Author Angela Moody: You’re never too old

BetterLateThanNeverWritten.memeWhen I meet another mature author like myself with a debut YA novel, I want to break out the tiara and present her with a bouquet of roses. Or whatever a male author would like, I want to do that.

Today I interview Angela Moody, author of No Safe Haven. I remember when her manuscript was up for critique on the main Scribes loop of ACFW a few years ago, and I am tickled that she remembered me. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

nosafehaven-moody-ebook

Angela, welcome to The Scriblerians blog!

Thank you, Cynthia. It’s a pleasure to be here.

We don’t often interview authors of historical YA fiction. When and how did you decide to write it? 

I’ve always loved historical fiction. Even as a young reader if it had to do with history, I was reading it. There are always those who say that writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc., were not historical writers because they wrote in their contemporary time, but they were historical to me, and I loved all of those writers. As I got older, I read John Jakes, Anya Seton and countless other historical writers, including historical romance writers.

Did you always want to write about the Civil War? 

This may sound geeky, but yes. I remember in eighth grade writing a story for our social studies class and setting it in the Civil War period. The assignment was that we had two pieces of historical items that we had to research and find out what they were, and then write something about them. Everyone else did you standard essay, but I wrote a story. I remember my two items were a butter mold and a spittoon (which I originally thought was a chamber pot!) My story was about a young woman whose husband was off fighting for the Union Army and how much she missed him. She would often clean the spittoon that his father had given him as a wedding gift. Something like that. I do remember getting a good grade for the assignment because my teacher loved the story and its strong emotional content.

As I got older, I wanted to write a story about the Civil War set in the North, specifically Vermont, because I’m a Vermonter and all the stories I read seemed to center on the war as it affected the South. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), only one incident of the war reached Vermont, and that was the great St. Albans Raid. No battle was fought here though, so I never could think of a story compelling enough to set here in my native State.

How did you come to write a story based on a real girl in her teens during the Civil War? 

My daughter went to Gettysburg College for her undergrad years. After her first year was over, my husband and I decided to travel to Gettysburg a week early, while she was taking her exams. We would be tourists for a week and then bring her home. As we were coming back from the battlefield one afternoon, I happened to see a museum that had a line waiting at the door. On impulse, we decided to stop and actually found a parking spot right in front of the building! If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you’ll know that’s next to impossible. We got in the back of the line, thinking we could just wander through, but the man at the head of the line told us it was a paid tour and if we wanted to pay at the end, we were welcome to join the tour. We agreed and went through the Shriver House Museum. The Shriver House is located two doors down from Tillie’s home. The owners restored it back to its 1863 appearance to tell the story of the plight of the townsfolk. That was a revelation for me. Throughout the tour, I bombarded the man with questions, which he patiently answered. My brain was whirling with ideas about how to turn this into a story, and my husband leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “I smell a novel.” At the end of the tour, as I was paying him, he led me to a bookshelf and started pulling books off the shelf, saying I might be interested in reading them. As an afterthought, he tossed one more book on the pile, a slim little thing that turned out to be Tillie Pierce’s memoir of her experiences. When I read the book, she just jumped off the pages at me and I knew I had to write it.

How did you write the story to appeal to both northerners and southerners even though the girl and her family were Yankees? 

Research, research, research. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Civil War, mostly first person experiences. They aren’t hard to find. A great many soldiers kept diaries, as did a number of civilians. They seemed to have a sense that they were living a period of important historical impact and wanted to record everything they could. What stood out to me the most was that they were all just people who had the same dreams and desires we do. They wanted to go home, back to their wives and children, to live their lives as best they could, but knew they needed to do this terrible work first.

Interestingly, I found myself very disappointed with the abolitionists. We all think they wanted to end slavery and elevate the blacks from their social position. I do believe that we northerners have elevated the abolitionist almost to sainthood, so I was disappointed to realize that while they wanted abolition, they never thought past the end of slavery and what that meant, for the former slaves, or themselves. Really, in their minds, they felt that blacks should still be servants, but they should be paid servants. Even William Lloyd Garrison wanted to free them and send them back to Africa. As far as race relations goes, I wondered how much progress we’ve made, which helped bring those people down to the human level for me.

How did you feel about writing your first novel at a mature age?

