“What’s a library, Mrs Collins?”

Yesterday I subbed in a Pre-K classroom. Yes, I’m still alive and breathing. (Actually, I prefer teaching the little ones way over a classroom of 7th graders which I did last week and will never do again.) But I was talking with some of the Pre-K kids and I mentioned I was going to go to the library after school.

Now, I know these kids have only had roughly four short years of life, but I was stunned when not one of the kids knew what I was talking about. “What’s the library, Mrs. Collins?” questioned sweet little *Danny. I think my mouth literally dropped open. I’ve taught Preschool before and books were always a huge portion of the curriculum. My classes always made a field trip of going to the library and reading/checking out books. But yesterday afternoon in the public school Pre-K program, it was clear that the kids I was there to teach and protect and encourage had never been exposed to something I consider essential to becoming educated little humans who will grow up to be productive good adults.

So, I told them about the library.

Granted, some of what I said went way over their heads. For example, did they need to know about the forming of the first lending library in Arkansas? No. But that little rabbit hole was a by-product of my other job as Historic Interpreter who happens to know the story of the first lending library in Arkansas. I asked them if they liked to read books or have books read aloud to them. Every single student raised a hand. So we talked about all the books in libraries and how each one can take you to a different place. I asked them to close their eyes and imagine being in the setting for the books I read to them. It’s my greatest hope that the next time an adult reads to them, they’ll do that again and be transported somewhere else.

There may be some parents scratching heads today, wondering why their child is asking about going to the library. But here’s the thing, libraries aren’t just for kids. There’s so much adults can experience beyond checking out books. I truly hope that some of the parents will go check it out in the future.

I’m not one to make public political statements, so I will stop short of doing that now. But I will say that libraries are as necessary and relevant and crucial as bookstores. They’re part of the fabric of our society and in this digital age, most have adapted and grown into more than just a place to get free books for a short time. (But hey, that’s a bonus for voracious readers like myself who can’t afford to support their book habits by purchasing hardbacks of every book they want to read!)

I hope I planted a seed that grows all those little four-year-old baby pre-readers minds And I hope the love of books and the library spreads to their parents and friends. And I hope that I run into some of them in my library very soon.

On a somewhat-related topic. Prior to this year, I had no earthly idea how many books I typically read in a year. All I knew is that there is never a time when I’m not reading a book. So I set about trying to count how many I read. I made a goal for myself of 52 books in one year. A book a week can’t be that hard, right? Really, I had guessed that’s about the rate I was reading.

Turns out I was wrong. I just passed the 52 mark with four months left in the year.

That’s a lot of books.

Most of them have been YA because I always want to read what I write. But some of have been MG books written by friends or NA and adult books written by my favorite YA author who occasionally crosses over into other age ranges. Some of them I will consider “my faves” and some have been excellent examples of what not to do as an author. The bottom line is that I’ve read continuously and with every book I’m being entertained or transported or taught something valuable to implement in my own writing.

A lot of those 52 books have come from the library.

Belle library

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent. 


Crying Out Loud

I had lunch with a good friend today. (She’s the one who’s always encouraged me and continues to support me during the roller coaster ride of trying to become published and I love her for it. ) We started talking about the fact that we both seem to cry more over fiction (books, movies, tv, commercials) than we do over reality.  I joked that it probably says something horrendous about our psyches, but this afternoon I looked into it and found articles that suggest otherwise.

My friend and I aren’t monsters who fail to care about our loved ones. For one thing, we’re both moms and have had our fair share of being strong for our children and husbands and families. It’s hard to cope with a situation when you’re having to stop and wipe the tears. So, in reality, we suck in our emotions and deal with whatever emotional situation that’s arisen, be it the death of loved ones, or kids in trouble, or financial hardships or exhaustion. Whatever the case, we are present for the moment. Usually the tears will come later.

