Random Nightly Flash Fiction

I wrote something like this months back but my brain wanted me to revisit it.

A loud clank wakes me up from a sleep state that I have no idea how I entered. The door to my prison opens and he stands before me. “Tsk tsk, my little flower. Did I tell you you could sleep?” I don’t answer and just keep my eyes locked on his. “Hmmm, quiet today.” He steps closer. “Ah, but luckily I have ways to make you scream.” He opens the jacket of his fine tailored suit and pulls out a knife, still stained with my blood. The sight makes me cringe and I turn away. “Yes, my little friend is back. Maybe you two need to get more acquainted since you don’t seem to like him very much.” He comes closer with the knife and teases the tip over various places on my skin. He gets to my chest and the knife makes contact. I dig my wrists into the shackles chaining me to the wall. I try not to flinch, but then he makes a slit on my collar bone. Not enough to be remotely lethal, but enough to force a wince out of my throat. “That’s all you have for me?” He frowns and in a fluid motion he stabs the knife into my thigh. The pain is immediate and I scream. He laughs and a wide grin forms across his face. “That’s more like it.” I can’t take it anymore. “Why-” I hesitate at the sound of my own voice because I haven’t heard it in days. He seems surprised too, as his full attention is taken from my body to my face. “Why don’t you just kill me already?” His smile returns. “Oh darling, where’s the fun in that?” He moves so that he is right in front of me and our noses touch. “Besides, when I kill you, I want you to beg for it. I want you to need death like the very air you breath.” He lets out a small laugh. “How ironic for you to want death like you would air- an utter oxymoron. Now, now, let’s get you cleaned up. Can’t have you bleed out, can we?” He is silent as he tends to my wounds and eventually leaves. Only one thing is on my mind. He didn’t if, he said when.

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The Stranger Across the Street – Creative Non-Fiction Piece

Hey fellowers, this was an emotional piece for me to write. I would like specific feedback if you read it. I want you to read it and then read what I want feedback on so your opinions aren’t biased, so the feedback points are belong the essay.

It’s amazing to think about all the little things that can remind you of someone. A place. A song. A smell. A shirt. The shape of a nose. So many little pieces encompass a person and you really don’t notice them all until that person is gone. At the time the person is around, you think you take in all that he or she is, when in reality, you take a lot for granted. Also, some things become so commonplace, like the smell of a house, that you don’t notice it anymore. It’s amazing how fast those things come back when the familiar becomes a memory and the once known is now foreign. Those little pieces that make a person you know—well knew, suddenly spring up on you in many ways when you’re least expecting it.
It was so many years ago, 17 to be exact, and I still remember when I first met Ryan. He was 5 and I was 4 the first time I moved onto our street. Ryan’s family had been there before Ryan was even born, so we were the new family on the block. His family wanted to make us feel welcome and his mom approached my dad one day as he was outside with me as I played in the front yard. Ryan was on a red scooter. The adults exchanged names and Ryan introduced himself. I was far too shy at this point, causing my dad to have to introduce me. The memory fades out after that, but after almost two decades, I’m surprised I remember that much.
As the years went on, I remember the waves that Ryan and my friendship took. At first, we became pretty close. In my early years, as both my parents worked, I was babysat by my grandparents in a town about twenty minutes from our street. There were times I came home to little scribbled notes in my mailbox from Ryan that read, “Holly, I miss you so much.” There was also always a hand drawn picture that was cut up to make a puzzle that I was supposed to make. Around age eight, Ryan found girls gross and I was cast out. As cliché as it is, I remember being told, loudly, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED,” when I asked to join in when Ryan and the other boys on the street were playing in a fort.
When I started middle school, Ryan’s mom offered to drive me to street so my mom didn’t want to take the trip since Ryan had been attending the school for a year and she’d have to make the trip anyway. Ryan and I picked up our friendship again. This time, we became even closer than before. Soon my friends and his friends became one in the same. There was nothing I couldn’t tell Ryan, he was my best friend, my number one. One of my favorite memories is lying on his front porch, looking up at the stars, and just talking for hours. There are few people in life that you just connect with so easily and to find that was special and something I’d thought I’d never lose.
It’s too hard to explain because there is so much complexity to the issue and emotions involved; however, I will always remember the date, January 5, 2009, the day Ryan and my friendship ended. Ten days later, my grandfather died on my sixteenth birthday when I was at his house celebrating the day. I was so torn apart from these two losses in my life that I literally left into a depression where I wouldn’t leave my room except to go to school or at meals. There were times were times Ryan tried to talk things out, but I couldn’t be reached. I was too hurt and didn’t want to deal with it.
Ryan still lives on my street and I see him from time to time. In the beginning, the sighting brought hate and even tears. The emotional and mental anguish of what I blamed Ryan for was too much to handle. Now, seeing him brings regret. There are times I just want to reach out and say hi or even leave a note in his mailbox, but I know he’s moved on. My feelings of longing are one-sided. The most communication I’ve had with my former best friend is when I pull out of my driveway and he’s coming down the road. I stop my car and wave him on. That is all the communication we’ve had for almost 6 years. I’ll never know what would happen if I would have taken the time to talk to him when he wanted to reconcile and that is a guilt I’ve carried with me. All I know now is when I am in the car and a Rush song plays or I see a guy with the same thin frame and tousled dark hair, I think of Ryan. I doubt he ever thinks of me in the same way.

