How To Have an Easy Vegan Thanksgiving

Last year was my first vegan Thanksgiving. And fortunately, my mom was so wonderful enough to go all-out for me, Mitchell, and my vegetarian sister Bri. She made us a full spread of vegan goodies.

This year, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to make it home for Thanksgiving. And we won’t necessarily want to make everything from scratch if we make a dinner of our own.

Maybe your family doesn’t know how to make their traditional meals veganized. Or maybe you just want to bring a few dishes to your meat-eating relative’s party.

Here’s a compiled list of amazing products and recipes to make your vegan Thanksgiving easy and delicious.

The Vegan Dinner

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Vegan cream of mushroom soup

There’s plenty of recipes out there that use coconut milk for the cream of mushroom soup, but if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to make it completely from scratch, here’s a great cream of mushroom soup mix that’s completely dairy free. This recipe is based off the casserole from Mccormick.com.

  • 1 packet of cream of mushroom soup mix prepared
  • 3/4 cup of plant-based milk
  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 1 can of bean sprouts
  • 1 1/3 cup of Crispy Fried onions (most are vegan!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

All you have to do is mix everything except the crispy onions and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then add the crispy onions on top and bake for five more minutes.

Vegan Dinner Rolls

Vegan dinner rolls

I don’t know about you, but yeast dinner rolls are one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving. Luckily, there are quite a few of the frozen brands that are vegan.

We usually put two in one muffin tin so they look like butt rolls. But they’re perfect to split apart and slather with some vegan butter.

Vegan Thanksgiving Roast

Vegan holiday roast

Most vegans have come to the consensus that the Gardein Holiday Roast is the best alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving. I’ve tried a couple from Field Roast, but this one was definitely my favorite. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving-themed frozen Cordon Bleu, which used to be one of my favorite things in the world.

Vegan Pies!

Vegan pie crust

There are tons of pie crusts that are ready-to-bake and also vegan. All you have to do is fill it with canned pie filling of your choice. Of course, there’s also recipes to make vegan pumpkin pie out there. But if you’re lazy like me, this is as good as it gets.

My mom’s pie crust actually uses Crisco which is vegetable shortening, so all of her pies are vegan already which is amazing. I haven’t mastered the art of the pie making yet, so I think I’ll stick to pre-made.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan Mac and cheese

This mac and cheese is great baked, and it’s super creamy. If you want to make something from scratch, all you have to do is make a rue from vegan butter and flour, add cooked macaroni noodles and your shredded vegan cheese of choice. Then you can bake it at 350 degrees with some breadcrumbs on top.

Check out this recipe and swap out the ingredients for vegan ones for a fantastic baked mac and cheese!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Vegan mashed potatoes

Sure you can boil potatoes and mash them yourself, but why not make it easier? All you have to do is add your plant-based milk and butter of choice and boom. Mashed potato paradise.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Vegan mushroom gravy

You can’t have mashed potatoes without gravy! Last year we made some vegan gravy from some fancy mushrooms, but it did take quite a while. To save time, there’s plenty of vegan gravy options. But you can also make this simple recipe below. It was inspired by Cookingwithcurls.com.

Instructions: melt the butter over low heat, add flour and whisk, simmer for 2 minutes, add stock and seasoning, continue stirring until thickened. Make sure not to boil!

Vegan stuffing

A lot of stuffing mixes have hidden milk or egg ingredients or just a lot of garbage. I really like this one in particular because it has a lot of interesting fun ingredients that are both healthy and vegan. Just bake and eat!

Vegan Corn Casserole

Vegan cornbread mix

You may have already thought corn casserole was vegan (someone at one of our Thanksgivings definitely did). But just because it has a vegetable in the name doesn’t mean it’s vegan. But don’t worry! Making vegan corn casserole is one of the easiest ones out there. And it only has 5 ingredients. This receipt was inspired by the non-vegan recipe found at tastesoflizzyt.com

  • 1 box of VEGETARIAN Jiffy cornbread mix (it’s vegan, don’t worry)
  • 1 can of creamed corn (it’s non-dairy)
  • 1 can of plain corn
  • 1 cup of vegan sour cream or yogurt (like Toffuti)
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce or vegan butter

All you have to do is mix all those ingredients, put it in a 8×8 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes.

The Thanksgiving Experience

Of course, one of the most difficult parts of Thanksgiving can be family. While my parents were cool with a vegan Thanksgiving (even though they still ate turkey), when we went to other Thanksgiving dinners, it was usually a little more awkward or meat-oriented. Of course, right? That’s pretty much the norm.

But here are a few tips for vegans at Thanksgiving.

  • Try bringing one or more dishes to gatherings
  • Don’t make a big deal about them eating your food or their food
  • Try not to get offended by their comments
  • Be prepared to answer questions
  • Be thankful for your family — even if they’re not vegan!

More Vegan Blog Posts

How To Go And Stay Vegan

11 of the Best Vegan Junk Foods

Fiction Friday #6: Write the Prompt with Me!

Happy Fiction Friday everyone! Can you believe it’s already #6? If any of you has great prompts you think I should write, be sure to leave them in the comments section. I’d love to know what you all are writing out there too! Whether it be these prompts or just your personal projects.

