Illiteracy in America

Although it isn’t well-known, March is National Reading Awareness Month. Largely partnered with  an organization called ReadAloud, who aims to have each parent across the country read aloud to their child for 15 minutes a day, I believe the main goal of Reading Awareness Month is to bring awareness to illiteracy and when we can do to help those who are illiterate.

Illiteracy is an epidemic that I personally care about very much, especially as an author. In college, my sorority’s philanthropy was focused on literacy. We went into schools and worked with underprivileged children who had trouble reading. Illiteracy is something that needs to be talked about.

Here are some facts about illiteracy in the US that you may not know (via the Literacy Project Foundation):

  • 44 million adults can not read a simple story to their children
  • Approximately 50% of Americans can not read well enough to perform a simple task, like reading a product label
  • 20% of Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage
  • 3 out of 4 people on welfare can’t read
  • 85% of juvenile offenders have trouble reading

We’re constantly reading, no matter where we are. It’s hard to imagine how different our world would be if we couldn’t read. Thankfully, there’s a lot that can be done.

What You Can Do To Help: 

  • volunteer to read at your local library
  • read to someone younger than you, like a sibling or children you babysit
  • donate the books you’ve finished reading to charities, like First Book, who give them to the underprivileged

I hope this post was able to open your eyes to the problem our country faces with illiteracy. We can all do our part to help those who cannot read.

Time Traveling Through Your Old Stories

Last night I was snowed in and bored here in the Northeast. I thought it would be entertaining to read a book that I haven’t touched in years. I settled on my fantasy story Euphoria that I finished back in 2012, when I was 18. Back then, it was my only story that didn’t receive good reviews. I couldn’t figure out why. I created a whole different world and had a main character that was vastly different from anyone else I’d seen. 

Now, after finishing my writing degree, I caught on to every mistake, every repeated word, every time I told instead of showed. In a way it was completely embarrassing. People had to sit through and suffer through chapters of repetitive facts, info dumps, and my main character, Violet, who had to tell readers multiple times that yes, she was smaller than everyone else. 

I guess the main point of this is that we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our own stories,and we shouldn’t be scared to go back and read them (a problem that I’ve always had). Our old stories show how much we’ve grown as authors. They’re part of our journey to achieve whatever it is we want to do in the writing world. Back in the day, I was extremely proud of Euphoria, And I still am. 

Of course, now reading it had inspired me to go back and update all my old books, but that’s a project for another time. 

Warning: Construction Zone

This morning I thought of the analogy that editing a story is like renovating a house. You may think that you’re only doing some cosmetic changes like a new floor and a fresh coat of paint, when really, you are suddenly motivated and find yourself changing the entire layout of the house and building an addition.

This is what I have discovered while working on my story Misconception this week.

I went into editing hoping to just give the book a quick refresh, fixing grammar, changing some sentences, and lightly touching on the plot of the story. Well guess what? I found myself deleting almost an entire chapter and writing two new ones.

The goal of this was to make the story appear more logical, (since everyone knows what a stickler I am for trying to have my stories make sense.) So, without spoiling the end, here’s what’s changed in Misconception this week:

1. Introducing the Candlelight Vigil: 

Originally, chapter 8 featured a small few paragraphs about Taliah, our main character, attending the memorial service for Molly, the girl she supposedly killed, during the day at a park on the college’s property.

I got myself thinking, “Wait. How could the school have a memorial service if they weren’t entirely sure that Molly was dead?” No body was ever found. If the school didn’t know that she was dead, a memorial service would make no sense.

This is where the vigil comes into play. Readers are introduced to Megan and Giovanna, two friends of Molly who make two very different speeches about their “missing” friend. This is the game changer that caused the entire layout of my analytical house to be changed.

2. Everybody Knows Something New:

Before writing the vigil chapter, readers and Taliah thought that Molly was of course, dead. Now we all learn at the vigil that that is not the case. This requires me to write a brand new ending, as well as some searching scenes.

3. Beware The Vampire Hunter:

Chapter 8 started with the memorial scene and included the entire vampire hunter scene. This was of course, changed to expand on the vigil and include a bit of Taliah looking downtown for Molly.

Originally, Taliah was invited to a fake “faculty party” to lure her into a banquet hall where she would battle the vampire hunter. She essentially walks into an empty room at first before the lights go out.

Taliah is a lot smarter than that, so I had to put in a little more effort to try and convince my vampire gal that there was a possibility of a party going on. This included a lady near the doors handing out name tags, two doormen (who chain the doors shut after she enters) and speakers throughout the room with recorded voices on them. So, as Taliah descends down the long hallway towards the hall, she hears the noise and starts to believe that there may actually be a party.

Stay tuned for next Sunday’s update! I can’t wait to see what new ideas I’ll come up with as I keep working this week.