Thanks for reading my essay. I hope it wasn’t too annoying or depressing. This story has been begging to be written, but it is really hard for me to think about this topic since it still brings a lot of baggage with it.

Feedback Wanted:
– Is it not worth writing since I left out the conflict that caused the end of our friendship? To be honest, I did it because it is a really long story and all my point of view, none of Ryan’s since we never talked about it.
– Did this seem like an emo girl’s journal entry and did I play the victim?
– What did you think the point of the essay is? I know what I want it to say, but I’m curious if it comes through.
– Any other feedback you’d want to tell me.

My Battle with Social Anxiety, a CNF piece

“Today’s the big day,” my mom chimes as I walk past her room to begin my morning routine. I let out a deep sigh. Stop reminding me, I just want to get it over with, I think. “Oh stop. I’m really proud of you for taking this step! Four years is long enough to wait,” she responds. I’m not particularly in the mood to get into the layers of this issue with my mom for another countless time, so I drop the subject and get into the shower. I avoid any further conversation long enough to just hear my mom call out, “Don’t forget your money! Good luck!” as I walk out the door.
I know what you’re wondering. Am I going on a trip? Am I attending a job interview? Am I starting a new job or school? What could I possibly be doing to make my mom proud yet still wait four years to do it? I don’t expect you to understand, but I’m throwing myself out there, so what the hell; here it goes. Today, I am going to the school cafeteria at the college I’ve been attending for almost four years. No confetti, no award, no possibility of a brighter future. Just me going to a lunchroom in my school, something people do every single day like it is not big deal. However, life is really normal when you have a disorder. Yes, here is the big kicker, I have social anxiety which has made doing the seemingly most simple things, horribly difficult.
While most people would merely be planning the time for their lunch and possibly what they will eat, my mind is in an upset at the sheer thought of going into that building. What are you thinking? You can’t do this! You won’t know what you’re doing and will look stupid! You will hold up the line and people will be mad. Places like that are for people with friends on campus, not you. It seems harsh, right? Well, that is my every day with social anxiety. To be honest with you, it’s been much worse.

When I was in elementary school and people would go around the classroom handing out birthday party invitations, I wasn’t excited like the rest of my classmates. A party meant interaction. It meant I had to be in a strange place, a peer’s house, with a group of children, most I admittedly knew, yet had to socialize with. Even from a young age, I hated the party atmosphere. No specific memory sticks out, but flashes of several moments do. I remember moms being afraid I was too shy, or even worse, that I was being excluded. As a result, as everyone played a party game and I sat on the sidelines waiting for it to be time for my mom to pick me up and save me from this torture, the mom would swoop in and politely encourage me to join in. After a few attempts, I remember being physically pulled, not in a painful or harmful sense, but just literally coaxed to join the group. With social anxiety, it is hard to be assertive, especially to an adult, a mom, so I complied. I didn’t talk, but I sat closer to the group. Back then, everyone just tagged me as shy and thought I would grow out of it. I even thought of myself as simply shy and hoped that one day, things would magically get better. I would wake up one morning wanting to talk to anyone would listen. As you would expect, things didn’t work out that way.

As my school years progressed, I watched classmates come out of their shells and yet I was still under lock and key. Though my memory fails me again for an explicit instance, I can specifically remember being in several classroom situations that went something like this. “What is the proper way to divide fractions?” The teacher would ask. Flip the second fraction and multiple across, I would think. The room would go silent. No one would raise his or her hand. Come on, someone has to know this. We went over it in class yesterday. “No one?” The teacher presses. “Were anyone of you paying attention?” I could raise my hand, but I’m probably wrong and if I’m wrong, people will think I’m stupid and laugh at me. With an audible sigh, the teacher writes an example on the board and explains the process again. I was right. Though that was a fictional example, I remember the disappointment all too well. If I would have just trusted myself, I could have said the answer. The teacher would know I was paying attention. I would be so angry with myself for not speaking up, yet the next time the situation would present itself, the vicious cycle would continue.

It wasn’t just school either. Any public place was hard for me to speak up in. At shoe stores, I could find a pair that I wanted to buy, but they didn’t have my size out on the sales floor. Although I knew there was a backroom that an associate could check, I was too nervous to ask. If I didn’t have someone there who could ask for me, like a friend or relative, I wasn’t buying shoes that day. When I would go out to eat with my family, I would have to coach my mom on the way to the restaurant about what drink I wanted. As the waiter asked for drink orders around the table, my mom would order for both her and me. The same routine happened with the meal selection, except I had more time to tell my mom what I wanted as we were given time to roam the menu. It was embarrassing to have my younger siblings be so forthcoming as they ordered their food and I couldn’t utter a word to the stranger serving us. With friends, I couldn’t be the first one to walk into a place. If I opened the door, people would look and all eyes would be on me. I couldn’t have that.
Things like this created tension towards me. People cared about me and knew I was shy, but after a while, they got fed up. “Can’t you ask the saleswoman yourself?” “Why do I have to order for you?” “Seriously, you are going to have to go to places by yourself sometime. People aren’t going to be here to do things with you forever.” I understood what they meant and I tried to not resent them for their words that hurt me. It was hard though. I just wanted someone to understand that I didn’t choose to be this way and I didn’t know why speaking and being the center of attention was so overwhelming. I would do anything to be normal.

