Saying No to Pokémon Go

Between finishing my middle grade fantasy novel (and by finishing, I mean getting it to the point where beta readers will read it), copy editing a book someone else wrote (still doing that), taking job-related tests, and attending various parties of the graduation and birthday variety, I have been a bit delayed in posting. And I had grand plans to approach authors for interviews. Sometimes life gives a “Ha ha ha” to plans made.

So instead of an author interview, you get this rambling post. (When life serves you lemons . . .)

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I’m sure I don’t have to ask you if you’ve heard of the Pokémon Go app, since that’s been all over the news. Maybe you’re already sick of hearing about it. I’ve played various Pokémon games since 1998. And I actually have the Pokémon Go app on my phone. But I clicked on it only once. I decided I didn’t need another obsession, especially with the schedule of the activities I described in the first paragraph. So Pokémon Go app, you’re about to go away.

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I have to hand it to the Nintendo Company for creating an app that has so many people discovering Pokémon and exercising while doing so. Click here to read an article on the popularity of this app. What a novel way of celebrating the game’s twentieth anniversary.

Yet I can’t help recalling some criticism I received when I played Pokémon a few years back. Some adults claimed that the game was for kids and, therefore, beneath their dignity. Now many adults around the world are playing the app version of the game. Interesting. But sadly, some players have sustained injuries while doing so. And predatory individuals are taking advantage of the game’s popularity to rob others. 😦 Click here or here for an article on other issues with the game. If you’re playing the game, a little bit of common sense goes a long way! The game might tell you where the Pokémon are, but won’t remind you that you could be hit by a car or fall into a ditch.

I’m a bit of a curmudgeon in that I can’t help turning away from items that become fads. Take Doctor Who on BBC America for example. I grew up watching the show. But when it became a fad that made entertainment magazine headlines, I wanted to give it up, especially when twenty people asked me the same question—“Have you seen Doctor Who?”—yet refused to acknowledge any of the incarnations of the Doctor before Matt Smith.

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So though I will definitely play a Pokémon game at some future point when a new one for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS is released, I will continue saying, “No go” to the app. At least for now.

What fads have grabbed your attention lately? While you think of that, here’s a random photo:

These flowers at my apartment complex are almost five feet tall.

These flowers at my apartment complex are almost five feet tall.

Pokémon Go app logo from forbes.com. Matt Smith from wallpaperup.com. Lemon image from pachd.com. Flower photo by L. Marie.

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Do You Speak Geek?

Recently I had tea with some friends who live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but are in the States on a visit.

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As is usually the case with the people I know, the conversation turned to Marvel movies. Pretty soon we were off on a discussion of various subjects: Comic-Con; Joss Whedon; Firefly; Harry Potter (books and movies); Lord of the Rings (books and movies); The Hobbit (book/movies); Hunger Games (books and movies); X-Men movies; Doctor Who (and the various actors who have played the Doctor); Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series; anime in general; Wujiang (where one of the friends and I taught English years ago); Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki films—you name it. All in the space of 75 minutes.

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A guy sitting at a nearby table stared, then shook his head in an amused way as he listened to our conversation. Perhaps it sounded weird to him. Or, perhaps he could relate to it.

That same day, I had dinner with another group of friends. We talked about linear algebra (don’t worry—I didn’t have much to say on that subject), physics, Half-price Bookstore, videogames, the gathering and dissemination of information; middle grade and young adult books; graphic novels; writing science fiction and fantasy; grad school programs; indie publishing; and other subjects.

Geek Speak

By now, you might be thinking, So what. Why are you telling me this? Well, let me take you back to my high school years, where bullying took place inside and outside the school walls. Just the mention of any of the above subjects would have earned me the label of geek—not exactly a plus back then. You see, being called a geek was the first step to being bullied. So like other people who tried to fit in and avoid being bullied, I learned to downplay “geek speak” and bring up subjects that the cool people spoke about. Yet trying to blend in could not exempt me from being bullied.

In college, to fit in, my geek speak turned to Greek speak. The cool people pledged fraternities and sororities. Once again, to fit in—to gain those three Greek letters—I pledged a sorority. But I was miserable. I had yet to realize that the advice my parents gave me—“Be yourself”—was actually good advice.

