Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, Wenches

So it's Christmas for most of y'all.

Yes, most of y'all.  As in, not me.

Due to a very important family member working today, we are not celebrating until the 27th.  But, oddly enough, I don't really mind.  Obviously, I look forward to Christmas; getting up early, seeing all the presents, finding mine, etc.  But I'm starting to realize that the "looking forward," the anticipation, is part of the joy of Christmas.  And for me, that has been extended for two more days; longer than most people, but not so long that I despair.  As an added bonus, Walmart is open on my Christmas.

It's 10:21 PM right now, and I'm too tired to make this post good.  Or long.  I just wanted to say, Merry Christmas.

I hope it was a good one.

Mine sure will be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Reading is Not Your Enemy

Once upon a time, I had this friend.

Let me reprase that:

Once upon a time, I have this friend.  I talk to him sometimes, as is common between friends, and even recommended.  A few days ago I was talking about Socrates and how he didn't like writing, because he thought it made you forgetful and some other reason that I forget.

Oh my.  I didn't even think about that before I typed it.  But I guess it doesn't apply, since I never wrote down the other reason.

Anyhow, my friend made this horrific statement: Thats also why I don't read, cuz if you read then you stop thinking for yourself



The Danger of Reading

Suppose you're reading along in your little book, and you come across something that isn't true.  And you realize, not only is it not true, but it's false!  It's a lie!  The world shakes beneath your feet.  You swoon onto your Victorian era chaise lounge.

But that's not the fear, is it?  The fear is that you won't realize that the untruth is, indeed, an untruth.  The fear is that it will slip into your mind and take over it like a cancer, and you won't be able to go back to your former correctness.  The fear is that it will change you for the worse, and you won't even know it.

But what I find interesting is that my friend has no problem with movies, video games, the internet, or interaction with other people.  And I think that even he would agree with me that just as much untruth can be found in those things as in a book.  So what makes a book more dangerous?

I find three options for his thinking here.

1.  A book's message is somehow more subtle and subversive.

Of course, saying "a book" is incredibly vague.  But the fact remains that no matter the genre or topic of a book, some authors have an incredible ability to capture the reader's attention and hold it hostage, all by their words.  But at the end of the day, they're just words, and the more we see them, the more we see them for what they are.  It occurs to me that perhaps my friend is intimidated by books.  This is unflattering, but aren't there unflattering possibilities with us all?  Perhaps he sees the written word as something beyond his ability to discern clearly.  But the more reading we do, and the more GOOD reading we do, measuring books against Scripture, and getting advice from trusted individuals, the easier it is to see where the truth is, and where it isn't.

2.  More truth can be found in books in general, and thus, it's harder to tell the truth from the untruth.

Like...what?  Where did I pull this out of?  Unfortunately, though it looks like complete and utter rubbish, it's an option.  People don't think clearly, especially when emotions get involved, and it's possible this is an emotion-linked issue for my friend.  They usually are in some way.  But the response to this one is the same as in the one above.  Good reading, judged by Scripture.  Know the straight line so you can spot the crooked one.

3.  He merely dislikes reading and wants to find a way to justify that dislike.

We're not trying to be logical at this point.  This is a purely emotional response.  People, though they'll do things that they know aren't logical, will always try to convince themselves and others that they have good reason for their thoughts, words, and actions.  Because we're created in God's image, we yearn for things to be logical, and because we have been corrupted, we aren't logical.

Benefits of Reading

1.  Ya learn duff.

What do you learn from reading?  Well, anything that you can put into words.  Language, philosophy, culture, how to tell a story, how it feels to crash a bike into your ex-uncle-in-law's too-fancy-for-life son, different kinds of cats, the works.

2.  Pleasure

Reading stories is fun.  Stretching your imagination is much like stretching your muscles: it feels good.  It also expands the mind, and can increase sympathy for others.  But finding a book that talks about something you've been searching for, reading the ideas of someone who died years ago, but you hold a piece of them in your hands, it's strange and wonderful and enjoyable.  And while watching a movie may give your brain things to feed your imagination, more things to envision and see as reality, it's like eating a ton of junk food and never exercising.  It's not healthy.  Sugar is good if you need energy, but if you don't, it'll only hurt you.  (I don't know if I'm totally correct here, but you get the point.)

