The 5th Wave

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it was incredible. Simply fantastic. In my opinion, if you’re ever tired of reading standard literature, contemporary adult fiction or anything of the sort, pick up a YA novel. Young adult is one genre type that I always try to keep up with, and it always keeps me on my toes. Personally I’m a little sad that I didn’t decide to just do the entire trilogy with this review, but I don’t think any of us have time to read that much in one month!

Diving right in, I think the style of this book is very familiar and interesting. It falls in with the usual tropes associated with YA novels, and it is very easy to relate to. The fact that Yancey basically plays alongside the fourth wall the entire time is something that I enjoyed, although I have to admit if I thought too much about the style it could get a bit confusing. If Cassie is writing in her journal about writing in her journal about Evan reading her journal, we tend to get a bit bogged down by the details.  Of course, as with some things in YA novels, it may be easiest to just take this at face value and not overthink it.

Yancey does a good job, I think, delving into the psyche of people – particularly teenagers and children – who are facing a disaster like this. To see the descent into distrust and near madness of these kids is very revealing of Yancey’s view of humanity. It’s one thing to talk about one 16 year old girl and her opinions, but to see multiple viewpoints from multiple ages and multiple walks of life suggests that the nature of humanity is to both feel fear and fight back whenever possible. Humanity’s willingness and ability to fight back in the face of this disaster definitely provides hope for the possibility of disaster (not that this is necessarily the future). The Others tried to turn kids on the rest of the world, but the children of the world were able to overcome and fight back – at least some of them were. To me, this is Yancey making a statement about the strength of humanity, which I feel is important in a YA novel.

One of the most interesting things for me was the small insight we got into Evan’s thoughts. He finds himself cruel no matter what decision he makes. If he helps the Others, he is cruel to humans. If he helps the humans, he becomes a traitor to “his people.” To me that is the real issue with the aliens depositing their sleeper agents into the minds of humans. In order for the aliens to be truly adapted to humans, they have to develop and sleep in humans- but this also obviously produces a margin for “errors,” like Evan. By spending so many years inside of a human, asleep but absorbing, it’s very easy to see that aliens could absorb too much and become more human than intended. Maybe that is a statement in itself. Humanity is a virus. You try to infest us, and we end up infesting you. It’s the gift of a curse to those who try to invade. That’s the story inside the story that I think Yancey may have tried to slip in there. The greater story might tend to cover this for some, but for me it was a shining idea in an already brightly told tale. It makes me wonder just how many other of these sleeper agents have defected and become human enough to turn against the aliens. Evan does say that he was on a side that was against the invasion. Will the rest of this faction show up in later books? Will they help the remaining humans? It raises so many questions!

All that being said, there were things that I had problems with. First and foremost on this list is the stereotypical sexism of the book. Cassie consistently talks about being in love. She literally at one point says that she wants to have Ben Parish’s babies. She’s 16. Come on, now. I get that she might have a crush on the guy, maybe even want to sleep with him, but in the midst of an alien apocalypse she literally says she wants to have his babies. I find problems with that. In addition to this she ends up falling for Evan. Yes, it’s great he saved her. He nursed her back to health. I get that that sort of things is a bit of a standard clichéd idea in many books and movies, but I feel it’s misplaced here. Evan is Cassie’s second love interest (even though she never made a move on Ben or anything), and she goes nuts over him. To me this makes it seem way too much like a ‘damsel in distress’ type of story.

Hearing Cassie repeatedly talk about boys in such a stereotypical manner kind of takes away from the story, in my opinion. And the scene where Evan finds Cassie and Ben with Sam has the distinct possibility of almost turning into a love triangle. I’m very glad that didn’t happen.

Personally I wanted to get more of an insight into the aliens and their journey and purpose. Of course, with any luck that will come in one of the other two books. I’m hoping to learn the full truth of what happens to Evan and learn more about the reality behind the invasion and the nature of the Others.

What did you think of the book? What did you like or not like? What elements did you have problems with? Is there anything in particular that threw you off or put you off about the book? Overall the book was awesome and I look forward to eventually reading the other two parts. I hope you all enjoyed this book like I did, and I hope you enjoyed the review! What book would you like to cover next? Is there a specific genre you would like to see represented? Let me know in the comments. I really want to see lots of feedback! Jump in on the discussion and share away!

Book number two!

Hey there friends and fans! The first month of the book club went great! I had a great time reading “Horns” and you guys seem to have enjoyed the book, too.

