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What Else is Contagious?

It’s amazing how fast it spreads. It traveled around the world quickly, boomed in the media, and now it seems to be all I can think about.

If you think I am talking about COVID-19, you’re right, but I am also referring to the negativity, the hatefulness, and the panic I have witnessed since this whole thing began.

My entire Facebook feed is flooded with announcements, questions, what-ifs, and memes, and in the comments, there are nasty, ugly statements of people arguing with others about what the “right thing” to do is.

We are all struggling to cope with what is happening right now. My university is going online for the rest of our spring semester, and not only is the virus affecting school, it is affecting my work, my relationships, and my mental health.

When I say it affects my mental health, I mean that I am sad that I don’t know how long it will be until I see my loved ones, but I also feel a heaviness in my gut each time I think about those who are in need right now, those who are hurting, those I want to help, but I see no way to do so.

The negativity weighs me down, and I try so hard to remember what I can do to help the world go around.

Negativity is contagious.

It stays in our media, it latches itself to the words we’ve seen every day. Social Distancing. Self-Isolate. Positive Cases. 

Negativity stays with our questions.

How many deaths? Will we go on lock-down? How long does the virus stay on surfaces? What can we do to keep our families safe?

When I think about these questions and the scared people across the globe, that negativity becomes an anchor. I hope that soon it will release me so that I might be able to breathe. There is panic there, and it is difficult to remedy that in the state our world is in.

I want to take this moment to remind you, and myself, to take a step back, evaluate your actions, and decide how you want to handle it.

It won’t get better until we can stop fighting, until we can remember that we find safety and community together even though we must stay apart right now. The last thing we want to do is lose sight of our humanity.

It is human to be scared. It is human to wonder what will happen next.

It is also human to share happiness, to be grateful, to help others. It’s human to share.

We share so much in our world. We share memes, media, and common DNA. We share panic and dread. We can share COVID-19 with others. But you know what else is contagious?

Kindness.

Kindness is also contagious.

In all its forms, it spreads, and it coats everything it touches. It becomes smiles, and butterflies, and rainbows, and laughter, and helping hands. It can create so much, but it is often overlooked.

Kindness is a powerful source of love and friendship, a tool for community, and I think it is time to use it.

In an effort to show what else is contagious outside of COVID-19, I challenge you to share something kind and good with your loved-ones, and even with strangers.

Here is your challenge:

There are many components of kindness including (but not limited to) helping hands, smiles, laughter, gratitude, and anything you might consider a “good thing.”

Every cloud has a silver lining. 

You could share a silver lining, too. Find the good in our bad situations. Let’s find some positive aspects!

Please share a picture of your “good thing”, your helping hands, your community, anything that brings a smile and a kind feeling into your world.

Please caption it with:

“I’m kind because…”

“I love my community because…”

“My good thing is…”

“I’m smiling today because…”

“I’m grateful for…”

“My silver lining is…”

OR anything else you feel fits with the theme. I want you to be creative and share your kindness and your good things for the world to see. Share something good with others, and let’s prove that it isn’t just COVID-19 and negativity that is contagious.

In your post, please include #kindnessiscontagious so that others can see what you’re sharing, and please share these good things with me!


If you would like to see some inspiration from members of our community who have spread some kindness, you can follow these links, here and here. If you have seen more, please feel free to share them!

 

*I also want to remind everyone that it is inappropriate to make racist comments concerning COVID-19. There is no reason to treat other people as if they are less because of where they or their family come from. This is absolutely unacceptable, and it hurts me to think that people use this time as an excuse for bigotry.*

Opportunities to Learn

One of the best things about this stage of my life is how much I actually get to learn on a day-to-day basis. As a child, I always loved school, and though it has changed throughout the years, I have found that I am even more in love with learning.

Anthropology gives me an opportunity to learn about other people and expand my mind in ways I had never known before, and I am so thankful for all that I have learned about humans and the ways we all live, even when it does depress me. But outside of college and all the wonderful things I’m learning through anthropology and creative writing, I have been doing so much research about the publishing process and what I need to do to get my stories published, and it excites me to think that someday soon, I might see my own book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

So, as I announced last week, I am now seeking representation for my novel, True Power, and after sending out some query letters, I have already received one response back–my first rejection. The first few people I told gave me sad looks, but I think this is an amazing experience for me.

We all knew I would not be accepted the first time around, especially in the very first response back. Though it will always be a let down that someone did not want to read my work, I do not feel deterred by it; in fact, if it is possible, I am even more inspired.

