Tough Education

Happy WIPpet Wednesday!

The end of the semester is here—exams are stressing out my students! I don’t envy them. Graduate school nearly broke me—academic hazing is what I called it. However, I am so extremely grateful for my education. The experience inspired me to write a book. So, that makes all the endless, sleepless nights of studying worth it.

For all the exam takers, you'll get through this.

For all the exam takers out there, you’ll get through this.

The Hall Speaks #fallsemester is my début novel and the sequel is my WIPpet. There are several story lines, but today I’m going to share an excerpt from Sage’s. He wears the RA position like a BOSS, making policy enforcement look cool. But the RA job has forced him into a dangerous situation. He gets a tough education—one that has nothing to do with school. I shared about him here.

For the math: May 14, 2014, just 5 sentences for the month.

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#Sage

Early Monday morning before the sun got up, Sage took off for the campus gym. He ran across the lawn as if the water called him. The distinct smell of chlorine hit him as he entered the humid, warm locker room. He went for first locker he saw and opened it, tossing in his blue bag. Alone, with only the steady humming sound of the heater, his thoughts racing just as fast.

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Thanks for reading, and comments much appreciated! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets because they are fabulous! 🙂  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading All! Stay beautiful. 

Gif credit: tumblr_inline_n4ttocoVMh1r25fcq.gif

Unusual Jobs

Interview picture

A note a staff member gave me before my interview

For this weeks snippet I’m sharing an RA interview. Another writer interviewed one of their characters last week and I really liked it! The process for the RA position is pretty intense. There’s a long, detailed application, 2-3 personal interviews, then group interviews where candidates do a series of tasks with other candidates. Organizing RA interviews and hiring can take an entire semester. It’s a big deal.

I’ve invited Carly (my character from The Hall Speaks #fallsemester) to sit with us and answer a few questions. These are real questions asked on interviews and I got them here. Hopefully it gives you a little insight into the RA job and my character. Carly wasn’t a girl I liked right away. She’s not mean but she isn’t concerned with trying to be nice. Eventually she grew on me.

The math: It’s May 7 so she will answer that many questions.  🙂

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Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

So, Carly, thanks for meeting with me. I know you just finished interviewing with Landon for the actual RA position.  I’m going to ask you some of the same question he did but feel free to be candid. Nothing you share will get in the way of you getting the job.

1) Well, how are you?

“I’m fine…can’t wait to get out of these clothes, though. A little tight in all the wrong places if you know what I mean.” She’s wearing a lavender button down shirt and a navy skirt.

2) Ok, I won’t keep you long then. So, why do you want to be a RA?

Hm..I didn’t come to school thinking about the RA job—not at all.  My parents believe in working hard and all that, and want me to work through college. I can’t do retail or fast food stuff. No way. Being an RA seems pretty harmless. I get my own room, tell freshmen what to do, and get campus-credit. It’s really cool, when you think about it.”

She looks down at her lap for a moment, then back at me.

“Beside, it’ll be the first thing I do without my boyfriend. We’ve been together for, like– ever. So I want everyone to see that I’m more than Patrick’s girlfriend.  And the money I save my parents on room and board, they promised to give it to me after graduation. Not a bad deal.”

Pride gleams in her smile as she crosses her legs, leaning back in the chair.

3) Not a bad deal at all. And what are some of your strengths?

“I don’t really have a problem confronting people, especially if I’m right. I can keep residents in line. I’m a planner, good with numbers too. I’m an accountant major so I could maximize our RA programming funds.”

4) And what about weaknesses? What would you say those are?

“Weaknesses, Ha! I have plenty of those…like chocolate, margaritas, bakeries. In general when it comes to food I don’t discriminate. But I’ve been dating slim fast for the last 6 years so no one has to worry about me eating all the food at RA programs. But I guess my social weakness is forgetting that people have feelings. I can tend to just focus on my own,” she explains smiling with her eyes.

5) Why should we hire you?

“Because I have moves you’ve never seen.” She laughs and so do I. “I saw the original red-head, Julia Roberts,  say that in a movie once. Sorry—just wanted to see how that sounded. Why should you hire me? Well…I’m pretty awesome. But other than that, I’m reliable and really organized…I don’t stress out. School is fairly easy for me so I can handle those RA responsibilities just fine.  And I’m pretty normal. Alana’s cute if you’re into that Disney princess kind of look, but I caught her cleaning in the bathroom. I mean, who cleans public bathrooms unless it’s their job?  I’m nineteen with no major meltdowns on my record, so that should put me in the top ten on the candidate list.”

