Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee

The only play in my students' reading list. It was based on the Monkey Trial of 1925, but was not a direct account. This would have just been another interesting "look back" at history if I didn't recently find out that there are some cities that STILL forbid the teaching of evolution! I am, once again, intrigued by this difference of thought and am beginning to think that I should read the Bible.
Last book on the summer reading list!

Dated: 07/27/02
Do you think plays should be read, or reserved only for performances?
Have you read the Bible?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm On To You HERSHEY'S!!!

I love my chocolate. It's true, I am dairy intolerant so I mostly stick to dark chocolate these days, but I still hold on to my love for the classic Hershey's chocolate. Whether it's a plain milk chocolate bar (that I can stretch out to last me a whole week!) or a Hershey kiss lurking in a candy bowl taunting me, I do give in from time to time to these delicious delights.

When I do, I am in heaven. It is that simple flavor and texture that I enjoy, so when I caught glimpse of Hershey's latest and greatest creation, the Hershey's Air Delight Bar, I was confused.

Why would anyone want LESS chocolate in their bar?

I've tried to ignore it and move on with my life telling myself, "Nicole, you don't have to buy that bar!" Then, today, just now, in fact, I saw a commercial for Air Delight Hershey Kisses! As soon as they showed the cross-section on the screen it occurred to me WHO exactly would want less chocolate in their candy...


I'm on to them now. They're trying to sell us the same size candies with LESS CHOCOLATE IN THEM!!

Now... Let me be fair - I have not tried these products (I'm terrified I will fall in love with them) nor have I done any price comparisons between them and the original Hershey's products. This is a total rant that I would normally save simply for my husband's ears after we have seen such a commercial. When he's not around, I'll tell the dogs all about it, but for some reason Buffy decided to stay in bed ridiculously late today. That's why, today, I have ranted here on Rivera Runs Through It. Perhaps you have tried one of these products and you can set me straight. Perhaps you know someone who works in Hershey and they can set me straight.

Either way, right now, these are my thoughts: Hershey is scamming us! They are not the first to do it, not by a long shot, but they are using their fabulously tempting Hershey logo to do it and I say THAT'S NOT FAIR!

What if #18 [Writing Prompt]

What IF #18:
What if you had one month to take off of all of your responsibilities to pursue one activity of your choice?

You get a free pass. No strings attached, no extra cost to you or your family. Imagine the blue fairy that once changed Pinocchio into a real boy has come down to you and has granted you one entire month, distraction-free, to pursue a long ignored activity of your choice. Your job(s) would be taken care of, your family, your pets, and your meals would be taken care of, your finances would be unharmed and some wonderful elf would handle all the laundry that would accumulate... I think I covered everything. If I didn't, you can be sure the blue fairy would! The point is: no excuses left, no distractions in your way. You truly have one entire month FREE.

  • What would you do with it?
  • Would you just enjoy the freedom, work on a particular project you've been putting off, share your time with others, or continue work on something you you've been fitting in whenever you can?
  • Would one month be too much or too little time for your choice?
  • How do you think having this one month of "freedom" will affect you in the long run?
So dream away my good readers... and then write your response. Link up below:

Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog presents a different "What If...?" question for you to explore.
Link up your own post about this week's question. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Muppets Magic - Alive and Well

I have just returned from seeing the best movie of 2011.

Am I biased?


However, I argue that my expectations were so high that perhaps this declaration should be taken with some weight. The movie I am writing about here is none other than The Muppets.

The Muppets have a special place in my heart. I was raised with the Muppets. The Muppet Show was my first experience with appointment TV. The Muppet Babies were my motivation to wake up early on Saturday mornings. The Muppet Movie was the first ever film I saw in the theater, just before I was three years old. The Muppets have taught me to never give up, always be positive, to sing a little song to make the day a little happier, and that laughter is a universal language understood by all creatures.

Tonight I went to see the new Muppet movie wondering if, after a twelve year hiatus, the Muppet magic could still be captured. I am elated to say it can and for this reason Jason Segel will forever be one of my creative heroes!

From the first scene in the movie, it is unquestioningly Muppet Mayhem! The movie was fantastic. When I think of Muppets I think of music, laughs, lots of fur, a Muppet dream, a major conflict and show that simply must go on! All of these things are alive and well in The Muppets. It is evident that this movie was created by fans who not only know the Muppets, but also get them.

To quote Animal, I say you should "SEE MOVIE! SEE MOVIE!"

If you don't want to take our word for it, here are five other reviews for The Muppets rolled up into one!

