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Influenced By Classics: A ‘Classic Alice’ Review

classic-alice

Cara Graves (Elise Cantu), Alice Rackham (Kate Hackett), Andrew Prichard (Tony Noto) from the web series, Classic Alice

Imagine the first time you got a horrible grade in a college class, what did you do about it? You might have been sad for a while and then asked for help to do better the next time. What more could you have done, right?

It’s more than just a grade, it feels like you’ve been told that you weren’t good enough. When it comes to Alice Rackham, she wasn’t willing to let that bad grade bring her down. Her professor mentioned that her essay didn’t turn out well because she wasn’t emotionally invested with the literary material. This causes Alice to decide to live her life according to classic novels. She isn’t alone in this process her friends are by her side in different ways. Her friend Andrew Prichard figures this would be a great vlog-style documentary opportunity. So they work together to create ‘Classic Alice‘ (officially created by Kate Hackett). While her best friend Cara Graves is there helping her along, and even created a music podcast of her own, ‘This Proof is Treble.’

It wasn’t too long ago, when I started to expand my horizon when it came to web series. I started with web series from Pemberley Digital. I heard through the grapevine (aka Tumblr) about other web series, especially Classic Alice. What I knew in the beginning that the show was a bit different from the re-imagined modern web series based on a literary classic. At the same time, it was suggested that fans of Pemberley Digital would be interested because the show brought literature to life. So out of curiosity. I decided to check out the official website, and the rest is what you call amazing history.

What interested me from the first episode was the fact that Alice is an English major, and loves to write creatively. For me, it doesn’t seem like there are many film/tv characters based on English majors. So right off the bat, I related to her, as a fellow English scholar and creative writer. Even though Alice is working on her undergrad, while I’m working on my Masters, it’s enjoyable to see hints to what I’ve experience while also living vicariously through her adventures. It’s more than just a fun story, but it’s also has inspired me as I get through my required literature reading for my grad classes. Some times I wonder what Alice would do if she was reading, what I was reading–for example, ‘The Adventures of David Simple’ by Sarah Fielding. So her story brings me to enjoy even more the literature I read.

This show can give others an interests to explore literary classics that they might not normally. That way they can have an idea what Alice might do on the show. This aspect that this webseries as well as many lately have brought to light that classics can be interesting even in the modern world. It’s important now than ever to continue to interest people, especially students, to read because literature is a large part of who we are, and why we are who we are. Literature helps us grow and learn.

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Alice Rackham (Kate Hackett), Andrew Prichard (Tony Noto) from ‘Classic Alice’

Another aspect that I can’t ignore (sorry for the possible potential spoilers), the romance starting to evolve between Alice and Andrew. It slowly has been growing as a possibility, but like great shows, this web series is gradually and naturally letting the relationship grow from friendship to more. Instantly these two characters have incredible chemistry, even though we don’t see as much of Andrew in the beginning, but that changes over time as well. I won’t delve into it too much because I want you to experience it.  Additionally like other web series, these characters interact on social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr). Yet for this show, the interaction adds more drama to what’s happening on the screen.

A few unique aspects about the web series, I believe, are: the official site has a way for fan to become a “Valeton Student” and discuss with fellow fans on the student forms; Alice’s Goodreads account; a spin-off with the music podcast (that even includes some classical music, Cara is being inspired by Alice now), and Alice’s university seems real online (with a website, twitter account and a student newspaper). The show is really interactive with the fans. In the way this show is created and expands through the inter-webs, you can almost feel like you’re part of Alice’s world.

This is an web series that I would recommend. Alice reminds me every day that literature can make my life an adventure, if I choose to make it so. Are you ready to make the dive into Alice’s world, and spice up yours? Don’t wait, start now.

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‘Classic Alice’ Group Photo

 

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The Value of Fan-Fiction

fanfic writing Ah, fan-fiction… It’s something that I’m sure a lot of writers know about. How many actually admit to read, or even writing some of it? If you don’t know what it is, basically it is fiction written about characters already existing in some kind of media. It’s always interesting to imagine what stories we could come up with our favorite characters. Though I feel some times it can be seen as amateur. Some question the value of fan-fiction, especially since it’s not original work. Though I believe that it is important.

