When I was little—just at that age when you can read books all on your own, but you still beg for them to be read to you—I had a favorite book. My mom thought this book was weird and creepy and should find a forever home on the quiet barely-ever-read top shelf. I thought this book was great; I loved the mystery, the inexplicable, the way the story made me feel uneasy and uncertain.
The book was Dear Mili, the long lost Grimm story found hidden in a letter Wilhelm Grimm wrote to a young girl in 1816, this edition made all the better by Maurice Sendak’s vivid fairytale illustrations. To escape the destruction of war, a mother sends her young daughter into the woods. The girl meets an old man who promises to let her stay in his cottage if she helps him. She serves him for what appears to be three days, but those three days end up being thirty years. Back home, the war is over and the little girl’s mom is an old woman. The man sends her back into the woods to return home before her mother dies. Another little girl, who looks just like her, guides her home, through the dark and difficult woods.
As a child, this book made me feel something I couldn’t properly explain at the time; it wasn’t like any other story I had read. It had magic like other fairytales—the sudden slip in time, the woodland guardian angel—but this magic was different, it was strange and unfamiliar, it had a hint of darkness to it, as though it could just as easily be sinister instead of helpful. Just as the magic seemed unfamiliar, the rest of the story felt so realistic, almost bleakly so; war driving a mother to send her daughter away, alone, to the forest.
It wasn’t until college, in a class on literary theory, that I found a word for those feelings, an interpretation for why I was so drawn to this story: the uncanny. We read Freud’s essay, The Uncanny, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself intrigued by an interpretation under the heading of psychoanalysis. Freud begins with the word uncanny itself, unheimlich (unhomely) in German, and the way that it is defined by what it is not, not homely, not familiar, and yet it is not a perfect antonym because not all new, unfamiliar things are uncanny. Freud goes on to analyze instances that evoke the uncanny, making a distinction between the uncanny in real life and the uncanny in fiction. Sorry for the drop quote, but here is a taste of some of his ideas:
If psychoanalytic theory is right in asserting that every affect arising from an emotional impulse—of whatever kind—is converted into fear by being repressed, it follows that among those things that are felt to be frightening there must be one group in which it can be shown that the frightening element is something that has been repressed and now returns. This species of the frightening would then constitute the uncanny…if this really is the secret nature of the uncanny, we can understand why German usage allows the familiar (das Heimliche, the ‘homely’) to switch to its opposite, the uncanny (das Unheimliche, the ‘unhomely’), for this uncanny element is actually nothing new or strange, but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.
Now, as a writer, I know how difficult it can be to create the feeling of the uncanny in a story, how difficult it is to incite subtle, questionable feelings in your reader. As a writer, how do you build suspense, how do you make the reader feel uneasy and unsure? It’s especially difficult to do so when you already know the ending, already have the mystery unveiled. Somehow, it is our task to recreate the mystery for our readers and force them to do the work of figuring the story out, pinpointing what makes it so uncanny, deciphering the hidden meanings.
For Freud this difficulty lies in the relationship between the real and the fantastical: “…many things that would be uncanny if they occurred in real life are not uncanny in literature… in literature there are many opportunities to achieve the uncanny effects that are absent in real life. Among the many liberties that the creative writer can allow himself is that of choosing whether to present a world that conforms with the reader’s familiar reality or one that in some way deviates from it”.
What better time to consider the interplay between what is real and what is fantasy, than Halloween! For one day, the two are interchangeable in the most uncanny of ways. Traditionally, Halloween glorifies the obvious, the outright scary and gory and gruesome, it sets free all the things lurking in the shadow, but personally I’m a fan of the understated, the subtle things that scare you without explaining exactly how or why, the uncanny. If you need a break from the outright terrifying, check out my list of stories that are ambiguously unsettling, that straddle the lines of what is real and what is make-believe, that delve into the recesses of our collective unconscious and make familiar again, what was hidden for so long.
“Dear Mili” by Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Dear Mili was my very first unsettling story. Five-year-old me says it should be read by all and right before bed.
“Haunting Olivia” from St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
Karen Russell loves to set her reader’s expectations on end. Her language is as surprising and weird as her stories and Haunting Olivia is no exception. Two young boys discover a pair of magical goggles and set off into the grotto to search for their sister, Olivia.
“Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace
The subject matter of this story is gripping and horrifying, but it is the perspective and point of view—as if a child were watching from above as the events unfold—that makes the story truly unsettling.
“Happy Autumn Fields” by Elizabeth Bowen
In Happy Autumn Fields Bowen capitalizes on the way that doubling or twinning can make us uneasy (something that Freud discusses further in his essay). The lives of two girls, living very different lives in different times are in some way connected in this story, but the nature and reason of that connection remains a mystery.
“Night at the Fiestas” from Night at the Fiestas by Kristin Valdez Quade
This story is wrought with a prickling uncertainty. It seems so normal at first—Frances is riding her father’s bus into Santa Fe to attend the Fiestas—but Quade is the master at building subtle suspense, leaving the reader wondering what will go wrong.
“Two Houses” from Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Kelly Link’s stories are so weird and strange. She creates unsettling and uncanny feelings with her specificity of detail.
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
Travel stories are the perfect medium for the uncanny. They provide so many opportunities for the new and the strange to overlap with the familiar—when we travel we seek out both in equal measure. Throughout this novella, I kept convincing myself that it was strange, that nothing was wrong until that act of convincing became unsettling in itself.
“The River” by Flannery O’Connor
Flannery O’Connor is the queen of unsettling. All of her stories beg to be read, but I chose The River because the image of the enticing yet secretly sinister river has stuck with me so long.
* Note: If you liked this post, then check out The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows, edited by Marjorie Sandor; it includes some of the stories listed above plus many, many more.
Write a Novel This November! NaNoWriMo 2015: What Is It, and How Do I Do It?
You probably want to write a novel. Most people do. For some people, it’s something to check off the bucket list. For others, it’s a life-long dream. Some people aspire to be a published novelist, while others simply want to write a book, even if it’s just for themselves. Regardless of what your specific dream entails, writing a novel is an incredibly daunting task. Fortunately, Chris Baty founded NaNoWriMo in 1999, thereby turning this impossible fantasy into an achievable task.
