Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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Turning the Page


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When an adventure nears its end, I feel a mixture of grief and relief.

During our stay in Peru, we’ve had good moments–our visit to Nazca being one of them. There have also been moments I wish could be erased from my memory, and though they’ll always hurt, I will give them to Him. He can handle them.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7, NIV

I won’t be walking away from purely painful memories. I made new friends here, and it hurts to wonder when I’ll see them again. I’m thankful that the Internet will keep us connected, but it can’t recreate happy moments spent together.

I have to say good-bye for now, but I will see them again. A part of my heart will always live in Peru with the people I met and grew to love.

My heart has broken several times here. We came for a heavy reason, which was my grandmother falling ill. I meant to blog more during our stay, but life happened and I couldn’t make time for it. I have to reflect on it now, though, since this chapter will soon come to a close.

I can’t brush hard times under the rug; this trip hasn’t been perfect. Still, moments spent laughing with beautiful souls made up for every hardship. The moments I gazed at the ocean and pondered His love for me–nothing can compare. And times when all was calm, times spent gazing at the wall hearing the city outside the window.

I’ve lived here for five months. In this time, I survived the water crisis. I had adventures and memorized the streets. I smelled the ocean and felt humidity, experienced summer in another hemisphere.

All things considered, it was lovely. I wouldn’t undo it, nor would I wish to have left earlier. The best moments happened after we extended our stay.

I will miss my friends and the ocean, the streets and the native fruits. But all adventures come to an end–that’s the only way for us to have new ones.

To the people who’ve been here all along, thank you. You have found a fond place in my story; I will never forget you. Now the chapter’s coming to a close, and in my heart I carry you home with me.

I choose to remember the good things, thank God for each moment of laughter, and remember the sun always rises.

Just hold on a little longer; it will rise.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14, NIV

I Crossed the Wishing Bridge


In the district of Barranco, there is a bridge called el puente de los suspiros.

According to legend, if you can hold your breath while crossing it, you get one wish. Some people say it only counts the first time you cross it; at any rate, I didn’t know of this belief until a few weeks ago, after crossing it for the first time.

Today we visited that bridge, and I found myself in a situation worthy of a plot bunny. I was falling behind, losing sight of the rest of my party (it’s crowded in Barranco; a lot of tourists go there.) So I was sprinting across this bridge, trying not to crash into anyone, when a man shows up in front of me holding a green bracelet.

I didn’t see his face, because the moment was so quick. “To make a wish,” he said. “It’s an outward sign.” (Roughly translated—he’d spoken in Spanish.)

And I said a very firm no—but I didn’t do it out of a rude refusal to make a wish. I said it a bit harshly because I was looking for the crowd I’d come with, and he’d gotten in my way. Scanning the crowd for my mom and brother, I hurried past him.

At once I felt a twinge of regret. The bracelet would have been nice, I thought, even if the wishing part is only a legend. So once I found my party, I turned and tried to look for the guy giving out bracelets—but there was no one on that bridge giving away bracelets, or even selling them.

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I’m not terribly superstitious, but my heart did sink a little. I’m not sure if it’s because I probably sounded a little upset, or I really wanted a handmade bracelet, or I really thought for a moment I would have a wish granted.

But I’m going to live with that what if moment forever. I could have a bracelet. I could have made a wish—after all, I’d been crossing a “magic bridge” and the legend is hundreds of years old.

You may not believe in wishes either, and the regret is likely to pass. But I wanted to share my story, because it’s one of those times you do cross paths with magic—or walk through a legend—a split-second where your yes or no will haunt you, even if the situation seems trivial.

This bridge is beautiful. Behind us, a young man played his cello to make some money. Barranco is a place full of murals and artists, art fairs and tourists from all over the world. It’s so colorful and vibrant; I can say it’s my favorite place in Lima so far.

Maybe the third time I visit the bridge, I’ll run into another chance to take the pretty bracelet and make a wish at the magic bridge. For now, I take the memories—the adventure—and pictures of a beautiful place full of art and culture.

I Resolve to Know Myself


 

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That’s Inca Kola – the best soda ever. You should try it.

When you leave home and go far from your comfort zone, you make room for God to work wonders in your life. Not that He couldn’t work wonders if you stayed home–but it’s  more fun for you if you go where He leads.

What have I learned so far?

  • You are never finished learning about a different culture–the customs, ways people live. To know life in another country, you have to live it. Thankfully I’ve been here enough time to learn a great deal, and will be here a while longer.
  • In a different setting, you learn about yourself as a character. When you’re placed in situations you’d never imagined, an interesting thing happens: you grow as a person. You make progress on your Hero’s Journey.
  • This year I celebrated Christmas in Peru, so I learned that the Lord’s birthday isn’t limited to white Christmases and trees full of lights. It’s celebrated differently all over the world, but no matter where you are, the holy day is beautiful.