In high school, I sent out a single query letter for my novel, Undeniably Underestimated, and I never received a response, which is a rejection, of course, but I really wanted to see some sort of feedback.

I am very thankful that I received a response at all, and though I didn’t receive feedback about what exactly the agent did not like about it, the agent did say it just was not the right fit and wished me luck finding the right representation for it. The kindness in the response made me feel a lot better, too, and I just became even more eager to hear back from the other agents while I send out another round soon-ish.

There is so much to be learned in this stage of my writing career, and while it will probably be a slow process, as it is for most writers, I am ecstatic to learn everything I can, and even if there are some failures with this project, I will learn something for the next one.

This week, I also had an amazing experience in my Intro to Creative Writing class as I got to listen to a poet, Veronica Patterson, read her work Wednesday evening, and she was a special guest in our class Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, I listened to her poems, and they were so vivid and emotional and raw that I felt heartbroken and complete all at the same time, tears poking at my eyes and a contagious smile on my lips. My favorite that she read on Wednesday is called Margaret, and on Thursday, she shared a bit more about the emotional poems she has written.

Needless to say, I fell in love with her words, and I immediately bought one of her books of poetry. While she signed it for me after class on Thursday, we talked about how to write about heavy and emotional hurdles when it still hurts to think about, and I appreciated how honest she was, how much she was willing to share with me.

Opportunities to Learn PicWhen I left the classroom after our conversation, thinking about how much I love writing and how beautiful it can really be, I opened up the book she signed to see the message she left me.

“For Nichelle– Your words will fly. — Veronica”

If there ever comes a day that Veronica Patterson might read this, I want her to know that I appreciate these kind words, and I really needed them; I have thought about them ever since. Hope has rooted itself in my belly, and I can’t wait to see what grows from it.

There are so many opportunities to learn in my life, and I am so grateful for everything, every webinar, every writer I might meet, the resources my mom provides me with. Everything. Absolutely everything!

I am so full of gratitude today, and I simply can’t wait to see what else I’ll learn through my writing career.

Officially Querying

February came and went, and now we are on to March. You know what this means?

I am officially querying my novel!!

I have been working on this book since summer 2018, and I am extremely excited to begin the querying process. As many of you know, I have been editing quite diligently the last few months, and I have had to extend my deadline by two months due to being busy and editing way more than I ever meant to, but I am so happy with the outcome that I think it is worth it.

I spent five hours today making last-minute final edits and proofreading after spending yesterday on revising my query letter. This evening, I began to send out queries, so now there is no turning back.

In light of this new achievement, I would like to share a few stories:

I have been writing ever since I can remember, and as I think about how far I’ve come in my writing journey, I can’t help but look back and smile.

The very first book idea I ever had was a children’s book called Penny, and I sat down on the family computer and wrote out the story of a penguin named Penny who learned how to fly. This story was inspired by my sister-in-law’s love of penguins. I would have been nine or ten, I believe, and I spent so much time planning out the story.

I remember sharing this story with my fifth grade teacher, Ms. McCloughan, who was one of my most loyal supporters when I was younger. She always encouraged me to keep writing, and so I did.

Throughout my first two years of middle school, I worked on a very cringe-worthy novel about a girl in high school who was always bullied for being a “nerd”, named Cindy Nooser (only so that other students would chant “Cindy Nooser is a loser!”). It was a typical nerd-jock love story, and that is all I can remember before the rest of my brain blocks it out because of the embarrassment that rushes to my cheeks when I think too much about it.

In my eighth grade year, I joined a site, missliterati.com, where I began to share stories with other writers my age, and this is where my book Undeniably Underestimated was born. I wrote under the name ElleBlondie because my parents wanted me to use a pen name on the internet, so I became Elle to many people on that website, and I still have contact with one of my friends from back then.

Undeniably Underestimated won “Reader’s Choice Award” in the summer of 2014, and it was featured on the main page for a week. I was ecstatic, and the moment it was up became such an amazing, out-of-body experience for me, and I know I will never forget it.

I have recently found out that the site actually shut down, and it seems that the work on that website was not saved or returned back to their owners, so though I do have most of my work saved from back then, it makes me sad that I will never be able to go back and look at what I had written on there and remember the community that supported me.

I worked on Undeniably Underestimated all through high school, and I finally decided to put it on hold to write my now completed and edited novel, True Power. This has been my baby for almost two years now, and I have had so much fun working on it, and I have been so appreciative that I can share some of my beliefs about the importance of empathy and kindness through it.

