Friday, May 24, 2019

A Literature Degree...oh...What are you going to do with THAT?

Ummm….All the Things?

I cannot count the number of times I’ve had an interaction like this one:

Random person: “You just graduated college? Congratulations! What was your degree in?”

Me: *with enthusiasm* “Literature!”

Random person: “.........”

Random person: “You know you’re never going to be able to get a job with that, right?”


Me: “I could get this job. The job I have. The one you’re standing here talking to me at. This one. I got this one.”

Random person: “Yeah but…”

Me *interrupting*: “I like this job because it pays my bills and leaves me with the mental bandwidth to pursue writing and possibly getting published one day.”

Random person: *Pitying look.*

Random person: *Stops short of telling me they don’t believe I’m ever going to get published.*

Me: *Stops short of telling them how much I don’t like being told by anyone, friends and strangers alike, that the thing I just dedicated the last six years of my life to achieving is completely useless, and also that I’m so unlikely to succeed at my dreams that it would just be better if I didn’t try at all.*

Here are all the things I’d like to say in these interactions, but generally don’t:

First of all, if I had wanted a job such as doctor, or engineer, or underwater basket weaver, for which I would need a particular degree, I would have gotten that degree. I always had the grades to do whatever. Not necessarily do it at Harvard, but do it, for sure. I chose literature because I knew I would be miserable as a lawyer or a therapist, or a drug lord. I chose literature because as a degree it opens up every single door I care to think about maybe someday walking through.

Let me unpack that last statement.

People seem to assume that if your degree is in literature or English the only thing you can possibly do with that degree is write books, which, they assume is out of the reach of mere mortals, thereby rendering the whole endeavor a useless and expensive pipe dream.

This is just not true. Publishing is done by mere mortals all the time to varying degrees of success. I will write as a hobby and hope for the best, but in the meantime I can do So Many Things. I can do what I am already doing: be an administrative assistant at an interior design company. If I take the time to learn the design side of this business more, I could be selling $$$ in by-Abby custom kitchens in a few years. Or not. *Shrugs*

If I want to go somewhere else, I could be an editor, a journalist, a, a researcher, a program reviewer, and that’s just using my degree with some sort of specificity. I could also do any of the myriad jobs that just require a degree in Literally Anything such as private school teaching (anywhere in the world), the FBI, dispatch, reception or administration Literally Anywhere, MOST NON-STEM GRADUATE PROGRAMS including law, library science, and much more. OR I could get a job that doesn’t happen to require a degree like just about any kind of sales, small business ownership, alpaca farming, hot-air balloon piloting, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Second of all, most jobs these days rest on certifications, licenses, previous experience, and on-the-job training more than any particular degree. As the higher education market continues to charge kids gold-plated yachts full of twenty-dollar bills for fancy pieces of paper and an entitlement mentality that says, “Now I’ll take my dream job at 50K a year (starting) please. I’ve got crippling student debt to pay. No, I don’t have any experience,” the job market is saying more and more, “We don’t care what you paid for or what that piece of paper says, we care what you can do.”

Third and last, unless someone’s path in life is one you genuinely and lovingly believe is going to damage them, let them have their hobbies, dreams, and weird obsessions. Failure can be just as rich a life experience as success. Let that happen, whether your friend/family member is trying to get into professional music, professional basketball, or serial killer profiling. If you see your loved one gunning for financial or psychological ruin, speak up. If you see them embarking on a life that will not earn them the same salary it was your aspiration to achieve, let them be. Their priorities may not be yours, but if they’re pursuing the gifts and passions God has given them with honest, hard work, there’s nothing wrong with that. They will find more joy than you might imagine.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"The Breakfast Dress," A Poem

                  selective focus photography of pink petaled daisy flower in vase

I wrote this while driving through West Virginia one morning while the frost was still out on the grass. I had to memorize each line before I could add another or it would have been lost to the drive.
I don’t write poetry often. The urge doesn’t strike me often. As you see, it hasn’t since the winter.

I hope you like it.

