Graduation from North Idaho College

 

It started in 2015. I had a couple choices: keep working at a gas station in Idaho, or maybe move back home to Montana. Neither of those options would have moved me forward. A friend who was studying at North Idaho College to become an elementary teacher suggested: why don't you go back to school? I've prattled all my life about how I didn't believe people needed a formal education to be a creative writer--and that was my dream: to write novels. Why should I go back to school? There had always been a sort of disconnect for me.

In high school: the communication between the school counselor and myself was poor. I didn't know how to apply for college. I didn't know what I was doing and I wasn't certain how to ask.  When I was accepted to Westwood College of Technology in Denver when I was 17: I had plans. I'd go to school for Graphic Design! I had money at the time (social security support from the loss of my father) and I knew everything at 17. I could move over to Denver and go to school and--

 Mason took me to orientation at North Idaho College, then we ran away to WorldCon 2015!

Mason took me to orientation at North Idaho College, then we ran away to WorldCon 2015!

 May 6th, 2002.  I was a soon-to-be-graduated High School Senior dreaming of attending Westwood College of Technology for Graphic Design. It appears they  closed their doors in 2016 .

May 6th, 2002.  I was a soon-to-be-graduated High School Senior dreaming of attending Westwood College of Technology for Graphic Design. It appears they closed their doors in 2016.

then I lost my social security money when I turned 18 (3 months after being accepted), and probably had a boyfriend at the time that I didn't want to leave. There would be no Graphic Design degree for me or moving out of the state of Montana. So I started working. I worked as a dishwasher (a job I was eventually fired/let go from because I kept sleeping in and showing up late); a sales person (a job I was laid off from when the company started to lose money); I got a belly button piercing and years later found out the needle had already been used and I had contracted Hepatitis C; a year or so on unemployment, some terrible, dark months at a Veterinary Clinic--and a few years I wish I could forget while working at DirecTV call center.

[Insert a series of other awful jobs, mostly poor relationship choices, a few good ones; one failed marriage, somewhere in the mix I applied to the University of Montana and Spokane Falls Community College and it never went anywhere. See above note about me feeling disconnected and not understanding the process. I eventually moved to Washington, then back to Idaho, depending on which relationship I was in.]

Fast forward to age 31, turning 32. Somehow I managed to rush through orientation at North Idaho College, pick out my classes, and then head back to Spokane to volunteer at WorldCon for the weekend. I started school. I was a college student! I WAS A COLLEGE STUDENT! First generation, low-income, loan-wielding but I had finally done it.

I couldn't have done it without Catherine and Mama-Michelle encouraging me, Mason and my family supporting my decision to apply--and then all the people I met along the path: Jonathan, Crystal, Allie, Rebekah, Aaron and the English Club, Laura, Cynthia, Dana, Kim, Ellie, the entire class of British Murder Mysteries, Molly~ I hope to see you all soon. 

 August 25th, 2015. Five days in to age 31. My first official day as a student.

August 25th, 2015. Five days in to age 31. My first official day as a student.

 

And I loved it. It's hard realizing that there are few things in life I've ever been good at--but until that point in my life, I'd never had said I was good at being a student. Probably age and knowing that I was paying loans for my education had a lot to do with it. Maybe I knew I was taking a step in the right direction. Maybe it was just the chance of getting the right teachers at the right time that saved me.

And over the next two-and-a-half years I never received a grade lower than a B in any of my classes. I took Math 015 twice (because I got a C the first time. Pro tip: don't take a math class at 5 p.m. if you are not so great at math and get hungry, it's a bad combination). I dissected a pig for Biology. I managed to survive Speech class (again, due to the support of an amazing teacher). I joined English Club and became the Princess (Vice President: we changed our bylaws to update our titles!), I went to Portland for the first time, I got to listen to Anne Lamott talk about life and writing. I met some people and made friendships that, I hope, will last a lifetime. I was able to travel to Europe for my British Murder Mystery class and visit Scotland, Wales and London. And now that journey is over and I'm starting another one: I'm headed to Eastern Washington University in September 2018 to begin another adventure.


