The Future of Storytelling: A Free, Online Course on iversity.org (Also: Week One Creative Task.)

Note: If you’re here redirected from the Answers on the iversity website, please click here to jump past the blog and get to the answer! Thank you for visiting!

The past two years, I have participated in (and failed – but enjoyed nonetheless) National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Since I’m also on Facebook for a huge amount of my downtime that I’d rather not disclose the specificity of (seriously, guys, social media is consuming me), I also follow the NaNoWriMo Facebook group.  About a month ago, some user posted a link to this online, free course in storytelling, which started about a week ago (I know, I know – I’m late!). Tonight, someone re-shared the link and I eagerly jumped at the chance to partake. Free classes in creative writing, that I can enjoy from wherever I am? Yes, please!

I’m writing to discuss the awesome that this course delivers, but also to complete my first “assignment,” though not mandatory, and to share it with you all and the whole Internet, if they care to read through it. If this blog and their page on iversity.org is not enough to pull you in, feel free to check back in another week or two and I’ll review it more, and probably again in 8 weeks when the course ends.  Let me tell you, though – I have high hopes for this project I’m undertaking, and if you like writing and/or storytelling enough to still be reading this post, I believe you’ll enjoy it too.


The assignment is as follows:

Please think about what story you’ve read, seen, played or experienced in your whole life that has impressed you most. Retell the story by giving a short summary of what you can remember of it. What was it that fascinated you the most about it? Its characters, its locations, its plot … ? Share both what this story was about, and what has made you value it.

The story I’m choosing is that of the 1999/2000 video game, The Longest Journey.

Let me begin with the context and circumstance of how I played the game. When I was very young, between kindergarten and third grades, I lived with my dad: the huge computer nerd of my family. He knew everything about them, pretty much. He also spent a great deal of time perusing the many wonderful features of computers, be it functionality, Internet networking (or anything, really), or video games and movies for entertainment. When I lived with him in Arlington, when you’re too young to really make friends and hang out with them often and you’re still learning things for yourself, video games have an amazing capacity to both learn and entertain. He started me off with several JumpStart classics and other related educational games … but I went through them pretty quickly, learning (elementary) math and Spanish and spelling, et cetera, with flying colors. Seeing the value and effect these games had on me, he introduced me to others: The Secret of Monkey Island, the King’s Quest series, and Sam and Max Hit the Road, to name a few. One such game was The Longest Journey, a point-and-click adventure game that is (on the surface) about a girl who is chosen to help keep separate the worlds of magic and science, or of disorder and order.

Now … for what I remember? The site instructs in one tiny place that this be around 400 words, so I’ll go pop this in Word and see what I can do. Let me say here that I highly recommend playing this game, and if the above description interested you in the slightest, I recommend you pick it up from Steam (an online video game store that I can’t recommend highly enough, but that could be an entirely separate blog post) or Good Old Games (another online store which specializes in making older games available to the public) and play it for yourself; but if not, feel free to continue reading. Clocking in at 307 words, all of which were not used to describe the important bits of the game, here you go:


The Longest Journey details the life of current college art student April Ryan, who has recently moved away from her home of her whole life to attend aforementioned college. While she is glad to have the new independence, she is finding herself burned out on life and dissatisfied time after time, despite the fact that she’s been able  to make friends and get a job.

Cue Cortez: the mysteriously quiet older gentleman of Venice, the futuristic city where they live (and yes, they included canals), who visits old movies and lurks about but never really speaks to anyone. He suddenly approaches Ryan, mentioning her nightmares (which she’s told no one about, because they’re pretty uncanny) and that she’s meant to enter the other world (that of magic) to prevent the conjoining of the two. April, though of course resistant at first, is eventually excited although frightened to go.

Cue … some of the best game story I’ve ever seen, ever, period. The name of the magical world is Arcadia (the name of the science, Stark) and you enter in an old church with paintings on the wall that detail the history of the universe, basically, explaining how both worlds are hinged together.  After listening to the story, you roam the village/town and meet its merchants and inhabitants, discovering their fleshed-out personalities and how they interact with each other.  And I’m barely past 200 characters but because I don’t want to spoil the game too much: you enjoy several other locales, world-hopping a few more times, meeting several more complex people and discovering the secrets of the universe you’re playing in. If you’re reading this because you weren’t yet intrigued enough to play the game based on a one-line summary (okay, I don’t blame you),  I beseech you to give it a look. You will not regret it.


