Saturday, January 26, 2019

First Step into the New Year: Monthly Wrap-up and Update



A year is like a staircase. The staircase has twelve steps, and each of those steps takes you someplace new. Sometimes that means the slightest change in temperature, and sometimes it means a portal-like thrust into a new setting. Either way, eventually you get to the twelfth step, and before you know it you're at the base of yet another staircase, trying but failing to gaze far enough up to see what's at the top.

But the analogy doesn't end there. With each step, each set of steps, you're climbing higher and higher and higher. Sometimes it feels like you're gliding, or taking two at a time rather than one, but even when it feels like you're tumbling DOWN the stairs instead of ascending them, you're still going up. You're still making it over each step to the next one, and then over to the next one, and so on and so forth...

And the more you climb, the stronger your muscles become.

Here, at the end of January 2019, all of us have taken this year's first step and are now preparing for the second. But this month was rather exciting, so before we go any further, let's take a moment to recap. :D


POSTS THIS MONTH



Books to Read in 2019: Recommendations from the RW Team

In which each of us gives you a clean (or nearly clean) reading rec! These are some of our favorite books, compiled in a nifty list for your 2019 TBR. ;)





In which Melissa Gravitis provides some beautiful writer-ly encouragement. It's a reminder we all need sometimes. You are not alone. <3 




In which Catherine puts her foot down about the importance of the "fairy tales of old," backing her points with powerful quotes from renowned historical figures.



We have lots of exciting/epic content planned for the next few months, and we're looking forward to sharing it all with you. However, we are still open to guest posts and would love to receive, review, and quite possibly feature your work here on the blog! Apply to contribute HERE (scroll down to the "Orator" section). We're also - and particularly - in search of book scout reviews, so if you're interested in that, all the simple info concerning how to be a book scout is on the same page as previously linked. We look forward to hearing from you!


SOCIAL MEDIA STATS
(as of Jan. 24)

97 followers, 38,210 all-time views. 
57 likes, 63 followers.
313 followers, 449 tweets, 641 likes.
33 posts, 140 followers 
22 boards, 135 followers.
71 members, 16 topics
29 followers 
46 subscribers


(To those of you who have noticed the un-aesthetic Instagram widget screaming for help at the bottom of the website: we should have that updated soon!)


AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE


Gray Marie changed her blog title to Sunshine and Joy. Click to read her most recent post, and maybe leave her a sunshine-y comment!

Faith Thompson wrote a personal, emotional, and extremely encouraging reflection post called Free Indeed.

Nicole Ann wrote an awesome, in-depth review for a book called How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat.

Several friends have participated in Liv K. Fisher's Language of Worlds Link-Up #4, including Melissa Gravitis and Nicki Chapelway. Click to read about their novels - they sound amazing!


FINAL THOUGHTS


It's almost February. For many of us, that means it's cold outside. Spring and warmer temperatures can seem excruciatingly far away. But no matter how wintry you might feel on the outside, don't let beginning-of-the-year blues quench that fire in your soul. Keep writing and reading, living and breathing, with that blazing passion in your heart not to conform to the low standards of this world.

It's going to be a great year!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Don't Throw Away The Fairy Tales of Old





The immediate assumption that some people will get from reading this title is that Catherine Hawthorn is a sentimental little fool who wishes to keep all of her readers reading little nursery stories.

Now, I may be a sentimental fool. But, I firmly believe that these so called "nursery stories" have their place on everyone's bookshelf. 

"Once upon a time, fairy tales were told to audiences of young and old alike. It is only in the last century that such tales were deemed fit only for small children, stripped of much of their original complexity, sensuality, and power to frighten and delight." ~ Terri Windling, White as Snow

Many people would find it really hard to believe that Jacob and William Grimm originally wrote their fairy tale anthologies for adults and not for children. As the above quote has so wonderfully pointed out, many now see a sterilized version of a fairy tale that is fit only for shallow entertainment. Or worse, something to be twisted to fit a political message (*hem* DISNEY *cough*).

I'm not here to defend those poor excuses of stories. I'm here to defend the traditional tales - the ones that our great-great-great grandparents grew up listening to. The ones by the authors known only as Anonymous. The ones that were recorded by writers like Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson, and The Brothers Grimm.

These timeless stories provide 3 important functions that society is always in dire need of: teaching examples of concepts, giving hope and reflecting reality. I shall now explain each of the three of these, with a little help from wiser people than myself.


Function 1: Examples of Concepts


At the first, fairy tales are a teaching tool. These stories, many in few words, release profound and deep ideals in a simple, easy to understand story that can be enjoyed by all.

Humans learn best by example, the more concrete the better. Fairy tales often give those concrete examples that flesh out those abstract concepts that we struggle with. They are so poignant that they stick in your mind, no matter what your age is.

