Tag Archives: things i believe in

in which I bid farewell to the Friend

Before we begin, don’t forget to read the Four Book Friday Wrap Up and enter my very first GIVEAWAY where you could win one of the Four Book Friday books and a $10 gift card! Click here to enter. 

As of last Tuesday, I am back in BOSTON!

It’s taken me a while to get this news on the blog because I have been occupied by the actual act of moving to Boston and getting things in order here. But I’m officially back on the east coast and excited to be here.

But before we talk about the return to Boston, we have to talk about what happened before the move back to Boston.

So you may remember about five months ago, I posted my “big news” about getting an internship with The Friend Mormon children’s magazine. And if you’ve been hanging around the blog at all this summer, I’ve told a few stories about working there. A few, but not too many. When I was first offered the internship, I was pretty excited, mainly because it meant I could save money while living at home and not have to cook for myself all summer, and I wouldn’t have to battle the humidity in Boston. That’s it. Sure, it would be cool working on a magazine, but I’m not a super churchy person, so I wasn’t excited about that. Honestly, I didn’t think working for the Friend would be particularly different than my other internships I had—a few months of some interesting work that doesn’t leave much of an impression. I especially didn’t think it would be life changing.

Surprise—it was.

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Part 1 of the amazing parting gift the staff made me–a fake copy of the magazine with my picture on the cover!

Working for the Friend ended up being the most all-around amazing thing I’ve ever done. I got to do real work—not just usual intern work that could be screwed up with minimal consequences. Every day I got to throw myself into projects that directly contributed to the on-time publication of a magazine with over one million readers worldwide1. And I got to work on them with the most talented group of people I have ever worked with. I was in daily awe of these people, and equally amazed by their intelligence and their dedication to quality children’s literature.

I did not have a bad day at the Friend. I hardly had a bad moment. I had four months of hard work and happiness that I would never have guessed were coming my way on that rainy night five months ago when I got a phone call from Salt Lake City.

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Part 2 of amazing parting gift–the back cover!

I’ve been staring at this open Word document for like ten minutes because it really is just impossible to put into words my experience at the Friend. All you have to know is that when it was all finished, I went home and just cried for a while. I’m crying a little bit now as I write this because a part of my heart is still back in the corner cubicle on the 24th floor. The Friend gave me so many things, some of which are too personal to write about here, but mostly confidence in myself and my work, validation that I am in the correct field, and an arsenal of people on my side to which I wish I could offer some eloquent gratitude, but the only thing I can think to say is “I’ll eat you up I love you so.” And I think they’ll recognize what that means coming from me.

Thank you to the Friend and its marvelous staff for an outstanding summer, for letting me work on things I was passionate about and allowing me to bask in your brilliance. Here’s hoping some of it rubbed off on me.

 

  1. I also got to spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and read a lot of picture books. Seriously, dream job.
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in which I discuss the thoroughly modern woman

Allow me a moment to muse on female heroines. I am not a bra-burning feminist and my opinions here are pretty mild, so I hope no one runs away.

This past weekend, I went with some friends to see Thoroughly Modern Millie, one of my favorite campy Broadway musicals. I saw this show once when I was around twelve and loved it. The dancing, the flappers, the 20s music—but the thing I really remembered loving was Millie. Twelve year old me loved Millie as a character. Even at twelve, before I understood what sexism felt like, I recognized that Millie was different from most of the women that populated musicals. She was sassy, smart, and brave, and I carried Millie with me for years as a heroine with something to hold onto.

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Millie as played by Sutton Foster on Broadway
Is she not the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen!?

So then I saw Thoroughly Modern Millie again this weekend, and it was exactly the same delightful show I remembered. But about halfway through, II found myself thinking, “I don’t remember this show being so much about marriage.” Little me had not registered that Millie, brave and driven as she is, was all the time driving towards finding herself a husband. But as I watched the show, I realized that her goal in no way destroyed my image of her as the feminist icon that I had carried from my tweens. Millie was still, in a lot of ways, everything I wanted to be, despite the fact that marriage is pretty low on my priorities list and I don’t usually associate feminist icons with a strong desire to settle down with a man.

Which got me thinking.

