Kate Elizabeth Orgera

Understanding Life Through Stories

Author: kateeorgera

3 Things Ghosts Stories Have Taught Me

Source: Pexels

Ghosts and ghost stories are one of the most pervasive frights in our culture. So in honor of Halloween, what life lessons can we learn from the dead?


If you know me, you know I don’t do horror. Like, at all.

The closest I’ve come to sitting through a horror movie was the film version of Sweeney Todd, and the only reason I got through that gore fest was the music of Stephen Sondheim.

Source: Imgur, Pushing Daisies, scared

Lee Pace gets me

I’ve never been into vampires or zombies. Werewolves I can do to an extent, if only because they’re fluffy and Remus Lupin is one. Witches I write about, but I prefer good witches to bad witches, taking the scare out of it.

But there is one creature of the night that has had a hold on my imagination for a long, long time:

Ghosts.

scooby doo, ghost

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In This Together: What Does it Means to Be Feminist?

In the wake of Women’s History Month and various female-driven campaigns of the past months, inspiring women’s stories are getting great exposure. But despite present passion, if we don’t also look at stories of past failings in feminism (as documented in the play The Heidi Chronicles) and what it really means to be feminist, we may be doomed to failure.

In spite of all the misogyny and threatened rights present in government recently, I’ve been so inspired by the way women have come together in recent months. The Women’s March and associated marches that took place all over the world on January 21 may have come together quickly, but there was enough time for a grassroots marketing campaign to gain ground.

My favorite image associated with the marches is the one above by Narya Marcille, which my mom and I used as temporary profile pictures to support from afar.

What I love most is the variety of women it depicts. The way the Washington March was marketed by the women who originally put it together, they wanted it to be inclusive of more than one type of woman, or, as Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined it, “intersectional.” Seeing all those crowds on TV seemed to reflect what was depicted in that image. For a moment, I thought maybe the next four years could be okay if we all showed up like this.

Flickr

But then… things started to come out. Things that, from my privileged perspective, hadn’t occurred to me could happen. Transgender women who were inadvertently isolated by the hats tying womanhood to biological sex over gender. Native American women who felt they were silenced from voicing the issues of land rights that affected them specifically. Black women who wondered if the women around them would be so willing to fight for racial equality as they were for sexual and gender equality. And for good reason – it was white women, who might not be so different from me, who voted 53% for the administration now endangering women’s rights.

My heart plummeted. Another disappointment in a long line of disappointments in recent months.

I mean, let’s acknowledge there were plenty of stories of inclusion in the marches as well, that the fact it spread among women, allied men, children, elderly, and even beyond United States borders is something to be celebrated, especially considering how relatively quickly it all came together. No movement is perfect. But as much as we want unity, we can’t silence these stories of women let down by current efforts, women of color or trans women or women with physical and mental issues. If we do, it will eventually destroy us.

Because we’ve seen this happen before.

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At a Loss for Words: Writing in the Age of Trump

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, a song began circulating on social media. Written by Sara Bareilles for the This American Life podcast, and sung by Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr., the song “Seriously” imagined Barack Obama’s perspective on his time in office and the future of the presidency, the words he cannot say aloud.

There’s a certain lyric that leaps to mind:

Angry? Am I angry? You ask, am I angry? And I’m at a loss for words.

For the character of Barack Obama, a man noted for his thoughtfulness and his powers of speech, to be at a loss for words in the face of Donald Trump’s rise to power is tremendous, and terrible. And it isn’t a stretch to think the real Barack Obama often feels the same way about all that’s happening.

I certainly do.

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What Makes a Good Literary Web Series?

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 11.01.57 PM

Classic novels ingrained in Western culture have been adapted in many ways over years – plays, musicals, miniseries, films, modern teen novels, even text posts (no, really). In recent years, with the success of Game of Thrones, we’re seeing more and more books and series adapted to television format.

But one of my favorite methods of adaptation is one rarely discussed outside of internet culture: the literary web series.

These modern retellings of public domain works turn classic protagonists into Youtube vloggers, who let their story unfold before an audience. Literary web series have to be particularly inventive in bringing classic stories to modern day, organically integrating racial & gender diversity and modern sensibilities to works made over a hundred years ago.

