Monday, May 17, 2010


Well, for those of you who have wondering why I haven't posted much lately, the answers are graduation.

The last semester before graduation can be rather difficult and time-consuming, particularly when you're getting that 4-year degree in three years instead. And a double major, at that.

Anyway, I was expecting a BS degree in Statistics and minor in English. Turned out the full extent of what I earned was a BS degree in Statistics and Mathematics, with a minor in English, and another minor in Physics. (I didn't even know about the physics one until, about, the night before or so. I didn't have all the classes for the physics minor as dictated online, but I'd taken so many higher-lever physics courses, it seems they decided to award me one anyway.)

So there's that news. Purdue graduate with BS in Statistics and Mathematics at 20 years old.

Now on to that MS in Applied Stats and I'll be going through all this again one year from now. Already into summer courses for my MS: STAT 529K - Applied Bayesian Decision Theory, not that any of you care what it is.

On another good, more writing-oriented news, I got into ENGL 408, which is one of Purdue's invitation-only Creative Writing class, where you have to submit former work to get in. For anyone who knows my writing, I submitted in "Fireflies" and "King Solomon Is a Blues Musician." I have no idea if any of you have read them, but AW member Kevin (you know who one I mean) seemed to enjoy it quite well when I posted it for critique way back when. In any case, I'll be taking that creative writing class and some statistics classes no readers here will give a fuck about (I assume) and hopefully get my MS and get the hell out of here in 365 days!

And for those waiting for graduation photos, here you go. There are more to come later whenever the school photographs send us theirs but these are just our own two. I really effin' wish the caps were sized.... impossible to put on. I'm a 7 1/2 in hats (generally an XL) and I have lots of hair.... it was a real challenge to put their caps on. Anyway. My mom should be obvious. My brother is the brown one who looks like an older version of me if I chopped my hair off. And my father is the white-haired old guy (to whom I birthday-gifted that Burberry houndstooth wool-silk blend sports coat, which I think looks quite well on him, and fits rather well.) Hehe.

Furthermore, note my badass bow tie. Ralph Lauren crimson spades with skulls centered in them. Oh yeah! I don't think anyone else there wore a bow tie....

So there you go, Maryn. Happy?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Data of the World

Let's mix some work with play.

The statistician sits at his computer, staring into the dizzying array of scatterplots that tell him everything — almost everything. The interactions, the tests, the higher factorial orders of effects — these will reveal themselves later, all in due time. But these plots! The information they give, in wild matrices of dots seemingly thrown haphazardly across the screen like snowflakes in night — some aligning into curves, some refusing to conform to any kind of humanly-discernible shape — is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. But not for him.

The statistician sees the patterns that inform the code he’s typing now. Line by line, the instructions that will make everything clear appear dashed in black and white across an incredibly 90s-looking interface, a boring GUI that hasn’t been updated in years, but he doesn’t need it to be. He doesn’t need anything flashy or drag-and-drop. He only needs the numbers that will come up, the P-values and the tables of errors and sums of squares that will decide the fate of the data.

On one side of the monitor are the dots. On the other side is the code. The tension, the fiery conversation between these two things are clear right now only in the statistician’s mind. Like a fight between the powers of Good and Evil: one is trying to hide the Truth, throw order into more confusion and disorder, while the other tries to fight back the darkness with a dimly-bulbed flashlight.

Each dot represents something — a person with or without syphilis, an automobile that breaks down or not, a cell that may have divided, a protein, a lab rat, an irate chimpanzee wearing lipstick, something — but that’s not what anyone else would see. What anyone else would see is just chaos. And the data? In its raw form? The data! Imagine a spread sheet from hell. Imagine hundreds, maybe thousands of lines of numbers out to crazy decimals, with esoteric columns that not even the experimenter knows what to do with. It’s randomness, chaos, meaningless junk from which nothing important can be grasped.

But the statistician is here to change that. It’s an Olympian task. The data fights you. It’s a Sysyphean burden. It’s like trying to pull a sensical story from the Library of Babel. Like drawing symphony out of piano notes played by a monkey with one hand as he composes Shakespeare with another. But you don’t have an infinite number of monkeys. You have N monkeys. N monkeys at N typewriters and what are your chances of Romeo & Juliet? Crunch the numbers. Do the math. It isn’t looking good.

