20 In 20 | My Birthday & A Bucket List

I turned twenty today! As I’m sure you all know, I adore making lists and setting goals, the bigger the better. I thought it would be fun to create a bucket list of things to do during the next year of my life, with one task for each of the years I’ve been alive. I hope to make this a tradition, developing a new bucket list on each birthday and each year adding one more item than was on my list before.

Some of my goals are small, while others are ambitiously large. I look forward to all of them and I hope that you enjoy reading this post and learning about how I want to spend my next year!

1. Travel to another continent

I traveled all over the United States on vacation when I was a kid, and I’ve been to Canada a few times, but I’ve never left North America! I would love to travel overseas, and hopefully that will happen soon.

2. Make the President’s List

I already talked about this a little in a post about my goals for the 2016-17 school year: Since I made the Dean’s List twice last year, I set my sights even higher and am now working to maintain a 4.0 GPA for the entire school year. It’s very demanding and more than a bit stressful, but I think I should be able to do it in the end!

3. Start learning ASL

One of my friends here also wants to learn, so we’ve decided to work on this together! We both agree that it’s disheartening when you have no one to practice with, so we want to make time to get together and practice our skills!

4. Meet an online friend

I desperately want this to happen! Some of the most important people in my life are Internet friends and it’s just so weird to think that we’ve known each other for three or four or five years, but have never actually hung out in person. It’s not fair that they live so far away!

5. Study abroad

This overlaps a little with traveling to another continent, but that’s OK. They’re not entirely the same: After all, I want to go out and explore when I’m not busy studying! I hope to attend the Irish Writing Program in Dublin in the summer of 2017!

6. Read The Silmarillion

This was going to be on my list anyway, but now that a movie deal was announced I have to make sure I read it in time! I found this book quite challenging when I attempted to read it a few years time, but I think that since then I’ve grown better at making my way through difficult texts. (Blame boring course readings for that!)

7. Donate blood

I hate needles, and having blood drawn makes me feel queasy. Yet I still want to donate. I want to help people. Even if I hate the process so much I never donate blood again, I want to be able to say that I finally did it.

8. Get a job writing for a newspaper or online publication

Whether I end up writing for the Daily Iowan here in town, or an online newspaper or magazine, I’d love to start getting my writing out there – more “out there” than this little blog, that is. I currently have plenty of ideas of places I could apply to. B

9. Dye my hair

I’ve never had brightly colored hair so I’m excited to see how it looks on me – and if everything goes as planned, this should happen really soon! My friend Jill offered to dye my hair blue on the same day that she touches up hers. I can’t wait!

10. Shave my head

Again, if everything goes according to plan, this will also be accomplished relatively soon: Once the dye begins to fade and you can see the dark brown roots of my hair, I want to just shave it all off. So that will probably happen sometime before Thanksgiving… you can definitely expect to see me try many different hairstyles over the next year or so. Chopping my hair off this summer made me more willing to experiment!

11. Hold a leadership role in a campus organization

I was an officer in several clubs during high school, but didn’t do any of that stuff freshman year because I was so busy. This time around, though, I want to get more involved in something I’m passionate about – and I can write it on my resume!

12. Get another piercing

I want a third set of lobe piercings, as well as an industrial piercing in my left ear… but the lobe piercings will likely be much less expensive, so I’ll probably get those first. The industrial piercing may not even happen for a few years, but I love how they look so I definitely will be getting one in the future.

13. Come out to my grandparents

Admittedly, this has been on my to-do list for a long time and just the thought of actually telling them makes me feel anxious. I’m determined to do it this year anyway, though. Not to be morbid, but my grandparents won’t be around forever and I want to tell them because right now it feels like I’m hiding a huge part of my life. I want them to know who I really am before it’s too late and I regret having never said anything.

14. Go on a road trip with friends

Probably not even a long road trip. I’m not picky about either the destination or the length. I just want to have this experience.

15. Complete a Wreck This Journal

I doubt I will begin this until November, at the earliest, because I left all my art supplies back home. I love the idea behind Wreck This Journal and can’t wait to see how artsy and messy it turns out!

