Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Tyler Woodbridge on Writing (Part Three: High School)

December 15, 2009

High school dawned. I was busy with football, constantly lifting weights and running and trying to maximize my physical potential. On the first day of school, I realized that I had to drop a class I had been taking for four years (Band) due to the fact that football would interfere with me getting the most out of the experience. I went to the guidance counselor and asked what classes were open. A journalism/newspaper writing class happened to have room, and I managed to get in.

With me having a natural flair for writing that was well-developed at the time, I picked up journalism rather easily, however, at first I had a few minor difficulties. My writing style was a bit too grandiose, I had to practice paring down the words and getting straight to the facts. I also lacked patience when it came to writing draft after draft of a short article, and some of my article ideas were far too ambitious for the deadline space I was given. More often than not I found myself scrambling at the last minute to get interviews or facts that I couldn’t’ve gotten before due to my busy schedule.

My first teacher, Mrs. Murphy, was an odd cookie. I liked her a lot, but sometimes it seemed that she got too caught up in running things “by the book.” She even forced me to write a retraction on a controversial article that I wrote about unhealthy eating/exercise habits practiced by school wrestlers; that didn’t gain me any favors with my wrestling team either. I was given all kinds of throwaway article assignments and received endless grief from her. It didn’t phase me too much at all, as I respected her and learned quite a bit.

Murphy left, and as my sophomore year rolled around I ended up with Mr. Ben Gerard Broschart as my teacher. He was a riot, he was a funny and easy-going guy that ran an enjoyable class. I have no ill statements to make about Mr. Broschart. He was brutally honest about the strength of my articles (or lack thereof), helped me pick up interviews and hone my skills, and made layout nights (I became an editor that year, and was one for the rest of high school) extremely fun. I was very immature and made all manner of mischief throughout my sophomore and junior years; Broschart had to come down hard on me every now and then. I appreciate how he handled my misbehavior, stern yet understandable, and think that he was a very professional yet accessible teacher. If I could list my five favorite teachers and professors I’d ever had, Ben Broschart would definitely be near the top, if not at the top. Hey, he helped me understand and accept U2 and Bruce Springsteen, now two of my favorite artists, so how can I not love him?

Mr. Broschart accepted a job in another school district, and his reign gave way to Mr. Jeff Fisher. “Fish,” as we affectionately called him (no relation to the sensational Marillion singer that I idolize), was barely older than his students, fresh out of college. He was like a perfect mix of Murphy and Broschart. He ran the class by the book while letting us have a little fun at the same time. Journalism remained my favorite class during my senior year, and I accomplished a lot of in-depth projects under his reign. It’s regrettable that I can’t find any copies of my work from senior year anywhere, as that’s the work I’m proudest of and should I pursue journalism again, those articles would look great in a portfolio.

The friends I made in Journalism class are unforgettable and incredible influences on me as a person today. I went from being a shy, quiet, overachiever my freshman year; to being the outgoing, musical, life-loving person I am today, and much of that transition was brought about by the friends I made in Journalism class. I’d like to give a nod here to three of my favorite people from Journalism and thank them for what they’ve done for me.

Kayla Rosebrook, who was already one of my great friends, ended up becoming my closest ally in high school. I talked to her every day in that class, no matter what, and was very close to her for a long time. I’d confide in her about anything and she would do the same. Her intelligence, wit, talent, and friendliness shined through in everything and I know to this day, although we rarely talk, I can still trust her to be a rock solid colleague and friend.

She seems like a completely different person now, but Lara Wheeler and I didn’t get off on the right foot. She went from barely contributing to the paper and hating me due to my overbearing personality, to becoming an excellent writer, a great friend, and a huge influence and support to me today. We became even closer after high school, and shared many things: music, rides, money, memories, adventures. I’m honored to say she’s one of my best friends of all time, and I’m glad I met her, thanks to Journalism class.

What can I say about Jessie Ford? Out of everyone in the class, she seemed to get the biggest kick out of my personality, creativity, boldness, and determination. Profoundly talented and extremely easy to get along with, she was perhaps a bit too encouraging of my insanity. She provided just as many, if not more laughs than anyone else in the class and is now a design professional. Check out her work here. I haven’t kept touch with her as much as everyone else, but when I think back on Journalism class, her face is usually one of the first to pop up. What a great girl.

