Fall

It only takes one fallen leaf dancing on the chill of a September breeze to carry me back to the fourth grade.
I’m that little girl again, taking her time on the walk to school so that no deceased leaf goes uncrunched. I can smell the richness of the earth, feel the velvet air of the Atlantic and hear the tap-tapping of my grandparent’s knuckles on their picture window, telling me to run along as I dawdle past.

I have always delighted in the dampness and eerie beauty of fall. When shadows prowl sidewalks, when the wind dares to rise up from a whisper to a howl and our dreams seem to last a little longer. Fall may come with the cold hand of death, but it also brings with it so much life. An impregnation of imagination, of possibility and curious, glorious wonder.

In the fall any old house could be haunted. Any tree that was daunting in the judgmental eye of the summer sun, now seems surmountable. Dry grass and dead plants transform into potent playgrounds. Basements and attics become quiet rooms of bewilderment and uncertainty. The veil over magic is momentarily lifted and for just a moment we believe.

And that moment is enough.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor and Mr. Dave Roberts,

In regards to the letter that was written to the editor in the May 26th, 2014 paper referencing the Meridian Library District.

As a long time patron of the library and a member of the community advisory board, I am happy to speak on my personal experience of both, as well as express my sincere disappointment that such statements were made of the Meridian Library.
When I visit the Meridian Public Library as a patron or as an advisory board member the mission of the library is always clear to me. Not because it has been announced in so many words, but because it can be seen in the helpful staff and the ever-progressing building itself. Upon stepping inside the Meridian Library the very walls ask “What can we do to improve?” And the smiling staff asks “What can we do to help?”

In my opinion a library should be a place of resources, learning and literacy with the representation of a diverse community in mind. And I can confidently say, as a member of this diverse community, I experience just that and more at the Meridian Library District. The Meridian Library understands the value of learning and the value of connecting a community.
Of course like any place that serves an entire community, changes and challenges are to be expected. But as a patron I would confidently recommend to anyone to visit the Meridian Library District for a sense of community, a haven of learning and a connection to a multitude of resources. And as a member of the advisory board I can confidently assure anyone that the Meridian Library District is prioritizing and continuing to strive to reach individual citizens and maintain that sense of community, the haven of learning and provide that ever evolving multitude of resources.

Thank you Editor and Mr. Dave Roberts for the opportunity to speak about my pride in the Meridian Library District and for the chance to extend an invitation to you to visit, engage in and experience the Meridian Library.

Sincerely,

Alana Chapman

Farewell, How I Met Your Mother

Kids, tonight we said goodbye to a great show and its beloved characters.

himym

How I Met Your Mother was a show I welcomed into my living room as a newlywed on a couch with a missing middle cushion, as a college student cramming for exams but unwilling to turn the tv off, as a pregnant woman with swollen feet, as a new mother on maternity leave, as a vacationer in a hotel room, when I was sick, happy, exhausted, frustrated and overjoyed and then pregnant and swollen for a second time.
Tonight was a bittersweet goodbye, but my heart was happy with the ending.
Shortly after the HIMYM finale aired on the east coast my social media feeds were on fire with tears, irritation, spoilers, joy and mixed emotions for the ending of something we all dedicated half on hour to every Monday night for nine years.
But for me the ending was just what it needed to be. I believe it was perfect because I believe in soul mates and best friends. I believe in serendipity and fate. I believe in unbreakable bonds and uncontrollable forces.
We always knew Ted was telling the story for a reason, and for many viewers that reason was less than favorable. But I think it was incredible. This was a moment we were closing in on for nine years and it was a beautiful, sad and brilliant moment.
This was Ted’s story that he was sharing with his children. He was a character that was often brave in love and broken in life, and then it would flip on him, as it does often in real life. Not everyone gets a happily ever after, but we might get crazy memories with wonderful friends that shape us and make us who we are. We might get kisses in the rain, and moments that seem like nothing short of magic. We might get to meet amazing people in the strangest of places. Protest what we’re against, and fight for what we believe in. Travel, explore, succeed and fail. Become legendary. We might even get to fall deeply and wholly in love, maybe even more than once, and those are the stories worth telling our kids about.