Have you seen The Muppets yet? 
If so, what was your opinion?
If you took your kids to the movie, how did they respond?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

This novel takes place during the civil war based on the stories of the author's grandfather. I am amazed, once again, at how much I didn't know! I always knew there were many reasons for the Civil War, but this book actually reminded me of what they were. It leaves me wondering how confident I would have been in the Union's cause had I been alive during that time!

Dated: 07/26/02
What lessons have you learned from historical novels?
Have any historical novels led you to question your understanding of history?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What if #17 [Writing Prompt]

What IF #17:
What if you found out you had an allergy to your favorite food(s)?

Here in the United States this week is all about FOOD. Thursday is Thanksgiving and, while many people people have redefined that as "Black Friday Eve" it remains a delicious delight in my tradition. Since all types of food stuff is on the mind, I thought this would be a good time to think about how you would deal with a food allergy keeping you from your favorite food (cruel, I know!). 

So what would you do? Would you eliminate your favorite(s) from your diet forever or would you allow yourself "cheat days"? What type of symptoms would a food have to cause you to result in total elimination from your diet forever? Would you still prepare those favorite foods for friends/family even though you could not enjoy them?

Perhaps you are already dealing with a food allergy of your own. If so, when did you find out about it? How difficult was it for you to transition your eating habits? Did/do you allow for "cheat days"? Has it changed any of your holiday/celebratory traditions?

There's your food for thought this week. Something to chew on, if you will...

Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog presents a different "What If...?" question for you to explore.
Link up your own post about this week's question. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

Monday, November 21, 2011

[Take Action] Coke's Saving the Polar Bear's Home, But What About Mine?

While Coca-Cola can surely boast that it is an international brand, I doubt any country has yet to beat US daily consumption (data from 2002 and 2009). Coca-Cola is nearly as American as apple pie.

You would think, with such an enormous fan base in the States, that Coca-Cola would do its best to look out for its most profitable land. However, as evidenced by a recent story in the New York Times article, it seems as though profit might be the only thing Coca-Cola is out to protect!

The Grand Canyon is easily one of the most precious natural landmarks one can find in the United States. It, like many of our wonders, draws many visitors who happen to carry with them plastic bottles in their travels. After dealing with the build up of trash that comes from such traffic, the National Park officials at the Grand Canyon decided to impose a ban on all plastic bottles. They were even going to install water refilling stations throughout the park in order to encourage visitors to bring their own refillable bottles. Sounds great, right? I thought so.

Guess who didn't like the idea.

The Coca-Cola Company.

According to the New York Times, here's what happened:
Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled.
$13 million does weigh a lot in these matters, I suppose. However, I am writing to you today about something else that can be just as powerful: your voice.

Stiv Wilson (@agentstiv on twitter) started a petition on for you to sign and share. The petition is to the Director of National Park Service and it is asking to Ban the sale of plastic bottled water in Grand Canyon National Park. 

I implore you to sign this petition. I also request, that if you have the time, you reach out to Coca-Cola as well. Let them know that their winter campaign of "Protect the Polar Bear's Home" that they are now plastering on their bottles just in time for all their cute polar bear commercials is not enough to gloss over that which they are doing to contribute to the pollution of Our Home!
I understand Coca-Cola is a business that must protect a place where I am sure they yield a nice profit. (Lots of tourists heading out to the Grand Canyon must be thirsty, how many of them reach into their pockets to buy a Dasani, or some other Coke brand product?) It is our place as consumers to let Coca-Cola know that taking a stand with the National Parks Service is enough for us to say, "Wow... Coca-Cola is an awesome company! The next time I need a tasty beverage - I'm going to them first just because of what they did to protect my home land!"

Fellow consumers, let us do our part:
Does Coca-Cola's contribution to America's (and the world's) pollution problem bother you?
How can companies like Coke help the environment while still selling their products? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo: 15 Things I Learned From My First 50K

Somehow, incredibly, I did it. At somewhere around 10:30 PM EST on November 14, 2011 I had written my 50,000th word in my NaNoWriMo novel. Was it the story complete? No. Is it done now? Of course not. But I have "won" the NaNoWriMo Challenge on my first try within fourteen days.

The prize? An education.