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These days, I celebrate conversations like those mentioned above as the gifts they are. I can do that because I lived through that experience and was able to move on. But some who have been bullied in high school aren’t alive to celebrate their freedom to be who they are. It grieves me to think of the countless teens who dread each day thanks to those who make life miserable for them. They live under the weight of labels and other hurtful words. Some don’t see any way to escape the pain other than to end their lives. I wish they knew the truth the bullies would deny them: that they are precious.

So yeah. I speak geek. And I’m glad to do so.

Today, what, if anything, can you celebrate about yourself? What would you say to someone who is afraid to be who he/she is because of the harsh opinions of others?

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I named this photo “Bee Content” to remind me of more good advice: be content to be myself.

Chiang Mai map from wildabouttravel.boardingarea.com. Sigma from prestochangodecor.com. Hello Kitty/Jordie photo and bee photo by L. Marie.

Ten Favorite Screen Characters

I have book winners to announce. But that will have to wait until the end of this post, since I was tagged by Celine Jeanjean at Down the Rabbit Hole to name my ten favorite screen characters. You can read her list by clicking here. Like Celine, I was supposed to tag others. But everyone I know is pretty busy. So you’re stuck with me unless you escape to Celine’s blog. Mwahahahaha!

This was a tough but fun assignment. There are many characters beyond those below who are favorites. I chose the following, because they inspire me in different ways. Since this list is in no particular order, I decided not to number it. Ha ha!!!

Eowyn (played by Miranda Otto)
Eowyn is one of my favorite characters in Tolkien’s trilogy and the film adaptations directed and co-written by Peter Jackson (2002—2003). I can relate to her sadness and frustration. Eowyn wanted a man she could not have. She also longed to do heroic deeds, though others tried to dissuade her. I love the fact that she refused to let the naysayers have the last word, thus proving a woman could be brave in battle.

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Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell)
He’s a supervillain with a big heart in the 2010 film written by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons and directed by Tom McGrath. This film is a delightful twist on the superhero genre. I love the wonderful banter, the character design—basically, I love everything about Megamind’s journey in this film. He taught me that even supervillains can be heroic.

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The Incredibles/Parrs (voiced by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, and Spencer Fox)
I can’t pick one character. This family works as a team, and an awesome one at that. The Incredibles, a 2004 Disney/Pixar film written and directed by Brad Bird, was the “Fantastic Four” movie we really wanted. It’s one of my favorite movies period. I love the dialogue (which deftly showcased character), the action, and the pacing. It deserved the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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Elizabeth Bennet (played by Keira Knightley)
Lizzie is my favorite in the book, so of course she is my favorite in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (directed by Joe Wright). She’s a young woman who speaks her mind, even when she’s totally wrong. Keira, who was the same age as the character when she played her, was an inspired choice.

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The Doctor (played by too many actors to name here)
Turning to the small screen here. I’ve been a Whovian for many years—no matter who plays the time-traveling Doctor in the BBC show, Doctor Who. (There are films also.) The Doctor usually takes it upon himself to save the world. He travels with a companion, who is usually an Earth dweller (though not always). I simply love this show, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2013. By the way, I loved it when it was still just a cult favorite. Lately, famed author Neil Gaiman has penned episodes of this show.

THE ELEVEN DOCTORS

THE ELEVEN DOCTORS

Nausicaä (voiced by Sumi Shimamoto [Japanese version] and Alison Lohman [English language version])
Princess Nausicaä is a creation of Hayao Miyazaki who wrote a manga series about her and made an environmentally conscious animated movie on her exploits: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). I’ve probably seen this film 20 times. Nausicaä is the kind of character who makes me want to be a better person. She’s selfless in her defense of creatures others despise. And when she needs to wield a weapon, she’s good at that too.

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Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson)
Every character Samuel L. Jackson plays is vivid and memorable. My favorite is Nick Fury, the beleaguered leader of SHIELD—a creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby—because I love his leadership in the Marvel movies, especially the first Avengers (2012), written and directed by Joss Whedon. His question to Thor, “I’m asking, what are you prepared to do?” sears me every time I watch this movie.

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The cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series; voiced by too many people to name here)
Again, I can’t choose just one person, though Prince Zuko (below right) is dreamy. 🙂 This cast, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, made the Nickelodeon series (2005—2008) one of my all-time favorites. Go Team Avatar!