The Prompt

https://promptuarium.wordpress.com

This week’s prompt is from promptuarium.wordpress.com. I have a huge obsession with Celtic mythology. While I’ve never heard of this particular lore, I think a lot of creative ideas can come from it.

Is the fugitive innocent or guilt?

What kind of spirits would follow him out?

Does he believe in ghosts at all?

As always, spend 30 minutes writing today. And don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of the page to previous Fiction Fridays!

The Writing

Ghostly figures holding hands
Image by JR Korpa

As I ran through the darkness, my thoughts ran loose in my mind, like a roll of paper dropped on the ground. How did I get here? How did it come to this? When did I get that stain on my only good shirt?

Blinded by my spinning mind, I tripped over a root poking up from the ground. My world flipped as my feet lifted into the air. My head angled downward. And cracked right into the glowing gravestone in front of me.

I reached for my head, wanting to feel if there was any blood. My fingers touched a warm liquid that proceeded to drip down my forward. I thrust my hands out — trying to find any kind of surface to help me stand.

Even in my haze, even between the many trees in the graveyard, I was starting to see a flicker of a flashlight. I could hear the dogs barking.

My hands took a hold of the gravestone, and I felt the blood transfer from my hands to the rough surface.

“Stupid, stupid stupid,” I hissed, kicking the stone with each word. I was going to get caught this night. That much was certain.

At the pressure from my kicks, the stone buckled as if it was made of chalk. The entire top half of the rounded stone made a large cracking noise and fell to a dozen pieces to the tangled grass.

“Caylen!” a barking voice called out from too close. “Come out now, or we’ll make it even worse when we find you!”

“Not a chance,” I muttered. And I kept moving.

I stayed crouched this time, my eyes trained on the ground to look for more roots. But every few seconds I had to blink the dizziness away and wipe the blood from dripping into my eyes. I had only just gotten out of range from the flashlight wielding police officer when a stubby gravestone caught my foot.

I flew forward, hitting the ground on my elbows this time, but getting a mouthful of grass and dirt. So much for just one stain on this shirt. I’d be lucky to get to wear it again at all. My wardrobe was the least of my problems. My knee had hit another gravestone that was only a square polished stone poking up from the ground. When I hit it, the entire stone had been pulled away from it’s original spot.

Who makes these gravestones so flimsy? Come on, Caylen, keep moving.

I stood and hobbled my way forward as fast as I could manage. Which wasn’t as fast as I preferred. I could see the iron gate ahead. I could jump it, no problem. But I would definitely be seen if the cop got too close behind me.

A crow sounded over my head as I passed under the last couple trees. My hands grasped the rusty iron gate at last. For a moment I hesitated, looking over my shoulder into the quiet night. No sign of flashlight.

I started climbing.

“Caylen!”

The voice had gotten much closer. I didn’t dare look over my shoulders. I just kept climbing. When I reached the top, I narrowly avoided the pointy bits and jumped to the ground below. My knee screamed out in burning pain, and I gasped as my hand reached towards it.

A flashlight lit up my face.

“Gotcha,” Officer Paula said. “Don’t move, kid. I’m coming over.”

I started to back away from the gate as she started climbing. But it wasn’t out of fear that she was coming after me. It was the vapor white figures materializing behind her. It was…it was like a ghost.

I opened my mouth, but I found that my breath had been stolen from me. The figures became clearer: one woman, one man. They floated into the air next to Officer Paula. For a moment they only rose higher as she climbed.

They each took hold of one of her shoulders. And pulled her to the ground hard. I heard the crack of her body hit the gravestone. She moved a little. Alive. For now.

The figures still hovered above the grass. But I was already turning to run. My heart pumped adrenaline through my injured body. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but worse — maybe worse — was that I knew I would get blamed for Paula’s injuries. Just another thing to add to the list.

The ground under my feet changed from grass to assault. I was on a road. Not great, but better. It was still quiet. A country road at the dead of night wasn’t going to get many visitors.

A chill spread along my bruised arms. I let the shivers come for a moment but paused as I started to see my breath.

“Is Caylen your name?”

I swirled around and there were the two figures — pale and white like inverted shadows — staring at me. Their feet touched the ground now, and they were fully detailed. Both were close to my age and I could tell by their similar features that they probably were related. Their clothes were older than mine by a few centuries at least, though both of them wore trousers. Though they had just pulled Paula off the gate and injured her possibly fatally, their faces were calm and examined me.

I couldn’t find my voice. My throat was dry and as cold as the iron gate.

“Caylen?” the woman asked again. She put out a thin hand towards me, expecting me to take it. “I’m Lucy. I believe you just knocked my gravestone over?”

More Fiction Fridays…

Fiction Friday #5: A curse of constantly dying terrorizes two young lovers

Fiction Friday #4: Witchy quest for Necromancy spell

Friday #3: Vampire Noir mystery action in a fancy restaurant

Fiction Friday #2: Mutated human wolf creatures

Fiction Friday #1: Giant battle with a human killing machine

Blood Fae

Blood Fae

Blood Fae
— Read on darkleigh.com/2019/11/06/blood-fae/

Hey everyone,

I recently had a fantasy short story published on darkleigh.com. If you like fantasy, fae people, and murder mysteries, you should definitely check it out.