And what if the experimenter screwed up somewhere? What if one monkey threw feces at another? The mega-outliers, the influential points that sit at the edge of the graphs, like angry, delicate snowflakes that threaten to end the world in ice, and you have to make the choice: stamp them out, or does Romeo really marry Juliet in a frostbitten outhouse? What if he does? This is a documentary and you can’t get it wrong.

Then: the code is done. The enter key is waiting. The statistician’s eyes gloss over as he looks at the data points one last time, hoping, praying. His index finger is poised, lingers in the air for N factorial seconds, an infinity in monkey time, comes down.

And the CLACK you hear is the sound of order from chaos.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In which I shamelessly plug my favorite bands

This post has no other point than to shamelessly promote some of my favorite bands.

Some bands are just so good, having just one copy of their albums isn't enough.

First up is Rush and Pink Floyd. The classics stay classic.

I would never pass up an opportunity to show off my collection of Elliott Smith vinyls.

No list would be complete without some Syd Barrett.

My own pieces of pop history.

And finally the band so good that I have no less than four physical copies of some of their albums: Porcupine Tree.

Music is always a great inspiration for writing. Little known fact (talk about stating the obvious): both of my two novellas were inspired while listening to Porcupine Tree songs. "Trains" (no shit) and "Collapse the Light into Earth." More beautiful songs have never been written.

Music is great for setting a mood. I can't write without it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Thinking About Writing

"Where do you get your ideas?" asks the interviewer to the famous writer.

The famous writer never knows how to respond.

Neither would I.

That's why I'm going to respond right now.

Being neither a famous writer nor even published yet, I am fortunate enough to rarely ever get this question asked of me. Nonetheless, it's the same question every artist will eventually get asked.

Where do you get ideas?

No one knows. We sure as hell don't.

I get stuck all the time. I can't think of a story. Or I have characters and no idea what happens to them. Or I have some itch of a story idea and no ideas to whom it happens. Or I just have some rough glimmer of a reflection of a shadow of an idea for a personality or a face or a setting or a mood or just a single sentence or a phrase or a title.

Umberto Eco woke up one day thinking that he "desired to murder a monk." And that is the genesis of The Name of the Rose.

I woke up one day thinking about a gunshot to the head. Or rather, the lack of a gunshot to the head, and I wrote one of my novellas beginning with a man who doesn't kill himself. I woke up another day with a song stuck in my head that wouldn't go away, and I wrote my other novella from its one word title, "Trains".

I was on the bus one day and thought of the phrase "close your eyes," which became "don't open your eyes," which became the first line of a piece of flash fiction I wrote this morning when I woke up with the words "I'd let you" in my head.

I was crossing the street one day when I thought of an image of a girl crossing the street. That was the genesis of my first (still-unpublished-but-working-on-the-synopsis) novel. That's all I started with. I thought of a girl crossing a street. I imagined her footfall on a street that was so cluttered with cigarette butts there was no curb anymore. I imagined her face and the bag she was carrying and the color of her hair and her eyes. I asked myself: where is she coming from? I didn't know. I asked her. She said she was coming from rehearsal. Rehearsing what? With whom? Where was she going? She told me these things. And I wrote the first chapter (and what would eventually become chapter two) of that novel.

I was playing my brother's guitar once. My brother lives in a trailer on an Indian reservation in the middle of the desert with his wife and my niece, and we're half-Zuni. I was putting the guitar away and I looked at the case. My thought was "lone guitar cases look strangely like coffins." Then I thought of a guitar case in the middle of the desert. How did it get there? Did someone bring it? Who? Why is he in the middle of the desert with a guitar? Where is he going? And answering those questions led me to writing what would become chapter three of that first novel.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Ideas come from nowhere. They come from the ether. The appear when you least expect it. They're scared like mice, like I told you earlier. If you search too hard for an idea, try to capture one, try to take one, steal one, harness it, tame it before it wants to be found and're going to fail. Ideas will come to you when they're ready. You can't think yourself into brilliance. It just comes.

So where do you get your ideas? Don't think. Don't think about them. Don't try to come up with something spectacular. Don't try to think of what happens next.

Ask questions. Ask your characters what happens next. Ask yourself why the sky is blue. Ask yourself why the person across from you on the street is bending to untie his shoelace and re-lace it. Is he nervous? Is she postponing something she doesn't want to do? Is he trying to be late for a meeting? Is she obsessive compulsive and the knot wasn't perfect and she just noticed this? Is he trying to get himself fired? What else is she obsessive compulsive about? Why is he trying to get himself fired? How many times is she going to re-tie that damn shoe lace? Is he tired of his job or has he found something better or is he about to try to take over the world and become an evil supervillain? Is she a robot programmed only to tie and re-tie her shoes? Well maybe not, but you get the idea.

