Monday, May 30, 2016

Why I Don't Post Stories Online (But Kinda Want To)

Wheel at Wray Castle
Flickr Credit: Ian Livesey
Every now and again I return to the same old struggle—do I share my stuff online, or do I not?

Not sharing my stuff is my favorite option by far, which is why it usually wins. I don’t want to so I don’t. Easy as that. Except…

I remember sharing my stuff back in the day. It was fun, mostly. When I was a baby high schooler, I wrote these stories where my friends and I were characters in super spy stories, and it was great. Blatant self-insertion, of course, but the only people who read my bad writing were my friends, and we all got a kick out of it. After that, I ventured into the realm of publishing fan fiction. Those were better, and people seemed to like them, too. Truly, this lifestyle had its charms.

The immediate feedback, for example, was great. Nothing makes you feel more bouncy than receiving a positive review on a story, especially when they shared their reactions. I love reactions, even now. I enjoy positive feedback on my writing more than is appropriate for a writer.

I also liked being kept on a schedule. It helped to have to publish something every week, and knowing that people might notice if I didn’t post on time was a big motivator in getting things done. That’s one of the reasons that blogging works so well for me! I am being motivated by the same thing.

I could tweak the story to suit my readers. In general, this is probably not the go-to writing tactic, but if people were interested in seeing more of a character I’d neglected or something, I had the power to make it show up. How gratifying.

Likewise, catering to a specific audience brings with it inside jokes, a bubble of fame, imaginary fortune… Silly, but I liked sharing back then. I’m way more hesitant now. I cringe a little bit even when I share WIP snippets on this blog.

For one thing, I don’t like the idea of people stealing my stuff. Which they totally could do, because this is the internet. And maybe it is a little bit of an overreaction to care when I’m just sharing 300 words on here, but uploading an entire work? Everybody knows how to copy-paste. That’s why I mostly stuck to fan fiction in public places—those weren’t wholly original ideas, so nobody could properly steal it anyway.

Posting stuff online is not the greatest way to earn respect. Obviously, there’s value in building a platform, but Figment, WattPad, FictionPress? The first thing that pops into my head is teenage girls who exploit their readers with emotional plotlines and subpar writing skills. Which is fine, of course. I was one of those girls, and if I hadn’t had that stage in my life, then I wouldn’t be here. But doing that would feel like a step backward—at the very least, I’d lose respect for myself.

It would feel wasteful. If I’m posting something online, I think it’s good enough to share with the world. But if I published something online, it would rule out publishing it for money—traditional or indie—because why would people pay for something they can read for free? For that to work, I’d need to post something I’d feel sure is not worth selling. But then, why would I put it where others could read it if it were such low quality? I get kinda stuck.

In the end, I’m just like Rebel Wilson’s crystal meth GIF. Mmm, better not. It’s fun to post things online, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with unless it’s fan fiction or too short to copy. But hey, just because it’s not something I’d ever do doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the idea, if only for a while.

Do you post your writing online? Why or why not?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursentary: Yay! Bad Things Happen Here!

In what was probably a predictable turn of events, Supernatural went right ahead and stole my heart. Sure, I've only seen two seasons. And also one episode of probably season four that I watched at the gym yesterday. It is my show, mortals.

There's a lot to say about Supernatural, like how Dean is my favorite character and I am so excited to find out what happens next and I think that one time when Sam didn't say "jerk" back was a downright tragedy, but there's something beyond the emotional manipulation that really attracts me to the show.

It is the road trip.

Specifically, it is the road trip across the western U.S., throughout which the Winchester brothers handle each and every challenge that comes to them. Mostly. At any rate, I am enamored with the setting they chose.

Specifically, I love that two of the episodes have taken place in my home state:

"Wendigo," S1xE2: There are campers in Colorado and they get killed and eaten! Yay! (Although it is pronounced CU Boulder, dur.)
"Dead Man's Blood," S1xE20: There are people in Colorado and vampires find them and kill them and eat them! Yay!


I mean, maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal. And if it is a deal at all, then perhaps the prudent thing would be to express concern that my home state houses mythical creatures who like to murder human beings and devour them. I mean, I don't really want to get eaten.

At the same time, I like it because it is my experience. My experience is not that of what feels like most American movies—I do not live in New York or Los Angeles or the east coast or Vegas or any of the other places that basically sum up America. (Which isn't an entirely fair assessment; I'm sure there are a lot of people who live in those cities who still feel like it's a poor representation of what life is like in the city either because it isn't that romantic or because not everybody is a white straight rich person. The point is, movie settings alienate us sometimes.)

But I get Supernatural. I have memories of the dinky motels and the mini-fridges, memories of cabins in the woods, of camping. I know that my state is just the backdrop—the general area where I've vacationed is just the backdrop—but I live in it, and I like to recognize it.

It's nice, you know? To have the place where significant battles are fought be a couple hours' drive from your house. Places like New York and Chicago are important because a lot of people live there and everyone knows about them. There's a lot of wealth. A lot of everything. And that isn't to say Sam and Dean never go there, because they do. But at the same time, they have plenty of valid reasons to be on the backroads of the west, fighting against evil simply because it is what they do.

Setting, like so many other things, isn't just a superficial piece of the story. Attempting to write racially diverse characters without considering their cultural and historical backgrounds would prove hollow. A plot lacking nuance is what makes us drop our stars. Likewise, a setting doesn't work unless it means something to both the characters and the audience.

To the characters, the west is an untamed land. The small-town vibe, community. The need to own up to one another. Sacrifice. Riding an Impala into the sunset. It's almost like Sam and Dean are cowboys, in some ways, righteous gunslingers who fight off the villains with all they have.

And to me, I just like it because it's the America I know. Talk to me about mini-fridges, car maintenance, the hot sun. It's just nice. And it's just different.

Thank God bad things happen here.

Do you feel any special affection for stories that take place in your area?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why I'm Definitely Not #TeamIronMan

As one might expect, Captain America: Civil War provoked many feelings and a discussion of morality and religion and heroism with my best friend after the fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one question worth asking:


#TeamCap or #TeamIronMan? 

Let me tell you. #TEAMCAP. END OF STORY. Though it might make more sense to write a post about why I was #TeamCap in the first place, it seemed more pertinent to write about why being #TeamIronMan never occurred to me.

