Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

Month: October 2018 Page 1 of 2

Famous Last Words: Where’s the Cat?

It’s the last week of October! That means it’s almost November, and November is always one of my favorite months. It’s been a good October, which is unusual. October is usually the April of the fall semester: insane. The weather has been crazy, football has been crazy, and school has been crazy, but I survived it all pretty easily.

I had almost nothing to do for school this past week, which meant that when I wasn’t in class, I was in my room reading with my window open, enjoying the fresh air. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas came out this week, and I got my copy! It’s the last book in the Throne of Glass series, which has been one of my favorites and a huge inspiration for my writing. I thought the yellow cover was going to look bad, but it’s absolutely beautiful in person. I’ve been reading this series since middle school, and I clearly remembering looking up the projected release dates for the 7-book series and thinking “Wow, I’m going to be a sophomore in college before this is over.” It’s crazy that it’s actually happened!

I haven’t gotten to read a single word of it yet because I’m trying to reread the whole series as a refresher. Right now I’m at the beginning of book 4, so it might be a week or so before I get to KoA. Luckily this next weekend, I’ll have a five hour bus ride to Lubbock for the Texas Tech game to read on!

The K-State game yesterday was fun. I despise homecoming parades, but it wasn’t so bad this year. We were worried it was going to be hot again, and we wore our red uniforms, which are hotter than the white ones. However, despite the cloudless sky, it was pretty mild once we got into the stands! The band danced to Thriller at halftime, which was awesome! Check out the performance below. Thriller starts at about 6:55.

The title of today’s post comes from a funny incident at the game. K-State has a stuffed bobcat that they display on their sideline. We all noticed it and had a good laugh at the strange prop, and the stadium cameras zoomed in on it. Five minutes later, the cat was gone, much to the amusement of the student section, who wrote “Where’s the cat? Spooky,” on a whiteboard after the cat went missing. Did K-State just get embarrassed at the attention? Or did a sneaky student manage to filch the taxidermied wildcat? 

I’m trying to put the brakes on in this class a little bit (she said while writing up a bonus assignment) because I’m in no rush, and I definitely want to finish my Storybook project before I’m done with the class. I’ll probably hit my point goal early but stick around long enough to wrap up the project. I’ll definitely be done by Thanksgiving Break, though, and it will be nice to have a class out of the way before finals season!

Next week: Texas Tech Red Raiders at 7:00 p.m. I love pep band away trips! Hopefully we’ll get to see them through tortillas on the field…

Image 1: Stuffed bobcat at Shenandoah River State Park. Source – Flickr.

Image 2: Kingdom of Ash hardcover by Sarah J. Maas. Source – my personal photos.

Week 10 Story Lab: Advice to Writers

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Good Writing Practices:

“Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.” 

Neil Gaiman

This is an especially tough one because it’s easy to get bogged down in the middle of a story, start a new and exciting project, and then leave the old one undone.

I love number 8:

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (that may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”

Neil Gaiman

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling:

I love Pixar’s tips! Their stories are always so fantastic, and these tips are great for aspiring writers.

#5: Simplify; I love simplifying my work because I tend to make it too complicated in the beginning. I definitely combine characters often.

#7 Endings are really hard. I’m still uncertain about the ending of the novel I’ve been working on for 6 years/

#9 This is great advice for throwing in something unexpected!

#12 This is how we learned to brainstorm in my Destination Imagination club. We would throw out ideas and write each one down, but we’d force ourselves to keep going for a long time to come up with more creative, less obvious plans.

#17 is the reason I have a giant Word file on my computer labelled “Archived Scraps” that hasn’t been opened in years.

#20 I’m a big proponent of writing what you want to read. The first entry in my first writer’s journal is a list of things that I like to read about or find in stories like “Time travel, dreams, secret sanctums, witty banter, goofy friends, superpowers, sacrifice, sword fights, and monologues.”

John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Popular Fiction:

Write every day—This is pretty good advice but hard to follow. I tend to believe that as long as you’re writing something, even if it’s a journal or blog and not your actual Work-in-Progress, you’ll get better at writing.