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual, month-long event that takes place every November, and it is the catalyst that generates full-length novels from both new and experienced authors each year. The goal is to write 50,000 words in November. You open your blank document and begin on November 1, and on the thirtieth by 11:59pm, you are a novelist. To participate, all you have to do is set up a free account at nanowrimo.org, and then announce your new novel! NaNo prep is already happening on the website: pep talks, forums, advice, etc. The NaNo community is preparing for the upcoming month-long writing extravaganza. To win NaNoWriMo, all you have to do is write 50,000 words. Everyone who does this is declared a winner, and you get a fancy virtual badge!
Think you can’t possibly write 50,000 words in thirty days? Don’t worry! Several tools exist to help you conquer this seemingly impossible-to-climb mountain. The first is the website itself. It has a handy tracker that tells you where your word count should be each day in order to stay on track. You enter your current word count, and you get to see the graph reflect the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made, which is extremely encouraging and satisfying. There are forums on the website in which you can talk with other writers and inspire each other and cheer each other on. Need help figuring out the perfect surname for your protagonist? Feeling overwhelmed? Need help with some research? Running out of steam? The people on the forums are happy to help with all of this and more. It’s an extremely supportive and motivating community of writers, and it’s an invaluable source for your NaNo experience.
If 50,000 words still seems out of reach to you, keep in mind that it translates to only 1,667 words a day. That is totally manageable! You can do that, I promise! Here are some sources that can get you pumping out those words:
I have participated in NaNoWriMo three times, and I won each time. Here is the best piece of advice I can give: don’t think; just write. NaNoWriMo is not about producing a polished and perfect work of literature. It’s about writing the damn book. The goal is to get the first draft done, and the first draft is the hardest part. As Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” You don’t have a story until you write it. Now is your chance to write it. Do not waste time trying to make it as beautiful and perfect as possible. You should not do a single revision during this month. Do not go back to the words you’ve already written at all. Only move forward. If you do this, you’ll have a first draft of your book by the end of the month, and a first draft is a physical thing with which you can work. After November, you can begin your revisions. At this point, you’ll have achieved an amazing accomplishment, and you’ll be well on your way to completed manuscript.
Good luck, and happy writing!
I can understand why people are hesitant to write poems.
Poetry can be uncomfortable. You pry yourself open, you scoop out what you find, and you dump it onto a blank page. You do all of this just so you can read it; so you can potentially understand the stuff that’s been festering in the back of your mind—in the deepest reaches of your gut. Sometimes you even let other people read the stuff, which is just plain terrifying.
Poetry is discouraging. It’s disheartening when the right words won’t come. Especially when poets like Frost, Whitman, Collins, Pound, and Stevens (the list goes on) make the whole poetry thing seem so effortless, so natural. It makes your efforts feel useless, makes you feel inept, and makes the whole ordeal seem like nothing but a grand waste of time.
Most of all, poetry can be embarrassing. It’s personal. It’s a verbal manifestation of all the crude, coarse, natural, and organic roughness that we’re not sure we’re supposed to verbalize at all. And when your poem is finally done and you re-read it from start to finish, you can wind up gagging on your own sentimentality, nauseated by your own nostalgia, or disgusted by your self-indulgence. Really, how audacious to think that you or something that happened to you is worthy of becoming a poem?
The key is to let all of this go. Just write the thing.
A passage from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest comes to mind. He describes being human as being “unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” So the point here is to put all of that aside. Just try it. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find as you write your poem.
You’ll get to know yourself better. We think at an incredibly rapid rate. We process borderline unquantifiable amounts of information on a daily basis. We have a thought, we move on, we forget it. When you write a poem, you’re forced to slow way, way down. You’ll ask more questions about yourself, about your experience living in this world. You’ll ask things like, “is there a better word I can use here?” or “how can I really capture what I’m feeling.” If you’re writing of memories, you’ll have no choice but to wrack your brain, stroke your chin, and knit your brow to bring yourself back to the precise moment you’re writing about—be it two weeks ago or two decades. You’ll be shocked at the things you’ve had catalogued back there. And you’ll be amazed at how much more vivid they become when you try to express them.
You’ll properly deal with the things that consume you. Lawrence Durrell wrote of women,
“There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.” I find the third option applies to all things. All suffering, all happiness, any emotion can be turned into literature. Of anguish, write until you’ve nothing left to say, and more often than not, you’ll have conquered your anguish. Of happiness, write until you’ve nothing left to say, and you’ll have preserved your happiness to look back on fondly when memory alone is no longer sufficient. Only poetry can remind you of the way a cool sea breeze blew through your hair on a September evening, how the sting of salt stung your eyes.
To end on a somewhat sentimentally and cheesy note (but remember, we’re all “unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic”), poetry will create for you a portal to the places you’ve been. You’ll read your old poems and be reminded—in the most visceral ways—where you were, what you felt, and how far you’ve come since then.
I was barely old enough to read the first time someone tossed “don’t judge a book by its cover” into my arsenal of clichés. Although well intentioned, the saying actually has little applicability to the book industry because books are and will continue to be judged by the quality of their cover art. My roommates are vocal supporters of judging books exclusively on exterior value, and after two years together, I finally decided to find out why. After a lengthy discussion, they pinpointed four structural components that make or break their reading material.
Page count means different things to different readers. Fans of epic fantasy won’t be deterred by a book that counts 900 pages, but someone looking for a quick read won’t want to wrestle with more than 300. Although Fury was clear that people should choose based on their own needs and lifestyles, she champions epic fantasy, textbooks, and even atlases. Apparently, larger books make better nap pads.
Used books have a place in the hearts of bookworms. A worn book is a loved book. Few would gravitate exclusively toward books with broken bindings, but Damon was adamant that the bindings of his favorite ink and paper companions be broken. He wouldn’t elaborate, but, like Fury, I suspect he prefers sleeping on his books to reading them.
Hardcover vs. Paperback
Have you ever tried to rub your face against the corner of a paperback book? I doubt it, so trust Damon and Durza on this one. Hardcover is the only option.
All books are capable of being shelved in a respectable manner, but according to Damon, you really need a healthy combination of size and style to create an acceptable arrangement that offers enough space for a feline book nook.
Although they made some fair points and will undoubtedly continue to disagree with me, my roommates pay far too much attention to a book’s cover. With time and effort, I may be able to convince them to join those of us who care more about the words on a book’s page than the pages themselves.