16. Read Les Misérables

This has been on my TBR for the past few years, and I loved the movie! This will certainly be challenging to read, but that’s the point: I want to pay more attention to the quality, as well as the quantity, of the books I read.

17. Start learning French

Again, this is something I’m doing with friends. I’ve been trying to do this on and off for the past few years, and I need to finally make some progress. I have several friends who speak French and a few who also want to learn with me. I don’t care if I learn only rudimentary French in the next years, because the goal isn’t to become fluent – the goal is to start SOMEWHERE.

18. Make a new friend who is much older than myself

I’ve met so many interesting people during my time here in Iowa City and I hope that continues to happen! Professors, TAs, employees at my favorite bookstores, people in my writing group, et cetera.

19. Splurge on a really nice old book

I have no idea what this may be, but isn’t that half the fun?! The local used bookstore keeps a running list of customers and the specific editions of books you’d like, and will notify you if they acquire one, so there is that: I asked them to let me know if they got an old copy of Dracula or The Great Gatsby or a handful of other books. I love the idea of reading a really old copy of a classic book, especially if it’s one of my favorites.

20. Volunteer somewhere in Iowa City

I volunteered a LOT in high school, mostly through 4-H, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside in college. I’d really like to take up that habit again, so lately I’ve been looking for places where I could volunteer for maybe a few hours per month, because I honestly don’t have time for anything more.


God, it feels SO WEIRD to not be a teenager anymore. Have you ever created a bucket list? Or started a birthday tradition? I’d love to hear about it!

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Quarterly Rewind, Summer 2016 | Shura, Acting, & Studyblr

Hello, everyone! Today is the last day of summer! And that means it’s time for another quarterly rewind. This post covers the time from June twentieth through September twenty-first. And as always, the idea of a quarterly rewind is not mine – the credit for that goes to Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner. Enjoy!

P.S. You can find earlier quarterly rewinds here, if you’re interested.

johnson county fair 2016Image From This Summer

Taken in July at the county fair with my roommate Luísa

Favorite Quote From A Book I Read This Summer

“Let X equal the cold. It is cold in December. The months of cold equal November through February. There are four months of cold, and four of heat, leaving four months of indeterminate temperature. In February it snows. In March the lake is a lake of ice.

In September the students come back and the bookstores are full. Let X equal the month of full bookstores. The number of books approaches infinity as the number of months of cold approaches four. I will never be as cold now as I will in the future. The future of cold is infinite. The future of heat is the future of cold. The bookstores are infinite and so are never full except in September…”

– Proof by David Auburn

I performed a scene from this play as part of the final exam in my Basic Acting course this summer! While I didn’t get to perform this particular monologue, it’s one of my favorite parts of the play.

The first time I read this play I thought it was kind of average, but after endlessly analyzing and rereading it for homework I changed my mind. I love it!

I played the protagonist, Catherine, and I related to her, like, a LOT: We both grew up around Chicago, have mathematical geniuses in our family, are depressed, et cetera. I think understanding all that helped me in my final performance, which you can read about here if you’re interested.

This Summer In One Word


Most Popular Review This Summer

I did not review any books, movies, or TV shows this summer… I was so depressed this summer that when I wasn’t in class, I spent almost all of my free time sleeping. I didn’t read or watch much, and I certainly didn’t feel up to writing about it, so that is why there were no reviews of, well, anything this summer. Sorry!

Top Two Books I Read This Summer

  1. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky is a guide to fifty islands from around the world. I loved the gorgeous writing, as well as the wonderfully simple design. Four stars!
  2. The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul also received four stars from me! As a shy and very anxious person, I really appreciated the gentle push to be just a little bit more daring.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Fall

  1. Iowa City is one of the stops on Rick Riordan’s The Hammer of Thor book tour this October (!!!) and I managed to snag a front-row ticket before they sold out (!!!!!!). Even better, Roxane Gay will also be here on the same weekend for the Iowa City Book Festival! I LOVE THIS TOWN. SO MUCH.
  2. Last year I skipped NaNoWriMo because I was ridiculously busy with schoolwork, but this year I’m definitely doing it! I started planning in August because I want this NaNo to be my best one yet – this year is still quite busy but I’m determined to participate in my fifth NaNo anyway and hope that it will go as smoothly as possible.

