Commentary #56: “Changing Telling into Showing”

ML Keller

Image Credit: M.L. Keller

As an aspiring novelist, I subscribe to several WordPress blogs that are dedicated to advice about writing.

Back in July, one blogger re-blogged a post from Michelle Keller, also known as ML Keller – The Manuscript Shredder!

Here’s the link to the original post:


This is something that I have ALWAYS struggled with in my writing. In college, I was told this several times, both in writing and to my face. It stung, but, it’s true.

I majored in Communication Studies, with a Mass Media concentration. But, I also minored in Rhetoric & Professional Writing, through the English department. I always wanted to take creative writing classes, and at Longwood, I got that chance!

But, combining that major and minor affected my writing in an interesting way. Through being a writer, and eventually an editor, for The Rotunda student newspaper, I learned quickly how to summarize my points and quotes for an article, or a column, or a feature. For the newspaper, I knew I couldn’t write a novel.

However, summarizing for countless articles and columns bled into my creative writing. One of my professors, Dr. Steven Faulkner, told me in a one-on-one meeting that he could tell immediately that I was a journalism student. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “You’ve mastered the art of summary.” I still remember him saying that – It’s been eight years now. I was taking his Advanced Creative Non-Fiction class at the time, and I was frustrated that I wasn’t improving my overall grade. I ended up with a good grade, but that conversation has always stuck with me.


In her post, Keller says that changing telling into showing is “hated.” Why?

  • Telling stops your story cold.
  • Telling creates distance from your characters.
  • Telling is boring to read.

Ir’s harsh advice, but I know that I needed to read it.

One of the biggest pieces that stuck out to me was:

“Imagine meeting someone for the first time over coffee and the entire conversation is her talking about people you have never met and her deepest darkest life experiences? You’d probably think she needs some serious counseling, but so many of the manuscripts I see begin this way.”

I’ve definitely filed that away for future reference.

In order to change telling into showing, Keller gives several pieces of good advice.

  • Have your characters argue.
  • Have your characters interact with the setting.
  • Use transitions.

According to Keller, the easiest way to change telling into showing is something that I’ve appreciated as a reader for a long time:

Treat your novel like a movie. If the reader can’t see it on the screen, (in novels the other senses count too) then you are telling.

I first noticed this several years ago, when, oddly enough, I started reading and re-reading the Nicholas Sparks novels. There were times (a lot of them with him in particular) where I would put the book down for a minute, and I felt like I could see the action on the page I was just reading play out in front of me, just like a movie.

Once I realized this, I started looking for it in other books, and with other authors. It became a litmus test for me, in a way. The more scenes I could see or visualize, the more I liked the book.

I definitely want to be able to do this in my own novels. I want my readers to use all of their senses when reading my books.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Hot Topic #22: A Week Since Charlottesville – Now What?

MLK

Image Credit: Notable Quotes

It’s taken me a full seven days to even begin to fully process what exactly happened in Charlottesville last week, especially since the historic city is only 2 1/2 hours from where I live.


Here’s a synopsis of what exactly happened, from Thursday, August 10th, through Monday, August 14th. I tried to write this in my own words, but I also used the timeline of events from news station WJLA.

On Thursday, August 10th, two days before the “Unite the Right” white nationalist demonstration is scheduled to occur, event organizer Jason Kessler files a federal lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. The city moved the planned rally from Emancipation Park to McIntire Park.

On Friday, August 11th, a federal judge rules in Kessler’s favor. The rally is moved back to Emancipation Park, still scheduled for the next day.

On Friday evening, a group of white nationalists, carrying lit torches, march through the University of Virginia (UVA) campus.

On Saturday, August 12th, several hours before the rally’s scheduled start time, the rallying white nationalists and a group of counter-protestors arrive at Emancipation Park. Shortly before noon, violence erupts. Law enforcement quickly declares “an unlawful assembly” and works to disperse the groups as peacefully and as swiftly as possible. The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, declares a state of emergency.

Around 1:30 p.m., a silver Dodge Challenger plows into a group of counter-protestors. One woman, later identified as Heather Heyer, 32, succumbs to her injuries. Nineteen others are injured. After the collision, the car is put into reverse and speeds away, as a crowd chases after the driver.

