podcast1

To start us off, how long have you played said roleplaying games as a player or as a DM or have you had experience in both? Maybe, we can roll for initiative to answer, just because we can. We have no set modifiers though.

Melissa: I have 17.

Angelica: I have 17 too.

E: I have 18. I have been playing since August of this year.

M: Going in as fresh meat.

A: So have you played as a DM or a player?

E: Like I have said earlier, I have played largely as a DM. Occasionally, my group got a little more into it. The people in my party if they want to host their own campaigns, it’s just a lot of fun.

Angelica: For me, I started about 2013 or 2014. Unfortunately on and off for one and a half years. Right now, off. I have played both as a player and a slightly a DM. And DMing is very difficult especially cause my first time DMing, my friends were like, “oh, so you’re going to DM.” And I’m like yes, “5 people only please.” Then it became like 8, and I thought to myself this is going to be hard. And yourself?

Melissa: I want to say it’s been since 2011. Mostly on and off. Never actually finished a campaign. But I do watch a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons. I have played quite a bit of Pathfinder. I haven’t played as a DM, don’t have anyone to play with yet, but one day. We’ll get there one day.

Angelica: So in regards to playing said role playing games, what editions of these games have you played? What edition have you enjoyed most?

Erin: I have only played Dungeon World, so…

Melissa: I really prefer 5e among all of them. It is a lot more streamlined than Pathfinder, which is I hear is a lot similar to 3.5, it just makes a lot of the processes a lot simpler. It leads a lot more room for interpretation as far as when players need to get into your character’s head more easily even if you are not so accustomed to the environment, which is why I speak so highly about this edition.

Angelica: I agree since when I played 4th edition, they super dumbed it down. More like a smash-em up sort of game, but it made it easier for people to pick up, but story wise, it was story wise.

Erin: I play Dungeon World mostly because it is easier for people to get into. Like partial fail and partial success.

Angelica: Yeah, I know when I played 3.5 edition, there were so many skill checks; I was like what do I do with these?

Melissa: When am I actually going to use a performance check? I’m a Paladin.

Erin: Dungeon World made it really easy for players. Okay roll, 2 D6s and tell me what number you got as opposed to roll and then check that against your skill.

Angelica: Have you guys played any story or DMed story outside of the fantasy genre?

Erin: I have. Have you ever heard of Dread?

Melissa: For those who are listening who don’t know, Dread is a tabletop roleplaying game. I think it was only published with 4 stories in it. Instead of playing with dice, you play with a Jenga tower. If you pull a Jenga block without knocking over the tower, your action is a success. If the tower falls over, you die. End of story. You are removed from the game one way or another and that is why I highly recommend that one, specifically for the horror atmosphere even if it doesn’t have as many games. The tension and the mood that it sets is absolutely astounding.

Angelica: Yeah, I haven’t played it, but I remember watching Geek & Sundry and Wil Wheaton. And I really want to play it.

Erin: We just played that at my Halloween party last week. I really hope people enjoyed it. We played a sort of teen slasher in the woods.

Melissa: I did play that one. I also played “Thirteen.” That one I’m not going to tell, but it has a really good twist. But that was a very interesting story and I would recommend that system and if you are trying to get into, specifically for mood in tabletop, Dread is where to start off. It teaches you all about tension and to hold the feelings of your players. I was trained to DM in Dread but haven’t gotten around to it but I have also played it. It very much trains you to get you into a mindset and how put your players in a specific way of thinking and how to get them to feel certain things and act certain ways. It is interesting psychologically, and it helps you set up the mood so easily and teaches you how to do that in a multitude of ways.

podcast2Angelica: What has your experience been playing as your character roleplaying? Not just roleplaying but also collaborating with others? Like very tense moments? Was there just a “cream of the crop” moment that you remember very vividly in your mind? Like, I don’t know how I survived that but I did.

Melissa: I have these moments. I have quite a lot of nasty situations that have happened. When I sit there and get into my character’s head the most that is when all the bad things happen. There is one particular situation that I always remember, because it was one of my first games. I was a rogue, trying to intimidate one of the leaders of the cultist group that we trying to get eliminate from our town. This is back when I played Pathfinder. We were trying to get rid of these cultists that we followed underground. We captured one. We were trying to intimidate her; I intimidated her because I was the prettiest but also the scariest. I intimidated her, and she led us into a hallway. All I was worried about was just being intimidating and scaring her and getting her to do what we want, because everything that I had tried to do thus far has failed and I didn’t realize that in the process of trying to scare her that she lead us into a hallway nearly butchered us. All of us. All five players almost went down in one swoop and that was the one experience that stood out the most but it was also the one time I got into one particular character, but she lived.