Thanks!

Sex In YA Fantasy Part Two: How Fantasy Can Change Young Adults

Before reading this, check out Part One of this blog series.

“When I started working as a child abuse and neglect family therapist…one quick conclusion I came to was that until we are willing and able to talk openly about sex in this culture—healthy sex and sexual thought—we will never be capable of talking about sex abuse.”

Chris Crutcher

Relationships Shouldn’t Be Fantasy

Image by iam Se7en

What we read changes us. Changes our minds, our hearts, our viewpoints on the world. What we read as young adults impacts how we view other young adults. After all, this is a published book written by an adult who already went through it. Even if the genre is fiction, there must be some shred of truth in it, right? Some great example to follow?

Sure, we’re not all going to have hot vampire boyfriends, but the kind of relationship that develops between a Bella character and an Edward character is realistic right? We can aspire to have relationships similar to Tobias and Tris?

The answer is, not quite.

If we look at the trends of readers, you’ll see a large disparity between what they’re reading and literature that has examples of healthy relationships.

Fantasy alone accounts for 15% of the 577 Best Books for Young Adults Book list since 2000. Yet out of the fifteen books on YALSA’s list of books dealing with healthy relationships or relationship trauma, only one book could be considered Speculative Fiction.

As I recall reading Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series, I remember scenes with lines like:

“I was so afraid that we would just keep colliding over and over again if we stayed together, and that eventually the impact would break me…I am too strong to break so easily, and I become better, sharper, every time I touch him.”

Right after fighting and worrying about losing each other — not because of their situation but because of their insecurities — the two have sex. What kind of message was that to me as a middle/high schooler? I can tell you that it didn’t teach me about being honest with my partner or asking if they were comfortable with going further physically.

Why Sexual Elements Can’t Be Fantasy

“Adolescent romance in dystopia—or romance in a divided, plural world—is at the crossroads of adult authoritarianism and teenage emotional growth.”

Mary Hilton
Image by photo-Nic.co.uk

While young adults reading speculative and fantasy books will know that many of the topics are fictional, they’re still emotionally connecting to the aspects that can relate to them.

And boy, do authors take advantage of that.

How many young adults fantasy books are out there right now that DON’T have a single romantic element? I can guarantee there’s not more than 20. And in a sea of bestselling paranormal romance books, it’s easy to imagine those that don’t have romance getting swallowed whole.

But I’m not saying that fantasy should have less elements of romance or sex.

I’m saying it should have better ones.

If young adults are connecting to the only aspect they can in fantasy — the romance — then we as writers better make sure it’s the best representation of sex and romance we can give.

I’m talking about consent, honest conversations, realistic expectations, protection.

In a world of dragons and magic, these elements might feel as awkward as writing a character going to the bathroom.

But they don’t have to be.

“The first characteristic of romance…is that it contains a ‘definition of society always corrupt, that the romance novel will reform.’ To the emotional awakening which the Young Adult novel generically enacts…responds, in perhaps equal measure, a form of political awakening.”

Mary Hilton

If we want to see changes in rape culture and poor middle/high school relationships, we have to examine what messages our YA books are sending. Even if these books do contain emotional manipulation or rape, are we glorifying it? Do we root for it?

This isn’t even about removing those books from our current shelves. For readers and parents of readers, it’s about knowing what’s in the book and talking about it with young adults.

Young adult fantasy novels have the power to change minds. How will they be changed?

What Will Be In Part Three

In the next part of this mini-series, we’ll look at two books that got it right. Ashfall and Lady Midnight.

Have you read these books before?

Have you read any books with terrible or great examples of relationships? Leave a comment below.

And don’t forget to check out Part One of this blog series!

Resources

Cart, Michael. Young Adult Literature from Romance to Realism. The American Library Association, 2016.

Cole, Pam B. Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. McGraw-Hill, 2009.

Hilton, Mary, and Maria Nikolajeva. Contemporary Adolescent Literature and Culture: The Emergent Adult. Ashgate, 2012.

Roth, Veronica. Allegiant. HarperCollins Publishers 2013.

Wetta, Molly. “Booklist: Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Fiction.” American Library Association, 2016, http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2016/01/25/boo klist-dating-violence-consent-and-healthy-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction/. Accessed 15 November, 2018.

Fiction Friday #5: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

Today’s prompt is from TheFakeRedHead.com. I was really intrigued by this prompt, because it kind of reminded me of Happy Death Day. Let’s see where we go with this one!

As always, 30 minutes, free-write.

Write with me! It’s so great for writers to use writing prompts to improve their writing.

Let’s do this!

The Writing

Image by Fabrizio Verrechia

“I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve died in front of me,” I said.

She rolled up her sleeves and buttoned them down before glancing up at me.

“So far twenty, but I’m sure it’ll be more before we figure this out.” She didn’t say this as if it was annoying to her that she lived a life of constant death. She only stated it.

“Come on, let’s go,” I said. “The car’s parked by that streetlight.”