The Point

Of course, if you paid attention, you'll notice that I never actually addressed the concern.  My friend didn't say, "You start to believe untruths."  He said "You stop thinking for yourself."

So it's individuality that's at stake?  Freedom of the mind?

Perhaps if you only ever read one author, that would be a problem.  Perhaps.  I'm not convinced.  But if you read many authors, if you keep being influenced by many things, you find out what you want at your core, and what you can push to the peripheral, where it can more easily be traded in and out.  Through reading you may find something you'd like to have; and if you see something you don't like, it's simple enough to set the book down.  

Personally, I look at this, and I think, what is that freedom of the mind really worth if you're afraid to put it up against all that can be found in a book?  And what if in fear of losing individuality you willingly cloak yourself in ignorance?  Is that freedom?

We all need discernment, whether we're reading, watching a movie, or talking with friends.  The point is, there's so much to be gained from reading, and it seems foolish to pass all that up because you are so dedicated to your thinking staying the same.  It's a hopeless, impossible goal, and you hurt yourself if you don't take the advantages of reading.

Well, looking back on that note, he never said anything about books.  Whatever.  It still applies.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Systematic Outline of my Life

Let me tell you ALL ABOUT my life right now, folks.

Well, not all of it.  I don't have the time or the finger strength for that.  But I'll lay out some highlights.

First of all, through Anatomy class, which we're going through very systematically, as is right, I have learned how to take notes in outline format.  At first I was like, "Hmph, in my day we just wrote paragraphs, and I think I turned out fine, thank you very much, grumblegrumblegrumble..." but I now see the beauty and the mystique that is: outlining.  Shout out to Musser, who will probably never ever read this blog.  You da best, ma'am.

In fact...I've got a special surprise, just for y'all, because I love you muy mucho.  I'm going to write this post in outline form for a bit!  I may mess up some, but if you ask me about it, I will be happy to tell you just how little I care.

  1. Important happenings in my life right now
    1. School
      1. History
        1. Pros
          1. Nice teacher
          2. Some nice classmates
          3. Interesting material
          4. Easy to get good grades
        2. Cons
          1. Textbook doesn't mention the naval stores industry in NC
          2. Classroom lighting is weird and depressing
          3. Nobody laughs at my jokes
          4. Nobody does ANYTHING
      2. Anatomy
        1. Pros
          1. Fab teacher
          2. Really interesting material
          3. Dog in classroom
          4. Joshua
            1. Quote: "I was born as a burrito.  Nathaniel wasn't born as a burrito.  Nathaniel was born as a chicken sandwich."
          5. Nathaniel
            1. Nice and helpful
            2. Says "bless you" when I cough
          6. Nate
            1. Takes tae kwon do with my best friend
              1. Can be our messenger boy
        2. Cons
          1. My mother thought I wanted to take it because of the section on reproduction.  Nuff said.
      3. Great Books
        1. Pros
          1. Fantastic teacher
            1. Really knows what he's talking about
            2. Super enthusiastic about his subject
            3. Nice
            4. Tells dad jokes
            5. Always wears the same black outfit
            6. Goes off on really cool rabbit trails a lot
          2. Fascinating material
          3. Some cool classmates
          4. Class discussion is always good and super interesting
        2. Cons
          1. It doesn't start until tomorrow
          2. I haven't done the week's worth of reading, watching lectures, and anwering questions that's due tomorrow
      4. Spanish
        2. Pros
          1. I'm good at it
          2. Small class
          3. Some awesome classmates
          4. A lot of interaction in class
          5. Practical subject to learn
          6. Interesting teacher
        3. Cons
          1. Can have some drama (I do NOT need to go into this)
          2. Interesting teacher
    2. Social life
      1. Hahahahahahahahahaha

And there you have it, folks!  Now, onto other things.


Nah, I got nothing.

Good day.

The Homework Adventures of Anna Groover

This was written a week and a day before the date it was posted.  Procrastination, yo.

And dinner has been eaten.
I'm frantically doing the homework for tomorrow that I was supposed to have spent the past week doing.
Haha!  Everything is fine.
I think it would help if I wrote a blog post WHILE doing homework.
That makes sense, right?

These are the messages I just sent my friend.  So you understand my frame of mind.  I’m not exactly rational, but I’ve got this nervous energy running through my veins.  I can’t stop shaking, and that makes some sort of sense considering the circumstances.