6) Carly, tell me what you would do in this situation: You notice that one of your residents doesn’t seem to want to return home for Christmas. When you approach her, she tells you she’s nervous about going home because her step-father molested her in the past. What would you do?

She sighs.“These questions… this makes me sad. I hate that people go through stuff like this—period. What I’d want to tell her is that while her step-dad is riding his broomstick to hell, that she can stay with me for break. My family is crazy-generous to everyone except me. Of course, I gave Landon the more censored, good-RA  answer, but honestly I couldn’t let her go home.”

7) Do you think Landon will hire you?

“Gosh, I sure hope so. He said I needed this job. Which I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that because my parents have money.  But he sounded pretty darn sure that I needed to be an RA on his staff. Yep–totally got that vibe from him.”

Well, maybe he thinks being an RA can help you as a person.

Her brows shift, moving closer together. She looks kind of offended.

I learned so much in the role and grew as a person because of it. Possibly he wants the same thing for you. Best of luck to you, Carly! I’m sure you’ll get the job. Thanks for letting me interview you. It’s nice getting the uncensored, unscripted version.

“Yeah, no problem. See ya around!”  She walks off towards a guy in a suit.

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Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds later today.  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading all! Stay beautiful. 🙂

NeVer ForgeT

Seven years ago today….

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I sat in my office on a Monday, sorting through an inbox full of emails. I had gotten to work early to get a jump on administrative stuff (my least favorite activity).

The morning was going along nicely. Nothing significant happening inside, but outside the unseasonably cold day was gorgeous. You know that kind of day when the air feels clean and the sun is blazing by 7 am. The bluest sky was visiting, and campus life hadn’t quite awakened from the weekend.

Simply the perfect way for an introvert to start her week.

I was in the lobby chatting it up with a student, when my supervisor approached. He face said nothing in particular. But he stopped by to let me know that two students had been shot at my school.

I remember frowning because I thought that was strange. Probably some accident, I assumed. Working and living on a college campus, few situations shocked me. I continued on with my day as normal. An hour or so passed and students crowded the lobby. They whispered to each other, looking concerned. And that’s when I felt the energy around me change.

After that, honestly, I can’t recall the exact order of events. I knew it was a shooting, but when reports started coming in about fatalities, I couldn’t process that information.

How could that be? Virginia Tech was the safest university ever. My Alma Mater was the safest school, tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

I had just graduated the previous year and the Hokie  community was family. Literally my family was there, my brother-in-law, cousins, RAs, colleagues, and dear friends. Watching CNN that day, I knew all of them were affected, but I wasn’t sure if they were all still alive.

And here I was at work, on a college campus nearby. I wanted to leave and be with my Tech family. But I needed to stay. The crisis was starting to unfold among the students around me.

VT is the largest university in Virginia and most of my students had friends there. Students in front of me, behind me cried, but I couldn’t. Not yet.

The world changed that day. The sun seemed different. Food didn’t taste the same. My job felt different. Truth is I was different. That day my worldview changed.

A week later I was able to talk with a colleague at VT, and something she said never left me.

I couldn’t fathom what that day was like for her and other Residence life staff there. The first shooting occurred in a dorm I lived in the previous year. Wrapping my mind around such a tragedy was hard enough, being there when as it happened, I couldn’t imagine.

But I wondered how did they handle it? What did the RAs do knowing they had lost a fellow RA and residents?

She paused and said, “We were working. We worked.”

Now, that to me was shocking. But once I let the words sink in, I was inspired. That, in the middle of the biggest tragedy to ever happen on any college campus, RAs and professional staff worked. It was powerful. And I couldn’t have been more proud of the way they pulled together.

Hokie Community at the Memorial VT

Hokie Community at the Memorial VT

Residence Life staff members across the country face several types of issues living the halls. The work they do is irreplaceable and invaluable. Universities need them more than I can explain. I just wanted to write a story to capture the RA experience—the Residence Life experience. And I did.  Because they work when no one is watching, they are always working.

I’ll never forget that day, the heart always remembers. To my dear friends I lost that day, we live for you!

