Archives for category: Writing/Fiction

Roughly a year ago I started this blog to catalogue my summer of the unknown. At the time I was just finishing my first year from a college, fresh back from Massachusetts and a glorious three day trip to New York (where I fell in love). I was planning to transfer schools, though I was scared (and a little ashamed) of the prospect. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I needed a job for the summer, but didn’t have one. The number of friends I had around was… few. I applied to be a Roadie for Invisible Children- an internship that I wasn’t ready for and didn’t really want but thought would give me direction.  I didn’t get it.

If you followed my journey you know that I got a summer job at Gap and transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno (with no intention of staying).

One year later and things are completely different and exactly the same (isn’t that always the way?)

I’ve been accepted to the University of Southern California for Critical Studies under the School of Cinematic Arts. I’ve been waiting and hoping for this for almost a year, and here I am deciding between a dream school and a university I never wanted to go to— UNR has grown on me. Or rather, Reno people have grown on me. I got very committed to the idea of playing house this next year, moving in with my friends Hillari and Hannah and having movie nights and family dinner and cooking all their favorite things. It’s turning out to be a hard idea to let go of.

I have returned home to Vegas once again. I haven’t been hired anywhere yet and so have been doing work for my father. I have high hopes for my prospects at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf opening by my house. Even if I’m not hired I suspect I will be spending a lot of time there anyway.

I’m co-writing a short film for a friend who will be making said film this summer. My writing drive was low in May, but I feel it slowly returning to me.
I have a new show idea, and I may just start writing me a pilot. It’s important to keep in practice.

 

I started re-watching Fringe Season 3, and I’ve been thinking about alternate selves. When I was in New York, sitting outside NYU feeling sorry for myself, I thought about the alternate Chelsee who went to NYU and who was probably already on her way home, or packing, or roaming the city one last time. If you buy into the idea of alternate universes (and usually I do), then for every choice you make there’s an alternate who made a different choice. So now I ask myself, if there are infinite Chelsee’s heading off in their infinite directions, which Chelsee do I want to be and what do I leave to my alt-selves?

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I originally wrote this for Everything is Problematic, but since we are publishing a similar piece instead I thought I would share my version here. 

By the time this article is published, millions of people will have seen The Hunger Games movie, an event which is uniquely different from experiencing the narrative of the novel. If you are unfamiliar with the premise, the story is set in a not so distant future in Panem, a country constructed from the ruins of North America, where every year citizens must watch a televised Battle Royale style sporting event, wherein 24 ‘tributes’ between the ages of 12-18 must fight to the death until one winner remains. In the books there is a certain amount of distance that exists between the reader and the people of Panem— despite similarities we might see, we still have the privilege of separating ourselves from a world where the children are made to kill each other for sport, and audiences that revel in it. No such distance exists in the film. Just as the fictional denizens of Panem watch the child slaughter that is the Hunger Games, so to do audiences of the film. This lack of distance is fascinating and horrifying.

Perhaps it is because I read the books before seeing the film, or maybe because the bulk of my education centers around the critical consumption of media, but I was very cognizant of the commentary on violence and ‘reality’ media that exists at the core of The Hunger Games. I thought the film’s portrayal of the Games violence was spot on, jarring but also matter-of-fact. There is no room for pacifists in Panem, and no place for remorse in the Games.

I was also aware of the reactions coming from the audience as I viewed the film, subtly gauging how people were responding. When one character, in a fit of anger, snapped the neck of his then ally, the entire theatre gasped. Yes, I thought, this is impactful. They’re startled and horrified. 

I was startled and horrified when that same audience clapped and cheered as a particularly antagonistic tribute fell dead on the ground. Hoots of approval as the body of a teenage girl slumped open eyed and lifeless. They’re cheering… That’s when I realized they were missing the basic premise of the film. A discussion of this occurrence with a friend revealed that he had a similar experience. As I gawked he said, “I mean, it’s like getting a kind of revenge, so I understand why people cheered. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.” It’s true that the character lacked likability, that she even expressed a kind of gleefulness in the murder of her counterparts, but ultimately wasn’t she just doing what was expected of her? A basic understanding of narrative structure tells us that a hero requires a villain, and any knowledge of reality television tells us that it is much easier to be the villain than the hero. In fact, there’s a certain reward in media villainy, because there is nothing the public loves to hate more than a feisty and unrelenting antagonist. I can only suspect that the people of Panem feel similarly. It would seem then that this moment of viewer rejoicing was, at the very least, misplaced. What does an antagonistic pawn matter when compared with the masterminds (literally) orchestrating the game?