Thank you for every episode that allowed me to get to know these characters that will forever hold a place in my heart.

Farewell, How I Met Your Mother.

Character Censorship

Hello Lovelies,

 

Yesterday the lovely and brilliant Megan Whitmer opened up a very important conversation on her vlog about censoring characters and a writer’s responsibility to the characters they create. You can watch that here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWqrxKNJTcg

This is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. If you read my post on censoring entire books, you can probably guess that I am (mostly) against it. It is my opinion that a book owes you nothing, but if it gives you something that’s great!

Megan asked at what point do we stop writing the character’s words/thought process and start inputting the author’s opinions and personal beliefs, if at all. I think that as writers we have a responsibility to be genuine, and true to characters.

I do not think an authors agenda should ever make it to the page. For me that applies to censorship and non. I don’t think you should censor your character if it is their personality to use foul language or derogatory terms JUST for the sake of pleasing readers; you can’t please everybody. But I also believe that you shouldn’t use your character as a vessel to carry your personal opinions or beliefs. If I read a book that has racial or homophobic slurs it had better be going some where. Cursing and slang terms do not offend me, to me they are just words. But when I see words that stem from a very hateful place, I expect the story to deal with it. Otherwise it just comes off as poor taste and bad writing. There are ways to convey that your character is racist or homophobic without going straight to the stereotypes. 

Everyone has their individual tolerance level for language and personal expression in the material they read. As authors I think we all know (or should know) what is acceptable for most and what is going too far. We also should be hyper aware of when we are typing a personal message onto the page. I have read many books (specifically YA) where the author’s personal beliefs were glaringly obvious on the page. This didn’t turn me off from reading the book, but I’m also not a teenager who hates being talked down to (not anymore).

So I think if a character comes to you with a foul mouth that fits your story, you should write it. If you find during the editing process the characters needs his/her mouth washed out with soap, do it! (If it feels wrong, it’s probably wrong)

Words are power and they should be used with caution. Sometimes we have to let the reader navigate between the lines and find the message on their own. A girl doesn’t need to be called a slut for a reader to discover she may be making poor or inappropriate physical relationship choices. A boy doesn’t need to be called a faggot for a reader to discover he is questioning his sexuality.

So no, I do not think we should censor our characters to the point where they are no longer genuine, but I also think as writers we should try to avoid use of stereotypical words and paint the pages with slang just to divide the good and the bad. In the real world there is no line down the middle of good and evil, right and wrong. Some of the kindest people I’ve ever known have used language I couldn’t fathom. On the flip side of that, some of the most upstanding (appearing) people I’ve known were so riddled with bigotry I was left gob smacked. If the goal is to create characters that feel real, then let them be real. If the goal is to create a character that will not offend, send a good moral message and please the majority; you’re either writing a picture book or a hollow character.

Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts and opinions either on Megan’s Vlog comment section or here and I will pass your comments along to her.

Thank you Megan for starting up this conversation!

 

 

 

If you’re not already familiar with Megan Whitmer you have a hole in your life and I implore you to visit her author page http://meganwhitmerwrites.com/

 

 

Parenting, Writing and 988 Dirty Cups

Hello Lovelies,

I almost didn’t write this post for the same reason I am writing this post.

Writing a book is rough (uggh gawd is it rough) but when you have to balance parenting and other things that life requires of you it just gets ugly. The internet has a swamp of information for what you should do to balance your life. (Hint: I went to these swamps and found Rodents of unusual size, NOT master Yoda. Sad face) So I didn’t want to add another one to the heap. I thought, surely nobody cares. But when a few of you said WRITE IT!!!! I felt like maybe if me sharing what works in our house could help just one of you it would be worth trudging out into the swamps to lay down my words.

First, let me say that I do not have it all together. If you see me in public and it looks like I have it all together, there are 988 dirty cups in my sink. And if you come to my home and my house looks together, there is probably an unplanned science experiment in the back of the fridge, because everybody drops a ball.