As if by chance, in the second half of my junior year of high school, I finally began to crawl, cautiously, out of my shell. My school was very small; with Grades 7-12, the student population totaled roughly 600 students. There was only one public middle school and high school in my one-square mile town, I had known the kids around me for literally over a decade. Once I thought like that, they didn’t seem as scary anymore. With the help of my best friend, who I had now since third grade, I joined the bowling team. I then was inducted into the National Honor and National Art Honor Societies. Soon, I was meeting more people and found it easier to talk to people I didn’t know. My senior year was when I truly came into my own. I was nominated Treasurer of my honor society, member-at-large of my art honor society, and varsity bowling captain. I even joined chorus. Four things I never would have imagined a mere two years before. I still was anxious giving presentations in class, refused to ever perform a solo in chorus, and had a rough time talking to strangers. However, most people were like that. These were acceptable forms of shyness in my society.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. When I enrolled in Kean University, I knew my world was going to change drastically. I knew I was going to a school that had a student population bigger than the population of my hometown. I knew I was going to be twenty miles from home in a completely new place with all new people. Yet, that was college. That was what happened when you make the transition from the shelter of high school to the adult world of college. I would deal with it and get used to it like everyone else who adapted.
Unfortunately, history repeated itself and again I wasn’t normal. I was alone on campus most of the time because I didn’t know any on campus. I didn’t talk to anyone in class unless it was required group work. I didn’t raise my hand if I had a question about the material or knew the answer to a question. I didn’t eat lunch because I didn’t want to sit alone. Heck, I’d never even been to the cafeteria to know where to go. What I knew was, I was not going to sit in a room full of people talking and laughing with friends while I sat alone. People will think I am weird. They will know I have no friends and will talk about me. They may even laugh at my loner status. That’s when I knew it. I was back to square one, except this time, I felt I couldn’t get out of the hell I was in. I had lost all hope.
As fate, destiny, or God would have it, I had to hand in paperwork to the health services office on campus. On the way there, I saw the counseling center. I thought I needed help and could get it here. I shouldn’t hate going to college as much as I did and feel so alone. After a few meetings with a counselor, it was determined that I had social anxiety. This wasn’t a simple nervous feeling of shyness. It was a fear, a phobia. Likened to people who are afraid of heights or spiders, I was afraid of talking to people. Just as going on a bridge would cause an immediate response in someone whom fears heights, talking to people did that for me. Both our bodies had the same reaction—fear. Months of working with my counselor, it was suggested that I join a social anxiety support group that was forming on campus. Although going into a room with strangers to talk about intimate feelings may seem the exact opposite of what someone with social anxiety would do, I went for it. I thought things couldn’t get any worse and I even let myself believe that I would find that I wasn’t the only one with these issues.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one. The group of four of us, you see, it is really hard to get people who are afraid of socializing to be in a room together, lasted eight weeks and met every Monday for an hour and a half. The structure was set into two parts. For the first four weeks, we learned about psychological theories into the phenomena of social anxiety, the usual physiological, emotional, and mental reactions, and something called cognitive distortions. The last one is the way people with anxiety disorders mentally change their perceptions automatically. For instance, there is one called “fortune telling.” By assuming that if I talk to a stranger, he or she will get mad for being bothered, I have taken it upon myself to believe that will happen without any evidence to support it. What I have trained myself to believe after years of having the same reaction, has now become automatic in my brain.
The second half of our meetings was taking what we learned, knowing our fears, and trying to do things that scared us. Each week, we would have the goal to complete an activity that scared us and the following meeting we would discuss how it went. Now, we didn’t have to worry about disappointing just ourselves, but our group members too. Also, knowing that someone was facing their fears like you really helped. That group changed my life in college. I am more open to talking to people in class, and I have joined a group, the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta, which I am currently vice president of. I still battle social anxiety every day and it is a struggle. However, I know every step forward, no matter how big or small, is positive. A few weeks ago, I conquered a goal that has plagued me since my first semester at Kean University.

