The Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure

LOST

My friend and I jokingly describe each other as “Born to be Mild.” She rides motorcycles. And I? Well, I don’t do much of anything too “out there,” but I’m game for just about anything–just about.

I have a long list of books I hope to write, but I’ve reserved the title of this blog for a future book, titled, of course, The Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure.

I know the real rebels laugh at me. I’m not quite a Thelma or a Louis, but I’d make a pretty good Lucy or Ethel. Go ahead, you “normal” people. Laugh or roll your eyes, but you might consider loosening up a little bit. I’m not running with Hell’s Angels. But even the Wild Hogs yearn for adventure.

Me too! Me too!  As long as I’m home by eight.

Seriously though, I’ve had my fair share of “adventure,” mild though it may be. Check it out:

  • I’ve met and mingled with oodles of celebrities and gawked with the best of you. I haven’t been arrested once for stalking, but I’m not dead yet.
  • You know those crime-drama shows where the cops come to a screeching stop, block the get-away car with their own vehicles, pull their guns, and order the perpetrators to spread ’em to be frisked? Intense, right? Well, baby, I’ve been in the get away car–only I wasn’t trying to get away. I was simply leaving a pizza joint and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s what happens when you get caught in the middle of a drug sting and are pegged as the pick up. Not!
  • And then there was the time I wandered down to a riverside festival  in Memphis to try out my new camera. Memphis. Expensive camera. Alone. The dark. A riverside festival. Mix all these ingredients, and you should have disaster, but I walked away smiles and grins from felons. I was too stupid to know that I was asking members of the Outlaws to pose. At least they were nice about it. And they didn’t kill me.
  • I like bikers! My first real motorcycle ride was on the back of an Indian motorcycle that belonged to a biker dude I met when I spent part of a summer in Colorado. Okay, okay. Maybe the guy wasn’t in a biker gang. Maybe it was more like a club, kind of like a chess club with leather jackets and Bibles. But I really did think I was going to die as I clung to the back of a total stranger going 70 mph on the open road.
  • Then there was the time I ran away with a cowboy. Well, maybe I didn’t really run away, but I jumped in his Chevy van and took off. Never saw him before in my life. Okay, maybe we didn’t run away. Maybe I exaggerated a bit. Maybe we just drove to the Jiffy Burger. Thank goodness for me (or my mama would’ve killed me), he turned out to be the perfect gentleman and became a good friend. At least I didn’t lie about the cowboy part. He really was a bull rider from Oklahoma.
  • And finally, there was the night I was chased by ax murders in the middle of a cow pasture in rural Rutherford County. No embellishment of the facts. Every bit is true, but I’ll save that story for another time.

The point is I think I have something inside of me that most people don’t have. It’s a spark or a sparkle. It’s that thing kids have right before they realize they’re too old to play make believe. It’s a sense of adventure.

I’ve got it! And because I’ve got it, I think my imagination can craft stories that young people want to hear. My kids at school listen. They always want me to tell one more

I just wish I could convince editors and agents that I’ve got that “thing” they’re looking for. Why is it the editors and agents have to be the picky ones?

I wish I could walk into a conference and say, “Hey, here I am, everything you’ve ever been looking for. You better not pass me by. Somewhere in this publishing world, the right agent and editor are going to find me. You’ll be sorry you were afraid to take a chance.”

But it doesn’t work like that. Right, fellow writers?

We go bonkers practicing our elevator pitches. We fight to sit by our favorite agent or editor at the conference luncheons. We write query letters that are highly likely to hear the clunk of a virtual trash can.

Oh, it’s a hard life, the life of a wannabe writer.

But, when all is said and done, I’m just going to pray and allow God to orchestrate his will. Paths cross for a reason–divine appointments, they’re called. What is supposed to be will be.

I can honestly say I like who I am. If anything, I’m unpredictable. And living inside my own head is a rollercoaster ride with its ups and downs.

I guess I’ll have to wait to see how the story ends.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Let’s keep it G-rated. Help me write my Good Girl’s Guide to Adventure. What’s the first rule you would add?

