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Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?

 Happy Summer!


School ended yesterday. Today is the first day of summer vacation, so I promise you won't have to read middle school-inspired posts for a while after today.

Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


But today, we do have one more. I recently read Lord of the Flies with my 8th grade class. The book is old (older than me!) and a lot of people don't like it, but I have so many activities that we do with it, that the book really comes alive. I'm always stunned when students tell me it's one of their favorite books we've read.


This year, after we finished, I asked them to reflect on this quote by the author William Golding.

When asked about the meaning of his book, he replied:

“There have been so many interpretations of the story that I'm not going to choose between them. Make your own choice. They contradict each other, the various choices. The only choice that really matters, the only interpretation of the story, if you want one, is your own. Not your teacher's, not your professor's, not mine, not a critic's, not some authority's. The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it. Then any interpretation you like. If it's yours, then that's the right one, because what's in a book is not what an author thought he put into it, it's what the reader gets out of it.”


I love this answer so much.

I was thinking about it with two different caps on my head - as the teacher who asks students to consider the meaning of the story, but also as an author who is in the business of making meaning out of words.

I was really interested to hear my students' thoughts - both as their teacher and as an author.


It turns out that the line that most spoke to them was  "The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it."


One student, in explaining how she had moved through the story stated, "Through the characters, I got to experience the chaos, the peace, the sadness, and the thrill of everything that happened."

Another said: "In some parts of the book, I felt like I was actually in the book and moving through it. But there were parts where I did not get this feeling. An example where I did not get this feeling is when the hunters went hunting I didn’t really feel the story moving. The part where I felt the story moving along was when everyone was working together and not fighting."

But a third said "There were parts of the book where I felt as if I was really going through the motion of everything and other parts where I was left confused. Some parts that I really connected to were the murders. When both Piggy and Simon died I truly felt like I was there watching it happen."


Another: "I felt like I was  on the island with all the other boys I felt like I was one of the little ones watching everything fold in itself, watching Jack become a brutal savage and watch Ralph losing control and seeing Piggy get killed I really felt part of the story I was reading."



They were also really eager to tell me the meaning they took from the book. I think William Golding would have been proud of the range of thoughts. They took his words to heart: "If it's yours, then that's the right one."



 I think this book was about how people can get insane and out of control with an obsession with a passion, they have while others try and prevent it but end up getting hurt in the process.
 

What are we really without manners and common sense? Savages? That would make us no different than animals. We hide behind a mask of intelligence and basic knowledge to separate how similar we are compared to animals. Without all we have learned, we’re basically just a vessel driven by emotions of hatred and greed. Would we really know right from wrong if we didn’t have common knowledge or at least look like we have the brains? It really felt overwhelming to interpret so much. Then again, it would make sense. The only difference is that we are more evolved than animals. We have the common sense to just go around killing people, there are usually reasons behind it. But sometimes, there isn’t a reason behind it. Does that make us unstable to live in such a “perfect” society? If we compare ourselves to savages, then killing would be completely normal right? Or would it?

 

I believe the book is really about the true nature of us. How we act when theres no adults or rules around. When we can do anything without being punished since theres no boundaries.

This book is about nothing more than boys trying to survive on their own and trying to keep their insanity (sic) in the process. 

 

While the topic of change was a big message of the book, I do believe there is another main message. Lord of the Flies also shows us the importance of rules and civilization. Once the boys turned away from Ralph all humanity and civilization were lost. They began to become too accustomed to Jack’s uncivilized methods. Without any rules or grasp on humanity boys such as Roger turned from normal kind kids into animals. It was because of this lack of civilization and order that Piggy and Simon died so tragically. It was also why it was so hard for the boys to look at themselves once the navy found them. They knew they could never truly return home because a part of them would always be on that island. 



So why am I talking about this today? 


Because as a teacher, I am privileged to have the opportunity to really talk to readers about their reading, and that is invaluable to me not only as their teacher, but as an author. Hearing what matters to them as readers, learning how invested they were in making their own meaning from the books gives  author me something to ponder. 


As authors, are we trying to impose our meaning on our readers? Are we heavy-handed with our message, or do we wield our pen delicately, giving the reader options, offering a chance for them to create their own message from our books. Especially if it's a message they need in their lives.


As I was pondering this, I was also thinking about a book I had recently read. Because I could really relate to the widowed character, I probably took a completely different meaning from the book than a different reader would - and I appreciated the nuances of the character that allowed me to do so.