And now: Why do I value it so highly? What stood out to me? It’s worth mentioning that after I finished playing those kiddie educational games, The Longest Journey was the first “adult” video game I beat. It had an amazing story, it had intriguing, deeply developed characters; it had captivating locations and a breathtaking art style (though perhaps antiquated now, it was top-notch in its day) and was basically the whole package wrapped in one with a great big bow on it.

There are some of you who may be thinking (don’t be ashamed, I’ve read other people say so) that TLJ is not all that I make it out to be and that I must be suffering from nostalgia while I praise it. But let me tell you, I’m seventeen now, eighteen in December and I’ve made my way around a video game or two and I am (eventually) hoping to make my own way into the game producing industry. I’m a writer, and I’m taking this class in storytelling; and if you are as involved as you must be to direct yourself to my blog to read my response to this creative task of the week, I can promise you that if for no other reason, The Longest Journey is worth a play through for the story.

Wrapping up the school year.

What a wild ride it’s been this year.

Last year, my guidance counselor told us that junior year was the most important. That’s when, colleges say, you are at your most mature – you are aware of the way high school works and how to act and that you need to be working and not slacking, and you’re not tainted by senioritis yet, et cetera. They get a feel for you.

This year sums me up pretty well, I think. I took Creative Writing, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and had three (so far) opportunities to share my writing in front of an audience. I skipped out on history, which was nice. I ran my best mile of my high school career (and can’t we just skip out on gym next year, too?) and I participated in the school newspaper for the entire year. Today, in fact, I earned a promotion for the newspaper for next year, a title I’m ecstatic to have. I also took Sociology this year, which was a fun and interesting course.

I took the AP Psychology and English Language & Composition exams in May, and I felt pretty confident in both of them. I liked all the essays I wrote for English and I very much felt the benefits from all the studying I did for Psychology, which was rewarding.

On the other hand, I’ve had a bit of a battle with depression and anxiety and an (squeamish men skip over the next few words) ovarian cyst, which was really shitty to deal with but eventually went away on its own. Anxiety used to only occur during air-travel time, but it’s been getting worse the past year – although not really bad enough that it deserves treatment, only that it’s been more noticeable that I have such a problem. (Also, if you’d like to read a poem I wrote about airline anxiety, click here!)  Depression has … fluctuated. Nothing unmanageable, though.

I’ve been thinking about colleges, too – and while I was looking at prestigious schools like RIT and USC for awhile, I’ve come to the basic conclusion that there are two places that are good at computer science where I would be happy: University of Texas at Austin and North Carolina State University. Texas, of course, will be my priority; but it would be nice to be in North Carolina for awhile, too.

Speaking of college, another noteworthy thing is that I’ve asked for my letters of recommendation … I have requested three and I might still need another one, because certain computer science things require one from a math or science teacher; which, of course, usually don’t hold me in the highest favors. Darn! The three I’ve asked for are from my AP English Language & Composition teacher, my Creative Writing teacher, and a teacher I had freshman and sophomore year, first for World History and then for Geography & Culture of Latin America and Africa.

Which brings me to – because of my request for letters of recommendation (which according to the schools I want to attend, I might not even need … sigh), I wrote my first resume. It looks pretty awesome, but it’s also fairly brief. It includes the Skyrim mod I made, plus how I taught myself HTML via W3 schools … and a bunch of other odd things.

The summer is quickly approaching, and so are my plans for it. I’m leaving for North Carolina on July 1st and I am counting down the days and making lists of things I want to do. Swim and cook and bake and play games and a million more. As for now, though, I’m  worn out. I apologize for the lack of writing lately and sincerely hope to write more in the summer, just as I did with the birth of this blog.

In A Perfect World

I’d have parents who planned me, who today cared about my ambitions and my activities and the things I do.

I’d have a dad who today, despite the mileage, would make an effort to talk to me; who today, despite the political opinion disparity, discussed something else with me; who wasn’t a lazy fuck and who would want to spend time with me, instead of claiming to want to see me and to play single-player games the entire visit and claim to get their feelings hurt when I want to hang out with Grandma instead.

I’d have a mom who could put away her temporary boyfriend to see the value not only in me but in herself; who could differentiate the person who made her mad and me, and subsequently correctly channel those otherwise normal and natural feelings; who could have a similar temperament day-to-day, and not scare me into walking on glass each day and hoping for luck that I won’t upset her.