We started walking, and the warmth of her body next to mine was a comfort. She was alive. She was flesh and blood. And yet she was something else entirely. Though I’d seen her break both her legs in a fall, smash her head on concrete, get in accidents, and burst into flames, she was fine for the moment. Her skin was unmarked. Even her clothes were clean. But that was because I’d brought her some.

“You know you don’t have to do this,” she said. She stared straight ahead as the shape of the car came more into view.

I didn’t respond until we both had gotten in and closed the door. I started the engine. Or tried to when it turned over a couple times and puttered out.

I sighed and laid my head on the steering wheel.

“I know I don’t have to do this,” I said. “But I want to. I’ve never…I’ve never met anyone like you. And I’m not just talking about the death thing. You’re special. And I can’t just leave you to face this by yourself.”

Cami was picking at her nails, the only place with evidence that she’d been buried alive under a pile of rubble.

I turned the key again, and this time it sputtered to life. We were rolling.

“It’s not just me,” she said after we had been driving for several minutes. Her head was turned away so I could only see her curls as they brushed her shoulder.

“Wait, there’s more of you?”

“What?” she turned then, eyebrows turned up in confusion. “No, I meant it’s not just me who’s in danger. People die around me. They get sucked into this. You shouldn’t have to deal with this in your life. It’s bad enough that I do.”

At her warning, my hands gripped the wheel tighter and my eyes shifted from side to side as if I expected a semi to run a red light right into us. Even though the roads were empty at this hour, my heart was still beating fast. What if she was right? What if she was like some sort of magnet for bad luck that couldn’t be unmagnetized?

“Jake?” she said. “Can you say something please?”

“I don’t really care,” I said.

“About…?”

“My life has always been bad luck. But since I met you, it’s gotten so much better. Good things are happening to me for the first time. I can’t just leave because I’m scared.”

“It’s more than that,” she mumbled.

“It’s not,” I assured her. “I’m scared, but there has to be something I can do.”

“Tell that to the last three doctors who tried to hold me hostage and peel my skin off to examine the cell growth.”

We stopped at a red light even though there wasn’t any cross traffic. I debated running through it, but I could see the camera hanging from the metal pole. If people were still after her, I couldn’t risk it.

As I was thinking this, a black Sedan pulled up to the street adjacent to us. Even though he had a green light, he slowed to a stop. His window was too tinted to see into. He flashed his brights at us.

Cami squinted into the darkness.

“Go,” she said.

“Wh-what?” I was still trying to see into the window. I could just barely make out gloved hands.

“Go!” Cami shouted and slapped my arm with the palm of her hand.

I gunned the gas, and we sped through the red light. The camera didn’t even flash. As we drove through, the black Sedan pulled out behind us. I was already going over the speed limit, but I pressed down harder and swerved into a side street.

“Go, Jake!”

Cami’s body was twisted as she looked through the back window towards the car. It had missed the turn I made and was having to back up before following me.

“I know what I’m doing,” I said, clenching my jaw. My knuckles were white with strain. I didn’t trust myself to be one of those crazy car-chasing maniacs I’ve watched in movies. But I knew every street in this city. I knew how to lose him.

My small car squeezed down an alleyway. I circled back towards the way we had come from. I made wild turns that didn’t make sense. I never went down the same road twice. My eyes never flashed up to check if I could see the Sedan in my rearview mirror. It wouldn’t matter. I was doing everything I could to lose him.

I stopped behind an apartment surrounded by human-planted trees that made a canopy around us and the car. There was an entrance to the highway just to our left if we had to make a quick getaway. But the night was quiet for once. Both of us were breathing hard. I blinked several times to get rid of the black spots in my vision.

“Any clue who that could be?” I asked.

Cami bit her lip. “There might be more.”

“More?” I asked, with a shaky laugh. “Like more to your story, or more to your curse?”

“Both,” she whispered.

I opened my mouth to respond when our car was rammed into from the side so hard that the car flipped and started to roll. I clenched everything, letting out a yell that I knew I would regret later. When the car rattled and stopped moving, we were upside-down.

“Cami?” I said, my voice a raspy mess.

A cloud of dust surrounded us as the airbags went off in delayed reaction. They hit my lungs so hard that for a moment I couldn’t breathe. A wheezing gasp escaped my lips. As I waved my hands to clear the air, I saw that Cami’s neck was bent at an odd angle. Blood lined her forehead. Her airbag hadn’t just gone off—it had exploded. Hunks of the car had caved in between us. I could see her, but I couldn’t pull her body through the gap.

“Cami!” I yelled.

I wrestled with my seatbelt, which came undone easily. In surprise, I caught myself just in time before crumpling to the roof of my car head-first. I examined my hands and my ripped jeans. No scratch? Not even a mark? My body vibrated with energy as my ears rang in cycles of annoying tones. My door had been ripped open and hung by a slim piece of metal.

“Cami, I’m coming,” I said, crawling on all fours to the other side of the car. “Ah man.”

The entire right side of the car was smashed in so deep I could see some of the underside. I reached for her door’s handle, but there wasn’t a handle. Only compressed metal molded into a solid form.