And that leads me to thinking about craft and how we make our books the best possible experience for readers because, to quote another student, 


He didn't write the book to give it a specific ending (message) but to entertain the readers.


And of course that is what we have to keep at the forefront as we write.


One of my students was rather succinct in describing Golding's craft. 

Mr. Golding used good words to set the mood for the story. 


As writers, that is our task, to use good words to entertain.

If only it could be that easy!

But easy or not, it is the responsibility we assumed when we chose to write stories. Our good words have the power to affect readers.


One of my students commented: "The experiences of reading books helps us to open our eyes to different wonders in imagination. It leads us to creating our own works and maybe inspiring others."


And to finally quote a wise student - "That is the great thing about reading."


And we get to inspire that. How lucky are we to be writers???


I'd love to hear your thoughts - as readers and writers.



Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


*Photos courtesy of Pixabay

Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2

 


As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was summoned out of retirement to fill in for the rest of the year after a teacher abruptly quit. The good news is I am loving the experience. The bad news is it leaves little time for writing.


However, sometimes my worlds align. This happened recently when we had an author visit to the classroom. The author, Sarah Scheerger, wrote a book called  Operation Frog Effect. It's a middle grade book about a fifth grade class told as journal entries their teacher assigned. My students loved the story and were so enthusiastic about the opportunity to ask the author questions.


Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2


I loved seeing their enjoyment, but I particularly appreciated Sarah's discussion of author's craft, so I thought I'd talk a little about that today.


Operation Frog Effect is told from NINE points of view. Eight of them are students and one is the teacher. Sarah did a really effective job of differentiating the characters, and she explained to the students how she did it.

One character is a girl named Emily. Sarah admitted that this character was most like her and the character's conflict was based on something she experienced in middle school. She used punctuation to develop Emily's character, using a lot of question marks to show her uncertain feelings and a lot of exclamation points to develop her girlish middle school character. As a middle school teacher, I definitely felt she nailed this character's personality and you felt her pain at her friendship troubles.

Kayley is the mean girl, but she's not a stereotypical mean girl. She is "doing it for Emily's own good" because she thinks Emily needs to make new friends (since her besties are going to a new school in September). She is also arrogant and condescending, thinking she knows better than her teacher. The author created this persona within one diary entry just with her word choice (which makes it really good for helping students to understand how word choice affects tone).

Sharon writes all her entries in verse.

Blake is an artist, so his entries are told in illustrated cartoon blocks.


Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2


Henry plans to be a movie writer/director, so his entries are all told in script form complete with stage directions

Cecelia has decided to write her journal entries as letters to her abuelita, so they are a mix of English and Spanish with glossary entries as she pretends to teach her abuelita English words. 


Kai has the fewest entries, but his are written as messages to the class frog (who jumps out of Blake's pocket in the opening scene and is adopted as a class pet). His are mostly updates on what is happening in the class.


Sarah was also really honest with the students about the difficulties of being an author and the uncertainties of a publishing life. She explained that for all her books that are published, she has at least again as many that were rejected, but she keeps writing because she loves it! She spoke about writing what she believes and how that sometimes comes into conflict with what publishers want.


As a writer, I am in awe of the creativity and work that was required to produce such a stunning array of characters. Just like I spoke about in my post last month, I am reminded that children's books can be a great source to study for writing tips.


Learning Craft from Children's Books

 

I remember years ago someone imparting the advice that if you need to do research on something, start with books written for children. They'll give you the basics which might be as much as you need to know, but if not they will at least make the subject understandable so you can pursue it more easily.

I was reminded of that advice a few weeks ago when I picked up a book I am supposed to use with my Jr. High ELA classes. It's called How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids.


Learning Craft from Children's Books


Full confession - my husband bought a copy of the original How to Read Literature Like a Professor years ago. It sat on a shelf that I passed many times a day. I often thought I should read it. I never did. Now I wish I had.


Learning Craft from Children's Books


As I was reading the children's version to prepare to teach lessons from it, I realized that many of the points made for children are a good craft reminder for writers.

The Amazon blurb says:

In How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For KidsNew York Times bestselling author and professor Thomas C. Foster gives tweens the tools they need to become thoughtful readers.

With funny insights and a conversational style, he explains the way writers use symbol, metaphor, characterization, setting, plot, and other key techniques to make a story come to life.

 As I read that, I was amused to think that some writers (like this one) may benefit from a reminder of what we are doing. 

