Category Archives: introvert

Jill Richardson Shares Her Latest Hobbit Companion

Jill Richardson is the author of Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World. I wanted toHobbit have her here on the Scribes today, because, for one, I am a Tolkein fan, and two, she brings prizes! But first, let’s find out why she wrote her latest book, Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World.

Welcome Jill!

Why The Hobbit? What sparked your interest in Tolkien?

Hah. Years ago,my brother tried to get me to read the books. He said they were the greatest things ever. I tried first with The Silmarillion and said, “Yeah, right. Don’t think so.” Fast forward to years later when my husband started to read them to our girls when they were elementary school aged. I listened, saw the first movie, then picked the books up myself and devoured them. There is something magic about Tolkien’s skill mixed with real, unforgettable, and deep characters, and a story of epic good and evil fought by everyday heroes. Who else would get away with such unlikely heroes? He manages to show both the greatness and depth of evil in humankind in this small world of his.

Why would teenagers want to read this book?

It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it? How does that matter to God? How do we learn from both of those things

Describe what the book is about, how it’s organized, and what a reader can expect.

It’s about twenty Tolkien characters, who they are, what makes them do what they do, good or bad, and how that relates to both God and the reader. As far as organization, each character is introduced, quoted, and discussed. Add a relevant Bible passage, discussion/journal questions, and action steps for each person to take going forward. Choose to memorize the short Scripture at the end. A reader can expect to be  both entertained and challenged. I try to have a lot of fun with it, but I don’t shy away from tough questions and applications. Teenagers are capable of asking tough questions. They are more than able to recognize things that need changing. I refuse to talk down to a teenager or make it easy for them. They are intelligent, fun, and up for a challenge, and that’s what I make the book as well.

Describe the process of writing each chapter.

Fun? A lot of fun. But other than that . . . I figured out what really stood out as far as a character trait or lesson for each person. Some were easy—some difficult. Then, where do you see that in the book? It was tough using only one quote! Where do you see that in Scripture? How can a person apply that Scripture to daily life? I tried to be very, very practical and fun while working with serious stuff. I think it worked.

Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?

Sooo hard to answer. I have to say I love Eowyn. I didn’t at first; I thought she was too cold and discontent. But her loyalty and fierce need to do something important—I can so relate to that. Plus, she’s a princess who isn’t afraid to pick up a sword and fight for what matters to her. How cool is that? I love strong female models, since I have three girls.

How could this book help youth leaders disciple kids?

The book takes twenty  character traits everyone can relate to. It pulls that trait out of a Tolkien character and then relates it to the Bible. Can a teen learn about dealing with pride, frustration, or fear from Thorin, Eowyn, or Aragorn? Can she learn to find hope in hopelessness from Arwen? Can he understand how to channel his crazy whims from Pippin? Absolutely—and I have a few national youth leaders, college professors, and authors backing me on that claim!

What’s here they won’t get in the book or the movie?

A relationship between the fandom and the Bible. What is the unique Christian perspective Tolkien wrote with that may not have translated into film? Also, teens can see themselves in these characters when they study them individually. They have take home value.

How do you see teens, parents, and churches using this book?

Of course, it’s a devotional, so I see teens using it for their daily (or sort of daily–I know what it’s like) reading and praying time. Parents and grandparents play a huge role in finding resources for their kids and giving them to them. Parents, youth leaders, grandparents, any caring adults in a kid’s life (and let’s face it, some have so few)–should be seeking out resources to help kids build character. That’s really the point. That it entertains as well—bonus! I can easily see youth leaders using it in a group setting, and I actually have lesson plans for that. Best of all—kids can give it to their friends. The ones who love these movies/books but may not necessarily think about God too much.

Why do you think Tolkien is of such enduring interest to people?

