Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

The Death of Literature?

@AilaStephens (1)“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, 
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”
-Walt Whitman

 

Halloween looms. I love Halloween. I don’t do anything, really. I’m not often accused of being a social butterfly. And we only get about four kids trick-or-treating. (It’s a burden having a giant bowl of unclaimed candy!) It’s Fall, though. The leaves are changing and padding the ground. The temperature is dipping, and pumpkins dominate the produce department of every grocery store.

Though I don’t really go out and celebrate Halloween, I do enjoy the lore. I used to be keen on watching all the scary movies—the more gore, the better. But nowadays I tend to stick to a few classics that I’m drawn to every year. Of course no Halloween would be complete without Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, Sleepy Hollow, *the* Halloween movies (Because, Michael Myers!), and Ghostbusters.

I always wonder why it is we spend so much time and money to scare ourselves. What with the costumes, the tickets to the latest slasher films, haunted houses, housefuls of decorations, etc—we spare no expense in curdling our own blood, despite the fact there is already so much out there to fear.

Of the plethora of scary topics, I was scrolling through social media not long ago and I saw a satirical image that I find inherently frightening. Perhaps not in the way that causes one’s hair to stand on end or heart palpitations, but it’s frightening nonetheless.

The image, by artist John Holcroft, depicts a book in the shape of a coffin and the nails each depict a different social media outlet. The artist is clearly predicting the bye-to-booksimminent death of literature, with social media to blame for its untimely demise. Now, as a writer, this scares the hell out of me. I don’t think it is that society doesn’t still enjoy a good story, but because social media plays such a huge role in our lives now, the way people want their information has changed. We get our news as we scroll Facebook while waiting on our doctor’s appointment. We prefer our interactions 140 characters at a time. Does this prevent people from reading books? Have our attention spans diminished to the point where cracking a book and making it to the end is a foreign concept?

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey cites that 26% of American adults hadn’t read a book in the 12 months prior to the survey. 19% of those adults had also not visited a library in those 12 months. I suppose those are fairly small numbers, and may not on their own suggest the demise of literature…but there’s more. In another study, it is suggested that approximately 50% of American adults cannot read past an 8th grade level—with a whopping 33% of high school graduates who are unlikely to crack open a book for pleasure after they graduate high school.

What then might happen with the children of that 33%? Will they have a love of reading instilled in them or will that skip them, causing that number to rise over the years? Surely, as with most technologies, social media is going to continue to grow, evolve, and firm up its grip on society.

Does that in and of itself have to be a bad thing though? I hope not.

I’ve never really done much as a writer or a reader when it comes to WattPad, but my understanding is that it is pretty much a social media+writer’s delight. Perhaps it will help keep the love of reading and writing alight in the hearts of teens and young adults while satiating the addiction of social media.

The scariest statistic I came across, though, is this: 80% of US families did not buy a book this year (statisticbrain.com: August 4, 2017). I’m not statistician, obviously, but this number seems awfully high. It doesn’t state whether it refers to print books, eBooks, a combination, picture books, etc. I suppose some factors may have inflated that: used books might not be counted, lending libraries, thrift stores (where I buy a lot of books, personally), children’s books, etc. etc.

Other statistics to note:

US Inmates who are literate: 15%
Books started that are not completed: 57%
US Adults who haven’t been in a bookstore in 5 years: 70%?! (How do people resist?!?!)

It isn’t surprising to me that with statistics like these, John Holcroft foresees the death of literature. Personally, I don’t think literature will (or could ever) die. It has already evolved. Can you imagine what Walt Whitman, Charlotte Brontë, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, or any other pre-internet age author would have thought if you’d said to them that people would one day be able to get their work through their telephones? Or that one day there would be a way they could write and share their work instantly with the whole world? The publishing industry and writers alike are already adapting and dipping their toes in possible solutions to attract new readers.

