Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Audiobooks and Why I Avoid Them

(Crossposted from the 5NerdsomeWriters)

In a comment on Hilary's post from last Friday I mentioned that I have some deep-seated issues with audiobooks, but that I have been listening to them for school anyway. The only reason I do this is because I am currently taking six English courses and that makes for a lot of reading, reading I don't necessarily have time for; so I listen to audiobooks while I drive to make use of my 35 minute commute to school. Were this not the case, I'd continue my boycott of audiobooks.

Why? Well, for one, I feel they strip the reader of the experience of reading. If I can quote Rupert Giles here:
"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a whiff of smoke, can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer… has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be, um, smelly.”
Reading is more than just a story, it's the simple act of turning scratches on a page into ideas, images, and memories in your head. There's something to be said for the small and the feel of a new book, an old book, a borrowed book; no two books are exactly the same.

Authors do a lot of cool things with text that you don't get to see when listening to an audiobook. We wouldn't get the same sense of anger or excitement from Junior in Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian without his random sentences in all caps. I fear that the majority of the magic (and horror?) of MT Anderson's Feed would be lost without the distracting "pop-ups." Shape of paragraphs is nonexistant. Heck, some novels even use certain fonts for a specific reason (like Westerfeld's use of Futura in So Yesterday).

Short story: some audiobooks just suck. A lot of how a reader/listener reacts to an audiobook has to do with the reader. I know Korianne has been listening to Stephen Fry read the Harry Potter books for class and that he really makes the story come to life for her. Hearing Sherri Crowther read Emma was good, but it took me a long time to be able to concentrate on her soft voice. Oppositely, Ruth Golding (Wuthering Heights) has a very rough voice and she tries to keep the reader interested by changing it slightly for each character, but this only makes it harder to listen to her at points. Honestly, I have no idea what she's saying whenever Joseph is talking.

Audiobooks can be read differently than you would read them. The reader may put emphasis on different words or read in a different tone than you would had you been reading the book. I find this is true when my creative writing teacher reads our work out loud to the class. I hear my poem and I recognize it as mine, but the tone is all wrong, that's not how I would read it at all. I want to tell him he's wrong, but essentially, he's not, he's just reading the text in front of him, albeit differently than I would. It's the same for audiobooks and because of this a listener can understand the book very differently had they read it for themselves.

Plus, they can be pirated so easily and it's part of what's killing the book industry.

So give me my paper and ink, when I have the choice. Or better yet, provide me with a way to read while driving or get me a chauffeur. A 25th hour would be nice, too, while you're at it. Thanks!

Related: My post on audiobooks/ebooks vs books in sales

Friday, September 24, 2010

Banned Books Week: 25 Sept - 2 Oct, 2010

It's almost Banned Books Week! Click the image above to go to the ALA website for more info!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Importance of LGBTQ Books in Our Schools

Lately on the web there has been much discussion about the difference between Literature-Capital-L and popular literature and which kind should be studied in the classroom and why. Quite honestly, the best answer here is the easiest: both. Students, from middle school through university, should be studying a wide array of literature, including "The Classics," poetry, manifestos, short stories, plays, modern novels, and even young adult (YAL) and middle grade (MG) books. If all students are presented with are the Classics, then that's all they'll know. The same is true if they are only taught modern novels that are written for their specific age group. What we need is balance, and that doesn't apply only to the kind of books read and taught, but also to the content within the books.

The last few decades have been full of revolutions in the way literature has been taught, prompting authors and educators to integrate new voices and focus on minorities such as women, African American, Latino, Eastern and Oriental cultures, etc. Now is the time for the revolution in which LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, & Queer/Curious) literature is brought into the classroom as well. It may not be an easy change, but it is a necessary one.

Why should students study LGBTQ books, authors, and topics in the classroom? For the same reason they are asked to study any other books, authors, and topics: because the books have something to offer, because they represent a part of culture, and because they are needed to teach tolerance. Every day in schools students are teased, bullied, and in some cases even beaten, for not fitting into the "norm." The truth of the matter is, however, that having a student in class that identifies as LGBT is becoming the norm and statistically there is a very good chance that at least one of your students or classmates does identify that way. The norm is changing and so should class reading choices. Educators should create a sense of normalcy by presenting LGBTQ books to students so that the ones who do identify LGBTQ can explore their own identity through literature just as a heterosexual student would with any of the Classics or modern novels with a heterosexual main character, but these LGBTQ books will also provide a "window" (as Katherine Mason calls it) for heterosexual students to see into lives of LGBTQ members. Teaching these books can help all students relate to the characters in these books, not based upon a shared sexual preference, but upon the fact that they feel the same emotions, act the same way, and make the same mistakes as the reader. A good way to do this is to include a book that isn't necessarily deemed LGBTQ, but has homosexual characters or themes presented in them in a normal and respectful way, such as Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Leviathan. By presenting works of literature wherein homosexuality is normal, educators help to make it normal in the classroom as well, which may hopefully lead to less bullying against homosexual students.

Part of creating this sense of normalcy is to teach and make available LGBTQ books, but not just to throw them into the curriculum as the Token Gay Book, just like the problem faced with The Token Girl Book. So often it is the case in Literature classes that the curriculum is comprised predominantly of male authors and that authors like Emily Dickinson or Mary Wollstonecraft are tossed in as an afterthought, often in an awkward place, just so they can include a female writer. The same could so easily happen with LGBTQ books, that educators add them in out of a necessity to have at least one book of its kind, but never really integrate it into the curriculum. The way to fix this is not to think of the text as a Gay Book, but as a book that happens to have gay characters. Teach it the same way you would any other text: by talking about the plot, the characters, the writing style, the cultural significance--surely if professors take the time to read the books as books, they can find a way to teach them as such.

This is not to say, of course, that choosing to include books with LGBTQ characters or themes won't be met with opposition. Some parents may object and ask that you remove the book from the curriculum in order to teach something "more appropriate." The best thing to do here is to let that particular child study another book instead, but do not remove the book completely because one parent has decided to take a stance against it. A parent has every right to censor what their child reads and frankly, it is commendable, because it means they are taking an active role in their child's education. However, there is a difference between not wanting your own child to read a book and trying to take away the opportunity to read said book from the entire class or even the school. If you want someone to respect your choice not to read it or have your child read it, then you must also respect the choice of those who do want to read it and arguably should for the reasons listed above. In her article in the ALAN Review, Katherine Mason quotes a teacher in saying that representing books such as these is part of being a "democratic and culturally responsive classroom," an ideal educators should live up to, despite the beliefs of some parents.