Don't think about writing. Thinking about writing is another way of saying you're not writing. Thinking about writing is a good way to do nothing. I know. I do it all the time.

Force yourself not to write. Force yourself not to think about writing at all. Go to a concert. Go to your favorite band's latest gig. Go to a movie. Go stand on the bridge and look at the river floating by under the sunset. Or the sunrise. Put your favorite record on in the dark, lie in the middle of the room, take a tab, and close your eyes. Walk through a crowded mall and people-watch. Sit outside a coffee shop and start a pack of cigarettes and don't start writing until you've finished it. Do something crazy. Do something out of character. Do something insane. Or something completely normal. Do something every day in a way you've never done it before. Take a different route. Take the same route but walk if you usually take the bus or take the bus if you usually walk.

Don't look for ideas. Put yourself where they'll come to you. Open your mind and clear it. Become idea bait. Become blank. Let them come to you instead. Play hard-to-get.

But whatever you do, don't try to think of them.

Do something else. Anything else.

Only if you don't build it.

They will come.

Then, when you get a nibble, just an image, a phrase, a word, anything.


What happens next? And listen to the answers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Order and Chaos

I used to outline. I really did.

This isn't going to be about me saying which I think is better. There is no better, there is only what works for you and what doesn't. You'll hear me say that a lot if you keep reading, so get used to it.

Way back when, when I just started to write my own, real stories in something potentially resembling the form of a novel -- or at least attempting such a thing -- I outlined the crap out of everything.

I remember, it was -- fade, dissolve, turn on the sepia tone -- way back in my very first years of middle school I started my first novel. Science fiction. Space aliens, the destruction of Earth, big spaceships, incredible technology allowing the manipulation of matter, energy and time in ways that would make Einstein and Heisenberg weep, sentence after sentence that went "I verbed!" complete with extraneously elaborate and unnecessarily gratuitous exclamation points. I had it all.

Where was I going with this? Anyway, I gave that book up as childish and juvenile around the time I turned twelve.

Then came my fantasy novel. Now I was that strange, messed-up, pre-pubescent writer who wanted to write a fantasy novel that had no fantasy in it whatsoever. You got that right. It had the medieval technology, the Chosen One, the never-ending quests, the Evil Overlords, the great big Epic Battles, the requisite Overworld Map, etc., etc. But no magic. Humans only. Final Destination. Wait. Scratch that last part. I outlined the hell out of it. I wrote 50,000 words and stopped, never getting anywhere further. I couldn't do my outline justice. If I did it would take forever. And the fact that I'd outlined everything beforehand just killed my interest in writing anymore since there was no thrill of surprise at what happened next.

Then came my eighth grade novel. My near-complete, two-chapters-from-finished, Completely-Ripped-Off-from-Umberto-Eco eighth grade novel. It was basically a long character sketch of myself with a plot completely stolen from Foucault's Pendulum. I didn't outline, but I plotted out the future chapters. Just one or two sentences. Even that became too much. I listened to my own plans too much. I didn't think of the characters. For all my navel-gazing, I was shallow as a Mexican Staring Frog.

So here's a writerly lesson: Don't Trust Yourself.

You are wrong. The characters are right. Listen to them. Listen only to them.

It doesn't matter whether you outline or not. Write real characters. I want to know what they do, not what you think they do. When I read a book, every action should seem like the only possible thing that character could have done. Make the last page the only possible outcome just because of who those characters are. Make them real and four-dimensional and step out of the page and greet me with a handshake or a punch in the face or an offer of a beer or gun to the gut, whatever they like. But you can't plan it yourself -- you can't make them do what you think they should do. Listen to them. The characters know better.

Am I sounding like I should be committed yet?

My first completed-and-as-of-yet-unpublished novel started with nothing more than a few sentences that grew and grew. They became scenes, disparate and unsure of themselves, but knowing they had somewhere to go. The characters took over their own arcs. I trusted them to guide me. I didn't know how everything would tie together. But it did, amazingly, and every twist and turn was a surprise.

I plot my short stories meticulously.

But the only way I've managed to finish a novel? What do I start with? An outline? Just an idea?