My blogs about being a student
at North Idaho College

 

    Fall 2015 Semester

    Spring 2016 Semester

    Summer 2016 Semester

    Fall 2016 Semester

    Spring 2017 Semester

    Fall 2017 Semester

    Spring 2018 Semester


    I noticed a serious trend in the number of my blog posts compared to the progress towards my Associates Degree. I started waiting for months before writing blogs, and then would just cram them all together into one post.  Some things that are missing from this list: Annual Awards Ceremony in May 2018 I won an award for Overall Outstanding English Student. Said goodbye to some teachers that I love dearly. I will always love learning and I'll never stop.



    A few weeks later and my degree finally arrived in the mail! We have a small mailbox, so that must mean that you make the mail fit, even if it says do not bend.

     

    Luckily, it's just a piece of fancy paper that sums up two-and-a-half years of my life.

    2018-07-02 22.30.26b.jpg

    Trestle Creek Review no. 32

    It's no secret: I waited another semester at North Idaho College so I could be editor for Trestle Creek Review issue 32 (As a bonus: I ended up signing up for a British Murder Mystery class and got a trip overseas!).

    I worked on, and was published, in TCR's issue 31. This Spring semester we worked as a team on issue 32!

     The team behind TCR Issue 32! Picking out cover art!

    The team behind TCR Issue 32! Picking out cover art!

    We started by narrowing down cover art, finally deciding on local artist Elaine Green from Art Spirit Gallery.

    Then we began working through the slush pile. Trestle Creek Review accepts submissions from the North Idaho College community, alumni (and even some Spokane-family). Our slush pile is a respectable size and we had a smaller team this year: just nine of us to take the magazine from start to finish in four months. We broke out into teams for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and collaborated for visual art. Once we fought over, sorted through and settled upon content: then it was time to lay it all out!

     Laying out the magazine!

    Laying out the magazine!

    During the semester we had the pleasure of Maya Jewell Zeller visiting campus and reading from various poems and fictional work. She was so full of joy and humor: it was incredibly inspiring. I purchased a copy of her book (but forgot to have her sign it!) and you should too.

    The staff of Trestle Creek Review (along with members of North Idaho College's English Club) went to lunch with Maya and her husband!

    During our Trestle Creek Review classes, after we decided on layout and design, we discussed the pieces of work that made it into this specific issue. We had conversations about commas, punctuation, and fought over a picture of a bra.

     Although Mr. Frey's handwriting is nearly illegible, it reads: 'I went to the store, and after eating 17 donuts, yerped.' Yerped is his family's word for throwing up. There was lesson in there about why the comma works--but I've forgotten it already.

    Although Mr. Frey's handwriting is nearly illegible, it reads: 'I went to the store, and after eating 17 donuts, yerped.' Yerped is his family's word for throwing up. There was lesson in there about why the comma works--but I've forgotten it already.

    Over Spring Break--I played two hours of video games--and the rest was dedicated to either working on laying out Trestle Creek Review or something not video games. I spent a lot of time in Adobe InDesign working on a template from last year's issue. I can't say for certain about how long it took. Hours, certainly. Days, possibly. I get a sort of laser focus when I'm at the computer working on a project (a focus akin to NaNoWriMo, if and when I can return to it). I know that I was able to work for 18 minutes and barely make a dent in the magazine layout. I made a video--because, of course I did.

    18 minutes of Adobe InDesign work in 30 seconds! Original, agonizing 18 minute video here: https://youtu.be/RZ8lcsJGIMk

    Eventually, after many, many texts/emails/revisions: the magazine was sent off to the printer! We were able to get proofs made! We took a trip to Millwood Print Works, a local non-profit that specializes in letter printing and community projects. We learned the intense dedication and skill involved in letterpress technology and that "Mind your p's and q's" originated from letterpress because all the letters are placed backwards and it is easy to get those two mixed up!

    Then we drove over to Gray Dog Press where our proofs were waiting for us! It was such a thrilling experience to hold a physical copy of the magazine we'd worked all semester for. I was very proud at that moment (I'm proud in general but). We went over cover paper stock, color inlays and looked at various other books and publications that Gray Dog Press had managed over the last 15+ years.

    After the semester ended--we had our Launch Party! Pizza and a room in the Student Union Building. We had authors read work from the issue and gave out free issues of the magazine!

