80s Festival

We missed this party last year, which totally bummed us out.  Not that Avalanche Bay wasn't fun!  But it certainly wasn't 80s Fest.  There was no AquaNet, blue eye shadow, mini-skirts, or acid washed jeans at the water park.

When we first started talking about attending this year's fundraising event, I really wanted to go as Toni Basil as she appeared in her Mickey video.  Of course, I procrastinated and didn't buy the costume.  Maybe next year.

This meant I had to choose from what I already had on hand.  Luckily, since this wasn't my first 80s Festival, I had acid washed jeans and a mini-skirt on hand.  I went with the mini-skirt, black leggins, a t-shirt, my gloves, jelly bracelets, and some high-top tennis shoes.  Ken went with the do-rag and Motley Crue t-shirt look.  No shorts for him this time, though.  Not when the weather has been so miserably cold, especially for mid-April.

In perfect spring fashion, though, the field we normally park in was flooded.  This meant the event coordinators had to make arrangements to bus guests to and from various parking lots around town.  The bus was cool.  I loved the loud music and neon lights.  They definitely fit with the 80s theme.

When we finally arrived we met up with friends of ours.  We were hoping some other friends (you know who you are) would show up for the party, too.  They didn't.  Sad face.  

Ronnie as Joan Jett; Troy as Joel Elliot from Def Leppard.

The group!

Me & the Hubby

Hulk Hogan and the Road Warriors, I think. 

Indiana Jones

Tom Cruise

The Smurfs!
 Although we originally planned on attending Saturday night, I think the Friday night crowd was just about perfect.  We had elbow room!  

Oh, and the live band did a great job covering the various artists.   The DJ that covered their breaks was a lot fun and played some of my favorite 80s music, so that was an added bonus. 

Carrie Mattern: An Author Interview

This is a first for me, but I find that I very much enjoyed a chance to discuss Carrie's soon-to-be-released book, so I hope it's not the last time I get to share an author interview here on the ole blog.

I "met" Carrie online just a few short weeks ago.  When my sister-in-law, who happens to be a former classmate of Carrie's, discovered that Carrie would be releasing a new ebook, she thought we might have some common interests and recommended a chat.  Soon after the introduction, I was following Carrie's lead and joining up with the Support Michigan Authors Facebook group.

In addition to membership in the Support Michigan Author's group, Carrie also has a blog at Thoughts That Carry.  You may find me in the comments there from time to time.

Now, let's get on to the interview, shall we?


Although I've been given access to a small sampling of All About Jane and have a pretty good idea what this story is about, can you please summarize the book's premise for the blog readers? 

All About Jane is a young adult story from the mind of a teenage protagonist, Cassie, who lives with the guilt of one girl, Jane’s, suicide. It is a tale that frequently goes untold today...but is all too common in our society. When someone, particularly a child or adolescent, chooses suicide, who is affected and left with guilt? Who is responsible, if anyone? And how does one heal afterwards? These are the questions I attempted to answer within the book. I also wanted to clarify that ‘bullying’ is not the cause of suicide; there are several factors that combine and lead to a suicide attempt.

In your acknowledgements you mention that you had attempted to write this particular story nearly ten years ago.  As a writer myself, I understand the stops and starts that can happen with any story.  Was there any particular person, place, or thing that really helped you keep at this story until it was finished?  

A few things inspired the final product, but one more than any other stands out to me today. About three years ago two junior students of mine began a club that promotes positive behavior. It was after reading an article on Tyler Clementi’s death at Rutger’s University in class that they were motivated to bring awareness
to our school. They talked to me about it and I said I will help out with whatever they need, but it must be student led. So began Empathy for All, or EFA. This club has changed my life. The kids that join year after year show such compassion and tolerance for everyone that I knew I had to write this story down for them...I want them to know they cannot control what choices people make with their lives. All they can continue to do is to be positive role models for their peers, the youngsters they visit at other schools, and their community as a whole. They make such a difference in more lives than they will ever realize.