A press conference is held at 6:00 p.m. Governor McAuliffe vehemently condemns the white supremacists, and commands them to “go home.”

By Saturday evening, the driver of the Dodge Challenger has been arrested. He is identified as 20-year-old James Alexander Fields, Jr. Law enforcement announces three other arrests – Jacob Smith is charged with assault and battery after punching a reporter in the face; Troy Dunigan is charged with disorderly conduct after throwing things into the crowd; and James O’Brien was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.

On Sunday, August 13th, dozens of rallies and vigils are held. The Governor of Virginia, along with other Virginia lawmakers, are seen worshiping in various churches throughout the state, and encourage others to do the same. “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler attempts to hold a press conference. Kessler is heckled by the crowd, tackled to the ground, and one man is arrested for spitting in Kessler’s face.

Interviews are conducted with those associated with Fields. Former teachers and classmates state that he was obsessed with Nazism, and held those beliefs starting in high school.

On Monday, August 14th, Fields appeared in court. No bail was set. The Department of Justice opens a civil rights investigation into the car attack.


“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”

~ Heather Heyer

This was Heather’s last Facebook status before she died.


After the horrific events in Charlottesville, immediate attention was focused on the remaining Confederate monuments and statues around the country.

One of my former professors, Elizabeth Hall Magill, penned a powerful blog post:

My friend Becca posted this Facebook status on Wednesday, August 16th:

“You cannot claim to be a Christian yet worship these Confederate statues so much that keeping them up is more important to you than respecting that it pains your fellow humans to see oppressive people glorified. God said it best:

‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.’ –Leviticus 19:4

Every statue will come down. Anyone with compassion will support that.”


I wanted to include multiple sources of information surrounding these events:


There’s so much information to process.

Here’s what I personally believe:

  1. I’m sad that all of this has happened. I’m sad that Heather Heyer died. I’m sad the two Virginia State Troopers died in the helicopter crash outside of the city. I’m sad that many others were injured in the car attack. However, I’m also filled with hope. I feel like these events are a bit of a turning point for our country. In the last week, suspects have been identified and swiftly arrested, charged with crimes that they egregiously committed. People have come together, to stand together, and say, “Enough is enough. We will not tolerate this. Racism has no place in our country.”
  2. There’s a lot more work to do than just rallies and vigils and speeches. I hope the positive movements do not lose momentum. I hope people continue to push and press for change!
  3. The American people have a right to protest, but if, and only if, said protest is legal. Meaning, the proper permits have been obtained, and it is peaceful / non-violent. The second it becomes unlawful, law enforcement can and should step in and disband the group. In addition, protesters should meet with city officials and local law enforcement beforehand, if at all possible, to make sure everyone is aware of everyone’s intentions. Communication is key!
  4. All Confederate monuments and statues should be removed in a legal and peaceful manner. The city of Baltimore, Maryland, accomplished this successfully, just this past week. Other cities are beginning to follow suit. Confederate history belongs in museums, not in public places. The only exception that I personally make to “public places” is cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried and remembered. There’s more of those cemeteries in existence than you think.
  5. I encourage everyone to educate themselves. I don’t want people to follow a particular opinion just because it’s popular or it’s all over the news. I want people to look inside themselves, deep inside, and figure out how they’re feeling about all of this. If you’re angry, tell someone. If you’re sad, tell someone. Write about it – Like I am right now. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Now is not the time to hold back. We need more voices, more actions, to make sure changes occur. If the American people don’t want another Charlottesville, we need to stand up. We need to stand up together and make change happen!

All that said, what I just wrote is my own opinion. These are my beliefs.

I am a Christian woman, and I strive every day to be more Christ-like. I want to do as much good in the world as possible. But, I also want to pay attention to the issues in my world, and in the world around me. Turning a blind eye does absolutely nothing. That’s part of the reason why I wrote this post. I believe in the power of prayer, but I also firmly believe in the age-old saying, “Action speak louder than words.”

Personally, I applaud my friends and colleagues who were in Charlottesville a week ago, determined to counter-protest against the white nationalists and white supremacists. I think that is a powerful and respectable statement to make. Not everyone has the strength and courage that you do.