Tears over fiction are immediate. Earlier today I finished my favorite author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER. It was released last year, but I put it off because I knew, I knew it was going to make me cry based on the subject matter alone. But I wanted to read it for several reasons: I adore her writing, I need to read more contemporary work, and my recent manuscript touches some of the same subjects as this one does. (Though in a much different way.) Luckily I have learned to finish books in the privacy of my own home. Where the tissue boxes are plenty and the gaping uncomfortable stares are few.

I was right. I bawled like a baby off and on for the last fiftyish pages of the book. But it was a good cry. This book had an amazing ending. It was very well done. And that’s why I cried so much. I FELT it. I felt what the characters were feeling and it knocked in the gut. This is most certainly a nod to her talent as an author, as well as evidence of my ability to connect with people who aren’t real.

Research shows fiction, in both literary and cinematic forms, greatly improves people’s capacity for empathy. It has to do with the production of oxytocin in our brains. I read an article listing an experiment on oxytocin production. To sum it up, when the participants were exposed to a video depicting an emotional scenario (child speaking about his cancer) their oxytocin production increased 47% over those who were shown a scenario in which the same child visited a zoo. The experiment went on to reveal that those who’s oxytocin had increased were shown to be more generous to strangers and give money to charity.

I find that all very fascinating.

And a bit validating too. I mean, anyone who’s seen a movie with me can testify that I will likely be a blubbering mess. And as I read the last half of ALLEGIANT? Please. It took me almost an hour and half to read Four’s POV chapters after [SPOILER HAPPENED.] I had to stop and wipe away my tears too many times.

I think the tears we cry over fiction can be our emotional release so that when an emotional crisis arises in our reality, we can deal with it. That doesn’t mean we won’t cry when bad things happen in real life. I do. Frequently. But I think my ability to connect with fictional characters and feel their pain (especially when I’m reading an amazing author!) makes it easier for me to deal with real life emotional situations.

Now before someone starts throwing bananas at me (because that would be a far worse fate for me personally than throwing tomatoes), I’m not saying that crying over fiction makes us the superior of the species. I know many people who don’t feel emotionally connected to fiction who are loving and empathetic people. I married to one of those people. But as I said to my friend today, I kind of feel sorry for those who don’t feel emotion that stems from fiction. I am encouraging everyone who is worried about being ridiculed for crying over books or movies (Young adult books, even? GASP), don’t. It’s okay to let those tears flow. Increase the oxytocin. Let it out. I’ll be here with my ample supply of tissues.

BOOK REC: If you’re looking for something to increase your oxytocin, I will wholeheartedly suggest THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Even though I passed high school age many moons ago, I still FELT with these characters. It’s not typically the type of book I’d read, but I didn’t put it down once I began reading. The subject matter is dark and unfortunately all too real, but this hit all the right emotional notes with me. Jennifer is amazing and this book is worth the time.

For more info about Jennifer and THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER, visit her site here.

My research source article can be found here.

Water Day

Today I’m celebrating World Water Day. I’m taking a moment to be grateful for all the good things water gives us.

I wrote about the water crisis last week, so I won’t start spewing facts and statistics at you again. They’re available on water.org if you’re interested. I recommend taking a look as soon as you can. Check out the introduction video on the site. I hope it’ll open your eyes like it did mine.

I’ve been aware of water.org for a few years now but only recently after doing some research for a couple of novel ideas that I have, did I come to fully understand what the organization does and how it impacts communities across the globe. They’re doing good work to provide lasting solutions to the water crisis.

Personally, I’ve found myself very grateful for my toilet. Seriously. It’s not something we talk about in civilized conversations, but maybe it should be. Because I have a clean toilet I can use any time I want. (And I use it a lot because I pretty much mainline Diet Coke.) But what if I didn’t have a white porcelain throne and instead had to squat in the mud where seventeen other people have squatted today? Suddenly a new role of Charmin seems more precious than gold.

Millions of people are dealing with this every single day. And it breaks my heart. And that’s why I support water.org and celebrate World Water Day. Because how can I turn a blind eye to something so fundamentally important to every living soul on the planet?

