2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1)I think all writers want to achieve the nirvana of seeing their work in print. Most aspiring writers don’t have a problem sharing their work, even if it means getting harsh feedback. There is, however, a large number of student writers who are afraid to submit.

Submitting might not be the only thing that sets your nerves on edge. The thought of getting your work critiqued might make you shudder a bit. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. I still remember my first critique. In 8th grade I wrote up a story and gave it to a friend. After lunch she handed it back, and when I asked her what she thought she wrinkled her nose and said, “I don’t know. It was weird. I marked some stuff I think you should change”.

The excitement I’d had while writing it and joy I felt upon its completion melted into a puddle of embarrassment. No one read any of my work for a few years after that. The fear of being judged often overpowers us. We become stuck in a world of ‘what if’s’.

It’s not just being afraid of what others think of you. The fear of not being good enough can be so heavy it’s nearly crushing. Even now, after I’ve grown a thick skin and gained a bit of confidence, when I don’t get the reaction I was expecting from my writers circle I automatically think it’s because I’m not that great of a writer. These are superficial fears that every writers has. Even the most experienced authors have these doubts. However, I’m going to give you a few reasons why you should crawl out of your shell like I did and submit your work.

  1. Submissions grow you as a writer. Since I started submitting my short stories to contests, and my novel to agents, I’ve been rejected more times than I have fingers to count. Being rejected doesn’t make me feel bad like it did when I first started. I take it as a helpful reminder that I’m still growing as a writer. There are methods I’ve yet to try, awkward phrases I’m still holding on to, and characters that still need more development. When I do get a piece accepted, I go through it and highlight all the parts where I feel my writing is at its strongest. Those are things that I can incorporate into other stories.
  2. You gain confidence in your work. If you don’t believe in what you’re writing, you can’t expect your reader to. I started out small, submitting to journals at the university. When I got accepted, got a copy of the journal, and saw the title of my story and my name in print, I actually felt like an author. If it happened once there’s no doubt I could do it again.
  3. We want to hear what you have to say! In the writing community we believe that all forms of art should be expressed. You have a voice so don’t conceal it in a flash drive or in a notebook. For me, even if I don’t feel like what I have to say is important, there’s always someone out there who might feel otherwise. As a writer, having someone say they were motivated or inspired by something I wrote is the best pay off.

So here’s my challenge to you, start here! OAR (Oakland Arts Review) is currently accepting submissions, and we love reading your work. Not too long ago, one of my professors introduced me to Emerging Writers Network (www.emergingwriters.typepad.com) they have a dozens of magazines and journals to submit to, as well. Even if you don’t get published, at least you stepped outside of your comfort zone and tried something new. Writing is a form of art, and as artists we have a great opportunity to share our art and maybe touch a few lives along the way.

-Sharnita

Expectations are often so different than our realities. For example, I was convinced that between two jobs this summer I’d have time to road trip with my friends, maybe Canada, maybe New Orleans, maybe with no set destination. Of course, reality did as it tends to do, and set in fairly soon after my summer began. While working 40 hours a week hasn’t left me much time for traveling, it has given me enough time to dig through my bookshelf to find some novels that satisfy my own wanderlust. What better teleportation device than a good book? Most of the titles in this list are either kids or young adult reads, but I believe good fiction is still good once we grow up. Here are my five picks for wanderlust-satisfying fiction:

The Host, by Stephanie Meyerthehost

This Adult/Young Adult pick takes the phrase “stranger in a strange land” from a different perspective. After all, what is stranger than finding oneself in a new body on a new adventure?

Summary from Amazon.com: Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love. Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer

rulesoftheroadBauer’s Young Adult novel will leave you feeling much more confident about shoe shopping, dealing with crotchety old women who happen to be your boss, and road tripping across the USA.