The reasons I mention in question one. People can completely relate to his characters. They are not larger than life—they are us. (Except maybe a wizard or two. They’re a bit larger than we are.) They don’t start out amazing—they grow into it with hard work and love. That’s who we are, or who we should be. And we know that. We feel it. It’s very real. Also, everyone feels intrinsically called to something important. We are constantly seeking that. Some find it—some don”t. But we’re pulled toward stories that speak to that.

Do you really own Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit and can you really beat anyone at it?

Short answer—yes. Thought I am a bit rusty. OK, my middle daughter and I are a pretty matched pair. But put the two of us together on a team—yeah, bring it on.

jill portrait webTell me something more about you.

I used to teach high schoolers, and I loved it. Odd enough for you? I truly think they are a great age. I’ve spent ten years working in community theater, performing and directing. I have pictures of me doing so that will never see the light of Facebook. Pink hair, purple tights, giant false eyelashes? Yep, I’ve done it on stage. But—I’m a flaming introvert. Hugely so. I am also a pastor, which is a fun bit of mold breaking as well as serious stuff. I love my three daughters and one husband, manage our three cats, garden on an acre in the western suburbs of Chicago, and love planning our next vacation as soon as we get home form the last one. In fact, my last book before this one was about taking your family on short term mission trips.

Oh, I will be looking for your book on taking your family on short term mission trips, for sure!

Readers, here’s a little more on Jill:

Jill’s love for hobbits and elves comes from her time as a literature  teacher and as a lifelong reader of great stories. She also loves an epic challenge and a chance for grace wherever they exist. Jill has a BA in English and Education and an MDiv in theology and is an ordained minister who has served as a worship, preaching, and discipleship pastor. She has published four books previously, as well as articles in national magazines such as FamilyFun, Discipleship Journal, and Today’s Christian Woman.

Jill enjoys speaking on a variety of topics and has been very active on the MOPS circuit, as well as in junior high and high school classes. She enjoys speaking for retreats for all ages.

With three daughters, three cats, and (thankfully!) only one husband, she keeps busy otherwise with community theater, gardening, reading, scrapbooking, and traveling. Jill loves oceans, cats, chocolate, teenagers, her family, the Cubs, and God, not necessarily in that order.

Jill Richardson contact info:

jillmarierichardson.com

https://www.facebook.com/jillwrites                                

http://jill-theimperfectjourney.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/JillMarieRichar

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World–Amazon buy link. Only $3.00 for the kindle.

Hobbits, Elves, and Dragons More Real Than You Believe 

Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!

Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College, Author of The Philosophy of Tolkien has said this about Jill’s book:

“Jill Richardson has done a doubly difficult deed. She has written a book about the Bible and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and she has written a book that both adults and teenagers will enjoy. Her trick is that this is a book that successfully uses Tolkien to understand the Bible instead of a book that unsuccessfully uses the Bible to understand Tolkien.

For another thing, it’s a book for teenagers that most adults will also enjoy, understand, and profit from instead of a book for adults that most teenagers will enjoy, understand, and profit from (which is much more difficult). And it works. It’s both sprightly and profound, funny and serious, full of loving sarcasm and realistic moral truth.”

Some more thoughts from others: 

Author Jill Richardson may well have been born in the Shire, so well does she know the inhabitants of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. But the truths in this book are anything but fantasy. They strike close to the heart where we all have the God-given desire for valorous deeds and new worlds to explore.

Wayne Thomas Batson
, Bestselling Author of The Door Within Trilogy,
The Dark Sea Annals, and GHOST

And now for the prizes!

From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World is a featured book. As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to http://bit.ly/Christian_Books and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up your Kindle version of Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World at Amazon.

Book Launch

So What’s Your Story? by Katy Lee

You have one, you know. A story. We all do. But so few are willing to share, or if you’re anything like me, maybe you have to learn how to “tell” your story.

I’ll be the first to admit that telling my story can end up sounding like a broken record. I find myself repeating the same sentence to people twice—or more, because I’m not sure of what to say or how to get from Point A to Point B.