Most of the time the controversy surrounding LGBTQ books has to do with what might be considered "The Usual" in book banning/challenging, i.e. sex, language, and violence. Generally The Usual complaints come out of a person not reading said books. In classrooms, high school and college levels especially, language and violence become less of an issue, if they're presented in literature. The main issue raised against LGBTQ books are that they are supposedly all about sex, and they'd have to be, because the main character is wondering about their sexuality or alienated by it, right? Not exactly. These books are no more all about sex than heterosexual books are. Some will have them, some won't, but generally this is not the focus of the book and many books of this nature do not feature sex at all or treat it like any other YAL book would. In the coming week many bloggers will be discussing this idea that a single sex scene or reference dominates a book in the eyes of a potential book challenger, as a part of Banned Books Week. Just as it is the case with books such as Speak, Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple (all challenged in 2009/10), the book in question is more than just sex and still sustains literary merit.

Sometimes educators and librarians, students especially, need to take a stand against injustice, both with the challenging of LGBTQ books and with the way they are excluded from curriculai. The way students are treated by their peers, and sometimes faculty members, for their sexual preference, is an injustice. Writing off an entire genre of literature as not worthwhile because of the themes it presents, is an injustice. In all of these cases, educators and readers can fight back and take a stand, just by integrating books with LGBTQ themes and characters into school curriculai and placing these books on the shelves of school libraries where students can access them, if they want to.

For more on this subject, read "Creating a Space for YAL with LGBT Content in Our Personal Reading" by Katherine Mason, from The ALAN Review, Vol 35, number 3, which you can find here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

On the Semenya Gender Dispute

Earlier today Caster Semenya, olympic running champion for South Africa, was welcomed back into the world of sports after eleven months of trials and tests to determine her gender and ability to race in the women's division. Many challenged Semenya's gold medal at the last summer Olympics because she ran so much faster and had a bigger muscular build than other racers, calling into question her gender. The truth was that Semenya had both male and female sexual organs, making her an intersexual* individual. I have been doing loads of research on intersex conditions lately, in preparation for my next novel, and I learned that there are different types of the condition, none of which should have kept Semenya out of the competition. Most intersex people identify strongly with one gender or the other and this is backed up by physical characteristics, such as genitalia, without being equally male or female.

What this athlete was exposed to was inappropriate, demeaning, ridiculous, and as I see it, unnecessary. If an intersex individual who is primarily female and identifies as such wants to represent her country in the world Olympics, she should be able to. And now that she has returned many question whether or not she had a surgery to make her body more female so that she could be considered one. If this is the case, I am royally pissed off and overall very disappointed in the world, based on their treatment of this woman. She is a person, a living human being, and to go through that kind of ridicule and trial is beyond what any person should have to deal with. Intersex people are people too and should be treated with the same kinds of respect.

Caster Semenya, on the other hand, has handled the situation very well and is an inspiration to intersex people. I plan drawing a little on her strength and her story when I write about Sky's dilemma in my next novel. Semenya, I am very sorry that you were treated the way you were, but you have my support in anything you do. Good luck on the race.

*Another term is hermaphrodite, but there is a slight difference.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I can be seen reading the same book for weeks, taking it a page at a time because I have other things to do that take precedence over the book, but that is not the case with The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. I read the entire book in two days, even while working the front desk at my job this past weekend. I couldn't put it down, true to the history I have with E.L. Konigsburg books. And when I was done, I wanted more, as I always do.

Margaret Rose Kane, twelve years old and brilliant, goes to a summer camp when her parents go on an archeological dig in Peru--the third most preferable option for her summer. First, she wanted to go to Peru, the second, to spend time with her uncles Alex and Morris at 19 Schuyler Place, but neither of these options was afforded her, so off to camp it was. Eventually, after a few rough days at camp with a cabin full of girls who have it out for her, Margaret Rose is rescued by her Uncle Alex and taken back to Schuyler Place, where she learns of a terrible secret. The three beautiful and magnificent towers in the uncles' backyard—built over 45 years and consisting of pipe, glass, clock faces, and ceramic pendants—one of the things Margaret loves most—are being demolished. Unwilling to stand by and let such a crime be committed, she begins her work at saving these works of art by enlisting some unexpected help.

Konigsburg owns two Newberry medals for a reason: she's brilliant, undeniably and unequivocally. The first reason for this is that her characters are wonderful and memorable, people you can relate to and people you want to become your best friends. Margaret Rose provides for the reader both of these through wit, determination, and, above all, love. Margaret's heart goes out to her uncles, to their structures, and to Jake, the handyman/artist, and your heart will go out to her in return. The many different ways in which her character stretches is amazing and in addition to that, she feels real. She acts and speaks like a true twelve year old. And, honestly, the reason I first fell in love with this book is the portrayal of Uncle Alex in the opening chapters. He is clever and sneaky and fantastic and I wish I had a relative like him.

The second thing Konigsburg excels at in this book is the way it is told. Not linear, like most MG novels are, but rather more like a spiral, each time the circle is repeated with the events a little more is revealed, the story grows, and it continues. The way she plays with language reveals a certain cleverness about the author as well as her main character, telling specific parts of the narrative by breaking down phrases in previous sentences as a way of explanation. Konigsburg and Margaret also play with words and their definitions, which both aids the story and the learning of the reader.

Perfect for its age group, middle graders, but not to be overlooked by those who are older (much like myself), this book is beautiful, heart-warming, quirky, brilliant, and addictive. My God, is it addictive, but in a wonderful way. I highly recommend this novel to dreamers, lovers of both art and the English language, fans of dynamic main characters, and all of you who fell in love with Konigsburg's previous books.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I'm just going to leave this here...

In the digital era by ~Marco-art on deviantART

Doesn't that image/title just break your heart? Very powerful statement here, when you throw in that title.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Doctor Who: Science Fiction or Fantasy?

The following post contains spoilers for the newest episode of Doctor Who, 5x03: Victory of the Daleks, so if you do not wish to be spoiled, please refrain from reading. If you do not watch the show, however, you can still understand this post.

In "Victory of the Daleks," the Doctor's nemeses, the Daleks, show up during the London Blitz. Now that part I am entirely okay with, because Doctor Who is all about time and space and the crazy juxtaposition that could arise from someone like the Doctor being able to travel through and interfere with both. What I am not okay with is having WWII planes in space, attacking a space ship, with technology stolen from aliens. I feel like that crosses the line between science fiction and fantasy.

Within the genre of fantasy a reader can find hidden worlds, magic, and impossibilities; in science fiction the reader can find the same aura of wonder and amazement, but also a sense of truth and a million possibilities. Science fiction examines the world, where humanity stands, and all of the potential roads we could travel, and where they would take us. This genre stretches the imagination as far as the edge of space and approaches every "what if," all the while staying within the immense realm of possibility.

