# of pages written: 9.5
I learned I will have a poem published in Stone Highway Review!
Also, check out my newly published story at Cafe Irreal!
This past Friday my mother and I went to First Fridays in downtown Richmond. It’s the once-a-month event where all the art galleries stay open late, serving snacks and free wine. Well, they used to serve free wine back when I was in college, when I would visit my friends at VCU Art School and we would hit up First Fridays for all the freebies. Now the galleries sell plastic cups of cheap wine for five dollars a pop. According to my mom, this is because people were getting into fist fights on Broad Street, so they had to take away the free booze. Sigh.
We did manage to find one gallery giving away free wine. (I’m not going to tell you which one because I don’t want them to get in trouble.) And we took advantage of the free snacks: weird Indian candy, a hard cookie-type object that might have actually been bird food, fruit platters, chips with salsa, free samples of Vietnamese noodles. Good stuff.
Oh yeah, we also saw some cool art, our favorite being the exhibit at Gallery 5: The Museum of Natural, Theoretical and Mythological History by Dave Moore and Matt Flowers. I can’t accurately describe the curio-cabinet/scientific-romance magic of this exhibit, so I just suggest you get to Richmond and see it for yourself.
Later, my mom described to me a video installation she’d seen at a previous First Friday. The artist had recreated famous horror movie scenes of women screaming (like Marion Crane screaming in the shower in Psycho) and inserted herself into the role of the woman.
“Wait,” I asked. “So everything was exactly the same except it was the artist screaming instead of the original actress?”
“Yep,” my mom said. “It was really annoying. I couldn’t handle watching a video of a bunch of screams.”
“She should have done something other than scream,” I said. “Like, instead of screaming, she should have yawned. Or burped.”
“Or she opens her mouth and a tiny little man comes out,” my mom suggested.
“She could have thrown up, or yodeled,”I continued.
“Or the little man could have yodeled.”
“Exactly,” I said, glad my mom and I were (sort of) on the same page. “What’s the point of doing it the exact same way it was already done?”
I like the idea of using something familiar, a story already in place in our collective unconscious, – like a classic horror movie – and tweaking it. But in my opinion, the tweak should be unexpected, poignant, or comical. It should turn the trope on its head. A yodel, for example, instead of a scream.
On Saturday, my boyfriend Paul and I saw the movie Warm Bodies. It’s a not-so-subtle nod towards the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet, and, perhaps, somewhat of a spoof on the Twilight novels. Classic forbidden love… In this case, the love between a zombie and a human.
The movie got average reviews, and I’ll agree with the critics that it was no masterpiece, but still, it was enjoyable: cute and clever, and exciting at times, too. I kept thinking how much fun it must have been to write. (Warm Bodies was originally a novel of the same name by Isaac Marion.) Imagine taking the Romeo and Juliet structure and trying to figure out how to make it work with one of the characters being a zombie. Almost as fun as figuring out what else could come out of Marion Crane’s mouth besides a scream!
The critics slammed Warm Bodies for being too obvious: the girl’s name is Julie and the zombie boy is “R.” There is a scene where R breaks into the human compound and stands below Julie’s window to express his feelings for her. It’s like they’re smacking us in the face with it, the critics complain. But guess what, most people like that. They don’t want to have to search too hard for meaning. They want to figure out quickly “oh, this is a twist on Romeo and Juliet” so that they can begin recognizing the similarities. That’s the fun of it.
My thesis for my MFA was a collection of modernized fairy tales. In one story, a girl wearing a red hooded sweatshirt takes the Greyhound bus to her grandmother’s house and is befriended by a sleazy guy with a lot of facial hair. My professors weren’t crazy about it or some of my other stories. They advised me to better “hide” the original fairy tales within the stories. Make them more subtle. So I tried to do that. I wrote a story about a step-mother and her daughter Bianca. It was a twist on Snow White, but I’ve shown it to many people since then and even had it published, and as of yet no one has found the hidden story. “Oh, if I had known I would have liked it even more,” someone said when I pointed out the subtle nods towards Snow White. Subtly is nice and all, but sometimes people want (and need) the obvious.
I loved writing my modern fairy tales. I loved taking familiar stories and playing with them. I’d like to do something like that again. To be honest, I’m jealous of the writer of Warm Bodies. He took a familiar idea that has been done every which way til Sunday, and he figured out yet another twist on the theme. An outrageous twist. What’s more insane than a vampire-human love story, Isaac Marion must have pondered, how about a zombie-human love story?!
So what can I do? Romeo and Juliet except one of them is an alien? Nope, Stephanie Meyer already took that idea, for the most part, with her book The Host. How about Romeo and Juliet except Juliet is stuck inside of a man’s body? Sort of a LGBT-twist in which Julian gets a sex-change and becomes Juliet so he can be with his Romeo. Nah. I’ll leave that idea for someone else. Maybe I need to get off the R&J train. How about The Wizard of Oz except Dorothy is a vampire? A love story between Alice and the Mad Hatter? How about a new version of Psycho where the crazy old mother is actually a zombie and turns Marion into one, too?
I don’t know. I’m going to have to brainstorm a bit more. But I think, when I finish the novel I’m working on now, my next project is going to be a twist on a story that already exists. Suggestions, anyone?