I'll digress for a moment to talk education. As a teacher, I usually deplore the kinds of questions on standardized tests that ask about the author's purpose or author's craft. It seems futile to ask a 12 year-old to try to step inside the mind of an author to figure out what they were trying to accomplish. I could go on at length with some ridiculous examples, but that doesn't help us become better writers. The reason I bring it up is that this book, in helping students understand what a writer is attempting, can also help writers better understand what is behind many of the things we do intuitively. 

I really do believe that writers who are avid readers naturally absorb many of the tenets of storytelling.  But I also believe that it's good to sometimes stop and reflect on what we are doing and how we can do it better. This book actually helped me to be more aware of what I'm doing when I write. And if I'm aware, I can be more intentional.

Do you ever turn to children's books for research? 

Do you consciously use literary devices such as allusions, symbolism, metaphors, motifs, imagery, etc. when you write (or does it seep in there unconsciously)?

FYI - If you prefer an adult take on this, Here's a link to 45 Literary Devices and Terms That Everyone Should Know. 

Just Don't Quit

 Sometimes - and far more often than we'd like - life throws us curveballs. 

Some are great.

Some are not.

Some are a mixed blessing.

I recently had a new curveball thrown at me - just as I was settling in to being a full-time writer, I got called out of retirement when a teacher quit mid-year and they needed an experienced teacher to step in and pull things back together.

There are many benefits to this for me (not least the salary), but it's thrown quite a crimp into my writing schedule - especially as I hustle to get back in the game and get caught up.

Writing hasn't been happening. I'm really not good at multi-tasking when my brain is spinning (some family health issues play into this too).

What to do?

Yesterday, as I was writing a note of motivation to my daughter, I vaguely remembered a line from a poem, so I looked it up. As soon as I saw the full poem, I remembered learning it as a child. I recalled reading it with my own students. I could only think it showed up in my memory just at the moment I most needed the reminder.


So I wanted to share it with you today - for anyone who needs a lift or a reminder.


Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

~John Greenleaf Whittier

Just Don't Quit


What do you do when you want to quit? How do you keep yourself going?




Image from Pixabay

Cate's Favorite Craft Books Series # 6

 I had intended to bring you the next in my favorite craft books series today, but I'm in the middle of an interstate move and all my books are packed away in boxes awaiting the moving men.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books Series # 6


Instead of doing a repost, I decided I wanted to focus on craft books in a different way.


The best and most frequently given advice is if you want to be a writer, you must read. Read the kinds of books you want to write, read research books, read the kinds of books you don't want to write because they will help stretch your mind.

One way to use books you love as "craft books" is to deconstruct them. I recently heard someone give advice about this as if it was some big secret. Really? I've been doing it for ages as have many other authors I know. If you're not familiar with the idea, it's basically figuring out why you love the books you love so that you can learn to replicate the result in your own work. 

(NOTE: I'm not talking about copying work. I'm talking about studying it.)


Cate's Favorite Craft Books Series # 6

I really do believe that reading is the best training for writing, because avid readers absorb style details without even being aware they're doing so. They develop a sense for how the story should unfold, for what makes a good story.

You can set about this "research"  in many ways. Maybe you just want to reflect on what it is about a certain book that makes you love it. Maybe it's the characterization. Maybe it's the clever plot twists the author is known for. Maybe it's the language. You're just getting a general sense. That's an informal use.

But you can also take a more formal approach to breaking a book down to study the structure. This is particularly helpful if you're trying to break into a line. Take Love Inspired or Love Inspired Suspense, for example. When I was first trying to sell to LIS, I took books by some of their best-selling authors and took notes scene by scene to see what I needed to do. How is the pacing handled? How do the hero and heroine's points of view alternate? When do they meet, have conflict, kiss? When (with regards to chapters) does the black moment occur? How many chapters? How many scenes per chapter? How long is each chapter? And so on....


Cate's Favorite Craft Books Series # 6


On the flip side, there is also value in deconstructing books you disliked. Why did you dislike it? Were the characters unlikable? Was the setting or plot off? Was it the pacing or the dialogue? All of these questions can give you valuable insight into your own work.


So let's talk. Have you ever deconstructed a book to see how it works? Did it help you?

I'd also love to hear any good moving stories! Friends keep telling me there's a book in this experience!


Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1

 Hello my Seekerville friends. Cate back again. These months just fly by, and suddenly it's my turn to post again. Honestly, it feels like just yesterday that I was chatting with you all about your feelings about craft books.

