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Empty Chairs at Empty Tables … or Desks

  Posted by RC Lewis , 02 February 2014 · 42 views

There are a lot of things we can say about suicide. We can say that an attempt is a cry for help. We can discuss warning signs. For those who are struggling and contemplating, we can tell them not to give up. We can point them to hotlines and support resources.

As a teacher, I’ve had training on these things and dealt with them on various levels.

Today I’m thinking about realities I haven’t thought about before. How do you handle losing a student this way?

How do you help teachers and students who have to face an empty desk that signifies so much more than an absent classmate?

How do you comfort colleagues who think they should have seen something, done something differently, been more observant?

And perhaps the toughest one of all—how do you help students who realize they should’ve treated their classmate better?

If a student bullied another, we don’t want to say, “No, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Perhaps they need to feel that responsibility, let it serve as a drive to change. On the other hand, we don’t want to break another student when we’ve already lost one.

So what do you say to a student who’s upset because he remembers making fun of the kid who’s gone?

I really don’t know.

Some of the most eye-opening conversations have been with the in-betweeners. Kids who say, “I didn’t really know him. I saw him around. Some people were mean to him. That wasn’t cool, so I never made fun of him … but y’know … I never really tried to make anyone else stop. I should’ve.”

That goes to show there is no in-between. With bullying, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

We need more solutions moving forward.

The post Empty Chairs at Empty Tables … or Desks appeared first on R.C. Lewis Books.


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Wherein I Have a Cover

  Posted by RC Lewis , 30 January 2014 · 34 views

<p>First, a note that it’s time for me to get back into blogging, so keep an eye out here as well as Tumblr to hear all the news and random musings.</p>
<p>If you follow me on any kind of social media, you already know this, but here it is for the record: my cover for <em>Stitching Snow</em>!</p>
<p>The awesome people at YABooksCentral hosted the official reveal, and the giveaway is ongoing. <a href="http://www.yabooksce... enter</a>.</p>
<p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://rclewisbooks....614" /></a></p>
<p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="http://rclewisbooks.... Lewis</a>.</p>

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Being Thankful with the Class of 2k14

  Posted by RC Lewis , 25 November 2013 · 41 views

<p>The Class of 2k14 wants to share our thanks. For other class members’ posts, <a href="http://classof2k14.c...k here</a>.</p>
<p>It’s that time of year, and I have to say, I’m thankful for this whole year. In particular:</p>
<ul>
<li>Several rounds of edits, because it’s cool that I have the opportunity to work with the editors I have.</li>
<li>My friend <a href="http://www.mindymcgi...ead of me.</li>
<li>Friends new and old in the writerly world, including at <a href="http://www.classof2k...’s shared.</li>
<li>Family, including a brand-new nephew, who—at the time of this writing—should be arriving any minute.</li>
<li>I’m even thankful for all the craziness that comes with the day-job, including the kids who make me want to scream, because hey, challenges keep us growing.</li>
</ul>
<p>What are you thankful for this year?</p>
<p>The post <a href="http://rclewisbooks.... Lewis</a>.</p>

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Losing My Religion

  Posted by RC Lewis , 15 November 2013 · 135 views

On November 8th, the New York Times ran an article by one of its religion columnists titled “Mormons Offer Cautionary Lesson on Sunny Outlook vs. Literary Greatness” … which, naturally, set off at least half a dozen “Are you kidding me?” reactions in my brain.

The none-too-subtle implication that genre and YA fiction are inferior forms of literature? As someone who writes (and loves) YA sci-fi, yeah, I have a problem with that.

The conclusion that all “Mormon authors” write cheery, sunny stories? Well, some do. Just like some non-Mormon authors do. And some (plenty) don’t. Stop with the generalizing, please-and-thank-you.

Speaking of generalizing, that reference to parents telling children to only journal positive things, never negative? An isolated incident as far as I know, because I have never heard of any parents teaching that … and I grew up in Utah!

More than the article itself, though, I was really interested in the ensuing conversation I was able to observe among several Mormon (or not!) Utah-based authors. One noted that at signings and events, people are always remarking on her religion or asking her about it.

A published friend of mine is Lutheran. Yet that doesn’t ever seem to come up in her professional dealings as an author.

It raised the question for me: Am I a Mormon who happens to be an author, or an author who happens to be Mormon?

