Strong Women and the Graphic Novel

batman-2216148__340I recently read an article about how female protagonists in YA and graphic novels are stronger and more empowered than ever. While there are many bestsellers out there with strong female protagonists, I am left wondering:  Are these female characters defined as powerful but in limiting ways? My guest bloggers today are looking into books with strong female characters that face limitations and/or characters that demonstrate independence from gender expectations. Click on the “Comments” tab and see what they have to say.

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On Writing about Mental Health

My guest blogger today, Shauna McCauley, is writing about mental illness in current fiction—how to do it, when to do, and if we should do it at all. Thanks for stopping by to read. writer-1421099__340

Shauna writes: In the last thirty years or so, with the rise of pop psychology and general public awareness of mental health issues, mental illness has become an increasingly popular topic among writers of all genres, but particularly horror. It is worth noting that artists, and particularly writers, do often struggle with mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression, so, much of the sense of interior instability that shows up in many works of fiction is actually rooted in the truth that they live with every day.

Where many writers fall in to a dangerous trap, however, is with the more unusual mental illnesses. Most people, even if they haven’t been put in therapy, or on medication for it, have experienced some manner of mental instability, such as depression while grieving the loss of a loved one, or heightened stress and anxiety during a major life change, but it’s hard to understand the unique experience that comes with being autistic, or schizophrenic, or even having dissociative identity disorder. The best stories come from writers who take the time to get to know people with these disorders on a personal level, and learn not only how they think, but to have a deep empathy for them.

One good example of this is Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Later adapted into a critically acclaimed stage play, it tells the story of an autistic boy with a talent for maths, Christopher, in his own words, as he attempts to solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog. Haddon had some experience working with autistic children as a young man, although he does not consider himself an expert, but what makes the difference in this story is the very human way that he presents Christopher. He is complicated, flawed, sympathetic, and, most importantly, he is the true protagonist of this story. Sadly, many writers have not faired quite as well.

Stephen King, in many of his works including Secret Window, Secret Garden and The Shining has presented something very much like Dissociative Identity Disorder. In both stories, one of the protagonists, Mort and Danny respectively, develop secondary personalities that they can interact with, Tony and John. In Danny’s case, Tony is a protective personality that allows him to live with his psychic abilities, while in Mort’s, John Shooter is a product of stress related to marital turmoil combined with an overactive writer’s imagination. Neither of these paint a completely accurate picture of what this disorder is actually like. King, however, doesn’t claim anything other than artistic license, not giving a real name to what these characters are experiencing.

In one story it’s a superpower, while in the other, it’s a monster. More apparent to the current popular consciousness is M. Night Shyamalan’s recent film Split, in which the antagonist is explicitly characterized as a man suffering from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, with more than twenty individual personalities inhabiting the same body. He develops this idea that different personalities can have slightly different body chemistries in D.I.D. patients, and uses it to allow his antagonist to create a monstrous, cannibalistic personality that is so physically strong it’s practically invulnerable. While he does very much acknowledge that people with this disorder are usually the victims of severe psychological trauma, he makes his D.I.D. patient into a side show of sorts to make an, in my opinion, unfulfilled point about pain making people stronger.

While it’s a good thing that writers are telling stories about people with extreme mental disorders, this subject should be approached from a place of compassion rather than the sort of idle curiosity that has led to almost a fetishization of it. Non-neurotypical characters are a great way to broaden your own, and your readers’, perspective, but not for the sake of novelty, or trend, or if your interest is only enough to do a bit of research. The key to this is the same as it is in any well written character, to see them as people rather than plot devices.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

My guest blogger, Miguel Vilas, is talking about the lack of sleep and its consequences. He writes:

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Most people have heard that the average teen needs 9-10 hours of sleep every night and adults typically need anywhere from 7 to 9. But on average, most people do not get enough sleep to the point of feeling rested. Not getting the recommended hours of sleep can have a negative impact on adults in the workplace and also on teens at school.

When people are overtired, they can have a bad attitude at work toward costumers or coworkers. They might give the minimum effort needed for a task or be careless and make mistakes. This also applies to kids at school who can’t focus because they are too tired. Some will fall asleep in class while others will take a nap after school rather than doing  homework.

So what can we do? A majority of Americans lack sleep for all different kinds of reasons, but most of those can be controlled. Many people tend to watch television for an extreme amount of time (bingeing on Netflix or Hulu series); others are on their laptop or iPhone. iphone-410324__180All of these are distractions that can be prevented by simply turning them off. By doing this you will get the correct amount of sleep that is required and the results will be noticed immediately. Lack of sleep is a major problem but can be solved fairly simply.