Melissa: And that’s all you can ever ask for.

Angelica: As long it is not a TPK.

[TPK means total party kill in which all the player characters are killed.]

Erin: Recently, the campaign I DM for, one of the people in my group wanted to do a one-off.

[Geeky term #2

One-off/One-shot: is when a game group decide to do not a long campaign story, but just a very short story that is usually compressed into a single session.]

There some kind of problem, but no one could get any information. Three people in my party who got into town had joined a militia in a town full of refugees and were given logic. And since my person is a goliath, the very first thing he thought of is that “I needed to fix the dead,” so two of us were fixing the dead. A third character, a ranger, decided to go and fuck the people in town and immediately ran back screaming so that was kind of like a very our first big thing we did during that game and very much set the tone that there are very dangerous things happening. I didn’t almost die, but someone almost did.

Angelica: I think for me; it was a custom 3.5 build with four different races. There were humans. There were goblins. There was this race which were essentially cyborgs and thought they were supreme and thought they needed [technological] parts. But there was an extreme faction of this group where they were sort of Nazi, where they believed everyone should become machines. And then there was the race that I was which was attuned to magic, but due to some sort of special event, they mutated to have animal ears. But between the two techno people and the magic people, they hated each other except for my character who loved technology, and it got her into trouble when we went to the techno part of capital. Obviously out of character, I knew this was probably going to be a trap, but she’s still going to walk in and be super amused. So the entire party got kidnapped and when we woke up, they put us into a colosseum.

Angelica: To connect this back to writing, if any of you write, how has this impacted how you create things or write things? And in what way have you seen it?

Melissa: D&D relates to my writing in a direct sense. I have always been a fantasy writer. I have always been someone who consumes a lot of fantasy. Not so much recently being in university and my last year of it. And I kind of took a break of writing while playing Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder, I started to realize that D&D helped me make characters human and very relatable. D&D teaches you how to get into someone else’s skin and how to easily get into that way of thinking where you are no longer yourself; you are this other person with ulterior motives and your own way of thinking, your thought processes and as a writer, that is completely invaluable, since nobody is going to whole heartedly believe and think and feel what is happening if you can’t make these characters believable. Having this experience, it makes your work so much well responded too in my experience.

Erin: For me as a writer, I have always started with characters. I get a sense of who they are and the world they live in. And I think that feeds a lot to my interest in roleplaying games. As a GM, creating characters and seeing how my players related them. I invented this Halfling thief, who was snarky and morally gray, thinking that people would like him, but they hated him. I found it really interesting that when you are writing you are controlling all your character, how they relate and interact with one another. But being a GM showed me all these options, all the ways things can go when playing with all these other characters.

angelica_dimsonAngelica: I agree with both you. I start with characters too. Within D&D and being a DM, it expands into creating a setting as its own character. Cause each town, each place has little, minute qualities that make it unique. Like the first town I DMed, it was a primarily a Dragonborn farming community town. One of my players got to arm wrestle with a character from this town and rolled a natural 20 and broke the table, and so that Dragonborn farmer felt sad since he got beat by a half-Dragonborn woman, and challenging people in this small community and winning made him happy. And even in delving into character building, you become aware of their flaws.

Melissa: I will very much attest to using the setting as a character…

To hear more insight on writing and D&D experiences, consider listening to our podcast, and remember in the words of Wil Wheaton to “Play More Games!”

– Angelica Dimson

When a reader observes a text, she should take in as much information as possible.  This means that the reader must set up a reading space.  What works for some people may not be what works best for others.  One person may adequately read in the bed while another person may do so at a desk, outside, or on the couch.  Where one reads is not the only criteria one must take into account when setting up a healthy reading space.  Noise level should also be taken into consideration as well as environment.

brooks_chartNoise level could interfere with the reader’s concentration level.  When there is background noise, the reader is multitasking when she reads because she is now hearing the noise while reading the words.  Multitasking could divide one’s focus so that the more noises one hears, the less concentration she has on one thing.  Think of it as a pie chart.  If the reader hears sound, it divides her attention so that all of her focus is not on reading.  This does not do the writer any justice because the book’s potential to be understood is lessened.  One-hundred percent of the reader’s attention must be on reading if she is to be an effective reader.  Whenever I read and hear television, I happen to not absorb all the information I could if I solely focused on the material; this is why I turn off the television when I read.