There was a wide range of thought on the value of craft books for a writer. No surprise there. Our thoughts are as varied as our personalities and our writing styles. One refrain that was oft repeated though was people, who like me, use craft books as a jumping off point to take a new skill and then practice it with our own writing.

After that discussion, I decided to devote some time to discussing some individual books that I love. I can share them with you, and you can tell me if they're new to you or if you know them and have thoughts of your own to share.


As I mentioned above (and in the previous post), I tend to use writing/craft books more as a jumpstart than as something to read through all at once. There is however, one notable exception to that pattern.

Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1
This is the old faithful one I have. 
I've been through multiple copies.



Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1
This is the new version.


Bird by Bird was one of the very first books on writing that I ever bought. It is also the only one that I have read and reread completely. It was really life-changing for me because reading Anne LaMott's witty, somewhat irreverent, brutally honest reflections on the writing life allowed me to acknowledge that I could still be a writer even if I was not always in love with the process. 

Writing is hard work, and Anne LaMott doesn't flinch from that. 

But she also gives you ways to help cope when it all seems overwhelming.

One of the best pieces of advice in the book refers to a story from when Anne and her brother were young. He was totally overwhelmed by a school project on birds. She describes how he was sitting at the table, surrounded by piles of books and paper and pencils. Her father came and sat beside him, put his arm around him and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

It seems so simple, but for the struggling writer or student, Maybe that struck such a chord because I remembered a similar project when my daughter was in 5th grade. We were up until 5 o'clock in the morning because the project was so massive that it overwhelmed her to the point she had no idea where to even begin.

I have quoted that bird by bird solution to many people over the years. In fact, I just offered it to my daughter the other day when she was again feeling overwhelmed with a big project she has to deal with.


Hand in hand with the 'bird by bird" strategy of writing comes advice to write in "one inch picture frames" - another strategy to help the overwhelmed writer's brain.

Have you ever sat down to write but felt totally overwhelmed by the size of the project? Do you find attempting a full length novel to be daunting? If so, this strategy may help you. To quote Anne Lamott, all you have to do is "write down as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame."

Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1
I remember a tweet from my editor Emily Rodmell that went like this:

"How do you write three books a year?

One book at a time, one chapter at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time."

In the same vein, Anne Lamott quotes E.L. Doctorow. "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

This reminds me very much of how writers rave about typing on an AlphaSmart because they could only see a very small rectangle of text. The temptation to fiddle was not as great.


Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1


Those two pieces of writing advice are in just one chapter of the book. They're the two that have stuck with me even though it's been decades since I first read the book. There is plenty more to keep you inspired. 

Because I like to share books I love, I'm offering to give away a copy of Bird by Bird to some lucky reader who is interested. Be sure to let me know in the comments if that is you!


So have you read this book (or any of the author's other books)? Share your thoughts on the book, the advice, or anything else you feel like talking about.


Coffee's on. Let's chat!

Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1


Free photos thanks to Pixabay


Let's Hear from Our Readers

 Good morning, Seekerville.  

As I started to type that, I couldn't help it. My brain burst out with this.


We really are our own wonderful neighborhood here. 


So today I was hoping we could grab a mug of coffee or tea, maybe share some donuts, and just hang out and chat about reading. 

I have a couple of reasons why I've chosen to do this post today.

1) Criminal Minds  - I will come back to this.

2) Pandemic Reading

3) A question from a workshop I attended.


I'm going to do these backwards because #3 is the most recent. In a workshop I attended, we were asked to write about things we enjoyed from our childhood. Honestly, the first thing I came up with - and the only one I didn't have to think hard about - was READ.

There were other questions, but my first answer to all of them was either a book title or READ.

I've always known reading was a major factor in my life and development, but answering these questions just emphasized for me how dominant a role books and reading have played throughout my life.

Which brings me to #2 - pandemic reading. 

This has been a mixed bag. There have been books that have totally consumed me for days at a time, and then there have been dozens that (through no fault of their own) couldn't wrangle my skittish attention span. But the ones that did capture me - oh they reminded me of why I love books so much. They allowed me to step out of a pandemic-ridden world into a place of magic.

I guess my daughter knew what she was doing when she gave me this mug for Christmas.


So that brings me to Point #1 - Criminal Minds.