And that's the thing: science fiction has limits, regulations, guidelines. Sure, they're very loose sometimes, but they are there. In fantasy you can explain something by calling it "magic" and that's enough. In science fiction, you reveal the process or the machinations, you are forced to give an actual explanation. And, to an extent, this explanation must be somewhat realistic, or rather, scientific. Science fiction is a blend between the "science" of reality and the "fiction" of fantasy.

Philip K. Dick argues that "The real origin of science fiction lay in the seventeenth-century novels of exploration in fabulous lands. Therefore Jules Verne’s story of travel to the moon is not science fiction because they go by rocket but because of where they go. It would be as much science fiction if they went by rubber band."

While I agree with him, I have to point out that while spaceships are real and entirely plausible today, they were not in WWII. My suspension of disbelief lets me believe that The Doctor's TARDIS can exist then because it is a time machine. I cannot, however, extend that to cover RAF planes from that era suddenly being upgraded in a matter of minutes and then flying into space, armed with alien technology. I would have believed it, if they had gone by rubber band. The truth of history here is that the space race would not occur for another 20 years. Furthermore, are we supposed to believe that those planes could make it through Earth's atmosphere without burning? Or that the laughable gas masks worn by the pilots would allow them to breathe in space? I don't buy it. Come on, Moffat, you can do better than that.

Doctor Who has, for many decades, been seen as wholly science fiction, but when it begins to cast off the limits and rules of reality, I'd argue that it's crossed over into fantasy. And I like fantasy, but don't try to pass it off as science fiction, because there is a world of difference there. Fantasy approaches the impossible, science fiction approaches the possible, but not yet probable. If you want me to believe that mannequins can come to live or that someday humans will be living out our years on a space station while the sun burns away our beloved planet, that's fine. I accept that these are possible. When you want me to believe that a time before space travel had aircrafts more advanced than the ones we have now, 60 years later? That I cannot do.

So dear Stephen Moffat, please check your facts when reporting on history, and give us something fantastical, but believable. Give us the science fiction we've come to expect from Doctor Who. Oh, but for the record? I'm totally digging Matt Smith as The Doctor and I can't wait for the next episode.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free Twilight Book: Generous Giveaway or Masterful Marketing?

Yesterday it was announced that Stephenie Meyer is going to release a fifth Twilight book, but it's not what you'd expect. Let's get the facts first: this is not Midnight Sun, it is a completely different book, a novella actually*, about Bree Tanner. Don't know who Bree is? You're not alone, I didn't remember her at first either**. Cut for spoilers: She is one of the (spoilers!) newborn vampires created by Victoria in the 4th book, the only one to escape the Cullens, and was later killed by the Volturi.

What I find particularly interesting about this book, though, is the way it's being marketed & distributed. First, starting on June 7th, the entire book will be available free online. Sounds generous, right? Well, it is—but only for a month. After that it will be printed in book form, $1 of which is going to be donated to the Red Cross. Still pretty generous, but it's also very clever.

The first clever marketing tactic here is offering the book free online, for a limited time only. Putting a book online gains readers you might not get otherwise, makes the book easily accessible, and the more people who read it, the more people who like it, the more people who are likely to purchase it later. The New York Times recently printed an article on this, about how offering an ebook for free can not only gain readers, but put your book on the bestseller's list, something that attracts even more attention.

So you tell all your friends to hurry up and read it online, creating a sense of immediate need, but what if you don't get it on time? What if you don't finish reading before it goes offline? How will you keep up with your fellow Twilight obsessed friends? No worries, you can buy the book in print! And a true fan will likely buy the book anyway, regardless of reading it online, so they can own it and reread it whenever they want***. The added bonus here is that you're doing a good thing, because $1 of your purchase goes to helping people through the Red Cross! Why is this important? It has to do with embedded giving, which I won't pretend to be the expert on, but here's the bottom line: By tacking on that donation, you are more likely to buy the book. You feel good about yourself, because you helped people, but you don't need to go out of your way to do it. You get to support change by doing something you were going to do already! When I think about this (thanks to one of my professors), I think about Product RED. You were going to buy that shirt or that laptop or that book anyway, but now you get the added bonus of feeling good about the purchase. It takes away some of the hesitation we might have for spending the money. What I'm saying here is that by putting that sticker on there that proceeds will go to the Red Cross, readers are more likely to pick it up. It's not as deceptive as this argument may first suggest, but it is clever.

An argument that's been raised over the past two days regarding this (largely by anti-Twilight people) is that Meyer is only printing a fifth book as a way to milk more money out of her fans. I don't think that's true. Surely she'll be making more money, but she's not making any thing off the free copies and honestly, I think she's sincere in saying that she wants to do something for her fans. True Twilight fans have been begging for a 5th book since the 4th one come out. If JK Rowling put out an 8th book, wouldn't you want to read it? Didn't you want to check out The Tales of Beedle the Bard when it came out? It's the same thing. There is a demand by the fans for more to read in the Twilight world, and Meyer's fulfilling those wishes. If she only wanted to milk the fans, she would have released Midnight Sun despite the leak.

Will I be reading the book? Probably not, but I'm not the biggest fan of the books. For the people who are, I can understand their excitement at having something more to read, I would feel the same way. And I really do think that Little, Brown is being rather clever here with the way they're marketing it.

*Although 197 pgs hardly sounds like a novella.
**actually, still don't, but I am trusting some of my friends who are die hard fans.
***This reminds me very much of another post I need to make, on the ethics & arguments behind downloading ebooks. I will get to that soon, I hope.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

It occurs to me that I have not done a very good job at keeping up my promise to review all of the books I read this year. I can blame this on the way I've been devouring books the last few weeks, the lack of internet last week, or the severe amount of schoolwork I've had, but instead I will just say that I am sorry, readers. I hope to make this up to you with FIVE reviews in the near future, starting with this one.

Dog Days by Jeff Kinney is the fourth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. If you've been around here before, you'll know that I rather like this series and the clever way in which it weaves together prose and picture. This is not entirely like a graphic novel and not entirely like an illustrated book, either, but rather somewhere between. This book is no exception and continues that wonderful tradition that Kinney has throughout his books, something that (ideally) keeps the reader interested.

While I do love the series and I did enjoy the book, I found myself wishing there was something a little more to this installment. It has a solid plot, earning money to pay off a debt to Rowley's dad, and the same characters, but it didn't make me laugh in quite the way the first and third*. This isn't, of course, to say that I didn't laugh at all, because I certainly did. The best thing about this series, and Kinney's writing style, is the pure humour behind it.