Speaking is so much harder than writing for me, where I can take all the time in the world to choose my words carefully and perfect their impact through rewrites. Or in other words, practice. But as my daughter says, not just practice. Perfect practice. (You have to know what you’re doing, so you’re not practicing it wrong. Unlearning something is harder than learning the correct way from the beginning. And it saves you a lot of time.)

So let me give you the formula so you can get started practicing your story the right way the first time. It you’re a writer then it’s really nothing you haven’t heard before. In fact, the formula for telling a story follows the same rules you would follow when writing a story.

•What’s the conflict?

•Who’s the hero?

•Where is the suspense?

•How will the conflict resolve?

•What’s the point?

•Why does it matter to me?

Just think of how people would hang on your every word if you introduced your story in this format instead of stuttering your way through, or as in my case, repeating whole sentences. If it doesn’t look as though you have a point to make because you’ve been droning on for 20 minutes with no point in sight, then you’ve lost your listener.

And that could be bad.

Perhaps you are on a job interview and you’re asked to describe a past experience and how you handled it. If you know your formula for telling a good story, you just might get that job. Especially if you can convey that all seemed lost before you saved the day.

Regardless of who you are speaking with, people want to know how your life experiences have shaped you. They want to know if they can relate to you and are looking for areas to try to connect. Plus, you never know where telling your story can help another person deal with something similar going on in their life. Not getting your story out well could mean a lost opportunity to help another person.

Holding back your story could also mean hindering healing in your own life.

The Unlocked Secret: Telling your story helps you make sense of your life — why certain events happened the way they did. You can examine what has happened to and through you. It will help you make sense of who you are and can lead to a greater confidence and understanding of self.

So take the time to learn your story. Be ready to share for when someone asks you, “So what’s your story?”

Question: Can you tell your story in three sentences or less? Practice it, and feel free to share. I really want to hear it. Really I do.

Amazing Opportunity: Women of Faith holds a writing contest every year. They want to know your story. The winner gets a publishing contract. Check it out here.

And thank you for your TWEETS and Shares!

Taking A Vacation From Writing

I spent the weekend in Maine with some friends. The trip had been planned since February and I had been excited to go all along but as the weekend neared I began to grow panicky. Why you ask? Was I afraid of bad weather? Not getting along with my friends? Spending hours in a car with little to do to occupy myself?

No to all of those things. I was panicky because I knew I wasn’t going to bring my laptop. Since I decided I wanted to be a writer I have written every single day without fail. And now that I have deadlines looming and characters begging for their stories to be told I really feel the pull to get the words out of me. But I was going away and while I can have hours of fun writing I know that my friend and her sister wouldn’t get as big of a kick out of it as I would. I told myself I could write anytime. That writing would always be there for me. Time with my friends might be limited. So I left it home.

The world wasn’t going to end without it. And even though when I woke up early some mornings with my fingers itching to add to my WIP I was okay without it, because I ended up needing to take a step back. I always think of myself as a panster, but in reality I’m not. Before I start writing I know how every book I write is going to end, the major turning points and the black moment. And each day I sit down to write I always have a plan for what I going to put down on the page. But lately in a rush to get my word count up I was writing things that had no purpose, scenes that didn’t move the story forward. I’m not a girl who spends a lot of time editing after the book is done, so it’s important for me to get it right the first time. (I know some people say it’s okay for your first draft to suck and it is okay for some people, but I’m not that kind of writer and if you aren’t then that’s okay too.)

My favorite store in Kennebunkport.

It was good for me to take a step back because it allowed me to think of my book as a whole instead of just scenes slapped together. Instead of reaching for my laptop I lay in bed and thought about all the little things that make a book good. I want my book to be good. So I knew I had to dig deeper and find what it was missing.

On the second morning of the trip after a very fun day of shopping and a night of watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies my mind was clear enough to actually plot the second half of my book scene by scene.

I grabbed my phone and typed myself the world’s longest memo. I knew that I wasn’t going to add any new words to my WIP but I knew that when I did I wouldn’t have to rack my brain for words to put on the page. In the end even though I didn’t spend anytime actually writing I managed to get a lot of work done.