I read a really great article last week called “Why I Hate Strong Female Characters” by Sophia McDougal. Though I don’t agree with everything she says, I liked the main take away, which is that the idea of a Strong Female Character is a damaging one. First because it creates a differentiation between the genders that we are trying to fight. No one every praises a book for having a strong male character, but we say it all the time about women.

The article also pushed back against the idea that a strong female character is one who wears trousers, cuts her hair short, and knows how to fight. So many books and movies today say, “Look! Woman fires a gun! Woman punches snarky man in face! She is strong! She is independent! She is sexy! Aspire to be her!” In my experience, these are the women that usually come off as violent and volatile, but they lack their own drive in life. And when the moment comes for them to actually take a stand and take care of themselves, they fall apart.

Millie doesn’t throw any punches. She doesn’t go into battle. She doesn’t hold a gun. She does bob her hair, but that’s all in pursuit of fashion. What she does do is set her sights on what she wants, move actively towards it, roll with the setbacks that come along the way, and adjust her plan to fit them. And in the end, she recognizes and lets go of her flaws. Which are all things I want to emulate in my own life.

It didn’t matter that she wanted to get married and I don’t. I’ve been laboring for a while under an incorrect idea that a desire to fall in love and get married is a defect in a woman’s character, and I’m trying to let go of that. Millie showed me otherwise. She is an example of a woman who is fine on her own but better with someone else. It doesn’t make her weak. It doesn’t mean she needs a man to complete her. It just means she knows what she wants, and she goes, and she finds it and she gets it. And I freaking love that.

To me, what makes a compelling heroine is a woman who is actively in pursuit of what she wants. Whether that is marriage or a career or a perfect cup of tea, that is what I want in my heroines. A woman who is active in her own life rather than acted upon. Wanting love and marriage does not make a woman weak any more than kicking ass and taking names makes her strong.

That is what I want in my friends, male and female, and in my own life: people who find what they want and they go for it.

And that is about as opinionated as I get. Carry on, and happy Monday.

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in which I see Book of Mormon: The Musical

Last night, I won the lottery.

The theater lottery, which might actually be better than the real lottery. I was one of 25 lucky people who had their name picked out of a recyclable bag and got a $25 ticket to see the touring production of Book of Mormon: the musical at the Boston Opera House, making me the first person in history to see this show for less than ten million dollars.

I asked the box office if I got a discount for being an actual, real-life Mormon. They said no.

There’s a high chance that I was the only actual, real-life Mormon in the crowd, mostly because this show, written by the guys who write South Park, has a reputation for being irreverent and offensive. Maybe not the most orthodox choice for someone who is about to be the central focal point of all jokes to attend.

But I really, really enjoyed it.

And here’s why.

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First of all, I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously in anything, and religion is no exception. It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself, and that’s exactly what the show gave me the opportunity to do. It also helped that I knew what I was getting myself in to. I was prepared for offensive content and excessive language. Were there some parts that still made me squirm? Absolutely. But not because they were slandering my faith.

While the show is wildly offensive, it isn’t mean. I never felt like the show was attacking my beliefs1 or saying “Look at how stupid these Mormons are!” Instead, the show is universally offensive to everyone—organized religion in general, rich, poor, minorities, men, women, children, whites, blacks, Americans, Africans, Asians. Really, nobody gets out of this one without a few blows landing. It is a satire, and satire by nature is biting. But I never felt like it was mean2. And it was never technically wrong about any doctrine3. There were actually jokes I felt like I got that no one else did because I was a Mormon, and I certainly related in a way I’m sure most people didn’t.

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Here’s why I loved the show: it weirdly had a great message. The whole show culminates in the idea that if you find something you believe in, whether that’s “right” or “wrong,” if it makes you happy and makes you a better person, who cares? Believe in things that make your life better. For me, the LDS Church has always been one of those things, and for the characters in the show, it’s the same.

So we think the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. Okay. Moving on.

Being part of this Church inspires me to be a better, more compassionate person, and gives me direction. And that’s what matters.