“Where are you? I’m in the UC & I don’t see you.” I text my friend Nick as I look around the Kean University University Center that is bustling with people going in every different direction. I barely even enter in this building because of the chaotic nature of it. However, with friends it’s easier. At 12:30, I am supposed to meet Nick and our mutual friend Ashely for lunch. They know my struggles and have made it a point to support me through this obstacle. The fact that they aren’t there is irritating me. My heart is thumping against my chest and my fists are clenched. I try to look at my phone to seem busy and to distract myself, but it isn’t working.
A grueling five minutes later, the phone that I am squeezing in my hand lights up. “Hey, sorry. I was talking to my professor. On my way to the UC now,” a text from Nick reads. I already knew Ashely was going to be late, as she made it clear from the initial invitation. However, Nick’s unusual tardiness is an unexpected change. I hate things I didn’t anticipate.
At 12:47 p.m., finally everyone has arrived and Nick and Ashely lead the way as I have never been here before so I am unfamiliar with the way to the cafeteria. After a series of a few doors, I hear the roar of the crowded lunch room. I must have shown my reaction on my face because Ashely gives me a concerned look and asks, “Are you okay?” “Yeah, just a little overwhelmed. I’m sorry,” I quickly reply and look down. “It’s fine. It will be okay. Me and Nick are here literally by your side!” She says with a small laugh in what I think it an attempt to lighten the mood.
Suddenly, the doors are in front of us. I can see the tables and the people. The thumping in my chest gets stronger. It abruptly feels like there isn’t enough air in the room and my chest aches. I slightly shake my head and retain focus. I take a deep breath and we walk through the doors. Ashley walks ahead and finds a clear table and set her stuff down. I put down my black messenger bag and reach inside it to get my wallet. I clutch it in my hand as I know I have to face a fear very soon. Walking into the cafeteria was one thing, but now I had to order food, in a crowded cafeteria line. I decided to get a basic item, the simpler the better. Nick and Ashely talked as I rehearsed in my head over and over what I was going to say exactly. The BLT Special. The BLT Special. No changes. Take it exactly as it is. Doing this is hard enough without complicating the situation with specifics. Before I knew it, it was my turn. The cafeteria worker turned her attention to me. “What can I get you?” She asks. “The BLT Special, just like the picture,” I answer. I relax as I watch her assemble my lunch. Everything is working out perfectly. “Do you want that with a combo?” Wait, what? I didn’t prepare for this! “What?” I ask. “Do you want a pickle and a bag of chips with your sandwich?” She asks. “Um, sure,” I respond with my heart beating quicker than it had a few moments ago.
Then, the worker hands me a plate with a sandwich, a pickle, and a small bag of potato chips; the moment is over. I can breathe. Ashely and Nick get their food and we return to our table. I wish I could say something amazing happened like confetti went off or a marching band arrived. However, it wasn’t like that. No one but Ashely and Nick knew how hard that was for me and how I struggled to do such a simple task for nearly four years. I knew though. I knew I did it. I had a fear and I faced it. Yes, I wasn’t alone, but it was a step and for that I am proud. Every day I try to face a social anxiety fear, sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. The result doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I keep trying. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my social anxiety completely; for now, I am just taking one day at a time.

Oh, my followers :(

I feel like the WORST blogger in the history of the world! I have abandoned you. I let life get into the way of my writing. I’m sorry for that. I can’t change the past, but the best I can do is tell you that I have started a NEW BLOG in the topic of Electronic Literature! If that is something you are into, check out my blog here, http://elitwoodh.wordpress.com/

I will be updating that all semester so I hope you enjoy it.

Lastly, I don’t know for sure when, but I hope to get back to this blog eventually! I really miss creative writing!

Why is there a Dystopian Trend in Young Adult Literature?