Breaking down the structure of these series, there are five components to an effective adaptation:

Components

  1. Initial conceit (or, why does this character have a blog?)
  2. Audience acknowledgement & interaction
  3. How are other perspectives integrated?
  4. Inventiveness (with camera stuff, settings, etc.)
  5. Quality of Adaptation (modernization of problematic elements, captured the spirit of the original)
Let’s look at some examples to see how this breaks down.

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Lizzie Bennet Diaries On Finding a Dream Job

Oh Lizzie Bennet Diaries, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

This webseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice took off in early 2012. It was the first of its kind – a scripted vlog series posing as a real blog series, taking the characters and situations from a literary classic and transplanting them to modern day.

So, if you know the story of Pride and Prejudice, the emotional plot of LBD follows a similar path of miscommunications, prejudices, and stubbornness, eventually leading to a happy conclusion.

A quick breakdown for those who don’t care about spoilers (last warning!):

Lizzie, a passionate 24-year-old grad student, sets out to document the life of her, her cynical best friend Charlotte Lu, and her two sisters, beautiful and adorably sweet Jane, and wild party animal Lydia as they fend off the matchmaking of their old-fashioned mother.

When single medical student Bing Lee comes to town with fashionista sister Caroline and stuffy friend William Darcy, Jane and Bing’s attraction leads to Lizzie having to deal with Darcy, who’s initial impression of her being only “decent enough”… well… doesn’t give her the best impression of him.

Simultaneously, graduation is fast approaching, and swift changes in her life, from Charlotte and Jane moving away, to family financial and personal troubles, to the reveal of Darcy’s affections and true character, make Lizzie question her life and career choices.

In the end, Lizzie learns to see past her prejudices, appreciates her familial relationships, begins a relationship with Darcy, and makes the decision to start a business of her own after graduation.

I didn’t catch onto it until late that year, but I quickly fell in love. When the companion novel The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet came out a year later, I downloaded the audiobook, voiced by the actress who played Lizzie in the original series, and felt like I was reliving the best of it all over again.

Additionally, I have discussed the series previously in comparison to Disney’s Frozen and in comparison to the film You’ve Got Mail, also inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

Why do I love this series so much? And why is it relevant to getting a dream job?

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4 Things Children’s Books Teach About Marketing

As I go through the Startup Institute program, the one thing that comes up over and over again is that we all have unique backgrounds and skills that can be applied in the new career path we’ve chosen (in my case, marketing).

So here’s my story, career-wise:

I was in children’s publishing for a year, helping to publish books for ages 3-18. (Well, over a year if you count the NYU classes in publishing I took before that.)

I loved working on books for younger readers, as middle grade (audience ages 9-12) and some YA (young adult, ages 12-18) books were so formative for me in my childhood. Like not just Harry Potter, but also books ranging from the popular Percy Jackson series to the lesser-known Theatre Illuminata trilogy.

The thing is, I wasn’t in marketing. I wasn’t even in editorial, which is the most popular position in publishing. I was in managing editorial – the proofreading and formatting of the book, dealing with production materials. This is very behind-the-scenes, very unsung work, but all too necessary.

And because managing editorial is basically the hub connecting the editors and designers and marketers, I feel that, while I wasn’t in marketing directly, my publishing experience did teach me quite a bit about it.

So here are four things I learned from children’s books, and from working on them:

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Virtual Reality and Science Fiction

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwiC3NqCvuvNAhVLNz4KHXbbDEoQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fseekingalpha.com%2Farticle%2F2830506-facebooks-virtual-reality-development-push-is-on&bvm=bv.126130881,d.cWw&psig=AFQjCNGF43ijkmcGQCYG4nKhiF6b2dxmJQ&ust=1468329022184182

On Friday morning, my cohort at Startup Institute had a fireside chat with Aaron Nicholson, who is involved in the growing industry of virtual reality, or VR.

Now obviously, since this person was invested in the development of VR, he had a lot to say about the ways virtual reality can be used in gaming, film, health, psychology, and other such fields.

