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Thursday, January 30, 2014

A rant, or possibly a question, about Young Adult books

076For those of you who followed my Super Duper Top Secret Writing Project, it should come as no surprise that I've been reading A TON of Young Adult books over the past few months trying to wrap my head around whether or not the Young Adult book I wrote is publishable. I've really enjoyed many of the books I've read. Most of them have way too much sexual content for me to be comfortable letting my kiddo read them- yet. However, THAT is not my rant. My rant is this: Lately, everything I've read ends without an ending. Rather, what I've noticed, if you were to sit the book on a three-act structure, the books are ending at  Act One. Since each book touts itself as being book one of a trilogy, in some ways, that makes sense. Sort of. If you want to read three two hundred page books to find out how the primary story question ends.

I do not.

Let's break this down. Each book is two hundred pages (give or take... actually a bit longer, but I like simple math). Plus, they are all hardcover, which retail for about $17.99 each. So, I have to read 600 pages to find out how a story ends, AND pay just over $50 to find out the ending.

No thank you.

Really. Just. No.

Yes, the idea of sucking readers in at a high pricepoint and then making them buy three books is kind of ingenious. If it's a bestseller like The Hunger Games, the author and publisher stand to make a lot of money.

But here's the thing. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but when I got to the last chapter, realizing I was going to have to read TWO MORE books before getting any satisfaction, as a reader, I felt betrayed. Then, as a writer, when I realized that basically, I'm going to get Act One in one book, Act Two in the next, and Act Three in the final book, I felt cheated. Ultimately, I felt manipulated. It's going to cost me fifty bucks to find out whether or not the ending is satisfying. Based on book one's ending, I have no guarantees of a satisfying ending.

Which means I'm not buying the rest of the series. You haven't given me any assurances that I will be satisfied at the end of book three. Moreover, because I feel so manipulated with book one, I probably will never pick up books by either of these two authors again. My trust was blown with book one, and with the limited reading time that I have, I'm not willing to try another book.

The more I mulled over my outrage over these two books, the more I began to wonder, is this simply a trend in publishing? I also recently read a general fiction book that did the exact same thing. And I hated it. HATED it. I might just check the book out of the library and read the last couple of chapters to find out how it ends, but I cannot afford to invest the kind of time the author and publisher ask of me. Maybe I need to stick to the "formulaic romances" some people like to mock. At least with them, I know that I'm going to get a satisfying ending. Not, "buy two more really expensive books, and MAYBE you'll be satisfied."

So that's my question... am I expecting too much? Is there an underlying piece that I'm missing that says, "if you're reading a Young Adult book, or a Mainstream book, do not expect a complete story without reading all of the books in the series?"

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

You are an artist... even if you can't draw a straight line

IMG_20140114_212226One of the things I hear all the time from people when I talk about my art journal journey is "well, I'm not an artist." Time to call out that lie! Okay, so maybe you think you aren't an artist. I get that. I bought into that lie for a long time, and even got rid of some of my art because it "wasn't good."

I can't draw to save my life, and if you really want to know the truth about my art, I can't even draw a straight line. In fact, I can't even TRACE an object without really messing it up. My art is messy, imperfect, and will probably never hang in a gallery. But I don't care. It's my art, and it's expressing what I need to express. Sometimes not as fully as I'd like, but that's okay!

This week's art challenge was to use something we got in the mail to make art. I recently received a card from a friend, and I decided the envelope was pretty, and to use it. She and I are part of a group of long-distance friends who call ourselves the Bat Girls. As I thought about what I wanted to do with the envelope, I thought, what a great chance to pray for my friends. So I made art. I prayed for my friends. I thanked God for having them in my life. I prayed for their needs. I prayed we could see each other again soon.

Since we are the Bat Girls, I wanted the batman logo on it too. I downloaded the logo, cut it out, and traced it.  Here's the part you need to notice as you carefully examine the picture. My lines are all messed up! I did a terrible job cutting it out, and an even more terrible job tracing it. BUT I DON'T CARE. Every artist has a signature something, so maybe mine is that it's never going to be perfectly traced or lined. There is so much I can't do well, but if I wait until I get it perfect, I'm not going to start. So I do what I can, and I love it, imperfections and all.

If you're curious about making art, or want to try, then I encourage you to JUST DO IT!! Don't worry about being perfect, getting it right, or even that your kids are a thousand times more talented than you. Even if it's just stick figures, your art is for you. Don't let someone else's standards of good art get in the way of expressing yourself.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The healing power of art, friendship, and Truth


One of the biggest blessings in my art journaling journey has been to see how many inner wounds it has healed. I'm doing a number of different art journal projects, and one of the most daunting things has been that a lot of the challenges ask you to do some kind of self-portrait.

I'm going to be honest here. I HATE pictures of myself. I'm not like some people, who completely shun the camera, because I have relatives who are like that, and it makes me sad that I have no pictures of them. But still, there's a tiny part of me that dies inside when I'm asked to be in a picture. When I see a picture of me, I see the awful labels that have followed me around for years- the ugly girl who was bullied and made fun of. I hear the voices that tell me I'm not good enough and point out all of my flaws. And I think, "I'm such a phoney for all the positive self talk I give myself about my appearance."