Visit WaterDay.org to celebrate Water Day with me. You can create your own photo to share what water gives you. I’d like to share a couple with you- mine and Matt Damon’s.


And because I like to put feet to my words, I’ll share something I was inspired to write after seeing a water.org photo on Instagram. It’s not easy for me to share this because it’s not a complete scene or story, or even fully edited, but it’s what came to me.  I hope it inspires you to do something. Share. Donate. Celebrate. Think. Give thanks. Act.


Six hours. Six hours isn’t bad as long as she begins in the morning just as the dew is starting to form in the fields. Six hours over dusty, rock-laden paths beat down by the footfalls of a thousand other women who came before her.

Six hours. Three each way.

Every day.

Without ceasing.

A yellow plastic jug trails behind Darsha, leaving a chalky mist in its wake as she trudged from the outskirts of the slum she calls home toward the place where she will gather today’s water.

As the sun peeks over the horizon creating a hazy golden glow on the fields, Darsha temporarily forgets where she is and what she’s doing. For a brief moment, she rests on the shore of some nameless crystal lake with her toes dug into the mud and the cool water trickling over her shins. But as the odor of the men squatting in the field beyond her assault her nose, she remembers and picks up her feet.

Six hours for her family.

Six hours for life.

Only six hours.

The day has twenty-four. 


The Tides of March

When I first hopped onto the internet today, I was met with several “Beware the Ides of March” posts and references. And that was great because it’s absolutely the first thing I thought this morning when I saw the date. Who doesn’t love a good Shakespeare reference? In fact, I was going to blog something about the Ides of March today, but I changed my mind after I saw this video.

Hey there, Matt Damon, most talented and brilliant actor in the world, whatcha talking about?

Please allow me to explain.

In September 2015 the UN General Assembly set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) meant to further the gains made worldwide in stamping out poverty and injustice. You can see the complete list HERE.

It includes things like eliminating poverty, ending hunger, quality education for all, renewable energy, sustainable cities and communities, good health, and economic growth. All lofty and worthy goals that we NEED to support.

As I was looking over the list of SDGs something struck me. Most of the goals on the list are not really obtainable without first conquering SDG #6 – Clean water and sanitation.

With a background in education, I’m invested in seeing quality education for all. But how can we teach children if they aren’t in school because they have to travel miles every day just to reach a clean source of water? Moreover, how can we end hunger when there’s no water to grow sustainable crops? Or how can we keep everyone healthy when entire communities live in fear of the bacteria invading their water supply?

We can’t.

If you’ve ever taken a Gen Psych or Sociology course, you’ll remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. (Are you picturing a triangle? You should be picturing a triangle right now.) Maslow stated that people are inherently motivated to achieve certain needs. At the very base of the triangle lies BIOLOGICAL and PHYSIOLOGICAL need. It includes air, food, water, shelter, warmth, sleep. If those needs are not being met, there’s no way anyone is moving up the triangle where you find safety, love, esteem and self-actualization.

Did you catch it? Access to clean water and proper sanitation is a basic human need. According to water.org 1 in 10 people lack access to clean water. And 1 in 3 lack access to sanitary toilets.

I’m not okay with those numbers.

I know I’m starting to sound “crusadey” with this. (And I’m okay with that, by the way. I will never apologize for who I am and what I think.) But I’ve been researching the water crisis and specifically water.org for months now and it’s given me a new perspective that I want to share with as many people as I can. While I don’t have the fans that Matt Damon has to bring awareness to this cause, I do have voice. And I’m using it.

Think of it as trying to change the tide on the water crisis. (See what I did there? Tides of March. *nods*)

If you’re interested in more info, check out water.org

And join me in celebrating Water Day next Tuesday. Water Day

And you can help for FREE by donating a photo here. Johnson&Johnson DonateAPhoto



No less than 14 people texted, emailed, messaged, called or Facebooked me on Sunday regarding my reaction to the trailer for the new Bourne movie. Since I’m currently simmering my WIP and have no new writing things to share today, I thought I’d use today’s blog to become a movie critic.

