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imagesWhen I was a kid, I was scornful of people who read comics.  Actually, I was scornful of lots of things.  Some might have called me a bit of a snob.  I prefer to acknowledge that I was a bit of a brat.

A few years ago, I friend got me interested in webcomics.  There are a few I read regularly, and they tell quite a good story.  Truthfully, I’ve always envied people who can draw, so to be able to tell a good story and draw is quite an accomplishment.

Anyway.

I love quotes.  I have a notebook full of them, where I write my favorites.  I have others printed and pinned up on my wall, and still others made into posters and framed.

Zen Pencils is a webcomic, where Gavin Aung Than takes quotes and turns them into comics.  He’s done a variety of them, and has also published two books.  His interpretation of some of the quotes has deepened my understanding of them, and also made me work harder to come up with my own interpretation.

I got to meet him at a book signing a few months back, and he’s a very nice guy.  He quit a job he didn’t like to work full time doing his comic.

While many of the quotes he’s illustrated speak to me, his story has also influenced me.  He worked hard, and kept working.  But ultimately, he made the leap, quit his job, and was able to do what he loves.  I find that combination of hard work and fearlessness to be inspirational.

I love to write, and think I’m a pretty good writer, but there are days when I’m tempted to delete everything I’ve ever written (not quite as dramatic as burning it, but these are the days of the computer).  And then I remember that it’s not the most talented people who succeed, but the ones who keep trying and aren’t afraid to work for success.

That’s a fitting end this month of blogging, don’t you think?

“So maybe what you’re doing right now isn’t ideally where you’d like to be, but perhaps it’s just practice for your dream job in the future. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”

-Gavin Aung Than

Unknown-10The end of the alphabet is always tough.  I could only find one book starting with a “Y” that I’d actually read, and it didn’t affect me in any way.

This book was one of the many on my “W” list, and when it occurred to me that I could get creative and use it, I was thrilled.  This is a book that I feel very passionately that more people should read.

Why People Die by Suicide, by Thomas Joiner, is a book that was recommended to me when I started my job as a crisis therapist.  It opened my eyes to so many of the reasons that people attempt suicide.

There are a lot of myths about suicide.  We saw that after the death of Robin Williams.  People had opinions.  Many people expressed that he was selfish or cowardly.  It’s easier to believe that, I suppose.

The truth is that when people die by suicide, they often feel that they’re doing a good thing for their friends and family.  They honestly feel that others will be better off without them.

Suicide touches the lives of many people, and I think it’s important to talk about it, de-stigmatize it.  Talking about it gives us all power.  Plus, as I learned while working crisis, you never know when talking to someone frankly about what they’re dealing with can help them to make a less permanent decision.

Suicide is a permanent reaction to a temporary problem.

This is an accessible book for anyone who’s interested in learning more about this topic.  The clinical psychologist who wrote it started asking the question after someone in his family died from suicide.  The information is tied into research, but there are also anecdotes and

This book helped me gain a better understanding of this topic, but it also helped me be more empathetic.  It’s hard for most people to understand what goes through the mind of someone who chooses to die, which is what makes books like this one so important.

Understanding, love, compassion are all things the world could use a little more of.

 

Unknown-9So, before I get into the meat of this post, you should probably know that I actually do know that W comes BEFORE X.  I’m not really sure how or why I posted X yesterday.  My only excuse is that I’m on a trip visiting family, and I was distracted.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.  :)

I first read When Rabbit Howls when I was a teenager.  I was extremely interested in dissociative identity disorder ever since I’d watched the movie Sybil (and later read the book).

When Rabbit Howls is an autobiography about Truddi Chase, telling the story of how she discovered she had survived a traumatic childhood and split into 92 personalities to handle it.

This book wasn’t the first I’d read on child abuse or mental health, but it stuck with me more than any of the others.  Maybe because it was written from the point of view of the personalities.  It was intensely personal, and made me want to learn more.

This story made me realize that all of us have more than one truth.  I was already starting to believe that truth was somewhat subjective, and this book pushed me further along that path.  It got me interested in all the amazing things the brain can do, including creating 92 people to protect one person.

If you’re looking for a riveting autobiography, I’d recommend this one.  But be warned; the author was abused as a child and she discusses it.  Because of that, it’s not a book for everyone.

What’s your favorite book about mental health?

“I cherished her individuality, that spark of independence no child should lose to life’s restrictions and parameters.”
― Truddi Chase

IMG_5580I don’t have a specific book for “X.”  I tried, but I got nothin’.

So instead of a specific book, I’m going to talk about crossover books.