Three New Obsessions This Summer

  1. Spotify! For the longest time I had no idea there was a free version, but once I found out that there was, I fell head over heels in love. I made myself a bunch of playlists for everything from studying and writing to exercising and walking to class.
  2. On a similar note, I also didn’t realize that Skype was free until this summer? WHY AM I EVEN LIKE THIS UGH. Anyway, it’s been a great way to talk to my online friends. I talked to a bunch of people I’ve known for more than four years and we were all like, “Why didn’t we ever do this before?!”
  3. I got into studyblr this summer, and it’s been the most helpful and motivating thing EVER. So many great resources to be found there! So much inspiration! Ahhhh!

Most Popular Five Blog Posts Overall This Summer

  1. Surprisingly, my top post this summer was 10 LGBTQ+ Places That I Want To Visit In The United States! While I’m certainly happy that people seemed to enjoy my Pride posts, this wasn’t one that I had originally envisioned becoming so popular but at close to two hundred views – and more than one hundred views higher than the next most popular post – it’s by far the most popular thing I wrote this summer.
  2. I haven’t had time to respond to all the comments on Let’s Talk About Mental Health (or pretty much any blog post, honestly) but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what you had to say to me after I told you about my mental illnesses! Now that I don’t have to hide them it feels as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
  3. I’m so happy that 10 #BlackLGBTDeserveToBe Tweets You Should Read was one of my most popular posts because I’ve seen so many people just completely disregarding the importance of positive media representation for black LGBTQ+ people. It makes me sad to see them defending the Bury Your Gays trope there, but I’m glad that people seemed to notice my post, which argued against that.
  4. I enjoyed playing Five Truths & Four Lies with all of you, and I was impressed by how much you knew about me!
  5. I talked about cutting all my hair off in Short Hair, Don’t Care and shared a picture with you guys!

Five Posts I Loved On Other Blogs This Summer

  1. The Seven Signs That Your TBR Is Overwhelming You (And How To Fix It) by Emily @ Loony Literate is super cute and and there are lots of colorful pictures!
  2. Topaz Winters @ Six Impossible Things wrote Shattering Stigmas: On Sadness about writers, sadness, and antidepressants. What a beautiful post!
  3. Heather @ Sometimes I’m A Story wrote How Much Should We Emphasize Our Opinions?, a discussion of subjectivity, insensitivity, and professionalism in book reviews.
  4. Yash @ The Book Wars wrote a GREAT Top Ten Tuesday post titled Books You’d Want To Experience As Radio Plays!
  5. Shalom @ Okay, Shalom wrote, as usual, a bunch of wonderful posts – and my favorite is A Note To Student (Employees). So encouraging!

Five Things That Happened This Summer

  1. I took an acting class, which is something I’ve wanted to do since practically forever!
  2. I did almost everything on my summer 2016 bucket list! (And then I talked about how I was able to do so…)
  3. I cut off all my hair and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
  4. I changed my major from English to English & Creative Writing because the latter is brand-new to my school and more accurately reflects what I want to study. (Don’t worry, I’m still majoring in journalism too. Nothing about that major has changed!)
  5. I took steps towards becoming more open and honest about my mental health.

Six Songs That I Listened To Far Too Often This Summer

1. “What’s It Gonna Be?” – Shura

I’m in love with this song. The music video is so adorable! I wish it were a movie.

2. “Make It Up” – Shura

So after I heard “What’s It Gonna Be?” I knew I had to listen to the rest of Shura’s music, and this is one of my favorites.

3. “Gravel to Tempo” – Hayley Kiyoko

So this is the first single from Hayley Kiyoko’s new EP, Citrine, and IT’S SO GAY I’M SO PROUD OF HER.

4. “Lost Boy” – Troye Sivan

Sometimes it doesn’t feel as though I actually did anything this summer other than listening to super gay music by super gay people. TBH.

5. “Let Them Up” (Mad Max: Fury Road) – Junkie XL

I made myself a ginormously long study playlist consisting entirely of scores from movies and TV, and I’m probably going to blog about it soon because I LOVE IT. I would say that this is one of my favorite tracks from that playlist, but truthfully everything that’s on there is something I adore.

