Have Readers Turned Into Bullies?

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I am a writer. Reading is a key component of what I do, and both reading and writing have reminded me of the strengths in others that are often overlooked or underappreciated.  Society likes to sneak in little forms of prejudice, that while appearing innocuous, pack a big, harmful punch.  And at times, in my thoughts if nothing else, I’ve been guilty of participating in it.  Yet while I haven’t always reacted in a gracious manner to people who operate differently than I do, I aim to keep an open mind.

This includes not shaming or bullying people who do not read.

According to The Atlantic, the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978, though their findings were from 2014.  The Atlantic has also reported that Millennials are out-reading older generations.   Our culture, I believe, has become more book-saturated than ever before.  That bodes well for my love of reading, as well for my career.

But in recent months, I’ve ran into some troubling memes and posts created or supported by fellow bookworms:

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These memes and posts shame non-readers and cast them in a disdainful light, as though their lack of reading makes them deplorable people. Ours is a culture that puts great importance on reading, but the truth is that reading is by no means the only way to learn. Reading can be a great tool to help people learn how to communicate with clarity, but it isn’t the only way to communicate. Human beings are equipped with a variety of communication tools: aside from intuition, there are facial expressions, mannerisms, and other visual-related mechanisms all part of something called observational learning.

For example, some people learn how to cook not by reading recipe books, but by years of watching their mothers or fathers prepare meals for their families. I for one need to follow recipes, so learning how to cook simply by watching is definitely not a strength of mine. And yet, I don’t believe those who know how to cook from years of watching their parents have ever shamed or insulted me for not possessing their particular skillset. Can you imagine?

Jeeze, Sarah, I can’t believe you have to read in order to cook a meal! Shame on you, shame!

Flip the tables—put yourself in their shoes. Direct the insults at yourself in regard to your lacking areas, and just as though you were speaking to a misbehaving little kid, see how it makes you feel.

Once again, society has created a shame-filled, hostile environment for those it deems unworthy or less-than.

In every group of people, of course, you will find those who are kind and those who suffer from insecurities, and as a result, will treat others who are different as inferior to them. Decades ago, bookworms were part of the nerd group, and were bullied because of it. These days, it’s “cool to be a nerd”. The internet and social media has offered a voice to introverted nerdy types, and has in a lot of ways, glorified being a nerd.  Don’t get me wrong–it’s great (I’m a part of that group)! But, so it goes, hurt people hurt people. Could it be that nerds have become the bullies?  I believe that yes, some of them have.  

Reader: Don’t Confuse Your Elitist Behavior With Intelligence

Discriminatory bookworms have developed a sense of elitism, flaunting their intellectual superiority with a smug air. But here’s the thing: Saying you feel sorry for people who do not read and shaming them does not make you look intelligent.

It makes you look small-minded and intolerant. That’s right, it makes you look stupid—it makes you look emotionally unintelligent. You’re adding to an already ugly culture of separatism, which eagerly lends itself to the destruction of humankind.

Reading, after all, is not the backbone of society. Humanity is the backbone of society.

But, it’s not too late to redeem yourself. …All that information you’ve gleaned from reading and writing? Stop lording it over others who don’t read. Find a way to teach it to them—show them, put it in a format they can understand. Use your strengths and learn how to celebrate the strengths of others. It will make you a better person, which subsequently will help make the world a better place. There is already enough discrimination in this world and an overabundance of mean people. Don’t be one of them.

Some have argued that those who do not like to read simply haven’t found the book that is right for them. Sure, there is a wealth of book formats with varying reading levels available, but the truth of the matter is, some people have good reasons for not reading. Either they had a traumatic experience with reading (were called stupid due to dyslexia, etc), or they learn better by watching or listening—or both. They still have worth. They still have their own brand of intelligence.  Don’t feel sorry for them.  Learn from them.

And here’s a closing thought: if reading hasn’t taught you how to, with an open mind, consider the viewpoints of others different than you, perhaps you are doing it wrong. But, you’re different than I am. You have your own way of doing things. So long as you’re not hurting others…I won’t shame you.

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Sources:

Penelope Trunk

The Atlantic 

Very Well

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Hey, Writers, Let’s Pretend!

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Hey, writers (of the creative variety)!  Do you remember the simplicity of childhood make-believe?  Your bestie would come up to you and say “hey, let’s pretend that…” and would fill-in-the blank with something delightful, adventurous or silly, and it filled up your afternoon.  Maybe you played “house” (mom, dad, brother, baby, etc).  Maybe you played pirates, princesses, Ninja Turtles or (like me), Rainbow Brite.   But whatever it was, it was easy.  It was creative. It was fun.  And there was no agonizing over character motivation, contrived plots, style, or believe-ability.  It just happened.