Now I’m back home enjoying my last free bit of weekend before I have to return to work. My trusty laptop is with me but I have decided that I’m not going to write a single word until tomorrow. My vacation from writing hasn’t ended yet.

So what about you? Do you ever allow yourself to take a step back? Are you really a panster? Like Maine? Ever see that giant liquor store on the highway in New Hampshire? Any and all comments are welcome.

Oh and I am heading back to Maine next week (a different part) with my family and I am lugging this bad boy with me. I missed it!

Parents Just Don’t Understand….

I went out with my two BFFs on Friday. No, we didn’t go night clubbing. We did what every bunch of twenty-seven year olds do when we have a free Friday. We spent the day at Ikea pretending like we lived there.(Side note: Don’t wear really cute shoes to Ikea. The store is huge and by the time I got to the check out counter I was walking like a Zombie.)

When I spoke to my mother later that night and told her what we did that day this is how our conversation went.

“Why did you girls go to Ikea?”

“Because it was raining and our original plans to spend a boozy day at a winery had to be changed.”

“So you went to Ikea instead?” I could hear the disbelief in her voice like we spent the day digging ditches instead of shopping for housewares.

Me making fake Martini’s a Ikea

“Yeah. We actually had a lot fun. And I got a sixteen piece cutlery set, a kitchen timer, a huge umbrella and a plastic bag holder thingy for thirteen dollars!”

“You guys are weird.”

Like a lot of mothers and daughters my mother and I are rarely on the same page about anything. I like to go to Ikea. She likes to dance on tables.

When I told her I wanted to be a writer she kind of nodded and smiled. And told me that everybody she knew wanted to be a writer, which was code for don’t get your hopes up. I knew she wondered why I didn’t take up a more adventurous hobby like base jumping or pole dancing. I knew she wondered why I would rather spend hours holed up by myself making up people than actually be with people. Or why I was so dedicated to going to my monthly writer’s group meetings even though there are very few people there my age.

So when I actually got a contract with a publisher she actually heard of I thought she would finally get it. That everything I had done for the past two years lead up to that moment. Oh she was proud. She told everybody within a thousand mile radius who would listen. But when I talked to her on the phone the very next day the first thing she said was…

“We need to talk about you getting married and having me some grandbabies.”

I went stonily silent. I knew if she weren’t fifty miles away I would have cheerfully choked the breath out of her. She still didn’t get it.

But it’s not just her who’s guilty.

My father, brother, uncle and I were talking at a family barbecue a couple of weeks ago when my father said…

“I keep telling her don’t quit her day job.  Because she can’t move back in here when that book doesn’t sell. You know the only people that are going to buy it and me her mother and her two friends.”

The three men broke out in a fit of loud chuckles.

Asses! All of them!!!!

“Hey!” I responded, wondering if I could get away with throwing a drink at my father and live to tell about it. “I have at least six friends who will buy my book. So there!”

Don’t have to worry about anything going to my head with a family like that.

But it’s not just my parents who are like that. My friend had a really great job interview this week and was super excited about the prospect of working in a different part of the world for her. When she told her parents about it instead of being encouraging like she hoped they said,

“Yeah whatever, keep looking.”

It only takes a few words to crush somebody’s dreams. They poo pooed on hers and really bummed her out. Apparently the vision they had for her wasn’t the same one she had for herself. They probably also want her to stop putzing around settle down and have some grandbabies for them too. Her parents don’t get her either. They don’t see that what she wants for herself is drastically different from what they want for her.

And of course because they are older they think that they are always right.

What’s the point of this? I’ll tell you. For some of us, or for me at least, I thought when I grew up, moved out and started paying my own bills I thought my parents would magically understand me. That they would start treating me like the grown up I finally was. But it didn’t happen. And for those of you who think you understand your kids you don’t. Not really. Because while they are an extension of you they aren’t you. And they can’t possibly see everything the way you do.