I will keep my updates brief. First, on the topic of writing. January 1 is the day I started work on the third book of my series, which has not yet been titled. Being in the place where the first book was inspired, I’m confident that the third installment will be full of magic and life. The story and characters have become oddly alert, as if knowing this is where they first became.

And on reading, I’ve decided not to do the Goodreads challenge this year, focusing instead on becoming familiar with classic literature. That doesn’t mean I won’t read a new book if it seems like it’ll be good. It just means that I’m not putting pressure on myself to speed-read anything for the sake of a number.

I’m learning to crochet! I made a unicorn a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m going to learn to make dolls. My next project is to crochet a mermaid; it’s really exciting to see your work take shape. I’d been meaning to learn a new hobby for a long time now, and it is also doing much to help me learn about myself as a person.

My only resolution for 2017 was to live more and find out who I am as a person. What’s yours? Do you have any awesome plans?

Being an Introverted Traveler


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I was not made for noise. I know I haven’t been designed to cope with the sounds of a big city. I’m an introvert; by now I’ve accepted the “proper care of introverts,” and I will tell people when something is too much–if I need quiet time–if I’m overwhelmed. Aside: The more people tell me to stop being an introvert, the more proud of it I am. The world needs introverts, too.

But this trip has been different.

There’s a way of hearing that doesn’t involve using the ears. In the weeks since our visit to Peru (which isn’t even close to ending) I’ve learned much by sitting at the window as an introvert and listening to the sounds of the city quietly. I’ve learned about Lima, about home, about myself and God. I’ve learned about limitations (there are none) and turned 23 with a deeper sense of knowledge about who I am.

This trip is helping me see things in a different light, and though I’ll still be an introvert–though I will still need quiet time with my journal and the Lord–the minutes I spend listening and watching, those are moments when my soul absorbs colors I’d never known existed.

Travel is not a waste of time. It’s scary, but it’s worth it, and you learn so much.

It can be tiring. You will spend some nights longing for your library of a bedroom (sometimes I do) and you’ll long for a white Christmas (because it doesn’t snow here) and you can be unnerved by all the faces everywhere when you go out for a walk.

I’m not perfect. It’s taken me a little while to adjust to a new place, but slowly, surely, it’s wrapping around me like a blanket. My inner adventurer is surfacing, and I am so glad to be here. When I return home, it’ll be with many dear memories, lessons learned, a journal full of reflections.

What are the limits if we can fly to other countries, speak to people far away, improve at a different language–soar above the clouds, gaze at the restless ocean, feel the wind play with your hair–but most of all, learn who you are?

I’m learning who I am. My blog has been dead because of this. I can’t wait to tell you the stories I’ve heard and been a part of. I was reluctant to travel and leave my comfort zone, but now I encourage you to do it if you get the chance.

Even if you’re tired and groggy, dragging your feet into the plane–you might be thinking of what you won’t have for a while, but some part of you will be fixed on the gain of the journey. Focus on that. Most of all, be yourself. That’s the best way to experience an adventure to the fullest.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Christmas–whether it’s white, or one by the beach!

-Mariella

Authors Ridge: A Resting Place for Storytellers


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image source: Yankee Magazine

Surfing the Internet years ago, I learned of a place in Concord, Massachusetts called Authors Ridge. It’s a corner of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; if the mention of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t bring to your mind the Headless Horseman, don’t worry. The symbolism behind Authors Ridge deepens.

This is a place where several greats of literature are buried practically side-by-side. You can visit Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ellery Channing, Louisa May Alcott and her family.

I haven’t been there, but the thought of it makes me dream. I don’t think cemeteries have to be frightening, and this place would inspire me. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but any creative knows of muses.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote something staggeringly appropriate: Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.” Those monuments aren’t tombstones; they’re stories powerful enough to outlive their authors.

Writers and bookworms make pilgrimages to this surreal place, leaving pens, poems and notes at the graves of their favorite authors. Perhaps they hope some talent will rub off, or want to thank them for writing characters that never died.

Whatever the motive, Authors Ridge is full of wonderful mystery. It’s one place I hope to visit someday; perhaps I’ll leave a pen of my own.


Read more about Authors Ridge:

Yankee Magazine – Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: Where Concords Legends Lie

Atlas Obscura – Authors Ridge

New England Travel Planner

How Travel Improves Your Writing


So you want to write a book? That’s great! Get out your pen and paper, but I feel the need to ask you have you had an adventure? Have you left your comfort zone?

