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Four Book Friday: The MT

Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from the elusive and mysterious MT, sister of mine as well as reader and writer. Here are the four books that changed her life!

Oh hello there. You may know me as “The MT” or the little sister of the Mackenzi Lee, both of which I am. Anywho, here’s my four book Friday:

2Harry Potter (series) by J. K. Rowling – The Harry Potter books were the books of my childhood. I have a very distinct memory of carrying around my yellow bus tape player and listening to the end of the first one on audio book over and over and over… To me, the Harry Potter series are like a close friend who has always been there for me. I read Harry Potter when I’m feeling scared, or stressed or angry, or even when I’m happy. I’ve also been able to make friends through our mutual love of Harry Potter. This series has been a rock in my life and I really don’t know what I would do without it’s characters, white and story.

https://i0.wp.com/d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1268924930l/7788995.jpgThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – I don’t even have enough words for how much this book has impacted my life. The Silver Linings Playbook is essentially the journal of a man named Pat who has a very severe bipolar disorder. Although I am not bipolar like Pat, I do suffer from an anxiety disorder and I learned a lot from how Pat deals with his illness. After reading this book, I found myself rethinking how I think and how I deal with my own illness. This book also had the remarkable ability to voice thoughts or events that I have dealt with, but haven’t quite been able to explain or share. Pat’s mind allowed me to express what I wanted to express and helped me change how I deal with things.

The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3)The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan – The Percy Jackson series is another one where I feel like all of the main characters are my best friends because I’ve been reading this series since I was quite young. However, I wanted to specifically highlight The Mark Of Athena because I read it at a time in my life when I had been suffering from severe artist’s block. After reading this one, I started drawing again, mainly the characters from the book and my favorite scenes. This book got my drawing again and got me sucked down the fan-art rabbit hole on Tumblr. This event also inspired a theme for my IB Art portfolio, which eventually led my IB diploma.

8071467The Watchmen’s Rattle by Rebecca Costa– Okay, so I actually haven’t read this book all the way through, but in my junior year of high school in English class, all our reading was based around conservation philosophies. This reading unit played a huge role in my choice to study Environmental Studies in college. I chose Costa’s book, because hers was my favorite of the books we read. Her writing and philosophies are brilliant.

The MT also happens to be an awesome artists. Here is some fanart she did for Mark of Athena and Harry Potter.

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When not playing Quidditch, practicing spells, solving cases with Sherlock Holmes, traveling in the TARDIS with the Doctor, the MT can usually be found slaying dragons, fighting monsters, traversing a galaxy far, far away, or saving the world. She attends Utah State University where she studies Environmental Studies. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, playing music , writing, and being a nerd.

 

 

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Four Book Friday: Hannah Thompson

Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Hannah, with whom I have shared favorite books since we were in seventh grade. Read on for the four books that have inspired her.

Hi! I’m Hannah, a good friend of Miss Mackenzi Lee’s—she and I go way back. Like, all the way back to middle school. When I saw that Mackenzi was starting this series, I immediately volunteered to participate without even thinking of what books I would include—I just knew I wanted to be a part of it, dang it! As someone who just finished their senior year of college as an English major, I feel like I’ve read plenty of books, and I have lots of favorite books, but Mackenzi made it clear that this was for books that changed your life, which is an entirely different category.  Here’s my list of books that changed my life!

https://mackenzilee.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/5252e-rustyjames.jpgRumble Fish by S.E. Hinton

Most people are familiar with S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, but fewer know about her other books. The Hinton book that changed my life was Rumble Fish, and I read it in my seventh grade English class with Ms. Putnam. This was my first introduction to literature we studied in school that had some deeper symbolism. Ms. Putnam did a fantastic job of connecting with little seventh graders and getting them to understand some underlying themes, and I still remember some of them to this day (something about a river… and lights… anyway, it’s not important.). I consider Rumble Fish to be sort of the foundation that my analytical English career has been built around—and how could that not be considered a book that changed my life?

https://i0.wp.com/johngreenbooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/wgwg2.jpgWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Even if you don’t keep up with the YA literature scene, you may have heard of John Green because he has been on the top of the best seller list for 39 weeks so far with his book The Fault in Our Stars. While that book is also fantastic, we’re going to focus on another of Green’s books entitled Will Grayson, Will Grayson. WG/WG is a really interesting story about love and friendship, but seriously, the biggest thing I learned from this book was exactly how authors co-write books—one writes one chapter, the other writes the next, and so on. I’m not dumb, but the idea of coauthoring a book seriously mystified me until this moment—if I tried to cowrite a book with someone, I guarantee it would end in a bloodbath. The main reason I love WG/WG is because it introduced me more fully into the online world of Nerdfighteria (the online community that supports John Green, his brother Hank, and their creative work). Basically what John Green, his novels, and Nerdfighteria have given me is a renewed faith that what I studied in college is important to continue teaching to young adults. After hearing one too many horror stories about rude students, school shootings, and unhelpful administrators, it’s hard to forge ahead in the education program with a positive “I can make a difference!” attitude. Thanks to WG/WG (my first introduction to the inspiring words of John Green), I feel more confident heading into the classroom armed with knowledge and faith in my subject. Favorite quote from WG/WG: “He looks at me like i’m throwing spiked darts at the heart-shaped helium balloons that populate his mind, so i let it go.”