By giving simple analogies, they teach abstract concepts such as virtue, vice, mercy, justice, kindness, love, hatred, jealousy, greed, and a whole host of others. But most importantly, they teach the abstract concept of consequences for ones actions and learning from mistakes.

"If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other -- the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery - tales." ~ G.K. Chesterton

To think that you are above learning, that you are above morals, is actually one of the most immature beliefs that a person can hold. Every wise person knows that a person can always learn something from others. And wise people also know that humans are prone to forgetting things and then must re-learn them.

In many of these stories, the characters that learn the lessons are not children at all, but rather adults! I would even go as far to say that an 80 year old man can learn something from a fairy tale....therefore a young adult who thinks that they know everything has a lot to learn from the tales of old.


Function 2: Giving Hope


Imagine living in a world sickness and death are rampant, wars abound, and hardship is much more common. Yet, the people smile. How did they deal with the darkness of the world? By telling fairy tales that were full of HOPE.

"Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage." ~ C.S. Lewis

As young adults, we don't need to see the statistics of suicides, violent crime, or the divorce rate to know that this society revels in the dark side of humanity. We all deal with darkness - some every day. If we are without hope, we soon lose all.

Where is our nearest source of hope, besides the Divine? In the stories of others spreading kindness. In the stories of those who love. And especially, in the stories of others overcoming struggles.

"Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time, and perhaps earlier, have been 'a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.'" ~ Jack Zipes

 We can "see" how we should overcome obstacles or grasp truths by comparing them to a story. We can also take spirit and courage from knowing that at least one person survived such terrible odds - which can pale our own sufferings into something much more manageable.


Function 3: Reflection of Reality


A common attack lobed onto fairy tales is that they are unrealistic and paint an unreliable picture of what real life is because it's fiction - therefore, at least part of it is either exaggerated or not true at all.

But behind almost every myth, there is a grain of truth - it is this grain that we are after when we read such tales.

Fairy tales do not deny the existence of sorrow or failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat...giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world... ~ J.R.R. Tolkein

Instead, it should be noted that the fairy tale is a reflection of reality. It will never happen as fast as the fairy tale makes it out to be, nor under such clear-cut circumstances. Fairy tales are full of symbolism - some shallow, but mostly deep. Therefore, some concepts that are invisible to the human eye will be given a visual cue, which may not be always noticeable when you take it out of the fairy-tale setting.

The core truths, however, stay unchanged.


In Conclusion


In a sense, fairy tales in their truest form are the most "rebellious" stories that can be placed into today's market. They are clean. They have a clear difference between the dark and the light. They reflect the struggles of the real world. They bring hope. The stories themselves are timeless - their themes and characters can easily be placed in another time and another place and still have the same impact.

Is there a wonder that fairy-tale retellings suddenly have a huge spike in popularity? The young, in direct contrast to various counter-movements in previous generations, crave structure, meaning, intelligence and yes, even an ethics structure. All of which can be found in simple fairy tales.

As easy as they are to disparage.....fairy tales hold a powerful place in the world and should be read again by every generation, but especially young adults.

Our forefathers in the literary world would certainly agree:

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected." ~ Charles Dickens, Frauds on the Fairies, 1853

Now, I can understand that the opinion of a literary figure from the mid-1800s would not hold that much sway in today's world.

But, what about one of the world's most renowned scientists?

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." ~ Albert Einstein


And if you still are not convinced.....


"If I'm honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy tales and I like them best of all." ~ Audrey Hepburn


Now, if a glamorous Hollywood star is not fazed by fairy tales, you should not be either.

Go take those fairy tale books out of the trash and read them again. Go find that hope, those life lessons that you've been missing for the past decade or so in your life. Spread them around to your friends, strangers, and use them in your own writing.

And if someone comes up to you and says, "Life isn't a fairy-tale"?

Counter them with a saying from the most famous of fairy-tale authors:

"The most wonderful fairy tale is life itself." ~ Hans Christian Anderson




Saturday, January 12, 2019

Dear Writer, You're Not Alone



Dear writer,
Sometimes, when the sky is blotted with grey, you feel alone. Sometimes when you ramble about your shiny idea, they just stare. Sometimes, when you stay up frantically typing and finish, they say congratulations but don’t mean it. You look around, and the empty air peers back at you, telling you it’s just you. It’s just you.
So you close the laptop, bury under the covers, and fall asleep to tear-stains.
The morning whispers, “No one understands. They try, but they can’t. Or maybe...no one cares.”
Your fingers hesitate on the keys, cursor blinking. You shut it and leave.
Days blur, with little words formed, and greater distance from the laptop and what's inside. Every time you sit down to add to your story, the doubts creep in. What’s the point of writing if no one will read it? After all, no one’s going to. It’s horrible, it’s awful, the worst thing you’ve ever read.
You shouldn’t be a writer.
The door slams close behind you.
You find yourself in other worlds between pressed paper pages, tucked paperbacks and stroked hardcovers. They’re so much better than you, these authors. You never should have written in the first place, the library leers.
You nod, back of your eyes burning, and sink down, and down.
There’s a layer of dust on your laptop.

