DISCLAIMER: I am a MA in Writing Student at Rowan University who has recently had the opportunity to study under Professor Atwood. The following review may be biased.
When I saw that I would be required to read MC Atwood’s debut young adult novel, The Devils You Know for my Seminar II class this semester as part of my MA in Writing program at Rowan University, I was very excited. Last fall I had a wonderful experience studying under Professor Atwood by taking her Writing Genre Fiction course. Atwood is hilarious and one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. She is also seriously talented as both a writer and an editor.
The Devils You Know was a real pleasure to read. I love that while the book is Atwood’s favorite genre – horror – it is also still young adult. While terrifying, it was also extremely relatable. This novel is about more than a creepy haunted house with scary clowns and dolls (seriously…so many dolls…). It’s a story about friendship and finding yourself in the midst of the terror known as high school.
In the beginning of the novel, Paul, Violet, Dylan, Ashley, and Gretchen don’t know each other very well for the most part. Paul is seen as being the cool black guy that everyone loves. Violet is the quiet “nice” girl that no one knows very well, but Paul has a crush on, and she is beginning to develop feelings for as well. Dylan tries a little too hard to be a bad ass and I can really see him as being a bit of a punk rocker/skater kid. Ashley is the stuck up, rich, right-winged Republican princess that owns the school and absolutely HATES Gretchen (the feeling appears to be mutual), and Gretchen is Dylan’s partner whom is every bit as weird and tough as he is.
The quintent rarely ever crosses paths and most certainly wouldn’t call each other friends. However, when the opportunity to visit the legendary Boulder House on a class field trip presents itself, all five members of the group sign up and find themselves forced to not only share in the same space and experiences, but to also work together as a team and get to REALLY know the truth about each other. Sometimes the truth can be completely alarming and sometimes you think you know someone (as is the case of Dylan and Gretchen), but later realize you don’t know that person at all.
For instance – who would’ve guessed that Paul likes to wear tights and role play during medieval events? Nice girls finish last…and get taken advantage of as seen by the way Mr. Rhinehart takes advantage of Violet by having an affair with her the day she turns 18. Dylan is not actually Dylan at all…he’s John Michael…and despite his foul mouth and constant use of the word “yo”, he’s not as tough as he wants people to think he is. He’s actually a very conservative Christian who attends church every week with his rich parents. On the other end of the spectrum, Ashley isn’t the conservative Christian she wants everyone to believe she is. In fact, she’s gay and she’s trying everything to hide her true identity from everyone, especially her Republican parents. After all, her father IS a well-known senator who HATES anyone that’s not straight. If he knew the truth about her it would destroy him and the rest of her family. What’s worst – she doesn’t hate Gretchen at all. In fact, she’s in love with her. As for Gretchen? She’s tough because she has to be, not because she wants to be. Her family is on food stamps and she makes her own clothes because she has no choice. Her mother is ill and the family constantly struggles with money.
In order to survive the house and everything in it – from demonic angels to creepy evil dolls to scary clowns to even whales and everything in between, the quintent must work together. However, when the quintent’s secrets are revealed to one another, they all feel such a strong sense of shame that they want to go through the house alone. However, they later learn that while they each have their own secrets, it doesn’t make them less and if anything, knowing the truth about who they are is what will not only bring them closer together, but also force them to want to stick together to support each other and to make it out of the house alive and beyond the house, to make it through high school alive, too.
Some of the novel’s strengths lie in the extreme attention to details, particularly with the imagery and descriptions of the house. It’s a very unique and clever book that while sticking to the main conventions of the horror genre, doesn’t fall into the trap of cliches. For example: there’s an entire room dedicated to whales and aquatic lives. I’ve never been afraid of whales and squids/octapuses, but I am now! I also really appreciated the way the novel took the very successful risk of having multiple narrators/points of views. Each chapter was told by a different character – Ashley, Gretchen, Dylan, Violet, and/or Paul. This allowed the reader to get up close and personal with all of the characters. Atwood did a great job of breaking them all down and creating an equal balance between each character’s voice so it never felt like you had too much of one character and not enough of another character. It also never got too confusing or overwhelming; five seemed like the perfect number.
So why four stars and not five? While I really enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down, it wasn’t perfect. There were still some things that bothered me with this book. One of the main things I didn’t like was Dylan’s character. He really annoyed me. I didn’t like his dialogue and I had trouble believing that’s how he would actually talk. I think there was an instance in the beginning where he said something along the lines of “I remembered to turn my swag on” which made me cringe. Do people even use the term “swag” anymore? I thought that died around 2008. “Fuck-a-doodle-doo” also sounded really awkward to me. I could believe him saying it once or twice, but constantly throughout the book? And no one ever comments on how weird it sounds? I had trouble buying it. Lastly, by the end of the book I was really annoyed by his constant use of the word “yo”. I think he said it but I feel like that would be something he’d say in the beginning of a sentence, not the end and reading it vs. hearing it – it reads kind of awkwardly and annoyed me as a reader. Lastly – his name is something completely different than what everyone calls him and no one knew this? I feel like the school would at least have his legal name down and probably call him by it on the first day of class. I just didn’t buy that as being his secret.
Also, reading this as a conservative Christian, I realize I’m a little biased but I did take some issues with the content of the novel. At times I felt like I was being attacked based on my views and like I was supposed to apologize or feel bad about being a conservative, Republican, Christian. I go to church every week the way Dylan/John Michael did – I don’t think that’s a “bad” thing in itself.
Lastly, demonic/fallen angels? The angels which are typically symbols for good, were made into symbols for evil. I wasn’t really okay with that imagery. I felt like the idea of Christianity throughout the novel was being shown in a negative light. Some of the jabs against Christianity/Republicans (such as the subtle George Bush reference…) felt a little over-done/cheap. I also thought of the impact/influence they may have on the novel’s target teenage audience which made me a little uncomfortable.
