Guest post by Megan Brown
Bookish Slang and What It Means
ARC, TBR, COHO, DNF, ACOTAR, Reading Slump, Book Hangover, and Much, Much More!
The bookish world can be confusing. Between the shortened book titles, literary jargon, and author nicknames, it can be difficult to understand what people in the book world are even saying. This guide is meant to help you understand some of the slang so you can break into the book world with confidence!
With the incorporation of this vocabulary, you can join the bookish world with ease! Whether on Booktok, Booktube, or even chatting with your buddy read partner, these slang words can help you to discuss books and fangirl over characters.
Guest post by Deborah Cohen
Do I Need to Be a Bikini Model Now That I’m Over 50?
Going through the aisles of Target to get what I thought would just be a loaf of bread and a jar of pickles, I gravitate towards (as usual) the clothing section. As my daughter and I look through what is on the sales rack, and the poster that hangs above, I tell her, “Things have really changed. You would never see a picture of a plus size model with noticeable stretch marks hanging in a store when I was your age.”
I think this is so wonderful. This is a step that has needed to be taken for so, so long. Women of my generation only saw magazines filled with size 0 models. Without even knowing it, we were indoctrinated into a world of diets and self-doubt. Everyone was supposed to look one way, and if you didn’t you weren’t meeting expectations. It was a common occurrence to see me with plastic wrap around my waist, making myself into a human sweat machine, or diligently doing my routine from my “Thinner Thighs in Thirty Days” handbook.
As I joyfully notice more and more young, realistic body images out there, like the ones at Target, I am also noticing an uptick in unrealistic body images of women 50+.
Strolling through a variety of stories online, from parenting, to politics, to pop culture, I see a picture of a model who is a bit older than me, in her late 50’s. I’ve seen a lot of these pictures lately.
The taglines usually read like this:
“55 and her toned, flat tummy has fans in disbelief!”
“Abs like you’ve never seen, and she’s 63!”
“Former superstar, 52, walks Sports Illustrated Runway, and looks even better now in her bathing suit than she did at 25!”
The message from all of these stories is that women over 50 can still be desirable and not be pigeonholed due to age– which is fantastic!
We are still beautiful, sexy, and appealing. After all, aging should be seen as something good; we shouldn’t be “anti” aging, because, without aging, we’d be, well…dead.
Just like having curvier younger models, seeing older women as attractive is a long time coming.
Shouldn’t we be giving the same message to older women, that whatever your body type is, it’s a good thing?
It’s fantastic that people are now acknowledging that older women can dress how they want, wear bikinis, miniskirts, whatever makes them feel good. I remember hearing as a young girl when watching fashion gurus on talk shows, “She’s over 30. No more short dresses.”
We know that older women can work out and stay (or get) in terrific shape. Having a toned body doesn’t have to have the expiration date that used to be stamped on women.
Our bodies are wonders. Our bodies do so much for us, and are truly (without sounding corny) works of art. There’s this magnificent intertwinement of muscles, bones, and organs working very diligently. Getting the gift of waking up each day is pretty miraculous, considering all of the astounding intricacies it takes to keep us going.
But then as a lot of us age, we see parts of this glorious machine sagging, getting crepier, losing its elasticity, and not being as tight as it possibly used to be.
I want to see more messages out there not giving accolades to older women for looking young, but for looking like we have a body that has- and continues to- take us on this journey of life. It’s crucial to be healthy and to take care of yourself, but not everyone has the same end results when doing so.
Showing that older women can feel and are beautiful is the first step in the mind shift on aging. The next step has to be the message that is starting to get out to the younger women–you can be who you are without so much comparison and worry, for the simple reason that every body is different, and that’s just fine.
Guest post by Bay Collins
Ergonomics for a Digital Academic School Year
In this digital age we are able to do so many technological interventions from home. One can shop with a click of a button, telehealth and teleconferences are on the rise, and virtual learning is an option that many schools are considering for the safety of students and staff. Whether your child has their own digital device for learning or have a device the school district has provided, here are some ergonomic or efficient ideas to foster a successful school year.
Establishing a “night before” and a “morning of” school routine is just as important as if they were to attend a brick-and-mortar school.