What do you think? Have you personally noticed any changes in the reading habits of your family, friends, or even yourself? Is literature dying or thriving?

Until next time, happy writing…and for crying out loud: HAPPY READING!

 

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Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Author Confession

@AilaStephens

I sometimes wonder if other authors grieve their characters once they’ve finished writing a book or series. I finished writing Sex, Love, and Formalities a few weeks ago, with minor tweaks here and there based off editor and/or beta feedback…but for all intents and purposes, the story of Briella Logan is finished.

She’s the first character I’ve ever created who has seen the finish line of not just one, but two books. She’s my first entry into the publishing world. I’ve spent over two years agonizing over her syntax, her emotions, her likes and dislikes. I know the lifetime of backstory that readers will never know.

For instance, when Briella was in high school her father was in the hospital and when he came home, Brie made him dinner and he said it was the best thing he’d ever eaten—and that’s why Brie decided to become a chef. It *never* comes up in either story, but I knew how she came to that decision. I know that she secretly listens to Alanis Morrisette while she cleans house, but changes it to something else if someone comes home because she’s embarrassed to be seen dancing around using a whisk as a microphone.

I know why Liam never, ever mentions his parents. I know that although Liam fawns over Brie’s gourmet cooking, he sometimes craves overcooked Toad in A Hole like his grandmother made him on the nights his mom abandoned him on her doorstep. I know Liam doesn’t like horror movies because he hates not being able to help the damsel in distress.

If I am being honest, I’d write a hundred more Brie and Liam books because I just adore writing them. They’re not always the best versions of themselves they can be. They’re flawed. Perhaps that’s what makes them so real to me.

I won’t write a hundred more books about them, though. I will probably never write another book about them. I’m comfortable with where I’ve left them. I feel like it’s finished and nothing further would do them justice. (Not to mention I have other ideas and characters to bring to life!) But I will miss them. I’ll probably catch myself daydreaming about what Brie is doing. I’ll write a recipe and wonder if it’d be up to snuff in her eyes.

I don’t know if I’ll always feel this attached to my main characters, but in a way I almost hope I am. I hope I always care this deeply for getting their stories just right. I hope I always find myself this invested in the lives of my characters, because I hope it always translates in the writing.

Please don’t think me crazy. Brie and Liam, Alex, John, Kara, Heidi…they’re just characters I had floating around in my head and I gave them some dialogue on the page. Trust me, I know this. But I hope if you happen to pick up a copy of either SL&Technicalities or SL&Formalities, you’ll adore them as I do.

I know it’s not uncommon for readers to feel sad when they say goodbye to beloved characters, but writers speak up! Have you ever felt saddened to finish writing a book or series?

Until next time my lovelies, happy reading and writing!

———————————–

The conclusion of Briella Logan and Liam Abbott’s story, SEX, LOVE, & FORMALITIES, will be available in paperback and eBook on November 28, 2017.

Getting To Know Aila, Mail Box Fun, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

MAIL FUN w/ Minx Lit

mail“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.”
Lemony Snicket

So not long ago, I was watching a video by the insanely talented Kristen Martin. [Her Twitter] [Her YouTube] In this video, Kristen did an unboxing of a new monthly subscription box (aren’t those things so much fun?!) called the Minx Lit Box.

[Minx Lit] Allow me to preface this by saying I was not contacted by Minx Lit to do this post, nor was I given the box for free or at a discounted rate. My husband purchased the box as a surprise for me, at the full-price. These opinions are my own. (Thanks, husband!)

I received an email several days ago telling me that my Minx Lit box had been shipped, and was provided with a tracking number—which I checked almost obsessively.

Ya’ll when I tell you that last week was rough, understand that rough is an understatement. From Monday morning, all the way to Friday when I was so stupidly busy that I didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee. When I got home Friday, I parked in front of my apartment and stared at my front door. My poor, caffeine-deprived limbs barely had the gumption to get out of the car. Then I remembered my Minx Lit box should have arrived! That was all the motivation needed to walk all the way to the apartment office, where I was sure it had been delivered.