What was the most difficult part of this story for you to write? The easiest?

To begin, Cassie was an easy character to write as she has a lot of similar traits that I did when I was her age. Things like being insecure with boys, naive, torn between family and friends, an introvert, but also well liked were ideas I could identify well with. She also has a mean side that I had, just not to the extent portrayed in the book. I was more manipulative, whereas Cassie is calculated and precise, almost methodical in her schemes.

The toughest part of the story was writing the rape scene. I fictionalized a story that I had heard happened while I was in high school and created a metaphor for the entire situation. Imagining what this girl (unrelated to All About Jane) in high school went through during a party, and the aftermath she endured from the kids at
school, was gut wrenching. I struggled for days to put on a piece of paper what she has to live with still today. It did not seem fair. It did not seem honest, but inside I had that writer’s voice speaking up and telling me that a girl or a boy will benefit from reading this scene. They will see that what has happened to them was not right, or they may see foreshadowing of what could happen to them if they stay in the unhealthy relationship that they are in at the moment.

I understand you're a teacher as well as a writer.  What grade(s) do you teach?  Do you feel your position as a teacher has given you access and, by extension, insight into teenagers today?  

Currently I teach English to juniors and seniors. I find that they read only what they can connect to, and if it’s an article about adolescent confidential informants, a Holocaust memoir such as Night, or even each other’s work, I try to provide them with realistic, accurate pieces that they will connect to and actually read. My hope is they will read All About Jane, since I did not let any of them view it early. Insert evil teacher laugh here.

I read that you're part of a writer's group.  Were there any teenagers in the group?  And, if so, did their feedback help you keep your characters age-appropriate on the page? 

My writer’s group is composed of an array of women who are all instructors. Many teach at the high school and collegiate level. We meet every month and bring work to share with one another. We also visit conferences together during school vacation times or the summer months. They urged me to enter a fiction contest with All About Jane, and it won second place. Without their confidence in me, I may have kept working on it another ten years.

Students who helped this process were all former graduates that I have taught at various schools. Many of them provided feedback with allusions and dialogue that were necessary to change for a modern adolescent reader. It was inspiring to work with them collaboratively via technology. Consequently I am considering
a teen writing collaboration for my next book. An Ainsworth alum and former Flintstone, Patrick Jones, did this with his most recent novel and it looked like it was quite an amazing experience. Writing gathers us together and puts us on intimate, common ground. Sharing an experience with a group of teens would be
very profound and educational.

Are you working with a literary agent?  

At this time I am working alone. A literary agent will be something I seek in the future if the self-publishing venture becomes too much to manage. Currently my husband does all the finances and advertising for me, so I just get to write and show up where and when he has something scheduled. It is wonderful. I also
have a current senior student illustrating my third children’s book, The Magician’s Daughter, due out this June.

What can you tell me about your publisher?  

My publisher for All About Jane is MANA, who specializes in marketing new authors. Last summer I met the CEO, and she works very closely with Flint authors, so I decided to enter her fiction contest this fall. With winning second place, All About Jane is marketed as an ebook for free, along with royalties and
such. If it does well, we may see it in hard cover this fall. I have went the self publishing route with other books, and now I am learning about how these venues compare. This industry is a full time job and perfect for those who work from home. I, however, wish there was more time to devote to my writing since teaching all day long does not leave much time to write during the day, and being a mom of three does not leave much time during the evenings.

In closing, let's take a minute to point interested readers in the right direction.  When and where will the masses be able to buy a copy of All About Jane

As of May 29, 2013, All About Jane can be purchased at http://www.marketingnewauthors.com/bookstore.html

Thank you for taking the time to read more about myself, and All About Jane. If you’d like to read more, the Prologue will be available for free for a limited time at www.carriemattern.com next month!


Once again, many thanks to Carrie for sharing her book's story with me.  I certainly enjoyed the chance to learn more about All About Jane and Carrie's journey in writing the book. 