Books have always been my favorite accessories. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t buried in their pages. “She’s going to be a writer,” my mom would tell dinner guests as I shook breadcrumbs out of my book. I never really thought about doing anything else with my life. It seemed like it had been decided so many years ago. I would be a writer. I fought my instincts all the way through my second year of journalism in college before I finally ran out of gas and admitted my biggest fear: I didn’t want to be a writer.
The ensuing identity crisis was turbulent. In freeing myself from the race to create the “next Great American novel,” I felt as though I might have lost my chance to create anything. It’s difficult to be part of a species obsessed with creation when you don’t feel a desire to add to its library, but I’ve learned a lot about my definition of creativity over the last few years. Here are five things every supporting player in the book industry should remember.
1.) Being an enthusiastic audience member is just as important as writing the play, scoring the film, or designing the set.
Addressing fans at the final Harry Potter film premiere, J.K. Rowling said, “No story lives unless someone wants to listen.” The audience's role is just as important as the role of the writer or the performer. The ability to absorb a new idea or concept is creativity in its rawest form. Just because you didn’t create the words on the page does not mean you’re a passive consumer without value or creative abilities.
2.) Love things with an unapologetic enthusiasm.
When you’re not at peace with your role in life, it can be difficult to enjoy others’ artistic efforts. The books, shows, and art you used to love might suddenly trigger an irritable response. Don’t let your perception of what you think you should do limit who you are. Inspiration is everywhere. Absorb new ideas. Explore new environments. Be who you are in this moment. Love things enthusiastically and unapologetically without forcing yourself to contribute an unnecessary admission fee.
3.) Don’t confuse creation with affirmation.
I get it. It’s difficult to be surrounded by successful writers, writers/editors, designers, and photographers if you’re struggling with your creative identity. But they will be the first people to tell you that a need for positive affirmation does nothing to drive their creative impulses. Their need to create is driven by curiosity and a love for the creative process, not by a positive reception. Just because you don’t thrive on that creative process doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer. Embrace what makes you different.
4.) Cut yourself some slack.
Life isn’t about overcoming obstacles that block the path to who you think you should be. Life is about exploring different abilities and letting yourself be what feels right to you. Be the first person in line to cut yourself some slack.
5.) Don’t be afraid to be a human bookend.
There’s a reason we have marketing and publicity departments. There’s a reason we have booksellers and librarians. Not everyone wants to be the next John Green. I’ve learned to embrace my supporting role in this industry. I am a proud human bookend. Now it’s your turn.
While my last post was about claiming the title “writer,” I do have to admit that I've been suffering from a rather long stint of writer's block. In other words, I have not been writing very much at all. I write here and there. Jot things down and never return to give them my full attention. Obviously, this is a common thing that happens and everybody has his or her own remedy. There's whole books on it for god's sake. I'm not going to say a bunch of stuff that everyone already knows. I'm just going to talk about one thing that I realized the other night after attending a lovely poetry reading.
Attending readings and open mics is one of the most inspirational motivators to get me to put pen to paper and I would argue that this is true for many people.
I get so consumed with being alone when I write. I read and read and stare at blank pages in my journal, looking for something inside me to spill out. Instead, I just get frustrated and read more or watch Netflix. Sometimes I won't even let myself go out because I didn't do the writing I had set out to do that day.
When I stop punishing myself for not writing and I decide to go to a poetry reading or an open mic or a book launch, I always end up writing in my journal on the way home. Sometimes I even pull it out in the middle of the reading to jot down a stray thought. I think there are lots of reasons for this. Firstly, it's important to forget about your own writing for a while. Secondly, it's also important to be out in a community of writers who are sharing their work with other writers and readers. I think just the energy of this can help knock a few things loose in your brain – get ideas to settle down and want to come out for a change.
Most importantly, I think hearing writers read their own work aloud can be engaging and empowering beyond reading it for yourself. This is especially true with poetry. I find myself getting lost in just the voice – sometimes, even if I don't know exactly what it “means,” I can hear what the poet wants you to feel in their tone, rhythm, movement. It doesn't even have to be good. Focusing on these aspects of performance in the reading is something you don't get simply by reading someone else's work. I find myself focusing so much on craft when I read, that I almost forget the art. Hearing it come to life through the writer herself I can hear the art. I can see it. Which in turn always ends up inspiring me to create art where I had previously felt my passion for it draining.
So, for anyone feeling uninspired or in a rut of not writing I would encourage you to find a reading or open mic in your area. In listening to everyone share and speak their truth, you may just find yours.
Beginning a career in the publishing industry can be difficult because there seems to be a thousand different paths to go down. But that is really what makes the publishing industry so awesomely unique. In my last semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about to have a degree in English Literature, I had a tough decision to make. I had no idea how to break into the industry. Where would I even start? So, I researched entry points.
I had to decide if I wanted to find an unpaid internship or attend a summer course to earn a publishing certificate. Publishing certificate programs are different than earning a master's degree in publishing. One of the most well known programs is NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. It is a six-week program held over the summer. The goal of this program is to teach the students about all the different aspects of publishing as well as give many opportunities for networking with other publishing professionals. The NYU website states that in their program, “Students create actual launch plans for new magazine brands and imprints for book publishing houses, and learn from having their projects judged by a panel of senior publishing executives.” The program costs a little over $5,000. Other similar programs exist at Columbia University and the Denver Publishing Institute. The point of these programs is to give you the experience you would need to succeed in a full time job in the publishing industry as well as the networking opportunities to meet the people who can help you get the job. This experience seems ideal; I just lacked the money and time to go and do it.
The other option is to take on an internship for a publishing house or journal where you learn about the industry in a real life setting. Most of these positions are paid little to no money. Some offer academic credit for college students, but what you are really gaining from these positions is experience. Most full time job openings ask that the candidates they are considering have at least one year of experience in a professional publishing environment. Getting hands on, real life experience is one of the best ways to learn. Many of these internships can also lead to full time jobs depending on the situation. And even if it doesn’t, it is still a great way to meet other publishing professionals and network. You can also do multiple part time internships in different positions. You can work on an academic journal, literary journal, trade publisher, or educational publisher. I have had the opportunity to be a part of a few different publications and feel that the internships have given me a well-rounded education in the publishing industry.