I honestly don't have much to say about this book, but I did enjoy it and if you like the series, it's worth the read. If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend the first book, which was absolutely fantastic.

*I didn't hate the second, but I did find it to be the least intriguing book in the series.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Novel: Good Days & Bad Days

My good friend Jordyn is also an aspiring novelist and together we press through all the hardships and celebrations that come with writing. Mostly hardships. And we listen to each other as we bang our heads on the table repetitively, hoping the words will leak out our ears and onto the page. We talk each other up and through things, and we realize that writing makes us bipolar. We will love it and we will hate it and none of that will stay consistent.

There are good days and there are bad days, and basically, this is what I sound like when I am writing.

On a bad day:
Aaaauuuugggghhhh. Just aaaauuuugggghhhh.

On a good day: (like today)
Jordyn: Yeah. I've planned a lot for this though, so I don't know. I feel like I'm kind of diving in through and it's like I don't quite know how to swim. You know?
Jez: I think that's kind of what writing a novel is like, honestly. It's undiscovered territory and we are without a clear map, so we have to experiment and take chances and hope the next step we take doesn't land us in a nest of scorpions or take us over the edge of a cliff.
Jordyn: Well that's terrifying.
Jez: But it's exciting, because we're the first humans ever to walk that path, ever to see that flower, ever to drink from that pure spring, untainted by chemical run-off. It's an adventure and we are explorers.

Also, if you're interested, you can follow Jordyn's journey through her recent novel (about spies!) here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazon Release Dates & the Battle Against New Mediums

First, yes, I finished my first draft and met my deadline a day ahead of schedule, and that is why I am posting again. Sorry to not have told you sooner! Edits are pushed off just a bit, but I am reworking an old idea now, so no worries, I am writing still!

About a year ago, Garth Nix released the sixth book in his Keys to the Kingdom series, which ended in a dreaded cliffhanger, the lives of most characters hanging over the edge, their fates as unknown as the void of nothing. And that was the end of the book, with no conclusions and no certainty. It has driven me crazy for a year, let me tell you. But now, in March of 2010, the seventh and final book in the series, Lord Sunday is out, or coming out, depending on who you ask.

I, like most online consumers, consult amazon.com first when looking for quick facts, like publishing dates. Amazon lists Lord Sunday to come out next Tuesday, but borders.com shows it as having come out on the 1st of March, not the 16th. This means that Borders released the book more than two weeks before the shopping giant Amazon. What's more, Amazon shows the audio book being released a week before the book, which brings about another issue. Not only are sellers releasing items on different dates, making book birthdays hazy and confusing anxious buyers, but the audio books are available, adding to the shift we've already begun to see where consumers are favouring audio books and ebooks to hard copies.

Audio & ebooks already have advantages over real books, in that they are more compact, easier to carry and store, and easily distributed. They also tend to be cheaper, by and large. But with these new medias, you lose a part of what is so wonderful about books. You lose that sense of holding something real in your hands, the ability to imagine a character's voice for yourself, the eternal battery power of a book, and that new book smell. Books capture memories between their pages, little pieces of you, and other forms blend in with the rest of the medias we absorb every day. A page in an ebook has less effect, read between the hundreds of internet pages viewed every day; a chapter in an audiobook drowned out by mp3s and radio broadcasts. Still, the market is shifting, and if a reader is desperate enough for the book, they may be moved to buy an ebook or audiobook simply because it releases a week before the corporeal copy. This also loses publishers money, so I'm forced to wonder why sites like amazon would set up the dates as such.

I am reminded, of course, of the recent troubles with amazon and publishers such as MacMillian, where it becomes apparent that Amazon simply doesn't care about the publisher's rights, but even so, wouldn't they make more on an item with a higher price?

All of this said, I am buying my book from Borders, like I originally intended, and I will be buying a physical copy. I'm a little miffed that I was misled by Amazon's dates, as I could have been reading the climactic conclusion already, and all this anxious waiting over the past week could have been avoided. Unfortunately, I cannot wait for shipping, but I am forced to wait for a new in-store coupon to arrive in my email. We'll see if I'm able to hold out until then.

Coming Soon: reviews of Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson & Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney, a post on biographies prefacing novels, & the writer's journey as seen in Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Just a Note on Donating to a Good Cause

For the last few years, I've been learning. I've been learning from life, from all the hard lessons it has to teach me. The majority of those lessons come from being below the poverty line, and always just a few short stumbles away from being a charity case, literally. So, when I get the chance to give back to those like me and those worse off than me, I take it. Tonight I went through my closet, cleared out the clutter, and now I am donating two full trash bags of clothes. And chances are, the dresses that I got as hand-me-downs are also going to be donated, to a separate cause, that helps out girls in tight situations who can't afford prom dresses. And I don't need those dresses, I will never have a chance to wear them. I have one, that's enough.

If you have clothes you're not going to wear, or toys you don't play with, or things you need to get rid of to make space as you grow up, please consider donating them. My favourite charity is Juvenile Diabetes, but there is also Goodwill (which, for the record, is a great place to shop as well), and numerous other places that take donations. Just look into it. You're going to throw them out anyway, so why not? You don't have to do anything but drop them off--and even Salvation Army will come to your house for bigger things! Think about charity.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Truth in Writing

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—this is the immortal advice that Emily Dickinson has left us with. The end lines of the poem tell us that "With explanation kind, The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind—" This poem's brilliance cannot be ignored, so neither should its advice. Yes, this poem is generally interpreted as being about God, but why should that make it any less meaningful when applied to other areas? Why not apply it to journalistic and novelistic ethics? As writers we may come to a situation where we are put between a rock and a hard place, where we must decide if we should tell the whole story, or if we should hedge, omit, or even outright lie to cover for someone else. It's a decision we all must make for ourselves, and should be taken on a case by case basis, but perhaps, like myself, you can find help in Dickinson's words.

Lately I have written a series of personal narratives that have primarily been to work out issues in my life. Cathartic though they are in nature, I still wonder if I could do something with them, perhaps get these pieces published somewhere. I know that it may not work out, but I could at least try, though one thing stands in my way. These narratives are extremely personal, and although I have no qualms with telling the world these things about myself, many of them focus on my family and the current struggles we have found ourselves in. So while I am okay with having my story out there, my family probably doesn't feel the same way. I come from a very long line of proud people, the kind of people who brush issues under the carpet and will do anything to keep the image that everything is okay. To publish these narratives would be to destroy that fa├žade, but should I not publish, or not write, something because of how it will affect them? I want to say I shouldn't, but I know that's a promise I wouldn't be able to keep. For me, writing is all about catharsis, getting the emotions on the page, no matter who reads it.