I feel great about it. I don’t regret the time spent not writing. During that time, I married and raised a family. I did what was on my plate to do. I did write a novel back in the early 1990s that, Lord willing, will never see the light of day! That novel, however, taught me that I could write one. But, I’m a firm believer in the Lord working things out in His own timing to glorify Himself, not us. He needed me to go through things and to come to faith before He would open the door to writing my first published novel. I’m just humbled and honored He found me worthy.

What advice can you give authors who did not start writing straight out of school but may have been homemakers or had a completely different career for decades? 

I would say if you want to write, if it’s your passion, then do it. Don’t let your age stop you. You’re never too old until you’re dead, as my father likes to say. I have always wanted to write, even as a kid. I knew that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I can follow my passion. If that’s where you are, then I say, “Go for it.”

angela-photo

Angela Moody lives in Vermont with her husband, Jim, her daughter, Alison and their two cats. Their son, Stephen and his wife, Amanda live nearby.

Angela has been writing short stories and novels from an early age, always in the historic fiction genre where she feels she shines.

One of her passions is crochet. From the time she learned the craft, she was “hooked”. She loves reading, writing stories and spending time with her family. One of the items on her bucket list is to visit every civil war battlefield site at the time of year each battle took place.

No Safe Haven is her first Christian novel and she has plans for two other historical fiction novels as part of a three book set entitled “Young American Heroines.”

Angela is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can find her at:

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAngelaMoody

Twitter: @AngelaMoody

Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/AngelaMoody

Blog: http://Grnmtnwrtr@wordpress.com

Vintage Reads: Summer Queens and Frontier Scenes

Vintage reads

If you’ve been a reader of our blog for long, you’ve probably noticed that each Scriblerian maintains his or her own personality, not only in how they write, but their choice of topic. Maybe you’ve wondered what the unifying factor is. What can you expect to find on this site? Our slogan off to the right says it all: “Writing for Non-Adults of All Ages.” We love YA and children’s literature. We love to write it, love to read it. We’re kids at heart, and we know there are plenty of readers out there who feel the same way.

You’ve heard from Gretchen who will cover healthy lifestyle in body, mind, and soul. If you’ve ever met her, she HAS to run off that energy! She can talk at warp speed and some days literally bounces with youthful enthusiasm.

I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest in this group. I don’t think any other Scriblerians have children closer to forty than thirty! My columns have always been written for the purpose of introducing a younger generation to the wonderful stories from yesteryear. Since any item that’s been around for more than two years is considered obsolete in our instantaneous society, I choose to share books from my childhood, from my sons’ childhoods, and the best of the best from the last ten years. Classic KidLit.

Here is my choice for today, a blessing of our American Heritage.

Alfred Jacob Miller - Fort Laramie - Walters 37194049.jpg

Alfred Jacob Miller – Fort Laramie – Walters 37194049.jpg

As a child, I could read anywhere any time. As an adult too, come to think of it. During the school year, I had to take time out for school and homework, piano and dance lessons, but when summer arrived… FREEDOM!!

Now, most kids celebrated summer with the daily kickball/baseball game or hikes in the woods or a run to the ice cream shop. I dedicated my mornings to reading in bed, reading at the breakfast table, reading on the porch, and in the afternoons, reading at the pool, reading in the shade, read… you get the idea.

I had a health-conscious mom, though. She forced me outside for exercise and vitamin D, so I got my fair share of sports, nature, and ice cream. As the oldest members of our neighborhood crowd, my best friend and I ruled as queens of the pack. We were gracious, beneficent rulers (yes, you may roll your eyes) and allowed input from our subjects as to what games would be played each day.Thanks to all my reading, the neighborhood kids enjoyed some unusual imaginary games, all based on plots from my favorite books. When we played Cowboys and Indians, according to majority rule, the cowboys were always supposed to defeat the evil savages. (Keep in mind this was the early 1960’s).

sillyeaglebooks.com

sillyeaglebooks.com

I thought the status quo was unfair, but I held off from wielding my scepter like a club. Instead, I tried to persuade with logic. The Indians were on American land first. Shouldn’t the colonists have shared the land with them? If somebody took away my home, I would fight, too! The boys were not convinced.

Thus began my burgeoning interest in American history. I discovered the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I must have scampered through each volume two or three times. And THEN I read Caddie Woodlawn.

