The Culture of Now – A Writer Mom’s Teaching Moment

Has anyone else noticed that we’re living in a culture of “now?”  My daughter will often say something at home to the effect of: “Mommy, I’d like to learn to knit.”  Typically, my response would be, “that sounds like a fun idea.”  She will then reply with, “I want to learn now.”  And when she says now, she means that instant.  She actually expected that I would go find my knitting needles wherever they lurked in our storage closet (I once knitted in college with a roommate) and start showing her ‘the ropes.’

This isn’t a one-time expectation either.  I often find myself trying to untangle a web my daughter has woven around me.  She asks to do something, and it’s not a statement for later.  She expects me to get up that instant and “make it so.”  I’ll be the first to admit that some days I can be a little slow to start.  However, typically she’s trying to get me to do something “now” when I’m already in the middle of something… like book editing or writing or reading (three of my favorite things!).

My daughter is 11 years old.  She does not have a Facebook page account, but she does play on the internet.  She also just got a phone!  And let’s be honest, searching for answers on the web gives them instant answers.  No more index cards.  No more book glossaries to find the page number where the topic I want is located and then slowly flipping over to page 65, oops flipped to page 67, couple more licks of the finger and flip and there!  My answer!  That is not the case anymore.  It’s now an easy search-engine answer.  Find: Knitting. *Click*  Multiple links appear like magic.

So I can understand why my daughter is constantly asking to do something “now.”  She’s being trained that if she wants something, she can click a website and find out the answer.  This too easily translates into home life.  If she wants to learn something from me, she expects it to be done now.  Why wouldn’t she think like this?

My response, usually eliciting groans of frustration, is: “I’m sorry, darling, but a skill like knitting is going to take time.” *Insert pre-teen groan of eternal suffering*  But the reality is that it’s not a quick “here’s what you do, here are the needles, have fun!”  It takes work, dedication, and perseverance.  Does reality have a homepage on the internet?  Pretty sure it doesn’t.

When I was working on my first novel, there were times I felt frustrated when stuck in writer’s block or when there was a plot point I had difficulties resolving.  Sometimes I just wanted to call it quits for a few months.  However, there was a VeggieTales skit that kept running through my head about perseverance.  The skit was a silent film about a piano delivery man trying to hike a piano up a ginormous flight of stairs.  And when I began to get frustrated, I replayed that skit in my head.  It helped me keep moving.  Even if I could not solve something right away, I made a point to at least work on something – whether it be another scene, research, or reviewing publishing options.  I kept my eyes on the prize.  And it worked!

Working through the problem is hard.  It’s a skill we all need to teach our children, nieces, nephews, siblings, etc.  Both my kids suffer from a lack of motivation when it comes to school work.  I have talked with my son about the satisfaction one feels when they finish a long book.  He can totally relate to the feeling regarding books.  Now if we could translate that feeling into school work.

It’s an uphill battle that they will not want to undertake.  Just like our parents talked about the uphill journey to and from school – both ways uphill, by the way – parents of today face this challenge with getting our kids to work at finding an answer.  Not everything can be answered simply and quickly.  Many answers come by thoughtful musings and personal discoveries.

Can we solve this culture of now?  Nope.  But we can share with the next generation a world outside of the screen.  Our love of books, how to interact face-to-face with others (for example, at a book signing or meet-and-greet event), and how to react to negative feedback you read on the web.  If one of my books gets a bad review, I do not respond to that reviewer with all the ways I believe they’re wrong.  It’s their opinion, and that’s fine.  Showing them how we respond to events either on the internet or off teaches them to respect other opinions.

Let’s face it, online chatter has no accountability.  You can rip a book or movie to shreds without fear of consequence.  Would the reviewer say those mean things to an author’s or director’s face?  No.  But online, all bets are off and all opinions are shared.  What do you share?  What can our youth learn to share?

As my kids continue to grow, I want to model behavior for them that will illustrate respect.  Sure, I’ll tell them of my frustration when writing and how hard it can be, especially if you receive a scathing review.  In the end, I hope to open a pathway for them to work past the “now,” past the Google-quick answers, and past the simplicity of life.  Maybe I sound a bit preachy, but perseverance takes practice.  It’s a skill that’s endangered in this screen-centric culture.

Since publishing my own books, my daughter has expressed interest in writing one herself.  She’s definitely improved in her skills with each story she brings to life on the computer, particularly when it comes to writing dialogue.  When she’s writing, her focus is tight.  I can see the gears of imagination turning in her eyes.  She also exudes a positive energy after she’s completed a chapter, self-confidence building with each page of her book.

Perhaps we should all start teaching our kids to write a book?  If they’re really, truly interested in the subject, I bet they’d very much enjoy the journey – even if it takes opening a book instead of a laptop to find your answer!  Though a word of caution: the one drawback is that I have to fight her for computer time. *exasperated mom sigh* “Is it my turn yet?”

