Mockingbird Memories: RIP Harper Lee

This morning, I read on Facebook that Harper Lee passed away. At first I couldn’t believe it, and then I let the news sink in. I keep a blank page in my bullet journal to jot down anything that happens. I could think of no other quotation to write down than this one from To Kill a Mockingbird:

 

I also wanted to write about some memories I had of this iconic piece of literature. So here goes:

When I was in seventh grade in 2002, To Kill a Mockingbird was put on as a play at the Carlisle Theatre. I was not in it, but I did go to see it with my grandparents. I watched in awe as the story was brought to life by the actors and actresses onstage. But I finally read the book in eighth grade for my English class. It was unlike anything I had ever read before. Harper Lee brought the story to life through her wonderful writing. I wanted to know what happened next to the characters. I also learned a lot about not judging other people. One of my favorite quotations in the book is where Atticus tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I try to live by this statement like Scout did. In addition to reading the novel that spring, we reenacted the trial during class. I knew that I didn’t want to play Scout, so I volunteered to play Mayella Ewell. I rehearsed my lines in the chapters and made sure I was ready. It was fun to play out the trial scenes because it brought them to life and helped us understand it better. My teacher told me later that she would never forget my performance of Mayella. After we finished reading the book, I felt like it had a big impact on me. It teaches you valuable lessons and introduces you to memorable characters. I read it again in a college English class, and it taught me even more lessons than it did in middle school.  

Thank you, Harper Lee, for your wonderful writing. I have already started reading Go Set a Watchman too. Rest in peace to a literary legend.

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Not Fade Away: Meeting Rebecca Alexander

Before I tell you about this special event, I have to go back a bit.

Last year, I was watching The Meredith Vieira Show and there was a segment with Rebecca Alexander. Meredith is friends with her brother Peter Alexander, and both Peter and Rebecca appeared on the show to talk about Rebecca’s book Not Fade Away and the obstacles she has overcome. Rebecca has Usher syndrome, but she does not let that stop her from living life. I enjoyed the segment and her positive outlook on life, and I used a birthday gift card from my aunt to buy her book for my Kindle.

I was so inspired by Rebecca’s story and I posted on Twitter that I would be honored to meet her someday. Well, “someday” became Saturday September 26th! She had an event at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, and she invited me there! It was so windy in Inner Harbor, but it was worth it. Rebecca told a few stories from her life and took questions from the audience. I related to her a lot, particularly with the cane issues. I know how to use one, but I do not want to be labeled. I use sighted guide. But I know I should start using the cane more because it will keep me safe. 

After her speech, Rebecca met with people and signed books. I met her dad, who was so kind. He gave my mom water bottles with Rebecca’s book cover on them for Amy and me, as well as a t-shirt with Rebecca’s mantra on it (“breathe in peace, breathe out fear”). I met a new friend named Angel, who also has usher syndrome, and her mom. They are both really nice! I’m looking forward to getting to know Angel better through Facebook and hopefully meeting up again sometime.

Finally, it was time to meet Rebecca! I went up and said hi and thanked her for inviting me. She responded with the biggest hug, and I knew we would get along instantly! We talked about our stories and she signed books for Amy, my eye doctor, and me. She talked to Angel too. She was floored to hear about Amy being a journalist like Peter, as was her father. I enjoyed being around them and was sad to leave. I will always treasure their kindness and cannot wait to get together again sometime! 

I’m glad I was able to make some new friends this weekend! Thank you, Rebecca and Mr. Alexander for everything yesterday! Good luck with the rest of your book tour, Rebecca! See you again sometime soon!

   
    
    
    
 

Meeting Literary Royalty: Judy Blume and Meg Wolitzer

Hi!  Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  I was busy with a new semester of grad school, and now it is over for the summer.  I’m thankful I don’t take summer classes because I can focus on my writing while working part-time at the summer camp, which is part of the daycare center/after-school program I work for.  On the writing front, I submitted a short story for We Need Diverse Books, and I’m working on a few more to submit to some magazines.  I’m really enjoying what I am working on, and I am excited to be able to share it with everyone soon!

Anyway I wanted to blog about a fun event I went to on June 4th.  The Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA sponsored an event at Lenape Middle School where Meg Wolitzer interviewed Judy Blume about her writing, life, and new book In the Unlikely Event.  My mom took me there, and we sat in the back, which was a good thing, but I’ll explain about that in a minute.  I enjoyed the whole interview, and Judy gave a lot of great advice to help my own writing career.  I related to her so much.

