Happy Banned Books Week!!: Celebrating Our Freedom to Read and What I’ve Learned on the Subject

Courtesy of freerangestock.com


This week is Banned Books Week, which started on Sunday, September 25th, and ends this coming Saturday, October 1st. This year’s theme is Diversity, a theme I find very appropriate and relevant considering today’s world and the growing need for stories from so many different cultures, backgrounds and more. Here is a description of the event from the American Library Association‘s Website:

“Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” (Credit: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek)

Over the past couple of years, I have begun to understand, and better appreciate, this important week because of the power books have to change lives, make people think or question ideas or reaffirm and challenge one’s points of view. Books matter because of the words a writer takes the time to put down on paper, computer or wherever else writers today preserve and keep their ideas and thoughts. I wrote two papers in college around the subject: one during my sophomore year, the other my senior year. For those papers, I asked ahead of time if I could bring in personal thoughts on the topic at hand, which I thought would strengthen my argument. As an avid reader and writer, this was an issue that I would have to take more seriously with my own writing in trying to understand why certain books are challenged and/or banned by teachers, parents and so on.

As many people know, books are challenged and/or banned for a variety of reasons: vulgar language/profanity, anti-religious viewpoints, religious viewpoints, witchcraft, sexuality, racism, sex, violence, the list goes on. Ebook bargain site BookBub, for example, posted an article on their blog just yesterday on 15 classic novels that were banned in the past and why:

BookBub: 15 Classic Books That Were Once Banned

Also, if you go to bannedbooksweek.org and ala.org/bbooks/ (American Library Association), you can also find numerous lists of challenged/banned books and the reasons why. The American Library Association for example has top ten lists for the most frequently banned books of the 21st century, children’s books, young adult books and even a list dedicated to books challenged because of “diverse content.” They have a page called “Defining Diversity” explaining the terminology further. The website bannedbooksweek.org also contains various updates/articles on the issue of diversity in literature to coincide with this year’s theme. I listed a few posts below:


Books on a shelf (Courtesy of freerangestock.com)


So here’s where I stand: it’s a complicated issue. There are books I choose not to read because of particular subjects or content, which is totally OK. Everyone should have the right to choose, like or dislike whatever book is out there. However, the line gets drawn when a book is challenged and sometimes later removed from shelves because of complaints. That’s where the controversy of censorship enters the conversation.Lately, and this is what I talked about in my paper my senior year of college, trigger warnings have recently entered the discussion due to the responses one may have when reading a book on a particular subject they may have experienced themselves, or know of someone in their own lives who went through that particular situation.

I was actually for trigger warnings when I did research for that paper (it was for my American Studies class, Intro to American Society and Culture) because I had a positive experience with a professor for my Modern Japanese Literature class who used those. I felt my learning was enhanced and it made me appreciate the literature more, especially during our unit on literature centered on the Atomic Bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But, as I started to dig deeper, I started to sway my opinion a little because of the power of literature and how authors, such as Judy Blume who has experienced having some of her books challenged or banned, felt about censorship and what that does to those who want to read challenging subjects in books.

I do agree on one thing, though: everyone should have the right to read what they choose, but censoring and challenging books doesn’t help matters. I understand why parents would feel a certain way about a book because of its content, but I don’t think taking that book away from others who love and want to read it is the best idea or example. One should be careful, but make it a teaching moment and explain why it’s a problem. Then, let someone decide for themselves. That’s just my short rant on that.


Cats and Books
Cats on books (courtesy of freerangestock.com)


Anyway, besides reading your favorite banned/challenged book this week, what can you do to support the event? Here are a few things. You can add a Twibbon to your profile pic, I chose the “I STAND FOR THE RIGHT TO READ” Twibbon. Another, that I’m considering participating in, is the Virtual Read-Out. For the Virtual Read Out, all you have to do is submit a YouTube video no more than three minutes long (with the exception of option #4) doing any of the following things: (credit: http://bannedbooksweek.org/criteria)

  1. Reading of a banned/challenged book: make sure there is information about where and why the book you chose was challenged. There is also the option of including commentary are why the book is important.
  2. Choose a fav banned/challenged book and discuss what it meant to you; discuss how you would feel if you were prevented from reading the book
  3. eyewitness account: present a video of an eyewitness account of local challenges
  4. Promotional video: Promote Banned Books Week with a video no longer than five minutes (or American Library Association put it, a video montage)

For examples, you can check out the BannedBooksWeek YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek

How will you celebrate Banned Books Week? How do you feel about the subject of trigger warnings? What are your favorite banned/challenged books?



