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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Why Men Are Less Depressed

Got this email from a former teacher of mine....a male, obviously. Thanks, Mr. Sharp!

Men Are Just Happier People --
What do you expect from such simple creatures?

Your last name stays put. 
The garage is all yours.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.
Chocolate is just another snack.
You can be President.
You can never be pregnant.
You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park.
You can wear NO shirt to a water park.
Car mechanics tell you the truth.
The world is your urinal.
You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky.
Same work, more pay.
Wrinkles add character.
Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100.
People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them.
New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
One mood all the time.
You know stuff about tanks.
A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
You can open all your own jars.
You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
If someone forgets to invite you,
He or she can still be your friend.
Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.
Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
You almost never have strap problems in public.
You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes..
Everything on your face stays its original color.
The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.
You only have to shave your face and neck.
You can play with toys all your life.
One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons.
You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.
You can 'do' your nails with a pocket knife.
You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.
You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives
On December 24 in 25 minutes.
No wonder men are happier.

Come laughed out lout. Admit it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Psychology Behind Writer's Conferences

I've now been two five Christian writer's conferences. Not much in the way of things, I suppose, but enough to have a very solid feel for what goes on. Truthfully, it's a fascinating study in human behavior and motivation.

What's the basic motivation for attending a writer's conference? Easy. Publication. No one goes to a conference, paying over $500 to attend, not counting cost of travel, without having some very big motivation to do so. Seeing your name in print is one such motivation.

Interesting, though, is that you're surrounded by 700 other people (at large conferences) who have the exact same motivation and dream.

This tends to play itself out in two main reactions that I noticed, which are like flip sides of a coin:

1) Camaraderie. 

Hanging out after hours with Janice Boekhoff, Meg Mosely, Rosslyn Elliot, Sarah Forgrave, Kathy Buchanan, me, Katie Ganshert, and Krista Phillips.

It's truly magical being with like-minded people (and most of the magic happens in the bar after the workshops are over). Writer's are odd folk. The world in general doesn't get us, but we certainly get each other. Fellowship can be so sweet. Encouragement, praying for one another, cheering others on for their successes and good news.

2) Competition.

When your friend, who writes the same genre you do gets closer to publication (i.e., gets an agent/editor interested in submission, wins a contest, gets a contract, etc), sometimes that might seem like one step further away for yourself. Or when a buddy has an extraordinary talk with an agent while you never even managed to catch the agent's eye....jealousy can rear it's ugly head.

[An aside here...multiple times during the ACFW conference I found myself likening the after-hours drinks and talks to junior high dating. You want to "go steady" with an agent (i.e., get them to represent you), and many times relying on people who know that agent is helpful. It's like having a friend take a note to the boy you like and say, "Will you represent (i.e. like) me? Check yes or no." Of course, you'd include the little boxes like we did in middle school. More than one author laughed at this, b/c it's quite accurate.]

The Bottom Line

Just as I would tell a client that their worth is not defined by a relationship, a past trauma, mistakes, or perceived weaknesses, I'd like to tell writer's that your worth is not defined by whether an agent takes a second look at you or an editor asks for a submission. You're not defined by whether you have speaking engagements, sky-high Amazon ratings, or 1000s of followers of facebook "likes."

In fact, you're not even defined by whether your writing is even good or not. My daughter writes that she loves me, and it's barely legible and certainly not spelled correctly. But the piece of paper (bound or not) doesn't define her. It's the thought behind the writing that counts, and those thoughts, for Christian writers, come from God.

It's God who defines us, and we write for Him. Even if our writing never sees the light of day, if we write to fulfill the calling He's placed on us, then you can imagine God sitting by a cozy fire in heaven, curled up with your manuscript, enjoying it. This should be enough...and if it's not, that should be your prayer.

