Tag Archives: Sam

*Harry Potter*

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” turned 20 this year, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” turned 10, and yesterday was Harry Potter’s (and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s) birthday.

I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about it (or think it’s overrated or evil or childish or whatever, and refuse to read it–their loss!), but it is a really special series, especially for my generation. We got to grow up together! I bought the first book at a Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school; my sixth grade teacher read bits of it out loud after recess every day (and we all assumed her name was pronounced Her-me-own). The next books came out alongside all the movies, so in high school I got to go to midnight showings with my friends and whichever brave parent’s turn it was to drive us around that late. The final book came out while I was in college; I attended a midnight book release, complete with costumes and trivia and Hogwarts-themed snacks, and then stayed up all night reading. I felt I finished the fight against Voldemort alongside the trio: crying at each loss, rejoicing at each triumphant sacrifice, reaching that brilliant culmination of ten years of text. I was a few years younger than Harry when it started and a few years older than him when it ended. What an honor to go through the horrible years of adolescence side by side, haha.

There are layers upon layers of lessons to gain from the series, and as I reread it almost every summer, new insights illuminate on the page. All of the heroes have flaws, but all of them are brave and loving, too. They do what’s right even when it isn’t easy, even when it means being bullied or doubted (or targeted by crazy dark wizards). Harry is stubborn but never backs down from the battle and matures enough to walk the path he knows will fix his world–which, by the way, ends up being an incredibly Christian one, making it extra depressing how many churches condemned the books. Hermione is not ashamed of being smart, and doesn’t let others stifle her voice. Ron is aware of his family’s poverty but extends food and hospitality anyway, his heart big enough to share what he has and in the process multiply it. And that’s just the main trio… I could go on and on about others, like Lupin, Luna, Sirius, Snape, James, Dumbledore, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Neville, Dobby, even Dudley and good old Hagrid (my autocorrect just had a field day with that sentence) and how they illustrated trust, rebellion, nurturing, courage, loyalty, being unique and proud, and sticking up for those in need.

And Lily… she is so much more real to me now that I hold my own messy-haired son in my arms. Hell yeah she would have leapt in front of that baby! I’m not at all surprised that she absorbed every inch of the killing curse, blanketing Harry in a love so powerful that Voldemort could never get through.

I wasn’t going to reread the series this summer, but I couldn’t resist starting the first book on its 20th anniversary despite my exhaustion. I read through four chapters just to hear Hagrid say “Harry–yer a wizard.” I finished the final book last week and wept at all the deaths even though I knew they were coming.

I can’t wait to relive the series through my little future Ravenclaw’s eyes as we read them together, with the added bonus of the new Wizarding World at Universal Studios waiting for us afterwards. What an adventure! I can’t believe it started 20 years ago, and am so grateful that it will continue to stretch on.

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Writing

Success: Sam actually sleeps a few hours each day! haha. So I’m still exhausted, but finding some time to read and to write (and eat and nap and maybe even take a hot shower once in a while).

Blogs are one of the many things I’ve been trying to catch up on–both writing my own and reading some of my favorites. I love to read blogs written by authors, about their writing process, upcoming projects, and the quirky details of their lives. Neil Gaiman is always a good go-to, and I find Kristin Cashore and Jane Lindskold’s fascinating, too.

But Laini Taylor and Sarah J. Maas have been the most inspirational to me lately.

Laini Taylor has a blog post where she writes about her editing process: that she’s never been good at the fast, NaNoWriMo-style drafts and instead writes slowly, trying her best to get it right the first time.

Sarah J. Maas’ was not actually a blog post, I’m just remembering. My taking-care-of-a-newborn brain is always scattered. She recently gave a talk through Facebook Live at her alma mater, Hamilton College, and discussed how she needs to write every day, needs to always be working on a project, because writing is like a muscle that needs exercise. If one gets out of the habit, the muscle atrophies enough to make it that much harder to jump back into an effective rhythm.  And I will take any advice she gives, because she is one of the most prolific writers I can think of, with spectacular fantasy books!

All that to say: I think I need to back away from my NaNoWriMo-style writing for a bit and see what that does for this draft. Write slowly, write the scenes in chronological order, making it feel right before moving on, and making the commitment to write every day.

Furthermore, I think I need to stop thinking in terms of numbers, of giving myself high-pressure stakes. It can make the process too intimidating. I’m not in a period of life where I need any additional pressure or intimidation; I have to keep an infant alive, and attempt to get food and sleep myself once in a while, and keep my house relatively clean and running, and somehow face the impending return to work and all of the responsibilities that teaching high school English involves. Writing needs to be one of my bright spots, and that means being something fun to look forward to.

So my current goal revolves around just… writing. Plain and simple. If I write something every day, then I’ve succeeded. Sometimes that will mean working on my novel, but even on the days like yesterday when I only fit in 300 words, that’s fine. That counts. Some days that means working on a blog draft (this one blog has stretched over two days, so even though I didn’t have two posts in a day, I did some writing both days!) and that counts too. I don’t know yet if I’m going to count journaling in here… but for now, let’s say yes, if I find time to write in my handwritten journal, that was better than nothing.

