Friday Five Minus One

Friday Five3

Happy Friday to you! I only have four things to share this week, but there’s a lot to chew on in some of them.

  1. Jane Friedman’s post on social media for authors was a soothing balm to me. Particularly these sentences: “It works best when you can see it as play, as a natural extension of your work. As soon as you carve it out as the ‘marketing and promotion’ part of work/life, your results may be lackluster.” Sometimes, I worry about my online presence, as the bulk of my writing time is spent in offline projects and SEO stuff. Then when I do post on social media, I feel like it has to really be something special. So I end up not posting for longer. It’s possible I’m overthinking it and just need to play.
  2. Melissa Febos via  Catapult urges us to fight the expectations placed on us (…that we place on ourselves also?) to better manage our time and get work done. I like any advice that tells me to ignore emails (except for customer emails at work, of course).
  3. If there’s one thing I love about the upcoming female remake of Lord of the Flies, it’s the opportunity it provides for satire. The last faux excerpt on this list is my favorite:

    “Murder?!” asked Erica.

    “Literally the only thing we’re trying to do on this island is not die. Why—” but Sam couldn’t finish her sentence. She was laughing too hard.

  4. The 2017 Texas Book Festival. I am going to this one year. This might not be the year, but maybe. I haven’t been to Austin in a while.

So that’s my week. Give me a fifth – what have you read this week that you liked?


Art and Story

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“This week I challenge you to write about something you really don’t care about.”

When I got this prompt, I thought, “Oh, that’s easy. I do that all the time. Welcome to SEO writing.” But I hit a wall and weeks passed and nothing. Turns out, if I’m going to write about something I don’t initially care about, I at least want to get paid for it. Also, I like knowing things, so by the time I’ve read enough to write an article about it, I find at least one aspect of it fascinating.

For all of my life, I’ve wanted to care more about art. I have lived with art history majors and artists. As their friend, I care about what is important to them, because that’s how friendship works. So I do care about art…in general. I am glad there is art in the world. I believe that the arts in general and visual art in particular are vital to our well-being as a human race.

But as soon as I got this prompt – particularly the aspect of the prompt that said to consider something “that you really just fall asleep listening to people talk” – art was the first thing that came to mind. I will go to a museum with someone (especially if it’s a special event where wine is served), but I will not be the one to suggest it. I will support (i.e., purchase and/or encourage others to purchase) art from friends and local artists, but have a low threshold for lengthy, rambling conversations about the more technical aspects of producing the drawing, painting, or sculpture.

Where art grabs my attention is in the story.

The piece that springs to mind is Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri. In this painting (the title translates as “Behold the Man”), we see Pilate presenting Jesus to the crowd. Jesus has been beaten. The most striking character is Pilate’s wife. She’s the only one looking away, and the look on her face reminds us that she warned Pilate not to mess with Jesus – that she’d had a terrible dream about what might befall him if he did. And now her husband has not only neglected to heed her advice but is presenting Jesus for more torture. I didn’t respond to the painting at first glance, but when I learned the story behind it, my reaction was visceral.

When people tell me the story behind a piece or where their minds or souls were when they were creating it, I am interested. Therein lies its beauty to me.

Friday Five2

Where do the weeks go? I’ve been reading and writing, and August is crazy, but now it’s September, so here we are. Hello! How have you all been?

Here are five things that have caught my attention/amused me/made me think:

  1. I read many good responses to the Nashville Statement (which I didn’t find as surprising, given the source, as others seemed to), this one being my favorite.
  2. What do you do when you are trapped in a bakery, held hostage by a hurricane? You make pan dulce, of course, for all the people who are going to be hungry afterwards. I love this story!
  3. I added to my to-read list. There are several on this list of non-fiction I’m interested in checking out.
  4. Lord of the Flies as an all-female remake…written by zero females? The people respond, and it’s hilarious.
  5. And because you need more absurd dog pictures in your life, here are dogs masquerading as people you may know.

Happy Friday!

Harvey Help

You’ve probably seen this already floating around your social media accounts, but here are some ways to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s damage:

  1. The best way to help is to send money to organizations already doing the work unless they specifically ask you to send other things. Texas Monthly has a list of groups that have been instrumental in relief efforts.  Also HEB has been badass.
  2. My friend’s church in Webster has an Amazon wishlist if you want to take a step out of the process of donation-receipt-deposit-buy for them. The address is
    Hurricane Relief
    Heritage Park Baptist Church
    2732 FM 528 Rd.
    Webster, TX 77598
  3. If you’re in Denton, one of our HAs is working directly with the Rockport fire department to deliver and sort donations. There will be donation boxes in the resident halls at UNT and at Rockin’ Rodeo.  You can also donate money here.

story cure

The Story Cure is a how-to manual from a book doctor on fixing your manuscript. This book can do for your manuscript what a physician’s home reference book can do for what ails you physically.

According to Dinty Moore, a book doctor is “a person who will take a book manuscript…and diagnose why it is not yet working.” He then goes on to detail what aspects you might need to address during the editing process. The goal of this book is to help writers get from “I finished/started/proposed a manuscript” to “I have a real book that people might actually want to read.”