After the interview was the book signing, which started with the back rows.  I was so happy we sat in the back!  The line to see Judy was so long though.  I’m sure she felt overwhelmed at all those people.  I felt overwhelmed just standing in that line!  I had brought a bag full of her books with me in the hope that she would sign them, but she only signed copies of her new book.  I was just so honored that I was getting a book signed by literary royalty!  While we waited, we talked to some people in line who noticed my Superfudge t-shirt.

Finally, I was almost up next.  But first I talked to George Cooper, Judy’s husband.  He was really nice, and he let me take a picture with him!  (Thanks, Judy!)  Then it was my turn to meet Judy.  I handed her my book and while she signed it, I thanked her for inspiring my own writing career and said I was honored to meet her.  She thanked me for my kind words.  I couldn’t get a real picture with her, but my mom took a picture of me standing there talking to her.  And I reached out and touched her hand.  She squeezed it, and I felt like she was passing on good luck vibes to me for my own writing.  I was on cloud nine after that!

Then it was time to meet Meg Wolitzer, who I had never heard of before, except on Twitter here and there.  I was able to take a picture with her, and she signed my book and drew a cartoon for me!  I mentioned that I knew Laurie Halse Anderson and asked if she knew her.  She said no, but she wanted to meet her someday!  She wished me good luck with my writing career as well!  I thanked her.  Then we left and got Chick-fil-A on the way home.

So thank you, Judy and Meg, for a wonderful evening that night!  I’m reading ITUE now, and I can’t put it down!  Next up is Meg’s book!  I am still on cloud nine now after all this time, and I still can’t believe I met literary royalty.  I do hope Judy does tour again, but if she doesn’t, then I’m glad I got to meet her now.  Thanks for everything!

Pictures from the event:   Interview

Judy’s husband George and me! 🙂

  Meeting Judy Blume !!!!!! 🙂 Meg Wolitzer and me 🙂

Mockingbird Memories and Go Set a Watchman

I read online a few days ago that Harper Lee is publishing another book this summer.  In fact, it is being published eleven days before my birthday!  I am really ecstatic that Go Set a Watchman is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird because I wanted to know what happened to Scout Finch.  It was interesting to learn that the new book was written before …Mockingbird.

I thought back to my own memories of reading the novel.  When I was in seventh grade in 2002, it was put on as a play at the Carlisle Theatre.  I was not in it, but I did go to see it with my grandparents.  I watched in awe as the story was brought to life by the actors and actresses onstage.  But I finally read the book in eighth grade for my English class.  It was unlike anything I had ever read before.  Harper Lee brought the story to life through her wonderful writing.  I wanted to know what happened next to the characters.  I also learned a lot about not judging other people.  One of my favorite quotations in the book is where Atticus tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  I try to live by this statement like Scout did.  In addition to reading the novel that spring, we reenacted the trial during class.  I knew that I didn’t want to play Scout, so I volunteered to play Mayella Ewell.  I rehearsed my lines in the chapters and made sure I was ready.  It was fun to play out the trial scenes because it brought them to life and helped us understand it better.  My teacher told me later that she would never forget my performance of Mayella.  After we finished reading the book, I felt like it had a big impact on me.  It teaches you valuable lessons and introduces you to memorable characters.  I read it again in a college English class, and it taught me even more lessons than it did in middle school.  I will definitely be reading it this summer to refresh my memory before Go Set a Watchman is published.  I am excited to return to the town of Maycomb, Alabama and go on a tour with Scout as my literary guide, as well as learn valuable lessons.  Thank you, Harper Lee, for your wonderful writing.

Janis Ian concert

Well hello!  Nice to see you again!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving!

I’m sorry I have not written in a few months.  I’ve been busy with my current grad school class.  It’ll end next week, and then I’ll be starting the next one in January.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m really enjoying it.  I believe you are never too old to stop learning.  I’ve also been busy at the center.  And I’ve been writing a lot.  Still no word on my children’s book yet, but I know it will happen when the right agent comes along.  🙂

So anyway, I’m writing now because I went to see a phenomenal singer/songwriter on November 21st.  Her name is Janis Ian.  You might know her songs “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen,” along with others.  Well, she’s written and performed countless others.  Her lyrics are pure poetry to me.  I have all of her albums on vinyl, and I’m working on getting the rest on CD.

She performed at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center at Harrisburg Area Community College.  If you know me, then you know I went to HACC for two years before transferring to Penn State to finish my BA in English.  The auditorium was packed full of fans.  I really enjoyed the show.  She sang so many great songs, like “Jesse,” “Bright Lights and Promises,” “If I Could Hear You Sing Again” (it was originally begun by Woody Guthrie, but Janis wrote the rest and recorded it), “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen,” and a gorgeous encore of “Over the Rainbow” that gave me goosebumps.  My late grandmother loved rainbows, and I think she would have liked Janis Ian.