My mother’s favorite saying is, “No matter how old you get you’re still my child and I will forever treat you that way.”

And that’s okay because if she started treating me like a rational free thinking adult I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

So when your kid comes to you telling you that they want to be a writer, astronaut or rock star don’t just pretend to be supportive think back to when you were a kid when your parents just didn’t understand you.

Your turn! Were you and your parents ever on the same page? Are you and your kids miles apart? Did you ever want to be anything crazy when you were a kid? Do you understand your parents a little bit more now that you are a parent of your own. Any and all comments are welcome.

What Lies Beneath

Thea Devine today, thinking about families and secrets. One of my cousins passed away suddenly and very recently.  I didn’t really know her until we reconnected as adults: her family had moved away years before. As an adult, she became the one in the family who always knew what was going on and what everyone was doing, where and when,  She’d worked in finance, she was involved in local politics, and she was well-loved by those who knew her.  She was pragmatic, empathetic, a great listener, a wonderful friend, and a very very dear person.

Her sister sent me, and other cousins, an Hermes scarf in its original box, mine with a Revolutionary War motif as a momento.  It was rather a puzzling thing.  The cousin I knew just wasn’t an Hermes scarf type of person.  Another cousin and I discussed it quite a bit — what to do with these obviously expensive and highly decorative designer scarves, and why the sister had chosen them as something for us to remember our deceased cousin by.

Long story short:  at the memorial service, it was one of things most talked about by her friends and family —  our cousin’s well-known love of scarves and how she collected and wore them as her signature accessory.  And that too seemed startling and totally out of sync with the woman I knew.

But it made me think about it in terms of the characters we create.  What lies under the skin that we don’t initially know, that we discover later on to have major impact on the story (or a life)?  A man who resented his late mother’s influence on his father, always feeling she’d held him back and that his father had resented it, discovers his father actually needed her plain practical common sense to keep him grounded.

Because the hero had discovered in his father’s bedroom a drawer full of his mother’s things, redolent with her scent, including her wedding gown that his father kept all these years.  And why?  Because despite of all their fights, disagreements,  and the-on-the-surface disdain for each other, his father really loved his mother deeply, a conclusion that turns the hero’s world upside down.

Another scenario:  a rich playgirl takes a local country girl into her glamorous hedonistic set, ostensibly because local girl had saved her from drowning. As the heroine is more and more both seduced and corrupted by the playgirl’s lifestyle, she never considers there might be something else propelling all that generous gratitude.

What subtle clues do you leave?  The playgirl’s gratitude is beginning to become too extensive and intrusive, leaving the heroine no choice  but to accept all that she offers.  How could she say no?  And yet –

The heroine starts to feel wary when she’s convinced to leave an internship and become the playgirl’s personal assistant.  How close can they get?  What ‘s really going on?

What does the playgirl really want from someone she would normally consider a “nothing” in her world?   Or does the playgirl have plans for the heroine?  The heroine is in love with the man she wants, and the playgirl will corrupt her to the point that that she will be rejected by him. If that doesn’t succeed, the playgirl has a more drastic plan.

What secrets are your characters hoarding, like silk scarves in a dresser, to be taken out judiciously and worn discreetly, and eventually coming  to light to reveal what at first seemed to be hidden?

What was there about your character all along that we never consciously saw, never considered?  What indeed lies beneath?

Do you have someone in your life or fiction who surprised you by an aspect of their personality about which you had no idea?  Are you the one with secrets under the skin?

Hermes, scarf, writing, craft, clues protagonists, characters, clues, personality

Heroes We Love To Love

Thea Devine here, ruminating this week about heroes we love to love, the ones who drive us nuts, but we know we can’t have a fabulous story without them.   This is my list, in no particular order:

 The Good Guy: 

Everyone loves the good guy. He’s the renaissance man who’s just been waiting for the woman of his dreams.  Healthy childhood, no wounds, handsome, successful, willing to cook, change diapers, the best best friend when you need someone to listen.  He’s the one you lean on when your life is turned upside down;  he’s steady, gives fantastic advice, is decisive, funny, and loves his mother (always a prime point for a mother of sons).   And he’ll always fall for the woman who is in critical chaos because he’s the problem solver, the rock, the calm center, and he’ll always be the thing a woman wants most:  an anchor.