~ Night before – encourage the child to select the desired clothes to wear for the next day learning; top, bottom, shoes and jacket or sweater. Prepare lunch, snacks, bottled water, favorite drinks then refrigerate the lunch box. Review with your child online or paper school planner, discuss the next day learning assignments and schedules for breaks and lunch. Routine bedtime hours are vital for a productive day.
~Morning of - adhering to routine...brushing teeth, self-grooming, eating breakfast and dressing for success! Putting on attire that others will see promotes pride; no pajamas. When virtual school time begins your child is now ready to log in and commence learning.
Allow the student to get familiar with the keyboard and how it is used. This technique will encourage more accurate responses when typing is required and completing online homework assignments. There are free keyboard lessons that are available online.
In person learning gives parents an opportunity to meet the teacher. Don’t let virtual learning make your academic goals for your child be any different. Teachers are working diligently to make learning interactive. Feel free to send a quick email to the teacher introducing yourself and the best ways to contact you.
DESIGNATED LEARNING AREA
Together, you and your child select the area that will be the designated learning area and then proceed to prepare the area:
~ Desk - If possible, try to invest in an adjustable desk. Children can grow up to 2.5 inches in a year(1). The desk or table should be within the child's arm reach to avoid the child bending over or forward. A leveled desk or tabletop promotes good posture and helps to avoid fatigue.
~Chair – The child will be sitting for several hours, make sure the sole of the child's feet touch the floor; their feet must not dangle or hang without support. Check how the child sits in the chair, some may prefer a cushion for the seat or a pillow for back support. Look at their arms, do they rest comfortably on the table? Is there room so the screen is not to close?
ORGANIZATION IS IMPORTANT
A great start is having the child who is familiar with a school setting to help create a school supply list. Then allow or assist them with organization of their learning area:
* Purchase the recommended supply list according to grade level.
* A clear ink blotter pad can protect the desk or table from accidental mishaps that tend to happen from time to time.
* Adjust the monitor screen at eye level.
* A designated learning area is not complete without pens, pencils, highlighter and pen/pencil holders.
*Pencil sharpener, the handheld manual sharpeners remain popular
*A desk calendar to track homework assignments and test schedules are great reminders for parents and students. Encourage entry of non-school events i.e. birthdays, holidays, medical visits, and outdoors events.
* A container or a drawer that holds items that are important depending on the child’s age as paper, crayons, rulers or calculators.
* Binders labeled on the outside for each subject i.e. Math, Reading, Writing Skills, Science.
* A simple wastepaper basket within reach.
* Personalize the student’s work area with a picture of themselves or something that they enjoy. This is especially important if you have more than one child or you are working from home.
*Think about the background, a simple solution is to place the back of the chair near the wall. If you have a desire to be creative, you can purchase or build a stand and cover it with seamless paper.
*Natural light is my favorite, however; there are times when we need additional light therefore select a lamp that does not add glare on the monitor screen or is harsh on the student’s eyes.
*Limit background noise. It can be distracting to hear the washer or dryer in the background.
GOOD HEALTH IS ESSENTIAL
It is so important to take care of your family’s health. With so much screen time, there are concerns about dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, back and neck strain. Be sure to contact your healthcare professional as needed and maintain annual visits.
Hydration is important to good health, it is very popular to have an easy twist cap bottled water available.
Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children ages 6 and over should get an hour of physical activity at least three times a week.
Whether you selected virtual learning or your child’s school or district made that decision, you are an essential part of your child’s education. Your involvement helps your child succeed in their journey of knowledge.
R- REAL -TIME
Reference (1) According to John Hopkins medical website.
Action Scene Pacing
Post by author Arielle Haughee
Five Factors for Mastering Fast Pasting in Action Scenes
It’s finally time for the big face off and your reader is at the edge of their seat. Having the correct pacing in action scenes is essential. Otherwise your big moment will flop and the worst thing will happen: Your reader will be disappointed. Gasp! There are several tricks to making sure your pacing is on point in this critical moment. Here are my top five tricks:
Factor One: Time Manipulation
The scene itself is usually only a matter of minutes or sometimes even seconds. Think about when Harry and Voldemort clash wands. That was maybe two minutes? But the scene isn’t written like this: Harry and Voldemort pointed wands at each other. The wands blew up. Writing actions scenes requires the author to slow down the clock and stretch out the moment, giving it weight in the plot. This amps up the tension and the interest for the reader.