I’ve decided to go with a timeless classic for December – not to mention a bit of a shorter work, since we’ll all be busier with the holidays. This month we’re going to be reading “A Christmas Carol” by the late, great Charles Dickens!

I’ve talked to a number of people over the years who say they’ve always meant to read this book, but just haven’t had the chance or haven’t been able to get themselves motivated to do it. Well, if that’s you, here’s your chance! This book has been performed on stage and made into so many movies that we all already know the story, but there is nothing like reading those words as Dickens wrote them.

I hope you’ll all join me in taking a deeper look at this amazing piece of literary history. My post on the book will go up on or around December 31. I’m considering making it December 30, so I don’t have to annoy you all on New Year’s Eve ,  so you’ve got just under 30 days to knock out this awesome book! Let me know what you think in the comments below or if you plan to read along with me, and share this with anyone who’d like to be a part of the club or the discussion for this book.

Book exchange and new opportunity

I hope this week finds you all well and safe. Summer is well underway here in the states and, as always, one of the greatest literary events is the summer reading list. Recently one of my friends on social media shared a post regarding a book exchange that allows one to get to know more about their online friends, and I thought it sounded like the perfect thing to try here! So what I am challenging each and every one of you to do is join the book exchange and share it far and wide to help inspire reading and literacy to everyone you know, and with any luck to everyone they know and so on and so on.

Joining is really very simple. All you have to do is like or comment on the blog post and I’ll send you a message with specifics. After that you just send a copy of your favorite book to the person who shares the exchange before you. In this case that would be me, of course. The book can be a new or used copy, whichever you’d prefer. The exchange provides all of us with a chance, not only to read the favorite books of our online friends, but also the opportunity to have hours and hours of conversation about what makes the book great.

Personally it is conversation about literature that makes the reading experience even more amazing for me. As a writer I have tons of ideas flow through my mind as I read a book and I love to discuss these ideas with others. It’s particularly great when I can discuss my favorite book with someone else and when I can discuss someone else’s favorite book with them. So please like or comment on this post if you are interested in joining a book exchange and I’ll send you the details. After that, make your own post on your blog or on social media (or both!) and start spreading the joy!

On another note, I have sent one of my recent short stories in to attempt publication in a new journal an author friend referred me to. If I get in the journal, I will be published in the very first edition of a brand new literary journal! Hopefully I’ll hear something about the piece soon, and I’ll let you all know when I do. In the meantime I’ll keep writing and reading and I hope you’ll all join in on the book exchange and help make the experience bigger and better than ever!

Light up the Darkness

A lot of things have happened in the world in the last week, and most of it hasn’t been very good. The hate and intolerance that holds us back as a species is still running rampant in our society, and it is something I don’t often address. I try to stay out of public affairs and generally avoid discussing things of this nature because I have a very strong opinion on the matter. I believe in love and peace. I believe in loving what we love and not having to hide who we are, no matter who we are around. Despite my sometimes near crippling social anxiety when it comes to being in a crowd, I still love making sure I have the opportunity to share my opinions – something which many people, even in the 21st century, are still persecuted for.

The world reacted roughly when acts of terrorism were announced in the last month; bombings, looting, a night club shooting that left 50 people dead just because someone didn’t agree with whom they loved. And the past week has been similar. In case you haven’t caught the news in your part of the world, a young black man was killed earlier this week in the U.S. by police officers in what can be considered nothing short of police brutality. Many people reacted harshly, calling all cops corrupt and racist, allowing the hate that has kept us back for so long continue to rule their lives. That hate led to a sniper opening fire on police in Texas and taking the lives of five officers who put their lives on the line to keep others safe.

While those matters are terrible, something that hasn’t gotten a lot of mass media attention is the fact that there were also two shootings in my part of the country within 24 hours of one another. The first, taking place early Thursday morning, claimed the life of an innocent woman who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That woman worked for the same newspaper that I work for. She was killed in cold blood while on the way to work, while four others were injured by the same shooter. The next day someone reported being shot by an unknown assailant for an unknown reason. Why? Why have we allowed ourselves to be bogged down by the senseless hate and racism and every other pointless thing that does nothing but cause pain?

