Posts Tagged ‘Ohio State University’

 

It’s always satisfying to finish a manuscript. No matter the length, it’s satisfying to know that you’ve put in so much time, sweat, blood and creativity into writing a story and that it’s finished, that you were able to get over your fears before starting, keep going, and see it to the end. And after attempting a third draft a little year ago, failing miserably, and taking a year to work up the courage to try again, it’s especially satisfying. Hell, I even bought fancy honey-wine to celebrate this momentous evening.

Now if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I originally wrote as my college thesis. It follows an amnesiac woman named Rose whose body starts to go through incredible, terrible, magical changes. The only source of information on her condition is a man who claims to be her boyfriend, but he’s got some terrible secrets and isn’t all he claims to be. It’s a dark and bizarre story, with themes of dependence and abuse, perception and memory, in a story influenced by Stephen King’s Misery and Japanese mythology.

It’s also been the most challenging story I’ve worked with. I had to scrap my first attempt to write it because I made the story too bizarre, sprawling and complex, then go back and make it a bit simpler and contained. Then I had to write an entire first draft, then a second draft within a few months. Then I had an internship in Germany and a job search, followed by an attempt at the third draft. That draft, as I said before, was a complete and utter disaster due to the lack of routine I had at the time. I took it up again back in late June, after I needed a break from sci-fi and Full Circle and, with a routine, I managed to get through the draft in about four months, incorporating the suggestions from my thesis advisors to great effect while I was at it.

And I’m very proud of this draft. Every time I’ve worked on this story, it’s changed significantly. Plot points, emotional connections, characterizations, they’ve all gone through some incredible rewrites. With this particular draft, I feel like I’ve been editing the work of a different author, giving his work a much-needed makeover. I even added an original chapter to the manuscript, which also took the top spot as the longest chapter in the novel (I spent two week with Dragon Speech-to-Text software writing that chapter so it wouldn’t take a month or longer). And while this story is far from “done” (my high school English teacher said that stories are never “perfect,” because that’s impossible. But they can be “done,” where you can’t do anything more to improve it. It’s just “done”), it’s definitely in a much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft. It’s a draft I’d actually be proud to show other people.

Now before I show you what’s up next for Rose, indulge me in my bad habit of looking at page and word counts. Which with this novel is actually necessary: my advisor told me to double the word count of the novel when I did the third draft (I’m pretty sure it’s double the word count now, not add ten or twenty-thousand words). So how did I do with that? Well, at the end of the second draft in spring of 2015, the page count was (with 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font) 164 pages. With the third draft, the page count is 266 pages, an increase of 102 pages. With the word count, the second draft was a whopping total of 48,914, a respectable novella-length story. In the third draft, I got the word count up to 84,677, a good-size novel,  just a bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And I like to think that every new word was necessary. I really had the chance to delve deeper into the characters, as well as the events that made them who they are. All in all, I think it’s a more fleshed-out novel.

Of course, critics, readers, and editors are free to disagree with me. We’re a democracy, we’re allowed to do that, even if others don’t like that.

And that brings me to what’s next for Rose and for me. And I have a few ideas on that:

  1. No return to Full Circle just yet. I’m still not ready to return to the world of Reborn City and finish the trilogy. Yes, the first draft needs ending, but I need a bit more time and a bit more horror before I do any more sci-fi. And since I don’t exactly a legion of fans breaking down my door to know when the story will be out, I think I can afford to take some time (George RR Martin wishes he was me in that respect).
  2. Beta readers and submissions. I have a couple of beta readers who have agreed to take on Rose, read it and give me some feedback (I’m sending the manuscript to them right after I’m done with this post, as well as backing up my flash drive so I don’t lose the novel). The plan is to take their feedback and incorporate it into the novel if I feel it works for the story. And after that, I’ll start submitting Rose to publishing houses and agents that specialize in horror. Hopefully it’ll find a home soon, and I can get it published. After that…well, I’ll see when I get there.
  3. Some shorter works. I have a list of short stories and novelettes that I keep so I don’t forget any of the fabulous ideas I have. It’s currently 57 pages long and closing in on 800 ideas. I figure I should at least get through some of those, as only a few of them are crossed off with at least having a first draft written out. I already have another list of stories I’d like to work on in particular, and I’ve picked my first from that list. I might even get started on it in the next week, after I do a bit of research for it. And maybe after a few of these stories are written, they’ll get published. Fingers crossed, right?