It is 8:19 on a Monday night, and I am doing homework.  “Ha!” you scoff.  “What’s so special about that?”

Nothing, actually.  Nothing a’tall.  It’s only that I have to leave for class tomorrow at 10:00, which isn’t that late, and I’ve been feeling odd and feverish much of today, and I have to read thirty pages of Anatomy, memorize approximately five thousand two hundred and forty-seven terms*, and I also have a cough.  Still.

*EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is not an exact number.  I’m not sure where she pulled this out of.

Can we talk about this cough?  I don’t even remember when I got it, but it’s been sticking with me for several weeks.  It’s probably getting time to name it.  It obviously really loves me, but to be totally honest, if cruel and heartless, I have no desire to keep it in my life.

“But still,” you say, “that doesn’t sound so bad.”

Well, no.  Not really.  For it to make sense to you, I’d have to lay out the whole emotional background to this panic running through all of me right now, but I’m doing homework right--

Who am I kidding?  That’s never stopped me before.

And that’s the problem right there.  I procrastinate, because I always view other things as more important than my school.  Last year I took Chemistry from the same teacher I’m taking Anatomy from this year.  I always ended up doing my homework last minute, which works for most subjects, but not for Chemistry.  I did not fail, but it was a near thing.  Near the end, I really got behind, and I never quite caught up.  I still have a panicky feeling when I think about it.

I’m afraid that I’m still tempted to make that mistake.  So making this mistake a week after the first class really, really scares me.  I don’t want this to be a habit pattern of mine.  

I will recover!  I will rise up and rebel against my own laziness!  I will do better next week!

But isn’t that what I always say?  It’s always next week.  It’s always, I’ll try harder.  But do I ever?

Heyyy!  There’s a song by the Dutch rock band Kensington called Do I Ever.  I love that song, but I didn’t realize until that last paragraph that some parts of it really apply to me, at least right now.  You should all listen to it (hello, my one reader!), but for all those who won’t, here is the chorus written out all neatly:

I let it throw me off my feet,
I let it put me on my knees,
What do I know?
I ought to grow,
But do I ever?

Seriously, though, listen to it.  Your life will be forever changed.

Now is the part of this blog post where I stop trying to impart my stress to you, and I start trying to impart the remedy.  Because the truth is, even though I’m tired and guilty and scared, God is sovereign.  And He sent His only Son to save me.

That’s pretty crazy.  I’m a sixteen-year-old girl, sitting here frazzled and fuzzy-brained, doing something I put off until the last minute, and the King of kings, Creator of the universe, died.  For me.

So really, all this is pretty small.  It’s true: it’s late.  I have a lot to do tonight.  I have a lot to do tomorrow, and the next day after that, and for the rest of my life, there will always be stuff I should be doing.

But God has always sustained me, and He has promised to always sustain me.  So I think I’ve actually got it pretty good.  Who I really feel sorry for are the people who don’t know God, and don’t think they need to.  Who think that everything in life is fine and okay, when really they have no legitimate hope.  I feel sorry for the unbelievers whom God has not blessed with discomfort, with the feeling that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

So as much as I’ll pray for peace and time for myself, tonight and throughout the school year, my prayers will go out so much more for those lost souls feeling at home in a sinful world that will one day be destroyed.

And now I really must do my school.  But hey, thank the Lord that I even have opportunity to learn these things.

So long,


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Clara 1

Hello, all you fabulous readers of Anna's blog!

I'm afraid you're gonna be stuck with me instead today.  Anna has very kindly decided to leave you all at my mercy this month, and me at yours; the prospect of which is infinitely more daunting to me.

But that's not much of an introduction, is it?

Let's start again.

Hello, all you fabulous readers of Anna's blog!

It's Clara, from The Danger of Dreams (, a relatively new blog which I've mostly devoted to unpacking the writing process.  My biggest accomplishment so far has got to be how I've duped Anna into thinking I know enough about writing and organizing to be of some help to those of you who write.

Good grief.  How terrible can an introduction get?

It's this dratted "honesty" thing, I swear.  Interferes with all my good intentions.

Because honestly, I'm quite new at this whole writing thing myself, and my own process could definitely use some improvement.  I have yet to publish a major work, I procrastinate on drafting stories to read assorted and sundry fan fiction, and I was caught in the misery that is writer's block with my main story up until a few weeks ago.