WORDS OF WISDOM
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~  Helen Keller

MUSIC NOTES
Come on get ready for the ride of your life / Gonna leave long-faced religion in a cloud of dust behind / And discover all the new horizons just waiting to be explored / This what we were created for ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, “The Great Adventure”

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijqnsRqSo2k

FINAL THOUGHT

Quote Series ChalkboardPOOHSPIRIT

Mind games

Yes, the title’s a a bit deceiving. I’m not really playing mind games, but when it comes to hooking a reader, writers have to execute the right strategies to get their readers into the heads of their characters so their readers can care enough to connect with their characters.

YA writers and readers, I need your input. Being a novice, I am careful to follow all the rules. Survey says—so far—editors don’t fancy adult POV characters telling part of the story, even if young adult characters carry the majority of it.

What do you think? Can a successful YA novel include an adult POV character, especially one who can speak candidly and objectively about the events in the teen world without passing judgment? Will teens buy into the story?

We all have our artistic licenses, and we can navigate inside and outside the boundaries. I have a story or two to tell, and for me to tell it truly, I need to take my young readers into the mind of an adult.

For years, the teacher in me has fought for the young adults, defending their hair styles, clothing choices, tats, piercings, music choices, etc. I’ve heard seasoned adults put down young people because of what they are, the age they are, without getting to know who they are, without getting into their heads.

But now I’m old. I see life from a different perspective. I think the underdog is fastly becoming the older adult, sadly synonymous with antiquated and obsolete, especially the older teacher.

Dedicated older teachers have given their students everything they’ve learned, as well as a portion of their paychecks to buy extra school supplies, and at the end of the day, these same teachers watch their prodigies leave their classrooms and march out to the student parking lots to drive off in shiny new machines, hot from the assembly line.

Meanwhile, after packing their briefcases and bags, seasoned teachers drag their weary bodies and pounds of take-home work to their own junkers waiting for them in the teacher’s parking lot. They count their pennies along the way, hoping they’ll have enough to pay for gas to take them to the middle of next month, pay day. And they wonder, “Do I really have anything that makes these kid want to listen to me?”

When I write, I want to make my young readers feel something about themselves, about their peers, about their mentors. Even if I’m making them laugh, I want them to learn something, to experience Verstehen, “empathy” or “understanding.”

I want to bring people together—not further divide them. The generation gap is growing exponentially.

I think it’s time YA novels, along with other forms of media, stop downplaying the role of the older adult, especially teachers.

It’s not uncommon for young consumers to be media illiterate. They believe everything they’re told. For years, we teachers have been the “bad guys” of most kid shows. Even Charlie Brown’s teacher was just another “Wa Wa Wa WA Wah Wa.”

And have you seen the movie trailers for Bad Teacher, staring Cameron Diaz, Jason Timberlake, and Jason Segel? I don’t want to be portrayed as just another a bad character in the lives of my students. The list goes on. Let us not forget Mr. Herbert Garrison from South Park, Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter, Edna Krabappel from The Simpsons, and Sue Sylvester from Glee. And that’s just fiction!

Turn on the nightly news, and viewers can catch mug shots of teachers who have crossed the line and committed pedophilia and other criminal acts.

Yep, I’m on my soapbox again, but oh how powerful is the act of persuasion.

Let me write. Let me SHOW teens life as it really is. Let ME persuade. Let me take young readers on a trip into the minds of older characters who have been there, done that, and lived to tell about it without condemning or commanding the young people they’re sent to guide.

I believe we writers are doing our YA readers a disservice by not allowing them to listen to the older characters. Yes, teens want to be the stars of their own shows, but they need adults in their lives. They need adults in their books. They need to see into the heads of the adults, to see adults critically, not stereotypically.

Face it. Kids grow up. The thought terrifies them. They need the reassurance that growing up doesn’t mean losing their sense of adventure, their dreams, their sense of wonder. Stepping into the mind of an adult POV character reassures them that growing up doesn’t mean giving up who they are and who they want to be.