And that’s where things stand right now. I hope you continue to stay with me as I move onto the next stage of this novel’s evolution, and maybe write the next stage of my writing career. Until my next post, goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

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Life is rarely straightforward. That is a fact. People change, or their thoughts and feelings change, new paths open up in front of you, and your understanding of the world never fits in the box you want it to (that last one isn’t really relevant to what I’m going to talk about here, but I felt like stating it anyway). And my life and feelings have changed. I need a break from what I’m doing right now. I need to do something different if I’m to pursue my goals in life.

With that said, I need to shut down Rami Ungar the Writer. At least for a little while.

I’m kidding. But for a split second, you bought that. You did, and it worried you for a little bit.

No, what I really mean is that I need to take a break from Full Circle. A very long break.

You see, I’ve been working on that novel since November, eight months in total. And I’ve only taken some occasional breaks, each working on a couple of short stories, and then getting back into it. And you know what? I’m a little burnt out. Normally by this time, I’m already finished with the first draft, but I’m only a little over the halfway point. And when I think of getting into the next chapter, I’m filled with dread, because it’s likely going to be a long chapter, and I’ve been dealing with this story for eight months straight, and it has not been easy at times.

All writers get like this. Yeah, we do. There are times when we’ve devoted so much energy to a story, that we need a break if we’re to give it more and give it the energy it needs. And honestly, I’m at that point. It’s nothing I did wrong or anyone else did wrong. There’s nothing big in my life that’s making me super happy or super miserable, thus causing me to think, “I can’t work on finishing the Reborn City trilogy right now.” Nope, it’s just me needing some distance and the chance to work on something else. And I need a long something else. Because if I take on a project, and it only lasts a month at most, I won’t be ready to work on Full Circle again. I’d be ready to bang my head against a wall in frustration, but I wouldn’t be ready for FC again.

Which is why I have the perfect project:

Some of you may recall that during my last year of college, I wrote a novel called Rose as my thesis. The story was about a young woman with amnesia who starts transforming into a plant creature. And that may sound comical, but it’s actually pretty dark, exploring themes of dependence and abuse in romantic relationships, as well as how memory, truth, and falsehoods can shape not just our perceptions of others, but of ourselves. It was a challenging novel, to say the least, but I managed to get two drafts of it written between August 2014 and April 2015, and they turned out okay. I let it lie for a while when I was in Germany and during my job search, and tried working on it again after I moved into my new apartment and started my job. For a number of reasons, it didn’t go well. Mostly because I didn’t have a plan for editing it beyond, “Let’s sit down in front of the computer and see what happens.”

My new project: the third draft of Rose.

But since then, I figured out a plan to help me get along with editing in general (see my post on that on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. It has a similar opening to this blog post). I’ve also had plenty of time to think about changes I’d like to make to the story, and to the characters, and I’ve really been itching to take a crack at it again. And I’m pretty sure that, once I get another draft of Rose done, I’d be ready to send this story to an editor, and then maybe to an agent or publishing house.

So starting very soon, I’ll be taking another dive into Rose. It probably won’t happen until after I get back from Boston, but after that and I’ve done all the travelogues and checked my new digital recorder for ghost voices, you can bet that I’ll be working on my new project with gusto. Until then, Followers of Fear, wish me luck as I work on a couple new blog posts, and as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what will hopefully be a very successful third draft and a very refreshing break.

Pleasant nightmares!

I believe every writer  I’ve ever read is a teacher of sorts to me. It’s rare though that any of my flesh-and-blood teachers are already writers. Not only is today’s interview both one of my teachers and a writer, but I’ve read his most recent book Late One Night, and I enjoyed it greatly. And in honor of Late One Night coming out in paperback this coming August, I figured now would be a good time to bring him on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome one of the greatest professors in Ohio State’s English Department (mostly because he survived teaching a class with me in it) and the author of several books, Lee Martin!

