The Book That Made Me A Reader

Heya!

So I am beyond excited! I can’t even believe I’m writing this right now.

When I was a young  foster girl, sad and angry, I needed a coping mechanism to fill the void love loss left in me. I found that in The Westing Game. I was around seven years old when I first read it.

I had been looking for it for so long but could never remember the title or the author. All I could remember was that a ton of people are invited to a house as heirs to a large estate. There’s intrigue, mystery and crazy twists. A huge competition would pit them against each other until one lone person came out the winner…and single heir. Something to do with a guy named West…or something. I tried every form of google search but couldn’t come up with results that fit the book.

Then, a good friend of mine told me she was moving back to her home state. ‘Can you come over and help me pack?’ Of course! Then she added ‘and you can look through my books and take whatever you like!’ Umm…what? She had a ton of books from the 90’s. All those old covers and big pants. I loved it! We had the greatest time!

And then…I saw it. The instant she pulled it from the book I almost cried. My heart nearly exploded. The Westing Game!! That was the title! That was the book I read at least twice a month! That was the book that made me want to read any and everything I could get my hands on. All the old memories rushed through my mind and I grasp it to my chest.

I’d finally found it. It was finally mine.

I’m going to read it again. I don’t even care if it’s different than I remember. My inner child is jumping for joy and shivering with anticipation.

Dramatic, I know…this is me.

No google found photos here. This is the actual book on my bookshelf. Yes!

TheWestingGame

Good Readdance,
Jade

 

P.S. I picked up 50 books in total.

 

allthebooks

 

Link to Book

We Should Teach Creative Writing in Schools

This is a long one, so buckle up. (or in, or down, or whatever). Get ready. Stay for the ride, maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll…just pretend you did. Hehe.

It actually surprises me that this isn’t something we already do. I mean, yes, in the times of the past maybe ‘we’ thought that this was ‘all just woo-woo stuff’ that we were giving into. For some reason ‘we’ thought that encouraging our children to open their minds and believe in things that didn’t exist meant that we were not being good parents. It meant that we weren’t preparing them for the “real” world where things are hard, and tough, and fierce, and angry and streets were dirty. It was like we thought that we couldn’t allow them to fly free and they wouldn’t see the world around them. It was as if we never used our imagination to help develop who we became.

It’s widely known that ‘we’ believe you lose your ‘inner child’ when you get older. Only thing is…you don’t lose it, it’s suppressed, stolen, beaten and trampled by adults who constantly say “that’s not real” or “that would never actually happen” or “life isn’t so happy” or even “wake up!”. Yes, at some point we do need to have a discussion of this sort but we always fail to realize that children are smarter than we think they are.

How did we forget that when we were kids ourselves we had imaginary friends and we poured fake tea and we danced circles in frilly dresses or chomped wood with plastic saws? We knew we weren’t drinking anything. We knew we weren’t princesses or construction workers or true magicians. We just didn’t care. At some point, after the suppression of our passion we cross from being a “knowing someone who enjoys” to “a person who is unknowing, dying and actively disliking everything”.

Break here for a deep breath.
Okay, Go.

Well, I’m going to tell you a small story as to how my own experiences with school and writing and creating my own worlds changed my life. Then I’m going to share with you a few bits from others that I found while doing research for speech class. Yes, they will be credited and citations will be below. Far below. Don’t worry, I did my homework and I actually enjoyed it. Ha! These are the friends that I spoke of in the title, that are not really friends. Just those more qualified than me to talk about the subject of child development and the need for play acting in the kiddos.

When I was about 7 I wrote my first story. I wrote it down on crumpled paper and it took me forever to do it. At the time, I thought I was writing a book, which makes me laugh inside as it was only about 4 to 5 pages. It was about a dog and a cat that truly loved each other. They played all day and all night and everything was just perfect. It was all just perfect until the dog died. The cat was sad, it’s best friend was gone. What was the cat to do? It moped and cried. At the end of the “book” the dog came back to life and the cat was happy! THE END!

No really, that was the end. I was so proud of myself. My heart was full. I couldn’t believe it. I’d written a book! Immediately I turned around and went to my mother. Read it! Read it! I was so excited. She read it and I sat there with twiddling fingers and tapping feet. And then there was the Look. You know, the one someone gives you when they know you want good news but all they have is bad news and they want to let you down softly. That one.