To conclude, I want to try to answer the question I posed in the title of this blog post – Now What?

For me, I think changes are already occurring. Changes started on August 11th and August 12th. But, as I said earlier, I hope the positive movements do not lose momentum.

I hope that, eventually, all cities in the United States peacefully and legally remove their Confederate statues and monuments, or relocate them to Confederate cemeteries. I hope museums are able to further educate people about the Civil War and the role the Confederacy played. The war officially ended in 1865, but I feel like, some days, we’re still fighting a portion of it, in 2017.

Here’s a few resources that I found helpful:

Together, we can make a difference.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Tag #25: The Taylor Swift Book Tag

Taylor Swift Book Tag

Image Credit: Out of Time Blog

I love books, and I love Taylor Swift! I’ve always admired her, and her music.

When I saw this post on Ann’s Reading Corner about a week ago, I knew I needed to do it on my blog! She actually published this tag in 2016, but I stumbled upon it, and loved it immediately.

Here’s the link to Ann’s post:


“WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER”
Pick a book or series that you were pretty sure you were in love with them, but then wanted to break up with them.

See my review!

“RED”
Pick a book with red on the cover.

“THE BEST DAY”
Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic.

A_Walk_to_Remember_(Hardcover)

Image Credit: Wikipedia

“LOVE”
Pick a book with forbidden love.

flowers-in-the-attic-books-about-forbidden-love-610x1024

Image Credit: About Great Books

“I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE”
Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love.

Daisy Buchanan, from The Great Gatsby.

Gatsby - biography

Image Credit: biography.com

“INNOCENT”
Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for you.

Carrie

Image Credit: Amazon

“EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED”
A character who goes through an extensive character development.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, from The Help.

thehelpbookcover

Image Credit: Wikipedia

“YOU BELONG WITH ME”
Most anticipated book release.

Origin, by Dan Brown. Robert Langdon returns!

Origin

Image Credit: Publishers Weekly

“FOREVER AND ALWAYS”
Favorite book couple.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, fromΒ Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice

Image Credit: Book Depository

“COME BACK BE HERE”
Book you would least like to lend out for fear of missing it too much.

My hardcover British copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I scored a copy during the midnight release, in London, in 2005. It was incredible!

hbp-uk-adult-jacket-art

Image Credit: Harry Potter Fan Zone


I loved this tag – It was so much fun!

Tell me your answers in the comments, and your favorite Taylor Swift song!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Writing Prompt #71: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 33)

Week #33: Something You Look Forward To.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next few months, as we start to wrap up the year 2017, for several reasons.

I start what will hopefully be my LAST paralegal class next week! It’s Legal Writing, and I’m excited about it. I just ordered my textbook, and I’m excited to be in the presence of a new professor!

September kicks off Labor Day weekend, which is usually the weekend that Al and I celebrate our dating anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s almost been SEVEN years!

The following weekend, I’ll be heading to the “Mimosas in the Mountains” event – A fancy term for Savy’s bachelorette weekend! I’m so grateful that she invited me along and has included me during their wedding planning and festivities. I’m so excited to spend a weekend with her, Crystal, and several of her amazing friends! I may die a little when we go on this supposedly epic hike on Saturday. But, that’s why I just bought KEEN hiking boots and socks! Thank you, Amazon Prime!

October 14th is Nick and Savy’s wedding! It’s gonna be fantastic. I can’t wait!

The weekend after is Hampton Comic-Con! We’ve never been, so it sounds like it will be fun!

Then, as we make our way into November, we will celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Time flies, doesn’t it? Two weeks after that, it’s Thanksgiving!

December dawns with the spirit of Christmas. My anticipated graduation from TCC is a week or two before Christmas. I’m excited to celebrate Lyndsey’s 30th birthday around the 16th! And then, we’ll blink, and we’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve and Kathryn’s birthday!

Needless to say, these last few months of 2017 will be exciting!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Getting Personal #80: My Love for American Girl

American Girl - Etsy

Image Credit: Etsy

Some of you have probably figured out by now that I have loved Pleasant Company and American Girl for, well, forever.

I wanted to give you a bit of an inside look into my love and passion for these books and the dolls!