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry,

and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

~Nikki Giovanni

www.thriftywebsites.us photo credit

Hot Pink Stain–WIPpet

Have you ever met someone who has a bad attitude for no reason? Like, you ask a simple question and they snap back with a rude comment. It’s hard not to take it personally. And showing compassion for the person displaying this behavior–forget about it–not happening!  Because I know for me in those situations, I don’t exactly get this feeling:

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Well, I’ve learned that there is always a reason–not that it’s justifiable–why people are mean. I’m convinced that 90% of road-rage has nothing to do with driving. Sometimes people go through horrible things and live with residual anger.  If any of you have ever seen Anger Management you know exactly what I’m talking about. Or one of my favorites, that moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark just goes mad-cow disease on his boss.

The way many people feel when life just gets crazy

The way many people feel when life just gets crazy

Unfortunately for my character, Kessa Daniels, her situation has no laughter involved. She’s carrying a dark burden. A burden that was forced, one that she never imagined carrying.  But she holds it with an attitude because it’s the only way to deal with the pain. Some folks smile the pain away, while others push everyone away.

In my first novel, The Hall Speaks #fallsemester, Kessa is introduced during RA training. She is playing the role of a cutter during the scenario and is so believable the other RAs get emotional watching. This happens during that scene:

But for Kessa, conjuring up tears was as easy as brushing her teeth.

She had more to cry about then any of them could ever know. 

My WIP scene is connected to this one, and it’s from RA Marcus Johnson’s POV. They are ‘just friends’ and he’s finally getting Kessa to trust him. Marcus asked Kessa to attend a divine nine fraternity banquet with him.

The math: April 2, 2014 so I’m giving you 22 lines (14+2+2+4) from blog post 8 (4th month multiplied by 2).

#Marcus

“Never mind, Marcus, I’ll get it myself,” she demanded, snatching the cup from his hand.

“Look–I’m sorry.”

Her expression softened. No one could be mad at Marcus for long. His dimples appeared when he talked. He accepted people and they accepted him right back.

Kessa gave him a quick smile. “It’s ok, I’m sorry too.”

“Hey, let me introduce you to one of the pillars in KSG…” Marcus shifted to the side, revealing the dark-skinned guy behind him. “This is Drake,” he introduced, patting his high set shoulders.

The most peculiar smile shaped Drake’s slender face as he studied Kessa’s form. Marcus frowned slightly because Drake stared at Kessa like he knew her in that way. He glanced at Kessa and felt even more lost.

She stood there, still as a tree in the eye of a storm. Her dark brown eyes focused on Drake, watering from a new emotion. Her fingers twitched. Before Marcus could mutter another word, she flung her drink in Drakes’ face. The red liquid dripped down his neck, staining his white collared shirt hot pink.

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Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds tomorrow. And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading and let’s all keep writing!

Photo/Gif Credit: www.tucsonweekly.comgiphy.com245 × 235

 

A Dream in Me and the Must-See Project

“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid” ~ Lupita Nyong’o

Early on as an RA I knew my job would never be in jeopardy (with this economy I wish I had that kind of job security now).  The dean of students pulled us together to go over university budget cuts. I know, budget cuts in education—such a shocker. At the time, I hardly cared, being a sophomore, and more concerned with classes I needed to study for than sitting through another department meeting.  But a fellow RA asked the dean if we would lose our job, if that was part of the budget cut.

I can still see the peculiar smile that spread across the dean’s face as he said, “Oh, no—you don’t have to worry about losing your job.  Your position is irreplaceable.”

Those words really caught my attention. Just a few weeks into being an RA, I wasn’t really sure what the dean meant. By the sixth time I was on RA duty, I knew exactly why my role was so important.

RAs:

 Train twelve’s hours a day for a week or more during the summer, Spend all day moving in their residents, Live with their co-workers and customers (residents),  Handle more paperwork than most secretaries, Serve on-call, confronting just about any student or building issue, Counsels the homesick, confused, abused, and I-just-need-someone-to-talk-to kind of students, Write up the drunk student and befriend them at the same time by inviting them to a program, Teach all sorts of life skills, Make the building pretty with bulletin boards and door tags, Have lots of meetings, some at odd hours of the night, All this while getting a degree and trying to balance that thing we call, “life.”

Q: I mean, who does this?

A: My Dean was right, this role is so important to the university.

For one day, I wish every college student could experience RA life. It’s a unique, unforgettable, unbelievable college adventure.  So much so, I had to write a book about it—had to! RAs are some of the greatest students I know.

