Reader Survey: What content do you want to see?

Hello followers and readers! I wanted to take this time to do a survey and ask everyone what type of content they want to see more of (or less of), as you all are my audience.

I want to ensure that I’m continually creating engaging content that you all are excited to read and share with our community.

It should only take about X minutes to complete the survey after reviewing the samples.

Here are samples of each category for question 1, in case you need a reference to answer:

It should take about 15 minutes to complete the survey. Thank you so much for your time and participation!

One Day at a Time Season 3 Exceeds Expectations…Again!

This is a recap I wrote about one of my favorite shows. It’s final season aired on Netflix and it got cancelled, but I’m hoping with enough traction, another network will pick it up. Here is the original post.

There was a moment there last year when One Day at a Time (ODAAT) fans weren’t sure if they’d get a season 3, but thanks to some persuasive hype from fans across Twitter and the internet overall, this little show that could saw the light of day once more. You could say, it’s taking things one day at a time (okay, I’m sorry, but Elena Alvarez would be proud of that one).

Speaking of Elena Alvarez and pride, this season of ODAAT continues the energetic and quirky Latinx’s coming out and coming of age story. The show does a magnificent job of depicting her growing relationship with her Sydnificant Other and taking the next step: sex. Yes, that’s right. ODAAT tackles the quintessential teenagers and sex storyline not with a heterosexual couple, but with a queer one, and that’s just sensational.

Why is it sensational you ask? Because most shows deal with this subject from the heteronormative perspective, with parents worrying about their babies learning the logistics of intercourse, teaching them about safe sex, and just what taking that next step can mean for a 15-year-old.

In this show, Penelope Alvarez, Elena’s mom, goes through the exact same concerns and worries about her daughter, and even consults her go-to lesbian friend for advice on how to handle the situation. This is one of the many things that makes the show so special. It doesn’t shy away from the hard conversations, it makes sure to include as many perspectives as possible, and it has so much fun and heart while doing it.

One Day at a Time covers all matters, from drug use, to addiction, to rape culture, to the idea of womanhood in contemporary times. The episodes that focus on Alex’s encounters with smoking and marijuana contain the humor you’d expect from a sitcom, but also touch on a valid point of view concerning brown communities.

His mom admits that she also smoked when she was about his age, but tells the story with an experience of being the only girl in her group of friends to get arrested while the rest were let off with warnings. She doesn’t approach the matter as one of criminality, but she is realistic about the implications of Alex getting caught.

Possibly one of the most heartbreaking moments in the season is Schneider’s relapse. Since the first episode, the audience has rooted for the honorary Alvarez member, so to watch him fall after eight years of sobriety was devastating, giving fans a minor taste of what actual families of addicts must feel. Though it’s met with all the severity called for from such a situation, it is not without compassion.

The Alvarez family stands by Schneider’s side as he admits he’s fallen off the wagon. While Penelope gives him the reprimand he needed, she also gives him the love and friendship he needs to get back up. She is absolutely the perfect picture of the Latinx mom: tough, but full of love.

So much more happens throughout season 3, including a phenomenal ending where Penelope goes through a crisis of identity and comes out with the realization that she is her own happy ending, and graduates as a nurse practitioner (dale, Lupita, dale!). With each passing season, Gloria Calderón Kellett, Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, and the whole ODAAT team prove that shows about people of color can resonate across all boundaries while representing their communities.

So, someone, please, please, please make season 4 happen! If you want to get on the social media campaign to help this show out, use #SaveODAAT.

Why It’s Absolutely Okay to Write Badly

One of my favorite writers, Cinda Williams Chima, recently made a post on Goodreads saying, “I give myself permission to write badly,” in answer to a question about how she gets past writer’s block.

That’s really what writer’s block, isn’t it? The fear of failure. The doubt that you might not have something important to say. The uncertainty that what you have to say won’t be well-received.

It’s completely okay to write badly though. A first draft is not a final product, and no one expects perfection on the first try.

Writing, like just about everything else in life, is a skill. It must be learned. It must be practiced. You won’t get it perfectly right straight off the bat, so why sweat the terrible first try?

This is a process I’ve been undergoing myself as I write my novel and novella. As I go writing, I find myself reading back a section and thinking, “No, that doesn’t work. I should do this instead.”

That process of editing while writing will delay you terribly. It sets you back to the point where you keep rewriting and revising what you already put down, keeping you from the finish line.

To stop myself from the eternal edit mode, I make notes in the document saying to come back to this. Essentially, I say, “This is future Meagan’s problem.”

It’s fine to write something that doesn’t work the first time you write it down. That’s what revising and editing are for.