“Umm…this would never happen,” she starts. She proceeded to tell me about how cats and dogs are never friends, how they don’t experience feelings of love and loss the way we do, and how once something dies it can’t come back to life. That’s JUST the way the world works! At first, I was broken. Then, I was angry. I was so defensive and offended. I can do anything I want with my story! I wrote it. It was my book and no one could tell me what to do with my book.

And that is how I knew I wanted to be a writer. For the next ten years I continued to write stories about opposing characters and things that ‘could never actually happen’. During this time, I didn’t let my mother read anything that I’d written. I couldn’t let her stop me from becoming a god to my characters and have their fearful bodies shaking in their boots. Couldn’t have her telling me I couldn’t resurrect my Lazarus and keep his humanity to fall in love with some chick with mousy brown hair and a big obsession with finger blades!

But it wasn’t just her, when I was a young troubled girl trying to make it through the ins and outs of my foster home I wrote like crazy. I filled composition notebook after composition notebook of character ideas and story arcs and I read as much as I could. Books of all genres were fodder for my tiny fast fingers and I soaked in as much of their imagery and filth as I could. Only to spew it back out in the form of inspiration and child like ambitions.

Ok, that just went on an odd tangent but you get the point. I didn’t even get to the part I was trying to say. I loved it and it changed my life. I had a teacher in the fourth grade who gave in to my childish wants and desires. She suggested so many books to me I can’t even remember them all. She said ‘one day you will grow up and be a writer’. From her I got Melusine, Summer of my German Soldier and the original readings of The Giver. She told me I was reading and writing on a high school level and she was impressed with me. Blah, blah, blah. Of course, at that time I didn’t care about all of that. I just wanted to write.

Then in eight grade, and I’ll never forget, Mr Vincent Potts awarded me with an English plaque at the end of the school year. It was my first time back in school with the ‘norms’, meaning I was no longer in the private school that had fostered my introverted nerdiness. He would read my writings and give me real feedback. He, too, told me that I would one day become a great writer. This was at the time when things were confusing, I didn’t believe him and yet I did.

I had an english teacher in high school that was mean as hell. To everyone else. Or at least that’s what I remember them saying. All the time. I loved her. She was great. I made my first friend in that class. I wrote a book complete from beginning to end at her request. She pushed me and pushed me and I knew, one day I would be a writer. And I am. *Mild shoulder shrug while throwing up in my mouth a little*

So that was me.

Now, from my fake friends I gleaned that this actually has an effect on children that should not be ignored. Not just expanding the mind by writing down things you create from your own imaginations but also pretending that there are things before you that aren’t there. No, not crazy speak, just childhood word vomit and seeing spies in sky.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” -Einstein. Okay, okay. I apologize for this one but we all know it. We know how important imagination, excitement and intriguing mystery is. We learn this from ‘woman is a grinch at Christmas’ or ‘CEO learns to love’ movies that we all watch as adults to make us think that rich people aren’t happy or sit around all day without an ounce of make believe.

Another… There are benefits to pretend play that involves “fantasy, make-believe, symbolism, organization, cognitive integration, and divergent thinking; it allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings” from Psychologist Sandra Russ*. This is one we also know. When you are allowed to create, to push the envelope back and forth, to bend the rules and then punish your characters for breaking them, you get to experience both sides of things. You allow yourself, and readers, to learn the consequences of life and how to react to betrayal, anger, excitement, the works.

Dr. Catherine Neilsen’s voice on enhancing the imagination and it’s effects through to adulthood can be reduced to 5 reasons as to why creativity is important. I’m just going to list these and put my summaries of each because…that article is long and I read it myself and gleaned what I could so you don’t have to. Here*:

  1. Social development- learning cooperation and compromise with friends! Yay!
  2. Language development- expanding vocabulary and understanding inflection.
  3. Emotional development- positive and negative feelings and working through things in a ‘made up’ world! Whoop! Becoming a god with a conscious!
  4. Physical development- using physical tools help with expression and muscle development. Writing! Typing! Wooden swords and play tea sets!
  5. Thinking skills- Children think in magical ways and use their imagination to stretch their minds. -and develop their own thoughts and personalities despite the adults proverbial sodomizings! (yes, I made that plural…and?)