Let's Analyze

Have you been to a writer's conference? What did you think of my metaphor of flip sides of the same coin? Do you agree? Is jealousy in writing something you struggle with? What words of encouragement do you have that you feel led to share?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Character Clinic: Temporary Paralysis

Today I've got Heidi's character on the couch. She wrote in with this question:

I'm not sure if this is plausible: I have a injured character who can walk, but when stressed, he exhibits psychosomatic-type symptoms, where he becomes temporarily partially paralyzed and is in a wheelchair. I looked up somatoform disorder, and I think that is what he has, maybe that combined with a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Well, Heidi, it looks like the situation you're describing actually fits more of a Conversion Disorder (which is a Somatoform disorder--that's just the overarching category, if you will). 

Here's the criteria for a Conversion Disorder (with your character's symptoms in red), which is a little-tapped educational tidbit for authors. In fact, I've never read a book featuring it, though there might be some out there.

A. One or more symptoms or deficits affecting voluntary motor or sensory function (temporary paralysis of legs) that suggest a neurological or other general medical condition. 
B. Psychological factors are judged to be associated with the symptom or deficit because the initiation or exacerbation of the symptom or deficit is preceded by conflicts or other stressors (when he's stressed, he becomes partially paralyzed). 
C. The symptom or deficit is not intentionally produced or feigned (he doesn't have a secondary gain, like receiving disability services, etc.). 
D. The symptom or deficit cannot, after appropriate investigation, be fully explained by a general medical condition, or by the direct effects of a substance, or as a culturally sanctioned behavior or experience (the doctors tell him it's not a medical issue). 
E. The symptom or deficit causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or warrants medical evaluation (I assume this is the case).

His paralysis is really a psychological issue, not medical. He doesn't fit criteria for Somatization Disorder because you didn't mention that he had more than the one physical issue...and people with that disorder present with tons of physical maladies. (Click here for a list.)

So yes, in short, I believe the scenario you've described is feasible. Kudos for checking with a professional before jumping knee-deep in your manuscript. Hopefully you'll avoid major rewrites this way. 

Thanks for writing in!

Let's Analyze

Did you realize that there was such a think as Conversion Disorder? It gives credence to the statement, "It's all in his/her head," doesn't it?

Character Clinic Update:

I've almost exhausted the queue of write-ins I received during the 6-month time frame when I had started my site. Be on the lookout for a post with a time-limited offer for a free mini-assessment (I'll give you the link to the intake form) if you leave a comment with your email address!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Freud Pitches to An Agent At Conference

Wishing all you ACFWers at conference better luck than Freud!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


I'm having a great time at the ACFW conference this weekend! Can't wait to get back and blog about some of the stuff I learned. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

YA Trend: Friends are Friends Forever...Whatever!

There is a disturbing trend in YA fiction that I guest posted on over at A Tapestry of Words.

I'd love it if you pop over, say hello, and let me know if you have also noticed this trend. I'll see you there!

Monday, September 17, 2012

3 Common Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

Today you're in for a treat. Singer-songwriter Christa Black is guest-posting on an issue near and dear to her heart. She's recently written a new book, God Loves Ugly, which released September 4th, which chronicles her struggle to find personal peace in the face of insecurity, self-hatred, sexual abuse, depression, and eating disorders.

I haven't posted much on eating disorders, so I hope you find an insider's look as interesting as I did. So welcome Christa! Take it away.

For over two decades, my life was haunted by a devastating food addiction.  If you’re enslaved to food or know someone who is, here are some common misconceptions that are essential to learning for freedom to become a reality.

#1.  Oh, they must think they're fat.

When I binged for the first time at 8-years-old after stumbling onto late night porn down at a friends house, I guarantee you, the last thing I was thinking about was my weight.  Shoveling football player sized portions into my mouth wasn't about my body.  I was numbing an ache in my heart that needed a quick fix.  Controlling the amount of food I let in was just about the only thing I could control in an unpredictable world that punched at me without warning.  

I couldn't control the sexual abuse that had happened outside the home.  
I couldn't control the cruel things that came out of kids' mouths at school.
I couldn't control my freckles, red hair, and the reflection I hated in the mirror.
But I could control food.