After the show, Mom and I waited in line (which was long) to meet Janis.  One thing that I will always love about her is that no matter how tired she is after a show, she will meet and talk to every single fan in line.  And she is so kind.  I met her before at Kutztown University, and she gave me a hug and encouragement for my writing career, along with a good luck gift (a necklace she was wearing).  This time, she remembered who I was (I wore the necklace) and told me where to send my writing to her :-).  She took a picture with me, and signed everything I brought (her autobiography, two vinyl record sleeves) and what Mom bought for me (The Tiny Mouse book, her Strictly Solo CD).  Then we talked about the albums I have of hers (my favorite is Between the Lines), and she asked if I had any of her CDs.  No, just the ones I bought that night.  So she turned to her merchandise manager and asked him to get a few of them for me.  They had run out of a bunch of them, but he found her Hunger CD for me, and she signed it.  I thanked her for it.  It is a beautiful CD with great songs.  I’m still floored that she just gave it to me, not expecting anything in return.  It is definitely clear that she appreciates her fans because they helped her get to where she is.  I am looking forward to the next time I can see her in concert because her performances are worth every penny and more.

Thank you, Janis Ian, for a wonderful evening full of beautiful music and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet your fans.  I will always appreciate it.

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Heaven has gained a beautiful rainbow in the clouds

This morning started like every other morning. I woke up, got dressed and ready for the day, and opened up my twitter and Facebook feeds to see what went on while I was sleeping. Then I saw a tweet from LeAnn Rimes (the country singer) about Maya Angelou’s death. As more and more tweets and Facebook posts poured in as tributes to this woman who had a wonderful way with words, I thought back to October 2nd, 2012. That was the day my mom took me to see Maya Angelou give a lecture at the forum in Harrisburg,PA. The following is from the entry I wrote the week after I saw her:

last week, my mom and i went and saw maya angelou speak in harrisburg! it was such an honor to be able to hear her speak! she’s a literary legend. i didn’t get to meet her, but it was so neat to just be able to see her live and in person. my mom said she looked like she could not see well (she was wearing dark glasses). the main theme of her lecture was being a rainbow in someone else’s life. it was so beautiful. she was so inspirational. she overcame so many obstacles in her life (racism, rape, teen motherhood, and so much more). mom tried to get a few pictures, but she was hidden by plants. it’s okay though; i’ll find one online. there’s just something special about maya angelou. i remember watching her as a little girl on sesame street…and i thought there was something special about her even then. in another sketch (which is not on youtube yet), big bird and maya are playing with a group of kids. big bird introduced maya as “dr. maya angelou,” and i remember asking my mom, “why do they call her doctor? she’s not a doctor!” at that time, i didn’t know that it was possible for people to be called “doctor” if they had a PhD; i just thought of a doctor as a medical doctor. eventually, i figured it out when i was older, but back then, i had no clue.

Since this is a writing blog, I wanted to also talk about the influence Maya Angelou had on my writing. Aside from Sesame Street, the only time I ever saw her on tv was on awards shows and talk shows. When she started putting quotations on journals, photo frames, and other things (her collection was called “life mosaic”), I bought some of the journals and a photo album. The photo album remains blank, but I used the journal during my freshman year of high school. I didn’t read her books until my junior year of high school, but I had read her poetry. When we were allowed to pick a book for my English class for an assignment, I picked I know why the caged bird sings. It spoke to me as I learned about Maya’s trials and tribulations as she grew up in the American south (Arkansas, St.,Louis, and San Francisco) and witnessed things like racism, poverty, sexual abuse, teen motherhood, and more. During her lecture that I attended, Maya spoke about the many rainbows in her life. She compared rainbows to people who helped her out when she needed it. But she also used rainbows to describe poetry.

In Genesis, we’re told that it rained unrelentingly and people thought it would never cease. And in an attempt to put people at ease, God put a rainbow in the sky. Well, in the 19th century, some African-American poet, probably a woman, said God put a rainbow not just in the sky, but in the clouds . . . because if the rainbow is in the cloud itself, the viewer can see the possibility of release, of hope. Poetry to me is a rainbow in the clouds.

Maya Angelou will be dearly missed by her friends, family and loved ones, readers, and fans around the world.  While she is gone, Heaven has now gained the most beautiful rainbow in the clouds with her presence.  RIP, Maya Angelou.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Harriet M. Welsch!

