Culturally Different

In the last couple of weeks, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. For those of you not in the know, this is a memoir of sorts that Ms. Druckerman wrote about her experiences as an American mother raising children in France. I found myself laughing and learning frequently in this book. I rarely read memoirs, in fact, this may be the first I’ve ever sat through, but the subject matter was intriguing to me: how the French raise their children. Culturally, it’s quite different than we Americans raise our kids, and I found myself wishing that even for a few years, my kids could have the influence of the French.

One thing I found intriguing was the idea of expectations. In one chapter, Ms. Druckerman describes how the expectations of life are much different in France than in America, and it filters into their literature, especially for kids. Where in our children’s books, we have a story that gets resolved in most cases, and things become “perfect” (or as close to perfect as the author can make them so they’re left with a feel-good effect), the French stories published on the other side of the pond are more true to life. She describes one story in a very popular French children’s series where one character is mean to another (don’t remember the context now, and I had to return the book to my library!) They work on the problem through the book, and I believe the mean child eventually apologizes to the other character… In an American book, that’d be the end of it, but the French book finishes with a final scene where the mean child repeats the same type of offense as originally started at the beginning of the book.

While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the rest of the book, and have learned several things that I’m going to try to implement with my own children, that story about French literature really stuck out to me, probably because I’m a storyteller. I love the art of storytelling, love learning about the so-called “rules,” love digging in to my own stories to figure out what’s working and what’s not.

And I can’t help but think I’ve approached it in a fully American way.

In adult fiction, it’s a bit easier to have an ambiguous ending to a story. Fine. We’re adults, we can handle it. But, I can’t think of any stories I’ve read to my kids where there’s not a happy ending. And, as Ms. Druckerman pointed out, that’s not really all that true to life. It leaves kids with a false sense of what should happen in life, that our problems can be solved easily, when often, things are much more complex.

I love a happy ending just as much as anyone. I always get a bit teary-eyed at the end of Return of the Jedi when Han and Leia come to terms, and it’s obvious they’ll be getting together. Same goes for the end of Pride & Prejudice, and a whole host of other books and movies.

But, should we always let our kids watch shows or read books where problems are easily, and fully, resolved? Wouldn’t it be better to expose them to life, and give them a sense that life isn’t going to always be full of lollipops, roses, and puppies? As in the French book referenced in Bringing Up Bébé, wouldn’t be better to let our kids know that friends won’t always repent, and are just as likely to repeat the same offenses over and over?

I, for one, think that would be a benefit to kids.

What are your thoughts? Do you remember reading any books with ambiguous endings as a child, or were all your book choices ended in a happy way?

Until next time…

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Welcome Back! — an Update and a Re-Evaluation

Tap, tap, tap! Does this thing still work??

Ahem.

Yes, I’m back after a much extended break. So, let me catch you up on what’s happened in since I did a serious post back in January.

My little man +121 after transplant, feeling great!

In early February, we were told that we were ready for transplant, and March 1 found my husband and I driving from Kansas City to Seattle, WA, where we proceeded with my son’s bone marrow transplant. It  was slated to happen the last week in March, but he got a virus (which he wasn’t symptomatic for!) and forced a delay until May 1. From May 1 until July 23, we were outpatient for only 2 weeks, 14 hours! My little boy kept getting sick for various reasons, so we never got more than a week and a few hours out the two times we were outpatient.

However.

He has done AMAZINGLY well, and we were able to leave on his day +101 to come home!! We arrived home on August 12, which ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for us. We got home at 12:45 AM, rushed to make an appointment with our KC BMT doctor, then went to see my grandmother who was dying… and who passed away while we were with her.

I am so glad I got to come home and see her one last time.

___________

So, whirlwind 5 1/2 months means no writing, right? 

Nope. 

While I didn’t do near as much writing as I’d hoped to do in those five and a half months, I did more than I think many people expected I would. I finished the third draft on my suspense-in-the-future book, Reprisal, and moved further along with the first draft of my police procedural with a Sci-Fi-y twist, Dead Before Arrival. I also began drafting a short story that will be a prequel to Beyond Dead and Dead Before Arrival–and am actively brainstorming ideas for a series of shorts that could very well lead up to the publication of both books, plus the third book in the trilogy, which I’ve yet to name or do more with than have a few ideas for scenes that could or should happen in them. 

Which brings me to the re-evaluation phase of this post.

Something in me snapped last fall where publishing is concerned. Most of you who regularly read this blog will remember I’ve said repeatedly that I’m only interested in getting an agent and going the traditional route. I’m not sure what changed, but something has. Maybe it’s watching so many of my friends succeed in self-publishing, maybe it’s the further success of e-books, or the fact they’re now outselling physical books, but I’ve been re-evaluating what my desires are for publishing.

