Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Of Wannabes & Real Deals

I'm a writer; I'm tired of defending this simple fact to myself and to others. I'm tired of tweets and blog posts and snark about how there are so-called legitimate writers and then the rest of us poor schmucks who aren't worthy of the title. I'm tired of clamming up every single time someone asks me what I do. The instant, overwhelming shame I feel as I choke on three seemingly simple words: I'm a writer.

To answer a few of your implied questions:

I do not have a swanky office.
I do not have an agent.
I do not have a degree from a prestigious college.
I do not get paid to write in any capacity.

Yet, still, I am a writer.

A writer isn't defined by money or deals or popularity. When you look up writer in the dictionary, it doesn't say a person whose written words are published. A writer is defined simply as one who writes.

I don't have to write in a fancy office or have an agent or be rich and popular to be a writer. I simply have to write. And, to boil it down even further, I don't even have to be good at writing.

My favorite definition goes a little something like: a writer is a person who writes.

It doesn't even say a person qualified to write or a person who went to a fancy college and got a degree that says they are allowed to write. It says a person who writes. Period.

There are no wannabe writers. You either write or you don't. Just like there are no wannabe singers or doctors or mechanics. You either do these things or you don't.

There are good writers and terrible writers and okay writers. There are writers who work tirelessly to hone their craft and others who don't. There are writers seeking publication and writers on the best sellers list and even more with secret novels hidden in their closet. We come in all shapes and sizes. Some writers make money and some garner fame and some carry on writing without any accolades.

Thus, a writer is a person who writes. A person with a passion for words and a desire to put them down on paper. It's the act of creating a story, building a world, immersing oneself in a reality that belongs to no one else but you.

Maybe, if we all stopped trying to define writers by money and fame and book deals, we could weed out a little of the jealousy and hate being flung around between wannabes and the real deals and get down to being a community of people who geek out over things made of words.

For those who feel I'm being obtuse, that I'm oversimplifying what a writer is, understand I do know the difference between an author (a writer with published works) and a writer (a person who writes). By definition these are two vastly different terms. One, I claim to be. One, I aspire to be.

Maybe the real issue is we all need to pull out our dictionaries and understand the subtle differences between these two words.

Better yet, maybe we all need to get over ourselves and realize no matter what stage of the game we happen to be in writing is hard, yo.

From fanfic to blogging, from published to self-published, and all those on the sidelines with big dreams, we writers are all just writers. For good or for bad, we've got to deal with this fact, show each other a little more grace and respect, and get on with writing and reading and dreaming.

It's for the greater good. I promise.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars: A Review (of sorts)


Danger, Will Robinson!
This review (of sorts) is a rambling, depressing mess.
You. Have. Been. Warned.

link to GoodReads here

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when talking about my dad and his so-called battle with cancer. Most of the time, I feel like I'm stuck in this awkward silence wanting (yet not wanting) to share and having no clue how to begin.

Let's be frank, sharing with the internet your pain and suffering can come off as either a. look at me look at me, b. *emo in the corner,* or c. flippant, at best. Furthermore Susan, nobody really wants to hear about it. If they do, it's sorta okay to talk about it a little, but not too much. The line is extremely fine.

Yet, when you drop off the social media grid without preamble, how do you explain your sudden come back without mentioning the dreaded: Yeah, so, my dad died of cancer, and no, I don't want your pity, I just want to talk about it, cause it's sort of a big deal to me?

My struggles over the last two years with reading and writing and social media-ing have been directly related to the sudden loss of my father.

And somehow, the book The Fault in Our Stars got mixed up in my grieving process.

See, I'm a huge John Green fan. His writing is pristine. His sense of humor slays me. And when I read his books, I think "good Lord, I'd love to write a story even a tenth as good as this book." Needless to say that early in 2012, pre-ordering this book was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it arrived on our doorstep the same day I got news my dad had a mass in his bladder and the doctor was saying it could be cancer. Not soon after, we had confirmation. Before we knew what was happening, he was in the ICU and we were learning his body was made of cancer.

Now, fast forward to April of 2012, when my dad was dead, and I was trying to get back into the swing of life, and this book mocked me from our bookshelf. Suddenly, cancer books made me angry and uncomfortable and I wasn't happy with Mr. Green for daring to write a cancer book.

Where did he get off? How dare he believe he could possibly understand. And why would he do this to his readers? Why make them suffer in ways no one should have to suffer? What joy could he possibly find in that?

It was sick. It was twisted. And I was pissed.

My negative feelings toward this book built up. Every time I looked at the book, I couldn't help but envision those last few moments we had with my father in the ICU as he took his final breath. And I wanted a direct phone line to Mr. Green so I could ask him how he felt qualified to define such a moment.

Which I know isn't fair, but feelings don't care about fairness.
They just feel.

Recently, I realized my anger toward this book wasn’t about Mr. Green or his rights (which, of course, he has the right to write any story he'd like), but it was about me and my pain and  my frustration. Somehow, I'd decided to attach to this novel my sorrow and rage over the loss of my father.

Misplaced? Yep.
Ridiculous? Heck, yeah.
Give me a little slack here. I’m a nerdy bookworm. Books are my lifeline.

