Novel Writing

I am officially a #NaNoWriMo2020 Winner!

Well, I just won NaNoWriMo this morning. How about you?

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Essays

I’ve been struggling with race: Inclusive writing for the white writer

I’ve been struggling.

I know my struggle as a white person pales in comparison with the struggles of People of Color in the United States and other parts of the world. But I am struggling. Because I know I’ve been brought up in a racial world, and I want to be a good person who treats all human beings as if they are equal. Because I know – intellectually – that we are. However, it’s hard to know the “right way” to go about this when you’ve been steeped in racist messaging your entire life.

I want my writing to be inclusive, but I don’t know how to accomplish this. I’m trying to learn how. I’m reading lots of non-fiction books on the subject and fiction by people of color (see brief list of recommended reading at the bottom of this post). I’ve also watched in horror as other white writers have been ravaged on Twitter for doing it wrong. What if I mess up, despite my best efforts? What if that happens to me? Or worse, what if I unintentionally hurt people with my ignorance?

Continue reading “I’ve been struggling with race: Inclusive writing for the white writer”
Politics

What if we redistributed the tax dollars we currently waste administering poverty programs into a basic universal income?

If you’re a writer – or spend much time with a writer – one thing you know about us is that we like to play a little game called, “What If.” It doesn’t matter what the topic is, we will find a different way to look at it and say, “Well, what if X happened?” It’s where our story ideas often come from, but it’s also a way that we poor, broke artists often get through life on a shoestring and a roll of duct tape. A writer is basically MacGyver minus the cool 1985 haircut.

Meme: The median adjusted family income for disabled workers is about half of the median for others aged 18-64 ($13,323 compared with $24,487). Source: ssa.gov
The median adjusted family income for disabled workers is about half of the median for others aged 18-64 ($13,323 compared with $24,487). Source: Social Security Administration via ssa.gov

I often find myself playing this game with politics and the multitude of social issues that plague our country. This morning, I had one of those curiosity moments where – seemingly out of the blue – a question reared its head in my head and demanded to be Googled. So, I went to Google and asked, “What’s the average annual income of a person on disability?”

Google’s answer didn’t shock me, but its accompanying information did. Did you know that the median adjusted family income for an American WORKER is $24,487? I was shocked while also somehow not surprised. I thought back to the days when I was supporting two small children on that amount of money and how hard it was. What a huge pain it was to constantly have to find time to make appointments with my local human services agency to apply for food stamps and child care assistance, along with the regular recertifications, blah, blah, blah, flashback after traumatic flashback.

Continue reading “What if we redistributed the tax dollars we currently waste administering poverty programs into a basic universal income?”
Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I feel the need to preface this review with a discussion on genre. The assignment of a genre to a book is little more than a marketing strategy whose purpose is to place the book in the section of the bookstore where it will sell the most copies. There are those who live and die by their chosen book genres. Some book snobs wouldn’t deign to read young adult novels, thinking those books are for kids and kids alone. But the truth is, a book can be many different things to many different people. A fantasy novel can also be a literary novel, and a YA novel can also be for adults. This is one of those rare novels that – in my opinion – is for everyone.

The cover of The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I first discovered The Girl Who Drank the Moon on one of the many literary blogs I troll for book recommendations. I added it to my Goodreads Want-To-Read list without realizing it is a children’s book. I then placed an online hold on the book, still unaware that my local library houses this particular text in the juvenile books section.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill”
Essays

To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That is the #COVID-19 question.

To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That seems to be the battleground on which so many Americans appear to be ready to die during this COVID-19 crisis. Why are we battling each other? Are the heated arguments with the people we love really worth it? Is this pandemic making us all feel so helpless that we just need to feel like we’re doing something, even if all we can do is either try to enforce mask-wearing on others or try to preserve our right not to wear a mask?

Homemade masks for the pandemic
My mom and Aunt Becki have been cranking out masks like you wouldn’t believe the past several weeks to make sure everyone that wants one can have one. These are some my mom sent me. Strawberry Shortcake, yeah!

I mean, you should probably wear a mask. That’s what the doctors and scientists are telling us to do, and it seems legit to me. But what if it doesn’t seem legit to you? I mean, yeah, you did wake up an American citizen this morning, so you do have a right to do whatever you want to do, as long as you’re not infringing on someone else’s rights. Continue reading “To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That is the #COVID-19 question.”

Memoir

What I read: This author’s early literary influences

Someone asked me the other day what books I read growing up, and for some reason I struggled to come up with an acceptable answer. All that came to mind while I was under that spotlight was the boxes of trashy romance novels I used to get from my maternal grandmother. My high school best friend and I used to devour those novels, often reading together and stopping occasionally for one of us to read aloud to the other a particularly cheesy passage while giggling uncontrollably. While those were good times, my romance novel stage barely scratches the surface of the richness of literature I was exposed to in my early reading years.

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of my all-time favorite novels.

As a child growing up in a rural area with no access to a library, the books I read were  limited to whatever I could get my hands on. I loved reading Richard Scary, the Sweet Pickle books, and Dr. Seuss at the doctor’s office. I don’t remember if we had any picture books at home before I started kindergarten and gained access to the Scholastic Book Club. If we did, they were few and far between. I think we had three of the Sweet Pickle books, but I’m not sure where they came from. At some point in my early years, my dad invested in a full set of encyclopedias, and that’s what I remember him reading to me in the beginning. Continue reading “What I read: This author’s early literary influences”

DIY High

DIY High: On the plight of the Working Poor in Small Town America

Thursday, August 1st, I had the opportunity to present my very first formal book reading of my new novel, DIY High, at Ryburn Place, the former Sprague’s Super Service on Historic Route 66 in Bloomington, Illinois. If you’re ever in Central Illinois, USA – especially if you’re a Route 66 fan – Ryburn Place is a must-see!

Amanda L Webster read from her new novel, DIY High August 1st at Ryburn Place in Bloomington, Illinois
Amanda L Webster read from her new novel, DIY High, August 1st at Ryburn Place in Bloomington, Illinois.

Because I was speaking at a Route 66-themed venue, I tailored my talk to the location. The following is a transcript of portions of the presentation (minus introductions and other extraneous materials regarding the location and timing of refreshments at the event.) In addition to discussing modern life along Route 66, I also read a brief snippet from DIY High, which is also included below. Enjoy!

Working Poor Americans on Today’s Historic Route 66

DIY High isn’t about Route 66, but it does take place in a small town on this iconic highway. It is a small town, much like the central Illinois town where I live, with its busy truck stop and historic Route 66 tourist spots. The Paul Bunyan statue down the road in another town even makes a cameo appearance in this book. Continue reading “DIY High: On the plight of the Working Poor in Small Town America”

Book Reviews

Book Review: When the English Fall by David Williams

I just finished When the English Fall by David Williams, and wow! This is a great read for anyone who is into apocalypse scenarios.

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Reading

What are your reading goals for 2019?

Let’s talk about books!

I set a goal to read 75 and ended up reading 75 books in 2018. 0 were rereads. 0 were audiobooks. Several were abandoned (but I didn’t include those in my count.)

Continue reading “What are your reading goals for 2019?”