Publishing programs and internships are both great ways to gain valuable experience in publishing. They are also things that employers look for on a résumé that would put you above other candidates. Either route you take, you can still end up where you want to be if you are determined.
One of the many freedoms that come with finishing school is that no one forces you to read anymore. Some unfortunate people decide that this will be the last time they ever pick up a book, but for the rest of us, this means that we finally have a say in what we invest our time in. Reading can now be purely for enjoyment! A fantastic concept! Now, there can be no doubt that some of the texts that were forced upon us as students were good, solid literature that could be used to teach lessons or even just to instill a passion for literature. For some it succeeded and some it failed. On the other hand, I think every single person who has gone through a high school English class can think of a book or two that they wanted to throw out the window and never look at again. It is because of these books that some people never want to read again.
Obviously, individuals have different things that they do and do not want to read about. I do not envy teachers for having to pick a reading list, especially when there is bound to be at least one unenthusiastic student out there somewhere. Literature lovers are either made or destroyed because of mandatory reading requirements. No one likes to be told what to do.
Thankfully, we can put that dark time behind us, and forge into territory where we can choose which literary path we take. There are so many books and different types of literature out there that someone who seeks it can never be at a loss for something good, something they like. And, when you find a bad one, toss it! Life is too short to read things we don’t want to. We all got our fair share in high school; it is time to take the reins!
With this newfound freedom, it is important to try many different genres. Stick your toe into different pools and see which ones are the perfect temperatures. Just how different people can handle different levels of spice in their foods, different people are attracted to certain genres and not to others; your brother’s favorite book in the whole world might be extremely dull or distasteful to you, just as yours may be just as boring for him. There is beauty in owning your choice of literature and being proud of it! I personally love both science fiction as well as classic British literature. I am not afraid to try other books, but I know that there are very few in those genres that will disappoint me. I am aware of my interests.
I once promised myself that if I picked up a book, I would make sure I finished it. After slogging through a couple of clunkers, I realized that rather than drawing me in, these books were pushing me away from wanting to read. Everyone loves when they have a book where they can’t wait for the next available moment to crack it open again, and you are excited when you have more than ten minutes to devote to it. Though it is unrealistic to think that every single book you ever read is going to keep you on the edge of your seat, it is worth trying, because the exhilaration of knowing that the story is going to captivate you is something unique and should never be passed up, just because a silly promise you made to yourself (probably while in the middle of some great book that you didn’t want to end).
With jobs, family, and a countless number of responsibilities and things that pull on our time, the book that we choose to stay up an extra half hour at night for (though we may regret it in the morning) should be exhilarating and stimulating, rather than just another drain on our energy. We should look forward to reading before bed to relax, and even the thought of a whole afternoon of reading should be a great thing, rather than a chore. I’ve had this experience as well. I look at the book I am reading and say “oh, great”. Where is the joy in that?
I say that now is the time to take our freedom and use it. I say that you owe it to yourself to find the literature that you can engage in, and read like it is the last book you will ever see! Only you know what you will like, not your 11th grade teacher, so now that you can all make your own choices, it is time to be selfish and read to your heart’s content, because that’s what literature should do: make your heart content.
A lot of hullaballoo is made about the process of writing. What’s the best way to generate ideas? Should you free write or outline? How long should you write each day? Where should you write? What should you wear while you write? Writers are almost as superstitious as baseball players are. Famous writers are constantly being asked about their process, to share the keys to their success and offer any piece of advice, any rule to follow (see this, this, and this). Personally, I see the value in a routine—it keeps you on track, forces you to actually write something, prevents distraction—but I also see the value in breaking a routine—the thrill of inspiration, the little light bulb moment that comes when your world shifts away from normal and jostles you awake.
In my world, order and mess go hand in hand. Which is why I am forever caught up in the ultimate writing routine question: pen vs. keyboard, paper vs. screen, handwritten vs. typed. I have terrible handwriting and it gets worse the faster I think so the aesthetic beauty of a handwritten page, the grace of putting pen to paper, is lost on me and my loopy cursive/print hybrid. I find myself plunged into the computer writing world of online distractions and trains of thought interrupted by the immediate ease of editing as I go. The pro/cons lists in this debate are endless and so are the routines. Some writers write all first drafts by hand and only type things up during the editing process. Others type up first and then print and edit by hand. Computers are distracting; they come with internet and twitter and quizzes about which clone you are on Orphan Black (No? Just me?). Writing by hand is more pure, a flow of words from thoughts to page that breeds creativity and freedom of expression. On the other hand, computers are convenient, they allow you to organize and compile in a way that becomes tedious with papers and scratched out notes.
What I’m saying is this: using computers to write is a much-debated personal preference, the various sides of which I am well aware. This article is not meant to tell you how to write, or that you must use a computer. Only that, currently, we’ve come to a point where all writers must go digital at some point. Slowly, but surely, submissions processes are turning online only. Whether you wait to the last minute to type up a manuscript or use a computer through the entire process, in the end it must be typed. Which, let's be honest, can be scary and frustrating and time consuming.
So to ease the process, I’ve compiled a list of practical computer tips and tricks to help a writer out. I focused on tools in Microsoft Word, since that’s what most people use as a word processing program. Also, as I am a writer and not a computer genius, I’ve chosen to explain why these tools could be helpful to writers and leave it up to the whizzes at Microsoft Word to show you how to use them (links for everyone!).
You may know some of the obvious shortcuts like CTRL+x, CTRL+c, and CTRL+v for cut, copy, and paste. Those can make moving around sentences a lot faster and simpler. There are also a few others that can make life easier for speedy writers. CTRL+b, CTRL+i, and CTR+i allow you to make highlighted text bolded, underlined, or italicized. Another extremely useful shortcut is SHIFT+F5, which returns you to the last edit point in a document. That way, if you are working in a large document with several chapters and close the document for a lunch break, when you re-open the document later, you can hit SHIFT+F5 to return to the specific paragraph you were editing. Also, a good one to remember: CTRL+S to save your document. That’s definitely a good shortcut to turn into an obsessive habit.
See this for a complete list of shortcuts.