Perhaps being a writer can save the world!  Okay, maybe not, but books are pretty amazing.

What perseverance tricks do you have?  How do you deal with writer’s block?  Please share in the comments below.  Or follow up with me using hastag: #cultureofnow

A Side-Dish Serving of Romance

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I have to admit…I’ve never been a huge fan of straight-up romance novels or movies.  On the other hand, my husband enjoys watching the occasional “Rom-Com.”  When he asks me to join him, my typically response is, “are there aliens in the movie too?”  Now if you want to sit down and watch Star Trek, Star Wars, or an episode of MST3K, count me in!  But when romance is the central theme…meh.  Bookish-wise, I’d say I’m more of a feminist reader.

There are novels I adore which have light romance in them, so I thought I’d share a few recommendations during this month of romance.  And while the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books are obvious choices, I’ll be highlighting some lesser-known options. So here are a few novels and/or series for those readers who prefer their romance as a side dish instead of as the main course (in no particular order):

Death on the Sapphire by R.J. Koreto

If you’re looking for a charming Edwardian-era mystery with a witty female lead, you’ll enjoy this book.  While trying to locate a missing manuscript, our main character is courted by two very different men, one in her social class and another who society considers ‘below’ her rank.  But our main character has never let society dictate her morals.  With its memorable heroine, rich atmosphere, light sprinkling of romance, and intriguing mystery, this is a highly-entertaining story.

The Ugly Princess: The Legend of the Winnowwood by Henderson Smith

Smith does a brilliant job exploring the meaning of beauty.  One of the author’s main points is to illustrate that people can and should be seen for their deeds over outward appearances.  The main characters are not the most attractive people in the lands, and the story is made more compelling because of that.  This book is rare in the way it balances magic, adventure, royalty, beauty, and (in the end) true love.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

There was a beautiful blurring of magic and reality within the pages of this book. The main character is driven by love for her family and a desire to protect her sister.  When her sister and other members of her desert clan begin praying for her spirit, as they fear an untimely death awaits her at the hands of her new husband, our main character develops special magical abilities.  Her husband, Lo-Melkhiin, has been possessed by a magical being who feeds off other people’s souls while Lo-Melkhiin himself has become an observer trapped in his own mind. In the end, this is a story about a woman’s strength of spirit with a very satisfying ending.

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

This book will please readers who enjoy elements of steampunk, alternate reality, historical fiction, magic wielding, revolutionary spies, and/or romantic adventures with a dash of Jane Austen flair thrown in.  But what’s most alluring about the plot is Swendson’s exploration of the-end-justifies-the-means methods and how issues are not merely black and white in nature.  A charming read with a magic vs. steam power struggle!

Death by Darjeeling (A Tea Shop Mystery #1) by Laura Childs

I thought I’d add a cozy mystery to the list for fun!  Childs kept a good balance between the main character’s personal life and her movement within the murder mystery.  This is not an edge-of-your-seat mystery thriller, but it’s cute and will keep you guessing.  Plus, Childs knows her teas, and I love my loose-leaf teas!  Dive into some Southern hospitality with this well-steeped story.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Stop thinking Twilight.  This is nothing like Twilight except in the fact that Meyer has once again created an impossibly-torn supernatural love triangle.  Actually, this book is a love quadruple (triangles are too simple for this story).  What was interesting for me was how Meyer approached the story from the perspective the aliens rather than using a human POV, an interesting twist on typical alien-takeover stories and, despite its length, had me hooked from beginning to end.  Meyer effortlessly weaves through many moral issues viewed from both sides of the fence (alien vs. human).  Plus: No vampires.

How To Date Dead Guys by Ann M. Noser

I’m now noticing there is a lot of “Death” in my title recommendations.  Honestly, my bookshelf is not filled with murder books!  But I couldn’t resist this choice.  It contains mystery, witchcraft, humor, and a little adventure.  Noser has penned a powerful character drama with lots of surprises and a unique twist on paranormal romance.

Core (Core #1) by Teshelle Combs

Combs creates a new and original exploration of dragon lore. Through the author’s two main characters, a dragon-rider pair, readers get a beautiful look into a different sort of love: platonic. It wasn’t love that got in the way of situations or created unnecessary misunderstandings. The plot is driven by the unique characters and their growth both individually and together as a platonic couple.  Plus: Dragons!

SERIES: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Okay, this is a popular choice (going against what I said above), but these books were a personal favorite of mine growing up.  Anne blazes a trail as a girl with a purpose in a time when female ambition was considered “unwomanly.”  Anne’s smart, imaginative, self-sufficient, and didn’t let society tell her what she could and couldn’t do.  I loved her independent spirit but was so happy when Anne finally said yes to Gilbert because they were definitely made for each other.  You had me at carrots!

I hope you’ll add a few of these delightful books to your ‘to read’ lists.  Feel free to share some of your favorites with me on Twitter using the tag #SideDishRomance.