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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Suicide Prevention Awareness

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“If you are looking for a sign not to kill yourself, this is it.” – Unknown

From September 12th- 16th, in honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness month, I will be offering “The Voiceless” for free in digital format.  “The Voiceless” deals with the subject matter of suicide and the hope one finds in the aftermath of a suicide attempt.

It is important for me that you all know my intentions in offering “The Voiceless” for free for five days.  Suicide is not a matter I take lightly and I wouldn’t dream of exploiting its seriousness.  It’s a subject matter that has touched my life in a personal manner.  So, the reason I am doing this is because as a struggling artist, the only thing I feel I can do is occasionally offer my work for free.  And in doing this with “The Voiceless”, I am not looking to boost future sales, nor am I looking for compliments about my work, nor am I looking for an increase in reviews.  But if there is even a chance that someone out there reads “The Voiceless” and is changed for the better, finds hope in the darkness that is their life, or thinks twice about taking their own life, then I am reaching my goal. I don’t need to know about it.  Just the thought of the possibility of it is rewarding enough.  If I reap any other benefits, I will be thankful just the same. Thank you for your understanding.

And remember….

YOU matter.  Your life matters. There is hope.

Resources:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

“The Voiceless” on Amazon, free from September 12th to September 16th, 2016: The Voiceless

What Writers Want

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“It’s the difference between letting the ache push me forward and letting it push me down.”

 

Today I wrote.  A lot. Being so, I have a nasty case of brain-mush.  So much of my life is dedicated towards completing Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment, and as I’ve said before (and in case you didn’t know), writing a novel is HARD.  Someday soon I hope to see Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment become a best-seller, but tonight my mind, heart and soul are just plain tired.

It’s trying, to say the least, to put so much effort into something like this, especially when there are other things for which I long.  This longing is at times, an all-consuming ache.   I ache for writing-related, J.K. Rowling-level fame.  I ache to visit Ireland, New Zealand, and my brother in Arizona.  I ache for financial stability. I  ache for my husband and I to have a child.  The ache for all these yet-to-be-obtained things can be useful in that it pushes me towards completing my goals, but the ache can also be so painful that it borderline undoes me.  That’s when I need to stop for a moment and remind myself of all the things for which I am grateful, the things I already have now,the things for which I once ached:

  • Christ, my Savior.  The One who solved mankind’s biggest ache of all.
  • My husband.  What a man!  My kindred spirit, my sweet Bunny, the love of my life!
  • My mom.  She’s been such a blessing to us!
  • My beagle.  A furry blessing, what could be better?
  • A loving and supportive family.
  • Good friends, old and new
  • A great middle-grade fantasy novel in the makings, Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment. 
  • Three completed works available on Amazon.
  • Time to write!  What every author wants and needs!
  • Food, water, shelter.  For real, these things ought not to be taken for granted!
  • The freedom to write what I want.  Another blessing not to be taken lightly.

And,

  • Confidence

This last one is the difference between letting the ache push me forward and letting it push me down.    I’m still tired.  My brain is still mush.  And while the ache has not subsided, I am confident that with God’s help (and God willing), that ache will be manifested into a wealth blessings yet to come.  For now, I think I’ll take advantage of another one of life’s many blessings:

  • Rest.  Specifically, rest in Him.  Resting in Him means knowing that even though I ache, I am never alone.  He’s heard my heart’s desires, and although I can’t be sure my plans will align with that of God’s, even if the  Belinda Starr series never sees the shelves of Barnes and Noble, through the storms of my aching, one thing I can be sure of is His divine peace.  What a blessing.

 

For what do you ache?  What blessings do you already have in your life?  Let me know in the comments below!

Success for the Struggling Writer

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“This blessing reminded me that rewards for hard work sometimes come in the most unexpected, touching and wonderful ways.”

Writing is tough.   The actual writing part is hard enough, and then of course there’s marketing, which when it comes down to it, is how you become a financial success.   If you don’t know how to market, even through a traditional publishing route, you’re likely to not see the higher numbers.  Even though I don’t write solely to make money, it is one way of measuring success.  For me, as I’m sure it is for many of my colleagues, money from sales trickles in at a rate not even suitable for a five-year-old with a lemonade stand.   And if reviews were dollar bills I’d have just enough to rent a Red Box movie.

