A few days ago, I headed out to a local park where my brilliant poet friend, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, was hosting Glowing with the Moon, a summer open mic series that invites poets, musicians, performers, and other creative souls to come out and share their work. It’s one of my favorite open mics, mostly because Lorenz creates such a warm, welcoming, and fun space.
Sometimes you need to move at a slow and steady pace towards progress, dipping your toes in the pool and inching in little by little until you’re used to the chilly water — and sometimes you need to just launch yourself off a rock, plunging straight into the center of the lake with the hope that you’ll make it back to shore.
Guess which one I’ve been doing over the last month or so.
I’ve realized for a couple of years now that I wanted to write and build narratives for games. And so, I’ve been learning about the art of game narratives, which is beautifully varied and complex — ranging from heavily scripted games like The Last of Us to completely wordless experiences like Journey, with a vast number of other variants along the outskirts and in between.
While I’ve been exploring game narratives, I have also been toying around with making interactive narratives myself. Or rather, I have been noodling on a single interactive text, a Twine* adaptation of the classic French folk tale, “Bluebeard.” Having written a retelling of the story, in which I explored a number of alternative endings, I figured it would be a relatively straightforward process to add gameplay choices that branch off to each of those endings.
Spoiler: It was not that easy.
After a period of struggling — not only over the process, but also due to the frustrations of trying to maintain a creative life amidst daily obligations — I realized I needed an extra push to help me get to done. Fortunately, I stumbled across The “Finish It” Narrative Game Jam** in May. The focus of the jam was to complete an in-progress narrative game or interactive fiction project between May 12-31. This seemed like a perfect way to push myself toward finishing my current project, and I immediately signed up.
A day or so after signing up for the Finish It Jam, I was told about the Greenlight Jam by a game writing friend. The Greenlight Jam featured a unique format, having multiple deadlines over the course of about a month (May 16th to June 19th), focused on the various stages of game design, from ideation to prototyping, production, and final release of the game. Drawn in by this concept, I had an Ah, what the hell moment and signed up before even considering the fact that the two jams overlapped or the incredible amount of work that would be involved.
And I’m so glad I did.
A couple of weeks ago, I escaped from the routines of my everyday life and disappeared into the woods for four days.Â As the video above explains, the intention of the trip was to shape a small writing retreat for myself. I packed up some pens, notebooks, my laptop, and printouts of a poetry project (along with some books and art and mediation supplies).
The goals of the retreat were low-key:
- Disconnect from social media, the internet, and other distractions that fill my time with mental clutter.
- Rest, relax, and rejuvenate through reading, walking among the trees, and meditation.
- Write or create things, if I feel so inclined.
“If I get through this year, no matter how badly, it will be the biggest victory I’ve ever done.”
â€” The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, November 5, 1957
Looking back on the events of 2020 is surreal â€” January feels like a century ago, some months have blurred together into non-existence, and others contained a constant amalgamation of mundane stress and anxiety that bubbled through the walls of my apartment space.
I find myself asking, what did I even do this year, anyway? Does it even mean anything?
Let’s be real, 2020 came along and kicked us all in the sensitive bits â€” and then kept on kicking. Like many people, I’m grateful to have just survived. This year has been brutal and normal measurements of one’s accomplishments seem inadequate. It’s enough to just be standing (or sitting) here, having made it to 2021.
At the same time, I want to dig through the mushy mess of this year and pull out the good things â€” because there were indeed a few good things that happened.
Creativity is a strange, nebulous thing â€” shifting between vast emptiness and the glorious noctilucence of starlight.
Iâ€™m currently in a state of vibrance, and Neil Gaimanâ€™s quote about writing novels has never felt more appropriate. The world at large is facing massive challenges (to put it lightly) on a number of fronts, struggles that should be acknowledged and addressed â€” but, hey, Iâ€™m also in a state of vibrant creativity, so as far as my brain goes, itâ€™s not all bad.
Hereâ€™s a few of the news and projects that have me in a state of joy right now:
â€¢ My chapbook, Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale (forthcoming from Interstellar Flight Press) has been up on NetGalley for a few weeks now â€”Â and the responses coming in have been mostly positive, such as this lovely review.
â€¢ For a long time, Iâ€™ve wanted to have my own places to write about horror movies, TV shows, video games, and dark lore. Although I’ve written about some of those things here, I’m finding it a bit too cluttered and I would like this blog to be dedicated to books and writing. Thus, Iâ€™ve finally created Once Upon the Weird, a place for all things unsettling and strange. A website is in the works, but in the meantime Iâ€™ve launched a newsletter (first issue to go out tomorrow). Iâ€™m honored by the early response. Thank you to everyone who has already subscribed.
â€¢ Iâ€™ve returned to working on my YA apocalyptic horror novel (which I started in November), progressing into the third act. A part of me feels like this should be the final section of the book, another part wonders if I need to explore the characters more before I wrap up. But the important bit is that the work is progressing and Iâ€™m feeling good about where itâ€™s going.
â€¢ Iâ€™m starting work on a new horror movie script idea that swooped in and smacked me upside the head. Last week, I cleared my bedroom story board so that I could start putting up characters, scenes ideas, and other notes in order to begin preliminary work on the script. Movie scripts are such a different and interesting beast from any other kind of writing, and Iâ€™m fascinated by the unique challenge.
â€¢ Another new horror novel idea also came to me in the form of a Stephen King-esque nightmare, in which a girl with psychic powers takes up residence in a small town, where thereâ€™s a haunted apartment block. The idea is in the early, early stages, but Iâ€™ve started taking notes and have even dropped down a few loose scenes. This may be what I work on after I finish my current novel.
And thatâ€™s just to name a few ideas and projects that are in progress right now.
Moments of creative flight can be fleeting. Just as quickly as creativity floats into view, it can drift away again. Iâ€™m attempting to seize the moment and engage with the work as much as possible while this spark is present in my life.
As Iâ€™m in abundance, I send this blessing out to you, friends. May your creativity spark with new life, may it thrive and grow, may it cultivate and bear fruit. May your art, your words, your craft, your cooking, your endeavors gather and linger in your days and fill you with joy.
More Good Stuff
A Purrfect Fit: 80 Years of Catwoman CostumesÂ by Jessica Plummer examines the many various ways that artists have interpreted what it means to be a sexy, desirable woman.
â€œCalvin went to school, had a loving family, but even still, he felt alone. And his imagination gave him a way not to feel that anymore.
In lockdown, weâ€™re allCalvin.â€
Study shows that the majority ofÂ authors have the uncanny experience of hearing their charactersÂ speak.
â€œI would rather wonder than know,â€ saidÂ May RueffleÂ in a recentÂ Tin HouseÂ interview. â€œâ€¦I think wondering is a way of inhabiting and lingering. There seems to be more dwelling. To dwell, inhabit, and linger. Iâ€™m interested in those things. And you can do that when you donâ€™t know.â€