Monday, June 9, 2014

Not quite a stranger

Hey Zoe.

Your project sounds all kinds of fascinating, and I totally want to hear all about the final product. I hope you don't mind me writing to you, but Jimmy's my ride home, he's not done with his homework yet, and as my no-good, lousy Peace Corp brother has been to busy to write me lately, I don't have anything else to do.

And hey. You know, I might qualify as a stranger. (This is Caela Worthen, BTW) I mean, we've gone to school together for, what 11 years, but I would call us no more than acquaintances. So, maybe you can use this letter for something? I dunno. Just passing the time. Also, like I said, super interested.

So! Questions!

1. What is your name? Caela Worthen. Yes, I know that's an unusual spelling. My mother, for some reason, felt like she had to give her children normal (ish -- I mean, my brother's name is Rhyder, and Rider isn't that common, I guess) names with strange spellings. My little sister? Is Emmaleigh. 

2. What is your quest? Passing English 12.

3. Were you expecting this question to be about the air speed velocity of pigeons? You mean swallows, I think? And no, I was expecting "What is your favorite color?" It is green, if you wondered.

4. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? Yeah, Jimmy was telling me about this. You took the quiz in your Soc class, yeah? I don't know off the top of my head, because I don't know that much about it, but a quick consult with Jimmy identifies me (according to him) as ISTP. So, that.

5. When was the last time you read your horoscope? Yeah, I don't do that.

6. How do you feel about unicorns? Not nearly as strongly as I did when I was eight. Which is probably true for most teenage girls, I think.

7. Describe your best friend in ten words. Skinny Jewish boy, likes to pretend to be other people.

8. What is your opinion of the Oxford Comma? The what now?

9. Where did you find this letter? Cuppa Joe's.

10. Do you want me to reply? Sure? I mean, spend more time on your actual people or whatever, but respond if you like. :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Page 4


First of all, you seem far too advanced for a child as young as you claim to be.  Your letter made me very nervous and suspicious because my daughter is your age (or, your alleged age) and at the top of her class, yet I am positive that she is not yet capable of the diction and syntax of which you are capable.  Therefore, I’m choosing to end our correspondence here because I believe you to be some sort of criminal, fishing for a victim.  You are not, certainly, a high school student.  I do not believe there is a "project," at least not one of the nature you describe, and if I were you, I would be very, very careful of how I proceed.  I have taken your original letter and replaced it with this one, and by the time you read this, you letter will have been thoroughly examined by me and my colleagues at the San Diego Detective Bureau.


Detective-Sergeant Melody LeGrange (Badge #555)
San Diego Police Department

Creativity Jump Start

Well, since Anne went on about how good I am at posting topics, I feel a little bad that I didn't get one up yesterday, but in my defense, I got home from work and then immediately went on Date Night with Chase to see Emotional Devastation, The Movie  sorry, The Fault in Our Stars. And it was absolutely amazing, and I came home with a headache from crying, and then Chase and I sat down to watch episode two of season three of Sherlock because it's finally on Netflix, but work and church haven't given us time to actually start watching it until Thursday. It is likewise amazing, and Sherlock is precious, and The Sign of Three might be my favorite episode that they've done.

But you want a topic. And it seems like a fair number of us want to jump in and write this summer, so I'm going to give you a writing prompt, and you can do whatever you like with it. Apologies to Anne, who has already, technically, fulfilled this prompt (but I am interested to see how you might choose to fill it again).

Imagine that you (or a character you create) are visiting an establishment of some sort in San Diego. And there, on a shelf or a table or stuck to the wall is a manila envelope with the words "READ ME!" written in highlighter on the front. Intrigued, you go to the envelope and pull out the following letter. How do you (or your character) respond? (Your post this week should be your response). Have fun!

September 29

Like Alice when she fell down her rabbit hole, you have decided to follow the instructions written upon a random item, and have thus launched yourself upon An Adventure!
But don’t worry, I beg you. I can almost 100% guarantee that the results of reading a letter marked ‘Read Me’ will be far less confusing and trippy than eating a cookie marked ‘Eat Me.’ Nothing can be entirely guaranteed in this life, of course, but I swear that should you start to feel as if you’ve changed several times since this morning, and if that feeling should then unsettle you, you may inform me that I am nothing more than a pack of cards, and our time together can come to an end.
My name is Zoe, dear reader, and You have been invited (from my perspective in the future)/are being invited (from your perspective in your own personal present) to participate in a social experiment.
At this moment in time, two choices lie before you. If you want nothing more to do with me and my strangeness, you may fold this letter up and return it to the location whence you found it, its remaining pages unread. However, if your curiosity has been piqued, you may continue onto page 2. Another choice will then lie before you.