Another friend suggested that my criticism of the audience was too harsh, that while they might be missing “a point” they weren’t missing “the point.” Also, that I view things in terms of “moral rightness” rather than “humanness.” Whatever moral high ground I may appear to occupy, I’ve yet to encounter a convincing argument that The Hunger Games doesn’t hold similar ground. Murder is horrific, the murder of children even more so, and murder for sport is disgusting. Or, should be.

There are some that feel that the horror and satire of the Games, and the message that comes with those, were lost in translation from book to film. While there were certain problems with the adaptation and ways the narrative could have been strengthened, I don’t believe the problem truly lies with the filmmakers. After all, shouldn’t the sight of a fourteen year old girl hoarsely screaming for a friend to save her strike a chord with us, no matter the circumstance? Are we so far removed, so generally desensitized, that murder means nothing to us? Or worse, so enraptured in the violence that murder is a reason to cheer? Even if the cheers weren’t about the actual act of murder and were more concerned with the take down of a ‘villain,’ the end result is the same—rewarding the action, murder, with a positive and encouraging response.

What really got to me, and what was so hard to articulate, was the fact that in a movie about a time and place where people cry and cheer for the murder of children as pageantry, we’re literally doing the same— with seemingly no recognition. What is actually more horrifying than the murder of children is the sport of it, the not seeing anything wrong with it. What we should really be paying attention to is the people watching the Games—which now, as film viewers, we are a part of. By cheering for death it means we’re like them, the people of Panem, and if we’re like them then we can’t see what they’re doing wrong, and if we can’t see what they’re doing wrong…how can we be any different?

While the books shows a possible future with people that we’re similar to, that we could become, the film allows us to see what we already are— and its no far cry from the people of Panem.

To quote the film, “we cheer for our favorites and cry when they die. It’s sick.”

I am so pleased to announce that in 6 days I will be launching my new project, Everything is Problematic.

Once the blog goes live expect an update on the creation process.

For more information, check out everythingisproblematic.com 

Pitzer College

Founded in 1963, Pitzer College was built upon four core values that reimagine the purpose of a college education in a progressively changing world. These values are social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning and student autonomy. Almost 50 years later, our students feel that our founding values help prepare them to address the issues of their time. How do you feel these values will help you find solutions to the evolving challenges of your generation?

More than even before, we live in a time of constant change. Sometimes slow, building changes which are often unrealized until they finally take hold, but also change which comes quickly— two years, a year, a few months. In the relatively brief period that I have been alive to witness these changes, the world is dramatically different. Yet even with changes in technology, law, and many other areas of life, many cultural narratives and societal ideals are virtually the same as fifty years ago and beyond. Some of these narratives serve us in a positive way, but to accept all of them on the basis of their familiarity or the fact that they have survived the ‘test of time’ is detrimental. More than anything it is important that my generation realize blindly accepting change as a sign of improvement or letting little change be enough change, regardless of circumstance, not only fails to advance us, it allows backslide. A commitment to social responsibility, one of Pitzer’s basic tenants, is key to such realizations and understanding.

Accepting social responsibilities means also accepting difference, accepting that different peoples hold different ideals and goals. Intercultural understanding is necessary make things better for all, rather than better for some— and subsequently worse for others. The necessity of intercultural understanding exists not just when dealing across countries and continents, but in daily and personal life. The United States is full of cultural and ethnic diversity and complexity, which should be embraced and celebrated.

Interdisciplinary learning and student autonomy are values that I find to be especially complementary because they encourage exploration and innovation. The problems faced by my generation, be they social or otherwise, require a willingness to step outside the box of preconceived notions. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a politician— people should not be forced into pursuits that others believe to be ‘necessary’ or ‘productive,’ instead they should be encouraged to what inspires them. Furthermore, what it means to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a politician is rapidly changing— they requiring people thrilled to undertake the challenge, not drones pushed into the field. The best that can be done is to encourage people to explore what they are passionate about, something which Pitzer does through emphasis on student autonomy. Only by investigating the full extent of our interests and the diverse directions they may lead will lasting improvements be made.

and wrote a scene instead of an essay for part of my Pitzer application. The prompt was to explain my dream job. The screenplay format went to hell posting it here, but you’ll get the idea:

 

INT. LOUNG – SAN DIEGO COMIC CON – day

MICHAEL AUSIELLO, a television journalist, sits in a plush arm chair. Across from him sits CHELSEE BERGEN on a couch, examining throw pillows with the faces of actors on them.