“The Breakfast Dress”
There are gauzy mornings

When robin’s egg, blush, and ivory tulle

Fall in layers on the feet of the mountains

Comfortable in slippers of pine

And as the sky approaches

Each blade of grass stands to attention

Clad in winter suits of fine crystal

Not even Solomon in all his glory

Was arrayed like one of these

And not even Aphrodite

Could rival the sky in her breakfast dress

But God made the grass for our cattle to eat

And He gave us the pines for our houses

He moves the mountains out of our way

And commands the sky at our request

So Darling

I don’t know why you’re worried how you’re dressed

Monday, May 20, 2019

10 Newish YA Novels that Colored my Last Six Months

By way of explanation: YA is the industry-recognized acronym for the Young Adult genre, arguably the most influential, colorful, and thoughtful genre of the current literary era. All my ratings are based on the Goodreads Metric: 1-5 of 5 stars. In Abbyland that’s: 1- Hated its guts 2- Didn’t like it, but saw some redeeming value 3- Enjoyed it, but not too much. You might like it more. Read if the premise intrigues you 4- Liked it a lot. Recommend. 5- LOVED IT. Highly Recommend.


1 All the Crooked Saints (October, 2017) by Maggie Stiefvater while she had hookworms living in her face. Five stars.

A book about miracles and radio waves, sinners and so-called saints. About bondage made allegorically physical and darkness made light. A book about fake roses so wonderfully made they look real and real roses so wonderfully grown they look fake. A book about silence and noise. About interminable guilt and authentic Mexican food (yes, in the same sentence). A book about looking at darkness in others made manifest and loving them anyways, and about looking at darkness in ourselves and refusing to put up with it anymore. A book about the wisdom of brokenness. Not a Christian author, just a woman who gets quite a few things very right. Highly Recommend.

2 Manga Shakespeare: Twelfth Night (Okay so not remotely recent, but I Just Discovered it, so there) play by William Shakespeare, text adapted by Richard Appignanesi, illustrated by Nana Li. Five stars.

The entirety of this ever-growing series is a beautiful mix of East and West and does tribute to the Bard. Twelfth Night is currently my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s not my very favorite of the series, but it is a Solid offering for sure. Each installment was illustrated by a different manga artist, giving the works of Shakespeare a broad treatment in the Eastern graphic style. The original language is preserved, but the artist and adapter take liberties with the settings and character portrayals within those settings. Check it out and call me when you’re ready to freak out, mmkay? Highly Recommend.

3 A Curse So Dark and Lonely (January, 2019) by Brigid Kemmerer. Four stars.

A dark and lonely twist on Beauty and the Beast complete with a modern DC princess with cerebral palsy. There’s not a lot I can say here without SpOiLeRs, but it was quiet and tense, and I really liked it. It felt more genuine and gritty than your typical fairy tale without departing from the conventions of the genre. Both the princess and the prince are Real People, not airbrushed ideals. The book examines the necessity of selflessness in the face of your own limitations both for your own success and for others. It works to define courage and heroism in new and different lights. It features a David and Jonathan-like male friendship I really liked, and also one of the more well-rounded evil witches I’ve seen. Recommend.

4 Obsidio (March, 2018) by Aimee Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Five stars.

The final installment in the incredible space opera that is The Illuminae Files. I say opera. I mean three-part dossier of video transcripts, IMs, photographs, journal excerpts, e-mails, photographs, and other items of evidence collected against the evil space company Beitech. Alternative title: B*it*ch Gets Space-Punked Three Times in a Row by a Sassy Bunch of Kids and also a Psychopathic A.I., then Taken to Court. This final installment wasn’t Quite as mind-blowing as the first two with their mutated viruses, space parasites, and alternate realities, but it’s a solid end to an amazing tale and gets a Highly Recommend from me.

5 Truly, Devious (January, 2018) by Maureen Johnson. Four Stars.
I took up A Clockwork Reader's recommendation on this one, and it did not disappoint. Truly, Devious is The Mysterious Benedict Society meets Sherlock Holmes. I can’t say too much, but there is an old, unsolved kidnapping and a modern murder at a school for super-nerds. There are truly fascinating characters and a famous, cryptic letter signed, “Truly, Devious”. All of the intrigue commences. I impatiently await my chance to get my hands on the sequel, The Vanishing Stair. To whoever currently has it out from Loudoun County Public Library, can you hurry the heck up? I need to know what happens. Recommend. Content Warning: at least two actively dating LGBTQ side characters if that's something that bothers you. Also murder if that's something that bothers you.

