My 8th-grade-self’s Love/Hate Relationship with Orson Scott Card

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I have always been a nerd. I’ve come to terms with that fact over the years. I am even somewhat proud of it now. But that has not always been the case. In Junior High, all I wanted to be able to do was talk to girls. But I was terrible at it. I was the nerdy kid. I would always get so nervous. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Or I would mumble, and they couldn’t understand me. It was horrible. Then in 8th grade, I ended up attending some summer camp at Duke University that was targeted at the ‘smart’ kids. I show up the day the camp starts, and I was amazed. There were girls! That were my age! But they were at Duke University voluntarily over the summer. So maybe they were nerds, too. Maybe I had a chance at happiness after all!

I went and unpacked my stuff. I arrived before anyone else on my hall. So I sat in my room waiting for other people to get there. I decided to read a book that someone recommended to me while I waited. I started reading it and was hooked immediately. I read for several hours. I heard other people arrive on my hall. But I had to keep reading. I realized it was late afternoon, and I had promised my parents I would call and tell them when I finished unpacking.

Ender's_game_cover_ISBN_0312932081I hated to leave the book. But I had to call them. So I ran down to the first floor where they had a communal phone. I called and got my parents’ answering machine (no long conversation needed!). I left a quick message and ran through the halls to get back upstairs. I was passing one door on the first floor, and someone called out to me. A girl’s voice shouted, “Hey! You’re cute. Come back here!”

I glanced around the hall, sure she was talking to someone else. No one else was there. I cautiously approached the open door through which the message originated. I peered around the doorway, sure something was wrong. A cute brunette was sitting with several of her equally cute friends. She smiled when she saw me and said, “Come in and sit down with us.” She pointed to an empty seat. She was a cute girl that wanted to talk to me. She had other girls that were her friends. Every 8th grade boy’s dream! This moment could be the turning point in my life. It would all be different. I would have girlfriends. And be one of the cool kids. And everything would be glorious for all time!

I opened my mouth to accept her generous offer. I felt the words forming in my mouth. But something was wrong. My brain screamed at me not to utter the words I was about to say. I smiled my thanks and said, “I can’t stop. I’ve got to finish this book. I need to know what happens.” Her face fell. Surely this nerdy kid in front of her wasn’t rejecting her for a book? What was happening to the world?

I turned to walk away. I felt my steps leading me to the stairs back to my room. The back of my brain was screaming, “You can always read later! This opportunity will never come again! You are such an idiot. You deserve loneliness! What are you doing?” But the front of my brain was thinking, “Yeah. But what happens in the book?”

I climbed the stairs, sat in my room with the door closed, and continued to read Ender’s Game. I finished it late that night and went to meet friends the next day, by which time everyone had formed tight-knit social circles that included girls and did not include me. I managed to make one or two friends that summer. But it all could have been different. I could have gotten a girlfriend. Instead, I read one of the best books I have ever had the joy of reading. I’ve read much of Orson Scott Card’s work over the years, and I’ve enjoyed it all.

But there will always be a part of me that feels sorry for that poor, 8th-grade kid who just wanted to meet girls and wasn’t able to because of Orson Scott Card.

Image from Wikipedia

First Short Story: The City of Eternal Love

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I was recently inspired by a post by Patrice Fitzgerald on her blog to write short fiction. So, I’ve written and published a short story on Amazon! You can find the story on Amazon.

It is a short, horror story about Travis, a young man living in Boston. Trying to break out of his everyday life, he books a last-minute tour to Paris, the City of Love. Despite his limited expectations, he meets a beautiful girl on his tour. But he discovers, only after starting a relationship with her, that she is not what she seems.

I would love feedback. So, love it? Hate it? Think it is wonderful or ugly? Please let me know by reviewing it on Amazon.

It will be free for everyone from Wednesday, April 24th through Friday, April 26th. And it is always free to any Amazon Prime Members.

Edit on 05/07/13: I’ve unlisted the short story from Amazon. I want to post it to the blog, but I need to wait until the KDP exclusive period runs out. So I will post the short story to the blog in a few months.

Down with Bombardment

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I am going to compare writing to being an entrepreneur over and over again throughout my posts. Fair warning. But that is because there are so many overlaps between the two callings. (Yes, I said callings. Do you wake up in the middle of the night with great ideas that you have to get written onto a piece of paper before you forget them? Do you have trouble turning your brain off because it is swirling with what you’re convinced is brilliance? Then you might be an entrepreneur/author – circle one. Normal people just go to sleep). For now, I’ll start with this comparison: the biggest mistake that writers and entrepreneurs make is lack of focus.