Avatar-Cast-Collage-avatar-the-last-airbender-20397292-1024-683 Prince Zuko

Gandalf (played by Sir Ian McKellen)
Whenever I think of a wizard, I first think of Gandalf. Though I love you, Harry Potter, Gandalf first claimed my heart. Consequently, I’ve read The Hobbit and LOTR dozens of times and watched all of the film adaptations. Gandalf is old, wise, and wonderful. And Ian will always be Gandalf to me.

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Samurai Jack (voiced by Phil LaMarr)
Okay. I can admit to having a major crush on a cartoon character. I’m not ashamed to admit that my heart beats for Samurai Jack, a brave, selfless Shaolin monk who hopes to defeat the ultimate evil—Aku. This creation of Genndy Tartakovsky (2001—2004 on Cartoon Network) has inspired many, many artists, including Tomm Moore, the director of Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells.

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Who are your favorite film or TV characters? While you think about that, I’m giving away a book by Charles E. Yallowitz featuring a character I hope will become a favorite of yours—Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts.

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There are two winners. And they are . . .

Phillip McCollum

and

Laura Bruno Lilly!!!

Congratulations, Phillip and Laura! If you’ll confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com, I’ll have this eBook sent to you. I’ll need the email address you use with Amazon.

Eowyn from revolutionmyspace.com. The cast of Avatar from fanpop.com. Nick Fury from atlantablackstar.com. The Incredibles from thewallpapers.org. Nausicaä from nausicaa.net. Gandalf from nerdreactor.com and blockscreeningreviews.blogspot.com. Elizabeth Bennet from bookriot.com. The Doctor from cinemablend. Samurai Jack image from samuraijack.wikia.com.com. Megamind from worldsoforos.com.

Suspending a Character’s Disbelief and Ours

I’ve got book winners to announce, but that will be at the end of this post. Mwahahahaha! So grab a donut and pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea while I talk at you for a minute.

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Ever read a book where a character is handed a truth that would require a major paradigm shift for him or her to accept? For example, the character suddenly learns that magic or monsters really exist.

We’ve all read stories of characters who stubbornly cling to disbelief in the face of tons of evidence to the contrary. They insist that they’re dreaming or “this isn’t really happening” until they reach a plot point (at least halfway through the book) that pushes them toward belief. Or we’ve read stories where a character instantly accepts a completely world-changing viewpoint without a struggle. There are also stories where the character seems to ignore what would be totally obvious to a seven-year-old. I think of that as the Lois-Lane-can’t-see-Superman-behind-Clark-Kent’s-glasses perspective. That’s why we don’t necessarily suspend our disbelief as we read. (Or sometimes we go along for the ride because the characters are so beloved or iconic.)

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Lois, have you noticed anything unusual about Clark? No? Some reporter you are.

Here is where foreshadowing can be an author’s BFF. An author can hint at the possibility that something major is going to happen at a future point. Foreshadowing also is a reminder that things are not always what they appear to be. It provides a solid base to make a character’s suspension of disbelief seem inevitable.

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Prince Zuko of the Avatar animated series and Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Sometimes though, a rip-off-the-bandage approach works to move a story along. I can’t help thinking of two episodes of Doctor Who, series 4 (2008), starring David Tennant as the Doctor (BBC/BBC America).

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In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, an extremely chilling 2009 Hugo award-nominated two-episode arc written by Steven Moffat, we see a little girl talking to a psychiatrist, while her anxious dad hovers in the background. Such an innocuous scene. The little girl has told the doctor—Dr. Moon—about her dreams.

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Doctor Moon (played by Colin Salmon) and the little girl (played by Eve Newton)

In her dreams, she goes to a library—a place where she feels safe. But as we watch the episodes, we realize that all is not what it seems. Later in the first episode, because of a dangerous development, Doctor Moon has to share a shocking truth with the little girl, a truth that would require a paradigm shift for her to accept. (Quote below from IMDb. **SLIGHT SPOILER.**)

Dr. Moon: What I want you to remember is this, and I know it’s hard. The real world is a lie and your nightmares are real. The Library is real. There are people trapped in there. People who need to be saved. The shadows are moving again. Those people are depending on you. Only you can save them. Only you.