I’ve been thinking on this for a bit and I think that one of the biggest problems is that we don’t address it unless we have to. In everyday life, when there hasn’t been an assault, a shooting or an act of terrorism, how often does racism and hate come across your mind? Even if you have a prejudice against someone, be it over race or not, how often do you look at yourself and say “wow, that’s racist/prejudiced?” Not at all. Because unless someone has performed an act that complies with the extreme ideas of racism and hate, we sweep it under the rug. Humans don’t want to live in misery and fear. We want to enjoy life and act as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way we live, even if deep within us boils a cauldron of hatred.

Realizing this got me thinking a lot about light and darkness. A bit cliché, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I thought about the difference between happiness, which is light and hatred, which is obviously dark. We look at the world with blinders on more often than not because it is easier to believe everyone is happy and there are no problems with anything than it is to look at the problems and try to find a solution. This leads to things like hate and racism being stored away to be ignored until we are forced, by some tragedy, to address them again. This lead me to thinking of the things that grow in light vs. things that grow in darkness. The concept might sound overly simple when saying it like that, but it does make sense.

If you put a plant in total darkness, does it flourish? No. It might struggle on feebly for some time, but it can’t be healthy because overall, most plants need sun to live. The same goes with love. You can’t shut it away and never use it. It won’t last. It needs exposure, it needs fresh air, it needs to be EXPRESSED.  But hate… you put hate in a dark corner of your soul and pretend it doesn’t exist and it will thrive. It will grow and grow and consume everything until you are full of the hatred that leads to innocent people being gunned down in the street.

So often we want to look at ourselves and say that nothing is wrong with the way we think or feel, that we are fully happy and fully right in our way of life. But do you avoid certain people because of what they look like or what they believe? Racism and prejudice aren’t just about killing someone who is different than you. It often starts just by thinking “that’s different. I don’t care for that.” But that can’t be the case, can it? Just because you instinctively cross the street if you see a black man walking towards you, or you wait for the next elevator because the woman who just got on this one is wearing a hijab, that isn’t racism, is it? Yes. And it’s the denial of that fact that leads to the problems in this world.

We can’t go on acting like it’s OK to bash someone because of how they live. That is not human, guys. You can’t wake up one morning and give change to a homeless man and then go home and talk about how dumb your neighbor is because he buys a new car every year. That’s hate. You can’t say that the person who hung a black man 70 years ago was racist and then call a black man you see on the street a thug because he dresses differently than you. That’s not how life should work. We can not keep acting like being different is wrong. You are not going to find a single person on the face of this planet who likes everything you do in the same way that you do. That would make us all robots.

We have the free will to make out own choices for a reason. God put us all here on this rock and said “Love thy neighbor”. Are you loving your neighbor when you walk down the road and badmouth someone for having darker skin than you? No. Are you loving your neighbor when you drive by a mosque and think about how ridiculous the people inside look as they pray facing Mecca? Absolutely not. It is one thing to recognize that someone is different, but it is another thing entirely to feel they are inferior because of it.

This is an issue, people. It is not something that we need to continue letting go un-discussed. Racism will not go away until we stop hiding it. We are all on this planet together and it is meant for us all to live in peace. We can’t do that if we keep pretending we don’t have a problem. People are going to keep dying if we can’t learn to accept that everyone is different. That’s all it takes. We need to look at the world and say “there are over 7 billion of us here, and not one of us is completely alike. And that is perfectly fine.” Until we learn to do that, innocent lives will continue to be lost and pain will continue to be felt. I will leave you with a quote from one of the best human rights advocates I’ve ever studied; Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley.

“Light up the Darkness.”

That is what we have to do. We have to look at the world and look at ourselves and stop hiding what issues exist. If we have a problem with someone due to race, religion or anything else we have to stop acting as if that is normal and OK. Because it is not. We have to shine a light on those bits of darkness and accept that we have an issue with something. And then we need to find a way to deal with it that does not involve violence. Taking the life of someone we don’t agree with is not a solution. We have to find a way to live together in peace. As much as I hate to say it, in times like these I see a group of leaders like those in “The Giver”, and I think they may have had some good points. They did away with religion and race and even the ability to see color – because mankind couldn’t handle it. Unfortunately with that went the chance for individuality, opinion and emotion. Is that what we want, people? An existence that is literally just that? This world, this life, is precious. For everyone. Not just the people you agree with. We have to learn that before it is too late.

Light up the darkness.