“No, no, no,” I said. If I couldn’t get her out, that meant I had to call someone. And if I had to call someone, they would see her lifeless body. Hospitals. Doctors. Tests.

“Hey man!” a voice called out behind me. “Hey man, are you okay?”

A big man in a white t-shirt came into the light.

As he examined my non-bloodstained body, he breathed audibly. “I’m so sorry. I was driving my truck and couldn’t brake down that hill. I saw this parking lot and thought I could use it to stop. I didn’t even see your—oh gosh is there someone still inside?”

“Crowbar,” I said. “You got one?”

For More Writing Prompts, Check out…

Why I Got Married On Halloween: 1st Year Anniversary!

When I tell people that our anniversary date is on October 31, people kind of cock their heads at me and give me a strange look. “Why in the world would you want to do that?” they seem to ask.

What they don’t realize is that Halloween has brought me and and Michell closer together when we were working, during our long-distance period, and when we finally finished college.

Flynn Rider and Rapunzel Costumes – 2015

1. The First Year Is Full of Mistakes and Butterflies

This was our first Halloween as a couple and of course we had to dress up as one of our favorites! At the time we were both working at our church as worship leaders. It was also the only year of college that we were together. This year was full of learning moments of time management, getting healthy, and learning how to be in a relationship.

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers Costumes – 2016

2. Long Distance Helps You Grow Together and Individually

In 2016 I drove to Bloomington for the weekend to go to a Halloween party. We dressed up as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers. Props to you if you know the movie! Anyways, this Halloween was the first fall that we weren’t living in the same area. We had just started going to different colleges, and it was definitely really hard. Being able to celebrate Halloween together was just really meaningful.

Me as a Starbucks cat – 2017

3. Sometimes You Have to Be Alone

In 2017 I had to work at Starbucks for Halloween. It was still pretty fun because the kids would come in dressed so cute, and we’d give them candy. But as you can see, I wasn’t exactly a happy cat! This year was the hardest year for me. Mitchell and I were so busy and later this year he went to Los Angeles for his internship. There was a lot of learning how to manage my emotions and anxiety. We made it through, just like always.

Our wedding photo – 2018

4. Sticking Through the Hard Stuff Is Worth It

Finally made it! This is our wedding day a year ago. It’s crazy how much we’ve changed and grown as people. We went vegan, we finished college, we traveled to Taiwan and Los Angeles, we got MARRIED!

What I’ve learned is that holidays can mean something different than you would expect. Halloween has always been important and special to me as a child, and I’m so glad that Mitchell has become a part of this tradition with me.

We also learned that struggling through these years made us stronger as people. We’ve been through so much, and Halloween was just one of those great things that kept us going.

What does Halloween mean for you? What traditions do you have on Halloween? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below!

Further Reads

How Traveling Helped Me Heal

23 Things To Know Before You’re 23

Sex In Young Adult Fantasy (Part 1)

An Overview

Oh boy. This is a tricky topic for so many people. Should writers put sex in their books? How should it be portrayed? Are the relationships healthy? Is the sex safe? Is it consensual? Instead of just writing off the conversation as too difficult, let’s start talking about it. As writers, readers, adults, and young adults.

Realistic fiction writers haven’t been too afraid to approach these topics in the last couple decades, but what about fantasy?

Fantasy — you know, where both genders are usually hyper-sexualized and are helplessly pining over their supernatural significant other? Where werewolves and vampires toe the border of consent and stalking.

Maybe this hasn’t been your experience with reading Fantasy. I’ve read a couple great examples that break the mold of typical Fantasy Romance, but the question remains.

Why should writers put sex in their fantasy books?

This is going to be a several part exploration on Young Adult literature and how sex is portrayed and avoided in the texts AND by readers, librarians, and parents.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

How YA Fiction Has Been Changing

For several decades YA Realistic Fiction writers have taken on the topic of sex in their writing. I mean, it’s one of the top things teens deal with in their lives. It’s uncommon (but definitely needed, writers!) to have a high school story without an intense relationship explored. But for the majority, Realistic Fiction has tackled this topic.

Several well-known YA writers who have taken on sex include:

  • Meg Cabot
  • John Green
  • Judy Bloom
  • Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s been a push in this genre particularly to show consensual, protected, “relationship-based” sex over just writing garbage that glorifies rape, sexual assault, and abusive relationships.

Why?

Because writers are beginning to realize that YA literature impacts young adults more than anything else they read (Cart). If we want to push movements like #metoo and #timesup, then the literature has to reflect what we want young adults to know.

Something people don’t think about very often, but needs to be mentioned, is that ADULTS are writing most of these YA books. Adults who are maybe starting to get disconnected from today’s youth, but must put themselves in the minds and settings of today’s young adults.

If we want young adults to learn what healthy relationships are, we have to give them examples through what they engage with.

The Reason YA Fantasy Needs To Change

Science fiction or fantasy, makes tomorrow’s ogres real and preset, within the threatening framework of an imaginative world.  It is within this framework that the writer can challenge readers, through the persona of the protagonist, to find answers…as they identify with the main character, they begin to understand the possibilities, the greatness of being fully human.  They are empowered.