You’ll make a rough draft. Then you’ll do developmental edits, revising the story strucuture or character development. Next, you’ll do line edits where you scour the manuscript line by line for syntax. Finally, you’ll do copy edits for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Do you see how many steps it takes to get to the final, finished product? How could you ever expect to do all that work on the first round? It’s not possible (or at least highly improbable).

Give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft. It might not make sense. It might make you cringe when you look back on it. But it’s how you’re going to learn how to tell a compelling story.

The important thing is to simply start. More important still, to keep going. Even if you reach the point where your story gets published, you’ll feel like it’s not done yet. That is the nature of art. It always feels like a work in progress.

Something that helped me get past that constant need to go back and edit was writing each chapter of my novel in a separate document. If it wasn’t all together in one document, I couldn’t go back and edit.

Also, I started tracking what was happening in the story by making an outline with chapter summaries. If something felt like it was missing or I realized a story inconsitency, I made a note in the outline to go back and change or fix that element.

Finding tactics that keep moving your writing forward will help you get past the writer’s block. Are there any processes you practice that help with writer’s block? Share them in the comments!

Why Giving Up On Comic Books Is OK

I got into comic books pretty late in the game (see my post about that here). The thrill of collecting issues soon waned though as I grew overwhelmed with the number of stories I wanted to keep up with.

It’s easy to fall behind on so many issues, especially if you follow the big two: Marvel and DC. Having the time and energy to get to your local comic bookstore (LCBS) every new comic book day (Wednesdays by the way) can feel like a chore after a while.

Not to mention the financial investment in these collections. Sure, it’s only $3-4 per issue, but if you follow, say, five different comics, that’s $15-20 per visit. Each visit might occur weekly or every other week.

I got to the point where my visits were monthly. The combination of remembering which issues I needed and which comics to keep up with (especially if they weren’t put on my pull list from the beginning) made me fall behind to the point where I just made a note to wait for the trade of that collection.

Let’s not forget that if you buy physical issues, they eventually start taking space. You need the added investment in storage for them, short and long comic boxes or crates or shelf space. When does the madness end?

If you’re like me, you feel guilty about recycling old issues you’ve already read. So where should they go? Libraries don’t really take single issues. You can try selling them back to your LCBS or maybe online. But that’s another chore in itself.

With all these factors to consider, it’s easy to feel guilty about giving up on comic books. You can start feeling bad about not supporting your LCBS and comic book creators, especially knowing how much they rely on the issue-by-issue support. It’s alright though.

If you find one or two series that you’re really passionate about, then go ahead and make a pull list for those. If you’re worried about the physical space, then consider a digital subscription. If you’re concerned about the expense, then decide on a budget to help you choose if you’ll buy individual issues or wait for trades on certain series.

Becoming a Real Writer

It’s hard to feel the confidence to say you’re a writer. I often said I like to write, but never really said I was a writer. Even when I started writing a book, I still didn’t call it a book. I called it a story or manuscript at most.

Recently though, the more I write and the more people ask what I’m working on, I started saying, “Oh, I’m writing a novel.” The first time those words came out of my mouth without any hesitation took me for a loop. When had I made the tranistion from hobby writing to writer?

As I think about the transition, I realize it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took place over the course of years of honing my craft and practicing the skill. It started as, I like to write, then changed to, I am writing stories and poems, until eventually it turned into I’m working on a manuscript.

The day I first said out loud, “I’m writing a book,” I knew I had arrived at the next phase. I am a writer. What a thrilling and yet nerve-inducing feeling it was. To speak the words, “I am a writer,” is no small feat. Ridding myself of the imposter syndrome has taken years, nay, decades, of hard work.

So, when do you know you’re a writer? When do you know you’re a real writer? The answer is: there’s no formula. It’s different for everyone. The idea of “real” before a label is arbitrary. For me, it happened when I stopped being scared of what people would think if I said, “I’m a writer, but I don’t have any big, famous publications.”

Others may never publish anything at all and consider themselves writers. That’s great. The truth is, only you can define yourself. If you want to call yourself a writer, then you’re a writer. Don’t let others’ expectations or standards sway you from your path.

What about any other fellow writers out there? When did you start to consider yourselves “real” writers? What does being a writer mean to you? Let me know in the comments!

Wanderlust: Ireland (Killarney & Ring of Kerry)

The next stop on my tour of Ireland back in March 2017 was the town of Killarney. This was somewhere between a small town and a big city, so, suburb. Strolling through the square at night with my new friends felt like I’d been doing that my whole life.

In the morning, our tour director arranged for horse carriage rides through a nearby park. We bumped along the gravel road right next to the cars driving on the street, locals on their way to their daily lives.

By now, our group was accustomed to the cool grey skies with flurries of drizzles. The cold no longer digs into our bones, at least, for us Floridians. Instead, the sting of the cold air refreshes and wakes us up.