“In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their lives. . .” In his novel, The Running Man, Stephen King included this quote that depicts where apparently fiction believes our society is headed in the future. It seems that there is a trend emerging in fiction that is geared towards dystopia. For clarification, where a utopia is a world where everything is idyllic and good things happen, a dystopia is a world where everything that can go wrong does. This shift in focus is most present in Young Adult literature today, which is mostly consisted of an audience of teenagers. With all the success of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, both on the book shelves and in the movie theaters, there is no doubting that there is a preference for such works. However, why are teenagers gravitating towards such a grim genre? Through examining dystopian literature, its history through popular dystopian novels throughout time, its common themes, cognitive changes that are happening to young adults that could attract them to the genre, an article on the trend itself, and my own personal opinion on the trend, some light should be shed on this issue.            The Montrose Regional Library District defines dystopia as, “a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control.” Dystopian literature is merely stories that set in dystopian societies. In the genre’s works are common elements. First, there are the characteristics of a dystopian society. Examples of these include: (1.) citizens in such communities are watched at all times, (2.) open mindedness, free information, and difference from the norm is discouraged, and (3.) there is a wide-spread fear of anything that is not contained in the world the citizens are living in. Second, there are distinctive types of controls that dystopian leaders use on their citizens to maintain power. These include bureaucratic, religious, technological, and corporate control. All are meant to restrict what the population can do, believe in, and even think. The third common aspect of dystopian literature is the characteristics of the protagonist. This is usually the main hero in the piece and is the one who wants to escape from the dystopian world due to the moral questions that he or she has about living in such a world. Also, although the dystopian society is meant to look as though it is a great place to live, a reader experiences the harsh, more negative sides of it through the eyes of the protagonist (Dystopian Literature). Dystopian literature has many elements, all which add layers to the complicated stories it weaves.            Although the trend may make it seem as though the genre is new, dystopian literature has been around for decades. In an article for the Huffingpost Books Section, titled The Evolution of Dystopian Literature in 9 Books,” Samantha Shannon uses nine books to illustrate the changes that the genre has gone through since its debut. The term was first used in 1868 by British Parliament member John Stuart Mill to censure a government policy in Ireland. Shannon quotes him as saying, “It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favor is too bad to be practicable.” The author decides to stick to the theme of a “bad place” and explains that she has chosen books that depict such a place throughout the years of literature.            To avoid redundancy, only four of the books on the list will be discussed, due to their varying time periods of publishing. First on Shannon’s list is Utopia, written by Thomas More in 1516. The plot is mostly conversation between a fictionalized More as narrator and a wandering traveler Raphael Hythloday who is from Utopia, an island where everyone has a right to everything and does the right thing for the good of the society. However, as the discussion continues, More learns that there are dark sides to his new acquaintance’s home: slavery exists, travel by citizens around the island is highly supervised, and before a man and woman can get married, they have to see each other naked, an extremely taboo practice for the 1500s’ time period. Although More is astonished by such a place, Hythloday talks about it with much ease, as if it is like that everywhere. The second item on the list skips centuries into the future, it being the 1949 George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Due to its iconic nature, Shannon does not give a synopsis of the plot. However, she mentions how in the story, after fighting off it so vigorously, the main character Winston Smith ultimately succumbs to the leaders of his dystopian world, Big Brother. From there, she explains how dystopian fiction is different in the way that it shows the weaknesses of characters as they are “always on the edge: of sanity, of safety, of survival.”            A third book that Shannon includes is The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. She details how the story revolves around apathetic narrator Offred as he lives in the world of The Republic of Gilead, which is in fact the conquered North America that is now under the control of a dictatorship that follows the rules of the Old Testament. Shannon remarks that in reading this book, as an assignment for a high school class, she finally recognized dystopian literature as its own genre. The final book in Samantha Shannon’s piece is from 2013, James Smythe’s The Machine. The novel is eerily set in the not-so-far future and takes place on a planet Earth that is ridden by the catastrophic effects of climate change. The humans’ careless treatment of the planet has caused immense hurricanes and flooding in the popular places such as Japan, London, and New Orleans. The story is about the main character named Beth, a woman who lives on the Isle of Wight and illegally obtains an outlawed machine in an attempt to use it to rebuild the destroyed memory of her husband. Shannon points out that modern dystopian literary works do not always build an elaborate new world; instead some attack the intricate workings of the fragile human psyche (Shannon). As time has changed, dystopian literature has changed with it. However, there is a reason that high schools continue to teach Nineteen Eighty-Four to this day, over half a century later. With each decade and new books, dystopian literature has had concrete themes that teenagers have been able to connect to.            In the futuristic worlds that dystopian literature is set in, despite the diverse and unique characteristics of each story, there are common themes that are often found in most dystopian fiction. First, there is a wide-spread lack of history and memory of the times before the present dystopian society was established that is amongst all of its citizens. Leaders of dystopian society are putting on a roués that their society is better than anything so there is no need for outside knowledge. In addition, it is thought that this makes the population more apt to psychological manipulation, which could, in turn, provide a better avenue for making the people dehumanized, a typical goal of dystopian society leaders. Second, a popular theme in this genre is a raise in technological advances that not only regulate the citizens’ lives, but also oppress them. The more machines do for humans, the less humans can do for themselves. This is also viewed as another vehicle for dehumanization as technology in these stories often rises above the humans and attempts to enslave them. A third conventional theme is human domination of nature which has two possible consequences. One, the landscape in and around the dystopian society is described as desolate and unfertile. Humans have used up all of the resources so drastically that nature cannot repair itself. Another possibility is that, despite the environmental abuse, nature rebuilds itself and turns against humanity. Humans may have harmed nature, but now it has evolved to destroy humankind. A final theme in dystopian literature is the mandatory categorization of citizens into castes or specialized groups with particular functions, skills, and responsibilities (Introduction). Humans cannot make their own decisions as to what to do in day-to-day life. They must be separated into groups that tell them their job and purpose. Themes of dystopian literature are complex and sometimes hard to wrap one’s head around. With such intricacy, it is a wonder why or even how teenagers are drawn to such a genre. By looking into the psychology of adolescents, the picture becomes clearer.            As a human being ages, his or her brain develops and changes at each stage of age. During adolescence, teenagers’ mental capabilities are altered in five ways different from childhood, due to the advancement of their brains. One way that the teenager cognition changes is that for the first time they can think in hypothetical terms. Children see everything as black and white, here or nonexistent. By teenagers being able to think of possibilities, not only can they plan for the future, but it helps them understand the alternative universes of dystopian societies. A second change in cognitive abilities of teens is that they can understand abstract concepts that children cannot. For example, the concept of love is hard for a child to grasp. However, teenagers not only understand it, to some extent, but can even explain it. This skill is essential for teenagers in understanding the literary themes of dystopian fiction. A third cognitive transition for teenagers is called metacognition. In basic terms, this means that teens can think about thinking. Not only can they reflect on their own thoughts, but they can also think about the thoughts of others. This mental ability is helpful while reading any genre because for the reader to truly get into the story, he or she has to put him or herself in the shoes of the main character. Until a person can think about the way that others think, this is impossible. The next change that teenagers have in cognition as opposed to children is they can think in multidimensional terms. They can see all sides of a problem and look at the bigger picture. This capability helps in understanding the twists and turns of a dystopian novel. The final cognitive transition that teenagers experience in their mental skill is that they can think relatively. As mentioned before, children see everything as black and white, no gray area. However, teenagers can see that not everything is in absolutes. There is a downfall in that teenagers can suddenly think of so many possibilities that life is overwhelming, yet in again helps with understanding dystopian fiction. Although the government in the dystopian society says something is right, the protagonist does not agree; therefore, he or she is thinking relatively, like teenagers can (Steinberg 58-63). With all these new mental capabilities that arise from a person entering adolescence, dystopian literature could be just the thing to use their newfound thinking skills on. This is a psychological concept; however, what do people in the English field actually have to say about this trend?            