Here are the fifteen things I learned from writing my first 50,000 words:

1. I can write.
I don't mean this one in the sense of, "Oooo everyone! Look at me! I'm so cool! I can totally write!" I mean I can actually, physically do it. My diseases did not take a sudden vacation during November - I definitely got my butt kicked a number of times, but I wrote around it. On the 14th, the day I passed 50K, I was stuck in bed up until about 4pm, maybe even five. It was not what anyone would consider a "good day," but I still got words in. I wrote after dinner. I stayed up a little later than my husband. I worked around my symptoms... writing is flexible like that. That's what I mean when I say I can write.
2. Characters honestly and truly come to life.
This completely and utterly freaked me out. I have heard authors say this before, but I kind of thought this was some broad strokes way of describing some inexplicable thing that all writers understood. I did not realize it meant that these crazy, fictitious creations would start making decisions for themselves, develop their own personalities and be so damn stubborn. It did not happen right away, but when it did, when my protagonist became Rachel and started to play out her own story in my head before the words were typed on the screen, or before I had a chance to feel as though I consciously conjured up such actions, that's when the writing became a brand new experience for me. It was like some sort of reading/movie-watching experience happening for just me in my head and it became my job to try to describe it for everyone else. THAT WAS SO COOL!
3. Write-Ins are fun.
I didn't think I was gong to be able to participate in any write-ins this year. With my health, inability to drive and lack of funding I had too many reasons (more like excuses...) not to trek out to Manhattan for a write-in. However, when a group of Staten Islanders got together in the NaNoWriMo forum to organize one UP THE BLOCK from me at the Barnes & Noble, I was fresh out of excuses. We have a small group and everyone's writing something dramatically different, but it's neat to take five in between writing spurts to just chat about books, writing, name choices or just plain old "regular people" talk. I anticipate going to all the write-ins throughout November even though I have passed my 50K (I still have to finish this book!).
4. Plot outlines are disposable.
Remember a little while ago when I told you I learned that characters really do come to life? Well, I believe one of their hobbies is to chew up any plot designs you may have thought were good ideas and spit them out. On the Monday of week 2 in NaNoWriMo, I was completely stymied. I had no idea what to do. I looked at what was coming up next in my plot outline (I think it was something sadly early on like PLOT POINT 3 out of 46!!) and I realized there was simply no way my character was going down that path. I looked at the rest of the outline and discovered I was doomed. You have to remember, this is my first time doing NaNoWriMo, my first time ever writing anything so long and I thought having a plot outline (and sticking to it) was the only way to find my way to the end. Luckily, I was wrong. I haven't looked at the plot outline since and I don't know if I would write such a detailed one again. I was terrified to chuck the outline, but once I did, I was liberated and my story came back to life.
5. Chocolate is awesome.
Brownies (gluten-free, of course), dark chocolate from Trader Joe's, Lindt Dark Chocolate Bar with a Touch of Sea Salt, and chocolate almond milk... I consumed more of this food group than any other. Add a dash of Coca-Cola to my typically soda-free body and you'll understand how I stayed up for well over 30 hours on Day 3 into Day 4 writing. Chocolate is awesome. I think some sort of caffeine is necessary at some point and, in my case, a nice boost of sugary goodness with it. I just don't do coffee, for many WriMos that is the answer.
6. Headphones are indispensable.
I have these super fancy Shure Sound Isolating Earphones (a worthy investment made years ago) that are incredible. Not only do they provide me with musical accompaniment, but even when the tunes become too distracting, the headphones themselves do a great job of blocking out the ambient sounds of the room around me - like the suddenly deafening snoring of my dogs on the couch, or the cacophony coming from the ticking grandfather clock! Some days I needed them, some days I didn't. For some reason, on Sunday I was able to write with ears unblocked in the Barnes & Noble Cafe even with the hustle and bustle of the weekend crowd and the endless looping music from Frank Sinatra, Elvis Prestley, and some other greats that I typically sing along to.
7. Scrivener is so much more than I imagined.
Before starting NaNoWriMo I had never looked into program designed for writers. I pretty much thought it would be MS Word, Pages on my MacBook or, my old faithful, Google Docs. Then one fellow blogger recommended OmmWriter and my eyes were opened! The program was created for writers and helped me tune out the world. It was simple, served it's purpose of tuning out all screen distractions and left me with nothing but my words. It intrigued me. When I got to the NaNoWriMo site I saw more programs geared not just for word processing, but for creative writers. Scrivener was one and it was being offered as a free trial during November. I figured I'd give it a shot to see if it was worth the December investment. It has been amazing and I'm still learning new things every day! By Day 3, my major motivator to finishing the 50K before November 30th was getting my discount on Scrivener (50% off for those who pass 50K, 20% for any NaNoWriMo participants)! I've been able to write in scenes, organize them into chapters, make notes, keep files on all of characters, places and research all in one place and then Scrivener "Compile"s the whole manuscript in the end making it the one huge connected piece it is! Love it!!
8. Holding back my inner editor can lead to massive productivity.
When I blog, which has consumed most of my writing consciousness in the past couple of years, I edit as I go. I write with a critical eye and I slowly select the words that I present. I write, then reread and reread again. One of the unwritten rules of NaNoWriMo is "November is not for editing." This frightened me at first. I hadn't written like that since I wrote volumes of poetry in high school and college. I'm not going to say it's been easy. In fact, not editing might be part of the catalyst that is driving me through the story so quickly - I need to get to the end so I can go back to the beginning! In addition, letting go of my critic/my editor, opened the flood gates of creativity - I allowed myself to write as quickly as the characters dictated, no slowing down for pretty word choices, rewriting dialogue, finding all my missing "e"s (I still haven't had my sticky key fixed!). This is a first draft, all that fun rewriting and editing stuff can come later! It's a whole new way of writing for me and it was productive (I mentioned I wrote 50K words in 14 days, didn't I?!).