When I am evaluating writing books, I look at three things:

  1. How many notes I take
  2. How many ideas I scribble in the margin for current or future projects.
  3. How long it takes me to get through it or how often I come back to it while editing

Judging from my five pages of excited jottings, this book was a success. I read it straight through once and then went back to start some of the tasks Moore lays out. It has improved my focus on my main fiction project and has inspired new ideas for a novel I’m going to start in November. It’s been so helpful, I may have to give him credit in my acknowledgements section when the books are published.

It should also be noted that I said “when” – not “if” – they are published, because The Story Cure has armed me with tools that I’m confident will lead to publication.

Elements that I found particularly helpful include

  • character motivation/development questions to focus your characters (and thus your story),
  • a massive amount of examples and advice from other writers (complete with reference list), and
  • adaptations for people who write fiction vs. nonfiction and for people who are at varying steps in the writing process.

I also appreciate his writing style, particularly when it includes gems like this when referring to why we fix bad writing – “So Roland is safe after all, but unfortunately not everyone is safe, because it is at this point that the reader pulls out a gun and shoots the author at point-blank range.”

The Story Cure is a helpful tool for people who are in the midst of editing a story that isn’t quite where they want it to be. This book can help get you there.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Friday Five 4

We are in the midst of Mean Green Move-In (which technically starts tomorrow, but let’s be real – we’re in the midst). As students come to campus with concerns about safety and questions about how they can get involved, opportunities for listening and conversation abound.

Here are four things to read that can also help:

  1. Dr. King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail – his reasoning behind his activism.
  2. Reading list for those interested. Some of you might feel defensive about the title. For me, a good way to fight defensiveness is to look beyond it and press on – to read something by someone with whom I don’t have a lot in common with the intent to understand and try to empathize. Maybe that will work for you, too.
  3. Literary examples of the tu quoque fallacy (or why “but both sides!” is not a logical argument and often breaks down what could have been a productive conversation).
  4. If you are not following Osheta Moore from Shalom in the City, you should. Her latest newsletter gave advice on what to do if you are disappointed in your church’s response to Charlottesville events. It’s also good advice for those of us who flocked to our churches because we knew we could expect the topic to be raised. As someone who is frequently “that person” in various circles, I often find her words encouraging. She is also a reminder to me that firm conviction can also be kind.

Speaking of good advice, don’t stare directly into the sun, even during Monday’s eclipse. Enjoy it safely, please.

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In the Firefly universe, the crew of the Serenity was always trying to avoid Reavers, the ones that had an adverse reaction to their environment and lost their damn minds, giving in to hate and every vile impulse that comes with it.

It’s hard to avoid them in this world, though. They have jobs and pay taxes. They’re raising children. They hold rallies at our universities and on our town squares.

Oh…is that harsh? My bad. Full disclosure – if you need me to be gentle about this, you are not going to like what I have to say here.

I have tried. I have been reading the news and scrolling through social media and racking my brain to find a gentle way to say this, but I have come up empty.

Gentleness is just not an appropriate response.

I would find it curious if an outspoken white supremacist enjoyed reading my blog. Maybe we have the same taste in food? But if you are reading this and are a person who attends white supremacist rallies or sympathizes with those who do, then this post is for you. You wanted attention, and for the next few paragraphs, you have mine. Congratulations, I guess.

I know in my head that you are as fully human as I am, but I have a difficulty seeing any trace of humanity in how you think and act. You may have an endearing characteristic, but I cannot see it through the stinking fog of your white supremacist beliefs. This is not a difference of opinion. I will not agree to disagree. White supremacy is evil and detrimental to the world.

I believe in a God who can redeem anyone, but I also believe that God waits for people to turn their hearts in repentance before doing so. I harbor immense cynicism that you have the willingness or maybe even the capacity to repent.

I agree with Nelson Mandela that no one is born hating whole chunks of humanity. I also know from personal experience that viewpoints that are revealed to be false and bad behavioral habits can be unlearned. In order to have those experiences, however, I have to be open to them, and I don’t see that openness in you.

But just in case I am wrong (and I hope that I am), I have a little advice on how to begin.

[One of my limitations in this conversation is that I don’t know how to fix this without Jesus. So if atheist friends or friends of other faiths want to give advice on where to start, please feel welcome to do so in the comments.]

Since it seems that most outspoken white supremacists, particularly in the southern regions of my country, profess the Christian faith, let’s start there.

That you are wrong about this is not up for discussion. You are wrong. Period. Get on your face before the God you serve and repent. Ask God to help you change. Beg God to help you change. Do not let go until God answers you. Do this every day until you no longer hate the people you hate today.

Next, I know you are really good at being angry. Anger is not wrong, but it needs to be pointed in the right direction. Get angry at white supremacy. Get angry at how it invaded your mind and heart and warped your soul. At some point, were you forced to choose between outwardly embracing white supremacy and being disowned by your family? Doesn’t that make you furious? Lean into that fury. Turn your hate toward this mindset that poisoned your life and every relationship you have. When change seems hopeless – and there will come a time when it does – that anger may be the only fuel that keeps any hope of redemption alive.

I and many others have a lot of ideas on where to go from there, but frankly, I would be surprised if you ever bother to get to this point.

So that’s what I have to say to you. Change. Start to do so immediately. You want to be a person who deserves to be heard? Become a person who says and does worthwhile things.

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