So do we write things as they are, the truth, bare for the world to see in its natural state, or do we maybe fudge a little, to protect others? Perhaps we tell all the Truth, but we tell it slant. We present things as they are, but we present it in such a light that it may not be as harsh when the judgement time comes. We will let it dazzle gradually, and try our hardest not to blind anyone.

Things I Love About The Princess and the Frog

Spoilers ahead!

First, this movie is a great twist on the old fairy tale of the Frog Prince. Instead of a kiss from a princess turning a frog into a prince, the princess is turned into a frog. I love it. More than that, it sets up the story with a bigger adventure, of turning both Prince Naveen and Tiana back into humans.

The art style and the storyline (even the scary bits) are just like old school Disney. The voodoo man, Doctor Facillier, and his dark magic reminds me of the Queen in Snow White and Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. The shadow creatures, too, remind me of these. Without his magic, Facillier could be a human version of Scar, almost. Possessed by his greed for power, eventually brought down by the people he thought to be on his side, and is not afraid to kill to get what he wants. And when he does it will absolutely break. your. heart.

I love Tiana, she's a breath of fresh air after years of princesses wanting nothing more than a prince. This is a smart, responsible girl who works towards her dreams. This girl is not satisfied to sit around and wait for the "someday" when her prince will come. She's got bigger plans. And the family angle, just wanting to live up to the goal that she and her dad set for themselves, is also really interesting. Of course, there's the obvious point of her race, which I think is fantastic. It's about time we got some diversity, Disney! (Although that's not to say we haven't before, remember Jasmine & Mulan!) Now this is a princess that little girls can aspire to be: reasonable, intelligent, determined, talented (I wish I could cook like her!), and still get the prince.

Prince Naveen is fantastic as well. Something I love about this movie that we don't see very often is that the guy falls in love first, and I think that is best done in this movie than in previous Disney ones. Yes, it has happened before, think of Aladdin or Sleeping Beauty. The difference between them, though, is that in The Princess and the Frog, Naveen & Tiana don't have a "love at first sight" situation. Nope, they don't like each other like that at the beginning, and then slowly Naveen starts to realize that money and women are great, but that he really loves Tiana, and that just warms my heart. Even better, Tiana doesn't immediately realize that she loves him back, because she's too distracted by her dreams. She has to "dig a little deeper" to find out what she needs. Eventually, they both realize that what they once wanted--money, success, to be human--isn't what they need, that love is more important. Now that's true Disney.

Continuing with the fantastic cast of characters here, let's not forget the secondary ones, for they really steal the show at some point! First we are introduced to Charlotte "Lottie" Lebouff, who is that little girl fed fairytales and spoiled all her life. Like a great foil should be, she is the dreamer to Tiana's hard worker. What I love about Lottie is her constant excitement, and that she could be the stereotypical spoiled rich girl, but instead she gives up her chance at marrying a prince, for her friend Tiana. She could have been a secondary villain, but instead she's a caring friend, and that's wonderful. Also, her interactions with her dad crack me up. The "What just happened?" line makes me laugh every time.

Next up we have Louis, the alligator who wants to be a jazz star. This movie is filled with dreamers, and Louis is no exception. He's also good for comic relief, paired up with the ever-amusing Ray, a firefly from the bayou. I like Louis, but I think Ray is the more important character in this plot, as he leads Naveen & Tiana to Mama Odee, but also he shows them true love, by speaking of his Evangeline, the night star. And even when he's killed, trying to save his friends, he still gets what he deserves, by being united in the night sky with Evangeline. That's also very Disney, and cheesy, but in a good way.

While the characters are the best part of this film, it would be horrible of me not to mention the music. The great Randy Newman lives up to his legacy by providing us with a great soundtrack that mirrors the Jazz Age in which this movie is set. The lyrics are also fantastic and the music will make you want to get up out of your chair and dance along. It's fantastic. Also, setting the story in the Jazz Age was really interesting, and works with the "dream" theme we see throughout the rest of the film, and also brings some beautiful designs for the clothing. I simply love Tiana's yellow uniform for work, with her cute little hat.

So, yeah, I am in love with this movie, if you couldn't tell. And upon watching it again, I felt the need to write up a post about it. That is how much I liked it. My cousin teases me about it, because when we saw it for the first time on Christmas and the lights came up in the theatre, I was sitting there with a grin plastered across my face, giggling and swinging my feet like the five-year-old I really am. This movie was one I could really relate to, and I highly recommend seeing it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Contest: Will Grayson, Will Grayson ARC

Hey everyone, just stopping in real quick to let you know there is a great contest going on over at Hey! Teenager of the Year to win an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Will Grayosn, Will Grayson by John Green & David Leviathan. Go here to enter!

I'll be back with book reviews & a few blog posts as soon as I finish my novel. I have a DEADLINE you guys. It's coming up faster than I'd like.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Cleveland.Com Interviews Calvin & Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson

As a huge fan--but also as a writer & a reader in general--I found this interview really interesting.

Here are a few of the highlights:
Cleveland: With almost 15 years of separation and reflection, what do you think it was about "Calvin and Hobbes" that went beyond just capturing readers' attention, but their hearts as well?
Watterson:: The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own. Everyone responds differently to different parts.
I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can't explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don't think I could ever duplicate it. A lot of things have to go right all at once.

Watterson: Ah, the life of a newspaper cartoonist -- how I miss the groupies, drugs and trashed hotel rooms!

You can read the full interview here!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Writing as a Profession

Here's a fun, interesting video from the wonderful Maureen Johnson on writing as a career.

Also, be sure to check out Maureen's new book Scarlett Fever which came out in stores today! I have only read the first two chapters so far, but I can tell you that I love it already. I have already written down one quote, I kid you not.

Additionally, check out the contest running over at Laina Has Too Much Spare Time for a chance to win a signed copy of Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachman. The contest is open internationally so that anyone can enter, but hurry and leave a comment because this contest is only open for a day!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Apple iPad: Communications & Publication

Okay, this is not a technology blog, but I am going to talk about the new Apple iPad. Why? Because we live in a technologically advanced society where each new toy--shiny as they may be--affects the way we live, and even the way we read. This is not a technology blog, but it is a blog that looks at literature, publishing, and communications, and the iPad, and Steve Job's unveiling of it, encompasses all of those.

