Tips to Survive Finals Week

By , December 4, 2014 2:32 pm

Many of us know the trials and tribulations of the dreaded finals week. It’s like the Hunger Games of College, where every student must fend for themselves in the ultimate battle determining our GPA’s. It’s one of the few times of the semester, when all of your tests, projects, and presentations are due all at once, and the stress of it all is enough to drive anyone crazy. Avoid the padded white wall room and follow these few tips and tricks to surviving finals.

  1. Time Management: Apply this tip to your entire four years of college, but it is most important during finals. All of your work is piled into one week, so make sure you analyze which tests or projects are the most important and the most time consuming. Papers and presentations usually take up more physical time than just studying, so try to finish those first. Then focus on your tests that will prove most challenging. Even if it is your very last final, the extra studying will come in handy. Don’t wait until the night or hour before.
  1. Sleep is Key: Believe me when I say pulling an all-nighter during finals week is a bad idea. The human body requires rest in order for the brain to function properly, and nothing looks worse than falling asleep during that 100 question biology final. You have all day to study and prepare, so use the night as your escape from reality. Wake-up early if you have to, but get a proper amount of sleep. The more you sleep the more you can accomplish.
  1. Avoid Distractions: As I mentioned in the NaNoWriMo Tips blog, the world is full of distractions. Whenever you are preparing for a long study session put your phone on silent and out of sight. Avoid the temptation of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  1. Take Breaks: Avoid distractions, but don’t spend too much time staring at your textbook. The brain can grow tired of the same information over and over again, and after a while you stop comprehending. It is good to take a short break every couple of hours in order give your head a rest. Time your breaks; eat a granola bar, walk around, grab some coffee, and return to your studies. Try not to get on your phone or social media, because once you log onto YouTube to watch a video, three hours of your life just seem to disappear.
  1. Find the Method: Everyone has different ways of learning and studying, but use the method that works best for you and ignore everyone else’s ways. If your friend wants to have a group study session, but you know you are easily distracted in crowded environments, then kindly decline. Ask yourself these questions when determining the best method: do you like quiet environments? Then study alone the silence of your room or the library, where people are forced to be silent. Do you feel more comfortable in stimulated environments? Try doing group work, or attending study sessions if the professor offers them. If that doesn’t work, then try listening to music while you work. There is a technique for everyone, but make sure you find it before finals.
  1. Breathe: There will be stress and sometimes tears, but it’s important to remain calm and positive. You won’t get anywhere if you are constantly thinking of failing or making mistakes. Trust that you will do well, and you will. Remember your best effort is all that really matters. If all of that doesn’t ease your mind, just think; everyone else is suffering too.



NaNoWriMo Writing Tips

By , November 14, 2014 9:55 am
  1. Stay Focused: The world is full of numerous distractions. Netflix, Facebook, Twitter are all tempting sources of entertainment, but you have to move away from those distractions. The month of November is a short 30 days, so make sure to use your time wisely. Lock you self away for an hour or two each day with no computers, smartphones, or tablets, and if you must, write your novel on paper.
  1. Pre-plan: When you know the month of November is approaching be sure to have your ideas ready and organized. The best way to pre-plan is by using an outline to highlight all the major characters, points, and themes you want to put in your novel. This is not cheating; think of it as a study tool for a very large, month long test that you know you can ace with a little beforehand practice.
  1. Overachieve: The word count goal is 50,000 words, which is approximately 200 pages of a single spaced novel. In order to reach this count in 30 days, it is suggested you write 1,667 words a day. However, daily life tends to get in way of this goal and sometimes you might not find the time to write. To ensure your success in the program, write more than the 1,667 words. In fact, write double if time allows—better to be safe than sorry.
  1. Connect with Others: There are thousands of people participating in NaNoWriMo, and the online forums are a perfect place to meet aspiring writers like yourself. Every writer struggles with the occasional writers block, but the online world allows you to find inspiration in other people rather than staring at your computer screen. Branch out, find people at your school or workplace that have or are participating in NaNoWriMo and ask them for advice. You can even participate in local writing competitions to see who can write the most words in one hour. Don’t be Emily Dickinson; make some connections and maybe even friendships.