So there you have it. We should teach creative writing in schools. I daresay we should. I say we go for it and we teach them what their mind can do, what it can create. You know…this might just work out for us in the end. (See above 5 ways). We MIGHT just get some decent human beings that are accepting of others (skin color, orientation, freaking accents (personally speaking here) and family situations). We MAY just come across an entire generation of people who want to think up all the mighty things they can do and actually DO them.

So many people say that focusing on the false and on creative writing is a waste of time and there are so many ‘more productive’ things we can teach children but I disagree. I believe that by encouraging them to be themselves, see their invisible friends and more we are actually setting them free. I believe that if we taught our children how to deal with their thoughts, use their own imagination to build worlds and as coping mechanisms, they would be better human beings and the earth would be a better place.
But that’s just me. A girl who dreamed she’d one day be a writer. Who took a few detours until she realized her dream was within reach. Who decided…hey! It will happen because I dreamed it so and now…I’ve done the work to do so.

So…let me know what you think below. Do you agree? Has creative writing effected you? Would you like to be a writer but never thought you could? Do you think that encouraging creativity and play acting in children can really cause them to become better humans beings? Tell me!

Happy Lifeness,
Jade

References:

  1. Wallace-Segall, Rebecca. “Plea for Creative Writing in Schools”. The Atlantic.com. The Atlantic Monthly Group. 4, Oct, 2012. 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/a-passionate-unapologetic-plea-for-creative-writing-in-schools/263212/
  2. Suckerman, Simone. “5 Benefits of Imaginative Play”. LivingandLoving.co.za. Living and Loving Magazine. 3 August. 2017. 2018. https://www.livingandloving.co.za/child/5-benefits-of-imaginative-play

Modernizing Required Readings for Students

Heya!

So I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to achieve in the world of literature. My want to go back to college and finish my degree was more about accomplishing my own goals and learning new things. I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted to do with my degree, specifically, besides writing bestsellers. I’ve even played with the idea of getting my Master’s or becoming a Professor but those are ideas that I have romanticized since I was a child. Things that I hoped I could achieve under the label of personal success. I’ve been reading, writing books and creating new stories since I was a young child, since before I could remember. Despite my detours in life, I always knew this is where I would land.

To translate that into academics, I want to delve deeper into the literary requirements of our youth. I remember being a young girl, inspired by big works like Shakespeare and George Orwell and also the smaller works like Summer of my German Soldier (Bette Greene) and Melusine. I always found it fascinating to read works by authors who lived long ago but realized that my fellow classmates did not. They were disinterested, flighty and annoyed. This made me really think about the works that were required and what I could do to make reading more appealing to those who would balk at the idea normally.

So I’ve realized the best way to go about this, as so far thought, is to modernize our required readings. I am a firm believer that the best writers weren’t only born 200 plus years ago. Yes, we can learn great things from our past but we can also learn a multitude of things from the present. We have hundreds of amazing writers here in this century and we need to recognize them. Do not take this as I am wanting to replace the genius works of the past. I want to give an alternative modernized literary option for teaching those students who squirm and fuss at the thought of reading outside of a text message. These are students who naturally hate reading. I want them to be able to pick up a book they can relate to and learn the same skills of tension, mystery and cultural appreciation.

Once I embark on this journey I am going to compile a list of required readings and find comparisons in the modern world of literature. I want to develop a list of books that will still teach life lessons, broaden horizons and open the minds of our youth. I will be blogging my path with this and will eventually make a static post of the comparisons that I’ve done so that you guys are updated!

I would really like some suggestions that could help me on this journey. I found a really great list on GoodReads but it’s 500 books long! That’s a great start and I will be breaking them apart, following a specific criteria, and choosing the ones I think can really transform literature. If you’ve read a modern or contemporary book that you think could rival the literature of old please feel free to let me know! Also, tell me the book that you think it parallels. This is going to be a great journey!

P.S. To make a clear distinction, I am talking about new and original stories; plays and novels written now, not revisions or rewrites of old ones.

Good Readance,

Jade

The Ring of Gyges (Glaucon.Plato): Justice as a Constitution

Would you rather do injustice but appear just or be just and appear unjust?