Fan-fiction might seem like a recent developement, but it isn’t. It has been done long before the invention of the internet, and some of it has been published. For an example, there are a lot of stories based on the character Sherlock Holmes, though the author who penned him originally has already passed way. Also how many Pride and Prejudice related books are published right now? I won’t even try to count. Plus there are tie-in novels for certain television shows, which could be like published fan-fiction as well.

So why would we feel that fan-fiction is amateur? I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because we’re piggybacking on someone elses characters, and/or ideas? Though what is really original work? Since we’re part of the human condition, there really isn’t anything that is completely original. They are just shades of something that has been done before. Either way, authors have been split over what to do about fan-fiction since it multiplied with the internet. Some authors have tried to defend their copyright such as Anne Rice, while others like J.K. Rowling and Douglas Adams encourage fan-fiction writing. According to the Guardian, “Douglas Adams claimed that fanfic expanded his understanding of the parallel universes he’d created in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and that they increased his sales.” The Guardian mentioned in 2003, J.K. Rowling was “flattered people wanted to write their own stories” based on her characters, but on one condition – that they did not try to make money from their creations. Her stance was tested when fan/author George Lippert, wrote a continuation fic, James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing, based on the fictional son of Harry. According to the Guardian, “Rowling threatened legal action for infringement, but after much adverse press from fans she relented and allowed the publication to go ahead. Check out what Naomi Novik says about Fan-fiction being part of literary history in this video. She is a published author who has a passion for preserving fan-fiction online. Novik has worked with the Organization for Transformative Works to create an online archive for fanfic called An Archive of Our Own.

Though for fandoms, fan-fiction gives fans a way to explore the what ifs. It’s part of the community. As a fan of Harry Potter, I know how much the fandom really is important to keep the stories alive even after the last page of the book series. Though I’ve tried to write Harry Potter fan-fiction. I just couldn’t do it, but I liked looking around at other stories to see what fans would think up, especially now that the series is over. I have written more fan-fiction related to TV shows. It’s likely because that’s the fanfiction I read the most of. I try to write my own stories, as well as fan-fiction. With both, I’ve learned how to write, and how to improve in my writing. I can really see how much I’ve improved when I look at what I’ve written. I’ve always been interested in writing stories. I feel that fan-fiction helped bring an interest in writing a story, because I knew I could instantly publish and get feedback. It was something different from what had seen in school. I wish I had teachers who did the NaNoWriMo Young Writer Program when I was younger. I might have improved dramatically in my creative writing, as well as academically. Though I still had some great English teachers who inspired me to write, and recently some English professors too.

i_love_fan_fiction_magnetSo what’s the point? Well, I believe that fan-fiction is a great way to experiment with writing. The world is already built, the characters are already introduced, and all you have to do is imagine the possiblies and write. There are plenty of writers willing to give feedback (especially on Fanfiction.net & An Archive of Our Own). Though don’t worry if you don’t get much feedback. A lot of people just like to read, but not comment. Be thankful for the comments you do receive, and the stats of how many people are reading your fan-fic. Though no matter what you do, original or fan fiction, it’s important to write, and have fun writing. That is the only way we can have a chance to explore, and let our voice be heard.

Remember even fan-fiction is okay for NaNoWriMo, and Camp NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo

Another reason why I’m mentioning about this topic is because of my plans for Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I’ve tried to write an original novel last year in November. I completed an original novella in April during the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo. This time, I want to write a Doctor Who novella. There are so many BBC books published on the show. I’ve really fallen for the Doctor since 2011. Though I don’t believe that I’ll ever get a chance to write a script for the show, or write an official BBC published book. I thought I would would still try, for Camp NaNoWriMo, and in honor of the 50th Anniversary in November. Since I won’t be able to write much creatively in the fall, since I’ll be going to Grad School. I thought July would be a good time. Plus I want to do something fun before I start school up again. Though I love being an English major, I don’t really enjoy the stress of essays and papers. Anyways, I’m a bit nervous and excited about my Doctor Who story idea. I’m trying my best to plan ahead. I’ve even tried out the 30-day free trial of the writing program, Scrivener. So far, I think it’s amazing, especially with the help of some tutorial videos on YouTube. I hope I can receive it for my birthday (July 3rd), or some time soon. I believe it will be useful for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, as well as my writing for Grad School. This program has helped me so far figure out a basic outline of what I’ll be writing, and create character sketches.