6. “Cap’s Promise” (Captain America: Civil War) – Henry Jackman

So I actually saw this movie in the spring, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to listen to the score a lot. This track is also on my study playlist! I was a bit disappointed that Jackman’s music for this film featured so few of the amazing character motifs from The Winter Soldier… but not too disappointed, because Cap’s theme comes through in this track from the end credits!


What did you enjoy most on my blog this summer? And what have you done during these past few months?

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How I Study Shakespeare

This summer I took a course on Shakespeare, and it was one of my favorite English classes so far! Shakespeare’s work can be intimidating, so I thought I’d compile a post with suggestions on how best to approach this subject based on what worked for me. (This is a scheduled post. I wrote it over the summer while I was still taking the course but decided to save it and publish it during the school year because I thought a wider range of people might need it then.)

As I just said, the following suggestions are what worked FOR ME. Some of them may not work for you. Hopefully at least ONE will, because I’d feel pretty bad if I wrote a post that wasn’t at all helpful to those of you who are struggling with Shakespeare.

Anyway, my point is that my tactic for studying Shakespeare – or any subject, really – is to surround myself both figuratively and literally with tons of resources to help me learn. Having a desk and bookshelf covered with study materials motivates me to be productive, but I also recognize that not everyone likes to dabble in a bit of everything in order to study. I like to try a little bit of every kind of resource in order to gain a really thorough understanding of the material, but that approach overwhelms some people.

And that’s OK. Pick and choose from this list to find something that works for you! I promise, Shakespeare isn’t nearly as difficult to understand as you may think – and if you have any questions or are really struggling, I’m happy to help! I’ve mostly studied his plays and am less familiar with his poetry, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have or even give you a pep talk if you’re like ENGIE PLEASE HELP I CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERMIA AND HELENA.

For the sake of clarity and convenience, I will refer to his works as “plays” here in order to avoid constantly switching between “plays” and “poetry.” Enjoy, and happy studying!

1. Watch a film adaptation

On the very first day of class my professor pointed out that students of Shakespeare have a massive advantage over those studying the works of his contemporaries, such as Marlowe or Jonson: There are SO many movie adaptations available, and you’re more likely to catch a live performance of one of his plays, too. Search Netflix or your local library!

2. See the play performed onstage 

This may be a little trickier and/or more expensive, depending on where you live, but if you have the opportunity to see a performance then I STRONGLY recommend it. My class saw Pericles at an outdoor theater and it really helped to cement the story and its characters in my mind.

I find that movies and plays bring out the humor that is otherwise easily missed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overlooked a pun while reading a play only to finally notice it when I see the story performed! Also, it’s fun to look for and laugh at the asides – the moments when an actor breaks character and addresses the audience directly!

3. Read the play aloud or act it out

Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read silently to oneself, so why do we so often approach them in that way?! My class took a break from our discussions at least once a week to go outside and act out a scene from whatever we were currently reading.

This doesn’t need to turn into an elaborate production with, like, costumes and a real stage: You could grab some friends and sit in a circle with your copies of the play (and some snacks too, of course!), or you could get up on your feet and get moving. It’s up to you, really. In class we figured out some basic blocking before each scene so that everyone knew when to enter the scene, fight another character, fall down to the ground dead, et cetera. We used sticks for swords.

4. Use CliffsNotes or similar study guides

CliffsNotes, in particular, has a reputation as the resource of choice for C students, but it shouldn’t be! All of my English professors so far have actually encouraged us to use it, as long as it doesn’t replace doing the assigned reading. It’s super helpful when it comes time to write essays, because there are detailed descriptions of the characters, themes, symbolism, and so on and so forth.

Here are some links to study guides you may find helpful:

All of these guides are also available as apps for both iPhone and Android! I haven’t actually used the app versions, though, so I can’t verify how easy or expensive they are to use, but it’s worth a try if you’re interested.

5. Find a modern English “translation”

I have fond memories of using No Fear Shakespeare and Shakespeare on the Double! in high school: I don’t think I would have made it through the plays otherwise. Most of his stories aren’t all that complex, it’s just… well, we don’t talk like the Elizabethans, so oftentimes the language leaves us going “?????”