A New Adventure Awaits: Trying New Writing Outlets and Getting Work Out There

The past few days have been difficult inspiration wise. Emotions getting in the way with various things hindering my creativity and leaving me stuck in a big rut. After recently completing a short fiction piece for publication in a superhero anthology called Behind the Mask (will hear back between October and November) , I found myself drained. Maybe I pushed myself too hard, or, after completing one project, I wanted to give myself a few days before moving to the next one. My next project is another short story in the horror genre for a writing showcase centered around a haunted hotel. The deadline is October 1st, under two weeks from now.

Why do I say a new adventure awaits? Trying out new genres? Turning to various sources for contests to get my creativity going? Watching for publication opportunities through emails and social media? The answers to all those questions are yes.

But also a new feat, one that I tried at one time when I was naive about things, and now return to serious, mature and ready.

Publishing original work, on a website for subscribers and users to see.

When I was a teenager, I discovered a website called fanfiction.net where users created many upon many stories using characters from fav television shows, movies and so on. I came across it after reading a few fanfics about my fav pairing Zuko and Katara, or Zutara as the shippers call it, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I then got into Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfics and even read a few around Teen Titans and a few other shows. Before I go on, I just want to say: NO SHAME. PROUD OF IT.

That was when the writing bug bit me actually: writing fanfiction. I lasted a year for personal reasons I will not disclose here, but I loved writing and creating these original scenarios, including my own characters, or OCs, as they call them in fanfics.

I bring this up because this website called Channillo caught my attention (I enclosed a link at the end of this post). A new follower named Kara Klotz founded the website. Here’s the description from the FAQs:

“Channillo is a digital publishing platform for serialized literature. Since our launch on March 30, 2015, hundreds of writers have joined Channillo to publish their work in categories such as fiction novels, short stories, essays, columns, journal entries, and poetry.” (Credit: http://www.channillo.com/for-writers/faq/ ).

I was intrigued by the serial format, which reminded me of my Victorian Novel class with our discussions of Dickens’ Bleak House, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and George Eliot’s Middlemarch, to name a few. I found it cool you could do a series of essays and journal entries too. You also get paid too which is nice! Also, if you don’t want to get paid, you can actually donate your earnings to a charity of your choice, which I found refreshing.

So, here we go again. A new adventure. New projects to work on, dipping my toes into this new territory that is Channillo and whatever else may come next. I want to give a shout out to Kara Klotz for the follow and congrats with your website; I can’t wait to check out some of the work there and post something there soon!

If you want to check out Channillo or learn more, here’s their website!! Also give Kara Klotz a follow on Twitter and whatever other platforms you have!!

In Honor of #WorldSuicidePreventionDay: A Writer’s Account, Reflection and Desire to Do and Learn More

Today’s post will be a very personal one, and I hope by sharing my account and a personal anecdote of writing I found the courage to write a few years ago, it will change and even save lives.

It all began with a blog post that was retweeted earlier this week by Almond Press, an independent publisher out in Scotland that publishes fiction in the dystopian and apocalyptic genres. It was a blog from a fellow writer and the blog was called Drifting Pages. The title caught my attention: “Suicide Prevention Week: Why I’m Glad I Kept On Living” In the post, the writer talked about the #IKeptLiving she came across on her Twitter feed. That moment led her to reflecting back on her struggles, her lowest point and, ultimately, her rise from rock bottom and what she realized years later by not following through on what she wanted to do. You can click the article title above if you want to check out the post.

