Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Best. Book. Ever.

My first grader is learning to read, and we've had sooo...much fun with this book! It just cracks me up every time we read with her. It's the same retro pictures that everyone remembers from kindergarten, except with vampires.

Clare loves learning to read with this book, except for the one night she woke up with a bad dream. Guess what it was about?

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Writers: 8 Tips to Control Depression

Have you ever suffered through depression?

It is widely known that many famous writers (and for that matter, many creative types) have suffered from depression. Here is a small sampling: Hans Christian Anderson, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Charles Dickens, Ralph Walso Emerson, James Barrie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Mary Shelley, Tennessee Williams,and Virginia Woolfe.

I myself have struggled with depression on and off throughout my life, and I think that it has a lot to do with having a very strong inner life. I think about things...almost too much. I worry, I analyze. Also, even though I am not shy and can appear very extroverted, at my very core I'm an introvert. That means that being alone gives me energy, while being around people too much can deplete me. Discovering this small fact about myself has been a watershed moment, and knowing I need time alone from time to time to recharge has helped me accept who I am, and thrive, as a writer, mom, wife, social worker, person.

Here are some tips I have picked up over the years to help you combat occasional depression:

1. Exercise every day Exercising for 20 minutes or more every day produces natural endorphins and immediately perks up your mood.

2. Pray or meditate Praying, meditating, practicing slow breathing--just 20 minutes a day can bring stress relief and boost your mood.

3. Get some sleep! Most Americans are chronically overtired, and when we are tired, we can feel overwhelmed or depressed. If you have to, power nap for twenty minutes or catch up on sleep during the weekends.

4. Get daily sunlight. Some people get seasonal depression, also known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) due to lack of sunlight in the winter months. This is expecially my problem, when, living in an area that gets tons of fog in the winter, I can feel moody from lack of sunlight. Exercise can help combat this, and if you are really sensitive to the lack of sunlight, getting a sun lamp can help.

5. Make sure you are getting enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids and B complex. Apparently, most Americans don't get enough of our Omega 3s. Omega 3-Fatty Acids are found in such foods such as salmon and flax seed. There have been blind studies in which depressed people were fed so many ounces of salmon each day, and it helped their depression as much as people taking anti-depressants! I take flax-seed oil capsules every day (it's great for your skin, too), and try to feed my family salmon at least once a week. You can also buy ground flax seed at Costco, and use it in baking, in place of eggs or oil.

6. Talk to someone. Writers can spend an entire day sitting in front of their computer, and this can lead to periods of isolation and lonliness. Sometimes Twitter can help, oftentimes picking up the phone and calling someone can help, and other times, we just need to step away from the computer and have lunch with a friend. Everyone has their balance of how much time alone (and with our characters!) we really need.

7. Get help. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, or you are not able to take care of your basic needs, you might need to go to the next level and see your doctor. Maybe counseling might help. I know that when I had a really bad case of postpartum depression after my third child, it was a few months of counseling with a caring psychologist which really helped me get back on track. Now, if I'm having a bad day, I run through this checklist, and make sure I am doing everything I need to do. Chances are, if I'm feeling bad, it's because I am neglecting one of the checkpoints.

8. Celebrate who you are. If you do get depression from time to time, revel in the fact that we are in really good company! Being creative means that we feel more, see the world more vibrantly, and are more sensitive. It's a gift, but one that needs to be nurtured and cared for.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Passion, Naps, and Jane Austen

Wow, I haven't been around very much on this blog. Sorry! Life has been getting in the way, alas. On a good note, I had been really having a hard time getting into my new WIP. I'd been switching between three projects I'd been working on, a little bit here, a little bit there. Every page felt forced while I was writing. Can anyone relate? Ugh. Such an awful feeling.

One day, I was racking my brain about what was important to me, and what would be important in a book I write.

--Issue-driven fiction for one. Especially topics concerning teens in foster care, kids suffering abuse, kids who are marginalized.
--Romance, number two (good kissing scenes!).
--Passion, three. And watching characters overcome large personal obstacles. I thought long and hard about the books most beloved to me, the stories that I held most dear, some being: each and every Jane Austen masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, Les Miserables, The Lord of the Rings triology.

And then, I promptly took a nap. When I woke up, I came up with the best idea I've had yet and can't stop writing about it. (so exciting) I'm not going to say anything just yet, but here are some hints: it's YA, it's a love story about a boy and girl who have been friends since childhood, and to describe it, at this point, I'd say it's a mash up of Peter Pan meets Romeo and Juliet meets Wuthering Heights meets The Outsiders.

Confused yet? Hopefully more later.

In the meantime, enjoy this old promo for The Complete Jane Austen put on by PBS a few years back. If these guys don't get your heart pumping, then I don't know what else will!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Read~Ghost Island by Bonnie Hearn Hill

My good friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill recently came out with a new YA paranormal, Ghost Island. Here is a quick description about this book:

Is Aaron a dream or something much more deadly?

Livia Hinson has just begun a Seminar at Sea when a storm hits their yacht. Now, she is stranded with the other students on an island off the coast of California. Far away from her foster home and her heartbreak, Livia finds Aaron, the perfect love. But the only way they can be together is in her dreams.

The other students are having tempting dreams of their own, and Livia begins to realize that the storm has blown in more than rain. Is Aaron flesh or spirit? Can he come to her world, or will he pull her into his? Together, they explore the blurred territory between love and illusion on a dangerous journey that will force Livia to make the most important decision of her life.
I read this book very quickly, it was very fast paced and creepy. It had a very eerie quality about it, and reminded me of those horror movies that were so popular in the 80's and 90's. In fact, the whole time I read the book, I kept thinking that it would make a good movie.
The love interest Aaron is very romantic and left me wanting to know more about him. Ms. Hill leaves the ending somewhat open, so I'm thinking... sequel?
Ghost Island is a great pick for fall, especially if you like to read scary books around Halloween. Enjoy!