9. My sticky "e" key is incredibly annoying.
I think I just alluded to this, but I feel it should get it's own spotlight here as well. Having any keyboard issues when trying to write like a maniac is annoying, but when that key happens to represent the letter that is so common the good folks at Wheel of Fortune just give it away in their bonus round, then it can be maddening. When you think you typed the word "were" and instead see "wr" or every "the" becomes a "th"you can imagin, I mean you can imagine how that can get to you! So, I did edit sometimes, but mostly just when I was in between word sprints and the little red lines of word processor confusion called my attention to the non-words I had typed. I imagine, when I get to edits/rewrites I will find hundreds more!
10. Twitter can actually help me focus and be inspiring!
In the days leading up to November I started crawling around the NaNoWriMo site collecting twitter handles and following everyone I could find, then I created a NaNoWriMo stream on my HootSuite account. I had three streams open at once, never my "Home Feed" just NaNoWriMo, my list of NaNoWriMo friends and Mentions (so I could see if anyone wrote directly to me). This was incredible. Everyone was talking about writing 90% of the time. The NaNoWordSprints were running seemingly 24/7 from all over the place. And, while I did not actually follow along with the sprints I read them and their challenges, often hilarious, actually inspired me to add some interesting details to my characters, story and settings.
11. Naming characters can be both fun and frustrating.
I don't have any kids of my own, so before this the only experience I've had in naming things has been in naming pets (Chewy, Meow, Buffy, Geek... these are pet names I can claim credit for). Giving a name to a character - a first and last name is something that, perhaps, I take entirely too seriously. I researched name meanings, thought about what these things said about my characters before I even got to know them, and even examined initials. I enjoyed it, but I was frustrated when some names just didn't click right away. Some were easier than others, and, who knows, maybe some will still change!
12. I owe my dogs some extra attention.
My two dogs are lazy lumps. I didn't think they would really notice if I was writing all day instead of hanging out next to them, petting them and talking to them (yep. I talk to my dogs... it's just us all day, every day, what do you expect?). Well, I think they noticed. I got a couple of leg scratches, lots of sad eyes and cries of desperate joy on our less frequent walks. I also had two escape attempts from the backyard while I was writing. I suppose they figured they could go out on the town without me noticing! (They were almost right!).
13. I have an understanding and supportive husband.
This is cheating. I knew this long before NaNoWriMo, but it was a lesson that was reinforced. I wrote all day when my husband was at work and then I continued, many days, even after he got home. I plugged in my headphones and tuned him out. I rambled on to him about fictitious characters and how they were driving me crazy, how they wouldn't listen to me anymore. I attacked him with questions he couldn't possibly know the answers to and, on a couple of nights, stayed up writing sending him to an empty bed. His response to all of these things? "I am so proud of you." Really? Am I that lucky? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm that lucky and more so!
14. Writing can be good company.
Last weekend my husband did a favor for a coworker... a really big favor... he gave up his three day weekend to chaperone an out of town school trip. This left me alone for three whole days, not just during the work hours, but over night as well. That can get super lonely, but I learned this past weekend I had a whole slew of characters to keep me company. We had a lot to discuss, do and transcribe over the three days. I won't say I didn't miss my hubby, but I wasn't desperately awaiting calls all day and night!
15. I am still a work-a-holic.
When I was hospitalized in June 2009, I was positive I had put myself there. After eleven years of being so obsessed with my work and unable to find an appropriate balance between work and life, I believed I had finally unhinged all the functions of my system. The thing is, I count myself as lucky that I truly loved my work - while working it always seemed worth all of the time, effort and expense (whether financial or physical). A huge part of my recovery at home has been trying to find a way to live without it. Writing has filled in this hole for me. I feel productive again, not in the same way, of course, but productive all the same. Taking my writing to this *new* level reawakened that love of work inside me. It feels good. I know my limitations now, but I can't deny that I love to work. I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing, and early in the day on November 14th, I read my own thoughts in his book, "For me, not working is the real work." So, so true, Mr. King. And so I feel life might get a little bit easier now, because I found work I can do. Just as when I was teaching I could distract myself in the in betweens with thinking about what to teach next, how to teach it, what questions to ask and what problems to pose, now, in between my writing I can be thinking about what to write next, who to write next and what situations they'll be in. And while there is no joy in being a starving artist (or a starving anything!), at this point, the work itself is a personal compensation I am grateful for.
I'm sure there have been more lessons learned on this journey, and many, many more to come, but these are the ones that stand out and demand an audience. If you are a fellow WriMo, I wish you well, or, as they say May the words be with you! If you are not a fellow WriMo, but are curious about the adventure, nervous to take part and came here wondering what could be gained from it, then I say: WRITE. Start your own National Novel Writing Month right now - challenge yourself and wonder at what it wakes inside you. You have nothing to lose - no one has to read your words until you choose to let them see them!