But this past week has shown me an amazing a blessing.  This blessing reminded me that rewards for hard work sometimes come in the most unexpected, touching and wonderful ways.  This blessing has some serious writing chops himself and  I’m proud to call that blessing my eleven-year-old nephew.   When the numbers aren’t there and you’re starting to question whether or not you have what it takes to make it, remember…you never know who might be paying attention.  I submit to you, this uplifting piece of wonder:

Keaton's Report about Sarah censored

 

Can’t quite make it out? The report my nephew wrote for school reads as follows:

Have you or one of your family members had a dream and followed it? My aunt has, she did not back down from being an author.  Someday soon she will have lots of published books.  As a young senior in high school, she read books like Harry Potter, Bridge to Terabithia, Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess Bride, and Holes, etc.  She has written Compulse, The Voiceless, The Christmas Beagle and Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment.  These four books are only the start to her writing career.  

Sarah Eaton is my aunt’s name.  She lives in (city, state), taking care of my grandmother. She is married to Steven Eaton.  They both live in an RV with their dog Emmy Lou.  Sarah might look like any other woman you see, but she’s a fast thinker and is usually writing. If she’s not doing that, she’s reading or spending time with her family.  

My aunt is like the funniest, most interesting books you’ve ever read.  She loves animals and enjoys the outdoors.  As a young child, she was home schooled by her parents Judith and Donald Miniken.  Since there were only two channels on their TV, my aunt usually read out in their backyard/forest, or in their garden.  When she was bored, my aunt Sarah would play with sticks, pretending they were wands from Harry Potter, with my aunt Amanda.  

Thanks to my aunt, I want to become an author.  As her nephew, I’ve read her first chapter book, Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment.  It’s a really good read! Wait until it gets published and you’ll maybe get to read it.   Don’t forget to check out her other books, like Compulse, The Voiceless and The Christmas Beagle.  Sarah got her inspiration for The Christmas Beagle from her dog, Emmy Lou. 

That’s all the reasons I chose my aunt as my role model.  I hope that she, as well as other authors inspire you to write a book.  When you want a dream you should never give up.  Whether writing a book or making a song, try your hardest like my aunt did.  If you try that dream is yours.  

I melted when I first read it.  Little else could remind me of my importance in such a meaningful way.  I am beyond lucky to have this kid in my life, and as though this homework assignment wasn’t enough of an honor, a friend and former college classmate of mine wrote a blurb on my Facebook timeline yesterday:

“Both Keith and I are feeling distracted tonight. We’re working on separate projects, both at critical junctures in the plot, and both of us are like squirrels. Or really excited dogs. Or something. And I was kind of getting down on myself for my lack of self-discipline when the thought occurred to me, “You know who knows what this is like? Sarah knows what this is like. And she doesn’t beat herself up, at least publicly. She knows it’s part of the process, and she sticks with the process till there’s a breakthrough. Okay. I can do this.” And that was a very comforting thought. And I thought I should tell you.”

Commitment speaks volumes to those around you.   Keep at it, writer.  Keep at it.   And while you’re at it, forward some of that encouragement to other writers.  It could be just the spring in their step they needed to keep at it themselves.

So, fellow writers, I wish you success.  I wish you writing friends who remind you that you are indeed making a difference. I wish you truckloads of cash and ample constructive reviews. I wish you fatty contracts, literary awards and film rights.  And, especially when you’re doubting your abilities, I wish for you a kid in your life. …A kid who has been paying attention to your writing habits, who looks up to you and has deemed you worthy enough to call you his role model.  To be called such is an incomparable measure of success.   It’s a reward worth more than any amount of money, and I think it’s one of the most important thing I’ll ever be.

Dogs VS Cats: Writing Companions

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Cats or dogs?

Many writers I’ve encountered have a furry companion, and most of the time it either meows or barks.  The majority of the time, however, it’s the feline friend writers prefer.  Ample writing time, coffee and cats is the recipe happiness for many a writer (throw in a few dozen good reviews, too).   Rarely have I encountered writers who have a dog.  As a dog owner, this was disheartening to me, but to each their own!  I love cats, too, but I’m allergic, and the allergens trigger my asthma.  Still, cats have their merit, as do dogs, and when I’m working on Belinda Starr, I like to have my sweet Emmie Lou right by my side.