So I invite you to join me as I basically improvise my way through this first post, and we'll see what happens!  If my words aren't enlightening or inspiring, I can guarantee that at least they'll be entertaining.  And really, what could be better than being entertained at somebody else's expense?  

Anna suggested that I take y'all "behind-the-scenes", so to speak, with a piece of my writing, revealing the backstory on how I got it how it is, and how I plan to get it where I want it to go.  Anna has brilliant suggestions.

The following excerpt I'm providing is from the first-person point of view of my character James, in a story I'm currently working on.  It's a little of a mundane beginning, but I think it introduces the characters of James and Miles well.

Below the excerpt, I'll criticize my work and sketch out how I organized it.  I'm going to leave off writing more specifically about organization until a later post, since I think it's more helpful at this point to give examples of organization rather than try to present it as an abstract concept.

I remember that the day everything fell apart started like any other.

The ear-splitting wail of the alarm clock in Miles' office woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and I groaned as I sat up in my sleeping bag.  I could see Miles' faint outline in the sleeping bag on the other side of the room, and I smiled at the way he could sleep through any noise.  I stood and tiptoed my way past the short stacks of papers that Miles had arranged around his side of the room, and lifted our empty mugs from his cluttered desk.  It was time to make coffee.

Our morning ritual was always coffee together before I left for school.  Ever since Miles and I moved out from Georgia to New York City for his work, we’d had to scrimp and pinch wherever we could to make ends meet. We lived out of Miles’ tiny law office in Manhattan, hiding the sleeping bags inside the closet during business hours. Coffee in the mornings seemed to be Miles’ way of reminding me that we could still feel at home in New York, even if only for a few minutes each day.

I filled our mugs from the sink in the adjoining bathroom, and then placed them inside the microwave on Miles’ desk, setting the timer for two minutes. During the day, the microwave was kept under the desk and out of sight; but at the moment, it was mine to command. I took the sack of ground coffee from inside the desk’s top drawer and inhaled deeply, savoring the aroma of the rich, dark powder. Coffee was, and still is, the best-smelling substance I know. 

As soon as the microwave’s timer dinged, I removed the mugs and measured a level spoonful of ground coffee into each one. We never used coffee filters; since neither of us much minded a few coffee grounds, a little extra caffeine at the bottom of our mugs. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I would have survived a day of high school without my morning jolt of caffeine-induced energy.

Miles woke up then, as always, to the smell of coffee. He blinked the sleep from his tired eyes and smiled at me before fumbling around his sleeping bag for his glasses. I smiled back in amusement.

“They’re on your other side,” I told him, “Right next to the amicus brief you were highlighting last night.”

He nodded his thanks as he found his thick, black-framed glasses, and then placed them carefully on his face. Then he peered intently into my face. 

“Ah, now I can see you. Good grief, James, you must’ve had an interesting dream.”

“Why’s that?” I asked as I handed him his mug and sat down cross-legged next to his sleeping bag.

“Your hair”, he answered with a half-smile, “Your hair seems to have been battling dragons all night long.”

He reached out with his free hand and absently ruffled my unruly brown mop.

“There”, he nodded, satisfied.

“That neatened it up?” I asked with a grin, which he returned.

“Not at all. I merely distributed the mess a little more evenly.”

“Sounds about normal, then”, I sighed, resigned to my fate.

I had given up on my hair a long time ago. As long as I could cover it with a hat, I looked decent enough for school. It wasn’t like girls were going to look at me twice anyway. 

Miles raised an eyebrow at me in amusement, and then cupped both hands around his mug to warm them. He sighed as he sipped his coffee, closing his eyes to savor it and letting his shoulders drop as he relaxed. If I loved coffee, he worshipped it. I sipped some of my own and let him lose himself in silence for a few minutes, enjoying his company without really realizing it at the time. I never felt like I needed to say anything around Miles.

He looked up from his half-drained mug with a more focused gleam in his grey eyes.

“Good coffee, this”, he nodded approvingly.

I shrugged. He said it every morning, and would probably say it if I handed him a mug of coal tar one morning instead of coffee. When you drink the stuff black the way Miles does, I doubt there’s any real difference in flavor between the two. Approving the coffee was just his way of signaling that he was now awake enough for conversation.