RU: Welcome to the show, Lee. Great to have you here. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

LM: It seems like I always wrote. As an only child of older parents who lived in a rural setting, I didn’t have many playmates around. I fell in love with make-believe instead. I loved living inside stories, so I suppose it was only natural that I start to tell a few of my own. Then at a certain age I decided to get serious about it, so I went to the University of Arkansas for my MFA, where I found out how much I didn’t know about the craft, but where my real apprenticeship as a writer began—an apprenticeship that continues to this day. There’s always something new to learn and to practice.

RU: I really enjoyed reading Late One Night. Can you tell us what inspired it and your writing process for it?

LM: Late One Night is based on a tragic news event from my home area in Illinois. A tragic house trailer fire on a cold winter night. I started playing the “what-if?” game. What if the husband/father of that family was living outside the home at the time of the fire? What if the fire was suspicious? What if the small town gossip started to swirl around what this man might have done? What if this all happened while he was fighting for custody of his children and trying to prove his innocence. As with most of my books, I started with that premise and then wrote a little each day, pushing the story along. I try to make myself curious, and then I try to satisfy that curiosity while not quite fully satisfying it until the very end of the book. That’s where readers of this novel find out what really happened, late one night.

RU: Your main character Ronnie Black is at times sad and sympathetic, and at other times you just hate him. Did you intend for him to be that way when you wrote him, or did he just turn out that way?

LM: I like to take characters who are put upon by life’s circumstances and their own ill-considered choices. Characters are interesting to me only if they have a balance of rough edges and redeeming qualities. An all good character isn’t interesting. Neither is an all evil one. I write realistic fiction that’s character-based, and the truth is we’re all made up of contradictory qualities. Those contradictions are what make us interesting.

RU: Who is your favorite character in Late  One Night, and why?

LM: I really didn’t have a favorite character. They all appealed to me because they were all human. They all felt great joys and sorrows, and they made mistakes, and they tried to do the right thing, but sometimes their own selfish interests got in the way. Missy Wade badly wanted children. Ronnie Black loved his own even though he was often a man of temper and poor judgment. Captain missed his own mother and yet had a big heart that led him to love indiscriminately and to even idolize Ronnie. Captain’s father, Shooter, wanted to protect his son. Brandi Tate wanted love and a family. All these characters, and others, were precious to me because of their imperfections.

RU: Are you working on anything right now?

LM: I have a couple of novel manuscripts that I’m working on, plus smaller things like short stories and essays. I have a craft book, Telling Stories, coming out in October.

RU: I may have to read that craft book. Speaking of which, can you tell us about your other books?

LM: I suppose my best known book is The Bright Forever, which was fortunate enough to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2006. It’s the story of the abduction of a young girl in a small Midwestern town in 1972. I suppose some would call it a literary suspense novel. My novel, Break the Skin, would fall into that same category. I like to take true-crime stories from my native southeastern Illinois and let my imagination turn them into novels.  I’ve also published three memoirs, From Our House, Turning Bones, and Such a Life. They deal with family and particularly with the farming accident that cost my father both of his hands and the way that accident came to settle in our family. My other novels are Quakertown and River of Heaven. I also have a story collection, The Least You Need to Know, and another one, The Mutual UFO Network, will be published in 2018.

RU: Note to self, put The Bright Forever on my reading list. Sounds like my sort of story. Now you have a number of students who have continued writing and publishing after college and have kept in contact with you (including yours truly), and have kept in contact. What’s it like seeing that happen?

LM: It’s always gratifying to see students do well. It makes me feel that I may have had a small part in that success.

RU: Do you think the role of literature in society is changing, especially as we become more reliant on technology and our attention spans seem to shorten?

LM: I think there will always be not only room for, but a necessity for, narrative.  The forms of that narrative may change, but the importance of it in our culture won’t. We understand ourselves, others, and the world around us via stories. Such has always been the case, and I don’t see that changing.

RU: If you could give advice to any writer, no matter background, genre or level of experience, what would you say?