    Here is a 360 degree time lapse video of the launch! Move your mouse (or phone!) around to see all the room!

    I'm very proud to have worked with the team behind issue #32. We argued, we laughed, we decided the fate of the slush pile together: and in the end, we made something beautiful. Since I'm moving on to Eastern Washington University--I won't have the chance to be a staff member again, but you can be certain that I'll submit something for issue #33! Keep reading, keep writing, and I hope to see you all again someday soon.

    A special thank you to Jonathan Frey for two-and-a-half-years at North Idaho College, and for the years ahead. Don't think you've gotten rid of me yet!

    Murder mystery Chapter 1

    For my British Murder Mysteries class so far we've read:

    • Edgar Allan Poe: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter”
    • Arthur Conan Doyle: “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
    • G.K. Chesterton: "The Secret of Father Brown" and "The Secret Garden
    • Some stories by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers
    • An excerpt from Ted Lewis's "Get Carter"
    • An excerpt from  William McIlvanney's "Laidlaw"
    • An excerpt from Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time"
    • The full novels of "Even Dogs in the Wild" by Ian Rankin, "King Solomon's Carpet" by Barbara Vine and "Complicit" by Gillian E. Hamer.

    And after having read all of these lovely stories (including nearly the entire book of Crime Fiction: The New Critical Idiom by John Scaggs) we were then asked to write our own chapter of a Murder Mystery and explain which stories influenced/shaped our writing decisions. 


    Chapter I: Saturday

                A skinny cat gnawed on an outstretched finger. Cold and gray flesh split beneath sharp teeth as it chewed and swallowed until only a glistening finger bone remained. Flies clustered and buzzed around a discarded arm, and the cat’s ears twitched toward the sound. A second set of yellow eyes appeared in the gloom of the alleyway—drawn by the subtle promise of copper-tinged blood. The second cat slumped down on the damp asphalt and licked a muddied paw. Rain fell, drumming loudly on rooftops overhead, and the cats fled beneath a large green garbage can.

                Partially covered in debris and dead leaves: parts of a body were sprawled on the ground in the general arrangement of a human corpse. The body was incomplete: a severed neck, bare shoulders and an arm, one complete hand and the beginnings of a torso. The flesh was sliced clean and neat; no messy pools of gelatinous blood, no internal organs had spilled out onto the street. Two legs with some slight bruising; ankles, feet. The head was missing, and one arm had been dragged deeper into the alley.

                “The fuck is that—” A man’s voice choked in alarm followed by a frantic phone call to the police.

                #

                “Don’t tell me—” Isabella half-smiled over her styrofoam cup of gas station coffee.

                “I haven’t had my coffee yet. I can’t handle your 6 a.m. snark,” Avery sighed as he accepted the matching outstretched cup.

                “It’s 6:30 and I know whodunnit.”

                “Pray tell,” he said as he rolled his eyes, “whodunnit?”

                “It was an escaped feral orangutan.”

                Silence.

                “No.”

                “A deadly swamp adder.”

                “No. A what?

                “Come on, it’s a snake—”

                “No.

                A compact car sputtered to a stop behind two parked police squad cars. The car—a color that could only be described as spruce—had a dented bumper and expired plates. The passenger door opened, and Isabella Reuel stepped out into the wet street. Avery scrambled to unfurl an umbrella—and still hold his coffee—and failed miserably. His coffee cup crashed to the gutter and the umbrella misfired. Isabella stood with the door open, sipping her coffee in the light rain. Her short dark hair plastered to the side of her face and she sighed. Her coffee tasted like shit. She stepped away from the car and shut the door behind her. Avery finally managed to get the umbrella opened and rushed after her.

                She lifted the badge clipped to her camera strap that read ‘Crime Scene Photographer.’ Below her name on a white sticker, written in permanent marker, read: ‘Intern.’ She handed her coffee to the officer standing vigil outside the ‘Police Line: Do Not Cross’ yellow tape, smiled, then ducked beneath the tape. The officer shrugged and sipped his free coffee. His nose wrinkled as he lifted the tape for Avery to follow.