“So how late are you opening, Miles?” I asked. 

Most days Miles kept office hours until 6:00 p.m. so that we could have dinner together, but he was in the middle of a big case, which usually meant interviewing a lot of witnesses, which usually meant closing shop at 7:00 or later.

“Not too late”, he reassured me. “It’s a big case, but a pretty straightforward one. The press will have a field day with this one either way it’s decided; but thankfully, we have our ways to avoid them.”

He grinned mischievously at me, his dark brows dancing on his pale face. I grinned back, knowing that Miles was nowhere near famous enough as a lawyer to gain the attention of reporters. He knew it too, but he found a certain wry humor in it.

He gazed at the empty coffee mug in his hands wistfully, and then stood up reluctantly from his warm sleeping bag.

“So what are your plans for today, James?” he asked in a more business-like tone.

I stood up with him and grimaced as I envisioned the day ahead at school. It was only February, but I’d been ready for the school year to end since Christmas.

“The usual”, I answered. “Sit through class and take the dumb quizzes to prove I actually know stuff, then get pounded by the jocks because I make them look bad by actually knowing stuff, then go change into my janitor’s uniform and muck around in a job where I don’t need to use the stuff I actually know.”

Miles had patiently listened to my complaining tirade, his left eyebrow raising a little. I was pretty good at complaining, and he was pretty good at listening. 

He took my empty mug as he shook his head at me.

“James, James, James. You do have quite a cynical view of the world for your age.”

“I’m seventeen, Miles”, I countered, “Old enough to know that it’s ugly out there, and young enough to be allowed to complain without doing anything to fix it.”

He fastened those grey eyes onto mine, amused but with a wariness behind them. Seeing the dark circles under them, harsh in the pale light of a winter morning, I remembered how hard he had it and how little he complained. I looked away and firmed my lip. If he could get through it, I could get through it. At least for today.

And now for a look behind the scenes.

This excerpt is actually from a work of fanfiction for the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series; which for those of you who haven’t heard of it, features the Greek gods and heroes translated into modern America and the ensuing hardships and hilarity for their half-mortal descendants, the demigods. I grew up with the series, and I loved it so much that I never wanted the books to end. So I decided to continue the story with this one.

James and Miles are not from the books, but are my original characters. James is purely mortal without any godly parentage, which makes him different from most major characters in the books. I thought that his unique perspective as a mortal would add an interesting dynamic when he encounters gods and demigods further on in the story, those parts which I have yet to write. This beginning excerpt was meant to introduce him and his relationship with his legal guardian, Miles. They carry the main action of the story, so I spent more time than I would normally use for a introduction scene, in an effort to make them both believable and relatable to the reader.

And now that the back story’s out of the way, it’s time to criticize my heart out—what fun.

The first five paragraphs are bothering me right now. Aside from the first sentence in the story, which I like since it sets up some dramatic tension for later on, they’re…boring. They use far too many words for far too little action. In the fourth and fifth paragraphs especially, James doesn’t have to record every little step in the coffee-making process for it to be convincing to the reader. When I revise this later, I’ll probably cut some description and combine the paragraphs mentioned so that I can move the action along a little faster. For now, though, it’s alright as is.

Moving on.

The initial dialogue between James and Miles in the next few paragraphs is my favorite part of this excerpt. The familiarity and warmth between the two characters comes across nicely, and the detail about James’ unmanageable hair endears him to me. But maybe that’s just me. If I wanted to be really picky about it, I could rework parts of this exchange to make the pauses in conversation sound a little more natural, but they sound convincing enough for this draft.

The rest of my critique concerns nit-picky issues of word choice, character development, and style. Would James, a typical seventeen-year-old, use “tirade” to describe his complaining? Maybe not. Is there a surplus of adjectives in this draft that need to be replaced with stronger verbs? Maybe so. And is the dialogue towards the end adding to the reader’s knowledge of the characters enough for all of it to be kept? As much as I hate to admit it, probably not.

