Tag Archives: Reading

My First Speaking Event: Cerebral Palsy and Bullying

30 Oct

Last Thursday, I had my first speaking event. I spoke to an elementary school book club in Asheville who had read Out of My Mind, in which the main character in the novel has Cerebral Palsy, the same disability I have. I was asked to come and speak about being bullied in school because of my Cerebral Palsy.

Below is the talk I read to the students and their parents of the book club (disclaimer: I have changed the names of people in order to protect confidentially):

When I was 7 years old, I played on a coach’s pitch baseball team, and there is one game I’ll never forget. I was up to bat, and my coach, Mr. Mark, stood on the mound smiling at me. He pitched the ball, and even though I hit the ball, it didn’t go far. It landed close to Mr. Mark’s feet. There was a player from the other team standing behind Mr. Mark, but Mr. Mark grabbed the ball and kept it away from the other player. At first, as I was running to first base, I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew that the first baseman hadn’t caught the ball yet, so I kept running. As I was almost near third base, the biggest grin spread across my face as I realized what Mr. Mark had done: he was giving me my very first home run. I remember running as fast as I could from third base to home plate, and as soon as my feet touched home plate, everyone in the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered for me. In that moment, I got to be a normal kid, and I got to feel the happiness that comes with completing a home run. If only for one night, I wasn’t a girl with Cerebral Palsy. I was a baseball player, a team member, and probably one of the happiest people in my hometown, if only for a moment.

Just like the character of Melody in Out of My Mind, I have Cerebral Palsy. Though I am not in a wheelchair or unable to talk like Melody, my Cerebral Palsy affects the way I walk because my muscles are really tight and because I don’t have very good balance. Because of being physically different, I was always an outcast in school. I had trouble making friends, and it was hard not having someone who knew what I struggled with on a daily basis. When I walk, it is very evident that I am different, and because of my visible differences, I was an easy target for bullying in school.

I had my first bullying experience when I was in kindergarten. At that age, I had to use canes to help me walk. Because of having to use canes, I wasn’t able to walk very quickly, and there was a girl named Ashley who enjoyed picking on me because she knew I wouldn’t be able to run away. Every day on the playground during recess, Ashley came up behind me and pulled my hair. It wasn’t a friendly pull either. She grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked as hard as she could, laughing as I screamed in pain. She pulled so hard that I couldn’t even try to get away from her. Every day, I came home crying, and every morning, I woke up dreading having to go to school and see Ashley on the playground. I felt like crying when I realized I was completely alone. No one was sticking up for me, and it made me really sad. One day, my teacher, Miss Sandy, came up to me and told me to hit Ashley with one of my canes to help her realize that what she was doing was hurting me. See, Ashley was mentally disabled, so she didn’t know any better, and hitting her was one of the only ways Miss Sandy knew to make her stop. I never did hit Ashley though. I couldn’t do it. Hitting her would make me just like her: someone who wanted to hurt someone else. I don’t think Miss Sandy really wanted me to hit Ashley though. She was just trying to teach me the importance of trying to stand up for myself. In many ways, it felt impossible. How was I supposed to stand up for myself when it felt like I didn’t have a friend who would stand up for me?

I’ve struggled with forming friendships my entire life. As a kid, I wanted friends more than anything. I think that is the reason I never told a teacher that kids were making fun of me. I became afraid that once I told a teacher, the people who picked on me would call me a “tattle-tale” and the other kids would distance themselves even more. Because I was so physically different from the other kids in my class, all I wanted was to feel like I fit in. In my early friendships, many of the people who became friends with me were my friends out of pity. Even though they didn’t specifically tell me that, I could tell it was true. I could tell by the way they looked at me that they felt sorry for me. When I was young, I kept those friendships anyway because all I wanted was a place where I felt like I belonged. Many of those friendships didn’t last long though because most of the people who had been spending time with me left when they got tired of pretending to be my friend.