6 Long May She Reign (February 2017) by Rhiannon Thomas. Four stars.

Another book with murder! I’ve been on a bit of a murder mystery kick lately. It sounds weird, but murder mysteries are so Cozy! This one is like the female princess version of the TV show, Designated Survivor, which, admittedly I’ve seen scene and a preview for. Mostly I just loved that the princess, turned queen, is a socially-awkward scientist far more interested in figuring out who poisoned the entire court than wearing pretty dresses or asking people to approve of her. The book is not super deep, but it’s highly relatable and a family-friendly choice for even elementary kids. Aside from, you know, the mass murder part. Recommend.

7 The Sacred Lies of Minnow Blye (June 2015) by Stephanie Oakes. Five stars.

Speaking of super deep. This book is super deep. I was scared to sneak it off my sister’s shelf for the longest time, not only because Liz is a dragon with a hoard about her books, but also because it’s a story about a girl in Juvie who’s just lost her hands to the cult she grew up in. It’s a hard book, but it’s good. It’s the sort of thing Christians ought to read in order to think rather carefully about the ways in which we cross lines into believing and enforcing doctrines that sound spiritual and give us power but are not in the Bible. That or use that which Is in the Bible in wrong and hurtful ways. Both of these mis-uses stand starkly in this compassionate novel. It’s most powerful theme is in its title: there are lies which we hold as sacredly as truth. And when we hold lies in this way, we hurt people and feel good about it. Highly Recommend.

8 Replica (October 2016) by Lauren Oliver. Three stars.

This book didn’t quite live up to the hype, but it was enjoyable. I’ll get around to the sequel eventually. It’s claim to fame is that it is a story told twice through two different sets of eyes: Lyra’s and Gemma’s, and you can start with whichever and get a completely different feel for it. They both get things wrong. Both understand some things better than the other does. Both find out they’ve been wrong about themselves and their worlds for a very long time. It’s a fascinating examination of the necessity of a bit of relativism in literature when you’re dealing in human perspective. We lie to ourselves about what we see, and we tell the story to ourselves wrong before we tell it wrong to anyone else. Read if you’re intrigued (I was).

9 The Mortal Engines (2001, but the movie (click for a trailer) was just released last December) by Philip Reeve. Book: three stars. Movie: four stars.

This is one of the few books out there where I genuinely feel the movie is better. The movie is a steampunk flick about cities on wheels that roll through their post-apocalyptic landscape and eat smaller cities. Their politics are built upon justifications for their barbaric actions including slavery of the citizens of consumed cities. It’s also a study in unsustainability. The story is about what happens when you have to come to terms with the fact that the way you thought was right your whole life may, in fact, be evil. Evil people can be those who know that what they do is wrong and do it anyway. But evil people can also be those who don’t ever ask themselves whether what they’re doing is right, and instead just thoughtlessly follow along behind a wicked leader or influencer. I personally think the characters in this book are a bit darker than than they need to be, and the series gets darker as it goes along. I recommend the movie, but maybe stop there unless you really want to get into the series. Book lovers, please don’t tar and feather me. The format of book is not the holy grail of storytelling. It’s just generally more conducive to depth. Case in Point...

10 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (July 2016) Play by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Five stars.

I’m soooo late getting on the bandwagon with this one. I wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter until I was 18 (my parents have since repented of their crimes against humanity XD), so I didn’t get around to reading this installment until I finished the original series. Which was recently. I think I’m going to write a whole post on why Harry Potter is one of the best things that ever happened in children’s/YA literature, and why parents really needn’t fear it will lead their children into the occult. Show of hands, how many of you Potterheads have tried to make a horcrux? LIZ PUT YOUR HAND DOWN. No one? Cool. See parents? Completely safe. So look forward to that! Meanwhile, I highly recommend this transition of Rowling’s (with the help of some playwrights) into her now-preferred format: Screenplay/Script.

