From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Writers First Baby-steps To Plotting A Romance



Sometimes I think we go through paradigm shifts as writers. The writer we thought we were is suddenly no longer the writer we now know ourselves to be. It's as if we're a cute little Charmander with no conception of the power we will one day have as a mighty pen-wielding Charizard. We evolve. We level up.

This can take many forms. Maybe it's a form change. Maybe we've been trying to write short stories and we realize we're actually super great at poetry. Or we've been turning our nose up at epic fantasy but you've secretly got epic world building abilities and can write sorceresses like nobodies business. If you're a Geodude, own your Geodudeness. Don't be a Squirtle. Unless you're a Squirtle. Then be a Squirtle.

Of course figuring out what kind of pokewriter we really are takes a lot of time and experimentation. And maybe our true form is something like the head of a Pikachu with Rapidash's body and the soul of a Snorlax. (Behold the mighty Snorlax soul, hear her snor.) Point is, whatever monstrosity your writerly self evolves into, just be the best monstrosity you can be.

Which brings me to my latest personal writerly evolution.

In high school I had a very specific view of my writerly self. In class we were reading stuff like King Lear and Crime and Punishment and Cry, the Beloved Country, and A River Runs Through It. I wanted to BE Norman Maclean. For our big book projects one semester my teacher assigned me Moby Dick because he thought I could handle it. (I went to a small private school and had the same English teacher for all four years of high school, so suffice it to say, we all knew each other REALLY well.) Outside of class I read Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and Amy Tan.

Then I grew up.

In college I found a new part of myself. My college roommates introduced me to Star Trek and Avatar, the Last Airbender. I spent a year watching all eleven seasons of Frasier and ever chick flick I could find in the days before Netflix.

Most of all I saw all the glorious young adult and middle grade books I'd missed out on. I discovered Geraldine McCaughrean and Gary Schmidt, who both pretty much changed my life. I'd read and totally adored Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume as a kid and reading these books was almost like coming home again.

Point is, we all have different phases and interests that combine and mash together to form us into, well, us.  My particular mashup means I am absolutely rubbish at world building. Seriously, watching me try and world build is like watching an elephant seal flub across a beach. I've just never had the immersion in world building that it takes. (Basically my only child/teenhood exposure to sci fi and fantasy was Lord of the Rings and Galaxy Quest.) BUT, it does mean my writing is crisp and clean, and I'm prepped like a squirrel with walnuts when it comes to character development and a youthful, earnest voice.

So we play to our strengths. We wouldn't use a fire pokemon to fight a water pokemon, right? We would put a child molester in prison, not the Senate, right? Let's not be silly here.

In high school, if you told me I'd be working on a YA romance I'd have laughed in your face while hiding my copy of Twilight under my copy of Hamlet. But now I've realized how much certain romance stories have stuck with me, and meant to me. Maybe not Twilight, which was largely enjoyable, though not my kind of romance. But Jane Eyre is my kind. Eleanor & Park is my kind. I'm evolving, guys.

But with every evolution, new challenges arise. You don't grow a third leg without some stumbling, you know? So if you're in my situation and looking for crutches, check out Sarah Eden's blog and her incredibly useful 9 point story structure for plotting romances. I've never been steeped in the regency or traditional romance genre, and for those of you who live there, spread your wings and fly you beautiful pokewriters you. But even if you just have a small romantic subplot, Sarah Eden's powerpoint will save your tucus.

So go, writers, go.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Whatever you do, DON'T by "girl books" for your son this Christmas

We have a problem in this country. A stinking, reeking, pustulous problem that’s just beginning to burst the boil in politics, business, and Hollywood. Stories are coming to light, showing just how ubiquitous this problem is. Just how long it’s been going on, and been kept under wraps like toe fungus. The true victims of this problem are beginning to speak out and speak loud, despite being revictimized, despite not being believed.

So what is this problem?

We don’t have enough male characters in our media! Not enough strong male role models for our sons! The strong heroes we used to know have been made weak.

Just look what they’ve done with Iron Man. High-level anxiety and possible PTSD? Real men don’t have anxiety!