Personally, I prefer to do most of my reading from a non-translated edition and then refer to the modernized version only when I’m really stumped, because I like to stretch my brain that way. You do you, though.

Other resources that I’ve heard of, but haven’t yet used, include Shakespeare Made Easy and SwipeSpeare. The last is an app for both iPhone and Android that functions as a translator, just as the books mentioned above do, although I believe that if you want to use it for anything other than Romeo and Juliet you have to purchase each additional play individually.

6. Read a graphic novel or picture book adaptation

This is a great option if you’re a visual learner, especially if you don’t have access to a movie or live performance. It also really helps with – you guessed it – writing essays, because the plot has been condensed to only the most important details. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed! Bruce Coville’s picture book retellings of Shakespeare’s plays are an excellent place to start, and I can recommend plenty of others if you need me to!

7. Use printables to keep track of characters, themes, et cetera

I got involved in the studyblr community this summer, and it’s full of wonderful people who are always happy to help! I found this novel notes printable from @ennui-for-me and now use it regularly. I hated this type of worksheet during middle school and high school because it always felt like busywork, but now that I have a more intense academic workload I find that I need to keep track of everything that goes on in anything I have to read for school or else I forget important plot details and the stories begin to blur together.

8. Remember to keep things in perspective

More than anything, try not to become overwhelmed. Whatever study method or resources you decide to use, you should remember that:

  • Shakespeare wrote stories that were designed to appeal to the masses
  • He wanted to be a commercial success just as much as he wanted to be a writer
  • He borrowed from or even straight up ripped off of the plots of pre-existing stories, which means he would have fit right in in this trend of YA retellings
  • If you get the feeling that something is supposed to be funny but you don’t quite understand why, chances are it’s probably an Elizabethan-style dick joke and you should google it to find out what it is

I know that all of those facts are repeated quite often, to the point where you might be tired of hearing them, but I still think it’s important to bear in mind. It’s easy to lose track of who Shakespeare is and what his plays are when it’s half past three in the morning and you have an eight-page essay on a soliloquy due in five hours and you haven’t even started because you don’t know where to start. Study hard, and seek out all the help you can get, but don’t lose sight of how fun and surprisingly down-to-earth reading Shakespeare’s works can be.


Whether you’re studying Shakespeare and his works for school or you’ve decided to learn a little something on your own just for fun, I hope that this list helps you in some way. I’d love to get feedback on my advice, so feel free to let me know how your Shakespeare-studying endeavors go!

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The Five Senses Tag

Hi, everyone! I found this tag on Elm’s blog and decided to do it, even though they didn’t tag me or anything, because it looks like so much fun! It’s a really creative idea for a tag and a nice change from all the bookish tags I normally do.

I worked on this post off and on for about two or three days, but not in the usual way in which I write blog posts: As in, most of the time I spent working on this was time spent away from my computer. Every time I remembered something that I love hearing, seeing, tasting, et cetera I scribbled it down on a scrap piece of paper and at the end of that handful of days I had everything I needed to write this post!

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for long enough. Enjoy!


  1. Rain falling on a roof
  2. A purring cat
  3. That late summer combination of cicadas and crickets
  4. An old typewriter
  5. Thunder


  1. Foggy mornings
  2. The color blue
  3. Sunsets at the beach near my house
  4. Falling snow on a winter night
  5. Aspen trees


  1. Newly mown grass
  2. Soil after a rainstorm
  3. Old books
  4. Coffee
  5. Freshly baked bread


  1. Flour
  2. My hair after it’s recently been cut
  3. Warm sand under my toes
  4. Water
  5. Running my fingers along the edge of pages in a book


  1. Peppermint
  2. Fresh peaches
  3. S’mores
  4. Ham
  5. Homemade chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven


I’m tagging:

And as always, feel free to participate whether or not I tagged you. (Or ignore this tag, if you so choose.) I thought it was only fitting to tag five people since the tag is about the five senses, but that also means I had to leave a lot of people out. So if you’re not on here, it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you!