https://i0.wp.com/mediaroom.scholastic.com/files/HP1cover.jpgHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

Seriously? This is the third 4-Book Friday and there hasn’t been a mention of Harry Potter? This is crazy town. The Harry Potter series definitely changed my life. I remember reading the first book out loud with my mom and sister in my parent’s big bed. I remember waiting anxiously for the library to open the day after the new book came out so I could get Mom to rush me there for my copy that I reserved months ago. I remember reading the 6th book in a hammock in my backyard and calling my friend the second I finished it so we could talk about it. And also, I saw the final movie in a half movie theatre/half pizza place in the middle of Montana one summer and basically crying BY MYSELF surrounded by tween girls as I saw my childhood essentially come to an end. Awesome. Essentially, Harry Potter is a fantastic, imaginative story that intrigued adults and kids alike, but especially interested kids my age; basically, J.K Rowling got an entire generation hooked on literature singlehandedly, which deserves mad props. As a future English teacher, I hope that my students find something—whether in school or out—that inspires them to read like HP did for me. I blame HP for my overall love of reading!

Stotan! By Chris Crutcher

https://i2.wp.com/covers.openlibrary.org/b/id/1578254-M.jpgChris Crutcher’s YA novel Stotan! changed my life by essentially taking it over. I wrote my Honors thesis on Stotan! by creating a four week unit from scratch with this book as the base. It was the first time I had ever been trusted with an entire unit where I read the book and figured it what I wanted to pull from the novel to teach my students, and I found it extremely rewarding. (I was also extremely pleased to find out that I could, in fact, do something like that on my own… thank goodness) Working closely with a professor on campus gave me a chance to really learn from a seasoned professional who had literary connections—he wanted to send my whole thesis to Chris Crutcher himself because they’re old pals! My thesis was the culmination of my college career, and without Stotan!, I’m not sure I would have liked the result nearly as much. Also, Crutcher uses some killer similes—my favorite is when he talking about a boy’s handwriting: “It looks like he dipped the feet of a baby chick in ink, placed it on the page and set the little bugger ablaze.” That’s fantastic imagery right there.

Thanks for reading my post—keep reading whatever floats your boat, and may you find your next life-changing book tomorrow!

Hannah Thompson is about to embark on the final phase of her teacher education program by student teaching first at a local high school, then at a less-than-local high school in southwestern Norway. An English major and avid book lover, she occasionally puts down her books to dance, hike, play basketball, rappel, bake, and watch Modern Family (but usually not all at the same time). Her lack of social media smarts is evident in the absence of links to Tumblr, Twitter, and blogs, but you can go here if you just need something to do, because hopefully this will one day be Hannah’s life.

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in which i have a butterbeer with john green. everything else is irrelevant.

“Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.” – John Green

To borrow a phrase from Starkid, this weekend was TOTALLY AWESOME!

You know why? Because I got to attend LeakyCon, which is about as close to actually going to Hogwarts as you can get without magical powers. LeakyCon is a convention for people who love Harry Potter, and who love to share that love with each other. It is a convention for fans, by fans. Meaning that for four days, the Chicago Hilton was a sea of wizard robes and Pizza John t-shirts. And I couldn’t have been happier.

this was a pretty common sight.

Since I am not, per say, a crazy wild Harry Potter fan like most of these people, I primarily attended the literary part of the convention, more my style of nerdiness. Meaning that I got to hear and meet a slew of my favorite authors, including Laini Taylor, Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Margaret Stohl, Maureen Johnson, and John Green1. Seriously, this is the royalty of the young adult genre. These people are my rockstars. It was an exceptional and inspirational weekend that made me want to writewritewrite! Their panels were hilarious and delightful, and they were all very sweet about the nerdgirl freak out I had when I met each of them in turn.

Oh, and I also got to meet the girls of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, see the debut of “A Very Potter Senior Year,2” high fived Hank Green, got to see Mary GrandPre’s original cover art, and did yoga with Evanna Lynch.

And then at the end of it all, I had a butterbeer with John Green, and we talked about how much I love his books and how much he loves writing Sherlock fanfiction3. Which is a moment I will be adding to the top ten moments of my life list.

So yeah, not a bad weekend.

John Green with the MT’s drawing of John Green.

This weekend, I was reminded of how not great I am at meeting people I idolize. I got incredibly tongue tied around John, embarrassed myself in front of one of New York’s most important literary agents, and was a hot mess when I met Laini Taylor4. I just have such an admiration of people who are doing the things I want to be doing. The world is full of people who want to do things, including me, so to meet people who are actively leaving their mark upon the world as an artist and creator is an awe-inspiring experience. It makes me want to be an author even more, just for the chance to someday open a bottle of champagne5 with these people, and be one of them, instead of a crazed fan with her nose up against the window of the bar.

this is Stephanie Perkins. She is flawless. That’s me next to her. You probably didn’t notice me, because I’m much less awesome than her.