I read a great article a little while ago by Michael Lazerow discussing focus amongst entrepreneurs, in which he states, “Successful entrepreneurs focus exclusively on efforts that matter and are able to tune out the rest. People who focus succeed. It’s that simple.”

Number-One-Mistake

I think he is absolutely right. But he is also correct when it comes to writing. Great writing requires focus. I can sit down in my house and write for hours. But if every ten minutes the phone rings or the dogs bark, I will look back at my work and have no idea what I was doing.

Do you think you’re really good at multi-tasking? Yes? No, you’re not (and I have a random internet article to prove it!). A group of Stanford researchers found that “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”

Give your writing the attention it deserves. And become a successful entrepreneur writer.

Edit on 04/22/13: I thought I was so clever because I came up with a new term for this type of pseudo-author and pseudo-entrepreneur. I was going to call them an authorpreneur. Brilliant, right? I did a quick internet search to see if anyone had used the term before, and apparently I am way behind the times. There’s even an Authorpreneur Magazine. So much for me coining the term.

The Princess and the Pea

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I was visiting with the family, and one of my young cousins was watching TV while lying on two mattresses stacked on top of each other (they’re moving stuff around). I made some joke about the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea. He looked at me with a blank face. I asked him if he had heard the fairy tale before, and he hadn’t. So I proceeded to tell him the tale (from what I could remember as a kid).

For anyone who has never heard it, a Prince has a hard time finding his Princess to marry. He can’t find a woman who is definitely a Princess. Randomly, a young woman seeks shelter in the castle with the Prince. She says she’s a Princess. The Prince’s mother decides enough is enough and she’s going to find out if the woman really is a Princess. So she puts a pea in the bed the supposed Princess is supposed to sleep in for the night. They cover the pea with lots of mattresses (thus the joke I made to my cousin). In the morning the supposed Princess mentions that she couldn’t sleep all night because her bed was so uncomfortable. The Prince and his mother rejoice because only a real Princess would have the delicateness to feel a pea through all of those mattresses (holes in my memory were filled in by Wikipedia).

While I was telling him this story, it occurred to me how offended many people would be by the overall message of the story. I interrupted my tale to inform the young lad that the message was not one that people would probably want to share these days. In fact, there is probably a reason that it is no longer a popular fairy tale. My explanation was laced with words like ‘misogynistic.’

He gave me a confused look and went back to watching TV. Well played, kid. Well played.

Write Early, Write Often

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I have lots of opinions on writing (despite never having published a book). And I’m going to share them with you! Really, I’m working my way through the drafting process of my first two novels, and I’m going to share what I’ve found works for me along the way. Think of these posts as half-reflection and half-advice to anyone attempting the same.

Are you ready for one of the most overused quote about writing of all time? Good. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That quote is from Stephen King. It may be overused, but that is simply because it is also very true.

Every skill can be learned and mastered through practice. I’ll use a silly example: I used to be a horrible public speaker. I still remember the first true ‘public’ presentation I ever gave in college. I was sweating bullets (to the point that someone asked me if I was feeling Ok. I wanted to smack them. Did it look like I was Ok?) I spoke so quickly that no one could understand me. I actually, finally understood what people meant when they said their mouth went dry when they were nervous. But I got through it (although my grade was pretty bad). I continued to have to present in most of my classes. I got better. Now, I present and consistently get compliments on how well I work in front of groups. For me, it is not natural. It is because of practice. Writing is the same thing. We have to write every day for the practice. There may be a few naturally spectacular writers out there. The rest of us get better through practice.

I remember reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (highly recommend, by the way) and thinking of my presentation example. His whole premise is that we are quick to see the talented people in our society and assume they are naturally that way, which is wrong. Behind every talented individual are hours and hours of practice. According to Gladwell, the number is 10,000 hours. My guess is that it varies, but it is a big number. And practice does make perfect (again, another overused but accurate phrase). We all must write every day (as much as possible) to get better and better.

There is also another reason to write every day. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that almost every single ‘aspiring’ novelist also has a day job to pay the bills. I know I do. If you’re lucky (like I am), you actually love your day job as much as writing. When I become a fantastically successful novelist (pull the other one…), I still want to work at my ‘day’ job. But it becomes so easy to have an excuse every day about how you can’t write and you’ll need to wait until tomorrow. You are too tired. You have a huge project at work. Your family wants to spend time with you. These excuses are all very valid and understandable. As a married individual who is working full time, I get it. But I’ve met ‘aspiring’ novelists who haven’t written in months. That one missed day becomes a week, then a month, then a year incredibly quickly (kind of like exercising). I’m sure there are thousands of spectacular, half-written books saved somewhere on a computer that will never see the light of day. Even if it is only one paragraph and you read it the next day and realize it is terrible, still write it. Write something. Every day!