Huge Announcement and New Work

Hello friends and fans!! I’m coming to you live on my brand spanking new site, and it feels great! As many of you know I used to have a separate site from my blog that, although fairly successful, left something to be desired for me. After this year’s writers symposium I found myself in a state of improved ambition and confidence, as is usually the case, and I came home knowing that I wanted to make some changes and set some goals for myself .

I worked out some things that needed to happen, the first of which was to get a new website going for me and keep it going and updated regularly. So, here, with a whole new round of current headshots, the migration of my old blog and followers and the inclusion of a brand new newsletter (which I sincerely hope you’ll all subscribe to) I give you my new site! Take some time and browse through at your leisure, but not before taking a peek at one of the things I have been most excited about in recent weeks.

On the bottom of this post I am going to include my latest short story, completely free and exclusively for followers of my blog! I got this story idea while working on the presentation I was teaching at last year’s symposium and I let it cook for a while before jotting a version down.  After this year’s event I looked at it again and decided that I would update it and put it out to give you all the first chance to read it! The story itself draws from folk tale styles and local color writing in my area, and is honestly unlike anything I’ve done before.  I hope you’ll all take the time to read it and give me some honest feedback, because it may end up being part of a larger announcement and project soon. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the story and the site and I’ll be writing again soon!

Lefty Smith and the Right Handed Corn

“I’ve seen some mighty queer things in my travels,” the old man said.

I nodded and smiled, agreeing with him without saying much. I didn’t really have any plans that I needed to hurry and fulfill, and somehow I thought I wouldn’t have been able to walk away even if I wanted to. I don’t know what it was about the man, but just hearing that phrase and seeing his strange brand of fashion and body language, I felt like I had to listen to him.

I settled into the seat across from him, looking over his tattered jeans and faded deep blue button down shirt that he wore over dirty, scuffed boots. I had seen him once or twice in the last ten years while I helped my father work the store, usually sitting around the woodstove right where he was now, where all of the old timers in five counties eventually end up at some point or another.

“Yep,” he said as I nodded for him to continue. “Some mighty queer things.”

The store was empty that morning and I could tell I was in for the long haul, so I reached to the pot on the stove beside of me and poured myself a cup of coffee, topping off his chipped mug as he held it out.

“I went to the deep South to lay claim to my heritage,” the old man said, his dark eyes meeting mine and seeming to pin me to my chair. “My father fought in the Civil War before moving north to Ohio. I made a straight shot to the Mason-Dixon line and stayed a night near the border of North Carolina before heading down to Georgia.”

“I camped out in a field under the stars on the border of Virginia, eating a bit of the road provisions I’d packed and passing out in no time, the sounds of the night always make for the best lullaby,” he added, a smile on his face.

“I woke up the next morning when the sun got just over the tops of the rows of corn to the east of me and began driving. Before long I came across a batch of cars and machinery set up in a field and stopped in to see what proved to be a lively county fair.”

I could tell the man was getting into the story, his right leg thrown over the left, his foot bobbing higher and higher the more he talked.

“At first everything seemed fairly normal,” he continued. “There was music, food, some games… and a whole lot of corn. I didn’t think much of that, since the fair was set up in the middle of the largest corn field I’d ever seen. The more I looked, though, the weirder it got. I noticed something weird about the people, too,” he said, leaning forward and looking at me with squinty eyes set deep in his wrinkled face, a mischievous grin exposing his age-worn teeth..

“Everyone I saw eating this corn was eating it with their right hand. Only their right hand. Skewers were stabbed into one end of the corn and everyone was gripping it with their right hand while their left dangled freely, occasionally coming to life to swat a pest or pick at a piece of fabric in their shirts. I was a bit confused, I admit. I thought maybe I’d just stumbled into a community of overly-ambitious right-handers who still viewed Southpaws a thing of the devil,” he laughed as he imagined the sight again.

“Being adventurous in my youth I decided, come life or limb, to test my theory. I walked amongst the din of conversation between old friends and neighbors and plucked my dime down and got my own steaming ear, slathered butter up and down over the golden kernels and sat down in the middle of everyone, my left hand gripping the stick so tight the knuckles were white.”

He leaned back and cackled, drinking deeply of his coffee while I sipped my own, finding myself more interested in this mystery than I cared to admit.

“I noticed a few of those closest to me stop eating and look at me in horror,” he said, clearly loving the opportunity to share his tale. “As I took my first tender, juicy bite I felt the butter run down my chin as the corn rolled around in my mouth like hot coals, burning everything they touched.”