Communications - Audience, Rhetoric & Presentation
What I like about Steve Jobs is that he is not the corporate CEO archetype. When Jobs showed up on stage earlier this morning to present the new Apple gadget, he was wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Not exactly what you would expect from the head of a leading technology company on the day of its big presentation. In doing this he presents himself to the people as one of the people, as someone just like them. Now, this is a great strategy for gathering attention, reaching out to those who are not the technology-following geeks, and essentially it helps them identify with Jobs. What they see is an average man sitting on his couch using the new iPad. Jobs is showing the community at large that they too can easily use and apply this new technology to their everyday lives, they don't need to be technology wizzes in order to understand it. In fact, for many people who already have the iPhone or the iPod Touch, the technology may not be that much different. That's two (or arguably three) audiences that Jobs is already appealing to in his presentation, without having to say anything yet, and then you add in the technophiles of all sorts and you have a ready-made fanbase. And, he's also adding one more audience: those who have trouble viewing small screens. Now, I'm not saying that the elderly are going to pick up the new iPad or anything like that, but they might. Why? Because the larger screen, with the ability to magnify and resize text easily, would be appealing to them, especially in conjunction with the new iBooks app. They would be able to use an eReader on a larger scale that would be backlit and easy to read. The same applies to any webpage, now that the older generation are also becoming a part of the new technological world. The topic of iBooks & the iPad as an eReader is something I'll come back to in a moment, but first I want to look at the rhetoric and presentation of this new device, from a communications standpoint.

I don't want to spend too much time on this, but I believe that it is important to examine the syntax that Jobs uses. Sure he may have overused hyperboles* like "magical" and "awesome," but they work well for him. Through his use of hyperbole Jobs has built up this product in the consumer's mind--which could help or hurt him in the future, only the sales will show. Will some consumers look into getting an iPad based on the colourful and ambitious dialogue? Maybe. Will some others criticize Apple for not living up to it? Probably, in fact, I would argue, definitely. How this plays out in sales though, remains to be seen.

Another effective strategy for the Apple team is the way they have used communication and social medias as a business tool. What's the best way to get the word out quickly these days? Social medias like twitter, where rumours of the new Apple "tablet**" have been circulating for weeks. There have been talk about the new features the iPad might employ, as well as what it will look like, and what the cost will be. What I find brilliant, when looking at this strategy from a marketing standpoint, is that Apple "accidentally slipped" a few price ranges that one should expect from the new toy, generally centering around $1000 a pop. Why does this matter? Because everyone went in expecting that sort of price, and were then shocked to find that it was only going to cost $499 (with additional data packages at $14.99 & $29.99 a month). This may seem expensive, but in comparison to the $1k we were expecting? It's a steal. Now, I will admit that this may have also hurt them in a way. By releasing a higher price, they made the public expect a larger product, like a tablet computer, which is not what this is. So now the public's attention might be shifted (as my friend Mike pointed out again just now) more towards what the iPad isn't, based on rumours and early projections, and less on what it actually is. But make no mistake, it's still a great way to market and make the product seem as if it has more value. Not to mention that the web has been craving for any solid data for months, creating all sort of buzz. By keeping most things under wraps, this works in the same way that GoogleWave did in that people want to know more, simply to be in the know. We're a very nosy society that way, and Apple is great at using that in their favour. They keep it a secret and therefore we want to know. And as soon as any hard data gets out, it's everywhere. Even now, hours later, 7 out of the top 10 topics trending worldwide on twitter are related to Apple, the iPad, and the release this morning (also how it will compare/compete with Amazon's kindle). Social media is a great thing for this, creating all sorts of hype.

Possible Effects for Publishing & the eReader Market
This new device is probably going to be used primarily as a multimedia device, and I don't see anyone writing anything long form such as novels on it, at least not without the aid of the keyboard dock***, but I do see people using it to watch movies and listen to music. The new larger screen even makes it somewhat superior over the iPhone in that it allows high definition videos to play on YouTube. More and more I am finding that I--as well as many others--cannot view a video on YouTube in regular dimensions because it has been recorded to be viewed in high def. And really, if you have the option, high def is the way to go, so it's great to see that in a device such as this (I'm still unsure of what to describe it as). But one thing I think the iPad is going to be great for is that it can be used as an eReader with the new application, iBooks. What is iBooks? Think kindle, only Apple. In the presentation today Apple even said that they would be using the same kind of idea--as well as interface--as Amazon's highly-acclaimed Kindle. And with the ebook market growing so rapidly****, it's no shock that Apple would want to get in on the action. Like I mentioned previously, this ebook is something that others are not: it's big. That may sound silly and obvious, but it's true, and that's going to appeal to a lot of readers out there. It is all the convenience of an eReader, on a bigger format, and one you can easily maneuver thanks to the touchscreen technology. Something else that you can do with the new iPad is you can buy books right from the iTunes store without having to connect with a computer to do so. Plus, there are already so many free ebooks online free that you can read! But the great thing? A lot of large publishing houses have teamed up with Apple to make iBooks work. Some may even be releasing books earlier on iBooks than they will for the Kindle, Sony, & Nooks--spelling trouble for companies who previously held the market and now may have bigger competition than they expected.

So what will this do to publishing? Well, I predict that we will see an increase in ebook sales, or rather, a continuation of a trend that is already in place. Though this might also speed that up. Another thing is that prices may go down as these companies compete with each other, and that could be a huge problem for hard copy books, a market that is already taking a hit from ebooks. Who wants to spend $20 or more on a hardcover book, or even $10 on a paperback, if soon you will be able to buy many books online for far less--or even free? How this, and also other digital readers like the Kindle, will affect the publishing market remains to be seen, but you can be sure that the market is there for an eReader and that it's not about to go away. Another thing this may do for publishing is, again, an extension of a trend that is already there, but some publishers may choose to release a book only in ebook format, possibly only on iBooks. This could be good or bad for marketing, but it saves on publishing costs (especially those of overprinting a book, which could also be disastrous for a novelist), and it creates a kind of exclusivity for that book, making readers value a digital reader, and possibly one eReader over another.

These are all very early predictions for something that was just released today, but certainly things to think about. I would be very interested in what others have to say, so please, let's get a discussion going in the comments. Again, this is not a technology blog and I am focusing on this new iPad from a communicative, rhetorical, and publishing standpoint, so I am looking for things primarily related to those subjects.

And thank you for reading this far, that was a lot to take in, I know.