Find and Replace
Find and Replace can be helpful to writers in a lot of different ways. You can use the CTRL+F shortcut to search a document for a specific word or phrase. This is especially useful in large documents for finding a specific character description or fact. You can open the advanced Find and Replace dialogue box to not only search for a word or character name, but also replace every use of that word with another. This is great for when you decide Fred is a terrible character name and you want to change all instances of Fred to Roger. You can also use this to replace specific formatting like paragraph breaks or page breaks. If you are particularly concerned with efficiency, you can write character or place names or common phrases in shorthand and then use Find and Replace to change the shorthand to the full-length phrase. You can even use Find to search for bookmarks you’ve placed within a document (see below for more on bookmarks).
See this for more information on Find and Replace.
Custom Dictionary/ Spelling and Grammar Check
Hate those squiggly colorful lines that show up everywhere? Tired of all your character names being marked as misspelled? Then, it's time to customize your dictionary. You can add any word you want to your dictionary, especially character names, place names, and technological jargon.
Another great trick to make you look especially professional is to customize your Spelling and Grammar check in accordance with a specific style guide (AP, Chicago, MLA etc.). You can specify what changes should be auto-corrected as you type, allowing you to determine stylistic choices, such as whether to use curved or straight quotation marks.
See this for custom dictionaries and this for Spelling and Grammar check.
Split a Document
This magical tool allows you to view two copies of one document at the same time. It’s an excellent way to edit a paragraph while keeping a copy of the original one for comparison as you edit. Splitting the document is also a great way to keep things consistent in your writing; you can view a description of a character on page 12 while you write more about the same character on page 103. You can use the View menu to split the document or the shortcut ALT+CTRL+S to split and unsplit. When you split, just click inside one version of the document to make edits to that copy. When you undo the split, however, all changes will be merged so the original sentence or paragraph will not be saved, but the changes you made to each version will be saved.
See this for more information.
In the throes of writing and editing, I often end up with multiple versions of the same document: KickAssStory, KickAssStory2, KickAssStoryFinal, KickAssStory3good. Often, I save an older version in case I change my mind about deleting a whole page of dialogue or switching the point of view for the whole story. With this trick, you can compare these different documents and see exactly what makes them different via track changes. Great for returning to a story you haven’t worked on in a while, it allows you to revisit some of the changes you made, or just figure out which document really is the final one. After you compare the documents, you can also merge them into one document and choose which changes you want to make.
Formatting: Headings, Page Breaks, Tables of Content, Bookmarks
Using real grown-up formatting can make your document infinitely easier to navigate and your future editors will love you forever. No more hitting return over and over again to start a new page or chapter. Add a page break! Set up your title page and Chapter titles as headings. If you like to work with each chapter in a different document, you can make your own custom “style” of how the page is formatted to keep things uniform and make them a lot easier to combine later (style can include heading and texts, but also page numbers and header and footer information). If you do like to keep it all in one document, when you add a new chapter, you can also add a bookmark to that page, which can then be linked to your table of content so that it works like a real big-girl, clickable table of content. You can also view all the bookmarks you have in one document at once, which helps with navigating.
See all the links: this, this, this, this, and this.
Mail merge will soon become your dearest friend. I first learned of the glories of mail merge when I worked for a non-profit and now I will never go back to my pre-mail merge life. You can make customized envelopes! That’s classy as fuck. It’s also extremely useful for sending out query letters and manuscripts to a lot of different places. Plop the names and contact information for all your addressees into an excel spreadsheet and then mail merge away. You can make custom envelopes, labels, letters, and even emails. If you are as addicted to Gmail as I am, you can also get the Yet Another Mail Merge add on for Google docs, which will allow you to send custom emails with your manuscript attached without copying and pasting a million times.
See this for the whole mail merge process and this for how to get Yet Another Mail Merge.
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In 1997, Harry Potter pulled the heartstrings of American readers, engaging them in a fantasy world of magic and strife. In 1851, Captain Ahab took readers on a deadly journey to seek the great white whale. In 1630, Othello lead the way through a tangle of jealously and murder. Each character is undeniably memorable, and each character is arguably flat.
In his work Aspects of the Novel (1927), E.M. Forster discusses two character types: round and flat. A round character is similar to an actual person; they have depth and more than one thing that defines his/her identity. On the other hand, a flat character is less dynamic with only one defining personality trait causing the reader not to be challenged when deciding the motives behind the character’s actions. Each type of character affects a narrative different, but each type of character is still very important. Being a flat character does not mean they are a minor character. Whether you are reading or writing a book, looking into what makes up a character is engaging, meaningful and useful.
After fleeing years of abuse in her Oregon seacoast home, Jane experiences new freedom by moving with her boyfriend to the new world of the landlocked Kansas plains. As she travels, Jane’s progress is threatened by nostalgia and attachment, responsibility and uncertainty. The power of her past has brought a pressing, and terrible need to escape not only her home, but also the force that it has to shape her present and even her future. As Jane’s internal, mercurial conflicts become overwhelming, the forces of nature brings a massive flood that also threatens to overwhelm both her past and her future. Jane experiences the powerful force of memory and how events of the past can directly affect the future, if she lets them. Floating atop a sea of time, Great Divide, at once alluring and threatening, beckons the reader to dive in with Jane into the imagery, metaphor, and power of memory.
Reviews of Great Divide
If you enjoy getting to know characters deeply through accessible beautiful prose that includes all the very human quirks and mixed feelings, read The Great Divide: A Novel and it will keep you unable to put it down, as you immerse yourself in the lives. She does whatever it takes, whatever POV or tense, whatever intimacy and uncomfortable complexity of abuse, to bring you into believing fictional characters must be reborn in your mind, to lives that are so real, they can't be left out in the cold, waiting.
Kiernan shows the depth of the humanity of the characters than most writers. The way Jane pretends to be still asleep briefly when someone else is in the tent -- that's the kind of tiny subtle quirky thing we all do, but that level of detail is rarely captured in prose so often focused these days on simply moving the plot forward at the sake of character development.
It's told with sensitivity of language that's delicate and bold at the same time. I love the stockholm syndrome with the father, the way she's given in and stayed friends with him, the way they don't talk about it, yet there is love. Getting reactions like that to sound believable, possible to identify with, moment by moment in the ambiguity, hesitance, domination, is tough, and she does it masterfully.
