Tag Archives: Shannon Thompson

2017’s Top Ten Articles

30 Dec

Every year, I like to look back and see what everyone was discussing. I try to collect the best discussions and revisit them, so here’s a list of this year’s most popular articles. Normally, I would’ve made this list based on a combination of unique views, comments, and shares, but I didn’t track that as well this year, so it’s only based on unique views. But I hope you enjoy them!

1. The YA Protagonist’s Age: You’re 17? Me Too! 

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit surprised this was my most viewed 2017 article. But I’m really happy more writers and readers are discussing the lack of variety in the ages of our characters, especially in YA. Teens go through many issues at different times, and it time our stories reflect that.

2. Is Romance Necessary in YA?

Another article focusing on young adult fiction, I discussed whether or not a story HAD to include a romance. While the answer might seem obvious and simple, this conversation is actually a lot more complicated than I wish it was. Sex sells, after all. Yes, even in YA.

3. My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

This year, I began writing my first historical novel, and the journey reminded me of my struggles as a viewer/reader/consumer when it comes to historical fiction. I want historical fiction to push boundaries, but that will take a brutally honest conversation about what we understand of history and why we interpret it the way we do.

4. When Writing Makes Reading Hard: a guest post by Susannah Ailene Martin

One of the only guest posts I hosted this year! (Honestly, y’all, if you want to guest post, I always consider thoughtful topics such as this one, so please feel free to message me.) Here’s one writer’s story about how writing can cause writers to struggle with reading.

5. First Person or Third Person? Present Tense or Past Tense? How Do You Decide? 

Choosing how to tell your novel is a personal decision, so how do we make those decisions? This is how I choose tenses and POV, along with some tips to help you decide.

I’m so ready for 2018!

6. Book Marketing Woes

We all have them: book marketing woes. This is a list of common woes, like “I don’t have time,” and actual solutions to help you overcome the issue.

7. I DNF a Book

As an avid reader, I often feel guilty when I’m halfway through a well-written book…and just not connecting. This year, one of my goals was to be easier on myself and allow myself to set down books I wasn’t enjoying, so that I could spend more time reading novels I love.

8. Authors Can Change Their Mind

Five years ago, I wrote an article that was strongly against sex in YA…and now? Well, I haven’t completely changed my mind, but I’ve lightened my stance. Basically, authors can change their mind. This is an article about how we grow overtime.

9. Not All Villains Think They’re Good

“All bad guys think they’re the good guy in their story” has become a popular writing tip, and while I love this writing tip, I push back a little. Find out why.

10. My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process

Editing is the hardest part of writing, but you can make it easier on yourself by setting yourself up for success early on. Here’s how.

I hope you enjoyed 2017 and all the articles that came with it!

If there are any topics you want me to cover in 2018, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

I’m always here to help.

Onward to 2018!

~SAT

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#SATurdate: MWG Conference, The Crown, Allergies, and Silicon Valley

7 May

Since last Saturday was a Ketchup post, this Saturdate post covers two weeks of information. TWO WEEKS?! Yes. Two weeks.

What I’m Writing:

13177904_1037600996287081_998105092686369145_nOkay! This is CRAZY, but I finished writing D, clocking in at 92,722 words! I’m officially in the editing stages, which is perfect, because this past week, I actually received some AWESOME feedback at the 101st Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference about this particular work, so I’m more excited than ever to keep fine-tuning this project. I mean, it has been in the works for nearly 5 years. That being said, I finally feel like it’s DEFINITELY headed in the right direction, so special thanks goes out to all the panelists behind all the workshops who helped me make a couple major decisions regarding this work. (Then, I can start working on The Tomo Trilogy again, right? Right?) For the record, D is a YA fantasy project I’d like to get off the ground AFTER The Tomo Trilogy, so trust me, I haven’t forgotten you tomo fans. I will get back to it. I will. But for now, I have a few things I’ll be adjusting in D for the coming weeks, so expect to hear more about that novel this month.

What I’m Publishing:

You can officially sign up for Bad Bloods Book Blitz through Xpresso Book Tours! I hope you’ll sign up to support this little author out. (You might also win some awesome prizes while you’re at it!)