CHELSEE
What do I have to do to get my face on one of these? I guess people would have to recognize my face in order to want me on their throw pillows.

MICHAEL
Some people know your face.

CHELSEE
Yeah. Hardcore fans. But I mean, those guys know like the address of the childhood home of our secondary characters. But I think even they wouldn’t want my face on a pillow.

Chelsee holds up a pillow with the face of a handsome young actor next to her own. She laughs.

MICHAEL
Maybe they’ll start a line of executive producer pillows.

CHELSEE
Can I get some of those? Like, is it creepy if I’m hoping that J.J. Abrams style brilliance will rub off on me from a pillow? Executive producer pillows- that would be great.

MICHAEL
So, for those people who aren’t familiar with you- who don’t have a pillow with your face on it- can you give us an introduction to you and your show?

CHELSEE
God, I probably should have started with that instead of the pillows.
(laughs)
I’m Chelsee Bergen, I’m the show runner for a show called POINT PERDIEM, which is something of a sci-fi drama about this strange little town where time becomes… ambiguous. The show is in its fourth season on HBO, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve just been renewed for our fifth and final season.

MICHAEL
What has your experience been like working on the show? I mean a few years ago it didn’t seem like the show was even going to be picked up, now you’re headed towards a fifth season with a huge fan following- looking back on these past few years, what’s that like?

CHELSEE
I’ve got the best job in the world, I really do. Five years ago I could not have even conceived of the wonderful experience that this show has been. I get to show up to work everyday and talk with the most creative, some of the coolest and smartest people I’ve ever met, about stories and weird stuff and magic and science and whatever we want. The show had kind of a shaky start, so it really was trial by fire, trying to get our footing, but I’m surrounded by talented people- actors and writers and crew- that I want to work with for the rest of my life, really. Like, when the wonderful ride that is Point Perdiem finally ends I know I’ll take a deep breath, maybe a nap, and then I’ll start calling these people up and asking ‘What have you got for me? What do you want to do? What can we make happen?’ Cause that’s really what gets me exciting, getting to work with people and create new and interesting stuff. There’s nothing better than that.

My body is not feeling well. I do not approve of this. All I want to do is lay in bed, except I don’t have anything to do (this is a lie, I have plenty to do, just nothing that I want to do) and I can’t sleep. I figured now was the time for an update.

My reading was last night. Despite all the worrying (and doubting of my ability to write) it went really well. I definitely want to do it again. I ended up reading a short story I wrote last fall (which has now gone through 8ish revisions– the most any of my work has ever received) called ‘Cross my Heart’ about a girl with a congenital heart defect. I may post it later– I’m pretty proud of it. Natasha helped me (the night before) decide to read that.
There will probably be another reading in April, which I’m hoping I’ll be able to get in on. If not, I’ll definitely go to it, because it was really nice to hear other people’s writing. There were some really wonderful poets there, which inspired me to write a poem about Alex. It’s part collection of inside jokes, part story of our friendship. Hopefully I can make something of it.

I am always starting projects. I meant to write an entire blog post about it, but I’ve realized that if I don’t write a post within the first two-ish days of conceiving it, I never will (or will not be satisfied with the product when I try to). I spent a lot of time berating myself about starting more projects then I can finish– about not having more follow through, more polished work, more to show for all the idea I get invested in. I’ve decided instead to celebrate always having projects, new ideas. There will probably be a time later in my life when I can only have one project at a time, when I will need to finish (basically) everything I start, but now is not that time. For now I am going to follow my ideas where they take me, and rejoice in the fact that not having inspiration is never my problem.
Details about this latest project are fourth coming.

In a week I will be at home. This means having a kitchen! I always aspire to post awesome recipe posts with the food that I make (which involves taking copious photos with my iphone), but so far that hasn’t happened. Perhaps you’ll have some of those to look forward to. At the very least I will keep you updated on my adventures in Vegas.