Sound could actually alter the mood of the text. For example, hearing sad songs could make one read the text with the mood of this song in mind, but the writer may have meant to make the mood a happy or tranquil one.  There are times when I have read a book that I have a particular song in mind as I read.  Sometimes, this could have a positive impact on the reader’s experience because she associates the book with her favorite songs, causing her to feel comfortable while she reads the book.  This depends on the reader, but it is better to keep noise separate from reading than hearing noise that alters the mood of the text, even if it is a positive impact.

When somebody reads, she should take into account the overall feel of the environment.  Is the environment one that makes the reader feel uncomfortable, anxious, or sick?  Is the space too small?  Some people may benefit more from reading in the library than their rooms or vice versa.  A reader should not put convenience before a healthy reading environment, i.e., staying in one’s room may take less energy than walking or driving to the library, and lying in bed may be more easy to do than sitting in a chair, but the room or the bed may not allow the reader to do as much reading as she may do when she is at the library.

All in all, it is very important to set up a healthy reading space.  This is a sure way to intake as much knowledge from the book as you can.  Next time you read a book, keep in mind the place, noise level, and overall feel of the environment.

Here’s a link to How to Read Effectively Part One!

– Sasha Brooks

Star Trek is the everest of successful television. While mostly known in the mainstream for its low-budget-yet-lovable Original series (Ft. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) and massively successful reboot movie franchise (Ft. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto), Trek is far more massive than that.  As an entertainment franchise it has spanned: six television series at 725 episodes, 13 feature rank films, 407 official comic books issues, a bare minimum 100 official games, 39 technical manuals, two magazines, two theme parks, and two exhibits.

And, perhaps surprising to many, hundreds of novels.

800+ novels, in fact.

The books (roughly) fall into the categories of the main series: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Kelvin timeline. There are also novels about Starfleet Academy and Star Trek Corps of Engineers.

There is also plenty of nonfiction, though far less that are officially syndicated. If you’re more interested in the show, titles such as The Making of Star Trek or Star Trek Compendium would be worth checking out. Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years or Star Trek: The Starfleet Survival Guide are two books out of a collection that focus on books that would be non-fiction within the Star Trek universe.

KatherineThe novels sell surprisingly well: as a compendium, they comprise the most popular paperback series in publishing in history. Thirty-five titles have been best-sellers.

Not sure where to start for fiction? Never fear! Here are my recommendations, with the caveat that these of course are just personal opinions.

Star Trek novelization recommendations are difficult for the sheer expansiveness of the universe. The storylines interweave and affect each other, and there are hundreds of books that, while in universe, don’t have an influence on the overarching plotlines of each ‘series.’ Many don’t have to be read in order, while others do. For the beginner to get you started, I will suggest the first two novelizations of each series that follow the basic linear plotline.

The Original Series: Mere Anarchy: Things Fall Apart by Barr and The Captain’s Table: Where Sea Meets Sky by Oltion.

The Next Generation: A Time to be Born and A Time to Die by Vornholt.

Deep Space Nine: The Left Hand of Destiny pt. 1 and 2 by Lang and Hertzier.

Voyager: Homecoming and Farther Shore by Golden.

Enterprise: The Good that Men Do and Kobayashi Maru by Mangels and Martin.

Happy Reading!

– Katherine Eckenwiler

When did you realize you wanted to major in English? That is a question that has perplexed me since I enrolled at Oakland University. When I applied to college English was the obvious choice for me, I felt like it was the only option for me. This was not just a question about my major but also a question of where did that part of me—the English part—come from. Three years later and I am almost done with my BA in English and I finally realized what defining moment—or person—pushed me on this path.

