Saturday, October 31, 2015

Freak: A Riddle Poem

Hint: There are two hidden meanings.
Happy Halloween, everybody! I don’t usually post random bits of poetry, but I recently wrote this and had to share it with you. It’s a riddle poem, so feel free to comment with your speculations of what the poem is about. The answer will be revealed Nov. 1. No cheating for those who’ve already heard it. Have a fantastic Saturday!


That’s what they call me.
That’s what I am. Freak of nature. Hours.
I spent hours working on it. I dove into the wind, freefalling
until I grabbed the first green mile marker, drawing my experiences along,
toiling, spinning, clawing. Isn’t it beautiful? The way silver catches the morning dew
and skewers it on a string? Perhaps you mayn’t consider my art so fine, for dragons and
monarchs both have succumbed to mummification at the work of eight appendages,
but bloodsuckers and creeps have met their doom at my work. Judge for yourself:
be you a victim, slapped in the face by my toils or an admirer from afar.
Either way, the silver is short lived, wrenched apart
in the wind, and tomorrow,
I’ll build another. 


Update *contains spoilers*:
This poem is about both a spider and a writer.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

7 Things No Writer Wants to Hear

Caution: High levels of sass. Read at your own peril!

Everybody has introductory questions they hate. You know the ones: in college it's “What’s your major?” and for nomads it’s “Where are you from?” The same goes for writers, though annoyance is not limited to first-time conversations. Below are some sure questions and statements to irritate your writer friends/acquaintances:

“What’s your story about?”

This is one of my pet peeves. It’s almost like the equivalent of asking somebody what his/her life is about. How do you put all that in one or two sentences? Writers (at least writers like myself) are generally thinkers and may require time to think over an answer like this. So don’t be surprised if I give out two completely different answers for the same story on the spot to two different people. Unless you are an editor/agent/publisher, please don’t ask this question.

Some alternate questions that writers don’t mind answering: “What genre is your story? Who is your target audience? Can you tell me about your protagonist? What’s the setting?” Etc. Go specific! Writers enjoy this kind of stuff.

“Oh! So it’s like [insert TV show/movie here]?”

If this is a follow up to question 1, the writer is likely irritated already. This question just makes it worse. As a writer, I already tend to over criticize and compare my half-finished work to something well-edited and successful. The above comment might not only make such a comparison but implies plagiarism on the writer’s part. (See The Greatest Literary Thieves.)

Alternate questions: “Where do you get your inspiration from?” Inspiration doesn’t imply that the writer is a plagiarizer.

“You should do [insert plot element] next!”

 Are you the writer of this story? No? Then feel free to write your own story.! While writers enjoy honest feedback, they don’t want people telling them how to write their book. Of course, writer’s still enjoy brainstorming plot elements. If they ask to brainstorm, you can throw in some ideas, but other times writers need to talk at you. If an idea isn’t plausible, let him/her know, but usually writers stumble upon epiphanies even if it sounds like utter nonsense to you.

Alternate phrases: “What do you think of [insert plot element]?” If the writer responds negatively, drop the subject.


“I’m writing a story about [insert complete synopsis].”

This one is tricky. It’s not that writers don’t want to hear about your story, but if you just met, or if the conversation just started, this might not be the time to add this. A general tip: don’t smother the writer, especially if the writer is an introvert. This might be the first time in who-knows-how-long she/he is talking aloud. Allow him/her to voice his or her thoughts.

If a writer asks you about your story, take it as compliment. Writers can make some of the best listeners. This isn’t to say that the writer should dominate the conversation. This principle of listening goes both ways.

Remember: Listen as much as you speak.

“Would you consider writing my life story?”

Not always phrased like this, but it’s pretty close. If a writer specializes in young adult fiction or poetry, they might not be interested. Just as there are different types of sports, there are different styles of writing. Writers may not specialize in all of them.

Alternate questions: “Do you enjoy/would you consider writing nonfiction?” If the answer is “yes,” you might consider building up to the main question.

“What do you mean you’re rewriting your book?”

This question implies that writers should always get it correct the first time and if they don’t, they’ve failed. This is simply not true! Writers may go through several drafts before they get it right, much less the way they like it.

Remember: Every writer is different. Some may work at a different pace or with a different system than others.  Even every story is different. The same writer may come out with several drafts for one story, but get another nearly correct the first time.

“Writing doesn’t pay.”

Correction: writing doesn’t pay well. But it can pay. And it’s not about the money. It’s about the expression through words and imagination.

Alternative phrases: “You must be a brave soul.” Okay, now I’m getting a little dramatic, but you get the picture. If you want a writer as a friend, don’t poke him/her in the eye.


Have you read the start of this series? Check out “The Proper Care and Feeding of a Writer: Some of the Basics.” And come back Nov. 15 for “Part 3: Things Writers Want to Hear from Readers.”

Readers, what are your thoughts on this? Writers, what would you add to this list?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Never Enough Books

Some of you might be wondering what a bunch of cupcakes has to do with books. First of all, I’ve been craving chocolate lately, and you may notice some of those little beauties have chocolate icing. (You can have the cupcake. I’ll take the icing. Now we’re both happy!) Secondly, both chocolates and books are delights of mine.