As far as novel writing/editing, I currently have a thorough outline, and “progress” now means slowly but surely checking off each bullet point (which is a scene, basically) as it’s written. I’m not going to keep track of my word count throughout. Too often, I think I hit a mental roadblock of thinking that I need to get to about 80,000 words to be marketable, and sometimes start to write filler scenes or blab on and on about unimportant details just to fill up space. Not good–and all stuff an editor would probably say to cut anyway, ruining the point of the word count. So I’m sticking to the outline and trying to make sure it’s all action-oriented and moving the story forward (of course). At the end, we’ll see what the word count is like… if it’s suffered, well, at least the story will be tight. A beta reader can help me figure out where things ACTUALLY need to be fleshed out.

I don’t know how much this post makes sense to people who are outside of my head (that’s most of you. haha) but it can serve as a reminder and promise to myself of my current writing goals. I’m excited! Some of this motivation has been helped along by Gabriela Pereira’s “DIY MFA,” which I’ve been reading in the times I can steal during Sam’s naps that aren’t devoted to writing or eating. I just found out that she’s doing two talks (and workshops) in southern California this week, and I can make it to the Tuesday one! Will try to report back… :)

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How Books Are Like Babies

My baby is here! Sam was born right on his due date, and is a happy, chill little guy… most of the time. Except that he hates sleeping yet fusses when he gets overtired, so it’s quite the battle for nap time every day. Motherhood is very exhausting, seeing as he eats every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, but it’s totally worth it.

I thought maybe I could get some writing done on my maternity leave, but I’ve been too exhausted to accomplish much. About 4 days ago, I decided I NEEDED to try to do some during the tiny pockets of time when I’m on my laptop. I’ve written a little bit 3 days in a row now! So that feels good. I’m extra desperate to make money as a writer because daycare is ridiculously expensive.

Anyway, in my sleepless (i.e. delirious) state, here are some silly ways I realized books are like babies:

  • Babies grow bit by bit every day, and it takes a while before you notice how much they’ve truly grown. Books can be the same: just keep writing bit by bit and suddenly you will notice how much you’ve actually written.
  • Babies are so dependent on their mom; she needs to take care of herself or else she won’t be able to provide properly for them (I write from experience here… every time I skip a meal or fail to drink enough water, Sam gets frustrated from my lack of milk). Similarly, if writers don’t take care of themselves–whether that’s taking the time to read good books, take walks to refresh their minds, consume something besides coffee, and so on–they will have nothing with which to fuel their writing.
  • Babies, being a combination of the genetic material of both mom and dad, look a little bit like both parents in some way. A book, coming from the brain of its writer, will incorporate his/her voice and the various influences and experiences of his/her life.
  • Both babies and books might cause screaming if dropped into a bath.
;) Happy writing!
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a reflection on Samwise Gamgee

Is there any literary character greater than Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings?

I think not.

He begins as a simple gardener, a hobbit who is not the best or brightest. He’s too shy to talk to Rosie and scared to take the step past the cornfield, because “if [he] takes one more step, it’ll be the furthest away from home [he’s] ever been.” But his bravery is evident, even at the beginning, because he takes that step anyway. Gandalf asks him to watch after Frodo and Sam takes his charge very seriously. At all steps, even when others in the Fellowship falter, Sam keeps Frodo’s safety as his first priority, even over his own. When he sees Frodo sailing away, he chases him through the water even though he can’t swim. When things seem hopeless–and the poor hobbits have no idea how much more hopeless they’ll feel later–Sam inspires Frodo to keep going, with his speech:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.” (Frodo asks) “What are we holding onto, Sam?” “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

Okay, he’s mean to Gollum/Smeagol, but he trusts his gut and his gut says (eat second breakfast and) that Gollum has ill intentions, which we all know is true. He complains a bit, but hobbits are used to comfort and he’s a far ways off from his hobbit hole–I can’t blame him too much for that. He’s devastated after the Shelob incident, when he believes Frodo has been killed, but he doesn’t let despair drive him to inaction; he overcomes the grief and does what is required. He takes up the ring and vows to finish the mission to destroy it by himself, because he understands the extreme importance of this task.

And then, when Frodo is alive but overwhelmed with the power of the ring, Sam has his great line: “Mr. Frodo, I may not be able to carry the ring for you, but I can carry you.” He picks up his hobbit friend and the ring and carries them up Mount Doom. Epic battles fill Middle Earth during this time period, but it all hinges on the two tiny hobbits and the Gollum-creature trying to destroy a horrible, powerful ring.

So after the whole Nazgul/orc/Mount Doom adventure, Sam finally has the courage to talk to Rosie, and they have thirteen baby hobbits together.

I love it! Sam is so brave despite his fear, which is the best example of bravery. He grows so much over the course of the books in manners big and small, even though he is in no way a conventional hero. All of the characters are important in their own way, but I like to think that Sam is the most important in the long run.

I know this post is really random, but it’s on my mind… I cheated a little because Jeff and I are currently re-watching the movies, instead of re-reading the books, but Sean Astin did a great portrayal of Sam, so that’s okay. I really like Samwise and I wanted to try to put into words “why.” :)

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