Author Confessions

Today I was watching a YouTube video by one of my favorite bloggers, Shannon A Thompson. She decided to tackle the subject of author confessions. In the spirit of that video, I’ve decided to reveal my top ten author confessions.

1. I can’t sleep at night because I’m talking to myself. Well, not exactly. It’s more that my characters are talking to each other, but they only exist in my head, so yeah.

2. I don’t really like writing things by hand. Two words: hand cramps. Those SAT essays were murder.

3. I don’t like coffee. I know it seems blasphemous, especially considering the lack of any real sleep that I get, but sorry, it’s just not my thing. Too bitter for me. No amount of chocolate or cream or whatever can mask the taste. I do, however, like the smell of gourmet coffee. I know. I’m a walking contradiction.

4. I actually think I’m addicted to writing. I crave it like a drug. I. Have. To. Write.

5. Before I decided to become a novelist, I actually wanted to be a cartoonist when I was younger. I still have a whole binder filled with over a hundred unique characters. My drawing style for those is essentially the same as the characters on my Super Star cover. I would still like to learn to draw better.

6. I just now invested in a little pocket notebook that I can carry around with me. I cringe to think of all of the ideas that I let go to waste because I didn’t write them down.

7. I get really nervous when I let people read my stuff. I’m so sure they’re going to hate it and I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

8. On a similar note, when I do let someone read my stuff, I stare at them intensely until they’re done, watching for any change in expression that might give me insight into what they’re thinking. I imagine that if they weren’t so engrossed in my story, I might be a little creepy.

9. Music is a double edged sword for me when I’m writing. Sometimes I can use it to block out the outside noises and provide some background noise to help me. Then, other times, I get so into the music that I get distracted from the writing. It’s hard to find just the right balance.

10. My brain doesn’t work properly at times when normal humans function. My brain tends to turn on at about 11pm. For instance, I just glanced at the clock right now and it reads 12:13am. I’m wide awake and full of ideas. It would be really helpful if these ideas would come at around 7 pm after I’ve eaten dinner, so that I have plenty of time, but noooo. That’s not how my brain works.

There you go.

That’s my top ten author confessions. What about you? Do you have any author confessions (or blogger confessions as the case may be) to share?

Silly Word Series: #4 Homophobia

I’ve been debating with myself a while whether or not to do this post. However, with the recent events in Arizona and with the Mozilla CEO “resigning,” I’ve decided that it’s time. I believe the veto of the religious freedom bill by Jan Brewer and the forced resignation of Brendan Eich provides the backdrop needed for this post’s subject. Without further ado…

What it supposedly means:
The hatred of gays just because they’re gay.

Why it’s silly:
With this word, the problem is, in part, how it is used. You see, the only time I’ve ever seen or heard this word used, it is as an insult to people who may or may not disagree with something a gay person has said or done. This word is used to demean anyone who has anything to say that might be contrary to what society says about homosexuals. This word is never used in the way that people might expect: denoting a fear of gays.

Let’s take a look at the second half of the word. Phobia, or an irrational fear of something. Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, irrational. Of course homophobia is not rational.” However, I’m afraid more than a few may have missed the fear part. Usually, when a word ends in “phobia” that means that the word is a fear of something. For instance, we’ve all heard of arachnophobia, or the fear of arachnids, like spiders. There’s also the irrational fear of long words (which, ironically enough, is an incredibly long word), and that also ends in phobia. The problem with the term homophobia can be explained with a question. I want you to think really hard about this. Have you ever known of a person who has been called homophobic that is actually irrationally afraid of homosexuals?

Because I haven’t. In fact, even if you know such a person, they are probably less than .00001 percent of the population. In fact, I’ve been accused of being homophobic because I oppose gay marriage*. I do not in the least fear homosexuals, rationally or irrational. I don’t know anyone who does. If anything, I’m jealous of them. They are literally the most protected class in the United States.