Another way to manipulate time in action scenes is to try and introduce a “ticking clock.” Yes, this could mean a literal timer before something explodes, but it could also be an imminent consequence if something doesn’t happen within the time frame. Someone or something is coming. Something is falling down. Anything that puts an element of time pressure into the scene.
Factor Two: Including Action + Reaction
We want to give the scene a physical and an emotional punch, a one-two combo. Start with breaking down the scene into smaller actions. What exactly is the character doing? Each motion has more gravitas in this scene so be sure to highlight the actions that are propelling the character forward in the plot. (example: opens the door, feet brush on the rug, a noise comes from the bedroom…)
Next, add in the character’s internal reactions and thoughts. (example: no one is supposed to be here) This confrontation is the culmination of more than just one thing and the character’s mind should reflect that. Increasing the emotion for the character also increases the emotion for the reader. It makes them more attached and rooting for the character to succeed.
Factor Three: Layers of Conflict
Pacing slows down in any scene where there isn’t enough conflict, but it’s especially true during action scenes. Not enough conflict can also make your scene too short or things too easy for your character. The best thing you can do is to absolutely torture your character. Make every single thing that can go wrong happen. If he is about to give a speech in front of a large crowd, make him get a cold the night before. Have him chug a glass of water but not have time to stop in the bathroom. Make him lose all his notes and have his long-lost girlfriend in the crowd. Then have a wardrobe malfunction on stage.
Remember to include the internal conflict as well. Our speech giver can have a crippling fear of failure from all the years his mother berated him for minor mistakes. Make this action scene so heavy with conflict it is almost too much for the reader to handle. We really want to stress the reader out. That way when the upturn comes, it’s that much more exciting.
Factor Four: Zero Fluff. None.
Your big action scene isn’t the place for your character to casually notice the surroundings or have long introspections. Anything extra is going to slow down the pace at this critical moment in your story. It could be information you do need to include in your plot, but it’s probably best to save it for another chapter or scene. So if you haven’t explained why the car is able to fly, the big action scene isn’t the right place to tell the whole backstory involving the fairy powder.
Be merciless when revising your action scene. Ask yourself if the information is an essential part of the current motion or if it can be moved elsewhere. Cut your sentences down as much as possible.
Factor Five: Strategic Structure
This is a critical but often overlooked element of writing fast pacing, the visual structure of the words on the page. The reader’s eyes should fly over the text at the same speed as the story pace. Avoid extended paragraphs and complex sentences. Use short sentences deliberately, creating a punch. When you want the reader to pause, perhaps right before the dog is about to attack, then put in a paragraph that is a little longer than the others. Look at the structure of the words on your page. Use the visual elements of the text itself to enhance your pacing.
Mastering pacing in action scenes takes practice and a focused effort. My best suggestion is to study your favorite action authors and analyze their scenes. How do they use time to create fast pacing? How much of what they write is action versus reaction? What are the layers of conflict? How did they keep the scene lean? What does the structure of the text look like? Studying successful action scenes can help you learn how to build your own.
Guest post by author Sam Barnette
"Eight Bites" is Never Enough
I was at a time in my life where I was approaching middle age. To top it all off, I was a fat woman in the age of the skinny or so I thought. Before this body positive movement, I was stuck in a body that I was shamed for and led a life in which I was discriminated against, not for the merit of my education or the words I spoke, but for my size. There was never a place that I could go to be safe – not the doctor’s office or the hair salon or even sometimes in my own home.
Shortly before finishing my graduate degree, I took a class on the form and theory of prose. One of our required readings was Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. Every story in that collection was brilliantly constructed to show a different aspect of the female experience through a magical realist lens. She spoke out on medical misogyny and body autonomy in “The Husband Stitch” as well as the idea that women cannot make decisions for themselves as seen in “Difficult at Parties.”
The story that stuck out
The story that stuck out to me, however, is “Eight Bites.” Machado shows us a bigger woman who obviously has struggled with food for her entire life. She has sisters and a mother, all small, who constantly tell her how much easier their lives are that they are small indicating that at some both they were big as well. Her mother talks about only eating eight bites and that it was all she needed to survive. It is obvious early on, though, that all is not well when the narrator has a last meal before her own bariatric surgery. Her sister joins her and is very much eating vicariously through the narrator.