I was 12 when I became a book worm and it all started with a teacher. My fifth grade teacher had a deep love for books. He made a point of reading to the class for at least an hour a day, entertaining us with different voices for each character and choosing books that everyone could fall in love like Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He also had a club for students who read a million words and the prize was a treat from Dairy Queen. Promising to buy ice cream is the best motivation for 12 year olds and it sparked my determination to join that club.

deeA quick peruse of the library led me to a series of large books known as Harry Potter which changed my life—it may seem corny but it is true. (If you don’t believe me please enjoy my fifth grade photo where I posed with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) With Rowling in my hands I quickly racked up a million words (tallied by Reading Counts quizzes) and I felt both a sense of pride and urgency to return to the library as soon as possible for more books. Little did I know that although my teacher thought he was encouraging me to read he had cursed me to the life of a bibliophile. Not only did I continue to read every book I could get my hands on but I ended up creating another club: the two million word club. This reading club morphed from a silly contest to win ice cream to a hobby that I fell in love with. After that year I was no longer “Dee” I was “Dee, the book worm.”

It is hard as an English major to explain why you are studying literature, writing, etc. while other students are pursuing degrees in medicine with the dream of saving lives or becoming engineers to develop alternative energy sources. But me, I am just a person who fell in love with reading at a young age. The ability to break down a story and find a deeper meaning in the writer’s craft is what I love about studying literature. That is why having that moment where I realized that I wanted to be an English major is so important. That moment is a constant reminder of why I am doing what I am doing and it continues to inspire me. So when people ask me about my major I always go back to that year and the teacher who lead me in the right direction.

– Dee Donakowski

In the first two parts of this series I discussed the parallels between comics and classical mythology, and how both forms share a habit of reinterpreting and retelling stories. But there is one huge factor linking the two that no discussion on the topic would be complete without. In both myth and comics, the heroes act as symbols for ideals. They represent the ideas and values that humanity strives towards, embodying the best of us. Often both deliver a moral message to their audience through the actions of their characters, adding deeper meaning beyond the surface level.

As a child, Bruce Wayne represents grief, consumed by the death of his parents. As Batman, he represents justice in his quest to vanquish crime in Gotham City. We’re even explicitly reminded of the idea that Batman is a symbol throughout Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy: anyone could be the Batman if they embody the same values as him, anyone could be that same symbol.

Superman, the first superhero, most often symbolized hope and optimism. Despite not being human, he always sees the best of humanity. For Superman, there is always a way out of dark times, and he will always be there to help and defend the beloved people of his adopted world.

Despite the popular conception of her as a hardened warrior woman, Wonder Woman is a symbol of love and protection. She leaves her homeland of Themyscira to fight the forces of evil in man’s world, a place she barely knows yet vows to defend with all her strength. Princess Diana never begins a fight without first extending a helping hand to her opponents, always demonstrating her love and compassion for every living thing.

Barry Allen, the Flash, often represents hope (one character on the CW TV series The Flash even saying Barry’s hope is his true superpower), as well as selflessness and dedication. Barry constantly goes the extra mile in helping the citizens of his hometown Central City. On more than one occasion he has rescued tenants of burning apartment buildings, using his super-speed to repair damage to the building and check on each member of the crowd to make sure everyone is alright. With rare exceptions, Barry puts everyone else before himself, ensuring the needs of others are met before his own.

The Green Lantern, who gains his powers through an alien ring that channels pure willpower, stands for perseverance. Hal Jordan’s indomitable will is his greatest strength, his ability to weather almost any catastrophe often serving as an inspiration to other heroes around him.

Levi RaabAquaman, the half-human king of Atlantis, is often portrayed as an outcast and weighed heavily with the burden of responsibility. Born to a human father and Atlantean mother, Arthur Curry is scorned by both populations, feeling as if he never truly belongs. As not only a member of the Justice League, but also the king of Atlantis, Aquaman has immense responsibility to both the people of the surface and the people of the seas. And even with his pariah status, he still does all that he can for the citizens of both worlds.

Victor Stone, who as Cyborg is a mix of biology and technology, shows us what it means to be human. Cyborg has become more machine than man, yet at times is one of the most human characters of the DC universe.

As symbols of the ideals and values of humanity, these characters and others gain their most enduring qualities. Their ability to stand for truth, justice, and as counters to forces of evil and oppression, is what has truly enabled them to become so popular within modern culture, just as the heroes of myth have endured in the public consciousness since antiquity.

Part One & Part Two

– Levi Raab

 

No one can really predict if and when the apocalypse will happen but you may want to have something set up just in case the inevitable does occur.  Although hospitals may sound like a good idea for practical reasons, they will be the birth place and breeding grounds for the disease and will most likely be overrun by the infected. Staying home and hiding in your attic is pretty much out of the question unless you have already built a zombie survival fortress. Places like Costco or other warehouses sound safe until you consider all of the other people who have the same idea.