Ahhhh, I enjoyed writing this post so much! It was very relaxing to go through my lists and look at all the sensory things that make me happy. I guess I don’t often pause to think deeply about the little things I love, such as favorite colors or soothing sounds. So that’s definitely something I should take the time to do… also, now I really want to turn these lists into an art project of some sort. A collage, maybe? Or a multimedia project? I’ll figure something out, I’m sure.

What are your favorite sensory experiences?

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An Update On My Classes | Sherman Alexie, Benjamin Franklin As An 18th-Century Blogger (!!), & Conducting Interviews

Hey, everyone! It’s time for the first college update of the semester. This is a monthly occurrence on my blog and it consists of me giving some brief thoughts about how each of my classes are going so far.

At the moment, I’m super stressed. I’m taking seventeen hours of credits this semester, which is more than I’ve ever done before – and right now I feel really grateful to past me for not signing up for that Russian lit course taught by my favorite professor, because that would have put me at twenty semester hours.

But I’ll get through it! I basically start studying as soon as I get home each day, and I try to study at least a little bit in between my classes as well. And I make a lot of to-do lists. SO. MANY. LISTS.


Prose Style

I adore this class! It’s been so much fun to examine writing, both our own and that of others, at the sentence level. I was assigned the first slot for workshop so I brought in five sentences – together forming a sort of flash fiction piece about a dragon who hoards books – and I got some really constructive feedback! We’ve been talking about the use of assonance and consonance, so it was nice to hear that I used those effectively.

Foundations of the English Major

I just turned in a major paper on Sherman Alexie’s short story, “Because My Father Always Said He Was The Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner” At Woodstock,” and now I have a break of, like, half a week until I need to start thinking about the next essay! I don’t really mind, though, because it’s a good class – the professor is super engaging and often hilarious. I’ve begun to keep notes about the things he says. (Should I turn them into a blog post later?!)

Media Shift

Sooooo… I have a presentation due on my birthday, which would normally suck because because A) IT’S MY BIRTHDAY and B) I’m not really a fan of this class. (The professor, among other things, drones on and on and thinks it’s totally reasonable for students to print off one hundred pages of readings per week… UM NO. I have four other classes that also require me to print things.)

But the topic of my presentation is “Benjamin Franklin as the eighteenth-century equivalent of a blogger,” which is EXACTLY the topic I was hoping to be assigned. Franklin is one of the most interesting founding fathers, IMO, and I get to talking about blogging. BLOGGING!

Journalistic Reporting & Writing

On Tuesday I conducted my very first interview! I talked to the director of the University of Iowa’s museums about her role in creating a new exhibit, Hawkeyes in Space, about my school’s contribution to creating scientific instruments used in several space exploration missions. I was super nervous beforehand but she was great to talk to – hilarious, and I loved what she had to say about translating scientific gobbledygook into language that the public can understand.

Introduction to Multimedia Storytelling

I am SO PSYCHED for all the tech we get to use in this class! My first assignment in this class – which is also the first one with an accompanying project for JRW – involves conducting an audio interview with someone who is an expert about some sort of issue concerning either Iowa City or the university. (In JRW, I have to write a story that adds my expert source to five other sources that I’ve interviewed.)

I’m kind of stressed about the pace of this class and how many assignments overlap with JRW, but I’m trying to take things one at a time. Let’s hope I don’t become overwhelmed!


How has your life been? Have you learned anything fun/weird/exciting in school lately? How do you like your teachers so far? ARE YOU AS STRESSED AS I AM, PEOPLES?!

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Playing The Piano After A Year-Long Break | Picking Up An Old Hobby Is Harder Than I Thought It Would Be (!!!)

When my freshman year of college began, I stopped playing the piano. This wasn’t an intentional decision. I didn’t consciously think, “I’m going to stop practicing,” but stop practicing I did.

It had a lot to do with time. As in, I didn’t have much of it.

College eats up so much time. I mean, it should – you’re there to get an education, not fritter away the hours. My mom has said that you should treat it like having a full-time job. So it’s not surprising that between going to class and doing my homework, I didn’t have much free time for things such as musical instrument practice.

And whenever I did have any free time I usually used it for sleeping. I slept a lot last school year. Thanks, depression.