It wasn’t until I became friends with a boy named Tommy in first grade that things began to change. Tommy was the first person to visibly stick up for me. He confronted the people who picked on me, telling them it wasn’t okay to pick on someone who couldn’t help that she was different. Tommy’s friends laughed at him for sticking up for me, but he didn’t care. He stuck up for me anyway and was there for me no matter what. Tommy also saw the numerous people who became friends with me because they felt sorry for me. He knew how much that hurt me. Even though Tommy wasn’t disabled, he saw how I cried day after day when another person I thought was my friend just got tired of trying. Tommy’s presence in my life didn’t stop other kids from picking on me, but I began to feel a little less alone. Even now, I don’t have many friends. However, the few friends I do have are incredibly close to me, and I am happy to say that one of those friends is still Tommy.

When I was in fifth grade, I took a required PE class. In my PE class, dodge ball was typically the game of choice. Every week in PE, I was chosen last for dodge ball. I even remember one particular day when one of my friends, Allie, was the team caption. This made me excited because I thought: Yes, finally! I won’t be picked last because Allie will choose me since we are friends. The team picking began, and I waited with excitement for Allie to say my name. I looked towards her with a smile on my face, and my smile faded as I realized she was picking everyone else but me. Finally, it came down to Miranda, a girl who had just broken her leg, and me. It was Allie’s turn to pick, and I started to inch towards her. And then you know what happened? She chose Miranda over me! Miranda, the girl no one liked because she was so mean, and the girl who couldn’t even move as well as me because she had broken her leg. I couldn’t believe it!

As I got older, I thought the bullying would stop, but it didn’t. The summer after my sophomore year in high school, I attended a creative arts camp. One day I was walking back from a creative writing class, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl named Lauren imitating the way I was walking. I turned to her and said, “Hey, what are you doing?” “Imitating the way you’re walking,” Lauren said. When I asked her why, she explained that she was supposed to observe people as an assignment for her theatre class. Even though I told her she hurt my feelings, Lauren didn’t listen. As I walked away, I watched as she laughed and continued to imitate me. I ran back to my room and cried, so sad and frustrated that I was still getting picked on. Even at an older age, getting picked on hurt just as much, if not more. Lauren knew what she had been doing. She saw how I cried in front of her, and yet she still continued to imitate me and laugh at me. I couldn’t understand why she would be so mean on purpose. I ended up telling a staff member about what happened, and she contacted the teacher to find out that it was never a class assignment. The next day, though, something good happened. Lauren did the one thing I never thought she would ever do: she said she was sorry.

Being bullied, either physically or emotionally, is hurtful for anyone, but it’s especially hurtful if someone bullies you for something you have no control over, like a physical disability. My bullying experiences have affected me my entire life. I remember the details of every bullying experience I’ve ever had. I remember how alone and broken they made me feel, and how it seemed like the bullying would never stop. Typically, kids in school try to be different because they don’t want to blend in with the crowd. For them, it’s important to stand out. In my case, I have always been incredibly different, and all I have ever wanted was to be normal. My differences have never stopped me from trying to be as independent and normal as possible though.  I have Cerebral Palsy, and I am a survivor.

Speaking at this event was an incredible experience. I was nervous to speak about my bullying experiences since they were a part of my life I had never verbally discussed before. However, it was such a relief to finally talk about being bullied, and it gave me a sense of closure. It was also wonderful to hear from the kids in the book club and answer their questions. One girl in particular asked what my best grade in school was and what was my worst. It truly made me smile because I realized how wonderful it is to hear questions from kids. They make connections many of us as adults seem to have lost as we have gotten older, or maybe kids are just never nearly as shy to ask whatever seems to pop into their head. Either way, it was a great evening. I have even been asked to come back to that same elementary school to speak to the fifth graders, and my contact information has been passed on to two other elementary and middle schools in Asheville. I suppose it’s time to make myself some “business” cards!

Image

Try like hell.

27 Sep

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been born with Cerebral Palsy. I wonder if I would have decided to be a dancer or maybe an athlete rather than an aspiring psychotherapist and a writer. I wonder if I would have spent my childhood climbing up into trees to read books rather than becoming all too familiar with hospitals, surgeries, and physical therapy. I wonder if I would have had a big group of friends throughout middle school and part of high school rather than coming home every day crying because I had no friends due to my differences. I wonder if I would have spent my time hiking beautiful mountains rather than having to wonder if I’d have the stamina to make it up the next hill.