But overall I did really like this novel. It was very well researched, well written, and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.
Hey guys! I know I’ve been talking about my MA project/untitled memoir a lot lately, but today I want to talk about something completely different. For those of you who may not know, I took a genre writing course this semester. I’ll be honest and admit that I initially only took it for the credits. I was going to take an American Sign Language course as an independent study originally, but because the course was an undergraduate level course and I’m a graduate student I’d have to conduct some kind of research study around it which calls for IRB approval and a whole complicated string of events. Between teaching two classes, working full time, and taking two graduate courses, it was just way too much so I backed out. There were not any non-fiction writing courses being offered this semester, so that’s where writing genre fiction came into play.
It’s been quite an interesting experience. Not only do I have little to no experience in genre writing, but I also never read any kind of genre fiction. I love classic literature, young adult/literary fiction, and non-fiction. Throughout the semester I have had to read and write mystery, horror, and most recently, fantasy/sci-fi. Although I did not like writing a mystery and reading House of Leaves or Mama Day, I found my overall experience in genre writing to be pretty enjoyable. Professor Atwood is a sweetheart and one of the most fun and kind-hearted professors I have ever had. I really wish I could take her publishing course next semester! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking any of her courses. It is guaranteed to be a good time with many cat videos and references. 😉
The last project I completed for this course was an extension/revision of my fantasy short story, now titled “Moore Magical Garden”. This story was inspired by the very few fantasy novels I don’t hate like Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily.
I also drew some inspiration from my own personal life. Lenny the Leprechaun and all of his sarcasm was largely inspired by my dad who is the most sarcastic person I’ve ever met. He also gave me the idea to have Lenny show up to the well with a beer bottle and to make him drunk.
As a Christian, I don’t believe in magic. The bible warns in multiple places against following magic, witchcraft, and any kind of sorcery, which also had some influence on this story.
This story is not by any means perfect, but coming from someone who’s main writing focus is non-fiction, I was pretty proud of how this revision came out and I wanted to share it. Feel free to read below and leave a comment on what you think!
Moore Magical Garden
Magnolia was born in her family’s famous magical garden, known as the Moore Magical Garden. She was tall and tender with strong, light pink wings and a full head of silky blonde hair. According to her parents, she was born right under a bed of freshly blossomed magnolia buds. “She’ll be beautiful and strong, just like the flowers are,” he father said. Her parents both agreed that there was no better name for her than that of the flower, so they decided to call her Magnolia, or Maggie for short.
As a child, Maggie loved growing up in the Moore Magical Garden. Her family was extremely wealthy as they made a living off of their magical flowers. No one knew for sure how the magic worked, but Maggie’s mother, Gloria, would use unique blends of all different kinds of flowers and plants within the garden to cure all of the villagers of their ailments or to bring them whatever their hearts desired whether it be love, wisdom, strength, confidence, healing, happiness, or even just some good old sex. The Moore Magical Garden operated under one motto, “Flower power in one hour.” Meaning they could choose the right flower for any condition and after baking it in just 1 hour or less, have the perfect recipe for whatever you needed.
The Moore Magical Garden was located in the far end of the village away from the ocean where the mermaids resided and the woods where Sasquatch was rumored to roam. Sometimes they received visits from other tribes who liked to roam the forest like the dwarfs, elves, and goblins. Maggie loved it when the unicorns visited. She’d often spend time brushing their long, rainbow manes and riding them through the rows of flowers, being careful as to not crush any of the budding plants. She was often frightened by the goblins, and horrified by how hideously ugly the elves were with their long, pointy ears, big noses, and short statues. However, her parents told her that all of those tribes were harmless and worthy of her honor, respect, and attention. It was the foreigners she had to fear, they warned.
The gnomes, her parents said, were the most trustworthy of all of the tribes, other than the fairies of course. They weren’t always the prettiest creatures in the world, or even the strongest, but her parents said they were the most loyal. “Find yourself a good gnome and you’ve got a friend for life,” her father would say. They were generally always agreeable and extremely hard workers, especially when placed in their natural habitat – the garden.
Maggie’s parents decided to hire a gnome to help them to tend the garden. His name was Gunter and he was 34 years old, meaning he was only a few years away from ripening to the age of 40, which everyone knows means “time to settle down” in gnome world. He worked hard and vowed to always protect the Moore Magical Garden and to ensure that the secrets of the magic always remained secrets. For these reasons Mr. and Mrs. Moore promised Gunter that on his 40th birthday they would reward him with their prized possession – their daughter Maggie’s hand in marriage. This would ensure that the garden always remained within the family, that their daughter was well taken care of, and that the garden remained in pristine condition with the magic not only intact, but a mystery throughout all of the village for many years to come. Mr. and Mrs. Moore and Gunter the garden gnome kept this their secret for many years to come.
As a child, Maggie came to grow to appreciate the freedom she had to roam around the magical garden and smell the sweet aroma of all of the budding flowers and plants. Her mother, Gloria, named after the famous morning glories, would often take her through each of the aisles of the garden to teach her about the different magical powers each flower or plant brought.
“Roses.” Gloria said, “Just a sprinkle of petals and you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful new beginning.”
“What kind of new beginning?” Maggie asked.
“It depends on the color,” Gloria explained as she pointed to each of the varieties. “Red will bring you love. Pink will help you to feel more appreciated. White is for marriage – not to be confused with love. Orange will bring you passion, which you’ll need after marriage. Yellow will give you new friends, for those not quite ready for marriage. In your case, stick to the yellow ones for now, please,” she smiled.
Maggie looked up a Gloria and smiled. “Yellow it is then,” she said.
“Give me your hand, Maggie. I want to show you something else.”
Maggie held out her hand and Gloria pricked it with the thorn of a rose.