During the last few months, I have worked on it through exam-weeks, rough mental health days, and in spare moments between work, classes, and homework.

One of my favorite editing highlights happened about two weeks ago. I was at the library with one of my roommates, one of my best friends since my freshman year of high school, and while she did homework, I worked on my novel. As I reread the edits I had made, I did a double take on one of my sentences as I realized I had not written, “I slowly placed my hand on his bandaged arm, trying to be gentle with the skin I felt beneath my fingertips.” Instead, I wrote, “I slowly placed my hand on his bandaged arm, trying to be gentle with the arm skin I felt beneath my fingertips.”

I have never laughed so much at my own writing, realizing how creepy this sounded, and it reminded me of Silence of the Lambs. I read it out loud to my roommate, and we could not stop howling with laughter.

I knew I was very tired as I was writing, but it was so funny to see how much my brain had let go of words making sense and was working so hard to get it done.

Overall, I am so excited to hear back from literary agents–and also so extremely nervous–and I cannot wait to share updates with you all soon!

SPOILER: I’m going to start in-depth planning a new novel this week, and I am so excited to begin a new journey with some new characters and a brand new world in which I can spend my free time.

TRUE POWER PICIf you want to know more about True Power, I have the blurb below, and I hope someday soon, you might see it on the back of a book.

“True Power” is about a young woman named Tris, who yearns for an escape into a normal life, something quite different than her reality. After years of suffering from their abusive parents, Tris and her brothers struggle with accepting their own identities and defining their family and personal values. After an accidental injury leaves her with a concussion, Tris finds herself stuck with the power to see the worst thing that will ever happen to someone, whether it be in the past or future, just by briefly touching them. Between the distrust and misfortune, Tris must seek purpose for her newfound ability, learning more about herself, her family, and the true power of empathy.

True Power is Young Adult Paranormal novel set in contemporary times and based on true social issues happening across the United States. 

 

Breathing in and Breathing Out

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

I have often heard that to be a better writer, one must become a better reader. This means reading as much as you can as often as you can, maybe reading the words precisely and deliberately, maybe just enjoying the story as it unfolds.

It is very important to read the new books that sit on the shelves at Barnes and Noble as a reader. These books help us gain a better understanding of the market we are trying to write in, but it also helps us become acquainted with the evolution of books. Even if we do not read the genre in which we write, we are still becoming a better writer just by cracking open a new book, feeling the spine in our fingers.

Devouring any stories, old or new, is extremely important in making someone more conscious of the words they use in their own writing, but it also helps create a better relationship with books in general.

After all, this makes complete sense, to practice from the reader’s point of view.

I know it was my love of reading and books that made me want to be a writer, so it is only natural to indulge into that comforting trait and remind myself why I decided to become a writer to begin with.

For me, I love getting acquainted with new characters and worlds, and I want to give readers this sensation in my own writing, but I need to know what that looks and feels like, so I have to keep reading.

Since starting college, though, I have not had much time to read in my spare time, and I can tell that it has hurt my writing abilities a lot. I have so many books that I crave to read, and I stare at them longingly as they sit on my dusty bookshelf, but I often feel too tired to pick them up just because of my busy schedule. When I do have the time, more often than not, I decide to write instead.

blog post pic 02.09.20I have been trying to change this for awhile now, but as luck would have it, I have finally made some progress. I have already read two books since 2020 started, and I am working on the third right now, which is The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy.

This is pretty pathetic compared to how much I used to read–at least one to two books a week– but I am so proud of myself for trying to read more. I want to be one with words: producing and ingesting them. I want them to be like the blood in my veins; I want my lungs to be a library, pulling in books with every inhale, so that I know I have to read in order to breathe, in order to live.

I love books so much, and I regret letting them escape from my grasp the last few years. As the months progress, I hope this achievement only grows.

But we all learn how to change, so this is what I am doing to become a better writer and a better reader. And along the way, I think I will be a better version of myself, too.

“Reading is like breathing in. Writing is like breathing out.” – Pam Allyn

Endless Sticky Notes, Pending Titles, and Lady Grey Tea

Alright, the moment of doom has approached. We start the fourth week of the semester tomorrow, and we have now come upon February. As you may remember, I said that I would begin the query process at the end of January, having thoroughly completed all of my edits for this story. I also said by this point, I would 100% know the title of the book and begin a new story.

Are you surprised that I did not reach my goals?

That may sound very pessimistic, especially for me, but it is difficult for me to erase that negativity from my mind since I was so looking forward to this process and beginning to query.