LeakyCon was awesome for a lot of reasons, but the best part was being around people who are passionately excited about everything. There is a lot of crossover in fandoms, so people who love Harry Potter also tend to love Sherlock, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and everything else that I love. And they don’t hide it. They own who they are, and, as a result, are much more open to everyone else around them. I loved being around people who got Starkid jokes, and understood my Fault in Our Stars t-shirt. I loved being around people who loved that I loved the same things that they did. The love that Harry Potter fans have for their books and their fandoms seeps into the rest of their lives, and they seem to love everything with an unbridled enthusiasm.

Because really, at its heart, that’s what Harry Potter is all about – love.

And man, do I love being around people who know how to love things, no matter what it is that that love is directed towards.

LeakyCon – thank you for a freaking awesome weekend. Maybe I’ll see you next year6.

  1. I will stop talking about John Green when you show me someone more worthy of my adoration!
  2. Complete with Darren Criss
  3. More importantly, Bald John Green/Other John Green slash stories. To fanfiction.net!
  4. Me: Oh my gosh…..you’re Laini….your books are so…..you’re so…..pink hair…..beautiful…..I love you so much. I just met you and I love you!  Laini: …………..thank you?
  5. Which I would then not drink.
  6. In LONDON! If only….
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in which i remember a girl i didn’t know

Late in the summer of her sixteenth year, Esther Earl passed away “after a lengthy battle with human consciousness, a victim of the universe’s need to make and unmake all that is possible.” After six years of fighting a civil war within her own body, she succumbed to thyroid cancer, and left this world a lifetime too soon.

I didn’t know Esther Earl. In many ways, I don’t feel myself worthy to pay tribute to her. So I will not say that she was full of life, or fought hard, or died peacefully – I do not intend to cheapen her memory by compartmentalizing the life of a girl I did not know into a series of lessons for the living. I will not employ any of the clichés that imply her illness was the only thing that she was ever made of.

But I would still like to thank Esther.

Even though I didn’t know her, Esther has had a profound effect on me. She was a large part of the inspiration behind a book that changed my life, and continues to change it almost daily1. I am a better person because of Esther, and though our touch is indirect, I feel her presence just the same.

If Esther was still alive, today would be her eighteenth birthday. And so, for her, her family, and everyone who remembers her, today has been designated as Esther Day.

Esther Day is the creation of John Green and Esther herself. Shortly before she died, John told Esther that he wanted to celebrate her birthday for as long as he was around, and asked how she would like him to do that. John wrote on his tumblr yesterday, “She finally decided she wanted it to be a day that celebrated love in families and among friends. I think of Esther Day as a kind of Valentine’s Day for all the other kinds of love.”

Humans seem to have an insatiable desire to make the dead into monuments for the living. We fill cemeteries and museums in order to make those we have outlived into aspirations for us. We do this because we hope that, when we too pass on, we will be similarly memorialized. We commemorate the dead because we hope that, someday, someone will do the same for us. How terrified we are of being forgotten.

But we have been tricked into fearing the leaving of this world. This life doesn’t want us to stay here.

Esther died too young, and too soon, but her memorial is the sort of thing we can all hope to leave. Not a marble statue, or a plaque, or a street or a wing in a hospital named for her. Instead she left the greatest legacy a person can leave; a chain of people tied together by their love for her, a love which then spreads, like ripples from a skipping stone, to the others in their lives. Though perhaps Esther herself is no longer luminous, she nevertheless remains a conductor of light.

I am not always great at telling people how much I care about them. I usually am as sentimental as a bag of rocks, and I shy away from any cracks of vulnerability in my hard exterior. But today, I am going to tell the people in my life who shine the brightest how much they have illuminated me2. I have been blessed to spend most of my life surrounded by a cast of people who have showered me with praise and adoration disproportionate to my looks and abilities. I have never been short of friends, family, teachers, church leaders, mentors, and even acquaintances who have helped me see the extraordinariness of my own existence. My world bursts with people who believe in me. It would be impossible for me to thank all of them in a single day, but their names are written across my mind today. And, in looking outwards, we inevitably reflect inwards, and understand our own value a little better.

So today, I would like to encourage you all to celebrate Esther Day along with me. Do it in any way you know how.

And above all – don’t forget to be awesome.

For more information about Esther and her family’s This Star Won’t Go Out charity, click here.

For John Green’s reflections on Esther, click here.

For a book that will change your life, click here.

  1. Mostly because I read it. A lot.
  2. Gross cheesy light metaphor! Apologies.
  3. I hope that something in this post comes across with minimal pretentiousness and at least a smidge of eloquence. My thoughts are stars I can’t always fathom into constellations.
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