I don’t like his advice about a thesaurus. I think a thesaurus is a useful tool, as long as you don’t go digging for the most obscure words possible. But vocabulary should be varied and vivid, and using a thesaurus helps with that.

Nanowrimo

I also took some time with this story lab to set up my November writing project. I’m really excited about it, and one thing I’m trying to do with my writing this year is not keeping it to myself. I can be very protective of my work to the point of being secretive, and I don’t think that’s healthy for my writing or for my ability to deal with feedback. So here’s a novel aesthetic that I created with Canva! The (current) title of the novel is Compass Point.

Image 1: Open, blank journal. Source – Pixnio.

Image 2: Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. Source – Hello You Creatives

Image 3: Compass Point aesthetic. Source – Made on Canva.

Week 10 Reading Notes: Blackfeet Stories, Part B

The Smart Woman Chief:

WHOA. This story starts really sexist and then has a total twist ending where the women make the men look like complete fools. 

I hereby propose that we solve all our problems by turning the perpetrators into pine trees. There would be fewer annoying people AND more forests.

Bobcat and Birch Tree:

Judging from this and the previous story, Old Man is really foolish and kind of a jerk, especially when he kills all of the prairie dogs. It’s interesting that his persona is also tied to the Blackfeet creator god, which is usually a wise and benevolent character.

Kut-O-Yis, The Blood Boy:

Kut-o-yis literally comes from the blood of a bison, which is one of the wildest origin stories I’ve ever heard. 

Respecting and helping elders must be a strong value to the Blackfeet since Kut-o-yis is born to help the old people overcome their cruel son-in-law.

Bears, like wolves, are also some of my favorite animals. We saw a few of them this summer, and the general opinion was do NOT mess with bears. They’re no friendly, and they have been known to cause trouble with humans. Obviously that Blackfeet share that opinion of the bears, as in this story, they are stealing human food.

It’s interesting that in all of these stories, there is a tyrant who is taking food from the people. Many times it is animals. I guess that represents the struggle that the Blackfeet may have had with nature.

“Kut-o-yis’ was glad to know that there was such a person, and he went to the mountains.” This is Kut-o-yis’s response to finding out that there is someone who may be able to kill him. The man is obviously a folk hero character with great skills and benevolence, but maybe that response is a sign that he’s also reckless and a bit arrogant, which are common flaws of heroic characters.

“The ground was white as snow with the bones of those who had died. There were bodies with flesh on them; some who had died not long before and some who were still living.” More scary images that might inspire my Halloween story. I wonder if bones and skeletons hold a special significance to the Blackfeet people as they seem to be a common motif in the more gruesome stories.

Kut-o-yis wants to visit “all the people.” There are several small groups within the overarching Blackfeet Nation, and I wonder if this is alluding to them being separate but unified under one language and culture. Since they share language, it makes sense that they would also share mythologies and legends, so maybe Kut-o-yis is a common figure in each group’s folklore.

“Now, really, this was what Kut-o-yis’ was looking for. This was what he was doing in the world, trying to kill off all the bad things.” What a heroic guy!

Bibliography:

Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915). Web source.

Image 1: Chief Mountain on the Blackfeet Reservation. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Blackfeet warrior by Bodmer. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: Map of Blackfeet land and Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Week 10 Reading Notes: Blackfeet Stories, Part A

I decided to read this unit this week because during the summer, I visited northwest Montana, which is where the Blackfeet people live. We were on their reservation for a brief time, and many areas of Glacier National Park are part of their history. I was especially inspired by the story of Running Eagle, a female warrior of the Blackfeet Nation from the 1800s. She’s similar to China’s Mulan or even Joan of Arc. We hiked to Running Eagle Falls and learned all about her importance to the nation.

Here is some more information about the Blackfeet Nation, as they are known in the United States: Wikipedia.

The Wolf Man:

Wolves are one of my favorite animals! The Blackfeet people characterize them as clever and strong and possessing of special powers. This legend is almost like a werewolf story, since the man is partially turned into a wolf. 