Later in life, when the weight began to pile on after years of binging, I would have told you that my anorexia, bulimia, and overeating were about feeling fat.  But in reality, the problem wasn't my reflection.  It was my perception.  I truly believed, more than I believed the sky was blue, that I was unworthy of love.  So every time I looked in the mirror through the lens of those beliefs, what I saw was never enough, no matter how thin, perfect, or beautiful I became.

So yes, people with eating disorders believe that they're fat.  But the real problem is, they believe they're unlovable the way that they are.    

#2.  Eating disorders are just about food

Anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive eating aren't really about food.  Food just happens to be the closest drug able to numb the pain inside.  

Every heart needs one precious substance to live and thrive--LOVE.  Just turn on the radio or television for ten minutes to see what the world is longing for, or go read a book about baby brain science.  We thrive in atmospheres of affection.  When you don't get the love you need, or when it's perverted and cruel, you find counterfeits.  Why?  Because you weren't made to be empty.  These counterfeits can be anything from food, alcohol, and drugs to perfectionism, people-pleasing, and sex.  Anything that fills the heart, temporarily appeasing the ache inside, is a counterfeit affection.  The problem is, these 'fixes' are never enough, which means you have to keep going back for more.

Eating disorders, or any substance abuse for that matter, are just symptoms that a heart needs deeper healing.  

#3  You can never be completely free from an eating disorder once you've had one.

When my therapist told me I'd have the tools to "manage my addiction" but that I'd never be free from it, I got angry.  I refused to believe that because things had happened that were outside of my control--bad things, painful things--that it was just my lot in life to suffer forever and that I would never enjoy freedom and peace.

I didn't want tools to just get by.  I wanted freedom.

And I found it.

Whatever your religious orientation, I believe more than anything that the nature of God is unconditional love.  That means, you can't earn it, perform for it, be good enough for it, or lose it.  It's always there and never leaves based on your behaviors.  When I started allowing God and His unconditional love into the most shameful places of my past--the places I believed were unlovable--I began to heal.  I began to change.  

We all behave according to what we believe, so when my beliefs changed, my behaviors change.  I didn't have to go after the food or the addiction anymore.  I was being loved and believed I was lovable, so there was no need to fill myself with something that didn't love me back.  

Food addiction, self-hatred, people-pleasing, perfectionism--they're all becoming distant memories for me.  I live my life to receive love in the ugly places, and beauty keeps rising from the ashes.  

No matter what you're struggling with or how impossible it seems to ever be free, I promise you,  you can be changed.  You can be healed.  You can be free.

Christa Black is a popular blogger, speaker, and singer-songwriter whose songs have been recorded by multi-platinum-selling artists Jordin Sparks and Michael W. Smith.  She has toured with The Jonas Brothers, Michael W. Smith, and Israel Houghton.  After years of battling depression, addiction, and a chronically broken spirit, Christa was radically shaken by a God who truly loves ugly.  She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and son.  God Loves Ugly is her first book and corresponds with her CD, God Loves Ugly. Visit Christa’s site to learn more and read the first chapter!

Thanks so much for this post, Christa! I hope your book reaches individuals in a mighty way for the Lord and invokes a change in their lives that can only be explained my Him.

Let's Analyze

Did you learn anything about eating disorders that you didn't know?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Hope all you ACFWers out there are prepared for conference!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interpreting Symbolism in Fiction

I remember high school English days when I had to write papers about certain symbols found in literature. The whale in Moby Dick. Mirrors in Dangerous Liaisons. The list goes on.

Many times, I scratched my head at the questions of my teachers. Like, what? That was symbolic? And other times, I jumped at it internally, knowing that the author/film maker had tried to convey something to me and I wanted to grapple with it.

It seems that a 16-year-old boy also had my questions...back in 1963. Bruce McAllister was a confident Californian, sick of hunting for symbolism in English class, so he sent a survey to 150 famous authors, 75 of which actually responded. Ayn Rand. John Updike. Ray Bradbury, and many more. You can read about his survey and even see pictures of actual responses here.

He asked them 4 questions, and their responses were as varied as I felt about symbolism in fiction. :

1) Do you consciously, intentionally plan and place symbolism in your writing?… If yes, please state your method for doing so. Do you feel you sub-consciously place symbolism in your writing?