  1. Editing What?: If you are looking for a program that will provide you with a perfect final draft, ready for a publishing house submission, this is not that kind of competition. NaNoWriMo helps those who can’t seem to find the time or the words to make a finalized novel. NaNoWriMo doesn’t expect you to write a grammatically correct or concrete piece in 30 days, so don’t worry about little mistakes. Focus on the bigger ideas; how does the plot flow? Or are the characters well developed? After November is over and you can finally breathe, then worry about perfecting the work.
  1. Stay True: NaNoWriMo can be a long and difficult process, but if you happen to lose your focus, get stuck, or whatever just ask yourself one question: “Who are you doing this for?” If you answer you, then keep pushing through. Expand your knowledge, get excited and creative with your writing, and most importantly remember that there is nothing more fulfilling than having your words written on the page.





NaNoWriMo Success Stories

By , November 10, 2014 3:57 pm

Water for Elephants

Most people are familiar with the popular book and 2011 motion picture Water for Elephants, but not many know that the novel was written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Author Sara Gruen began with the intention to keep the 1,667 words per day count, but she found that life’s day to day interferences made this difficult. She then decided to write an extremely unedited edition of the book to submit to the program. A few years later she finished the complete manuscript, and after a few attempts to find a publisher, Gruen finally published the bestselling novel in 2006. The thrilling love story of the young veterinarian Jacob Janowski and his time with the Benzini Brother Circus captivated readers, receiving high acclaim and reviews. Shortly after the book’s publishing, the film starring award winning actors Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz hit theaters. Almost four years later, both book and movie are entertaining for all audiences. Gruen’s Water for Elephants success proves that NaNoWriMo can help writers become successful not just through novels, but also through the box office.

The Night Circus

The next success act also revolves around a forbidden love story between two circus performers. As title suggests, the Circus of Dreams only opens at night, keeping the stunning performances’ secret in the shadows. Author Erin Morgenstern began participating in NaNoWriMo in 2003 and every year following for the next six years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she fully/finally completed the program with The Night Circus. She took the 2010 National Novel Writing Month off and finished the edits to , which was published the following year. The magical plot was picked up by Summit Entertainment not long after The Night Circus’s release and is currently being adapted into a major motion picture. Morgenstern’s tale proves that six grueling years of writing is worth the perseverance to have your words read.


Rainbow Rowell made her success with the widely popular young adult novel Eleanor and Park in February of 2013, but that same year she published her first NaNoWriMo novel Fangirl. Initially, Rowell believed the program was a waste of time for an already published author. However, after deciding to participate, she realized that the competition freed her of first draft anxiety and some of her bad revision habits. Rowell met her 50,000 word count, but the actual plot was not quite done. She continued writing until the story of Cath Avery, her avid love for fan-fiction, and her introverted college experience was completely finished. The NaNoWriMo experience became one of the most inspiring experiences of her life, and pushed her to become an even better writer than she


Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, and Fangirl are just three well known NaNoWriMo novels. Their authors are an example of how one short month can inspire creativity and hard work. Writing is tedious, difficult, and frustrating, but with a little push it can lead you toward a bright future and great success story.



















Staff Book Recommendations

By , November 7, 2014 10:34 am

James Hinds

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A Heinlein

Through my powers of deduction and understanding of the scientific method, I infer there is an unspoken law to literature; a book can only be included on a high school reading list if it is both depressing and boring. I have no idea why the powers decided on this, perhaps this was to ensure the next generation of potential readers as unable to read without relapsing into post traumatic boredom.

I refer, of course, to that bane of high school reading program, The Lord of the Flies. I, like many unsuspecting English students, had to read this in high school. It often felt less like something my teacher wanted and more like something the devil demanded. This is a real shame, because if I had my preference, I would have read Tunnel in the Sky instead.

Tunnel in the Sky is similar to The Lord of the Flies. A story about young children stuck in the wilderness, who must survive on their own. In The Lord of the Flies, these are young children who have no idea what they are doing and are astonishingly cruel and destructive. Tunnel in the Sky? The kids are older—late high school. They’re actually taking a test for a survival course which goes wrong, but their fair bit of survival knowledge aids their ability to fend for themselves. Unlike the characters in The Lord of the Flies, they go far beyond survival and set up a representative democracy.

On second thought, maybe these books aren’t so similar.


Corey Parson

On Writing

I would recommend anyone who enjoys the written word to read Stephen King’s On Writing. It isn’t so much an instructional guide as a memoir of how Stephen King became the writer he is today, though he also offers practical advice and quotable tidbits like, “The road to Hell is paved in adverbs.” It is very down-to-earthand relatable; not only practical but inspirational as well.