            Summary from Amazon.com: Meet Jenna Boller, star employee at Gladstone Shoe Store in Chicago. Standing a gawky 5’11” at 16 years old, Jenna is the kind of girl most likely to stand out in the crowd for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn’t stop Madeline Gladstone, the president of Gladstone’s Shoes 176 outlets in 37 states, from hiring Jenna to drive her cross country in a last ditch effort to stop Elden Gladstone from taking over his mother’s company and turning a quality business into a shop-and-schlock empire. Now Jenna Boller shoe salesperson is about to become a shoe-store spy as she joins her crusty old employer for an eye-opening adventure that will teach them both the rules of the road and the rules of life.

Paper Towns, by John GreenPaperTowns2009_6A

My preferred John Green novel, Paper Towns takes an active imagination and a minivan full of teenagers and sets them on a cross-state trip to find an enigmatic girl, who is entirely too fond of spray paint and catfish. Guest appearance by Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

            Summary from Amazon.com: When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Lionboy, by Zizou Corder

LionBoy  A very subtle dystopian setting and a host of well-articulated felines makes this Kids/Young Adult novel exciting to the end. There’s good news if you want more, it’s a trilogy!

            Summary from Amazon.com: When his parents are kidnapped, what’s ten-year-old Charlie Ashanti to do? Rescue them, that’s what! He doesn’t know who has taken his parents, or why. But he does know that one special talent will aid him on his journey: his amazing ability to speak Cat. Charlie calls on his clever feline friends from stray city cats to magnificent caged lions for help. With them by his side, Charlie uses wit and courage to try to find his parents before it’s too late.

The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy FarmerThe_Sea_of_Trolls_cover

The Sea of Trolls is the first in a Kids series of the same title. The setting is partial fantasy, with many historical ties to Anglo-Saxon history and legend. Yggdrasil, a magic well, and dragons all make an appearance.

           Summary from Amazon.com: Jack is kidnapped by berserkers from his Saxon village in the year A.D. 793, an occurrence forewarned by his mentor the Bard. Captured by Viking chief Olaf One-Brow, Jack and his sister, Lucy, are swiftly taken to the court of Ivar the Boneless.
Ivar is married to a half-troll named Frith, an evil and unpredictable queen with a strange power over her husband’s court. Jack mistakenly casts a charm on her—and is banished to the kingdom of the trolls to find the magic that will undo the charm. Accompanied by Thorgill, a shield maiden who wants to be a berserker, and by the mysterious crow called Bold Heart, Jack sets out on a harrowing and exciting quest for the ages.

– Jessica Born

Camera 6-15Previously, I sang my praises of one of the most rigorous, challenging, and craft-molding experiences that I’ve ever participated in: Nanowrimo. It’s the annual event held each year internationally where writers of all ages, expertise, and genres come together with the goal of writing 50,000 words in only 30 days. Along with encouraging writers to push their limits, Nanowrimo also runs a fundraiser for writing programs that encourage the youth to pursue their own interests in writing. For some, the month of November is enough for them, but for those who may want to push things even further, there is the sister of Nanowrimo: Camp Nanowrimo!

Unlike Nanowrimo, which is placed within national novel writing month for which it is named, Camp takes place twice a year; in April during the spring, and in July during the summer. Camp isn’t nearly as popular as Nanowrimo, but I’ve found that Camp can offer an even more intimate experience than its predecessor.

  1. Summer vacation means more time to write.

An immediate benefit of writing during one of the Camp sessions rather than Nanowrimo is the season. During November, most people are busy with school, work, and preparing for the upcoming holiday season, and with the stress of purchasing gifts, finalizing vacation plans, and focusing on approaching finals, squeezing in time to write an entire novel can appear so unfeasible that many decide to quit before even getting started. During the spring and summer months, when most colleges are wrapping up classes, and some people are even out for break, time frees up and writers allow themselves to start focusing on their projects. Bringing those ideas that stacked up during the school year to Camp is a breeze.

  1. You get to have “cabin mates.”

Just like an actual camp, Camp Nanowrimo offers the option of having your own cabin filled with other writers who will be participating in the challenge. These people can be friends who you already know and request to be grouped up with, or complete strangers, who are writing in similar genres as you. With this built in community, writers gain access to a personalized writing group where you can ask for advice, participate in “word wars,” in which you compete to write the most words in a set amount of time, as well as encourage one another through your projects. Your cabin also has a collective cabin goal, which is the total words that must be reached by the end of camp, creating an extra incentive.

