Writing Process aka “Discipline”

For the most part, I think I’m met with a lot of raised eyebrows when I tell people I’ve written a book.

Them: ‘What do you do?’

Me: ‘I’m a writer, currently unpublished.’

Them: With feigned interest, ‘Oh me too, totally, I mean I have, like, really great ideas and stuff for a book but have never actually, like, written seriously, ya know? It’s, like, so time-consuming. But I write, like, a lot on Twitter ya know? And I’ve been meaning to start a blog cause people all the time tell me they would totally read my stuff if I wrote it down or whatever.’

Me: ‘Uh huh.’

Them: With less interest, ‘So what do you write about?’

Me: ‘I’ve written a book. It’s in the genre of Southen Gothic, roughly 440 pages. I also blog because for some reason that’s important to agents so I try to keep up with what they expect to see. My manuscript is currently being edited and I’ll likely pursue e-publishing, pending the edited results.’

Them: Quietly, ‘Oh.’

Me: ‘Yeah.’

I’m floored how often this conversation, or something like it, comes up. It is true what agents and publishers say, everyone wants to write a book, very few actually do. What they really mean to say is everyone has an IDEA for a book but not the discipline to convert an idea into a story.

Writing, in this respect, is absolutely in line with any other major goals in life, like exercising or healthy eating. The discipline, the habit, does not form by itself. It has to be nurtured into existence and then its maintenance becomes easier over time.

Like all new life changes that are important time has to be carved out for them. I made the decision to write down the idea I’ve had floating in my head for years and that meant sacrificing time and money – my family’s time and money. I’ve had the benefit of being a full-time parent who could work from home. This is a luxury I am well aware of, however, that meant spending money to place my then 3-year old into daycare so I could work, or rather I could work MORE and with no guarantee of a payoff. To say writing requires motivation as well as discipline is something of an understatement.

I developed an 8-10 hour a week writing schedule in-between my other obligations, and those hours could never slack. On the days I didn’t feel well, or just “didn’t feel like writing,” I made myself write anyway. It may have been garbage but at least garbage can be fixed, you can’t fix a blank page. Outside of those scheduled hours, I wrote at night when everyone went to bed. I wrote on the weekends and first thing in the morning. My sticking to a plan meant having something to show at the end of my efforts. I mean, dude! I wrote a book! It’s beginning, ending and everything in-between is all down to me.

Like everything in life, the more you practice a thing, the better you get at said thing. Writing is no different. Your story may be brilliant but it will come out as crap at first. So keep fucking writing. The stuff you write becomes less crappy, you find your voice, you find your characters’ voices, the pace picks up and your work becomes less crappy.

That was my experience in a nutshell. Eight months later, I had my first draft hovering at about 520 pages. After my first round of editing, I cut a lot of the crap and ended up at 480 pages. My third draft (yes, I said “third”) got me down to my current 441 pages. I handed the thing over to a professional editor because, at this point, I need another pair of eyes, professional eyes that know what to do next. The point is, I did the heavy lifting. I’ve written a book, only time will tell if I’m published or not but in total honesty, I can say I’m one of those who went beyond, ‘I have an idea for a book.’

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas
@gnrmuggle

Education: About Me, Part II

Education is the remedy to poverty. I learned this early on. I watched my father, a brilliant man, work endless blue collar days to support a family he created much too early. My mother had quit our family shortly after I came into the world. My childhood consisted of myself, a much beloved older sister, and my father. My father determined that we would not do as he and my mother had done, allowing hormones and emotions to overthrow common sense, jeopardizing futures for lack of contraception.

By the time I was college ready, I struggled with the idea of a major. I adored writing, I adored reading. You would think my major selection would be straight forward. But as I addressed in my blog, Ruth, I had burning questions that required answering. I felt if I could understand human thinking and human behaviors I might be better prepared for the world, and be more capable of helping others.

I gave myself a few years to think about it as I signed up for basic, transferable courses at Austin Community College before I declared a major. This is one of the best decisions I ever made and I highly recommend community college as a starting point for college-bound, young adults. I was a first-generation college student, no one I knew in my immediate family had gone and I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I built a high GPA and all my courses were paid via scholarships and grants as a result. In the meantime, I figured out what I wanted to study while relishing all creative writing courses, and wrote short stories just for fun. I loved my intro psychology and sociology courses too. It was a dilemma.