Also, a guy friend to whom I had sent this excerpt for feedback replied with an intriguing character-development-type-question as follows: “Is James more of a shy, in his own world guy or a kind of irreverant[sic], disenchanted with life kind of guy? I think that bears distinction as they're similar but they have a subtle warmness in the former vs coldness in the latter.” I really want to rework this section later to convey a more definite answer to his question. I think James likes to think he's all disenchanted with the world, but honestly, he's too young to really be all that cynical all the time. It'll be interesting trying to flesh out his character and get that across to readers.

In general, the organization of this excerpt is not as cut-and-dry as some of my other works. It is mostly organized in the order of events as they happened, but with some asides and explanations from James. But I’m not going to worry about it too much. Since it’s based off of James’ recollection, it’s okay if things are a little fuzzy around the edges and not as tightly structured as they could be. It could even feel more genuine this way. The main issue will be to keep the action moving while providing enough description to carry the reader through it without getting them bogged down in the details. It’s a delicate balancing act, so I’ll have to constantly reread and revise.

And that’s about it! I’m sure that I could find a thousand other little things to complain about, but this is a good starting (and stopping) point. I hope the comments I made were helpful in giving you a general idea of things to look for in your own writing as you revise and rework. And if they weren’t as helpful as you might have liked, don’t feel too discouraged. I plan to cover smaller, more specific issues related to the writing process in future posts; so I’ll be able to unpack each one more.
Feel free to leave your comments and questions below regarding the story, my remarks, or your own works. I’m always looking to improve my writing, and I love reading what other writers are working on!

Till next time,

Sunday, February 26, 2017

March Blog Swap with Clara from The Danger of Dreams!

Hey, would you look at that, I used an exclamation point in the blog post title.  It's taken three years and twenty-nine posts to reach this point, y'all.

Aaaaaand, I went back and looked to make sure.  Turns out I've actually used exclamation points in blog post titles at least four times before this.  So no, don't trust my memory, or my perception of myself.

But I'm not writing this post so I can talk about myself and punctuation.  I'm writing it so I can talk about my good friend Clara.  She has an awesome blog called The Danger of Dreams, which you should totally go to now.  She talks about a lot of cool topics, such as writing, organization, and trashing my sister's car!  Okay, so she hasn't actually talked about that on her blog, but I'm sure we all think she should.

In March she'll take over my blog, and I'll take over hers, and here's what will happen: 

On Girl with the Binder, you'll get some lovely--nay, fabulous--posts on writing and organization.  Let's face it, most of us could use help with that.  If you read my blog (which you probably do...) you know that I certainly could.  And no, I'm not going to put an exclamation point on that.  Clara is an awesome organizationist, and I'm so happy she'll be sharing some things with us.  I may post once or twice during the month on my home blog, but you know me.

Meanwhile, over on The Danger of Dreams, I'll be writing a few posts on writing and inspiration.  On her blog, Clara said: She'll be addressing the topic of Inspiration and taking her own unique spin on what it means and how we as writers harness it.  If truth be told, that itself inspires me, and I'm burning up with the desire to write out ALL THE THOUGHTS.  So yeah, I'm looking forward to that.

I'm sure y'all will enjoy this March, with all of its madness.  Clara will take very good care of you, and I'm sure I'll come back to find you all so much smarter and more organized than you used to be.  If you please though, do also come over to The Danger of Dreams and see what I'm doing over there.

Looking forward to it?  I know I am!  Be sure and give Clara a big welcome when she comes!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Anna's Thought Dump: Writing, Stealing, and Maggie Stiefvater

Hullo, my people.

I'm writing this blog post because I have some thoughts consuming me, and I must write them out, and I'd like to write them out for others to read.  I'll talk a little about that later.  Right now, you need to know that this post is about Maggie Stiefvater, and it's about me, and it's about writing.  Here are the topics I want to cover, written out neatly because that will make me feel good, and so I don't forget them.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers
2.) Stealing
3.) Probably some rant-type thing that brings everything above together

Before we move onto those topics, I need to lay the foundation for this post.  Every so often, I stalk people.  Not in an illegal way, of course.  It's just there are interesting people who post interesting things on the internet, and I like to read these things, especially if they're about writing, because I can't stop writing, but sometimes it seems like I should add poorly to that statement.  Anyhow, yesterday I went to the library, and since then I have finished five of the nine books I checked out.  As a result, my soul burned to research some of these authors and see when/if subsequent books would come out.  Even though none of these authors was Maggie Stiefvater, somehow I wandered my way over to her website, and then to her blog.  Maggie is the author of the quadrilogy, THE RAVEN CYCLE, which I enjoyed, but probably not enough to read again, and THE SCORPIO RACES, which I not only enjoyed, but adored.  She's also written other books that I haven't read.