Er, movie trailer critic

I tuned into the Super Bowl to wait for this trailer. No, I am not ashamed of that. I was in the movie. I think that makes it okay. I had done enough research to know that Universal only bought 60 seconds of air time, so as soon as I saw the Universal logo pop up on the screen, I knew this was it. I literally jumped up off the chair and screamed. (My poor long suffering husband. I love him a lot for putting up with my enthusiasm.)

I can’t imagine what I’m going to be like when I’m sitting in the theatre waiting for the movie to start on July 29. I’d apologize to my friends who’ll be with me, but I don’t have to. They’re used to me and love me anyway.

For the record, the scene which I was an extra in, is not in the trailer.

Check out the Jason Bourne trailer for yourself HERE.

Here are my thoughts from beginning to end, as I saw it the first time–breaking it down, frame by frame, if you will.

  • Opening chord: Ominous and dark. Just like Jason Bourne. I like it. It sets the mood perfectly. And it makes my heart race because it just feels like something big is about to go down.
  • Bam, Bam, Bam: Massive dude goes down in the three strikes! I stinking love the beats of the music matching Bourne’s punches. Wait. Is Matt Damon not wearing a shirt? I’m going to have to investigate that upon second review. (2nd review: Nope, he wasn’t wearing a shirt.)
  • YOU KNOW: I love the font. Yes, it’s weird to have a powerful opinion on a font, but I do. It’s my favorite kind of font—strong and graphic. I even like the regular/bold aspect of it. At this point in the trailer, I started holding my breath. I was thinking, “What do I know? What? What do I know?”
  • HIS NAME: Yes, I do, movie trailer. I know his name. As far as taglines go, I think this one is fantastic. It reads as almost a mic drop before the movie. YOU KNOW HIS NAME.  (The purist in me would like to remind everyone that we learned his name is actually David Webb in The Bourne Supremacy. But he’s not David Webb anymore now, is he?)
  • And the intense drumbeats build up to “My God, that’s Jason Bourne.” I made a sound that was somewhere between a squeak and sigh because I couldn’t do anything else. I was out of breath! I loved the delivery of this line. He may have just as well said, “Well, crap. We’re in trouble now and e’rybody gone die.”
  • Matt Damon’s face inside a cool graphic. What I enjoy about that is that it hints at the technological thread of this movie. I’m okay to confirm that since Matt Damon has said in interviews that technology and privacy in the “Post Snowden Era” are featured in this film. Which certainly matches up to what I saw on set.
  • Oh hey, Tommy Lee Jones. You look like the requisite embittered CIA official that (incorrectly) thinks he can match wits with Jason Bourne. Oh well, it was nice knowing you.
  • Jason Bourne gets physical with a chair: My prediction is that he wipes the guy out with only one leg of the chair. He just really doesn’t need the whole thing.
  • “I know who I am. I remember everything.” Just check out the intensity of those eyes. Jason Bourne simply has nothing left to lose. Everybody needs to run and hide. Oh Matt Damon, how I adore your delivery of these lines. You really are an Oscar-worthy actor.
  • “Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.” That’s Julia Stiles’ voice! I’m excited that she made it into this one. I think she’s going to be key in this film. It was hinted that they had a “connection” and past in Supremacy and Ultimatum due to her role in Treadstone. I hope they have several scenes together.
  • Nighttime car chase down the Las Vegas Strip thankyouverymuch: I was there literally minutes after they finished filming that scene. That’s where it first hit me that I was actually doing something pretty monumental by just showing up to be in this movie.
  • “The world is at war. We need the perfect weapon.” I feel like these lines are the pivotal call to action for Bourne. Matt Damon has said that the movie will pick up in real time and we’ll find out what Bourne has been doing since 2007 and the end of Ultimatum. I suspect that something or someone will make David Webb put the Bourne persona back on. (And whomever that is, I’d like to shake your hand.)
  • And Bourne’s in the desert (I hope he’s wearing sunscreen. Wouldn’t want his exceptionally ripped abs to get sunburned.) This time…this time y’all, it only takes one punch to bring a fella down. Proving that in the time between 2007 and 2016 Jason Bourne (consequently Matt Damon) has indeed, been working out.
  • Close up on Bourne. Oh, he is not happy. And the thing about that shot is the intensity of it. Shudder. Now, normally I am not a fan of lens flares. (Looking at you JJ Abrams). I tend to find them distracting. But look at that end shot. He can’t even help it. When Matt Damon is not smiling, that smile is somewhere deep inside him longing to come out. The result is a beautiful rainbow. I am so thankful that the lens flare made it in the trailer. I already wanted to hug you, Paul Greengrass. Now I want to hug you and give you cookies.
  • Title card: JASON BOURNE: There’s a lot of opposition on the internet about the title. People don’t like that it fails to follow the formula. But I love it. I think it’s powerful. And as I said above, I think he’s going to choose to be Jason Bourne instead of running from it. And that’s a new development. Matt has said this film will be the conclusion of the first three. Well, I’ll let him say it for himself instead of paraphrasing. This is from EW.

