Jane

Her first home was a cottage by the sea that is no longer there.

The wafting of her afternoon tea rebuilds the grey stones.  Once again a knobby-kneed kid, her mam fussed fussed fussed  (How did you manage to get seaweed in yer hair?  Don’t drag yer dirt into the gaff.  I told ye not to get yer new boots wet, ye gimp!) when the light sunk beneath the silver horizon and she traipsed up the dirt path clutching treasures of wave-molded pebbles.

What makes home home?

In the narrow halls of the Dublin flat, Mam’s shrills bounded off cardboard walls and she dreamed of the grey stone cottage.  Boring her face into the too-flat pillow, she imagined the constant press of waves pounding.  pounding.  pounding.

Where did home go?

She likes to touch things that are old.  One time, she brought her antique copy of The Victorian Catelogue of Household Goods to lecture, in case her students were interested.  “Just look at all the pointless stuff they would buy just because they could!” Pages of perfume bottles, china, porcelain vases, foot scrapers, candlestick holders, chitzy busts of Prince Albert.  “Why did they need all this crap?!”

Why?  How does this make a home?

Her favourite part of day is right before curtains are drawn—when windows are lit, but not yet covered.  She paces past in the winter mist beneath a black umbrella, her red beret clinging to the coils of her springy hair for dear life, observing the houses of strangers.  Her round blue gaze is meticulous—noticing everything from the IKEA couches to the Turner prints on the walls to the stained doily on the end table.  She never needed to own a telly—not when the houses of London play the best program of all at five each and every night.  Behind those golden squares run the story of life—an endless stream of coming and going, sitting and standing, leaving and—

What makes a home homely?

The stone cottage was gone when she came back for it.