Our apartment office people are great and as soon as she saw me walk through the door I was greeted by name (amazing, seeing as how there are hundreds of residents here) and she hopped right up and got my package for me. The first thing I noticed was its heft.

I scurried home and tended to my dogs, leaving the Minx Lit box to flirt with me from its perch on my dining table. Once my canines had calmed down (because they’re always certain their mama is never coming home, so it’s a celebration when she does) I sat in front of the box and smiled. It was so nice to have such a luxurious treat on a Friday after such a long, arduous week! I ripped away at the wrappings and was greeted by this:

IMG_2179

For a new business, I was very impressed with the professionalism of the box itself. For some reason, I didn’t expect branded boxes.

The second thing I noticed—which was even more unexpected—was for the box to smell so damn good! But once I opened it, I leaned into it and inhaled an extremely pleasant aroma.

IMG_2183

Instead of ripping away at the carefully wrapped items to investigate where the scent was coming from, however, I took a moment to appreciate that each item was lovingly wrapped. I also found myself amazed by the quality of the literature included in the box.

The longer the lid was open, the stronger the fragrance became. I couldn’t place my finger on what it was, but I enjoyed the guessing game.

IMG_2181

I moved stuff around in the box, just browsing, when I realized there was a card, and as my mama taught me, you always start with the card before diving in for the goodies. So, I followed my mother’s orders.

It was adorable! I love pink and teal.

IMG_2180

 

 

 

 

It blew me away when I realized it was personalized! (Covered up the name, because the husband bought this for me as a gift, and he used my real name.)

After I read the card, my conscience was cleared to delight in the rest of the treasures. First thing I wanted to know was what had filled my apartment with such a decadent aroma. Turns out, it was a candle!

And not just a candle, but a massage oil candle in a succulent watermelon scent. (Bottom right-hand picture.)

Untitled design

After I stopped sniffing the candle, I discovered a mug—and anyone who knows me, knows I love mugs!

Further inspection revealed even more smell-good treats with bath dust, and some wildly aromatic teas, which I couldn’t wait to brew. I smiled when I saw the beautiful bookmark with one of my favorite quotes (top left picture) There were just so many neat little things in this box, each one stripping away my stress and anxiety from the week, and replacing it with giddiness.

IMG_2190

Unless I misread, each box is promised to contain a journal—and this one is adorable and just the right size and weight for me to carry in my purse. As writers, we can never have too many notebooks to jot down those elusive golden ideas for our next best-seller.

IMG_2194

 

 

 

 

 

While I read mostly fiction, I am stoked at the book that was included in the inaugural box. I’ve heard good things about it, and it already has a place on my nightstand!

 

Also included was a booklet (as seen in the freshly-opened box) that contained extras and coupon codes: one for two free sessions of life-coaching, another for a discount on book cover design. It also provides writing prompts and blogging topics…which is something you all know I suffer with from time to time—so I will definitely utilize those!

My birthday is coming up (Friday!) so I may have to go ahead and pre-order the next box as a gift to myself. I imagine as this subscription gains momentum that they may have to drop the handwritten cards, but I am intrigued to see what else they include.

I had so much fun with Minx Lit, that I’ve decided to have even more fun with my mail carrier and find other bookish, writerly things I can order and therefore share with you.

Until next time, my lovelies! Happy writing!

 

 

Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

Marketing Sucks…

 

UNION“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
Steuart Henderson Britt

It warrants repeating. Marketing sucks. Especially if you don’t do it.

Now, as with all things in life, I try not to speak on a subject unless I’m fairly well-versed on the topic at hand–and there’s little else I’m better at than not talking about myself.