When I was a kid, people either read kid books (which included young adult) or grown up books.  Then, along came Harry Potter, which everyone read.  After Harry Potter was Twilight, and suddenly the barrier on YA was blasted wide open.  Now it’s a legit genre for adults, and everyone is reading it.

I’ve never stopped reading young adult books and even some middle grade books.  If they’re well-written, I don’t see any problem with my enjoying them.

I’ve had people ask me why I was reading a particular book, “Isn’t that a kids’ book?” and my answer is always, “Because I like it.”

Since everyone started reading young adult books (or admitting they do), it does mean I have more people with whom I can discuss these books.

I think that genre is becoming less important with books than having them be interesting with characters people can connect to.  They also must have at least a little magic.

Many of the books I’ve written about during this challenge are books that I loved as a kid and still love as an adult.  Special mention of several other books that I won’t be talking about during this challenge, but have also managed to stick with me: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, anything by LJ Smith, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Are there any books from childhood/ teenage years that you still read?

Unknown-1I saw the movie, V for Vendetta when it first came out, and it’s one of those rare movies that I loved.  I loved the wordplay, the philosophy, and the idea that one man could create so much change.  I also loved how Evey changes so much over the course of the movie.  When the end credits rolled and I saw it was based on a book, I hurried to Amazon to buy it.

Imagine my dismay when I found out that it wasn’t a book, but a graphic novel.  A comic book.

I didn’t read comic books as a kid.  Partly because there weren’t enough words in them, so they moved too slowly for me.  Partly because I was a snob and thought they were somewhat too childish for me.

I couldn’t resist V for Vendetta though, and I learned that, as with so many other things, my pre-judgement was wrong.

It’s true that graphic novels tend to have fewer words and rely more heavily on visual storytelling, but it’s just a different way to tell a story.  It’s not better or worse than novels; they are their own medium.

The movie and the graphic novel are different, but this is one of the few times that doesn’t bother me.  They are both quite good versions of the same story.

I think I’m finally to the point where I don’t say that I won’t read something.  I know that I don’t know what something’s going to be like until I try it.

Unknown-8I’m a big fan of fairy tales. I’ve heard about them from my grandmother, and then as I got older, I bought and devoured anthologies full of Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm’s Fairy tales.

The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen, is one of the earliest stories I remember hearing about bullying. Of course, most people who think of the story will tell you that it’s about an ugly duck who becomes a swan, and how beauty can blossom.

But when I read this story, it made me realize that others will bully anyone who is different. Ugly is just one thing.

When I was little, I was bullied by a bunch of different kids. I was called names that seem laughable to me now. Sometimes I thought that meant there was something wrong with me, but eventually, after I realized that people will pick on anyone who’s different, I decided to embrace my differentness.

By the time I got to high school, most people didn’t bother to pick on me anymore. And if they did, I turned it into a joke or insulted their lame insults. I pretended that nothing bothered me, and sometimes I even believed it.

The point of the story in the end is that the ugly duckling is really a swan, and really quite pretty. But the more important part is that the ugly duckling has become pretty because he’s among swans, among the others who are like him.

I too, eventually found my swans.

“The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.”

― Hans Christian Andersen

Unknown-7These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the 6th of the 8 books in the Little House on the Prairie series.  I read them all as a child, and then again a few years ago, but These Happy Golden Years is the one that stuck with me.  I re-read it every year or two, and my copy is so well-loved that I have book tape keeping it together.

I went through a time in my later teenage years/ young adult years where I couldn’t get enough romance novels.  Most romance novels these days rely on explicit sex scenes to keep the tension high.  Part of that is that there’s more sex in dating than there was in the 1870s.  Part of it, I think, is that people have forgotten that romance should be… romantic.

This book isn’t a romance novel.  It’s about 15-17 year old Laura, who starts teaching school.  She’s growing up, and part of that is that the older Almanzo Wilder is wooing her. He starts driving her home from the school where she lives on weekends, driving hours through blizzards without asking more than her company.

This contrast with other books I was reading really struck me.  It didn’t rely on words to show affection; it relied on action.  At one point, Laura tells him straight out that she’s not interested in him, and he still continues to be nice to her.

I thought that there had to be sex in romance novels, and maybe that’s what romance readers expect.  But this book helped me realize that I can write a book with romance without getting into all the mechanics of it.  I don’t object to sex scenes, but I think that paying attention to other, more subtle kinds of romance, can have a much larger payoff.

The books are written in a straightforward manner, with simple language and phrases.  It doesn’t rely on flowery words or imagery.  The books just tell the story, and allow the reader to enjoy it.  I love relaxing with these books like I’m relaxing with an old friend.

It took me years to realize that I was also learning some history along with the books.