I asked my young adult readers what they think about adult POV characters in YA novels. The following is a sample of what they had to say:

  • Rebecca said that adding an adult character who remains a quiet confidant makes the book dramatic because the adult holds a secret but chooses not to tell.
  • Haylee said adult characters work only if they have the “cool” factor and if they’re fun.
  • Lynnie and Payton said likeable adult characters in YA novels provide reliable advice to teen characters.
  • Charlie pointed out that authoritative figures are common in any situation involving teens, but including them in a YA novel provides futher insight or wisdom and creates a parallelism between child and adult.
  • Kayla said she doesn’t have a problem with adults being characters in YA novels because if the adult is cool enough for the characters to interact with then the adult is probably cool enough for the reader to hear his or her thoughts.
  • Izzy said adult characters in YA novels act as guides for the teen characters, and Whitney said adult characters allow teen readers to look up to someone older.
  • Beth said one of her favorite books involves a teacher who is there for her students who need help.
  • Ashleigh, Tyler and Liz said adding an adult character that teens can talk to and relate to makes the story itself more believable, and Aubrey said adult characters create a trustworthy, comforting safety net for both young adult characters and young adult readers.
  • Benjamin pointed out that YA novels with adult POV characters might encourage the readers, especially those in high school, to feel more like adults themselves.
  • And Katie stated the obvious—adults are a part of every teen’s life. Why shouldn’t they play a role in their stories?

So writers, readers, lend me your advice based on your experience. Should writers avoid incorporating adult POV characters in their novels? Tell me what you think. I want to learn from you.

Midsouth SCBWI Update

Tomorrow I will remember every drop of red ink I’ve splashed on a student’s paper. It’s payback time. I will meet with 7-time NY Bestselling writer Ellen Hopkins, who will critique my manuscript. I’m bracing myself for what’s to come. It’s my turn to listen and learn.

The great thing is that Ellen knows how we writers feel. She’s been there. I admire the passion she possesses for helping other writers see their dreams come true. 

As I listened to her recount her  journey as she gave the keynote address, I realized that we writers all have our own journeys. Often our stories come from the pain we have suffered, and through writing we learn how to deal with our struggles. I hope that if my path continues to stretch toward publication that God will give me opportunities to help new writers, especially teens.

So here I am in Nashville.

I’ve made great strides since the Indy conference. I’m not on the 18th floor this time, but I am able to walk near the rails overlooking the open area. I haven’t pushed, bumped or cussed one person who nudged me toward the open space. (Please note that it is not my nature to do these things, but extreme fear brings out the worst in me.)

So far I’ve enjoyed all the sessions. I’ve picked up several autographed books, including one with a scary Sasquatch-looking creature on the front cover. It’s for my younger son, but all the Lockhart men have had their own dealings with Sasquatch–and no, I’m not referring to myself. I’ll save that story for a later time.

Editor Ruta Rimas of Balzer and Bray has been on hand to lead a few workshops, including the First-Page critique session. In case you don’t know, a First-Page session calls for writers to anonymously submit the first page of their work for critique. Ruta made several excellent points we writers should keep in mind.

  • Remember one editor’s opinion may differ from another. If you don’t get the response you desire from the first editor, don’t be afraid to submit somewhere else. Editors have their own preferences.
  • Writers who want to write for the YA market should double check to see if their topics are relevant in today’s teen world.
  • Fantasy (speculative) writers must, must, MUST create a believable world at the beginning. Otherwise, most editors won’t turn the page.
  • Don’t overwrite. Don’t over do the description.
  • Make sure you open your novel with the RIGHT scene.
  • According to Rita Rumas, historical fiction and “fish out of water” stories may be tough markets for new writers to break into in the general children’s market.
  • Rumas also suggests adding an unusual touch, such as maybe adding a paranormal element to the historical genre.
  • Lovely prose garners attention, but the story must move forward with successful pacing.
  • Each character should have his or her own voice in the novel.
  • Editors want writers who are already involved in a critique group.

Before I log off to finish polishing my manuscript, I’ll leave you with a thought. Adventure and story exist everywhere around us. You never know when you’ll meet your next character, so get ready to write.

Just a couple of superheroes fighting crime in downtown Nashville

Construction ahead!

As a journalism teacher and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several Christian and general market publications, I have a passion for encouraging young Christian journalists to boldly accept their leadership roles as Guardians of the Truth. Thank you for visiting my blog. Please take this opportunity to interact with other Christian journalists, advisers and readers by telling us more about yourself. 

I am in the process of revamping this blog. Your ideas and PRAYERS are welcome!

Starting in August, every week at SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM readers can look forward to valuable resources to help them both in the classroom and in their personal Christian journeys. While the Internet offers a vast variety of journalism resources, my goal is to include specific resources that target the needs of young Christian writers who desire to share the truth without compromise. Possible topics include the following:

  • Personal testimonies of student journalists and advisers
  • Spotlights on student journalists, journalism staffs and advisers
  • Writing and design tips
  • Story ideas
  • Discussions pertaining to current events and ethics
  • Pointers for getting published in Christian and general markets
  • Links to blogs of writing experts
  • Links to blogs of student journalists and student fiction writers
  • Team-building techniques for student editors and advisers
  • Author interviews
  • Songwriter interviews
  • Plus, contests and FREEBIES!