Maggie is someone who not only writes, but thinks about writing in a way I've seen few authors do, and then she tells the world her thoughts; and for that I'm very grateful.  See, as you've probably seen in my blog posts, I also think a lot about writing, but so often I simply have to take these thoughts from me and my own writing.  However, as I discovered today, Maggie Stiefvater has a lot for me to think about, a lot to feed my brain.

So here are her thoughts, added to mine, mixed and digested thoroughly, and then spewed back out for all of y'all.

It's not as gross as it sounds.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers

In this blog post, Maggie says that she is a storyteller, not a writer, and there is a difference.  She says that writers write for themselves; that even if they never got published, they would still keep writing, just the same as if they had crowds of people clamoring for their next work.  I believe that is true of me.  I know why I write, or at least why I started to write, and I'll explain that in my rant to come.

Storytellers, however, write for an audience, and to change others.  Maggie says if she couldn't write with words, she'd find another way to tell stories.  And often I believe this is also true of myself.  Not that writing is simply the most convenient way to tell stories for me, or something I stumbled into; no, I will always write.  I know this.  However, there are things that I want to tell the world, or at least a great many people, and even if I couldn't use my writing for that, I'd use something else.

So can someone be both a writer and a storyteller?  Or is it simply that at my age, I'm bombarded with options and possibilities, and by the time I'm an adult, I'll have settled into one or the other?

While it's fun to think about, and to wonder about, it's pointless to put stress or worrying into it.  No matter what I am, I figure I'll either find out later, or it'll stop mattering to me.  Here, have a poem I wrote once while feeling sad and overwhelmed.  (Thankfully, this poem was the first sign of that passing.)

It was once that I dreamed
Of what I might be.
Until my dreams were everything
That consumed me.
I woke to find I was nothing
But smoke and tears,
The result of a million
Wasted years.
In the end, I threw away
All my dreams.
And became what I was always
Meant to be.

(To paraphrase all that, quit stressing out about stuff, and often you'll find it works itself out in the end.  Of course, God is the Mastermind behind that.)

2.) Stealing

In this blog post, Maggie talks about writers (general term, not vs. storytellers) being artists and thieves.  Now Maggie, my sister, who is an artist herself and has a lovely cardmaking-and-other-stuff blog right here, has a book called STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, by Austin Kleon.  I'll confess, I haven't read the whole thing, but the general point is, artists don't create out of thin air.  We steal from what's around us.  Knowing how true that is of me and the stuff I write, I wasn't at all surprised to hear Maggie Stiefvater saying the same thing.  I highly recommend you read this blog post, because not only does she make some fabulous points, she also tells a funny story, and genuinely funny stories are awesome and hard to come by.

Now, something interesting she pointed out that I'd never consciously thought about, is the relationship between artist and thief.  I'd probably know this if I'd read STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST all the way through, but I didn't.  We (artists generally, writers specifically) don't just steal stuff and then use it as art.  If I see an interesting person, I don't just stick him into my interesting story and say, "Yep, there's beauty.  There's art."  But it's also not as simple as just finding some way to fit him into my story, or fit my story around him. 

I'll confess, I have a hard time putting this into words, because for me this has strayed from being a thought thing, and instead entered the realm of instinct.  I'll do my best, but pardon me for how disjointed and clunky this may sound.

As a writer, I steal all the time, from everything around me.  There are a lot of things that I notice, and so my brain always has far too much material to write about it all.  When God made me, though, he gave me an instinct that has served me extremely well as a writer.  Over time, it filters through all the stuff I take in, and spits out a story idea.  Sometimes it's several within a few hours, other times it may take me weeks just to get one.  I get the feeling author Sarah Prineas goes through much the same process, because she once told me she had to wait for her ideas to glom before she could write a story.

The point is, when stolen things go into my story, they've been processed, sometimes reshaped, molded, and kneaded, and fit together to form the story.