When it comes to my writing, I’m going to go with the latter. For one, I don’t write “Mormon literature.” More importantly, yes, my beliefs and background have had some influence on my stories … but so has the fact that I’m the middle child, the oldest girl, a math teacher, and a cellist. These aren’t things that create an “agenda” in my writing. They’re just things that have contributed to the lens I see the world through, and therefore naturally filter in varying degrees into my work.

Here’s the thing. Even when I do have an element that could be taken as reflective or symbolic of one thing or another, I don’t actually care about the reader taking it that way. I’ve had people read one of my manuscripts and say, “Wow, (X) was such a great symbol for _______.” Annnnnnd it’s nothing I was aiming for when I wrote it.

And that’s cool.

Even before I started writing, I never cared as much about an author’s intent as I did about the meaning the reader finds. (This was a problem when it came to English class.)

So that’s what I’m going to keep doing.

The title of this post doesn’t mean my religion is going anywhere. It just means what we should already know:

That generalizations and labels stink.

The post Losing My Religion appeared first on R.C. Lewis.


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Who Needs the Educating Here?

  Posted by RC Lewis , 14 September 2013 · 86 views

The other day, a colleague emailed this link to the staff at my school, particularly because the university where it happened is local to us. This just weeks after some guys of less-than-optimal intelligence ran a similar “prank” at Vidcon. (I’m linking to John Green’s post summarizing Vidcon’s response to those incidents and more, because just about anywhere else runs the risk of stumbling into the Dreaded Comments Section.)
My first reaction was kind of blank. Like my brain refused to believe what I was reading, because surely guys around here wouldn’t be that stupid.
I stand corrected.
Once I un-blanked, other reactions kicked in. Feeling sorry for the girls (and few guys) who had to deal with the jerks. Imagining how I would’ve responded if put in that situation. Then I went back to the original email and noted the brief intro to the link:

Prank with disturbing ramifications. What are we teaching our daughters?

Whoa, wait, what was that?
With all respect to my colleague (who is an awesome person), that question veered off-course for me. Sure, I’d like it if our girls didn’t feel like they had to be polite, play along, laugh nervously. I’d like them to know it’s okay to tell someone to back off. But much more importantly:
What are we teaching our BOYS to make them think it’s okay to invade anyone’s personal space like that?
What I really want for those girls is for them to be able to walk around their campus without strangers trying to manhandle them while someone records for cyber-posterity.
Can we get on that, please?
The post Who Needs the Educating Here? appeared first on R.C. Lewis.

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Patience Is More Than A Virtue