Earlier this week, my dad said, “Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if you hadn’t been born with Cerebral Palsy. You could have had a wonderful life. You wouldn’t have had to struggle so much.” Though in the moment I wanted to interject and say I have had a wonderful life, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say the words. As soon as I wanted to say something, the memories all came back. I saw myself sitting in a hospital bed screaming out in pain because of the spasms that wouldn’t stop. I saw myself in kindergarten getting my hair pulled every day because I was the one child on the playground who was unable to run away. I saw myself shaking as my classmates pelted me with doge balls during middle school gym class because I couldn’t move away quickly enough. I saw myself crying as a girl I didn’t know imitated the way I was walking and then said she did it because it was a “class assignment.” I see myself at 21, struggling with depression and still not being able to truly accept and be comfortable with having a physical disability.

You would think after 21 years I would be used to the cards I’ve been dealt in this life. The truth is, I’m not. Every day of my life is a challenge. On top of having to convince myself to go to class when my back and my muscles hurt, I have to try to convince myself to get out of bed and face the day even though I’d rather sleep to escape the overwhelming sadness and hopelessness that hovers over me like a dark cloud.

I’m trying to learn to hold on to the good moments, though they are few and far between. The color of the changing leaves during autumn, the few (but true) friends who have been by my side through all of this darkness, a dad who has never given up on me, a smile from a child fighting cancer after completing an art project I taught her. In the darkness of depression, it is very hard to remember those good moments, especially when the bad days outnumber the good. However, I’m trying. It’s all any of us can really do. We try like hell, and hope against all odds that we can kick this life just as hard, if not harder, as it kicks us every single day.

Why Jodi Picoult Deserves Praise From The Special Needs Community.

9 Feb

One of my favorite authors is Jodi Picoult. I’ve read all of her novels, and I saw her speak in March of 2010 regarding the release of House Rules (and it was by far one of the best nights of my life so far). However, I love Jodi Picoult for more reasons than she’s a great author (I quote her books more than any other author), every one of her books has taught me something, and the fact that she addresses touchy subjects. I also love her because she responds to emails from her fans. She’s said in numerous interviews that she’s the one responding, rather than one of her assistants.

In Jodi’s 2009 novel, Handle With Care, the main character, Willow O’Keefe, has OI, or osteogenesis imperfecta (a genetic disorder characterized by brittle bones that break easily). Even though Jodi discussed a disability that is very different from Cerebral Palsy, I still felt like I was able to relate to much of what Jodi discussed in Handle With Care about what it means to be different and what it’s like to feel so much physical pain on a daily basis. It was a special moment when I realized that my all-time favorite author was writing about certain feelings that I have experienced on a daily basis: the desire to find a place I belong in a society that’s not fully accepting to those who are “different.”

In March of 2009, I wrote the following email to Jodi:

Dear Jodi,

I just recently read the synopsis of your new book, Handle With Care,
and I am very excited to begin it! However, as I was reading your
conversation about Handle with Care that is featured our your website,
something caught my eye. Even though I don’t have OI, I have another
disability, Cerebral Palsy, which has affected my life since I was
young. Personally, I just want to let you know how deeply you touch my
heart with each of your books. You do a wonderful job of portraying
how it truly is for those of us who are different. I can sympathize with the kids you
interviewed that have OI. Even though it may be extremely
rough for them, they are just like any normal kid, and nothing warms
their heart more than when they are actually treated like one.
I am extremely thankful if you actually took the time to read this.
You and your books have made a significant impact on my life. I hope
to one day meet you and let you know face to face how much you have
truly helped me.
Thanks again,
-Amelia

This was her response:

Amelia, kids like you are MY heroes.  I hope you like the book and hope it rings true!
Jodi Picoult

So far, Jodi has discussed disabilities such as OI and Asperger’s (House Rules), and I applaud her for interviewing kids who are faced with the disabilities she has covered because those of us who have lived through the experiences our disability presents are the only people who know what it’s really like. Therefore, Jodi Picoult deserves a crazy about of praise and support from the special needs community for giving a voice to the issues that may have not had much prior awareness or increasing the level of awareness to a more diverse population. Though I still silently hope that one day Jodi will write a novel that has a character with Cerebral Palsy in it, I already have gained so much from the fact that she has written about many of the emotions I feel on a daily basis in regards to my disability.