I've spent a lot of days this summer with day-long marathons of Criminal Minds playing in the background as I wrote my next suspense novel. I have sort of a love-hate relationship with this show. Years ago, when it was running, I couldn't watch it because frankly I found it terrifying. But I happened to stumble upon the final episode when it aired back in February, and I was captivated by the personal relationships between the characters and the very believable camaraderie.

I discovered my cable station running marathons, and I learned that I could skip the first five minutes with the bloody criminal introduction, and just focus on the profilers - their relationships and their methodology for solving the crimes. Sure I still had to cover my eyes from time to time, but I found myself feeling like I was hanging out with a group of friends.

{For anyone who may not know, Criminal Minds follows the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) of the FBI as they profile unsubs and solve crimes - usually serial killers and always gory. I cover my eyes A LOT.}

Jan and Mary may never forgive me for this comparison, but it reminded me of how I used to feel as a child when I hung out with The Happy Hollisters in their books - me with a group of fictional friends. Hopefully that doesn't sound as pathetic as it sounded to me when I wrote it. 😍

So now, in my roundabout way, I've gotten to the point of this post. Because of my fascination with the characters of Criminal Minds, I read an article about it called "Criminal Minds is ending after 15 years - here's why we're OK with that." There were a lot of of interesting points raised in the article, (and some I disagreed with), but the gist of it was that the world is very different now than it was in 2005 when the show premiered, and that audience tastes have changed. Themes that were popular back then, are not tolerated now. That article really stuck in my head, and I've thought of it often when people talk about likes and dislikes with books or shows.

THAT is what I wanted to talk about today. Have your tastes as readers/viewers changed over the years? If so, is there anything you enjoyed in the past that you wouldn't want to read now? Or vice-versa. Are there topics, themes, locations that you never were interested in before but now want?

And the followup question - what stories would you like to read that you are just not seeing out there?

I know we're talking about books here, but feel free to extend the discussion to your taste in film or TV shows as well.


And if you'd like to talk about your pandemic reading or childhood pleasures, please do. Were books important to you when you were growing up? What role does reading play in your life now?


Let's chat. I'll bring the coffee and donuts.



Image by Skyler H. from Pixabay 


Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay 


Concentration and Procrastination in the End Times

Okay, so maybe 2020 isn't really the End Times, but there have certainly been times this year that it felt like it. How many times have you seen someone comment about just one more thing that 2020 is throwing at us?

Another common theme is that people say they just can't focus, can't concentrate, haven't accomplished anything.

If you're feeling that way, you're not alone.

According to an article in The New Statesman:


"Since February, there has been a 300 per cent increase in people searching “how to get your brain to focus”, an 110 per cent increase in “how to focus better”, and 60 per cent rise in “how to increase focus”. People are paying for apps and services to help their concentration."


Before I go on, I just want to acknowledge that your experience of this pandemic may vary widely according to where you live and how you life has been impacted. I live in NYC which for the past three months was the country's epicenter. We've had close to 400,000 cases and over 24,000 deaths. That kind of thing plays games with your mind - literally. But we'll get to that.


Almost exactly one year ago today, I wrote a post for Seekerville called A 15 Letter Word Not Equal to Lazy. I was reminded of that post this week when I stumbled upon this article - There's a reason we procrastinate and it's not laziness. 

I immediately started to read the article because the title struck a chord. I know I have a tendency to procrastinate, but it's been really bad lately. I have a book coming out in January and that seems like so very far away. But that book is done. How do I concentrate on writing a new one when I have no idea what kind of world will even exist for it to be released into? That kind of insidious thinking can be paralyzing, and it definitely fosters procrastination.

So I read the article. 
As I began to read, it felt familiar. That's when I realized the person being interviewed, Dr. Pychyl, was the same man I'd read about when writing that Seekerville post a year ago. This man has made the study of procrastination his life's work. He has spent twenty years studying it and leads a procrastination research group at Carleton University. He has a book called Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change.

This article was focused on how the pandemic has affected us.
"We are in a time when uncertainty, worry and anxiety are dominating us emotionally. We are inevitably going to end up delaying things, but if we only have one word for that delay, which is procrastination, we end up beating ourselves up for it." He goes on to disagree, saying, "I would argue that yes, many things are being delayed, but we need a lot of self-compassion right now. We don't need to impugn ourselves with this notion of procrastination."

Indeed, according to research Dr. Amy Arnsten, a Professor of Neuroscience and a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, our inability to focus is actually a biological response to stress. 