Yesterday's bombing of the Boston Marathon...what can I say that hasn't already been said and likely said better?  It was tragic, and I am horrified by the inhumanity of the act.  It leaves me fearful not for America's future, but for the future of humanity itself.  That people can disregard human life and commit such heartless acts for whatever reason is incredibly distressing.  Perhaps even depressing.

Yet, my hope for humankind is rekindled by acts of heroism. The first responders and the bystanders who ran to help instead of simply running away deserve all the accolades we can give them.  The story of Carlos Arredondo was one of the first I heard.
"My first reaction was to run toward the people," he said. "There was so much commotion and a lot of people running away. I was one of the first to help people and God protected me. It was horrific." (Article by Susan Donaldson James)  
I'm sure in the days to come we'll hear more of these types of stories.  While I'll likely never meet any of these brave souls, I'd still like to thank them all for their selflessness.  Their willingness to put themselves in harms way, to risk injury to themselves, is humbling.  I'd like to think I'd make a similar move, but the truth is, unless someone I knew and loved was in that immediate area, I'd probably be running as far and fast in the opposite direction as I could.


Dear first responder, thank you.

Dear selfless bystander who ran toward the chaos instead of away from it, thank you.

I'd also like to extend my appreciation to the police officers, firefighters, EMTs, National Guard members, doctors, nurses, and federal agents who rose to the challenge and are still working to save lives and solve the mystery of who did this and why.  Thank you.  Thank you all.

Wherein Joely Feeds My Book Addiction

I won!  Not only will I be receiving a copy of Joely Sue Burkhart's Yours To Take, I was also lucky enough to receive a $25 Amazon gift card.  I will be positing a review of Joely's book at a later date, but I thought I'd share with her, and you, the new titles I've added to my library thanks to her astounding generosity.

Tales of the Greek Heroes
This image links to the paperback version because I couldn't find the Kindle format on Goodreads, but I did, in fact, buy the Kindle version.

I love mythology and thought this would make a nice addition to my research shelf.  It probably won't be something I read straight through.  Unless, of course, I just can't help myself.

Gothic Tales

This was on my wishlist.  I don't remember why.  I imagine it has something to do with either a literature class I was enrolled in at some point or it could have been a recommendation from a writing conference.  I tend to make lists of books in both settings, so either scenario is possible.

I really don't know a lot about Elizabeth Gaskell other than she apparently wrote Gothic literature during the Victorian era.

Tales of Ancient Egypt (Puffin Classics)

Ah, Ancient Egypt.  My love affair continues.  This one, too, will be added to my research shelf.

An Entertainment Wishlist

1.  Firefly 

One season was just a teaser, and while I appreciate the follow-up movie, Serenity, it was not enough to satisfy the fan-girl in me.  I want more!  And the more I want is pre-Serenity, mostly because I would miss Wash and Shepard.  The problem, of course, is that the actors and actresses have aged.  Thus, the story would have to be post-Serenity.  

Sad face. 

Oh, who am I kidding?  Even if Wash and Shepard were missing, I'd totally love it and watch every episode with childlike glee.   

2.  Stargate Universe

They ended season two with a cliffhanger, a setup meant to be explored in upcoming episodes.  Poor Eli was the only one not safely stored away in suspended animation.  Instead, he was left with only two weeks worth of life support and no way to replenish those things essential to his extended survival due to a persistent enemy that had every gate and refueling source effectively blocked.  

There was also the unresolved mystery surrounding the Destiny's mission.  Dr. Rush seemed to have a pretty good clue, but I don't think he really spells it out for the audience.  My interpretation was the Destiny was searching for God or, for those less theologically inclined, the source of all creation.  

Yet, the show was really about the survival of the crew as they sped farther and farther from the Milky Way and it's nearest neighboring galaxies. The potential for new and interesting aliens - dangerous or friendly - was as immense as the universe itself.   It wouldn't have taken much to keep the crew moving from one conflict to another. 