*Is an overuse of hyperbole redundant in and of itself?
**I would argue now that this is not a tablet computer, nor is it the new version of the iPhone rumoured to come out sometime this quarter, but it is somewhere in between and therefore we cannot truly call it a tablet any longer.
***Which, I must say, looks really shiny. And is a great idea, because it then makes the iPad into a touchscreen desktop computer. I think that's a huge selling point, at least for me. I don't mention this because again, this is not a blog to look at the technological aspects, you can find those anywhere else.
****I refer you to this very interesting article on ebooks & advertising that features Maureen Johnson!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Condensed Review: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

I realize that my last review of Green Grass, Running Water was a bit much for some of you to digest, and certainly more than you wanted to read, so here is the condensed version that I wrote for amazon.com's review page of this novel.

The format of this novel and the cyclical oral tradition/literary mashup that King presents us with is fantastic, interesting, and satirical of canon, as well as Western & Native cultures. The three levels of narration are intriguing and although they may complicate the story at times, they provide a certain amusement and insight that would not otherwise be possible. The characters are believable and lovable and when the novel is finished you will feel as if you have lost a close friend. The part that I most enjoyed, however, was King's humour. Witty and satirical and just out-right funny, it was a great. I highly recommend this book to all adult readers!

You can read my full review of this book here: http://bit.ly/6XvoYB

Review: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

In the beginning there was nothing, just the water. That's how the book begins and how we are first introduced to one of the stories involved in this book. Part creation story, part biting satire and quirky humour, and part realistic drama. The story has three levels, the first revolving around five Blackfoots, the inhabitants of Blossom, Alberta, and the nearby reservation in Canada, and around a doctor and his assistant from Florida, USA. There is Lionel, TV salesman with an upcoming birthday and a life that seems to be going nowhere. Charlie is the hot shot lawyer who has everything except the full attention of the woman he loves. Alberta is the woman they are both persuing, but who doesn't want to be tied down by any man or marriage, although she does want a child. Latisha is Lionel's sister, a single mother of three, and the owner of the Dead Dog Cafe, a restaurant near the reservation that boasts dog meat is its daily special to unsuspecting tourists. Their uncle Eli completes the quintet, a now-retired professor who is the wayward son who came home. He is currently living in a cabin that stands in the way--and halts the progression of--a dam that threatens the Blackfoots, and Eli has found a way to tie the case up in courts, with Charlie as the opposition's lawyer. Finally we have Dr. Hovaugh & Babo, employees at a mental hospital four Old Indians have escaped in order to fix the world. These Old Indians, going by the names of Robinson Crusoe, The Lone Ranger, Ishmael, & Hawkeye, are mythically old and legendarily powerful. They are a part of this story, but also on a higher level telling it to the even higher narrator who is telling the allegorical creation story to Coyote, who also intervenes with the rest of the narrative. It is, in a word, complicated, but in another, brilliant. I highly recommend anyone who is looking for a fun, humourous read, or anyone who is looking for an intellectually stimulating story.

The most notable aspect of this novel is the way the narrative is told, on three different levels, and in a way that combines the oral tradition of the Native American peoples with the written literary tradition of Western culture. The story of the higher narrative gets told 4 times, each time a little different, but sheds more on the real story in the present day. It's cyclical and very much a part of the oral tradition & the Native American culture it is meant to reflect and contrast. The literary & allegorical sides also show up in the narratives when each Old Indian, in their turn, meets a member of Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as characters from the canonical novels they take their name from. It's a bit like Jasper Ffrode's Thursday Next series, in my opinion, and I think that fans of Ffrode's would greatly enjoy King's humour and satire of literary canon & form.

Another great asset to this book are the characters, flawed and realistic. I think all readers from all walks of life will be able to relate to at least one characteristic from anyone in this cast. Whether it be a fear that your life is going nowhere, a dissatisfaction with your situation, a marriage gone wrong or a fear of commitment, there is something there for everyone. More than that, the characters are lovable, you want them to succeed and you will find yourself choosing teams in some situations, siding with one character or another. In the literary aspect these characters help drive the narrative forward and help with King's odd disjointed style of telling the story both in the past and the present. More than that, Charlie and Lionel are great foils for one another, set in comparison as well as in competition for Alberta's heart.

I hope my literary notes did not scare anyone away from this book, because I promise you that even without knowledge of literary canon or the full Judeo-Christian tradition, without a degree in English, you will still be able to read and appreciate this novel. King is a gem of modern literature, a writer that is both comic and satirical and unequivocally brilliant. I highly recommend this book to any adult looking for a good read and a few good laughs. (Again, especially to fans of Jasper Ffrode)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why We Write

I've just finished my last day in a short interim course on writing & publishing, lead by Travis Thrasher. He's a great teacher and it's great to take a class on these things where a writer is the teacher instead of just another professor who is saying what he's told to say. Thrasher worked in publishing and he is now a full-time writer, so it's great to get that sort of insight.

I was just looking through Thrasher's blog, The Journey is Everything & I came across an entry from the beginning of this year about why he writes. I thought it was a really great post and I share a lot of his reasons.

You can read Travis Thrasher's post here, and I recommend looking through the rest of his blog as well, there's plenty of tips for writers to be found there.

What are my own personal reasons for writing?
Whenever I'm asked this question, or why I'm writing a particular project, I think back to something Madeleine L'Engle once said. "You have to write the book that wants to be written." I have always identified with that quote* and I think it really applies here. I could write a novel on any subject you want to give me, but it wouldn't be mine. I write because I have new stories within me, just waiting to be told. Stories that are just busting to get out and onto the page. I write because I have a story to tell.

And I write because it's what feels right and what makes sense in my life. I am not about to pretend that my life is all sunshine and daisies right now--nor has it ever really been--but in spite of all of that, writing makes sense. And it's somewhere I can work out my real life problems, even just in small ways. My characters are not me, and the stories I tell are not my memoirs, but everything I write has a piece of me in it. Moreover this is a reason I write Young Adult fiction, because I feel that in YA you can work through different problems than you can in adult literature. Which reminds me of another quote from literary agent Kate Schaffer (aka Daphne Unfeasible): "I don't believe that most teens think their lives are "normal and uneventful." I think every moment is fraught with anxiety & excitement." I feel like that's true also, and therefore I can fit most of that into my books, and if it helps me, great, if others can identify with it and it can maybe help them also, even better.

I write to satisfy my curiosity & to explore all of the "what if"s in life. I can't get rid of all of the world's air travel in real life, but I can write about what would happen if that were to occur. I can't give myself a horrible fatal disease (and still be alive to write about it afterwards), but I can write about it. Life is full of "what if"s, and I write to see what would happen.

And, like Thrasher, I write to say the things I wish I could say and do the things I wish I could do.

That's why I write, and so I'm curious, what about you? For all the writers out there--serious or recreational--what makes you write?