Over the last several months, I’ve been listening to podcasts like Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn with regularity–maybe even being on the brink of being a bit obsessive about it.  In the many hours of listening while driving or doing house chores, the things the hosts and their guests have said struck a chord with me, and I’m beginning to see how it’s possible for lilol‘ me to be successful in self-publishing. I’ve got a few hang-ups I’m working through, but thankfully, I’ve got friends whom I can pick the brains of. 

Currently, I’m formulating a plan to begin publishing in the next 18 months–maybe even sooner. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’m starting to chomp at the bit in order to make this happen, so if I can keep up that level of enthusiasm and have things come together, you may be seeing my name in print very soon!

As for this blog, I’m going to keep trying to plug away at it, though as I think I’ve said in the past, it’s going to encompass more of what interests me besides writing, so you may hear about kitchen disasters, anecdotes about my kids, or whatever else floats my boat. I’m also considering doing a non-fiction book about my experiences during transplant, although I’m not really sure about the direction of the project yet.

Until next time,

Writing Update: October

By *NoCompletion on DeviantArt.com

I must admit that I started the last month with many good intentions. My goals included editing the entirety of Homebody and getting out to a friend via snail mail. As of this writing, I’ve gotten about 1/4 of the way through the editing, and haven’t been able to send the draft out.

Part of the problem is my own laziness; I’ve been derelict in my duties as a writer.

But, part of the problem is the fact that my husband and I found out a few weeks ago that we’ll be moving by the end of the year. We’d put our house on the market, and in late September, got a contract. So, now I’m packing and looking for a new place to live. Ugh. (This last comment comes from the part of me that hates any form of change.)

I have made some headway, I’ll say that much. Just not as much as I wanted by this point. And my brain is working overtime coming up with ideas for plot and character changes. Unfortunately, thinking is not doing. I must start doing more. (Makes me think of Yoda: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yeah, I need more discipline from the Jedi Master.)

I have had the pleasure of attending the Muse Online Writers Conference last week. Man, did that kick my butt in gear! And it was a good diversion to potty training my daughter and wrangling three dogs (two more than normal since I was babysitting my mom’s dogs.) At least I was able to refine my understanding of grammar, learn more about blogging and Facebook fan pages (did you notice the subtle change to the blog? And, I now have a fan page on FB!) All good things, but they didn’t get me any editing done.

Anyway, despite the anticipated trials of the next few months (especially since we’re gearing up for holiday season), I’m going to do what I can to set aside some time on a daily and/or weekly basis to work on my projects. I really want to be able to start submitting to agents come January 2011. And the only way that’s going to happen is if I have a polished manuscript.

With that, I’d better get back to work.

Until next time,

Writing Update: September

I thought as a way to keep myself honest and to offer encouragement to others, I’d try to do a monthly update on my writing projects and what I’m attempting to accomplish. I’m going to plan to do this on the 3rd Monday of each month, but it may occasionally be more or less frequent.

Photo from: everRiviere via DeviantArt

Truth be told, lately I’m feeling a little discouraged. Everything I’m trying to do is taking a lot longer to do than it should. (It would help if I wouldn’t get distracted by games–have you figured out how addictive Spider Solitaire and Soduku are??) In the winter, I’d hoped to have my book Homebody out to agents before I had my baby.

Little Xander was born in July. He’ll be two months old tomorrow.

I’m still editing.

I was fortunate to finish reviewing a critique while on vacation at the beginning of the month and taking appropriate action on it, but as of this writing, I’m still working on the second critique. Then, I’ve got someone who’s agreed to do a critique of it if I mail her a copy. *sigh* Maybe by Christmas, this book will be ready to go out to agents. Which may mean that a couple agents I’m wanting to target may be reopened to queries, so that could be a good thing.

In the interim, I’ve got two other projects that are sitting: Cora’s Song and Beyond Dead. I’ve started the rewrite on Cora’s Song, and it’s coming along, though I stopped working on it for a while right before my son was born. Beyond Dead I thought I may be able to find time to whip into shape so it could go to Port Yonder Press in January when they open up submissions.

Right now, I’ll feel lucky if it makes it there for 2012 submissions.

On the good front right now, I continue to write reviews for Christian Children’s Book Review, and I feel that’s going well. Getting back into the swing of things where that’s concerned after having my son have been interesting, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it before much longer.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything. Just need to keep my nose to the grindstone and get things done–difficult when one is managing a household and raising two kids under two years of age!

Until next time,