Here’s a few articles that I read and reviewed while working on this post:


Before we dive into my love / passion for these books and dolls, here’s a brief history of Pleasant Company and American Girl.

Pleasant Company was launched in 1986 by former textbook writer Pleasant Rowland. The idea was sparked when she wanted to buy dolls for her nieces, ages 8 and 10 at the time, and the only options available were Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbies.

She then took a trip with her husband to Colonial Williamsburg, and she was inspired by the history there. She thought girls would be interested in learning more about history by connecting with dolls associated with certain historical time eras.

There were three original Historical Characters when the company started in 1986:

  • Kirsten Larson, 1854
  • Samantha Parkington, 1904
  • Molly McIntire, 1944

Here is the complete list of Historical Characters the company has created:

  1. Kaya, 1764
  2. Felicity Merriman, 1774
  3. Elizabeth Cole, 1774 (Felicity’s best friend)
  4. Caroline Abbott, 1812
  5. Josefina Montoya, 1824
  6. Marie-Grace Gardner, 1853
  7. Cecile Rey, 1853
  8. Kirsten Larson, 1854
  9. Addy Walker, 1864
  10. Samantha Parkington, 1904
  11. Nellie O’Malley, 1904 (Samantha’s best friend)
  12. Rebecca Rubin, 1914
  13. Kit Kittredge, 1934
  14. Ruthie Smithens, 1934 (Kit’s best friend)
  15. Molly McIntire, 1944
  16. Emily Bennett, 1944 (Molly’s best friend)
  17. Maryellen Larkin, 1954
  18. Melody Ellison, 1964
  19. Julie Albright, 1974
  20. Ivy Ling, 1974 (Julie’s best friend)

In 1995, the company debuted its American Girl of Today product line, where girls could pick from a variety of hair, eye, and skin colors to make their own dolls. Today, it has been relabeled several times, and it’s now branded as the Truly Me line. The company even offers dolls without hair for girls with alopecia, hair loss, or going through cancer treatments.

In 1998, Rowland sold Pleasant Company to Mattel for approximately $700 million dollars!

In 2001, American Girl launched its “Girl of the Year” (GOTY) line. With the exceptions of Lindsey (2001-2002) and Kailey (2003-2004), all GOTY dolls have only been available for one calendar year, with the new doll being unveiled on January 1st.

Along the way, several Historical Characters have been archived – Samantha and Nellie, Kirsten, Felicity and Elizabeth, Molly and Emily, Marie-Grace and Cecile, and a few others. The decision was made for all the “Best Friends” dolls to be archived by August 2014. Caroline Abbott was the most recent character to be archived, in spring 2015. The only two Historical Characters to have been brought out of the archives, so far, are Samantha, and Felicity.

In the summer of 2014, American Girl revamped its Historical Characters line into the BeForever line. The original six-book set was redesigned into two main volumes, and then what’s called a “Journey Book,” where a modern-day girl goes on a journey with one of the Historical girls.

Currently, in 2017, the BeForever line has approximately 10 characters, with the 11th being Nanea Mitchell, 1941, scheduled to officially debut at the end of August. Gabriela is the current GOTY. There is a new Contemporary Characters line of 18-inch dolls, consisting of Tenney Grant, Logan Everett, and Z Yang. Logan Everett is the company’s first boy doll. Z Yang is the first doll to be created from American Girl’s popular YouTube channel. The WellieWishers are a series of five 14.5-inch dolls, designed for younger girls. Bitty Babies are also available for children ages 3 and up.


Now, if I remember correctly, I was given my Bitty Baby doll in 1994 or 1995. I have some photos from a few vintage Pleasant Company Holiday Catalogs below.

Before I even received my first 18-inch doll, my “American Girl of Today” that I named Stephanie, I absolutely fell in love with the American Girl books!