Reality TV: Cancer or Cure for Society?

My guest blogger this week is Josh McCaleb, who is writing about what reality TV is doing to us. Here’s what he has to say:

children-403582__340Television today is very effective in molding the minds of its viewers, and some programs on TV, especially reality shows, are negatively shaping us. While reality shows are meant to simply show what happens in the lives of some of our favorite celebrities, no script and no filter, they can have a long-lasting and negative effect.

Some of today’s most watched reality shows include Duck Dynasty, The Voice, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and The Biggest Loser. Each program has its own individual effect on society. But despite their original purpose of being entertainment, some of these shows can actually bring a person to a point of depression—yes, it’s depressing to watch families yelling at and fighting with each other all of the time or to see a “favorite” get kicked off.

These are the shows that really get under my skin. These are also the ones that send a negative message to the public, which make them some of the worst things to watch. So next time you turn on the TV, stop and ask yourself: why am I watching this show?

What’s new this week—other than our presidential election? Anyone else nervous about who is about to become our country’s next leader? Of course—and for good reason. This election has been like no other we’ve seen. So, I’m nervous to say the least. And when I get nervous, I eat. Anyone else out there a nervous eater? Many of us resort to food in times of stress, so I thought today’s blog from John David Fuzzell was appropriate. sandwich-434658__180While we’re watching who becomes our president, we should still be watching what we’re eating…and here’s why.

John David writes: Maintaining a healthy diet is essential because a bad diet can lead to many health problems. It is extremely important to be knowledgeable about the effects that bad eating can have on our health. A bad diet typically consists of an overload of calories, carbs, and sugars. Sadly, many are unaware of the reasons behind an unhealthy diet. Here are a few tips to consider:

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  1. Before creating a meal plan, take into consideration the proportions necessary for each category of food. Setting up proportions for each category consists of making out a table and compiling the percentages of each category that a person needs.
  2. Try to balance the following categories of food: fruit and vegetables, meat and alternatives, rice and alternatives, and fats, oils, salts, and sugars.
  3. Try to select less of the fats group and more of the other three groups.
  4. Don’t overload on a certain category of food. Likewise, don’t eat tremendously less than the recommended portion of food for each category.

In conclusion, the level of quality and quantity of the food that a person ingests directly determines the way in which he or she operates.

Dating These Days…

My guest blogger today, Shelby Elkins, is talking about dating and how we don’t take it as seriously as we should these days. Here’s what she has to say:

My generation does not take dating seriously. iphone-410324__180Rather than asking someone out in person, we direct message someone on social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter with a cheap pickup line that can end up being degrading. Also, people never call each other anymore. Texting has become a huge part of our relationships and girls think it is romantic to get cute text messages from guys. As technology advances, romance gets lost.

And what ever happened to dressing up for datecouple-260899__180s? Girls and guys used to get dressed up and look their best to go out with their partner. Now going on a date has vanished and turned into people texting each other to come over when they are bored.

We should never settle for just Netflix dates or text message romances. We deserve more. It seems like young people today are not willing to invest in relationships like people did years ago, not just with money, but with time. I think love is worth fighting for and it starts with pushing against what has become our norm.

Smokers, Beware

Guest blogger Tyler Thomas warns readers about the effects of smoking.

cigarettes-83571__180As of 2014, 16.8% (or 40 million) U.S. Americans smoke cigarettes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking cigarettes not only causes harm to your physical health, but it can also cause harm to your emotional and financial health. Although smoking cigarettes can sometimes relieve stress, it isn’t worth it. Here’s why: Smoking can cause

  1. Bodily damage:  Smoking can cause lung cancer and can lead to collapsing lungs and shortness of breath.
  2. Emotional damage: Smoking can lead to depression and isolation.
  3. Financial stress: Smoking cigarettes can cause financial stress simply because you are spending money daily to buy cigarettes when you could be saving money or spending it on something more useful.

skull-and-crossbones-1418827__180Spending money on cigarettes is spending money to have lung or heart problems. And while smoking is a hard habit to kick, it could end up saving you more than money—it could end up saving your life.