Now, some will have you believe that objectification of women is the problem. That female characters aren’t treated as real. This could clearly not be further from the truth. We’ve got Wonder Woman, so why do we need a Black Widow movie? We’ve got Anne Shirley and Buffy the Vampire slayer...why do we need more melodramatic, hormonal teenage girls?  See what I’m saying? Sure little girls dress up like Batman or Sherlock Holmes, but a boy version of Wonder Woman? A male Nancy Drew? Now let’s not be silly here.

One of these people who are suggesting that boys should read “girl books” is Newbery Award Winner Shannon Hale. Anybody else seeing a conflict of interest here? Her Newbery book is called “Princess Academy,” not “Prince Academy.” So maybe sometimes when she visits schools the administration doesn’t let the boys come to her speech. Why should boys know what it’s like to be a princess? Didn’t America make it quite clear in the last election how very, very, very desperate we are to avoid female leadership? I once heard Shannon tell a story about a little boy who waited until after everyone else had left, because he was too ashamed to ask for a copy of The Princess in Black in front of other boys. Darn right he should be wary! What are our sons learning these days? That girls can be just as tough as them?? Pshaw.

Sure, everybody on earth deserves respect. This is something we can all agree on. But shouldn’t women be respected as one would respect a statue? Quiet, benevolent, bestowing its grace and beauty on all who behold her? Statues have a place, as do all things of beauty.

But no, these whiners might say, women are just as varied and have just as many facets as men do. There’s just no way for men to know this for sure. I’ll even admit that it might be good if there was some way for men to understand the perspective of the other half of the human population, but there isn’t. That’s just something we have to live with. We must read from the best! What about the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds! What about the Clancys and Grishams! Look at the list of books your child is reading in school. Look at the latest bestseller the millionaire is reading in the plane seat next to you. Are most of the authors white men? Maybe that’s for a reason!

It’s like some people think reading female protagonists will increase a boys empathy and lead to a more aware, enlightened, and respectful adult. How ridiculous is that!


Monday, October 23, 2017

What The Antarctica Hole REALLY Is


So there’s a hole in Antarctica and nobody is sure why.

Well, not nobody.

I know.

A few scientists are pretty sure it has something to do with climate change, though they’re not quite sure what. In one interview, Well-Respected Scientist A said, “We’re pretty sure it has something to do with climate change, though we’re not quite sure what.” She also added, “Climate change is not a linear process,” which to me just sounds like excuses for not knowing what the icy heck is going on.

Then of course there are the conspiracy theorists who think it’s cthulhu, and this guy who thinks the hole is caused by, well…

But lucky for you, I’m here to set things straight.

The planet is a living, breathing organism. We all know this. The planet inhales carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen. Sometimes living organisms ingest things that make them sick, which is when we get projectile vomit situations like Vesuvius and Pompeii. And then, after decades, centuries, and even millennia of digestion, sometimes a planet’s gotta poop.

Am I suggesting that the Antarctic hole is a giant sphincter, you ask? Well how else does an organism purge itself of all the filth we’re putting into it? Without cleansing itself we’re at risk of our planet getting a bad case of the hurricanes, if you get my drift. And we wouldn’t want that pockmarking the face of our beautiful home.

But the thing is, if this truly is a glacial opening of a planetary orifice, then the really important question isn’t what the Antarctic hole is, but what does Earth poop look like anyway?

Let me answer that by asking you a question.

What do gropers and blobfish have in common?


Just saying.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Nevuh Nev-Ah-Duh



When I lived in Nevada, it became pretty clear pretty fast that these are not judgemental people. They're more...leave me alone while I pull this lever people. Get out of my way on the belt loop because I'm not slowing down people. Smokes and cocktails in a whatever the blazes I feel like wearing people.

In other words, if you let them do them, they're happy to let you do you. They don't care.

Except for one thing.

Truly though, if you go to Nevada, you can get away with a lot. You can spend your entire savings on the slots and nobody will bat an eye. You can weigh 450 pounds and wear next to nothing to the theater and its just another night on the Strip. Heck, Nevada is a state where it's actually legal to vote Republican or Democrat or *gasp* even both. But there is one thing you can not, ever, EVER do in Nevada.

You can not say Nev-AHH-Duh.