Pleasant Company Catalogue Holiday 1991

These are the original “meet” books – This photo is from the Pleasant Company catalog for the holidays in 1991. Image Credit: Mental Floss

Before the BeForever line was introduced, each Historical Character had a “Central Series” of six books. I’ll use Molly’s name as an example:

  1. Meet Molly: An American Girl
  2. Molly Learns A Lesson: A School Story
  3. Molly’s Surprise: A Christmas Story
  4. Happy Birthday, Molly!: A Springtime Story
  5. Molly Saves The Day: A Summer Story
  6. Changes for Molly: A Winter Story

The six books cover approximately two years of each character’s life. I loved reading and re-reading these books. There were beautiful illustrations in every one! My personal library had all of Felicity’s books, and Samantha’s, in hardcover. I borrowed the rest from the library, over and over. When I was in speech therapy for most of elementary school, I distinctly remember reading Felicity’s books out loud to my parents as practice.

Eventually, I gave away most of my American Girl book collection to other girls, and the library. Now, I’ve been feverishly rebuilding my childhood library, and then some! I have a huge copy paper box in my office space that is overflowing with books. I’m so excited to get my huge bookcase from my parents, and promptly fill it up.

In addition to the Central Series, American Girl has published other contemporary titles for girls, and I owned many of them (Games and Giggles, Tiny Treasures, Help!, The Care & Keeping of You, etc.). They have also published multiple short stories and mysteries featuring the Historical Characters. I’m also very fond of the 22-book History Mysteries series, as well as the eight Girls of Many Lands books.

I will never stop loving the books!


Photo montage!

This is the most recent catalog that I received in the mail. It’s significantly smaller than the older Pleasant Company catalogs. This one is about the size of a small magazine, roughly 50 pages total.

This is one of the vintage Pleasant Company catalogs that I recently purchased from someone on Facebook. I loved looking through these as a kid, over and over.

This is my current “stash” of doll stuff in my office!

 

I have Molly’s desk at my parents’ house! I found it in really good condition from a Facebook post a few years ago – I only paid $30 for it!


This is from one of the Pleasant Company catalogs. I remember starting at these full-size photos for hours!

Here’s some photos featuring the American Girl of Today line!

I loved the Snowflake Jumper when I received my American Girl of Today, who I named Stephanie. I need to do a second blog post when I get all my dolls from Mom and Dad’s!


My Stephanie is currently dressed in the School Jumper outfit at Mom and Dad’s. I also had the Girl Scout Uniform, and I took Stephanie to a few troop meetings!


I had the Cheerleader Outfit for many years – I eventually sold in it a lot of AG clothes to a woman at my office building for her 6-year-old daughter. She emailed me the following weekend, saying that she gave the box of clothes and accessories to her daughter early, and she and her friends loved everything!


I now own the Culotte Dress after years of wanting it. Facebook is an amazing resource for all things Pleasant Company and American Girl!


I didn’t have that swimsuit set, but I did have the In-line Gear and Baxter the Bunny!


This was the outfit that my doll Stephanie arrived in, for Christmas 1997!


I remember loving all the girl outfits and accessories! My parents said no, though. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes that they knew that I would quickly outgrow!


I love the Jeweled Headband, and those AG Earrings! I also had a very similar haircut from fifth grade through middle school.


I loved these outfits – Totally 90s!

I absolutely love the older catalogs! I’ve had so much fun recently, looking through the three that I recently purchased. So many memories!!


Here’s a fun quiz:

Here’s my results:

2bf1ec0b-ae8c-4690-85a3-e684df75d79f

“Hey, Molly. You either wanted to be a Samantha but got stuck with a mom who gave you Molly (raises hand reluctantly), proudly wore glasses, loved World War II, or all of the above. Either way, be proud of your inner Molly — though you suck at doing math.”

I’ve always loved Molly! I definitely wore glasses, from sixth grade on. And I definitely suck at math!


This past week, American Girl officially launched their newest product – “Create Your Own” American Girl!

Not the best photo. But, meet Bethany, my true look-alike!


Bethany loves to daydream. Her fave place is the city, and her fave things are reading & writing.

The new doll line is a bit more expensive than the other dolls, around $200. But, after nearly 20 years of having a blonde doll, I think it’s high time that I have one that actually looks like me!

