Banning Bookstores: Catching my TBR pile

I’M ACTUALLY CATCHING UP ON MY READING. This is the true meaning of adulthood!

I added a cat for reference. You're welcome

I added a cat for reference. You’re welcome

Throughout college, my for fun to-be-read pile was put aside due to my required reading for classes. Instead of Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft and Roxane Gay, I was busy reading Shakespeare, Anne Lamott, and…well H.P. Lovecraft (you know, Gothic Literature). Of course, my college reading didn’t stop me from going to bookstores and buying way more books than I could possibly read while in school. Over the years, my to-be-read pile got a little out of hand. It is an accomplishment to be able to actually photograph all the books I need to read.

Since my graduation, I have banned myself from bookstores until I actually read the books I have accrued over the past 4 years. I made exceptions for books I had been waiting on to be published, like Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, but other than that, no book buying at all.

I am determined to lessen the amount of books on my shelf going unread. If you’d like to join me in decreasing the amount of unread books on your shelf, we can do this together! Comment below for support, goodness knows I need it.

Non Reader, Gone Bookworm, Gone Writer: This One Time I Met Neil Gaiman

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The definition of a writer according to dictionary.com

Ever since I knew what growing up meant, I wanted to be a writer. I even was voted most likely to be published in my 8th grade class. Before that, I wanted to be an explorer. Partially because that’s what my sister wanted to be and I wanted to be my sister, but also because I have always had an inexplicable urge to see the world. But in my childhood, my view of the world was a little different. Imagine Skyrim, the video game, fused with Indiana Jones. I used to wander the streets around my infinitely suburban neighborhood, pretending my bike was a horse and peddling into caves and caverns and sunsets.

When I found out being an explorer wasn’t a real career (and archaeology wasn’t all that and a bag of chips), I tried to discover what the next best thing would be. That’s when I found books.

I used to hate reading. The main reason was because I was, and still am to be honest, terrible at reading out loud. During school when I was called on to read, I stumbled and butchered all kinds of beautiful words and stories because I couldn’t make my mouth form the words as fast as my brain was reading them. No one made fun of me directly, but I could hear the silent collective sigh of classmates when a teacher called my name to read. And the whole time I was reading, they were shuffling around in their seats in, what I assumed to be, annoyance.

I wasn’t good at reading, so I hated it. What changed me also changed a lot of the world. The Harry Potter series. My older sister read them, and I plucked the first one off of her shelf wondering what all the fuss was about. This story is much like other stories of my generation.reading-under-the-covers

Once I started reading, I didn’t stop. I would stay up entirely too late with a flashlight under my covers, reading and reading and reading until I fell asleep. I read during recesses at school. My favorite time of the day at school was free reading. I became a bookworm. And it wasn’t a phase.

As almost all bookworms do, I think, I began to want to write. I had a notebook I would carry around with me at school. I called it a novel, but it was really just me writing a fan fiction story almost parallel to the Pendragon series. It wasn’t very good, but I loved writing it.

I dabbled in angsty poetry in high school, I loved writing essays for school. I loved writing, but didn’t believe I could make anything out of it. I had ideas, but they were too strange. Kind of dark and I wasn’t sure there was any place for them but inside my head and in my journal.

No authors ever really came close to my admiration for J.K. Rowling. I didn’t think any authors ever could. But one day, a friend of mine and I were in a bookstore. Seeing someone we had met in high school, we walked over to the science fiction section where he was standing and chatted. “What are you looking for?” I asked him so I could help.

“Anything by Neil Gaiman,” he said picking up a novel with a graphic castle depicted on the front.

“Who’s that?”

“The most amazing author I’ve ever read,” he said, pushed the book with the castle on it back into the shelves and went to ask the bookkeeper where his novels are located.

“Start with American Gods,” he said handing me the book that would change my life. “Then go from there.”

And go from there I did.