Consider the case that prompted the religious freedom bill in Arizona. A Christian photographer declined to photograph a gay wedding, and then the courts forced him to go against his own beliefs to cater to the gays’. This is the kind of thing that could happen in almost no other circumstance in this country. If you are a Christian, you cannot force a Jewish bookstore to sell you the New Testament. If you are Jewish, you cannot force an atheist deli to sell you kosher meat. If you are atheist, you cannot (probably) force a Christian sign company to print “God is dead” signs. And yet, somehow, if you are gay, you can force a Christian to bake you a wedding cake, or photograph your wedding, or print you gay pride t-shirts. If I’m being honest, I would tell you that I would love that kind of special protection. However, I’m a lover of the Constitution, and I firmly believe that we all have a right to associate with whoever we feel like.

To recap, “homophobia” is a silly word, because it is used as an insult against people who do not actually irrationally or rationally fear gay people.
         So what do you think? Is homophobia the wrong word here?

*Understand, I don’t oppose equal rights as human beings for gay people. I only oppose gay marriage, and then only for religious reasons. I don’t think the government should be in the marriage business at all. Marriage is a holy ceremony, not a government authorized contract. If you’re interested in learning more about my views, click here. I, along with most Christians, also do not hate gay people. “Hate the sin; love the sinner,” as the saying goes. #TheMoreYouKnow.

A Question for Your Consideration

Let me ask you something. Do the ends justify the means? To understand this question, consider this scenario. You are going to do something amazing, something that will revolutionize life for the better. However, to do that thing, you have to do things that are truly awful. But the end result will be something very good. The question is, do you do the awful things to get to the good one? Do the ends justify the means?
Well if you answered yes, congratulations, you are in the company of great men like Abraham Lincoln.
And Hitler.
And Stalin.
And Mao.
At first glance, you wouldn’t believe that these people have anything in common, but you’d be wrong. They all had a great plan. For Lincoln, it was to preserve the Union and create a county where everyone was free to go about their lives as they would. For Hitler, it was to bring the whole world under Aryan control. For Stalin and Mao, it was freedom through communism. Obviously, you can’t compare the end goals of Abe Lincoln and Hitler, but the fact remains that they shared (at least in part) a common philosophy. They all believed that the ends justified the means.
This is one of the most dangerous and backward philosophies of all time. Even with an end goal as worthy as preserving the Union, the idea that the ends justify the means leads to disaster. Consider pre-War Between the States America. The country was divided between those who owned slaves and those who didn’t. Secession had been threatened by the Southern states for a long time. Finally, a man was elected who the Southerners saw as a threat to their livelihood, and most seceded. What happened next could have gone three (probably) different ways. (1) Politicians could have worked together from both sides and brought the country back together. (2) The North could have waited until the South inevitably broke with slavery on its own, and then welcomed back their wayward brothers. (3) War. Every student of history knows what actually happened. Well, sort of.
You see, what most people don’t realize is that the War never had to happen. They also don’t know that Lincoln started it. He believed that the Union should be preserved so completely, that he sent warships down south, knowing full well that the South would have to retaliate. That way, it would look as if they fired the first shots. We know from letters that he sent at the time that he knew what was going to happen. I would love to go back in history and ask Lincoln if it was really worth it, if the ends really did justify the means.
And that’s just when the ends are a good thing. For Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, the end goal wasn’t nearly so noble, and we see what happens. Millions of people died from war, disease, and famine. An entire group of people was nearly obliterated. A whole country (Ukraine) was purposefully starved. All this happened because certain men thought that they knew best and were willing to do anything to bring about their vision.
So what about now? Do you still think the ends justify the means?

Help! I Keep Getting in Trouble with my Parents!

I’ve noticed that I have a good amount of teenage followers on my blog. I’ve decided to write an advice post for any that might find themselves on the wrong side of their parents. (And it’s good advice for everyone to follow, not just teens.)

Are you are a teen wishing for a way to avoid getting in trouble with your parents? Would you like to stop losing your privileges? Would you like to not get grounded “for the rest of your life” every few weeks? Then boy do I have a few tips for you! Just follow these simple tips and you are guaranteed* to not get in trouble anymore.

1.    Control your tone of voice.

Seriously, this is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is make sure that you do not use sarcasm when addressing your folks. Sarcasm may be fine around your friends, but your elders might not appreciate it. I don’t know about you, but this first rule is the cause of most of the issues in my house. I’ve seen punishments extended for months just because of a bad tone of voice. Just learn to talk to your parents with a pleasant tone.