I begin with a sentence. And then another. And then another. And I want to believe that a story will coalesce if it is meant to.

I'm still not sure why I'm posting this. Oh well.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Suffer for Your Art?

They say write what you know.

What do you know?

Well, what does that mean, anyway: write what you know? Does it mean if you're a postal employee, you should only write about stamps and manila envelopes and everything you pen should be an epistolary novel? Does it mean if you're a serial killer with dreams of writing a heartbreaking love story that you should forget it and send in your memoirs as horror instead? Does it mean if you've never been to Middle-Earth you can't imagine an elf or if you've never believed in religion you can't write a character with faith or if you've never had lost a child you can't imagine that, too? If you're God does that mean you only get to write in first person omniscient?

It doesn't mean any of that. Write what's true to you. Write what's real to you.

If you write something sad, you must weep at every predicate.

If you write something horrific, you must cringe in terror with every comma.

If you write something comedic, you should laugh at your every wild simile.

If you write something romantic, you should fall as madly in love with your characters as they do each other.

If you write something sexy, you should be turned on.

If you write something painful, you should hurt.

What if you don't? Is it not good enough? What if you're writing a murder? Must you kill? If you're writing a love scene, should you write it on someone's bare naked back? If you write a unicorn, must you tame him and ride him and make him your friend first?

No, but you should know it so well, you should know the feelings of this so intimately that you feel as if you have done these things. If you're writing a scene from a point of view of a mad man, you should feel insanity in you. Do you have to be insane? No. But you should be able to imagine it.

And if you're writing a drunk or a crackhead, should you be drunk or on crack? No. Can it help? Maybe.

The imagination is a powerful thing. The Romantic poets believed in two imaginations. The conscious one that creates and the unconscious one that dreams. For some people, imagination can be more powerful than experience.

But if you can experience firsthand, why not take advantage of that? Why not?

Everything we experience is part of the creation of our creative selves. An artist draws from everything within himself or herself. The more experience you have, the more you have to draw on. Does that mean everyone with experience will be a brilliant writer? Fuck no. But it does mean that those who know how to use experience, to draw upon it, to take the feelings and events and mistakes and pains and pangs and happiness of their lives -- their art will be all the better for it.

If you can take something positive out of suffering, then do it, and use it to write something real.

If you're not moved by your own work, how can you expect anyone else to be? If you don't feel as if you yourself have lived as your characters, how do you expect anyone else to believe them? Write what you know. You may know a lot more than you think. And we keep on learning.

Death is only the beginning.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Writing Survey. Fun.

I stole this from Lori, ignoring the questions I can't answer because the publishing world has yet to acknowledge my obvious genius.

Open cheek. Insert tongue. Wait. That didn't come out right.

How does that go again?


What makes a good book to you? Story? Characters? Exotic locations?

Good writing. Really. People say a good story trumps all. But for me it doesn't. I want good writing. The best writing can make the most boring, everyday situation interesting. That's a writer's job. Everybody can come up with a half-decent story. Plots are a dime-a-dozen. Writing is what changes a simple story from a cheap knock-off of a million other two-thousand-times-told tales into a masterpiece that could last forever. Shakespeare was hardly original. Almost every play he wrote was a rip-off. So why do we remember him? Through his writing, he made the works his own.

A good writer isn't just the one who can come up with the best story. It's the one who can write it right. A good writer is the one who can give me something I've seen or heard or imagined a million times before and think "Damn, I never thought of it that way before." A good writer can make even the most boring, the most everyday, the most mundane minutiae of the dull moments of ordinariness into a kind of mindfuck madness of metaphysical enlightenment.

What's your favorite pizza toppings?

Noble Roman's monster-style with ham, pineapple, and extra cheese.

What´s the worst thing you´ve ever done to one of your characters?

Oh god. Too many things to list. I'm not sure I can think of a "worst." Do you really want me to tell you? Do you? Do you really?

Well fine.

Let's see.

I've forced a medical student into selling drugs to pay for his and his girlfriend's tuition before the dealer slash gang leader he was selling for kidnaps his girlfriend to blackmail him into becoming an assassin for him.

I've killed off a character who thinks the girl he loves doesn't love him just as the girl realizes she does love him after all.

I've made a character believe her love is alive again before realizing he is a hallucination and he's been dead a long time.

I've killed off a character's wife in childbirth.