2) Do readers ever infer that there is symbolism in your writing where you had not intended it to be? If so, what is your feeling about this type of inference? (Humorous? annoying? etc.?)

3) Do you feel that the great writers of classics consciously, intentionally planned and placed symbols in their writing? … Do you feel that they placed it there sub-consciously?

4) Do you have anything to remark concerning the subject under study, or anything you believe to be pertinent to such a study?

I think these are great questions for us all to wrestle with. Symbolism can be overkill, or it can be so subtle that only a few readers even pick up on it. At least, this has been my experience with it. I've had a few books where I felt the symbolism was just perfect...mentioned enough to remind me of its importance, but not harped on.

One such book where symbolism is handled very well is Wildflowers from Winter by my friend Katie Ganshert. The name/concept behind the title of her book alone is symbolic, which helped to get me in the frame of mind to receive what she was saying. She used her setting and character arc of her heroine to really bring home her points.

I searched around for a list of symbols used in fiction (because I thought surely someone else had done all the legwork before now) and I hit jackpot and thought I'd share:

Symbolism in Literature

Let's Analyze

What do you have to say to McAllister's four questions?

Monday, September 10, 2012

THE Post to Read if You Write Young Adult Fiction

A while ago, I was asked what the difference is between YA character development and that of the development of characters for adult fiction. The actual writing process is much the same, yet the themes from a developmental perspective might be different...however, still universal (thus the appeal of YA books to adults).

Young Adults Are In Transition

According to Erik Erickson, the Adolescent stage of development (ages 12-19, depending on who you quote) marks the beginning of when what we do makes more of a difference than what is done to us. The YA reader is neither child nor adult, so they are grappling with who or what, exactly, they are.

They are trying to define themselves with their actions, which can be translated into behaviors that alter their appearance, such as tattoos, piercings, and dying their hair, or where they choose to spend their time (church v. mall v. the downtown "strip" where they ride in each others' cars---you know you did this). All of it is an attempt to figure out the main question children this age want answered: "Who am I and where am I going?"

This can be summed up by saying a YA will have an identity crisis (Erickson was the one who is credited with coining this term). Life gets bigger and bigger the longer they live it, and they realize they no longer are the center of the universe eventually. They grapple with social and moral issues. Teens are building up their ideals, because at this time, it's easier to think in terms of ideals than reality, because a teenager has little experience. So give them something to idealize, care about, ponder.

Bros Before Hos 'Rents

Crass, but true. The most significant relationships teens have are with their peers. They most likely aren't going to want to read about a teen hero's problems with his parents. Romance is burgeoning during this stage, so not including a romantic theme would be a mistake (according to developmental theories, anyway).

The main thing is for the reader to identify with the character, so your YA character should be struggling to find their place in the world, what they want to do with their life, who they want to be. It's cliche, but coming of age stories work for this age group.

A Warning: Don't Sell Teens Short

Teens deserve more than just fluff, and sometimes YA gets the wrong impression that it's just a "quick read" (because they are indeed oftentimes shorter books)....but that should not translate to "shallow." This age period is one where they are experimenting and need to be reminded of what all is out there, both good and bad.

Books like Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games fly off the shelf because of the character development. These are teens in transition, trying to figure out life, love, and survival. (Have you walked the halls of a high school lately? Not too different from post-apocolyptic descriptions of America, folks.)

Many YA books are written in first person point of view, and I think that's by design. Teens (and adults) are literally drawn in from page one....becoming the heroine or hero, feeling their conflicts and vicariously living them out.  We can only hope that our books will give teens similar strength, commitment, drive, and integrity to jump life's hurdles.

So in closing, be real. Grapple with hard, strong emotions....because you can be sure the teens out there reading your stuff are doing the same. 

Let's Analyze: 

What are you're thoughts on the differences between character development for YA v. adult fiction? Anything you want to add?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Acronym Support Group

Gotta love this one, all you wordsmiths out there!

And you have until Sunday to enter to win Laura Frantz' new release, Love's Reckoning. Just click here!