In an article for the online edition of The New York Times, six accomplished authors and one professor of literature gave their opinions on the dystopian trend in Young Adult fiction, in a piece titled, “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction.” First in the article is the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi. He believes that teenagers today are eerily aware of the world being destroyed around them and they want to read fiction that relates to these issues and shows the worst case scenario of such events. With the depletion of the essential natural resources and the looming threat of the effects of climate change, adolescents are growing up in and will inherit a world that is much different than the one that previous generations have experienced. Bacigalupi continues that the media may try to mask the true issue at hand by bombarding teens with the apparent need to buy the latest technological gadget, but teenagers want the truth and if the second writer of this trend is Maggie Stiefvator, author of the Shiver triology. She begins her piece with a prediction that the dystopian trend will not end soon, like the vampire Twilight trend before it. She infers it will only get bigger as the next few years pass. Stiefvator than brings up how most people believe the pessimistic trend is due to the bad economy and the natural negative nature of today’s culture. However, she has another view on the issue. She believes reading dystopian literature is a mode of “pure escapism.” While the world gets more and more advanced, teens are pressured to make so many decisions, yet are confused as to where their life as adults is heading that they need an escape. What a better place to escape than an alternative reality like that of a dystopian society? Also, Stiefvator points out that the evil in real-life is not as clear as it is in dystopian literature. In the story, the bad guy is always revealed; however, in the real world, people don’t get that luxury and it is frustrating for teenagers who want to advocate for the right things. It’s difficult to fight for or against something if one does not know the true enemy.            The third writer in “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction” is Jay Parini, a poet, novelist, and Creative writing college professor. He feels that teenagers are drawn to this genre today due to the ever-present surveillance that they are kept in by security cameras, hovering parents, the never private Internet, and the education system that is judging their every move through standardized tests and Common-Core curriculums. They are attracted to fiction in which the characters are going through similar obstacles, like Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Parini concludes stating that teens feel trapped in this world and are looking for the comfort of others in the same boat. Fourth to write his opinion in the article is Scott Westerfeld, who is the author of the best-selling dystopian series, The Uglies. His feelings on the trend are credited to teenagers having to make adult-like decisions, such as with college and balancing a part-time job with school, while not having the right or respect of adults. In addition, Westerfeld feels that an apocalyptic scenario could be what teens are secretly hoping for so that they don’t have to worry about seemingly arbitrary adult responsibilities, such as where balancing a check book. Andrew Clements is the next writer of the article. He describes growing up in the 1950s when he was quite unaware of all the negativity that the world possessed. However, when he was in sixth grade, he got into darker genres and material; for instance, Edgar Allan Poe was one of his favorites, which showed him that the world was not the happy place he had been accustomed to, but a frightening place where anything could happen. Additionally, Clements mentions how with the advance of technology today, children grow up with incredibly realistic special effects in movies and are constantly bombarded with graphic news stories on television that cause them to be tolerant of such themes at an early age. Therefore, for a book to really scare teenagers, it has to be the worst case scenario that can get in their heads and cause a true fear.            In “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction,” professor and novelist Lisa Rowe-Fraustino writes about how she contrastingly feels that the tales of dystopia are not only teenagers, but that adults crave it too. She mentions that adults have enjoyed The Hunger Games and Harry Potter Series as much as teenagers, and that she doesn’t believe it’s a trend in Young Adult Fiction, but just a trend in fiction and human taste overall. Yet her opinion begs the question, why are adults into such a pessimistic genre also? Fraustino says that adults see the world’s biggest problems like hunger and disease and feel powerless about helping the people affected. However, in dystopian literature, where the protagonist raises up against seemingly all powerful forces, it gives adults hope that younger generations will raise up and first the problems that their generation did not. The sixth and final writer of this New York Times article is Michelle Abate, who is an English professor at Virginia’s Hollins University. She writes how Young Adult literature has been pushing the envelope on what is considered appropriate for teenagers to read. She cites the main themes of classic works to prove this point with Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland’s theme of political satire, The Outsiders’ theme of violence, and Bridge to Terabithia’s theme of death. Adults are always at a struggle to either expose their children to dark themes so that they can prepare for the real world, or to shield them from harsh realities to keep their innocence intact. Though Abate did not offer or even imply an answer, she does raise an interesting problem that plagues parents, guardians, and teachers, yet it sometimes overlooked by the masses (Abate).            Given all the research I have completed, I too have developed an opinion on this current, complex topic. From what I have reviewed, it seems there are two possible explanations for the teenage fascination with the dystopian genre in literature. One notion ties into the psychological aspects of teenagers discussed prior. People in this age group are just starting to question the world around them and no longer simply feeding into to everything their parents tell them. Teenagers are developing their own opinions and seeing the world for what it truly is, not a rose-colored glasses view. The questioning of authority that often occurs in Young Adult dystopian literature is exactly what teenagers are doing at their age. It is comforting to read stories in which the main character does the same. Another explanation is that due to the mostly uncensored Internet and the extremely easy and instantaneous way that news spreads on it, teenagers, and even children, see the harsh realities that are going on around them. Unlike the times of the past when broadcasters could manipulate what the viewers were seeing, like during the Vietnam War, the Internet has surpassed television and does not have a fraction of the same guidelines as its predecessor. Teens today can go on social media sites and see the rebellions and riots going on in governments around the world in real time, no matter where they are from. Fairytales where everything ends happily ever after, no longer satisfy their interest. They are looking for something more realistic, or at least what they view that as, which are the perils of the people in fictional dystopian societies. Majority of teenagers are in this perfect phase when they are not as naïve as children, yet are not as close-minded as adults. Therefore, it is no wonder why teenagers are drawn to the worlds of dystopian literature.            Dystopian literature has been around for decades and though it is seemingly only getting popularity now, it has had a following of readers for a while. Parents may not be comfortable with their teens reading such dark material, but in reality, parents generally have a hard time adjusting to many aspects of letting go of their “children” and allowing them to grow up. Fortunately, of all the research I have completed on the topic, none of it even hinted that this trend is harmful to the Young Adult audience. I personally think that adolescents reading dystopian literature is a beneficial practice because it will help them think of the future and experience new things without any real-life danger, just by simply turning a page. Every time period goes through trends, whether it is in fashion, diets, or hairstyles. Young Adult literature is no exception and right now that trend is dystopian. How long will it last or what will be the next big thing, only time will tell.           