Anyone who loves beautiful writing will love Emily Kiernan's Great Divide. There is not a superfluous word in this tight, dense, richly imagistic story of a young woman trying to escape the deluge of her past as a flood of epic proportions threatens the western U.S. Kiernan deftly moves back and forth between past and present, drawing the reader into the protagonist's emotions and experiences in vivid detail. I felt I knew the places she describes and what it was like to live through the protagonist's story. This is a book that should be read like poetry - in one sitting, to ingest the flavor of it entirely - and returned to in order to savor the detailed, nuanced language. I was particularly impressed with the ending (I won't give anything away here); Kiernan strikes the perfect note, not providing too much closure but leaving the reader satisfied. Great Divide, for all its brevity, packed a punch and stuck with me. I'm looking forward to whatever Kiernan writes next!
Mindboggling cosmology. Rogue holograms. Unrequited love. Corporate Espionage. Lesbian vampires. Radical manifestos. Infinite Drift is equal parts sarcastic and foreboding, the ultimate techie genius rags-to-riches story of Dr. Eggers Mortensen, who, with one elegant equation, propels the world into a new era of cosmological understanding and himself to the highest echelon of global business and society’s glamorous one percent. Eggers begins the novel in the anonymous austerity of a backwoods cabin in northern Maine, singularly committed to his world-changing cosmological ideas—that is, if he can find the missing link. When his quirky and adventurous college flame, Tempora, bursts back into his life, prodigal physicist, Jasmine Geckle, in tow, Eggers’ theoretical project is launched into a practical and lucrative reality, but all groundbreaking new technologies have their drawbacks. While embracing his new status as tech genius and co-founder of X+ Corporation, Eggers must come face-to-face with the potential long-term consequences of his discoveries and those that actively oppose his efforts.
Before we make the synopsis official, we want to hear what our readers and writers think about the new synopsis. Spot anything funny? Anything you'd edit?
Editing and publishing is always a group effort!
If you are a person who spends any amount of time online (and since you’re here, I’m going to assume you are), you have probably at some point come across this image:
While it’s super fun to convince yourself that you understand the subject better than your teacher does, I’m here to bring you some bad news: the curtains are almost never just fucking blue.
The average reader does not care about why the curtains are blue. Similar to the average movie-goer, they are there to be entertained. They want to be immersed in a story for a while, and that’s all. The average moviegoer has no idea what goes into creating a film, and it doesn’t matter to them. The story affects them, and that’s all that’s important. However, if the moviegoer takes a class on film or bothers to study it at all, they will learn about things like mise-en-scene and the uses of different camera shots, angles, lighting, etc. They will learn how each of those things affects how the story reaches the viewer. They will learn that the things they feel while watching a movie aren’t simply reactions to the basic plot. Their emotional responses come from all those little things that we don’t even notice while we’re so involved with the story.
It’s the same with literature. If you are the average reader, there is no reason for you to concern yourself with why the curtains are blue. In fact, J.D. Salinger probably loves you. The dedication of his book, Raise High on the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction says, “If there is an amateur reader still left in the world—or anybody who just reads and runs—I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.” There is nothing wrong with being a person who “reads and runs,” but understand that your English teacher is not one of those people. Your English teacher has studied literature for years. She has made it her business to learn and understand all of the choices authors make and how those choices affect readers. She knows that every single word in a work is chosen carefully. Each sentence is intentionally crafted to evoke the desired response in the reader, which is why we bother to study things like symbolism, imagery, allusions, diction, syntax, alliteration, assonance, consonance, sibilance, etc. All of these things serve a purpose, whether you are conscious of them or not, and if the author has bothered to mention what color the curtains are, you had better believe that there is a reason. You are in a class in which it is your teacher’s job to teach you these things so listen to her and learn something.
The coffee is stale and cold. The desk is littered with marked up papers, red pens, half eaten food, and a not so structurally sound tower of books. After hours of writing, finally the first line has the possibility of perfection. Every writer has been in that same situation: struggling to tame an inspiring idea.
How does one make an abstract idea that is floating around in their mind into concrete words on paper (or unfortunately, in the modern age, type on screen)? The answer is, they have work at it.
Somewhere in time a fable was created: writing comes naturally to a writer. This assumption is a problem that undermines the creative process. This assumption adds to a writer’s self-doubt: if I am struggling this much, am I actually a writer?
How does one deal with self-doubt and struggles? Look for advice from the art form’s masters:
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
The best writers experienced the struggle. Humans are not horses; we are not born walking. It is through the progression of time that walking becomes so easy that it appears to be natural. Even after years and years of practice, writing well, like walking, is not innately natural. But a great writer can make it appear to be natural.
To learn one must first fail. To write one never stops learning. It’s harsh, but it’s the world. To write you must have the courage to fail, and the passion to keep perusing when you do.
Our job is literature and our passion is too. We want to hear from you and ask you to share your stories with us in the comments below. Do you start at the beginning or the climax? Do you first develop the characters or the setting? Do you outline or just write? Do you begin in the morning or at night? How do you get out of a writing rut?
Be courageous; dump that stale coffee sitting next to you. Brew a fresh pot coffee and begin the process again: read, write, edit.
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Whether you want to want to work on that neglected manuscript or finish one of the six books on your nightstand, prepare to indulge your senses with this quick and easy recipe for creating the perfect autumn afternoon to soothe your bookwormed soul.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Hours of comfortable productivity
1. Choose your location based on your own sense of comfort. Recliners or loveseats are great choices for an afternoon with a book. If you’re planning on doing some writing, settle into the breakfast bar or on the living room floor.
2. Bookworms in cooler climates should open a window and let the breeze gust through the room. If your hometown doesn’t have much in the way of seasons, try cranking up the AC or a floor fan.
3. Place blanket, socks, and book (or laptop) near your chosen location.*
4. Light the candle somewhere out of reach of the curtains and out of interest of the cat(s).
5. Choose a mug, but don’t be fooled. Not all mugs are alike. Avoid the fancy-handled animal mugs and the delicate teacups and remember that a mug’s personality is in its grippability.
6. Coffee has no rules. Prepare according to preference.
7. Curl up with your book, pet, coffee, and blanket. Breathe deeply. Watch the leaves flutter. Read (or write) for hours.**
* It’s extremely important to avoid placing these items exactly in your chosen spot of comfort as the cat(s) or dog will claim them.
** The cat(s) should investigate the moment they detect their human’s comfort. If not, grab cat(s) at first opportunity and attempt to convince them to purr. (Dogs require no convincing.)