Anxious for Nov. 9th

“Stop using social media as a platform to spew political agenda,” says guest blogger Reagan Smith.  woman-1446557__180He writes: Many dread this season every four years because of the non-stop mudslinging campaigns and tiring speeches, debates, and campaigns. However, this year has just proved to be too much. A Facebook or Twitter user today cannot look at his feed without noticing an article about Donald Trump’s racism or Hillary Clinton’s emails. Many dream of the ninth of November and beyond—those glorious days when our next president has been elected.

Everyone has differing views. Therefore, no one can avoid arguing when it comes to politics. For example, my grandmother is a staunch Democrat, and she will surely vote for Clinton. My mother, while a Ben Carson supporter, has unwillingly given her support to Trump. A cousin “Feels the Bern” but has momentarily cast him aside for Hillary. A close friend has remained loyal to Trump throughout the election, even titling his election speech for Honor Society Vice President, “Make Honor Society Great Again.” I use these examples to show the diversity of people—all of whom I am closely associated with. Even within my small circle, very different views have arisen. This has made me all the more anxious for November 9.

What is even more agitating? twitter-566341__180Looking at social media has been impossible without seeing articles demonstrating how deplorable the opponent is. It is time to leave these political differences in the ballot box and stop alienating others with our comments online.

Music These Days…

Here’s what one college student has to say about music these days.

Shelby Britt writes: Music. This term conjures up different ideas, depending on the person. Some people hear a Keith Urban song, while others may think of Snoop Dog.

turntable-1109588__180One recurring theme I have noticed is how people treat genres of music that they are unfamiliar with. Asking someone to explore a new genre of music can best be described as poking a hibernating bear and thinking it won’t bite your head off.

People guard their taste in music and often vehemently oppose at least one type of genre of music. This is even a problem generationally; If I had a dollar for every single time my mother made fun of my music, I would be a millionaire.

musician-349790__180This week I’ve been listening to several new artists. In the world of country, I’ve been enjoying Chris Young. His voice is reminiscent of George Strait or Allen Jackson but with a modern country sound.

In the rock realm, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sixx:A.M. Nikki Sixx of Mӧtley Crüe formed the band in 2007. Vocalist James Michael’s high pitched voice melds with the bassline to form a beautiful sound that I have yet to grow tired of.

I wouldn’t recommend this next band to the faint of heart. My not-so-guilty pleasure band is Asking Alexandria. This band takes metal to the extreme: heavy guitar riffs, aggressive vocals known as “screaming” and double drum kicks push metal to new heights.

My final recommendation is the bubblegum pop band, Little Mix. Little Mix are an all-girl British band with an upbeat sound. Most of their lyrics deal with female empowerment, relationships, and friendship. I always listen to Little Mix to lift my mood or to dance to.

I challenge you to branch out.

Bad Foods, Big Impact

If you follow my blog or my social media posts, then you’re probably aware that healthy living is important to me—having a healthy mind and body. This week’s post is from guest blogger Aimee Milton who writes about unhealthy eating and the “big” impact it’s having on many Americans today. fitness-1499781__180

Aimee writes: Out of all fifty states in America, Louisiana had the highest obesity rate this past year. Yes, we love our fried chicken and our fattening home cooked meals because they touch and warm our souls, but we don’t realize what they are doing to us on the inside of our physical body. Here are the big culprits to our diets:

  1. Starches: Although those home cooked meals contain a majority of the food groups, the most popular food group is starches. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet rolls are all unhealthy carbs and should be eaten in small portions or replaced with grilled chicken, half of a sweet potato, and a side salad with light dressing. fried-chicken-690039__180
  2. Fast food: It seems like everywhere we turn, there is a fast food restaurant on each corner. When you’re driving down the same street for five minutes, you’ll have passed at least five fast food restaurants. Fast food is accessible and cheap, and people eat way more than the serving size. Plus, a lot of fast food has little to no nutritional value. People don’t get full, so they eat more and the cycle continues.
  3. Junk food: Just like fast food, junk food such as chips and sugary sodas are not the best choices for our bodies. Choose healthy snacks such as fruit or a small handful of almonds instead.
  4. Exercise: It’s important to be active. Many people don’t go out and exercise or watch what they eat, which can add up on the scale. Take the stairs when you can; park farther away from the entrance; go for a walk or jog—these activities are free and good for you!

As a result of poor eating, more than one third of Americans are obese and can’t walk for long periods of time simply because their heart is not used to working as hard as it has to. Other complications can include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and ultimately death. I’m not saying that you should never have junk food or a fattening meal ever again, but you should have it in small and reasonable amounts that your body can handle.