Understanding Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month and while most of us know about autism or have heard many of us aren’t very clear about what the phrase “on the spectrum” really means.

I recently took on the task of writing a feature article in honor of Autism Awareness Month for the April edition of my local neighborhood magazine.

As a writer, I’m sometimes assigned to write a story on a topic I know next to nothing about. While it can be intimidating to tackle an unfamiliar subject, I enjoy the research and discovery process. The real task is putting together the information I have gathered in an interesting way that will educate readers.

I knew very little about autism when I took on this story. I began conducting research and interviewed the Marketing and Development Director of a non-profit in Rochester, NY called AutismUp that offers support for families dealing with an autism diagnosis.

autism_awareness_month

I learned that autism is as a complex disorder of brain development that affects the way an individual perceives the world. It usually involves communication challenges that make social interaction difficult and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Symptons can can range from social challenges to delay in motor skills and unusual responses to sensory input. Because the symptoms and severity of autism vary widely, each individual with autism has different challenges, strengths and needs.

As the symptoms of autism vary, so do the paths for treatment, which is often tailored to address the needs of each individual. I learned that nearly all children and adults with autism benefit from therapies that can reduce their symptoms and increase their skills and abilities.

The real discovery I made and what I hope readers will take away is that a “cure” for autism isn’t what is needed. What is essential is understanding and acceptance.

No matter the subject, I always write with the intention to inform, engage and perhaps even inspire readers. I was glad to write this story, and I hope it helps others in the community to better understand autism.

Feel free to check out an online portfolio of my stories, here.

Advertisements

What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing: Reading challenge update and preparing to submit

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audio books and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

__________________________________________________________________________

As Spring timidly begins to show her reluctant face, things are picking up. I have a busy few weeks ahead and it seems the first half of summer is already spoken for. In preparation of events to come, I’ve been quiet on the social media front. While I have certainly fallen behind on my blogging, I haven’t fallen behind on my reading. In fact, with 13 out of 44 books read so far this year, I’m one book ahead of schedule on my 2014 Reading Challenge!

Here’s a look at what I’ve been up to.

What I’m ReadingApe House Sara Gruen

In the last few weeks, my selection of reads have been across a variety of genres. I took a nostalgic trip to my younger days, listening to the audio book of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I first read this as a teen, and I was surprised to find how much of it stayed with me over the years that have passed.

I read my first Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a magical and transformative read. I listened to the audio book read by Neil Gaiman himself which itself was a treat!

I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fun and quirky read. I flew through a lighthearted read, The Men I Didn’t Marry, and slogged through Proof of Heaven, a book I thought I would enjoy but didn’t.

Now I’ve just picked up Sara Gruen’s Ape House. Have you ever loved a book so much, you were afraid to read another book by the same author out of fear of not loving it as much as the first? Water for Elephants ranks among my favorite books of all time, and since reading it years ago, I’ve avoided reading any of Gruen’s other novels.

I have finally put my reservations aside to read this book that I’ve wanted to read for so long.

 

What I’m Writing

After going through two rounds of critiquing with a trusted writer friend, and another set of revisions, I’m preparing to submit a short story for publication. This will be my first attempt at submitting a piece I have written, and I am equal parts excited and anxious.

I’ve begun researching literary magazines to possibly submit to (more on my lit mag adventures later) and am bracing myself for the rejections that are sure to come. I will be sure to share my progress along the way!

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

Five amazing tips to help you write your novel
I love these tips from Alice Hoffman.

Advice every young writer needs to hear
A collection of short videos from published authors sharing their advice.

Oh, the Places you’ll Go!
From the Write Unboxed blog, how to create an authentic sense of place in fiction.

The 9 Ingredients for Character Development
Some tips from Writer’s Digest

23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway
What can I say, I just LOVE quotes about writing. This is a great collection of some great ones from Hemingway.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in your 30s
I enjoyed this article and hope to get a head start on a few of these things before I enter the next decade of life!

 

Enjoy the weekend!

What are you reading? What writing projects are you currently working on? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing: Winter Reads and Editing

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audio books and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

__________________________________________________________________________

As we officially settle into mid-March, I wish I were writing this post in more Spring-like conditions. In my part of the world, we’re moving on after a pretty substantial snow storm that brought blustery, bitter winds and, of course, snow. Just last week we set a record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in March: -9 and that’s air temperature, I’m not talking about wind chill here, people. I live in an area that can handle the winter weather, but even us New Englanders are ready for winter to be over.

To give you an idea of how ready for Spring I am, I actually dreamed that I woke up to flowers blooming outside my window. Unfortunately, I will have to wait a few more weeks before that dream comes true.

The advantage of this cold, harsh weather is that it provides the perfect atmosphere to curl up with a good book and a warm beverage.

What I’m ReadingGone Girl

I just finished listening to the audio book of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This was one of those books I just kept hearing about. I heard some slightly mixed reviews although the reactions have been mostly positive.