Everyone should be watching Fringe. Especially if you were a fan of Lost. If you weren’t a fan of Lost, it doesn’t matter. The show literally has something for everybody– procedural elements, character development, science, science-fiction, character driven story, mythology, good looking actors, talented actors, humor, heartbreak. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT? Definitely Top 5 Material.
Anyone who knows me knows how coveted those Top 5 spots are!

I now have a second favorite poem (my first favorite being Helen of Troy Does Counter Top Dances by Margaret Atwood): Aristotle by Billy Collins. You should read/listen to it.

I plan to read a lot over Spring Break, so expect some posts about reading material. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with a hot shower followed by the Footloose remake and some gluten free cookies.

1. The essayist will take pride in neuroses. He will go on an on about the joy of scratching his ear with a pencil or brag about how long he hasn’t driven a car.

2. Everyday outings, such as going to the grocery store, will become overwhelming adventures. Huge adventures, like swimming with whale sharks off the coast of the Yucatan, will sound like everyday activities.

3. You will never know where she is. She will insist on trying a diverse range of activities, from accordion lessons to firing a machine gun, claiming it is research for a “Never Have I Ever” column.

 

Ten Reasons Not to Sleep with an Essayist | Bark: A Blog of Literature, Culture, and Art.

 

This is great. #9 is my favorite.

In two weeks I’ll have the opportunity to read some of my writing in a showcase, along with two other undergrads and 5 or 6 graduate students. I am totally thrilled– MY WRITING WILL HAVE AN AUDIENCE. And what’s more authorial than doing a reading? Plus, being in undergrad in a showcase consisting mostly of grad students is really terrific.

Which brings me to the crux of this post– what the hell am I going to read? I have plenty of writing, so options isn’t a problem, but how do I pick? I have 5-7 minutes, which is a pretty sizable chunk of time, meaning I could read pretty much anything excepting a few of my more extensive short stories. But obviously I don’t want to read just anything- I want something polished, or at the very least in good shape. How do you know when something is really in its best shape!?

I think part of this worry is born out of the fact that I submitted a short story (which had already gone through six drafts) for work-shopping, and while everyone really liked it, their revision suggestions were pretty extensive. There’s nothing that requires me to make these revisions (or any at all), but I will because after seeing their commentary I agree (or mostly agree). So how can I know what’s in the best shape for reading? I guess the one consolation is that in my reading something no one is physically looking at the piece and can’t reread it, meaning that even if there is revising that needs to be done it’s much harder to tell.

Are some things better for reading than others? I mean outside of the general quality of the writing. I guess I already know that the answer to that is yes. Perhaps I need to pick out some potentials and just read them out loud. Maybe I can rope Belen or Lexi into listening, or maybe I’ll call someone- like Alex or Natasha.

At any rate, I’m excited and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

Magpie to the Morning

I whispered his name, walking my fingers over his bare white chest. He

lurched away from me, jarred from sleep by spider-like fingers running across his skin when he should have been alone, asleep until noon… It was only a split second, the briefest moment, before his face clicked with recognition of my own. A blink.

He smiled warmly, sleep still clinging to his features.

“Hey.” His body relaxed, moving imperceptibly closer to where I stood. I smiled at him, feeling a kind of dizziness. Our fingers were intertwined, though I had no idea when our hands came together.

“Hi,” I said, wanting to be sleepy again, to be warm and quiet and still. There was a space for me in his bed, the alcove between him and the wall, my niche in his life.“I’m gonna go. I just wanted to let you know… So I wasn’t sneaking out on you.” As with our hands, our lips found their way to each other without effort.

“I have to go,” I breathed, trying to make clear that I wanted to stay. He could pull me down beside him, and I too could get lost in the sleepy dim light of his room…

“Okay.”

I had meant to sweep from the room, possessions in hand, closure intact, but suddenly my things were everywhere. How had so much of me found its way into this strange room? I forced a suede heel into my too-large purse.

“This was fun,” he said flatly. I winced.

“Yeah,” I said, surveying the room for lost objects, my unencumbered ease gone. When I had collected my things, I tried to ease the door open for my escape. It was a laborious process, full of strange maneuvers of objects and my body.