There were many, many others who made Journalism class a great experience. Alex Buchanan, Tyler Stewart, Allison Hornyak, Chris Germann, Amanda Tootle, Marissa Tackett, Erin Casey Cottrill, Vanessa Triplett, Taylor Harrison, Tripp Lowery, and several others contributed laughs, memories, advice, help, and various other influences. They’re all unforgettable in different ways.

I ended up deciding to pursue journalism in college at Wilmington, where I majored in Communications and played on the football team. I ended up having to leave after my freshman year and have been out of college ever since due to incidents out of my control, but that’s a blog and a story for another day. I’d like to give a nod here to David Goguen, who was one of my favorite professors at WC. He was full of stories and was very friendly and helpful, I can’t thank him enough for the opportunities and praise he gave me.

I also picked up another writing interest in high school: Comedy writing. It all started when myself and my friend Austin Drewyor couldn’t stop making fun of another kid who played on our football team. The kid was unintentionally hilarious in just how stupid he could act, and looked like a small mammal. Therefore, Austin and I took it upon ourselves to start writing comic scripts and drawing cartoons centered around the kid, who we named Muskrat. It took off from there, with us creating endless other characters based on ourselves and those around us. My character was named Kirk, his was known as Toenail, and there was a legion of crazy, epic, random shenanigans written about in the three years to come.

I blame this comedic writing exercise as the reason for my grades being a bit lower than they should have been. Sometimes in class, instead of taking the notes on the board, Austin and I would write scripts back and forth. We’d pass them to our friends, who would cry laughing at the adventures we wrote about. I wasted so much time and energy and effort in these scripts, yet was so proud of them. We actually kept a folder through all three years that we wrote these scripts, filled to the brim with hundreds of characters, hundreds of events, and thousands of laughs. Unfortunately, these scripts have been lost or thrown away, our many hours of effort faded into nothing. Sure, we could probably write many of them again, but the spontaneity was what sparked their genius.

These scripts were a perfect example of my immaturity, my sense of humor, and the ridiculousness of our teachers and the people we knew. Austin and I wrote with coarse language, vulgar explicity, and held nothing back in our quest to bring laughter to the masses. Celebrity appearances, personal insults, drug references, blatant sexuality and tasteless gags abound peppered our Muskrat Scripts, as we called them. Those who enjoy South Park, The Simpsons, Will Ferrell or Kevin Smith movies, and Family Guy praised our work and said that we could definitely have a future in cartoon/comedy writing. I think, if Austin and I ever decided to, we could indeed make our way into the cartoon/comedy world. That’s an avenue I always want to keep open, as writing these scripts was something I enjoyed and could parlay into something useful one day. That is, if you want to count genital jokes, wanton violence, and cruel parody as useful. I like to think it is.

More to come in a future entry… as these are topics I could write about forever.

If you’re a friend of mine reading this and happen to have an unforgettable memory about CHS Journalism class from 2002 to 2006, or happened to have enjoyed a Muskrat script sometime in that time frame as well… post one of your favorite quotes or memories having to do with this topic! Unfortunately I’ve forgotten too much about two things I’ve held dear to me for so long. Your contributions are much appreciated!!

Projects I’m Working On

November 5, 2009

From the responses I’ve gotten, it looks like my music reviews are a hit!! I’m happy everyone’s enjoying them and I hope I’ve done my part to spread good music to the masses. I’ll be continuing to do music reviews once or twice a week. Also, to clear things up, my letter grade I give albums is based on music as a whole. Within Melodic Rock, the W.E.T. album is a masterpiece. However I reserve “A” grades for transcendental albums and immortal classics… releases like Born to Run, Ten, Boston, albums like that. So while the two albums I reviewed are VERY good and I’ll listen to them frequently, I just don’t think they’re all-time classics. We’ll how they stand up in the future though! I’ve got a couple new albums on tap to review and a couple classics, expect them up soon. Newer releases I’ll definitely cover within the next couple months include Porcupine Tree, Europe, Winger, Muse, Alice in Chains, Wolfmother, and several more. I will also field requests for reviews and have a couple requests being done as we speak. For you video game fans, I will review a couple hot games this holiday season, including Modern Warfare 2. So be expecting some new updates on that.