I think the LDS Church also deserves points for how well they’ve reacted to all this. When the show was first announced, there was a lot of whispering and wondering if the Church was going to react the same way the Catholics did to Da Vinci Code. Instead, the entirety of the Church’s response was, “Meh. Okay.” Not only that, but the playbill for last night’s show featured three very prominent ads for the Church, tagged, “You’ve seen the play, now read the book!” and “The book is always better!4” It takes a lot of confidence to react that well, and I think the Church’s response should guide it’s people’s response. This show is not intended to undermine us, or to make Mormons look like fools. It’s a loving satire, and we should make the best of it5.

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In the end, I saw Book of Mormon: the musical. Did I love it? Yes. Did I walk out of it with my faith still intact? Yes. Would I recommend every Mormon go see it? Absolutely not. But I don’t think they should waste time being offended by it.

And in the end, being offended is just a waste of time. Save your venom for something that really matters.

  1. They just phrase things in a way that provides for maximum ridiculousness. That being said, my favorite line in the show is still “And I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people!”
  2. I really appreciated that they didn’t take any cheap shots—no mention of polygamy or abstinence or green Jello.
  3. The only line I took issue with was “Those we’re Christian missionaries, we’re Mormons.” Because Mormons are Christians. Duh.
  4. Which I thought was hilarious and brilliant. Also, if you’d like a copy of said better book, please send me an email!
  5. If I had thought of this ahead of time, I would have worn a sign that said, “I’m a real Mormon—ask my anything!” Missed opportunity. But the offer still stands.
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in which I announce my big news!

I don’t have many skills, but one of them is avoiding the thing I am supposed to be doing.

Which is right now I’m watching the 25th Anniversary Concert Edition of Les Miserables, which is conveniently on PBS, and which is the best1 of all the Les Mises2. Also, I’m blogging. Which, in reality, is just a massive avoidance of doing what I should be doing.

…Sorry, I was captivated there for a moment watching Ramin Karimloo burst onto the stage for One Day More and I totally lost my train of thought.

What was I going to talk about? Oh yes, I remember now. The big news of last week.

It should be noted that my life is fairly uneventful and mostly boring, so the scale of “big things” is really distorted. They add a new hot beverage at the Simmons Café and that’s big news. So keep that in mind that big news in my world probably isn’t really that earth shattering to anyone else.

But the big news of last week is that I got a job. A sort of fancy new job for the summer that is well paid, in my field, and, in a surprising twist, near my family. So starting in May, I am going to be working for The Friend magazine, a publication put out by the LDS church3 that is targeted towards 4 to 12 year olds. That means that for four months, May to August, I will be leaving my life here in Boston to return to the great city of Salt Lake, my homeland. Do not worry—I will return to Boston come September to finish out my MFA. But for now—summer job! In my field! At an awesome publication! I really couldn’t be happier about this.

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it’s so cute I just want to squeeze it!

Though my mother pointed out that who I worked for last summer (NPR) and who I will be working for this summer (the Mormon church) really could not be more different.

Examples, you ask? Well, don’t mind if I do4.

NPR: Known for its liberal swing.
LDS Church: Is not.

NPR: More specifically “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” is all about making fun of people.
LDS Church: All about lifting people up.

NPR: Profanity was casually tossed about.
LDS Church:  I would be casually tossed out if I used any.

NPR: I frequently wore shorts to work.
LDS Church: Requires me to dress like I’m going on a mission. So basically Edwardian standards5.

NPR: I dyed my hair pink and everyone said, “Looks awesome.”
LDS Church: Would be much less okay with that life decision.

So it’s going to be a big change. A big change that I’m really excited for. I’m also excited to get out of Boston. I’m getting a little antsy here. I think the fact that in the past four years, I haven’t lived in any one place longer than eight months has given me an unreasonable standard of what it means to live somewhere. When the scenery doesn’t change in four months, I get bored. Plus Boston and I still aren’t getting on as well as Chicago and I did, or England and I did, and I could use a break from Beantown.

So I am returning, Salt Lake. Prepare thyself.

  1. With the exception of the dead fish that is Joe Jonas. Nick Jonas? Which one is it? The Jonas brothers are all interchangeable in my opinion.
  2. What is the plural of Les Mis? Slash has anyone ever asked this question before?
  3. To which I belong, if you’re new here.
  4. I knew all my compare and contrast essays I wrote in high school would someday come in handy!
  5. Though if Downton Abbey has taught us anything, it is that Edwardian fashion can be HOT.
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in which I make the case for Young Adult

Today, I got to have lunch with one of my most favorite authors of all time, Nova Ren Suma. Nova is the author of three beautiful books, Dani Noir, the forthcoming 17 & Gone1, and Imaginary Girls, which is one of two novels that made me say, “Yes. I want to be a young adult writer2.”