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As many of you saw, the Bad Bloods book trailer released via YouTube, but in case you missed it, I am posting the video below. (Isn’t it beautiful and dramatic?)

Clean Teen Publishing’s lovely designer Marya also created Bad Bloods business cards and a banner for Penned Con. The first teaser released, too! Along with the next short story in the Bad Bloods Prequel. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, check out Michele’s story today. Who is Michele? Well, in Bad Bloods, she’s the “mother” figure of the Northern Flock, but in the prequel, she’s just a kid. A kid with a gift. And her prequel story actually shows up in November Snow, so reading her story will give you more details when you read the novels this July. Now…for more previews.

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All those lovely goodies discussed above

The #1lineWed preview one week was “pull,” so here is your preview: He pulled me against his chest, and either his, mine, or both of our hearts pounded between us.

The second #1lineWed preview was “pretty,” so here is that preview: Tessa was always there, growing flowers when we needed tomatoes more than pretty things.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Visit the Pinterest and Facebook Pages.

What I’m Reading:

I finished The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, and of course, I loved it as much as I loved it the first time. I recommended The Raven Cycle to paranormal YA fans and readers who love sass and class. Light romance (with great tension) and beautifully poetic prose. Favorite quote? Solutions were easy, once you knew what was in your way. A magical and frightening tale of secrets and sarcastic heroines. You can read my five-star review by clicking here.

I also finished The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was a gorgeous, dark, and stunning story of betrayal and magic. Recommended to young adult fantasy readers who enjoy darker elements, Italian Renaissance type settings, and anti-heroes or villains as the protagonist. Also to those of you who love first-person, present tense. Favorite Quote? Beauty and pain go hand in hand. You can read my four-star review by clicking here.

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And while attending MWG, I got my hands on two Month9Books: Emerge by Tobie Easton and Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley. I’m currently reading Emerge. Granted, I had to put it aside to read The Crown by Kiera Cass, because I’ve been waiting on this finale FOREVER. And yes, I finished The Crown in one night, and you can read my four-star review here.

Despite some pacing issues, I thought The Crown was a lovely ending to The Selection Series. I recommend it to YA readers of romance. Despite being labeled a dystopian, The Selection Series has little to no emphasis on the dystopian elements, especially by the time you get to Eadlyn’s story. Still, I enjoyed it as a fairy tale-princess-prince-finding-a-soul-mate story. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s definitely swoon worthy. My favorite quote? Maybe it’s not the first kisses that are supposed to be special. Maybe it’s the last ones.

On top of that, I received a LOVELY gift of 1800’s books directly from Scotland, along with a Thompson crest bookmark. I’m definitely in love.

What I’m Listening To:

What I’m Watching:

Season 3 of Penny Dreadful began, and so did Season 3 of Silicon Valley—two of my favorite TV shows (among the only ones that I watch), so I definitely started those seasons. I also watched the documentary Bridegroom and bawled my little writer eyes out.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I attempted to bake a rustic peach tart this week, but it came out more like a peach pie than a tart. I also burnt my thumb. Both of my thumbs. But not every baking experience can be perfect…and at least this mistake turned into a pie. I’m not sure mistakes get any better than that.

What I’m Wearing:

I have new sandals! Whew. Now to fight my cats from eating them…

What I’m Wanting:

13062327_1033327780047736_6389651930362409756_nMore time to smell the spring flowers. Despite my allergies… Wait. That just occurred to me. Can’t you tell this is my first time ever dealing with allergies?

What I’m Dreaming Of:

Lowes? I have no idea what I dreamt about, but all I remember is waking up thinking my dreams were sponsored by Lowes. I’m assuming this is because I get all of my paint palettes from there…so in a weird way, my dreams are sponsored by Lowes.

What Else Is Going On:

Allergies. I hate them. I’ve never had them before, but my older brother has, and I’ve constantly given him a hard time about them. I will never give him a hard time ever again. I can barely breathe. It’s terrible.