I’m back!

7 Jan

No, the break wasn’t long. However, yes, it was needed. Though I’m still in the stage of adjusting some things about my current life that had previously been on the back burner, I realized that I didn’t want this blog to be kicked to the back of my mind like so many other things. This blog has helped me too much to be at any place other than the forefront of my thoughts (right alongside academics, friends, and family).

One of my goals (not resolutions, but goals, or something I expect to stick around and even grow) for this year is to complete a rough draft of my memoir by the end of 2013. That being said, I am planning to spend as much time as I can to writing my memoir, which means my blog posts will no longer appear daily. I’m thinking of going bi-weekly or even weekly so that I actually might have something to say rather than feeling like I’m constantly rambling on about nothing. Though in the past I have shared certain memories related to my Cerebral Palsy on this blog (and have worked them into my memoir), I primarily began doing that because I was in need of support and feedback. Thanks to all of my lovely followers who have provided just that. However, now that I am beginning to not exactly need the encouraging feedback quite as often, I think it would be best to restrict my written memories to the Word document of my memoir. It seems safer that way. Plus, then my number of pages of my memoir might actually increase (hey, imagine that!). However, that doesn’t mean I won’t still be talking about my writing or what I’m facing on a daily basis in regards to my CP. I’ll still be sharing those snippets, and on those hard days when life just seems to knock me to the ground, every ounce of encouragement from all of you will be just what I need.

As the New Year came and went, I realized how often I was telling so many people: “I’m writing my memoir!” without actually doing much about it. Though I am not necessarily planning to give myself a deadline (good writing comes in time), I do want to move forward with my memoir. I’ve been in a pretty huge rut for quite a while, and even though I have never been a fan of outlines (normally, I’d prefer to just write, write, write and not care where it was doing), I think using an outline could provide me with a greater sense of direction in regards to my memoir, which is exactly what I need at this point. I don’t know how much it will help, but I’ll just have to see I guess.

Along with writing comes reading, and I have written numerous book reviews on this blog in the past. Today I signed up for GoodReads (and have decided to enter a Book Reading Challenge). My goal is to read 100 books in one year. Though that seems like a bit much right now, I know how much I read. And if I don’t complete the challenge, oh well. I just know that I will need a way to balance out all the writing I’m planning to do (plus college classes and friendships). Also, I think all the reading will be a nice break from focusing so heavily on my own life through writing my memoir. I think it was Stephen King who said: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It will be one heck of a year filled with tons of writing, tons of reading, academics, and as much fun as I can squeeze in! Thank you to all of you who have continued with me on this journey, despite the fact that this blog has changed its focus so many times. I appreciate each and every one of you so much!

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Dedicated to my three favorite fellow bloggers.

25 Dec

After yesterday’s post on all that has happened over the past year regarding beginning my memoir and dealing with the emotional side of digging up all the memories from my past, I know that I have the support from my fellow bloggers to thank. Though I do want each and every one of you to realize how much I appreciate all the support you have given me since I entered the world of WordPress in November of 2011, there are three specific people I’d like to thank.