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo?
If so, what did you learn?
As a reader, what makes a character come to life for you?
What snacks, settings and people help you to be productive?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I was, at first, skeptical about this book -- it is a series of extremely short stories. When looked at individually each story seems to be of no consequence, however, when read together, the stories give a creative look at growing up Mexican-American in an urban setting. Cisneros has a great skill in relaying the feeling and stories with a minimal amount of writing. I am quite impressed and am curious about her other books!

Dated: 07/22/02

What was the last book that surprised you by actually turning out to be good?
Can you steer me in the direction of any other books written in this style (multiple short stories used as a platform to tell one over-arching narrative)?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What if #16 [Writing Prompt]

Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog presents a different "What If...?" question for you to explore.
 At the bottom of this post is a place for you to link up your own post about this week's question. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

Happy pondering to everyone...

What IF #16:
What if it/they never existed?

For me, it was the Muppets. For my little brother it was Star Wars. My husband had GI Joe and his brother had Japanese entertainment (DragonBall Z, Pokemon and the Power Rangers). 

What are these things?

Those childhood obsessions that consumed so much of our thoughts, playtime and imaginations. I venture to guess that the influences these have had on us, even as grown-ups may be deeper than we even imagine. Let me give you some examples:
  • I have a tendency to look to the silly, fun and colorful aspects of life. I also tend to talk to animals a lot. I seem to think that all furry things have a basic concept of the English language.
  • My brother joined the military and then the police force. He is constantly fighting good versus evil.
  • My husband is very creative. How does this relate? When you have GI Joes the way you play with them is by imagining scenarios in which they all participate.
  • My brother-in-law is currently living in Japan. I truly wonder if he had not been exposed to Japanese culture in his youth if he would be as interested in pursing a career and new life in that country!
These are all very broad-strokes examples. Without telling you each of these life stories, I don't know how else to express the influence I see within each one of them. The fact is, our childhood obsessions framed us and our understanding of the world. I, personally plan to take some time to think about how I would be different if the Muppets didn't exist (even though this is a thoroughly heart-breaking perspective for me to take!). 

You may have guessed by now what inspired this question - THE MUPPETS ARE COMING BACK TO THEATERS THIS MONTH!! (I have become very Muppet-minded as of late!).

So I turn the question to you: What was your childhood obsession? What if it never existed? 
  • How would this have changed your childhood?
  • How do you think this would change your perspective of the world today?
  • Are there any negative aspects you picked up from your obsession?
  • Based on this, are there any current childhood "obsessions" you would like to steer your own children away from?
Write your story. Link up below!

For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hunger Games Official Trailer!!

I woke this morning to find a wonderful gift awaiting me in my Facebook News feed: a link to the brand new Official Hunger Games Trailer.

All I can say to that is - now I'm hungry.

Suzanne Collins's trilogy The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games), and Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) was the most exciting book series I have read in the last five years.