 This is the completion of this journey that started in the Bourne Identity. It’s part of the first three [movies], it’s not a whole new chapter. It feels like the conclusion, even though we’re not saying it’s the conclusion, it feels like the conclusion of my identity journey. It goes deeper than Ultimatum, basically

(Note: when I read that, my little fangirl heart pitter-pattered at the possibility of more Jason Bourne movies in future. Gold stars for effort to Jeremy Renner for The Bourne Legacy, but Jason Bourne is just in a class by himself. And so is Matt Damon. If the story is good and Paul Greengrass agrees to direct another Bourne, I, along with millions of others, will show up for it. Like, I am totally fine with The Bourne Declination, where Jason Bourne spends his golden years in an retirement  home chasing pudding-stealing curmudgeons on his walker, then taking them out with a bedpan.)


Maybe you’ll see me on July 29. But even if I don’t make the final cut of the film, I’m grateful that I got to do something amazing and witness a couple of the most talented filmmakers around and had a blast doing it.

Not Just Another Tuesday. AKA That Time I Was In A Movie With Matt Damon

I pride myself on using clever titles, but try as I might, I couldn’t think of anything that fit the epic scope of what I did last Tuesday other than to simply say it like it is.

Last week, I crossed something off of my bucket list. I was a movie extra. And not only was I movie extra, but I was a movie extra in what will probably be one of the biggest movies of this year. And I was a movie extra in a movie starring my absolute favorite, most talented and well-deserving-of-any-kind-of-accolades-you-can-give-him actor of this generation, Matt Damon.

It’s been a few days now and I’m still grinning, well as wide as Matt himself.

MD smile

(NOT MY PHOTO. Sadly. Credit: Giphy)

I can’t publicly post where I was, what I was doing, or anything having to do with the movie. And I wouldn’t. That’s not solely because of the nondisclosure agreement I signed, but also because of the respect I have for Matt, Paul Greengrass, and the production itself. I’ll be able to share a few details after the movie premieres, but until that happens, I can tell you what it was like for me to be enclosed in the same space as one of the biggest most recognizable movie stars on this planet. (And you know, Mars.)

To begin with, I did not meet Matt, speak to Matt, take photos of Matt or otherwise engage personally with Matt. Nor did I meet any principal actors or production crew involved with the movie. What I did do is get to see them work for two days. And I think that’s the greatest Blessing from this whole experience.

There were a lot of extras to deal with in this particular scene. And not once did I see any person from the Director down to the poor PA who was tasked with getting us water dismiss us or treat us with anything but respect. In fact, Paul Greengrass and his Asst Directors went out of their way to explain what shots were being filmed, pump us up for the scene and regale us with stories while the cameras were being repositioned. I can’t say what it’s like on other movie sets, but I’d bet all the money it’s taken to rescue Matt Damon in movies that it isn’t like that on every movie set. To Director Paul Greengrass, every single person in the room was just as vital to the movie as Matt Damon. And that says so much. I felt it every time he spoke to us and the crew.