“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Maggie said as she clenched her finger in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
“You’ll see. Follow me.”
Maggie followed Gloria back to a row of aloe plants. Even though she’s walked by them dozens of times she never quite understood what they were for. They looked strange and kind of ugly after seeing the beauty in the roses.
“Put your hand out again,” Gloria said as she broke off a piece of the aloe plant.
Maggie put her hand with her bloody finger out in front of her. Gloria took it and squeezed the aloe plant over top of it until a gel-like substance poured over it. She rubbed it into the wound until it stopped bleeding.
“Aloe. For when you get a little too close to the roses. Roses while beautiful, still have their thorns and dangers about them. Much like the love and relationships many of them promise,” she explained. Maggie nodded. She understood now that aloe brought healing, but she wasn’t sure if she understood anything about the love part. At only 11 years old, love was still a mystery to her.
As Maggie grew older, she became more and more beautiful over time. By the time she was 16 and only 1 year away from her secret marriage to Gunter, her platinum blonde locks began to darken and change to a reddish tone and her wings grew larger and an even deeper shade of pink. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Moore could swear they saw a twinkle in her eye, too. She was becoming even more beautiful than all of the roses within the garden, and when the other tribes from the village came to pick up their magical baked goods, they took noticed.
“My, oh my, that Maggie girl of yours sure is a beauty,” a lonely dwarf commented one day. “I only ordered a special helping of your slumber loaf bread to help me to fall asleep at night, but now I’m wishing I would’ve ordered a slice of lustful loving pie. Maybe I’d get lucky and end up falling asleep with her tonight,” he said. Dwarves were never very good with social skills, it’s why they had so much trouble making friends.
“Take a bottle of water lily juice on your way out.” Gloria said, “It’s on the house.”
“Sweet! Thanks, ma’am!” the lonely dwarf replied.
“Water lily juice?” Mr. Moore asked.
“Yes, to cool his passions and purify his heart to ensure he keeps it in his pants and away from our daughter,” she said.
“I can fix this problem tonight,” Mr. Moore said. He knew that as Maggie grew older and more beautiful, she’d have more than just lonely dwarves to worry about, especially if Mr. and Mrs. Moore were to keep their promise of marriage of their daughter to Gunter.
That night Mr. Moore went deep into his garden making sure to pick up as many garden stones as he could along the way. He carried them all into the garden shed located at the end of the garden and pulled out some supplies from the shed like his trusty hammer, a bucket of concrete, a trowel for smoothing over the concrete, and some wood. From there he set to work.
Mr. Moore spent hours in the garden shed. When his wife, Gloria tried to call him for dinner he responded in a muffled voice, “Can’t. Sorry. Busy,” and continued working straight through supper. An empty stomach was no big deal to him, he knew how important his work was. Finally after hours of tedious labor, his work was finally complete: it was a well made out of garden stones and concrete with a little wooden roof over top and a bucket hanging over it. The well was ten feet deep and only three feet wide. Mr. Moore stood back and admired his work. “Ah, she’s a beauty. A beautiful well to protect my beautiful daughter,” he said before calling Maggie out to further admire his work.
“What do you think?” he asked her.
“It’s beautiful, but I don’t understand what we need a well for. The pond is only a few minutes away,” she said. She had grown accustomed to fetching water from the pond outside of the garden. She loved visiting the pond because her beloved unicorns were known to frolic there at all hours of the day.
Mr. Moore let out a sigh. “This well isn’t for water…” he began.
“Really? Then what is it for?” she asked.
Mr. Moore hesitated before explaining, “Maggie, this is your new home. You must live deep inside this well and you must not come out for any reason within the next year.”
“What? A WHOLE YEAR? INSIDE THIS DEEP WELL? WHY? WON’T I DROWN?” She asked. The idea of being trapped in such a tiny space unable to view the beauty of the garden or mingle with the other tribes horrified her.
“No. There well will be completely hallowed with no water inside. You’re getting older now, Mags, and you are too beautiful. The dwarves tried to pick you up the other day,” he said.
“Well…was he a nice dwarf?” she asked, hopefully.
“Mags, you know what the dwarves are like…” he said.
Maggie sighed. “Okay, but what happens after a year?” she asked, afraid of what the answer must be.
“After one year you will be married to Gunter the garden gnome. Then you will be free to roam the garden again, unless he tells you not to. You will belong to him and you must obey everything he tells you to do.”
“But I don’t love him!” Maggie contested.
“Tough luck, sweet heart. He will be good for you and better yet for our garden. Now, climb in this well. For the next year, you can think about all of the ways in which you may grow to love Gunter. We’ll send you your food and water through the bucket twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.
Maggie sighed. She knew it was no use arguing it, her parents had the final word. Always. After all, they were the owners of the Moore Magic Garden. Without the garden, Maggie might as well be a fly, rather than the radiant, beautiful fairy she’s blossomed into over the years.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore’s plans to protect Maggie from other tribes and potential suitors through the village sounded great in theory. The well was far too deep for most of the village tribes to even consider climbing down, and no one would ever guess that Maggie would be hiding down below the bottom of the well. Since the fairies were the only tribes with wings, they didn’t have to worry much about anyone flying down in the well, either. Even the fairies weren’t a threat; everyone knew that all fairies, except for Maggie who was known for her unconventional ways and overall fearlessness, were afraid of the dark and what could possibly be darker than the inside of a deep and narrow well? However, there was one tribe they failed to consider; a foreign tribe residing outside of their village but beginning to make their pilgrimage throughout Germany in hopes of finding buried treasure, or gold, more specifically: the leprechauns.
Maggie was sitting deep against the side of the well braiding her hair to past the time as she waited for her mother and father to send down her daily food rations in the well’s bucket when she heard a loud noise.