When it came time to declare my major and enroll into a 4-year college, I applied and was accepted to UT Austin, but eventually accepted an offer from St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas. UT Austin is a wonderful school, truly. In many respects, I wish I had gone there if only to spare something of my present day tuition repayments, but my lifelong anxiety largely dictated my decision. The size of UT overwhelmed me when I visited the campus and I felt I could not breathe. When I visited St. Ed’s, not only could I breathe, I felt excitement about continuing my education. I felt a part of the campus just by visiting it, never mind the potential connectivity as a student.

Eight years later, I finished a BA in psychology and earned an MA in counseling. Magna cum laude first, summa cum laude second. I worked hard for that 4.0 while earning my master’s degree, completing an unpaid part-time internship, and working 30 hours a week. I had no social life, and there were goings-on in general I missed out on, but I don’t regret it.

I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career as a university counselor. I loved campus life so much I decided to put my education to work in the education system.

I’m thankful I chose psychology and counseling. There are times when I am frustrated as a new writer, learning things the hard way, making juvenile mistakes when addressing literary agents and representing my manuscript. But I still don’t regret it. I’ve been touched by the countless stories of the students I’ve had the privilege to work with. Many of their stories I have incorporated into my work. The story of Ruth would not have the depth it does, the multiple layers of perspectives it has had so many paths not come across mine.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas

Life on Mars? – A Song of Influence

I would be remiss if I did not discuss those musical influences of my life and of my work. Of course, fictional novels and music are two entirely different mediums. However, I doubt much you can claim to have an appreciation of one without an appreciation of the other. While I was writing my novel, Ruth, I was surprised how often lyrics would come to mind. Situations, background, dialogue – all of it at some point – would have a soundtrack lightly treading its way around my thoughts.

Anyone who says they know me immediately screams, ‘Guns N’ Roses! It’s GN’R, I now her and it’s GN’fucking-R! Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. GN’R has definitely made its presence known here and there while I was writing, usually when I was hammering out the angry bits. That particular band got me through my teen years, rather, helped me survive my teen years so I shall always be grateful.

It’s David Bowie’s, “Life on Mars?” that I can hear perfectly, without taking it for granted, every time and without fail. While I have always valued the health and wealth of society over the health and wealth of the few, I am not without my fair share of disdain for society either. As I addressed in my previous blog, I saw too much in too few years and I know all too well what society is capable of. As an adult, not much has changed this opinion, in fact, every day only serves to confirm it. Regardless of socio-economic status, sex, age, religion, or political views – all humans are capable of garbage. Of contributing to the garbage, of being like garbage. Myself included, I learned that early as well. I often wondered what life on other planets might be like, are we all like this?

And Bowie asked:
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

When you first hear a song that sympathizes with your harder known point-of-view, you’re not likely to forget it.

I wonder just how many of us know we are all part of the freakiest show and make no mistake, the way we tune in, we are part of a bestselling show. Eventually, there will be another story of the lawman beating up the wrong guy. Oh boy, look at us caveman go.

What I found also unique to “Life on Mars?” was Bowie’s perspective of a young woman and her troubles. To say this is not common, for a male musician, in any way, to acknowledge women in a song that does not have to do with love, sex, and relationships (and vice versa) is something of an understatement. And Bowie did ponder other people, well into his career, the troubles of many demographics.

The day Bowie died, I felt a part of myself shrink for having lost someone who knew how to express what most of would take a lifetime to work out.

I’m always interested to know what influences people when they’re working their craft. Share yours.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas

Trailer Trash: About Me, Part I

I grew up in a trailer or mobile home, the terms are used interchangeably. But such technicalities make no difference when you’re a kid, and every other kid who didn’t grow up in a trailer or mobile home had the benefit of dubbing you “white trash,” and “trailer trash.” Humans are no never so human as when we take comfort in hierarchies, even as children.