Bonus Title: The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaesia Vol. 1 (December, 2018) by Christopher Paolini. Five stars.

If you loved The Inheritance Cycle (As I do...I Just Reread the Whole Goshdarn Thing), then try out this little collection of short stories. If not, don’t bother. You won’t get any of it. Even if you have read the series but it’s been awhile, and you weren’t a total nerd about it, these stories will probably be too full of obscure references to make much sense. *Insert more Nerdy Literary Snobbishness*. Highly Recommend.

Annnnd I’ll leave you with that. Leave a question or comment about any of the above titles. If you disagree with any of my reviews Definitely leave a comment. I want to hear your thoughts. What YA books have captured Your imagination lately?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Graduates College, Starts a Blog


I have a degree in Literature. Not English, mind you. Literature. Stories. I moved from Coastal Maine to Northern Virginia to study stories. I thought I wanted to study true stories, that is, Journalism, and I did that for a year before I decided I wanted to study real stories, that is, My Story, that is, Drop Out of College for Financial Reasons and Make a Life For Myself. And then after waiting tables for a bit, I went to work for a church, which was one of the worst life decisions I have ever made, but at the time it seemed better than getting yelled at over salad dressing, so there it is. I brought my sister (who blogs here) out to live with me because I was lonely and needed her, and because she was sad and needed a fresh start.

After a year or so at that church I got super bored with my story and decided to go back to school to study fictional stories in an attempt to make my real one more...well MORE. Stories do that, you know. All of them. If they’re good stories (in the broadest sense). They make you more.

They make you bigger. They make you muchier. 

I’ll just leave this ^ here.

Anyways. I went back to school. And then I met Jon. And then I lost my job. Which was one of the better/more painful things that has happened in my life. In the following few horribly-lost weeks, I took Jon to meet my parents in Maine, and he started talking about getting married. Talk about emotional whiplash. First betrayal by best friends, then true love, then a whole new set of friends, a whole new job, a whole new apartment, the promise of a whole fresh new life spread out in front of me.

It’s this life, working here at this super-cool kitchen/bath design company with my artsy, construction coworkers (yes, that can be a thing), planning a wedding, reading SO MANY BOOKS, and trying to figure out how to fill the massive void in my life where school used to live--it’s this life that I want to talk with you about here on this blog.

Hey, thanks for reading, by the way. All two of you, you are so great. Hi mom.

Things I’m probably going to write about a lot (Fair Warning):

Books. Old, wonderful, classic books. Recent, thoughtful, popular books. Books I can’t stop thinking about from when I was younger. Books I took way too long to read because I thought they'd be boring or bad, but finally fell in love with. (*Is she talking about books or about Jon?*)

Jon and the very few things I've figured out about love.

Wedding Planning. Because I actually LOVE it, and I’m full of tips and ideas.

Food, Cooking, and Body Image.

Feminism. Because it’s possible to think that women should be treated like human beings with rights and stuff while still thinking that unborn children should be treated like human beings with rights and stuff while still thinking that men should be treated like human beings with rights and stuff.

Other Politics and Current Events. But not too much. Because I get too feisty.

The Church in America. Because I’ve seen and experienced so so much that is so so wrong and so so unacceptable in people (including myself) who claim to represent Christ and hold the hope of all the world.

The State of Current, Conservative, Christian Thought. On all the topics. From relationships and sexuality to movies and media to politics.

Hobbies. I have too many. And there’s so much I want to try. Origami. Knitting. French. American Sign Language. Yoga. Swimming. Macrame. Window Gardening. Etc. Etc.

Art and Music. Also MOVIES. Also TV. And maybe some video games.

Life, the Universe, and Everything.

That is all.

Readers (you beautiful people), comment below! What should I write about?
What are your favorite types of stories?
How do you cope with massive life changes?
What do you do when you get a whole bunch of free time?

NEXT POST (Probably): 10 New-ish YA Novels for Your Reading List.