In addition to my work as a high school teacher and a freelance writer, I have recently completed my first YA novel, The Edge, which will hopefully launch a series.

 Brief synopsis

High school journalist TJ Westbrook, a Memphis transplant and parkour (PK) enthusiast, is obsessed with finding the story that will change his life. He enlists the help of fellow journalist Megan Crosslin. Megan knows a lot about PK too, just not parkour. She’s a preacher’s kid with an obsession of her own, TJ Westbrook. On his journey to journalistic fame, TJ stalks a blues legend and befriends a real-life superhero. But when he and Megan crash an underage drinking party, TJ realizes being a guardian of the truth requires more than a sense of adventure. He secretly records incriminating evidence of the quarterback’s father handing out beer to underage teens, including three seniors who die later that night in an alcohol-related automobile accident. TJ and Megan find themselves standing on the edge of truth. What will they do with the story that can change the lives of everyone at Edgewood?

 It is my hope that SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM will serve as a launch pad for young Christians and their mentors to meet and to share ideas. I welcome your comments and the links to your blogs. Together we can make a positive impact on our culture.

 Thanks again for visiting,

Teresa “Tee” Lockhart

 Credentials

  • Certified Journalism Instructor by the Journalism Education Association
  • Middle Tennessee Scholastic Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Tennessee High School Press Association Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities
  • Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year

 Member

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Middle Tennessee Christian Writers
  • Romance Writers of America
  • Tennessee Writers Alliance
  • Christian Educators International
  • Journalism Education Association
  • Tennessee High School Press Association
  • Quill and Scroll

Bonnaroo, naked people and writing

Analogies. English teachers love ‘em. High school students butcher ‘em. There’s a lot you can learn from analogies, the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe you can’t recall the definition of an analogy. Maybe it was just too long ago since you had your last English class, 30 years for some of you, 30 days for others. An analogy is a comparison. Here are a few of the WORST possible analogies as collected by the Washington Post.

  • Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  • The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

(For more check out www.innocentenglish.com.)

I think I shall add to this list of the worst:  Writing is a whole lot like Bonnaroo.

Well, it is for me anyway. You see, with writing—as with Bonnaroo—one MUST be prepared for the adventure before one embarks. I have learned the hard way with both. One MUST be prepared.

Over the last few years I have helped here and there with the Bonnaroo ministry. I spent hours and hours and hours preparing a free publication that might be of service to our visitors, and occasionally I have worked in a service area, handing out items such as cold drinks, toiletries, and food to weary festival attendees. I really like talking to people, and everyone has always been very nice, so my Bonnaroo experiences have always been pleasant. But last year was a different story. Last year I wanted to slip in the festival itself and catch the last few minutes of a band playing on the main stage. Should not have been a problem. I’ve been inside before. But there was one problem. I was not prepared for last year’s inside experience.

For starters we were driving our truck on a road swimming with pedestrians. The traffic flow had to keep moving, had to keep moving. Keep moving. Those are the key words. My husband stressed those words. “When I stop, get out fast. I’ve got to keep moving. ” When we reached the designated area, I did not want to make him mad. I leapt out of the truck and kept moving. It wasn’t until he was out of my sight that I realized I had left my cell phone in the car. I had no means of contacting him. But I ventured forth to find the music.

I made it there with no problem. I saw the last five or ten minutes of the show. But as I left, I realized I had no idea how to get out, so I proceeded to follow the masses and ended up in a place I did not recognize. My sense of direction isn’t what it should be.  The sun had set by now, and I was officially in panic mode. I was stepping over people, dodging people, fearful that I would never see my family again. Then from out of no where I felt something hit me right on the derrière. My first thought was that my husband had brought my child into the den of sin and our son had popped his mom, just being silly. I was mistaken. When I turned around, I stared into the face of a rather scary looking red-headed stranger who simply said, “Hey, lady. Looked like you needed that.”