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She’s a wonderful little beagle!  It just so happens there is a beagle in Belinda Starr, making Emmie the perfect inspiration for that particular character.  But not all stories have dogs, nor do all writers write about animals.  But even so, having a furry friend by the writer’s side gives her a sense of wellness she would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.  For example,

The dog companion:

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  • Lies at feet with a canine-brand loyalty.   This fills the writer’s writing room with good loyalty vibes.  This is a crucial concept when sticking to a writing project.  Writing takes loyalty, to yourself and to your work.
  • Cocks her head (hounds more than others, I believe).  This makes her an excellent conversationalist.  Writers often need to bounce ideas off others.  The head cock gives the writer the impression that they are being heard, even if they have to repeat themselves to the confused pooch.
  • Will let you know when it’s time for a break.  Dogs have bladders and stomachs, each with different functions.  One says “Hey, Ma, let’s go for a quick walk outside.  You can stretch your legs, get some fresh air, get a fresh perspective on that troublesome character, you know, the reason you’ve been banging your head on your desk for hours, and I’ll urinate on stuff.  Sound good?” The other says, “feed me!  Oh, while you’re at it, you need to eat too, remember?”   And then there’s the doggy mind, which needs stimulation, and will remind you it’s break time when it tells doggy to bring you the slobber-ridden toy.  Go on.  Step away from the computer for a while. You need the stimulation, too!
  • Snuggles close.  When you’re stressed, nothing says “I’m here for you, writer!” like having a dog nuzzle up to you and give that wistful puppy sigh.  ❤
  • Reminds you there’s more to life than writing.  Usually by wiggling her sweet face onto my lap and staring up at me with those doe-like eyes.  Makes me melt, every time, and convinces me it’s time to spend some time with her and my less-furry other loved ones.

 

The cat companion:

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  • Purrs! One of the most relaxing sounds on the planet Earth!  When writer is going bonkers, writer can just pet the purring machine, and if it’s an automatic engine, then voila, stress-be-gone!  If it’s a stick-shift, the purring machine may take a while, and if it’s a tricky engine, purring may be replaced by swiping claws.  Stress-reducing results may vary.
  • Sits on shoulders.  While this may make it difficult to write, it’s nice to know that at least someone cares about your writing.
  • Also reminds you it’s break time:  Knocks stuff down, meows because food, bats at loose strings on your sweater, knocks stuff down, digs claws into shoulders, knocks stuff down, meows because, well, meow, knocks stuff down.
  • Curls up on your lap.  Cats are generally more compact than dogs, making it easier to allow them to situated themselves on your lap in that adorable little ball of cat they fold themselves into.  How convenient, when you need to stop typing and think for a while, there’s a kitty, all ready for your thinking-pets!
  • Gives you a bath.   Hey, writer.  You’re stinky.  You need to be cleaned. Kitty says so.  You’re welcome.

 

I love my writing companion, and when I’m working on Belinda Starr, there is none other like my little beagle, Emmie Lou. Who is your preferred writing companion?  Does it bark or meow?   Let me know in the comments below!

Excerpt from “The Watcher”

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From “The Watcher”

She is number eleven, bound and gagged like the last ten, and her peaches and cream cheeks are turning a deep shade of indigo.  I release the string and switch it out for a knife.  I press the blade and plunge it into her neck, and bask in relief as I let the blood seep onto my freezing hands.

I shove the shoestring back into the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt, and crawl in quick, jerky movements on my knees to her feet.  Her shoes are dirty, but her laces–a dazzling white.   With a panicked haste, I run to my truck and rummage in the backseat for a rag and a jug of water.  I couldn’t bear it if those beautiful laces got one drop of her blood on them.   My hand is on the jug’s handle when I feel someone’s eyes on me.  A quiet gasp shoots up into my nostrils, but I stay focused on my task.  Still, I can’t pretend to not be delighted that someone has taken an interest in my work.  Someone knows my secret and someone wants to be body number twelve.

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Thank you for reading this excerpt from “The Watcher”, from the “Compulse” short story anthology, available here.