That Time People Thought I was Crazy

I was headed home from college in Virginia, on a flight out of Roanoke. Roanoke is not large. The airport has all of five gates. I once checked in only 45 minutes before my flight and the lady said she wasn’t sure I’d be able to board on time. I couldn’t help the look I gave her. Did she really think that walking up the escalator and down two gates would take more than five minutes?

Small airport means small planes. The one I was on this time had maybe thirteen rows, consisting of three seats each, two on one side, one on the other. I was on the side with one seat. That’s what I preferred, since it was both a window and an aisle seat. I like being able to look out the window, but I also like being on the aisle due to having a bit of claustrophobia.

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It was spring or summer (not sure which), warm enough to be muggy. I happily pointed the air vent on me as I buckled in and pulled out a book. I was reading and ignoring the people around me when a snowflake fell on my book.

No joke. It’s summer. I’m INSIDE an airplane. And a snowflake falls on me. I picked it up. It was cold and melted on my finger. I looked around, befuddled, but eventually went back to reading. Then another snowflake appeared.

“It’s snowing on me.” Not sure who I was talking to, but I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. There was SNOW landing on me while I was on an airplane. I looked up to see the guy across from me looking a little confused. “It’s snowing on me,” I explained.

He got that wide-eyed “ohhhh” look that you give someone when they’re talking crazy.

But I wasn’t crazy. There were snowflakes falling on me! “No, seriously. I don’t know what’s going on, but there are white balls of frozen liquid falling on me.”

He did that patronizing nod thing, and said something to the affect of, “Yeah, uh-huh. I’m sure there are.”

I don’t remember if I argued with him for much longer, but I soon realized there was no way for me to prove I wasn’t crazy without insisting someone stand right over me and watch for something to fall in my lap, and—let’s face it—that would just be awkward.

I resigned myself to being the nut that my fellow passengers would tell their friends and families about. I got a tiny glimpse of what it must feel like to be labeled crazy when you know you’re not.

I sat there as one or two more itty bitty snow balls fell on me and tried to come up with a reasonable explanation for what had happened. One that didn’t make me conclude I was hallucinating. The best I could come up with was that the humidity and warmth had made condensation build up in the air vents of the plane. When they kicked the AC on, the very cold air froze those droplets of condensation and some of them were blown out to flutter down into my lap.

I considered posing my theory to the guy across form me who clearly thought I was a head case, but I had a feeling that would just make me look conspiracy-theory-crazy on top of the regular crazy.

So I bit my tongue and chalked the experience up to learning empathy. Or at least good research for writing a character.

Empathy, Validation, and Vocabulary

I was contacted last week by a good friend of mine from High School. Abi does short interviews with all kinds of people on all kinds of topics using SpareMin. This week she wanted to interview different people about the value of literature and she asked if I’d have a couple minutes to talk with her. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

As I thought about the topic, there was no lack of ideas that came to mind, but the three that made their way to the top of my list were these:

  1. Books teach empathy.
  2. Books can validate our own experience.
  3. Books give us an emotional vocabulary.

In the interview with Abi, we only spoke about the first, so I wanted to expound here.

Let me explain.

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Books Teach Empathy

When we read books, we usually get inside the head of one or more characters. We get a detailed view of their situation and their reaction to it. Good books will make us sympathize with the character. Great books will make us empathize with them. A well-written book will immerse us so fully in the character’s plight, that we can’t help but feel what they feel. And because the situation and emotional responses that can be contained and explained in books are unlimited in their diversity, it gives readers a chance to experience, in some small way, the life struggles of a vast number of people.

Books Can Validate Our Own Experience

When we find a character that we can relate to, someone who has experienced what we’ve experienced, or felt what we’ve felt, it can make us feel less alone. I’m thinking especially of middle school and high school aged kids and young adults. Kids who are experiencing huge emotions for the first time and who might feel like they are completely alone in what they’re feeling can find validation and camaraderie with fictional characters. It can give them a chance to realize, “Hey, this character feels the same way I do; maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe I’m not wrong to feel this way. Maybe other people feel this way too.”

Books Give Us Emotional Vocabulary

Yes, they teach us just plain old vocabulary as well. However, I think the more important aspect is being able to learn how to speak coherently about our own emotions. If a reader can identify with and relate to a certain character, there is a good chance that the way that character discovers, identifies, and labels their emotions with in turn teach the reader how to identify and label their emotions. Books give words to feelings. Words that people, especially kids, will be able to use when communicating their feelings to others. Has that ever happened to you? You’re reading a book and the character suddenly drops this perfectly worded truth bomb that describes what you’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to identify for who knows how long? That’s a powerful thing. It’s a gift.

Books are a powerful tool. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. And they’re cheaper than therapy. 🙂

Finally! A scene from James’ point of view

Now that Saving Marilee has been out for more than a year, I finally got around to writing a scene from James’ point of view. It’s the scene of their first meeting, and if you’d like to see it, please go sign up for my newsletter. That will give you access to all of my extra content. Those of you who have already signed up should have an email in your inbox with the link.

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Year End Wrap-up

Painting Rain

PR PromoOriginally I had planned on releasing Painting Rain by mid-December. However, with the rewrites required, and other unforeseeable issues, I gave up on that deadline and allowed myself to focus on Christmas and family. I haven’t done much with it for the past several weeks, but now that out-of-town family is gone and the festivities are finished, I’ll be able to get back to work. I need to complete my final read-through before sending it off to copy editors. Once that’s done, I’ll finalize the cover and make it available for pre-order. I expect copies will land it reader hands in 4-6 weeks.
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