LM: Don’t be in a hurry. Study and practice your craft without thought of publishing. Fall in love with the process and the journey will take you where you’re meant to go. Read the way a writer must—with an eye toward how something is made.

RU: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

LM: Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and (I’d cheat and sneak in a fourth) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

RU: You’re a university professor! You know the consequences for cheating! Anyway, thanks for joining us today, Lee. We wish you luck with the paperback edition of Late One Night.

If you would like to learn more about Lee Martin and his works, you can check out his website, Facebook, and Twitter. Or you can enroll yourself as an English major in Ohio State’s undergraduate or graduate program and work with him directly by taking classes with him (though that option has both pros and cons).

And if you’re an author who would like to be interviewed, check out my Interviews page and leave a comment. Who knows? Perhaps we can work some magic.

That’s all for now. Have a great day, my Followers of Fear.

Today is April 1st, which as we all know is April Fool’s Day, a day to have an excuse to be cruel to one another by making jokes or putting people in embarrassing situations. I absolutely love this day, because I love a good joke, and I love being the one to tell it. Or in some cases, to pull it. So I thought, as a departure from the norm, I’d list some pranks and practical jokes I’ve been part of over the years. It’s a list I hope you find as hilarious reading it as I did doing the pranks in the first place. Enjoy!

That time with the Jason Voorhees costume. I’m a huge fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, and so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have the costume for the series’ main villain. So during my second year of college, when I still lived in the dorms, I decided, in honor of April Fool’s Day, to ride up and down the elevator in my dorm building, wait for people to get on, and scare the living daylights out of them as they got on. It worked like a charm. Most people jumped, a few didn’t really react. One girl I was friends with screamed like a murder victim and then cussed me out for scaring her.

To this day, I’m still surprised I wasn’t punched.

I make this costume work.

That time with Bones and Booth’s engagement. Going back a few years to high school, my mom was driving my sister and I to a youth group event, and my mom and sister were having a debate about the TV show Bones and the relationship of the main characters. My mom thought for some reason the leads were married, my sister insisted Booth, the male lead, was seeing someone else. Neither had seen the most recent episodes, and this gives me a great idea. I pull out my phone, and pretend to call a friend of mine. I have this whole fake conversation with my friend about the show, and my sister and mom buy it up without question. When I finish the fake call, I tell my mom and sister, “Bones and Booth are engaged.”

My sister freaks out! She’s screaming, “How is this possible! No! NO! How!” My mom and I are laughing hysterically, and I’m trying not to throw up in the car. This goes on for about five minutes before my sister fishes out her own phone and starts texting everyone she knows, trying to find someone who’s seen the most recent episodes. By the time we get to where we’re going, she’s finally found someone who’s seen the most recent episodes, and has found out the truth. Oh, I slept with one eye open that night.

The many times with the phone. How do you do a crank call in the age of Caller ID? Well, there are two ways: one is that you answer the phone in wacky ways. My dad and uncle are used to picking up the phone and getting a hello from a pest exterminator, a law firm with wacky partners, and even once or twice a kink shop (my dad hates that one!). The other is get transferred around a few times so that your number is hidden from Caller ID, and see where it lands you. I’ve called my high school headmaster a few times, pretending to be anyone from “Doris Widdershins,” a stuffy upper-class Pittsburgh socialite with a son she’d like to enroll in the school, “Kay Cappuchio,” a reality star with a dog, and “Rabbi Abraham Irving,” a rabbi from Yeshiva University who wanted to award the school for excellent graduates. He’s only figured out it’s me about half the time! And the best part is, I got away with it every time, which is remarkable considering some of them I did while still his student! He was way too lenient with me.

The time I got featured in a prank video. This one isn’t of my doing, but one I just happened to stumble into. This guy on YouTube named Dennis Roady does all these pranks, and during my last year in college, he did one where he went to various libraries around Columbus, including Ohio State’s Thompson Library, and used a Bluetooth connection to make us hear sex noises and wonder where the hell they’re coming from. The video is below, and I come in about two and a half minutes. It was actually pretty clever.

Naughty!