I’ve been writing novels for almost four years, and in that time, I’ve struggled with the need to be perfect in my craft.  Clarity and strength is important in writing, yes, but sometimes, it’s a hindrance.  I know, it’s nothing new to be told that, for a rough draft, you “just need to write”–to get it out, and worry about making it look pretty and making it make sense later.  But if you’re like me, there’s still that midget of a voice in your brain,  demanding of you, perfection.  And so you sit and stare at the screen.  You stress.  You look at your outline and think, how did this seem so easy before?  How did this flow so wonderfully, how did these characters pop in my head, and how is it that now, now that I’m attempting to write this thing down, it’s…stagnant?

Now, somewhere along the journey of your WIP, you DO need to concern yourself with character, plot, style, etc, but if you’re working on your rough draft, my challenge to you is this:  Play make-believe.  That’s right: Hey, let’s pretend….!  Let it be simple.  Let it be fun.  Let go and don’t concern yourself with the fact that “as a RD, it’s going to be bad”, because with that kind of negative proclamation, you could be sabotaging your efforts.  Yes, it’s going to be bad, or at least not that great, but would kid you be concerned with that?  Wouldn’t kid you just…play?

(Disclaimer: it could be something else that’s causing your writing woes; this is just one method of troubleshooting that maybe you haven’t yet considered.)

So, for now, be a “kid” again (yes, even if your WIP involves blood, guts and scary stuffs), and just let your imagination run wild.  Go off your outline, sure, but when the words stop flowing, put yourself in your kid shoes again, and go from there.  And, hey, guess what!  If you have a young kid, you have a built-in model.  Watch them play, and follow their example.  Write without restraint. Remember, your profession is creative by nature.  So, Writer, create.  Pretend.  Play.

Time for me to take my own advice and finish my RD!  What about you?  How goes your WIP?

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One Small Step

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Guys, I’ve done it.  And it’s one small step for some writers, maybe, but what I’ve seen in the past few weeks has been and continues to be one BIG step for S.E. Eaton.  I’ve reached a big milestone, and I am thankful.  …So, so thankful!

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Over the last year and a half, I’ve published three titles.  In that time, I sold a total of five paperbacks of two of those titles, and the third, well…the third, so far, is a different story.  “The Christmas Beagle” has been groundbreaking for my career.  It’s my stepping stone towards what I know will be more and greater success, and I am just. so. thankful.

Drum roll, please!   …In less than one month, I’ve sold over a total of 104 copies of “The Christmas Beagle”.  Less than a month!  The other two titles haven’t even reached that in over a year! For a more successful writer, that 104 might be small scale, but for me, that number is jaw-dropping wonderful.  Success is measured in small and big steps.   And for me, this is a big step.  It’s a significant sign of my success.

Thank you, everyone.  Thank you.

So, how did I do it?  Writing is part of it, yes—a big part, and not an easy part, either.  The other big part is marketing, and while it’s not necessarily difficult to do so, it is tricky to know exactly how to do it.  And the marketing part is just as much as me as it is all of you!  So once again, thank you!

I’m still a student of all that is book marketing (and will be for the length of my career, I’m sure), but in the past few months, I’ve learned a lot.  From what I can tell, these key factors helped me out in a significant way:

  • Cover Reveal Party—Created hype!  And it was tons of fun!
  • Genre/Mood—Heartwarming themes, family friendly, relatable characters, cute beagle! Much more appropriate for most of my reachable market on Facebook!
  • Timing—A Christmas book marketed in October, released in November…plenty of time for promotion and shopping!
  • Specific Audience—I contacted several admins of “Beagle” Facebook sites and asked for them to promote my book in exchange for a free copy of it.  Only one responded, but according to him, he sold 5 of my paperbacks and 1 digital copy.  Not bad, not bad at all!  (Thanks, George!)

Like I said, I’m still learning how to do this.  But I couldn’t have done any of it without any of my fans buying my book and supporting me!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I look forward to providing you with more great books in the coming months!  And, there’s still time—who knows, maybe I’ll break the 50 mark by Christmas!    …What a step that would be.

For more about “The Christmas Beagle”, click here.

Buy “The Christmas Beagle” on Amazon here.

⇒  Writers and non-writers alike: Do you recall your first big step of measurable success?  What was it?  How did it make you feel?  Share in the comments below!