                The buildings on either side of the alleyway provided sufficient cover from the rain to protect her camera. It was generally waterproof—but it wasn’t a theory she wanted to test any time soon. She could barely pay for her license plate tabs, let alone repair work on her camera. The rain had been falling all night; whatever damage it had caused to the crime scene was already done. She heard Avery move beneath the tape.

                “Well, it’s a dead body,” Avery announced.

                “It’s most of a dead body,” Isabella added, raising her camera to take a few photographs. The dead body—or, more accurately, the sections of dead body—were somehow miraculously blood-free. The skin was the color of ashen gray. The rain could have washed it all away? Isabella thought as she zoomed in with her camera to get details on the wounds. Clean cuts, straight through bone and viscera, almost as if the body had been sliced up and then dumped haphazardly in the alley. But where is the head? There was a worn-leather wallet resting next to the corpse. The naked corpse. The ambiguously genderless corpse. The hands were smooth except for the ends of the fingers that had been burned to remove finger prints. Why go through all the trouble to burn away the prints and still leave parts of the body? Why not just burn the whole thing? She took another photo with the largest depth of field, showing the shadows of the alleyway, the blue garbage can, the debris-ridden street, the corpse, the wallet and finally—the rain: trying it’s damndest to wash away her crime scene.

                “It’s most of an old dead body,” Kevin’s voice sounded over Isabella’s shoulder. She bristled slightly and returned to taking photographs.

                “Old?” Isabella asked, moving away from him under the pretense of a better photo angle. She knelt to get away from the smell of his expensive cologne, careful not to disturb any of the trash in the alley.

                Damp, brown paper bags; discarded glass bottles—some dark emerald, some cloudy amber—something that looked curdled and vaguely red. In many ways, the trash was more vibrant than the alleyway it inhabited.

                “Make sure you photograph the wallet,” Kevin said as he knelt beside her. He wore an orange reflective-vest over his police uniform. The glaring color made his skin appear jaundice-yellow in the limited early-morning light. He waited as she finished the photo she was in the middle of: the wallet. He pulled an evidence bag from a jacket pocket and opened it. He flipped open the wallet before he dropped it inside and sealed it before too much rain followed.

                “Well, not old as in old age, the driver’s license claims the victim was in their mid-20s,” he said, glancing at the bag, “but the body itself is old. Look at the color of the skin.”

                “I’m looking right at it,” she said, smiling tightly behind her camera. Avery cleared his throat.

                “Kevin—”

                “Detective. Detective Kevin Cul Chapeau.”

                It was Avery’s turn to give one of Isabella’s ’fuck you’ smiles as he spoke, “Detective Kevin Cul-shampoo. Don’t you have somewhere else you could be?”

                Kevin’s left eye twitched. “I assure you: there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on a Saturday morning—than in this bleak, cold fucking alleyway doing your jobs for you.”

                “Alright you two, get back to work.” Another man’s voice boomed in the distance. Kevin shook his head but moved to another cordoned-off area that suddenly appeared quite interesting.

                “Doing our jobs for us? That prick doesn’t even know how to use a camera.” Avery dug in his pockets for a cigarette then remembered he couldn’t smoke in the middle of a crime scene. He patted his pocket, as if the feel of the packaging was enough to relax him for the moment. “First, I lose my coffee, then I have to see Kevin, now I can’t smoke. Please tell me you have some good news.”

                “You’re such a romantic,” Isabella said, stepping carefully around the corpse for one last photo. “Why is there a wallet with a body that has no clothes? No pockets? The wallet was probably dropped there as a decoy. What are we dealing with, exactly?” Avery removed a smaller camera from his non-cigarette pocket. A small, macro-lens allowed him to take incredibly close-up images, even in the rain and low-light.

                They were a team: Isabella with her giant DSLR camera—that cost more than their car—and Avery, with his compact camera and macro-lens, who did not need to compensate for anything. The sun was just beginning to rise over the alley and sunlight spilled like blood into the streets. He photographed the gnawed finger bone first—mostly out of curiosity—and then moved closer to the neck.

                “This is super weird,” he said, photographing around the severed neck bone and grayed flesh. “Where is all the blood?

                “Oh, I know—”

                “If you say vampires, I quit right now.”