I wrote a book and I’ve done an exceptionally bad job at marketing it. Let’s not kid ourselves, writing a book is a big deal. Even if you never sell a single copy. Even if you never publish it. The simple fact that you wrote a book from start to finish is incredible. You created a world that doesn’t exist. You created people that do not exist. You thought up and penned hardships, relationships, love, envy, hatred, crime, and magical creatures that otherwise would have remained a fleeting thought in your head, or a dream you would have eventually forgotten.

You did an awesome thing.

I did an awesome thing.

And I’m smart enough to know that just because I did this awesome thing and hit the button to publish it for the scrutiny of the world, it doesn’t mean a damn thing without begging people to buy and read it. Which means I have to step–no leap–out of my comfort zone and talk to people about my book all while keeping the thousands of tiny rules about self-promotion in the back of my head.

Don’t open a conversation talking about your book. Don’t auto-DM people about your book. Don’t do this. Do that, but cautiously. Do this every day. Do this other thing every other day.

So, for those astute readers out there, some of you might be thinking that Sex, Love, and Technicalities came out almost a solid year ago. Why, for the love of Whitman, am I talking about this now?

Well, my friends, I sold a book. I mean, I’ve sold a few copies of it actually–but this one was a genuine surprise. I didn’t even know I’d sold it because I’ve been so unbelievably terrible at my author duties for going on four or five months now. Now, this sale (from a complete stranger) also came with a 5-star review on Amazon. This was a kick in the seat for me.

Here’s this person who found me by mysterious means almost two months ago, bought my book and loved it. They took money out of the wallet to buy, and time out of their life to read something that took me over a year of my life to write. And they loved it. I wasn’t even paying attention at the time. How sad is that?

I’d all but given up on myself and my work and this sweet soul named Diane came out of left field and reminded me that I’d done an amazing thing. Thanks, Diane, you’re the best. Whoever you are.

So, don’t be like me. Don’t finish your amazing thing and then leave it on the virtual shelf to die. It wasn’t even the lack of sales that caused me to drift, it was the notion of having to market myself when the fun part is writing. I had no grandiose notions that I was somehow above the marketing part, nor that I would be special and the crowds would flock to me out of nowhere. I was just doubling down on my social anxiety and introvertedness.

Listen to the experts on this one, guys. I’m absolutely the last person you want to take marketing advice from. All I know is that I have to figure it out because Diane from Amazon stumbled upon my book by chance and loved it and I kind of want to find out what everyone else thinks too.

Marketing sucks, but just freaking do it.

 

Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Writer's Life

Ten Writerly Lessons

Ten
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
-Benjamin Franklin


There are only FIVE days until the release of Sex, Love, and Technicalities. That’s… terrifying. I thought I would take this time to share with you ten things I’ve learned over the course of this past year—the good, the awful, and the ghastly.

1. | HOLY CRAP BALLS – WRITING IS HARD. Okay, so not physically hard. Unless you think sitting in a chair for long stretches of time is a strain. (For the record, I know several people who actually do find this difficult.) But, a lot goes into writing a full-length novel, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out.

2.| There are more tools than MS Word. I can hear some of you snickering, but this isn’t something that had ever occurred to me before I got serious about writing. I’ve dabbled with several programs and Scrivener is just amazing. Even if you want to stick to Word, I highly suggest using ProWritingAid instead of relying on Word’s less than stellar grammar help.

3. | Patience is key. I am not a naturally patient person. I get that from my father. But take it from someone who is admitting to this embarrassment: Being impatient can be costly. I started buying promotional items before the second redraft. Yep. I did that. You know what happened shortly afterwards? I changed the name of the book. And pushed back my release date. Anyone want a useless, highly inaccurate bookmark?

4.| The writing community is a vast, packed, and lonely place. I had an idea of how large the writing community was, but it wasn’t until I dipped my quill inside the well that I realized just how massive. I’ve met some incredible people, forged some priceless friendships… but there are a lot of people to compare yourself to. And for me, a naturally negative person, sometimes the very beauty of this community can leave me breathlessly lonesome.