Both authors had been published in the same era, 1935 for Caddie Woodlawn, and 1932-43 for the Little House books. Both stories were based on real people. Carol Ryrie Brink faithfully wrote down the tales of her grandmother, Caddie Woodlawn. Laura Ingalls shared her own story. While several volumes of the Little House series earned the “Honor” status of the Newbery Medal, it was Caddie Woodlawn that won the award in 1936. I think I understand why, now that I’ve reread the books as an adult.

Caddie Woodlawn

Don’t get me wrong. Children will love to read the Little House books for years to come as Laura tells the story of her childhood, painting vivid pictures of family life on the frontier. Caddie Woodlawn goes beyond family and into the contentious issues of the day from a child’s perspective, namely: how do you deal with irresponsible people, and how should pioneers treat the Indians who still roam portions of the land settled by the white man.

Notice, I use the term “Indian.”  “Native American” was a re-label once it became politically incorrect to call the indigent natives a name that made it seem like they were from India. In 1935, the common term was “Indians,” and it wasn’t derogatory in nature. Unless a person’s tone of voice made it so. In Caddie’s case, friendship and peace won the day. Her interactions with Indian John inspired nine-year-old Linda. This was a girl after my own heart!

Her story put history on my side.  The queens of Castle Road decreed there would be no massacres of Indians when we played make-believe. If our brothers insisted on going to war, they could fight the Nazis.

Was there ever a time you used stories from your reading experience to act out or use in a game? It would be fun to learn what you were like as a kid.

 

 

Memorial Day: Remembering the Ugly

 

Do you remember your history concerning the 1960’s and 70’s? Flower children. Sit-ins. Protests against the war. The “conflict” that was Vietnam.
My little Lutheran college was not immune.

vietnam war memorial100400446

The year was 1972. I was a freshman, the daughter of an Air Force pilot who had flown in Vietnam. I’ll never forget the day a fellow student — six-foot-five, three hundred pounds, intimidating — found out about my dad.
“So your father incinerated gooks?” His sneer was unmistakable.
“No…” My voice faltered. “It wasn’t like that. His targets were railroads… and airports.”
“So he killed gooks.”
I tried to hold back angry tears. “You don’t know my father. He doesn’t think anyone is a gook.”
A guy who was standing in the crowd that had grown around us came to my rescue. “Leave her alone, Fred.”
As one, the group stepped between me and Fred, and Fred got the message, muttering epithets as he lumbered out of the room. To this day, I can’t read any books, novel or nonfiction, on the topic of Vietnam, kind of a miniature PTSD reaction to the vitriol that spewed from so many mouths of that era.

Yet, I was fortunate. In those years, many people like me didn’t always have friends who would defend them. Soldiers came home and were spit upon.
When my son was deployed to Iraq in the first weeks of the war, he worried that his soldiers would receive similar treatment. He wrote to ask me what the mood of the nation was. What a relief to respond with reassurances. The nation stood behind the troops, cheered them on.

cemetery 2

Now that we’ve been mired in Afghanistan and Iraq for years, the mood isn’t quite as patriotic, but I thank God, we have not returned to the scorn and hate of half a century ago. We recognize the sacrifices our soldiers, sailors, and airmen make, willing to lay down their lives.

There is the ideal of going to war for a worthy cause. There is the reality of the horrors involved in every war, righteous or not. And there are the ugly politics of war, when the worthy cause gets twisted by those with other agendas. We live in a fallen world.

Memorial Day cemetery

Memorial Day should never be about the ugly. May we always honor those who lost their lives serving our nation.

 

Teen’s Book Sells Millions

bestseller

 

The teenager from the title above took two years to write her book. Since publication, it has sold over thirty million copies in seventy or more languages. Yet she never saw a penny of the profits.

How unfair! Who robbed her of what she justly earned? Unscrupulous agents? Greedy relatives? Crony capitalists?

She was robbed, all right, but not by any of the above. No one stole her money. Instead, she was robbed of life. She never lived to see its publication.

The author’s name? Anne Frank. If you never heard of her before, it’s time to be educated.

Anne Frank

Anne was a Jewish girl living in Holland. Her parents had already fled Nazi Germany a few years earlier, but once Hitler invaded the Netherlands, the family had nowhere left to go. They created a hiding place in a warehouse and relied on the help of trusted Christian friends.