I spend a lot of time with writers who are trying to make it, which can start to feel sort of like a race where we are all tripping over each other to get to that hardcover debut first. So it was refreshing to talk to Nova, someone who is already there, and has already done it. She was a light at the end of the tunnel, that I can look at and see that yes, this can work out! It can be done3!

Nova and I talked about many wonderful things, but the thing that made the biggest impact was talking about the stigma attached to YA. I spend so much time around people who understand the appeal of YA that I sometimes forget that there is a judgment attached to it. When I tell people, “I’m studying creative writing.” They say something like, “That’s really cool! What do you write?” Then I say, “Children’s lit.” And they look sort of disappointed. And they say one of three things:

1. Like Twilight? (Or Hunger Games, which is slightly more flattering, but usually Twilight).
2. Well, maybe someday you can write real books.
3. I’ve heard there’s a lot of money in that.

To which, I would like to respond as follows:

1. No, not like Twilight. Or Hunger Games, for that matter. Just because these books have sort of become the face of YA, doesn’t mean they are the only ones. Vampire books and dystopians are such a small part of the industry4. And some of those books are magnificent5. Just because Twilight isn’t per say the greatest piece of literature, does not mean that all young adult books are like that, in the same way that 50 Shades of Grey, though it is the best-selling book of all time, is not the great American novel. Twilight, though popular, is not the pinnacle or the standard or the norm of YA.

2. News flash—young adult books are real books. In fact, sometimes they are more real than so-called adult novels6. In saying that YA books are less than adult books, you are saying that a teenager’s experience in the world is somehow less valid than an adult’s, and so the books about them are less important.

3. Oh, right, because that’s why I’m doing this. Thank you for reminding me.

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YA books are some of the most poignant and real books on the shelves. They mirror the teenage experience, where everything is so new and raw and close to the surface and you are so busy creating yourself that you don’t have time to hide behind fancy prose, issues, or inflated sense of self. YA is story, and it is emotion, and in so many cases, it is raw and sharp and brilliant, and it hits you right where you live. YA is comprised of coming of age stories, and anyone can read those and relate to them, because we never stop coming of age.

But, you might say, “Isn’t YA lit written for a younger audience? I think it’s below my reading level.” First of all, reading level is a scam created by school districts to make kids feel bad about themselves. And second of all, contrary to popular belief, YA writers don’t write down to their audience. They don’t dumb down their stories or their prose, because teenagers don’t need that. YA is not a reading level, it’s a genre, and you can read about teenagers even if you’re not one.

If you are a new comer to YA, or if you carry some of the stigmas described above, might I humbly suggest a few not scary YA titles to start with, and some comp adult titles so they are less intimidating. No vampires, or werewolves, or fight to the death arenas. These are the kind of books that will not just change your perspective on YA: they will change your life.

If you liked….
…The DaVinci Code you might like Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
…The Time Traveler’s Wife you might like Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
…The Night Circus you might like A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
…Game of Thrones you might like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
…My Sister’s Keeper you might like The Fault in our Stars by John Green
…Water for Elephants you might like Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
…Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you might like Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein  
…The Kite Runner you might like Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
…Gone Girl you might like I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
…Something Borrowed you might like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  1. Which I have already read. Because I’m awesome. And other reasons.  
  2. Seriously guys. Imaginary Girls. Read it, and love it, and slobber over the prose like I did.
  3. Asdflkj. I hope.
  4. Has anybody written a dystopian about vampires? That feels like a missed opportunity.
  5. May I introduce you to Feed by MT Anderson?
  6. I hate calling them adult books because then it sounds like porn.
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in which I experience feelings of love

Last night, I was on the home stretch of two-hour viewing of The Bachelor1 when I noticed that there had been an excess of diamond ring and Hallmark card commercials all night, each more nauseating than the last2. Then I realized why: it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I’m not actually a Valentine’s Day lover, either. I’m pretty neutral in my feelings towards V-Day. I generally use it as an excuse to buy myself a book and eat chocolate. However, there is something in direct relationship to Valentine’s Day that I would like to discuss.

Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love in all its many splendored forms. But if the commercials and window displays are to be believed, the only love worth celebrating this February 14 is the romantic, hand-holding, face-sucking kind. Which—NEWS FLASH—is not the only kind of love.

So today, I’d like to talk about friendship—that kind of love.

When we tell someone of the opposite gender3 that you are not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with them, we say that we want to be “just friends.” Which is ridiculous. When did “friends” become a “just”? When we stacked the pyramid of worthwhile relationships, who put friendship a tier below monogamous, lip-sucking partners? When did dating someone become the whole game? Friendship should never be a “just”.

Since I’ve done a lot of starting over in the past four years, I’ve done a lot of making new friends, and it never stops being hard. Too often, when I’m alone in a new city, I tend to jump into friendships with people that are convenient to be friends with, or who I share one thing in common with, but nothing else. “Oh you also like turkey sandwiches? So, should I just go ahead and pencil us in for spending Thanksgiving together?” While I would never enter into a romantic partnership with such a shaky foundation, I do it all the time with friendships. I try to force a friendship out of something that isn’t there because I just want to know people. I just want to have someone to vent about school to and go see a movie with4.

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I stole this from Elizabeth Wein and a tumblr user named Kelly.

But the truth is, we should screen our friends just as closely as we do our romantic partners. Just because someone is convenient or willing, does not make them suitable friend material. Just like you aren’t going to be attracted to every person you meet, you can’t expect to have friendship chemistry with every person you meet either. And in the end, when you’re left crying on a street corner in the rain after that boy dumps you5, you want the people on speed dial in your phone to actually pick up.

With all the changing my life is done in the past few years, I have started to value my friendships more than ever. When I was younger, friendship was such a given thing. I moved within the same circles of people for most of my young life, and I took for granted how well I knew my peers and how easy it was to judge our compatibility. When thrust into an unfamiliar situation with new people, I am much more impulsive about my decisions, and have ended up perusing a lot of relationships that were doomed from the start just because I missed having friends. So when the new, sparkly-ness of a place falls away, or when distance and space comes between us, those people that are left standing with me have become so very important to me.

I think we as a society tend to romanticize6 romantic love. We act as though the only thing that gives us value in this world is being in a romantic partnership with someone7, when really, that sort of love is only half of it. Life isn’t just about forming relationships with people you are attracted to. It’s about valuing and finding strength in people who you don’t want to exchange saliva with.

This is not to say that I am a man-hater, or a relationship-hater. I am neither. But when I think of my life, and the relationships that have lasted and mattered, I don’t think of the boyfriends I left behind. I think of the friends who are still here with me.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I will not just be celebrating the ghosts of boyfriends past or lamenting my singleness, because there’s nothing lamentable in it. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely. Instead, I would like to celebrate the people who inhabit my life in a non-hand holding, non-face licking capacity8.

  1. Don’t judge.
  2. I noticed this because every time one came on, I made a very loud and very dramatic groan, and by the time the Bachelor was half done, my throat was starting to hurt from the exertion.
  3. Or same gender, depending on what team you bat for.
  4. Trick question, because I go to 90% of movies alone. And I like it, because no one judges me for sneaking a diet coke in in my purse, and I do not have to share the popcorn.
  5. Everything I know about breakups I learned from Lifetime movies
  6. WORDPLAY!
  7. Which is why I am all the time told, “Oh, you have lots of friends and important people in your life and you’re happy and fulfilled, but you have no boyfriend? Don’t worry darling, you’ll find a good man soon.”
  8. I kind of hate myself for writing this post, because even as I’m reading over it now, I’m so painfully aware of how much it sounds like the sort of thing girls say around Valentine’s Day to hide behind really desperately wanting a significant other. Which is not me. This is an honest opinion that has nothing to do with my current dating situation. I also want to say that this is not a post to discredit anyone who is in a romantic relationship—that’s awesome, and I get finding strength in your partner and being two halves of a whole and that whole Dove chocolate wrapper nonsense. But for me, right now, in my life, this is how I feel about love, and this is where I find my strength. This is my life, as honestly as I know how to explain it.
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