Before we go further, let me assure you that this commentary is meant to be as spoiler-free as possible. There are a few details revealed, but I feel like you could get the picture by watching the Civil War trailer. And if you don’t want to do that, the premise is this:

The Avengers have to account for their collateral damage. Tony Stark supports the Sokovia Accords, which would make the Avengers the UN’s responsibility. Though Cap respects his fellow heroes, he doesn’t stand for the imposition on his freedom and becomes a fugitive as he searches for his best friend.

(For a more review-y review of Civil War, check out Aimee’s review at To The Barricade! ‘Tis muy good.)

I know that #TeamIronMan sounds good on paper. It’s true—people die when the Avengers show up. Their almost arbitrary decisions as to who to fight as a vigilante group are downright criminal. With UN-sanctioned objectives, it’s likely that some death would be prevented, or at least be more acceptable by social standards.

I GET IT. Sounds nice. But the plan leaned on Tony Stark, a lot, which is bad. His thoughts were dangerously flawed. See, look:


Displacement of Guilt

Tony can hold his liquor, but not his guilt. His exposition in the film expresses like, three different things he’s feeling guilty about at the time. Sort of like in the Iron Man movies. At any rate, a primary concern for Tony as a hero is that he cannot trust himself. He looks back and sees that he has done wrong.

That said, the Accords would be a HUGE benefit to Tony: without the power to make decisions, he would feel no consequential guilt. His actions would no longer be on him.

I understand that is a big statement to make, so let me give some context. In the sixties, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram asked himself, “Can we hold Nazi soldiers accountable in the death camps, or were they just following orders?” He wanted to know if just anybody could have executed millions of Jews were they acting on orders. I’d read up on the experiment more, but in summary the subjects were asked to give progressively more intense shocks to a “student” whenever they answered quiz questions incorrectly. By the end 65% of the subjects ended up administering fatal shocks—that, at the time, they believed to be quite real. And why? Because the researchers themselves would be responsible for the deaths. Though subjects were visibly uncomfortable with the idea, they would go all the way. I think Tony could, too.

Granted, this was an unethical experiment and thus not subject to follow-up experiments. We can’t use this to make blanket statements about humanity, it isn’t definitive proof. But still. Over half the subjects administered fatal shocks, reassured by their lack of responsibility.

The Accords are those assurances. It is the UN that holds responsibility. Tony, poor guilty Tony, stops being accountable for his actions. I think that would mean a lot to him even if it only eased some of his burden. An unforeseen consequence of the Accords such as this one kept me on Cap’s side of the line. Cap acknowledges that the death is bad, it hurts, but too much distance from it would make their work impersonal. Death would mean less. I don’t accept that.


Dehumanization of Supers

Cap points out that politicians have agendas. Duh, that is the point of politicians. But he has a point in that agendas, not people, make decisions—which continues along the thread of impersonal decision making. The movie grounds that idea when we juxtapose how Cap and Vision (Team Iron Man) approach Wanda.

Wanda is responsible for death. People are afraid of her for that reason. When Vision approaches Wanda, he tries to distract her from that fact. He tries to encourage and nurture her, lighten it up, for as long as possible. He imprisons her because she isn’t human enough for anyone but a non-human. I mean, he’s an android informed by his time spent as J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony’s AI. He’s practically a walking agenda.

And, as the end of that scene reveals, Vision’s comfort is indeed superficial.

Cap approaches Wanda and he acknowledges the darkness. He approaches as a human man, a fellow sinner. He has killed. He has his regrets, his shame. But as bad as things are, he doesn’t leave room to think she is any better or worse than the rest of them. If Wanda is a monster, then Cap is too. Cap can’t solve Wanda’s problems but he can acknowledge them and stand with her as they unfold to their conclusion.

Vision acted like Wanda’s actions alienated her from the rest of the world. He wanted to comfort her because she was separate. Cap sat with her because her actions joined her to the world. He’d been making hard decisions since the forties. The only way they can handle it is, of course, together.

Do I oppose Tony because he rubs me the wrong way? Yeah, yeah. And am I ignoring some of the many benefits to be reaped by such legislation? That too. But in the end, the Accords don’t really promise anything more than a new hierarchy of responsibility. Freedom from guilt.

I stand with Steve because his freedom represents a recognition of the individual. It represents the personal side of the decisions we make. It represents people—the ones who live and the ones who die. It’s dirty. I still like it better than the alternative.

Have you seen Captain America: Civil War yet?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Freedom to Write as Granted by Sherlock Holmes

Three things occupy my heart this summer: Elementary, Supernatural, and #ReadWomen.

I get a little sadder as I approach the end of Elementary episodes available at the library because it is, by far, my favorite rendition of Sherlock Holmes. Ever. Also I love murder mysteries. Plus it is great.

I want to talk about one of the subplots “Rip Off” (S3xE5). Sherlock discovers a document in the trash of Watson’s old computer: a book about him. Despite its unread fate in the garbage, Sherlock feels violated and insists his new protégé, Kitty, to sign a non-disclosure agreement so she will have no power to write about what they do together. The book’s contents plague Sherlock until the episode’s end, when he relents:

“You weren’t entirely wrong about Watson. She does have the right to tell her own stories. I may have felt some mild trepidation about subjecting myself to her full appraisal. Almost imperceptibly mild. Anyway, um, I’ve decided that this nondisclosure agreement was made in error. I want you to feel free to um, produce your own memoirs. Should you feel the need.”
“I’m not much of a writer.”
“Well, let me know if that changes. Who knows? If you do write a book, someone might be interested to read it.” 
–Sherlock and Kitty, Elementary, “Rip Off”

This is a big change for Sherlock. Though he fears receiving the judgment of those he respects and loves, he acknowledges that he has no authority to stop those people from telling their stories. The stories don’t belong to him—he has no right to impede their production.

Still, that should be a given. I’m impressed by his second line, “let me know if that changes.” It’s a simple line, but it’s a significant invitation: for Kitty to share her work when she’s ready. Sherlock never reads Watson’s book because its location on the computer signaled to him that she never meant for it to be read. Likewise, he assures Kitty that while he takes interest in her thoughts, he won’t pursue them without her consent. This, coming from a man who is notorious for invading the privacy of others, demonstrates a personal change and goodwill absent from his former self.

I appreciate that. So much.

I’ll admit to my frustrations because a) in general, no one should need permission to write their own stories and b) no one should have to be afraid that someone will invade their writing space uninvited. I believe in those statements quite firmly.