I wonder why the man chooses to turn his back on his people by stealing their food after the wolves save him. Was his anger at his wives extended to his entire tribe?

The Dog and the Root Digger:

“This happened long ago.” This opening sentence sounds like it may be another version of saying “Once upon a time.” It immediately engages the imaginations of the audience and the mystery of the upcoming story.

“In those days the people were hungry. No buffalo could be found, no antelope were seen on the prairie. Grass grew in the trails where the elk and the deer used to travel. There was not even a rabbit in the brush.” I love the short sentences used here. It sounds like someone is reading aloud, telling a story to a group of listeners.

What is a root digger? —After Googling, there doesn’t seem to be an animal that is regularly called a “root digger,” but I think I can safely assume that it’s some type of small rodent, like the ground squirrels we saw in Montana this summer or even a gopher.

“Soon after this the woman and her son went off to pick berries…” I wonder if they’re out picking huckleberries, which grow in the wild in Montana, where the Blackfeet are from!

The Camp of the Ghosts:

It’s interesting that the idea of journeying to the underworld is such a key part of so many mythologies. There’s one in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, which I learned about in a Crash Course video. There are scads of them in Classical Greek mythology, from Orpheus to Cupid and Psyche, which I read for a unit. There was even one in Japanese mythology with their creator god and goddess! Humans seem to need to find ways to describe and explain death.

“If you should open them and look about you, you would die.” Serious Orpheus vibes.

“They will try to scare you; they will make fearful noises and you will see strange and terrible things, but do not be afraid.” I’m really looking for some material to help me write a scary Halloween story, so I hope these things really are frightening!

Ah, to the Blackfeet, the best way to overcome fear is by being “strong of heart” and resolute. 

It’s interesting that the ghost village has a similar structure as a human village: there is a chief and citizens. The ghosts can smell, and they seem to have the ability to talk and reason. They’re not just floating, scary zombie types.

There are a lot of rules in this task! He must keep his eyes shut, obey the ghosts, clean himself in a sweat-house.

“Not long after this, once in the night, this man told his wife to do something, and when she did not begin at once he picked up a brand from the fire and raised it — not that he intended to strike her with it, but he made as if he would — when all at once she vanished and was never seen again.” What an interesting ending to the story. Did the entire Blackfoot Nation have a stigma against domestic violence? Or was it commonplace and this story so happened to warn against it? Was it told or adapted by women? There’s a whole sociological conundrum in this one paragraph!

How the Thunder Pipe Came:

“Are you brave enough to enter the lodge of that dreadful person?” asked the Raven. “He lives near here. His lodge is of stone like this one, and hanging in it are eyes–the eyes of those he has killed or taken away. He has taken out their eyes and hung them in his lodge. Now then! Dare you enter there?” This sounds a lot like a haunted house!

Cold Maker’s Medicine:

This is some spooky stuff, similar to Hansel and Gretel. The old women is definitely reminiscent of a witch. She tricks Lone Feather into thinking she’s friendly and murders him.

It’s terrifying to hear what she does to Lone Feather’s body: she cuts it up, cooks it, and eats it. Then she throws his bones out, and there’s a huge pile of bones! How many people has this old woman killed?

“‘My bow is broken. I cannot,’ said Broken Bow sadly.” HA!

“Medicine” seems to be somewhat equivalent to magic because Cold Maker’s medicine allows him to stop the smoke and start a snowstorm.

Bibliography:

Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915). Web source.

Image 1: Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Running Eagle Falls, just east of Two Medicine Lake. Source – Personal photos

Image 3: A trailhead sign near Running Eagle Falls that tells about the Blackfoot warrior woman. Source – Personal photos

Image 4: A yawning wolf. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 5: A ground squirrel in Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Famous Last Words: Road Trip!

What a week! In last week’s Famous Last Words, I talked about how excited I am for fall, but this week we skipped over autumn and went straight to winter! It was FREEZING! 