Everyone in school knew me and my family were poor. We didn’t live in poverty, but we were poor. My sister and I had to look after ourselves since our father worked 12 hours a day.

When you live close to the edge of poverty, you learn things early. You cram too much in too few years. You are surrounded by people who are economically similar to yourself and for wildly varying reasons, all of those reasons you are likely to learn at some point, for better or worse.

As I related in a previous blog, I suffered from childhood anxiety disorder, I found relief in the library. That meant traversing my mixed bunch, trailer park community, crossing roads and unsavory neighborhood elements in order to get to my local library. Liquor stores, check cashiers, pawn shops, strip clubs, questionable dwellings with questionable persons hanging around. Every trip was frightening. In my young mind, the payoff was worth it. I knew the books I would soon delve into would erase the worst of anything I may have just seen, heard, and even smelled. The same would be true when I made the trip back to my mobile home, mind lost in books once more.

I grew up in Irving, a city adjacent to Dallas. Irving was much smaller then and called a suburb of Dallas. The poor who had to find work in Dallas lived in Irving. Today, I sit from the comfort of my two story home in a high demand neighborhood of the ever booming Austin, Texas. Today, it is not unusual that I am treated as someone who grew up from an affluent home. I am often approached by others who assume to know my background. The implication of a comfortable childhood is apparent in the language used and the attitude assumed when I am spoken to. Having worked in the higher education system for nearly a decade, and the fact that I have two degrees, often put me in the position of being passively-aggressively challenged about a wealth and upbringing I didn’t have. I don’t bother to correct the projection others put on me, but I don’t engage with people who assume to know me either. It seems a waste of my time. I let my work speak for me.

As it turns out, my childhood background would lend itself to my style of writing. Had I earned degrees in writing, I might have learned of my actual genre much sooner. I had always labeled my work as a women’s fiction-slash-drama. I recently discovered that my style of writing is a sub-genre of Gothic, called Southern Gothic. I write with “dark elements” (better known to me as “the truth”), while set in the geographic location of Texas, a big ol’ chunk of the south. That makes Southern Gothic, apparently. The gritty and glaring real life depictions, plus fiction, coupled with location. Southern Gothic, like all of Gothic, can incorporate fantastical elements too. One day I may write a piece that includes magic and other worldliness, but for now, real life serves up more than enough to work with.

I once wrote a short story for my high school’s creative writing course inspired by a resident of my trailer park. A severely obese woman who spent her days divided between residing in her trailer to hobbling her way out to her attached deck, surrounded by her 10 dogs. In life, I never learned her name, in my story, I called her Edna. Edna, from her place on the deck, folds of her body spilling out from all directions on her distressed bench, stared boldly at any and all residents who passed by. Edna never spoke, but still managed to quietly challenge by site alone. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Edna was angry, but no one knew why. In my work, I gave Edna a backstory that explained her current disparity, taking comfort in the company of her dogs. Claiming her untrained, no-collared, badly groomed furry companions were all that she needed. They were loyal, Edna’s character claimed. Edna’s backstory didn’t matter, the ending did. Edna died alone in her trailer from a massive heart attack. The residents suspected something was wrong as several days had gone by without Edna presiding over her usual place on the deck, glaring down all passersby. But hey, who cares? If anything Edna’s absence was an improvement so why rock the boat, was the general consensus of the trailer park residents.

What caused the first of many double-takes to come from my teachers over the years was Edna’s ending. She was found a week later, eaten by her beloved dogs. In life, the woman who inspired Edna did die alone from a massive heart attack. And she was discovered several days later, but not eaten by her dogs. Her dogs had disbanded and sought food elsewhere from other residents. That’s when people thought to look for the heavy set resident who rudely liked to stare from her deck. I didn’t realize it then, but such writing would become the basis of my work – the truth, with more steps. The world, as it is, is infinitely strange, my mind decided to make use of what was already there.

Examples of Gothic fiction includes:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo
Almost everything by Edgar Allan Poe
And so many more. Here’s a full-bodied list from Goodreads

Examples of Southern Gothic fiction includes:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Here’s an excellent Southern Gothic list from Goodreads. I hope to make it here one day.