Behind my frustration though, I love Sherlock. He said nice words, and they were nice because mentors so rarely say them. Sherlock essentially gives Kitty his blessing to write bad about him without interference, if she wants. He won’t pry. He won’t resist. And who else gives that kind of permission?

School notebooks are out. Depending on what you write about I believe it is within a teacher’s rights if not their obligation to report it. If Little Timmy writes a poem about the brutal massacre of Little Sally’s family then Little Timmy’s counselor and parents will hear about it. Grades corrode freedom, in that regard.

Obviously, the Internet is out. Work is probably out. Family might be in, but then there’s that fear. I don’t know about you guys, but I keep journals. Diaries. Personal thoughts about my life, some of which could hurt those who are close to me. I am not sorry—writing bad about other people is one of the best ways to feel better. Gets it out of the system. I can move on. Yet as much as that writing is cathartic for me, I get why kids write “PRIVATE” and “KEEP OUT” on the front pages of their journals and why the idea still tempts me.

My diary isn’t meant to be read or shared. Whether it’s nice or not, it’s mine. As long as I am the only one who reads my writing, I myself am the only person I have to own up to for saying such things.

I don’t want my writing to be found. In its time, it may be suitable for sharing, but that should be a gesture from me, not an obligation and certainly not an invasion. That sort of betrayal is not beyond forgiveness or acceptance, but it can lead to censoring oneself. Some thoughts will never mark the pages because, for now, only my brain is guaranteed my own.

Ah, freedom. How it stings.

Kudos to Sherlock. I think he’d know what I mean. And I think he’d also be glad to have offered a little hope—the expectation that something can be better. He teaches more than he knows.

What does the freedom to write mean to you?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

#RW Update 2 and Reading in Spanish

I am reading…

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
La Casa de Los Espíritus by Isabel Allende
5/30 books finished

via Goodreads
As evidenced by the list above, I’m reading La Casa de Los Espíritus. It is a book in Spanish that I got for being a good Spanish student my senior year of high school. Since it is summer and I could use the opportunity to stimulate my brain, I am reading it now as “homework.”

Just because I am doing this, though, doesn’t mean it comes easily to me. As far as my language skills go, I think I’m okay, but I’m by no means fluent. I have a long ways to go. Sometimes reading in Spanish is downright tricky. My brain likes to wander when it isn’t engaged or if it feels bombarded by loads of text that it doesn’t understand. Thus, textbooks and foreign language reading is often tedious and empty for me.

To keep up my reading and stay focused this summer, I’m doing a couple things to understand what I read and enjoy the experience.

I pace myself. I read in fifteen-page sprints with a short break in between each section, so I’m not overloaded by my text.

I reflect afterwards. After each sprint I open a notebook and write notes (in Spanish) of what I’ve just read. Sometimes I add my personal reactions if something struck me. CDLE is kind of a biography of fictional people, though, so sometimes a summary makes more sense than emotional attachment.

I read in an environment where I’ll focus more. My original plan was to read fifteen pages of CDLE every day, which turned out to be a miserable idea. I got bored and distracted very fast and it didn’t work. Instead, I read at work. Since business is slower for the summer, I read in an environment where normally my brain would do nothing. Now I am occupied.

I don’t get concerned about what I don’t understand. I remember posters when I was in second grade… tricks to use when you come to words you don’t know. Through inference or delay you could come to understand meaning without a dictionary. I try to do the same in Spanish because if I focus on the details, my quest will never succeed.

I commit to it. Though I don’t read every day, I do read every day I’m at work. I try to fit thirty pages into every shift, and so far, that’s gotten me just under halfway through the book. Taking a big project in small steps gets the job done.

As odd as the actual story is in this book, I’m enjoying the assignment I’ve given myself! I look forward to finishing it and finally being able to put it on my shelf!

Are you fluent in or a student of any other languages? What do you do when you want to read in that language?

Friday, May 20, 2016

WBI: Scar

Today we’re talking about Scar from The Lion King. BE PREPARED.

Upon the birth of his brother’s heir, Scar’s dreams of ruling the Pridelands slip through his claws—but he’s not ready to give up. He murders his brother and nephew to secure the throne he longs for… That is, until his nephew returns to claim his throne.

WBI Profile

Classification :: A02378#*&@
Role :: Alpha (king seeking legacy)
Motivations :: chaos (disrupting the circle of life), idealism (his authority as highest law), personal/material gain (kingship, legacy), power/influence (control of the Pridelands)
Bonus :: minions (hyenas), lair (elephant graveyard/Pride Rock), family ties (Mufasa, Simba), name (Scar/Taka)


His Significance To…

Mufasa—talk about a tense relationship. Scar wants to be king; he can’t be because of Mufasa. Though Mufasa takes precautions around his brother, he doesn’t suspect Scar of malicious behavior towards Simba. This is Scar’s key to take him down.

Simba—Simba doesn’t mistrust Scar, either. Because of his innocence he truly trusts Scar to care for him, be honest, and give him good advice. In fact, until the final scene I think Simba sees Scar merely as an unfit ruler in a kingdom that doesn’t belong to him anyway. It’s Scar’s confession that reveals his treachery as a murderer.

Nala—Simba’s former playmate grows up to be a strong and beautiful lioness. The only thing Mufasa had that Scar doesn’t is an heir, so he attempts to seduce her to promote his legacy. Nala is unwilling and leaves the Pridelands.

Rafiki—they don’t have a relationship. This matters because Rafiki’s relationships with Mufasa and Simba are crucial. Rafiki’s wisdom isn’t just her own but that of former rulers! But Scar seeks no counsel. He does not remember the kings of the past. He rules alone.

Hyenas—though they aren’t smart or strong, they are many. They are Scar’s convenient henchman; however, they become his downfall when he denounces them to Simba and they overwhelm him.

Lionesses—where the hyenas are brute force, the lionesses are a slave force. Scar forces them to overhunt the land. Scar has the land he wants, but it within years it is dead and barren.

Pridelanders—Scar is a dangerous king to every other creature in the Pridelands. Where Mufasa ruled a land where animals lived and died more harmoniously, Scar murders everything for his own gain. Those who can escape. The rest die.


Significant Actions

Killing the King—MUFASA DIES OKAY? You cannot discuss Scar but ignore this fact. Scar wants to be king, so he kills the king. Problem solved.

“Killing” Simba—Scar leaves Simba to be dealt with by the hyenas, meaning that no other lion has a claim to the throne and his rule is secure.