The reason I bring this up is because it led me to something I wrote a few years ago, and, to reflect and recall my own encounter with suicide at the age of 14. Even typing this, I’m finding it difficult to talk about this because not only is this a very personal testimony, but also an issue that still carries so much stigma in today’s world because of issues of depression and anxiety. After recovering from my suicidal thoughts, the road was still hard until I finally accepted and got help when I had hit rock bottom at 21 while entering my third year of college. I began to find healing and clarity from the demons that continued to follow me even after I broke out of the fog at 14. It wasn’t easy, and it took time that I finally allowed myself to undertake and understand to move forward in my life.

One of my many dreams besides publishing/writing books was to become an advocate for suicide prevention. But, I confess, I felt because I had only the thoughts that it wasn’t enough. It didn’t qualify me as someone who dealt with suicide. But, I have realized I was wrong about that assumption.

It was the darkest period of my life, 14 years old. 19 also came close to that point again, too. But, ta few things saved me both times. At 14, it was a friend who talked me out of it and, I believe, God reaching out to me through putting the words “You’re better than this,” in my heart to show He still cared for me and never abandoned me as I had believed when I was younger. I later confessed it to my mom who supported me and assured me she loved me. At 19, it was breaking down crying in my car on a very rainy day when my insecurities of being perfect and fears of failure hit a breaking point. There was also being soothed by the voice of David Archuleta singing his favorite hymn “Be Still My Soul” from his BEGIN. album while he was serving as a missionary in South America that helped me remember where I was and feeling God’s presence.I was also brought close to home about the subject when actor/comedian Robin Williams died in August 2014 of suicide. I remember to this day when my dad first told me the news when he saw it online and not believing it until ABC World News anchor David Muir confirmed the reports on television just a short time later. I wanted to fall to my knees in tears in my living room just, as I can only imagine, so many fans, colleagues and others were just as distraught in receiving this news. It made me really question why I was still here. Why was I able to find strength? Why was I able to find my way out of the abyss and darkness that could have taken my life too? How was I able to find my way, when he didn’t?

It haunted me, a lot and maybe that’s why over two years later I struggle in remembering his death. Or, ever since I started recovering from the personal demons in my life that I never want to look at those demons again. Just move on from them.

Until you realize you can’t, or haven’t.

I am now 23 years old, and have thrived in ways I could have never imagined. Gone to places I thought were impossible. Finding people through churches, friends, my major adviser during my time at Smith, professors and where I did my work study jobs who really loved and cared for me when I didn’t see it in myself. David Archuleta’s music and personality also held a special place in my heart, and, in my life for being the light in a dark place I so desperately needed.

Each, and every one of us, whether famous or not, rich or poor, black or white, religious or not, and so on…have seen difficult, dark periods. Some unfortunately thought taking their life was the answer. Others were awakened by loved ones before or after the fact if they survived an attempt.

I was very lucky it never went past thoughts in my head.

I want to do more, and wish I could. When National Suicide Prevention Week comes around every September, I want to. I want to participate in a walk, to educate myself more so I can become that advocate.

I have to try harder.  Plus, it should be to help others, not to alleviate any guilt I may have for not doing much before. We all wish we could do more, “big, dramatic things” as David Archuleta said during a Time Out for Women event in Madison, WI last night in discussion of efforts to help flood victims in Louisiana. But, we should keep in mind of “the small, simple things” (David again haha he’s quite wise for his age) we could do in our lives that would make the biggest difference to someone else.

I don’t have all the answers, I’ve said that before. But I’d like to believe love, compassion, hope and sharing your story to save another can do so much. More than we’ll probably ever know.

If you’d like to learn more, you can check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at https://afsp.org/. There is also the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or their number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If anyone who is dealing with suicidal thoughts or feelings is reading this, you are not alone. Please know that it gets better, that you are loved and your life, and voice, matters to people more than you realize.

To close this post, I am posting a link to David Archuleta’s rendition of “Be Still My Soul” from YouTube Channel 8throwcenter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGvs86boyu8. I am also sharing a monologue I wrote about the topic in my Creative Writing for the Theatre class my first year of college called “Suicide Child.” I warn you in advance it may be difficult to read and is semi-autobiographical so please proceed to read with caution.

Scene: Bedroom at night. Shade down, lamp on. Wrapped up in bath robe with dry tears against her face.

Character: Kris, a depressed 14 year old teenager who decided not to cut herself.