This is where I got really interested and went all Science Geeky. Apparently it goes back to our prehistoric survival days. I highly recommend you read the whole article, but I'll summarize her main point. The pre-frontal cortex of our brain is where we do all our critical thinking, control impulses, and ... focus. But the pre-frontal cortex is also programmed to weaken under stress so our primitive survival instincts take over.


"So essentially, when faced with immediate physical danger, your prefrontal cortex shuts down to make way for the more primitive parts of your brain – the parts that can respond quickly and basically in order to protect you."

And that's exactly where we are now, and why concentrating is so difficult.


"Arnsten says there are three major factors that make Covid-19 particularly potent for cutting off our prefrontal cortex: its invisibility; the lack of individual control we have over it; and being forced to go against our normal habits in order to protect ourselves."

So what do we do? We can't just give up and wait til someone comes up with a vaccine or a cure.

Dr. Pychyl's answer is very simple - just start. But start small.


"Here's the magic — the next time you face a task that your whole body is screaming, "I don't want to, I don't feel like it," ask yourself: what's the next action? What's the next action I'd need to take to make some progress? Don't break the whole task down. That will be sure to overwhelm you. I think if most of us broke our whole task down, we'd realize that life's too short, you can never get it all done. Instead just say, "What's the next action?" and keep that action as small and as concrete as possible."

Dr. Arnsten suggests you cut yourself some slack and feel reassured that this is a perfectly normal reaction and at some point it will get better. “I think that’s really helpful to have that kind of perspective and gain that sense of control,” she says.

So let's talk. Does it help you to know that you're not alone and that there is a perfectly reasonable biological explanation?

How are you coping?

Prayer helps. Some people do mindfulness or meditation. My daughter has taken up yoga.

For me, I'm trying the combination approach - starting with prayer, and then getting started - with the understanding that it may be tough, but if I do something I'll feel better than if I just waste away time. I was reminded recently about the Biblical admonitions against sloth. I'll take that to heart too - no time for idle hands.

But perhaps the best reward, because we are writers, is that our story world can take us away. There, we are in control. There we make the decisions; we have the power.
And that may give the affirmation we so desperately need.





Remember the Calgon, Take Me Away ads?


So, go write today! And let's hear how it worked for you.

But if you''re procrastinating and are willing to hang around, let's chat.  Let's talk about your experiences, and let's try to work our way back to productivity.

Welcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville

When Two Worlds Combine

Hi friends! I’m so happy to be joining you here. Thank you, Cate Nolan, for inviting me. It’s always a pleasure to visit Seekerville.


Welcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville

For those of you who don’t know me, I write romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense. In fact, I just signed a new contract for the next four books. My 12th Love Inspired Suspense released this week. I have to tell you, I love writing stories with love, danger, and faith. Because to me, the faith lends hope to the whole story, no matter what the danger is.

I also work full time as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. Deaf culture is another passion of mine. The people I have met through my years of working with the deaf and hard of hearing have blessed and enriched my life in so many ways. I get so much joy from teaching my kiddos. I especially love teaching reading and writing. It makes my heart happy. (This is the sign for “I love you.”)

Welcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville


Now, normally, my two careers are separate. Sometimes, though, I meld them together and include a character who is deaf or hard of hearing in a book. I have done this three times so far. In Plain Target, my heroine Jess was deaf, but had some hearing with her hearing aids, and relied on lip reading. In Plain Retribution, Rebecca was profoundly deaf and communicated with ASL (American Sign Language). My third deaf character is introduced in Plain Refuge.

Celine Larson is a 12 year-old girl with spunk and a preteen attitude. She has reason. Even at the tender age of 12, she has lost much. She is profoundly deaf and has bilateral Cochlear Implants. When her outer processors are off, she is completely deaf. She was one of my favorite secondary characters ever. Even though she’s a child, she is strong and smart.  I love it when I can use my professional knowledge in a story.

Another thing I love about writing for Love Inspired Suspense is that I can share my faith in a way that, hopefully, is neither pushy nor preachy. In every book I write, I want to show that God is bigger than any circumstance, no matter how painful or overwhelming.  He is always in control.


Welcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville


I have two questions today. Answer one in the comments to be entered to win a copy of Plain Refuge.
1.     What kind of characters inspire you the most?
2.     How do you use your talents and skills to teach those around you about God?

Welcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville


PLAIN REFUGE
On the run from hired gunmen,
can she find safety in Amish country?