  1. You set the rules.

The standard rules of “winning” Nanowrimo is reaching 50k before the end of the thirtieth day, no exceptions. In Camp, you set your own word goals, whether that be a manageable 20k or an ambitious 100k. Camp allows you to adapt the challenge to your own needs. That includes writing second drafts, revising old work, and working on multiple projects at once, if you dare. Camp is where writers go to break all form of practicality.

What remains the same between these two challenges is the atmosphere of unbridled creativity it fosters. As a former participate of both, I can say that these are the types of experiences that really show you that writing is less thinking and more doing. It challenges you not only to push yourself to be active in your work, but to think less critically of what you’ve produced. When you’re working towards that final word count, you can’t make the mistake of editing yourself as you go and undermining what you’ve made so far; you have to keep going no matter what. It takes an extreme amount of discipline and trust in your own abilities to say to yourself, “I’ll go back later and make this all better,” and really believe yourself. The words that you write during Camp and Nanowrimo may not be the ones that end up in your final manuscript, but they are the ones that helped you journey closer to that end. And that’s something to be proud of.

If you’re interested in participating in Camp Nanowrimo, you can sign up at http://campnanowrimo.org/.

– Camera Martin

Snapchat-351645379541516396People have been discussing homosexuality in comics since the day superhero comics were introduced in 1938. Everyone, from parents to members of congress, was terrified of homosexuality in comics influencing their children into being gay. A psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham even published a book in 1954, titled “Seduction of the Innocent”, that blames comics for juvenile delinquency and accuses comics and comic companies of “seducing the youth” by romanticizing taboo things like violence, BDSM, and homosexuality. “Seduction of the Innocent” was taken seriously at the time and motivated parents to campaign for censorship.

Not very long after “Seduction of the Innocent” was published and affected society, the Comics Magazine Association of America published the Comics Code Authority, in an effort to avoid the government getting involved. The CCA banned graphic depictions of gore, anti-authoritarianism (especially against the police), and sexual innuendo of any kind, which included homosexuality. Over time, the code was updated to become more lenient, and advertisers eventually stopped deciding whether or not to advertise a comic if it didn’t have the CCA approved stamp in the early 2000’s.

AstonishingXMenNorthstarThe relaxation of this code opened the way for LGBTQ+ characters to appear openly in mainstream comics, which was a huge win for visibility. The first superhero to come out was Northstar (see image, left), from Marvel comics. While one of his creators, John Byrne, always intended him to be gay, he was only allowed to drop hints of Northstar’s homosexuality for thirteen years. In 1992, Northstar became the first character in mainstream comics to say “I am gay”, and 20 years later married his husband in the first same-sex wedding to be shown in Marvel comics (see image, right).AstonishingXmen Northstar Wedding

Northstar opened the way for other queer characters in mainstream comics. Existing out in the open is something that members of the community are still afraid to do. LGBTQ+ people are still harassed and prejudiced against and abused and killed for existing. From 1954 until the early 2000’s, the very existence of LGBTQ+ people was seen as immoral and harmful to children. Adding queer characters in popular media like comics won’t change the real problems in the world, but that representation has been shown to positively affect queer youth.

It has been shown in studies such as this one that queer representation gives LGBTQ+ youth positive role models and has been shown to increase the self-esteem of youth in the community. Having LGBTQ+ superheroes especially helps in youth seeing themselves as being good and worthy of love, even more so if they’re a high profile character. Luckily, main characters that are part of the community are becoming more and more common in comics.

The world is changing, and it shows in both reality and in media. The queer community is existing more and more freely, as are LGBTQ+ characters in comics. The fight to exist and love openly is working, and hopefully future queer youth will be able to see themselves exist in media and know that their existence is normal and valid.

– Paige Rowland