It was so cold, in fact, that my roommates and I hosted a hot cocoa party on Monday evening. Our apartment is walking distance from Pride Field, so after a frosty band rehearsal, most of the drumline walked over. I had Crockpot hot chocolate all ready to go, and while everyone drank that, I made red beans and rice. That warmed everyone up! I love cooking for people, so it was a lot of fun. We watched a movie, and in the middle of the movie, a delivery guy from Insomnia Cookies showed up with two boxes of cookies for us. But no one had ordered any! We eventually found out that one of my roommates’ parents had heard about our little get together and ordered us cookies all the way from Dallas. It was so sweet of them!

The rest of the week was hot and cold. I loved my work in this class this week, especially my story. I’ve always admired science fiction and space fantasy, but I’ve never written any. I enjoyed dipping my toes into the genre!

I also felt really inspired by doing my revisions in my project this week. It’s really easy for me as a writer to feel like I’m bad at writing because I don’t get feedback very often. It’s not like I shove manuscripts at my friends and ask them for line edits. However, I was uplifted by the comments on my project this week because many of them were positive, and it showed me that I am actually good at this craft that I’ve chosen. 

In a similar vein, I’m incredibly excited because I’ve decided to do Nanowrimo this year! Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and (while I have many critiques of the event and understand it’s not perfect) it was my first ever experiment with novel writing. The goal of the event is to write 50,000 words of an original novel during the month of November. That’s about 1,667 words per day! When I was in 7th grade, I decided to participate, and I wrote over 50,000 words of my first novel. That manuscript was actual garbage, but I absolutely loved writing it. Since then, I haven’t seriously participated in the event, and I feel like I need a burst of energy in my writing that Nanowrimo can help me get. The only way to get better at writing is by doing it, and as a goal/progress-oriented person, there’s no better way to motivate me than giving me a goal and a deadline. I’ve already drawn a progress bar on my bathroom mirror for me to fill in as I go. I have no idea how this is going to go or how I’m going to find the time to write 1,667 words per day, but I’m ready to give it a shot come November 1.

We played TCU this weekend, which was crazy. The Pride left at 4:30 a.m. to go to Fort Worth and we were back at 7:30 p.m. Talk about a whirlwind road trip! The game was pretty average as far as games go. I was impressed with how our defense performed after the firing of Mike Stoops. It’s definitely not a 180-degree turnaround, but that’s too much to expect after just two weeks. I was just glad to see improvement and some convincing stops! The TCU band was super nice to us, which was refreshing because their fans were pretty rude here and there. The fans also arrived super late, like after kickoff. It was sad and surprising to see the TCU band performing pregame to almost empty stands when ours are packed and roaring when we take the field. The fans also left super early, even when their team was still in the game. The student section reduced by half early during the 4th quarter. 

**See explanation below**

The best part of yesterday’s game day, though, was watching the Ohio State vs Purdue game. My dad texted me “Are you watching the game?!” and I had no clue what he was talking about because we’d just gotten back from TCU and I was cooking dinner. When I found out that unranked Purdue was solidly beating #2 Ohio State, I rushed to my room, grabbed my laptop, and had the game playing on our living room TV within two minutes. All of my roommates came in, and we watched the last quarter. Go Boilermakers! I can’t believe they won! Now Ohio State is almost completely out of the playoff picture, which is just what we need to get back in. Now we need Notre Dame to lose, either Alabama or LSU to embarrass the other in their upcoming matchup, and to defeat Texas in the Big XII Championship. What a crazy and exciting football season!

Everything that I’ve just mentioned was cool and all, but the absolute BEST thing this week happened at our Friday evening band rehearsal, which no one wanted to be at. My roommates and I were walked to the Everest practice facility. We rounded a corner, chatting about something mindless or complaining about going to rehearsal. And then mid-sentence, our eyes locked on something. Someone. My brain could barely register it. I thought I was seeing a ghost. Or hallucinating. Or just really, really confused. Because standing there, in the flesh, was KEVIN.