Think of the last time you went to a club. Imagine earlier in the day you met someone exciting and you hit it off with them, possibly exchanged contact information. That night, while out with your friends, you’re waiting in a long line. Two out, Two in (we all know how this goes). Suddenly, your new friend shows up and says ‘Oye! How are ya?‘ and, as a VIP guest of the club, they invite you to skip the line and join them inside. Do you? Everyone else stares back at you, standing still with wide eyes, sucking their teeth in jealousy. Your friends glance down at their feet, unsure if they are included in the invite. Do you leave them behind? Ask if their invited? Decline and stay with your friends?

Now think if you came to the club alone (Hey! maybe you’re the type) and you are standing at the end of the line. What if he’d caught up to you before you joined the line of onlookers? Do you sneak off and join him in the club? When no one would see you accept the offer, when there is no one to judge your decision, would you really decline?

For those who are more pious, that don’t frequent clubs like the rest of us, say you are trying to get accepted for a prestigious internship that will shape how quickly you move up in your career. You just so happen to be the niece (nephew) of someone on the board. They say they will put in a good word for you, write you a reference letter, donate money and set up a meeting with the Chair. You have the talent, skills and maybe a leg up, due to your own determination, working for you. You don’t really need his help. Do you do this on your own? Do you decline his offer (save for the required reference) and see how the board votes without the incentive?

Think of the opposite, when you could really use his help. Maybe your final essay wasn’t as strong as you would’ve liked. Maybe you weren’t as memorable during the last introductions.  Maybe you wouldn’t normally deserve the spot, just based on your performance. None of the other candidates would know. Do you accept his offer to get put at the top of the list? Would you risk your dreams for the sake of justice?

Glaucon talks about two important factors when discussing our willingness to do justice: Law and Appearance.  When law is not a factor, most people would do injustice. Why do you think The Purge was so popular? Looting during riots? Cheating on tests when the teacher steps out of the room? When there is no one there to hold you accountable for your actions, you act. Some say, you act out of character but if your actions are your own wouldn’t this show who you truly are? Aren’t you unjust on the inside just like the rest of us? Would injustice be apart of your constitution, a part that you hide?

Appearance wouldn’t be important if not for our judgy parents, coworkers who raise their eyebrow at favoritism or fellow customers you might cut in line. If we, as humans, weren’t so worried about how others perceive us or how we appear to others, we would all do injustice. Glaucon says that one only needs to appear just than to actually be just.

The story of The Ring of Gyges talks about a seemingly just person. A Shepherd discovers a ring of invisibility, which he initially tests on his friends. He then uses it to seduce the Queen, kill the King and take over the throne.
I remember a story told to me as a kid that has really stuck with me, I’ll tell it to you though you might’ve heard it before. An old man wanted to renovate two bathrooms in his home. Due to old age, and a previous knee injury, he is unable to finish cleaning residue and grime from the marble tile in the second. He calls for his grandson to help. “Please, have this done before the party tonight, even though this one often goes unused, I’d like to finish the project.” The grandson agrees and the old man goes about his day preparing.

A few hours before the party, the old man goes to check on the boy and opens the door, glancing at the tile before him. From this vantage point it’s beautifully polished and shines in the light. As he steps in to inspect it, he realizes the boy didn’t finish any of the tile hidden behind the door. “What is this?” he says. “Why have you not finished?
“No one ever uses this bathroom, grandpa. We can finish it later! I can help you with something more important.” The old man puts a hand on his shoulder, looks him straight in the eye.
“We must do things correctly, finish the tasks at hand, even if no one else will see it. That is no matter how big or how small, how important or insignificant the task is.” Reluctantly, the boy finished the tile just moments before the first arrival. Later that night, a toilet malfunction in the first bathroom rendered it useless and all the guest had to be redirected to the second bathroom. As guest complemented the beautiful marble the old man silently caught the eye of the young boy, who grinned back with pride.

Yes, this is very, very, very cheesy but it perfectly explains my point and the direction I took from The Ring of Gyges. The question stands. Would you do injustice if not for law and appearance? If not, are you including small injustices that we do daily? As stated in the reading, one can not be fully just without any injustice. Can they?

I plan to continue uploading my thoughts and inferences of the readings I get while in college. Let me know if you’d like to see more of these or if you are a fiction and novel reader only. I’d love to hear from you!

Good Readdance!

Jade