ArmedWithCoffee.com
Austin, Texas

The Book I Left Off

I intentionally withheld a book from my last blog, “Books of Influence.”

If you were to ask a reader what their favorite book was, they might well find it a difficult question to answer.  There are scores of things to take into consideration in order to pair favorites down to a top 10 list, never mind a singular favorite. I, on the other hand, have no such issue.

I was an insatiable reader since early childhood, always categorized as advanced by my teachers. I suffered anxiety disorder as a child, a solitary life was my norm, books became my friends. I do not know if this was a cause and effect relationship, or if I was truly gifted in reading. But I do know it was this overwhelming need to shove my nose in a book that led me to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) when I was perhaps ten years old.

I recall it was summertime. Two weeks into my school vacation and I had already tackled my summer reading list. I went to my local library to stock up. A summer earlier, I had long since drifted from the children’s and young adult areas to full on fiction. Floating amongst the alphabetized authors, I spotted a familiar title, A Christmas Carol, ‘Oh, like the Mickey movie.’ No, as I would soon discover. A Christmas Carol was not written for children, not in the least. It had an important message, clearly, how else do you explain the many film versions, most child-friendly? But no. The original written version was intended for a very adult audience.

This was the passage my eyes first fell as I flicked through the book:

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

This passage terrified me and for several reasons. First of which, I had never read of children depicted in this way. Starved, sickly, twisted, humiliated creatures. And if the context were to be believed, these children were made so by the neglect of man, or rather man’s indifference to the sufferings of others, even children. Second, the Ghost of Christmas Present named the children, “Ignorance,” and “Want,” the formula for suffering. I was scared at the thought of being either.

After giving A Christmas Carol the full read through, I understand how Christmas Present was mocking Scrooge with Scrooge’s own words, “Are there no prisons?” and “Are there no workhouses?” as a solution for dealing with the destitute.

Sometimes you come across something so powerful it influences you from the first moment of exposure and not casually. Some find inspiration in works of art, others in music, television, film, or in the actions and beliefs of others. I have those moments as well, but fiction will always take lead. The passage I read that day in my local library, and later the full story in my bedroom, impressed upon me a way of being. That passage taught me what I wanted to see in myself and in society. That passage has influenced me from that day to this, everything from my views on religion, to politics, to my own personal behavior when I meet someone of want…and when I meet someone of ignorance.

What works of fiction have influenced you? Was it powerful?

ArmedWithCoffee
Austin, Texas

Books of Influence

I’m only through my third day of a massive head cold. Of course, this happens as soon as I decide to blog regularly on Tues/Thurs and sometimes the weekend. So I thought, ‘filler piece.’

I want to share those novels that stay with me on a day-to-day basis. Novels that inspire me regularly. Books that I can reread and still find content that makes me think and reflect.

These are not ranked, merely listed.

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Amy Tan
Shatter, by Michael Robotham
Carrie, by Stephen King
The Shining, by Stephen King
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
The Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
A Game of Thrones (the book series as a whole), by George R.R. Martin
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris

Off topic, the rejection emails from literary agents have been pouring in lately, as I think about my previous blog, “Literary Agents and Queries and F*** You’s”. I also noticed just how many agents are gearing up for writer’s conferences. Coincidence? I hate to think my query got rushed through for the sake of clearing out the old inbox before he or she left the office for a few days, but as someone who used to attend conferences regularly, I know better. Sigh. Time to compose the RESUBMISSION list.

I get knocked down, but I get up again / You are never gonna keep me down…
you know you hear the tune in your head.

ArmedWithCoffee
Austin, Texas

Literary Agents and Queries and F*** You’s (read before you comment)

For those of you who are concerned, or looking to let off some steam, this blog is not about telling off literary agents. I’ll spare you that anxiety…or disappointment if you were hoping to really sink your teeth into a good bashing. I get it, though, the query process is soul-sucking.

As a would-be author (who is actively seeking agent representation) do you know what I read quite often from lit agents? Profiles, articles, blogs, and more dedicated to what they are looking for in queries, and what they are not looking for. I see lists and lists of advice about how to increase the odds of getting THE call, a request for the full manuscript, and hopefully, THE second follow-up phone call, where at long last, the agent proclaims they want to represent you.