It was strange how it all began. My cousin's wife came back from a teacher's conference for reading asking me, "Everyone keeps talking about 'The Hunger Games', have you heard of it?" I had, but neither then, nor now could I place where. It was just in passing. However, this was now the second time it had come up and I try not to ignore such book recommendations. Unfortunately, at the time, I was having my own personal issues with reading, surviving and just staying pain-free in and between my teaching schedule. I didn't have the time, nor the stamina to consider reading for pleasure.

Then, in June 2009 I was hospitalized, diagnosed and sent home with treatment unable to drive, read the printed word, computer screens or even watch television. My vision was terrible and trying to see things lead me to a world of pain. I rose each morning, ate breakfast, took my meds, and laid on the couch with my beagle until my husband got home. I was losing my mind.

One day, while feeling all too sorry for myself and longing for stories, I despaired in my mind and remembered: audiobooks! I grabbed my iPhone, closed one eye, squinted the other and started to think. Then I remembered. I wanted to read The Hunger Games! It was downloaded and after hours of clambering around the house on a quest for my headphones, I had a new friend on my couch of isolation.

I was finally taken away from my own solitude and immersed in Collins's fantastic tale. In the days that I listened, that I "read" the only way I could, I was inspired to fight again. I, perhaps, did not have quite the same dystopian environment surrounding me that my beautiful Katniss did, but I had my own. I had my upside down world of blindness, sickness, motherlessness, mourning, pain and confusion. I did not have to battle others thrown into an unwated battle with me, I had to battle a disease with an unknown origins, unknown triggers and merciless timing. I did not have to conquer Capitol, I had to conquer my own Pride. It did not take me three books to wage a war and understand my positions of power and powerlessness, I imagine it will take me a lifetime...

But The Hunger Games woke me up. The Hunger Games brought my soul back by injecting me with a rich tale of one girl who wouldn't quit, one girl who fought for what was important to her, one girl who loved her family so deeply.

I have long been nervous about the release of The Hunger Games films. This trailer sets my mind at ease. It looks right, but what's more important - it feels right. I'll see you guys at the theaters on March 23, 2012 (Oh... if there's a midnight showing - that's  the one I'll be at!)

Have you read The Hunger Games? 
If so, what was your experience like?
If not, are you waiting for the movie, or have you not heard of it before?

TwitterView with Laurie Bellesheim about Surviving Emily

On October 19, 2011 I had the esteemed pleasure of interviewing Laurie Bellesheim, the author of Surviving Emilya heartbreaking story that leaves us all with a feeling of hope and a recognition of the healing power of love. This is Laurie's first published novel and I am happy to be a part of the party shouting it out to the world!

Here's a description of the book from the Surviving Emily website.
Abigail Hooper and Stephen Sparks had never heard of Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy until one fatal morning in November when it crushed their hopes and dreams. Twelve years after the devastating loss of their dearest friend Emily, they find themselves still affected by the trauma.
Abigail, married and newly pregnant, helps others through her work for the Department of Children and Families. When a new client with epilepsy unexpectedly forces her to re-examine the past, Abigail realizes she’s the one who needs saving. Stephen has struggled emotionally, physically and spiritually after losing the love of his life, and the long-term effects of his grief have kept him from truly living and finding love again.

If you missed the TwitterView, there's no need for you to be sad, I saved it all for you! Here it is, in it's entirety. Enjoy! 
riverand 1:01pm via HootSuite
@LaBellesheim first of all, congrats on publishing your 1st novel #SurvivingEmily. It must be so exciting!

@riverand I'm very excited about it! I'm so happy to see it out there , its been a great experience

@LaBellesheim how long have you been #writing in general & how long did you work on #SurvivingEmily?

@riverand I've been writing since I was a small kid, on and off over the years. It took me 3 yrs. to complete Surviving Emily

@LaBellesheim 3 years! WOW! A labor of love, for sure!!

LaBellesheim 1:03pm via TweetDeck
I had several versions of Surviving Emily before I stuck to one so it took me a bit longer

@riverand It was a labor of love, it means a great deal to me :)

LaBellesheim 1:04pm via TweetDeck
@riverand After several versions and revisions, I finally decided to publish

@LaBellesheim What was is about THIS version of #SurvivingEmily that told you "This is IT"?

@riverand I realized that it was finally expressing what I was trying to get across. And knew if I didn't stop tinkering I'd never finish

@LaBellesheim Ah YES!I read that you got that great piece of advice from a writing class - finish first, then go back. <3 it #SurvivingEmily

@riverand I also knew I was done when the story made me tear up :)

@LaBellesheim a good sign, for sure #SurvivingEmily

So, @LaBellesheim when the BIG DAY came did you have any kind of celebration when you received your first PUBLISHED copy of #SurvivingEmily?