How to Read Poetry Properly
Poetry is complicated. It’s often vague and flowery and most of it doesn't even rhyme. You would think you’d need a PhD in grammar to read some of the best poetry out there.
I remember the first poems I read were of the mass-produced sort in a Barnes and Noble edition of Emily Dickinson. I loved them. I’m sure it had something to do with the strange connection I felt with Dickinson. A bookworm like myself can easily relate to a recluse whose sole interests lay in family and literature.
I remember trying to write my own poetry. I was not very good at it. I wrote poems about the very serious unrequited crush I had in middle school. Then I would write one about a puppy in a window. I was all over the map. After that, I kind of lost interest in poetry until high school and college.
In college, I found slam poetry and a handful of poets with a cause. I also found open-mic nights. Now, even though fiction is still my first love, poetry is a close second and I am always searching for rising poets with unique voices and insights.
But I started out thinking poetry had to rhyme and it usually had to be about something extremely depressing like death and ravens. But poems can transport us, touch us and move us to action just as any other form of literature can. You just have to know what to look for.
Unsolicited Press published a collection of poems by Adela Najarro, entitled “Twice Told Over.” Najarro is an accomplished poet influenced by her Hispanic background and her family’s emigration from Nicaragua to San Francisco. “Twice Told Over” will be her first collection of poems.
To enjoy Najarro’s wonderful collection, here are some tips to get you to the next level of poetry analysis and subsequent enjoyment.
The swing to eBooks, online newspapers, and textbook PDFs is impossible to ignore. Across the country there has been a shift away from physical products that you can store on your shelf and towards texts that you can access from any mobile device. The ease of access and lowered price point is making eBooks not only convenient to the reader, but also a necessity for the modern author.
It is no surprise that eBook sales gained momentum after their introduction, but what may come as a shock is that eBook sales have been slowing since 2013 (Trachtenberg). In fact, in the first five months of 2015 eBook sales have been declining (Kozlowski). Instead paperback sales are seeing a boost. Could this be the end for eBooks?
Not likely. EBooks are convenient. Consumers can fit thousands of books into one device and access them anywhere. Authors too have taken to eBooks, signing contracts with big names like Amazon to get their name out or to continue a line of books that publishers are no longer interested in. EBooks have opened up a niche for authors to publish what they want to see in print with less oversight. So, there will be pressure from both authors and readers to continue eBooks.
The other side of the written word triad is the publisher, of course. And I think this is where we will begin to see the most change. Publishers have traditionally been the gatekeepers of quality, content and presentation. However, with more sources for authors to put out their product, publishers will have to race to keep up.
I expect a shift away from the big publishing houses, back to indie publishers that are willing to work with authors to see the book the author had in mind. These small publishers are already including eBooks as part of the deal. Authors want to write their content, not something diluted by what publishers think will sell, and indie publishers are giving them just that. Authors looking out for their fan bases can publish the next book in a series even if their original publisher isn’t sold on the idea. Smaller publishing houses will be the wave of the future, as authors find they no longer get caught up in the machine.
Publishing is one of the oldest industries in the world, but has staunchly refused to grow with each passing decade. The rise of eBooks was the first wave, but it was only a taste of what’s coming next. Authors have seen new outlets for publishing and they’re not willing to give them back. Gone are the days of the author waiting hungrily for their book to hit shelves. Publishing houses that can keep up with new ideas about where, when and what kind of content an author wants to produce will see dividends on the other side. These will be the houses that give us a new face to publishing, one that has been too long in coming.
Kozlowski, Michael. "E-Book Sales Plummet All Over the World in 2015." Good EReader EBook Audiobook and Digital Publishing News. Oakbranch Media Inc., 16 July 2015. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.
Trachtenberg, Jeffery. "E-Book Sales Fall After New Amazon Contracts." WSJ. Wall Street Journal, 03 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 Oct. 2015.
I struggle with a lot of things when it comes to writing. Finances, ideas, stamina. Should I quit my job at this coffee shop, or is it what motivates me to write? But I think one of the main things I struggle with is somewhat of an existential crisis, mainly, “What is the POINT?”
I recently started a job at a bookstore (which I love) and I quickly learned that everyone I work with is a writer, studying to be a writer, graduated undergrad with a degree in Creative Writing, etc. In these moments I struggle to be a writer because everyone's a writer and what's the difference, really? Is there a need for my writing? If everyone is a writer, is anyone REALLY a writer? I don't have a book deal, I've been published, but just in some smaller literary journals, overall my audience is very small. Who am I writing to? Am I shouting into a void only to have that void echo back that there are hundreds, if not thousands of others just like me?
In moments when my thoughts spiral downward this way I've realized that it's important to stop and reaffirm myself as an individual and a writer. I assume that others have this thought process at times—especially if you are a newer writer, definitely if you have yet to get published or have faced a particularly long stream of rejections. We all face doubts and sometimes it can be difficult to stop questioning yourself and the worth of your writing. So here are some of the things I tell myself when I start down that self-destructive road. I like to say them like a mantra, one right after another.
1. I am a writer.
2. No one else is me, and that's why my writing matters.
3. Everyone's voice is valid. The more writers there are the better.
4. Each person has a unique life and perspective and this is all we can offer each other, but it's important to share these life experiences in any way that you can.
5. If I stopped writing or stopped trying to share my writing I'd be considerably less happy.
6. If one person reads my stories and is moved, I have succeeded more than I ever thought possible.
It can be a battle to insist that your writing and persepectives on life are worth anyone else's time. Especially when it seems that there are enough people out there who share in your struggle to be a writer. But that's all it is—a shared struggle. It's not a reason to stop trying.
Just like art, which finds different mediums and different meanings for each person, generating ideas for a written piece can be varied. While some people consider contemporary art forms to be more of an eyesore than actual art, many people today would rather go to the local contemporary museum than an old building featuring pieces older than their great, great, great grandmother does.
In the same way, one way of generating an idea may produce little result for one person while the same method may have another writer overflowing with ideas. This just proves that we as humans are all created differently; different tools produce different results for each of us. With that being said, I want to explore one method that has continuously, and sometimes painfully worked for me: stream of conscious writing.