It's Nev-EA-Duh, with the same bright A as Kansas and California. To a Nevadan, saying Nev-Ahh-Duh is like going to L.A. and saying CAUL-i-fornia, the same way you'd say cauliflower. (Which, in case you've forgotten in our drive-through culture, is a special type of cheese platter.) And, in a state with open-carry permits, this is not a mistake you want to make.

This is how that conversation usually goes:
Tourist: This place is great! How long have you lived in Nev-Ahh-Duh.
Nevadan: You're from the East coast aren't you.
Tourist: Yeah! How could you tell? We're from Boston and this is our first time acknowledging the existence of anything between the Mississippi River and Hollywood.
Nevadan: Here, come with me. There's something special I wanna show you in the basement of CircusCircus...

I'm not even kidding. Trumps mispronunciation when he visited Las Vegas is 99.9% of the reason he lost the state in the general election. (The list of top political issues Nevadans care about is 1. Correct pronunciation, 2. Illegal immigration, and 3. Free Public Parking.)

Just something to think about next time you're stopping through Vegas. Now excuse me, I have to go pack for my trip to New Yark.


Monday, September 25, 2017

From the Tweetdeck of Captain Blackbeard

Happy New Year to all, especially the ships I’ve plundered so hard they don’t know what to do! Love!

TODAY WE MAKE THE SEAS GREAT AGAIN -E.Teach

The Queen Anne’s Revenge has the best crew! I know crew. I have the best crew!

The papers keep rehashing our massacre five years ago--what about Anne Bonny’s missing loot! SAD!

East India Trading Co. invented rising ocean tides to make average man’s private fleets non-competitive. Disgusting!

Captain Kidd is, without question, the WORST EVER captain. I predict he will do something really stupid and then I’ll take over his ship!

I became captain all on my own, not with help from Ushkuiniks. Greatest pirate hunt! WRONG.

An ‘extremely credible source’ has signaled and told me Anne Bony isn’t actually a woman.

Anne Bonny is unattractive inside and out. I totally understand why her crew left her for Mary Read.

If Chelsea Bonny asked to hold helm for mommy while Anne gave ship away, fake news would say CHELSEA BONNY FOR CAPTAIN.

Queen Anne functioning perfectly. No matter what papers say. No time for fake news.

Eddie Teach Jr. did a great job. Transparent and innocent. Greatest pirate hunt in history! Sad!

Poorly rated Captain Kidd speaking badly of me. Then how come he’s always ogling my ships!!

My account so powerful I make my enemies quake and shiver in my tweet wake!

This is a photo of my luscious beard. It is the most luscious of all the beards. Look at it. Look.

Anne Bony says beard is fake--SO IS YOUR FACE! Beard is REAL. Fake news!

MY BEARD IS REAL. STOP SAYING MY BEARD ISN’T REAL.

MY BEARD IS REAL.

MY BEARD.

MMMMYYYYYYYY BEEEEEAAAAARDD

MEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Monday, August 14, 2017

5 Writing-Based Instagram Ideas for Writers

1. Its #Bookstagram, baby.


#Bookstagram is a large and vibrant community of book-lovers on Instagram. We got into this inkslinging business because we love words, right? And now with modern social media, we can pretend to interact with others who love books as much as we do without actually having to speak to another human or put on pants! Whatever you're reading, take a fancy schmancy picture of it and share your thoughts! And don't be intimidated by the intensive setups and photo voodoo of some of the most popular bookstagrammers. Just do you! If you can work a fuzzy, feathery, scaly friend in there somewhere too, all the better! The point is to make social media non-stressful, fast, and easy, right? This is all in support of the real work, the way ants pick food for grasshoppers. (Because that's how nature works, right?)

(Hint: some of the top hashtags to use are #bookstagram [duh] #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeatures and #books. Or try a #shelfie!)

2. Blackout Poetry


So, I've never been a fan of when people post like screenshots of their poems from note apps and stuff. To me that looks as tacky as the underside of a 3rd grade desk, but hey, if you like it, more power to ya. However, I do think blackout poetry can look pretty freaking awesome when it's done well. Check out Austin Kleon's Instagram for some excellent examples. I downloaded the PicsArt app on my phone and that makes it pretty painless. Just snap a shot of a page of whatever you're reading and play around. Because social media should be your playground. Have fun and your audience will have fun. We know when you're having fun on that tire-swing and when you're not. We're watching.