I’m also going to add at least one, MAYBE two more installments on my series on writing. These entries have helped me get back in touch with parts of me that I haven’t done anything with for what seems like an eon. I will have entry series on other topics that I enjoy; music, sports, anything and everything, you name it. Hopefully soon this blog will have a better design, a better grab-bag of topics, and more interesting stuff within. So stay tuned. My goal is to be informative and entertaining at the same time, so let me know if I’ve done that at all!

Prewriting is being done on a few novels I’ve been thinking about starting for far too long. I’m cooking up a thriller revolving around war, espionage, and political intrigue… but that tale will take forever to complete. To fill up the time while I work on that, I’ll be working on some stories based around events that have happened in my life, but I will accent those with fiction and fun storytelling. It’s bascially going to be my life on steroids, but with names changed and craziness added. I’m going to have fun with it.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading. To paraphrase Bryan Adams (or just straight rip him off), everything I do, I do it for you. Hope you’re all well and having a good Thursday, the weekend’s almost upon us!!

-Tyler Woodbridge

Tyler Woodbridge on Writing (Part Two: I’ve Got the Power)

October 22, 2009

Middle school was a bit of a rough patch in my life. I lost my great-grandfather Shaw and my grandpa Woodbridge. I was having trouble adjusting to an evolving social climate; I was awkward and “marched to the beat of my own drum,” so to speak. When most of my peers were becoming fashion-conscious and popular trends began to leak into way of life, I was left behind, still in the same habits and hobbies that I enjoyed in years before.

That included writing.

I kept scribbling away. My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. River, was actually a rather big encouragement. She was really sweet and was always quick to compliment me whenever I wrote a good piece or shared an informative insight. In her class we were given free reign every day to do some independent writing, whether it be poetry or prose, and got to share our work with our classmates. Poetry was a natural fit for me, I discovered it was a quicker and easier way to share a particular block of emotion than prose. There were days where I would dish out three to four poems in one class period, and others kept praising my work. I let it go to my head, and obviously it still affects me to this day. I began seeing myself as the best writer my class had to offer, and made no effort to hide my thoughts.

It was at this time that I also discovered the works of Brian Jacques, the Redwall series. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Jacques’ (amazing) works, I suggest you at least read the titular Redwall release. Jacques combined two worlds that were fascinating me more and more every day; the medieval/renaissance culture, and wildlife. His fantasy series wove together epic yarns of questing, adventure, and combat… with mice, foxes, otters, badgers, and hedgehogs. The series really struck a chord with me and I would read at least one Redwall book every couple weeks. I loved the way Jacques used descriptive language to illustrate his fascinating worlds, and how he used dialogue to build characters. I was inspired, not only to read more fantasy books, but to write some of my own. As I went from Jacques to Tolkien, Rowling, DragonLance, and more, I picked up many ideas for fantasy writing and set to it with a vigor.

I clearly remember my first attempt at a fantasy adventure novel. I spent a good chunk of my 6th grade year writing a story entitled “Tar Wars.”  This story followed the legend of a Gallimimus (Sadly, I forget his name) who quested across Pangea to slay a Tyrannosaurus who ate his father. It was an insane mash-up of Jurassic Park, Dinotopia, Redwall, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and my own twisted imagination.  I loved it and was proud of it, but sadly enough I think it’s been long thown out and rotten away.

I continued to experiment with fantasy/adventure writing, often creating my own little worlds and heroic characters, and writing countless chapter ones… but never any chapter twos. Today I’m ashamed to admit this, but I also spent a huge chunk of time browsing Redwall fan club websites, meeting with other kids around my age and playing text-based RPG adventures. We would create our own Redwall-style heroes and build our writing skills while having a blast creating worlds of battle and intrigue. I got so much grief from my family for it, and mostly for good reason. It seems a bit ridiculous looking back now that I spent hundreds of hours of my precious youth role-playing as an otter pirate warlord named Waveblade Galedeep, but hey; it built my imagination to levels previously unknown and helped me craft my writing abilities a little further. I can’t say I regret it, but I can’t say I’m proud of it either.