Of course, unexpected things come up, like the combination of school and work making me more exhausted than usual. This week in particular has been difficult.

I had planned on cracking down on my editing this past week in preparation of my internal writing deadline, but instead my body decided to get the flu (even after getting the flu-shot) and bronchitis, so I have been tired and not really in the mood to write or edit this week–while simultaneously, desperately wanting to write and edit so that I feel more accomplished with my goals.

After all, after announcing them on this blog, I felt like the goals became more like deadlines in my mind because of expectation for myself becoming more real, so I struggle with not being disappointed with how it turned out.

Sticky Notes. So Many Sticky Notes!

This week has been difficult to cope with, but there is a lot of inspiration left in me, and it is through my efforts that I find comfort.

I have been reminded of the feelings I had just about a year and a half ago when beginning this project, and I discussed it in the blog post, A New Story, that I posted on December 02, 2018.

I was feeling so horrible for not keeping up with my first completed novel that I was terrified to start another, and I was caught in this rut where I felt so unaccomplished and worthless as a writer. The last few months, I have been flipping between inspiration and madness, and it worries me that I may be wasting time on this book when I should be starting something else, the way I had been devoted to one book for five years before finally moving on.

Here is the difference, though:Lady Grey Pic

I have so many sticky notes flailed about my notebooks, planners, and desk with writing notes for this book as well as writing goals in the future, after I have finished editing this book.

It seems each day I am adding another sticky note to my collection, another aspect I want to include, and though it does make me feel anxious because I have so much to do and want to do it now, it also makes me feel confident that there is much left to do with this book, that my journey is not done with it.

With my last book, I was out of ideas, and there were no sticky notes in the last two years of editing. My endless edits consisted of just rereading words until they no longer made sense and being sure that something was wrong with it, but nothing ever changed.

In this book, I still have so much to say, and its plot, characters, motivations are extremely important to me, so I know I have to continue it.

My relationship with this book is much different than the previous one. This one is coming to a close, and I can feel it with each word, with each day moving towards the query for which I am preparing.

I have just become impatient with waiting, but I am practicing patience.

Kind of. Sort of. When I feel like it. *enter writing anxiety here.*

So the sticky notes are a stressful but important reminder that I need to keep pursuing these goals with this book, even though my self-doubt may tell me otherwise.

Of course, it would help if I could pick a title… but it will come to me eventually, right?

For right now, I have settled on True Power, but I definitely feel like it could have a better title. Despite this, I am sure that it will get the title it deserves some day, even if I do not come up with it before querying.

Lady Grey Tea.

It seems crazy that a lot of what has helped me through this process of editing is a particular tea, even crazier that this tea has been vacated from my cabinets since I was a lot younger.

At the grocery store back in mid-December, I was grabbing my normal, daily tea, Twining’s Irish Breakfast, an addiction I inherited from my mom, when I stopped and puzzled at the Twining’s Lady Grey Tea right beside it.

When I was a kid, it seemed that my mom always had Lady Grey in our house, and if I remember correctly, it was the only tea I would drink for a long time since I thought my mom’s tea was too bitter.

I remembered this tea fondly as I looked at the box, and I decided that, just for fun, I should pick it up again for the nostalgic taste.

When I got home, I immediately brewed a cup and settled in at my desk for a good editing session, and you may not believe me, but it was the best editing I had accomplished in a long time.

Everything began to flow, words pouring out of me, and I was suddenly way more inspired by the story unfolding in front of me.

It might have been the variety in tea, or maybe it truly was the nostalgic presence, but one thing is for sure, every time I have made Lady Grey when I sit down the write, I feel more energetic and just overall better.

John Galt Coffee Shop PicThis change in patterns made me realize that I do need to give myself more opportunities to write and edit, so since then I have explored writing at the coffee shop right down the street from my apartment (featured in the picture to the left), at the library on campus, and changing up the time of day in order to feel the most inspired. Even though it becomes more difficult, this has made my editing way more successful.

I wish I could always stop what I am doing to edit when I am feeling the most inspired, but of course, being an adult often gets in the way of that.

So for now, even though I am still struggling with making sure I complete my goals, I am proud of what I have done in the last few months. It has been really difficult, but I have accomplished so much!

Additionally, I am beginning to plan the next book I will write, even though I want to begin querying before I start writing. This book is a little different than True Power, but I think it will be so much fun to start this new journey with even more topics that I am excited to share with the world.

So even though this has been tough, I am thankful for sticky notes, undecided titles, and Lady Grey tea because they are the steps to my success, and if that is not a silver lining, I don’t know what is!