On a side note though, I managed to control my allergies enough to go to the 101st Annual Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, and I had a great time! I met some wonderful people, I received some wonderful feedback, and I am marching into the future more hopeful than ever. Attend those conferences, folks! They will make your day.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Authors, Look Back to Move Forward

11 Apr

Most writers have dreamt of being authors for a long time. Finding out an author started writing at a very young age happens more often than not, and I think it is important to remember that. In many ways, it is easier for a child to dream of becoming an author or an athlete or a superstar. After all, they might not fully comprehend all of the sacrifices they’ll need to make in order to accomplish their goals, but nevertheless, they dream. They dream and they write and they move forward. In some ways, I think you could say a child is closer to the dream, because they don’t worry about all the what ifs and rules. They just write. Theoretically, I think we can bring back our childhood passion—minus our bills, our lack of time, our adult concerns—and concentrate on just being writers. How? I’ll get to that in a minute.

A few years ago, my family got together on Father’s Day, and my brother and his then-fiancée-now-wife were looking for pictures to use during their wedding. That was when my dad decided to bring up two boxes my late mother left behind. When she was alive, she collected our artwork in boxes for my brother and me to open when we had kids, but we decided to open them up early for my brother’s wedding. It was an amazingly beautiful collection of childhood clothes, art, and pictures.

That’s when I found it: Two books I wrote as a child, which were printed by Crabapple Crossing Book Publishing. 

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20130625_141947This was a moment that brought me back to that childhood passion before I even knew what publishing was. I was only in the second grade, and yet, I knew I loved writing stories. A little background: “Max & Milo” is about two dogs having a birthday party before they move away and become pen pals with all of their old friends. I found it pretty amusing (but interesting) because I had two dogs at the time. Surprise, they were named Max and Milo. I also moved around a lot as a kid. Strangely enough, this story followed the “write what you know” tip that’s very common for beginner writers. I wish I could say I understood the “show, don’t tell” rule at this age, but I think most of the story was described through the pictures I drew. I’m quite relieved I didn’t attempt to be a sketch artist. I’m super relieved I also learned grammar and how to structure dialogue.

But what is the most encouraging part about looking back on these things? 

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Fun facts: Valerie Tripp wrote The American Girl Doll series, my favorite color is red, I was born in Allentown, PA, and I still want to be an author when I grow up. 😉

I’ve achieved the dream I’ve strived for since I was seven, and I continue to do better every day. I now know the “show, don’t tell” rule, along with a couple others, and I hope to add to my craft with every book I read, every sentence I write, and every day I dream.

Here’s to hoping this childhood post inspires others writers to look back on their goals, dreams, and creations to see how long the passion has been there, how far they’ve come, and how they’ll continue to move forward with grace and passion.

Original posted on June 26, 2013. 

~SAT

event5Clean Teen Publishing is hosting a #AskCTP Giveaway on Twitter April 27! I’m REALLY excited about this live author-reader Q&A, and I really hope you all can make it. You can even win a CTP Mystery Box, which includes 1 to 2 print books, swag, and more. And that’s not all.

Clean Teen Publishing is giving away $120 worth of prizes! Do you hate long car rides and traffic? Are you tired of the same old cleaning the house routine? Do you find yourself wishing you had more time to read? If so, then we have the answer for you: LISTEN TO FICTION! That’s right. Audio books. Enter the Listen to Fiction Giveaway by clicking the link.

If you love free stuff, Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. Recommended to YA paranormal romance fans who want new creatures never seen or heard of before.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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SAT Update: Crimson Peak, Submissions, Adele, M&Ms, and More.

24 Oct

Here we are! I have so many exciting things to say, and I hope I get to say even more in my next Saturday post…which won’t be until November 7, since our monthly Ketchup post takes place next Saturday. (Was that easy to follow?) But first and foremost, the paperback of Death Before Daylight released this week, and I had a book signing at Headrush Coffee and Tea Roasters. I hope you also enjoy publishing updates, movies, music, dessert, and more.

What I’m Writing:

This is my real handwriting. I know. I know. Terrible.

This is my real handwriting. I know. I know. Terrible.