(Hint: Try tagging your blackout poetry with #poetry #blackoutpoetry #makeblackoutpoetry #poem and #poetrycommunity)

3. Quoth the Instabard


Step one. Pick a pretty sentence you read recently. Step two. Find a pretty picture of a sunset or a tree or a baboon butt that you took on your recent safari in Botswana. Step three. Use something like Canva or PicMonkey to overlay and mash them together like butter on toast. Step four. Pick a pretty filter and share that gorgeousness that's just so gorgeous we're all gonna cry till we puke. Step five. Climb that tree and dance with that baboon into that sunset, you inspiring butterfly of awesome you.

(Hint: For real, people love this stuff. Try using #quote #instaquote #writing and #writer)

4. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's WORDS WORDS WORDS!


They're all around us, man, like Weeping Angels. And if you look close they stay still. Remember that church sign in your neighborhood with the hilarious misspelling? We want to see it too! (Heck, Lynn Truss made a whole career out of finding grammar mistakes). Burnt out bulbs or scrubbed off paint making a catchphrase much more interesting? Share! Quaint wooden plaques with words that make you smile? Come on friend, don't hog those smiles for yourself. That's just plain rude. Slap a pretty filter on that grin and blind us with the dazzle. Or just, ya know, look for pretty words. They're there.

5. The World is Your Writing Desk


I once took a boomerang of the book I was reading while I was on a roller coaster. If you're a writer, you're a writer all the time. Yeah we're not working in a visual medium like paint or cartoons (although if you do that too, then post that shiz!) but we're still working, and we work everywhere. Show us your writing desk, and you don't even have to move the 37 Cheetoh's bags. Notebook on a beach? Instaperfect. Taking your typewriter on the A train? Well don't be a dippy ya hippie! If you want to use Instagram in your social media arsenal (and if you don't that's totally okay, pick the faceswords or tweetsabers, whatever works for you) then take advantage of the work you're already doing every day and share it. And really, that can go for any social media platform. Like Austin Kleon says, show your work! If you do, your tribe will find you. Arms outstretched, moaning braaiinzzzz over and over, we'll find you.

As with any writing/writelife advice, take what works for you and ditch the rest. Got other ideas for writerly Instagram posts? Share in comments!

Write on!

[If you'd like the weekly posts delivered to your inbox via ghostly passenger pigeons, sign up here. Pigeons may vary.]

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Read More: From KidLit: How to Hook a Reader

Submission Opportunity: If you've thought about working on something historical check out this awesome fellowship opportunity with the American Antiquarian Society!



Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Different Ways To Think About "Write What You Know"



1. Write What You Want To Find Out.

If we all stuck with what we knew, our libraries would be full of pretty dull ink blots. J.K. Rowling would have never written about wizards living under staircases. J.R. Tolkien would have never given us Hobbitses, precious. Dan Wells would never have been able to write about a straight up psychopath. (At least, one would hope...). So really, the only thing stopping me from writing a story about an NBA star isn't that I'm a 5'4 white girl with the coordination of a banana, but that I... well, frankly, Kobe I don't give a flan. It's not what I want to find out about. If you're a 5'4 white girl with the coordination of a banana and for you the NBA is one of those brown paper packages favorite things type of things, then don't let anybody tell you you can't write about it. Write about what you care about. Write about what you're willing to dive into. What you're willing to research and put your blood, sweat, and other bodily fluids into.

2. Write What You DON'T Know.

This isn't actually contradictory to the traditional "write what you know" advice slung from every level of writer blogdom high and low. In fact they go hand in hand. Let me explain. No there is too much, let me some up. Buttercup is marry Humperdink in little less than...wait, where were we? Oh yeah. Ok, so there are lots of things you DO know lots about, right? Maybe you're the worlds foremost Han Dynasty expert. You've read all the books just because you're a Han nerd. (Lay off Leia, he's mine! Wait, wrong Han...) You can tell the difference between a Han pot and a Shin pot in thirty seconds flat. Maybe you know you want to write about the Han dynasty in your novel, but are having a hard time figuring out what approach to take. Well, think of it this way. What are the gaps in your otherwise extensive knowledge? Where's the loose tooth in your jaw? The gap in the fence that your creepy neighbors keep spying on you through? Cover that hole! Find that missing plank and form it into something beautiful. Write the thing you DON'T know.