“As I chewed I noticed a low murmur run through the crowd. ‘Lefty’, I would hear one whisper, to another or to themselves I couldn’t tell. Before long all other sounds had stopped and most every eye was on me. Halfway through my corn I looked up and smiled, asking my neighbor what was the matter. He only shook his head at first, eventually cracking out the one word I’d heard for about five minutes. Lefty.”

“I couldn’t describe my confusion if I tried. Were they commenting on my eating habits alone, or trying to insult me by being derogatory,” the old man said, his amusement showing on every part of his face.

“Laying my corn down on the table and wiping my mouth with my shirt collar, I spoke up in my own defense.”

“ ‘I apologize if I offended anyone with my eating, but I’m not actually left handed,’ I told them.”

“At first no one spoke. Then a man, a little shorter than most, sitting a little straighter than others, made himself known.”

“ ‘It ain’t a matter of being left handed, sir,’ he said. ‘We’re all just shocked that you don’t seem to care about the curse.’ ”

“ ‘Curse,’ I laughed, ‘I didn’t know about any curse. I was just driving through and saw the fair and thought I’d stop in.’ ”

“A dull roar went through the crowd as they collectively relayed that a stranger was breaching some curse they were scared of.”

“ ‘The curse ought not to be ignored,’ said the man. ‘Maybe if you heard the story and find out what happens to them that don’t listen you’d respect it more.’ ”

“What could I say,” the old man asked me, his story still thrilling him, his foot bobbing higher than ever as he drained his cup, shaking his head and continuing the tale when I held out the pot to offer him more.

“ ‘I’m a guest in your town,’ I told them, putting on my best southern charm just as my father had taught me, ‘and I’ll listen to anything you’d like to tell me.’ ”

“ ‘Good,’ the little man said. ‘It ain’t something we take lightly around here. I’ll get Tom Hunter to tell the story, since he’s most directly involved.’ ”

“ ‘Thank ye, Doctor,’ said a man no younger than 60 who looked to be nearly as wide as he was tall. ‘I’ll ask ye to listen kindly, stranger.’ ”

“ ‘Fact of it is, my grandfather was the third Hunter in line that owned this here farm. The town nearby was still sorta new, made of a buncha cast-offs from the Civil War. Fact is, this very field was the site of a major battle in the area. Nigh 200 lives were lost in this place. ‘F ya ask me it’s the blood in the ground what makes the corn grow so tall.’ ”

“ ‘But anyway. ‘Twas the night before the town’s first fair and my grandfather was out with the mayor and some of the church deacons, pickin’ corn for the event. Knowin’ they’d need a lot, the men worked late into the night, only stopping to empty their baskets into the wagon they had.’

“ ‘Long ‘bout one in the mornin’, way he told, they finished one row and was movin’ to another when they saw ‘im.’ ”

“ ‘Saw who,’ I asked the farmer, genuinely unable to hide my curiosity.”

“ ‘Lefty Smith. A veteran of the great war that hadn’t lasted a month after coming home. Mean as sin and twice as scary is what his own wife said about him. Lefty was called Lefty because he got his right arm blowed off in the battle. It was an infection in his blood what finally killed him off.’ ”

“ ‘He was dead?’ ”

“ ‘Been dead about 3 months,’ Hunter told me. ‘ Infection took him quick. But not before he got mean. Terrorized the whole dern town, he did. Started claimin’ everything left and right as bein’ his left-handed property. That’s where the curse come from.’ ”

“ ‘From the dead man,’ I asked him, doing my best not to let my skepticism show.”

“ ‘Yessir. My granddaddy and half the church was out in this very field, like I said. They was pickin’ away for the fair when it happened. They went from one row to the next and seen him standin’ there.’ ”

“ ‘Lefty?’ ”

‘Yessir, Lefty Smith, a haint if a haint there ever was, standin’ there munchin’ a ear of corn. Granddaddy said they stopped dead and Lefty looked at ‘em with that mean old look in his eyes, threw down his ear of corn and grabbed another off the stalk.’

“ ‘Listen here,’ he said to ‘em, pullin’ the shuck off with his teeth, ‘Y’all better not be givin away my corn tomorrow.’ ”

“ ‘Your corn,’ my granddaddy spoke up, ‘Lefty Smith you know this is my field. Has been for 30 years.’ ”

“ ‘Your field or not, Jeb Hunter, you keep away from my corn. You can take all the right-handed corn you want, but you mark my words – all the left-handed corn in this field is mine and any man I see eatin’ it will pay the price.’ ”

“ ‘What happened then,’ I asked Hunter,” the old man told me, seeing I was just as interested as I could imagine he had been.