You know what I don’t read anything about? The flipside of that coin. The writer’s experience. The frustration, the dedication to meet the requests of literary agents to exacting detail. I think the idea is everyone (lit agents and writers alike) presume to know this side. However, I have no impression that this is true. Here’s why – the advice given to unrepresented writers does not match the outcome. In other words, there is no proof to be had in that pudding.

It does not seem to matter that I wrote my query to his or her exact specifications or that the preferred content the agent is seeking is a match. I still end up with this response in the rejection email, ‘doesn’t fit my interests,’ or some variation of it. Even though you, the agent, listed that you specifically want to read a story in women’s fiction that features a strong leading female, maybe an underrepresented female set in the modern world, an outsider if you will. GREAT! I can give you just that! That’s my story, exactly. I, the writer, am suddenly terribly excited to submit my work to you, the agent. And yet, a week, two weeks, two months go by and I might get a rejection letter citing the ‘not quite right fit,’ line. Sigh.

I can’t discern from a basic, online profile page if what the agent is asking for is what he or she really wants. I only submit my work if there’s a match. Sometimes agents are very specific about what they are looking for, others are less so. The result is often the same. I follow the advice, I do my research, I tweak my queries, and yet the pudding remains without proof.

I hear tales long since passed of agents who took the time to write back after receiving a query, and although you were likely being rejected, the agent dropped a line or two on how you could improve. I don’t think the current standard for queries was meant to be as it currently is, that is to say, silent, but it is even so. How, then, do you boost your odds of getting an agent’s attention? You research your agents, you compose your query well, you submit the sample pages as requested…what else?

I’ve seen one advice article from a writer, turned author, who stressed numbers. Queries, he said, are a numbers game. Yes, you still craft your query as well as you can, you do your research of agents, you do your best at all times when reaching out to a complete stranger, but you do so repeatedly and often. If you’re submitting once or twice a week, you’re doing it wrong. I hate to think that this process, which feels oddly intimate because you are reaching out to persons unknown and putting your work out there, has been reduced to numbers. But I can’t say I’m surprised. And I’ll tell you why.

For nearly a decade, I advised university students (undergrad and grad) on how to launch into the real world. I have a master’s degree in counseling, and I chose to specialize in career counseling. While I had studied all the major forms of traditional counseling, I couldn’t leave the career element alone. I found career counseling infinitely more fast-paced and engaging. What to study, what to make a career of, and so on. If you’ve ever seen a person’s face in pure relief for having made a major decision about life, I’m telling you, there’s nothing like it.

Where numbers came in was when it was time for a student to apply to jobs. I told every graduating student I ever met, if she was not applying to jobs at least 10 times a week, it was the same as not applying at all. My advice for applications filed was roughly 15-20 a week. It seems like a lot but it’s not. The students who were smart enough to take my advice were the ones who received multiple offers. The students who only wanted to be considered by their top or favorite company and applied once, sometimes twice if they had a second favorite, well, you can imagine how well that strategy worked out. By the time this student realized saturation was the key, the jobs were filling up.

The idea behind application saturation is an old one. You write more, therefore your written language improves, also your speed in the application process improves considerably, which means you can submit even faster. You start landing interviews, and in so doing you become a better interviewer. You figure out how to make yourself look good on paper – that’s check one. Once you figure how to sell yourself in person (that is absolutely what an interview is) – that’s check two. Then it is only a matter of time before you get the offer.

Many of these things I have found apply to queries, and if you’ve submitted more than 10 queries you might know what I’m talking about. After 10 queries, I believe, you start to pick up the pace, not so unlike the application-cover letter-resume package that is part of job hunting. The faster I submitted (not sacrificing quality and always personalizing) the faster I got responses, all rejections at this point, but it was an improvement over the no responses when I was going at a slower pace.