Maggie moved towards the front of the well and looked up at the opening. Could this be her daily food rations? Maybe her mother was sending down her famous rose petal jam spread across a French baguette or Maggie’s favorite lilac blossom almond scones. She imagined they must’ve fallen out of the bucket causing the loud noise.
However, when Maggie looked up she didn’t see any of her mother’s magical food creations. Instead, she saw an ugly leprechaun. He stood approximately 3 feet tall; very short compared to Maggie’s height of 5’7”. His skin was dry and wrinkly and had a pale green tint to it. Maggie couldn’t get a good glimpse of what his hair looked like since it was hidden underneath of an over-sized top hat with a four leaf clover in the middle, but she did notice he had strands of bright red hair poking from the sides that matched his red neatly trimmed beard. He was wearing a tiny green tuxedo with pants that were a little too short and that revealed knee-high green and white socks. He carried a bottle of Guinness in his hand.
“Greetings from Ireland! My name is Lennnnnn……” he began to say before Maggie started screaming.
“WHAT ON THE EARTH ARE YOU??????” She screamed.
“That’s no way to greet a foreigner,” he said.
“Sorry.” Maggie said, “But really, who ARE you?”
“It is I, Lenny the Leprechaun,” the leprechaun replied.
“What are you doing here?” Maggie asked.
“What do you think kid? I’m a leprechaun…” he said.
“I don’t know…don’t you have a rainbow with a pot of gold to look for?” Maggie replied.
“Have you seen any rain lately?” he asked.
“Come to think of it, no I can’t remember the last time it rained,” she said.
“Bingo. But that don’t mean that a leprechaun can’t still search for gold,” he said.
“Oh okay. Sorry but there isn’t any in the well.” Maggie replied, “There isn’t much of anything down here,” she said sadly.
“Maybe not, but I bet I could make a few bucks off this here garden of yours,” he said. “I heard it was worth a fortune,” he said.
“You want to sell my family’s garden?” Maggie asked.
“No. No. Not at all. I mean profit off of it. Aren’t the flowers magical or something?” Lenny asked.
“I can’t tell you that,” Maggie replied.
“Hmmm. Okay. How about this…you tell me which flowers are magical and I’ll grant you three wishes,” he said.
“You got yourself a deal…if I can get the wishes first,” she said.
“No, then I’ll give you the wishes and still won’t know a damn thing about these magical flowers.” Lenny said, “How about a compromise? For every wish I give you you’ll show me a magical flower,” he suggested.
“You got yourself a deal!” Maggie exclaimed.
“Okay pretty lady, what’s your first wish?” Lenny asked.
“I wish I could get out of this well!” Maggie said without hesitation.
“Works for me. I imagine you’ll need to be out of this well to show me the magical flowers.” Lenny said, “Now close your eyes.”
Maggie closed her eyes while Lenny threw a handful of green glitter over her face and chanted, “Glitter green, nice and mean, come heaven or hell, allow Maggie to escape from this well.”
When Maggie opened her eyes, she was outside of the well and free to roam around the garden.
“Okay, now you owe me a magical flower,” Lenny said.
Maggie took her time walking around the garden. She knew that Lenny and the other outsiders didn’t know this, but the truth was EVERY flower and growing thing in the garden was magical. The question for her now was, which forms of magic did she want Lenny to know about?
Maggie stopped in front of a long row of tall, fully blossomed sunflowers. Perfect, she thought.
“We’re here,” Maggie said.
“The sunflowers are magical?” Lenny asked.
“Yes,” Maggie said.
“How so?” he asked.
Maggie bent down one of the tall stems and ripped off a fully blossomed sunflower. She pulled off each of the golden yellow petals and crumbled them in her hands. After all of petals were crumbled together she rubbed them on Lenny’s cheek.
“Hey! What in the hell are you doing?” Lenny screamed as he backed away and swatted Maggie’s hand away.
“Showing you your first magical flower,” Maggie replied.
“How is rubbing crushed sunflowers on my face magic?” Lenny asked.
“Sunflowers contain a special oil that when applied to the skin can act as a moisturizer, reduce wrinkles, and also serve as an anti-aging formula,” Maggie stated matter-of-factly. Her skin was perfectly flawless and had a natural glow to it that made it look like the sun was constantly shinning down on her and kissing her face. It was obvious that she had used the magical sunflowers on her own skin.
“Are you trying to say that I’m ugly?” Lenny asked.
“No, no, no. Not at all!” Maggie lied, “I’m just uhhh suggesting it because it will help to highlight your uhhh wonderful cheekbones.”
“I always did have some pretty bitchin’ cheek bones,” Lenny said as he took another swig of his Guinness. Maggie thought about correcting his language; she never liked cursing, but she decided it would be best to just let it go. After all, Lenny had been drinking ever since he arrived. She wondered if he might be drunk and if so, what type of drunk he would turn out to be. So far, he didn’t seem like an angry drunk. Sarcastic? Yes, but she could handle sarcasm. Violence is what scared her.
“Time for my next wish?” Maggie asked.
“Sure,” Lenny said.
“I wish for you to get rid of Gunter,” Maggie said.
“Who the heck is Gunter?” Lenny asked.
“A garden gnome who works for us. My family hired him many years ago,” Maggie explained.
“What did he ever do to you?” Lenny asked.
“See, that’s just it: nothing. My family arranged for us to be married though.” She said.
“You don’t sound too happy about that,” he said.
“I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love,” she said.
“Then why don’t you just tell your parents ‘no’?” Lenny asked.
“It’s not that simple. They want me to marry Gunter to ensure that the garden stays safe and that all of our secrets with the magic stay secret,” she explained.
Lenny let out a laugh. “Don’t you realize you’re already broken all of those golden rules?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.
“Hellllooooo. Beauty sunflowers? You already let me in on one secret and you owe me two more,” Lenny said.