Now what is most intriguing about this is that all of those stolen pieces, that be reminded, didn't come from the author's mind, still reflect the author.  Because she* may not have created those things, but who stole them?  Chose them?  Who remade them, fit them together in a way she still thinks is beautiful?  I'm sure you've heard enough of the quotes by now to know that choices simultaneously make a person and reveal who she truly is.

Now here's the beautiful enigma: her choices don't just reveal who she has made herself to be, but who God has made her to be, and who and what He has used to shape her into who she is.  The truth is, it's not by her own cleverness or observational skills that she has these things.  God gives them to her.  And here's the sad part: if she doesn't give Him the glory, then she really is stealing, and she's stealing from God.

*I'm using she because I'm a she, and when I say she, I'm half talking about myself, so deal with it.

Well, I had no idea I was going to go there.  That's an example of "glommage," as Sarah would say.

3.) The Rant, or Conclusion, Where All of Our Ropes Meet in One Knot

Here is the story of my writing, including the part I don't often talk about.

Anyway, when I was six, I started reading chapter books.  I was either six or seven when I wrote down my first, albeit incomplete, story.  For me it was just fun, but it was also a natural response to how much I was reading.  I started a few stories between the ages of seven and ten.  Maybe four or five stories, and most of them didn't get far.  It wasn't something I really felt the need to do, but I liked feeling like I was making something.

When I was ten, I started a story called FIREBREATH, which was pretty much a blatant ripoff of ERAGON.  I also started a story called STORMY HURL, which I actually think there's still some merit to.  They didn't get far.  What's more important is that when I was ten, my Book Binder came into being.  As you can probably guess, it was a binder, and my original intention was that in it I would only put the stories that I eventually wanted to publish.  See, sometime around FIREBREATH's inception, I'd decided I wanted to be a famous author.  This was when I really started writing regularly, and I didn't go anywhere without taking my Book Binder.  I didn't write every day, by any means; that came later.  But I did have it in my head a lot.

When I was twelve, disaster struck, as it often does for twelve-year-olds.  I became an angsty brat, to put it nicely.  Not intentionally, but I was completely overwhelmed with all the new emotion that comes with puberty.  I was depressed and angry all the time.  And unfortunately, I turned violent.  I didn't know why at the time, and even know it's not really clear to me.  All I know is that for no reason at all, I'd be talking to a sibling of mine, and suddenly I'd want to attack them.  And sometimes I would.  Then I'd be ashamed and even more depressed, and I'd go off and cry where nobody could see me, and then a few days later I'd do it again.  And yes, that's as miserable as it sounds.  Anger issues hurt the person suffering from them just as much as the people around her.  I had a lot of stuff going on in my head, and a ton of fears that multiplied every day, and things just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

Some part of me knew, however, that I needed some way to get rid of all the excess energy that was pouring into my emotions, and influencing me to hurt other people.  That way ended up being Katie Bolsta.  Katie Bolsta was the first character I ever wrote who wasn't just a plot device.  Katie Bolsta was myself, as I wanted to be at the time.  She was fierce, and she was self-controlled, and she was in charge.  People respected her.

KATIE BOLSTA was also the first book that I wrote not for other people to read, for my future fans, but for myself.  It was also the first book partially inspired by a dream.  This is the first time I've been able to realize, looking back, that KATIE BOLSTA was the first book I ever wrote as an artist.  It was the first book that ever "glommed" for me, and I poured my life into it.

I've known, ever since then, why I write.  It's so I don't hurt others.  It's so I don't hurt myself, emotionally speaking.  It's so I stay steady and stable, and get rid of the baggage before it drags me down, and I thank God for it.

So I don't know what Maggie Stiefvater would call me.  But I do know that I write for myself and for God, and that the things I write for myself, I want to help other people; I think they can, too.

To this day, my main characters are the people I want to be.  And to this day, I'm careful to watch what I steal, because my choices reveal and make me who I am.

Man, that was a lot.  Please tell me your own thoughts on writers vs. storytellers, stealing, and any of the other topics that catch your attention.  You can stop reading now if you want, the other stuff is kind of extra-ish.

I know this was a long post, and went a lot of different places, but I hope it was beneficial to you!  I know it was to me. 

I'll spit out another post sometime.  I think the reason my posts often go on so long is because I do them so rarely, so if you have any writing-related things you want me to blog on, I'd be happy to, and in a succinter (don't judge) way.  I'm hoping to start posting more frequent and short posts.