The query is a lot like the application, cover letter, and resume rolled into one. The query should be tweaked per agent you are submitting to. I can’t help but notice how the expectations for queries can vary wildly among lit agents. That’s irritating, but because you’re a would-be author, you write your query as outlined (if at all) according to the agent or the agent’s company’s website. You tweak your query to make it a little extra special per agent, just like a cover letter (and if you aren’t doing this, you should be). You do your damnedest to be thoughtful, concise, and above all sellable, cause let’s face it, those sample pages you are submitting are your interview equivalent. I’ve trained countless student-clients on how to represent themselves on paper first and in-person second. I believe I do a good job of meeting the standards for queries if not exceeding them. Now let me tell you about my numbers:

Queries = 38
Rejections (auto response or personal) = 10
No Response = 7
Floating (too early to call) = 21
Calls = 0
Feedback Of Any Kind = 0

You can only read that quote about ‘giving up is the only way you ever really lose’ before you start thinking, ‘fuck you,’ in a sort of begrudging, mental response. The sentiment of never giving up is true, don’t get me wrong, but you’re still thinking, ‘fuck you.’

What keeps me going is that I actually like my work. I do. As I’m editing my manuscript, rereading passages, extracting samples, I truly, genuinely believe in my work. I am excited by it. My voluntary beta-readers, they believe in my work too and cheer me on. I didn’t slap 450 pages together thinking that now I needed to be compensated because I wrote something. I am very familiar with how life works and how it doesn’t. No, I pursue the course of agent representation, despite the overwhelming silence and rejection, because I know what I’ve produced. I have confidence in my manuscript, and one day an agent will too.

In the meantime, I will continue to submit queries with ever increasing accuracy and speed. I will reread that quote about the only way you ever really lose, while the mental ‘fuck you’s’ are stowed once more.

To learn more about my manuscript, please read the blog, “Ruth.”

ArmedWithCoffee
Austin, Texas

Portable Magic / Dorks Unite

It was Howard Pyle’s, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883), that inspired today’s modern version of Robin Hood, a good-hearted, rogue-styled philanthropist.

My family and I recently attended the Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade, Texas, roughly 50 minutes east of Austin. This is not my first rodeo of fantasy inspired gatherings. I love going to these fairs, be it Scarborough Renaissance Festival, which occurs annually outside Dallas, or the mighty Texas Renaissance Festival (Ren-Fest for short), just outside of Houston, I never fail to feel amazement by the sheer volume of dedication to the theme. The workers and attendees alike dress to the nines of their period intended costumes.

Sherwood is by far the simpler or smaller of the fairs, but no less dedicated. A person’s need to express what inspires them is a precious thing, more so when adults engage in make-believe. Such adult play holds out for hope that we might still be inspired to imagine. I have yet to meet one L.A.R.P.er (live action role play/player) that didn’t make me smile, their dedication to the craft infectious.

To date, the greatest example I can think of where adults were more likely to act as children than the actual children present was when we vacationed at Universal Studios, Florida for the sole purpose of spending three days in the Harry Potter themed parks. It was my idea, actually. My last vacation had been five years earlier with my husband – on our honeymoon. We work hard, and time off isn’t always an option.

My idea of a relaxing vacation does not typically include cramming myself into a park of equally enthused Potter-heads (as we call ourselves), and yet I willing flew (I hate flying), spent five days in a family packed hotel (children were seen, smelled, and heard at all times), and jostled ourselves to and fro the hotel and theme park via shuttle bus. It was hot. Sticky. Loud. Scorching. But once you stand amidst the fantasy world that you have come to know and love over the years, none of the aggravating humanness matters. In fact, you welcome the people around you, minds blown by the books-turned-into-life. You’re suddenly glad you packed your wand even though you weren’t sure you should bring it. Cause ya’ know, you know you’re a dork, that doesn’t mean you want to let the world in on it. But no, now you’re glad you did as dorks unite. Spell battles run unchecked with equally excited Potter-heads.

These book inspired activities should not fail to remind us of the power of fiction. Stephen King is quoted as saying, “Book are uniquely portable magic.” Individually, avid fiction readers understand this meaning in its truest form. The fairs and theme parks, the role players inspired by centuries-old tales, it means accessing the same magical portal, at the same time. So pack your wand alongside your fairy wings, and take comfort in knowing that you will find yourself with like-minded spirits.