The time with the text and the drugs. A while back, there was this thing where you’d text your parents and pretend you had accidentally sent a text meant for your drug dealer, and see what happens. I did it on my parents back in 2014. My dad figured out pretty quickly that it was a prank. My mom actually called me right before one of my classes started to see if I was actually on drugs. It was pretty funny. I told my mom, “Ima, do you really think I’d do drugs?”” She replied, “You told me you were hit by a car last year, and I didn’t believe you! It actually happened!” (And it did, by the way. Story for another time).

Lesson learned: careful with what pranks I send my mother’s way.

The time at camp. This prank actually backfired on me: the summer before eighth grade, I was at sleep away camp, and a couple of my friends and I decided to sneak over to one of the girls’ bunks in our year and scare them on a night the counselors would be at a staff meeting, just for the heck of it. The older bunks at our camp back then had trap doors in the back storage rooms in case of fire, so we sneak out those and somehow get to the girls’ bunks without getting caught. We disguise ourselves with masks one of my friends smuggled in, intending to pop up through the trap door in their bunk, run around screaming to get the girls screaming, and then run out and back home before security or counselors can catch us. We find the trap door, and I go first.

I pop up through the closet, screaming like a ghoul. And I see a girl sitting on an empty milk crate, reading a paperback with a skull on the cover by flashlight (I think it may have been some edition of Silence of the Lambs) in the back storage room I’ve appeared in. And the girl falls off the crate screaming, flashlight shining everywhere. At the same time, something wet and yellow flies through the air and hits me right in the mask, getting into my eyes and mouth. Apparently I scared her enough to pee her shorts and me with them.

Naturally, I fall out the trap door, spitting and laughing and trying not to vomit. My friends are asking me what happened, but I can’t tell them, and anyway, it doesn’t matter, because there’s a passing security team, and they hear the noise. We run for home before we can get caught, and somehow make it back safe, at which point I throw away the mask, take a second shower, and brush my teeth about ten times. Never found out who the girl was, but I think we both got stuck in each other’s memories that day.

That time with the cult. This actually happened last year. I met up with a friend of mine at Starbucks and, because it was April 1st, decided to play a prank on her. I told her my dad and I had had a fight because I was leaving Judaism for a religious group called The One (complete with cult-like hand motions when referring to the group or anything associated with it). She bought it until I said we worshiped a fox god, at which point she asked if this was an April Fool’s prank. I admitted it was, though I did also blow her mind by telling her that The One is a real thing. It’s just not a cult: The One is the name for fans of Babymetal, the Japanese J-Pop/metal fusion band I’m a huge fan of (so I technically am part of The One), and the band’s members say they get their ability to rock out from a fox god.

Weirdness never ceases, does it?

The Fox God

That time I pranked you. That’s right, you’ve been pranked. How, you ask? One of these stories is actually fake! That’s right, you read them, and you may have believed all of them! But the question is, which one is it? Give your thoughts in the comments below. Here’s a hint; it’s not the one with the video.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you laughed yourself silly reading this, and I hope you have a hilarious April Fools’ Day. I know I will. Until next time!

Remember when I blogged about being on the autism spectrum back in late January? Well, that post got a lot of positive feedback, both on the blogospphere and on other social media, particularly Facebook. One of the people who responded well to the post was my college disabilities counselor, Enjie Hall, who I became Facebook friends with…I think after graduation? I can’t remember. It’s been a while. Anyway, she reached out to me after that post came out, and asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a short audio and/or video presentation for a much longer presentation she was doing at the university she works at now. The subject was “Living in and Past College with a Disability,” and since I’m doing so well in that subject, she’d thought I’d be a natural at it.

I agreed to the project, and produced a short YouTube video about my experiences. Okay, maybe “short” isn’t the best term: I was asked to do a five-minute video, and somehow I ended up making it thirteen minutes! But hey, can you really put down all that experience and advice into a five-minute video? I’m not so sure.