Authors Need Love Too

Since I’ve been home for winter break, I’ve had some time to reflect. Last night, I suddenly started thinking about my future…I have no idea what’s going to happen. There is never certainty as a writing major. 

Anyway, I realized that being an author, like many other things, requires a support system. When I was in high school and all my friends wanted to read my works, I felt like I was on top of the world, and I wrote nearly every day, finishing books left and right. 

Now, after not having a publication in over a year and begging for beta readers, I rarely write anything that’s not for class anymore. 

The thing I realized about authors is that our career really depends on other people. A teacher, for example, needs a class. But students will always be around. An author needs beta readers, then for a publisher to like your idea, and then the public needs to love it as well. An unmotivated teacher can still show up to work. An unmotivated author can’t write. 

So this holiday season, I’d advise everyone to show some love for the writers in your life. Stop by their Wattpad account and read something, or ask them about that poem they scribbled in their notebook. Tell them you can’t wait for their next book. Chances are, they’ll appreciate it. 

Finishing Edits…but Are They Really Done? 

Hello all. I’ve Ben away for a while, mainly because of schoolwork and the fact that I wasn’t really doing anything writing related. I had only 15 pages left of edits for my novel Knowing You’re There, and I finally finished that, along with formatting the whole thing and putting it into a Google doc for beta readers, which is a whole different story in itself, because when I told everyone I was starting my publishing journey they were all volunteering, and now everyone is either not interested or too busy. 

Anyway, the focus from the beginning was always the length of my story. I managed to increase the word count from 42K to 46K with a few new scenes. However, that’s still not enough. So I found myself suddenly making an outline of 7 chapters that would definitely not be fluff and would actually further plot and character development for Kurt and Lia, my starring couple. 

Now the big question is: do I go through with it? A large part of me thinks I should. However, I’m a tired and lazy college student. But since a novel is trimmed down anyway I the professional editing process, I’m going to say that it would be a good idea to extend it. Now all I need to do is find some committed beta readers who will work for free…

When Even Friends and Family Won’t Read

I was going to write a post about beta reading, but I figured, what’s the fun in writing something I’ve never had experience with (but hopefully will soon.) So, I’ll start with a story. 

I wrote a lot when I was in my last two years of high school. We moved to a different state where I went to a small school and had no friends–a big difference from where I came from, where I spent the fall and spring on the varsity crew team and summers at the mall with friends. I had nothing to do, so I wrote, and it took me out of the world I was living in and brought me to where I desperately wanted to be: someplace else. 

Back then, I did have people I was close to that read my work. My dad read a few chapters of my first ever completed book, Living Brighter, and so did one of my friends from back home. But over time, no one else felt like reading. In fall of 2012, I finished Euphoria, my least popular book. My sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “All I want is for you to read Euphoria.” The story was about 80 pages long at the time, and being a fast reader, I figured it wouldn’t take her more than a few hours. Christmas morning, to my disappointment, I was given a Spongebob DVD. 

Two weeks ago, my mom had surgery and couldn’t leave the house. She told me before I left for work, “What am I going to do all day?” 

“Read Saving Flight 926. I need feedback before doing the rewrite,” I said. “You know how to get on my Wattpad.” 

Nine hours later when I returned home, she had not even gone through Wattpad, and was instead playing Cookie Jam. And don’t even get me started on how much I have to beg my boyfriend to click through a chapter. 

At the end of the day, I mostly feel disappointed. All I think is, “Is my writing that awful?” These are the people who encourage me constantly. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. But then I realized that there are probably a million other fellow writers who are having the same problem. 

So, what do you do if no one wants to read? Here’s what I learned. 

1. Don’t Beg

Begging can lead to people being forced to read if they don’t want to, and the classic, “I’ll check it out right now.” While you sit there awkwardly and wait for them to finish (which has happened to me way too many times.) 

2. Try to Understand

Maybe my mom just wanted to play Cookie Jam instead. Maybe your friend and relatives are actually busy. Or, try putting yourself in their shoes. Personally if it was me I’d be reading my friends’ things like I always do, BUT maybe they just don’t want to. I mean, everyone has things they don’t want to do. 

3. Come to Terms With It

While it does feel upsetting and insulting, I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people may just not want to read your stuff. Why would my boyfriend want to read a gooey romance? Or why would my sister want to read fantasy when she loves horror? And you know what? If they don’t want to read it, that’s OKAY. As authors, we know that tons of people won’t like our work, and our friend and family are just a handful. 

4. Don’t Let it Stop You

Long story short, don’t let anything stop you from going after your writing dreams. 

It really stinks when people we’re close to won’t read the work we’ve put so much time into. While it may be hard to understand why, it is possible.