*And the second part where she says "And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children,” but that's a whole other topic for another blog.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Review: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Micah is a compulsive liar, we know that from the start. We do not know why she lies, or when. We do not know what mysterious disease her family has and hides. And most importantly, we do not know what happens to her boyfriend Zach who has gone missing and is later found to be murdered (on page 5, not a spoiler). This novel is a psychological thriller and a journey to find the truth, something Micah has had trouble with before.

It's really hard to write a synopsis of the story without giving anything big away, so I am going to leave it at that. I will also do my best to keep this review free of spoilers from here on out. I think the biggest thing about this book is the fact that Micah is a very unreliable narrator. Everything she tells us must be questioned, from the smallest of things to the existence of some of the characters. You will suspect her and you will feel betrayed by her and you will wonder if she's crazy. The thing is, though, that Micah is such a beautifully written character that we want to believe her, despite how many times she lies to us. We will go along with what she says and get wrapped up in the story only to fall for one of her tricks--and she will trick you. At the end of the novel you're left wondering what was real and what she lied about, or if any of it was real at all. Another brilliant thing that Larbalestier does is set up the novel in 3 different sections, each of these with smaller parts broken into Before, After, School History, Family History, and History of Me. In this way it feels as if Micah is organizing the facts--or rather, her thoughts depending in which interpretation you end up taking. It's a different way to read but it works so well for this novel. While reading I found myself finding some aspects a little too much (I can't even say, it's the biggest spoiler), but then I realized that this could be a lie as well. Whatever this book was, it was compelling and it made me think. On a few occasions since finishing Liar last week I've caught myself thinking about different things and honestly, I'm not sure what I believe about this story, except that it was an interesting read and I enjoyed it. Larbalestier has woven quite the novel that will keep you guessing from start to finish.

Reviews are Coming Back!

I posted very little in 2009 and only 2 of these were book reviews, which was the original purpose of this blog. Now, this is not entirely because I wasn't reviewing, it was also because I wasn't reading much either. I was a full time student with two jobs and very little time on my hands, and that's still partly true. Even so, I am opening up the blog for reviews again. My goal is to review every book I read, whether I was in love with it or not. Seeing as I only read nine books last year (seriously, there is something wrong with me, but this is not including comics & manga either), this may not be such a huge task. This is my goal and you can hold me to that.

That said, a review of Justine Larbalestier's Liar will be up later tonight.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Insomnia: What It Is & How to Deal With It

Despite what WebMD & pharmaceutical companies may lead you to believe, the tiredness you're feeling every now and again may not be insomnia. These days it seems that everyone who is awake at night or is tired in the morning is blaming insomnia for their sleep troubles, and that may not be the case. In a study 23 out of 100 people were found to suffer from insomnia, but what that doesn't tell you is how many suffer from acute or chronic insomnia. What you all are calling insomnia may be a short-term thing or it may just be a lack of sleep or a disturbance in your sleep cycle.

Acute insomnia can last just a few days or be a problem that comes and goes over time. It is caused by stress, pain or discomfort, another medical issue, environmental factors, or a change in your sleep cycle.
Chronic insomnia is long lasting and more severe.

You do not have insomnia if you stay up all night by choice.
You do not have insomnia if you spend the entire night on the internet just because you can.
You do not have insomnia if you wake up tired to your alarm after only four hours of sleep.

Tips for dealing with insomnia:
  • Stay away from computers, televisions, books, and anything else that may distract you. These only allow you to stay up later and occupy your brain even more. They do not help you sleep. So, really, if you are online talking about how you can't sleep, you're only making it worse for yourself.

  • Make your bed your sleeping place, not your living space. If you have your bed only for sleeping, your body relates it with sleep instead of awake activities.

  • Set a schedule, the more you stick to it, the better chance you will have of getting to sleep at night. If you have a lot of trouble falling asleep allow yourself time to do so. The important thing is that you go to bed at the same time every night, whether you are tired or not.

  • Again with the schedule, do something at night to help you fall asleep that doesn't take too much brain power. I myself pray and go through my day in my head, trying to remember all the good things and not focus on the bad. Another trick I sometimes try is to play the alphabet game with comic/book/tv series. Such as A is for Albus Dumbledore, B is for Buckbeak, C is for Crookshanks, etc etc. It's a personal thing and related to you, but it should not be something that requires a lot of brain power

  • Do not sleep during the day. If you immediately take a two-hour nap when you get home, is it any wonder you're not tired a few hours later when it's time for bed? I really don't care how tired you are, you are not allowed to sleep during the day.

  • Allow yourself time to wake in the morning. Remember to stick to that schedule though. If you wake up at the same time every day, you are more likely to wake up feeling rested than if you wake up at 7 one day and 10 the next then maybe 8 the day after that. Consistency is key.

  • Take warm baths at night about a half hour or an hour before you go to bed as they will help your body relax. Showers are not recommended because they will wake you up, but for some people it works (works for me, but this is not so common). If you have to take a shower every morning to wake yourself up, do not take one before bed and opt for the bath instead. Also, if you need that morning shower, it is still okay to take a bath at night. You are allowed to bathe more than once in 24 hours, you know.

  • Keep the room quiet and dark. This should go without saying, but really, you would be surprised. Do not have the tv on, do not turn on the radio, and turn off all lights and electronics you can. Sure your lava lamp or Christmas lights may look cool, but they are not helping you sleep. Keep them on during the day, but turn them off at night (this also helps to conserve electricity).

  • Think about what you are eating and when. If you are eating something close to bedtime that is going to give you heartburn, well, it's not wonder you're not sleeping well. If you eat too much, you might have trouble also. Same goes for not eating anything (and really, you will regret that when you get up in the morning).

  • This goes along with the above, but avoid caffeine and sugar late in your day as they will only wake the body up even more. Instead try to drink water, non-caffienated warm drinks, or low-sugar fruit juices late at night.

  • Ultimately, it's something you have to work at each and every day. You can't just fix things overnight and drugs aren't the best option either. You may not even have chronic insomnia to begin with and it may be related to stress or some illness, in which case, you need to deal with that first before you can get decent sleep again.

    One more thing, you may not need as much sleep as others do anyway. If you can wake up feeling rested after only five or six hours of sleep, there is nothing wrong with you. Enjoy your extra hours, by all means. Just because you are awake at 2 AM does not mean you are an insomniac. It's when you lay in bed for hours at a time and can't sleep or wake up constantly in the night or feel lethargic and irritable all day long that you have to worry.

    And, from the insomniac's point of view, just saying you are an insomniac when really all you are doing is forcing yourself to stay up to watch a tv show or something on youtube? Yeah, we don't like that. And you're not doing yourself any favours either.


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