Breaking the Circle of Life—this is Simba’s movie, so we don’t see Scar’s rule, only its aftermath. We know that a) he overhunted the land, b) there’s a drought (symbolic weather=still his fault), c) all other creatures left, and d) everyone’s hungry so nobody likes him. Ultimately, Scar’s legacy—a word that should connote life and lastingness—is just one of death and ending. Way to go, buddy.


Big Idea

retellings—as it’s often said, The Lion King is more or less Hamlet with animals. And a happily ever after. We could also consider the relationship between Scar and Mufasa that of Loki and Thor in The Avengers. Or Cain and Abel from the Bible. Let’s not get started on the romance. Retellings use the same character types and storylines, but because of our creativity it’s something new and different. Ish.

cowardice—I want to say this because we don’t always say it. Scar is endearingly sarcastic. He’s smart, funny, and sings one of the best villain songs out there. But Scar is a coward. He backs down the moment he senses defeat. He lays blame on the hyenas instead of owning up to his evil. He says and does anything to avoid conflict and circle back for another opportunity. It’s a tactic that keeps him alive, but alive villains and successful villains are two different things. And a successful Alpha, of all villains, doesn’t abandon his legacy. Ever.

balance—and because of the Circle of Life, good and evil here directly correlate with balance and imbalance in the Pridelands’ ecosystem. Death isn’t inherently evil in this story, but its excess is. Scar asks for an excess of food and control, so the land dies. That he never recognizes and changes his ways makes him such a crippling force, a true villain. His imbalance reigns.

With that last note on balance said, let me point out that Scar isn’t the only culprit of perpetrating imbalance in the Pridelands. The other figure is Simba himself. He is the opposite: he asks for a deficient compensation from the land. He escapes the promise of justice. He leaves forever. He lets the Pridelands rot. And though by the end he returns a king, I simply ask that you think about what other roles Simba might play in this movie as well…

YES, we are going to finish with “Be Prepared.” It is intentionally Hitler-y and green, so treat yourself:

Have you seen The Lion King? What are your thoughts on Scar? (And, for that matter, do you consider Simba villainous for his negligence, too?)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

So You're Going to the Theater

Going to see theatrical productions is among the greatest funs out there! Plays, musicals, whatever—TOTAL AWESOME. Alas, not everyone is so enthusiastic in their theater-going experiences, and so as a quick PSA for other amateurs like myself, here are a few things worth knowing.

Flickr Credit: Ian

What are you going to see?

(many definitions are informed by Wikipedia, which are linked by each definition)

(straight) play—plays are literature meant to be performed. There are lots of different kinds and styles; in general they refer to the non-musical variety. Also, since they are literature, you usually study a few in school!

My Favorites: Othello by William Shakespeare, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Wit by Margaret Edson

musical—these plays incorporate music, dancing, singing, etcetera into the story. These are the things I go the most often to see and talk the most about on here.

My Favorites: Fiddler on the Roof, Legally Blonde, The Lion King (and fifty others)

operetta—these are “little operas” that maintain the style of operas but are shorter and less serious. As Wikipedia puts it, musicals are plays with singing and dancing, and operettas are operas with more acting.

My Favorites: Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan, anyone?)

opera—operas are another theatrical musical performance that is performed by performers and musicians. Not actors who can sing, but singers who can act. Everything is sung—dialogue (“recitations”) and the arias.

My Favorites: I’m not much into operas, but I’ll say Carmen because it was in Aristocats. Mozart’s Don Giovanni is famous, though.

These are, of course, blanket terms. Les Misérables and Hamilton, for example, are sung-through musicals—like an operetta, but not funny enough. That detail doesn’t define anything. Likewise, there can be overlap. Phantom of the Opera is a musical but opera pieces are performed because Christine is an opera singer.

symphony—these are just long musical pieces that orchestras play. Though they’re often associated with stories, all of that is left to the music, and there aren’t any actual performances.

concert—a concert is any live music performance in front of an audience. A symphony is a kind of concert, but if you went to see a Beatles concert that would not be a symphony. Also worth noting is that sometimes musicals are performed in concert, which means that performers will sing the songs but leave out all the acting. You can see examples of this for Les Mis’s 10th anniversary concert and also Chess on Youtube.


Helpful Hints Compiled by My Own Experiences

Come early. Sure, getting there a while before it starts can be tedious, but if you take a later train or get delayed by traffic, it can cost. In the places I’ve been, they often don’t let people in once the production has started.

Stop talking once the overture starts playing. The music is just as much a part of the performance as the dialogue and singing, so finish up and shut up. (*pent-up anger directed towards the perpetrators of this crime somewhat dissipates*)

Don’t sing along unless you’re invited by the performers.

Do your research before going to a musical. A group of adults heading to a musical they’ve never seen before is one thing; it is another to tote small children to Sweeney Todd or Spring Awakening. Musicals aren’t always cutesy tootsy.

Don’t flip out if you don’t like what the research reveals. Musicals deal with tough themes and sometimes are graphic or crass or tough. It’s okay if you don’t like that, but also nobody likes other people policing their entertainment.

Buy your musical merch used. I’ve found three or four musical shirts at thrift stores for only a couple bucks when they are like $35 bought on-site.

The bathroom is a great place to become a leader. The lines are guaranteed to be long, so if you step out and point out open stalls if they aren’t easily visible, you are a hero.

The box seats are the perfect place to play I-Spy if you ever get bored. One time my sister and I got confused because we were looking at two different old white guys in cowboy hats and Hawaiian shirts. Fun stuff.

Finally, don’t take pictures or video during the performance. I think it’s hard because we’re so used to getting whatever we want and souvenirs from our experiences. But it is distracting for the actors and illegal and sort of disrespectful of the spirit of the work. Resist the urge. Turn off your phone. It’ll be there for intermission.

Okay, mortals. The more you know.

What productions have you gone to see? And, what are your pet peeves at the theater?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why Other People's Fandoms Matter (Even If You Aren't In Them)

So today we’re going to be talking about Berkshire Hathaway.

For the uninitiated, Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate (group of corporations) that owns and invests in a lot of businesses. You may think you’ve never heard of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) but if you’ve ever seen a BNSF train, eaten at a Dairy Queen, buy car insurance from GEICO, or get Duracell batteries, then you sure have. And if not, then try  Wal-Mart, AT&T, UPS, Visa, or Coca-Cola. BRK invests in them, too.

You may be like, “Heather, you are using a lot of words to say something you never talk about for a reason. Why are we discussing this?”