@riverand My husband celebrated it by buying me a really nice pen to sign all my books with, lol.

@riverand I also had a celebration dinner with some friends and a good bottle of wine :)

riverand 1:12pm via HootSuite @LaBellesheim Ooo! I love cool pens! What a great gift! So thoughtful. (Thumbs up to the hubby!)  

@riverand It was sweet. The best was when my 3yr old saw the book and saw my picture on it & got all excited!

@Labellesheim friends, food and wine - a perfect celebration!! #SurvivingEmily

@LaBellesheim since the hubby has come up, rumor has it you are also a mom of 3. That's a handful! #momauthor #SurvivingEmily

@riverand Nothing can beat your own book arriving at your door!

@riverand YES! I am a mother to 3. My girls are 3 and 4 and are very much like having twins.

@LaBellesheim you see we both went straight to thinking of the kids! This leads to my next question. #SurvivingEmily

@LaBellesheim HOW did you find the time and quiet space to #write while raising 3 children? #momauthor #SurvivingEmily

@riverand That's a good question. It was very hard and it slowed me down quite a bit but when u want something bad enough u make it happen.

@riverand I used to have a babysitter come 1x a week for 4 hours to help me with this.

@riverand Early mornings and late nights helped too :)

@LaBellesheim Would you consider yourself a naptime writer? :) #momauthor #SurvivingEmily

@riverand I wish! My kids refuse to take naps :) They stopped napping too early.

@LaBellesheim I think the babysitter is a wonderful investment and a great idea!! #momauthor #SurvivingEmily

@riverand The goods news is that my son is a teen and in school for a good portion of the day so that was at least 1 down.

@riverand Yes, it was great t ohave the babysitter - she helped me clear my mind

@riverand This year the younger ones go to preschool 3x a week so now I have started writing again!

@LaBellesheim my next question brings us back to the writing process again. A question of curiosity, I suppose... #SurvivingEmily

@LaBellesheim Who did you show your book, #SurvivingEmily, to first? Husband, friend, editor, #WritingGroup? And why that person?

@riverand Prior to publishing it was my friends. But on that BIG day, I showed my husband first.

@riverand I waited to show the hubby because I wanted to surprise him with the finished copy

LaBellesheim 1:23pm via TweetDeck
@riverand I also dedicated my novel to my husband and children & I didn't show him until it arrived :)

@LaBellesheim Had your husband been reading along during the pre-published stages with your friends? #SurvivingEmily

This is so sweet :) RT @labellesheim: @riverand I also dedicated my novel to my husband and children & I didn't show him until it arrived :)

@riverand He did in the very beginning but when I kept changing it around & revising he stopped. He figured he'd wait

@riverand Us women think alike! :)

@LaBellesheim Wow, so the finished product must've been very exciting on SO many levels!! #SurvivingEmily

@riverand Yes, I still can't get over seeing my name on the cover sometimes

we do :) RT @labellesheim: @riverand Us women think alike! :)

**SO COOL!!** RT @labellesheim: @riverand Yes, I still can't get over seeing my name on the cover sometimes

@riverand It's nice to have achieved this goal of mine

OK @LaBellesheim I have some questions about the story #SurvivingEmily and your inspirations/experiences relating to it, ready?

@riverand Sure!

@LaBellesheim your job in social work must expose you to so many stories.How much of THAT reality influences your writing? #SurvivingEmily

@riverand My SW experiences have given me MUCH to write about but realistically I only used a small piece of it in the story

@riverand I think I might use more of those experiences in the next novel

@riverand I tried to be careful in Surviving Emily to keep some of those experiences fictional but close to the truth

@LaBellesheim true however do you think your exposure to so many diff people through SW helped in character development? #SurvivingEmily

@riverand Absolutely - the role of Nancy in my story is very similar to many of the young clients i worked with

answering later questions! Yay!! ---> RT @labellesheim: @riverand I think I might use more of those experiences in the next novel

@riverand The attitudes your faced with out in the field of SW are similar to that of Nancy's

@LaBellesheim Understandable, my experience with various attitudes/emotions/reactions as a teacher gives me juicy details for characters!

@riverand In Surviving Emily, Nancy is the character who brings back the painful memories for Abigail

@LaBellesheim Nancy is a nice segue to my next question #SurvivingEmily

@riverand It's fun creating characters based of real experiences with other people

#SurvivingEmily mirrors a sad event from your life w #SUDEP - how difficult was it to relive that through your writing? @LaBellesheim

@riverand It was very difficult at times because it brought back a lot of memories for me as well, even some that I had forgotten.