If you know me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed me joking about my adult A.D.D problems. This really isn’t a joke. While I’ve never been formally diagnosed, I’ve walked away from a laundry heap mid-fold enough times to know something isn’t right. But I am a mother of two (5 and 3) I am also a wife, a homeschool teacher, mommy to neurotic lab, a writer, a beta reader, a committed CP, a library frequenter and a somewhat active member in my community. My house is usually tidy (tidy, not totally cleaned and organized) my appointments are kept, my kids are well tended to and most of my commitments met BECAUSE I drop balls.

The problem with thinking you can handle it all, is thinking you can handle it all. Your kids are unpredictable little storms of WHOA NELLY that may or may not be a light breeze or a hurricane at any given moment. Trying to plan for that is like trying to bottle up a kangaroo. Good luck with that. As writers and parents we need to do what we can when we can and not waste any time beating ourselves to death when something falls to the wayside. Try again tomorrow. I used to make lists and lists of lists and gigantic tasks that I fully intended to complete. I would panic and freeze up. Overwhelmed by my mound of tasks, I wanted to crawl in a hole and push the world away. But I want my kids to grow up to be responsible, good men, and a sink piled high with stinky dishes sends them the wrong message. I also want to be an author, but an ignored book for a snooze button doesn’t get me there. (I do hit the snooze but not often) I also want my husband to know that I care enough and appreciate him going to work for us everyday to at least have him crawl into a bed at night that isn’t a laundry fort. So now I make small lists. I manage what I can and face these small tasks every single day, instead of big monthly plans that left me feeling hopeless.

*Lesson plan x 1 hour (I put lesson plans together the night before)

*Write 1000 words

*Wash, Dry, Fold, Put away laundry from both baskets

*Wash dishes

*Make beds

*Tidy up

These are all things I should be able to complete during the day. My alarm goes off at 5:30 and because I want to be an author I haul my butt into the office and I sit with my story. No one else will write it for me (unfortunately) and no one else wants my dream as much as I do. So I sit with it. 

Even if my little storms are especially windy that day, I should be able to complete the other things on my list as well. This list is on a white board that lives on my kitchen counter, and right before we sit for dinner I sit with my list. If something isn’t crossed out, I sit with it. If something isn’t crossed out because I wasted time doing things that weren’t pertinent to my day, I sit with it. Then my husband comes to the table and says “Did you do ___ today?” and if I say no he says “Why not?” And I sit with my out loud answer. (He holds me accountable in the best of ways, and I truly hope you have someone in your life that will do the same for you)

Living anything other than my best possible life seems like a complete waste. But I’m not going to beat myself to death if I go to bed and something didn’t get done. Unless of course my entire day was spent wasted on something unnecessary, then I’ve sat with that and I’ve already experienced my guilt and tomorrow I’ll make better use of my time. We all want to be in control of every aspect of our lives, we need to plan and panic and stress to know we’re doing something important. But we are NEVER in control. Not really. Not ever.

The beautiful thing about being a writer is you can achieve your goals as soon or as slow as you want. Yes, of course if your dream is to be published the wait time on that is out of your control but you can’t even consider that until you’ve completed that manuscript!

I recommend you give the sticker reward a try. I learned about this from author Victoria Schwab (who is the uber badass of all badassians) She buys a calendar and rewards herself with a sticker on the calendar for every goal. My goal is 1000 words a day. If I meet that goal I get a sticker and it works wonders, it really does, because somewhere inside of us still lives that 5 year old who wants the gold star.

If you are a parent but you don’t have someone in your life to hold you accountable and to challenge you to meet your dreams. Hold yourself accountable for them. Show them that dreams are achievable. Show them what a healthy life looks like. Make lists and buy calendars and stickers. Feel that amazing feeling of crossing things off and earning stickers. Sit with your completed list and feel proud. Then send me a message on twitter or on here and I will send you the biggest of virtual high fives. 

I wrote this post because I sympathize with both sides of the writing struggle and the parenting struggle. I still struggle every day with meeting goals and making things right for myself and for my family. They can see that I’m trying and I can see by my lists and my stickers that I am succeeding. Because living anything less than my best life is a waste.