After overhearing an illegal weapons deal, Sophie Larson knows two things: her uncle’s a dangerous criminal…and he wants her dead. Now undercover cop Aiden Forster has no choice but to blow his cover and protect Sophie by hiding her and her deaf sister in Amish country. But with a mole in the police force, danger isn’t far behind.

Growth Mindsets for Writers - As Easy as Riding a Bike



I love learning weird things.

I also love learning about how the brain works.

Sometimes, those two things go hand-in-hand.


Did you learn how to ride a bike when you were a child? Did you realize that mastering that skill is actually the result of a complicated mental process?


If you've got a few minutes, please take the time to watch this video. It boggles the mind. 




Are you intrigued yet?

Are you wondering what that has to do with writing?

In my mind, the connection is simple. Many people think writing is intuitive. If you love to read, you can write. Two sides of the same coin.

And then you sit down to do it and .... oops. Not so simple.

I do believe if you're an avid reader, you start out as a writer with a leg up, because there is a certain amount that you absorb. But writing is work.

Repeat after me

Writing is work.

Darn hard work.

So what is all this about Growth Mindsets?

Growth Mindsets is a theory that was developed by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  It's a big buzz phrase in education, but I think it also translates well to writing.

Essentially, Dweck's theory relates to how we deal with failure (or fear of failure).

If you have a fixed mindset, when you encounter failure, you assume you're just not good (talented, smart, etc.) enough and give up.

But if you have a growth mindset, you see failure as a challenge. It makes you want to try harder, to strive for success.

Think of it the way I saw it in my classroom when I was teaching 4th grade math. If a student had a really difficult problem to complete, did they give it a try, and then give up if they couldn't solve it right away (or got it wrong)? Or did they really dig in and struggle with it until they figured it out?

That 4th grade math problem can be equated with the struggle an author faces when a writing challenge comes along. Maybe it's a rejection, or a request to revise and resubmit (R&R). Maybe it's a revision letter from your editor on a contracted book. Or maybe it's a yawning plot hole in the current WIP. How do you handle it? Do you give up and mutter, I guess I'm not mean to be a writer? Or do you dig deep and work through it?

It's hardly rocket science to figure out which author is going to succeed.

But what about talent? You might ask.

In a video I will link below, Carol Dweck talks about the difference between talent and success. Often people assume if you are a success at something, you're just lucky enough to have been born with a superior talent.

Dweck says (paraphrasing here) that sure some people are born with talents or passions. But those talents are just the raw materials. It's what you do with them that matters. And she wants you to be
FEROCIOUS! Believe that you can. Then work at it. Struggle with it. Practice.


I was listening to a panel of best-selling authors on a Zoom chat a few weeks ago. The point they all made was that no matter how talented, how successful you are, writing is hard work. Success is just proof that you did the hard work, that you kept trying, even when it was daunting.



When I work on Growth Mindsets with my students, we start with a video series from Class Dojo  about Mojo and his friends. It might seem a bit simplistic for adults, but the kids love it. This clip is from Episode 3 - The Power of Yet.




The power of YET is what is so intriguing, and what I think applies most for writers. When the rejections roll in, don't give up, just remind yourself that you're not there - YET.

Yet doesn't mean never.

Yet means you need to rise to the challenge, keep your nose to the grindstone, keep on trying.

Think about that rejection or revision request that arrives -

If you have a growth mindset, you will do the work to fix it and send it out again.
If you have a fixed mindset, you will give up.

Which person do you think ends up with the contract?

Which brings us back to the bicycle.
A child wanting to learn to ride, keeps at it - starting with the training wheels, learning the necessary skills, practicing and practicing until they can ride. And they succeed because they never doubted they would.

We need to be like that child - believing that we can do this, not being afraid of the struggle, persevering when we're not there yet. Expecting the triumph and working towards it.


So let's talk. Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed one? According to Dweck, most of us are a mix. We can learn to develop a growth mindset, just like the man in the video learned to ride the new kind of bicycle.


If you're at all intrigued by the power of growth mindsets, you might be interested in listening to this Google Talk with Carole Dweck.




Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2Learning Craft from Children's BooksJust Don't QuitCate's Favorite Craft Books Series # 6Cate's Favorite Writing Books Series - #1 Let's Hear from Our ReadersConcentration and Procrastination in the End TimesWelcome Guest Dana R. Lynn to Seekerville Growth Mindsets for Writers - As Easy as Riding a Bike

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