 

Work Cited

Abate,Michelle A.,Paolo Bacigalupi, Andrew Clements, Jay Parini, Lisa Rowe-Fraustino, Maggie Stiefvater, and Scott Westerfeld. “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 26 Dec. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.

“Dystopian Literature.” Montrose Regional Library District. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.

“Introduction” Contemporary Literary Criticism Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 168. Gale Cengage 2003 eNotes.com 14 Apr, 2014

Shannon, Samantha. “The Evolution Of Dystopian Literature In 9 Books.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.

Steinberg, Laurence. “Cognitive Transitions.” Adolescence. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2011. 58-63. Print.

I NEED YOUR HELP!!!! PLEASE :D!

Hey guys 🙂 I am conducting a study for my research class on Internet Fandoms, so it would really be awesome if you could take my survey and even better if you could have some friends take it too! Please and thank you!!!

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT BEFORE YOU TAKE MY SURVEY, YOU CHOOSE THE CORRECT ONE!

TAKE THIS SURVEY IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF AN INTERNET FANDOM

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/29HFLMY

OR

TAKE THIS SURVEY IF YOU ARE NOT A MEMBER OF AN INTERNET FANDOM

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2W9ZCJF

First Page of my Research Project

                  “In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their lives. . .” In his novel, The Running Man, Stephen King included this quote that depicts where apparently fiction believes our society is headed in the future. It seems to be that there is a trend emerging in fiction that is geared towards dystopia. For clarification, where a utopia is a world where everything is idyllic and good things happen, a dystopia is a world where everything that can go wrong does. This shift in focus is no the more present than in Young Adult literature today. With all the success of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, both on the book shelves and in the movie theaters, there is no doubting that there is a preference for such works. However, why are teenagers gravitating towards such a grim genre? Through examining dystopian literature elements, common themes, the history of the genre, exploring popular dystopian novels, widespread opinions of the genre, and looking at the topic through the perspective of a teenager and a dystopian literature author, some light should be shed on this issue.           

                  The Montrose Regional Library District defines dystopia as, “a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control.” In the literature, common themes are used in most stories and novels. First are the characteristics of a dystopian society. Examples of these include that citizens in these communities are watched at all times, open mindedness, free information, and difference from the norm is discouraged, and there is a fear of anything, but the world the citizens are living in. Second, there are types of controls that dystopian leaders use on their citizens to maintain power. These include bureaucratic, religious, technological, and corporate control. All are meant to restrict the population from what the citizen can do, believe in, and even think. Third are the characteristics of the dystopian literature protagonist. This is usually the main hero in the piece and is the one who wants to escape the dystopian world due to the moral questions that they have about living in such a world. Also, although the dystopian society is meant to look as though it is a great place to live, a reader experiences the harsh, more negative sides of it through the eyes of the protagonist. Dystopian literature has many elements, all that add layers to the complicated stories it weaves.