**END SPOILER.** You can read this Wikipedia article if you want to know the plot. Or, I would suggest watching the episodes. They are extremely good.

Another example of a character having to shift from disbelief to belief comes from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/Philosopher’s Stone (the title depends on which side of the Atlantic you happen to be on), Hagrid tells Harry the truth about Harry’s extraordinary life in this scene from the first Harry Potter movie, directed by Christopher Columbus (2001).

Rowling set the stage earlier by having weird things happen that Harry witnessed, but couldn’t explain. So when the big reveal comes, his struggle for acceptance doesn’t feel contrived.

I’m facing a similar issue in my middle grade book—a character struggling to believe something extraordinary about herself. I’ll ask you the same questions I had to answer for the character: If you were told that magic really exists, what’s the first thing you would do? What would you say or ask?

While you think about those questions, I’ll move on to the book giveaway. Thanks for you patience. If you recall, last week I had mentioned two great books: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio and Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue by Charles Yallowitz. You can find those posts here and here. Jordie and Hello Kitty wanted to be in on the reveal. You might have to enlarge the photos below if you have trouble reading the names.

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The winner of None of the Above is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

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The winner of Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

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Congratulations Jill! Congrats, Professor! Please comment below to confirm.

Now I will leave you with a photo I am calling, “The Five Geese of the Apocalypse.” For some reason, they were just standing there on the ledge looking out. Surveying their domain perhaps?

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Doctor Moon and the little girl from stevegoble.blogspot.com. Doctor Who, series 4, DVD cover from Wikipedia. Lois Lane and Clark Kent from goodgirlsinc.wordpress.com. Coffee and donut from wisdomwoman.com. Zuko from glogster.com. Anakin/Darth Vader from tvtropes.org.

A Patch of Blue

All morning I’d been gloomy over the gray, gray skies and a dearth of ideas for my novel. Having felt about as creative as a spoon, I went for a drive—a usual head clearer for me. As I headed home, however, my spirits lifted at the sight of a patch of blue in the gray sky, a patch like the blue lining of a gray pouch.

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Though “the blues” is a euphemism for depression, the color blue “is a practical, happy color for many,” according to an article, “What Your Car Color Says About You.” Look for that here. In another article, one at the Huffington Post website (from 2012—I couldn’t find a more current one), blue is a favorite house paint color for many in America.

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My favorite color is red, but I also love blue. The house paint article mentioned the “serenity” of the color blue. I can understand the feeling. You can too, right? Many of us would gladly loll on the beach, gazing at cool blue water. Watching the waves gently lapping the shore makes me feel peaceful. And I usually cheer up immensely when I see a blue sky after days of rain, rain, rain let loose from an iron gray sky.

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There are sooooo many beautiful shades of blue.

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Here’s one of my favorite blue items (the TARDIS from Doctor Who in case you’re wondering):

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And this one:

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Seeing that patch of blue in the sky during my drive reminds me that gray won’t always be the prevailing color. There is the hope of change.

Random daisy photo (another reminder of hope):

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Blue shoes from blackbridalbliss.com. Buttons from galleryhip.com. Blue water from fanpop.com. Pantone blue shades from genx10.com. Blue sky from iloveeasthampton.blogspot.com.

Dreams

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
From Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore

I miss the dreams I had as a kid, flights of fancy so feathered and unfettered, I hated to wake up. I’d soar off cliffs and over seas. Oh, how I would fly! Or, I went on daring spy capers, intricate plots surpassing anything Ian Fleming, John le Carré, Tom Clancy, or Robert Ludlum could devise.

At a young age, I was a seasoned warrior—the victor of many dream battles, some won only by waking. And when a monster came to call, one beyond my ability to defeat, I still had an escape—the ability to soar away, high over its grinning maw.

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I know. We grow up and get busy with work, bills, kids, and problems like taxes, unfaithful significant others, and health issues. We’re weighted by worries, pain, and loss. So tethered to the earth, who can possibly soar in a dream?

Lately, my dreams have become angst-ridden things, like hands fluttering. Recently, I dreamed I had an advisor who had the look of Matt Smith from Doctor Who, all gangly and twitchy.

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He handed me a paper with a big red F on it, then proceeded to harangue me for not having my entire novel written before the end of the semester. Though I pleaded with him, the grade remained unchanged, a beacon to my incompetence in his eyes.