So, now that I've read The Fault in Our Stars, every thing's better, right?
If only life was that simple.

I'll say this much:

This is a beautifully written book. A book about two people and their struggles with death and love and suffering and fairness and indignity and cancer. Cancer that tricky bastard who doesn't care about age or sex or good or bad or right or wrong. It doesn't think about tearing families apart, leaving young men fatherless and old men without their sons. It doesn't care about dignity or shame, love or pain. It just wants to live and grow and weed its way into the very fabric of our being. It leaves behind it a lasting legacy, one that just might outlast the human race.

For me, this is the cornerstone of Mr. Green's story. As I closed this book late last night and put it back on the shelf, I realized I felt both hopeful and destroyed. By reading this novel, I feel I've made some small progress. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to untangle my father's death from this book, but instead of fearing the association, I've found some peace in it.

Unknowingly, Mr. Green has given me a gift. It might not be a gift I wanted. It might not be a gift I understand. However, it is the gift I needed.

In the words of C.S. Lewis:

We read to know we are not alone.

After reading this book, I don't feel so alone.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Bookish Review of 2013

I stumbled upon this survey by means of one of my favorite bookish type friends
Miss Bonnie who runs the amazing book blog For The Love of Words.
You should check her out because she's all that and a bag of chips.
(Originally posted by Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner here.)

If you're interested in checking out all the books I read this year
 you can clickity click here.

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
I'm going with a list of five 
(which are in no particular order):
(for being strange & beautiful)
2. The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
(for making me long for mood changing wallpaper)
3. Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry 
(for being irresistibly silly) 
4. Night by Elie Wiesel
(for tearing my heart out)
5. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
(for being the first book I've ever kissed)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? 
description here

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
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4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013? 
Any book by Sarah Addison Allen
because they are loveliness.
Plain and simple.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
All right. 
I didn't *discover* this series this year
but I did FINALLY read the whole series 
and I DID discover that I adore them.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013? 
At the risk of sounding like a broken record:
Sarah Addison Allen.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you? 
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8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
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9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
By design, I'm a rereader.
So, pretty much they're all up for grabs.
Even the books I didn't like,
because I'm all about second chances.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
 description here

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Will from Me Before You who I still think is THE MOST 
selfish, self-important, maddening character 
and honestly, I'm disgusted with myself for even caring 
the slightest bit about him.
Which I do.
End Ramble.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
description here

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
There wasn't just one book that impacted me this year 
but the whole kid lit genre reminded me why I love reading
and what inspired me to start writing and
in general, it just made my heart happy.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly two decades
patiently awaiting me to read it.
I am clearly
Out. Of. Control.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
description here
“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody."                                          J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Shortest: 79 pages
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Longest: 597 pages
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17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 
Oh. My. LAWD.
This and the Buffy comics have been messing with my head all year long!
And don't EVEN get me started on Superior Spiderman.
*brain splodes*

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Laugh, if you must,
but I wholeheartedly believe that everyone
is in desperate need of a friend like Charlotte. 

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously.
description here

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
We all have Carrie (aka OneBookishMom)
to thank for my new found obsession with all things 
Sarah Addison Allen.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
My top five shelves on GoodReads last year were
Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Classics, Comics, KidLit, & YA.

22. Best 2013 debut you read? 
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23. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
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24. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013? 
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25. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
I cried all the tears, my friends.
And I have NO SHAME.

26. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
That's a good question, survey.
To be to frank,
I don't have an answer.
There are SO MANY BOOKS.

Maybe a better question is:

What do my lovely readers think I've overlooked this year?!

Annnnnd on that note!
Happy Reading to all
and to all a book-tastic year!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Another Year, Another Review... Sorta

Once again, a year has passed. And once again, I'm not gonna pretend I could quantify or wax poetic in a blog post about my experiences over the last twelve months.

However, I am gonna try this year for a loose resolution, something I've always resisted in the past. It's plain. It's simple. It makes me smile. And it feels pretty damn achievable so I'm fairly pleased with myself.

Wanna hear it? Well, here it goes:

I will try to
read some,
write some,
not feel like a disappointment.

The biggie is that last one. And it's what I'm focusing on today. 

Starting today:

I will stop feeling like a disappointment as a writer because I enjoy reading more than writing (THERE, I said it).

I will stop feeling like a disappointment because I don't social media well due to my real world responsibilities and I'll accept my limitations as the mother of four.

I will stop feeling like a disappointment because at the ripe age of thirty-four I'm still awkward as hell and unsure what I'm doing with my life as a professional anything.

I will stop feeling like a disappointment when I'm around people who make me feel unimportant because screw them. I'm pretty freaking awesome.

I will stop feeling like a disappointment because it's totes a downer and making my life far more complicated than it needs to be.

And starting today, I'm gonna focus on things that bring me joy, like my family and my friends and reading and writing and Y-O-U.

And maybe, just maybe, when 2015 rolls around, I'll be able to write an actual year in review post. 

Okay. Now I'm getting cocky.

Happy New Year, my friends!
I pray your year is filled with
 laughter to carry you through the sorrows,
peace to ease your troubles,
and love
because without it life just sucks.