I was hesitant to pick this book up, partly because I have a tendency to avoid super popular books until they have fallen off most peoples’ radar, but also because of its length. I hate to admit it but when I realized the audio book was 15 discs long, I cringed a little. But I decided to give it  a listen to see for myself.

It took me a few weeks to get through it after missing a few days for work travel, I’m glad I decided to give this book a try. I found it to be suspenseful, entertaining and cleverly written.

Now I hear there will be a movie coming out this year and the rumor is that the move ending will be different than the book. I can’t say I’m surprised as I found the ending to be a little lackluster after all the buildup. I wonder if this is a case where the move might be better than the book?

snow childAnother book I’m excited about is Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. I heard of it when it was selected for 2014’s If All of Rochester Read the same Book.  This awesome program through Writer’s and Books spotlights one book each year and sparks a plethora of related literary events.

The author will be visiting Rochester next week, and I can’t wait to attend a reading and Q&A session! I will blog about the experience so be sure to check back!

In the meantime, I am immensely enjoying this book – and it is very weather appropriate!

What I’m Writing

I am currently in editing mode. I have sent my current WIP off to a trusted reader for a second round of critiquing. My goal is to get this short-story polished in preparation for submitting it to some literary magazines in the near future.

This will be a first for me, but I’m excited by the challenge.

My Favorite Quote of the Week:

“Put everything you’ve got into everything you do.”

– John Maxwell

(See above!)

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

Should Authors Have to “Market Themselves”
I read Kristen Lamb’s blog religiously and this post is another example of why I never miss a post!

A Mighty Girl
As a long-distance auntie, I am always on the lookout for interesting and empowering reads for my nieces. I learned about this website and fell in love. Follow A Might Girls on Facebook and Twitter for updates and inspiration.

10 Great Gifts for Grammar Geeks
For fun…

The 10 Best Beauty Uses for Baking Soda
This isn’t a literary link, but I found it rather fascinating and thought I would share! Thanks, Dr. Oz!

What are you reading? What writing projects are you currently working on? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

This Week: What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audiobooks and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

_______________________________________________________________________________

It’s been a while since I’ve written a wrap-up post. But I’ve finished my first book(s) of the new year and I’m working on a writing project –  I’m ready to share and I hope you will too!

What I’m Reading

The Cuckoo's CallingI started the year with a pick that is a bit out of the ordinary for me as I don’t read many mystery/crime novels.  My first read for 2014 was The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.  I selected it because I heard it was a “brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein.”

The author isn’t reinventing the crime-novel here. The Cuckoo’s Calling has many of the signature crime-novel elements: a down-on-his-luck private investigator, smarter than the cops who investigate a death they rule a suicide but that some are convinced was murder.

There is no trace of Harry Potter here, but Rowling writes a decent crime novel. I enjoyed
Rowling’s descriptive writing sets and the characters are likable.

Though it didn’t rock my literary world, I found it to be an entertaining read. Has anyone else read this one yet? What did you think?

Shanghai Girls

I also recently finished Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. The book’s description piqued my interest:  two sisters living in Shanghai who move to Los Angeles in the 1930’s to find new lives.

As Japanese bombs fall on May and Pearl’s beloved city of Shanghai and their lives begin to crumble, their journey to America is not at all what they imagined it would be. Their stories are heartbreaking as misfortune finds them at every turn; their naivete is frustrating as they refuse again and again to see the gravity of their situation.

Told over two decades, I felt the story lost its intimacy as the novel seemed to go on and on. I kept thinking, how many more bad things can happen to these girls? The story of May and Pearl’s journey to Los Angeles was powerful, but the novel continued on, telling of the hardships they face in America, the discrimination they endure, and their struggles to become Americanized while trying to honor their Chinese traditions.

After finishing Shanghai Girls, I learned there is a second book, Dreams of Joy. After browsing some reviews, I learned that some readers enjoyed Shanghai Girls more once they had read Dreams of Joy and felt the books are best when read together. Has anyone read one or both? I’d love to hear your experience. I plan to read Dreams of Joy in the future. Perhaps reading the follow-up with change my opinion.

What I’m Writing

Earlier this week I wrote about stories that I keep coming back to but always leave in some state of in-completion. My writing goal for 2014 is to (finally) finish a short story and submit it to some literary journals with the hope of publication. One such story is one I wrote this past summer that I think has potential. I’ve already written several drafts but have been feeling that it isn’t quite ready to submit.

I’ve been making revisions to this story over the past few weeks. I rewrote the opening scene and deleted a few paragraphs. I am focused on the details now, adding a sentence here, a description there.

Next month I will be sending it off to my writer friend to be read and critiqued! I will be sharing updates on the story’s progress.

My Favorite Quote of the Week:

you cant edit a blank page

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

For Readers:

Here are some Crafty DIY Bookmark Ideas 

10 Amazing Novels That Are Super Long, But Totally Worth It
This list makes me want to pull my copy of Anna Karenina off the shelf. Well, we’ll see…

For Writers:

Five Ways Writers can Recycle Their Discarded Material
This post from blogger and fantasy writer Victoria Grefer is what got me thinking about the practice of writing and how everything we write is useful.