3. Write What Puts You In The Freak Show.

You know you have a freak side. We all do. What I mean is, we all have something that puts us in the maligned 1%, and it ain't gotta be moulah. Maybe you grew up with a neighbor who cast spells on your house every night. Maybe you're dad works on a station in Antarctica and you've visited him. Maybe you were born with a rare disease that makes all your farts smell like grass clippings. I don't know. But you do. And maybe it's not something you normally think of as that strange, or it might take you a while to realize how unique it is. Take that part of you and run with it. Don't be shy. Fart those grass clippings. It might be hard. It might be vulnerable. But it sure could be the claw that pulls your little squeaky alien self out of the overcrowded prize box.

4. Write Where You Live.

So maybe this one hits home for me specifically because I live in a city that I don't think I've ever seen represented in fiction. Heck, my entire state isn't particularly hot on the Hollywood/Bestseller list. (What was the last show to be set in Utah...Sister Wives? Ugh). Ok, ok, obviously there are plenty of awesome and wonderful things set in Utah and in my little old Provo specifically, but there could definitely be more. And in all likelihood its the same for wherever you live. Everybody wants to set their stories in New York or Chicago, but you're not everybody, you're you you shimmering, powerful, rainbow-studded stallion you. Plus, writing where you live won't merely help you stand out, it'll also make it easy for you to write a totally authentic and refreshing story because it's a story from where you're standing. So go outside, breathe the Natchitoches or Pocatello or Karaganda air, or wherever it is you breathe where you live. (Hey, you might be a blobfish with good wifi. I don't know your life.) Then come back inside and breathe it onto the page, rich and pungent.

5. Write Who You Know.

Ok, so I don't mean copying wholesale your weird uncle who dyes his beard turquoise and whose footprints look like claws. (Ok, but if you for real have an uncle with claws for feet write that shiz.) I don't even necessarily mean digging out the strangest humans in your vicinity and morphing them so they fit on a page, although that's not necessarily a bad idea. In fact, sure, do that. But also don't forget that large groups also have personality. We call it culture. It's why you're called "Ma'am" in Texas and... something less nice in New York. Whoever you're surrounded by has already got their grubby, grimy, culture-filthy stench all over you, so you might as well take full advantage of it. The people in Baton Rouge are different from my people here in Utah Valley. They just are. And I want to see that. Zoom in and show us those differences. Get right up close enough to count the nose hairs. Okay maybe you don't need to be that close, but take the people around you and use them as inspiration. Tell your story and don't forget that they're the context.


More ideas for thinking about "Write What You Know"? Leave them in comments!

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Read More: From Kristen Lamb: What Truly Makes a Powerful Female Character
Submission Opportunity: Parabola is accepting Non-Fiction articles.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Have You Diversified your Writing Portfolio?




Firstly, check out this awesome post from Chuck Wendig about making a serious career/living out of this wordsmithing we do.

One thing he talks about in this post that I've been trying to focus on lately is diversifying your writing paths. There are a lot of great writerly options out there, and I don't think we have to pick all of them, but I think we should at least pick a handful.

I like novels, and I think most of all y'all do too, and that is and will stay the largest egg in my basket. But I think Chuck is wise to advocate incubating more than just one egg. (If you're looking to make writing your career, at any rate. There are other writing choices and lifestyles that are beautiful and wonderful too.)

Since writing for a living has been my dream since I was in middle school, this is advice I've been trying to take to heart. And now that I've finished grad school, this is where I'm focusing my energies. I'm querying the novels, of course, but I've also started seriously learning about pitching articles to magazines, news stories to newspapers, working on projects like picture and chapter books as well as my MG and YA novels, researching screenwriting, professional blogging opportunities, etc. Because those are the writing paths that seem at least sort of interesting to me.

There are a ton of other writing possibilities too. TV writing, technical writing, medical writing, legal writing, tons of stuff. In fact, so many it can feel overwhelming. But narrowing down your focus and energies on the opportunities and projects that really excite you can help you take steps towards full time writing.