2.    Come home on time.

No matter how much you want to stay out late, if you have a curfew, you need to stick to it. If you really need to be out late, ask your parents. If they say no, abide by their wishes.

3.    Do your schoolwork.

One way to really tick off your parents is to not do your schoolwork. If you want to be successful at life (and your parents do want that for you), you need to be educated. I’ll be the first to admit that our current system of public schools in the U.S. leave much to be desired, but you still need to do your homework. If you don’t do your homework, people will think you are lazy, and employers don’t hire lazy people.

4.    Say you’re sorry.

This is a big one. Apologizing can be one of the most painful things in the world. But it’s worth it. When you’re wrong (and you are a teen, so you can assume that you will be often), you always need to say sorry.

5.    Do not argue with your parents.

Even if you think your parents are wrong, don’t argue with them. Chances are that they are probably right. Even if they aren’t, arguing is still a surefire way to get you in trouble. And whatever you do, do not say that you are “debating” and not “arguing.” This will just make your parents (and others) mad.

6.    Obey.

Really? You don’t want to get in trouble and yet you constantly disobey your parents. That’s not going to work. Your parents have reasons for telling you to do the things they tell you to do. Just try to remember that they have lived long enough to accumulate a bag full of regrets and lessons learned. All they want to do is make sure that you do not end up making the same mistakes they did as a reckless and know-it-all teenager.

7.    Do not scream at your parents.

I know that the impulse to raise your voice when you feel angry or wronged is very seductive, but don’t do it. It is a bad idea in almost every instance. Even if your parents yell at you, that does not give you free reign to yell back. Parents dislike being yelled at in general, and they definitely don’t enjoy it when their own offspring is doing the yelling.

8.    Do not lie to your parents.

Your parents have known you since the moment of your birth. If you are in your teens, they have been watching you very closely for at least thirteen years now. They know when you are bull-crapping them. Really! So don’t try to get away with it, because they will always find out. There is almost nothing that parents hate worse than their children lying. If you mess up, don’t hide it. Lying about it will only make it worse for you.

            Of course there are other rules that you should know to avoid trouble with the parental units, but most of those are common sense. Come to think of it, most of these are common sense too. So, use these eight rules in every interaction with your parents and you should definitely see a decrease in the amount of punishments you receive. Easy right?

 

*Well, not really guaranteed per se…

The Epic Story of the First Time I Used My Lifeguarding Skills

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be renewing my lifeguard certification, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about what you can do with the knowledge you gain when you become a lifeguard.

Two years ago, I’d just finished my lifeguard training. In fact, I didn’t even have my certificate yet. At that time, I was cleaning house every Friday for a family that went to my co-op. They had five kids, so they understandably occasionally needed a maid and/or babysitting. I did both. This family consisted of a baby, a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old, and an 8-year-old. About two years ago, I was busy cleaning one of the bathrooms when I heard this noise, SLAM! And then, “WAHHHHH!”

I stuck my head out of the bathroom to see if everything was all right. Uh, no. As it turned out, the 4-year-old had slammed the 2-year-old’s finger in his bedroom door. The poor little thing was holding her very bloody finger up and bawling her eyes out. It looked like the tip of finger was hanging off. Having just completed my training, I knew the finger needed fixing. I immediately scooped the child up and took her to her mother, who freaked out. She gasped, picked the little girl up, carried her to kitchen, set her down on the floor, and… fainted. Yep, that’s right, the mom caught one good look at the blood and passed out.

So I’m standing there in the kitchen, very acutely aware of everything that’s going on around me. I could sense the other children right behind me becoming grotesquely curious. I could see the mom out cold on the floor, and I could see the kid still crying her eyes out with a nasty finger slice. My mind was racing. “Kid, or mom? Kid or mom?” Who to deal with first? I went with the kid. I grabbed the nearest clean towel and wrapped it over the cut up finger. Then, I pulled a bag of frozen peas that the mom had already pulled out of the freezer and folded it over on top of the kid’s hand. She was less than pleased about this, but in no condition to complain. By the time I finished this, the mother had awoken.

We both quickly came to the conclusion that the kid should probably go to the hospital. I also knew, given the condition the mom was in, that I needed to go with them. So I helped load the baby and the still-screaming 2-year-old into the car and called my mom to come watch the rest of the kids. We immediately left, knowing my mom would be there in minutes.