If I had to read historical fiction in high school instead of that dry history, I would have retained more.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s my favorite book in the series.

Did you read these books?  Do you have a favorite?

 

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I lived in a house on a hill that butted up to a patch of forest and a hill.  It seemed huge to me then; we called it a mountain, and I was sure I could get lost in those woods, even though they were probably only a few miles square.

I liked to go into the woods with a book or a notebook and read or make up stories.  Sometimes both.  My favorite place had a couple of trees surrounding a circular-ish clearing.  It was flat and horizontal, instead of ascending as most of the rest of the hill.

I liked to sit at the foot of one of the trees.  Roots formed a nice seat.  I’d take off my shoes and rest my feet on the cool ground.  Light would dapple in through the leaves.  It was bright enough to read, but never so bright that it got hot.

I loved it there, and it felt secret, even though it probably wasn’t.  I seldom saw other people in the woods.  It was just me, the music of leaves and birdsong, and the characters in my head.

The Secret Garden, by Francis Hodges Burnett, resonated with me because I felt the same way that Mary did.  When she discovered the garden, it was like waking up for her.  Being in my woods did the same for me.

IMG_5516.jpg

I loved the garden in this story, though when I first read it as a kid, I didn’t appreciate all the metaphors in it.  This book also taught me that people can change.  Both Mary and Colin are ill-tempered, sour children.  But the power of the Magic in the garden changed them.  No adult intervened to teach them lessons.  They had to learn for themselves how to be better versions of themselves.

The idea that people can change blossomed in my brain, and it was a lesson I never forgot. People can change themselves, if they want to.  They have to invite Magic into their lives, and only then can they accomplish wonderful things.

We’re all connected: to nature, to one another, to magic, to love.  We just have to be willing to open ourselves up, put in the work, be aware of what’s around us.

Did you ever have a “secret” place?

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett

Unknown-6Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris, is technically part of the universe that encompasses Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, though it takes place before either of those books.  It introduces Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

My absolute favorite character is Will Graham, who is a brilliant profiler who can get into the heads of serial killers.  This book kicked off a lifetime fascination with serial killers, and made me (for a long time) want to be an FBI profiler.  Ultimately, I didn’t go that direction with my career, which part of me has always regretted.

Red Dragon is about a man who believes that every time he murders someone, he is moving toward becoming “The Great Red Dragon.”  Will Graham is asked to come out of retirement to help the FBI catch him.

Will Graham is very good at his job, but he retired because connecting with the monsters in that way became too much for him.  The price was too high.  I’d never thought of people like him being tortured by their talent.  It made me wonder what secrets people keep behind their masks of competence.

This may also be the first book I read where the bad guy is sympathetic, and even likable at times.  Yes, he’s clearly insane.  Yes, he’s dangerous.  But he’s also tortured, complex, and has redeeming qualities.  It made me want to understand bad guys.

I love a bad guy who’s just pure evil, but I also love ones who are multi-dimensional.  Bad guys and good guys both have secrets and needs and whole other lives.

It’s a dark book, but if you enjoy this kind of thing and have never read it, it’s my favorite of the three.

“Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.”
― Thomas Harris

Unknown-4Quitters Inc, is a short story by Stephen King that appears in Night Shift.

I’ve always loved short stories.  I’m a book addict, and if I really like a book, I have a hard time doing anything else until it’s done.  Luckily for me, I have an understanding husband.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve snapped at him, “Are you doing talking yet?” so that I can go back to reading.

Short stories work really well for me in that I can stop reading at the end of each story, thereby allowing me to be a sane-ish and productive human being.

This story has stuck with me for many years, and I’m not sure why.  That’s the hallmark of good writing though, right?  When something sticks with you over time.

When I was looking for books that influenced me, I couldn’t come up with anything for “Q.”  I almost went with an author, but while I do have a “Q” writer I read, I would have had to stretch the truth to say she influenced me.

This story popped into my head, and when I did an online search for it, I found out it was written by Stephen King.  I’m sure I read Night Shift in its entirety, but I don’t remember any of the other stories.

The story is about a man who wants to quit smoking, and he goes to Quitters Inc, where they take extreme measures to guarantee his success.  What made this story creepy is that it’s such a mundane thing: quitting a bad habit.  Habits are difficult to break, and this guy agrees to some awful stuff to help him break it.

Who wouldn’t at least consider it?  If someone guaranteed that they could break your worst habit, wouldn’t you think about it?  I would.

I’m not often envious of other writers when they write an amazing story, but this is one that I wish I’d written.  I love the idea, the execution, and that it’s so powerful in such a short form.

This is one of the stories that taught me that short stories can have just as big of an impact as novels.

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”

-Stephen King

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