  Posted by RC Lewis , 02 September 2013 · 85 views

<p>Several decades ago, a series of studies were done, known as the <a href="http://en.wikipedia....llow_experiment" target="_blank">Stanford marshmallow experiment</a>. Here it is in a nutshell: Young children are presented with a treat (such as a marshmallow) and told they can eat it now, or if they wait fifteen minutes for the tester to return, they can have two. Some children waited the full time. Some didn’t wait at all. Some tried to wait, but gave in and ate the marshmallow before time was up.</p>
<p>Over the following years, the kids who were able to delay gratification were more successful in a variety of life measures. Self-control puts us on better footing in society.</p>
<p>More recently, a <a href="http://www.scienceda...21011090655.htm" target="_blank">follow-up study at the University of Rochester</a> played with the variables a bit. Half of the children experienced the tester breaking a promise before the marshmallow experiment began. The other half experienced the tester keeping a promise. No surprise which group was able to wait longer during the experiment.</p>
<p>To me, this has implications for all aspects of our lives, including writing and publishing.</p>
<p>As far as I can tell, the most successful authors—on both sides of the traditional/self-publishing aisle—practice not only persistence, but patience. (And I consider “success” not only straight-up dollars, but also quality of product, strength of work, and longevity of career.) As both a reader and a writer, signs of impatience strike me as red flags. Some examples:</p>
<p>- A slapdash cover (or better, one with a stolen image) on a self-published book because “it’s what inside that matters.”</p>
<p>- Lack of editing because “the story is good, and who cares about grammar or craft if it’s a good story?”</p>
<p>- A query put up for critique, only to see that the writer self-published the book within the past few weeks.</p>
<p>- Queries sent out, only to have the writer self-publish before several agents even have a chance to respond.</p>
<p>- Querying every agent who lists that genre, without further research, and signing with a <a href="http://literaticat.b...more-about.html" target="_blank">“schmagent”</a> just because they offered.</p>
<p>- Submitting to every publisher who doesn’t require an agent (<a href="http://dailydahlia.w...simultaneously/" target="_blank">sometimes while querying agents simultaneously</a>), and signing with any who offers.</p>
<p>I’m sure there are others.</p>
<p>Seriously, what’s the hurry? If you choose to go the traditional route, it’s a long process. Learn to love waiting, because you’ll do a lot of it. There will be times you have to rush—quick turnaround on copyedits, maybe—but the patience will serve you well.</p>
<p>If you’re still looking for an agent, it’s worth it to take your time and do your research, improving the odds that you’ll land with the <em>right</em> agent. In my case, taking my time and not giving in to the urge to bail and self-publish also ensured that my writing improved. Now it’s to a point where I’m fairly comfortable with the idea of it going out into the world. (It’s fine to switch tracks from querying agents to self-publishing. Just do it thoughtfully, not as an emotional act of desperation.)</p>
<p>If you’re self-publishing, have the self-control to take your time and do it <em>well</em>. Just because it’s easy to throw a first-draft out there doesn’t mean you should. If part of your motivation is that traditional publishing takes too long, that’s okay. Even taking your time, you can likely get it done <em>well</em> more quickly than a big publishing house.</p>
<p>There’s something to be learned from that second study, too, and the effect of whether the kids believed the promise would be delivered. We’re grown-ups. Don’t give in to excuses like “But this self-published book is crap and made a million dollars” or “But this Big Publisher book is crap and they made it a movie.” We shouldn’t be worrying so much about the promises of the market or the industry to make sure “the cream rises.”</p>
<p>We should worry about whether we can keep the promise to <em>ourselves</em> that we’ll BE the cream.</p>
<p>The post <a href="http://rclewisbooks....-than-a-virtue/">Patience Is More Than A Virtue</a> appeared first on <a href="http://rclewisbooks.com">R.C. Lewis</a>.</p>

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In Defense of First Person

  Posted by RC Lewis , 02 August 2013 · 114 views

Recently I heard a well-known author state that (paraphrasing) writing a story in first person is a terrible idea, shouldn’t be done, and that writing it in present tense is even worse. Respectfully, I disagree. I’m addressing the “present tense” part over on From the Write Angle, so here I’ll focus on first person.

One criticism of first-person narrative was that it’s what newbie, amateur writers default to, and they don’t have the skills to do it well.

On the first count, well, that’s kind of a big generalization. I started my very first manuscript in third person, got 5-10 pages in, and knew something wasn’t working. I went back, changed it to first person, and it flowed from there. My friend Charlee Vale tells me her first two manuscripts were entirely in third person.

But maybe the majority of new writers automatically go with first person? Sure, I can buy that.
On the second count, let’s face it. Our very first attempts with any writing technique or tool usually suck. This author posited that everyone should master third-person limited before even considering first person. You know, that’s probably not a bad idea in general. At the least, we should learn the strengths and limitations of all our options and practice to maximize their potential.

Another criticism was that there’s a “falseness” to first person. Your main character has to narrate things they would never say about themselves, engage in an unrealistic level of self-consciousness, etc. Plus in first person past tense, supposedly any suspense the character experiences is false, because they’ve already survived the tale in order to “tell” it to us. They know exactly what happens.

Here’s where people divide into two camps according to how they experience reading. Some people read a first-person narrative and process it as an artifact, a memoir written by the main character, or a record of that character verbally telling the story.

I’m not in that camp. I don’t view stories in that kind of framework unless they’re explicitly placed in it—”Now, let me tell you about the time my grandpa gave me a birthday present that changed the world.” I view the story as simply happening. I don’t think about someone telling it or writing it—it just unfolds before me, and the book with written words is just the delivery vehicle.

Just like when I watch a movie, I don’t think about “Who’s following these people around with a camera everywhere?”

I don’t know if that puts me in the majority or minority, but there it is.

At any rate, why should we or shouldn’t we use first person? Some people find the constant “I, I, I, me, me, me” obnoxious. Fair enough. Third-person limited lets us get into our protagonist’s head just as much as first person, so why don’t we stick to that?

To me, there’s still just a little more separation between reader and protagonist in third person. A character in third can get away with withholding a little information from the reader that would feel forced and fake in first person. First person, on the other hand, delivers the protagonist’s experience a little more exactly. In that case, it’s easier to withhold information from the character.