I moved into my new dorm room a week before school started because I had volunteered to help freshmen move in but since my move-in crew duties actually didn’t take that long, I had a lot of free time. My current dorm has two baby grand pianos – well, actually my dorm has one and the dorm building we’re connected to has another, but it’s just easier to say that my dorm has two pianos.

The dorm I lived in last year didn’t have a piano. My current dorm is actually only about two or three hundred feet from last year’s dorm, but most days walking over here just seemed like too much effort. Now I don’t really have an excuse, though.

So I sat down at one of those baby grands the week before school started, and I tried to play.

And I failed. Miserably.

Well, that might be hyperbolic, because I did eventually regain some of my ability. But for a while I had no idea what I was doing. A few weeks prior to that I’d looked at a piece of sheet music and realized that I couldn’t remember which note was A and which was C. At the time I had dismissed it as being too tired to focus properly, but at the baby grand a few weeks ago I soon realized that I had, in fact, forgotten some of the basics.

I took piano lessons for eight years. (I think? It may have been nine.) I had no idea that my skills would disappear so quickly. I was surprised.

I eventually made my way through “Hedwig’s Theme” after about an hour of practice. It’s an easy arrangement, from a book of sheet music that I got when I was nine or ten, but I still struggled with it. I was so, so happy when everything finally clicked and the notes sounded just how I remembered, but it took me much longer to get there than I thought it would.

This put something of a damper on my hopes that I would be able to resume playing the piano as though I had never taken my year-long break in the first place. There are about three million songs that I’d like to learn how to play, but I clearly need to spend some time going over the basics if I’m to get anywhere at all.

I had, for instance, envisioned myself learning how to play the theme from Carol, one of my favorite movies, without a hitch, and… like, objectively it’s not that hard: Lots of repetition. But I also can’t tell the difference between A and C, apparently. THIS WILL TAKE  A LOT WORK.

Lately I’ve also been quite taken with “Light of the Seven,” a piece from the Game of Thrones season six score by Ramin Djawadi.

It’s not only a gorgeous piece, but also one that makes significant use of a piano, which is REALLY COOL. There have been times in the past when I tried to play something from a film score and ended up disappointed because it didn’t sound quite right – many pieces from movies and TV shows aren’t written solely, or even largely, for the piano. So the piece sounds off, because you’re using a piano to imitate a completely different instrument.


My goal this school year is to practice more often. Finding the time won’t be easy – I haven’t so much as touched a piano since that day in mid-August because I’ve been so busy doing homework and studying because I want THE BESTEST GRADES EVER this semester for REASONS – but I’m determined to make time.

And on that note, there’s just one more thing I want to tell you: I’m having so much fun finding pianos all over both campus and the town. I mean, I already knew about some of them, but every now and then I stumble across another one and I’m just like WOW SO MANY PIANOS and it’s glorious.

Where are the pianos I’ve found so far?

  • Two in the dorm
  • Three or four at the pedestrian mall
  • One outside a coffeeshop where I occasionally study
  • One in a tiny chapel near the river
  • One at the Haunted Bookshop (which is only my favorite place EVER)
  • A whole bunch in the School of Music’s student practice rooms (!!!!!!)

I’m hoping to make time to practice on the weekends, at the very least. Progress will probably be slow since I can’t practice every day, but it’s better than nothing – and I really miss playing the piano!

Do you play the piano or another musical instrument? Have you ever taken up a hobby again after a long break from it and found that you struggled with the activity?

Posted in Neville Sings The Blues, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Bookish Update #4

Today’s post was supposed to be all about my dorm room and how I’ve working to make it more colorful and inviting than last year’s room, but… then I remembered that since I broke my phone a few weeks ago I don’t have any recent pictures. I promise to publish that post as soon as my phone is fixed!

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about what I’ve been reading lately, because I haven’t done one of these bookish updates in a few months. Unfortunately I haven’t had as much reading time as I would like, let alone time to read for leisure, but I’m trying to make the best of my situation. I may be majorly behind on my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge, but I’m determined not to give up!

saga-volume-sixFinished A Little While Ago

Last Sunday I read Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. I don’t plan to ever have kids but it was still really fun to read because I love books (duh) and want to write children’s books someday (!!!!!), so this subject is fascinating to me, not to mention important. I do wish that more of the author’s evidence had been statistical and not anecdotal since much of it came across as, “This is what worked for me and my children, so it will automatically work for your family too,” but other than that it was a very inspirational book.