I’d be able to learn to drive and not pay $425, while my boyfriend got driver’s ed for free; I’d be able to make friends and not feel alone in Connecticut; I’d be unafraid to talk to people, in groups or individuals; I’d be better at managing my time; I’d not feel like a waste of air for not being anywhere near as high up in the class as some of my peers who treat me horribly; I’d not feel ashamed to ask my mom for lunch money because of the mini financial crisis we’re having; I’d not have to push myself to run the mile every year of high school for gym and feel breathless (not in a good way); I’d be better at comprehending math; I wouldn’t compare myself to everyone and feel like shit all the time; et cetera.

Kingdom Hearts wouldn’t try to ship its game on nine different platforms; the roleplay on World of Warcraft wouldn’t be limited to veterans who have been doing it for 5-7 years and are completely decked out in awesome, and instead be less intimidating for newcomers; Facebook would pick a decent layout and STICK WITH IT ….

The lists could go on. What would your perfect world be like?

The AP Exam: English Language and Composition

So, after being sick last Thursday and Friday, and all weekend long… I returned to school today and had the chore of my AP English midterm. It consisted of two essays in an 84 minute period: an argumentative and a rhetorical analysis.

The thing with an AP class, especially with this one, is that there’s not a lot of STUFF to learn. You’re really just learning three separate skills. A rhetorical analysis essay prompt asks you to read a passage of writing and dissect it and look at what the author has DONE and why they did it, rather than the message of their words. This is most often (and most easily) done with a speech, but sometimes there’s other weird fictional pieces or memoirs in there. Odd stuff, really. An argumentative essay is really easy if you have any opinions at all: you’re given a controversial issue, and you must determine whether it is X or Y and justify your case with evidence. If you want any kind of a strong essay, you counter yourself and then explain why you’re still right. “Some people might THINK it’s X, but it’s really Y because …” et cetera. And finally, the synthesis essay is basically an argumentative essay on steroids with pre-given sources. You have seven or eight-ish sources, one or more of which is an image of one kind or another (usually useless graphs, in my opinion, that don’t contribute to the actual prompt’s purpose), and you utilize them to form an opinion about the issue.

That’s about it. This class teaches you those skills, and not really a whole lot else. Some vocabulary for rhetorical analyses, but if you’re good at dissection, you don’t really need to know what each tool is called if you can use it properly. (It helps, though. Like if you have an assistant to hand you your tools and would rather have your eyes on whatever you’re dissecting …. but this metaphor’s going too far.) The thing this creates is that this class, much more so than the AP Psychology* class I’m taking, is really a class for the exam. Some people debate the credibility of AP classes because it’s literally “teaching to the test” but the problem with this is that these are college courses that not everyone’s actually going to try in.

What I’m getting at is that AP English is a year-long course and if you keep on doing your work and actually exerting effort … there’s no way not to get upper-half grades on your essays. The problem that everyone faces is time. Time, time, time. There’s never enough time, really. And after I finished my midterm this morning, I sat around and watched as people were scurrying with messy handwriting (and thought about all the sample essays we’d read which I couldn’t read because of the dreadful handwriting) and I wondered why we couldn’t type them. The school can easily revoke Internet access to computers on its network. We are a techie generation, after all, and the future’s computers, regardless of what you’re going into. And the thing is, I don’t know how old y’all are (does anyone even really read this blog? If so, you must be irritated by my parenthetical overuse) or how much bearing that has, or how much or how often you write – but I revise in my head. I don’t plan when I write. I just write. That’s the only writing I can do and the only writing I’ve ever been able to do … and go ask my English teachers, they all think I roll out some pretty great stuff. So, right – the point is, everyone in this class probably has the skills that they need. But they can’t finish their essays because they’re stressed for time and their hands cramp up from handwriting and then they freak out because they don’t have enough time and whatever they’re able to scribble out before time’s up is illegible and THEN where are they?

Boy, I can get on a tangent, eh?

Mostly the reason I’m writing this is because I couldn’t find any good posts about it elsewhere. I think it’s an honest thought worth considering. Wouldn’t be too hard to pull off, I don’t think – a lot of classes take their exams in libraries anyway, where the computers are, at my school at least. Imagine those graders down in Kansas or wherever they are (does it change?) – how much easier would their lives be if they could just read a nice typed paper instead of deciphering the hundreds or maybe even thousand or so different handwritings they have to read?

Do discuss, I’m deeply interested in this possibility.