You have to understand how unfathomable this was: Kevin was part of our very close drumline friend group last year. He played cymbals, he worked at Roscoe’s, and he was amazing. We loved Kevin SO MUCH. But we weren’t supposed to see Kevin until 2020 because during the summer, Kevin left to go to Argentina on his mission as a member of the LDS church. The only way we could communicate with him was by email, and he only had 30 minutes a week to read all of his emails, write personal replies, and write a weekly update for his friends and family. Every day during Pride someone would sigh and say “I miss Kevin.” We bittersweetly made old jokes about him missing the bus to Texas last year and fondly recalled all of the silly things he did. We’d basically given him up for dead, except for those emails. We weren’t supposed to see him until 2020.

BUT NOW HE’S BACK. We don’t know why–it definitely doesn’t matter–but we’re happy to have our Kevin back. My roommates screamed when they saw him. I suddenly got dizzy with adrenaline. We did the running-group-hug thing. Our percussion director wasn’t mad that we were all a little late to rehearsal because Kevin was back, and that was crazy. We had been so put-out with going to rehearsal, but after seeing Kevin, we couldn’t stop smiling. I now understand the feelings that happen when a service member comes home and surprises his or her family.

I’m looking forward to some better fall temperatures this week and a fairly relaxing week as far as assignments go. I have one big assignment due tomorrow, but that’s it for the week! Boomer Sooner!

Image 1: American highway. Source – Max Pixel.

**Image 2 Explanation: This is a TCU stadium souvenir cup. One of the weird Pride traditions that no one really knows about is that a lot of Pride members collect souvenir cups from the stadiums we visit. I love collecting things, so I get super excited about getting a new cup. This is my first from TCU! I also have cups from Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Iowa State as well as our own stadium, the Rose Bowl (my favorite!) the OKC Thunder, and the 2017 Big XII championship. That last one is funny because it’s actually a Dallas Cowboys stadium cup, not the ACTUAL Big XII Championship cup. I forgot to bring cash to the game that day, so I ended up scavenging the stands for abandoned cups and could only find a Cowboys one. To make up for it, I wrote “2017 Big XII Championship: OU vs TCU” on the bottom of the cup, along with the score of the game. My biggest regret is that I didn’t know about the collecting tradition when we were at Ohio State last year, so I didn’t get one of those cups. One day I’m hoping to find one on eBay or at a garage sale, lol. As for Big XII teams, I still need to collect Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech! Image Source: My personal photos

Week 9 Story: Space Escape

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It’s usually a dull job writing the transcripts to security tapes, but the events in this series are the highlight of my career. These tapes just came in to the USS Argofrom a captured ship of the Varknoss race.

This camera shows a long hallway deep in the belly of the ship, which doesn’t look as alien as movies would have you think. It’s pretty normal, except it’s lined with doors, each with a label and a barred glass window. This is the brig. All the lights are on, and some of the prisoners pace their cells or sleep. It makes the hair on my arms stand up to see: most of them are humans.

At the end of the hallway, two figures appear. The first is our young hero: Lieutenant Chris Rowland of the USSS Endurance, a small vessels pilot. He looks pretty beat up, though the picture is blurry from this distance. The second figure is one of the Varknoss, a tall alien creature with a long, reptilian snout, clawed hands, and such a high body temperature that they can breathe fire. The Varknoss have a tentative peace treaty with us Earthlings, but the brig of this ship proves that the race still harbors cruel intentions toward humans.

The Varknoss goon throws Rowland in one of the cells, his nostrils hissing steam to scare the other occupants of the room from the door. Then the alien leaves, and the hallway returns to its previous silence.

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This camera gives us a better shot of what’s going on in Rowland’s room. Despite his bloodied lip, the captured pilot doesn’t seem fazed as he addresses his five cellmates.

“I didn’t spend six years in officer’s school to get eaten by a dragon-man on my first transport job,” he says, pulling a small rectangle out of the interior pocket of his jacket. Is that a…cassette player?! This space-jock has watched to much Guardians of the Galaxy.

Several of the cellmates—and most of the humans in the brig—are also soldiers, and they’re sick of watching their numbers dwindle day by day as their companions are taken to satisfy vicious Varknoss appetites. If Rowland is clever enough to get them out alive, they’re in.