Page 2
Still with me? Excellent. I am thrilled to hear it.
As I said, you are a participant in a Social Experiment. Allow me to provide some details for you: I am seventeen, a junior in high school, and, most relevantly, a student in Mr. Zephran’s Sociology class, and he has instructed the 28 of us to develop and implement a Social Experiment.
Now, most of my classmates are going to stand backwards in elevators, and this kid in my class, Jimmy, will probably organize a flash mob a la Improv Everywhere, but I have this problem with making people uncomfortable. I really hate doing it. In fact, I will do almost anything in my power to help alleviate any discomfort being suffered by any person in my general vicinity. Do you see the problem? The majority of social experiments require making people uncomfortable.
So, I have developed an experiment that avoids that, or at least avoids my proximity to it.
(But seriously. If you’re uncomfortable, stop reading. I do honestly mean that.)
In seven strategic locations around the city of San Diego, I have placed these letters for strangers to find. If you’ve read this far, what happens next is up to you. You can take up the challenge and continue with the experiment, or you can not. If you accept the challenge, turn to page 3. If not, turn to page 4. In either case, thank you excessively for your time, and please. Have a fabulous day.

Zoe Ballard

Page 3

Taking up the challenge! I’m so excited! Or, just here to hear the challenge before you make up your mind? Fair enough. That makes a lot of sense, dear stranger. I like the way you think.

The Challenge:
    Write me a letter. My name and address are on the back of this page. Don’t get excited – it’s a PO Box I took out for this purpose. I’m trusting you, stranger, but not that much. I have family to think about. But that’s it. My social experiment is as simple as that. Write a letter to a stranger. You know my name, my age, that I live in San Diego, and who my Sociology professor is. You also know I’m a little bit nuts. But I am, to you, a stranger. Are you willing to write a letter to a stranger? If so, answer the questions below. If not, see you on Page 4.

1. What is your name?
2. What is your quest?
3. Were you expecting this question to be about the air speed velocity of pigeons?
4. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type?
5. When was the last time you read your horoscope?
6. How do you feel about unicorns?
7. Describe your best friend in ten words.
8. What is your opinion of the Oxford Comma?
9. Where did you find this letter?
10. Do you want me to reply?

I look forward most genuinely to hearing from you!

Page 4

You have chosen not to participate in the challenge. I understand, honestly, I do. Please take one of the blank slips of paper in this envelope, fill in the blanks of the sentence printed below, replace the slip in the envelope, and go about your beautiful and happy life, dear stranger! And in case you are wondering, I will remove the envelope from this location in two weeks’ time, should you change your mind.

Hey, Zoe. You seem ________________________________. Your letter made me ______________________________ because _______________________________. But I’m choosing to end our correspondence here because ________________________________________. I wish you and your project nothing but ______________________________________________!

Sincerely, _____________________________

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Guess what! I could yell Katie's name right now and she would HEAR ME! We're living in the same house! It's exciting!

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy. First, I went to NYC for a conference at NYU. We went a few days early and did some touristy stuff with the family (like a walking tour of the Lower East Side with samples of the foods all the immigrant groups would have eaten!). We went to see a show called A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, and if you ever get the chance, you should see it - it's billed as Downton Abbey meets Sweeney Todd, which it is but way funnier. I also made a point of visiting The Strand Bookstore, which advertises that it has 18 miles of shelving, and HOLY CRAP I could not live anywhere near NYC, because with how easy it is to get there by metro, I'd spend all my money. Sadly there was no red moleskine next to Franny and Zoey. Being a geek, I had to check, right? Anyway, then I gave my paper at the conference and it went really well - the moderator for my panel (who is a well-known and highly respected scholar in the field) suggested I revise my paper and submit it to the journal, so I may be a published scholar by this time next year (if I get my butt in gear, that is).

So, Monday we drove back from New Jersey, and I spent all of 15 hours in my parents' house sleeping and repacking before coming to Cleveland for my internship. Basically, it's REALLY COOL. I have an official badge thingy that gets me into everywhere (except for the archival storage which needs a badge AND a key, but there's a key I can sign out, so basically I can go anywhere). I got to take a tour of the whole museum, plus all the behind the scenes stuff, like the wall in the security entrance hall where they have all the famous people sign - I found Samuel L. Jackson, for example, who signed it when he came on a day off from filming The Avengers last summer! My internship is actually in a different building, so I don't get to see the famous people or any of that (and even if I did, I had to sign a professionalism contract saying that I wouldn't fangirl over all the famous people), but even working offsite at the library building, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a really nice place to work. Everyone has been incredibly nice, especially since I keep having to bug them to fix things, like my badge, which at first would only let me in the back door, so if I went in the stairwells, I would get stuck until somebody rescued me - PROBLEM! lol. If this weren't temporary, unpaid, and, well, an internship, I would want to stay here indefinitely (though in my own house. Sorry, Katie!)

Anyway, that's my update since we didn't have a prompt. Speaking of which WHERE IS EVERYBODY?! And did you know we passed one year as of the beginning of June? I know it's totally not my turn, but I do have a prompt idea, so unless anybody vehemently objects I'll probably post it tomorrow evening if there's nothing up yet. I'm not even sure whose turn it actually is... (oh hey, it's posted! It's Cassie's turn, and she's usually good about getting in prompts, so I'll save it :)