“Oh. Yeah. Right…” Maggie said unapologetically.
“Yeah so, I mean if you’re trying to respect your parents wishes, there’s no use you already messed that one up,” Lenny said.
“But can you make Gunter go away, anyway?” Maggie asked.
“Sure. I’ll see what I can do, close your eyes.”
Maggie closed her eyes and this time Lenny grabbed for the black glitter and threw it over her face while reciting, “Gunter works day and night, but now it’s time for him to take flight. I wish I may, I wish I might, give Maggie the strength she needs to fight.”
“Now what?” Maggie asked as she opened her eyes, “Is he gone?”
“Not yet, but he will be,” Lenny admitted. “I need a favor from you first.”
“Hey no fair! You still owe me a wish!” Maggie said.
“I need your help for this one. Are there any flowers in your garden that aren’t used for good? Anything that you give people that maybe you don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly happy with?”
“I think mama gave a dwarf some lilies the other day to purify his heart. She thought he was trying to pick me up or something,” Maggie said.
“Okay, I need you to do better than that,” Lenny said. Are any of the flowers dare I say…toxic?” he asked.
Maggie thought long and hard. It was as if she was manually searching each and every flower encyclopedia stored away in her mind, looking for the perfect flower. Finally, she said “follow me” before taking Lenny to the far left of the garden where there was a field of pale purple bell-shaped flowers surrounded by green leaves and black, perfectly rounded berries. The flowers were locked away behind a gated fence, away from all other plants.
“Black berries? This is your poison?” Lenny criticized.
“No. Belladonnas.” Maggie explained, “One of the deadliest plants in the entire world. That’s why we keep them locked away from everything else.”
“Okay. I can work with this. Let me think,” Lenny said. “How about we pick some of these berries and tell Gunter here we’ve got him some nice blackberries for lunch?”
Maggie shook her head. “Nope, won’t work. He’ll know as soon as he sees it it’s not a blackberry.”
“Okay. How about we crush it and make some tea then? Don’t you have some chamomile around here we can mix it with?” Lenny asked.
“Excellent idea!” Maggie said, “I’ll pull the chamomile plants and I can make up the tea mixture. Dad keeps hot water in the shed for when he’s working late at night and wants coffee or tea, so I can just borrow some. He won’t even notice it’s gone.”
“Sounds good, but how about you hand me the supplies to make the tea and then you can go off and find Gunter. I don’t want to scare the guy.”
“Sounds good” Maggie said as she picked off the flowers and berries and handed them to Lenny.
Lenny entered into the garden shed and found the water right away and began the process of making the tea mixture. He rubbed the chamomile plant in his hand until the petals began to crumble. Next, he crushed up the berries as much as he could until they were nearly liquified. He mixed it all together and poured the hot water over it into a teacup he found sitting on a table in the corner of the shed.
“That shall do,” Lenny said as he admired his work. He left the shed and found Maggie standing with Gunter just a few rows back. He walked over towards them.
“Lenny! Meet Gunter. Gunter is our family’s garden gnome that was hired to help out with our garden. Gunter, meet Lenny.”
“Hi, nice to meet you. Which tribe are you from?” Gunter asked.
“Uhm. I’m a uhhh…Elf,” Lenny lied. He knew if he said he was a leprechaun he would risk being thrown out of the garden. Gnomes and leprechauns have always been mortal enemies, especially when it came between the Irish leprechauns like Lenny and German gnomes like Gunter.
“Oh cool. Where are you from?” Gunter asked.
“Where all of the elves are from, the North Pole, silly!” Lenny said.
“Actually we have some elves that are local to our forest here in Germany, but they sure look a lot different from you,” Gunter said. The North Pole sounds pretty far from Germany. What brings you here?” Gunter asked.
“I uh invited him over for tea,” Maggie said.
“Young lady you shouldn’t be inviting anyone over without your parents’ permission. And hey, what are you doing outside of your well?” Gunter asked.
Maggie rolled her eyes and began to answer before Lenny interrupted her. “Enough of the chit-chat. Do you want some of my famous Christmas tea fresh from the North Pole or not?” Lenny asked.
“Imported Christmas tea? Count me in!” Gunter said as he took a big gulp.
Within seconds, Gunter dropped dead to the ground.
“GUNTER? ARE YOU OKAY?” Maggie screamed.
“What do you think? He just drank belladonna tea,” Lenny said.
“You killed him!” she said.
“Well, yeah. You said you wanted him gone,” Lenny said.
“Yeah GONE. Not dead!”
“Sweetheart, we all have to die someday. Pick your poison. Would you rather die alone in a tower, with Gunter, a man you don’t love, or another method of your own choosing?
“Another method of my own choosing,” Maggie answered with hesitation.
“Okay, glad we got that taken care of. Now honey, can I grant you another wish?” Lenny asked.
“Can we get rid of this body first? It stinks and I don’t think my parents would be happy to find it like this,” Maggie said.
“Is that your wish?” he asked.
“Yes,” Maggie replied.
“Sure thing.” Lenny said. “You know the drill.”
Maggie closed her eyes as Lenny poured black glitter over her before chanting, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Get rid of Gunter’s smelly dead body is a MUST!”
Maggie began to open her eyes before Lenny screamed out, “Keep them closed! Wish in progress!”
“Okay I will!” Maggie said, “But is something burning?”
Lenny was rubbing two sticks together that he pulled off from the nearby apple tree. It was beginning to spark and form a fire. Just as the flames began to rise and inch closer to his hands he threw the burning sticks over to where Gunter’s dead body laid.
“Okay you can open them now. And yes, it’s burning baby. Burn, baby, burn.”
“You lite Gunter on fire???” Maggie exclaimed.
“Sweetheart, he’s already dead. You wanted me to get rid of the body. I figured cremation was the easiest method.”