  1. Arianna of Arianna’s Random Thoughts: Arianna’s blog consists of posts she shares to empower people and help them be the best they can be. In the beginning, I received huge doses of inspiration from her posts, but it wasn’t until I truly started getting to know Arianna herself that I began to truly learn from her. I think the most wonderful thing about the friendship we have formed through blogging is how we have ended up helping each other. Since the very beginning of my blog, Arianna has been a huge supporter of my decision to share my story, and there have been many nights spent talking over Facebook chat about life, the difficulties we face, and what it means to overcome it all. Though Arianna has told me I have helped her to become more vulnerable in her writing, she has helped me in the same way. It means so much to know there is someone who not only supports and reads my writing, but someone who is willing to sit up with me at night (though she lives on the other side of the country) just because I may be having a bad night or may need someone to bounce writing ideas off of. So thank you, Arianna, for being no one but yourself and for helping me find the strength I have had all along. Your friendship means so much to me.
  2. Cassie of Books & Bowel Movements: Cassie’s blog is centered around a topic we both love more than life itself: books. When I first came across Cassie’s blog, I’m pretty sure I laughed for a solid minute and a half as I stared at the title of her blog (Books & Bowel Movements). Now, though sometimes I still giggle when I come across the title of her blog, it’s become normal. Though it still is funny, it’s also just….Cassie. I have loved having the opportunity to connect with Cassie. Often times, I feel like her love of books and my love of books holds a similar weight, and it’s so much fun to come across people who love the concept of reading, books, bookstores, words…and everything bookish…as much as I do. In Cassie’s most recent post, in which she discussed the amazing feat of reading 120 books this year, this is how she describes readers (and this is yet another reason why I love Cassie. Her way with words is truly amazing): “Like oak trees that carry equators of history in one chopped stump, we carry words.  We are the people that will carry history all the way to our grave stones.  When we’re asked by grand children, small children, dwarves in the woods, about our world we’ll be able to tell them with eloquence and grace whether we start with “Once Upon a Time” or “It was a dark and stormy night.”  We carry the voices of generations in our wombs and for longer than nine months, for life times.  We’re women made of hair, water, and syllables.  They kink in our hair, leave freckles on our cheeks, sunburns, hang nails, wrinkles at the bed of our palms.  We’re not made of water, fire, earth, or wind, but stories, paragraphs, sentences, ink.  The next time you wonder why you picked up that book instead of turned on that television, remember the gift that you’re bearing because not a lot of people are given this gift.  We’re the minor few.” Cassie, your words are completely and totally beautiful, and they never cease to amaze me. I truly can’t wait for our book reading party in the future! Thank you for the amazing friendship you have given me. I truly appreciate your support and friendship more than you know.
  3. Mackenzie of whatever, gatsby: When I first came across Mackenzie’s blog where she described herself as a “twenty-one year old floridian prancing about the northeast in knee socks,” I knew we’d be friends. From Mackenzie’s posts where she shares her favorite bits of poetry by Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Emily Dickinson to her frequent playlists of her current music and her many adventures around the city of Boston, I have begun to realize the critical importance of embracing all that I am, no matter how weird or awkward that true self may be. I owe it to Mackenzie for helping me realize what it means to truly be myself. I don’t know if anyone has ever said the statement, “Weird is beautiful,” but it’s so true and so fitting for life in general these days. I have no doubt that Mackenzie would agree. I also love reading of her many Boston adventures, and since Mackenzie loves to travel as much as (and probably more than) me, I’ve begun to understand that if I want to go somewhere, I should just go while I’ve got the chance. Life is just too short to allow those kinds of opportunities to pass you by. I came across this quote by Anais Nin that seems to sum things up (and Mackenzie, I thought you’d appreciate it): “I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”

In conclusion, I appreciate the three of you so, so much. You have each become wonderful friends to me, and I am so grateful for the laughs, the support, and the love. From your love of books and the printed word in general, I have found the bookish friends I have been searching for all of my life. Little did I know that you each resided in this supporting, loving, and beautiful community of WordPress. Thank you for giving me the sense of belonging I have searched for throughout my entire life. I love each one of you so much, and I am so incredibly happy to call you my friends. 🙂

A yearly dose of The Bell Jar.

22 Dec

For the past 4 years, ever since I was 16, I have read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar around this time of year. Though I never planned to re-read it every year around the holidays, that’s just how it turned out. In all honesty, The Bell Jar is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is also one of the most accurate portrayals of madness, or descending into madness, from a literature standpoint that I have discovered as well. I guess you could say I love it because of its psychological aspects. However, despite how depressing the novel is, there is a reason Sylvia Plath is viewed as an acclaimed poet and writer. Her words, when put together, form sentences that allow you to feel something. Granted, the feelings her words bring to light aren’t necessarily happy ones, but in all honesty, Sylvia Plath wrote about life, her life. She didn’t sugarcoat it. She didn’t pretend she was happy when she wasn’t. She threw her readers right into the darkness and the loneliness of her life and her mind, and in a strange way, it’s beautiful.