Well, because at the end of last month I actually went to the 51st BRK annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska (don’t be jealous because your dad doesn’t take you cool places).

Though it was essentially a big business meeting with a trade show, the BRK meeting was just Comic Con for people in the BRK fandom. You could buy overpriced goods of all kinds! Food, kitchenware, chocolate, encyclopedias… There was a moving trade, big models of airplanes, and a house—yes, a house. After the merchandise, though, there was the most interesting part: the panel. Just like at Comic Con, they get the big names to sit down and answer the questions that matter to the fans.

Of course, at Comic Con you get people like Tom Hiddleston and Jensen Ackles whereas at the BRK meeting we got Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

Listening to the panel interested me. Though I’m not a BRK investor, I realized that it’s really important to care about other people’s fandoms, even if we’re not in them. See,

Fandoms have influence. People are looking at Marvel right now because they’ve neglected the Asian representation in their movies. It’s a social issue many people care about. Likewise, BRK has an economic influence that pushes into the social realm. They have a say in how you eat, live, learn, insure, play… It’s a company that has a say in people’s lives whether they realize it or not.

(BTW: BRK is a multi-national company so you aren’t exempt just because you don’t live in the States.) 

Fandoms are personal. We can all name a book or movie that literally changed our lives. BRK can change my life, too, or at least matter to it. My dad’s work’s main client is a BRK company. I can’t walk into a restaurant and fail to find Coca-Cola products. We’ve shopped at Wal-Mart. I buy ice cream from Dairy Queen. They ship my Amazon orders. BRK lives in the background of my life, and though I can ignore it, it matters to how I live.

Fandoms speak to norms. Art has the power to change the way things are. Just look at a show like Star Trek, that offered a place to explore diversity in our world by watching theirs. They even had one of the first interracial kisses on TV. The places we put our money (and companies put theirs) also have powerful effects. BRK invests a lot in Coca-Cola and it is Warren Buffett’s favorite drink, so someone asked about the morality of investing in the company. Whatever Buffett’s personal experiences with the drink, sugary drinks can kill people. And as long as people are willing to put their money in coke, it looks like it will stay.

No matter who we are, fandoms represent the part of our lives that receive our enthusiasm and support, and return enthusiasm and support to us in their own way. We watch TV, we buy food, we invest in companies, we buy tools… Something always matters to us.

And, you know, some things matter even if we don’t care. The CEOs of BRK’s companies are mostly old white guys (with some white ladies sprinkled in there), and they hold the power over some of the things in my life. That’s why I should pay attention to the BRK fandom even though I’m not in it.

That’s why I should pay attention to a lot of other fandoms out there even though I’m not in them. Just because I don’t watch the show doesn’t mean it won’t change me.

You’re welcome.

Do you care about any fandoms you don’t participate in?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ten Tweeps You Should Follow

HEY, are you on Twitter? After spending such a long time thinking Twitter is pointless, it turns out I was wrong. TWITTER IS THE PLACE TO BE, MEIN FRIENDS.

But, of course, Twitter is no fun when you don’t have anyone cool to follow. And that is why if you are new to Twitter or just not friends with my rocks, I have compiled a list of ten people you should absolutely definitely follow, because they are interesting and great. Here, see?

1. Cait (@PaperFury) I love her tweets because they are bookish and usually funny and usually clever which makes them amusing and retweetable. That is all I ask for.

2. Chapter One Young Writers’ Conference (@Ch1Con) This gaggle of writers hosts a really fun chat about being a writer, and it is ALWAYS fun! I wish I could go to the actual event, but I cannot. Still, Twitter makes amends for all.

3. Michael Waters (@ABoredAuthor) If you’ve been around here for a really, really long time, you might remember that Michael used to host the TCWT Blog Chains! He doesn’t anymore, but he is funny and a really good writer and host of YA Open Mic. I highly enjoy his tweets, always.

4. Alyssa Carlier (@AlyssaC_HK) Alyssa knows all the cool people. Usually I watch in introverted awe as I see her side of a bunch of Twitter chats and stuff, but also the links and personal updates she shares are cool, too.

5. Ava Jae (@Ava_Jae) It may or may not be obvious that I highly enjoy Ava as a blogger, but I also like her tweets. They are often informational or writer-y, and I appreciate both of those things.

6. Imogen Elvis (@ImogenElvis) Imogen, also a great blogger, is also a college student person. This means that she has great writer ideas but also we share feelings sometimes because of SCHOOL. Blah.

7. We Need Diverse Books (@diversebooks) This is not a person I know personally, but rather a group that focuses on promoting marginalized characters in literature and it is a great way for me to find people who have important things to say.

8. Keira Drake (@keira_writes) She’s a writer but she’s also like, super relatable and geeky and I enjoy her tweets even though she is also kind of a stranger to me.

9. Brett Jonas (@BookSquirt) Brett is very relatable as a writer person. The tweet below is evidence of that. But also she has other interesting things to say about goats and life.

10. Aimee Meester (@theAimeeMeester) I feel like I never see Aimee’s tweets but when I hunt them down they are brilliant. She is also bookish, humorous, and geeky, and there is Hamilton sometimes. Really, a great person (even if she was #TeamIronMan).

THERE. It’s like a build-your-own-list-of-cool-people thing. So, go forth, peoples. Follow, follow, follow. HEY IT’S FRIDAY I EVEN PICKED THE RIGHT DAY TO DO THIS! *sagely nods*

Who are your favorite amazing Twitter people I should follow? (And if I haven’t followed YOU, just let me know in the comments or on Twitter—my handle is @HeroineHiding.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Totally Should've Book Tag

Well, mortals? Back into the fray. Today’s tag comes from Alexa of Summer Snowflakes—the Totally Should’ve Book Tag! There were no rules, but that’s okay. I’m responsible enough to tag people on my own.

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Gotten a Sequel

Why are we so immersed in sequel culture? Are we so greedy we can’t accept standalones? What has happened to modern decency?!

Fine. Beyond the Red by Ava Jae because those villains deserve more screen time.

Totally Should’ve Gotten a Spin-Off Series

Sequel culture—we meet again! Blah. Though I don’t always mind if books take place in the same universe (e.g. Six of Crows and the Grisha Trilogy) too many times they end up horrifying me.

I do not wish this fate upon any upstanding book.