 

 

Grow From No

Hello Darlings,

So I started watching American Idol again (for the first time since Ruben & Clay) and I hearts it so hard.
What I especially love about this season is the auditions are trying harder, really putting their guts into it, and the judges are being brutally honest but not in a tacky, nasty Simon sort of way.
The people that make it to Hollywood swell my wee little heart, but it’s the noes that I really pay attention to.
How we handle ourselves in that “no moment” says so much about who we are. In my opinion how we handle ourselves in the response to a no reveals more about us than how we express gratitude in response to a yes.
As a writer (wannabe author) my time for a very important no will come, and when it does I intend to be ready. I want that no (a yes would be EVEN BETTER) but the reason I want a no, the reason I would give anything to get a no that so many people deflate over every. single. day. Is because it will mean I FREAKIN TRIED. Right now at this very moment I have zero noes, and this place is comfortable. My heart isn’t crushed, I don’t feel rejected or let down. I didn’t build up anticipation for weeks or days over what an agent would say in response to my query, because goddammit I haven’t even tried yet, and that really sucks.
A yes is awesome. Everybody wants a yes, but a yes doesn’t equal success. It is what we have done with ourselves in the face of a no that defines us, shapes us, builds us up, make us stronger, smarter, better people.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people who write kickass books and query one time and get a yes (which is UNICORN STATUS EFFING AWESOME) but everybody gets a no at some point or another, which means they’re still trying. They are still putting themselves out there, and that, my friends, is cool beans.
So my hope for you and me is that we try, and we learn and we grow in the face of a no.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K Rowling

Be A Responsible Book Lover

In less than thirty days I have attended group discussions, had one on one conversations, exchanged tweets, emailed, blogged and sent text messages about bookish related topics. After walking away completely and utterly gob-smacked by some of these discussions, from statements like “Kids tell me they hate reading” or “Is the library really necessary anymore?” and finding articles like this one http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-literacy-america with alarming statistics about literacy in America, I had to stop and ask myself if I was doing my part as a responsible book lover and avid reader.

Anyone who knows me can probably tell you how often I talk about books, reading and writing. How I am always carting my kids off to the library two, three, five times a week. They can probably tell you I can quote The Perks Of Being A Wallflower from start to finish and that I have strong feelings about book to movie adaptations. But most of these same people can also quote lines for you from their own favorites, tell you their own strong feelings about what was missing from the Hunger Games movie and give you the names of their dream cast for their favorite book should it be turned into a film. Because they are book people too.

That’s not really solving anything is it?

If we eat the most amazing meal on a night out with friends, we aren’t going to turn to those same friends at the office Monday morning and say “I had the most amazing meal at Café Le YumYum on Friday.”  THEY KNOW ALREADY.

So, while talking bookish things with bookish people is fun and rewarding and fills up your bucket of good book feels; the non-reading, or minimal reading people are still out of the circle. What am I going to do as a responsible book lover to invite them in?

I’m going to start by giving the gift of a good read. I’m not going to just give Sally Mcnonreader a book for her to put on a shelf with all the good intentions. Nope, no good. I’m going to give her one of my favorites, with little sticky notes on my favorite pages that contain quotes that matter to me. I’m going to let her know that I’m interested in discussing her thoughts on the book once she’s finished and it’s totally cool if she hated it and I would love for her to tell me why and how she thinks it could be better.

Next I’m going to invite a self-professed non-reader to one of my happy places, the library. It hurts my heart to know people think libraries are a thing of the past. I want to invite someone because I KNOW they will at the very least meet some kickass librarians and see that it’s a place of opportunity. Not just stale old books, but technology, resources, friendly faces and new books! Even if they don’t gain much from it maybe they will have a grandchild, niece, nephew or someone else that they can tell “Hey, I was just at the library and discovered they have great programs for kids, teens AND adults.”

This is my plan for now, because it’s not enough to pass on information to people in our lives anymore, they are overloaded with information, we need to engage and involve.

If you have any ideas for how to be a responsible book lover I would love to hear/read about them!