Anne had received a diary for her thirteenth birthday in June of 1942. Like any other teen diary, she filled it with all the innocence and joy of a well-loved child, and she eventually shared the normal teen angst of young love and the struggle to gain independence as an adolescent.

But time was marching every Jew in Europe toward annihilation. The shadow of the Gestapo attacked Anne’s happy-go-lucky view of life. While she maintained a clownish exterior, on the inside, Anne became a deep thinker. She began to record her thoughts on a world at war, on life, on humanity. For the next two years, she grew into a serious young woman, determined to hold onto joy.

On August 4, 1944, Holland’s secret police force, deputized by the Nazis, hauled away Anne, her family, and all those known to have helped them. After ransacking the apartment, the thugs left her diary on the floor as part of the debris. Friends found it and kept it.

diary of a young girl

Her father was the only one to survive the Holocaust. Anne, her mother, and sister perished in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

When Otto Frank read the diary, he agreed the world needed to know Anne’s story and her unsinkable, victorious spirit.

Other autobiographies have been written covering the atrocities of World War II. What makes the Diary of Anne Frank so special?

I think there are three reasons.

  1. Anne Frank really was an excellent writer. Who knows what novels or essays she might have written if she had been allowed to mature to adulthood? The words on the pages of her diary provide us with accurate and heartrending pictures of what she and the others went through living in the Secret Annexe.
  2. She wrote it in the “now.” Diary of Anne Frank really is a diary; it’s not a memoir. She recorded what happened on the very day the events occurred, or at least within the week.
  3. In spite of everything, Anne believed in the “good of man.” Her statement smacks of secular humanism, but having read the book several times, I believe she could see God’s image in man. Every person has the potential of God’s goodness in them. Her worldview strikes a chord in all of us. We want it to be so. We want Anne’s courage and optimism.

Jesus has overcome the world

Tomorrow, as we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, may we be able to praise Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This world still holds the evil that created the Holocaust. We are in the throes of a renewed holocaust as we hear of atrocities in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Nigeria, and a host of other nations hostile to anything but their own creed.

But be of good cheer. Jesus has overcome the world.

 

Historical Treasures Found in the Limberlost

Once upon a time I lived in small town Indiana, but I’ve been a suburbanite for decades. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a leisurely drive on a two-lane highway through the flat lands of the state, but this week I “wandered Indiana.”.

Home of Gene Stratton-Porter

Home of Gene Stratton-Porter

One destination was the state historic site of Gene Stratton-Porter’s home in Geneva, Indiana, an easy day trip. Having rediscovered this famous author and her books, I wanted to visit the town where she began her writing career. More fun for me – fellow Scriblerian Beth Steury met me there.

As I approached Geneva, the land subtly shifted from an abundance of corn fields to uncultivated wetlands. Each pond and marsh possessed its own water fowl, herons, swans, egrets.

Pisgah Marsh. Photo by David Cornwell, www.flickr.com

Pisgah Marsh. Photo by David Cornwell, http://www.flickr.com

Both docents at the museum center welcomed all questions and volunteered tidbits I would have never thought to ask. Here’s a quick rundown of what I learned:

  1. Geneva Stratton was born in Lagro (stress the second syllable), not Geneva. And here I’d thought she was named after her hometown.
  2. Youngest of twelve children and left to entertain herself much of the time, she spent her days watching birds and helping in the garden, activities that contributed to her skills as a naturalist and conservationist.
  3. As I suspected, Gene is the Bird Woman character in A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles.
  4. She started her career by writing magazine articles on nature, which led to short stories, which led to novels, which led to movies.
  5. She moved from Geneva to Rome City, Indiana, to avoid autograph hounds.
  6. Having been one of the fortunate few to survive the Spanish flu, she then moved to California in 1918 to regain her health.
  7. Her husband’s attitude was way ahead of his time. Who else circa 1900 allowed their wives to dress in pants and spend their days lying in a swamp holding a camera and waiting for the perfect shot of a baby vulture?

The Porters built their home in 1895, a large house made of logs.I was surprised they didn’t build out in the country, but it sits in the middle of town. While I’m not an antiques enthusiast, I do enjoy visiting history via the furnishings of its time. The best part of the Porter home? I could touch the furniture. Nothing was roped off.