It only occurred to me after I made, edited, and uploaded the video that I realized I’d just done my first vlog! Yeah, a vlog. Blogs I’m used to. Vlogs are entirely something new to me. I don’t regularly watch them, unless they’re full of unconventional humor (holler at my boy Thomas Sanders!). But me vlog? I never thought that would be something I’d do. I mean, I’ve considered doing a video of me reading from selected sections of my books, but I’ve never actually done it. Not sure why, maybe just because I’ve only used YouTube a couple of times to make and post videos, and they haven’t exactly gotten a lot of views.

But I made a vlog, and it was actually very nice. And it made me feel good that I made it. I put a positive message into the video, and from what Enjie tells me (her presentation was this morning), the portion of the video she used was received very positively by the people at her presentation. Because of all that, I thought I’d share the video with you guys, and see if maybe you find it as uplifting as others found it at the presentation. Enjoy:

How was that? Do you have any thoughts on what I had to say? Let me know in the comments below.

And as for whether I’ll actually try to make more videos in the future…I don”t know. Anything’s possible. At least I know I can and they can turn out half-decent. We’ll see what the future holds.

Well, I got another post scheduled for Saturday, so keep an eye out for it, folks. Until next time, my Followers of Fear.

Back in late 2012, I published a post about a guy who asked me point blank if I was autistic. It was a pretty irking episode for me, and I stewed over it for about a week before I posted about it.

Now, I do have autism spectrum disorder (though at that time, my condition was called PDD-NOS, and was considered an autism-related disorder. A couple years back they put out a new diagnostic manual for this sort of thing, and now PDD-NOS and Asperger’s are just plain autism. At least now it’s easier to say and remember). I contended then and I contend now that while I am on the spectrum, it does not define me or is the most definitive trait about me. I don’t say, “I’m on the spectrum, so I can’t do this or that.” Nor do I use it as an excuse to do things I know I shouldn’t. It’s just one facet in the many that make up my life.

But, as I grow older, I see more and more how my autism has affected my life, especially since graduating high school.

I honestly didn’t know I was even on the spectrum until I was in my late teens. Though honestly, spectrum is not the best term for autism. A spectrum makes you think of a long bar where whatever the bar signifies becomes more intense as you move further along it. Really, autism is a group of characteristics that present themselves in affected individuals, and differs from person to person. Perhaps a better name would be autism characteristics disorder, but I’m not on the board of whatever organization names these things. At any rate, I apparently displayed a lot of characteristics that typify autism from day one, according to my mother (and she’s pretty reliable on this kind of stuff). Of course, she and my dad didn’t realize what the problem was until I was in preschool or so. Up until that time, they just thought the stuff in the baby manuals didn’t apply for every baby. It wasn’t until a teacher told the I was having a hard time understanding what was being said to me that they realized I might be a bit more different than they imagined.

Thus started years of therapy, which I didn’t realize the purpose of until much later in life. I knew I was receiving one-on-one attention, and that I was the only person I knew doing so. I knew I had doctor’s appointments that other kids didn’t go to. I just didn’t question it or think about it too hard. It was part of life, like watching TV or sitting on the toilet. You can think about them pretty hard, but it’s not necessary.

I also didn’t think much about the repetitive behaviors I sometimes displayed, or how when certain things changed in my environment, it could upset me and totally ruin my day. And while I got along well with people, there were times where I would do something, someone would react badly, and I wouldn’t understand the big deal.

Understand, I’m high-functioning. I can get by in society pretty decently. I just see and interact with the world a bit differently. It’s like rearranging a puzzle piece to form a new picture, with the pieces being able to fit where they’re not supposed to go, and I don’t see the difference between the intended arrangement and my arrangement. And that’s probably why I didn’t realize until my late teens, when my mother clued me in that I was on the spectrum.

Autism is often like a weird arrangement of this.

Autism is often like a weird arrangement of this.

Of course, once I got to college, it became much more prevalent in my mental awareness. I met every week with a counselor at Ohio State’s Office of Disability Services, and partly through their intervention, I had my own dorm room with attached bathroom in one of the calmer dorms on the north end of campus for two whole years (among other benefits)! When I graduated, I got my internship in Germany through a program that helped people with disabilities get internships and jobs with the federal government, and a year later that same program helped me get my current position. In my job, I often help people with disabilities receive accommodations for their disabilities so they can continue in their jobs, and use my own disability to help me empathize with the people I’m working with.