In the words of my students, I officially freaked out at that point. I ran. Through the people. By the people. Over the people. Behind the people. I covered all the prepositions. It didn’t matter. I kept moving. I was praying like crazy that God would get me back to safety because I was totally lost and turned around. Within seconds of my prayer one of my former newspaper students saw me and recognized my panic look. After I promised him I had not sampled the balloons, brownies or bongs, he lent me his phone and showed me the way out.

Moral of the story: I was not prepared for the adventure. 

This year I opted to spend the night at Bonnaroo, working late in the service area, helping people in need. I was prepared, prayed up and ready to go. I did not get lost. However, my group did have an unforgettable encounter with naked people who approached us for help. I am generally the shyest person in the group. I blush at the mention of the word derrière. My husband is the talker, but oddly he didn’t say a word—he left the conversation all to me. And I made my way through it without giggling, snorting or passing out due to extreme embarrassment.

So how does this fit in with writing? 

Many of you are starting school. Though you may be in denial now, I can promise you one of those crazy teachers will ask you to write something. Prepare. Don’t wing it. Spare yourself the embarrassment. As for you Edge staff members, you will start your writing journey on Tuesday. If there is anything I want you to learn, it is that you must prepare before you write. We talked about researching the topic. I also want you to research the style. I don’t know how many students I have had in the past who have tried to write a sports story or a review or a news story without having studied the craft. Read, read, read. If you don’t know what good writing looks like, how do you to expect to produce it? Go find what you want to write and read it! 

I want to write YA fiction. So guess what I will do this year?  Read, read, read. I’m depending on all of my staff members to give me a heads up on their favorite reads. Don’t let me slack up. Hold me accountable.

As for those of you who have already graduated, you too have an assignment. Perhaps you have always wanted to get a poem or short story published. What are you waiting for? Chop, chop. Prepare. Check out the Writer’s Market. Google the next writer conference. Pursue your dream.

Some of you have the gift of encouragement. Maybe God will use your writing in a special way by prompting you to add an encouraging note in an e-mail, a Facebook message or a text. How will you know what to say? Prepare. Pray and look for God’s divine appointment. He even makes those possible in Cyberland.

Some people call it serendipity. We know what it really is.

Leaving Manchester for the good

Well, I’ve decided to pack my bags and to leave Manchester.

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who have supported me during the three or so weeks that I have been in possession of a complete, revised novel. I especially want to thank the EDGE staff for advising me during the year-long writing process. Without your help I would not have had “straight from the horse’s mouth insider information” concerning what teens do and do not want to read. And thank you, EDGE staff, for helping me get a better handle on what teens would really do if they were faced with the same types of crises that TJ and Megan face. I could not have made it this far without you.

Even though you have been an incredible support system to me, I realize I need more—namely an agent, an editor and a publishing house. Hmmm. I have bribed you a couple of times in the past. Would a bribe work now? How about Aztec Chicken every Friday at El Manantial until for the first person who can bring me the three aforementioned items?  On second thought, let me rethink that offer. I am envisioning an illegal kidnapping plot involving one or more Edgers—all for the sake of Aztec Chicken. I can see said agent being duct-taped and taken away in a little orange VW bus full of crazed writers in dreadlocks and hippie shirts.

But as I was saying, I have decided to leave Manchester to attend the ACFW Conference at the end of summer if all goes well, but I’ll return within a few days. (And, yes, some family members will accompany me to make sure I stay out of trouble.) I hope that while I am there I will learn the process of acquiring the three treasures listed above. All kidding aside, please keep me in your prayers. The YA (young adult) market is very competitive right now, and prayer is a necessity.

I’m really shocked that the YA market is so tough. When I walk into the classroom, I see most of you lugging around a book or two, and I’m not talking about required reading. Of course, I teach writers, and good readers, as we know, make good writers. Maybe that’s why YOU have a book in your hands. Your reading and writing go hand in hand.

I want to know what it is about the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series that lures both young and older readers. What magic do these novels possess? Are teens reading anything else these days? If so, what? Speaking of reading, what are you reading right now? 

I’ll go first, and then it’s your turn.  As you know I just finished, The Heart’s Journey Home by Jen Stephens. Next, on my list is In Between by Jenny B. Jones. After that, I’ll looking forward to a novel by Kaye Dacus. I was also hoping for another Odd Thomas novel by Dean Koontz, but it appears Odd is only appearing in graphic novels these days. Sigh.

It’s your turn now.