What do you think of fan-fiction? Have any tips, advice, or suggestions about writing my Doctor Who story? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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This image would have worked well with my last blog post… 😀

Now who wouldn’t want to write about this adorable man, who loves to travel in a blue Police box (aka the TARDIS) through time and space?

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Even writers need a Spring Break…

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I’m taking a Spring Break from writing on my blog. I’ll be back next week to write about something related to writing, or maybe about revising.

For now, I’ll be reading (Sherlock Holmes [original stories, other stories like Sherlock in Love, and MasterMind]… maybe re-watching a bit of BBC Sherlock on Netflix too… my friends gave me the Sherlock bug!!). I will also be enjoying my time with my friends during their spring break and some other things… such as preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo [April and July], which is just around the corner! I’m going to try to participate in both months. Planning is good before NaNoWriMo, but it doesn’t fully prepare you for the crazy awesomeness that comes with any thing related to NaNoWriMo.

What I love most about Spring Break is having time to just read for fun (check out this link to read my friend Tabitha’s great blog post!). So that’s what I’m trying to do. Hopefully you find some great books to read as well. Writers need to take breaks once and a while to refresh by reading, and enjoying life. That way they can continue to write great stories. This can apply to anyone else though, breaks are useful to be refresh and be able to continue to do our best in anything we work on, even things we enjoy. Those who don’t have an official spring break, because you’re out of school (like I am right now till I go back for Grad School in the Fall semester, hopefully), make your own. We all need a bit of a break from difficulties of life and just enjoy the simple pleasures, like reading.

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P.S. Even though I said I wouldn’t write, I did anyways… Well, at least it’s shorter than normal… what ever that may be… 😀

Some stories are hidden in the past…

Local Greek Festival - 2012Photo by Christy

A local Greek Festival – 2012
Photo by Christy

I’ve always been curious about the world around me, but also my family history. My mother was born in Mexico, and became an American. Her family roots come from Italy and France, from what we know. Even though my father was born here, his grandparents came from Mexico, Spain and Greece. By having a Greek last name, there was something that always made me curious about my Greek heritage. I’ve wanted to know about the history, the culture, and my great-grandfather as well as my ancestors. It wasn’t only Greek, but it was a stronger influence than my other family roots, possibly because of my Greek last name.

Last year I learned that March is Greek-American Heritage Month. If you walk around in the stores this month, you won’t see much about it. There is more focus of Irish-American Heritage Month. The main reason is the popular Irish national holiday that celebrates Ireland’s patron, St. Patrick (March 17th). Though both the Greeks and the Irish share this month, thanks to Former President George H.W. Bush and Congress in 1991. It gives honor to both cultures for their contributions and achievements to the US. They chose to have Greek-American Heritage Month in March as well because of Greek Independence Day is March 25th.

I knew a bit about my Greek heritage through local annual Greek festivals in Texas. It’s a wonderful experience to go with family and enjoy the great food and music offered. They even have a little store where you can buy products from or about Greece. Though I love going with my family every year, it only has given me a glimpse of the culture that I really wanted to learn more about. When I was younger, I read myths from different cultures, but my focus was on the Greek. In my studies, I’ve read the great Greek epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Later, I read on my own the Percy Jackson series, that are based on the Greek myths. I knew that there were stories out there that focused more on the country than the myths, and those who immigrated to the US, but… where were they?

The Greek Americans

That began my search to see what I could find in literature, music, and in history. The first thing I found was two book lists, one from 2009-2011 and another from 2012. It gave me a starting point. I continued my search online and found the Greek American Foundation. I also found books in the public library, such as Corelli’s Mandolin and a history book on Greek-Americans. My search even went to finding songs on Spotify. I learned that my great-grandfather arrived in the US at Ellis Island, and even found the name of my great-great grandmother in the records from Ellis Island. We didn’t know if he had arrived at the port on Ellis Island, or another one, and when I found a book on searching through the Ellis Island Records online. I realized that I didn’t have to travel far to find out. Learning that he came to that port, made a difference because by searching the history of Ellis Island I could learn more about what my great-grandfather experience as an immigrant to the US. It was wonderful to do my own research just to learn and experience my heritage. It’s even made me want to pursue studying Greek-American literature in grad school.