First person is notably more prevalent in some types of fiction than others, particularly young adult (YA). Some have said this is because teenagers are so self-centered, so they gravitate toward that focus on the “me.”

That may have some merit, but it doesn’t feel quite right. I know a lot of selfless, generous, thoughtful teens. Rather than self-centered, I think of them as “self-centric.” (That may be a distinction with no difference, but it makes sense to me.) The world doesn’t revolve around them—they are simply their own anchor point in a world that’s expanded tremendously since their pre-teen years.

It still sounds like I’m saying the same thing two ways, I guess. If it makes sense to any of you, and you can explain it better, please let me know.

I think for me, when choosing between first and third person, part of the decision is based on the answer to a question. Is this a story in World X focusing on Character Y? Or is it Character X’s story, occurring in World Y? Essentially, it’s a matter of story ownership, and how tightly that ownership is tied to that specific character.

First person can be very limited and restrictive, it’s true. But sometimes that’s exactly what a story needs, and I refuse to believe it’s a bad thing in and of itself. Like all tools and techniques, it has its place, its function, its value.

What do you think about first-person narratives? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Share your opinions and experiences (respectfully, please) in the comments.

The post In Defense of First Person appeared first on R.C. Lewis.


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Fighting Misogyny: What Can I Do?

  Posted by RC Lewis , 18 June 2013 · 190 views

Let me be clear. I’m not waving my hands helplessly in the air saying, “There’s nothing I can do, leave me alone!” This is a sincere request for ideas.

If you don’t follow news in the same circles I do, here’s a quick summary: In science-fiction particularly, female authors aren’t always treated as equals by their not-so-female peers. There have been similar “kerfuffles” in the gaming community. And if you check out @EverydaySexism on Twitter, you can see that it’s a dishearteningly widespread issue across all communities.

As an author, I have some ideas about how I can be pro-female (without being anti-male), how I can keep an eye out, how I can speak up. During the school year, though, I spend five days a week with teens between 13 and 15 years old. I feel like I should be doing something to address issues of sexism with those students, especially since the gaming-community issues often seem to be attributed to boys in that age group.

But how?

I’ve talked a few times about an individual who exhibited definite negative behavior. I pulled him aside, had talks with him, made it clear it wasn’t acceptable … and made some progress. But most students are smart enough to avoid super-overt displays of misogyny in my classroom.

One-time “serious” class discussions don’t always do very much. As a student, I know I tuned them out, waiting for the teacher to get back to the “real” lesson. Changing behavior and views takes time, right?

So does teaching math, and I clearly can’t throw that out the window.

Is it a matter of modeling? Consistency in my own speech and behavior? Seizing on those teachable moments when they pop up and taking five minutes for them? (For instance, any time a boy uses a word like “girl” as though it’s an insult.)

I want to do what I can in my own little sphere of influence. It just feels so big, and I don’t know where to start.

Any ideas?

The post Fighting Misogyny: What Can I Do? appeared first on R.C. Lewis.

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New Digs and a Giveaway!

  Posted by RC Lewis , 23 May 2013 · 43 views

Here’s the new site! I’m still kicking the tires and sprucing it up a bit (uh, mixed metaphor much?), but feel free to take a look around.
How about a giveaway to celebrate? We’ll keep it simple. Comment on this post, and I’ll do a random-number thing to pick a winner at 10pm MDT (that’s right, Mountain Time) on Friday, May 24th.
The winner gets a $25 gift card to the book retailer of their choice. At least, the retailer of their choice to which I can easily get a gift card, in the U.S. or Canada.
Yikes, I can’t forget this! Credit for the design goes to Tessa at ipopcolor. I love it, Tessa!
Thanks for stopping by. Posted Image
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I'm Moving! (Virtually)

  Posted by RC Lewis , 23 May 2013 · 72 views

It's official. I have a brand-spanking-new website. It's going to be my main online hub, so I'll be transitioning my blogging activities over there.<br /><br />For now, I'll hang onto this place, too. I might repurpose it in some way in the future.<br /><br />If you have a minute, pop on over to the new digs:<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: x-large;"><a href="http://www.rclewisbooks.com/">www.RCLewisBooks.com</a></span></div><br /><i>You might find something nice over there.</i><br /><br /><b></b>

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