The narrator’s struggle with weight and society’s overall perspective of big bodies is why I connected so much with this story. I could feel her pain as she scarfed down her last meal, wondering if she would ever eat anything decent tasting again. I felt connected to her as she sat alone before her sister joined her and felt judged by the entire restaurant. The magical realism comes in when the weight she has lost haunts her house. Although, I would not say I was haunted by my fat, I would say that the surgery exacerbated any feelings I had surrounding food and its social implications. Instead of feeling confident after my own surgery, I felt empty, not only literally, but figuratively as well.
Expectations vs Reality
My own relationship with food is a dark, twisted path of unrequited love and self-loathing; all reasons why I had the surgery in the first place. I went into the surgery expecting a change. I would be a different person, eat the right things at the right time with the right portion. I expected to be seen differently socially. I expected to feel good about being supported by friends and family and for aches and pains to decrease.
After surgery, though, I felt like I lost my best friend and my social problems did not go away, they just changed. Now, people were not looking at me as the fat girl who could not fit in a booth, but now I was the girl that needed to go to a restaurant that had something she could eat. If I ordered a small portion, I was usually asked if I was sure that’s all I wanted. Coworkers were excited to see the weight came off. I thought I’d enjoy the support, but it just added pressure. If I failed, I’d have to face these people multiple times a week.
My pain didn’t go away it was just caused by something different. I had gotten used to getting around in the world in certain ways to accommodate my size. After I lost some weight, though, I had to carry myself differently which meant my body had to acclimate to a different posture, a different gait, and a whole new shape. Everything still hurt. It didn’t feel like I won.
Finding My Voice
Machado’s story gave me voice and a community of women who had been through the same things I had. I no longer felt like an outcast or worse an invisible part of society. I felt seen. I didn’t think about other women who had struggled with bariatric surgery because all I saw was the success stories. I had the surgery before reading the short story. Even though, I could’ve used it before, reading it after prompted me to look for other struggling women, ones who also struggled after bariatric surgery.
Find Support Groups:
List of Bariatric Surgery Support Groups, Forums | Obesity Reporter
BariatricPal: The world’s largest weight loss surgery forums
Weight Loss Support:
3FatChicks on a Diet! – Diet & Weight Loss Support
When Reading is Hard
Guest post by Tonya Spitler
When Reading is Hard
I learned to read at a very early age. Reading was always my hobby, my favorite pastime, and my escape. So, when I had children, I envisioned bonding over the shared joy of opening a book and diving in.
I did all of the things. I read to them frequently, took them to story time at the local library, and had bookshelves full of options for them to look at. We had family read aloud time, listened to audiobooks in the car, and genuinely enjoyed spending time reading together. As a homeschooling family, we spent hours reading together.
All of the experts said children are made readers on the laps of their parents. I took that advice very seriously.
Learning To Read
Learning to read didn’t seem to come as easily for them as it had for me. They struggled to sound out words. Words they recognized one day, were completely foreign to them the next. I was frustrated, they were frustrated, and it seemed we were getting nowhere.
It wasn’t until my oldest was finishing first grade when I finally stumbled across a blog that talked about dyslexia and a light bulb clicked. We began working intensively with phonics programs geared toward children with learning difficulties. We tried all the tricks: colored reading strips, index cards with a whole big enough for one word at a time, glasses, brain training… you name it, we tried it.
Over the years, I attended workshop after workshop learning all I could about dyslexia and tips and tricks to help my children not only learn to read, but to fall in love with reading the way I had.
It was during one of those workshops that I heard something that would change the course of our reading adventure.
Some people read better with their ears. - Andrew Pudewa
This simple statement allowed me to step back and realize that reading, while vital, can look like a lot of things.
I started focusing on finding books that my children could listen to as they read along with a physical copy. We still worked diligently to learn to read fluently, and made huge strides, but falling in love with reading had to be separated from the process of learning to read.
Adding audio books and continuing family read aloud time allowed for my children to continue to fall in love with exploring new people, places, and ideas through the written word. They came to look forward to reading time, and that made my bookish heart swell.