And then there’s Matt. Anyone who knows me knows I have had straight up genuine respect for Matt since Good Will Hunting. (I even blogged about Matt. More than once.) Last week it was very rewarding to be able to look at the guy and KNOW that every ounce of respect, every award, everything he’s ever been given is absolutely deserved. He’s got the reputation of being the nicest, hardest working guy in Hollywood because he is the nicest, hardest working guy in Hollywood.

Again, I want to stress I had no personal interaction with him, but I was there when he walked on set and told a room full of people how absolutely important we were for this scene. And how he’d been there as long as we had (HOURS) and that he couldn’t express how much he appreciated our work and our attitude and our respect. At that moment, he went from being one of the biggest celebrities alive to just a guy wearing a black baseball cap and carrying a Starbucks cup. He was there to work. We were there to work. So we went to work.

And it was thrilling to watch him do what he does. It was just as entertaining to see the crew operate and feel the love Matt and Paul Greengrass have for each other. Their commitment, and in turn our commitment–as seemingly unimportant as it was–to the creative process gave me an experience I won’t forget. Ever.

I have no idea if my face will show up on the big screen or not. Even if I end up on the cutting room floor, I’m thankful for experience.  It’s just not every day that you get to spend almost 12 hours with Matt Damon. And I have to say that Post-Damon Depression is a thing. The struggle is real, y’all.  I find myself thinking, “What do I do with my life now?”

MD what up

(Also not mine. Giphy again.)

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but true nonetheless. I’ve been watching a lot of movies and tv in the past fews days and I’ve found that I’m completely fixated on the background players. Sometimes, I have to pause and watch again because I’ve missed something in the action due to focusing so hard on the extras.

This made me realize that Matt and Greengrass were right. The faceless people, the miniscule details, the minutia that encompasses “everything in the shot but Matt Damon” give authenticity. They add to credibility of the characters and ground them in reality so we can sit in the theatres and root for them. They build the world that we’ve shown up to see.

I’m going to apply that concept to my writing. And I’m going to notice it in movies. And I’m going to do my best to honor it, because I truly felt honored by having the experience of being one of them.

Strep Throat – By the Numbers

On Friday I was diagnosed (*sort of) with Strep Throat, capitol S and capitol T. (That’s how it felt in my throat anyway.) I started antibiotics and took to the bed as the doctor ordered and as my body demanded. I am almost back to the land of the living, though I suspect it will be a while before I am back in peak form. In an effort to document just my illness, and because I never miss the chance to make a list, I thought I’d break it down by the numbers.

During my illness I:

  • Showered 1 time
  • Missed out on 2 things I was planning to do with friends
  • Called out of work 3 ½ days
  • Went through 4 boxes of Puffs Plus lotion tissues
  •  Lost 4/5 of my senses (Way to hang in there sense of touch!)
  • Tried 7 kinds of home remedies and/or medications that didn’t really work
  • Slurped 8 cans of soup
  • Binge-watched 13 episodes of The Tomorrow People (To be honest, I think the drug-filled stupor helped me to suspend my disbelief a little on this one. No way Robbie Amell is high school aged as portrayed on the show. NO. WAY. Also: Sad this was canceled.)
  • Failed to write approximately 10,000 words in my manuscript
  • Consumed Infinity cups of hot tea

The moral of this list is take care of yourselves folks. Get your flu shots! Sanitize your hands! Don’t drink after strangers!  Do what you gotta do to stay well!

*And a final number:  Apparently if you test positive for strep, there is a 99% chance it is accurate. If you test negative (as I did) there is only 70% chance the test is correct and the doctor gives you the meds anyway. So that begs the question I intend to ask the next time: Why do the test?