This Author Should Totally Write More Books

Um… I’m going to say Ava Jae again because she only has one book. Everyone else has books I could read, but I don’t.

via Goodreads

A Character Who Totally Should’ve Ended Up with Someone Else

Leah Clearwater from The Twilight Saga. I interpreted her character to be bisexual, and rather than leaving her in agony, she should have found a girlfriend and inner peace.

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Ended Differently

Winter by Marissa Meyer. I’m not saying it was a BAD ending, but I felt like it was… unsatisfying. It just didn’t suit the ideas the series had been building up to. Here’s what I think should have happened (and no spoilers, because this didn’t happen):

The dynamic ocho (nueve?) overthrows Queen Levana and she gets eaten by animals in her zoo or something. Levana’s fate is not important. Everyone is like, “Cinder should be queen!” but she is like, “No, I am a mechanic!” and then Emperor Kai is like, “Behold! A compromise!” Rather than making Cinder Luna’s queen, Princess Winter—who already holds the hearts and hands of her people—takes the throne instead. She also gets one of those fun anti-hallucination devices implanted in her back. As a strong leader well-acquainted with her culture, Winter appoints Cinder as an ambassador between Luna and Earth. This represents their continued friendship, and works better because Cinder grew up with an Earthen identity. Cinder then returns to Earth as girlfriend of the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth and does her own small part to create a more just and righteous relationship between Luna and Earth. Thorne and Cress live happily ever after. The end.
(To clarify: It isn’t that Thorne and Cress have a bad ending in the actual book. In the event that my version came true, it would just be important that it happened.)

Totally Should’ve Had a Movie Franchise

In general, bookworms would make really bad movie producers. Don’t worry, I won’t add myself to that mix.

Totally Should’ve Had a TV Show

If this tag demonstrates its poor judgment one more time…

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Had Only One POV

I have to admit Heroes of Olympus’ multi-POV was a turnoff for me. Percy Jackson was the dream and that’s where it stops.

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Had a Cover Change

Okay, I realize there has been a cover change, but I have no idea how they got away with the original Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I like the front, but the spine! WHY?

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Stopped at Book One

I feel bad saying this because I liked 80% of the series, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It was good writing with good characters, but the ultimate plot felt so clumsy… I should have just accepted the tragic romance and the sad ending.

via Goodreads

Totally Should’ve Stopped Reading

Matched by Allie Condie. I kept thinking it was going to get better and it didn’t. It never did. And I put all my high hopes into that one...

via Goodreads

Totally Shouldn’t Have Predjudiced 

Lately my books have been falling to my low expectations, which is average. Perhaps a good one to use is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I reread it after four years, and I assumed I would like it less because I’m older and have a different point of view than I did as a naive fourteen year old. Turns out I still like it quite a bit!

Okay, me, the responsible tagger: Grace, Opal, Sunny, and Emily—you’re up!

The drill, the drill: pick two of the above and tell me what your answers would be!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Snazz My Snippets

It’s that time again—Snazzy Snippets! This is a linkup hosted by Emily at Loony Literate and Alyssa at The Devil Orders Takeout. It is fun. Well, some of the time it is fun. Other times you just wonder why you posted your ridiculous words on the Internet.


I did not participate in Camp NaNo, but I am still writing, so I have a few snippets to share with you today from my newly active WIP. If you're friends with me on MyWriteClub, you’ve seen me sporadically update this project: IPOM Draft IV.

The current working (and very silly) title is I Piss on Magic. It is about a girl person named Minty who accidentally murders the heir to the throne. And by murder I mean she makes him very sick. With the help of a bunch of people who don’t really like her, she sets out to find a way to cure the prince and gets involved with a war and fairy aliens.

Very exciting stuff. I’ve talked about this WIP before here, here, and here.

3. A snippet you plan to delete/significantly revise

Some girls would probably sew. Why not? It was the sewing parlor. Shafts of mid-morning sunlight pinned bolts of cloth up to the walls for my approval, shrouds in every rainbow color. If I tried, I bet I could find a needle and thread somewhere amidst the merchandise. If I were one of those girls, that is.

[I think these are the dumbest opening lines I’ve ever written but I’m pretending they don’t exist because I can’t think of anything better.]

1. A snippet that was difficult to write (define 'difficult' as you like!)

“Back off,” he snarled. 
“Make me,” I hissed back. And that was when I reached for my power. I reached for the most disgusting thing that was near me, the most disgusting, vile, terrible, horrible, decrepit thing that I could hold onto and that was alive and I took it into me. It was gray, soft and gray, like the sheen of the water on a wet day. It wriggled in my senses like a worm, and the very feel of it made me feel dirty and unclean. It was perfect. 
Around me, I could hear my parents cry out my names. Violette was beside me, but Reverie pulled her away from me, far away—was it me they feared? Perhaps they weren’t wrong to be afraid. I took that filthy mist in my power and I thrust it towards Silverhand, pushed it towards his face and nose and eyes so that he would suffer and he would know that I was not a girl to be messed with. 
I had it in my hands… and then my grip slipped. It was painful, like the edge of a book returning to a new paper cut, and then there was nowhere else for it to go. I had it in my hands, and then it changed directions.
“No!” I cried out, already aware of the act I’d put into motion. I knew what it was that would happen and where it was going to go. There was no stopping it, no warning.
There was only Prince Lucas’s wide eyes as the gray mist that I had summoned, the vile plague I had meant for his lieutenant, slammed into his body and entered through every means it could find.

[This is hard because it’s something of an inciting incident, or at least really important, so it should be fast-paced and dramatic. And it isn’t.]

So, there you go. Proof that I have plenty of editing before me—but don’t worry, I have lots of time ahead of me.

What are you writing today?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

#RW Update 1 and Thoughts on Harper Lee's Courthouse

I am reading…
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende

via Goodreads
KABOOM—behold, the first #ReadWomen update of the summer! As it has only been a couple of days I haven’t finished any books yet. Instead, I’ll talk about a book I love from my pre-summer exploits: To Kill a Mockingbird.

I assumed that because I was younger when I first read it, my return to To Kill a Mockingbird would be somewhat disappointing. I was wrong. Atticus remains my main man, and though there’s humor, its perspective of racial injustice is poignant and intense.

The storyline follows young Scout Finch as she witnesses her father’s defense of a black man during a rape trial in a court where the white men always win. They don’t have a prayer, but Scout’s father Atticus does his darndest to defend Tom Robinson anyway. The courthouse scene where Atticus defends Robinson from the racist allegations made me profoundly uncomfortable—but not because of the racism. Rather, it is because it is Atticus himself who promotes injustice there. He builds his case by victim-blaming Mayella Ewell and pressing her with the responsibility of not being raped.