Here are some quotes from The Bell Jar I thought I’d share:

  1. “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
  2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
  3. “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
  4. “At this rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day. Then I knew what the problem was. I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”
  5. “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
  6. “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
  7. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  8. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant loosing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
  9. “Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.”
  10. “I had hoped, at my departure, I would feel sure and knowledgeable about everything that lay ahead — after all, I had been “analyzed.” Instead, all I could see were question marks.”
  11. “The sun, emerged from its gray shrouds of cloud, shone with a summer brilliance on the untouched slopes. Pausing in my work to overlook that pristine expanse, I felt the same profound thrill it gives me to see the trees and grassland waist-high under flood water—as if the usual order of the world had shifted slightly, and entered a new phase.”

Is there a specific book you make a point to read every year?

Writers and their bookshops.

20 Dec

As my Christmas break continues, so does my “month-long reading hibernation.” Therefore, when I came across My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice, I couldn’t stop smiling. Although I have not had the chance to read the book yet, a novel focused on writers discussing their favorite bookshops seems like such a wonderful read, and I can’t wait to read it sometime during my break from academics. I enjoy discussing my own favorite bookshops, and I think it’s such an amazing idea to give readers a glimpse into the bookish world of their favorite authors. Here is the synopsis of My Bookstore (according to GoodReads.com):

In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 84 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes. In “My Bookstore” our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given them over the years. The relationship between a writer and his or her local store and staff can last for years or even decades. Often it’s the author’s local store that supported him during the early days of his career, that continues to introduce and hand-sell her work to new readers, and that serves as the anchor for the community in which he lives and works.”My Bookstore “collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 84 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It’s a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops.Perfectly charming line drawings by Leif Parsons illustrate each storefront and other distinguishing features of the shops.

Contributing authors and bookstores include:
Fannie Flagg–Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
Rick Bragg–Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL
John Grisham–That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR
Ron Carlson–Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
Ann Packer–Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola, CA
Isabel Allende–Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Mahbod Seraji–Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA
Lisa See–Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Meg Waite Clayton–Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown–The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
Dave Eggers–Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Pico Iyer–Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA
Laurie R. King–Bookshop, Santa Cruz, CA
Scott Lasser–Explore Booksellers, Aspen, CO
Stephen White–Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Kate Niles–Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO
Ann Haywood Leal–Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Florence and Wendell Minor–The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT
Rick Atkinson–Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
Les Standiford–Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
Robert Macomber–The Muse Book Shop, Deland, FL
David Fulmer–Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA
Abraham Verghese–Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Charlie Brandt–Chapter One Bookstore, Ketchum, ID
Luis Alberto Urrea–Anderson’s Bookshops, Naperville, IL
Mike Leonard–The Book Stall Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL
Albert Goldbarth–Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
Wendell Berry–Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY
Tom Piazza–Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
Edith Pearlman–Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Mameve Medwed–Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.–Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
Simon Winchester–The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA
Nancy Thayer–Mitchell’s Book Corner, Nantucket, MA
Elin Hilderbrand–Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA
Jeanne Birdsall–Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA
Martha Ackmann–Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Ward Just–Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA
Ron Currie, Jr.–Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
ancy Shaw–Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Katrina Kittle–Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
Ann Patchett–Mclean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
Louise Erdrich–Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN
Peter Geye–Micawber’s Books, St. Paul, MN
Kathleen Finneran–Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
Barry Moser–Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
Jack Pendarvis–Square Books, Oxford, MS
Jill McCorkle–Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
Carrie Ryan–Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC
Laurent Dubois–The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
Lee Smith–Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC
Angela Davis-Gardner–Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, NC
Ron Rash–City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC
Ian Frazier–Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
Audrey Vernick–Booktowne, Manasquan, NJ
Joan Wickersham–The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH
Carmela Ciuraru–Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Matt Weiland–Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Kate Christensen–WORD, Brooklyn, NY
Mick Cochrane–Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY
Caroline Leavitt–McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY
Arthur Nersesian–St. Mark’s Bookshop, New York, NY
Francine Prose & Pete Hamill–Strand Bookstore, New York, NY
Jeff Smith–Book Loft German Village, Columbus, OH
Chuck Palahniuk–Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
Larry Kane–Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA
Ann Hood–Island Books, Middletown, RI
Mindy Friddle–Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Adam Ross–Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Douglas Brinkley–Book People, Austin, TX
Terry Tempest Williams–The King’s English Book Shop, Salt Lake City, UT
Howard Frank Mosher–Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
Jon Clinch–Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, VT
Jonathan Evison–Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA
Tom Robbins–Village Books, Bellingham, WA
Timothy Egan–Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Stephanie Kallos–Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA
Ivan Doig–University Book Store, Seattle, WA
Lesley Kagen–Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
Liam Callanan–Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Though I haven’t read the book yet, I love that the GoodReads synopsis provides readers with the list of contributing authors and bookstores. Since I normally enjoy doing any and everything related to books, I am now determined to keep a Word document of these bookstores on my computer and try to go to as many of them as possible. Since I love traveling so much, I think it would be such a fun adventure to go to the bookshops that seem to be the most interesting (after reading the book, of course). After scanning the list, I can definitely say I haven’t been to any of these bookstores (though I did order Jodi Picoult’s House Rules from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC before attending one of Jodi’s book signings in March of 2010). Though none of the bookshops sound familiar, I am looking forward to reading about the following writers’ favorite bookshops: Lisa See (author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love), Ann Lamott (author of Bird by Bird), Elin Hilderbrand (author of The Love Season), Ann Patchett (author of Truth & Beauty), and Lesley Kagen (author of Whistling in the Dark).