“ ‘Well they ran,’ Hunter said with a laugh. ‘They hauled tail out of that field and spread the word about the curse. That was almost 50 years ago and I’ll tell you now, only a handful of people in that time has eaten any left-handed corn – and each time it’s ended bad.’ ”

“ ‘I do appreciate the warning, Mr. Hunter but I’ve finished over half an ear with my left hand and I haven’t seen any trouble,” the old man said with a cackle. “Do you know what he said?”

“I have no idea,” I told him.

“He looked at me real serious and said ‘well, how’d it taste?’ ”

“I told him honest that it was actually pretty delicious. Then he asked me if it was hot or cold.”

“ ‘Quite hot,’ I told him.”

“ ‘Did it burn your mouth,’ he asked.”

“ ‘As a matter of fact it did cause a little discomfort,’ I told him.”

“ ‘That was the curse,’ he told me without hesitation. ‘I bet Lefty just decided to take it easy on you seein’ as how you didn’t know about his left-handed corn.’ ”

“ ‘Well if that is the case, then I certainly appreciate Lefty’s generosity, and I’ll keep it in mind until I’m out of danger,’’ I told him.”

“I finished my corn with my right hand and was accepted as the newest member of the community. I was so respected, actually, that when I left it was insisted that I stop on my way back through. As I climbed into my car the mayor himself handed me another ear of corn for the road, which I happily munched with my left hand once I was well out of eyeshot of the superstitious new friends I had made.”

The old man sat back when he was finished and gave me the biggest, crookedest grin I’d ever seen.

“Any more evidence of the curse,” I asked him, unable to help myself.

“Sure,” he said with a wink, “I felt like I hadn’t taken three bites before I realized all the corn was gone off the cob, and I hadn’t had near my fill.”

 

There you go guys! I would really appreciate it if you would let me know what you think about the story. Send me a message or leave me a comment and now go check out the new site!!

Apology

I know it has been over two weeks since my last post, and I sincerely apologize for that, everyone. It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me.

I realized last night and this morning that today marks exactly one year since my first interview with the Bristol Herald. I can’t believe that! A year later and here I am! Also, I will be covering a discussion by Sen. MArk Warner today, and coincidentally he is the first big name interview I ever got when working for the Highland Cavalier as well! God’s blessings really are coming full circle today and I couldn’t be happier.

Since starting my new job with the Bristol Herald Courier I have gotten three cover stories, one of which was the headline and have made some very interesting new contacts.

In addition to this  I found a new place to live and have been consumed with a 40 hour a week job, an hour and a half long commute each way for me for some of the days, and moving everything from my old place to my new one while maintaining get enough time for sleep and sanity. Needless to say it has been incredible, stressful and truly rewarding.

I just wanted to post a little something letting you all know that I am very sorry I’ve been absent, and that hopefully I will have the move completed and have more free time soon so I can start blogging again. I am including a link to one of my favorite stories of the last two weeks in the hopes that you will all read and enjoy it! God bless!

http://bit.ly/1rqNOdG

Spring Renewal

I was thinking this morning about how blessed I have been and about the changes coming on me in a week or so and it hit me just how monumental the changes of my life have been these last couple of years.

Last year, 2015, I graduated from my university with a Bachelor’s Degree and a world full of potential. This experience was slightly bittersweet, seeing as how I owe my Alma Mater so much. While there I learned skills that have helped me beyond measure, was introduced to people who have become some of my best friends, and found books and other works of art that have had profound impacts on me (and my writing). I visited campus again today to speak with some of my former professors and it hit me  again just how much I miss the place, not necessarily for the work or the classes, but for the environment that I don’t think I will ever forget. I wholeheartedly believe that the environment of a liberal arts college is one that can’t be beat and is one of the most welcoming of all – but that’s a post for another time.

Finally, keeping up with the changes that Spring brings my family and I we come to the fact that one week from today (on my birthday I might add) I will be starting my new job, the next phase of my life. In addition to just changing professions, I plan on moving to a different location, which is only going to add to my excitement (and perhaps a little to our stress during the moving process – I HATE packing). But I couldn’t be more thrilled with the possibilities ahead of me! Also, as a special note for anyone who knows me; May of 2013 saw the release of Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, just a month after I presented a paper at two undergraduate research conferences on the book (which just happens to be my absolute favorite!).