What about "grade level?"
After seeking professional diagnosis, we discussed at length what it means to be on grade level and what would happen if they were never able to get there. My greatest fear was they would be held back from achieving their dreams if they couldn’t read at a college level.
This is when we discovered the accommodations offered to people with reading difficulties. Colleges often offer several options to help students be successful. Most college textbooks can be found on audio now, and professors will often share their slides if asked.
Encouragement for the New Year
As a new school year begins, I encourage you to consider separating the love of reading from the act of reading from a page. If your children dislike reading, find audiobook options they may enjoy. Make it a family affair. Encourage them to continue to grow their reading muscles but take care to never make them feel like they aren’t trying hard enough. Perhaps institute a family reading time.
Even if your children love to read, there is value in family reading and in offering multiple ways to “read.” Encourage your children to find the types of books that keep them flipping the page.
Whether they read with their eyes, or their ears, I hope this year, your children fall in love with books.
Be the Rainbow
Guest post by author William Carter
Be the Rainbow
My freshman year of college was hard, like really hard.
October 2007 of my senior year of high-school, I was involved in a head-on collision with a Suburban, and I suffered a brain injury, a stroke, a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, and I was placed in a coma. 2007 and the first part of 2008 were some of the most challenging months of my life. I woke from the coma to confusion. My short-term memory was absolute trash. I was in diapers. I had left-side neglect. I lost a fourth of the vision in my left eye. I had a shaved head with a scar down the back where they took out a chunk of my skull to help with the swelling (it would be returned to me in December). My left fingers shook if I exerted them too much. I was in a wheelchair, and I wanted nothing more than to get better. In fact, this was my simple prayer every night before I drifted off to sleep.
Though by the time August rolled around, things were a little bit easier. I graduated high school My wheelchair had been replaced by a shuttered limp. I was going to college. Though, I was but a shadow of who I had been before the accident, and I all I wanted was just a chance to be back in his skin. Please God, just give me one day as that AP student, that president of the drama club, that champion debater, that social butterfly. Please God, take this away. Just take this me away and give me him.
The Promise of College
So, college had this promise to it. You see, my friends at high school now knew this new me, this me who would forget what was just said, this me who would get mixed up or confused, this me who would shrink to the floor and eventually wish for a sudden abduction out of most social environments. But college? No one knew me. No one I knew was going to Oglethorpe. I could reinvent myself. I could create the person I want to be.
Of course, though, I still had a brain injury. I still was the same mixed-up, limping, awkward kid who was living post subdural hematoma, post stroke. Then, you throw college classes on top of that? My first-year writing course was kicking my butt. There were reading quizzes every day, and I’m reading, but I’m failing. So, what am I to do? The only thing I can do: wake up at four in the morning and study every moment I can. I fail my first two papers. So, now I have no choice; I have to get A’s in my acting and music history classes, so I can still keep my scholarship. I don’t really have time to work on friendship. I go to the bible study, but I can’t do much else. I go to dining hall occasionally, but I mostly eat in my room. I am tired of looking for somewhere to sit. Also, I can’t afford to waste any time. I need to read. I need to study.
"I'm so tired."
In my room, I listen to music. Music has always been a comfort for me, and I’m in my bed, looking at my recent less than stellar grade on my recent paper (74), and the soft, comforting voice of Ingrid Michaelson floats in my ears,
“The bluebirds fly so high
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why oh then why can’t I?
Why, then oh why can’t I?”
And I want to cry. I want to just weep. Why can’t I? I’m so tired. I am so exhausted. I just want life to not be so hard anymore. I just don’t want to struggle anymore. I want to make friends. I want to enjoy college. College is fun, they say. College is the best time of your life, they say.
But they never had a brain injury. They never had to work four times as hard to get that B. They were not always wishing for that place somewhere else, somewhere over the rainbow.
That’s why the song has the impact and the staying power it does.
Life Goes On; fast or slow.
Many of us have had that time in our life where we want to be anywhere but now. Give me a time machine that takes me any place but this moment. Fast forward, fast forward, fast forward! And every time, you push this mental remote, everything just goes slower.
Life can go by very fast, but it can also go so painfully slowly, and you just will give anything to be somewhere else, anywhere away from now.