My dream is to see Reslife go mainstream, past the halls, past college life, and into living rooms everywhere. Even if my novels aren’t the breakthrough project to do it—I still want Reslife to be celebrated.  I’ve always thought Reslife would make a stellar TV show, it’s like a Glee meets Grey’s Anatomy dipped in a little Friday Night Lights. I know, I sound like a Reslife fan and that’s… correct.  It may be a small dream, but it’s a dream in me. So, I couldn’t be more excited to share with you, Res-Life: The Musical. Chad King, RA and director, created a story that takes place in the upbeat world of Residence Life. A team of dedicated students are helping him put it all together. Here’s the synopsis:

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

Starry-eyed resident advisor Oliver seemingly manages to have it all while looking after the first-year students in his hall. But when he is stuck on duty during campus-wide Date Night, an unexpected breakup with his boyfriend catapults Oliver into an emotional crisis.

Now, he must decide if his busy job is worth the stress if it means losing the love he so desperately wants. Meanwhile, his resident Leah struggles to make college feel like home. Singing, dancing, and important realizations ensue as both Oliver and Leah attempt to find love over the course of an unforgettable night.

For more details, check out Res-Life: The Musical on Kickstarter.

As with any film, funding is a huge aspect: stage set, costumes, equipment, and practice locations. This can all get pretty expensive, so they’re asking for support. Helping others live out their dream is a wonderful gift. However big or small the help, it provides the artist with hope. As artists, writers, and dreamers hope is something we always need!

So, this is what happens…

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When classes are cancelled and the university shuts down, guess who’s babysitting? Yep, Ron Swanson! Well, not really but close. This scene is the best representation of  how Reslifers feel during inclement weather. There’s this little dot on the job description that says, “duties as assigned,” which means “wearer of many hats” for residence life staff members.

My experience includes walking around during a Nor’easter trying to get my students to stop playing football in flooded areas. Without the structure of classes students go a little crazy, especially if they’re stuck in a dorm.  To be honest, I was not happy that day. I just wanted to sleep– you know, take a day off. However, looking back on all those adventures I don’t regret a single moment. Because our experiences are the foundation for great stories.

I just wanted to share as it’s rumored we are getting another snowmageddon in the D.C. area.  Much love to my local Reslifers this week! When the snow starts falling, keep your sanity by encouraging students to watch movies, play board games, and of course read a great book! 🙂

Image Source: A Passionate Mind and whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

WIPpet Wednesday–my first!

A sequel to The Hall Speaks already? Well..I’m a rebel, not really. But I had this planned out before I even wrote the first novel. Anyone that’s worked in Reslife knows that fall semester is very, very different from spring term.  And I wanted to capture all that and the growth that occurs among the students.

Anyway, since I haven’t found a critique group since I moved, I thought it’d be nice to take part in WIPpet W. I need the accountability and I really enjoying hearing from other authors!:) How it works is the excerpt has to be related to the date. So, here this is my first sample WIPpet, 22 lines on page 14 from THS#springsemester, which equals 1-22-14.  Like the first novel, this one follows the lives of a Reslife staff, and there are four main story lines. This is one of them.

Scene: Landon is having a difficult conversation with someone who means a lot to him.

His lips stayed in a tight line as he stared at the floor. He knew what he needed to say and that he’d cower if he looked at her. “Lizzie,” he sighed, “you shouldn’t have brought Rebecca here, not under the assumption that she could be my date.”

Her eyebrows came together. “Why not…Landon, you two always got along great, I thought you’d be  – ,“ explained Lizzie, but he interrupted before she could finish.

“I’m not available.” Lizzie looked even more confused as she waited for a plausible explanation. “I’m in love with–.” He paused, knowing from Lizzie’s tortured expression she already knew. He lifted his chin, tightening his jaw, unapologetic.

“Landon, you can’t be serious,” she said slowly, the words difficult for her to get out. She closed her eyes like she couldn’t look at him anymore. “Are you sleeping with her?” she asked, squeezing her temple as if she had a headache.

Landon frowned, appalled. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t do that – never under these circumstances,” he said with conviction.

Lizzie began pacing in the small living room. “So what does this mean? Are you considering resigning? Landon that’s ludicrous!” Her voice started to rise, “You’ve worked so hard – gaining the respect of everyone…and to do this…” She stopped, putting both hands on her hips.

“I am resigning and don’t try to convince me otherwise. I’m not telling you this so you that you can talk me out of it.” Blinking, he glanced at the ceiling, not wanting the emotion in his eyes to run down his face.  “You need to know this because I don’t need you setting me up on dates. I’m sorry for lying to you…”

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Thanks always for reading! If you’d like to participate in WIPpet just go here.  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! This is such a great idea.:)