5.| Build your brand before you type “Once Upon A Time…” If you’re serious about becoming a published author, by any means necessary, it is essential for you to build your author brand. I claim no expertise on the subject, I just know it is something you have to start early.

6.| Ideas will pop up at the worst times. I sort of knew this before. But before I got serious about writing, I could let go of these story ideas without much of a second thought. After all, I assumed I’d never use them. Oh, but now! now these precious gems of ideas crop up and I’m finely tuned into them. It doesn’t matter if I’m just drifting to sleep or in the middle of a conversation. Not getting to jot these ideas down is almost blasphemous.

7.| Doing bad things to my characters actually hurts. I revealed this tidbit to a non-writer friend, and they just couldn’t understand. “You do know they’re fictional, right?” Yes. But they’re my creations and I have just turned their world upside down and dumped a bucket of shit on top. Doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand that I have to do this, but sometimes after writing some particularly heavy scenes, a girl just needs to watch Doctor Who.

8.| Browsing Barnes and Noble becomes difficult different. Don’t get me wrong, I still do this on the regular, but once you are knee deep in publication decisions, you start to analyze books for things other than just their content. Oh my God! I LOVE that font! Where can I get *that* font?! Others in the vicinity will notice that you’ve adopted Gollum’s stance and are stroking a particularly pretty book and… well, you get the idea.

9.| I get insanely excited for my writer friends’ successes. There is nothing I like more than to see my writer friends achieving their goals. I’m not necessarily talking about publication, either. I like seeing them blow past a word count record, tackling and defeating a difficult chapter, getting the guts to query agents. It’s all worth celebrating. I love when someone sends me something to read. It makes me giddy! Which brings me to…

10.| Writers are without a doubt some of the brightest, loveliest, and bravest people on the planet Earth. You offer pieces of yourself up on the page for people to scrutinize. You want to change the world with your ideas. You give encouragement and hope with your words. You create your own worlds and realities and shine light on important subjects. You are amazing.

That’s ten things, of many, I have learned over the past year. Thank you all so much for being the awesome, crazy, amazing, badass people you are.


If you’re interested in getting your own signed copy of Sex, Love, and Technicalities, I am hosting a sweepstakes giveaway on Viral Sweep, and I am SUPER excited! There is no purchase necessaryWIN, but unfortunately it is only open to US residents. There are multiple ways to earn extra entries! I do hope you will enter to win—and share with your friends! (Actually, that’s one way of earning extra entries!) For entry and the full details please see either the ViralSweep site or my website. Thanks in advance!

 

Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Uncategorized

Dream a Good Dream, My Darling

An excerpt from -What Do You Think-- (3)“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and
safely insane every night of our lives.”
William C. Dement

Where do you get ideas for your stories or poems? Does it come from a snippet of conversation you overheard on the subway between quarreling lovers? The honest expressions of children on the playground? The heart-wrenching recounting of a friend who just found out they have mere months to live?

The truth is, if you look hard enough, you can find inspiration anywhere.

Dreams are but one, but possibly my favorite. I am one of the lucky dreamers who has incredibly vivid dreams. Not lucid. I don’t necessarily feel I have control over them, even when I am aware that I’m in the middle of a dream.

My dreams are also extensively detailed. Sometimes to the point I feel I’m more tired when I wake up than I was when I went to bed because it seems I’ve spent the whole night exploring entire worlds that don’t exist.

I also do not usually have a problem remembering my dreams days, weeks, sometimes even years after I’ve had them. I have recurring dreams and nightmares that have plagued me for decades – luckily I don’t spend many of my waking hours obsessing over them like I did when I was a child.

The basis for No More Champagne came from one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I was out of town, alone, and sleeping in the single most awful, terribly uncomfortable bed that any human being has had the extreme displeasure of paying to sleep on. It was my third or fourth night on that “bed,” and I think my subconscious took pity on me and decided if I was going to be physically miserable, I would be thoroughly entertained.