Molly Morelock

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Western’s aren’t my thing. I find them bleak and boring with no real appeal besides the attractive cowboys that ride off into the sunset. Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses is the only Western my reading palate has any taste for. Unlike most novels I read in school, I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. The main character, John Grady Cole is a sixteen year old cowboy with no family, no home, and nowhere to go, so he sets off on perilous journey to Mexico with his best friend. There is romance, betrayal, violence, and all sorts of other bad themes people love to read. I would describe it more as a coming of age novel, for those of us who have to face the world alone and deal with troubling situations while maintaining an optimistic heart. It also doesn’t hurt that Matt Damon plays a real handsome John Grady Cole in the movie adaptation.


Mathew Pardue

Heorot Trilogy by Larry Niven

I recommend the book I most recently read. Well, three books, the Heorot trilogy by Larry Niven and his coauthors. They’re slightly older novels given to me by my father, but they don’t feel too outdated to me (the first was published the year before I was born). The trilogy consists of: The Legacy of Heorot, Beowulf’s Children, and Destiny’s Road. As the first two names imply, they’re technically books about heroes fighting monsters, but I think they really shine in the “science” part of science fiction. They explore an alien world with strange life, and even strange chemistry, that the heroes must understand and overcome to survive. Be forewarned that all three books contain mature content, so I don’t recommend them for bedtime stories with the kids. But if you like solid, well-researched science fiction and dramatic stories, then this series might appeal to you.


Amy Beard

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

If you thought J.K. Rowling had skill interweaving complex details, you haven’t read Salman Rushdie. Allow me to blow your mind with my boy Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Rushdie’s language is by far one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Midnight’s Children blends reality with fantasy, simplicities with complexities, humor and horror, past and present, creating a marvelous literary voyage. If you aren’t ready to be completely swept up by a novel, Midnight’s Children is not meant for you.

The book is a coming of age story but not in the typical sense—this is Rushdie after all. The novel depicts the narrator’s and India’s metamorphosis.

As the title alludes, the book does not focus on just one person (though Saleem, the main narrator gets a lot of the limelight). The ”midnight’s children” of the title are the 1,001 children born in the first hour of Indian independence, Aug. 15, 1947. Two boy babes are born in the same Bombay nursing home at the exact stroke of midnight: one to wealth and one to the streets. Molding their fates, a nursemaid switches babies: Shiva and Saleem’s differing life stories reveal a labyrinth of excitement. As a Bombay book, a big-city book, Midnight’s Children is coarse, knowing, comfortable with Indian pop culture and, above all, aggressive. This book will not disappoint.





What is NaNoWriMo?

By , November 6, 2014 2:35 pm



If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is a viral internet project that begins November 1st and ends November 30th each year. The objective of the project is to write a 50,000 page novel in the thirty day time span you are given. It is recommended that you write approximately 1,667 words a day in order to complete it, but you can write at your own pace if needed. Not so much a competition, NaNoWriMo is a place where fellow writers and aspiring authors can encourage one another through feedback and comments. The forums available offer a range of inspirational tips and resources, and anyone who completes creating a novel at the end of the month gets a free manuscript printed by CreateASpace.

Created by Chris Baty in 1999, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is not to create a perfect book in a mere thirty days, but to finish a book that can later be submitted for future editing and even publication. NaNoWriMo also offers a Young Writers Program that boosts creativity and writing fluency in youth age seventeen years and younger. The competing young writers are then able to set their own word count goal, and follow the process just like the initial program. Educators and teachers can also encourage the young writers by using the free classroom kits and lesson plans available on the website, or by ordering specific workbooks and Common Core guides. NaNoWriMo started with a mere 21 participants, eventually expanding into the website it is today. Nearly half a million people participated as of 2013, and I’m sure this year’s numbers will continue to grow. The program initiates motivation in potential authors, and encourages them to finish a goal that often seems too difficult to even start.

One of my main life goals is to write a novel, but I find this a long tedious process with a very low success rate. I’m constantly hitting writers block, or concentrating too much on the perfection of my sentences instead of the actual content. Writing hundreds of pages is extremely time consuming, and only those with tons of patience and impeccable time management can accomplish a task of this magnitude. Being a college student, and a busy one at that, writing a novel is more problematic than it is enjoyable. This recent discovery may be a solution to my problem.

I will definitely try to be one of those new participants this year. Despite that I haven’t quite started it yet, NaNoWriMo will definitely encourage me to get my ideas down on paper, and maybe, someday, in the future, my book will sit on the shelf along with all the other great novelists of my time.





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