Gene Stratton-Porter's dining room

Gene Stratton-Porter’s dining room

If I’d stretched out on the antique bed, I’m sure I would have received a reprimand, but I was welcome to brush my fingers against the fabric of the coverlet.

Why have I shared my sightseeing tour on a Scriblerian post? Remember, I told you in my last post (Lost Virtues Found in the Limberlost) how Porter’s books are great for homeschoolers. Visiting the Limberlost region and Gene Stratton-Porter’s home makes for a great field trip as well. In fact, the staff at the museum center plans a calendar of events which includes student activities.

Loblolly-Nature-Preserve

If you’re traveling through Indiana on vacation, make time for a visit. I’ve included a list of related websites below.

You’re welcome, Indiana.

http://www.indianamuseum.org/limberlost; http://www.bernein.com; http://www.swissheritage.org; http://www.BerneClockTowerInn.com; http://www.visiteasternindiana.org; http://www.fwhistorycenter.com; http://www.kidszoo.org; http://www.botanicalconservatory.org

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Biblical History or Entertainment?

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

20th Century Fox Original Movie Poster-Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week I watched Sir Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. A cast led by Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley, epic cinematography, a sure formula for success. Right?

 

Colossal statues at Abu Simbel 1

Colossal Ramses Statues 20th Century Fox – Exodus Gods and Kings

 Colossal statues of Abu Simbel by torchlight in their original glory, detailed sets of Pharaoh’s palace, and intriguing portrayals of pyramid-building made my inner archaeologist turn cartwheels.

 

Several character-driven scenes establish the conflict as sibling rivalry (Moses and Ramses) which deepens to a war of of cultures when both men learn Moses was born of the slave cast.

 

Moses and Zipporah.  20th Century Fox - Exodus: Gods and Kings

Moses and Zipporah. 20th Century Fox – Exodus: Gods and Kings

So far so good. Then Moses—exiled and married to a Midianite—attempts to retrieve three sheep from what his wife refers to as the Mountain of God. He stumbles and is partially buried in a rockslide. When the burning bush appears, Moses is lying in the rubble with a broken leg. No voice admonished Moses to remove his sandals while standing on holy ground (perhaps because Scott had Bale lying flat on his back?). Instead, a boy with a British accent cryptically encourages Moses to help his people. Meh.

 

bow training EntertainmentWeekly

Moses showing Hebrews low-intensity-warfare Entertainment Weekly

Back in Pi-Ramses, a most-unhumble Moses returns to train Hebrew men the skill of low-intensity warfare—attacking high value targets and quickly withdrawing. This turn of events surprised me, but I can’t say it’s impossible, given that human nature first strives to solve our problems without supernatural assistance. I’m still pondering that one.

 

Plague of Hail.  20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

Plague of Hail. 20th Century Fox Exodus: Gods and Kings

And then the first plague begins. Instead of Aaron jabbing his staff into the Nile and turning the waters to blood, a cadre of giant crocodiles kills several fishermen and animals, enough to turn the entire Nile and all the canals red with blood. In fact, Aaron was largely absent the entire movie. Odd, given that he was the designated spokesman for a stuttering Moses.

After the brutal ‘crocodile’ plague, the rest follow, each shown as a natural consequence of the previous . . . except the Passover. In the evening, a dense dark shadow steals across the city, swallowing up the light one street at a time and stealing the breath of each firstborn who did not have the blood of the Passover lamb in the door. It had the kind of supernatural shock and awe that gives me the shivers.

 

pharaoh chariots

Near the end of the movie, hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses despairs of leading the Hebrews to freedom. Frustrated, he throws his gold Egyptian sword into the water. Immediately, the entire sea retracts southward until completely out of sight … huh? Even Disney’s Prince of Egypt got that part right. Are we to believe the sword was imbued with magical Egyptian power?

At the conclusion, the Hebrews were depressed, not joyous as depicted in Miriam’s song, even after the Pharaoh’s demise. And speaking of Ramses … I don’t have enough space here to explain all my objections to Ramses being depicted as the Pharaoh of the exodus. An excellent analysis of the Exodus within the historical context is postulated in the Associates for Biblical Research by Dr. Bryant Wood http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/09/Debunking-The-Exodus-Decoded.aspx. The site contains many other valuable resources about the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan.