A quick disclaimer: Tom Robinson’s story is still the point. It is the point that the Ewells made false allegations against him simply because he was African American. It is the point that Robinson was made to take the fall for a white man. And it is the point that he was dead meat before he stepped foot in that courthouse. It’s the point that it was wrong, wrong, wrong.

But there was more injustice than that.

Read a few lines from To Kill a Mockingbird, directed towards Mayella during the trial. Gilmer is the lawyer who is defending her, and Atticus is the lawyer defending Tom Robinson.

“Did you scream? […] Did you scream and fight back?” –Gilmer, page 205

“You say you fought him off as hard as you could? Fought him off tooth and nail?” –Gilmer, page 206

“Is this the man who raped you?”
“It most certainly is.”
“How?” –Atticus and Mayella, page 211
[this dialogue refers to the fact that Tom Robinson is disabled due to an accident as a child; he does not have the use of his left arm. Atticus is suggesting that an able person could not be raped by a disabled person and thus Mayella must have given her consent if this scene happened (which he doesn’t think it did).]

“You’re becoming suddenly clear on this point. A while ago you couldn’t remember too well, could you?” –Atticus, page 212

“You’re a strong girl, what were you doing all the time, just standing there?” –Atticus, page 212

“All right, why didn’t you run?”
“I tried to…”
“Tried to? What kept you from it?” –Atticus, page 212

These are all examples of victim-blaming Mayella because they all put the responsibility of not being raped upon Mayella—this includes quotes from the lawyer taking her side of the case! These arguments challenge her resistance, the validity of her being overpowered, her truthfulness, and her attempts to escape.

In the end, they’re asking, “Can you prove that you acted like you didn’t want to be raped?”

Because, of course, had Mayella failed to resist—worse, if she had initiated the contact herself—then she would have been “asking for it.” In a sense, though everyone takes Mayella’s side, she has to prove that she earned the right to be defended in the court of law. (This is particularly sad because we now know that freezing is a natural response to rape.)

Personally, I don’t think Tom Robinson raped Mayella. I think he was a victim of a corrupt justice system that saw the color of his skin before the merit of his behavior, and that is terrible. But still—WHAT IF?

What if Mayella was raped? What if we’re asked to believe she made up the story because she was racist and abused by her father? What if that belief is wrong? Mayella wins her case in the story, yes, but she doesn’t win in the long run. What if Mayella’s rapist had been a white man? Could she have won? What’s more, what if Mayella wasn’t a young white girl? What if Mayella were black, too? No matter who her rapist was, would the crime even be brought to court? Would anybody think she “deserved” defense when her story didn’t merit defending?

Mayella ends up being a victim of this trial, too.

via Tumblr
And so many people remain victims today, too. Because those aren’t just “what-if’s.” Rape happened then and it happens now. People of all kinds are given the blame and responsibility for being raped. We still have trouble acknowledging that no means no regardless of the circumstances. We still have trouble defending the stories of people we don’t think ought to be defended. Prejudices towards race and gender make it possible for some people to ignore rape as the problem it is. But it is a problem; it isn’t what-if.

Again, I think this story means a lot when looking at Tom Robinson’s story. He suffered a lot because white people held their prejudice over justice. But we would be remiss as readers if we stopped there. There was injustice on both sides of the table in To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s just that that wasn’t the one that Atticus was fighting against.

Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thursentary: Let's Hear It For the Fictional Moms

Mother’s Day is on Sunday! In honor of that holiday, I am commending a few of my favorite literary mothers and their children. Because I can.
I Love You Until the End
Flickr Credit: Anne Marie Rowley
(You may remember that I did a Dinner Party with dads and daughters, but I won’t follow that model this time. I need more room, and also, I need more wiggle room.)

Anyway, these are some great fictional moms and their kids. I highly recommend their maternal influence upon you. Just sayin’.
via Goodreads
Baghra and the Darkling (The Grisha Trilogy)—it’s hard to discuss these two because of the spoilers in the series, but I think of these two as the embodiments of the distance between intention and realization. They may have meant for something else, but, oh, it didn’t happen. Also, I liked that Baghra was portrayed as a woman who wanted to be a mother, but didn’t necessarily want to be a wife or partner. That interested me, and made me admire her all the more for her strength and determination.

Frigga and Loki (and Thor) (MCU)—it is possible I spend too much time looking at Avengers fanart on Pinterest to make this a viable thought anywhere else, but I love these two. Unlike Baghra, Frigga is not the mom of an evil overlord. She is just a mom. She taught her son and she forgave her son, but she did not destroy her son or succumb to his ideas. Loki’s grief for her was fitting. He lost an exceptional woman.

via Goodreads
Evangeline and Artemis Fowl (and Miles and Beckett) (The Artemis Fowl Series)—from the beginning Artemis shares a special relationship with his mom. He sacrifices half of his goal for her sanity, not to mention some of his independence and autonomy. Just because he is a young supervillain doesn’t detract from his loyalty to his mother. On top of that, Evangeline is just awesome. She always has Artemis’s back, even when she finds out that he’s traipsing the world with mythological beings and placing himself in harm’s way every day. Also, she gets him to wear jeans. HA.

via Goodreads
Renee and Bella (The Twilight Saga)—Renee is wiser than Bella gives her credit for. It’s true that Bella is somewhat more mature than her mother, but her mother has a sense of humor and hope that gives her a childlike sense of honesty. She just is who she is. She understands Bella and Edward better than most out there, and I think that means a lot when Bella gave up spending time with her mom for her mother’s relationship. They gave for each other. It was lovely.

via Goodreads
Esme and Edward (and Rosalie and Emmett and Bella and Alice and Jasper) (The Twilight Saga)—Esme has the biggest heart. For one thing, she adopts each vampire on that long list I just typed out, but her heart also extends to werewolves and humans and others. She comes from a place of heavy burden and loves those who come with burdens like it. Like her husband, she holds an amazing capacity for forgiveness, as she extends to Edward when he scares her half to death in New Moon. She’s just nice.

Of course, such a Mother’s Day post would be incomplete without also giving a shout-out to my own mom, who cares for her four daughters with empathy and understanding that I don’t appreciate enough. Love ya, Mom!