3.  Stargate Atlantis

Okay, so this one ran for five seasons.  (Is that right?  Was it really on air for that long?)  Well, even if it was, five seasons was just not enough.  Out of all the Stargate shows and movies, this one had some of my favorite characters.  I really thought Rodney McKay was the perfect mix of asshattery and vulnerability.  Ronon was fierce, but gentle.  Teyla was oh-so-wise and able to kick some ass when necessary.  John was the right amount of rebel and leader.

I miss their antics.

The bad guys were also incredibly interesting.  Although, truth be told, I much preferred the wraith to the Asurans. There was just something about those creepy, pale-skinned, life-force eating baddies that appealed to me.

There was rumor of a follow-up movie, but it appears to have been shelved due to lack of MGM funding.       

4.  The Captal's Tower by Melanie Rawn

This one isn't a television show, so I hold out hope that someday the author will finish her Exiles trilogy.  The first two books were phenomenal.  Even writing this post makes me want to pick them up again and relive it all.  Yet, writing this also makes me want to avoid them at all costs because the reading would only lead to frustration.  With no proposed release date and what appears to be complete avoidance, there really is no sense in revisiting these old friends.

Seriously, Melanie, write the book!

Uh, oh. The Nerd In Me Is Showing Through.

I've discussed the insane number of books I have on the to-be-read shelf, so why then did I just have to have these two books?  Well, other than the fact that I obviously have issues.

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination  The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

These are not bubble-gum reads.  No light and fluffy romance, quirky amateur sleuths, or orphaned heroes with magical swords will be found between these pages.  I won't devour these in a day or even three.  No, these books will require a dictionary or, more likely, a Google search or two.  They will require a little more brain power and attention to detail.

And I'm excited to read them.

See, total nerd moment.  I warned you.

I started the first book last night.  Because the cover art isn't the easiest to read, I'll help you out a bit.  The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, by professors Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, is described as a "pathbreaking book of feminist criticism" (Amazon). I was first introduced to their theory of the Madwoman in the Attic in my Modern Lit Theory course.  Of all the theories we covered that semester, their brief passage in the massive collection we were exploring stuck in my memory.  So much so, that I knew someday I would read the book and not just an excerpt.

When I discovered Amazon had the Kindle version on sale, I decided it was time to pick it up. I went with the Kindle version over the print for a couple reasons.  The most obvious is that it's easy to keep the book on the Kindle's memory and access it whenever and wherever I want.  More importantly, though, is that while I rarely use the highlighter when I'm reading my bubble-gum reads, I love, love, love the idea of being able to use this feature on non-fiction books.  Accessing the quotes I want to remember, use, or share is easy when they're in digital form.  I can access them from my Kindle or, if I so desire, online. (I had to login to view them, so I'm not sure if you'll be able to see what I've highlighted or not.)  I can also add notes and access them from the same screen.

One last note on the Madwoman in the Attic:  I'm still in the introductory section and I'm already writing notes to myself to look up a few things, like who is this Bloom character what model of literary criticism does he use.  Also, dictionary has been used multiple times.  Yikes!

Book number two is The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Again, this book also happened to be offered at a discounted price on Amazon.

Brown's book is not something I would normally pick up.  I'm really not into self-help books and this book strikes me as something you'd most definitely find in the self-help category at B&N.  So why, then, did I pick it up?  Well there's this...

And also this...

I am fascinated with the idea of vulnerability.  When I had to write up my teaching philosophy for a course on teaching college composition, I started my piece by reflecting on the instructors I admired most and what characteristic they all seemed to possess.  It was a willingness to be vulnerable, to be human, to admit mistakes or even a lack of knowledge.  These admissions of imperfection were so damn courageous that they were, for me, the most profound teaching moments these instructors shared with me.

As someone who hopes to someday approach the front of the classroom with the same humility and humanity, I found Brown's study and insights into shame, guilt, and vulnerability to be mesmerizing.  I've listened to these TED talks more times than I care to admit.   How, then, could I not buy Brown's book?  (Yes, I'm aware she's written more than one, but the pocketbook can only take so much abuse at once, if you know what I mean.)