Now did not last forever. I did find some respite. God blessed me with friends, but even more, he blessed me with a safe place. I spent so much of my first semester freshman year feeling stupid. I did not enjoy my classes because they were just another place to feel less than, just another place to feel judged.
I Found a Rainbow
Then, my second semester rolled around. I began taking a Medieval and Tudor Drama Course. I was excited to take this course because, in the Fall, two short plays I wrote were performed by the student-led acting group, and this professor, Dr. Hornback, apparently loved them. He thought they were hilarious. A professor thinks my work is hilarious? How do I sign up for his course? Also, what does he teach?
So, I enrolled in Dr. Hornback’s course, and every day, I was happy to be there. He gave great lectures, but he would pause and answer my questions, and he supported my commentary on the plays we were reading. I wrote my own miracle play about Elisha and the bears, and he enjoyed it immensely. Now, I found a rainbow.
I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but if you haven’t lived it, you don’t know how important it is. I felt safe in his classroom. I felt smart in his classroom. I felt accepted in his classroom, and I enjoyed every day I was in it. I needed this man and his class. I needed a place that felt like an island in the midst of struggle.
Pay It Forward
Now, two master’s degrees later, I am a professor. This semester, a student said the most beautiful thing to me. One day, this student, aa student who has had a challenging life and was having a personally difficult semester, looked at me and said, “I smile every time I enter your class.”
I would be lying if I said my eyes didn’t well up a little.
He didn’t know just how much that meant to me. He didn’t know how much I needed such a place my freshman year. He had heard me talk about my injury, talk about my struggles in college, but he didn’t know just how this affirmed everything. I do think I was an empathetic person before my accident, but especially because of my accident, I try so hard to make my classroom a positive, supportive, safe place for all my students. I want to be the Hornback in their lives because I remember how much I needed it.
I think about that song from time to time, and I think about all the people in my life who were there when I needed them to be. I think how hard my graduate school experiences were because not was I recovering from a brain injury, but after the fact, I found out I was living with a heart condition. I think of the people who were safe, the people I knew I could count on to be that drop of land in the midst of a raging sea.
So, that is what I try to do, and I encourage everyone to do the same. Be the rainbow to those in your life. You don’t know how much someone desperately needs it. I was so overjoyed but also taken aback when my student told me that my class made him smile. I guess because I don’t think I have that much power, but the truth is, every one of us does.
If you’re a teacher, your students look to you. If you’re a boss, your employees look up to you. If you’re just a person in line at the supermarket, be the person who affirms that cashier, tries to brighten his or her day. Be the rainbow that helps someone not want to escape now for somewhere else. Be the rainbow that helps today be one worth living.
Post by Arielle Haughee
What's Causing Your Writer's Block?
Previously an elementary teacher, Arielle Haughee (Hoy) is a five-time RPLA-winning author and the owner of Orange Blossom Publishing. She is an editor, speaker, and coach. She is the author of The Complete Revision Workbook for Writers, the children’s books Grumbler, Joyride, Pling’s Party, and Sixth Sunday, the editor of the How I Met My Other anthology series, and the creator of the Focus Journal line of journals. She was also honored with the President’s Award from the Florida Writers Association in 2020.
She has a serious reading addiction, fantasy romance her absolute favorite, and loves nothing more than good conversation paired with a good wine. She is surrounded by males at home—a husband, two sons, and an energetic dog—and tries to integrate as much purple and flowers in the house as possible.
Priya Pai is a rising senior at Texas A&M University who enjoys writing in her free time. She is also an avid reader and spin class fanatic who can be found in either the library or her local spin studio. Her most favorite activity, however, is chasing her labradoodle, Cocoa, around. Read more of Priya's work: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Lynn West lives in Florida with her Samoyeds and rescue cats. She is author of Castle’s Capers: The Adventures of A Naughty Puppy and her recent book Gatherings: A Collection of Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Cheryl also published Remember Me, When This You See, a memoir of her husband’s grandfather in rural Tennessee in the early 1900s.
Arielle Haughee is the owner and founder of Orange Blossom Publishing.
Getting Into Writing
How I Met My Other
Writing Goals And Routines
Writing Picture Books