Monthly Archives: April 2013

I Wrote a Book, and I Did It For Me

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I had a breakthrough last week. I realized that much of what I do is for other people. I’m not talking about service, exactly, but more like the old adage of the fallen tree in the forest. If no one was around to hear it, did it really happen?

Think about it. If you clean the house and no one notices, was it worth it? Why play a beautiful song on the piano if no one is around to hear it? Why put in volunteer hours at the school if they don’t count for something? Weed a backyard that no one else sees? Vacuum a car no one else drives? Get an A in a class that won’t count toward a degree anyway? It all comes down to one question.

Did you do it for yourself, or for them?

My epiphany began when I started collecting all the book reviews of my newly published book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. I’d pore over those precious words, memorize them, post the best words on Facebook, and retweet them. It was like an emotional massage for a first-time author who had waited a lifetime to hear her writerly praises sung.

But then a realization hit: what happens after the blog tour is done? What happens when my friends have finished the book and set it on the shelf? What happens when my publicist moves on to other, newer authors, and my Amazon rankings start to slide? Am I still glad that I wrote the book?

Did I write it for them, or for me? 

I was one of those geeky school-focused teenagers who had to ask a guy out on my first date (a girl’s choice dance), and only then because that’s what teenage girls do. They go on dates. So I made it happen.

Then college came, and I got a degree. Because that’s what girls do. I got married, had kids, and decorated my house–because that’s what women do. I quickly found that I wasn’t the crafty type, and I didn’t run marathons or throw elaborate parties. But there was one thing I loved, and it was writing. So I wrote a book. It was my answer to those Pinterest-worthy cooks and housecleaners and crafters, those moms who spent hours building PVC-tents and IKEA bookshelves for their kids. They were good at that stuff, and I wasn’t. So I stopped trying and switched to what I knew. 

Now that the experience is over and tapering off, it’s taken a little soul-searching to realize that I really did write “How to Have Peace” for me. If no one read it, or if the publisher hadn’t accepted it, I’d still have done it. A small part of me probably wanted to experience being an author, and another piece wanted to influence the lives of others in a cosmic and literary way. Maybe a deep, innermost piece wanted to feel like I was worth something as a person. But at the end of the day, I wrote a book, and I did it for me.

That realization is starting to change a few things in my life. I’ve struggled with weight issues since childhood. I have three sisters who can eat anything and never gain weight, and most of my friends are thin. I’ve finally admitted to myself that my half-hearted diet and exercising attempts were for them, not for me. I wanted their approval, and I wanted that body that magazines and TV shows say we should have, or we’re not worth much. With that mentality, of course I wasn’t going to lose weight! I had to decide to do it for me.

Whether I lost weight or not, whether the inches fell off or I worked myself into the ground for no reason, I had to make that decision. So last week, I made it. I signed up for a month-long strict diet program–and I did it for me. 

My next book is in the works, and even if it doesn’t see the light of day, I’ll always know that I did it for myself. That’s really the only reason to do something anyway.

How about you? Please comment below and click on “subscribe” if you like what you’re reading. Thanks!

 

 

 

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Top 5 “Girls Rule” Books

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A couple weeks ago, I posted an article about chick lit and why books are trending more toward female protagonists (http://www.rodewayoflife.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/chick-lit-why-is-it-so-popular).It triggered such an incredible response that I decided to share my top five favorite books where girls do much more than simply get the guy.

Fave #1: The Uglies series

I thought this series was a good blend of action and romance. The main character wasn’t so hardened and tough that she sounded like a man, but she wasn’t a weak little powderpuff, either. I felt that I could relate to her as she struggled her way through a dark and twisted society. The world was unique and believable. But best of all, a girl that most people had written off at the beginning became a legend by the third book. It was hard to put down.

Fave #2: Little Women

I know, this is on the other end of the spectrum, and Little Women isn’t known for its action-packed plot. But when you break it down, the story is a familiar one. Jo, who I consider to be the main character, doesn’t quite fit in with the dainty world of women in her society. She wants much more than it can offer her. When she receives a proposal that makes perfect sense, she rejects it for the hope of something better–but she’s not exactly sure what that is. It’s not until the end when she finds the fulfillment and the self-approval that she’s always longed for. Her fight for freedom of expression in a male-dominated lifestyle makes Little Women a “girls rule” book in my mind.

Fave #3: The Hunger Games series

You knew this one was coming. Suzanne Collins actually switches the male/female cliches on their head. Katniss is the strong, unyielding, and calculating girl who is forced to make some tough choices to protect those she loves. At the other end of the sprectrum we have Peeta, who is more quiet, uncertain, and unresolved. Their relationship seems unlikely in the first book–after all, only one of them can survive–but the romance is masterfully done. Collins’ balance of action and romance is intriguing as well as disturbing.