I wanted to write an entry about one of my favorite children’s books: Harriet the Spy.  I posted about it on Facebook as well, but I wanted to go into more details about how this book impacted me, in addition to becoming a writer.

I have to be honest, I was impacted by the movie before the book, but both played an equal role with my writing aspirations.  I first saw the movie when I was eight years old.  My mom bought the VHS tape, and I sat down and watched it.  Michelle Trachtenberg played the role of Harriet with a large amount of emotions (anger, sadness, happiness, etc.), and I laughed at the funny things and was angry when she was caught in Mrs. Plumber’s dumbwaiter.  I was sad when Ole Golly (Rosie O’Donnell) went away, and angry along with Harriet when her friends started getting revenge on her because of what she wrote about them.  I also remember feeling happy when Harriet and her friends and classmates finally made amends, and I enjoyed seeing Harriet become the editor of the sixth grade newspaper (which also inspired me to create a school newspaper at my elementary school called The Bellaire Buzz).  After I saw the movie, I got the book.  I have two copies now: an older one with Harriet as a blonde, and the one with the same cover as the VHS tape box.  I read the book over and over, even if I did not understand some of the content (i.e. dancing school, egg creams, or the word fink).  I admired the character of Harriet because she was outspoken and opinionated (even if she was a bit spoiled and immature), and she called (or wrote) everything like she saw it (in this case it was literal because she was a spy).

Through Harriet, I learned about how to be a good spy (I wore a coat and had a fanny pack full of my spy gear :-)), as well as how to be a nicer person (I knew I did not want to be mean like she was, both in real life and in her writing sometimes).  But I also learned how to keep my eyes and ears open for everything no matter what.

So thank you, Louise Fitzhugh, for creating this memorable character and for writing this book.  It has had an influence on me as an aspiring writer, as well as an amateur detective/spy.  It was also what inspired me to write many short mystery stories as a kid.

Authors I Admire

First I would like to say thank you for reading my blog and visiting my website!  I am really looking forward to sharing my journey with you!

And second, I wanted to thank many of the authors who I have admired and whose books have influenced my life and writing over the years.  I, as an aspiring author, have read a lot of books throughout my childhood and in school.  I still enjoy reading.  To me, a good story draws you in from the first page, and you get lost in the character’s world as you keep reading until you turn to the last page.  Here is a list of the authors I admire, and this list keeps growing each year!

  • Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Judy Blume
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Harper Lee
  • Johanna Hurwitz
  • Gayle Forman
  • Lois Lowry
  • Roald Dahl
  • Lisa Grunwald
  • Janis Ian
  • Emma Donoghue
  • Shel SIlverstein
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Stan and Jan Bernstein
  • Mercer Mayer
  • and many more

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p>There are many more than I could ever fit on this list, but I wanted to thank each of them for writing the books that they have and for having an influence on me as an author.

I’ve also been busy working on a new novel idea, and I have been doing a lot of research on it.  I’ll post more about it when I can.  More later!

Hello and welcome :-)

Hi! Welcome to “Futurewriter13: Ashley Kauffman’s Website and Blog,” also known as “Adventures of an Aspiring Author!” I’m very glad you came! Feel free to follow me here! You can also add me as a friend on Facebook, look at my pictures and request to follow me on Instagram, and follow me on Twitter (@futurewriter13).

This is my blog where I write about my adventures. I’m an aspiring author. I sent out my first children’s book manuscript and am waiting to get everything finalized to become a published author. I’m also working on a few other projects.  But this is not my first attempt at a blog.

I had another blog called “Futurewriter13: Ashley’s random thoughts and observations.” In it, I wrote about my life and posted pictures. It was great! But now that blog is finished.  It had a good long run over the past nine years, and while I enjoyed blogging on Xanga and LiveJournal (my blogging sites of choice as a teenager), I am glad to be starting fresh on WordPress.

Mostly this blog will be about my adventures with becoming a writer and what will happen once I am published, my writing style, tips I have for other writers, books that I have read and really enjoyed, etc.  I will also write about my life, which includes my family and friends.  I am in the process of getting a master’s degree in children’s literature from penn state, so I will be blogging about that from time to time. I work at a daycare center a few days a week when I’m not writing, and I am also writing trainings for other daycare programs. I won’t be posting about those things as much.  I can promise you that I will not be blogging about anything mean.  I am the same way on Twitter.  Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of her show to always “be kind,” and I live by that phrase.

Thank you for reading my blog and looking at my website.  I am looking forward to connecting with people through this.  Thanks for coming along for the ride! 🙂