My doll collection, at the moment, consists of five dolls:

  1. Stephanie, my American Girl of Today, 1997 — Mom and Dad bought Stephanie for me for Christmas. I was a very happy 9-year-old!
  2. Molly McIntire, 1944 — Molly was the first doll that I bought with my own money, right before she was archived in 2013.
  3. Kit Kittredge, 1934 — Al bought her for me for my birthday in August 2016.
  4. Chrissa Maxwell, Girl of the Year, 2009 — I quickly identified with Chrissa’s character several years ago. Her story revolves around bullying. Chrissa came home to me in early 2017.
  5. Unnamed American Girl of Today, circa 1996 — I bought this doll off eBay in 2016, trying to help out someone on a Facebook group with creating Harry Potter dolls. That never happened, so I kept her. I may turn her into Hermione Granger someday πŸ™‚

I have a few other dolls on my wish list. Aside from Bethany, my Create Your Own, I would love to eventually own Nanea, 1941, and Maryellen, 1954.

Nanea Doll - American Girl Wikia

Nanea Mitchell, 1941. Image Credit: American Girl Wikia


Maryellen - American Girl Wikia

Maryellen Larkin, 1954. Image Credit: American Girl Wikia


As long as I live, I don’t think I will ever get “too old” for American Girl. It’s been such a staple in my life since the mid-1990s!

I’ve always appreciated Pleasant Company’s and American Girl’s dedication to historical accuracy. I give immense credit to these books for making me love history!

I’ve written Book Reviews on several of the new BeForever books, including Maryellen’s and Melody’s stories. For my birthday last week, Al bought me the two Classic volumes of Felicity’s books, and I can’t wait to read those. I’m also very excited for several new releases this winter (I may or may not have already pre-ordered these from Amazon):


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Writing Prompt #70: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 32)

Week #32: A City You’ve Visited.

I will always feel like a part of me belongs in New York City. I don’t ever want to live there now, although I used to dream about it for years. Yes, I was that kid who wanted to leave Virginia far behind and either start by going to college there, or become a famous writer and live in an apartment and enjoy the city.

Being born at Mount Sinai Hospital, it’s directly across the street from the west side of Central Park, one of the most amazing parks in our country. I could spend hours upon hours looking at Google Images of people’s photos. When I take Al to visit the city for the very first time next summer, I want to spend as much time in the park as possible, getting as many photos as I can. I have fond memories of practicing softball with my dad when we were there to visit the hospital. I need to find those photos and share them. I’m definitely an awkward 13-year-old there, but we had so much fun.

My parents took me back to the hospital every summer until I was 16 years old. The story that’s been told is the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses say, “Our greatest joy is seeing these children grow.” The last time we were there as a family, in 2004, there were two gigantic bulletin boards on one wall of the unit, completely covered in pictures of kids who “graduated” from the unit. Most are school photos, but some are family photos. Every single one is precious. My parents did that for a few years, and we found an old photo of me on the bulletin board when we were there. It was staggering to see how many photos were there. My parents have a photo of that visit – Me, Dr. Ian Holzman, and my mom – on their refrigerator.

But, the nurses also remember the babies who didn’t survive.

When I was 18, and a senior in high school, the Oscar Smith Chamber Orchestra was invited to play at Carnegie Hall. It was such an amazing experience to close out my high school years. It rained the entire weekend, but everyone had a blast. Many of my classmates had never seen the city, and one long weekend wasn’t enough to take it all in. We played our hardest. I almost cried as we walked out on stage, seeing the historic venue from that perspective absolutely took my breath away. Many of our families were there to support us. My mom invited the head nurse from the Mount Sinai NICU, Doris Haddad, to come to the performance. She cried. She gave me flowers. It was awesome! I graduated from high school about two months after we performed.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen a lot of New York City throughout my life – Broadway shows, Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the World Trade Center before and after 9/11, the Statue of Liberty, being on the plaza at The Today Show, Radio City Music Hall, FAO Schwarz, Macy’s, the New York Public Library, the Ghostbusters Firehouse, Tribeca, Soho, the subway, The New York Times building, different museums, Katz’s Deli, Ellis Island, Governors Island … I could go on.

But, now, as an adult, I’m realizing that I’ve only seen a very small fraction of what the five boroughs have to offer. When we visit next summer, I want to see Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn, The Bell House (home of NPR’s Ask Me Another), Coney Island, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Queens. I want to experience a variety of restaurants. I’m sure there’s many museums that are new and different, too. Plus, I’ve never been to an American Girl Store. The New York store is one of their flagship stores, so, why not?