 The Bad Boy

He’s experienced, and knowing.  He’s that guy in high school that had that gleam in his eye.  He’d take one look at you, and he knew everything:  who you were, how far you’d go,  and where he’d like to take you.  He’s magnetic, a little rough, a little rakish, a leader without really wanting to lead;  strong, decisive, probably doesn’t like to talk much, especially about his feelings — but oh, man, does he ever have them.    He loves women, but no woman is ever going to tame him.  And when he falls, he takes a nosedive to eternity.

 The Wounded Hero

He’s the guy who suffers  There’s some great trauma in his past, or something in his present, something with his parents, another woman, his best friend, the war:  he is psychically damaged and  he’s not going to let any woman into his life because he can’t give her what she needs.  He’s too busy tending that crippled inner self to give anything of himself to anyone.   He doesn’t want to feel,  and he habitually picks fights, so he can chase everyone away.  He can’t share his life, can’t allow the heroine to assume his stain, his burden, his guilt.  She, of course, won’t rest till she does, so while he just wants to be off on some island, alone, nursing that part of himself that needs to be made whole, guess who’s right in the rowboat behind him?

 The Unobtainable Man

This guy seems not to like women at all.  No one gets to him.  It’s like battering at a wall.   He’s cool, logical, seemingly without emotions.  He never lets you see him sweat. He’s an island unto himself.  He’s got all the answers.  And he always reveals them first so he can cover his behind.   He doesn’t need anyone, which he won’t hesitate to tell you..  But of course, he’s the one who needs someone most of all. The heroine must storm the fortress, and if she can find his tender spot, he is hers forever.

Mr. Unflappable

Nothing rattles this guy.  He can be in the  middle of a war and crack a joke.  Nothing scares him; there’s no problem he can’t solve, no situation he can’t get out of.  He’s walking the line, but he’s got such a sense of humor and irony, nothing jolts him. He doesn’t take anything seriously, and he takes love too lightly. Forget about prising up his past. Some days the heroine can’t even get him to commit to saying hello.   He’s a pretty happy guy, probably real successful, and not in a button down kind of job;   but somewhere along the line, someone probably hurt him, so his deal is, don’t get too close too soon.  And of course, the heroine can’t get too close soon enough.

The Scoundrel

He was badly hurt by a woman sometime in his murky past.  So he loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, uses ‘em and loses ‘em.  Takes out his anger on all womenkind, especially the heroine, and particularly because she gets to him and he doesn’t want to be gotten to.  But she’s under his skin and before you know it, he’s protecting, defending and loving her, protesting his misogynist nature to the very end.

 The Outlaw

He’s been convicted of murder or some other heinous crime that he didn’t really commit.  But they’re after him.  He’s a loner.  He may be on the run. but he’s always got a reason, and it’s always plausible as hell.   He’s going to protect the woman he loves by NOT letting her into his life, and by reappearing in hers often enough to drive them both crazy.  And she can’t stay away.  Truth to tell, he doesn’t want her to, but he’ll never tell her that either.  It’s always her choice, and she believes in him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  She’s so loyal, she’ll go on run with him, or be the first one to ferret out the clues that will vindicate him.   She knows what she’s letting herself in for — and she always believes he is worth the effort, because in the end, she will make him vulnerable — and hers.

And, isn’t that the ending we strive for, in fiction, and in life?

 

So who’s the hero you love to love? Any of these guys sound like your husband/boyfriend/significant other?  (My theory is all romance authors are married to the same man — and he’s usually an engineer or should be one.)  Any of them sound like anyone you know?