Final Paper of “Hidden Intellectualism” Summary/Response

     “Hidden Intellectualism,” by Gerald Graff, is an essay in which the former English professor discusses the misconceptions of the ideas of intellectualism amongst society. He primarily focuses on the way adolescents view intellectualism as a negative trait that only “nerds” strive for. He also elaborates on his experiences in revealing his own hidden intellectualism, while in college in a literature class, after growing up in the “anti-intellectual” 1950s. However, through a method that Graff and an eleventh grade high school teacher are developing, they hope to make students think and debate argumentatively as intellectuals would. They do this in an attempt to have the students see their true potentials as intellectuals themselves. Throughout the piece, Graff cites works from several authors that relate to this topic and continuously examines the challenge of recognizing and accepting one’s own intellectualism. Although it is not widely acknowledged, there is great value in intellectualism of all types, yet unfortunately current society only focuses on the textbook, classroom intellectuals. However, through realizing that those we consider great minds today were not always seen as intellectuals and bringing intellectual opportunities in hidden ways into the classroom through  progressivism educational methods, there could be a more auspicious future.
            In his piece, Graff summarizes his own “anti-intellectual” adolescent experience in which he was more interested sports than schoolwork. At that time, the 1950s, smart girls were seen as “stuck up” and smart boys were thought of as “sissys.” As a result, to avoid getting beat up by the tough guys in school, he acted dumb.  Unbeknownst to him though, the inquisitive discussions that Graff had with his friends at the time, away from the fear of cruel judgment, were actually training him to be an intellectual. In fact, it wasn’t until he read Michael Warner’s Voice Literary Supplement that he had an epiphany. This work covers Warner’s strict Pentecostal upbringing and how he felt that religion helped him develop argument, yet still held him back from achieving full intellectualism. Through growing away from his austere past, Warner is now a self-described “queer atheist intellectual.” This piece made Graff realize that he was just as intellectual as the rest of his classmates, but in a different way. For example, Graff writes that, “It was in arguing about toughness and other such concerns with my friends, I think, that I started acquiring what Warner got by arguing theology with his parents—the rudiments of how to make an argument, weigh different kinds of evidence, move between particulars and generalizations, summarize the views of others, and enter a conversation about ideas.” Graff then understood that his fascination with sports had also greatly paved the way for his intellectualism through debates about teams with other fans and comparing player statistics.
            Similarly as Graff and Warner were alternatively intellectual, important figures throughout history have struggled with the same challenge, in most recent times is the late Steve Jobs. In life, Jobs often described himself as “never being a good student” in school; he even dropped out of college his first semester. However, he knew his true potential, stuck with developing the first personal computers, and eventually became the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. (Zhao). Jobs’ elementary and high school teachers were most likely blown away by his monumental success because they did not take the time to see that his interests outside the strict curriculum could lead to more. Now that it is recognized that students interested in nonacademic topics can be intellectuals, not as widely as it should be but more promising than before, where can this idea be taken?
            In his writing, Gerald Graff cites Deborah Meier who suggests that the violence that administrators believe to be brought in by outside sources can actually be building up inside students, in part, from the frustration of unreleased, yet present intellectualism. Graff recognizes her premise, and even quotes the following, “As Meier observes, ‘fighting with ideas’ would be a welcome substitute for fighting ‘with fists or guns or nasty sound bites.’” In addition, further in her writing, Deborah Meier explains that “schools, in small and unconscious ways, silence . . . playground intellectuals.” Graff adds to this proposal a rebuttal, that schools, even his own, don’t silence all the various types of intellectuals. They simply make it harder for students to recognize their abilities. Teachers and schools should channel the argumentative energy into clashes of ideas, such as in debates, or the bottled up energy can escalate into violence, but how do they go about doing this?
                Graff, believing full-heartedly in this idea, created a lesson plan with an eleventh grade high school English teacher to make students familiar with intellectualism through exercises like debates on the pros and cons of becoming an intellectual and discussing the hidden intellectualism of the main characters in literary works such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The purpose of these activities is to get the students to think like intellectuals in a hidden way, which, in turn, should prove to them that there is an intellectual inside of each and every one of them.
            This method of education is reminiscent of the progressivism works of theorist John Dewey, who felt that students should be taught how to be active members of a democratic society through learning problem-solving and inquiry skills. Dewey saw schools as “little democracies” and believed that they should teach students material that would help them both outside the classroom and throughout their lives. He proposed this feat would be accomplished through a “child-centered pedagogy” and an “experience-based curriculum,” formed by both students and teachers. Teachers would take the knowledge of their students and use it to develop lessons that would both adhere to the academic requirements of the school and its standards while simultaneously satisfying students’ interest. Dewey’s main belief was, “Children, if taught to understand the relationship between thinking and doing, would be fully equipped for active participation in a democratic society,” (Guthrie 1933-34).
            If applied to the discussion of schools revealing intellectualism, a similar strategy and outcome could occur. If teachers brought more outside influences into the classroom that their students enjoyed, not only would the students learn the material, but they would also know that they have the intellectualism to learn just as well as their nerdy peers.  For example, in a physics class, a final project can be where the students have to relate a scientific topic that they learned to a real life situation. If a student who is passionate about skateboarding did a project on the potential energy as he rolls down a ramp, it could unleash the scientific talent within him, even if he never thought about science outside the classroom before. This type of example is exactly what Graff is referring to throughout his essay. The student involved in skateboarding would not normally be considered the prime candidate for an intellectual. However, if his interests are channeled in an effective way, his true intellectual potential can be revealed. The possibilities of this endeavor are endless, if used correctly.

            “Hidden Intellectualism” explores a topic that is seldom discussed, yet highly important. Every student is an intellectual; he or she just needs the proper opportunity to expose it.  Although Graff’s piece does not end in a concrete solution, it does give the reader many things to ponder in his or her own life. What is an intellectual? Am I an intellectual? When did I first identify as an intellectual or will I ever?

Work Citied

Guthrie, James W. Encyclopedia of Education: Second Edition. New York: Thomson Gale, 2003. Print.

Zhao, Emmeline. “Steve Jobs: What Students Can Learn From Him.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 06 Oct. 2011.Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

Alright, I admit it, I’m obsessed.

I always feel the need to unleash my reading/bookish thoughts to you, my followers, because I feel you are the only ones who can relate! Today, although I read the book about two months ago, The Fault in Our Stars is completely on my mind again! I blame the release of the movie trailer today! I am so excited for the movie and to see how the scenes I interpreted in my head actually pan out on the screen! I know this blog is supposed to be for creative writing and I promise it will get there again at some point! Please don’t lose faith in me!

However, if you do, I must say, “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

Yes, I had to do it.