It was like I heard a voice calling out to me that night. I was alone, the water beating against me and my wet hair hanging against my face. I look up and see a razor by the bath tub. I just wanted to reach my hand out and touch it. Cut my arms until they bled. I pictured myself wanting to smoke. To drink alcohol. Do things to my body to harm it, damage it, just like life damaged me.

That’s when it happened. I heard a voice in my head: You’re better than this. I stared in shock as the water continued to pour out from the showerhead. I didn’t touch the razor then.

Why? Has God finally heard the cries of this troubled, brokenhearted child? This young girl who gave up on all because life wouldn’t guide or help her when needed most? Love, hope, faith, friends, family. They were nothing but lies and betrayals that life masked like a masquerade. A fake one hiding ugliness under hopes of goodness and love in a world so fallen and dark.

God. Have you heard me? Has He heard me when I gave up? He abandoned me! He led me here! When I needed Him most He gave up on me. He had let me down over and over and over until I could take no more and said to God, “I’m a mistake to You. I don’t matter to You. I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I have been punished.”

But God is more than that. God does not want fear. He does not want to be abandoned, just like a child so lost and now found in His grace. Suicide makes one think. I have heard the stories. People who gave up. Ended it all. They just couldn’t take any more of it. They had one choice left when all was lost, and this was it.

Suicide has opened my eyes to what I can do. I hit rock bottom and found myself slowly seeing past the darkness of my past and shattered heart. There is good in this world. There has always been good.

I am a suicide child. I am one of many. I matter. We matter. We can survive, because I have.

A New Month, A New Start

Rainy Day walk a few months ago for a Photography Workshop I participated in

Today is September 1st. One month ends, another one begins.

I have been thinking a little bit today after visiting my college’s career center for advice on the job search. The job search, just like my writing at times, has been frustrating and hitting numerous dead ends. The dead ends can chip at your confidence, and, if you’re a person who feels things deeper than others, those minor setbacks can really throw you off of your game.

I have failed miserably the past few months in a number of ways. With my faith, my writing, my laziness in not doing my Hatha Yoga and getting exercise and committing to sitting my butt down at the pink chair by my desk and write.

Life is and always will be a roller coaster. It never stops with college, when you get married and have kids, cheering with friends and family after your first book becomes a bestseller…the bad, frustrating, heartache and shortcomings will continue. I admit the troubling times are lessons as a writer, and as a person, that I continue to struggle with. You feel after so much pain, setbacks, regrets and more you don’t deserve more issues. You want to feel retribution when others who wronged someone else backtrack and do a 180, acting like they always cared during the difficult times but never did.

These numerous thoughts began with a random visualization in my head two weeks ago. One Monday, I kept picturing myself back at my alma mater, Smith College. It was a couple years down the road from now, talking with some of my former professors and adviser in the English department. A group of students were expected to come listen to the lecture. I was the one giving the talk, about my work. My book. Talking with the students about writing, what writing has done for me as a person, my experiences at Smith and encouraging everyone present to follow their hearts and write. To be creative and never lose that.

That thought has been nagging at me ever since.

Credit: Free Range Stock at freereangestock.com

I am making some progress. One piece is an online course through Masterclass, an online education company offering and creating classes taught by the greats of our world. I’m currently taking the writing class taught by James Patterson (I will share my experience with the course as a whole in a future post). I participated in a three-part web series through The Write Practice about completing your book in 100 days. I’m making time to read books and pay more attention to what makes them great, or not as memorable.

So, on this 1st day of September, I hope to make new goals and take them more seriously:

  • sit at my desk and create a set number of words to achieve each day
  • enter more writing contests
  • keep reading books
  • work on that novel
  • grow in confidence
  • try to give feedback more to other writers whether it’d be in contests I participate in or in the Masterclass course
  • keep up this blog!!

What are your goals for September? Are you giving yourself, and your writing, a fresh start? What do you visualize down the road?

For those who are interested and want to learn more about The Write Practice and check out their posts, check out their website here!

Also, if you are new to this blog and want to check out my prior posts, or just want to read a post again, turn to the “Past Posts” page on the sidebar!