“You are cruel and unbelievable!” Maggie said.
“You say that, and yet here I am making all of your wishes come true,” Lenny smirked.
“Why do you have to be so evil? Can’t you just use some of your leprechaun magic instead? Kind of like how my family and I use our fairy magic?” Maggie asked.
“Sweetheart, I hate to break it to you like this, but someone’s got to tell you someday. Magic ain’t real,” Lenny explained.
“What do you mean magic isn’t real?” Maggie asked. “My parents having been using it in their recipes and making a fortune off of it for ages. And what about you? You got me out of this well and you got rid of Gunter and you still owe me one more wish,” she said.
“Honey, your parents are better con artists than even I am, and I never thought that could even be possible,” Lenny admitted. “They use ingredients in their recipes that have healing benefits or are good for you in some way, shape, or form. But that ain’t magic. It’s all in everyone’s head. For example, if I want to fall in love I’m going to buy one of those love pies or whatever it is your mother makes and then I’m going go out and claim to be in love because it’s what I think will happen, what I want to happen. But I don’t need no damn pie to make me fall in love. I just need to have that idea planted in my head. And I didn’t get you out of the well, you flew out. You were just so focused on the magic you didn’t even realize it was you all along. And I poisoned and killed Gunter. What’s so magical about poison, Maggie? Poison is poison as murder is murder. I’m not too proud to admit now that I’m a murderer.”
“So, if none of this magic is real, then my entire life, this entire Moore Magical garden -it’s all a lie?” she asked.
“Yes,” Lenny said.
“What happens now?” Maggie asked.
“You’re free. When’s the last time you were free?” Lenny asked.
Maggie thought long and hard. “I have never been free,” she replied.
“The gate is open. Write your own story,” he said.
“What about you?” Maggie asked.
“I can take care of myself,” Lenny said.
Today I read chapters 9-10 of 1 Corinthians. There were several parts of chapter 10 that really stood out to me. The first verse that caught my attention was one that I have previously highlighted and it is 1 Corinthians 10:21 which states, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakes of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” What this verse means is we have to be careful who we choose to spend our time with, what activities we decide to partake in, and really what we VALUE in this world. Do we value God or do we value man? You can have God or the world, but you can’t have both things.
This reminds me a lot of the Jeremy Camp song, “Give Me Jesus”. I saw Jeremy Camp perform a phenomenal show at Living Waters church in Burlington last weekend and the words really stayed with me in this song in particular. The words of this song are very simple and it works. Perhaps that was Camp’s point even – to strip the song of the bare necessities – Jesus. The chorus simply states, “Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus. You can have all this world, Just give me Jesus” (Camp). If you’re a Christian and you are truly saved and truly choose to follow God and to live in Christ, that’s all you need in the world. When we die and go to heaven nothing here on Earth is going to matter; the only thing that matters is our love and belief in Christ.
Here is a lyric video featuring Jeremy Camp’s “Give Me Jesus”. Thanks to iamSB for posting it on YouTube!
Another passage that stood out to me was 1 Corinthians 10: 26 which states, “For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” God created this earth and everything on it including all of mankind. We need to honor God in all that we do and remember to whom we belong. This ties in with verse 31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” As Christians and disciples of God we need to consider our actions and how we live our lives and the things we choose to partake in each day. Are we glorifying and honoring God? Do our actions show us as being God’s people? Can everyone see Christ in us?
1 Corinthians 10 concludes with verse 33 which states, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” It is important for us to live Godly lives and to act in a way and to live in a way that is god-pleasing and god-honoring so that people will see Christ in us so that we may reach those who are not saved and to help to bring them to Christ. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect; we will never be perfect. It just means that we will strive to be the people that God created us to be and that people will see Christ in us and be so inspired by our lives and the way we live in Christ, that they will be compelled to follow Christ, too.
The controlling values of 1 Corinthians 10 might look something like this:
Purpose: We must reject the world to follow God.
Context: Following the world will cause us to sin, commit idolatry, and separate us from God.
The opposing controlling values may look like this:
Purpose: Following the world will give us more opportunities and grant us higher status among society.
Context: Chasing materialistic worldly things can never fully satisfy us; only the love and grace of a savior can fulfill us.
Actually, looking at that again now after letting it sit, perhaps the opposing controlling value may be:
Purpose: If we don’t follow the world, we will be missing out.
Context: Following the world closes the door on God where we will receive better gifts than what the world can give us.
Am I living a Christ-focused life? I want to think yes, but to be honest, this is something I need to work on. Attending a public university and juggling my Master’s courses with teaching and working full time can be a challenge. I am guilty of putting God on the backburner so I can do all of these other things when in reality God should always be my priority. When people look at me and my life, is God the first thing that comes to mind? I’d like to think so, but I can’t help but think they see me as being a student or a social media marketer first and a Christian second. I need to fix this.
These verses really touched me today because 1. I need to get back to reading my Bible on a daily basis and not just immersing myself in his word, but LIVING his word and living for Christ and not the world. Also, 1 Corinthians 10:33 reminds me so much of my mission statement and what I want to accomplish in life; to please God. I am writing a novel not for my own gain and not for my audience’s gain, but for the glory of God. Everything that I do in life is for God’s glory and to honor and serve him and to share his love and his word with others. This is something that is so easy to forget and something I need to be reminded of. When I grow tired and when I question my work and why I am doing this, I remember him. None of this is for me, it’s all for him and I am exactly where God wants me to be doing the things he wants me to do for him.