[[** So, our AP Psychology class. Psychology is a great class to take in high school as an elective because it’s interesting and you can and probably will (directly or indirectly) use it out of class. AP Psych is for those students who think they might wanna go beyond school and become a psychologist … or for those who’re really interested in it. The thing is that the class isn’t really hard. At all. The exam is a joke. We took our midterm back in December because Schleer’s a great teacher who wanted us to relax during our midterms week (as much as possible) and it’s so easy. He makes his tests much like the multiple choice on the midterm/exam, so nothing was really a surprise. And the essay questions…? Not hard at all. So the thing is that you can really use the class outside of class and if you’re any smart, well, that’s what you do.
Also, he acts like the class is so hard, but it’s not. He’s just addressing that so many people are lazy fucks who don’t do any school work. In AP Psych, you do indeed have to do the homework. But if you do, it really pays off.]]

Thursday Thirteen: Things I’m Going to Do With My Kids.

1.) Go around the table at Thanksgiving and say what we’re thankful for.

When I was a kid, we did this every year almost. Since a few years ago I spend it with my mom – always, whether I live with her or not – and I love her but we don’t do this. I usually do it internally or talk about my boyfriend with it. Judging by the nature of this meme, I might blog about what I’m thankful for this year. 🙂

2.) Wake up early on Christmas morning. 

Seriously, how many of you have parents that wouldn’t wake up early on Christmas? I’m going to wake up earlier than they will and I’m going to make biscuits or cookies and hot chocolate. I’m gonna make the house smell like delight before they can feel it.

3.) Help them with homework and keep up with their schoolwork.

I’m a pretty sharp kid. Until high school, I never needed to study, and as such it’s something I had to transition myself into. With my kids, I’m going to keep up with all of their schoolwork and make sure they’re exerting themselves and not lazing away.

4.) Talk to them about their days at school and how they are doing.

I’m going to be interested in their lives. They’re not going to have boyfriends or girlfriends I don’t know about – not because they’ll get in trouble or whatever, but because I’ll be curious. I’ll want to know everything, inexhaustibly.

5.) Sit as a family together at dinnertime.

This doesn’t even have to be in a dining room with a big table in a circle while we all stare  at each other. We could watch a movie together at dinnertime for all I care. And it doesn’t have to be EVERY day – there can be exceptions. But I will want to ensure that I have a family … not a pack of people who sometimes see each other around the house but don’t interact.

6.) Get them involved in activities they’re interested in and encourage them to branch out.

Will they love to write? Join newspaper! Will they have natural leadership skills? Go for student council. Whatever they’re interested in, I’m gonna want them to go for it in life. You can’t sit back and expect things to fall in your lap – you have to go out and search for the life that you want and make it. So … start with extracurriculars.

7.) Give them advice when they want it and try not to pry when they don’t.

I never want my kids to feel like they can’t talk to me. I always want to be available when they want me and stay comfortably away when that’s what they want. When my kids grow up, I don’t want them to be itching to get away from their parents, but to be sad to go. I want to help them and teach them it’s okay to be curious, to ask questions.

8.) Be there for them always and let them know I’m available at all times. 

This is kind of the last one extended, but the point’s still as strong. I want my kids to really love their parents. I want them to know that we’ll care about them.

9.) Answer all of their questions.

I’ll not beat the curiosity out of them with impatience. If they ask something, I’ll do the best I can to answer it myself and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll look for it. I never want my kids to STOP questioning the world and the way it works. I want them to keep that innate curiosity we all once had as young children.

10.) Encourage questions and try to spark curiosity in other topics.

If they ask me why is the sky blue I’ll ask them other questions about space or the sky. I’ll make them interested in knowing things. I’ll make them PROUD to be intelligent, which is something my generation (young as it is) is already losing sight of.

11.) Read them bedtime stories. 

Self-explanatory. My favorite when I was a kid was Harold and the Purple Crayon.

12.) Let them decorate their bedrooms any way they want. 

Who wants a rocket ship bed, or a princess curtain? Who wants to paint their room their favorite color? Who wants a desk with a funky lamp? My kids will do this and more; whatever they want. Let their creativity flow.

13.) Take them to Disney.

When I was a little girl my dad promised he would take me to Disney World. He has yet to keep this promise. My mom works at ESPN, which is owned by Disney, and we get discounts and I still haven’t been able to go. This may be a little-known secret to some of you … but I LOVE Disney, and I will go. I will take my kids and we will get autograph books and every single character will sign. I will take them everywhere. I will drink Monster to keep up with them if I have to and we’ll explore everything.