Days Without Writing
A great read for any writer with a day job.

Read any good books lately? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

Falling in Love with Writing

During NaNoWriMo, there aren’t enough hours in a day. Not only are there not enough hours for all the writing there is to be done, but there simply isn’t enough time for all the great NaNo related activities! There are blogs to follow, NaNo Pep Talks and tweets to read, spreadsheets to update… the list goes on.

In the days leading up to November 1st, I still hadn’t finished my character sketches or my outline, I hadn’t yet downloaded a shiny new spreadsheet to track my progress, and my NaNo mail was left unopened. Last night, I began catching up on all of that, in addition to writing. Luckily, we gain an hour this weekend (I think I figured out why National Novel Writing Month is in November!)

As I was catching up on my email, I read the pep talk from Rainbow Rowell, Author of Attachments and Fangirl. Something she said in her pep talk really spoke to me:

Rainbow Rowell Writing Advice

Rainbow Rowell

During NaNoWriMo, I never left the world of the book long enough to lose momentum.

I stayed immersed in the story all month long, and that made everything come so much smoother than usual. I got a much quicker grasp on the main characters and their voices. The plotlines shot forward…

I mean, I still didn’t know whether what I’d written was any good. (I hadn’t even read it all in one piece!) But I was so excited about the novel, I wanted to write every day. And even when I wasn’t writing, my brain was still working on the story.

Reading this, I realized why I love NaNoWriMo: every November, I fall in love with writing all over again. I fall in love with writing every day even when its hard, I fall in love with my characters. I love that feeling of being immersed in the story, as Rowell says, of living with one foot in this world and the other foot inside the world I’m creating. This is why I write.

Good luck, wrimos! Write and fall in love!

You can read the full pep talk from Rainbow Rowell here  (although I bet you already read it, didn’t you!)

Words Written Today: 1,745
Words to Go: 48,255
Percent Complete: 3.5%

I’ll be sharing my progress throughout November! Subscribe to my blog for NaNo updates and follow me on Twitter @iamJenniferK for helpful hints and inspiring quotes in 140 characters or less!

This Week: What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audiobooks and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

_______________________________________________________________________________
What I’m Reading

Falling to EarthI picked up Falling to Earth, a debut novel by Kate Southwood. The story is set in 1925 and centers around the Graves family. Paul Graves and his young family are the only ones who still have everything after a devastating tornado flattens their fictional town of Marah, Illinois.

When I read the description of this book, I just knew I had to read it. I can hardy put it down.

 


What I’m Writing

With NaNoWriMo approaching, I’ve started preparing for my NaNo novel. I’m mostly freewriting to get to know my characters. Last year, my struggle was that I didn’t feel I knew my characters well enough to tell their story. I fizzled out about halfway to the 50,000 word goal. This year, I’m preparing and on November 1st, I’m going to start over. This time, I’ll tell the story from a different perspective. I’ll be blogging about my progress!

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
–  Louis L’Amour

 

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

Your Writer’s Mind
I loved this relatable post from blogger Jamie Lee Wallace about the mind of a writer.

5 Ways to Write Like Your Hair is on Fire
On the Today’s Author blog, I love Jacqui Murray’s suggestion to “Write everything as though I have a deadline that must be met.”

Writers, you’ll appreciate these 10 Thing Writers are Tired of Hearing

.

Read any good books lately? Are you preparing for NaNoWriMo? Share your reading and writing adventures in the comments, and feel free to link back to your own blog!

This Week: What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing/Editing

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audiobooks and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

_______________________________________________________________________________
What I’m Reading

TORCH_Front_Cover-330I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s novel, Torch. I read her memoir Wild last year, about her solo 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail with no training or hiking experience, and I loved it. I was inspired to read more of her work after  listening to her speak at a ceremony for the Art of Fact Award from my alma mater, The College at Brockport, State University of New York this Spring.

Torch is about Teresa Rae Wood who is dying of cancer at the age of 38. Her family is left reeling and must deal with the loss and their grief.

So far, it is heartbreaking.


What I’m Writing

The short story I have been working on was recently read and critiqued by a writer friend of mine, so I am in the process of editing and revising that. Once it is ready, I will be researching literary magazine and possibly some short story contests to submit it to. More on that to come!

I’ve also been doing Morning Pages. Although I have to admit I haven’t been writing consistently every day, I am enjoying getting into the habit of writing (almost) every morning as soon as I wake up.

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week

“A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?”
Susan Sontag

 

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

What Editors Want: A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines
This is an article that came at the perfect time – I will be referring to it in the very near future! It is thorough and very helpful.

Two Pages a Day
From the Writer Unboxed blog, this post has some great insights on how to take small steps to reach big writing goals.

21 Little Lifestyle Changes That Will Help you be Healthier
I enjoyed this article and its useful tips – thought I would share!

Just for fun, here are 28 Signs you were an English Major
I know the majority of these apply to me!

 

What about you? Did you read anything interesting this week? What are you working on in your writing? I hope you’ll share in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!