Eiss 81

Growing up as a huge reader — and knowing full well that I was getting most of my knowledge of the real world from books — I stayed far away from Realistic Fiction. I was already living in the real world. Why would I want to read about someone else’s realistic problems?

No, instead my reading list consisted of nothing but Fantasy: Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy, Fairy-tale retelling, and soft Sci-Fi. And I know for a fact that many people read nothing but the same.

Fantasy was able to reach me both emotionally and mentally, in a way that Realistic Fiction didn’t. But that meant that I had to suffer through the dozens of terrible relationships, verbal and emotional abuse, and down-right stalker behavior that permeates so much of YA Fantasy. I’m talking about Linger, Vampire Academy, Fallen, Dead Beautiful — the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong. I loved reading these books for many other reasons. But for examples of healthy relationships, not so much.

YA Fantasy As Positive Examples of Romance

Librarian Donna Freitas states that she has frequently witnessed graduating seniors who openly express their lack of education in sexual topics. Her advice is simple, reading can help. Especially Speculative/Fantasy, where the writing usually opens the door to more engaging romance.

But if all YA Fantasy books are bad examples of sex and relationships, how will those who enjoy only reading this genre get to see positive examples? And don’t give me any of that bull that parents should be teaching kids. Many young adults aren’t going to be learning how teens interact in relationships from their parents. It’s awkward for one. And for another, outside sources are sometimes easier to receive advice from than parental figures.

Lesson For Today

The take-away from part one is just to start thinking about what we read as young adults. What books shaped the way we view relationships? And what can we as readers and writers do to encourage this generation of young adults so that they can both engage with a fantasy world AND learn about healthy romantic relationships?

What are some bad examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

What are some good examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

And how can Fantasy actually help young adults? We’ll tackle that in Part 2!

Resources

Cart, Michael. “The Value of Young Adult Literature.” YALSA, 2008. Accessed 18 October 2018.

Eiss, Harry Edwin. Young Adult Literature and Culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Freitas, Donna. “Be Still My Heart.” School Library Journal, vol. 55, no. 2, 2009. Accessed 15 September 2018.

Further Reads

Fiction Friday #4: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

There were no library resources on advanced Necromancy — only beginner.

Today’s prompt is from Deep Water Prompts. I liked this one just because it was simple and intrigued me. What kind of person would be looking for necromancy books, especially advanced? And where would they be looking? This one got a little spooky for Halloween!

Spend 30 minutes today and write! It might not be this prompt. Check out some of my older prompts if you’d like to use another idea.

The Writing

Image by Annelies Geneyn

Jess’ eyes scanned the bookshelves for the fifteenth time.

“It’s not there,” Kye said. He folded his arms over his purple hair and put his cheek down on the wooden table. “I told you, they wouldn’t just keep that kind of thing out for public use.”

“Well I didn’t think there would be that many people looking,” Jess said. She folded the creases of her pleated skirt before collapsing into the chair beside Kye. “It’s not like the whole village comes here looking for zombie spells.”

Kye blinked at her. “What would I know? I don’t know how those crazy village people think.”

“What are we going to do?” she asked. “Pedro said that if we don’t find the spell by tomorrow, he’s going to kill her.”

“Well if it takes longer than tomorrow, at least we’ll know how to bring her back,” Kye mumbled into his sleeve.

Jess tapped her fingers on the table. “It’s not funny, you know.”

“I know.” Kye sat up again. His disheveled hair was sticking up in odd angles. The collar of his wrinkled button-down was askew. “I know, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t make fun of this.”

“I didn’t even like her. And now I have to try to save her before All Hallow’s Eve?”

Kye stood up and started pacing the length of the table. Jess watched him, arm leaning against the back of the chair.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“The professors are bound to have private collections. And you know that Jaxby would be the one to have something like this.”

Jess touched the cover of the only book they they had found on the subject of Necromancy. They were both surprised that the cover and pages were worn with use. The binding nearly crumbled as they opened it. But it was just beginner’s prattle. Mostly warnings and starter chants. Not anything like what Pedro had asked them for.

“So how do we get to his stash then?” Jess asked.

“We take the book to him. Ask him if he’s seen anything more in-depth. If he starts to act worried, we definitely know he does.”

“Yes,” Jess said. “I think that would work. But then what, we break into his office? He’d know who took it for sure.”

“We just need the spell,” Kye said. A smile was spreading across his lips. “Just a spell. Not the whole book.”

Jess stuffed her belongings back into her shoulder bag and Kye followed to do the same with his things.

“We can still catch him tonight,” Jess said. “He stays late. Mites, he never leaves this place.”

Jess nodded. “Okay, let’s hurry then.”

The two raced down the hallway, paying no mind to the students who balked at them to calm down. They both knew they were acting strange, but it wasn’t anything new. Especially when they were together. The halls were covered in decorations for the holiday. Moving charmed bats hung on strings from the ceiling rafters. Shadows of ghosts walked beside them when they passed by glass windows.

After crossing through the courtyard, where dozens of pumpkins were lit up in perpetual illumination, they came to Jaxby’s office.

Kye looked to Jess. “Go on, you knock.”

Jess rolled her eyes as she pulled the beginner’s Necromancy book from her bag and knocked on the door.