So, don’t hate me, but I’ve paused all work on Take Me Yesterday while I’ve worked on an extension of November Snow. So far, I’ve written short stories of the side characters—like a prequel for how the flocks came together—and outlined the first couple of chapters for the sequel, so it isn’t a standalone. I actually went back into all my old notes from when I was a kid and writing this series, and even though the language was embarrassing (so embarrassing), the story idea wasn’t bad. Needs some tweaking, but I think it just might work. I still cannot believe the ambition I had back then. A 12-book, 600-page series? That was adorable. At least I’m writing again, eh? As of right now, I have 11,000 words of the Northern Flock’s prequel written, which includes the origins of Adam, Michele, Maggie, and Ryne. (There are 12 kids in each flock.) Originally, I was going to write the Northern Flock and the Southern Flock separate, but I might combine them and make one novella out of it.

What I’m Publishing:

I submitted November Snow and all the above ideas to my publisher in the middle of the night (because I’m crazy) this past Thursday. (Or…technically Friday morning…at 2:15 a.m. to be exact). What can I say? I’m a vampire. I even had the wonderful opportunity to participate in #PitchSlam and #NoQS this week, which is a Twitter contest to work with agents on your manuscript. Plus, a client of mine wanted me to do it to give them feedback on the contests. (Definitely recommended by the way!) They are great for connecting, having fun, and learning about the current trends in the industry straight from the agents themselves. I actually got feedback on my 35-line pitch and my first 250 words, and I definitely used it in the new version! That was a delight. I’ll write a blog post about it so you can look forward to other competitions in the future. I’m still participating in #1lineWed too. This week’s theme was last line in a chapter, so here’s a sneak peek at November Snow: I ran like death waited with open arms.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! Please. 🙂

What I’m Reading:

 A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz: I haven’t had a lot of reading time this week, not going to lie. I was so wrapped up in writing competitions, book signings, and preparing work for my publisher, that I was all write, write, write this week. That being said, this novel is badass. Definitely unique, bold, and willing to face the darkest parts of society. It’s my kind of book. I love the little notes it has in it too. The formatting is unbelievable.

What I’m Listening To:

Adele’s 21 album. Why? I haven’t a clue, but I’ve loved her music forever, and it had been too long since I binged on her music. It took me back to my college days, to be honest. I used to play this album so much my college roommates would yell at me over it, and complain about having the lyrics to music they didn’t like memorized. Perhaps I wanted to listen to it this week to remind me of those days. It was the three-year anniversary of my college roommate’s death, so…Well, there aren’t many words for a world with such loss, but Adele can at least bring the smile back for just a little while.

What I’m Watching:

I HAD to go to the theatre to see Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, Crimson Peak, and I must say, I LOVED it. That being said, it’s way too hard to talk about any part of the story without giving away major secrets. So, what can I say? The characters are awesome. The sets are unbelievable beautiful. I’d love to see a behind-the-scenes screening of the movie. And the story is flawless, haunting, creepy, and uncomfortably wonderful.

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Then, since it’s the paranormal season, I watched The Ghost in the Pantry, a short documentary about some of the best ghost footage ever recorded. Now I don’t care if it’s “real” or not, so let’s not discuss that. The documentary is freakin’ awesome.

I followed that documentary up with another documentary. This one was Ghosts of the Underground, a long discussion on all the different ghosts that haunt London’s underground. Pretty interesting!

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

 12106742_927072510673264_4354659410432881927_nPepper jack, sausage, and tomato pasta: It wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be, which is a good thing for me, because I lose control of my face when I eat anything spicy.

I couldn’t sleep the night before my book signing, so naturally, I baked a batch of M&M cookies. But that’s not all. I bought ice cream and slammed it in between them. I know. I know. I’m insatiable.

What I’m Wearing:

I bought a new jacket thing, but it’s more like a blanket than a jacket—a blanket with sleeves. I freakin’ love it. Thank you, Target.

What I’m Wanting:

 More time to write. Is that a thing? Can I buy that?

Actually, come to think of it, I would really like to get one of these banners for my book signing at Penned Con St. Louis in September of 2016, but boy, are those pricey. I’ll hopefully be able to save up enough to get one though. Fingers crossed!

