Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Culturally Different

In the last couple of weeks, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. For those of you not in the know, this is a memoir of sorts that Ms. Druckerman wrote about her experiences as an American mother raising children in France. I found myself laughing and learning frequently in this book. I rarely read memoirs, in fact, this may be the first I've ever sat through, but the subject matter was intriguing to me: how the French raise their children. Culturally, it's quite different than we Americans raise our kids, and I found myself wishing that even for a few years, my kids could have the influence of the French.

One thing I found intriguing was the idea of expectations. In one chapter, Ms. Druckerman describes how the expectations of life are much different in France than in America, and it filters into their literature, especially for kids. Where in our children's books, we have a story that gets resolved in most cases, and things become "perfect" (or as close to perfect as the author can make them so they're left with a feel-good effect), the French stories published on the other side of the pond are more true to life. She describes one story in a very popular French children's series where one character is mean to another (don't remember the context now, and I had to return the book to my library!) They work on the problem through the book, and I believe the mean child eventually apologizes to the other character... In an American book, that'd be the end of it, but the French book finishes with a final scene where the mean child repeats the same type of offense as originally started at the beginning of the book.

While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the rest of the book, and have learned several things that I'm going to try to implement with my own children, that story about French literature really stuck out to me, probably because I'm a storyteller. I love the art of storytelling, love learning about the so-called "rules," love digging in to my own stories to figure out what's working and what's not.

And I can't help but think I've approached it in a fully American way.

In adult fiction, it's a bit easier to have an ambiguous ending to a story. Fine. We're adults, we can handle it. But, I can't think of any stories I've read to my kids where there's not a happy ending. And, as Ms. Druckerman pointed out, that's not really all that true to life. It leaves kids with a false sense of what should happen in life, that our problems can be solved easily, when often, things are much more complex.

I love a happy ending just as much as anyone. I always get a bit teary-eyed at the end of Return of the Jedi when Han and Leia come to terms, and it's obvious they'll be getting together. Same goes for the end of Pride & Prejudice, and a whole host of other books and movies.

But, should we always let our kids watch shows or read books where problems are easily, and fully, resolved? Wouldn't it be better to expose them to life, and give them a sense that life isn't going to always be full of lollipops, roses, and puppies? As in the French book referenced in Bringing Up Bébé, wouldn't be better to let our kids know that friends won't always repent, and are just as likely to repeat the same offenses over and over?

I, for one, think that would be a benefit to kids.

What are your thoughts? Do you remember reading any books with ambiguous endings as a child, or were all your book choices ended in a happy way?

Until next time...

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a New Year!

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows just how crazy my last 12 - 18 months have been. Being told my son needed a bone marrow transplant pretty much threw everything askance since August of 2012. However, now the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel. As of January 1, he was 8 months post transplant, and doing AMAZINGLY well. All of his doctors seem very pleased with his progress, and while we have a follow-up planned in Seattle, when we return from that, he should return to treatment with his regular hematologist for Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome.

Even though clinic appointments are far too regular still, with no end in sight until mid-late spring, that light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine a glimmer on the future.

While I'm not going to guarantee I'll be posting here regularly--even pre-transplant, it was beginning to be a gamble--I'll post as much as I'm able to. But, this is what my goals are for this year where my writing is concerned:

  1. Write five days a week for at least an hour. To accomplish this, I'm going to try institutiting an early-morning writing time. Between appointments, and the fact I'm a stay-at-home mom (and my daughter will be starting homeschool Kindergarten sometime this year), early mornings are about the only time I can guarantee I'll have uninterrupted time, five days a week. I instituted this early morning time on the 30th of December, and so far, I've gotten up four of the five days, and wrote/edited for three of the four.
  2. Publish. This one should go without saying, but I have a very aggressive goal to publish several short stories/novellas/novels this year. I'm not going to specify my exact number (partially because I'm not 100% certain of the exact number, but also because I don't want to have life happen and not be able to follow through), but when I say it's aggressive, it is. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I'm trying to put myself into motion so that it becomes just part of it that I'm constantly writing, editing, and publishing. Listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast since May of 2013, and reading "Write. Publish. Repeat." (by the same guys behind SPP) in December really motivated me. I can do this. It just takes momentum to get started.
  3. Set a production schedule. The only way I can stay on track is to know what I expect myself to do. Listening to Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn podcast (also started around the same time as I started listening to SPP--I think I learned of one from the other) has helped me see that a production schedule will help me stay on track and on purpose. I'm apt to take rabbit trails, and distractions are very easy, so knowing I've GOT to work on this project rather than that one may help keep me on track. I say may because who knows. ;)
I have other goals, like getting my feet in order where I can begin exercising again (I was told I had a very bad case of plantar fasciitis in my arches in December, so I haven't been walking the dog at all) and sticking to a gluten-free diet (I've lost about 5 pounds since Thanksgiving just by going gluten-free, and 99% dairy free!) But, I'm really mostly focused the writing goals. Hopefully, on January 1, 2015, I'll be able to look back at 2014 with a smile.

How about you? Do you have any new goals you want to accomplish in 2014, writing-related or not?

Until next time,

Liberty

P.S., if you haven't done so already, be sure to pick up a copy of CSI Effect

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