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At other times, I’ve had the dreams many of us have—not enough credits to graduate; the discovery of a paper due minutes before class; tests for which I didn’t study. Oh, the scenario has switched sometimes: buses and trains I missed; endless train journeys I’ve taken, but never to reach my destination; cars misplaced or stolen.

Life in my dream state. Sometimes I don’t recall my dreams upon waking. Still, a lingering feeling of anxiety drifts after me into the day like a dark cloud, and I’m grateful I don’t recall the plotline of that particular nightmare.

Maybe my waking dreams need to be taken up and flapped and snapped like a rug—to shake away the dust and sediment of doubt or despair. Or, maybe they need to be gussied up—brushed and curled and reminded that they exist, that they are beautiful and possible, and that the time to realize them is, and always was, now.

Then maybe the landscape of my night dreams would expand. Maybe I would return to those visions of sugar-plums. Or better yet, take a flight so glorious—no wings required. Just me and the air.

Oh, how I will fly!

Need a new waking dream? Reach for the sky with me. Together, we’ll soar.

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Pictures from digitalspy.co.uk; photos-public-domain.com

Eyes of Wonder

Peter-jackson-250x339In a recent Entertainment Weekly sidebar, when commenting on the 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who, Peter Jackson stated, “If there’s any secret to its resurgence, it’s due to the show’s complete lack of cynicism.” If you’re familiar with Doctor Who, perhaps you know that this show was first launched on the BBC in 1963, but went on hiatus in 1989.

Jackson’s remark struck a chord with me, because I’ve been trying to analyze why I love the show so much. This love grew from childhood, watching Doctor Who on PBS with my dad on Sunday nights. Friends who recently saw some of the older seasons on DVD described them as cheesy or low budget. But I loved them, starting with Tom Baker, because they always took me someplace wonderful. So, when the show returned in 2005, I was more than thrilled, because like the show’s producers, the show has never lost its wonder for me.

Which brings me to the second quote, one from Rise of the Guardians, a 2012 film by DreamWorks Animation. I won’t go into the plot. You can check that out for yourself here. During a scene early in the film, North (St. Claus) asks Jack Frost to name his center. In other words, what ideal or virtue does he bring to the world that he also is willing to safeguard for the sake of the children of the world?

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As an object lesson, North hands Jack a set of nesting dolls and has Jack open the dolls until he gets to the center doll—a doll with large blue eyes. This doll represents North’s center: wonder. North then tells Jack:

It is what I was born with, eyes that have only seen the wonder in everything! Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children.

As I read Jackson’s comments in EW, I couldn’t help linking his quote with North’s and then reflecting on what my center might be. Let me give you a little background. I grew up reading magazines like Mad and Cracked, magazines famous for their parodies of movies and books. I never met a parody I didn’t like. Sarcasm was my center. It affected my writing. (Some might say infected.) Everything was ripe for mockery.

In my second semester at VCFA, my advisor read my fairy tale parody and shook her head. In her assessment, some of it was good; yet she could see what was missing: wonder. Sure I could write a parody. But did I have the guts to go beyond mockery and produce something original? The thought of doing so was daunting. What if someone mocked me for it later?

Wonder is the antithesis of cynicism. If I have wonder-filled eyes, I see beauty and life in the world, not just the flaws or what makes it ripe for ridicule. That’s why Jackson’s remark jumped off the page at me. Having watched all of the episodes of the relaunched Doctor Who, I can attest to the truth of his statement. If you watch the interviews of anyone connected with the show—actor, writer, producer, lunch lady, makeup crew—you will discern the love—the wonder—he or she sees in it.

So, I’m in an examining mood now. Having chosen to write books for kids, what is my center? I can tell you what I’m working on: wonder. But I need to shrug off some cynicism first. Thankfully there are blog posts like this one by Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, that remind me of the wonder of writing. (One of my classmates brought this article to my attention. Thanks, Rachel.)

What is your center?

For a fun quiz on this question, go here:

Jackson, Peter. “Lord of the Whovians.” Entertainment Weekly #1252. 29 Mar. 2013: 36-37. Print.

Rise of the Guardians screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on a story by William Joyce. Directed by Peter Ramsey. © 2013 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. All rights reserved.