“Professor?” Jess called.

No answer. Jess knocked again. Silence.

She sent an exasperated look to Kye, who reached for the doorknob. Jess swatted his hand away.

“Are we just going to go in?” she hissed.

But Kye was already going for the doorknob again and pushed the door open. The room was dark except for two blue candles — not real fire but the closest thing they had to electricity at the school.

“Be quiet,” Kye whispered and slipped through the door.

“What if he’s in the back or something?” Jess asked, but she followed him anyway.

The room was colder than the chilly October courtyard, which confused Jess until she spotted the open window at the far end of the room. Kye was already making his way to the bookcase pressed against the wall of the office. It took up nearly half the wall, and a thick sheet of glass separated them from the books inside.

“There’s no handle,” Kye said.

“It’s a spell, stupid,” Jess said. “Do you think that a Professor would just trust his private collection with a normal cabinet?”

Kye shrugged. “Well, do you know the spell?”

But Jess’s eyes were focused on Jaxby’s desk where a book was closed and covered in scattered essay papers. Surely it couldn’t be that easy. But maybe hiding something valuable in plain sight was Jaxby’s style.

A grandfather clock went off, striking eleven booming drones before resuming its ticking nose.

“Jeez that made me jump out of my socks,” Kye said, pressing a hand to his chest. “Jess, do you know the spell — what are you doing?”

Jess was pushing the paperwork carefully aside, taking note which order the papers were stacked. Beneath the papers was a green-tinged tome, thicker than the beginner’s guide. An energy rose from this book as if it was breathing.

She reached down to touch the cover. The runes embossing the front in a square border kept swimming in her mind’s eye when she tried to translate it.

“I think this is our book,” she said softly.

Kye came beside her and looked down. “This book?”

Jess pulled back the cover with unusual effort, as if the tome didn’t want to reveal its secrets to her. At first the runes that covered the pages shifted as the cover had, but then they settled and formed tight scrawling handwriting.

She began ripping through the contents. “It’s here. It has to be here. Jaxby’s so sensitive to events that he must have gotten some sort of feeling this book was in danger.”

Kye watched her as she searched the pages with vicious eyes until her finger stopped at the top of a page.

“This one,” she said.

Kye stared at her finger. “Are you sure?”

Jess nodded and held the page with her hand as she flipped to the end of the spell.

“Holy mites,” Kye breathed. “It’s like twenty pages long.”

With a single flourish, Jess ripped out the entire section. She was quick enough that it left minimal damage to the spin. Slamming the cover closed, she heard rustling in the courtyard.

Kye’s eyes widened as she stuffed the spell pages into her jacket and had just enough time to push the papers back over the tome as Jaxby walked through his office door. His eyebrows rose into his fluffy gray hair as he noticed them standing by his desk.

“Kye. Jess,” he said with confusion radiating from behind his spectacles. “What are you doing here so late? And without me?”

Kye stammered as Jess answered, “We were looking for you. We thought you were here when the door was open.”

“It’s only been a moment,” Kye said then added, “Sir.”

“Right,” Jaxby said neutrally. “Well, what is it that you so desperately wanted to see me for?”

“We—” Jess said, feeling like she was trapped. They couldn’t ask him about the beginner’s guide now. If he saw the spell was missing, he would know it was them. He would probably know it was them anyways.

“I was wondering if you did private tutoring?” Kye asked.

Jess bit her lip in surprise at Kye’s quick thinking.

“Ah, a bit behind are we?” Jaxby said, wiping his glasses. “I can’t say I’m surprised. You seem to spend more time on your hair than your homework, Kye.”

Kye stifled his indignation with trembling closed lips.

“Oh, for me, Professor,” Jess interjected. “Kye was asking for me.”

For More Writing Prompts, Check Out…

What I’ve Learned About Giving Up Books

Finishing Books Just To Finish Them

Dead end sign
Image by Donald Giannatti

All of my younger life I felt like I could never EVER give up a book. Even if I hated it. Even if the writing was terrible. Even if I didn’t enjoy a thing about it.

I remember reading The Boggart by Susan Cooper. It was so dry and lacked the whimsical magic I had hoped it would have. But my mom helped me make a reading plan to finish the book in about a week.

When I had finished, I remember her asking, “Was that so bad?”

While my answer at the time was no, the book hadn’t really gotten better. I basically only learned that if you power through books, thy’ll eventually end.

But this isn’t helpful. While sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself to read books that are out of your comfort zone, reading too many books you don’t enjoy will only make you resent reading entirely.

We shouldn’t force ourselves to read books just to be satisfied to finish them. Part of the joy of books is in the journey of actual reading.

Reading Books You Love Only Makes You Love Reading More

Seeing a book through glasses
Image by Dmitry Ratushny

Recently my husband (finally) started to enjoy reading. His mother is an English teacher and has always encouraged her kids to read, but Mitchell has never really enjoyed it.

Until he picked up The Wheel of Time. I saw him read that book faster than he’s read anything in his life. What made the difference? He found books that he actually loved and realized that it wasn’t the reading he disliked. It was just the books he had been trying to read.