Even out in the suburbs, Ireland proves to never lack any green. The carriage ride took us through a park forest covered in moss and mud, following the gravel path created by modern-day citizens.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Ireland without a visit to another crumbling castle. Fortress remains are scattered throughout the country, making it a land perfect for those who love the fairytale aesthetic.

Even the lake nearby with swans feels like a picture straight out of a Disney movie. There are tourists walking all along the grounds, but I imagine at night it would be emptier, making it prime real estate for a story about a haunting.

The next stop in Killarney is the Red Fox Inn, famous for its Irish coffee. This was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. At 7 a.m., I was served black coffee poured over whiskey, and topped with frothy cream. From the first sip I found myself thinking, “Now this is how you should wake up every morning.” There’s something to be said about sharing an early morning coffee and liquor with a group of strangers who are for the time being your best friends.

As we continued our trek around the Ring of Kerry, we encountered the brightest, bluest, and sunniest day in Ireland, stopping by the beach. It’s not what this Florida girl expected when I was told the beach, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I also took a rock and snuck it through airport security on the trip back (shhh!).

The bus ride around the Ring of Kerry took us through rolling hills of green, well, mountains really. The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mixed with the brisk Irish weather and gray skies was a sight to behold. The country has so much beautiful scenery to offer, each day in the Emerald Isles made it harder to look forward to my trip back home.

One of the last stops before leaving County Kerry was the Killarney National Park. We only got to spend a couple of hours in the magical forest, but it is a hiker’s dream. Just a few minutes viewing the spectacular Torc Waterfall was enough to inspire a spirit of adventure that leaves me longing for more.

You can get lost along the many roads and countrysides that Ireland has to offer, and never feel aimless. It’s the kind of place that gives new life to the cliche, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

For more posts about my trip to Ireland, see the following links: 1, 2, and 3.

If any of you have ever traveled Ireland, let me know in the comments. What were your favorite highlights? If you haven’t gone, which of these sights do you want to see?

Meagan Reads Fiction: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I picked this book up for black history month and finished it just before February ended.

Image from Goodreads

Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman growing up in Africa with some of the same concerns as most teenagers, and some not so common.

As she navigates her youth and becomes a college student, the constant protests and walk-outs from the schools’ faculties makes it hard for her and her friends to get an education. She decides to go to America, leaving her high school sweetheart Obinze behind.

This novel is not told in chronological order, but that’s the base storyline from which all the other events and moments that take place are founded on. The book takes on the Herculean task of addressing numerous sociopolitical issues, from race to feminism to sexual assault to class to culture and so much more.

While the material sounds heavy and overwhelming, Adichie’s writing is so precise and focused, that it never feels like it’s all over the place. The story itself doesn’t take on a linear structure, but its commentary and social elements are clear and articulate.

Even when the protagonist is working through the issues herself, Adichie’s development of Ifemelu’s feelings and actions in regards to them feels like real life. Sure, the characterization conveys the sense of a messy human being, but the writing itself is never a mess.

The events throughout the novel are broken up by posts that Ifemelu writes for her blog, each one relating to the particular scene happening at the moment. It was interesting to see the character’s introspective moments take place in this format, as it presented her thoughts, feelings, and opinions in a cohesive manner that couldn’t be conveyed by the narration.

One of the salient points that stood out to me is that Ifemelu is often irked by displays of false identities. She doesn’t care for two-faced people, and yet in participating in her blog that sends her into internet fame, she too wears a mask. This hypocrisy might make for an unlikeable character to some, but for me personally, I found it realistic and just plain human.

Of the many issues touched on in this novel, its handling of mental illness and how it is perceived in other cultures stood out. The basic understanding brought to light by the African characters surrounding Ifemelu is that mental illness and conditions are fake diseases made up by white people.

When Ifemelu experiences anxiety and depression, her best friend Ginika recognizes the symptoms and talks to her about it. Ifemelu’s Aunty Uju though, from an older generation, says it’s just another made-up disease created by the quirky American doctors who think everything is a disease.

The split between generations and cultures creates a striking picture of how “Americanized” those who emigrated have become. However, they are still seen as foreigners and outsiders in America, but when they return to Nigeria, they are now foreigners and outsiders to their homeland.

This idea of belonging to two places and no place all at once resonated with me, as I’ve seen it second-hand with my father, and how he’s been living in this country longer than the country he was born in, and whenever we go back to visit Ecuador, he’s an outsider there now. It’s a feeling I’m sure many readers will find rings true.

Adichie’s novel doesn’t necessarily provide answers or easy fixes to the issues discussed or the problems emigrants/immigrants face. Rather, she brings the discussions to light so that those who read the book may take on the conversation, the same way her characters have.