Do you think this approach to a writing career is helpful for you? What three writing paths would be your top choices?

Sarah

Monday, July 3, 2017

Two Ways You Might Be Self-Rejecting Your Own Writing


I'm fighting self-rejection at this very moment, actually.

As I'm sitting at my computer trying to decide what to blog about, every idea I come up with seems dumb. Including this one. You guys are already pros. You don't need my two bits. I've got a shelf next to me of books by Ellen Degeneres and Jim Gaffigan and Dave Barry and when I'm working on bloggy stuff I pull one of those books out and glance through it for inspiration, but what often ends up happening is that I see how hilarious these guys are and I'm like, well, if I post anything ever, someone's going to hold up my drivel next to the genius of Dave Barry and it will by like Tyra Banks entering a beauty contest with a blob fish.

Okay, I'm being over-dramatic here, but there are some not very nice monsters that can sneak into our brains sometimes. And really, self-rejection and self-doubt can be like an anvil tied to the ankle of a swimmer. You may be Micheal Freaking Phelps but if you're attached to that anvil you ain't goin nowhere.

As I've struggled with starting new projects lately, and as I've talked with writer friends, I've noticed too serious ways we writers tend to self-reject ourselves. I mean, we get rejected enough. We get the proverbial door slammed in our face all the time, there is NO reason we should be slamming it on ourselves.

1. We Self-Reject our Original Ideas. This is the one I've been dealing with lately. I finished a novel several months ago and it was one of the easiest novels I've ever written and it just felt natural and fun. But ever since then, every tiny idea that's come through my head has been like a little ant under the boot of self-rejection. Every idea has felt stupid and dumb. I get a spark of something and then the monster in my brain says, "No, that's not how things really go." Or, "No, that idea isn't going to interest anybody but you."

So what to do about? I say we should call it the jerk-face meanie poo monster that it really is, see it as a voice separate and apart from our true selves, put a sound-proof glass box around the nasty beast, and ignore it. Or at least do our best to most of the time. This has helped me. I've wanted to write short stories to submit to places like Asimov's or FSF but I've been stuck. But once I realized that this doubt voice was one I didn't have to listen to, I thought to myself, well heck, I'm going to write a story about sister missionaries in space if I darn well please. Who knows if it's going to end up succeeding anywhere, but I'm sure having a dang fun time writing it. And more importantly, I can already tell that the writing is more vibrant, engaging, and alive, then it would be if I was trying to paint-by-numbers some idea I thought would be what everyone else wanted to see.

2. We Self-Reject our Final Product. We're writers, which means words are our business. Ink-blobs on the page is what we're trying to sell, and sometimes it can feel weird. Like standing on the street corner asking people to by a picture of us. But it's not that. You know how the best writers have impacted your life, and what they have done for you. They've given you everything, haven't they? I know that's what writers like C.S. Lewis and Wallace Stegner have done for me. Now, I'm not saying we're going to be Lewis's and Stegners, but we shouldn't be embarrassed that we're doing what they did either. We're making beautiful things. Maybe even art.

When you have a finished piece (and I mean redrafted, beta-read, spit-shined finished) then don't let the self-doubt monster stop you there. You've done it. Now show it. Let the world benefit from your voice and your hard work, and trust that it will in fact benefit. Because someone will, and you may never know. But trust. Yeah you'll still get rejected from the outside, and that rejection sucks too, but just keep going. Make them reject you, don't reject yourself from the outset. Keep your finished pieces out in circulation. When your poem is done, send it. When your novel is done and the best you can make it, query.

You can do it.

Sarah

Monday, June 26, 2017

Is Everyone taking Anti-Depressants Without Me?

Okay. So the first and by far the most important thing that needs saying here is this: modern medicine is wonderful. Mental and emotional disorders are real, should be treated compassionately, and if anti-depressants or other pharmaceuticals can help you, then that is great. The ensuing thoughts are just me word vomiting my own experiences because this is my internetz space and I feel like it, okay? But we’re all going to remember that modern medicine is hooray and every single one of you people is wonderful and lovely, outside of whatever medicines or vitamins or fish oils or oozing laboratory concoctions you put into your body. Any questions about this, I’ll refer you to Dr. Bruce Banner. Who is lovely.

We good so far?