I allowed my self a last glance as I finally slipped through the door, hoping to freeze his face in my mind. He had rolled over, running to sleep, completely unaware as I disappeared into the morning light.

An old piece of writing with various levels of applicability.

I like to claim that I’m ‘dark and twisty.’ It’s a phrase I picked up in my Grey’s Anatomy phase, and I basically use it as a way to validate my flaws and issues, and to ingrain them in to my personally. When you think about it it’s pretty fucked up— so I don’t think about it. It’s also kind of an umbrella term. I hate umbrella terms, because anything that means everything doesn’t really mean anything. I can say dark and twisty, and I don’t have to say that some days I don’t feel like I matter, or that it seems like people always leave me (and that I try to anticipate that and get out before it’s too late), or that being unsure makes me uncomfortable. Talking about it becomes a way for me not to talk about itit being anything that presents vulnerability and can’t be perfected or predicted. I box everything in that so that I’m in control. The whole thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy that lets me be right every time.

There must be daddy issues in there somewhere, because the problems manifest in my relationship with guys all the time. My dad definitely loves me— however where that love fits in between golf and work I’m sometimes unsure. In terms of romantic involvement, there was Devon, who really only counts in the interest of chronological order, who was only interested in me because he couldn’t be with my best friend. Next was Joey, who was one of my closest friends, and who I was only romantically interested in because he was interested in me— also previously involved with the formerly mentioned best friend. Followed years later with Anthony, who despite “breaking down” at the thought of us being across the country from each other broke up with me more or less because I wouldn’t have sex with him— for weeks afterwards I wondered if maybe that would have made everything better, if really it was me who had done something wrong. He was also the reason two of my friends didn’t talk to me for the better part of a school year. Before, during, and after Anthony was Ryan, who was never ever anything close to my boyfriend, but it didn’t matter to me because I depended on him as much as— or more than— any of my other friends at the time. There was also the detail of his much courted girlfriend, Annie. As Meiko says, “I know better not to be friends with boys with girlfriends.” Only, apparently I didn’t.

I think they’ve all got a little piece of me. Or maybe I have a little piece of them, and I carry it around with me to be evidence— brandished when things don’t go quite right. I’ve wanted to commit them to paper for ages, but I could never get it in the right light, the right angle. Even now, it’s a thrown together assortment of names and status blurbs— it lacks depth of focus and grey area open to interpretation. Maybe that’s better for me though— everyone knows Chelsee Bergen doesn’t do grey area. Things are one thing, or another. Lipkin, one of the few prized male role models in my life (and that’s full of its own problems and peculiarities) once said to me, “If you don’t like the answer, you change the question until it fits the way you’d like it to.” True story.

I don’t really know what that all means, except that it’s… problematic— which is another umbrella term, so I should define it. Being in control doesn’t really make me happy, because I’m never really in control. Neither does setting every guy in my life up for failure by depending on them, and then racing to pull out the rug before they do. I don’t even know if I actually do that. Mostly I’m just afraid that I do, and I’ve got a track record that doesn’t exactly contradict the hypothesis. So I’m working to change that. Not just talking about it, but actively staying aware of what I do and how I act. It’s not what I’m used to, and it scares the hell out of it. But I’m hoping that it’s worth it, because I want to be happy, and to not worry about everything, and a little part of it is because there’s a boy I’d like to let in without all the spring-loaded traps and hazards. A boy that I look forward to talking to every day, because he’s my friend, and who I love the smell of, and who somehow confuses me but also makes perfect sense. Which all scares me, because I emotionally invest in everything (another Chelsee Bergen trade mark), and because more than I worry that he’ll do something to hurt me, I worry that I’ll do something to hurt me— that I’ll ignore what’s right in front of me, or make something where nothing exists, that I will get carried away (manifesto, anyone?). But I can’t predict those things, I can’t even anticipate them. I shouldn’t try to. Maybe we’ll just be friends, like we have been, and that will be all that matters. Or maybe we’ll traverse the excruciating distance from East to West, and he’ll touch me softly like he does, and I’ll bite his lip between kisses because it’s just a little bit rough— a little badass, the way we always say we are. Or, or, maybe, maybe, I could go on forever. But I won’t. Instead I’ll have some faith, and give it some time, and remember that things change, life goes on, and time doesn’t stop for anyone.