For those of you who don’t already know, I am currently enrolled in my first semester of graduate school in the MA in Writing program at Rowan University. One of the classes I am enrolled in this semester is Core I: Theories and Techniques of Writing. This is a required class for my program where we study many other writers and how they write. We have just been assigned to write a paper that is either an imitation or parody of another writer. For this assignment I have chosen to write a parody of Henry David Thoreau’s “Why I Went to the Woods”. My parody is listed below. As you read it I ask that you keep in mind that part of the assignment requires me to adopt Thoreau’s writing style. This is why the sentences are so long and detailed with many commas and semi colons and very long paragraphs. It is also why some parts of it may feel very repetitive and the language is kind of old-fashioned and not the way people talk today. I am attempting to write in Thoreau’s voice here, not my own. Also, please keep in mind that this is a first draft. While I am very proud of this draft (hence why I am choosing to publish it to my blog), it is just that, a first draft. This is far from perfect and will be undergoing significant revision as my semester goes on. I do however welcome any comments or feedback.
Why I Went to Church
I went to church because I wished to live for Christ, and to live my life in a way that is only pleasing to him, and to see if I could lead a life free of sin, so as to go on to heaven at the time of my death. I wished to follow the commandment of my Lord in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1728). I wanted to surrender myself and my life to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, to live so spiritually and free of materialism as to have no one question my faith, but for others to come to know Christ through me and my faith, and to show the world what it means to be a Christian. We do not live our lives for us, we live for Christ.
Did you ever consider how we might live for Christ? Living for Christ is a conscientious choice that we must make every day; a decision to live free of our material possessions and the worldly sinful life. Some choose the pleasure of a life of Christ, others choose the ways of the world run by Satan. It is my hope that one day those who choose the world will wake up and break free of Satan’s hold on them, that they will suddenly choose the life of Christ and follow him and his ways, so that they too, may be saved. Why should we exercise the right of free will? We are determined to choose our own paths in life. Men constantly choose their own paths, thinking they know what’s best for their lives. But we constantly fall short of the glory of God. It all started with Adam and Eve, who chose their own free will, they took pleasure in their own hearts’ desires, so that now we must all suffer the misfortunes of their sin. And now when comes forth acts of temptation, we must all struggle with decision to sin or turn way and follow God, for this is a constant battle in an unbelievers heart, until the day comes that they may be saved.
There is but few men residing alongside Washington Township who considers himself not a sinner, but a saved man, yet has an excuse every which way for why he cannot attend church. The man claims to not have the time of day for such matters as church, yet the same man and his wife would ask the fine couple next door, “What’s the plans for the day?”, fearing that they may miss out on the town’s latest social event. Yet they fail to realize the day’s occurrences are but temporary, for they cannot match the days of heaven that would lie ahead of them, if they were to only get saved.
Still, we live for the world and not for Christ; though the Bible tells us in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mam’-mon” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1462). Our lives are stained in sin. A saved man knows not to count on the things in the world for happiness, for as Psalm 23 states, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 915). Pray, pray, pray! I command, pray 10 or 20 times a day, and not once or twice; instead of television read your bible, and listen to 2 Corinthians 6:14 which demands, “Be yet not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1764). Pray, pray. Instead of arguing with your wife, pray for peace; instead of drinking at the bar, invite your friends over for a time of prayer; and pray for each other as often as you can. Our lives are each ridden with sin as the result of the fall of Adam and Eve, and we constantly fall short of the glory of God, with the only option to escape salvation through the grace Christ alone. Look at our nation, an icon of sin, which obviously hasn’t been doing so well in recent years, thrives on the motto, “Do what makes you happy, regardless of the consequences”, which explains why we have become obsessed with the sexualization of our culture and the constant need for self-gratification, and the only way to escape the ruins that we have fallen into as a nation is to turn away from ourselves and our own free will and instead surrender our lives to Christ and his will and his ways for ourselves as individuals and our nation as a whole. Repent, repent, repent! We must admit our shortcomings to the Lord and ask for his forgiveness as we accept the life he has laid out for us, and not merely the paths we think we know best for ourselves, for in all honesty, we know nothing. Men believe that they must engage in pre-marital sex, to put money before prayer, and to break each and every commandment in the bible for the stake of liberty and equality in our nation; whether they actually engage in these acts or support them as bystanders remains to be uncertain, but whether we shall live as moral Christians or sinful heathens these days is questionable.
As for me, I could easily do without the television. I believe there are very few Christ-pleasing shows on air these days. To be honest, I haven’t seen a television program but twice a year during the span of my lifetime that I believed worthwhile of my time. And I am confident that I’m not missing out much on this week’s latest tabloid stories. It’s just one Kardashian sex tape, Taylor Swift’s breakup, WikiLeaks breakthrough, celebrity drug overdose, Jennifer Aniston pregnancy, Kanye West feud, Kate Middelton hat, Oprah Winfrey failed diet, Jennifer Lopez wedding, and Angelina Jolie divorce after the other. Reading one tabloid story is more than enough to last me to my final days. Why do we care to read so much gossip about the misfortunes of the rich and famous? Does Ephesians 4:29 not state, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers”? (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1785). Rather than judging these celebrities and talking about the times when they fall short of the glory of God, shall we not pray for them instead? I hear women in the grocery store pick up these tabloids and chat about the celebrities all the time. “That Taylor Swift sure gets around these days,” they say, “What a whore!”. Some of these expressions come from women who wear a cross around their necks and claim to be a Christian, yet they can’t remember the last time they stepped foot in a church or made time for prayer. They may be better off if they threw the tabloids in the trash where they belong and open up their bible and fold their hands to pray instead. Gossiping about Taylor Swift and talking bad about the other celebrities in the tabloids will only fuel the success of the tabloids and bring about no change or betterment of the lives of those who these women mock; for the only real change can come within these celebrities due to an intervention from the holy one above. We as citizens and brothers and sisters in Christ can only do our part to pray for those in need, and not to gossip about the misfortunes and shortcomings of others, for we know ourselves to be stained with the same blood of sinners.
Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll seems like a life of luxury. Sure, these things will bring us gratification, but men must realize it is only temporary. For as John 14:6 tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father; but by me” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1638). We can never be satisfied in the things of the world or our own personal gratification alone; we must depend on Christ for hope, salvation, and happiness to last all eternity.
Prayer is but the essence of my life. I come to the Lord as a sinner ready to repent, yet through his grace he redeems me. I struggle in the world ridden with sin as my eternity in paradise awaits. I would live more humbly, pray more often, and attend church to hear the word of my Lord and savior amongst a community of imperfect believers. I am perfectly flawed. I cannot count but one day of life without sin. I always regret the ways in which I let my savior down. I strive to live a life for Christ; but the devil often crosses my path and leads me down the road to sin. I do not wish to follow his ways, but rather to cleanse myself with the holy water to follow in the path of Christ. My heart is pure and for my Lord. I feel an overflowing love and adoration for my savior Christ. I hear the promises my Lord makes in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (The Holy Bible : authorized King James version: super giant print edition: words of Christ in red, 1996, p. 1212). I hear his calling and I follow him, to live a life of purity and the need for nothing more than my faith in my Lord and savior Jesus Christ; for I understand that this life in the present moment is but temporary, the starting point for a life of eternity in Christ that is yet to come.
Hey guys! Happy Wednesday! It’s a happy Wednesday because I’m finally on the last day of the 30 day writing challenge! It took me long enough!
The final challenge is to write about something I’m looking forward to. There are many exciting things I’m looking forward to in my life, but one of the biggest ones is becoming a college adjunct professor and teaching my first class this fall.
I know a lot of people were surprised when I announced that I’d be teaching this fall. Some were a bit surprised and a lot of people have expressed their concerns and almost doubt me and my ability to teach. I know some people, whether they actually come out and say it or not, are thinking that this is kind of “random”. Surprising? Yes. Crazy? A bit.But random? No…not at all.
Teaching is actually something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I’ve always valued education. I’ve always loved to learn and have been a bit of a nerd my whole life. Many people thought I would become a teacher. My parents always encouraged it, that’s for sure. When I was in high school I was an AVID tutor that worked with at-risk students to help to prepare them for college. My teachers all loved the work I did as a tutor and they thought I’d make a great teacher, too.
I’ve always enjoyed working with kids as well. I first realized how much I enjoyed working with children when I was about 12 years old and worked my first job as a summer camp counselor. I made less than $70 for the entire summer, but I didn’t care at all because I loved what I was doing so much. I didn’t just play with kids, but I learned from them and they learned to me. I built relationships with these kids and I got to see them grow so much in the 2 months that we spent together. I talked about them all all the time as if they were my own kids. I felt good about the work I did as a camp counselor and it made me realize that if I enjoyed this work so much, I’d certainly love to be a teacher where I could make an even bigger impact on children.
I dreamed of becoming a pre-school or kindergarten teacher. Then I realized I had a passion for English and becoming an English teacher started to gain appeal.
There was just one major problem:
I was born with profound hearing loss. I never learned sign language. I couldn’t hear the kids I was a camp counselor for (fortunately it never mattered much. I had the support of the other counselors to fall back on and the kids just wanted to play anyway). How would I ever hear my students?
Not being able to hear the kids I supervised at camp was one thing. Not being able to hear students was quite another thing. I wouldn’t be able to ask them questions, because I’d never hear the answers. I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions, either because I wouldn’t be able to hear them.
Suddenly, I found myself completely giving up on dream and chalking it up on the list of things that just weren’t meant to be for my life. I still decided to study English and writing in college, but this time it was for my own personal use to become a writer instead. Becoming a teacher just didn’t seem like a possibility for me.
At least, not at that moment…
I didn’t realize back then that I’d later go on to receive cochlear implants that would allow me to gain above average hearing. I never could’ve imagined that I’d be given this incredible gift that would allow me to hear almost perfectly…a gift that would make it so I’d never have to worry about hearing my students.
But even after receiving my cochlear implants I didn’t think it would ever open the door to teaching for me. I thought that was a missed opportunity I would never get back again. How could I be a teacher now? I was working full time for an agency receiving below-average pay. While my checks weren’t for much, I depended very heavily on them. I also worked a typical day schedule…which would be the exact schedule I’d need to follow in order to do student teaching which is a requirement in order to be certified to teach at a grade school level. Teaching at a college level also wasn’t an option since I didn’t have my MA yet and wasn’t sure if I ever would. I have wanted to enroll in Rowan’s MA in Writing Program for years, but always backed out fearing the cost. I was already thousands of dollars in debt and unable to afford my student loan repayments from my undergrad. I heard financial aid didn’t exist as a grad student. Grad school sounded like a great idea, but completely impractical. There was no way I’d ever be able to afford it.
That was, until I received an e-mail from Professor Rob Block in March explaining that Rowan has developed a new Teaching Experience Program (TEP). The program sounded like the answer to all of my problems. It would allow me to follow my dream of becoming a teacher without having to give up my full time job and it would also help me to pay the cost of my tuition and allow me to work towards earning my MA degree.
To make things even better, a few months after receiving that initial email I left my job at the agency I was working for and started working for Penn Medicine instead. After my first semester, Penn will pay up to $8,000 a year towards my tuition which should cover the full cost each semester I’d imagine. They are also more than willing to help to work around my school and teaching schedule.
This is the beginning of the next chapter in my life. It may have taken me awhile, but I am finally going to have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher, and not just a teacher – but a college professor! I am so beyond excited to take on this new role in September. It’s about so much more than just teaching first year writing to students. It’s about creating strong relationships with these students and working to motivate, encourage, and inspire them and to help them to grow not just as writers, but as students. I hope to improve their writing skills, but more than that, I hope to make a difference in their lives and their college experience. If I manage to do those things, then I’ll consider my job as a professor to have been a success.