Fave #4: The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

Yep, another genre hop. Sanderson is one of my favorite fantasy authors because of his strong female characters. But he takes it a step further and actually makes the main character a girl in this series–and he does it incredibly well, for being a man. Vin is one of my all-time favorite characters. Her story is typical. She begins at the lowest place a girl can be, and eventually finds the power within herself to do the unthinkable. Watching her grow as a person and confront each challenge head-on is something fascinating to watch. Sanderson’s plots and world-building are highly acclaimed, but I think it’s his characters that make him a best-selling author several times over–specifically his true-to-life and intriguing female lead, Vin.

Fave #5: The Divergent series

This one is a more mainstream example of a kick-butt teenage girl with something to prove, but Tris still retains a few redeeming qualities. She feels like every girl who is trying to find her niche and make a difference in the world, but with a remarkable ability to isolate herself from her past. She can’t, however, separate herself entirely from her family because they’re still a part of her. Watching her struggle with that, as well as the dynamics of the group she’s been forced to join, makes for an interesting “girls rule” plot. I’m excited to read the third book in the series.

There you have it–five “girls rule” books that will have you cheering. You’ll notice that I didn’t include Twilight on this list. Personally, I don’t think Bella is a “girls rule” kind of girl. She seems more like an “I rule” kind of person to me, and I didn’t particularly care for her character. What do you think? Is there a book that you believe should have made the list? Leave a comment below.

The Ultimate Mom Quiz

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THE MOTHERHOOD QUIZ

Think you’ve seen it all? Let’s see if you’ve said it all. Check the phrases you’ve said to your children. Then add up the scores to see where you stand!

(This quiz is an excerpt from my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. For the 10 Secrets of Motherhood, or for more fun parenting resources, go to my website: http://www.AuthorRebeccaRode.com)

 

             ___ Did you remember to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ You don’t have to eat all of it; just try a bite. (3 pts)

             ___ You’re not leaving this room until it is clean. (3 pts)

             ___ You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. (4 pts)

             ___ You can’t drive until you’re sixteen. (2 pts)

             ___ I don’t care if all your friends have them. You’re not getting a cell phone    until you’re  _____ (insert age here) (4 pts)

             ___ If you want shoes that cost $120, you’ll have to save up for them yourself. (5 pts)

             ___ If you’re that bored, come empty the dishwasher. (3 pts)

             ___ It’s just a hairbrush, not an instrument of torture. (5 pts)

             ___ I thought you were going to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ Wow. Um…when’s the last time you took a shower? (4 pts)

             ___ 17,950 texts in one month? Seriously? (5 pts)

             ___ Sit up, please. We’re reading scriptures. (5 pts)

             ___ Sweetheart, we don’t draw on the walls. (3 pts)

             ___ Did you really punch someone at school today? (5 pts)

             ___ No, you may not watch it again. You’re already watched it twice today. (2 pts)

             ___ Honey, we wear clothes when we go outside. (5 pts)

             ___ Didn’t I tell you to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ Don’t lick the cat. I know she licks you, but just…don’t. (5 pts)

             ___ What’s the magic word? (2 pts)

             ___ I know it’s pink, but don’t you want something that’s a different color? Just this once? (3 pts)

             ___ Get down from the table, please. Tables are not for standing on. (3 pts)

             ___ Time to do your homework. (2 pts)

             ___ Turn that music down. Turn down the music! I SAID, TURN IT DOWN! (5 pts)

             ___ Did you pick that gum up from off the ground? Wait—don’t chew it! (3 pts)

             ___ How many times do I have to ask you to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___I think your room exploded. Time for a cleaning party. (4 pts)

             ___ Are you sure you want to read that book again? You already have it memorized. (2 pts)

             ___ Oops, I think the video game remote disappeared. Maybe if you clean your room it will reappear. (5 pts)

             ___ Is that syrup in your hair? (3 pts)

             ___ I just mopped that floor. Here’s a wet rag. Have fun! (5 pts)

             ___ Ew, sweetie. We don’t eat dirt. (3 pts)

             ___ Uh, no. You are not wearing that to school, young lady. (2 pts)

             ___ You still haven’t washed your hands? I give up! (5 pts)

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Scores:

100-118           You’re Supermom! You’ve seen and said it all.

80-99               You’re just about there. Keep up the good work!

60-79               You’re not quite in the thick of things yet. Count your blessings!

0-59                 Just wait. The best is yet to come.


Write a comment below and post your score,  or send me a tweet with your score to @RebeccaRode. I’ll retweet it to all my fans!

If you liked this quiz, click on the Follow button to get updated posts on moms, women’s issues, and writing. Thanks for reading!

Chick Lit: Why is it so popular?

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Recently a male friend posted a complaint on Facebook. He wrote, “Why is half the bookstore paranormal, urban fantasy, and dystopian? What kind of girlie crap is taking over literature?”

This made me grin like a fool, because I know the answer–and I also know that since he’s a guy, he’ll never understand. It’s a good question, though. Why are these genres so popular?