Bible and Spade Magazine

Bible and Spade Magazine

 

I can enjoy a Biblical movie even if it omits minor details due to production time constraints, but to turn the actual events on their heads and remove the Lord from the equation is another story. I struggled with my final opinion of the movie, due to the well-researched historical settings, but in the end, I remembered John Calvin, who said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

If you’ve seen Exodus: Gods and Kings, what did you like/not like about it? Do you think it’s permissible for movie adaptations to take creative license with the Bible?.

Remembering…

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It was the most memorable Remembrance Day (Veterans Day for those States side) that I ever had.

It was my first year as a teacher,
and my first large project.

For a change of pace the kids were not going to the cenataph this year as they had in the past.
Instead, since the beginning of November the students had been studying about those who gave so much.
Kindergarten students had carefully traced and cut out their small hands to make wreaths of red.
Older students had written poems and short stories.

The kids entered the gymnasium and sat in crooked rows–
the air thick with anticipation.

With a solemnity not normal for school kids they laid their wreaths and sang ‘O Canada’.

But the most memorable part was to come.

I took out a story written by one of my high school students
and I read.

It was a long story.

My throat got sore and someone brought me a glass of water.
My legs began to cramp and a chair was placed beside me.
The bell for next class rang.
But there was silence as 100 kids scootched closer…riveted.

When the final note of Last Post hung in the air,
the Thank You from those gathered in silence was palpable.

Still this wasn’t the most memorable part.

Years later I met up with one of my students in town,
and they told me how memorable that day was.
But more important, Remembrance Day had taken on more weight.

Something had clicked on that day,
an understanding of what these men and women had done.

How important freedom truly was.

And isn’t this what we want to impress on generations to come?

On this Remembrance Day those in Canada will be remembering the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

I want to thank all those who have served in the past and those who continue to serve.

Thank you.

poppiesinlondon

 

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck

The Killilea Family: In Everything Give Thanks

As November arrives and the Thanksgiving/Christmas season of goodwill begins, I will inevitably bump into a grinch who grouses about his or her lack of blessings. The economy is awful, their health is failing, the family is falling apart. Their greatest joy seems to be passing on bad news. I have the feeling I ruin the day further by promising to pray.

Complaints. Credit to robliano.wordpress.com

Complaints. Credit to robliano.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my own seasons of calamity I have learned to be content, and I hope I will honestly be able to say at the end of my earthly life when all seasons come to a close, “I know both how to be abased and how to abound.”
One of those difficult seasons arrived early in life when my sister was born. A victim of the German Measles epidemic in the mid-1960’s, Tricia entered this world with several congenital defects. For her first two years, she was in and out of hospitals as doctors became detectives in discovering what was wrong and what, if anything, medicine could do to help. One of her challenges was cerebral palsy (CP).

Karen
So when I was twelve and Tricia was two, my mom handed me a book. Karen. A true story, Marie Killilea wrote about the hardships of raising a daughter (Karen) with CP. Except the hardships were laced with such joyful episodes of the Killilea family loving and supporting each other, how could I feel sorry for them for long? I identified with them. My family was like theirs.
Karen’s parents treated her like all of their other children. While she had a delightful personality, Karen was no angel, and she paid the consequences just as her brother and sisters did. That’s how my parents treated Tricia. Karen’s siblings helped teach her to walk and eat and play like other children. That’s what my brothers and I did with Tricia! They even had a dog who assigned himself the duty of Karen’s guardian. Well, the similarities ended there. Our dog wasn’t that talented.
The book was not a new publication when I first read it. Karen was born in 1940. Most doctors of the era advised Marie and her husband to place Karen in an institution and forget they ever had a daughter with that name. In response, Marie pioneered the founding of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Westchester County which later joined with other local organizations to form Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS) . With the help of a few willing doctors, they tried highly experimental exercises to help Karen coordinate her muscles. Their success brought new hope to thousands of other families who were struggling with the sorrows of CP.

 

Marie Killilea also wrote a sequel, With Love From Karen, and a young children’s version of Karen titled Wren.

With Love From karen                                                                   wrenWhile Marie passed away several years ago, Karen, now in her mid-seventies, still lives in New York state.
Do you want to know what it’s like to live day by day with a child who requires constant physical care? Read Karen. Do you want to expose your children to situations where people rise up courageously to face circumstances beyond their control? Have them read Karen. Is your family going through its own rough season? Be encouraged. Read Karen.