Now it’s another March, now I’m wondering what can I learn and read relating to my Greek-American heritage. Though I’ve found some interesting fictional books (The Island by Victoria Hislop, Lipsi’s Daughter by Patty Apotolides, Falling in Love with Sophia by Robert Krantz, and The Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulos). I’m sure there is more that I don’t even know about, that includes relating to history. It’s just a bit harder to find, unless you’ve studied it. I’ll keep searching this month, and explore what I find. 

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

I’ve thought about traveling to Europe, especially Greece. To learn more, but also to give me another setting to write about in my stories. Though I can’t afford traveling right now, maybe doing a some research could help me start writing stories about Greek-Americans, and Greece. I’ve written a poem about my desire to learn and experience Greece. One of my former professors even suggested to me that I could write a story similar to my great-grandparents, and he was also the one that told me that if I truly wanted to go to Greece, what was stopping me from doing so. I kept telling him that it was the cost, and he insisted that wasn’t a good enough reason. He said I could save up enough money to travel to Greece. As much as I try to save up money, I don’t think I’ll be traveling to Greece any time soon. Though I realized last year that there were other ways to experience Greece, without spending a lot of money. I had it all near by… the festivals, books,music and food. It not a lot, but for now it’s enough. Plus who knows what stories I might write with Greece as a focus.

Is there something about your family past that makes you curious to learn more about? If this applies to you, I recommend doing your own research and learning everything you can. You may never know what you might find, and what stories or poems might appear.

Reflecting back, what made an impact?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming  Image by ABC's Castle

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Image by ABC’s Castle

A thought occurred to me as I was watching the latest episode of Castle. Without spoiling the episode, I’ll just hint to where the thought came from. Closer to the end of the episode, Richard Castle was reminded about the book that caused him to become an author. He said that when he read Casino Royale he was inspired to write his own spy novel. Which he ended up writing a spy series, and later a detective series. It was a really sweet moment in the episode, but it caused me to think about what book caused me to become a writer.

I couldn’t really narrow down to a certain book. It really surprised me. Though I’ve always enjoyed reading, though it was a bit difficult for me to read for school (to remember details for exams). It all started with my parents. When I was little they read to me stories in English, and in Spanish. Then when I started to read on my own, I started to drift towards series. Though I’ve read books that weren’t part of a series, none that I could think of really persuaded me to write. So the first series that came to mind that made me want to be a writer was Harry Potter.

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J.K. Rowling wove an amazing story through seven books that have made impact in so many lives. For me it wasn’t just the story, but also the author’s own personal story that persuaded me as well. Even at the most difficult part of her life, she wrote the first book. Even after she finished it, it was turned down by many publishers (which I’m sure they regret it now). That didn’t stop her. Some how her character’s story appeared on the shelves. She couldn’t even imagine how that story would make an impact.

Then there are certain authors that I started with one of their books and continued to read more of their books, such as Jane Austen and Nicholas Sparks. It wasn’t very common for women during Jane Austen’s time period to write. Though she still wrote her stories, and kept writing even on her death bed. Nicholas Sparks is very well know for his novels, especially the ones that turn into movies. He started writing after he got a sports injury and didn’t have anything to do. So he decided to write a novel to see if he could do it.

It doesn’t matter to me if I’m “famous.” That’s not how I perceive success. It’s all about the story, and what the readers receive from it. The reward should be seeing your work finally on the shelve for others to read, and receiving feedback and reviews on it.

Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Little Women

Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Little Women

Reading a great story can really inspire you to want to become a writer. It can also be a character that happens to be a writer, or a reporter. So that reminded me of the book, Little Women. My favorite character was Jo. She was a writer, who wanted to write a novel. It was one of my favorite stories when I was younger. The characters don’t really have to come from novels either. Lois Lane inspired me to become a reporter. Though I’m not a reporter now, the newspaper experiences that I had in high school and a bit in college have taught me skills to write as well.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the TV show, Smallville

Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the TV show, Smallville

It can also be the people around you that inspire you to become a writer. I had a friend of mine that inspired me to write in the school newspaper and literary magazine in high school. That was a stepping stone to what I would study in college to have a degree in Liberal Arts (English, and minor in Journalism). If it weren’t for a few friends in college that made me realize that I should study English. That gave me the opportunity to be taught by some amazing professors about literature, poetry, creative writing, and so much more. If I hadn’t made that decision to switch my major after my first semester, I might not be the person I am today. I might have graduated with a Business degree.