After working in different public libraries for almost a year and spending many hours studying at an academic library, I have decided that libraries are in fact the safest hideout for the zombie apocalypse. Here’s six reasons why:

Security Is Key

Most libraries already have some type of security system in place which you can take advantage of during the apocalypse. At my library, we have a system of automatic locks that will shut down all access to certain at precise times throughout the day or all together if the power were to ever go out at the building. These can only be overridden by a set of keys that the Librarians always have on them. If you have those keys, you control the entire building. There are usually very few entrances to libraries which makes barricading them quite easy. Most libraries are old buildings with heavy doors that makes them even harder to breach. In our district, two branches are actually just old banks, with the safe rooms still intact. How ideal is that? Also the nonfiction section of the library is filled with plenty of large heavy books that could be used to build a fortress within your building.

Infinite Knowledge = Infinite Power

Libraries are obviously full of books with millions of different topics. Whether you are looking for wilderness survival guides, medical textbooks, or just straight up apocalypse guides, the library will have them. You will definitely benefit from having all of this information at your fingertips. These books could also be the key to rebuilding society one day.

There Are Blunt Objects Everywhere, Take Your Pick!

Weapons are very important when facing off with the undead. Fortunately the library has a plethora of books and office supplies that can be transformed into head bashing utensils with a little imagination. My library has two fireplaces and I have already called dibs on one of the fire pokers. When all other options are exhausted there are books in the library on how to build different weapons like bows, arrows, and catapults. Get creative with it!

Get Your Cardio

In of off chance that your hideout is ever infested with zombies, the library is like a magical labyrinth of shelves and hidden rooms. They make it very easy to out run a horde of walkers. Shelves are great tools for you to use when running away from zombies. If you plan correctly you can crush zombies with them, dodge their reaching hands, and turn the zombies around into one another. There is also a large amount of hidden workrooms and study rooms that make for quick and easy getaways all around the library. The shelves are completely mobile so set them up as you please and have fun!

Food For Thought and Comfort

Although you may not think of a library as being the best place to find a cache of food, some libraries participate in a weekly soup kitchen donation and will have a stockpile somewhere in the building. Not to mention how frequently librarians bring in treats for one another, so the staff room will be stacked with goodies. Also most libraries have some kind of vending machine that can also be raided. And do not forget the farming section in the nonfiction books. They contain plenty of information on starting gardens and even raising livestock. The library also has plenty of comfortable couches and chairs for people to read and study on. These can be converted to beds if needed. If your library has a fireplace you can always use the hoard of white printer paper and the Twilight Series as kindling to help stay warm.

Daily Entertainment

abigail-1If the world somehow still has Wi-Fi during the apocalypse you are in luck! Even if the power goes out at home, the libraries backup generators will automatically kick on and keep everything running. The library will have computers, laptops, and tablets for you to use to tweet out your current zombie kill count. If the world is stuck without Wi-Fi, don’t worry! Books do not need to be plugged in or charged and the library has plenty for you to enjoy, spanning all kinds of different topics and age groups. Most libraries will contain book club kits, so you could even start weekly meetings with other survivors.

Though the zombie apocalypse may never actually happen, hopefully this has gotten you to consider your emergency plan. Libraries contain the necessary information that society will need to start back up again and provides a major opportunity for survival. They must be protected at all costs.

– Abigail Patrick

Whether you’ve procrastinated in writing a paper or just writing creatively, there are times when you just don’t feel like writing. For me, I will stare at a blank Word document and tell myself that it’s time to get serious and write already, but then I’ll find myself down the internet black hole of watching music videos or googling some random fact that popped into my head. Twenty minutes later, I can’t remember why I wasn’t writing anymore. And even though I may want to write a particular scene for my chosen story, my brain is not in the mood. So in order to force myself to begin writing, I’ve developed ways on how to trick myself into typing those first few words. After that, it’s all about staying focused enough to maintain my new momentum.

First, identify what is distracting you. Like most people, simply having access to the internet is more than enough to become sidetracked. An easy fix for this is to disconnect from the wifi. It also works well to stop you from researching – even though you already have pages of material to look off of – and just write that paper already. If you feel like you’re going to need a snack sometime in the duration of your writing, then make sure you keep it nearby. This way, you don’t use hunger (or any other task) as an excuse to get up from your chair and wander around instead of working.