Christian Movies Gathering Momentum

Summer is drawing to a close, and looking back on things I enjoyed over the past few months, I remember these with particular fondness: golfing, walks on warm summer nights, swimming in our lake, out of town guests, strolls on our downtown boardwalk listening to several bands, and… MOVIE NIGHTS!

Okay, movies aren’t restricted to summers, but around Christmas and summer holidays, you can generally look forward to a few great movies arriving. This summer, I enjoyed Divergent, Train Your Dragon 2, Guardians of The Galaxy (yes, I’m a bit of a sci/fi fan), The Fault in Our Stars, and am looking forward to seeing The Hundred-Foot Journey.

But is it just me, or are Christian movies gaining popularity?

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When Heaven is for Real arrived, I scooted out and took my mom to see it on its first weekend, concerned it would only last a couple weeks at most. But SURPRISE! The movie was in our town for over a month, and the second time I went three weeks after its opening (yes, I do go see movies a second time if they’re good) the theatre was still more than half full! SHOCKING! But very encouraging!

Noah2014Poster

Now, the movie, Noah, was surrounded by much controversy, as it really didn’t follow what many consider biblical fact. But to be fair, the movie was based upon only a very short part of the bible: Genesis 6 – 8. So there was a lot of ‘artistic license’ used to pad the story and fill 2 hours. When I went with my minister and a few friends to see it, I was prepared for an aftermath of heated words against the producers, directors, screenplay writers, characters, and anyone else connected to the movie. Imagine my awestruck wonder when my minister LOVED it! His comment was that Noah kept to biblical principles and themes, and was a good ‘ride’.

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Next up, will be Exodus; Gods and Kings. With actors and actresses like Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley, and director Ridley Scott (Aliens), my ears are in a full-up-perk.

But even if these movies tank, which they haven’t so far, the whole idea that religious movies are starting to take center stage is exciting. For so long, any movie that had even a sniff of Christian content, would rarely make it to the big screen, (The Passion of the Christ being one of the exceptions of course).

I remember when a bus cruised through our town sporting the words “There’s probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy.” I was appalled to say the very least, however a minister was quoted saying “When the subject of God enters conversations for any reason, it’s all good. These words on the bus started a dialogue.” Which was true, it certainly did!

So what is your opinion on the latest religious movies? Have you seen them? Did you like them? Were there any others you enjoyed over the summer?

Orwell’s Wall: Moving Beyond The Simple Love or Hate of a Novel by T.J. Akers.

Student Reading Book Shows Research

The first post in my series  started with taking opportunities to express your opinion on the Internet. Specifically, your opinion about novels you think are good or bad. If you’re going to express your views, why not make it an opinion worth reading.

George Orwell said, “…The first thing we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp.” So I mention Orwell’s wall as a way of structuring how we think about works of fiction. This approach can go by other names such as Reader Response or Ethical Criticism, but Orwell’s wall is the best metaphor I’ve found to explain critiquing books. Allow me to explain further.

Wall Demolition Shows Impact And Destruction

You read novel “X” and hate it. You log onto Good Reads, Amazon, or whatever platform to express your opinion to “save” some unsuspecting victim from spending good money on a bad story. Enraged that you wasted your time on a dumb novel, you click one star and set yourself to type a blistering response. All of sudden, the only thing you can think to write is “I hated this.” You may say you hated the plot, you might say you hated the characters, but many reading your response would be unimpressed by a simplistic opinion without offering a reason. If you want to be taken seriously, it helps to form well thought out critical opinions as opposed to full on “rants” or an all out “gush”. Hence, we can use a familiar form of criticism and Orwell’s wall to construct something more interesting than a rant or a gush.

Purdue University’s online writers resource, The Purdue Owl, defines Reader Response as the view that, “… considers readers’ reactions to literature as vital to interpreting the meaning of the text…(Reader Response) can take a number of different approaches…[but maintains]…that a text cannot be separated from what it does [for the reader]…”(Owl). Reader Response, sometimes called Ethical criticism, is used in public schools to teach literature. Students read an assigned book, discussion follows where students vocalize their responses to help them process their opinions to  “think out loud” and then organize their thoughts to express their take on the book. If you said that sounds a lot like “I love it or hate it” you would be close, but not quite there because teachers also want to know why a student thinks the way they do about a book.