So why does this really matter, you may ask. Well, just as someone desires to know their family past to learn more of who they are. I believe each writer should learn, and/or remind themselves, what cause them to love writing. Which causes you reflect where you came from, how you’ve improved, and what you need to do to improve. That way when you have difficulties in writing, or in publishing, you can remind yourself why you love your craft. For it’s the craft, and the experience of creating something, that really matters more than any bump in the road.

The Fine Line Between Fiction and Fact

article image I think it’s always difficult in writing to make the story accurate.

According to this article from BBC News, our nation [the USA] has a top science organization, the Washington Academy of Sciences (WAS), which hands out seals of approval to books that present science correctly. This seems like it would benefit writers, just as much for readers. Though, what if we learn that what we thought was wrong was really right? It’s happened before in history. We did use to believe that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Which items does science say is correct now that we might learn later was wrong?

So how much accuracy should our fictional stories be accounted for?  Writers try to make their stories, though they are fictional, rooted in reality as much as possible.This is why research is an important factor for those who don’t have complete knowledge about a certain subject that will influence the story. Though if we use Science Fiction as an example, some things that are covered in those stories that were more fiction than fact caused an exploration of science advancement, such as ten inventions inspired by Science Fiction. It seems like there should be enough to make the idea credible, or make everything consistent to the story for the idea to seem real. Remember sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. Though we have to show which ever idea in a way that will advance the plot, so the readers can immerse themselves into the story. If we know our strengths and weaknesses are, we can find away to improve our stories. So if we’re not good with accuracy, then maybe research might help, and at the end of it all making sure the story is a good one. If the story is good, then the readers might not mind a few inaccuracies.

This topic of accuracy usually comes up when I watch TV shows related to crime, for example Bones. The show is centered on science, but… is it all correct? The crime shows usually have consultants to make sure that what ever they cover is accurate. I know the show has a well-known consultant, but someone who studied Criminal Justice mentioned to me once that shows like Bones were filled with inaccuracies. It kind of surprised me for some reason. I had believed what I was watching had accurate science, even though the story was fictional. I know we can’t all be perfect, but we hope for something close to it. I usually try to watch these shows for the story, and hope that it’s accurate. That’s how I treat the stories I read as well. Do we as an audience and as readers choose to focus on the story, and ignore the inaccurancies? It all determines what you know. Like with the character Sherlock, if you know the subject, you will observe more inaccuracies than others. It’s just like those who have read a book that has been adapted to film who notice what others might not. It causes some to shift away from the story because they are focused on something that is disconcerting.

Though if we focus on making every thing plausible, could we be losing the appeal of fiction? I’m sure there are plenty of people who read fiction to experience a world unlike their own. So as long as the story is interesting, that’s where our focus is. Plus if we write only what we know, we place ourselves into a little box (and not one that is bigger on the inside…). We could be closing off the possiblities for our stories (as well as possible inspiration for future science advancement!). When you write a story, focus on what you do best, and then get help on the rest. Remember that fine line between Fiction and Fact is imaginary. You can place it where ever you choose, because you’re the writer. There will always be room for improvement. So I believe that this science organization can be used to help writers improve, but they can’t have the veto power over what is best fiction.

Certain puzzle pieces are just meant to be together

If there is no reading, then there is no writing… If there is no good writing, then there isn’t any reading…

The defintion of good differs between people. What I feel determines a good book is that it causes someone to read the entire story. A great book causes you to be interested in reading. An amazing book, trilogy, or series causes someone to have a love of reading forever.

“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that… But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” – Stephen King

Reading and writing will always be together, and need each other. Reading gives us a chance to learn how others write. Your favorite amazing novel that you loved reading could be your best example to teach you what you want to learn. Or there could be several books can can show you different parts on the best way to write a story, such as creating style, background, theme, framework, characters, dialogue, new worlds, etc. So it makes sense why so many authors (like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling…)  would recommend reading as much as you can. Ray Bradbury mentioned that his best education was reading an entire library. I’m sure it would be much difficult for us to read an entire library, especially one that continues to grow. There are some books that aren’t our cup of tea, but we also have to be open to reading some times out of our comfort zone too otherwise we might miss out on some great stories and learning experiences. (more…)