In my opinion, a novel discussing bookshops that writers love is such a wonderful idea for a book. For writers, as well as all book lovers, bookshops are such a wonderful place to get lost in books and allow ourselves to be completely immersed in a world we love so much. I definitely can’t wait to read this novel! I’ll certainly be reviewing it once I have the chance to read it.

The end of the world from a fiction perspective.

19 Dec

I just finished reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and the basic focus of the novel, the concept of climate change, connects well with the possible end of the world on Friday, according to the Mayans. Here is the synopsis of the novel, according to GoodReads.com:

“Flight Behavior” transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel’s inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

“Flight Behavior” takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

Though Flight Behavior wasn’t one of my favorites by Kingsolver and I often felt like I was trudging through most of the novel, it did provide a fictional account of climate change as well as the possible end of the world. Personally, I do not believe the world is going to end on Friday. I know there are many people who either strongly believe the world will end on Friday, strongly don’t or are simply torn on the subject. In my personal opinion, I just don’t feel there is enough concrete evidence to support the end of the world. Yes, people have tried making connections by stretching the importance of certain events, but in my opinion, all of the sporadic events possibly connected to the prospect of the world ending on Friday just don’t add up to a solid reason.

Despite not believing the world is going to end on Friday, Flight Behavior got me thinking about what I would do if I knew the world was going to end within a matter of days, or even hours. My two necessities would be to tell my friends and family how much I love them, and then I’d spend my last few hours of existence sitting at a scenic overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though I doubt too many people would be able to fully understand the desire to be alone right before the end of existence, I love the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway in a way that’s truly hard to describe. I just know that when I am sitting at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I am the happiest I have ever been. The mountains have always been my favorite kind of landscape, and when I have the chance to simply sit and enjoy their beauty, nothing can beat that feeling of true contentment that I feel. In those moments, it’s as if all the troubles of the world melt away, and the only thing that matters is the natural beauty that is right in front of me. In my restorative yoga class, we talk a lot about striving to reach inner peace, which is also related to the Buddhist philosophy. Through meditation exercises in my restorative yoga class, I’ve gotten glimpses of that “inner peace.” And truthfully, if the world was going to end within a matter of days, I’d be perched at an overlook along the Parkway allowing the natural beauty of the mountains to help me find the pure happiness that I know resides somewhere within each one of us.

Books, books, books galore!

17 Dec

Currently, I am visiting a friend in Virginia, and for Christmas she gave me a gift card to an amazing used bookstore in Lynchburg called Bookshop on the Avenue. Since this wasn’t my first time in this particular used bookstore, I knew my way around a bit and was able to navigate from the classics section upstairs to the abundant general fiction section downstairs that held my heart and soul.

I love everything about used bookstores. The smells, the way the books are even in piles on the floor because of the lack of shelf space, and the way it’s possible to find some really great treasures if you’re willing to take the time to dig a little bit. However, this particular used bookstore adventure was even more amazing because rather than spending my own money on books, I had a gift card. Yes, I was going to get books, and they would be free.