                Isabella closed her mouth. She finished circling the corpse.

    “You can’t quit, we’re barely paid interns anyways. And rent is due.” Avery ignored her.

                Sunlight filled the alleyway as they worked in silence. Paramedics, police officers and gawkers mulled outside the police tape. In the distance, Isabella overheard Kevin taking statements from a man, presumably whoever had called in the corpse. The air filled with the palatable buzz of death; a sort of electricity lingered on Isabella’s tongue. It might have been the remnants of gas station coffee. It was free for a reason.

                “Did you see this?” Isabella asked as she knelt, staring at the body. “It looks like someone shoved this body through one of those egg guillotines.”

                “Like an egg slicer?”

                Isabella nodded. “It’s a really clean cut and the blood is here: it’s just not moving.” Isabella reached into her pocket and pulled out a blue latex glove. She checked over her shoulder: Kevin was still busy taking a statement, her boss was talking to the officer outside the tape: now was her chance. She fished beneath her jacket and unclipped a pen from her pocket. She poked the corpse, swirling the pen around the inside of the neck cavity.

                She pulled the pen back: icy red crystals coated the black plastic like a snow cone. That’s way too cold? She thought and rested her gloved hand on the corpse’s shoulder. An awkward gesture, but she couldn’t think of anywhere else to touch that wasn’t completely stomach-turning. The skin was frigid. Like a lump of frozen chicken breast: the body was frozen solid, along with the blood. The rain began to take the edge off the deep freeze, and dark red blood began to ooze from various chunks of flesh. She was glad she had an empty stomach.

                A cat watched curiously from beneath the garbage can. Isabella looked up and caught the cat’s gaze. She pulled her hand away from the strange shoulder.

                “I have a pretty good idea of how the body was sliced so easily: it was frozen.” She turned from the cat and looked at Avery. She peeled the blue glove off, folded it inside out carefully, and dropped her pen inside.

                Avery pretended not to notice that she had poked the dead body.

                “Frozen?” His camera continued to click. “Do you know who ate the finger? That could be important evidence. Probably. Hell if I know, I just take the pictures.”

                “We just take the pictures. But I have a suspect in mind.” She watched as the cat wandered down the alley and brushed up against the Medical Examiner’s pant leg.  The older woman waved the cat away and returned to leaning over the discarded arm.

                “Meet you back at the office?” He asked, not looking up from his camera.

                “I’ll pick you up a coffee on the way over.”

                “And a donut.”

                “And a donut,” she echoed and began the short walk to the car.

                ‘The office,’ was code for their shared apartment that may-or-may-not be operating as a freelance crime scene photography lab. The donut she would acquire was likely from the sample rack at the corner convenience store. All details aside: she couldn’t get the thought of the weird, segmented body out of her head. She’d need to get the photos downloaded as soon as she got home: she had some investigating of her own to get started on.

                As Isabella ducked under the police tape and unlocked her car: a black, immaculate truck idled down the street—just out of sight of the police cars. The window rolled down and a puff of smoke escaped into the air. Someone scribbled Isabella’s license plate number on a notepad and waited. A gun rested in the passenger seat along with a weathered photograph: Isabella and Avery stood with a group of college students, standing outside a Boeing Dreamliner, just before their trip to London. A cigarette burn had obscured the faces of three of the eighteen college students.


    Author's Notes

     Google translate Kevin's last name from French to English.

    I'd consider this an example of intertextuality, a fancy word I just learned in my American Literature survey class. Merriam Webster dictionary defines intertextuality as: "the complex interrelationship between a text and other texts taken as basic to the creation or interpretation of the text." 

    The majority of the texts listed above referenced or influenced chapter 1; the second half of my chapter was a quasi-literary-analysis piece that described those connections. I'm afraid I'm not used to writing based specifically on other works, but I didn't want to share an out-of-context paper on my blog. I wrote it, I was graded, this is the end-result. I may continue writing it. Not-listed influences (outside of the books we read for class) include the fact that I watched all of Season Two of Jessica Jones last month. I'm pretty sure that Isabella and Avery running a 'freelance business' out of their 'shitty apartment' is not coincidental. It's also not British even though it's written for a British Murder Mystery class because I don't know much about the area.