I became obsessed, and still am. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author of all time. I absolutely recommend American Gods, then Anansi Boys, then Smoke and Mirrors, then Neverwherethen Fragile Things, then The Graveyard Book, then ALL THE THINGS. He is amazing. That’s the end of my plug, just go read him.

Neil Gaiman was the one who made my drive to write soar. He wrote about things I wanted to write about, weird worlds and intriguing characters and mythical creatures and dark themes. I know many other books have these details, but for some reason Neil awakened the feeling in me that I could do this somehow, too.

I found out he was doing a book tour for his newest book Ocean at the End of the Lane in July of 2013, and I was determined to meet him. I drove four hours to Ann Arbor, Michigan to meet him with two friends. He was late because there was a plane crash in California, and the airport was on lockdown, but he assured us on Twitter he was coming and he was sorry.

We all tweeted him, telling him we didn’t care and to stay safe. While waiting, I wrote him a note on some scrap paper I found, trying to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me as an aspiring writer who didn’t think I could do it until I read his work. Of course the words fell short, but I tried.

When he came and talked and read some words out of his book, I felt like I was in a dream. Neil is a storyteller, that’s just what he does and it is magical.

After speaking, Neil went out into the lobby to sign some books. His agents or crew or people tried to convince him that it would be too late to sign two books for everyone, just sign one. But he wouldn’t. He signed two books for everyone, stood up for pictures when asked very nicely, and smiled. I waited for four hours, I think.

When I finally got up to his table, I clutched my copy of American Gods, Ocean at the End of the Lane, and my crinkled note to my chest. A lady asked for the books, and I handed them over. She asked me my name, and she wrote it down on a piece of paper so he would be sure to spell it right. When I got in front of him, he made eye contact with me and said hello and tried to pronounce my name. I kind of froze, smiled and said hi. As he was signing my books I said, “I know we don’t have time to talk, so I wrote this for you,” holding out the piece of paper in a shaking hand.

He smiled at me, his crew around him made an audible “awww” noise which made me uncomfortable. He did not break eye contact and he said, “I’m going to put this in my pocket and I will read it later. This is one of my favorite things to do after a tour, is read all the notes I get.” He put it in his suit jacket, and I was carried away by the mass of people waiting to meet him behind me. He kept looking at me with a tired, but genuine, smile as I was being pushed towards the end of the table. With a little wave, Neil turned to the next fan in front of him.

One of his crew handed me my books back. I immediately turned away from Neil (hopefully in time), clutched the books back against my chest, and cried. I can’t explain why. But I cried and cried and cried.

That moment was magic. That moment makes me want to be the absolute best writer I can be. That moment makes me want to write from my soul and never stop.

And it makes me believe I can. Because for some reason, I felt that Neil Gaiman, in that minute of talking to me, believed in me too. And I know it is stupid and crazy, but it is what gives me courage. So I’ll keep believing it.

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Post Script- Click here to read Neil Gaiman’s epic answer to how to become a writer.

The NaNoWriMo Experience

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This November was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month.

People always talk about the community NaNoWriMo creates, and I believe it is a huge reason this program works. The forums are so helpful, and I found myself spending hours reading about people’s questions and answers and creations and stories. I loved getting to know other NanoWriMo-ers, and it helped to see that other people had the same struggles as me.

NaNoWriMo has been my first group-ish writing experience since I graduated from college. I am so thankful that people are creating places for writers to find each other and share stories. I have missed it more than I realized, and I will be participating in NaNoWriMo every year, and I hope to have a more successful year in 2015.

But what meant the most to me was what the experience revealed about myself as a writer. Here are just a few of the things I learned and obstacles I faced throughout NaNoWriMo.

Sometimes you don’t get your ideal writing environment.

Before NaNoWriMo, I somehow convinced myself that the only time I could write something halfway decent was in the morning after breakfast and drinking my first cup of coffee for the day. I thought if I wrote outside that time, it would be crappy and awful and worthless. But that isn’t true. I found myself writing after dinner, at midnight, during breaks at work. You have to write when you can.

Even more than this, sometimes you have a cat knock a glass off your desk. You have to stop mid sentence and grab a rag to clean it up, and when you get back to your desk the words are gone. Sometimes a child will run into your room and tell you they’re hungry, or bored, or sad and you must stop to help them. Sometimes your doorbell rings, or your laundry is done, or you have to pee. Life is full of interruptions, and it will be a rare day when you can write without stopping.

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Sometimes you get stuck.

There are days when you have no motivation at all. There are days when you stare at your computer, fingers floating over the keyboard, waiting for the first bout of inspiration to carry you through your 1,600 words for the day. And sometimes it never comes, and you drag yourself to bed, or to work, or to chores with a heavy heart.

NaNoWriMo gave me an understanding that everyone has that experience, even J.K. Rowling and Oscar Wilde (though he would never admit it), and everyone has to fight through it. And all you need is a small spark. This spark can be found in yourself, in others, in an event, or a word. It can be found anywhere, but you have to be looking.

Sometimes you think you’re a pantser when YOU ARE NOT.

I thought I had figured myself out as a writer in college (BA-HA-HA, I know I’m naive). I thought I needed a bit of an outline to get me going, and then the words would just come to me. That’s how it usually worked with short stories, at least. But novel writing is a completely different thing.

I had outlined my novel a lot, but as soon as I got to the point where my outline ran out, I was stuck. I had nothing to write about, and my characters were running around with no goal or point. NaNoWriMo taught me I’m a planner. And thank goodness I know that now and can write novels the right way for me.

Sometimes it is extremely hard to write in a room full of non writers.

While I was on this journey, I was the only one to keep myself motivated. No one in my household is a writer, and often when I voiced I didn’t feel like writing, instead of encouraging me to go sit my ass down in the chair, they said thing like, “Well you wrote yesterday!” Or “You need to give yourself a break every once in awhile.”

Not the most motivating thing in the world, bless their hearts. I know they were trying to make me feel like I had done enough, BUT IT WASN’T ENOUGH. You must write wonderful new words every day, or else you feel like you can skip a day every now and then and you CAN’T. Every day, write.

But most of all…

this experience reminded me that writing is HARD. And any day you sit down in front of a computer and melt words together to create something beautiful is a damn awesome day.

I didn’t win. I didn’t even make it halfway to 50,000 words. But I wrote everyday. I watched my characters grow and change and love and lose. And I remembered why I became a writer in the first place.

THE ART OF ASKING: November 11, 2014

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SAVE THE DATE.

On November 11th of 2014, Amanda Palmer’s new novel The Art of Asking is coming out. It is not available on Amazon, but you can preorder it here. She will also be doing a book tour.

If you haven’t heard of Amanda Palmer before, you have been missing out on one helluva-woman. She has worked hard to become a great musician, as well as succeed in the music industry without losing her soul.

This book has been a long time coming since her Ted Talk on discovering how to move through the music industry by accepting help from her fans. Trusting her supporters and creating a lasting relationship with them on stage changed the way she produced music, and the way she moved through life in general.

A few of my favorite songs of Amanda’s include “Missed Me”, “The Killing Type”, and “Girl Anachronism”. Not to mention “The Bed Song” and “Do You Swear to Tell the Truth The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth”. Just all of it. Go listen to all of it. She’s got a unique sound, a big heart, and a world perspective that leaks into all of her music.

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I freaked out when I saw this.

She goes out of her way to try to connect with her fans, including being extremely active on Twitter. Apparently, she wasn’t always that way according to this blog she wrote on hitting a million followers. She often does random Ask Amanda sessions and announces spontaneous concert times and venues. Even throughout her book-writing journey, she asked her supporters for help when she was stuck.

But what I like most about Amanda is she is unapologetically and tragically real. I have never met Amanda before, or even been to one of her concerts (despite various efforts), but through her music and her social media presence, I have fallen in love with her. And she doesn’t know me, and she may never know me, but she cares about me. It’s an unspoken understanding she has with, I would venture to guess, all her fans.

And so, I support her in whatever ways I can. And today that means spreading the word about her new novel coming out. Watch the Ted Talk, and if you like it, buy the book. Support her if her like what she does, and practice literary citizenship. Because if we aren’t there for each other, who will be?

A Quest for Local Bookstores

I recently went on a Great Plains adventure for my sister’s wedding, which was gorgeous and perfect and full of whimsy and dancing. Traveling to Nebraska, I found myself looking out the window with disdain. There really is, close to nothing, in that part of the country. We passed few gas stations, fewer still sites to see and things to do.

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You can imagine my surprise when I discovered a cozy local bookstore nestled between a gyro restaurant and an art store in downtown Lincoln. It was called A Novel Idea, and run by a generous and kind woman named Cinnamon.

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No, this is not off of Pinterest. I took this myself.

It was one of the most delightful bookstores I have ever been in. They had two fat cats roaming around the bookshelves. Newspaper clippings on the walls revealed these cats were rescued by the owner and loved by all customers. Along with this, the most literary savvy staircase I have ever witnessed can be found in this spot.

The staff was lovely. When I asked staff member Eowyn Ivey what book she would recommend I read before I die, she responded with 5 different novels I never would have picked up myself. I ended up with 2 of the 5, Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk and a magical realism novel titled The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. “Give The House of the Spirits a good hour when you read it,” she said. And I will.

I left that bookstore remembering what websites such as Amazon are missing: the smell of the pages as soon as you walk into a bookstore, the feel of the fuzzy cats on your legs as you search the shelves, and the camaraderie of knowing you are among your own people. People that love books, maybe more, than you do (but surely not). People that will show you the worlds they have found and loved. I’ve longed for this feeling since I left my college literature classes where we would talk about books and worlds everyday.

The nostalgic feeling of that bookstore stuck with me until my last day in Nebraska. I remembered the loved comments about a bookstore called Prairie Lights in Iowa from the 2013 In-Print guest authors at Ball State University, I can’t for the life of me remember who said it. Maybe Elena Passarello or Eugene Cross. On my way back home (which, for me, is Indiana) from Nebraska, I swung by to see what all the fuss is about.

Prairie Lights has some serious curb appeal. Two dark wood doors against a silver building with an awning that says, “Hello, we have so much knowledge in here your brain might explode.” I mean, just look at it.

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HEY THERE SCHOLARS. Don’t mind the trash can photo-bomb.

The people at this bookstore were not as hands on. This may have been because, I’m fairly certain, that weekend had been move-in weekend for incoming freshmen. I worked in a text/bookstore for a year, I wouldn’t want to approach any more nervous and frustrated students either. The important thing is, they were there when I needed them.

And I did need them.

After a while of browsing the crowded novels, I had a question itching in the back of my mind. I thought this seemed like a bookstore that would house Roxane Gay‘s new novel Bad Feminist. I had to ask or forever regret it. “I think we’re out,” a man with a ponytail told me over Dumbledore glasses. Disappointment crept across my face as the employee slapped a few fingers on the keyboard. “Wait, hold on,” he said.

I turned my attention to the mystery books on sale, not letting myself hope. I had been itching to get my hands on a copy, 2014-08-20 19.09.14but knew of few bookstores that had it. I know it is available online, but I wanted it in my hands at that very moment in the most selfish of ways.

“Here you go. Fresh out of the box,” the man said from behind me. My excitement could not be contained. My delight echoed throughout the store, or that’s how it happened in my head.

I purchased one other book here titled Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells, which has probably the most beautiful cover I have ever seen. I know this post is picture heavy, but just one more, I promise it is worth it.

We hear stories all the time about bookstores closing down, big chains breaking, and an all around difficulty of the publishing industry due to things like Amazon and Kindles. I get it, books are are hard industry, they always have been. But with places like these laying in wait for book lovers like me, and probably you, to stumble upon, I don’t believe that electronic books could ever replace good old paper and ink. Or at least I am hoping beyond hope.

It’s the people and the paper and the cats and the rustle of turning pages.

It’s the personal touches and contact.

It’s the palpable love for words.

That make these experiences irreplaceable.

Guiding Authors through Social Media at Midwest Writers Workshop

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This was day one, and a very excited me.

Midwest Writers Workshop took place July 24-26, 2014. I had the privilege of being a Social Media Intern. This means I helped authors understand how to effectively utilize their online presence to actively participate in conversations about writing, publishing, and of course, how to build their platform without being pushy and awful about their work (AKA the “BUY MY BOOK” disease).

I have never been to any other conference but this one, but many Tweets from the conference agree. No other conference is as friendly and intimate as Midwest Writers.

My days were extremely full. There were so many authors looking for help building their platform, specifically through social media. A majority of them came to me asking, “What is Twitter?” Between countless sips of coffee, I would try to show them the ropes in the world of retweeting, hashtaging, favoriting, and following. One cunning client told me a hashtag (#) used to be called an octothorpe, and it has become my new favorite word.Octothrope

But it wasn’t all Twitter. I taught authors how to create lists on Facebook. How to operate WordPress and Blogspot. How to use their time effectively on Twitter with Tweetdeck. How to create websites or a blog and what to write about when they have a blog. I showed authors social media they had never heard of, like AboutMe. I advised authors how to manage themselves on social media, and what to talk about.

I met mystery writers, and legal thriller writers, christian writers, and memoir writers. Every one of them had a story to tell, and each one of them wanted to tell other people about these stories. I gave them as many tips as I could, but there truly is only one answer to this question. You must care.

You must care about the writing world, and this means caring about other writers just like yourself who are trying to make it. Be influential. People will realize you are more than just another writer, you are a supporter of other writers. This is worth more than any story could ever be. Be connected with the writing universe, and they cannot help but connect with you back because you CONTRIBUTE SOMETHING.

Social media is used incorrectly too often, as I told many of my clients. So now I will tell you.

Many people see social media as a way for people to pay attention to them, and I used to be one of them. “Look at me, I look so pretty today.” “Look at me, I’m hurting other classmates/friends with my words on social media to disguise my own pain.” “Look at me, I have so many followers/friends on this screen.” “Look at me, LOOK AT ME.” “Look at me!”

Social media should be a place to showcase the positive about yourself AND OTHERS. Mostly others.”Look at me” should instead be, “Look at you”, or “Look at this.”

If you need to be convinced further, check out the term Literary Citizenship. Literary Citizenship speaks specifically about using social media, and your entire life, in order to promote writing and authors you love, but really it can apply to anything you want. Supporting things that interest you and people that make the world better will make others interested in you. There is no better way to get others interested in you than being kind, relevant, and helpful.

But really, Midwest Writers is the best conference on the planet. Next time you are itching for some writing inspiration/advice/feedback, check out this conference. It will be worth your while.

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All the interns! From left to right: Linda Taylor (our beautiful supervisor/superhero), Morgan Aprill, Heather DiGiacomo, Me, Sarah Hollowell, Jackson Eflin, Brittany Means, Haley Muench, and Becca Wolfey

Make the Most of Midwest Writers Workshop 2014

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Last summer I had the opportunity to attend Midwest Writers Workshop on scholarship. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my life will never be the same. It was the first writing conference I had ever been to, and it was the greatest experience in my young writing career to date.

It’s the people. Hundreds of them in the same building with the same passions, and ultimately, the same goal: to get their stories out. To show the world something. Every single one of them have stories to tell you. And all of them are worth listening to.

Having been to this conference once, I have gained some insight on how to get the most out of this phenomenal experience. Here are a few things you should take advantage of at Midwest Writers Workshop 2014.

1) The Down Time

There is very little of this, but when you do find yourself twiddling your thumbs, here is what you need to do instead: TALK TO PEOPLE. There are so many great minds and stories and people at this conference. Try to collect them. Sit at a different table with different people every time you go into the big lecture hall area. You will not regret it.

 2) The Hashtag (#MWW14)

The great thing about the people at Midwest Writers is that they love to tweet. Last year, you could look at the hashtag and see snippets of sessions you wanted to go to but didn’t. This is called “live tweeting”. You tweet quotes, thoughts, or activities that you think are helpful about a session so others can experience it too.

The hashtag is a great way to stay connected to the conference as a community, as a whole, as one big pulsing passion for writing. Use the hashtag, and watch how you expand your online community as well as enhance your experience at the conference.

Below is a very simple tweet I tweeted from last year’s conference. I met the two authors (Liz Lincoln & Lori Rader-Day) who responded, and we still are connected through Twitter today. You should follow them too, they’re funny.

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3) The Books

Yes, there are books at Midwest Writers! There is a chance one of the writers you meet will have their book for sale at the conference. If you meet them, like them, and want to support them, BUY THEIR BOOK. It’s simple.

4) Pitching to Real Agents

Midwest Writers offers you a chance to pitch your novels to an agent. If you feel your piece is ready to be in print, DEFINITELY take advantage of this. Oh you know, that DIVERGENT book? Veronica Roth was discovered at this conference. These agents are serious about books, and if they like you, there’s a chance you could be their next client.

Even if your novel is not quite finished, I still recommend you utilize this opportunity. An agent will tell you the ways in which your novel is perfect for the publishing world, and in which way is it lacking. Rarely will you be face to face with an agent who is willing to give you feedback again.

5) Social Media Tutoring

I’m not just saying this because I am one of the social media interns. Unfortunately in the writing world, a lot of the time it falls on the author to let others know their book exists. Social media is an efficient way to accomplish this, as well as help promote other authors in the exact same position. You just need to know what you’re doing. That is where the social media tutoring comes in.

And there you have it. 5 simple tips for optimizing your Midwest Writers experience. I have referred to Midwest Writers as a home of sorts. A place where I feel understood and cared for by other writers who have been fresh out of college without an idea of how to make this writing thing work. This has not changed. Midwest Writers is a beautiful place to be.

I am inexplicably excited to meet new faces at this conference. I am equally delighted to help writers understand how social media works and why it is important.

I hope to see you there.

In Defense of Trigger Warnings

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about trigger warnings. Places such as the LA Times and New Republic are speaking out against them. Many think trigger warnings are some silly signs of weakness, some mark of humanity becoming more and more fragile as time goes on.

These people are just wrong. trigger

Let’s think about the word trigger. Trigger. A device which sets off a weapon. A chain reaction. A tiny little explosion that propels a piece of metal to collide with…flesh? Other metal? Fur? They’re dangerous. Triggers are dangerous.

Humanity is becoming more violent as time goes on. Many people are experiencing rape, abuse, PTSD, death each year. And more and more people are speaking out against their experiences. Human fragility isn’t increasing, the need for humans to treat one another with care is.

In my personal experience, I have seen an increase of people willing to share their experiences with trauma. They are some of the bravest, nicest, most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of calling friends. Trigger warnings are a way of showing these people who have seen and lived traumatic things some respect.

Why would you want to cause someone unnecessary harm?

A trigger warning is a way of telling people, “Hey, this has some nasty stuff in it. You don’t have to read/watch/listen/see/feel/witness these things if you feel you can’t handle it.” This very act gives people who have experienced some awful things the power to control their life. The power to say no, I would not like to relive that memory/feeling/trauma again.

Why is this a sign of weakness?

This topic came up on Facebook in a group I am a part of. It began with this post.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 4.28.15 PM I understand this writer’s frustration. Being asked to change a piece of writing by people who do not know you or your work can feel offensive. However, I do not think these people were being unreasonable. Even in the quote, they did not tell the author to change the language of the piece. They only asked to provide a warning. A sign to let people know there is a dead end ahead, maybe you should turn around.

Because that is what triggers do. They stop you dead in your tracks. They can cause severe emotional, psychological, and physical trauma. Really. Triggers are serious business. They can cause panic attacks, hyperventilation, nausea, flashbacks, and a slew of other awful things. Everyone reacts differently to different triggers, but one thing is common among all of them. Pain.

I understand that we cannot have trigger warnings for every single possible trigger out there. There are some obvious possible triggers that we can deduct: rape, war, violence, and abuse. Maybe one person’s trigger is the sound of a fly buzzing. I understand we can’t know that. But why in the world wouldn’t we expose the obvious ones and lessen possible harm to other human beings?

Another important note. PEOPLE OVERUSE/DO NOT UNDERSTAND/INCORRECTLY USE  THE TERM TRIGGER WARNING. Not everyone knows what they are talking about. Sometimes I search trigger warnings on Twitter and see people using the hashtag “trigger warning” in the same way they would use the hashtag “spoiler alert”. Some people get it wrong. It is those people that are not helping others see trigger warnings as a valuable and important integration into the artistic field.

rated-r-logo-black-stock3004My friend Haley Muench brings up a number of valid arguments in her blog post about trigger warnings being beneficial and necessary. One of the most important points to highlight is the fact that other forms of art have trigger warnings. She uses the example of movie rating. Yes, this is a way for the audience to know if their child should be watching this film/T.V. show or not, but it also offers information as to disturbing or triggering events. This little square at the beginning of a movie, which you barely notice, is all people  with traumatic pasts are asking for.

A way to know what they’re getting into. And an opportunity to get out.

Interviews: The good, the bad, the ugly

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I had to.

I haven’t been through many interviews in my lifetime. The few interviews that I have been through, I always felt let down and sad about myself afterwards. I thought I had left a terrible impression, that the employer hated me. Even after a few days passed and the job would call me to say I got it, I still thought the interview went terribly.

I suppose it’s some deeply rooted self-esteem nightmare hidden in the folds of my brain. I’ll dig it out of there eventually.

My practice interview with the Ball State Career Center went quite a different way. I felt prepared for the questions and confident in myself.

THE GOOD

For my literary citizenship class, I was required to participate in a practice interview with Eric Deckers. I was terrified. I scrambled around Muncie for an interview suit. I practiced in the basement at work while I was counting the endless pile of lanyards (retail inventory, love it). I piled my hair into multiple different types of buns, seeing if I could ever tame my massive, frizz into something professional. This, was the end result.

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The end result. Tada!

I sat in the Ball State Career Center, feet tapping, just wanting this thing to be over. The suspense was the worst part. Finally, it was time for me to go in. I put on the most professional face I could muster, and gave it my all.

And it wasn’t so bad.

THE BAD

There were two questions I was completely unprepared for.

1. Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a supervisor.

This was a trap. Definitely a trap. You do not EVER want to bad mouth a supervisor. I danced around my experience working at Buffalo Wild Wings. I spoke about a supervisor playing favorites, and how I never quite understood the social ropes. He said this was fine, but I must be very careful next time. Do not fall for this trap.

2. What kind of salary are you looking for?

This one threw me for a loop. I had no idea what a social media marketer should be making. Eric gave me some wonderful advice. You don’t ever want to throw out a number first, the company interviewing you will either think you are highballing it or low balling it. Try to turn the question back to them, asking things like, “What did you have in mind?” If they answer, you’re off the hook! If not, just say something like, “Well, this is something we can negotiate at a later time.”

THE UGLY

There is something about interviews that make me really itchy. I feel plastic in my fancy clothes, light make up, my wrist tattoo covered with bandaids and sleeves. The person I’m showing them is not really me. The me I know can’t shine through the stress, the sweat, the suit. How much of yourself should you show in an interview?

Eric says, despite your nerves, show most of it. During an interview, the person isn’t only looking to see if you are qualified, they are also trying to see if you are a good fit for the company. You must show them your personality. If they don’t want to hire you due to who you are, you probably wouldn’t have been happier working there anyway. Take things as they are.

However, you do have to hide your crazy. At least until they say, “We like you.”

Leave your own interview tips below, or go here!

Multi-Reading: Tips for reading multiple books at once

The titles from right to left: THE CANTERBURY TALES, GERALD OF WALES, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, and THE CELTS

The titles from right to left: THE CANTERBURY TALES, GERALD OF WALES, THE WOMAN IN WHITE, THE SLIPPERY ART OF BOOK REVIEWING, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, and THE CELTS

I have always struggled with reading more that one book at a time. I can do it, but I find my mind stretching to remember all the events, ideas, and themes of each novel/article/whatever. There are people, however, that read multiple books  at the same time for pleasure, like Leigh Kramer who writes a blog about reading an astounding EIGHT books at once! A round of applause for you, Leigh.

Keren Threlfall argues that reading multiple books at once, “…keeps material fresh and new” and three to five books at the same time is about perfect. I admire that so much, but I haven’t figured out how do it!

While in college, you need to read many things at once. It is a necessity. No matter your major, different classes force you to constantly be reading different novels, articles, textbooks, websites, who knows what else.

And it matters because I want everything I read to make an impact. I want all of the novels I read for school or fun or just for knowledge to matter. To sink in. For that to happen, I need time to read them.It doesn’t help that I am a slow reader by nature.

I have a few tips on how to read more than one book at a time that I have discovered through much trial and error.

1. Make them as different as you can.

The more different the genres are, the easier it will be to separate them in your mind. Fantasy vs. Nonfiction. Young Adult Fiction vs. Biographies. Male Main Characters vs. Female Main Characters. Novel vs. Play. Pairing books in this way will not only help you keep them straight, but provide a nice break between genres. If you’re getting tired of one genre, you have another one to go to for a reprieve. Sometimes, books for classes aren’t that varied. Do the best you can. Divide British authors and American authors, get creative!

2. Schedule certain days to read certain books.

Collegiate life requires a planner. At least, it does for me.I know there have been times I am in 3 different literature/English classes that all require a tremendous amount of reading. It can be daunting. Dedicate a few days out of the week for specific reading materials.

A sneak peak at my unorganized organization method.

A sneak peak at my unorganized organization method.

Maybe Monday and Wednesday you read that one novel. Tuesdays and Thursdays you read that one play. And the weekends you can dedicate to that book you really want to read for fun or that other novel you’re supposed to be reading. Or maybe that journal article. Sometimes, there is no room to schedule out reading like this, and you just have to wing it. You must make time for it though. If you don’t, you’ll drown.

This method was helpful for me because, first of all, this keeps you organized. Unless you are one of those people who can be disorganized and happy. That’s fantastic, and I’m jealous. Second of all, this helps you block out time to read. Really a life saver.

There are a lot of scheduling softwares and tools out there for you, but my favorite? A good old paper planner and pencil. Works every time.

3. Mix excitement and boredom.

This tip requires a lot of self-discipline. Pairing up a book that you are excited to read with a book that is super boring is a great way to balance things out. BUT. You have to stick to your schedule. Read the exciting book, and prolong the anticipation/love affair by getting a little on the side from a boring one. But you must actually read the boring one.

These three things have helped me master the art of reading an astonishing TWO books at the same time. Look, it’s an accomplishment. Just be happy for me.

If you have any more tips, please comment. I would love to get up to three books at the same time by the end of the year.

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