Perhaps it’s other people who keep interrupting you from your work. Heading to a library is an obvious choice, especially if you can snag a cubicle. Nothing like being surrounded by box walls to prevent you from glancing around the room. But if you’ve procrastinated too long and it’s after library hours, you have no choice but to write at home. Is the fact that your bed sits a few feet behind you enough to tempt you instead of writing? Then head to the kitchen. Is there a time when everyone in your household (or dorm) is guaranteed to be sleeping or out of your home? For me, my family settles down after 10:00pm. After that, I know that I can write uninterrupted. Of course, there are some people out there who struggle being awake after midnight. I am not one of those people, but caffeine is your friend if you’re desperate enough.

To actually start writing, music helps me. It’s best to have an album or two lined up before you begin writing. This way, you’re not clicking around, changing the song once the one before it finishes. The goal is to not distract you any further. (May I suggest Jess’s instrumental playlists?) I usually sit and just listen to one song before I begin writing so I can refocus my mind at the task ahead.

amandaSo now you have a quiet place to write, your favorite musicians ready to motivate you, but you’re still having difficulty writing beyond that first paragraph? Reinforcements are always good. For some people, taking short breaks after a certain amount of words or pages written is sufficient. However, I tend to sometimes take too long of a break and I’m back to being distracted again. Instead, I like to make it into a game for myself. Right before I begin typing, I record the time and then try to write as many words as I can in as little amount of time as possible. Seriously, I set records for myself (if I reach at least 900 words in an hour, then I feel super successful).

But by the end of the day, no matter which tactic you attempt to try and force yourself to write, it’s all a battle of wills. If you can’t convince yourself how serious you are at achieving that deadline or goal, then it’s probably not going to get accomplished. Nonetheless, if you really do desire to write (or at least don’t want to fail your assignment), I hope my suggestions may have been the push you needed.

– Amanda Matkowski

Now I know what you are thinking. Clearly the title seems to be a tad dramatic. People who know me personally are aware that I may sometimes over exaggerate, but I stand firm on this issue. I have an obsession with libraries. I am not sure whether or not that would be considered a “weird” statement, but I think that many other people are grateful for their library. The reason I say owe my life to the library is because without it, my life would have unfolded much differently. I found adventures, love stories and imaginary worlds by trips to the library. My best friend and I created a relationship based off of impromptu decisions to get the newest book from the hold shelf. But as much as this is a personal love of mine, this is a shout out to libraries for being amazing.

My hometown library is The Bloomfield Hills Township Library and it is cornerstone in my community. If you are ever in Bloomfield Hills, you should definitely check it out. Just for reference, here is the link for their website- http://btpl.org/. Besides it’s beautifully modern design, extremely attentive and helpful librarians and the fact that it has shelves upon shelves of word-filled goodness, the library offers free memberships if you live in the area and free access to the Internet. My library has made me into the person I am today.  The library has given me the opportunity to express myself in the one way I truly know how: through discussion about books. I am one of those people who love to read for fun, so going to the library was never a hardship for me. My disgruntled parents would have to drive me over about three times a week. That anticipation filled ride to the library has always been something I enjoyed and looked forward to. Truthfully, it was the first place I drove to when I got my license at 16. While libraries are always close to my heart, this is also something I think will resonate with other people who their local or collegiate library.

In reality, how many people use their library regularly?  Most of you, if not all of you, use it for educational purposes. I have done everything from homework to study groups at the Kresge Library at Oakland and I also go there for research and scholarly sources for my English papers. Whether you are a college student, a professor, or someone who just loves to read, libraries offer an enormous amount of help for our daily lives. Shout out to the BTPL for always having a study room for me to use during finals. I know many people who live in dorms or apartments that rely on their library as a place of solace during the end of a semester whirlwind. Many libraries also offer tutoring programs regardless of the subject or current grade a person is in. Personally, I have a great relationship with the librarians at my library, who are very helpful and informative. They are an awesome reference to have if you are doing any sort of research.

megan-luttinen-oar-blogThe amount of reading material in your library is unfathomable. Whether you consider yourself to be a book nerd or not, there is something present for just about everyone. Sections of the library range from magazines, movies, comics, romance, general fiction, histories, non-fiction biographies and auto-biographies. But my library does not only house these books, they advertise for them. On their website, they offer multiple “Librarian Picks” and “Most Popular” in certain genres. For example, they have a great amount of LGBTQ fiction and they have a featured page on their website where they talk about new books that teens would be interested in.