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This is the part of the video where we come in. Three days have passed since Rowland was taken prisoner. His commanders don’t even know he’s missing yet. But it turns out that Rowland’s little cassette player also picks up radio waves, and he knows exactly what we’re about the see on this camera, which is affixed to the exterior of the Varknoss ship, keeping watch over an airlock. Technology, huh? 

Everything seems really slow in space, so if you really closely, you’ll see a giant silver and white bullet floating across the corner of the feed. Yep, that’s the USSS Argo, completely unaware that they’re skimming the skies several hundred miles above a Varknoss ship containing dozens of illegal human prisoners. 

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We’re back in the cell with Chris Rowland, and he’s in action. In one minute, the Varknoss guard is going to deliver food, and the prisoners are ready to escape. Rowland is wearing the standard-issue military jackets of the three soldiers in the cell with him, plus his own. Why? It’s unclear, but he looks like a navy marshmallow man.

The Varknoss opens the door, and the prisoners press themselves to the far wall, but then Rowland jumps forward!

Smoke fills the air as the Varknoss lashes out with fire, but the flames have no effect of Rowland as he wrestles the reptilian alien to the ground. The layers of flame-retardant military jackets protect him. 

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While Rowland occupies the roaring guard, the rest of the prisoners stream into the hallway. Once all 46 humans are free, they dash out of the brig. Rowland disengages from his foe and sprints after them, followed closely by the alien.

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Clever Rowland chose to escape during Varknoss dinner time, so the ship’s hallways are empty as the long line of humans hurtles toward the nearest escape hatch. Rowland is still at the end of the line, and the Varknoss guard is so, so close. Close enough to grab him.

The pilot suddenly thrusts his arm into the air and uses his thumb to click a button on the cassette player he holds aloft. Funky music starts playing, with a catchy bass riff and tasty guitar licks. This man knows his enemy. The Varknoss soldier suddenly stops to dance to the groove. That’s their biggest weakness: they love music, and it holds an almost magical power over them. The Varknoss keeps dancing until Rowland and his speaker are too far away to hear. Then, the spell is broken, and the ugly creature races after his quarry.

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When the Varknoss gets close to the prisoners again, Rowland blasts the next song. Once again, the alien has to stop to dance. The lieutenant repeats this process until his group finally reaches the escape pods.

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Varknoss escape pods are strange. They can connect together in a long chain to help an escaping population stay together, which will make Rowland’s task much easier, as only three people can fit in each pod. When it’s Rowland’s turn to board the sixteenth pod, he tosses the cassette player at the Varknoss’s feet, leaving it trapped in a dancing frenzy.

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A long, straight chain of escape pods slowly crosses the distance between the Varknoss ship and the Argo. By this time, the Argo has noticed the enemy ship and hailed the pods. The Varknoss ship doesn’t stand a chance as the warship turns to rescue Rowland and his friends.

Author’s Note:

This story is based on “Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light from the Sun” from West African folklore. In the original tale, Anansi and his son, Kweku Tsin, get captured by a dragon along with many other people, and Kweku helps them escape by throwing a ladder up to the gods and playing a fiddle to district the dragon and make him dance. In the end, the gods turn Kweku into the Sun because of his good deed. I changed the setting of my story because I’ve been wanting to write a story set in outer space, and this seemed like a good one to do it for. The Varknoss are a dragon-like alien race, meant to equate to the dragon in the original tale. Chris Rowland represents Kweku, and like the African hero, he is clever and quick-thinking. I still wanted to have the aspect of music to distract the dragon, so I threw in some Guardians of the Galaxy.

I wrote my story from the point of view of a person transcribing the events as seen through security cameras. This technique is inspired by one of my favorite book series, The Illuminae Files, which are written as a collection a files, many of them being security footage transcriptions. I thought it would be a creative and high-tech way of telling the story. I hope you enjoyed!

Bibliography:

West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Milky Way galaxy. Source – Pxhere.

Image 2: Cassette tape. Source – Flickr.

Image 3: Artistic rendition of Earth in space. Source – Pixabay.