Many underestimate the importance of travel when it comes to writing. The solitary author bent over her desk is nothing but a stereotype. To have a story, you must live where the wild plot bunnies are–even if that means venturing across the street.

Everything you see and do could turn into a story. It’s fun to sit at home and read, but don’t forget to experience things first-hand. I used to think differently, but now I say you can’t live life to its fullest hiding behind a book! It’s a tragic mistake to make if you want to write a novel.

Learning the craft involves feeling wind in your hair and the ocean underfoot–even the sunburn you’ll get later!

A novel always has some form of the author between the lines. It happened by accident, but Dissonance became a mirror. In it I see myself, subtle but present. The story wouldn’t have existed if I never left the house, because most of it was inspired by the ocean.

Some might argue that life is boring and there’s nowhere to have an adventure–but that’s not true. Take a new route the next time you go for a walk, or visit a different coffee shop. There’s always somewhere new to go, a different way to see the world.

If you want to write a book, you need to witness people at their best and worst. You can’t barricade yourself where the Muse will have trouble finding you. It’s hard contacting your Muse in the first place, so don’t complicate things more!

When’s the last time you had a new experience that brought forth a story? Do you have a memory from a vacation you’d like to share?

In California


While on a trip, you find yourself encountering new plot bunnies. Even when you’re back at home, they aren’t finished; they make themselves known at bedtime, steal your attention from everyday duties, distract you.

They’re cute, cuddly, and insistent–you can’t send them off. You don’t want to, either. The more time you spend in a different place (in my case, California) the more bunnies you pick up.

Since arriving, I’ve been to the beach, Disneyland, and San Diego; we’re going to see the Queen Mary today. It’s surprising how far everything is. We’ve spent a lot of the time in the car driving places–back and forth. I marvel at how roads here wind and dip below each other.

My Instagram is full of pictures (look for the #SerenadeCalifornia hashtag) because each day goes by too quickly for me to keep a journal. I’ll have to reflect on my trip when I get home; at the moment, I’m too busy living it.

I got sunburned. I met Ariel. We found the USS Midway by accident driving along the coast–it crept up on us.

There remains some time for adventure…and more bunnies.

Let them come–all of them.

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An Author on an Expedition


11121089_1495942310661086_609968882442012637_nI’m going on another adventure! (THANKS, MOM!)

If you’ve read Dissonance, you know there exists a fallen faery tale off the California cost and it’s called Serenade. What? You haven’t read it? Okay, well I just told you–I know these things.

What? Yes, I wrote it. That doesn’t mean it’s not true–in some dimension.

And today I am a happy author because we are about to embark on a trip to California in which I can dream of finding the place I wrote about so much.

Need a description? Well, here ya go, straight from the pages of the book:

The town of Serenade was a fallen faery tale. Julian spent the rest of their journey describing festivals of song that took place every month, but the magical place was not where it belonged.

Every time the veil tears,” he explained, “what’s on it falls through. We’re not sure why things land where they do, but our unspoken pact is to care for what we find. I discovered a large fragment during my travels, automatically claiming it. They wouldn’t give it to me otherwise.”

Chapter Twenty-one of Dissonance will tell you all about it. I swear it exists! The place is vivid in my mind, a place of colorful buildings and winding sidewalks, a wild ocean and people playing music on every corner.

Maybe I’ll find it. I’m on an expedition to collect as many plot bunnies on this adventure as will come to me. Come to me, bunnies, come. I am also having a difficult time deciding what to read on the plane…

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be flying–or in the airport trying to find internet signal. Perhaps I’ll be reading or staring out the window: My favorite part of any vacation is often the airport, the excitement while waiting to board a flight.

Perhaps I’ll have arrived.

I can’t wait to take pictures, hopefully including a new author pic; I’ll see the beach again after three years! I’ve missed it so much. 60% of my creativity to write Dissonance came from staring at the ocean outside my aunt’s window in Peru.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll come back with short stories. I’ll see interesting people and look up at skyscrapers. Perhaps I’ll run into someone famous.

It’s only for about four days, but a lot can happen in four days. A lot. And trust me, I’ll be back with lots of pictures.

I’m taking the travel journal I started writing during our trip to Las Vegas. Ironically enough I wrote a vivid description of Serenade, California in this journal, not knowing that one day I would be in California looking for it.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find it.

These are the things an author lives for. This is what makes the writing process worthwhile. You can make things that exist in your own world and suddenly expect to find them, just waiting for you at the edge of a cliff in California.

And when I get back, I’ll be ready to write the second draft of Elegy. Oh, yes–experience will prepare me for the sequel.

I’ll be using the Instagram hashtag #SerenadeCalifornia if you want to keep up with me live!