@riverand But in a way, it was also therapeutic and helped me work past some it

@riverand In a few scenes or chapters , I shed a few tears

@LaBellesheim do you think writing the book helped you in your grieving process? #SurvivingEmily #SUDEP

@riverand I do. Surviving Emily first started off years ago as a writing journal for me to help in the grieving process.

Wonderful!! RT @labellesheim: @riverand But in a way, it was also therapeutic and helped me work past some it

@LaBellesheim in #SurvivingEmily Emily's death was initially suspicious & investigated by cops. Is this common in #SUDEP cases?

@riverand At first I never imagined Surviving Emily becoming a published novel, it was more for me but it became something else over time

@riverand I'm not sure if it's common, but its very likely as most times there is no known cause for the death

@LaBellesheim Publishing #SurvivingEmily was a fantastic move bring awareness to #SUDEP and 2. who knows how many ppl NEED this story!

@riverand In my case, I really didn't know my friend had epilepsy & her death was a huge shock

So scary! RT @labellesheim: @riverand In my case, I really didn't know my friend had epilepsy & her death was a huge shock

@riverand That's exactly what I'm hoping for in this story - to help raise awareness

You made ME aware!! I had no idea! RT @labellesheim: @riverand That's exactly what I'm hoping for in this story - to help raise awareness

@riverand I know a person like myself could have really used a story like this back whe nit had happened to me

EXACTLY! RT @labellesheim: @riverand I know a person like myself could have really used a story like this back whe nit had happened to me

@riverand I didn't hear about SUDEP until several years AFTER my friend passed away.

So we know that Abigail's character was modeled after you. What about Stephen's character? @LaBellesheim #SurvivingEmily

@riverand At the time of her death, SUDEP was unheard of

Wait! What?! Amazing. RT @labellesheim: @riverand I didn't hear about SUDEP until several years AFTER my friend passed away.

@riverand Stephen's character is slightly based off an actual person who was involved in this story

Oh W-O-W. RT @labellesheim: @riverand At the time of her death, SUDEP was unheard of

@riverand Very true

@LaBellesheim if you could, what advice would you give to Abigail, Stephen or anyone dealing with loss suffered from #SUDEP? #SurvivingEmily

@riverand SUDEP didn't become a medical term used on death certificates until years after her death

@riverand My advice would be to search out others who have experienced the same tragedy, to find a support group

@LaBellesheim I am so happy for you that you were finally able to put a name to the mysterious death! #SurvivingEmily #SUDEP

@riverand I would also suggest to research more about epilepsy and SUDEP and find out ways to help raise awareness

@riverand It was quite a turning moment in my life to learn about SUDEP and put a name to my friends death

@LaBellesheim excellent advice. I would add read #SurvivingEmily. I think it's quite powerful to see your own reality played out in fiction.

@riverand I've learned so much about epilespy and SUDEP since then & I hope to help educate others too

Well, @LaBellesheim, I think it is time we tell people where they can find more info about you & #SurvivingEmily. Where should people go?

@riverand It was a challenge to write fiction based off real experience.

I believe that! RT @labellesheim: @riverand It was a challenge to write fiction based off real experience. #SurvivingEmily

@riverand More info on Surviving Emily can be found on my website at

RT @labellesheim: @riverand More info on Surviving Emily can be found on my website at

@riverand A excerpt and my bio can be found on the website

@riverand Surviving Emily is also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

@LaBellesheim excellent, and although I believe you alluded to this earlier, I have one more question for you! #SurvivingEmily

@riverand Sure :)

1 more thing before we let you go, @LaBellesheim! Are you working on a new project for all of us to look forward to after #SurvivingEmily?

@riverand Yes! I am happy to report that I've already started novel #2, another women's fiction novel.

@riverand I plan to keep going and writing for many more years to come! :)

@riverand Thank you for this chat! it's been really nice sharing this with you and everyone here on twitter :)

@LaBellesheim With the kids in preschool, this one should be here in a flash! ;) We look forward to it!! #SurvivingEmily

@riverand Thanks! The next novel will surely take much less time!

riverand 2:01pm via HootSuite @LaBellesheim I don't want to keep you from that 2nd novel any longer! Remember everyone for #SurvivingEmily  

And that was it. I hope you you learned a little something about Laurie's book, Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy, writing and this great new author, Laurie Bellesheim!