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The Middle Grade Character

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Pictured: My niece, Chloe

My title protagonist from “Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment” is, at the start of the story, eleven years old.  But eleven years old was a long time ago for me.  …Too long.

And as a writer, if I come off as condescending or not relatable to my target audience (middle grade), all is lost. I know that if I want to write a character from a age group different from mine well, if at all possible, I need to spend time with someone or lots of someones from that age group.  And I’m lucky enough to have a niece the same age (or close–she’s ten) as my protagonist.  I’ve also observed Girl Scout troops and youth groups of the same age, but it’s time with Chloe (said niece) that I love the most.  The reasons for that are twofold: One: it’s quality time with a smart, funny, sweet, creative girl whom I love with all my heart, and two: “Belinda”—courageous, blue eyes, freckles, plays basketball, loves animals—is modeled after Chloe.  It works well.

Today, after a breakfast at Applebee’s to support my nephew’s youth group fundraising, I had the honor of watching Chloe’s volleyball game and then toting her along to Christmas Gifts on Broadway.  This lovely shop is a traditional Christmas destination for our family, though it’s been years since I was last there, and this was Chloe’s first time. She was enamored with so many of their wonderful items, and it was a joy to see the look on her face as she buzzed from room to room, taking it the Christmas splendor.  I got to see it through her eyes, and the more time I spend with her, the more of her “middle-gradeness” will ingrain itself into my thought process.   Sometimes I take notes of what I see–sometimes merely mental notes—and sometimes I just enjoy the moment.   It all makes its way to my brain, and more importantly, to my heart.

…The moments where she acts silly and makes me laugh, shows her crafts and collectible toys, amazes me with her thoughtful insights about how the world works, and makes me proud with how hard she works at her sports and how much she loves her family and pets…gah, I love it.  I am in awe of her, and thankful to have her as a prime example of her age. She reminds me that middle-graders are, or can be hyper, child-like,  imaginative, goofy, intelligent, gross, thoughtful, loving, cranky, wise beyond their years, helpful, eager, frustrated, passionate, and adventurous.   On their best days, they’re bundles of chaotic fun, with waves of gentility, humility, and spurts of smack-you-upside-the-head wisdom. No wonder it’s such a fun and eventful age to write!

I love spending time with my niece.  When “Belinda” is finally published, I will owe (and already do owe) a big dose of gratitude to this girl.  So, here’s to you, Chloe Rhiannon.  My favorite (and only) niece, and forever my inspiration.  And to my readers, for another heart-warming article about inspiration and encouragement, click here.

What cute/endearing/funny/overall nice stories do you have about the kids in your life? Share in the comments! 

Psst!  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and be sure to check out my novella “The Christmas Beagle“, available for pre-order soon!

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Holiday Bigotry

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The other day, I read a comment on a Facebook page that made me cringe.  It was a page that celebrates the excitement of the holidays, and on a post of a “December holiday-ish” picture (read, candles, wreath, script-type font that said Happy Holidays, etc), there it was:  the awful, head-shaking comment.

Here’s the gist of the comment:  I don’t understand why people call it “the holidays”.  Only pagans celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving is only for the U.S.A. It’s not multiple holidays–it’s just Christmas. 

I know what you’re thinking. But I got the strong sensation it was not a troll. But troll or not, such a comment as this adds to the overall separation, injustice, and ignorance of society–the world’s society, not just that of America.  Which leads me to why this comment bothered me so much…it’s the same reason why that Band-Aid song bothers me as well.  “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime”…There likely won’t be snow in my neck of the woods, either…what’s your point? …And “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?”    Contrary to popular belief, not all of the world revolves around Christmas.  I understand, the song is meant to get us greedy first world people to think outside of ourselves for once, but I still cry poor choice in lyrics. And, no, New Edition, it’s not Christmas all over the world tonight, and that’s not just due to the different time zones.

Many cultures don’t celebrate it at all, in fact.  And–gasp–! Some of those cultures are right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Some groups instead celebrate Yule…or Hanukkah…or Kwanzaa, etc.   The point is, that when some “people” say “the holidays”, they are respectfully acknowledging the fact that there are more holidays this time of year than just Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And then the assumption that only the states celebrate Thanksgiving.  Most of Canada, if I remember correctly, does so in October.

And here’s something else. “Only pagans celebrate Halloween”–this is so false, it hurts!  Never mind the blatant disrespect for pagans, as though they aren’t the aforementioned “people”.  Wow.  Just…wow.  It hurts my heart.