Going back to my newfound love of poetry, it wasn’t uncommon to find a book of poetry among the stack of Jacques novels I’d check out from the school library. I began to practice at it, finding words that flowed well together and would make for great rhymes. Other kids would ask me to write poetry for/about them, and they would get a great kick out of it, often laughing or crying or thinking due to my work. My parents mocked some of my poetry, and again, for good reason: Looking back, some of that poetry seemed unusually and stereotypically “emo” for a 11-year old, and deserved to be mocked. I threw out a ton of my poetry and writing, and at one point I was mad at my parents for it… but, these days I don’t see the big deal. I see this stage as the “cocoon” of my writing development, and the bad poetry and derivitive fantasy writing as the “shell.” Since I’ve cast the “shell” away, I’ve grown as a writer and as a reader, and know I’m capable of much more than the rut I was stuck in.

Mrs. River,  my fantastic sixth-grade English teacher I mentioned earlier, chose me as a candidate to write for a competitive team at the middle school. I was enamored with the idea of competitive writing and ended up trying out for (and making) the Power of the Pen team. This was quite possibly the best thing to happen to me. I got to write, a hobby I found very fun… COMPETITIVELY!

I went to my first Power of the Pen tournament not knowing what to expect. I knew I was the biggest fish in my school, but how many sharks would I encounter in my opponents? I blocked out the pressure and expectations and did what I did best: wrote. The competition was based on writing off prompts. There were three hour-long rounds of writing, which gave me more than enough time to dream up stories that I not only enjoyed writing, but enjoyed reading too.

I finished 13th in my first tournament, the third-best from my team. I wasn’t shocked that I placed, and was actually very pleased that I was a top 20 placer out of the 200+ writers that had competed in my grade. This made me excited for the Regional tournament I qualified for. Other writers from my school, and even from other schools, had remembered my name and work. They approached me at this second tournament, wishing me luck and complimenting me on what I had accomplished. I told them that I haven’t accomplished anything yet, what was there to say?

This would soon change.

I won the 7th grade Regional Power of the Pen meet. I remember shaking and sweating so hard right before they announced the winner. I was very upset that I hadn’t placed when others from my team already had. I had worked so hard to get this far and it would upset me to have to go home at that point. When they announced my name, I nearly fell down the bleachers my team sat in. I was excited, pleased, elated; you name the positive emotion, I felt it. My family was in tears, I was receiving applause and pats on the back, I was given a giant trophy… I truly felt like a rock star. All for writing.

I was becoming a better writer every day. I was making friends with everyone on the team. I was happier with my life (I had a serious bout of depression my 7th grade year; writing helped me out of it easily), I had more confidence and notoriety. Even though I was a three-sport athlete, I identified myself as Tyler Woodbridge, Writer. Long stories made short (sometimes brevity is a virtue), I proceeded to become a State Finalist my 7th grade year. I didn’t place, but to make it to that point was a great achievement to me and an honor.

My 8th grade year, I went into the Power of the Pen season cocky. I was arrogant. I was the writer to beat, and I knew it. The first tournament went by quickly for me, an easy 3rd place trophy. The Regional tournament came by, and again the rockstar feeling was prevalent. People remembered me, people talked to me… I was a local writing celebrity. I don’t mean to be egotistic at all, but this is how it felt to me. A few certain friends and peers were quick to point this out to me. Unfortunately I did not take the hint to cool down my ego at the time and may have annoyed some people.

This “rockstar feeling” was amplified by my second consecutive regional title. I won 1st place yet again. This time I wasn’t even nervous during the awards ceremony. I even got to make an acceptance speech (a rarity for PoP at this time) and called up my team onstage with me. At that point I viewed myself as an immortal in competitive writing and there was nothing anybody could do to stop me. Of course nobody could stop me, it’s competitive writing, there’s no direct opponent… anyway.