So began the most perilous 15 minutes of my life as the mom swerved all over the road, broke many traffic rules, and did her level best to terrify me as we drove to the nearest hospital. Actually, I wasn’t all that scared. I was praying really hard that we’d all make it there alive, but I wasn’t too worried about it. This is mainly because I already had a lot to deal with. I was in the back seat leaning across the baby’s car seat to keep pressure on the finger of the 2-year-old, who was still screaming bloody, uh, finger. Of course, the 2-year-old’s screaming only made the baby start crying, which in turn made the mother even more frantic than she already was. During all of this, I managed to keep up a running debate with the mom on whether we should take the kid to local children’s hospital or to the slightly closer normal hospital. I convinced her that we should most definitely go the closest hospital imaginable so that I could get out of the stinking van so that we could get treatment for the kid faster. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been better if we’d taken the kid to the children’s hospital.

When we finally made it to the hospital, I told the mom to go ahead in and get the 2-year-old checked in, and I’d be in with the baby in a second. There was just one problem with that. I had no idea how to take a car seat out of a car. I stood there a moment until a woman parked beside us, who had observed me struggling for a good 3 minutes, finally offered to help. She (and her kid) laughed as she quickly and easily removed the seat and handed me the carrier. I felt like a dork, but I locked the car and went inside to wait until they called the little girl back.

And we waited. And waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. In fact, we waited for over 5 HOURS!!! Apparently, we had checked in during a triage nurse shift change and the hospital staff had lost a little girl with half the tip of her finger hanging off in the shuffle. In those 5 hours, the mother and I spent most of the time passing the kid and the baby back and forth. One moment I remember vividly was when I was holding the two year old. She was still whimpering after probably 3 hours of sitting there. I held her on my lap, rested my chin on top of her sweaty little head, rocked gently back and forth, and started singing. I softly sung “Jesus Loves Me” to her in my most soothing voice. Then she surprised us both by starting to sing it with me. You could hear the audible “Aww!” coming from everyone watching.

After 5 hours of waiting for them to let us in, I finally went up to the front desk and demanded to know why the guy with a light cough next to us had been let in, but the 2-year-old with a hanging finger was still stuck in the waiting room. They triaged us again, and then after maybe 5 more minutes, sent us back to a hospital room. We waited around ten minutes until a nurse came in, checked the kid, and then sent us to get an x-ray done. Because the baby wasn’t allowed in the radiology room, I went in with the kid. I held her hand down while they x-rayed it, and then got asked by the technician is I was the mom. I laughed and explained that no, I was the babysitter/maid, and the mom was outside holding the baby. She gave me a look which I took as a compliment, and I returned her look with one of my own: Yes, I know I’m a super babysitter.

After that was over, they sent us back to the hospital room and told us a doctor would be with us shortly. It was probably an hour before anyone came to see us because I had time to go to get lunch, get lost in the hospital, retrieve lunch, get lost in the hospital again, bring lunch back, and eat lunch before anyone came to see us again. By the time they did, the baby was sleeping, the 2-year-old was tired and a little loopy, and the mom had finally calmed down. So of course that had to change.

Finally, it was time to sew up the kid’s finger. Miraculously, there were no broken bones. A nurse and a finger-sewing-up-specializing doctor had arrived with lots of syringes and sutures. They raised up the table and had the little girl lay down on her back. The nurse held onto her lower body, and again, I was asked to restrain her. I held onto the arm connected to the hand being worked on. I’m not sure why it was a good idea to put me, a 16-year-old at the time, in charge of that, but whatever. The doctor stuck a needle into her tiny finger and started injecting numbing stuff, which was supposed to help the 2-year-old to not feel any pain. The kid had a different perspective, that they were killing her. Therefore, she resumed screaming bloody murder. Having had this kind of shot before, I can understand how she felt. I once had to get stitches in my toe, and that stupid shot hurt way worse the cut on my toe. But I digress.

I, of course, being the curious homeschooler that I was, watched the entire procedure. On the other hand, I vehemently encouraged the mom to not watch it. She was already unsteady on her feet, and I feared that she might drop the baby. During this procedure, I sat down on a stool with my knees underneath the table. Remember that bit. Eventually, the doctor finished sewing up the finger, and he bit us all adieu.