This brought me back to my Elementary days, when I was a terrible reader. My teachers must have seen something in me, because they kept giving me harder books than the rest of the class. But I hated the books they gave me (The Indian In the Cupboard, The Mouse and the Motorcycle to name a few).

That’s when I found Harry Potter. Oh, the librarian, my parents, and my teaches all looked at me like I was crazy. I was in first grade and was going to read a book that most sixth graders couldn’t handle.

But I read it. And read all the others. I realized I loved reading. That I loved writing. That I had been missing this piece in my life — all because I had found the right book.

You Have Too Little Time To Waste It Reading Bad Books

Girl surrounded by books
Image by Annie Spratt

In my senior year of college, I remember the head of the English department saying, “It’s okay to stop reading a book you really don’t like. There’s too little time to waste it reading bad books.”

This was not something I expected to hear from an English Professor, especially the head of an English Department. But these words have stuck with me over the last couple years — and I have given up several books in this time.

I give up reading books when I find myself avoiding reading. When I feel like slogging through the rest of the book is more of a chore than something I look forward to. I’ve read books that I can’t put down. And I’ve read books I can’t put down enough.

But my professor is right. I have so many options of books to read. And so little time to read them. What we choose to spend our time on matters. Why waste it?

Have you ever given up a book? What made you decide it was time to quit? Leave a comment below!

Writing Tips: Why You Should Use Writing Prompts To Improve Your Writing

1. Keeps You Writing Consistently

Ferris Wheel
Image by Matheus Fade

You may be at the beginning stages of a novel or in the editing phase. The great thing about writing prompts is they keep you writing, no matter what stage you’re at.

All writers must practice their craft in order to get better. But sometimes we’re in a weird stage where we’re looking for agents or finished with our manuscript and don’t want to touch it anymore.

Writing prompts are great tools to keep your writing consistent.

2. Gives Your Mind a Break From Familiar Characters and Worlds

Stopwatch
Image by Veri Ivanova

I first started getting into writing prompts again during the intense editing phase of my 264,000 word book. My mind was saturated with the character arcs and the world mechanics. I was beginning to forget how to even write certain characters because it was all running together in my head.

When I started doing morning writing prompts, I discovered that the prompts allowed me to take a break from familiar characters and explore new kinds of people. It’s like taking a vacation from your family to explore a new world.

The benefits went both ways too. Not only did I enjoy “hanging out” with new people, but I also felt refreshed when I went back to my main work in progress. I could write their dialogue more clearly and could visualize originally stale scenes with much more ease.

Sparks Creative Ideas For Now and Later

Reflection of lightbulbs
Image by Dragos Gontariu

As I was finishing my very large book, I did a writing prompt that turned into its own book. It started out as a simple prompt about magical coins, but I could feel that under the surface, there was a whole world to unearth. But if I hadn’t been doing writing prompts, I wouldn’t have thought of this story at all!

I also keep all of my writing prompts in a journal so if I ever want to revisit them or use parts of them for another piece, I still have them. You might be surprised at how good some of your writing prompts will turn out. Sometimes they take you places you never thought you would go, and that might be exactly what you need for your next big project.

A Great Warm-up

Lit Matches
Image by Devin Avery

Like drawing quick, gestural sketches before diving into the 2-hour portrait session, writing prompts can get our writing minds awake and moving. Not a lot of people consider the fact that just like most muscles, your brain needs to wake up and loosen up before it can deliver the goods.

Sometimes it’s daunting to move straight into your giant manuscript and pick up right where you left off. When you take twenty minutes to warm up with a writing prompt, your mind will be more relaxed and engaged with your writing by the end. I usually shoot for about three handwritten pages (a guide I got from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron).

Improves Imagination and Memory

Plant growing from sidewalk cracks
Image by Stanislav Kondratiev

Writing prompts have often challenged me to write in perspectives and genres that I’ve never tried before. For example, last Friday, I wrote the beginning of a vampire Horror Noir. I’ve never written about vampires, and I’ve definitely never written a Noir. But it was a ton of fun!

Along with stretching my imagination, I’ve also found that writing prompts cause memories to surface that I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes I’ll be writing a scene when a certain smell or feeling creeps up on me, and I think, Wow I totally forgot about that. That would be an awesome story.

Writing prompts are great if you feel blocked and stuck in a rut as a writer. There are tons of great resources online. And I also have a Pinterest board you can follow.

Teaches You To Write Without Attachments

Chains on a gate
Image by Jose Fontano

I don’t know how many times I’ve started a writing prompt and wanted to keep writing it into a full story when I’m done. As many times as I’ve done that, I’ve also had times when I never want to see that writing prompt again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I tend to latch onto projects and have a hard time letting go unless I finish them completely. The great thing about writing prompts is that they teache me to start without needing to finish. I have the ability to go back and add more when I want to, but I’m not chained to this project. It’s just an exercise.

If you feel like me and want to just be able to enjoy a short time of writing without feeling pressured to create a masterpiece, I encourage you to try writing prompts.

Resources

Reedsy Prompts – online database for hundreds of writing prompts.

Squibler – one of my favorite sources for Fantasy writing prompts.

For Further Reads About Writing, Check Out…