A library is more than just a place for research and reading. It is also a community center, a place that fosters imagination and allows for different forms of creative expression! Many libraries offer featured events that range from read-in slumber parties, raffles and paint nights! It is important to remember that libraries offer free memberships to people who live in the surrounding city. These members get free Wi-Fi and free access to all the archives. As a taxpayer in your area, you are funding your library. So use and appreciate it! I’m thankful for my library every day. If you do not know much about yours, definitely check it out. There is a world of magical you have yet to encounter.

– Megan Luttinen

Throughout 2016 there’s been a lot of importance placed on learning and practicing self-care. The basic idea of self-care is doing nice things for yourself to recharge your mind, body, and soul. So what does this have to do with writers in particular? For me, when I am well taken care of as a person, I am a better writer. In addition to taking care of myself as a person, there are steps I can take to specifically care for the writer in me, and I’d like to share some of those tips.

  • Read what makes you feel good. Sometimes when I’ve had my head in my own work for too long I start to get annoyed with what I’m writing about. Sound familiar at all? That’s your cue to take a break, and read something else. Anything that’s a change will do, whether it’s re-reading Harry Potter or a new novel a friend told you about.
  • Don’t edit yourself right away. Whether it’s a final paper, or a poem for workshop, the first step is not writing well, the first step is just writing. If you tend to get stuck on editing grammar or word choice before you even have your full idea on paper, this could be extra important for you. The goal is to make time and a safe space for all of your ideas to come out. Your ideas don’t have to be good right away, but you do need to get them out of your head before you start editing.
  • Jessica BornMake your space happy. If your ideal writing space involves candles and Instagram-worthy latte creations, go for it. If it involves cocooning yourself in five blankets on the couch with a thermos of tea, do it up. Bonus points if you can frequently re-create that happy space whenever it’s time to write. Happy space, happy writer.
  • Stop comparing. I give you permission to visualize your inner critic and shut it up by whatever means possible. This goes farther than just not editing yourself on the first go-round. Stop comparing your writing to other writers’ work. Quit telling yourself that you should be better, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to write like you should, or at all. If it’s a bad day, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow. Life happens at your own pace.

As with any self-care practice, you learn what works for you. It might be all, or none, of my suggestions here. The best thing you can do is start somewhere, and decide what you like best from there on out. Hopefully with these tips in mind, next time you’re in a writing slump you’ll be able to step back, love yourself a little, and get back to it. Happy writing!

– Jessica Born

Many people may not recognize the name Roald Dahl. For those of you who don’t know, Roland Dahl is the author of several very successful children’s books, some of which include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. Many of Dahl’s books have been turned into highly popular movies.

Roald Dahl had an influence on my life through his books, particularly through the book Matilda.

When I was younger, it wasn’t the coolest thing to read by yourself instead of playing on the playground, or spending a whole Saturday stored inside your room turning page after page. While the majority of the time I didn’t care what other kids thought, I still questioned my favorite hobby from time to time.

I distinctively remember in 4th grade when we had to do a book report. My teacher was an avid reader herself and encouraged us strongly to read. I remember she had a huge wall lined with books that we could choose from. I read through many of the books that inhabited that wall. For this book report, though, we were asked to simply choose a book, read it, and make a poster about it. I walked over to the wall of books and for some reason chose the book Matilda.

Matilda became my favorite book after having completed that book report, and still is to this day. Matilda taught me many things, and as cliché as it sounds, they are things that have stuck with me to this day.

She taught me that:

  • It’s okay (and awesome) to be a reader, and that there’s strength to be found within books.
  • Reading can take you to other places, and pull you out of situations that aren’t always the greatest to be in.
  • Knowledge, and an eagerness to learn, can be used as a weapon against harsh realities of the world.Leah Meldrum
  • Sometimes adults aren’t the smartest, and what they say isn’t always the right thing.
  • To accept everyone, flaws and all.
  • It’s okay to be independent, even at a young age.

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

– Roald Dahl, Matilda

If you haven’t read anything by Roald Dahl, I highly encourage you to do so. There’s a lesson for everyone to be found within his books. They’re cleverly written and undeniably witty, even for children. I’m sure fellow readers will find solace within Matilda, and even as an adult, you might learn a thing or two.

– Leah Meldrum