Week 9 Reading Notes: West Africa, Part B

Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light From the Sun:

Oh, a dragon in an African tale! I didn’t expect this. I wonder how this dragon differs from the typical image of the European dragon. It does breathe fire, which is pretty typical. What other monsters appear in African folklore?

I really like Kweku because he has all of the attributes of a trickster: he’s clever, quick-thinking, and bold. However, he makes wise decisions and uses those traits to keep his father from screwing things up. However, it still seems like he loves his father, even though he’s a troublemaker.

This story has an interesting way of incorporating the gods in a way that hasn’t been done before. Why do they choose to hold onto the rope? It would be interesting to have more details about them.

I love how Kweku stops the dragon from climbing up the rope by distracting it with food and music. 

“Thereafter, it was Kweku Tsin’s privilege to supply all these with light, each being dull and powerless without him.” This is definitely a laugh-out-loud moment with the subtle jab at Anansi. 

I wonder if this story is supposed to be “the end” of Anansi stories, since he’s turned into the moon. I’m not really a big fan of that ending; it seems strange that the nameless gods would turn humans into celestial bodies just for escaping a dragon. 

How the Tortoise Got Its Shell:

I love it when the myths that explain how things came to be start with situations vastly different from real life. Like in this story, the tortoise is tall, fast, and an excellent warrior, which we would never associate with turtles.

“The amount which he had drunk, however, made him feel so sleepy and tired that he could not walk fast with his load.” This is a clever detail that explains why turtles are so slow.

The Hunter and the Tortoise:

I like that this story includes a song that contains hints about what the story will be about. It reminds me of books that have short poems, riddles, or songs in them that eventually come to mean something to the story. I’ve always wanted to try including one of those in a story, but I’ve found it difficult to plan it well.

Bibliography:

West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Waxprints in a West African shop. Source – Wikipedia

Image 2: Kweku distracting the dragon. Drawing by Cecilia Sinclair. Source – West African Folktales

Image 3: An African spurred tortoise. Source – Flickr.

Famous Last Words: Bye, Bye, Bye

I’m sorry most of the titles for these posts have to do with the football schedule, but when you’re in Pride, that’s essentially what your life revolves around! This weekend was our bye week, which means it was my last free weekend until after West Virginia. I’m not upset about that, though, I love football games. This weekend has been kind of boring because all three of my roommates are in Pride, and bye-week means visiting home. Unfortunately, I live too far away to justify a weekend trip, so I’ve been home alone since Friday afternoon. The silence has been driving me crazy! 

I’ve officially finished all of my midterms, and I escaped unscathed. My biggest midterm was Tuesday night, and I was genuinely nervous for it. It was for Media Writing & Storytelling, which is a weed-out course, and I was afraid the midterm would be long and difficult. However, my studies prepared me well for it, and I got 100%! The only major work I have to do this coming week is writing a five page paper on Beowulf. I should probably get started on that.

I enjoyed having a review week in this class because it meant I had more time to devote to studying for my midterms. I also liked looking back on all of the things I’ve done this semester. Wow! I wonder how many words I’ve written total for this class because it’s probably an exorbitant amount. 

I’m so happy that fall has arrived! It’s chilly outside, which is my favorite weather because I love wearing pants, hoodies, boots, and coats. Finally, I can order hot coffee at Starbucks without seeming crazy. 

This week I played drumset for two OU volleyball games, which was new for me. I love playing drumset, and I’ve always loved the pep bands at basketball games, so when a couple spots opened up in the volleyball band, I took them. I had several friends in high school who played volleyball, but I was never able to go to a game due to scheduling conflicts. It was nice to finally attend a game and to learn the rules. It’s actually a very neat sport! I like the nested scoring, where best 3 of 5 sets wins, but each set is to 25 points. I didn’t really like playing drumset for the games, though, because we only played during timeouts and set breaks, and it’s lonely to be the only drummer at a gig. I didn’t have anyone to talk to or watch the game with; I just sat in the corner at my set. 

I’m ready for the TCU game this coming Saturday! The entire band is going, but it sucks that kickoff is at 11:00 (AGAIN). We’re driving down that morning, which means we have to leave at 5:00 a.m. I don’t know why we can’t just have later kickoff times.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the restful bye-week, but I’m ready to see OU football win some games!