Here are the treasures I found:
1. Run by Ann Patchett– I have read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, and I loved it. Since Truth & Beauty is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a while, I’m excited to enjoy another great read by the same author. When I found this signed first edition of a book I haven’t read by Ann Patchett for only $5.95, I definitely couldn’t pass it up!
2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See– I’ve read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as well as Peony in Love by Lisa See, and they have both been absolutely amazing, so I knew that I couldn’t pass up another great read. I can’t wait to read it.
3. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers– I was excited to find this treasure since I have been wanting to read it for quite a while. A friend of mine read it a few months back and said she thought I’d like it, so I can’t wait to see if she’s right.

At this point, it seems as though I have more books in my To Be Read pile than I know what to do with. However, since classes of the spring semester don’t start back until January 14th, I figure I have plenty of time to at least make a good dent into my constantly-growing pile.

Wanting to find my niche of writer friends.

12 Dec

Since starting this blog in November of last year and realizing my own need to share my story of living with CP, I think it’s accurate to say there have definitely been days with no words. Days when I would sit at my computer for hours before a memory would find its way into my mind or I’d realize I wanted to share a certain lesson I had learned. However, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days where we get stuck. Though I’m most familiar with it in terms of how it relates to being a writer, I know the concept of being stuck affects people in different ways.

In my experience, I have gotten over many of my ruts by reading. I imagine it has something to do with having the chance to get out of your own head for a little while to enter the world of someone else’s creativity and writing style. Though it doesn’t always act as an immediate jolt, placing myself into the worlds of other writers allows me to gain perspective as well as achieve a better understanding of the message I want to get across through my own writing.

Last month, when I read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, I spent time imagining how things would’ve been different for me now if I had made the decision to major in English instead of Psychology. Though I love Psychology, I have always had a love of words, literature, and the power of writing. However, I think I ended up choosing Psychology because I knew it would hold many more opportunities for me in terms of a future career than English would. Though I am very happy with my decision to study Psychology, I do miss the English courses I took my freshman year of college. In those classes, I flourished. I poured over the short stories we discussed in class, but since my freshman year was a time in which I took a break from my writing, I wasn’t keen on writing my own stories. Though I knew I had the ability, I was fully content to live inside the worlds of the authors I only hoped to one day emulate.

In Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth & Beauty, writer friends Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, to study English. The entire time I was reading of Ann and Lucy’s adventures as English majors in northern Manhattan, I imagined myself in a similar place (not in terms of living in New York, but studying English and being surrounded by others who also had a love for writing). I pictured myself finding my writer friends, forming writer groups and spending hours discussing our own writing projects as well as the works of the authors we hoped to be like. I pictured myself spending hours in bookstores pouring over Flannery O’Connor, only to one day find someone sitting near me pouring over an entirely different book, while finding comfort in the silent conversation we shared. Despite the fact I now live in the artsy city of Asheville, I have not found the writing niche I long for. In some part of my mind, I wonder if I would have found my writer friends easier if I had chosen to be an English major instead, especially since it seems to be an unspoken fact that English majors love to write, read and talk about books. Though I hope to eventually find a group of writer friends my age who are able to fully understand my love of literature and writing, sometimes I just wish I had put myself in a better position to find just that.

Though I know I have a lot of time to “find my niche,” I think each of us longs to be around a group of people who understands us and encourages us to fully embrace the things we love. Though I do have friends my age who fit that mold, none of them are writers. I do remember coming across a Literature Club on my college campus, and that may be a place to start. However, I also know that I’m interested in connecting with others who not only love to read, but have the burning desire to write on a daily basis (and end up doing so, for the most part). So yes, I feel like I would benefit from a niche of writer friends. Maybe all it takes is being willing to go out into the community in search of a writers group. Though stereotypically most writers categorize themselves as introverts and would much rather spend a day inside reading than out socializing with friends (and I definitely categorize myself this way), I think the only way I’m going to find my fellow writers to talk with about books, writing and the deeper complexities of life is just by going out and looking for it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But who has ever said that something worth finding ever is?