Also, when writing this blog post, I realized Adele is releasing a new album! 25! I cannot believe it. FINALLY. Yep. I want.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

I was at a library to find my older brother’s research papers he wrote in middle school. (Don’t ask. I don’t know how this other world works either.) I found one on ghost mermaids. (Again. Don’t ask.) But I was having a hard time following the science behind it, so I decided to go to their break room, which had a billiard table. (Again. In a library.) So, I set my purse down to play and then I kicked my purse and I heard a thunk. I looked down and my purse went through a HOLE IN THE FLOOR. I went downstairs to tell them my purse went to their bottom floor, and everyone FREAKED out. Turns out there was a secret basement with super secret vaults with even more secret stuff inside. (I believe that is exactly how the manager worded it.) So they had me arrested but took me down there to fetch it in all these lasers and guards and craziness. Then, they returned my purse but threatened me to never tell a soul…Naturally, I came on here and recorded it on my blog.

My other noteworthy dream: There was some sort of Con in Wichita, Kansas going on, and I desperately wanted to go, but my friend kept saying it was an expensive way to celebrate my Pikachu hat. (Yes, my Pikachu hat made it into dreamland. Perhaps I’ve been wearing it too much.) But they had these awesome deals, and we decided to probably go. (Let me tell you, discussing money and travels is exciting in dreamland.)

Headrush Roasters Book Signing

Headrush Roasters Book Signing

What Else Is Going On:

As you read above, the paperback of Death Before Daylight released! I also had my book signing at Headrush Roasters Coffee & Tea, and it was an absolute blast! We talked about Halloween, the ghost films I mentioned above, the black-eyed children, and the inspiration behind The Timely Death Trilogy. My events manager and a beta reader of mine even came, and I haven’t seen them in person for almost a year, so I was ecstatic to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones. I look forward to future book signings and events! It was a great week. I’m hoping to bring even better news to you all next week!

~SAT

I would post more announcements, but I basically just said all of them in this post…but you know, the paperback of Death Before Daylight is now out. The first book is free too!

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

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Death Before Daylight: book 3

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#WW Attending Book Cons

12 Aug

Attending Book Cons

Whew! I’m back from Atlanta. (Although, to be perfectly honest, I’m writing this right before I leave for Atlanta…I’m basically in a mind-blowing matrix of messed up time right now.) And as promised, I wanted to share how Penned Con in St. Louis went.

First off, I went as a reader. I didn’t have an author booth, and I most definitely wasn’t there to sell novels. In fact, I didn’t even have my hands on them yet. I went simply because I wanted to go meet some awesome Indie authors I love (and a few bloggers along the way).

Tish and me

Tish and me

Excitedly enough, I met Tish Thawer—one of my favorites—and she was kind enough to take a photo with me. I love her Women of Purgatory series about female Grim Reapers, and I cannot wait to get my hands on The Witches of BlackBrook. I also had the pleasure of meeting Stacy Marie Brown (Darkness Series), Amy A. Bartol (The Kricket Series), and B. Kristin McMichael (The Blue Eyes Trilogy). I also had the utmost pleasure of meeting Ethan Gregory from One Guy’s Guide to Good Reads (basically one of the best book blogs of all-time.) I highly recommend checking all of these awesome people out. (And if you do, tell them I sent you ::wink wink::)

I am making a REAL effort to come out to these events and meet you guys! So, if there is any upcoming event you want me to come to in 2015 or 2016, please let me know about it, and I’ll start researching right away! I love to travel. I feel most at home when I’m on the road (blame my parents who forcibly moved me every two years), and being able to hug and laugh and talk about books with you all is some of my happiness memories. I cannot wait to meet more of you! (Maybe I’ll even have an author booth one day.)

On a side note, since I was in St. Louis, I thought I’d share some of my fun photos (if you haven’t already seen them splattered all across the wonderful web). My favorite place—possibly one of my favorite places in the world now—we went to was the Missouri Botanical Garden. It’s 14 acres of Japanese beauty. (Not to mention the fact that there’s also a Victorian district with the original home of Henry Shaw, the creator of the gardens. 85% of the furniture was original too. It was unbelievable.) Personally, I liked it A LOT more during the day than at night during the lantern festival. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area!