This is a Thursday Thirteen I’ve wanted to do for awhile. I don’t even remember what sparked it, but it’s been sitting in my iPhone for approximately 160 days and therefore I decided it was time to write it. Here it is. I know it’s Wednesday… I’ll put the link up on T13 tomorrow. 🙂

I hope everyone’s doing well. I miss blogging but I usually have too much to say or not nearly enough to write, and for this I apologize. For those of you keeping track, I’m stressed. I am trying to finish two articles for my school’s newspaper and I’m worried that I will not finish them in time. I have two tests tomorrow that I’m actually not very nervous about except it’ll be a half day and we’ll have much less time than usual to take them. Hm … I’m pretty sure that’s about it. I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year but I’ll probably post about it the closer it gets. I may or may not take another complete hiatus from blogging in November, I guess we’ll see where it goes. 🙂

What A Fantastic Day!

Seriously, I don’t even know what was up with today but it was just a really wonderful day. I’m very pleased and optimistic about tomorrow as well.

This week at my school is Spirit Week, which is a truly awful job on Student Council’s part considering this is a four-day week courtesy of Columbus Day today. Tomorrow, Tuesday, is college spirit day. So at Champ’s … sporting goods store, or whatever it’s called, I don’t know because I don’t go to these things on a normal basis … ANYWAY I GOT A LONGHORNS SHIRT! 😀 Two of them actually, because a t-shirt was $18 and they had a sale of 2 for $25. So what a no-brainer, eh? 😛 One of ’em’s burnt orange with UT and Longhorns and “Texas Football” on it. That’s the one I’m wearing tomorrow. The other is a black shirt that if I’m not mistaken says “Texas Longhorns” but don’t hold me to that because I bought it many many hours ago.

Wednesday is tie-day day. That one’s fairly obvious. Wear something pretty and colorful. I don’t actually have anything for this, for some reason I have no tie-dye anything. If nothing comes through for this one I may just wear a bunch of randomly colored things or perhaps lots of rainbow. I don’t know, we’ll see how it plays out.

Then Thursday is that whole “Blast from the Past” ordeal where they want you to dress up from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc etc etc etc. I’m going to wear flared denim jeans and my mom’s black-and-white  polka-dotted long, flow-y poncho-like shirt and a headband I bought from Claire’s today that’s black and has cute little colorful peace signs on it.

Friday is the day for actual school spirit and to wear our school’s colors of maroon and white. I don’t really have anything for that either. But at least I’m happy about the ones I am decidedly dressing up for. 🙂

Other than that, what else did we do today … oh yeah, I actually did some homework! I completed a three-page double-spaced paper on the novel Of Mice and Men. Not only did I complete the paper but I’m fairly proud of it, feel like I did a rather good job. I hate my English class this year though because I usually have a great connection with my English teachers. Even last year, when I loved my teacher but didn’t feel like she was actually successful as a teacher, she and I still got along on friendly terms. With my teacher this year, she’s super great and friendly when she’s talking to the class but whenever I speak TO HER it feels like she is impatient, waiting to get to something else … always wanting to do anything but talk to me.  I don’t know, it’s really depressing. The one benefit it has is an extra pressure on me to feel like I should work harder in a desperate attempt to make her like me more.

After we left the mall today (totally skipping around anachronistically [is that a word?] here..) Mom and I went to Panera. Mmm, Panera. Bread. I love bread. Bread is so great. I could live a perfectly wonderful life on bread and nothing else. I really wanna bake bread one day. Wouldn’t that be fun? Anyway, I need to stop blabbering about bread.

I’m getting really tired, and a little bit frustrated and the mood’s being tampered with a little bit and my whole thought process is just getting a little bit wacky. So I promise to post tomorrow, and I have this wonderful post that’s all thoughtful and lovely that I started last night but got halted by the same thing that’s affecting me right now – aka, completely random and utterly thorough tiredness … yeah. I’m going to go now before I’m completely unable to solidify a strong sentence.

Cupcakes and Writing, Writing and Cupcakes…

Cupcakes. I made ten of them. They are gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon frosting. They are delicious. I can’t have any because they’re for the concert and dessert night tomorrow.

This entry won’t be long and I apologize but I was cleaning the kitchen immediately after I got home and from there I spent a long time making cupcakes and hanging out with Mom so as you may have guessed I’m rather behind on all of my necessary duties such as showering and scrapwriting/brainstorming for Nano.

Which brings me to writing. Yes, writing. I have an idea. I’m going to try and branch onto it with outlines and developments. We’ll see how that goes. I have high hopes for it, I have a secret source of inspiration I’m drawing from. With luck, all will go well. If not, I have lots of other ideas that I’m also very optimistic about. All is going well considering it’s only the fourth day of October.

I’m really tired and I’m going to go shower now and come back and probably write for Nano and completely forget all about homework until tomorrow morning. Except biology probably because biology is a little more extensive … I think. Maybe? I don’t know. Headaches. Dear lord save me.