How heartbreaking it is for all those memories—warming wind-beaten hands over the fire. . . porridge over the old stove . . . that one spot that leaked after an evening storm, no matter how many times Da patched the roof . . . the plink! plink!  plink! of droplets filling the rusty kettle . . . to be gone.

~~~

I’m getting this piece workshopped in my writing class tomorrow, so I thought I’d share.  It’s actually a piece of non-fiction.  Who is Jane?  She was my literature professor when I studied in London and all these details are based on real information.

That’s right, I write imagined stories about real people.  Watch out… you could be next.

February 14

This morning as I entered the Student Center after class to check my mailbox, a guy opened the door for me.  He didn’t do the whole enter first, then prop-it-so-I-can-catch-it-thing.  No.  He pulled the door open, looked at me, and gestured for me to enter.  It was probably the most romantic thing to happen to me… well… in a very long while.  Maybe ever, actually.

It’s Valentines Day, which means love is in the air.  Campus is decked out in cutout hearts, friends are giving each other cards, and I’ve overheard multiple conversations between male classmates trying to one-up each other on their efforts to impress their vegan girlfriends.  (One guy acted all macho because he was going to make a salad with raspberry vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing… oh so classy.)

The funny thing about today is that for people without lovers, it inspires all sorts of angst.  “Single Awareness Day” they call it.  All the talk of romance brings out all sorts of insecurities.

As for myself, I find myself single for the 21st Valentines Day in a row.  Am I bitter?  Am I depressed?  Am I drowning myself in chocolate and romantic comedies?

Nope.

I mean… I’d like a romantic relationship any more than the next girl, but for the most part, I’m happy being single.  I always have been.  Why?  Well, when you plan on getting married someday (which I do), that means you only get to be single for a certain amount of time.  Going solo can be lonely at times, yes, but it also enables you to do all sorts of awesome things… like move to Europe!  Which I totally did!  Dating or Europe?  Dating or Europe?  Sorry, but Europe wins hands-down.  (Although if I happened to be dating someone and we happened to go to Europe together… I’d be cool with that.)

Anyways…

I’ve had some pretty odd Valentines Days.

When I was sixteen, I spent the day with my nose entrenched in Les Misérables (unabridged).  Now, this scenario has lots of potential.  I could have been at the part that describes Fantine’s lover who abandoned her.  Or, I could be experiencing Marius and Cosette’s beautifully written first encounter.  But… can you guess what part I was stuck on?  If you guessed the fifty page deviation Hugo takes where he describes all the details of convent life, you’d be right on the spot.  Let me tell you, nuns aren’t very romantic–especially when there’s fifty pages about them.

Then there’s last year, where I judged a high school speech meet on February 14th.  The categories I weighed in on were Prose and Drama.  Do you know what those speeches contain?  Death.  Rape.  Suicide.  Parental abuse.  Drug abuse.  Alcohol abuse.  More death.  More rape.  More abuse.  Talk about getting in the romantic mood, right?

As for this year…

I’ve got a date with Mrs. Dalloway, plans to watch a zombie movie with a friend, and (as you already know) a random guy opened a door for me.  So until I someday have a special someone to share this holiday with, I think this year sounds about perfect.

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23 insights into judging speech

Speech kids, listen up.

I was on the Speech team all four years of high school.  Now that I’m graduated and well into my college years, part of me has held onto my Speech kid background.  How?  I moved from a competitor to a judge.  Instead of being the person talking to walls, I’m the lady with the folder that everyone fears.  When I enter the room, the chatter immediately hushes and the air brims with awkwardness.  As I scribble on critique sheets, I can almost hear the speaker’s thoughts: “Oh gosh, she’s writing.  Why is she writing?  She hates it.  She’s going to give me a terrible score.  Oh gosh.  Why did I think this was a good idea?”

Frankly, I love judging.  It’s all the perks of high school speech with more down time, no stress, and (best of all) FREE HOMEMADE FOOD.  Not to mention the fact that I get paid to do what I love.

Speech judges don a particular mindset when walking into rounds.  Consider this a glimpse of that mindset: a sneak-peek into what’s going on in our minds as we scribble away on your critique sheets.  Keep what I say in mind next time you’re at a speech meet–you never know when it could help!

So… here we go.

  1. Judges want to like you.
  2. Negative critiques do not mean your speech was bad!  It just means there’s room for improvement.
  3. We want you to improve!  We want to see you push your performance to be the very possible best!
  4. First impressions are everything.  Within the first minute of your speech, we pretty much already have you placed.  So make a good first impression.
  5. Speak with energy!  Be bold and confident–if you look like you are excited about what you are speaking about, we will be too!
  6. Don’t hold your script in front of your face.
  7. If you’re in a performance category, utilize characters.  Please.
  8. In addition to the above, make your characters as over-the-top as you can.  There’s nothing worse than flat characters.  Make them dynamic!  Even if it’s uncomfortable and you look ridiculous, GO BIG!
  9. If you’re in Prose, stop being in Prose.
  10. If you really have your heart set on being in Prose, please pick something innovative.  If I have to sit through another selection from The Lovely Bones or A Child Called It, I’m going to punch someone in the face.  (Okay, I’m  hyperbolizing a bit.  But still.  Do something original.)
  11. Also, Prose kids–that weird calm, soothing tone you all adapt during narrative portions of your speech?  Don’t do it.  You all sound exactly the same and it makes it hard to tell you all apart.
  12. Negative critiques do not mean we hate you.  They mean that we want you to improve!  We are trying to be helpful!
  13. If you’re in Great Speeches, PLEASE use a rhetorical method more original than Aristotle’s stylistic proofs.  I’m sick of hearing about ethos, pathos, and logos.
  14. Other cool rhetorical methods include Bitzer’s Rhetorical Situation, Metaphorical, Feminist, etc.  Do your research.  There’s so many cool ones to choose from!  (And no, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is NOT a rhetorical model.  So don’t use it.)
  15. Also, while on the subject of rhetorical models… please use them correctly!
  16. If you’re in Info, don’t do your speech on a disease.  It’s so boring.  And, please, don’t explain at the end that a family member suffers from said disease.  Yes, this sounds awful.  But it doesn’t further the informativeness of your speech and just makes it cheesy.
  17. If you’re going to pick a stupid, unoriginal topic in Info, be creative about it.  I once saw a girl do a speech on flowers and she talked about how they were used in ancient cultures and it was super interesting!
  18. Poetry kids–for goodness sake, pick something good.  None of this sappy contemporary nonsense.  Let’s see some Tennyson!  Bring out the Whitman!
  19. If you’re in Creative, make sure your script is well written AND well-performed.  You can do an amazing performance, but if the script sucks, you’re screwed.  And vice versa–if your script is amazing, but you can’t pull it off, you’re not going to do well.  Balance is key.
  20. Please, please, please DO NOT TALK BETWEEN SPEECHES.  Or eat.  Or text.  Or make weird noises.  Or do anything that isn’t sitting quietly and patiently.  Between speeches, we judges are trying to gather our thoughts and give last-minute comments.  Don’t be distracting.  It’s really annoying.
  21. Don’t sass the judge–especially when their back is turned.  Contrary to what you may think, we CAN hear you and we hold the power.  We can (and might) dock your score for rudeness.
  22. If we rip your piece to shreds on your critique sheet, it’s only because we care about you and want to push you to be the very best!
  23. Speech is fun.  SO HAVE FUN!

Also, if you think awards ceremonies are boring now… wait until you become a judge.  They’re ten times worse.