…Now, this comment was one of those comments where you either refuse to stand for the ignorance and bigotry behind it and comment so yourself, or you ignore it, knowing there is a chance it’s a troll, begging for attention.  I chose to ignore it there, but blog about it here.

What would you have done?  Do you agree with my assessment of this comment?

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The Perfect Christmas

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Though Halloween is right around the corner, with all my hard work on “The Christmas Beagle“, Christmas is on my mind more than usual for this time of year.  In particular, one Christmas memory has been cropping up in my thoughts.  It was the perfect Christmas.  Almost.

Nothing is ever perfect all at once, and thank God for that.  It comes in small doses, and in my opinion, perfection isn’t something for which you should strive, but should take it as it comes, and then remember for as long as you can.

The last Christmas I had with my dad it snowed.  It snowed on Christmas Eve, of all things.  Everything was perfect–the whole family was together.  I had drawn dad’s name for the Christmas gift exchange and as we all knew the unsaid, heart-wrenching truth, that dad would soon be leaving this world, I made him something touching.  It was a scrapbook, and each page featured something from each of us–a note, a poem, something that we like about dad.  He teared up when he opened it, if I remember correctly.

Santa brought really cool gifts for the kids–a drum set, a doll house–everything was perfect.  Except…it wasn’t.  I wasn’t with the man I would be marrying.  No, Dad never got to meet Steven.  But that Christmas Eve snow…the look on Dad’s face when he opened the present I had made for him…the whole family (as I knew it then) gathered together…these perfect memories fill up my heart.  They are gifts from the past. And though Steven and Dad never got to meet, one of the greatest joys I have is to be able to tell my husband all about these perfect moments.

It’s okay that two of the most important men in my life never got to meet.    When I tell Steven about a “Dad memory”, my face lights up with wistfulness, sometimes silliness and sometimes tears, and to be able to convey that to the person I love more than anything else in this world…is truly magical.  And when Steven chuckles when I tell him how Dad would bob his head up and down and rock out to Nirvana and Green Day…? Or when Steven says he feels like he knows Dad just from me talking about my wealth of Dad memories…?  Those moments are perfection. They’re gifts all on their own.

What are some of your most cherished holiday memories?  Share in the comments below!

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What’s Your Stinky?

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What’s Your Stinky?

In honor of National Puppy Day, this blog post will be inspired by Emmie Lou the beagle and her Stinky.   Emmie loves her Stinky.  If I’m not wrong, you have a Stinky, too.  My Stinky is the Belinda Starr series.   It’s the thing in my life that takes up most of my time, has been loved to pieces, and possibly, maybe just a teensy weensy bit, interferes with other aspects of my life.

Emmie and her Stinky:

Emmie and Stinky

 

Emmie’s Stinky got her name because as often as we’ve had to wash this thing, still the stench remains.  That’s how much our beagle loves this toy.  She’s played and slept with it so often, it has a perma-smell.   Stinky is Emmie’s  go-to chew toy and utensil of choice for of tug-of-war.  She’ll spend hours chewing and playing with Stinky, and when she’s ready to collapse, she’ll fall asleep with it under her paw.  Generally speaking, we don’t discourage Emmie’s playing with Stinky, but when she chews holes through her, we take Stinky away for mending and replace her with one of Emmie’s other toys.

I spend an insane amount of time working on Belinda Starr at the Metallic Enchantment.  I’ve drooled all over that dragon enough times that no amount of detergent will get my smell off of it.  There have been times where Steven has to smack me on the head with a rolled up newspaper because I’ve chewed holes through Belinda Starr and have left bits of fluff around the bedroom (please note: we do not smack the beags with newspapers or any other object).   Anyway, as hard as it is, sometimes I must put my Stinky aside and focus on other projects. Sometimes it’s a short story.  Sometimes it’s writing in a journal.  Sometimes it’s not writing at all, but other tasks that engage a different part of my brain; painting, walking, household chores, etc.

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve been neglecting your physical health in favor of your Stinky.   I’ve been making changes to incorporate an exercise regime into my busy schedule, because as much as I love writing, I also love being alive.   It’s hard to step away from Belinda  Starr, but here’s the thing:  not only does my body need to move, doing so can actually help produce the solutions to whatever current writing dilemmas I’m facing.

So before you chew any more holes in your Stinky, step back a moment and ask yourself…what in your life are you neglecting?  What is out of balance?  And here’s a good one, have you moved much in the last 24 hours?  What is your Stinky?  And is it about time to let it take a rest?

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What’s your Stinky?  Is it full of holes (out of balance life)  or is it pretty much intact (in-balance life)? Let me know in the comments!

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