But writer, you aren’t the only one who feels this way. You’re not the only one to feel like no one understands, to be discouraged, to let doubts shut down every word you write. You’re not alone. Every writer understands, every one.
Right now your story might not read like a published book, but those go through years of editing. Yours can and will be just as good, if not better.
People do care. About you, and about your writing. They might not understand what plot bunnies are or why you’re not finished yet, but you are worth more than the sum of your word counts. They love you, writer and all.
Then there are other writers. There’s the writing community. Talking to each other, sharing our struggles, is proof that you're not alone in what you're going through. Doubt chains all. The right friends, the right thinking, can set you free from them.
You are not alone.
So open your laptop, and trace the edges of the story you were shaping from a blank white screen, and take a deep breath.
You can write, knowing that you’re not alone.
And you never were.

Do you ever feel alone as a writer? What doubts do you go through? We're all here for you. <3

~~Melissa Gravitis~~ 


Melissa Gravitis is a Christian writer with a Thai heart, Aussie heritage, and international blood. Growing up overseas, she developed a passion for following dreams, and crafting Young Adult stories with vibrant worlds and characters that pop off the page. Though she doesn’t own any pets (yet), she has imaginary friends called Characters that she spends most of her days with. When she’s not with them, she’s jamming to music, sketching, or burying herself in books. You can read her thoughts and follow her writing progress on her blog, Quill Pen Writer.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Books to Read in 2019: Recommendations from the RW Team




A new year, a new pile of books to read! All of us at RW have a favorite YA book, so if you are looking for a clean read for 2019, this list is for you! These are either our members' favorite of all time, or ones that they discovered in 2018!





Catherine Hawthorn:
Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I recently read the Emily books when I was visiting my "sis" Lia. This book was full of fun little scrapes between four friends, academic struggles and lots of character growth. It's a great coming-of-age novel, and it shows how someone can attain their vocation (in Emily's case, writing) despite all the obstacles that life can throw at them. 



Clare A.:
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin.

This is the perfect book for someone who loves to read! The main character, Alice's, life is turned upside down when her boyfriend breaks up with her because she reads too much. She is delivering books to small town when she is abandoned there! She has to take care of the library there and learns that maybe it is time to make her own story. Note, there were a few bad words, and a little violence, but other than that, squeaky clean!



Faith Thompson:
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.

A book that takes the desert, turns it into a character, and brings it into your heart, this is the kind of story that we don't deserve, but that we can't help falling in love with. The conflict is quiet, and the story centers on one family--but it makes an impact nonetheless. Note, only ☆☆☆☆ for language as there is some profanity and curses, but very clean beside that!



Julian Daventry:
The Blades of Acktar by Tricia Mingerink.

So I read this series in 2018, and fell in love with it!!  Not only is it clean fantasy, it also has no magic, and lots of scripture references!  It may be a little more on the bloody side (after all, a number of characters are/used to be assassins, and there are very high stakes and torture and the like), but otherwise, no content to worry about.  Not preachy, but still full of the Gospel; and absolutely filled with adventure, cliff-hangers, and nail-biting scenes!



Keturah Lamb:
The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak.

This was one of those book gems that completely left me in love with book and author! YA Christian fantasy, but not of the cheesy sort. Relatable and riveting, with a strong theme centered around a young girl named Repentance who would rather die than be forced to "button" to a man and to breed slave babies for the evil overlords. But every choice she makes only leads her to more misery. Can she do anything without causing pain to others, or must she need accept that her life isn't hers to live?



Lila Kims:
Entwined by Heather Dixon.

It's extremely difficult to decide on a top favorite YA book, so I'm narrowing it down to my favorite YA fairy tale retelling, Entwined by Heather Dixon! This is a magical, feelsie novel that will sweep you up into the story and have you gripping your seat until the last page. Be warned that it gets rather creepy in regards to the villain, but other than that I don't think there's anything else of note. This is a clean read I highly recommend!



Melissa Gravatis:
Fawkes by Nadine Brandes.

It's a magical take on the story of Guy Fawkes, and combines magic and history in a whirlwind of fun, while also exploring what makes truth, well, true. Its strong characters draw you in, and by the end they'll have captured your heart!





We hope that your 2019 is filled with wonderfully clean books! And always remember to read and write rebelliously!