So, if cheap plots can be compared with potato chips, what about comparing good books to mouth-watering chocolate? The more chocolate, the merrier. Right? Or so people say. Is there really such a thing as not enough chocolate? Even for the greatest of chocolate lovers, like myself, tubs of ice-cream with five different flavors of chocolate can be overwhelming.
What about reading? Is there ever such a thing as too many books? Many books worms would laugh and say “No!” Really? That’s just how the chocolate lovers responded.

This summer I finished reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time, and one thing I found surprising was some of the talk about books. Both Anne and her best friend Diana enjoy reading fiction, much like myself, but Marilla (the woman who adopts Anne) and Mrs. Barry (Diana’s mother) believe both the girls read too much. In fact, in several instances the girls are discouraged from reading so much because it might ruin their eyes or detract from their ability to socialize.

Sound like something familiar today? The first thing that came to my mind is technology. Perhaps one of the main concerns of parents (or siblings) today is that children spend more time watching TV or playing video games than they do playing outside, hanging out with friends, or reading a good book. After reading Anne of Green Gables, it was surprising to think that parents may have seen fiction in the same destructive manner!

Of course, this book has to be considered in its own cultural context, way before the time of technologies we have today. But perhaps there has always been something throughout the centuries that detracted from socialization, exercise, or chores. In Anne’s time it was books, later it was the radio, then television, and today it’s video games and the internet. Who knows what it will be in the future.

But the question remains: are books still a distraction today? Perhaps they aren’t a major concern like different forms of technology because many children and adults don’t read. Yet that doesn’t mean that an abundance of books can’t hinder avid readers. While reading can provide a welcome escape, it can, at times, serve as a hindrance just like technology if readers aren’t careful.
After our most recent move, my sister was sitting around reading in a social situation when everybody else was greeting each other. I poked her and told her to come say hello to people. One guy behind me remarked, “Yeah, don’t let her do anything intellectual like read!” I actually fully support my sister’s reading, for it’s been a long struggle to encourage her to do so! But this man didn’t realize this was the way she avoided people. We’d just moved to a strange, new place. How could I expect her to socialize with complete strangers when I was the introvert and her the extrovert? When I had read to avoid people countless times before?

Yes, books can be a distraction. Sometimes there’s a fine line between reading as an enjoyable, intellectual activity to an antisocial, withdrawn one. It’s important for readers to recognize this line and know when to put the book down. After all, even Anne and Diana ended up good friends, and Anne came to be at the top of her class.
While it’s not a bad idea to pick up a book, don’t abandon the opportunity to make a friend. After all, other readers can engage in excellent bookish discussions. Like how there are too many books in the world for a person to possibly hope to read. It’s not that readers can never have enough books. It’s that readers can never have enough time.

How many books are on your shelf? Do they ever serve as a distraction? Bonus question: What’s your favorite type of chocolate? Go!

Literary references: L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: "The Shifter" by Chris T. Acadian

Reading The Shifter on my computer.

Book: The Shifter by Chris T. Acadian
Genre: Contemporary fiction, science
           fiction, young adult
Awards: None
My rating: 4/5 stars
One word description:  Intriguing

I had the privilege of meeting Chris T. Acadian in my creative writing class at Evangel University. Acadian spoke to our class and first proposed the potential of the fourth dimension, a topic that has baffled yet fascinated me from a young age, especially when connected with another book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. But that’s a book for another time. Then Acadian introduced The Shifter and blatantly told the class we would not like the main character, Faedra Madison Mae. My original thought on that: “Challenge accepted!”

This fall, I dove into The Shifter, determined to enjoy reading about this protagonist. Three chapters in, I discovered Acadian was right. I didn’t like Faedra. She is arrogant and dislikes nearly every other character in the story. But, hard as it may seem, I found myself relating with her in so many ways, especially concerning her awkward nature around other people and the way she rarely voices her feelings. Ultimately, though an unlikeable protagonist, Faedra remains a character of strong convictions, making her admirable in other ways and contrasting her faults.

The story starts out in a seemingly ordinary way, filled with the everyday life of Faedra attending school. But the Institute for Dimensional Studies is not just any school, and Faedra isn’t your typical three-dimensional being. She’s a shifter with fourth-dimensional capabilities, and the story soon becomes about anything but ordinary life, with hints of super-human abilities. While the plot builds up to encounters with other shifters, the book never loses its touch of ordinary life with its supporting characters. 

At first, Acadian’s writing style was a little jarring. The story is written in first person, past tense (not unusual if you ask me), but there were very few of Faedra’s actual thoughts. She saw things and reacted. Life seemed to merely happen to her. The descriptions were rather minimal, and Faedra acted far more than she thought, even when she was alone. But, as the story progressed, Faedra spent less time letting life happen and more time doing something about it. Even Acadian’s writing style plays in with one of the novel’s major themes that one of the characters, Nic, mentions:
“I don’t care what bubble of self-pity you’ve lived in until now. I’m not going to let you be a little baby any longer…take my advice as you will. But life doesn’t happen to you; it happens because of you. Stop being so helpless and make your life happen.”
I gave The Shifter 4/5 stars for its slower place and seemingly confusing climax. There was a lot of build up throughout the story, but very little is actually resolved. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story more and more as it progressed. My only complaint? When will there be a book two? Chris T. Acadian, you can’t end it there! In other words, I look forward to the sequel. I’d recommend this book for anybody interested in the possibilities of the fourth dimension or even a good book with human characters and adventures.