have very firm ideas of what they look like to me. Occasionally, I’ve run into some random person on the street or in the grocery store that I’m like “woah, she/he is exactly how I picture [insert character here]” but even that’s rather rare for me.

But then this weekend, something spurred me on to cast my characters. I don’t know what this “something” was, but…I came to find out that the project was kind of fun. And I kind of like having pictures of all my characters hanging on my writing board over my desk. It makes them all the more REAL to me (which means, it’s all the more REAL to me when I have to kill them off…oops?). My roommates got a kick out of it too. They seem to get a kick out of most of the weird writerly things I do…”a kick” being that they smile, nod, and back away slowly.

An interesting thing I discovered during this casting characters project, however, was how difficult it is for me to picture my male characters. I always have a ton of trouble in general with male characters–I hate naming them, I hate describing them, and sometimes they’re interchangeable to me. It’s really a problem. So it’s was an absolute nightmare trying to find people I thought best visually represented my male main characters in my novel. But, I did eventually get it done. And I’m pretty happy with the results.

(I was going to post the pictures of my cast here…but…I’m technology stupid today and couldn’t figure it out. Maybe later.)

On the Value of Taking Breaks

I do this funny thing whenever I re-read the Harry Potter books. I go into what I call my hidey-hole. I rarely emerge for anything. My writing falls by the wayside and I don’t get anything accomplished.

Surely, you’ve noticed I’ve just gotten out of one of these bouts of Pottermania. It happens a couple of times a year for me, usually. It’s just a thing. I can’t explain it.

Recently, I returned to my much-forgotten revisions. And when I picked them back up and started to find out where I’d left off, I realized something. What I had revised before my Potter break was…not great. It was good, but it didn’t entirely make sense. It was obvious as I re-read the last chapter I’d revised that I had been burnt out when I’d written it.

Which is fine, because it happens. Burn out happens and it’s important to realize that breaks are perfectly justified. I’ve gotten back on the revisions train and my couple month break for Potter stuff. I just have to learn to take breaks that aren’t just for re-reading Harry Potter. It’s important to have separation from your novel, if only to get a new perspective on the story.

Love of the Week Returns!

And now I’m back on the blogging train! Hooray!

This week’s love of the week was hard for me to figure out. I knew what I wanted to talk about, but…it’s more than just one thing. So I’m going to try to use the broadest phrasing I can possibly use, in the hopes that that will encompass all that I want it to.

The Potter Fandom.

Yes, I know. First of all, I’ve done nothing but talk about Harry Potter on here for weeks. You’re probably all sick of it. And second of all, I couldn’t get broader unless I tried to say fandoms in general.

BUT IT WORKS. I PROMISE. Hold your hippogriffs, and I’ll explain.

There’s something (no pun intended) magical about the Potter fandom in particular. It’s a level of love and support and encouragement that I’ve never seen in any other fandom, and I’ve been in several. The Potter fandom is more accepting than other fandoms, seems less likely to judge, and we can bond together in two seconds. We like doing things like, say, staying up all night together just to answer one strange trivia question…and then we help each other to succeed.

More explanation? Really? Okay.

Background: Two weeks ago, while the rest of the Harry Potter Alliance staff was down in Orlando for LeakyCon, those of us left behind ran a thing we called Portkey. It was an online conference of sorts, for all those who hadn’t been able to go to Leaky. We had trivia contests and shared memories of the fandom and did garbage bag experiments and watched documentaries and geeked out together after the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows Part 2.

And we Livestreamed. A lot.

I was the Gryffindor Head of House for the Portkey house cup. By virtue of that, I was expected to be on most of the Livestreams. I was fine with that. And by the end of the week, there was this core group of Portkey staffers who were on almost all the Livestreams and had, somehow, become the faces of Portkey itself. We don’t know how that happened, but it did. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I talked more that week, through Skype and on Livestreams, than we had previously. And something crazy happened…apparently our audiences in the Livestream found us funny. They told us they wanted us to stick around. Yeah, it was a strange realization for the rest of us too.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Saturday night. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I had joked about staying up all Saturday night together on Skype to get the Pottermore Beta clue that was supposed to come out sometime July 31. We all got on Skype Saturday evening. Started talking. And then this weird thing happened. Becca got us our own Livestream channel. We posted something on our old Portkey Facebook page. By 8:30pm EST, we were broadcasting live on our shiny new channel, planning on staying up all night and entertain ourselves by running our mouths. Our channel being new, we weren’t “verified,” so we couldn’t have more than 50 people listening to us at one time. This was fine, because we figured we wouldn’t get more than ten or fifteen people who would want to listen to us be weird.

Oh, how wrong we were.

We hit our 50-person cap two hours in. According to our Livestream chat numbers, there were another 60 or 70 people just hanging out in the chat, unable to listen, getting information relayed to them through other listeners. Three hours later, we had the same number of listeners. It was the same four hours later.

Our numbers held strong for at least ten straight hours of Livestreaming. We talked about everything and anything. We talked Potter, and inside jokes, and Pottermore, and speculation. We announced rumors about the clue as we heard them. We counted down to 3am EST, which was when we heard the clue would come out.

And at 3:30am EST, the first Pottermore clue of seven that will be opened this week appeared on the site. Together, my fellow Portkey hosts and I freaked out. With the help of the chat, we figured out the clue, we went to the site. We found the Magic Quill. And then we all registered. Technical difficulties put a damper on some of us, that the others took time to help us through. We shared usernames and laughed and had a blast and freaked out about getting into Beta, even if we haven’t been allowed to start playing yet.

Here was the amazing part. Some people didn’t get through the first day. They have the rest of the week’s worth of clues to try. And instead of pointing and laughing or saying “sorry, sucks for you” or basking in the glory of getting into Pottermore Beta when others didn’t…the Potter Fandom has been collectively helping each other. We’ve been cheering each other on, and letting each other know when the clues come out. We’ve been helping each other register and get the chance to join Pottermore early.

This is the kind of fandom that we are. We celebrate our individual successes, and then we turn back and help our friends. We’re the kind of fandom that stays up all night together, on a Livestream, listening to hilarious fan fiction about the Portkey hosts and making goofy inside jokes like “Snugglemore.” We’re the kind of fandom that can crash entire fan sites because of one announcement, who keeps each other in the loop even when we’ve been sworn to secrecy. We only half-joke about wearing our wizard or Death Eater robes on airplanes. We celebrate the birthdays of the author and characters that we love. We’re activists who fight real-world Horcruxes. We can speculate with the best of them, solve clues like you wouldn’t believe, and when we want to succeed, there’s nothing that will stop us.

This is why I love this fandom.