And, even having not experienced the Samsung virtual reality goggles that were passed around, I could see how this was intriguing technology, an extension of something we’ve tried to achieve for years with books, with film and games, 3-D Imax films, theme park rides – an immersive experience in another world.

And yet, there was a niggling in the back of my head – a scene from the novel Fahrenheit 451.

I first read Fahrenheit 451 nine years ago this month (which is SUCH a strange thought). I was away from home for the first time at a choral studies camp in middle-of-nowhere upstate New York, and it was required reading for school, which I figured I would get through while I was waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be released.

The 1950s novel of a “near future” America where books are burned drew me in. I loved his wonderful and thoughtful language, the clear love of books spilled onto the page, the growth of rogue book burner Guy Montag, and the soul, wit, and heart of Clarisse McClellan.

What also stayed with me were the negative images, the worries and warnings science fiction often meditates on, especially in modern dystopias. The world of Fahreheit 451 is a lot closer to home than The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner, however, in that the society is quite recognizable. Robotic hounds, wall-sized TV screens, a tiny radio you can put in your ear – much of this tech is either close to existing or already there.

The scene I was thinking of, in this instance, had to do with the wall-sized television screens, called “parlor walls,” the intent being to eventually have enough money for four parlor walls, making the room an immersive TV parlor, which is what the main character’s wife, Mildred, wishes to do.

She calls the characters on her screens “family,” and even, at the top of the novel, participates in a play that comes on the “wall-to-wall circuit,” with the intent that one part is written out and Mildred can read a script and “interact” with the characters.

Are you starting to see why the concept of virtual reality made me think of this? Made me worry about this?

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Harry Potter as Stress Relief

Kate in 2009 at Platform 9 3/4 with her copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

When stress kicks in, we all have different ways of coping. Some go for yoga, some for frozen yogurt. Some need a tearjerking song, some need a series of cat videos on Youtube. Some brew a cup of soothing tea, some throw back a beer.

Me? I grab Harry Potter.

Specifically, I grab my battered copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, bought on a trip to Canada (when my original Sorcerer’s Stone was lent out and never returned), in times when I’m stressed about a life transition.

Harry Potter is a big part of the reason I’m a storyteller. Unlike other Potter fans, I did like to read before I ever saw those books (as my Bio Page will attest to). But it was the fantasy, the humor, and the intricate plots of the Potter novels that lit up my imagination and made me want to write stories, not just read them. And it’s been a huge part of my life in other ways. The series as a whole, book and film, has seen me through elementary school, high school, college, and now with the new play and companion films, my adult life. I could go on and on (and on and on).

But to get to the point, I found my thoughts turning back to the first book last night as I was meditating on what I had to do to get ready for the Startup Institute program. It just popped in there: ‘I should read Philosopher’s Stone again.’ As if I didn’t have other things I should be doing.

Which made me think of the other times I’ve turned to this volume in the midst of stress: My first week of high school, my first year of college, studying abroad in Spain, the week before graduation.

All life transitions.

But why did I instinctively choose this book in those times of stress? Was it just because of the nostalgia factor? Escapism? Why not the film?

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Storytelling: A Musical Guide

Christian Borle as Will Shakespeare in Something Rotten <
So for this first post, I thought I’d do something fun.
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Musical theater is for me a powerful form of storytelling. It is live and in your face, it is imaginative and experimental, and it requires a contract of sorts with your audience in a way that books and film don’t. As the Doctor of Doctor Who once said,
Oh yeah, but the theatre’s magic, isn’t it? You should know. Stand on this stage, say the right words with the right emphasis at the right time. Oh, you can make men weep.
So often in fiction we see writers writing about writers, or the art of storytelling in general. Think of Shakespeare in Love or Becoming Jane for example. This is no different with theater writers. And musical theater writers get to do it not just with words, but with song.
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Storytelling in fiction is of course different from telling about yourself or your company from a business standpoint. But not as different as you think. The stories we’ve read from the time we were children shape us, they give us a vehicle with which to reflect on and share our own stories.
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To me, these songs speak to the importance of telling your story  – the triumphs and the pitfalls, the ways we understand our life story in the scheme of stories we love. So take a listen, and see what you can learn:

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