Those that ascribe to Reader Response bring to their reading experience the complete subtexts of their life experiences or lack thereof, reading ability, world view, and morality to analyze the merit of a story. This subtext forms a lens in which to judge a work.Keep in mind that those opinions can be shaped by reading and a reader’s comprehension.

Upset Unhappy 3d Character Shows Disagreement Between Couple

Of course, everyone’s life experience can be unique and varied, so much so that a story may garner a variety of opinions. Is an opinion biased? Yes, of course it is, but Reader Response is most useful when you collect a lot of opinions from a good cross section of people of different backgrounds. When you see a lot of readers giving a book four out of five stars, you can count on one of two things: 1) Either a lot of people with the same life biases liked the book, 2) The book managed to catch the favor of a large cross section of different people and would be worth paying attention to. Either way, such ratings become more valuable by the increased number of opinions referenced. The fewer the opinions, the least trustworthy, unless you know the reading habits of the few people expressing that favorable or unfavorable view. This is how professional critics work.

Using Orwell’s mirror you can structure an opinion to make it more useful. You start out with the basic novel construction (is the wall a good wall?). “Does the novel have a beginning, middle, and end. Do the elements of “story” (plot, conflict, setting, theme, character, tone, mood, symbolism, point of view, style) come together in pleasing or meaningful ways? Do you comprehend what you read, or were you tripping over poor writing. Sometimes a poor reading experience is blamed on the author, when it could be the reader’s poor comprehension.

The second half of Orwell’s wall is the trickiest part and embraces the basic idea of Ethical criticism, “…even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp.” Did the novel take you any place worth while? Did you go their willingly, or were you kicking and screaming in misery much the way a bystander is sometimes captivated by a train wreck? Is that place somewhere other readers would like to go, or should they even want to go?”

This is where world view plays into Reader Response, Ethical Criticism, and Orwell’s wall. Many readers want the literature they read to be a mirror of who they perceive themselves to be, or want they aspire to. They want their personal beliefs reflected in their stories. Some readers like to have their self-views challenged, but many don’t, at least not on a regular basis.

Aggressive corporate worker with axe and case

Allow me a personal example. I hate Romance as a literary genre. My writing associates know this and accept this, but don’t share that opinion. I will almost never pick up a romance novel to read no matter how enticing the book cover is. To me, it is usually “stupid trash.” Those of you who do like romance might be saying, “Well who does that guy think he is?” Are you mad yet?

Is my view fair to all romance novels? No. There is nothing fair about my view because I am judging a whole set of unread books by some invisible perception or misperception buried in my psyche. This is the problem with Reader Response and Ethical Criticism. The perception of a book’s quality is dependent on what a reader brings to a story.

There have been some stories I’ve read and liked at certain times in my life, only to reread them later, and ask myself, “What was I thinking when I read this? This is awful.” In other words, the novel didn’t change, I did.

The true value of Reader Response comes from being around like minded readers and finding things that perpetuate personal preferences. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but if you want to grow as a person and a reader, it helps to read things other than just your preferences.

Believe it or not, I read a romance novel every once in a while. In addition, I have specifically read four romance manuscripts over the last several years and I found should these projects ever get published, I would buy them. The authors absolutely defeated my personal biases and silenced my inner credit. I think that’s pretty amazing, and very rare.

So to move to more meaningful opinions start by using Orwell’s wall. When you approach a novel, does it have a beginning, middle, and end. Do the elements of “story” (plot, conflict, setting, theme, character, tone, mood, symbolism, point of view, style) come together in pleasing or meaningful ways? When you, the reader, finish the story; do you understand where the author has taken you and why?

Child Improving His Education By Reading A Book

Next, is what the novel embraces good, bad, or indifferent? Did the novel take you any place at all? Did you go their willingly, or were you kicking and screaming in misery much the way a bystander is sometimes captivated by morbid curiosity when watching a train wreck? Did the novel take to a place you wanted to go as a reader? Did it take you someplace you’ve never been before? Is that place somewhere you and other readers should like to go, or even want to go?” Then write your opinion down and share it.