Okay.

I’m pretty much the ultimate stubborn optimist, so I tend to move forward viewing things as pretty great. I have bad days like anyone, sometimes really bad, and sometimes for a long time, but I’ve always been able to figure things out and move forward. I’ve never taken anti-depressants or been to a therapist. I did once take anti-anxiety meds after I got surgery on my jaw, and at first I was stubborn and thought, pssh, why are they giving me anti-anxiety meds? But that only lasted until the middle of that first night home when my heart wouldn’t stop racing and I couldn’t stop crying and I had no idea why. Then I took the anti-anxiety meds, and felt much better.

Anyway.

Because optimism is what I’m built with, there’s a thing that happens to me every so often. I’m going along, living a pretty happy life, and then something will inform or remind me that someone I know and love has a brain space or personal life space that’s pretty darn crappy. That’s broken or sick. And this inevitably, although it shouldn’t, takes me by surprise and throws me for a small loop.

So, yes, because of the way I see things, I often find myself discovering that a situation I didn’t know much about was a lot worse than I thought. Or that someone I love who I thought was doing just fine actually isn’t, that they’re getting therapeutic and/or medical help for some really hard, crappy stuff. Basically, that things are much more terrible than I thought they were when I was looking at them.

Now, obviously, this little mental jolt is a million percent less of a deal than the actual hard stuff that other people are going through. Obviously. But it’s still a jolt. When it’s bad, I end up feeling like I can’t trust my own head. Like somehow I’m being deluded. That what I experience isn’t real.

I end up thinking, is everyone seeing the real world except me?

I end up wondering if maybe I’m not as complex, nuanced, or profound as other people.

Of course, I am a stubborn, defensive, and firm believer that one person’s reality is no more “Real” than another person’s. My White Utah Mormon Girl reality and a Black Inner-City Chicago Boy reality and a Chinese Rice Farmer Grandma reality are all Reality. They’re all part of the “Real World.” And I get back to that mindset eventually, usually pretty fast. But I guess what I’m saying here is that everyone has weird neurosis, and that’s what makes us so wonderful.

At moments like this I take my own form of medication, which is a self-prescription for a forty-seventh viewing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Remember when Dev Patel’s character is watching all his dreams collapse around him and his hotels going out of business and his mom hates his girlfriend and he’s doing his best to keep things together but they’re basically imploding. He’s distraught, but then he finally says, “Things will be alright in the end. If they are not all right, then it is not the end.”

And that’s the thought I’ll leave you with.

Until the end.


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Blog Spotlight: Blogging Can Lead To Many Career Paths, by Anne R. Allen
Submission Spotlight: Tomaz Salamun Prize (and a residency in Slovenia?!?!?)

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Most Life-Changing Book of the Last Year


Hey everyone! Been a while, for which I'm sorry. But life is in a routine again, the chaos is manageable, and the blog here is back in action!

So I think we have many reasons we want to be writers. One of them, at least for me, could be summed up as influence. I want to be able to influence lives the way other authors have influenced mine. And this can mean a lot of things, from a Judy Blume who makes a little girl feel better about herself, to an Upton Sinclair or Harriet Beecher Stowe who influences an entire nation. And I'm saying that with the understanding that both of those are equally important.

I want to talk today about an Upton Sinclair type book. I've had an interesting experience talking about this book, unlike any other. I tell people what it's about, or even just what it's called, and I see them shut down. They don't want to know.

And that is so surprising to me.

The book is called Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I hope you'll let me explain a bit before passing over. It may seem like a Vegan Manifesto, but it's not. The whole first chapters of the book are about how important meat, particularly his grandmothers chicken and carrots, has been in his family. And then he goes on to talk about modern farming practices. Factory farming. He's not saying we shouldn't eat meat. He's simply asking us to consider where that meat is coming from.

And honestly, why don't we? Why are we so willing to not think about what we're putting in our mouths, and when the information is put in front of us, we do our utmost to push it aside and ignore it?

I won't go into the details, because I think the information he presents does best in the context of all the research and first hand experiences this writer went through. But I ask you to read this book.

That's really the point of this post. Writers can make a huge difference. Write to make a difference in the world, and read to make a difference in yourself.

And please read this book.

Sarah
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