reading, writing, and social field hockey

I learned something about myself when I started my sophomore year of college at Millersville University.  I enjoyed being athletic and fit, and I enjoyed spending time with my friends, but I did not love field hockey.  **gasp** This was a big surprise, because I really thought I did.

I learned this as the fall progressed without me, for the first time in eight years, picking up a hockey stick.  I had so many good memories, but what I learned that season was that it wasn't the sport itself I enjoyed.  I loved being with my friends, working towards a common goal, fighting together, laughing (and sometimes suffering sunburn) as a team.  Oh, and winning. We were pretty awesome, you know...

Don't get me wrong, I LOVED watching the US Field Hockey team play their last game before the Rio Olympics.  It's a great sport.  But the game would have been weird to watch alone. I was there with my dad and my sisters, rehashing wonderful memories!  We could've been cheering for baseball (GO YANKS) or for a group of synchronized mamboing penguins.  My point is, what I thought I loved was not what I loved.

What I have learned now that I'm this wildly mature adult version of myself is that I love the social aspects of all things I do. Board games, sports, eating... I love the talking and the story-swapping and the laughing and the "you think that's bad wait until you hear what happened to me" one-up-man-ship of talking with interesting people.

Reading (and writing, I've learned) for me is also very social.  Like Stephen King taught me in On Writing, I write better dialogue because I'm an extrovert.  I want to talk about my book. I want to Book Club with other people and dialogue about the characters I created. (Yes, I used Book Club as a verb.)  I want to hear them laugh and watch them read the sad parts. 

Nothing has made me happier than hearing people's comments as they read The Senator's Youngest Daughter. I recently had the privilege of sharing a Facebook messenger dialogue with a friend as she read my novel.  She opened the book over a period of days, letting me know what she was thinking and experiencing as she read it.  What a glorious, encouraging, treasured experience for me.  

I love making people laugh, making people feel something, so to experience her trip through Brenna's story was fabulous.  Some of the comments would be enormous spoilers, so I can't relate them all here, but here's a sample of how she made my day:

  • I may or may not have neglected every chore I had today in exchange for more time with Brenna.
  • I can't stop.

  • Poor [husband] has only seen my forehead sticking out the top for two days lol

  • I just got goosebumps.

  • I'm sad it's over. Please write more books.

So no more field hockey for adult me, but hopefully more writing in the future.  And I want to talk to you about it: about what you're reading, about what I'm reading, and hopefully, about what you thought while reading what I'm writing.  


redheads, glasses, and accepting who you are

In the final stages of polishing my novel, I had an epiphany.  Many of the pre-readers of The Senator's Youngest Daughter had drawn the conclusion that my protagonist Brenna was me, that her husband Tate was my husband Matt, that her mom Denise was my mom Debbie, that her dad August was my dad Steve, that her sister Esther was my sister Caryn, and so on.  (My other sister Laure will interject her sadness here that she and her husband together are some sort of weird collective amalgamation in Ike and Reese).  

Obviously, they're wrong.  Just because I happened to have written about someone who's similar in personality and looks and home state and family circumstances doesn't mean it's me, right?  Just because there are a hundred other similarities between my family/friends and my book characters doesn't mean they're them, right?  

Back to my epiphany.  I had decided to give Brenna red hair.  Their last name is McFerren, after all.  So why is she blonde?  It's only real relevance in the book is that her dad calls her "Blondie'.  So, BOOM, Brenna's a redhead and then no one will think she's me, right?  August can call her Red.  Problem solved!

Now is the time to watch the Mystery Men clip I've included above.  The relevant part of the script is:

Mr. Furious:  Lance Hunt IS Captain Amazing!

The Shoveller: Oh, here we go...Don't start that AGAIN. Lance Hunt wears glasses, Captain Amazing DOESN'T wear glasses.

Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms.

The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense, he wouldn't be able to see!


Case in point: Changing the hair color/optical prescription needs doesn't change who you are.  Life lessons from a Ben Stiller movie.

Fortunately, my sister saved me from the redhead idea.  (Not that there's anything wrong with gingers, everybody settle down.)  She pointed out that the similarities between Kelley and Brenna were far deeper than hair color.  And what's wrong with writing a version of myself into my first novel?  And my family?  And settings I know?  

It started out as a way to keep track of the characters. Characters had similar names to people in my family so it was easier to remember the relationship.  But then my characters started to look, act, talk, and think like them, too.  (What can I say, I have a smart family and we spend a lot of time together.  Therefore, so does Brenna.)

I was embarrassed when I began to realize how many correlations I found.  It even made some of the readers who knew me uncomfortable when they were picturing me and my hubby instead of two book characters when their marriage was showing. (wink)  

Nonetheless, The Senator's Youngest Daughter, in all its life-reflecting-life glory is my offering to the world, directly from my brain to my reader's eyes.  They're probably blue, since mine are blue.  And I only write what I know.