Creative Reactions for Bad Lemons


 
By Alexandra Harris

 Has something ever ticked you off so much you felt the need to react in a creatively strong way? You all know what I’m talking about–you got food poisoning at a Brazilian restaurant and you composed a limerick about it on a restaurant review site or the promotion at work slipped past you so you just plunked down at your piano and started jamming out soul wrenching notes. No moments like these? We’ll just say those experiences were from “a friend.”

As we pretend one of those experiences wasn’t something that should have been the end result of a scene in Bridesmaids, I came across something interesting the other day as I was going through my Twitter timeline.

Margaret Atwood may not have been ticked off, but you have to admit, the following excerpt from a recently written poem of hers is a genius way to answer incoming requests for book blurbs:

“You are well-known, Ms. Atwood,” the Editor said,
And we long for your quote on this book;
A few well-placed words wouldn’t bother your head,
And would help us to get in the hook!”

“In my youth,” said Ms. Atwood, “I blurbed with the best;
I practically worked with a stencil!
I strewed quotes about with the greatest largesse,
And the phrases flowed swift from my pencil.

For some reason as I read the poem, I had a mental picture of a girl with pigtails skipping to some lively tune out of Mary Poppins. Ms. Atwood probably receives hundreds if not thousands of requests to give her input on some new writer’s work. Which is all fine and good and she seems like a good sport about it. But when you’re a writer yourself and you have thousands of incoming requests to work on other people’s work, it probably would be a bit frustrating.  

Personally I find it difficult to remain calm and act with good manners when something beyond irritating happens. You know, when one of those moments happens and your mind draws a blank for five seconds because of the inconceivable stupidity that unfortunately, and for no reason that makes sense, happened to you.

Remaining calm is a life skill apparently and if you’ve learned it, good sir or madam I give you props! I should take notes so I can replace my “take a deep breath” method. Although when I get back to the comfort of my own room, my creative juices may congeal into something that faintly echoes this.

However, while I may not have a sick beat like Jay in Awkward Black Girl and I probably wouldn’t rap out my sestina or free verse because someone probably would come in and hear my deepest darkest, writing can be good therapy. Creating something can be soothing. A horrible situation is definitely fuel for your next story idea, poem, novel, or illustration.

So don’t get too ticked off before you remember to write everything down. You’ll definitely get glad after you’ve looked at your masterpiece later. 

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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The Interview: Natasha Phillips

A lovelorn Natasha Phillips blows a kiss to her reptilian paramour.

Quirky with a ironic, almost nonsensical sense of humor, Natasha Phillips (@SobukiRa on Twitter) defies labels.  One minute she’s blogging about international custody disputes, satirizing pop culture with her imaginary friends InkyBuki and Cranial Gerbil the next.  But the aspiring writer is no scatter brain.  With an impressive career as a researcher for a UK advocacy firm and a barrister in her own right, Natasha can hold forth as eloquently as any peer–male or female.  Future critics, take note.

Hennen’s John Winn caught up with Ms. Phillips via email and chatted about life in Europe, the origin of InkyBuki–and her forbidden love for a certain star crossed rodent.

JB:  You hail from London.  What’s different about writing there versus the States or Continental Europe?  Is it less dreary or are people there just numb?

NP: To my mind being in different places offers opportunities to observe the human condition in its many different forms; it’s a real privilege to be able to write and reflect in different environments. Londoners are generally bloody miserable so there’s definitely plenty of scope to explore the stagnation of our species there.

I was lucky enough to visit the States growing up as I have lots of relatives there and really enjoy travelling to San Francisco when I can. I have a romantic view of it though; in reality, it’s changed a lot since I was little and like London it’s become less unpredictable.

The Continent though, despite or perhaps because of its economic troubles holds a great deal of immediate colour in relation to the human condition which is readily visible still in day to day life. There is still warmth that you can tap into in most places; a humanity that still prevails.

But perhaps it’s really a question of degree; I think if you look hard enough in London or Las Vegas, you can still see pain and pleasure in all its complexity beating beneath the surface: it just depends how deep you’re willing to go. And whether or not you can source a really big monocle.

JW:  Who is InkyBuki, and why is she so mysterious?

NP: InkyBuki is the inky version of Sobuki Ra, who is a crocodile living in a bayou (the coordinates of which are top secret) and can be found most days swimming in the Twitter and Google + streams, terrorising other social media users and hatching mischievous plans with her best friends Ludvig, the Goblin Shark and Cranial Gerbil, a gerbil. I believe she is the only crocodile to date with opposable thumbs, which goes some way to explaining why she has taken up the art of writing and why she is perhaps a little mysterious about it.

JW: What’s with the gerbil obsession?  Is there something you need to share with the rest of the class?

NB: Cranial Gerbil is no ordinary rodent. The little pink plastic ball he lives in is all that stands between him and world domination. We are star crossed lovers. It’s very sad.

JW:  You’re also an advocate of family law reform in the UK.  Do you ever get weird emails or photos of people dressed like Batman?

Frequently, but I rather like Superheroes and action figures, so I tend to invite them all to the work meetings I help organise. Sometimes, if I’m very well behaved, they share their Trebor XXX mints with me.

JW:  Final Question: Dickens or Tolstoy–who is the most depressing writer?

NP: If one is more depressing than the other, it must be only be by a whisky.