Coffee With Helena and Hannah (or Hannah and Helena)

Coffee with Hannah and Helena

Step right up ladies and gents, it’s finally time to peek behind the curtain. For the first time ever, you can join Helena Hann-Basquiat (who can usually be found with a Greyhound and a choice musical selection over at Memoirs of a Dilettante) and I once a week(ish) to, as Helena says, “hang out, banter about books, films, blogging, and our ongoing projects. It’s been brewing for a while now, and long overdue.”

What’s in store for you, lucky readers? I’ll let the delightful dilettante spell it out as only she can.

Helena:

This is a chance for you get to know us a little better, and ask questions. It’s just in the conception stage right now, but I’m hoping for it to be almost like a bit of a variety show — we’ll hang out, maybe have some special guests from time to time, and we can catch you up on what’s going on.

It’s important to me because I’m going to be wrapping up CHUK in the next couple of months, and after that, I plan on launching into writing a new novel, but due to the advice of some very kind people who advised me not to give away such quality material, I won’t be writing it in public after all. So this is a way to keep you in the loop, give you a taste of what I’m writing.

And also, it will be a place for writers to come and talk about writing. I’ve often made the distinction between writers and bloggers, and I relate more to the first one than the latter. Writing a fiction blog can be a tough sell. I’d like to point you to some great fiction that you might be missing out on.

When I met Hannah over a year ago, it was over at Friday Fictioneers. We clicked immediately, and have spent the last year helping each other grow as writers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Hannah is a painter when it comes to writing. I consider myself a storyteller. She and I have hugely different styles, and we echo each other’s envy of our respective skills. Hannah creates fantastic characters and wonderful atmospheric settings, and at some point, I’m going to hand her a bare-bones story idea and have her give it sinew, muscle and skin and bring it to life.

Hannah:

I was going to complain about the fact that the title of this get together should be Coffee with HANNAH and Helena–I don’t know what your idea of alphabetical order is, but A comes before E last time I checked–but after you said all those nice things about me, I’ll let it slide. This time. At the risk of retelling the story of our meet-cute, it all began with a vampire gauntlet (if it didn’t happen this way, blame an unreliable-narrator-in-training and besides, if you’re a writer you make stuff up for a living). I stumbled across Friday Fictioneers and wrote my first story about a vampire which is where Helena found me. This evolved (or perhaps devolved) into the “vampire gauntlet” being thrown and a somewhat in-depth discussion of what said gauntlet would look like. And so began the start of a beautiful friendship.

Praise from Helena is praise indeed, and while I splatter paint around on a canvas, Helena sits you down and en-spells you, locking you into whatever world she’s currently crafting and refusing to let you go until you’ve read until the end, making sure that along the way you’re either snorting your favorite beverage out of your nose, crying into your coffee, or sweating profusely.

When I first started reading Helena’s blog, I was impressed not only by her verbosity and skill at turning a phrase–the alliterations, I tell you, are masterful–but also by the sheer variety of treasures to be found. There are anecdotes that will make you laugh, stories that will make you cry, and tales of terror that will have you checking under your bed. If you talk to Helena for more than a moment or two, you’ll find that underneath the perfectly coiffed curls, there is an entire library of music and pop culture–she awarded herself a doctorate in Films of John Hughes. If you want to strike up a conversation, mention Ferris Bueller or Velvet Underground and prepare for an education.

So What Comes Next?

“So, what comes next?” is the question that follows swiftly on the heels of someone finding out I’m graduating in December, a semester early. It is slightly more dreaded than that other favorite question of acquaintances, long-lost friends, and older relatives: “How is the love life?”

Since a dead pan response such as this one suggested by my sister –“Just tell people that you’re going to become a killer for hire and the first people you’re going to go after are all the people who ask you what you’re going to do when you graduate…”– is unfortunately off the table, I’m usually left trying to formulate some other response that doesn’t convey utter panic. “I’m working on getting an internship,” or “I’m still figuring things out,” or anything that is polite and hopefully stops the conversation in its tracks.

Because the truth of the matter is, I don’t know. Yet. I’ve heard two very different viewpoints on my so-called “lack of direction” (thanks, tactful friend). One is that my uncertainty is completely normal–college graduates everywhere are trying to figure out what to do with their degree and students still in college will change their degrees several times over the course of their college career. Unfortunately for me–and very fortunately for many of my friends–they have a clear view of what they want to do and where they are going. The other view is that you should know exactly what you are doing with your life as soon as you graduate. Maybe people have epiphanies as their tasseled caps rain down on them and they clutch their diplomas. But I doubt it.

I think uncertainty is more widespread than a cocksure knowledge of what you want to do. In fact, I do know what I want to do. I want to write, I want to explore, I want to travel, and I want to have adventures–in whatever capacity any or all of those things are possible. Unfortunately, that’s not such a cut and dried answer, like people expect. However, I think people fail to realize that nothing is “certain.” I know English majors who go to law school or are working in business or even for oil companies. I know business majors who work outside the field of their major or decided they want to get a masters in something completely different. I think I simply bought into the “10 year plan” that is ingrained into many of us from middle school: go to high school and get good grades, then do the same in college, then graduate and BAM! a job will fall into your lap. Maybe some of that was true before the economy and the job market fell into the state in which they are now, maybe it was just a sneaky plan to get all of us to do our homework. But the truth is, having a “plan” sometimes becomes completely moot.

I was watching The Dark Knight yesterday and the character the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger, says “Notice how nobody panics when everything goes ‘according to plan?'” It’s such a small statement, uttered by a psychopathic anarchist character, but it has a definite ring of truth. It’s the same idea as the aphorism “Even the best laid plans go awry.” You can plan for certain things in life, you can set realistic-achievable goals, but a 10 year plan, or a 5 year plan, or even a 3 year plan can fall apart and crumble down around you. Jobs can be lost, industries can go bankrupt, and any other sort of catastrophe can and possibly will occur.

So who is right in the end? The person with the “Plan” that may or may not make it through Phase one, or the person with an “Idea” that can evolve and hopefully adapt to the curve balls life so often throws?

I don’t have the answer–to this question or to “what comes next”–but I’m willing to hold on tight and find out. As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren’t we going to do?'”