Around four o’clock in the morning, I woke with an idea. The idea grabbed hold of my throat and dug in its claws in the best way possible. I couldn’t shake it. All I really had available to me at the time was my iPhone, and I filled the virtual notepad up with ideas, plot points, characterization notes, potential lines of dialogue – it was crude, but it worked.

As soon as I had access to my laptop, my passion for the project was at a fever pitch and the long-stream-of-consciousness draft was out of my system in twelve days.

On average, it works out to roughly 7,090 words per day, though I know one day my fingers and my brain choreographed flawlessly together and I got just shy of 11,000 words down in a single day.

Dreams work for me.


Here are my tips for getting the most of your dreamy muse:

1.| If you aren’t blessed – or cursed – depending on how you look at it, with the ability to remember dreams in great detail for long periods of time, the tried and true advice of keeping a notebook and pen by your bed is excellent… at the very least make the notepad app on your phone the last app opened so it is automatically on the screen once you unlock your phone. Make sure your thumbs are nimble.

2.| This tip won’t apply to everyone, but, if you need an alarm in the mornings, and you can get away with it, don’t use a jarring beeping sound that sends a surge of adrenaline coursing through your body. If a gentler melody or song is enough to wake you, then it will be much easier for you to wake up and feel the remnants of whatever emotion(s) your dream caused you.

3.| Don’t get bogged down in the details. Jot down only the bare essentials, lest you forget it all. Prominent colors, specific guest appearances, did a smell leave an impression? Write single words down quickly, you can make sense of them later. Something like this:

– Summer
– Fireworks
– Cinnamon
– Fear

That short list could’ve belonged to the dream that inspired No More Champagne, easily. Those keywords can help you remember the minutia later.

4.| Talk about your dream. I am a morning person. I usually wake up in a great mood, ready for the day, excited… I’m that annoying person you hate. My husband is the opposite. The less he has to function in the mornings, the better for him. So, I imagine he isn’t exactly thrilled when I start out the morning with, “Holy crap, I have to tell you about my dream.” (In fact, I know he isn’t. It’s usually met with a grunt or groan signifying that he will not retain anything I say, but won’t tell me to shut up.)

Seriously, though, talk. Talk to your significant other, to your dog (who will listen intently), to your cat (who thinks you should listen to it), or to your own beautiful reflection in the mirror. You’ll go off on tangents, which is fine! Just talk.

5.| Lastly, do not go to bed obsessing over remembering your dream. Go to sleep with as open a mind as possible.


Neat things I’ve heard about dreams:

  • Anyone you see in a dream is someone you’ve met or seen before, no matter how fleeting. This theorizes that our brains cannot actually make up faces.
  • Vitamin B12 taken before bed (dosages vary) can cause crazy intense dreams. (Thanks to Thomas Jast, I wasted spent a couple of hours researching this phenomena.)
  • People who were born blind still dream, only their dreams are auditory.

 

Have you ever been deeply inspired by a dream? Nightmare? If so, care to share? Have you ever heard of certain foods, beverages, supplements enhancing the dream experience?

At any rate, sleep well my lovelies. And sweet dreams.

Getting To Know Aila, Uncategorized

Once Upon A Time…

my favorite (1)“A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.”
Astrid Lindgren

In grades three through five, little Aila was a precocious, passionate little thing. Imagine that, right? I loved recess more than most anything, and it was just as true back then as it is today: I took my fun seriously. I can’t just spontaneously have fun, no. I had my recess routine down pat.

First, I had to run to the swings; not walk, run. I couldn’t risk another kid getting my swing. I would swing until I was so high up I was certain I’d go right over the bar and the chain would start wrapping around the frame. (By that point, my adrenaline rush was deemed sufficient and I moved on.) Then, I’d go to the monkey bars and meet up with my boyfriend. (We were crazy in love for third graders, split in the fourth, and were back on for fifth!) Then, I’d spend time on the merry-go-round, and I’d end my playtime by sitting in the softest patch of grass with my best friend and we’d make hippie jewelry with braided daisies or dandelions.