If the future continues to have such (hopefully good) profound and excellent bits of change and renewal for my family and I, then things should definitely remain exciting for us! So what about you guys? Have you found yourselves in the middle of great changes or on the receiving end of great blessings in the months of April and May, or during the time of Spring and early Summer? If so, feel free to leave details of your experiences below or message me with the details!

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Cutting the Red Tape

As you all know last week I made a post announcing my new job opportunity. I have received immense support and congratulations from you all and I couldn’t be more appreciative. One thing that is always a part of taking a step to better yourself and your family is the red tape associated with changing locations and jobs. I currently live around 45 minutes or an hour away from the office I’ll be working from, so I’m looking to relocate to make my commute a little shorter and I am definitely seeing the red tape show up with that process. Between trying to get our student loans on a solid repayment plan to getting pre-approved for a mortage, the obstacles are everywhere. When discussing what to blog about today, I decided to discuss a bit about that red tape in a way that is relevant to all of you as well (since it’s pretty much all we can focus on this week due to the mind-numbing stress of it all).

Red tape can come in many forms for an artist, and can be as simple as checking the format on a submission, or it can be as hard as nailing down the best time and place to have a meeting with someone interested in your work. Sometimes the red tape can be easily avoided, and other times it will wrap you up until you’re almost certain you’ll never get free of it. One such instance of this comes in the form of getting your piece ready for a certain venue. For instance, you may have a piece that you have written entirely in Arial Bold, your favorite font, only to find out that the publisher you are looking into will only accept pieces submitted in Times New Roman. This isn’t that big of a deal and is really a simple fix (control + A and change the font, for those of us who don’t do computers). In this case you’ve gotten through the red tape quite simply.

Other cases may find you scrambling a bit to get your work ready. The submission process can be one of these things. Less than a decade ago most journals and publications still worked in hard copy submissions, email submissions unheard of for some of them. Unfortunately  that is no longer the case. Most large publications now only accept online submissions either via email, through Submittable or some other platform. This in itself may not be all that difficult since most of us, even if we don’t write our pieces completely on the computer, will still have a back-up electronic copy ready to go whenever it may be needed. But what can be a problem is when the journal doesn’t specify how best to submit. Most do, granted, but there are those that don’t, and this can be a big issue. If we submit via email they may not get it, or may trash it as many journals who use other platforms tell you they will do with email submissions, or they may just not get it.

One of the worst cases of pre-publishing red tape that I’ve come across recently comes into play when you are using the tactic of simultaneous submissions, which can be both helpful and maddening at the same time. Simultaneous submissions means that you send the same piece with its respective cover letter to multiple venues in order to broaden your possibilities for publication. This isn’t a secret, of course, as most journals will flat out tell you that they accept simultaneous submissions as long as you tell them if the piece has been accepted elsewhere before they get to it. Of course, there are those who say that they don’t accept them, but honestly I don’t think that is going to really stop many of us in the long run, if you’re determined to get the work out there. The complication comes in when you look at the submission guidelines for the venues in question. I occasionally go on submitting sprees where I will look at a dozen or so venues and get pieces ready to send in, and sometimes that process can take hours, even if your work fits the basics of their specifications.

What I mean in this instance is the way you have to submit. The minor, but potentially devastating red tape. In my experience, most journals have their own way they prefer to get submissions. Most of the time this, in some way or another, involves having your piece attached to an email, often with no name or labels other than the title in the piece itself in order to maintain anonymity until chosen, while the body of your email gives you a chance to tell them your name and perhaps give a summary of the piece and why you think it fits, and a small bio. But there are the exceptions. I’ve come across editors who tell those interested in submitting to put their name and submission title in the subject of the email and copy and paste their piece in the body of the email, saying any messages received with attachments will be discarded without being viewed. Now, in the era of the ever hungry computer virus, I can understand that to a point, but when preparing multiple submissions, one little slip-up can result in a rejection or even having your submission overlooked by default.