My arrogance was my downfall. Yet again I went to the state tournament, qualifying by way of my regional title. I barely tried during my three first-round stories, but I managed to get a great score nonetheless and squeaked into the finals. The final prompt was very vague and ambiguous. I struggled to find a good topic to write about, so I decided to abandon my meat-and-potatoes style of straight-up storytelling. Rather, I tried WAY too hard for an 8th grade competition, and tried to write an extremely complex allegory about some obscure statement. I used a ficticious Greek centurion as my main character, and channeled my best inner Jacques or Tolkien for this prompt.

My attempt to be epic fell completely short, my story was ridiculed by the judges, and I had one of the worst writings of the finals. Yes, I ended up a State Finalist for the second consecutive year, but my arrogance and attempt to do more than what I was capable of ended up crippling my chances of winning. I learned my lesson about egotism, and decided to never “force it” again.

From this point on, I did not write stories as much as I used to. My poetry improved, and became more lyrical in nature. When I felt creative and wanted to write, I would pen songs more than anything else. I grew out of my fantasy stage, and read books less and less. Sports became a larger part of my life as I entered high school, and for the time being it looked like I had moved on from my days as a hopeful novelist.

This is when I discovered journalism and comedy writing.

My next entry in this series will cover the high school period of my life, and how joining the school paper staff was one of the best decisions possible.. and how myself and a friend combined humor and writing talent to make dozens of peers laugh themselves into a stupor.

Tyler Woodbridge on Writing (Part One: The Early Years)

October 21, 2009

Every person on this planet has some kind of talent. Whether or not they can parlay this talent into a professional endeavor, or if they have the opportunity to use it on a regular basis, varies from person to person. It takes some people a lifetime to discover their ability, while others may know about it from early childhood on. These talents can be unusual, practical, artistic, or even dangerous. Discovering a talent and using it could add a great deal of enjoyment to ones life, and provide opportunities of many varieties.

I was lucky enough to discover one of my primary talents from a very early age. When I was young I loved to read. As a toddler I would ask for books from the department stores, rather than toys. Every week I was given a new book. Most of these books were Sesame Street books that taught valuable life lessons, or educated me on different topics.  I also read works dealing with dinosaurs, outer space, history, and the environment. These topics kickstarted my imagination, and I grew curious and wanted to explore these more.

As I grew older (not much, I was around 5), I thought to myself, “Why read books, when I can write some of my own?” This is where it all started. I would staple together around 20 sheets of regular white paper. At the top of the page I would write two or three sentences, and then on the bottom half I would draw a picture or a character that related to the sentences. I ended up making a “series” of “books,” many of which having to do with the adventures of young dinosaurs, largely inspired by the Land Before Time movie series. I had a blast writing these “books” and would spend more time working on these, than I would playing with neighborhood children or watching TV. I had an unusual childhood, to say the least!

Teachers were quick to discover my advanced language skills and talent in reading and writing. Rather than do daily writing exercises in kindergarten, I would solve advanced problems on the computer all day. Instead of reading “Go Dog Go” and Dr. Seuss, my teacher would send me to the library to read some more advanced material. I was a young mind overflowing with information, and no way to use it. So I just thought, dreamed, imagined, and wrote.

Throughout my life I’ve had periods where I’ve had an obsession of some kind, and for a while my life would be overtaken by that particular obsession. At first, I was crazy about dinosaurs. Then, I couldn’t get enough of learning about outer space. Rainforests, baseball, football, medieval history, poker, auto racing, rock music; the list of my obsessions is long and varied. Every time I’d take up a new interest, I would write and read about it constantly. It wouldn’t stop there. When I was into baseball, I’d write up statistical graphs (like on a baseball card) for myself, fantasizing about the record-breaking career I’d have for the Cincinnati Reds. I started writing an adventure novel about space wars… at the age of 8. In my younger days I spent so much time and energy creating, although much of it went nowhere but the bottom of a trash pail.

Of course, young kids don’t put much serious thought into what they want to do with their lives. I was no different. When asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, my dreams were big. President of the United States. Palaeontologist. Race car driver. I didn’t realize how far-fetched these ideas were, and it would be several more years until I went through two personal creative developments that would help me realize my place in this world.

….and that will be covered in Part Two.