What I did in class . . .

Hey everyone!
So . . . I’m not the best of students. I have a condition that I like to call Critical Marni. It’s sort of like the point of critical mass. I think. I never really got that concept, actually.
Here’s how Critical Marni works:
During a super boring lecture on plate tectonics and wind erosion I can only pay attention for roughly an hour. Because after that my brain refuses to absorb the information. It says, “Really? You think this is interesting? Hah! You know what would actually be interesting? Waking up with the ability to shoot noodles from your fingers.”
I have hit Critical Marni State and from this point onwards . . . yeah, nothing is going to stick.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m not working. I just shift to the more imaginative side of my life. And I’m very proud when I produce this:
That’s right! I plotted out A NOVEL.
During class . . . when I should have been paying attention . . . oops?
Except what I did was so much cooler than anything my teacher could have possibly told me. I produced a work of art! And maneuvered my way out of a potential blockage situation. But that’s not going to help me when I have to deal with my first two finals this Tuesday.
And even though everyone in my family is telling me to just concentrate on school right now that is way easier said then done. I love to create. So while I enjoy learning in school the truth is that I’m tired of balancing my passion for writing (aka my career) and my schoolwork. So I have decided to graduate from Lewis & Clark College a semester early.
This would never have been possible if it weren’t for the number of AP tests I took back in high school. I’m glad I get to cash them in for college credit now. I never thought I would want to graduate early. I figured that I would want to postpone joining the adult working world for as long as humanely possible. If I didn’t have my writing, I would probably feel that way now. It’s terrifying to face the world without the safety of the education system.
I think the R-rated puppet musical Avenue Q sums this up perfectly with the song ‘What do you do with a BA in English?’
But I’m feeling ready. So one semester and a month from now I will have graduated from Lewis & Clark. I will be able to create outlines for novels whenever I feel like it. I will be free from mandatory lectures and (best of all) finished with finals. Au revoir, homework! Unless I decide down the road to go to grad school for a PHD, which I don’t really see happening for me.
So in order to graduate ahead of schedule I have to take math, art, P.E. and my senior seminar class on Henry James. And I have to pass all of my classes in Australia. Which means I should probably open this book instead of staring at it in horror.
I am definitely looking forward to being finished with research papers.
No more procrastination though. Starting now.
Well, maybe thirty minutes from now.

~Marni

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Odd Duck

Hey everyone!
It might surprise some of you to hear that I’ve gotten a reputation in Australia for being morbid. At first I thought it was unwarranted. I’m an absolute optimist. I’m the girl on the bus who merely smiles as the baby shrieks—and not because I’m imagining ways to shut her up. I choose to be entertained rather than annoyed. But my fellow classmates know that if we in any way discuss the seedy underbelly of society, I’m going to have some questions.
Okay, a lot of questions.
They thought it was funny when I asked our first lecturer if selling Aboriginal artifacts on the black market has the potential to make some serious cash.
They smiled indulgently when I asked our tour guide about how brothels were organized at the mines.
They shook their heads when I asked which creature in the mangrove swamps posed the greatest safety hazard.
And they traded knowing looks (and a few groans) when one particularly brave lecturer said that he welcomed all questions. No need to raise hands. Just shout them out.
So . . . yes, sometimes the screaming child and I both need to keep our mouths shut. I openly admit it. But I only ask questions when something captures my imagination. Once that happens I just have to know. Even if it means asking museum curators how the security of certain objects could be compromised.
I know! I just can’t help it.
So yesterday when I asked the museum expert if the Aboriginals wore anything particularly comfortable, it wasn’t meant to be awkward. It was just that . . . no way could dangling a humongous shell to cover up certain bodily bits be comfortable. Which explains why it was ceremonial and not for lounging. I understand now.
But apparently while I was pointing to the piece that had ahem, captured my attention, a member of my group pointed out the obvious:
“Marni asks the most awkward questions.” Beat. “I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud.”
To which my teacher responded, “Oh no. That’s what all of us were thinking.”
Which . . . okay, fair enough. My questions are weird. I get it.
And I wasn’t mad or offended when I heard about it. I’m sort of used to it, to be honest. I’ve heard a similar sentiment expressed throughout my life.
Except back in high school . . . and middle school . . . and elementary school I desperately wanted to blend in. If I could have swapped my life for someone else’s I would have done it. Absolutely. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to trade back. See, no matter how hard I try to act normal, I have always been the odd duck.
I’m the square block that looks at the round hole and says, “Um . . . not to be critical, but you know you’ve got the wrong piece, right?”
Even in elementary school. I was the one kid who couldn’t tie her own shoes or read a clock. And I could never figure out the stupid game where you hopped from state to state on the blacktop outline of the U.S. because the rules kept changing. One day it was “don’t step on the orange states” then it was, “don’t step on the states that start with a vowel!” But mainly it was, “Marni, what are you doing? That’s not how you play!
Elementary school had its share of rough social moments. People who look back to the simpler times and sigh must have been the cool kids on the playground. When you are the square peg, no matter how many adults supposedly love your “pegginess” you generally feel like crap. I used to fall asleep every night berating myself for my daily social faux pas until I cried. So . . . maybe it’s a fair assessment to say that I’ve always been a bit different.
And while I like to think I’ve grown smarter, stronger and more articulate with age when it comes to some things I’m still the kid who can’t figure out the hopping game. I still don’t know how to be anyone other than myself.
The difference is that now I’m 92.7% okay with it. Instead of crying over my social mishaps, I laugh. I pull the covers over my face, squinch up one eye and smack my forehead in amused disbelief. Then I pull out my laptop and imagine what would happen if one of my characters said a similar thing only worse!
My awkwardness, the thing I always thought would hold me back, has actually allowed me to make a living doing what I love.
I’m a square peg and I can’t fake it. I’m always going to want to know about heists, assassination attempts and evil genius plans. It’s the way I’m built. So if any of those things make me “morbid” (characterized by or appealing to an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects) well, okay.
But what other people see as an “unhealthy interest in disturbing subjects” I find fascinating. And I will always choose to be intrigued instead of bored. So to all my fellow pegs: hang in there. At some point you’ll look at that stupid round hole and realize that slinking down with the others actually sounds pretty dull.
So before I leave this blog and find some other way to procrastinate on my research paper (The City Built on Gold: The Boredom Story. I mean the “Ballarat” story . . .) I want to wish my sister a very happy birthday. I thought this shout-out might make up for the fact that (as my brother so elegantly put it) I’m stiffing her again this year. But maybe not. Oh will you look at that! I’ve got to go.
Sincerely,