The same goes with the red tape in life. If we forget to dot an ‘i’ or cross a ‘t’ our whole process could come crashing back down just for us to have to start all over again. Granted, the margin of error in things like a mortage application varies quite a bit than, say, a short story submission to The New Yorker, it’s all relative in its own way. In this day and age we definitely have to make absolutely certain that we have an eye for detail, because the red tape can sometimes be a bit confusing, but with the proper determination and the right amount of preparation you’ll be through it before you know it, sitting in a new house or opening your sample copy of the journal with your story as the center piece. Obviously I haven’t covered all of the possibilities here, so what other forms of red tape have you all encountered in your journeys, and how did you cut through it to make it where you are now?

In the meantime, if any of you have a topic suggestion, I ask that you definitely get it to me. Leave your comments below and happy writing!

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Exciting Announcement

I do apologize, friends and fans, for my absence so far this week, but I have been preparing to make a very exciting announcement. As many of you know I have been working as a library specialist for the last seven or eight months and I absolutely love it, although it doesn’t give me much of an opportunity to exercise and better develop my journalism skills.

I have always been fascinated by journalism, but had no opportunity to actually put my interest to the test until my final year of college, during which time I was made Head News Writer of my college newspaper. This job made me realize just how much I loved being a news writer/reporter and it allowed me to truly branch out and hone my skills as a writer. Upon graduation, I continued to blog and to write, but didn’t have many opportunities for practicing formal journalism – until now.

I am ecstatic to announce that I have been offered a reporter position with the Bristol Herald Courier, one of the most renowned papers in my region and I have graciously accepted. I will tentatively be starting my new job in the next two and half weeks or so and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope all of you will be able to check out my work with this paper. I plan to continue blogging at least once a week (but hopefully twice) while doing this job, but during my training and getting used to the flow of that job, things may get a bit jumpy. I am very excited about the changes coming in the near future and I can’t wait to be able to write stories and share the news of the region with all of the readers of this awesome production! Thank you all for your patience while I adjust to this much anticipated change of pace!

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Awesome Opportunity

I know I have spoken to you all before about the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium, and I think it’s about time to mention it for this year, too. The event takes place on June 10 and 11 this year, and it promises great content and a great experience to all those interested in attending.

The keynote speaker this year is Sharyn McCrumb, an Appalachian writer who has tackled many topics during her career and has made quite a name for herself. The topics being discussed range from graphic novel design and fantasy writing, to the ever practical and useful topics of marketing and nonfiction writing and many things in between. This symposium, now in it’s seventh year, is one of the best writing events in my region and often has visiting writers from all over the country in attendance. We do, of course, typically hold the theme of Appalachian Heritage writing, but that isn’t all we focus on, either.

I have found that this symposium can be very useful and it has actually helped me develop my platform since my first year of attendance in 2012. I have seen a number of people leave the symposium with a lot of knowledge that they didn’t have before attending and have actually felt more encouraged with my own writing after speaking to the writers that attend. One of the most rewarding things about this particular event, in my opinion is that you are given multiple opportunities throughout the two days to have face-to-face and one-on-one interaction with these authors. Unfortunately with symposiums and events like this that isn’t always the case.

Another benefit of this experience is that, rather than being full of themselves and unkind, as some individuals in the spotlight tend to be, these authors are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, often striking up a conversation with you before you even get the chance to start one with them. I have gotten to know most all of the Appalachian Heritage Writers Guild and most of the regular attendees of the symposium itself and I have to say that one of the reasons I find it so beneficial to keep attending is the level of camaraderie I feel whenever I go. This is a very important thing for an artist, especially one just starting out.

One thing that I also find very interesting about the event is that there is a writing contest (prizes included) that is all inclusive. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to be in attendance to win! So if you find yourself unable to attend the conference, but would like to enter the contest, follow the link at the bottom of this post for more information.

So I want to invite you all to try and attend. I know some of you are quite far from Southwest Virginia, but I assure you it is worth the trip. I will attach a link to the symposium website at the bottom of this post for any interested in learning more about it. Of course, as this is an event with a set schedule and meals included (Ha! I left that part for those of you that stuck it out until the end! The food is very amazing every year, so that is always another benefit), so registration is required so they have a head count and know how much to purchase in terms of supplies, etc. Also, there is normally a gift bag upon entering that includes a folder for the event, at least one notebook and pen, and a copy of SWCC’s Clinch Mountain Review.  There is a book signing event at the end of the first day and more festivities that you’ll just have to attend in order to know about! If there is anyone who has any interest in attending but feels unable to pay for the experience, please contact me. I really hope to meet some of you at this awesome symposium!

https://appheritagewritersym.wordpress.com/

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