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Until next time,

~SAT

Now for the upcoming events. ;]

Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, releases in 13 days! (13!) You can pre-order via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and pretty much everywhere, so get out there and find the Dark.

And, SURPRISE, you can win a copy via this Goodreads GiveawayClean Teen Publishing is also accepting bloggers for the upcoming blog tour, so please check it out or share it with someone you know. That being said, the Minutes Before Sunset blog tour is underway, and you can win a $15 Amazon gift card, CTP ebook, and bookmark swag pack during the Minutes Before Sunset blog tour; here’s where you can currently enter: Juniper Grove interview, How to Make Your Paranormal Novel Stand Out (A guest post on One Guy’s Guide to Good Reads).

So here's a teaser.

So here’s a teaser.

If you haven’t caught up on the first book yet, Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is also available everywhere, but here is Amazon, Barnes & NobleI know some of you are feisty, so Death Before Daylight, the LAST novel, is available here: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Can you believe it?

I’m also giving away more prizes myself! (You thought I was done, didn’t you? Silly. I love you.) So be sure to sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win. (Your information will never be given away, and you’ll only receive one letter a month maximum.)

Stay Dark and lovely,

~SAT

#SATurday: The Lightning Lesson

23 May

#SATurday The Lightning Lesson

When I was little, part of my bedtime routine was taking a shower at night. But—as my mother would have it—we had one very important rule. No showering if there was a thunderstorm outside. She told us we’d be electrocuted if we did.

Now, being little and a future artist, you should know upfront that I was a tad bit dramatic as a kid. (Maybe a little today, too.) But there was one night where a babysitter said I had to take a bath before my parents came home . . . even though it was raining. I freaked out. And by “freaked out”, I mean screamed and cried while I took a birdbath out of the sink (and I’m pretty sure my babysitter considered quitting her job because I never saw her again.)

Fast-forward a few years later and I got over my phobia my mom instilled in me. I wrote it off as one of those nuances she had, one of those personality traits or funny stories you tell around the table . . . until I got strep throat. That day, while I was napping around the house, I happened to watch Myth Busters—the taking a shower during a thunderstorm episode. And if you’ve never seen it, I suggest you watch it (if you want to be terrified of thunderstorms for the rest of your life, that is). I tried to find a legal sample clip, but alas, Myth Busters charges $1.99 via YouTube, so here’s an article that explained what happened in the episode: Is It Dangerous To Take A Shower During A Thunderstorm?

Lightning photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.

Photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.

Now that you’re statically charged, you must feel how I felt—horrified that I ever doubted my mother. She wasn’t a dumb woman. What trekky could be? But—being a teenage artist—I think rebellion came naturally, even when she wasn’t physically here to rebel against. (I am walking proof that you can, in fact, rebel against the dead . . . and I say that with the utmost respect . . . especially now that I’m older and realize how right she was about, oh, everything.)

You see, originally, I wrote this off as a nuance—something I said above but didn’t entirely explain. While growing up in Kansas, she lived in this two-story house on a golf course, and the old chimney had been struck by lightning numerous times. Numerous times. I still remember my grandfather sarcastically repeating the phrase “Lightning never strikes the same place twice.” Because it does. At least, it did. It struck my grandparents’ home—the same one I wrote about in The Secret Garden of Trees—and later, while we were living in Georgia, our neighbor’s tree was struck with lightning. I cannot even begin to describe how loud that moment in my life was. But there was fire, and then, the rain came down so hard that the fire was gone, but the tree was split to the roots, and my mother and I happened to be sitting in the living room near it when it happened. I thought lightning was just a phobia of hers. Now I realize lightning is just a part of nature—as obvious as that sounds—and it’s better to be cautious of it but also to recognize the beauty of it.