Marni

A Tad Bit Delayed . . .

Hey everyone!
I know  . . . world’s most unreliable blogger. I could have shared about my adventures in Thailand, Cambodia and Australia. But instead I jealously hoarded them so that I can stick them in my novels and no one will say, “Wow, Marni! Way to be original. Not.”
But I think I can safely fill you guys in on some of the things that have been going on in my life. Since I last posted I won a Meg Cabot fiction writing contest! Which really means that I won one of my favorite books: The Boy Next Door. I know, most of my friends snicker at my deep love for romance novels but this one is not to be missed. Although I was more excited about submitting a short story then the prize. See, I don’t tend to write short stories or anything under 1000 words. Not because I’m a snob. I think short stories are fantastic! It’s just that I tend to fall in love with my characters. And then I don’t want to leave them after less than ten pages!
That’s why I write novels—because I’m not good with goodbyes. 
And speaking of novels . . . I am officially done with my manuscript for Invisible. It is now in the very capable hands of my editor, Megan Records. Now hopefully she’ll love it, tell me that I am a writing genius and that it is perfect just the way it is. Fingers crossed, everybody! 
But the best part about finishing a novel is starting the next project. Which is kind of funny because when I am halfway through a book I want nothing more than to be finished. I get so fed up with spacing out during class thinking, “Oh what if she breaks up with him and then . . . oh, no. Never mind. What if she gets in a fight and then . . . what was that Mr. Allen just said? I have to map a torus? Uh . . . how do I do that again?” 
The editing stage is the most brutal because that’s when every single sentence is under intense scrutiny as I try to weed the good stuff from the . . . not-so good stuff. Advice to future authors: get someone you trust to look over your stuff. It’s amazing how many expressions I’ve used that turn out not to be expressions at all. Just words I’ve mangled together.
So, yes, turning in the book feels fantastic. I’ve been celebrating with episodes of Modern Family. Hilarious! But mainly I love that now I am free to work on whatever I want. If I get an idea at one in the morning I don’t have to feel guilty about firing up the laptop. The funny thing is that I never thought of myself as a workaholic until I came on this study abroad program. And now two days without Internet feels like an eternity. It’s embarrassing to admit but I have become the girl who checks her Facebook page first thing in the morning. *Shakes head in shame.*
But back to my news! I will be attending the Willamette Writers Conference 2011 from August 5-7th and to make matters even more exciting . . . I’m going to be on a panel. Or giving a speech. Or something. I’m not quite clear on the details. But I will be there and I can’t wait to see my conference friends.  To be honest, I’m really looking forward to returning stateside. Australia is great—don’t get me wrong. But they don’t eat apples and peanut butter here. Seriously. They have apples. They have peanut butter. But they can’t seem to put the two together.
And I’m sorry but any country where they eat vegemite needs some serious help. 
Beyond the food differences there is also something of a language barrier. You might think that they speak English but that’s not exactly true. For example: flip-flops are called thongs here. Week one I saw a hotel sign that read: No thongs allowed! I stared at it for a full five minutes just wondering how they would a) check that rule was followed and b) how they would enforce it. Sorry, ma’am but my underwear detector revealed a G-string. You’ll have to come with me. 
Australians also call bathing suits “togs” which sounds like a shoe if you ask me. This led to a great deal of confusion with my host family when I first arrived. I guess they aren’t used to American’s asking why they would have to wear shoes in the pool. But I’ve got the hang of it now. Brekkie for breakfast. Avo for afternoon. Mozzie for mosquito. Anything they can abbreviate, they will.
But I have to admit . . . the Australians I’ve met have been warm-hearted wonderful people. So maybe this country has more going for it then oceanfront property and sandy beaches.
Anyhow, my life right now . . . looking pretty good.
And I’ll try to be a better blogger.
~Marni