I've killed off a character's stalker just as she realizes however creepy he is, he's the only person who's ever loved her.

I . . . well this one I can't even give away, it's just too good.

I've let an ex-pedophile kill himself when he realizes his platonic love for a boy might be something more and the boy is left to wonder what happened to the kind old man who taught him how to play the guitar.

Don't tell Scarlett, but I've given a character cluster headaches coupled with flashbacks to the violent murder of his wife. I'll let you figure out who the murderer is. It's someone in this list.

And this one . . . well this one is also too good to say here where everyone can see. You'll have to wait until I'm published, dammit. Yes, I'm cruel to my characters, and I can be cruel to you, too.

Which of your stories contains the sexiest love scene?

Good question. I don't know.

Depends how you define "sexiest."

"Phantom Pain . . ." has probably the most intimate love scene I've ever written, though I doubt those who've read it would consider a murder terribly sexy.

"Trains" has some violent sex. Too violent for most, probably, but again, very intimate.

My work-in-progress, As I Hug the Dusk, probably contains the sexiest so far. Just finished the scene today, actually.

Which of your stories was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The easiest? The second half of my first (unpublished so far) novel, Pale Girls Shaped Like Crucifixes.

I wrote the first 45,000 words in a span of about four months. I wrote the last 30,000 words in the course of four days. I still don't know how that happened.

The hardest? "Phantom Pain . . ." by far. That one left me shaking and shivering in the dark for a half hour after I wrote the ending for it. I think I wrote myself into a panic attack with it, actually.

If you could meet any character from any book, who would it be, what would you do and why?

Joelle van Dyne. I'd do her, veil and all.

That's all for now, everyone.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Idea Mice

I have begun my second novel. This one will be published.

For the first time, I think I may be writing something marketable.

In the course of my scribblings, I have come to one irrefutable conclusion.

Ideas are scared little things.

You have to put out bait for them and hide in the dark. Sometimes one will sneak out and sniff the air. And then you have to hold still and hope it doesn't see you, because if it does, it'll scurry away into the darkness again. You have to wait until it gets close, and then tastes a little bit of the bait. And still you have to wait. And sometimes you're lucky and one or two come out, if you're quiet enough and still enough, and hold your breath. And finally, when you can't hold out any longer, and they're starting to feel a little bit of comfort, and you think you're suffocating, and everything in the air is electric with the little buzzing, nibbling ideas tasting your bait, and you can just see the promising glow of their eyes -- then, just then, you can pounce. And maybe if you're lucky -- very lucky -- you might get one by the leg or tail. And it'll fight and writhe and try to scamper away from you. But you have to hold on tight and not let it go. And then you can feed it and try to gain its trust, and maybe, eventually domesticate and toilet-train it. And one day, maybe, after it trusts you and sleeps at your side and curls its little warm body against your mind when you rest -- maybe then it will let you use it.

Damn nitty little things.

That is all.

Kuwi Hates You All

Hello, World.

This is my first entry.

My name is Kuwisdelu. I am a writer. I have many names, but this one will suffice until the editors of the world see fit to publish my unworthy scribblings. I call my lines unworthy. In truth, I am simply too brilliant for this world. In all likelihood, the day I publish shall be the sign of the End Times, and all can hold their breath in anticipation of me.

The truth is that beginning this blog is a testament to my self-loathing. This is a way to start the New Year. I am born again on January 1, 2010. What will the future bring? Do you expect me to know? Do you expect to know me? Expect to be disappointed.

I hate the word blog. I hate the “words” born of the internet age which have infected our lexicon. I hate LOL, ROTFL, ROTFLOL, ROTFLMAO, OMG, and BRB.

Just so you know. I will not LOL. And FYI, I will not BRB. If I BRB, I will not be saying TTYL, and I will not CYA. Nor will I BBS nor BBIAB. I will not BBL. I will just be gone, disappeared into the internet ether, leaving you all to wonder WTF and WTH. I will never KISS, but I will probably give you TMI. Because AFAIK, I am never JK, and IMO this is all just BS. So LMTFA.

I am a part of the problem, and I admit this with heartfelt, inequitable disgust at myself.

So, my dear reader. Hello.

Now what shall I rant upon? What daily minutiae of my trivial life shall I choose with which to bore you? What filth, what profound depravity shall I unleash unto the world?

I am not a deviant. I am far, far worse. And you will love me for it.

As I hate and love you.