The nurse, oblivious as she was, wanted to get out of there, and probably just glad that the screaming had ceased, began to lower the bed back down to where it had been… Guess whose legs were still under the table? Yeah, mine. She lowered the bed directly onto my uncovered (because I was wearing shorts) knees. When I starting yelling and banging on the bed, she realized her error and pulled the bed up. I pushed away from the bed amid her profuse apologies. I stood up telling her that there was no harm done, although I now had a bruise and cuts in the exact shape of the underside of the table. The nurse made up for it by giving me and the 2-year-old popsicles. Yes, that’s right, everything, even nurse-inflicted bruises can be solved by popsicles (my mom still made me report it).

Finally, we all went back to the family’s house to relieve my mom, who had apparently gained the never-ending love of the remaining kids. After saying goodbye, we went home. After that, I think I took a nap.

Have you ever had something like this happen to you?

Publishing Woes

I finally got the 2nd issue of my literary magazine, Estuary, out yesterday. It was a day late, but that wasn’t my fault. I had meant to publish it on the 1st, but I ended up volunteering at a scout function all day due to someone’s poor communication skills. Instead, I sent it out on the 2nd, which I suppose is sort of poetic, this being the 2nd issue and everything. Maybe I’ll make that a thing. However, even after I got it out, I still ended up having some unexpected problems.

About an hour after I sent it out, I received an e-mail from one of my contributors. He asked me to tell him which page his poem was on because he couldn’t find it. I brought up my copy of the issue and searched for it. I couldn’t find it either. I’m not going to tell you the numerous… words… that were running through my head as I frantically searched the poetry section for his poem. It just wasn’t there. I immediately sent him an e-mail back while apologizing profusely and promising that I would add his submission back in. So I went back through his e-mails and found a poem and put it in.

Just to be thorough, I went through all of the names of my contributors to make sure that their work was included. Again, bad thoughts went off in my head as I noticed that I’d forgotten ANOTHER poem! I quickly found that one and put it in. Then, I re-exported the Word file to PDF and sent out the corrected issue. That should have been the end of it, but no, not with my luck.

The next day, I got an e-mail from a friend who had contributed telling me that he’d found a misspelling in his poem. I told him that it wasn’t a big deal, and that even if people did notice, they’d probably think he was being artsy. It wasn’t enough to send out a whole new correction issue. And then I got another e-mail. It was from the first guy. You know, the guy whose poem I’d forgotten. It turns out that the poem I included was the wrong one entirely, and he hadn’t even written that one. I nearly spit my cereal at the screen. Not again! I quickly fixed the issue and sent out another corrected issue and fix it on the website. I also fixed the typo for my friend, because why not? I was already sending out another correction. Finally I was done.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned here: 1. Publishing is hard. 2. When I accept a submission, I should probably just go ahead and add it to the issue right away. 3. I should always make sure that the poem I put in the magazine is actually written by the person I said it was written by.

Have you ever sent something out for an audience and then realized that there was something wrong with it after the fact?

 

P.S. If you’re interested in reading the finished product of all this frustration, click here to be taken to a page where you can download the newest issue of Estuary.

Get Estuary

Some of you know that I run a literary magazine, called Estuary. At least, I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned it before… Part of the reason that I haven’t been able to blog much (other than school and scholarship competitions) is that I’ve been hard at work formatting and editing my magazine. Now, I’d like to reveal the new cover of the March issue.

 Estuary 2nd issue cover

If you guys are interested in reading this issue or the last one, click here to go to the website (which I made myself, by the way). I think you’re going to love this issue. It’s only my second issue, but already, it’s way better than the first. I originally started the magazine as a high school literary magazine, but now I’ve opened it up to all people. And when I say all people, I mean all. I had writers and poets send in submissions from all over the USA and even from the UK and Africa.

I was really amazed by the quality of the work for this issue. Another thing this issue has is different artwork. The last issue had beautiful photographs, but that was it. This issue has photos, drawings, and paintings (including one from my little sister). I also had more stories in the issue, including one from me that originally appeared on this blog (so you can say you saw it first).

I hope you all check it out when it comes out. The next issue will be released March 1, 2014.