Image 1: Orchard in fall. Source – Flickr.

Image 2: Nature trail in fall. Source – Pixabay.

Learning Challenge: Reading Out Loud

Yesterday, I did my reading notes, and to shake things up, I read the stories out loud. I wanted to see how reading out loud was different from reading silently and if it could help me absorb the stories in a new way.

Reading out loud was different because it forced me to slow down while I read. Occasionally, I would get reading too fast and I would realize I wasn’t paying attention to the story, or I would be out of breath and stumbling over words. When I slowed down and read the story like a storyteller would, with voice inflections and natural pauses, I found that I was more engrossed in the story than if I were just skimming it silently.

I think reading out loud is a very valuable exercise, especially when proofreading your own work. It’s also helpful when you’re feeling distracted or tired and reading silently requires too much focus. By reading out loud, you can slow down and pay attention more easily.

Because I was reading out loud, I also found that I was able to appreciate the tone of the stories more. I noticed strategic uses of pacing, like short sentences for excitement or comedy and long sentences for tension.

It was hard reading out loud because my mouth got dry and I was out of breath, but I think I’d like to keep reading out loud occasionally so I can practice controlling my breathing. I’ve always been envious of people who can read a book to children in an engrossing way, and I’d like to practice my own storytelling skills, especially if I might be doing book tours and readings (hopefully).

Image: Storyteller at the Bank of England Museum. Source – Flickr.

Week 9 Reading Notes: West Africa, Part A

How We Got the Name “Spider Tales”:

It’s interesting that Anansi (Spider) isn’t really personified as an atual, eight-legged spider. It’s almost as if he has a human form but represents spiders. How else could he take “an earthen vessel” with him on a trip? 

The clever way that Anansi traps the bees reminds me of the story about the Tiger, the Jackal, and the Brahman that we read in the first unit. I like that it plays off the pride of the targets; it’s always clever to use your enemy’s weaknesses against them rather than using brute force.

I really like how this set of stories begins with the “main character” forcing himself into being the main character. It’s actually very comedic to imagine!

How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race:

This sounds like it will be a Pandora’s Box kind of story.

I wonder if Anansi’s character traits will change in every story as it seems they have changed here. In the first story, Anansi was clever, cunning, and perhaps a little vain. In this story, he’s less of a mischievous trickster and more of a wise old man.

Thunder and Anansi:

I wonder what kinds of foods Anansi got from the pot. I’m not very familiar with African foods, but food seems to be a central part of the culture, as it has appeared in nearly all of the stories.

In this story, Anansi is very selfish and doesn’t seem to care much for his family. I wonder why his family isn’t described much at all. His wife is not given a name, and we don’t know anything about his children. 

Kweku Tsin has appeared in two stories now as Anansi’s son, so there is some consistency to the stories. Kweku is as clever as his father but seems to be wiser about using that cunning.

“Anansi returned, ready for his supper, and, as usual, went into his room, carefully shutting the door. He went to the hiding-place—it was empty.” The narrative pace slows down here as Anansi looks for the pot. This helps to build the tension in the story.

Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down:

I’ve always liked the trope of names being an important part of a person’s identity, so I like seeing that in the naming challenge in this story. 

Tit for Tat:

Kweku has caught onto his father’s antics, and it’s kind of amusing to imagine such a father/son relationship.

These stories always describe in great detail the traps and methods that Anasi uses: he coats fruit in honey to surprise the princesses, he fills Kweku’s bag with ashes. He’s also very good at persuading people to listen to him, such as in the first story, he persuaded the snake to get near the stick and the tiger to want his eyes sewn up. He also convinced Nothing to trade clothes with him. I like the details, as it makes the stories more realistic and easy to imagine.

Bibliography:

West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Landscape from Guinea in West Africa. Source – Pxhere

Image 2: A common spider from Gambia. (Also, Googling “African spider” was a big mistake. *shiver*) Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: A big lizard. Source – Pxhere

Image 4: A map of West Africa. Source – Wikipedia.

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