When taken literally, stream of conscious writing is just that: your conscious thoughts streaming out of your head and down onto the paper. When your third grade teacher told you that you had to write for seven minutes without picking up your pencil, you probably just wrote, “I don’t care, this is stupid, why do I have to do this? I’d rather be doing anything else than this, like going on a roller coaster, or eating pizza, or maybe even both at once. What if they let you eat pizza on a roller coaster? They would have to invent something so that all the toppings wouldn’t fly off when you went down the hill…” and boom, your teacher just forced you to write in stream of conscious and you have created the next step in the evolution of theme parks. Who knew third grade could be so valuable in later life?
As a kid, it seems fun to write out the stupidest things that you can, just to fulfill the continuous writing requirement of the exercise. As adults, trying to continually write is a far more difficult challenge. We seem to have developed an internal voice along the way that says “wow, why would you even say that?” or “what kind of stupid idea is that!?” and suddenly the pencil stops and you're stuck on how bad a writer you are. This voice needs to be turned off, and fast, if this method for generating ideas is going to have any type of success. The point of stream of conscious writing is to create a flow of words and ideas, even if they have to be forced at first and even if they seem silly.
You are not trying to write the next literary masterpiece on your scrap piece of paper, and don’t even expect yourself to, because that’s just setting yourself up for failure. This kind of writing offers you the most freedom, so use it to be creative rather than box yourself in with expectations. You could use only bullet points, doodle sketches, don’t even write in the lines, or even a combination of all three! This is the one space where there are no rules, and you are writing for you and only you.
There comes a time in this process when you have written and written and in a moment, it clicks. All of a sudden, it becomes impossible to put your pen down for fear of not writing down one of the brilliant thoughts that are now flowing endlessly. Our minds have become so used to beginning to work when we are holding something in our writing hand (thanks for that habit, grade school!) but in this case, the movement seems to act as a trigger for our mind. It is a beautiful thing when you go from zero to 100 thoughts a second!
For a frustratingly good example of stream of conscious writing, pick up a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: The Original Scroll. It is a grammar stickler’s nightmare, but Kerouac is never hindered by the conventions of chapter breaks or even paragraph indentations. These normal rules hinder the true flow of his mind, because humans don’t think in paragraphs and chapters. The whole book is just like reading a print out of his brain, and it’s extraordinary.
No one is saying that your piece has to completely ignore every single rule and convention of proper English style guides, but this method can give you clues as to how you think. Sometimes writing about whatever pops into your mind can lead to great ideas, and sometimes not, but you should never discount an idea right after it forms. Take time to write it out and then decide whether it is worth pursuing. This is a great way to form multiple ideas as well. I once began an idea generating session by writing out the words “I have no idea what to write about, but I know I want to write about something,” and after about 30 minutes, I had three full pages of an idea written out. I could track my process and then later go back and add details or edit my initial ideas, but it was all there on the page.
This form of writing can be frustrating or scary, because sometimes nothing comes, and then when it does, it sounds awful. My advice is to write about anything and everything you can think of: how your day has been, describe the room you are in, what is it about your best friend that you like so much? Also, don’t be discouraged if you seem to be at a loss, great works don’t happen overnight. If every writer were judged on their beginning ideas, the world would have a lot less books, so don’t be afraid to try out all of your crazy or seemingly boring ideas, and let those words flow!
I hope you will be surprised as to where your own unleashed thoughts can lead you!
As you may know, last week was Banned Books Week. An entire week at the end of September dedicated to raising awareness of censorship and promoting the freedom to read. My social media feeds lit up with articles and campaigns, listicles of the best banned books, Instagram photos proclaiming to the world that I, indeed, “Read Banned Books”, even #bandbooks, a twitter challenge from the literary journal, The Scofield, to come up with our most clever band/book title mash-ups, my favorite of which remains, “Fleetwood MacBeth”.
It’s all in good fun and for an important cause, one that, as a former librarian, I know is in need of reminding. According to the American Library Association—who with the help of other organizations such as the Association of American Publishers, the National Coalition Against Censorship, PEN America, and the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, started Banned Books week in 1987—there have been more than 11,300 books challenged for censorship. In 2014 alone, 311 challenges were made to the Office of Intellectual Freedom and those are just the ones that have been reported.
Censorship is still an issue that needs to be addressed, and yet now that Banned Books Week is over I’m feeling lost at how to do so. Ours is a world of hashtag maelstroms, media blitzes, and trending items. Activism has become the new fashion industry, full of fads and trends and fleeting moments of awareness. The new challenge is how to sustain ideas, to put in the daily work of fighting something as big as censorship. I am not berating Banned Books Week, itself. I think it’s a great tool, especially for libraries and bookstores to engage their customers in thinking about this issue. But I am wondering if Banned Books Week should be reminding us of something bigger than just the books that are banned, a larger responsibility that we, as readers and particularly as writers, must be ever careful to bear.
For me, I am reminded of my own favorite banned book: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Specifically, the pivotal moment on Boo Radley’s front porch. After all the action of the night has come to a close, Scout is tasked with walking Mr. Arthur, no longer the mysterious Boo Radley, back home. As she is leaving, she pauses for a second on the Radley’s front porch: “I turned to go home. Streetlights winked down the street all the way to town. I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle. There was Miss Maudie’s, Miss Stephanie’s—there was our house, I could see the porch swing…In daylight, I thought, you could see the post office corner.” Scout, then, gets lost in reverie, imagining the view from the Radley’s porch during daylight while the neighborhood is bustling.
That moment says it all. I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle. Perspective. That is the essence of empathy, the essence of writing, and the reason that books get challenged or censored at all—they dare to stand on the Radley front porch and show a different point of view in the glory of daylight. Later, Lee writes: “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” 
Just standing on the Radley porch; that is our responsibility as readers and writers. In remembering the history of censorship, the privilege of our freedom to read, we must also remember why books are censored, and the power in adding a different perspective to the world. The root of censorship, of banning a book, is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what is different from us.
And so when we talk about banned books and censorship we are really talking about diversity. To combat censorship we should be fighting for diversity, for reading outside our comfort zone, for writing to a diverse and global perspective. This is where the real work begins because it is hard.
There are so many right ways to embrace diversity in writing, but there also many wrong ways. The important thing is that we try, constantly, to embrace the power there is in writing and in reading, to step out on someone’s front porch and write new perspectives, give voices to those that are hidden and mysterious and othered behind their front doors.
 “About,” Banned Books Week, accessed October 6, 2015. http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/about
 Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (New York, NY: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1960), 293.
 Harper Lee, 294.