Nature has a way of reminding us just how human and fragile we are, but nature also shows us just how majestic the world can be. It is both frightening and fascinating, but today, I find those two words are very much the same when held under the thunderstorm umbrella of respect, and I respect my memories of nature just as much as a cherish my memories with my mother . . . yes, even the lightning hitting the tree one.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: My Issues With Literature

18 May

Intro:

From 2009 to 2013, I studied English at the University of Kansas, and during that time, I had to decide whether or not my focus would be on literature or on creative writing. I fought with my adviser over this for my first semester. He wanted me to pursue literature; I wanted to hone my writing skills. After I showed him a copy of November Snow, he relented, and I was an English major with a focus on creative writing. Now, that being said, the majority of my classes were still focused on studying different types of literature (instead of writing), and we often talked about the differences between literature and “other writings”, so today’s topic—discussed and written by Eliot Gilbert—hits home for me, and I hope you enjoy his post as much as I do.

My Issues With Literature

There is an elusive mythical status in the world of writing which can only be obtained, seemingly, by bribing (or blackmailing) scholars and booksellers. The status to which I refer is what I like to call capital “L” Literature, and I’m so against the term that I almost sighed by typing it out.

I am sure at least some of you have scratched your head trying to puzzle out the term “Literature”, without much avail. I, personally, am studying English Literature academically, and I still am not entirely sure what means. Its seems peculiar to me to have a distinction between literature and Literature.

Here’s where I think the largest mix-up is: the western literary canon seems to insist that a work should be valued as Literature if it has a superb artistic merit, and if it has significantly contributed to cultural development of the western world. At first that definition seems to be satisfactory, but when put under any amount of scrutiny, it simply does not hold up.

Modifications made under the creative commons license. Photo by Brittany Stevens.

Modifications made under the creative commons license. Photo by Brittany Stevens.

Firstly, the definition seems to imply objectivity. In truth, the decisions are entirely subjective; works of writing are determined Literature by scholars and researchers who have their own interests and methods of interpretation. Put differently, some works are ignored because a scholar has no interest in them, and some works are elevated because they speak personally to the critic.

So, it is impossible to responsibly define Literature as an objective status. This brings up the second largest problem, in my mind: it’s a ridiculous “dog chasing its tail” situation.

Literature is determined based on personal interest of the scholar, and then either accepted into the critical community or rejected, over a span of time, and through further interest by other scholars and researchers. What happens, then, is that certain work gets attention, and then that work is elevated to Literature, and other work is ignored or put down because it doesn’t fit the present definition of Literature. Those who are fellow writers may see a similar situation in getting published without previously being published.

This, in my mind, has caused a host of confusions and issues. The main issue for me is a general dismissal of genre fiction. I like to use The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty as my go-to example. The novel, especially the 40th anniversary edition, is brilliantly paced, highly imaginative, has artistic and disciplined prose, and makes the reader think and discuss rather than spells everything out for her. In addition to this, the novel has had millions of copies sold, and spawned several adaptations, not least of which was the first film adaptation, which became one of the highest grossing films of all time. By anyone’s definition, The Exorcist should be literature, but a quick search on Google Scholar will demonstrate that is simply not the case.

The western canon of literature is extremely genre-biased. Works of science fiction, horror, fantasy, suspense, and YA fiction, are frequently ignored only because there is a preconceived notion about the quality of writing which is altogether unhealthy and false. In my own experience, there is frequently unskilled work that is considered “general fiction”, or even what is considered “contemporary literary fiction”.

As readers and writers, I think we need to broaden our scope of what is considered exceptional writing.

In his book Literary Theory: An Introduction, critic Terry Eagleton asserts that Literature should not be viewed in the standard way I described, but instead, as work that is highly valuable. I believe it is infinitely more useful to view Literature in this way, because it encourages subjectivity.

That is not to say I believe the casual reader is as skilled at literary analysis as a PhD would be, but I do believe that we should stop capitalizing the “L” in Literature; “literature” is, simply put, anything that is written, and every written work deserves an equal scrutiny, regardless of genre or format.

So go out there and create wonderful literature, and read wonderful literature. But please, for the sake of us all, try to avoid the more snobbish, capitalized consonant variety.

author+pictureBio: Eliot Gilbert is an emerging fiction writer, primarily working the in soft fantastic. He is a proprietor of aesthetic approaches to literature, and thinks genre work isn’t given enough attention as a serious medium. His work is appearing in the fall issue of Calliope, the literary magazine of the special interest writing group of the American Mensa. He studies English at York University, in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on his website, on his Twitter, or on his Instagram.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

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