Before that, I read The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen and Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan, and now I’m so impatient for the next book in each series! The next volume of The Wicked + The Divine will be out in October, but the new volume of Saga won’t be published until 2017 (!!!).

Just Finished

Yesterday I went to the library to get some books for the weekend (see below) and found a picture book called A Child’s First Book of Trump by . The illustrations were cute, and the verse strongly reminded me of Dr. Seuss, but ultimately I was disappointed that the book hadn’t been… longer? Yeah, I think that’s what bothered me. It was super brief, which didn’t make sense because with a person like Trump there should be plenty to satirize.

Currently Reading

Since I’m currently reading quite a few things for school and don’t want to bore you with all the details, here are just a few of them:

We’re reading Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe in my Foundations of the English Major class right now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! It’s hilarious and, although it was written at the same time as Shakespeare’s plays, I find the language in this play much easier to understand. Also, as an early example of the “deal with the devil” trope, it’s helping me to better understand some of my favorite modern books with similar plots, such as Demon Road by Derek Landy and The Wicked + The Divine. (The first volume of which is actually titled The Faust Act…)

I also have a few more pages of A Defence of Poesy by Philip Sidney to read for that class – I was meant to finish it a few days ago but I was trying to finish my first major assignment for Journalistic Reporting & Writing at the time, so I let that reading fall to the wayside for a while. Finishing it is on my studying to-do list for tomorrow!


For Prose Style, I’m reading Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon, who is a professor here at the University of Iowa. I love what he has to say about making your writing better at the sentence level, so I’m planning to read the whole book even though that’s not required – and I would love to take one of his classes in the future if at all possible!

Reading Nextamerican-monsters

Eventually I hope to write an entire post about my “Sunday books,” as I’ve begun to refer to them, but for now all I’ll say is this: I’ve set up a study schedule that allows me to take Sundays off, and one of the ways I spend my free time on those days is by reading an entire book.

This afternoon my book of choice is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Several of my writing professors have either recommended her works or assigned excerpts from them, so I want to see what all the fuss is about because all I’ve read so far are a few of her essays.

I also picked up a collection of essays, The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley, at the library yesterday. It looks amazing: I flipped through it already and saw that a lot of the chapter titles dealt with race, LGBTQ+ issues, et cetera, and even quoted some of Roxane Gay’s writing from Bad Feminist!

I’ve read some books that professed to be about/by/for feminist geeks that turned out to be written from a painfully heteronormative, whitewashed perspective, so you have no idea how happy I was to find this essay collection!

Reading Soon

I ordered Derek Landy’s new book American Monsters about a week ago – from a bookseller in the UK, because it’s not available here, so it has to travel a long way and I just hope that it will arrive in time for my birthday because that would be an awesome present! I’m a bit sad that this is the final book in the series, but excited to see what happens to all the characters… and then, of course, there will be new Skulduggery Pleasant books to read soon because Landy is adding more books to the series!

Recently Added To TBR List

Some of the books I recently found and/or were recommended to me are:

  • girl-hearts-girlI loved Una LaMarche’s first book, Like No Other, so I was ecstatic to find out that she has an upcoming novel: You In Five Acts, about a group of five friends at a New York City performing arts high school!
  • Mawa Mahima @ The Controversy recommended The World Between Two Covers: Reading The Globe by Ann Morgan to me! Diverse books? Sign me the HECK up.
  • The Pants Project by Cat Clarke looks like an adorable middle grade book with a trans protagonist!
  • Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe is a memoir about a young woman who realizes she’s gay and begins an online LDR with another girl! Ahhhh, this one looks super cute and right up my alley.
  • I want to read We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by Andi Zeisler because critiques of mainstream/pop culture feminism are my THING! (See above fangirling re: The Geek Feminist Revolution.)


Feel free to steal this idea for your own blog, or answer the questions in the comments! Actually, PLEASE answer the questions in the comments, because I would love to know more about your reading habits! (And what is the best book you’ve read lately? Do you have any recs for me?!)

Posted in Books and Reading!, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment