Beckon the Lovely

Not long ago, my friend Sharon emailed a link to a TED Talk by author/filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal (see below). You might know this author either from her books (see above) or from her very popular and very heartbreaking New York Times article, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” (The answer to that is, yes.)

If you have twenty-one minutes to kill, take a look. I highly recommend it. But in case you don’t, I’ll give you the upshot of the video in seven words:

Make the most of your time here.

That was Rosenthal’s motto. Was, because the author recently died from ovarian cancer, which made the video all the more poignant for me. Though this talk was given years ago, I found it very fitting today.

One of the pieces of advice she gives in the video is to “beckon the lovely.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear ugly words, or discover that someone lovely died from an ugly disease, or I hear about the ugly actions of others, my soul craves something lovely.

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I think of flowers and sunsets and clingy baby pandas. My friend Jill emailed this article, which features a video of a clingy baby panda. Perhaps you’ve already seen it. There is a reason why this video has over 160 million views. Lovely sights beckon to us.

Like flowers. Flowers of any sort catch my eye.

   

Photos from a couple of years ago and recently (last photo). Alas, a recent snowstorm killed these sprouts off.

Crocheting also is a way I beckon the lovely. I promised Marie of 1WriteWay that I would post a photo of a jellyfish I crocheted recently for a little boy’s birthday party, thanks to this pattern. I can’t help but smile that the designer chose to make something lovely and cuddly based on the form of a creature with a harmful sting.

When I consider ways to beckon the lovely, I’m reminded of lovely gestures people make. Last week, a colleague came bearing two boxes of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, which brightened our day.

Speaking of gestures, the lovely Jill Weatherholt is giving away a signed copy of her debut novel, Second Chance Romance. (U.S. only. Sorry.) All you have to do to be considered for the drawing is to comment below. What have you seen recently that you consider lovely? Perhaps you were the one whose lovely gesture made someone’s day. Do tell! Or describe what you plan to do to beckon the lovely this week. The winner will be announced on March 27.

     

Amy Krouse Rosenthal book cover from Goodreads. Second Chance Romance cover from Jill Weatherholt. Dunkin Donuts Munkins from Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

Bring On the Ninjas

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Kitty and her effigy

Don’t worry. I’ll get to the winner of the preorder of Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt. But first . . .

The other day, I watched this video at Swoozie’s YouTube channel. (It’s okay if you don’t know who he is. You can Google him later.) It involved ninjas.

With this video, we’re reminded of TV and movie series featuring the Power Rangers, and of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and martial arts films from Japan and China, which give us a feeling of nostalgia. While watching the video, I couldn’t help wondering why I and many others enjoy the sight of ninjas. So I searched the internet and found a great io9 article by Annalee Newitz on the subject: “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.”

This quote from the article caught my attention:

Today being a “ninja” is just a way of saying you’re awesomely skilled, and maybe a little aggressive.

Newitz mentioned the 22,000 people on Twitter who call themselves social media ninjas. Even if we don’t call ourselves that on Twitter, many of us like the idea of being “shadow warriors”—stealthy and in control.

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Kitty has bought wholeheartedly into the notion of being a ninja.

Sadly, some people online use stealth to attack others with their words or actions. Like stealth bombers, they deploy missiles of hate or rage, believing themselves to be cool and clever, but also safe behind the mask of anonymity.

Wouldn’t it be great if people became ninjas not to harm but to help or encourage others? I’d love to see people who are “awesomely skilled” at building others up, instead of tearing people down. Imagine stealthy acts of kindness and generosity.

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At first, the sudden appearance of tiny, masked strangers struck fear in Jordie’s heart. But when they gave him gifts of food, he had a different idea of what a ninja could do.

Food for thought.

Now on to the winner of a preorder of Jill Weatherholt’s book, Second Chance Romance.

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I said there would be one winner. But in the spirit of being a ninja who gives or encourages, I’m giving away two preorders instead of one. How’s that for stealthy? . . . Okay, maybe I need to work on my stealth.

The winners are  . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

Are   . . .

S. K. Nicholls

and

Phillip McCollum!!!

S. K. Nicholls and Phillip McCollum, you have until Wednesday at 10 p.m. (November 9) to confirm below and email your address and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com. Let me know if you want a paperback or an ebook. I will preorder the book to be sent to you via Amazon. If within that time frame I fail to hear from either of you, the random number generator will choose two other winners.

Thanks to all who commented.

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Um, this is a raccoon, rather than a ninja.

Newitz, Annalee. “Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas.” Io9. Gizmodo, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

Jill Weatherholt photo and book cover courtesy of the author. Other photos by L. Marie. 

It’s the Journey

The creative efforts of others often inspire me. Besides books, one of the creative outlets I turn to for inspiration is My Froggy Stuff, a crafting channel on YouTube. Even if I don’t make the projects featured in the videos, I’m still energized by the act of creating something with my hands. How about you?

My Froggy Stuff

(Commercial break: Yes, I’ll get to the winner of Charlotte Cuts It Out by K. A. Barson—another inspiring creative effort—in a moment. [Click here for that interview.] And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.)

Case in point, I made the doll sofa in the photo below out of felt and cardboard (with yarn trim) after watching a video on My Froggy Stuff. It’s about three-and-one-half inches wide—perfect for a Lalaloopsy mini doll.

Doll Couch Too

In this photo, you can see all of my hand-stitching mistakes. 🙂 But that’s the beauty of crafting. You don’t have to be perfect. (Yeah, I’ll keep telling myself that.)

Anyway, in the comment section of one of Froggy’s videos, in which she explained how she made doll furniture, one of the commenters asked her why she made anything. The commenter then went on to suggest that Froggy buy everything, rather than make it. Perhaps the commenter really thought she was being helpful. Another commenter, however, promptly suggested that the first commenter shut up. (The joys of the internet.)

Yet the first commenter caused me to think about why I prefer to make things if I can, rather than buy them, even if I have to spend hours and hours doing it and make tons of mistakes in the process. Wanna know what I discovered? Come closer, and I’ll whisper it.

Because it’s fun. And relaxing. But you already knew that, right, as well as this old saying:

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Some journeys are life-shaping—we experience growth in the process. I burned myself several times wielding that hot glue gun as I glued felt to cardboard. I also pricked my finger with the needle while sewing. Okay, maybe both of those don’t sound like much fun. But they’re part of the process—hazards of the job. They also taught me to slow down and focus—also important whenever I’m writing or editing anything.

The joy of working with their hands is why gardeners take to the soil, and put up with pests like weeds, aphids, and other inconveniences. Like deer and rabbits. Last summer, rabbits and deer applauded my brother’s gardening efforts by eating just about everything he planted. Did that sour him on gardening? Nope. The joy in the accomplishment was greater than the annoyance of unwanted garden guests.

The creative journey is empowering! This is why many people spend months or years restoring vintage cars.

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And, as you know, when you continue to make things by hand, you get better at it. The first sofa I made took days to complete. The second (the one above), took maybe two hours. (Well, it was smaller, so that helped.)

Now, as promised, on to the creative efforts of Kelly Barson.

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The winner of Charlotte Cuts It Out, thanks to the Random Number Generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Nancy Hatch of Spirit Lights The Way!

Congratulations, Nancy! Please comment below to confirm.

What was the last thing you made by hand? Why did you make it? How did you feel after you did?

My Froggy Stuff logo from YouTube. Journey sign from Pinterest. Franklin D. Roosevelt quote from BrainyQuote.

A Shocking Revelation

With Mother’s Day having passed, I considered writing a post about moms. I’m not a mom, so I can only write about them. But rather than wax eloquent here about the joys of having a great mom, I called my mom on Mother’s Day to experience the joy, rather than write about it. (We live far away from each other and could only communicate by phone.) So, you won’t get the eloquent waxing on that subject. Sorry to disappoint.

But this brings up something I’ve struggled with lately: how much to reveal about myself on this blog. As I’ve mentioned before, L. Marie is a pen name. That’s why I avoid posting photos of myself. Photos would defeat the purpose of a pen name. (There is a reason for the need for a pen name, which will be revealed at some point.)

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We live in a culture where revealing the day-to-day minutiae of one’s life to strangers online is the norm. But I struggle with that, not just because of the pen name. I’m a shy person. I have trouble introducing myself to people in person, let alone online. So I’m always amazed at how much people reveal about themselves, especially on social media outlets like YouTube. I’ve seen vlogs about the contents of YouTubers’ bedrooms, refrigerators, purses, iPads, and TV screens.

I’m also amazed at what’s done for the sake of entertainment on YouTube—another way to reveal information about oneself. The other day, I clicked on one of my YouTube subscriptions to find a video of two guys playing a Russian Roulette-type game involving electric shocks. You can buy this game on Amazon, I later discovered. But I clicked away from the YouTube video before the game began. The thought of watching someone take an electric shock quite frankly horrified me.

Now, I’m not debating anyone’s right to buy this game or show it on a YouTube channel or even to watch someone else play the game. But this video brought up something I need to reconcile.

I’ve read the Hunger Games books and watched three of the movies. Now, the premise of the books and movies involves more than people using a party game to administer electric shocks. Young people in this world are expected to kill other young people in gladiator-style games. So if I can watch that, then why am I so horrified by two guys doing something that will cause one or the other pain?

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Probably because they’re not actors who are paid to pretend they’re some else, while being supported by a huge special effects budget. So while my mind tells me the movie scenes aren’t “real” (thus cushioning the effect), there is no cushion for real life.

Still, you might argue, how much of YouTube is “real life”? Some vlogs, like reality TV, have a “scripted” feel to them, since the participants know that the camera stands before them, and they can edit out mistakes.

I’m not here to debate that issue. I’m here because the video I clicked off caused me to think deeply about what I watch. (See? You and I both learned something about me.) While I know they were playing a game, the experience reminded me that real life can be messy and scary at times, and beautiful and sacred at others. Some images stay with you for life.

That’s why I’d rather not watch two people waiting to see who gets an electric shock. I want to see or read something that makes me feel good about life. Like this blog post from Penny over at Life on the Cutoff or this post from Andy over at City Jackdaw.

How about you? Has something caught your breath in a good way lately? Please share it!

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The lone red tulip in the yard

Woman with bag from svtrainingconnect.com. Hunger Games movie logo from pop-break.com.

Childlike or Childish?

015The gang’s all here on my desk.
I spy with my little eye, Gandalf!

I have a lot of YouTube subscriptions. 😀 Two of my favorite channels are The Toy Genie and CookieSwirlC. These YouTubers talk about the latest toy sets and gadgets, and often demonstrate how to assemble these items.

Toy Genie    CookieSwirlC

In the comment section of one of Toy Genie’s recent videos, one commenter stated (and I’m going by memory here, so I’ll have to paraphrase), “I wish she’d stop being so childish.” That comment is the basis for this post.

Several of Toy Genie’s loyal subscribers immediately chastised the commenter. By the way, many of her loyal subscribers are kids and parents. She has over 860,000 subscribers (as of the writing of this post)—a group larger than the population of the state of Vermont. CookieSwirlC has over two million.

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Childish? Childish like a fox!

The Toy Genie video comment reflects feedback I’ve heard before in regard to adults who read and/or write books for children and teens. I can’t help recalling an article a couple of years back in which the writer took adults to task for reading young adult novels. Perhaps you read it. (Click here for a Washington Post article that boldly refutes that article.)

I have to wonder what the goal is for anyone who utters such negative feedback. To shame someone who doesn’t live up to a certain standard of adult behavior? I don’t know about you, but shame has never motivated me to do anything worthwhile.

Shame

All of the people I know who write books for children and young adults read books for children and young adults. They’re aware of what kids like and the activities in which kids are involved. If they didn’t know anything about what kids care about or were too concerned about looking “childish” in the eyes of someone who didn’t believe that writing books for kids is a worthwhile enterprise, they could never convincingly create the characters who populate their stories.

242144Brain Pickings, a great newsletter to which I subscribe, featured an article by Maria Popova on C. S. Lewis and his approach to writing for children. (You can read the article by clicking here.) Here’s a quote from that article, which is from an essay written by Lewis that can be found in the book, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories.

We must write for children out of those elements in our own imagination which we share with children: differing from our child readers not by any less, or less serious, interest in the things we handle, but by the fact that we have other interests which children would not share with us. The matter of our story should be a part of the habitual furniture of our minds.

A commenter for the Washington Post article used another quote from Lewis’s essay:

Critics who treat “adult” as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. . . . When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

That’s one reason why I enjoy the channels of YouTubers like Toy Genie and CookieSwirlC. They embrace a childlike sensibility, and have a blast making their videos. Their enjoyment inspires me.

Has someone ever tried to shame you about something you enjoyed? How did you respond?

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Toy Genie image from youtube.com. CookieSwirlC logo from dailymotion.com. Woman ashamed from alisonbreen.com. Nick Wilde of the movie Zootopia was found at slashfilm.com.

Quite the Feather(s) in Their Cap

I’ll get to the winner of Janet Fox’s book in just a minute. (Go here if you’re totally confused by that statement.) But first, Happy Chinese New Year! (And post-Super Bowl Sunday. Sorry, Panthers fans.)

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Second, I’d like to discuss something that has fascinated me lately: birds have a lot of feathers. (It’s okay if you suddenly realize you have somewhere else to be or some urgent laundry to fold. I’ll keep going, even if I wind up talking to myself.) For example, did you know that bald eagles have over seven thousand feathers? Yes. They do. A tundra swan, however, has around 25,000. Ha! In your face, eagles! Songbirds like a sparrow might have between one thousand and four thousand feathers. And get this: close to 40 percent of those feathers are located around the head and neck. A swan, however, might have 80 percent of its feathers in that region. There is a good reason for that.

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Have you taken a closer look at a bird’s feather lately? If so, you’ve probably noticed that, depending on type of the feather (tail, wing, down, contour, filoplume, and so on), it was either very smooth or downy. Perhaps it was both.

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The smooth feather or feather part (pennaceous) has interlocking barbules that zip together neatly. Kinda like Velcro, according to some internet sites. You can only see this aspect at the microscopic level. The downy feather or feather part (plumulaceous) is a lot fluffier. But the pennaceous part is what gives a bird wind and water resistance. Feathers insulate a bird against the cold. This is why a large percent of their feathers are located at their heads and necks—for brain protection in cold weather.

Feathers are made of beta-keratin. Birds secrete an oil that helps feathers stay flexible and waterproof so they don’t become waterlogged and sink! A bird preens its feathers to spread the oil and rehook the unhooked barbules of feathers. And all this time I thought preening had a negative connotation, thanks to its use with vain humans. Perhaps that image seems particularly apt because the barbed part of a feather is called the vane.

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Go here for a great video on a preening bird. (Sorry. I had trouble embedding it.) But one video I could embed came from Cornell Lab’s website, where Dr. Kim Bostwick talks about the male club-winged manakin and the amazing feathers of his wings. (There are actually several videos at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site. Go here for yet another one.)

A great website on birds and their feathers can be found here.

Now for the winner of a preorder of Janet Fox’s middle grade novel, The Charmed Children of Rooskill Castle, and the swag.

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And that person, thanks to the random number generator, is

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Is

Is

Charles Yallowitz!

Congrats, Charles! Please comment below to confirm!

Citation
Balicassiao (Balicassiao)—Dicrurus balicassius balicassius/abraensis
Philippines, Laguna ML 461028 © 2016 Cornell University

Feather images from publicdomain.net and birdsoftheair.blogspot.com. Eagle from animalscamp.com. Swan feather from pixabay.com. Eurasian tree sparrow from Wikipedia. Chinese New Year image from fotolia.com. Super Bowl 50 image from overtimetkro.wordpress.com.

Dress It Up

When was the last time you told someone, “My luve’s like a red, red rose”? Probably never, right? Perhaps you leave those sentiments to poets like Robert Burns (who penned those words) or Andy Murray. Or perhaps such language seems stilted to you in the every day. But chances are you use figurative language—similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, onomatopoeia—quite often, even if you’re not overly conscious of doing so. Ever say, “Boom” or “Hush”? Onomatopoeia. “LOL, Loser”? Alliteration. “He is a panther, sleek and sly”? Metaphor.

Fig Lang

But you know all of that. And you also know how figurative language can dress up a line of prose or poetry. An apt phrase can replace miles and miles of exposition. For example, we all know how destructive fire can be. So instead of taking three paragraphs to describe how one character (Character A) is a bad influence on another (Character B), we might have Character B tell someone that Character A is “like fire.” (But we would remember that many cliché phrases involve fire and of course would try to avoid those.)

Fire

Back in my grad school days, I showed my advisor a scene from my Tolkienesque fantasy novel for teens, which involved a teen approaching his dying mother. The following paragraphs are from that scene. I mentioned that scene because I included some figurative language. I won’t keep you in suspense—my advisor hated this scene.

From the cottage doorway, she looked like a doll left on the bed: small and fragile. Even the hill of the child she carried seemed dwarfed by the faded patchwork quilt.

Though the lamps had been lit, the cottage was full of late afternoon shadows and a quiet beyond the absence of the others. . . .

He swallowed, trying to make his voice steady, trying to ask what he didn’t want to ask. “What did you see?” He could tell by her face that she’d had a vision. Though they could communicate mind to mind, he could never see what she saw. Her visions were random, virulent things.

After a vision her green eyes were like birds, restless, flitting until the touch of his father’s hand calmed her, brought her back from wherever the vision took her. This time, it didn’t look as if she would ever return.

Why did she hate this? Well, she knew something about me as a writer: I was not really paying attention to the characters in the scene. I was more concerned with the language of the scene—how “pretty” I could make it. That’s what she hated. She wanted to care about the characters—not my attempt to sound lyrical.

Lest you think she seemed overly harsh, please understand that she did me a favor. I could see why the scene didn’t work, and especially why a reader would feel emotionally manipulated (cue the violin music). I wound up rewriting the whole book anyway. (That scene was not included.)

So the use of figurative language has pros and cons. If you keep character foremost in your mind as you consider using figurative language, your writing will be wonderfully effective. And unlike me you’ll avoid giving a lyrical line of dialogue to a three-year-old, no matter how eloquently the sentiments are expressed. After all, since three-year-olds are learning to form sentences, they wouldn’t trot out a simile or a metaphor. But they might say, “Boom!”

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She says his head is like an empty room. He says she is the wind beneath his wings. Can this relationship work? The beauty of figurative language.

Watch, if you dare, a blast from the past—a video by Bell Biv DeVoe featuring their 1990 hit, “Poison” (or just listen, if the video images bother you). Figurative language? Yup. It’s got it.

Figurative language image from gcps.desire2learn.com. Fire from losangelesawyersource.com.