So when I'm asked to take a picture of myself and put it in a journal that's all about celebrating my creativity, I think, "why am I torturing myself?" Which means I put off the task as long as possible until I'm finally forced to do it because I can't allow myself to skip a journal exercise.

Today I had coffee with my friend Niki. She does not know I was struggling with this, and yet, she said something that rocked my world in terms of how I viewed my picture. She said something along the lines of, "living under Christ, we are already God's beloved. He doesn't look at us and see sinners, He sees people He dearly loves." I knew those words to be true. But as I tossed them about in my mind, I realized that as much as I say I believe that, I don't live that in my own life. If I really believed that God looked at me as His beloved, JUST AS I AM, then why do I look at myself with labels that are not true? I've worked so hard to get past the body image lies, but as much time as I spend telling myself what I think should be the truth, the old lies creep in.

When I got home, I decided to do the selfie exercise. As soon as I printed the picture, I immediately started picking out the flaws- my double chin because I don't know how to hold my head right, the hormonal acne, the gray hairs, the awkward smile. I glued my picture down, and I wanted to cry. But then I remembered Niki's words, and I thought, "all those things I hate, God loves."  Before I could stop myself, I took a Sharpie, and wrote right across my forehead, "beloved." I decorated my picture by decoupaging tissue paper around it. I like that look, and I decided that it reminds me of stained glass, which is something you find in the most beautiful of cathedrals- God's holy places. I am a holy temple of God. But then I had to take it a step further. I wrote down all the labels GOD has given me. All the beautiful, wonderful things that HE has called me. I surrounded myself with truth.

I look at that picture now, and I think, "wow, I'm really pretty." I don't feel the shame I typically feel when I see a picture of myself. I see me. I see the person that God made. And I think she's lovely. I am lovely.

I don't make art because I have aspirations of being a great artist. Most people are not going to look at the art I make and think I have amazing talent. But that's not the point. In my art, I've found a way to take the wounds of the past, combine them with the beautiful words of truth from my friends, and find healing. I look through some of my other selfie projects, and I like the girl I see. She may not be perfect, but that's okay. God looks down on her - on me- and sees someone He adores.

What do you see when you see pictures of yourself? Do you see someone who is beautiful and beloved? If not, I encourage you to let God into that place. Take your picture. Print it out. Claim God's truth over your image. You are so valuable to God.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year, Better Me!

IMG_20140101_001129Happy New Year!!

I was looking at one of the ad campaigns we're supporting for work called New Year, New You. Now, no offense to the folks who came up with that idea, but the more I've thought about it, the more I don't like that idea. For the most part, I like who I am. I don't want to find a new me, I just want a better me. Which I think is the whole point of New Year's Resolutions. We want to build on the foundation of the life we've been creating and make it better.

One of the things I realized in the last few months of 2013 is how much of my true self I've been repressing. Things I love that I've been pushing aside for practical reasons, because I'm afraid, because I don't know what to do, because I've forgotten, and probably a lot of other reasons. But what I've found is that as I let some of that out, I'm really a lot happier. The other thing I've realized is that as focused as I've been on a lot of the mundane, I've really lost a lot of focus on who I am. Over the past few months, I've been really stumped by questions that dig down to the heart of who I am. Things I feel like I should know the answer to, but I don't.

At the end of 2013, I committed to doing some things that dig in to who I am and who I want to be. 2013 saw one of my major dreams come true.  And while I couldn't be happier over that accomplishment, there are still so many things I want to do. Looking back, I realized that years ago, I thought that when we reached this level of income, we'd be really set. And yet, in some ways, we're no farther along in life than I'd thought we'd be. Some of that is my fault, some of it is the hubby's fault, and some of it... well, it's just how life happens sometimes.

So this year, my goal is to be more intentional about making my life more into the life I've always wanted. Don't get me wrong here. I really like my life. I'm so blessed. Sometimes it's overwhelming to see just how blessed we are. But there are also longings in my heart, dreams I have, that I'm more focused than ever on pursuing. I always start my year really focused on all the great things I want to do, and at some point during the year, when things get crazy, I forget. So my hope for this year is that I don't forget. I'm also working on some plans to help with that. For example, I'm participating in an art journal project called The Documented Life Project. Art journaling is one of the things I've been doing to make myself happy and rediscover myself. Hopefully incorporating that into a planner will help me be more organized. Plus, I'm also adding a new aspect to it- I bought the wrong planner, so I have a ton of extra pages. I decided to use those pages to help with my goal setting and goal planning. I'm hoping that having my goals and dreams close at hand- as part of my daily planner- will help remind me of my focus.

How are you focusing on the new year?


Taxes for the writer guest blog

I'm guest blogging today over at Seriously Write, sharing my thoughts on taxes. A great way to start your year off right!