When I was young, I read my fair share of Boxcar Children, The Black Stallion, and the usual classics. But the books that really caught my attention were Nancy Drew, the Babysitters Club, and Ramona Quimby. Why? Because I could relate to them. They were girls, and they went through the same situations that I was going through (with the exception of Nancy Drew–thank heavens). 

But for a long time, there really wasn’t much in terms of exciting literature for girls. There were plenty of sleazy romances, which I declined to read. I did read a lot of fantasy, which almost exclusively starred male main characters (and usually some sassy, too-smart sidekick girl, just to make us happy). Even female authors created male protagonists in their books. Just look at J.K. Rowling. The reason? Because male readers don’t buy books with female main characters, but females still buy books about males. It was about profit.

Somewhere around the Twilight era (I won’t give Stephanie Meyer credit, but her books certainly helped the trend), girls realized that they didn’t have to force themselves into the mind of a male character anymore. They could have adventure, excitement, and romance all at once–the three weren’t exclusive. They could experience the kick-butt action of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without sacrificing the sweet innocence of a first kiss or a love triangle.  

Hence, real chick lit was born.

“But it’s all the same,” some people complain. “They’re all just the same plot, reborn in different ways, and marketed toward girls.” 

Well, let’s look at male entertainment for a second. What’s the plot of the Matrix? A loser has to figure out who he is in order to defeat the bad guy. What’s the plot of Start Wars? Um, a loser has to figure out who he is to defeat the bad guy. Harry Potter? Yeah. Lord of the Rings? Well, you get the idea. There are only so many thriller plots they’ve come up with in the last century, and most of them involve bikini-clad blondes, explosions, and sports cars. Sorry, guys. That just doesn’t entertain us anymore.

Given a choice–which we all are, nowadays–I’ll definitely choose a female main character with brains and a personality. When I open a book, I want to feel totally immersed in another world, and experience what she experiences. It’s getting harder to settle for the typical Stephen King novel after the life-and-death adventure of dark dystopian worlds and blood-sucking monsters. 

Is chick lit taking over? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s such a bad thing, considering that most readers are female anyway. Hopefully it will send a message to The Man. I love that Hunger Games, a book that was originally considered a chick book, was read by so many guys. My husband even went to the movie–a film where a GIRL  was the main character. I know. When we can get our husbands and boyfriends to experience life from a girls’ point of view, that’s never a bad thing. 

And who knows? Maybe they’ll actually learn something about us and what we’re really capable of. I’m excited to find that out myself.

Is Motherhood a Sacrifice?

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Do you feel like you sacrificed your dreams to be a mom? I’ve heard so many moms say that. They complain, “I have to hire a babysitter just to go see a movie,” or “I really need a vacation. But with four kids, we barely have enough money for groceries.” It’s a complaint that most of us can relate to–and frankly, I’ve been known to say things like this a time or two (or three hundred). 

When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. I’ve dreamed about writing that great American novel someday, about going on a book tour and signing my name with a smile onto thick, freshly pressed pages. In fact, when I prepared to graduate from college without a marriage prospect in sight, I figured graduate school in creative writing or journalism would be my thing. I was determined to make my dream come true.

But then I found out about an internship in Romania, working in orphanages. It piqued my interest like nothing else had before. I applied, was accepted, and soon found myself thousands of miles away from laundry dryers, dishwashers, and real American cheeseburgers. “My kids” ended up being the orphans that Romanians wanted to forget about–the severely disabled and disfigured ones. I threw myself into their care, trying to play, tickle, and laugh with them; anything to get a reaction. Over a period of months, these children became mine. I knew every facial expression, every gurgling giggle, every millimeter of improvement they gave, and it didn’t take long before I realized something. If this was what it felt like to be a mom, there was nothing I wanted more. Writing was fulfilling, but it didn’t feel like this. It was that love, that incredible concern and sacrifice for nine abandoned kids–the thousands of miles and dollars and hours–just to see a palsy-stricken six year-old laugh for the first time. It was worth it, times ten. No question. 

When I came home, I brought with me a new dream. That dream came true sooner than expected. Within two years, I had a wonderful husband and a baby girl. She was followed by two adorable and active boys. Several years later, as a busy mom of three, I was feeling overwhelmed and mourning the loss of my freedom as a person–until I remembered my experience in Romania. 

I sat down to write about it, and then I couldn’t stop. I showed the first chapter to a publisher, just to see what she thought, and the rest is history. Now I have a book, called How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. It was just released two weeks ago.

I didn’t know as a young intern that I could have two dreams. Being a mom and being an author seemed conflicting at first, but now I know that they only enhanced and enriched each other.  My writing has more depth and experience than ever, and I’m a better mom now that I’ve found a voice. My daughter even sits next to me sometimes, writing her own” book.” I think she has a wonderful future. 

Now, when I’m tempted to complain about babysitting costs, I think about “my” orphans across the ocean, and I have to smile. Motherhood is a sacrifice, it’s true. But in the process of giving things up, I found who I really was. Image

What’s your dream, and did you have to give it up to become a mom? Please leave a comment to share.