Have you ever been to New York? What did you like about?

If you haven’t been to New York yet, what do you want to see or experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Commentary #55: A Must-See, Incredibly Powerful Message from Beautiful Seventh Grader’s Slam Poem

Slam Poetry

Image Credit: The Odyssey Online

I found the video below on Facebook recently, and it spoke volumes to me:

Background: At the end of this past school year (The video was posted on Facebook on May 25th), this beautiful 7th grade girl at Queen Creek Middle School delivered this incredibly powerful slam poem. This was part of the end of her 7th grade writing class.

Caption from 12 News: “When a 7th grade writing class at Queen Creek Middle School presented poems for their end of year assignment, one student stood out with a powerful message.”

It’s been viewed over 33 MILLION times.

According to the public comments, this beautiful young lady is named Olivia.


Her teacher publicly commented on the video. His name is Brett Cornelius. He was the one recording Olivia’s performance, and obtained her parents’ permission before sharing it.

“She presented this for almost every single 7th grader. They were moved to tears, as was I. She’s brilliant beyond words, and this poem is just the icing on top of her perfectly cooked cake. What’s even more incredible is that she worked on this for over a month, truly digging into the raw depths of teenage hood and expressing her feelings of the good, the bad, and the ugly of walking the halls of the school as a young woman. She’s humble and honest, that’s for sure. I’m proud to have met this little lady!”

“I am her teacher and that assignment was one I went back and forth about assigning for weeks. Obviously, there are no regrets. She transferred to our school, so unfortunately I was not prone to her incredible educational aptitude, but we worked tirelessly to give her creative outlets to express herself. Her parents advocated for her the entire way, too. She’s a blessed child, that is for sure. Thank you!”


It’s hard to hear some of her words, but her message is profound.

I think I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times since I shared it to my own Facebook timeline on Friday, July 21st. And, every time, it’s given me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

This doesn’t apply to just middle school, or just 7th graders, or just girls.

Yes, Olivia directly addresses middle school girls, but her message is more powerful and more far-reaching than that.

I saw myself in Olivia’s words. I saw myself in Olivia’s voice. I saw myself as Olivia struggled to hold back her emotion. I saw the tears in her eyes, as I felt tears in mine.

I saw myself in middle school – Glasses, braces, acne. Experimenting with makeup, but not allowed to wear much of it. Trying to be my own person, but also wanting to fit in.

I saw myself in high school – Exchanging my glasses for contact lenses. No more braces. Wearing makeup a bit more often, but not too much. Trying to keep up with the rigors of IB, while not showboating to the kids in orchestra and gym who were the regular kids.

I saw myself in college – Finally, freedom! But, with that freedom, I also endured a four-year-long abusive relationship. When I finally saw the light at the end of my junior year, I saw a shell of myself. I was broken. My confidence had vanished, although I’m sure I was still super enthusiastic on the outside. Deep down, I knew I needed to leave, to escape, but I was also terrified that no one else would love me, no one else would want me.

I even saw myself now, in the present day – I struggle with body image. I struggle with the fact that I’ve gained 25+ pounds since graduating from college six years ago. I’m getting better with my eating habits, and I drink far less soda than I used to. I drink at least 75 ounces of water every day, if not a little bit more. I only consume alcohol sparingly now (The good stuff is expensive, haha!) I know that my day job is a major contributor – I’m behind a desk eight hours a day. I wear makeup almost every day, but I don’t feel like a clown. I feel grown-up and professional.

But, I’m also a human being. I have feelings. And it’s okay to have these feelings.

The point I’m trying to get at is Olivia’s message is important for EVERYONE to hear. Maybe that’s why it’s been watched over 33 million times. What this amazing young woman wrote and performed (by memory, no less) is a reminder to everyone that we hide behind our true selves.

For me, personally, I don’t want to be so afraid. I don’t want to be so scared of or disgusted by my body image. I want to embrace it, as best that I can, at least. I want to continue to be confident. I don’t want to fake it until I make it as much anymore. I want to be as genuine as possible.

Can I do that? I know I can.

Olivia, you’ve certainly inspired this 29-year-old. Let’s do this. Thank you!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