Who are some of your favorite moms in fiction?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I Am Not Big on Digital Copies

kindle ad
Flickr Credit: Fredrik Rubensson
I’ve talked about eBooks before—namely, that we should not care whether other people prefer eBooks over paper copies or vice versa. I still hold to that: it doesn’t matter. I still enjoy my Kindle because it is convenient, fun, and enjoyable.

In the grander scheme of things though… I’m wary of digital copies. I am a reader of books and water of movies. I am familiar with things like Kindle, UltraViolet, and Netflix, who provide a cheaper way to experience the media on a screen . It is convenient. It works. I know this.

But they still make me nervous sometimes.

Subscription services like Netflix and Hulu frighten me foremost. These are the ones where you pay a certain dollar amount on a regular basis and in return, they give you access to television and movies. That bothers me because someone else could remove my access to things I like whenever they wanted. If Netflix loses its contract with Company XYZ, BOOM, my favorite movie is gone to me. If Hulu were to go out of business, that TV show I was watching is lost to me, too. I paid my money, but I didn’t necessarily get a say in that.

Maybe I don’t like it because it isn’t the same as owning things. If I own a physical DVD, nobody can stop me from watching it. It is mine, it is in my hands, and if I want to watch Firefly, Joss Whedon himself would have no right to come in my house and take it away from me. I have all the power in that relationship.

Of course, there is the option of owning digital copies of media forms. They are better, but still make me wary. I know that Amazon guarantees the transfer the books I’ve bought to a new device should my Kindle die, but what if something bigger were to happen? I know that of all the disasters about to befall planet Earth, this isn’t high on the list, but I’ve heard it’s a thing. At some point we may turn to a kind of Internet warfare where information and websites are devoured by malicious viruses and unable to be recovered. Maybe the Internet will die all together. Then everything on my Kindle or UltraViolet will be gone forever.

Paper books and DVDs should outlast that part of the apocalypse, anyway.

And I realize that in the event of the world ending I should probably prioritize many things higher than my ability to watch Finian’s Rainbow whenever I want, but even as the world ends I think I should be able to have some comforts in life.

In the end, digital copies bother me because they remove a degree of control from me and the thing that I own. Or am paying for. When I have a DVD, I can hold that sucker in my hands and it is my responsibility to keep it in good condition for its next use. Even if I check a book out from the library, I can still touch that thing with my fingers and see that it is there. The library cannot come to my house and take it away from me. I’m the one responsible for bringing it back.

Our world is becoming increasingly digital. That in itself is neither good nor bad; it just is. The impact it has on our property, though, is certainly a relevant question, even if I have no answers. Am I being selfish or wasteful having these fears? Am I clinging to the past?

I don’t know. Do you?

What are your opinions on digital ownership?

Monday, May 2, 2016

I Don't Care If You Wanted to Be a Writer as a Kid

Package from The Letter writers alliance
Flickr Credit: missus manukenkun
Maybe it’s because I spent the weekend in my grandpa’s house, maybe it’s because I respond to my big long list of pet peeves… Maybe it’s because I am judgmental, malevolent, and hypocritical, but whatever:

I hate when people act like the early age they started writing is important.

Seriously. My grandpa did this; he bragged that he wrote his first poem at age five and his mother saved it in his baby book. But I’ve seen plenty of people do this. They’re like, “I left the womb with words in my heart and a pen in my hand—I’ve been writing ever since! From my birth on I’ve been obsessed with words and art and stories and love and cotton candy and rainbows and unicorns! Yay!”

Wow, I didn’t know I was standing in the presence of a child prodigy. Let me kiss the dirt at your feet for a little while, and I’ll see whether I feel like singing your praises or standing in the awe of your presence after that.

Okay, okay. Usually the things people say are less definite and less weird. People often begin their writing lives between the ages of five and ten, when kids make headway in reading, writing, and grasping story concepts. Also, most people aren’t trying to shove it in your face; it’s just a point of pride. Even if they want to get extra writer points for having been one so long, it isn’t intended to be hurtful.

But I hate it anyway.

When people reference their days as a child writer, they act like it was a sign, a prophecy that writing was their one true path—their CALLING. Cue the choir of angels.

I’m sorry to rain on the mystical parade, but one single childhood activity doesn’t mean much to who you are for the rest of your life.

Yes. I bet some construction workers and architects played with building blocks as kids. I bet some paleontologists played with dinosaurs, and some businesspeople pretended to sell plastic fruit to their little brothers in fake kitchens. I bet some teachers played school with their dogs after coming home every day.

And yeah, there are writers who liked to write stories when they were little, too. Myself included.

I still have pieces of writing from when I was in kindergarten up through second grade. That isn’t much to brag about, though—every other kid in my class had the same assignments.

(NOOOO HEATHER!!! We were special because we wrote stuff without being encouraged by teachers or parents!!! We made writing our own!!! Uh-huh. Yeah, I forgot that stories prompted by outside influences or written for a specific audience don’t count. Silly me.)

I liked to write stories. So what? I liked playing with building blocks with my cousin on Christmas Eve, I love(d) playing house with plastic dinosaurs, I played house and kitchen and saleslady on my back porch, and my two younger sisters were my pupils on more than one occasion because, goshdarnit, I was going to teach them something.

Is it possible that my childhood writing led me to being the writer I am now? I guess. Was it a sign that I was meant for it more than construction work, architecture, paleontology, business, or teaching? Not at all.

I’m not a writer because I produced a Bob book as a youngling. Neither are you.

It says nothing about us as writers now. Whether you started at six or sixteen, it probably doesn’t matter. Unless you maintained the writing caprices of a six-year-old. That would be amusing.

It doesn’t say how long we’ve been working. Your skill as a writer boils down to how hard you’ve worked, how long you’ve worked that hard (go ahead and tell me you were bestselling novelist material at age six. Go ahead and tell me), and how long you’re going to do it. If you’re a teen writer, chances are you started showing that you might be good at this job as a teen, not when you were eight, because that’s when you committed to editing and revising.

It doesn’t make us better writers. It doesn’t. Some people started writing in high school, and there’s no need to act like you’re all that because you’ve been writing “six years” longer than them. And, for that matter, it doesn’t always show anything. I’ve read of people who started writing when they were maybe eleven or twelve and publish something by the time they’re eighteen—and they publish complete crap. Time alone does not quality make.

We enter the world as writers in phases. Our “baby writer” phases begin at different times and last different lengths, but really our writing identities matter because of who we are after that phase. If you’re a bad writer, justifying its quality with the age you started out isn’t going to help. That is all.

What do you think it takes to be a writer, other than factors of age?