So yeah, my ASD has had a huge effect on my life, whether I realized it or not.

But it does not define me. This blog isn’t Rami Ungar the Austistic, it’s Rami Ungar the Writer. I place a lot more emphasis on the writing aspect of my life to define who I am. Judaism as well: I think my religion has done quite a bit to shape me. Not to mention anime and manga, the many books I’ve read throughout the years, my relationships with people, the things I’ve learned in school, the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. Those have had just as much effect on me as autism has. And that makes sense, because human beings (I admit, I am a human being, despite my best efforts to say otherwise) are multifaceted creatures. It’s rare when a single one is the defining quality.

And by the way, I don’t see my autism as a disability. I mean, it is a disability, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Remember that puzzle metaphor? I see my ASD as an opportunity, an opportunity to see the world differently and use that viewpoint to make a difference. Whether that is through my writing, through work, or just by trying to be a decent person. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Today has been one of the scariest days of my life.

A little before ten this morning, a man named Abdul Artan rammed his car into Ohio State students as they evacuated Watts Hall, a material engineering and science building. The students had evacuated because someone had pulled an alarm in the building over a gas leak (no word on if this leak was a coincidence or planned). Artan then stepped out of his car with a butcher knife and started slashing students. A police officer nearby responded immediately, shooting Artan and killing him. The gunshots triggered a campus-wide lockdown and reaction from law enforcement throughout and outside Central Ohio. Somewhere between 7 and 10 people (reports still vary) were rushed to hospitals in the area, with one person in critical condition.

I was notified by a friend while at work. Immediately a coworker who had been in my graduating class at Ohio State with me and I were glued to my phone as we checked for updates through Twitter. We both knew that Twitter news can be very inaccurate sometimes, but we were scared and we didn’t care. We’re not just alumni of the university, we still have friends and family there. My old roommate is still a student there. My sister works at a bakery near campus. I still have former coworkers from the Student Financial Aid office whom I consider very good friends. Not to mention the number of fellow students and professors whom I still care for and was worried sick about.

For the best part of an hour, my coworker and I devoured updates, my fingers refreshing the feed every three seconds or so. Rumors were flying throughout that hour. There was a shooter at Watts Hall. There were two shooters at Watts Hall. Someone got slashed by a machete. There was another assailant in the garage at Lane and Tuttle Ave, connected to the building I used to work part-time in. There was a body on campus. There were five injured students. Seven injured students. Nine. Ten. One assailant had a machete, the other a gun. An assailant had been caught. An assailant had been killed. Two people had been arrested and were being escorted off campus for interrogation.  Watts had been cleared, and the surrounding buildings were being searched.

It wasn’t until around one o’clock, where I caught a news conference on the TV in the breakroom, that I started getting facts. And even then it didn’t reduce my fear. It just left me exhausted and anxious.

Understand, none of my friends or family were hurt. In the case of a few, including my sister, they weren’t even near campus when they happened. And I was a few miles southeast of campus, so I was in no danger whatsoever But it was still terrifying. For all I knew, a Columbine-style attack was happening at my alma mater, and no one was safe. I thought for sure that there was a definite chance someone I knew was going to get hurt or even killed.

And unlike when I want to get scared, where there’s a bit of a thrill, this fear was all-consuming. It filled me like a balloon with air, only instead the air within the balloon was dark and corrosive and wanted me to panic and feel that the worst was inevitable. And it left me cold and empty and with the promise that the moment there was more bad news, my fear would come back in full force.

Even now, I’m still a little shaky just writing this. I’m hoping that writing it out helps me process this, and maybe helps others process what happened today. I know quite a few people are going to be coming back to classes or work tomorrow wondering if the normally-safe campus will be attacked again by someone with a knife, or even an actual gun. They’re not alone. Everyone is scared and hoping that nothing like this happens again.

I hope you’ll join me in praying that the injured students and staff come out of today stronger than what they were before, that nothing like this ever happens again, and that we can stand up to fear and walk on proudly.