Thea Devine’s latest book, The Darkest Heart, was a June 2011 release from Gallery Books.  She’s currently at work on a sequel.

Celebrate Me Home

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was twenty-two years old, leaving the somewhat secluded area of the Hudson Valley that I spent most of my childhood in. Western Connecticut was where I landed, with my first job and my first apartment. Obviously, I had never lived alone before or really had ever been alone. I grew up in a house of eight, four brothers, two parents, a dog and me. Our house was never quiet, even at night there were sounds of somebody getting up to go the bathroom or the hum of a television turned down low. So when I moved and out on my own and entered my apartment to silence, it alarmed me.

So happy together!

Where was my youngest brother who would burst into my room fifty times a day to tell me something stupid? Or my father’s heavy footsteps on the stairs? Or my mother’s voice not so gently reminding somebody to hang up their coats when they took them off? For me the silence was disconcerting, even a little scary. It made me wonder if I had made the right decision to leave my family.

I did, eventually I came to enjoy the silence even love it. When my job changed from teaching older kids to more rambunctious younger ones, I was grateful to come home to a quiet house even more. My apartment was my sanctuary, the place where I could write without distractions or interruptions. I would go home (to me my parent’s house will always be home) and I would hear all the noise my family made. My brother Jonathan sings loudly and off-key. My brother Jordan tells the dumbest jokes. Even the dog was noisy when playing tug of war with my father. And my mother… well she just says things that all mothers say. After a few hours with them I would retreat, drive an hour home despite my parent’s protest to stay the night.

As I’ve gotten older my trips home became less and less, until I would sometimes go a month without seeing my family. I felt guilty, but isn’t that apart of growing up. I would loath family vacations because I had to be stuck with a bunch of noisy juvenile boys, forced to do family bonding activities. One year, despite my mother’s protests I decided not to spend spring break with them. I wrote instead, a lot. I read. I went out to dinner and to trivia night. I got a pedicure and a massage. I felt like a grown up.

Then the black out came. Stupid snow, knocked down hundreds of trees leaving most of my town without power. Fortunately my parents didn’t lose power and after 24 hours of freezing I left my place. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to leave my quiet, my bed, my space, my things, to go back to my noisy family home where I no longer had a bedroom. But the prospect of spending numerous days without heat, light or internet sent me packing.

RIP Autumn

But when I got home things were different. Our beloved childhood dog had passed away. No longer did I hear her nails scrapping against the hardwood floors. My father works the evening shift, one brother is in nursing school, the other is a shift manager at a local restaurant and when he’s not there he’s with his girlfriend. My mother works two jobs, takes night classes and goes to the gym religiously. And my youngest brother, now 17, has found the joy of sleeping from the time he gets home from school till his belly wakes him up three or four hours later.

What happened to my family? What happened to the noisy dinners and the lewd teenage boy jokes? Even the dog was gone! It made me a little sad. It also made me realize that while I was so busy being a grownup my family was growing up, changing, maybe even growing apart. It made me nostalgic for the days when we used to sit around the kitchen table playing cards and the arguments that would break out over the obvious cheating. It made me long for the days when I would plead with my mother, “Tell Jonathan to stop talking to me!”

Coming from a big family, I like to write about families. So often I see writers who just don’t get the dynamics right, they don’t make the interactions real enough. If you’re going to write about a family you really need to think about your own family. Every flaw, every good memory, every bad one, even the skeletons you might not want let out. It’s okay to steal from your own life, because if the emotion is real for you it will be real for your readers.

So go on, call that sister that gets on your nerves every time you speak to her. Plan that big Thanksgiving meal, invite those family members who don’t even bother to bring dessert. Hash out all that resentment you feel towards your mother. Call it reasearch! Call it love.

Ps. My youngest brother is still quite annoying when sufficiently feed and rested.

Your turn. What’s your family situation like? Big family? Small family? No family? Love/hate to be alone? Ever avoid your family? Miss them? Any and all comments are welcome.