In honor of Scotland’s historical vote for independence today, here’s The Proclaimers! Whether the country votes “Yes” or “No,” taking positive action of any kind is a step in the right direction. My mother and I left Scotland more than 20 years ago because of the lack of jobs and the lack of livable wages. I don’t think things have changed hugely today; just look at all the Scots in America, Australia, and across the world who’ve had to leave in order to have successful careers. We didn’t leave because it was the easy way out — we had to leave behind family and friends, who we still miss dearly today. My mother and I came to the U.S. with two suitcases, leaving behind our mementos, culture, and everything familiar to us. We left our homeland because the choices were limited to none.
Let’s hope that from today onward, Scotland will push forward onto a brighter future!
For a few years, now, I’ve been thinking about what it means to take advice from “experts” in books (or in any medium for that matter). My husband was the one who first pointed out that whenever I read a self-help book, whether on how to train dogs or how to overcome shyness, I take it wholeheartedly as God’s honest truth! I’ve been aware of this tendency and have tried to keep an open mind whenever anyone gives me advice (for example, I need to start using wrinkle cream to “preserve” my looks!) or whenever I hear about a scientific study “proving” that dogs actually have emotions (gasp! Horror!).
In the past few months, however, I’ve really started considering who is considered an “expert” and how much damage could that person possibly do if he/she gave bad advice to lots of people. For example, a friend of mine from out of state asked about local museums. I told him about a great one in Greensboro, to which he replied that this other museum had been voted #1 on a travel website. “That one?” I was confused. The museum he’d mentioned was okay but kind of boring, and I told him so. “But it was voted number one!” he exclaimed. “But I’ve been there,” I said. “It’s just okay.” He ended up going to the boring museum, trusting the guidance of the website over that of an actual person who had been to the museum. No harm done. He liked it.
But that got me thinking about how much trust we sink into just about anyone who is published. A famous author wrote a few years ago about studies that show older children do better in their academic careers if they are a little older than their peers, and now a generation of parents are keeping their five-year-olds back, waiting until they turn six to start school. A famous actress (not a doctor or even biologist) says that vaccines are causing autism, based on a study done years ago that has been disproved. Now, scores of parents are refusing vaccines — I wonder what the long-term effects of that will be! And a National Book Award Winner writes about depression — he states at the beginning of the book that he’s not a doctor — with the air of an “expert,” citing facts and studies but obviously he can’t cover everything that’s ever been written about depression. After reading the book, I’m left feeling more hopeless and depressed than ever!
My point is just what my husband told me years ago — don’t believe everything you read. Don’t take it as “truth.” Read from lots of sources and talk to people, experts and everyday people who have experienced depression or dog training or who have a child with autism. Studies can show just about anything, depending upon who conducts it and who funds it, who interprets the data. Maybe all this is obvious to you, but I have to keep reminding myself — just because someone is famous or has a PhD or went to Harvard or has an English accent or has won the National Book Award doesn’t make him/her holder of the world’s TRUTH. And, maybe just as important, trust your gut. Don’t take it from me; go out and find out the truth for yourself!
So, I am still making my way through a pile of self-help books (not really!), while actively procrastinating the completion of the final edits to my YA novel, The Rain Catcher. The more I learn about myself, the more I start to wonder if I need to make yet more changes to the novel… But enough about that. What I really wanted to talk about was the dilemma many face when purchasing books with “exposing” titles at brick-and-mortar stores.
Self help books often have embarrassing titles that spell out personal problems — think divorce, low libido, panic attacks, bankruptcy — and then you have to go up to the counter and hand those books to an actual person, who will glance down at the book and then know that YOU probably have that problem! It’s like buying condoms or pregnancy tests, which effectively tell the cashier, “Yes, I’m having sexual intercourse!” Or buying Milk of Magnesia — “Yes, I have constipation!!” Or romance novels with the heroine’s clothes half off on the cover — “Yes, I like to read risqué literature!”
Worse is considering where to put the book when you get home. You can’t leave Finding Your Perfect Alpha-Male or How to Be a Real Bitch on the coffee table for your 10-year-old nephew to see (or your mother). Placed on a bookshelf in a “public” room like the living room, there’s always the risk of your brother-in-law scoping out your copy of Explosive Diarrhea Explained, waving it in the air, and announcing in a really loud voice, “My grandmother has this, too!” My embarrassing books are discretely placed between similar-sized books so they’ll blend in. And I don’t clump them all together; I space them out, perhaps one per shelf. As soon as I’ve had enough of the books, I donate them to Good Will — the evidence is gone!
Perhaps self-help authors should think about this dilemma before picking out a title. Would it hurt sales to have something a little less explicit on the cover? I don’t know. Are you more likely to buy a book entitled, Kick that Cocaine Habit! or Dependency and You? Yes, I know… probably the first!
Because I am still behind on everything…except drinking coffee… I am sharing a link to the wonderful blog for Southern Writers’ Magazine. It has some really thoughtful and inspiring posts for all writers — you definitely don’t need to be from the South! Here’s a great one on how we often worry about “Opportunities Passing Me By” and why we probably don’t need to worry at all…
I am behind in blogging, in finishing edits of The Rain Catcher, and in putting together the next issue of The Apple Core! My excuse? Blame it on the kids! With a busy husband, nearly 2-year-old, and daughter about to start kindergarten, I have been run off my feet these past few weeks. Luckily, Southern Bend Books is a labor of love and not, currently, a full-fledged corporation or other business entity relying on income for its existence!
What else have I been doing? Reading self-help books! Not to go into too much detail, but I’ve discovered two really good books I think everyone should read. The first, The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, is directed toward women, but it’s really for men or women. And it’s not just about anger — it’s about improving relationships by noticing the patterns we keep repeating. Her best advice is to OBSERVE what’s going on and see where you and the other person need to make changes. It’s easy to read, non-intimidating, and very helpful!
The next book has a tough title that would scare anyone away: Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. But, really, it could apply to anyone. Sure, there are some awful parents out there, but even well-meaning moms and dads slip up and are not always good at validating their kids’ feelings. This book is not judgmental; it offers clear examples and advice on how to overcome past neglect. Most importantly, it talks about self-care and how we all must value ourselves in order to pass that down to our children.
NOTE: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!
In honor of my upcoming novel, The Rain Catcher, which is set in Scotland, I’ve decided to share two Scottish books that I think are great! The first, Women Talking Dirty by Isla Dewar, my aunt sent me years ago. It’s one of the few books I’d label “irreverent,” and every time I read it I feel better about life!
The novel describes the eclectic friendship between polar opposites Cora and Ellen. Cora’s a Highlander, while Ellen grew up in the drab Edinburgh suburbs. Cora’s a single mum, struggling with two boys and a lifetime-worth of guilt over her misspent youth. Ellen’s a reclusive comic-strip artist, caught up in a dead-end relationship with Daniel, whom she recklessly marries. The two share laughs, buckets of tears, bottles of vodka, and the secret to a successful dinner party — the edible bloody Mary!
The second book, I actually never finished. When I was 10 and still living in Scotland, my teacher read The Hill of the Red Fox by Allan Campbell Mclean to the class. We were hooked! But before she finished the book, I moved with my mom to the States. I always wondered how the book ended! I don’t remember much about it, other than it’s kids’ thriller set in the Isle of Skye. The main character 13-year-old Alasdair takes a train ride through Scotland and on the way encounters a shady character who slips him a note before disappearing from the train. I honestly can’t remember what happens, but our whole class loved it and was hooked on our teacher’s every last word! All I remember is being enveloped in this mysterious Scottish landscape — it was really magical!