 Why not play hard until the very end, you ask? Because right after recess was story time, and I didn’t want to be out of breath and unable to focus, or so tired I couldn’t listen.

My favorites probably aligned with most everyone’s at around that age, Where the Wild Things AreThe Hungry, Hungry CaterpillarWhere the Sidewalk Ends… but the first book I remember absolutely falling in love with was one of my first chapter books. After my teacher read it to me, I rushed to the library and checked it out and reread it several times over, each time looking for clues I may’ve missed before, and analyzing symbolism – things I felt pretty advanced for being concerned with as a fifth-grader.

Wait Till Helen Comes - Original
There is a much more sinister cover for recent editions. But, nostalgia!

 

Wait Till Helen Comes had me on the edge of my seat as a child, which wasn’t easy since it was actually a desk, and we weren’t allowed to sit sideways.

The lovely teacher that brought this book into my life was named Ms. Williams; she had a real knack for voices, inflection, and building suspense. I would beg her to read more than one chapter per day. She gave in once, and read an extra one, for my birthday.

While I don’t write in the horror or supernatural genres, I believe this book is what gave me an appreciation for both, and it definitely gave me that first nudge towards reading and writing.

Let’s skip ahead a couple of years. I’m in the seventh grade, my boyfriend from elementary school is now just a friend,(actually, we’re still friends.) and there are no more swing sets, monkey bars, or merry-go-rounds on the playground. In fact, there was no playground. We had a track, and bleachers, and a few picnic tables. People sort of just wandered around aimlessly, keeping to their various cliques and whatnot.

Where was Aila, you ask?

In middle school, I usually traded my books for boys, and I spent mThe Giverost of my free time walking around the track with one, trying not to get caught holding hands, and making ridiculously mature plans for someone who couldn’t yet drive. Ahh, the good ole days.

There was one book, though, which stole my soul and set my imagination on fire. It was considered mandatory reading, and technically it was homework, and there were quizzes and tests, and drudgery – but I’d have read this book regardless. In fact, I have, several times since then. I own a copy as an adult, and may very well pick it up again. I’m not ashamed.

The Giver was the first book, that I can remember, which played like a movie in my head as I read it. It was the first time I really felt immersed into every scene of the book, the first time every idea vividly translated into moving pictures in my mind. I was in awe.

This is how I try to write. Now, don’t take that to mean I feel I am in any way on the same level as Lois Lowry, or that anything I write will ever be as cherished as this work; but, I do attempt to choose words which might help people see my ideas rather than just read them.

The next book from my childhood (and at this point, “childhood” may be debatable) is one that I picked up again rather recently. August of 2015, to be exact.

High school is not an easy time for anyone. Even when it appears that way on the surface, I believeFahrenheit 451 it is rough for all. Trying to figure out who you are, what you want to do for the entirety of your adult life, what kind of person you want to be – that kind of sucks a lot of fun out of life, or at least, it did for me.

Perhaps all the rough things I dealt with during that time were what drew me into Fahrenheit 451. The thought of a society where books were burned and information was a crime was terrifying. I couldn’t put it down, I read it way sooner than the material was required to be finished, and happily reread it again immediately.

This book made me realize the importance of reading and obtaining knowledge, not just for fun, but because it is vital to a functioning society. It truly made me reassess my opinions on the power and magnitude of the written word, which is why the notion of banning books baffles me. Even if the material of the book offends you, it doesn’t mean the work isn’t valid. Think about it, it is just as important to learn what not to do as it is to learn what to do. (I’m kind of waiting on people to show me examples of ultra-offensive work, now.)

What were your favorite books growing up? why? Have you picked any of them up recently? Did they have the same effect on you as they did the first time?